Best Hostel in North Goa – Asterix

To Travel is to Live” – Seen on the wall of Asterix Hostel

After getting my trusty red Avenger at Panjim, I headed over to north Goa, to Vagator. My destination was Asterix, a hostel with rave reviews on Tripadvisor. I’d heard a lot about it and was curious to experience it for myself. Why miss out on visiting one of the best hostels in North Goa?

Asterix hostel entrance

Asterix hostel entrance

A couple of wrong turns, going back and forth on the main road looking like a lost tourist and I was there. A kind lady called Mary Ann sitting behind the desk took the registration details and then showed me around. I was pretty impressed by the relaxed ambiance, how clean and organised everything was.

My dorm on the ground floor

My dorm on the ground floor

Asterix hostel has two wings. The main one has a dirt track leading up to the hostel. You go down the path, past the gate, and reach a building with leafy trees all around. There’s a fun common area with books and board games, 2 hammock like seats/swings you can sit on and chill out with other guests.

Mary Ann showed me the dorm room which I’d selected. It was an AC dorm room at Rs. 500 (US$10) a night, to be shared with 5 others.  Quite a good deal. Mary also showed me the pantry, which has filtered water to drink, as well as a fridge with beer and snacks. The beer is cheap, just Rs. 40 (less than US$1)! The beer and snacks are charged, but on an honor system. Have what you want, just write your name on the notebook along with the quantity you had and you’ll be charged on check out. Mary Ann also explained the laundry system. They’ve got numbered laundry bags, 1-5. All you have to do is drop your clothes in one of the bags, and then they’ll be washed and returned. Then you have to hang them up to dry. It was pretty reasonable, I think around Rs. 50/100 (US$ 1-2) per laundry bag and lots of guests use it. Also their wifi password is really cute :P. Can you guess what it might be?

I took a lot of pictures of the kitchen and hostel, noting the messages various travelers had scribbled on the wall. Some of them were really creative; all of them had a whiff of adventure.

To Travel is to Live

To Travel is to Live

Kingkisser: Definitely not Beer

Kingkisser: Definitely not Beer

I ran and I'm still running away

I ran and I’m still running away

The most fun part of the day was in the evening, when I headed to the main hostel. A couple of German guys, David, Alex, Benji, a Swiss guy and an English girl, Charlotte were sitting and playing a beer game. It looked fun and I joined them. The game’s basically everyone taking turns to ask a question. The question consists of giving two options and asking everyone what their choice is, for example; God or Nature. After everyone gives their choice, the person who asked the options tells the correct choice, e.g. God. So everyone who was said Nature, has to take a swig.

It’s quite a fun game to play in hostels, especially with new people and travelers. And you get to know a lot about other people, from the way they answer their questions. We moved from God or Nature to much more adult options, which I won’t discuss here. Go to Asterix and find out for yourself.

Asterix has a fun code of conduct which I found pretty interesting.

Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct

If you feel hungry, just walk out to Mango tree. It’s 2min away from Asterix, and has a bar. You can sit order Indian, Continental or Goan; lots of options. I stayed at Asterix for one day, and had breakfast at Mango tree on the next.

Mango tree restaurant with bar

Mango tree restaurant with bar

How to get to Asterix: Hire a bike at Panjim, and it’s a 25-30 min ride away. 10min from Anjuna. Ask anyone for Asterix hostel near the Mango Tree restaurant. It’s on the main road, you’ll see a sign with Asterix’s helmet on it. Be alert, the sign’s kind of small, but you won’t miss it.

Anjuna to Asterix

Anjuna to Asterix

Budget: Low – Medium

  1. Rs. 300-400 (US$ 6-8) per night for non-AC dorm room
  2. Rs. 500 (US$10) per night for AC dorm room
  3. Rs. 1300 (US$26) for a single room which can be shared by 2 people

Keep in mind that these prices are in the low season of June-August. Prices will be higher during the peak tourist season of Oct-March. Call ahead and check to be sure.

Asterix Contact Info

Asterix Contact Info

Goan Flavour Rating: Bombastic 10/10!

All in all, I would rate Asterix a 10 on 10 for the stay, experience and ambiance. Compared to other places to stay, this is definitely one of the best options in north Goa. I met a fun group of people, talked to this dude who’s a sailor from Turkey; it’s a great place to hang out if you are travelling alone, or with 1-2 friends.

My Turkish friend and I

My Turkish friend and I

Best Wood fired Pizza de Goa at Chapora

On Saturday evening, I heard good music and smelt a heavenly flavor wafting out of this place in North Goa, quite busy even though it was off season in Goa.

Pizza Roma - Abode of blessed thin crust pizzas

Pizza Roma – Abode of blessed thin crust pizzas

Authentic Italian Pizza in Goa?

Of course, I stepped in to check it out.

The preparations

The preparations

They were quite meticulous and focused on their preparation; always a good sign. I tapped my foot to the music, after giving an order for a Pizza de Goa; the fact that it had lots of cheese and chunks of the famed Goan sausages was mouth-wateringly appealing.

Into the hot oven

Into the hot oven

There was a Italian family sitting, with little kids running around shouting “Salami! Salami”, and a couple of other tourists. Enough seating for around 20 people, with 4-5 tables. Its a nice place to go with 4-5 friends and gorge on pizzas, which come in 2 sizes; 12-inch and 8-inch. Though I love the Cheese Burst crusts of Dominoes, thin crust wood fire oven pizzas are something else.

Resistance was futile

Resistance was futile

Since I was alone sadly :(, I had the 8-inch Pizza de Goa.

It was nice, hot, well baked, and bursting with cheesy goodness. I will be sure to try some other ones on my next visit. Definitely visit here if you ever happen to be in North Goa.

It’s a 10min bike ride from Vagator beach, just opposite Sakana, the Japanese restaurant I’ve covered earlier.

Feeling hungry :P?

2 Fun Travel Quotes

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready. – Henry David Thoreau

If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. – Anonymous

:).

30 Helpful Konkani Phrases to Use In Goa

When you do land up in idyllic Goa, chances are that you are going to run into the locals. And luckily for you, 90-95% of Goans can communicate in English and understand it quite reasonably.

Locally, Goans speak Konkani. It is very different from Hindi, the national language of India. Konkani is not exactly a dialect, not exactly a language; it doesn’t have a script. Like most Indian languages, it comes from Sanskrit.

It’s an exciting experience to try and learn a few words of the local language, especially if you get stuck in a far away village area (bound to happen when you adventurously bike around and run out of petrol). People will appreciate the effort, and look at you in a different way, because you’re not just another hippy tourist or city slicker.

Lots of Goans are expert bargainers in Russian, especially at the Saturday Night Markets. It’s not uncommon to see the locals call out to tourists in Russian. It might be fun to learn a few Russian words as well (I have, and its a great conversation starter. For about 2 sentences. And then its smile and wave, like the penguins in Madagascar).

"Only Rs. 200, Harashou?"

“Only Rs. 200, Harashou?”

The below given list of 30 fun and helpful English-to-Konkani phrases has been compiled for your viewing pleasure and designed to endear you to the locals.  Sure to be a big help when you want to give your stomach a rest from extra spicy food (no.9), hail a taxi (no. 27), or just tell people that you LOVE Goa (no. 28). Not to forget the most important sentence to learn in any new language, – “Where’s the toilet?” at no. 12.

You’ll get the hang of the correct pronunciation and accent, especially when you practice with Goans at the shops, cafés, restaurants and the beaches.

No. Type English Konkani
1 Greetings! How are you? Tum kosso assai?
2 What is your name? Tuchem naum kitay?
3 My name is Julie Majay nau Julie
4 Where do you come from? Tu koyee-sau yet-ai?
5 Thank you Deu borem korum
6 Sorry Maaf kor
7 Yes/No Hoee/Na
8 In Restaurants and Hotels I am hungry Maka bhook lagleah
9 I do not want it spicy Maka tik naka
10 Water Oodok
11 Can I have the bill please? Matshem bill hadshi?
12 Where is the toilet? Sundas khuim assa?
13 Can you help me? Maka modot korshi?
14 Do you have a room/house to rent? Tu jay shee room/ghor asa?
15 I’d like a room for the night. Maka eke ratik room zai.
16 What is the charge per night? Eke ratik kitle poishe?
17 Can I park here? Hanga gaadi dovrunk zata?
18 Shopping How much? Kitlay?
19 Too expensive! Ekdtom ma-araog!
20 I don’t want it Maka naka tem
21 Travel Does this bus go to (Panjim)? Ee bus (Panjim) voi-ta?
22 How much to (Baga) (Baga)vossoonk kitlay pot-ollay?
23 Does this bus go to (Anjuna/Baga/Candolim)? Ee (Anjuna/Baga/Candolim) bus?
24 Drive more slowly! Sossegarde solay!
25 Turn left/right Dai-an/ Ooj-an wot
26 Where is the (Police Station)? (Police Station) khuim assa?
27 Can you get me a taxi? Maka ek taxi haadshi?
28 Fun phrases I love Goa Maka Goeya boray lakta!
29 I speak a little Konkani Aoo thodee Konkani ooloyta
30 Food is good Jevon borem

You are sure to see the Goans smile as you stumble,err, I mean, maneuver your way through the Konkani words. You may even get a discount while shopping or negotiating for a room/beach shack :). You can definitely sing along to the Konkani radio songs, much to the delight of your driver (even if you do not understand a single word).

Have fun, go a little crazy! You’re in Goa!

“You got to be careful if you don’t know…

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“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

–Yogi Berra

Best Momos in New Delhi_Yashwant Place.

I was apprehensive of coming back to Delhi for a break; May is a mind-numbingly hot month with hot winds, locally known as loo. These loo winds are hot heavy winds which rob you of your vitality, and leave you feeling dry, weak and really sleepy.

Luckily, the rain gods smiled and blessed Delhi with a slight shower on Sunday evening that I headed out. I was going for a Couchsurfing Delhi meet at Lodhi Gardens, a beautiful park located in central Delhi. Couchsurfing is a great concept; basically you can reach out to travelers in your city or the city you plan to visit (India or abroad) and request to stay or hang out. Read all about it here. The members in different cities keep having fun get-togethers and meetings.

It was a pleasure driving to the park in a light rain, with music on the speakers. Though I didn’t see it, there was a double rainbow visible, which others showed me later:

Double Rainbow. Can you see it?

Double Rainbow. Can you see it?

The Delhi Couchsurfing meeting was nice, with a lot of different travelers from different countries. Organized by Karan and Charan, two enthusiastic and cheerful guys, everyone had fun. And of course, I carried a large box of Alphonso mangoes from Goa to share with everybody. Later, I was even quoted for a Couchsurfing article written by a Hindustan times journalist who’d come to cover the event :)!

After the meeting was over, I got talking to a girl from Hong Kong, Melody. She and a few of her friends were working in India, and had come to check out the CS meet.

So of course, I suggested going for some of the best momos in Delhi, before we all went back home. Momos are considered to be a Chinese fast food; they are little meat dumplings inside dough that is either steamed or fried. Very popular in Delhi. However, Momos are originally called Dim Sums in China. Like Chow Mein noodles (tasty noodles sold as fast food in almost every neighborhood of Delhi), there are certain foods which have become “Indian-ised”, and have names which you’ll never find in the original country. There are no Chow Mein noodles in China, as far as I’ve heard and confirmed from Chinese friends.

Melody and her friends enthusiastically agreed, and we all set out for Yashwant Place. Everyone bundled in my car, and we were on our way. We reached Yashwant Place in 10min, as it was not too far from Lodhi Garden. Here’s the map, giving easy directions from the closest Metro station:

Google map to Momo Heaven: Yashwant Place

Google map to Momo Heaven: Yashwant Place

Though there were a lot of guys inviting us in to their specific outlet, I went to my favourite one, “Bawarchi’s”.  Bawarchi means “Cook” or “Chef” in Hindi. The owner greeted us warmly, and we went inside.

Chi and Jay with pork momos

Chi and Jay with pork momos

I placed an order for 1 plate chicken momos and 1 plate pork momos. 1 plate had 8 momos. So we could order more of which we liked.

The momos arrived and we all devoured them. There was a delicious red hot sauce which tastes amazing.

Perfect Combination = Momos + Red Chilli Sauce + Chilled Coke

Melody and her friends loved the pork momos, and we ordered another 2 plates. These took time to arrive, so one of Melody’s friends Chi, asked us how to ask the waiter to bring the food faster in Hindi. So when he came past our table, she said “Bhaiiya, mujhe khana khana hai” (Bhaiiya, I want to eat food). The look of bafflement on his face was priceless.

Momos and us!

Momos and us!

We had a good time with momos, and conversation. Steer clear of too much chilli sauce; delicious though it may be, it can cause trips to the bathroom the next day if taken in excessive amounts.

Yashwant Place is well known for its momos. Many embassies are located in the nearby area, and they cater to them for lunch/dinner. Do check it out if you happen to be near Central Delhi.

Karvanda in the Goan Summer – Juicy Berries of Joy

If you happen to be passing by the Panjim bus stand (or any market) while visiting Goa, then head over to the friendly old ladies selling fresh fruits. They have a large basket in front of them with the juiciest mangoes and the delicious local fruit known as Karvanda, or Carissa Spinarum as per Wiki.

Ladies in the market

Ladies at Panjim bus stop

For just Rs. 20 (around US$ .40, yes, just 40 cents), they hand over a generous helping of the ripe little berries of joy, neatly packaged in newspaper. Then you can eat until your mouth’s stained purple and black. There’s momentary burst of sweetness as the berry is crushed, and then you can savor the flavor.

This took me back to my childhood days spent at my grandparents place in the country, where all of us cousins used to run wild across the farms, climb trees, pluck and eat fruits, and generally raise all manner of hell in that special way that only small children can.

Blowing bubbles in the trees

Blowing bubbles in the trees

Fun, carefree days.

Back to Karvanda. They are really good for hot summer days, and if you are in Goa, its much better and healthier to have these rather than grab a cold juice/cold soda full of sugar.

A few days later after this Panjim trip, I walked over the hill near our project office and found wild Karvanda growing right off the edge. Wonderful :)!

Karvanda and the Sea

Karvanda and the Sea

I took a few nice shots with the beach in the background. Karvanda and the sea. Someone could shoot a movie or write a book about it.

Pink and slowly ripening

Pink and slowly ripening

A senior colleague told me that when the Karvanda berries become really black and ripe, it means that rain is going soon. I was enthralled by this bit of information linking the small pink fruit to the weather, marveling at the mysterious ways the natural world works.

“The real voyage of discovery…

New eyes...

New eyes…

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Délicieux – Traditional French Patisserie at Morjim

I was driving back when I crossed this newly opened Patisserie between Morjim and Ashwem, north Goa. By the time it registered that I hadn’t seen this place before, I’d already gone ahead around 1km. So I braked, and went back. One more place for Goan Flavour :).

At the door

At the door

It has a nice, clean and spacious entrance. There were 2 tables with chairs and a sofa. A very relaxed ambiance.

The lady behind the counter told me that all the food apparently came from a cooking class held at Siolim, close by. Interesting.

Siolim Cooking Class

Siolim Cooking Class

So of course I ordered a Marble Brownie pie, a chocolate mousse pastry, a vegetarian quiche and a mango smoothie.

While I waited for the order, I walked around, absorbing the place. There was a nice painting of a Kathakali dancer on the wall, which I believe had been painted entirely using oil and finger prints (am no expert). It was a really engaging picture and I liked the dancer’s expression. The name of the artist wasn’t very clear. Will ask the owner the next time.

What's she thinking?

What’s she thinking?

I sat down on the sofa to enjoy the smoothie and quiche. Rest to be shared with my colleagues back where I stay.

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Goan Flavour Verdict: All in all, not too bad. They have a nice variety of pastries and French snacks. It’s a new place so they have some growing pains; their microwave was broken, so they couldn’t heat the order. But the staff is enthusiastic and friendly, and I would definitely go back to try some other stuff.

Beyond Fear… there’s Calmness

The dark blue ocean pressed all around me, as I swam to the edge of the island in the Maldives. My father was close by, and we were both good swimmers. However, this was the first time I was swimming to the edge alone, where the white sand dropped away thousands of feet and the ocean floor was not visible.

Mysterious depths

Mysterious depths

There was nothing but endless water and mysterious shadows.

As always, I felt mortal terror press upon me, as I felt the utter vastness of the sea, and how insignificantly small I was compared to it. My mind helpfully reminded me of all the shark, giant squid and octopus attacks from all the movies I’d ever seen.

And then, it stopped. All the fear and nervousness disappeared.

Beauty of the sea

Beauty of the sea

All I could notice was how beautiful the sea was. The fish calmly swimming by, the coral fronds gently swirling and glimmering with light, a thousand exotic undersea creatures and fish, going about their business.

I realized that purposefully going into a feared area, taking a calculated risk, had taken me to a previously unimaginable place. A place of gentle calm and beauty. The dangers hadn’t disappeared, and the sea was still deep. But I had become more confident in my ability to deal with with the unknown.

And it’s a lesson I’ve applied to every fearful situation since. Whether it was travelling to a new place,  making new friends.

Trust your instinct and go with it. Even bad experiences teach you important lessons!

Go ahead, and give it a try. Who knows what you might discover :)?

Unknown journey awaiting you.

Unknown journeys awaiting you.