Goan Flavour Evolution – Update 1

Hey there.

Thank you for coming to this blog.

If you have ended up here whilst wandering aimlessly through the Web, then welcome. You are sure to find a fun story, helpful links and some crazy pictures of food.

The golden beaches of Goa.

The golden beaches of Goa.

This blog, if it isn’t obvious from the title, is all about Goa and capturing snippets of its rich food, music and culture.  Goan Flavour aims to cover travel and holiday experiences as well catering to the budget, mid range and – traveler. It is aimed both at foreigners and Indians looking to visit one of India’s most relaxed and party going destinations.

Party On!

Party On!

Though I am trained as a computer engineer, since 2011, I have been involved with the high end luxury resort development for work. This has led me to extensively travel all over the Maldives and India, giving me a good idea about having a great guest experience. And I strive to bring the same to you over here at Goan Flavour.

Here are some of the more popular and delicious posts:

  1. www.goanflavour.com/2013/03/07/kingfish-and-passion-fruit-chocolate-tart-sakana_chapora-near-vagator-beach/
  2. www.goanflavour.com/2013/03/02/chocolate-brownie-at-anjuna-beach/
  3. www.goanflavour.com/2013/03/11/fried-prawns-and-chicken-noodles_old-goa/
  4. www.goanflavour.com/2013/03/19/susegad-about-goa-and-its-flavour/

The site is in constant evolution, and has gone through a few significant changes since starting out on March 1, 2013. I am still learning and improving things as I go along. There are still kinks and rough edges, and I would be glad if you could point them out so I can take care of it. For example, when I tried to set up the Music Player, all it says is “Play It!”, which looks kinda of weird on the blog posts. I will fix it shortly, or remove it all together if I can’t!

Also, as far as possible, I prefer to use my own pictures (all taken by iPhone 4s) in order to provide you with the latest and most authentic pictures of Goa. So what you see is what you get. The real deal.

There is a Facebook page as well, so do like the page:

www.facebook.com/pages/Goan-Flavour/489929864388803

And do share this with all your friends who always wanted to know more about Goa!

Thanks and hope you have a good time exploring this blog :)!

If you liked what you read above and at least one other blog/photo, do click the Facebook share button below :)!

Cheers!

Uraak!!! Holi Goa @ the Soma Project, Ashwem Beach

Uraak in a chicken shaped pot!

Uraak in a chicken shaped pot!

Uraak!

No that is not the sad squawk of a dying bird, but one of the famed drinks in Goa, made from the distilled and fermented extracts of the cashew fruit. In a clear glass, it looks cloudy, quite similar to coconut milk, but is easily identifiable by its characteristic strong smell!

3 glasses and counting!

3 glasses and counting!

It was Holi and I was all alone.

The sea called to me, and I left home for the shores of Ashwem beach. Walking along the sandy coast, I heard loud music thumping from close by.

What was happening?

The Soma Project_Ashwem

The Soma Project_Ashwem

It was the Soma Project, a relaxed beachside resort and restaurant I had visited earlier. They play great electronic and trance music. I entered the Soma Project from the sea side, and was immediately greeted by a raucous bunch of guys. They were the staff, bartenders and waiters, who ran the place. They had arranged for the Uraak to be brought locally and were now enjoying the same. I was invited to partake.

So of course, I did.

Practical tip: It is generally advised not to buy Uraak from the highways while on the road. The product may be contaminated with other liquids and can be dangerous. Drink only with trusted people as far as possible.

I sat down with Hitesh, the marketing manager and André, the Russian. A big friendly happy go lucky fellow, it was André’s last day in India and he was wondering what all this commotion was about.

André and Moi!

André and Moi!

Maria, Moi and Hitesh

Maria, Moi and Hitesh

We had a few glasses of Uraak, then proceeded to dance on the floor, encouraged by the shouts of Hitesh, Rocky and others. Maria and a few other guests at the resort joined in the celebrations. We had a wonderful time dancing to trance songs interspersed with some Bollywood numbers!

All this Uraak was for free. Since it was Holi, they just wanted everybody to be happy and have fun.

I finally walked out after saying goodbye to André, Maria, Rocky and others.

I went to another restaurant called the Baba Huts to have some more food and rest while the Uraak wore off. After a scrumptious Chicken Sizzler and Cheese Toast, I settled down with a hot Ginger Lemon tea.

Sizzle awaaay!

Sizzle awaaay!

Hot Ginger Lemon Honey tea - my favourite :)!

Hot Ginger Lemon Honey tea – my favourite :)!

It was nice to see the sunshine on the sea, turning the water to gold. I spoke to a few people from the UK sitting in the restaurant, a girl named Scarlet and 2 other guys, Tom and Phil. Sipping my tea, I got know that they were in Goa on vacation. Scarlet actually worked for an Indian family based in the UK as governess for their children, and was on a break because of school holidays. Tom and the others were around my age (25-26) and just here to chill. It is quite nice to meet with other travelers and share stories. You always get to hear something new, and learn how others think from a different perspective.

Golden waters and the sea

Golden waters and the sea

The bill at Baba Huts came to Rs. 410 (around US$), which is pretty decent considering the quality and quantity of the dishes served. I recommend the place for a relaxed afternoon of swimming and soaking the sun, especially convenient if you are based in North Goa. You can easily move to Morjim, Mandrem and Arambol from the Ashwem beach.

Happy belated Holi to you all!

Have you ever celebrated Holi in India? What did you like best about it? What’s your craziest Holi story?

Share your stories in the comments below :)!

5 Simple Steps to Booking a Volvo from Goa to Bangalore

3 months into work and no break.

Despite visiting golden Goan beaches on weekends, it was time for Bangalore. I wanted to visit DJ Tiesto’s concert next week, however all my friends were going home that time, and I didn’t want to go alone. So this weekend, it was.

Since college days are over, I prefer to now travel in relative comfort, especially for long journeys. No more teeth rattling journeys on state transport with fellow passengers drooling over you shoulder.

Booking a return journey from Goa to Bangalore, roughly 11-13hrs one way, is relatively simple nowadays because of the Internet. I booked an a/c Volvo leaving on 22nd March and returning to Goa on 24rd March 2013.

Here are 5 simple steps to booking a comfortable bus journey from Goa to Bangalore, especially if you are new to booking in India:

  1. Go to redbus.in
  2. Select From (“Panjim“) and To (“Bangalore”). You can choose Mapsa as well, if you are based in North Goa. However, routes may not always be available. Panjim is a central location, easily accessible from North and South Goa, with a higher frequency of buses.
  3. Select dates of journey and date of return. I prefer to leave on Friday nights and return on Sunday nights to make the most of weekends (good for working people).
  4. Choose the buses suiting your budget and timing (prices range from US$10-20/INR 600-1100 for a one way trip). You can choose your seats as well. I chose a Sea Bird A/C Volvo Multi Axle  because of comfort and early arrival timing, 8 am, in Bangalore.

    Sea Bird Tourist A/C Volvo

    Sea Bird Tourist A/C Volvo

  5. After finalizing the buses and seats, all you have to enter are your name, gender, age, Mobile No and email id (required for confirmation messages). Finally, payment can be made via Credit Card, Net banking, Debit Card and Cash Card Options.
Redbus confirmation message

Redbus confirmation message

Practical tips:

  1. It is a good idea to reach the boarding area at least 15 min before the reporting time. It can be confusing with so many buses around, but people will direct you in the right direction if you ask. I made a slight detour to have a chicken dish and almost missed my first bus. Luckily, my Goan colleague was with me and he dropped me in his car.
  2. It is a good idea to carry a printout of the e-ticket. I accidentally deleted the confirmation message on my phone. On the return journey, I called the Sea Bird Office, and they said something about me having to get a boarding pass to get on the bus, even though I had a e-ticket printout. This was nonsense, and once I had found the bus, there was no problem boarding it after showing my ticket.
  3. Helps to have a local friend drop you to the bus stand. Can save time and anxiety, especially if you are new to the place. I don’t know Bangalore that well and was happy to have my friend accompany and point me in the right direction.
  4. Carry earphones with a music player/your mobile phone. Good to listen to music for long journeys, and also drown out wailing babies and Kannada action movies (they were playing one on my return journey, and I didn’t get a word single word. All the songs were reminiscent of the hilarious Benny Lava video.  Watch it here, if you haven’t already!)

I have used Redbus a couple of times now, and am pretty happy with their service. No major problems so far, and I would recommend it for simple, easy booking in India, especially to travel between major cities. For journeys longer then 15 hours, trains would be a better option.

I hope this was useful. Have you ever had any trouble with Redbus bookings? If yes, do share your story of how it was solved (or not) in the comments below. Thanks.

Susegad! – About Goa and its flavours

Susegad!

That apparently does not mean good sausage, as I thought when I first came about it.

Derived from the Portuguese word ‘sossegado’, it is understood to mean a state of relaxed contentment which is often attributed to this beautiful land of coconuts, cashew trees and beaches.

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Lazy Sunday at Candolim beach

It has been nearly a month since the inception of this blog and I have not yet introduced you to the amazing state of Goa. It is my humble privilege to bring the best of this coastal area to your attention.

In ancient times, this place was called Govarashtra, which is a Sanskrit word for “Nation of Cowherds”.  It was ruled by emperor Ashoka as part of the Maurya empire in the 3rd century BC. It came under Portugese rule in 1510 and finally became a part of India in 1961.

This is a short version, and glosses over much of the history of wars, conflicts that inevitably happened here.

Today, Goa is known as a destination for fun and relaxation. Around 2 million people visit Goa every year, drawn by its laid back pace. Most Indians consider it a party destination, ideal for weekend getaways from Mumbai, Delhi and other metros. Foreigners consider it a backpacker destination which is easy on the pocket.

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FTV party at Candolim beach, Dec 30, 2012. Entry US$ 40 and unlimited beer.

Goa is one of the smallest states in India, with a population of only around 1.2 million people. The infrastructure and quality of life are rated as one of the best in all of India. Konkani is the local language, however almost everybody understands English. Important signboards are also in English, and it is very easy and cheap to rent a bike/car/jeep and roam around. A decent bike will cost like US$5 (INR 270) per day to rent. And you can negotiate for a cheaper rate if you are hiring it for a longer period.

May is the hottest month, with temperature reaching a peak of 35 °C (95 °F). You can see more weather related info on links given at the bottom of this post.

So nearly 500,000 party goers descend on Goa every year, with the top markets being UK, Russia, Germany, Finland and France. I had a little fun with the latest available figures given on the Goa tourism website (www.goatourism.gov.in/statistics) and put them down for you over here.

Top 5 nations of partying tourists coming to Goa and the total tourist arrivals in Goa from 2006-11:

Goa partygoers 2010-11

Nations partying through 2010-11

Visitors to Goa from 2006-11

Visitors to Goa from 2006-11

Kidding about the partying, many people come for yoga, relaxation and meditation as well. In fact there’s a great place called Yogamagic which I can’t wait to check out. It is an eco retreat offering yoga packages and healthy food. Check out their website here.

Goa is easy to get to from Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore. I had no problems booking a flight here from Delhi, and nowadays you can get air tickets really cheap, there are a lot of promotional offers going on. Check them out here.

I will be going to Bangalore this weekend from Goa via bus, so will let you know how the connectivity and service works out. As per redbus.in (online bus booking service), the fares as of March 2013 are around US$10-15 (INR 500-900) for a one way trip. A guy’s gotta rest from all the partying!!!

This blog is under constant evolution, and I am going to keep adding useful updates about everything Goan.

Do let me know if you have any questions regarding stay, travel, and I will do my best to assist you as per my personal knowledge and experience.

Some useful Goa links:

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/goa

http://www.goatourism.gov.in/

http://www.goatourism.gov.in/statistics

Goan Flavour_Story Behind The Blog

I will be honest.

Goanflavour was born out of a need to create a record for all the memorable food joints in Goa. Also, I wanted to to have a sort of aim for weekends, which are otherwise spent lounging at home or in front of the T.V. I had enough of mind numbing brain mushing weekends which weren’t really contributing to the quality of life.

I have lived in over 20 different countries since childhood, courtesy a dad whose work involved massive amounts of travel. Russia, Japan, Mauritius, Syria, Maldives, UK, France and more. I have been there, enjoyed food with people of different cultural backgrounds. I have had steaming cups of tea in small cold mountain shacks, and also enjoyed gourmet meals at 5 star restaurants.

Tea in the mountains

Tea in the mountains

I enjoy escaping to the mountains, whether winter or spring. One of the most memorable trips was hiking up the mountains in Triund, with a couple of college mates. It was a 4 hour trek with rocky paths and shaggy green trees. Sometimes there was only a path a foot wide, with a 2000m drop on one side and mountain wall on the other. We met an Israeli couple on the way. The dude was wearing a ridiculously large cowboy hat, while the girl was looking green in the gills. The Israeli dude sang hindi songs and offered us his bottle of Chivas when we helped them out with medicine for mountain sickness.

For most of 2011, I was on the islands of Maldives. Exploring different resorts every month, I must

Fishes in the Maldives

Fishes in the Maldives

have visited at leaset 20-30 different high end resorts. We also went snorkelling, cruising with

dolphins and eating varied Maldivian, Thai, Indonesian and continental cuisine. Heady times and all the good eating has left me with a bulge that needs immediate attention.

So the posts brought to you here, are the experiences of a seasoned traveler who has ended up in places he never planned to, hung out with all sorts of interesting and wacky characters and survived.

How did you fall in love with food and travel? What are your most memorable experiences involving the two?

Fried Prawns and Chicken Noodles_Old Goa

It gets hard sometimes, in the routine of everyday work, to stop, step back and remember that there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. You start feeling slow, change channels mindlessly, shuffle from sofa to the fridge to the bathroom.

It’s time to get out.

One weekend, I took a bus at 9am to go to Panjim. A brownish red Maharashtra State Transport that brought back childhood memories of when I used to visit my grandparents. Reaching Panjim, I hired a bike and headed out.

Travelling on roads unknown, I ended up in Old Goa. There was such a feeling of freedom in just picking a road, having no plans, just zipping along, feeling the wind on your body and the throb of the motorcycle.

My first impression of Old Goa; tall shady trees and ancient buildings. I parked in the shade and headed to see this huge church. It was Christmas time and there were a lot of decorations. I went inside, soaking the cool quiet of the interiors. People shuffled slowly in groups, their whispers amplified in the huge halls.

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Majestic, tall and imposing

I took a couple of pictures of the Christmas tree as well.

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Bright and cheery!

Feeling a bit hungry, I stepped out and got back on the bike. I stopped at a small restaurant not far from the church. I ordered Fried Prawns and Chicken Noodles. Though greasy, the noodles were nice. However, the Fried Prawns were really something else.Image

Try the above with a cold Nimbu juice, if you are ever in Old Goa on a hot day.

Kingfish and Passion Fruit Chocolate Tart @ Sakana_Chapora, near Vagator Beach

The endless sea_Vagator Beach

The endless sea_Vagator Beach

There’s something special about being on the road on your own. Watching the road whiz away beneath your wheels with the beautiful Goan landscape of green hills and tall coconut trees in the backdrop.

On the last such weekend getaway, I visited one of my most favourite places in Goa; Sakana, the Japanese restaurant at Chapora, very close to Vagator Beach. The first time I went there, I could hardly believe such a place existed, just on the main road of Goa. Well lit with warm yellow lights, tastefully and simply decorated with myriad Japanese memorabilia, you have to see it to believe it. There is a Sakura tree, with pink flowers and lights adorning its upper branches. It hardly seems possible that it has been made out of plywood and painted over. There are pictures of sake, Asahi beer and Japanese ladies in kimonos on the wall. You literally step into another world.

Sakana and the Sakura tree

Sakana and the Sakura tree

I sat down and waited. A blonde girl came to take my order. From her accented English, I knew she  was French. I asked her which place in France she was from. I always enjoy the look of surprise on people’s faces when they wonder how I know which country they are from (usually accurate 90% of the time, of course French is easy, some other European languages are much harder), hearing their stories about how they ended up working in Goa while backpacking or on vacation.

She gave me the menu, but I already knew my order. Kingfish with rice and miso soup. I tried a different kind of salad with shitake mushrooms and noodles.

Kingfish, Miso Soup, Rice and Salad

Kingfish, Miso Soup, Rice and Salad

And of course, the dessert, which is one of the best I have ever had, anywhere in the world. Passion fruit chocolate tart. Eat it to believe it and know that there is a God (it sends you to heaven). You will find religion after eating this sumptuous, scrumptious dish.

There is a God.

There is a God.

I had a Japanese green tea while waiting for the food to come. I looked around while sipping on the hot drink.  There were many people, busily chatting away with friends and family. There was a Russian family, with small kids (around 5-6 years old) running around. The Russian kids were playing some kind of hide and seek game, and their worried parents would shout (“Idzisuda!” – Come here!) whenever they ran out of sight or towards the road.

Sakana (which means fish in Japanese) is owned by a sweet Japanese lady and her Israeli (to be confirmed) husband, Niko. Both are

"Welcome"

“Welcome”

very nice and warm people. I make it a point to talk to the Japanese lady on each visit. She is always happy to converse in Japanese, and I am happy for the opportunity to catch up. Though she was busy in the kitchen, the Japanese lady came out for a smoke, and I said hello. We talked for a bit about how the restaurant was doing and then she rushed back to the kitchen to attend orders. I caught up with Niko later at the bar, before leaving.

The food was fantastic, as always. The bill came in a cute little wooden box.

I also took a picture of the menu, which had a picture of a fish and Irashaimase (“Welcome”) written on it.

The restaurant is on the main road, and open from 12.30 pm to around 11pm. Definitely visit when you are in Goa. Keep in mind that the dishes are slightly expensive (around Rs. 200-500 for main course) but the ambiance and experience are totally worth it.

Sunset at Anjuna Beach_Guru Cafe

Enter the Guru

Enter the Guru

Parking my bike in the shade, I stepped towards the entrance of Guru Cafe.
It was evening, around 6pm, perfect time to relax and enjoy a cup of ginger lemon tea, while watching the sun set.

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Ginger Honey Lemon – relaxation heaven

The menu was quite varied and reasonable, with options for Italian, continental and Israeli food. I settled for lemon tea and an Italian snack, Caprese (don’t have it). They brought the tea quickly but the Caprese took over half an hour. It was just tomato pieces on bread, sprinkled with sad bits of cheese. Not worth the wait. At all.

However it was nice to see people chilling and enjoying the music.

One of the things I love about Goa is how the food, music and the place just go together so well. This is one of the prime motivators to keep going out and exploring new places.

Chocolate Brownie at Anjuna Beach

Its the weekend again, and I am heading out to Anjuna. I had a great chocolate brownie there at Om made cafe (link here) on my last visit there. Nice place with a clear view of the sea, good music and relaxed ambiance.

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I booked a place at Evershine guesthouse, online through the website www.HostelBookers.com.

It can get quite boring being alone at a project site. The weekend escapes are a welcome change and good way to meet new people.

Though one of my colleagues told me that apparently there’s some axe murderer hiding in the forests of Goa. Hope I don’t run into him.

I am still playing around with the website, in terms of looks, feel and content. Hope you are enjoying it so far. Do let me know in case there are any issues.

Will put up a new post next week.

Cheers!