Goa experience in March 2008 – Part I–Hotels and Roads

Goa isn’t that far from Delhi/Gurgaon but it took us about 8 years to bring it back to our travel schedule. I’d made the first trip when Kabir was a 3-year old toddler and Kishore had a 3-day seminar to conduct at the International Centre. My second trip was a few years ago when web designing topped my list of interests and I was fortunate in finding parking space at Synapse, Goa to intern on a design project. That visit kept the focus at learning design concepts and admiring the flora and fauna of the beautiful house that houses Synapse in Dona Paula, but it was unlike Goa that I’d earlier experienced or heard about.

Happily, the recent trip helped us experience Goa in varied hues. The objectives of the trip were many so the 7-day travel warranted careful planning. Goa’s potential in bird-watching had come to my notice through trip reports on Delhibird’s yahoo mailing list so that was an important item on the agenda other than experiencing the beaches, food and visit some residential construction projects that we’d learnt about through property exhibitions in Delhi. Being a firm believer of online and offline research before embarking on anything important, I read through hotel/restaurant reviews on tripadvisor.com and indiamike.com, consulted a friendly hotel reservation service and members of Delhibird and spoke to a few friends. The outcome was an impressive itinerary of 3 initial days at Baga (@ Cavala) followed by 1½ days at Molem (Dhudsagar Resort) and 3 final days of chilling at Sernabatim (Baywatch Resorts) in South Goa.

One of the wise decisions in retrospect was to have arranged a self-driven car for the first 6 days that made moving around adventurous, enjoyable and economical. Kishore drove us (Kabir and me) straight from the airport when he barely knew the roads, and Baga was a good 40 minutes drive from the airport. With a helpful tourist map collected from the tourist counter at the airport, reasonable road signage and helpful souls on the streets, driving on Goa roads felt like the most natural thing to do – especially for Indians used to the Indian driving rules! On later days, we did have some trouble with missing signage on critical points but generally the roads appeared clean, wide and certainly better marked than Gurgaon. The drive through narrow roads lined with Goan houses, filled almost invariably with red or yellow hibiscus flowers, used to be lively, and later the drive to Molem along Mandovi was even more beautiful…

A quick review of the 3 hotels (and a couple more) for people exploring stay options in Goa:

Cavala at Baga appeared to be a small, overly-used hotel that was stylish in a quaint way. An ordinary AC room wasn’t available so we’d to accept a suite at their annexe called Banana Republic that was rather large with its 3 rooms, an open kitchen, minibar/tea apparatus but airconditioning only in the bedroom. Without cooling elsewhere though, we barely used the other area and wondered if it was really that good value for our money – more so because they had restrictions on changing towels (possible only alternate days!) and the bathroom door lock was broken and had to be accepted with an indulgent smile. What did make up to an extent was their a la carte breakfast that was built into the tariff and was served nicely in their small garden. If I do stay at Baga again – Kabir was impressed with Britto’s pastries and food and it was a few minutes walk from Cavala – I’d be sure to check out La Calypso next door that appeared nicer and more organised. Birder members on Delhibird had suggested Ronil Beach but it was fully booked and more expensive than Cavala.

One curious aspect of Goa hotels was their penchant for arranging room towels in a certain manner each time they’re changed!

Dhudsagar Resort near Molem was a lovely find – thanks to its lead from a Delhibird member, Sharad Khanna. The hotel was spanking new, labeled as an eco-hotel, spread out on large area that was full of trees and cottages with ultra modern fixtures. For anyone interested in discovering the forest-side of Goa, it’d make a pleasant and reasonably-priced stay especially if one avails of their 3-night all inclusive package. Dhudsagar Resort reservation can be made on the phones 0832-2612238, 2612319. Talking to its Corporate Manager, Mrs. Kamath might help ensure the 3-day package rate (Rs2000/day) she’d mentioned to me. An email to the General Manager, Mr.Sanjay Naik, of Baywatch Resort could help even further. Baywatch Resort appears to own Dhudsagar Resort and the GM mentioned that he was planning various facilities for this resort.

Our third hotel was Baywatch Resort in South Goa that was a pleasant place for a 3-day holiday. The hotel was done up prettily in colourful cottages and rooms were plush with a sitting room preceding a bedroom and an attached balcony overseeing paddy fields of Sernabatim. The beach was a few minutes’ walk and quiet enough for enjoying a book at one of the shacks or frolicking in the waves. The hotel wasn’t easy to locate from the main crossroad (we drove there ourselves) but it was well-known around the place and most people described various involved turns to help us get there. We were on a 3-day all-inclusive package so meals were the highlight of our stay there – especially for Kabir who is a small eater but one with refined tastes in food! He took to bacon and sausages for breakfast, continental preparations of fish/chicken for other meals and at least 3 out of 4 varieties of dessert after all main meals. Kishore and I enjoyed the food but ate sensibly. The hotel pool was made in 2 levels and comfortable for a good swim. The restaurant stewards, however, looked bored most of the time – they used to be prompt with clearing plates but looked remote and unfriendly. On all 3 days, we were asked by the regulars our room number as they just didn’t connect to the guests. Restaurant managers, on the other hand, reached out to guests and checked on their food preferences.

All in all, I wouldn’t mind covering the last two resorts again…

Will cover our bird-watching experience in the next part with some useful leads.

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