Goa – Once More!

Kishore and I made our much-planned 11-day trip to Goa end-September. We knew that the trip was going to be dominated by activities surrounding our flat’s makeover but we were still looking forward to it as in our search for houseware, it was going to bring Goa’s local markets/produce closer to us. On the previous trip, we’d barely figured out Arpora so we’d meant to scan the area well on this visit for various services and food places too. Then, I’d spent the last few weeks arranging curtains/chiks/kitchenware/linen for the flat so it was a relief that the trip finally brought all the frenetic buying to an end. My parents were coaxed into baby-sitting Kabir – a role they excitedly took on despite an inhospitable Gurgaon – and our departure was purposely planned for my birthday so I could spend a few hours of the day with my parents and some with Kishore – as I like doing that day.

Food Experience of the Trip

Our day meals used to be rushed but we did manage some leisurely dinners. Among the busy places, we liked the baked goodies and deals at Infantaria on Baga — 6 pints of Budweiser for Rs100 were unbelievable even for Goa; pastas and grilled fish at Capricorn and Electric Cats at Calangute; the atmosphere at Anthony’s on Baga; but most of all, the fish thali at Ritz Classic in Panjim, that was great value at Rs70! Fish thalis in most restaurants offered a great combo but Ritz took the prize with its spread of rava fried pomfret, mackerel curry, prawn curry (with two tiny pieces of prawns but lots of coconut based curry) and vegetables. Down all that with fresh lime soda and you’d enjoy being in Goa even more. Also, we were pleasantly surprised to see so many vegetarian restaurants in Goa, and one particular called Navtara at Mapusa offering a wonderful veg thali. Its fresh Shrikhand and an array of daals that had both the south Indian and Gujarati influence was great at Rs65.

In Arpora itself, a couple of restaurants called All Spice, Fish Land and Appetite were doing sluggish business but modestly decorated Starlight was popular among locals for its prawn masala fry and fish curries. We also had a meal at Lagoa Azul’s Tabla and it was nice to meet the Manager, Prem who specially arranged Pois to go with our Fish Ambotik and Sausage fry. The food was okay but the service quite attentive. We could see more restaurants being set up in Arpora ‘for the season’ so the next visit should show us many more options.

Also, we were fortunate in being part of Goa Linux Users’ Group’s (GLUG!) informal meeting on a Saturday evening when the group introduced us to awesome Rechade/Rava Fish/Feni at a place they referred to as a Hole in the Wall! I don’t think we’d find that place on our own so would simply seek their company when we want to revisit it, and would remain grateful to the GLUG team of Stanley, Edgar, Arvind and Ashley for their hospitality.

The highlight of our food experience though was the humble Poi – a high-fibre round bread that is sold by Poi-men all around residential areas in Goa. Poiman’s distinct horn warns people of his visit (twice a day as far as I could tell) or otherwise the sight of a polythene-covered big basket on a bicycle is welcomed by many. We used to have the complex guard pick up one Poi and one Pav @ Rs2 each every morning at 6:30 am, and in the absence of a proper cooking gas stove or oven, came up with a couple of ways to consume them – sliced, toasted, buttered or toasted with Nilgiris cheese inside and downed with sips of tea. Used to be a great way to start our tough day!

Homeware shopping in Goa

Homeware shopping in Goa is unsatisfying for a Delhite. For light fittings, kitchenware and some appliances we focused on Mapusa. For bigger appliances and some hardware, we sought out dealers in Panjim. Appliances are sold mostly on MRP or at best at 5% discount. Light fittings were limited and prohibitively priced. But furniture was the most disappointing aspect of our shopping. Furniture shops in Shantinesh brought out tacky stuff, and some options existed in the form of road-side ‘antique dealers’ who would show dirty, unpolished pieces at phenomenal prices. Even their finished items didn’t seem well-finished. We were sure thrilled to see Fab India in Panjim and Calangute but their products were limited and big items expensive. We picked up some light shades and a familiar library stool from there, and were otherwise comforted by its quiet, peaceful atmosphere that we as Delhites have grown used to. Then, we chanced upon a big store called CMM Arena in Merces and heaved a sigh of relief when a Malaysian rubberwood bed agreed with our sense of décor and price. These guys were professional in the way they took the order and delivered/assembled the product onsite. I also liked the look of a small bric-a-brac shop called Casa Goa on Calangute-Baga road but found their items limited and prices high. Surely, there should be more such places in Goa selling traditional looking furniture but they didn’t appear on any of our several drives through North Goa. We saw a lot of bamboo cane furniture in restaurants and beach shacks but came across only a couple of shops selling some usual stuff at unbelievably high prices. People mentioned that come November, all roads will be lined with cane furniture sellers but prices may still remain high!

Tiles: We were keen to finish one of the sitting room walls with red/ochre coloured rough tiles. With an abundance of Mangalore tiles everywhere, I’d hoped to find some sort of acceptable coarse tiles but that wasn’t meant to be. After much scanning of Panjim, all we saw were the usual shiny, glazed branded tiles and although one small shop tucked away near Geeta Bakery in Panjim had some sample tiles of the sort we could have accepted, they asked for 12-15 days to arrange most designs.

Netlon: Interestingly, we discovered that Goa shops and people advocated the use of Netlon on windows in a big way, and it seemed to be a widely offered service there. Although we did see some mosquitoes there regularly, and they appeared bigger in size than those in Gurgaon (!), we noticed that they were decidedly fewer in numbers than Gurgaon. Still, we went along the trend of installing Netlon and got ours in place with the help of A La Mode (phone 2235042) in Panjim. Their person came over to measure up the windows and did a rather hurried but acceptable job of putting up velcro and black coloured fibre Netlon sheets. The sheets are hardly visible and keep Mosquitoes at bay.

Mapsua Friday Market: We’d read much about Mapusa’s Friday market for homeware but found little in the place other than spices, kokum and dried fish. All the same, it was a scenic, smelly and memorable experience! A fish-seller’s picture below would give an idea.

Goa – Our Second Home

We got to spend 11 days in our flat on this trip and they were taxing, busy and noisy 11 days – taxing, because we shared space with painters who took 8 days to paint the flat and later 2 days with carpenters who had us worried when they wouldn’t finish the contracted job within time. Busy, because of above and all the trips Kishore and I made to Mapusa, Panjim, Porvorim and Calangute markets looking for house stuff. Noisy, because the neighbour’s bossy rooster made his presence felt all day and sometimes called out at night too! The neighbour’s backyard offered an unkempt but lively sight (pic below) from the bedroom balcony – a fruiting cheeku tree full of noisy brown-headed squirrels, a pair of White-cheeked barbets busy drilling a nesting hole in a coconut tree (one of the pics below shows the male examining his effort much the way Kishore or I would be looking at painters’ efforts!); the rooster surveying the backyard with 3 fat hens in tow; and a lazy mamma cat snoozing on the roof while its 3 kittens would be running about all over. It was a fairly animated backyard to watch.

Around Las Palmas in Arpora, what came as a complete bonus was the feel of the terrain beyond Hotel Lagoa Azul. The road showed parts of Baga river on the right side, and once we found a small pathway to get close to the river, it was great to see a Stork-billed Kingfisher, few egrets and possibly a few stints — all at walking distance from our complex! The premises of the defunct Falcon hotel along Baga river lent a spooky and adventurous feel to our walks but even though full of trees, other than a Golden Oriole and Black Kites circling above, we didn’t see many birds on two of our morning walks there…

Finally, a message at the end of the story –

We’ve been asked by some friends and family about our plans for our flat and whether we would let it out for short or long stays – so here’s an offer and a clarification: please come visit us while we’re in Goa and discover the joys of Goa with us…please do not ask for our flat keys for use in our absence as we won’t be able to ensure its upkeep during or after its use and it’d sadden us to see it in any state other than the way we left it.

And, do remember that we’re now partly Goans – better still, Bhargoans – and would love to help you know Goa as much as we do.

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