I have lovely memories of Christmas in Goa. The one year we celebrated the festival at my grandmother’s house, we combed Mapusa market for aunties selling homemade sweets, walked to church for an early mass and spent the rest of the day stuffing ourselves. But away from the delights of a village Christmas, Goa can be anything but serene. Goa resident model Tinu Verghis sums it up best, “At this time, Goa turns into a mela of alcohol-frenzied maniacs.”
So, can you still have an enjoyable holiday during the busiest time of year? Yes, there is a way to escape the crowds, find the right parties and enjoy a meal without waiting for hours.
Firstly, avoid the popular bits of the coast. Verghis recommends avoiding north Goa. “Find a beautiful house to stay in,” she advises. Ajitanand Hattangadi, who used to manage the popular Tito’s club in Baga, and now runs the Bardays Inn restaurant in Calangute, picks Palolem, Agonda, Morjim and Arambol as his destinations.
Everyone agrees that the best way to avoid the traffic jams is to hire a motorbike. “This way you are away from the madness and mobile too,” explains Shilarna Vaze (former resident and owner of Ninja Sushi, a Mumbai-based catering outfit). However, Gaurav Arya, a hotelier and Goa resident, sounds a warning note. “You may think you know enough to ride a bike, but unless you really do, you won’t be able to deal with others who also can’t drive,” he says.
Drunk driving is also a problem in Goa. “People get carried away and don’t think of theirs or others’ safety,” says singer and frequent visitor Anushka Manchanda, (who is Arya’s girlfriend).
Play and park
Parking can be a hassle in Goa in peak season. “Park at the end of Baga, opposite Britto’s and walk,” Hattangadi advises.
Sunburn and Tito’s revellers are advised to leave early to avoid traffic jams. On New Year’s Eve, Vaze recommends making sure you’re where you want to be by 8 pm or wait till 2 am to head out.
Be a beach bum
To find a deserted stretch to frolic in, Verghis advises riding along the off-roads of south Goa. “From Vasco down to Palolem, it’s just beautiful,” she says. Arya adds, “Remember to never venture into the sea without keeping someone informed.”
A table at Goa’s famous restaurants isn’t easy to come by because of the sheer volume of tourists. There’s only one thing to do, says Vaze. “Make reservations. Log on to Whatsup Goa for restaurant details.” Finally, on New Year’s Eve, make your own pre-party, advises Manc-handa. “Get together with your friends in a hotel room and chill before you head out for the night.”
Way to go
Ajitanand Hattangadi: Purchase tickets in advance for Sunburn and Tito’s. It’s the best way to avoid the long queues.
Anushka Manchanda and Gaurav Arya: Stay away from the over-commercialised restaurants. Always ask for the price of fish before you order if it isn’t on the menu.
tinu verghis: To party, go to Cirrus in Vagator. That is the only place in Goa that plays good music through the year. Relax, make love consensually and breathe the salt air. Mandovi Hotel in Panjim serves the best prawn curry rice with kismur.
Shilarna vaze: There is no official garbage collection in North Goa so please stop littering! Avoid Baga, Calangute, Candolim and Anjuna on New Year's Eve like the plague. Find a quieter beach for fireworks and work your way to a party after that.
From HT Brunch, September 2
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