In noisy northern Goa – especially during the season – there is practically nowhere to hide from crowds of tourists from all over the world, rattling bikes, touting restaurants, annoying sellers on the beach and in local shops, shouting out all the words they know in your language in a minute.
However, despite this, North Goa has its own unique Goan vibe that you miss and come back for. It is difficult to say exactly what it is: a taste of the freedom felt in a special way here? friends you meet at every turn? dishes that you miss for a whole year and, having arrived, move from one village to another, guided by your gastronomic preferences? concerts, trance parties and festivals, ecstatic dances, yoga and other spiritual practices? flea markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays? sunsets and sunrises? or people from all over the world, from whom Goa removes all masks, leaving them in shorts and slippers, powdered with red dust of local roads? Here you can easily hug Prem Joshua or Boris Grebenshchikov, act in films with Amalia Mordvinova or receive a blessing from one of the spiritual teachers of our time.
Ashvem, Mandrem, Morjim, Arambol, Vagator, Chapora, Calangute, Anjuna and other spell names – every Goa lover has his favorite place, dear to the heart and (or) stomach.
My gastro guide will confine itself to the trinity of Arambol-Mandrem-Ashvem, and I will tell about them – and let the reader of the contrasts of India not be afraid.
So, Arambol. The northernmost village of Goa, which was once chosen by hippie flower children, is famous for the traditional February carnival or, as it is also called, the parade of freaks. Arambol has long become a community of people of various strata and interests, but it is this mosaic that makes this place interesting. Perhaps there is nothing like it anywhere else. The village is growing every year, several hotels have already appeared, but Arambol still has many years to go to the level of luxury, rather, it is anti-luxury. Of the relatively decent hotels at the moment, the new Nanu Resort is, however, not very well located, and in the absence of a bike, it will take about twenty minutes to walk to the beach.
From Arambol you can get out for a day to Panajim, the capital of Goa, walk around the old Portuguese colonial quarters, drive to Paradise Beach and stop by Redi Fort, and I recommend having dinner (or even staying overnight) at Fort Tiracol – a hotel located in the building of an old Portuguese fort on a secluded cape overlooking the Arabian Sea and the mouth of the Tiracol River. The charm of Portuguese heritage, a small 17th century church in the courtyard, cozy and stylish rooms – all this, of course, enchants and disposes if you do not stay here for a couple of days, then at least have dinner. A table here must be booked in advance.
Mandrem is the village next to Arambol. The level is higher and cleaner, here you can stay in a decent hotel or rent a cozy house or apartment. In Mandrem, you can have a snack, lunch or dinner at the following places: Nu cafe – tuna tartare with wasabi or steamed fish with coconut rice in a banana leaf, Lamuella – a cafe with good coffee and breakfasts, as well as a boutique with designer clothes, Riva Resort – decent 4* resort with nice rooms and bungalows. If you want a buffet breakfast, then Riva offers the best option. There are even South Indian dishes such as idli (round buns) and dosa (Indian pancake), made with rice flour and traditionally served with green coconut chutney and tomato gravy. Well, after breakfast, you can stay here by the pool or even wait for the daytime reggae parties that take place here regularly.
Next door, my Mandrem favorite this season, is The Lazy Dog. You can come here for the whole day – relax by the pool, located in the building of a former shrimp factory, lie on the sun loungers and crunch on sesame shrimp or battered squid, drinking white Sula or Banyan Tree (Indian wine, not the best, but Unfortunately, there are no alternatives. Here you can also stay in luxury huts at the Beach Street Eco Resort
For those looking for a richer interior, RiverCat Art Villa is located along the river and features rooms furnished with antiques. Yoga groups from Europe often come here. The owner of the villa, designer Rinu Sehgal, loves guests very much and talks with them with pleasure.
Between Mandrem and Ashvem, in a secluded place in a palm grove, there is a resort called Elsewhere. Here you can stay in stylish luxury tents or in one of the 4 tastefully furnished villas.
And finally Ashvem beach in Morjim. For lunch in Ashvem, you should look into the resort
Anahata Retreat. Beautiful, stylish, tasty, various yoga programs, culinary master classes are also held here, there is a SPA. Or Palm Grove Beach Resort. 20 stylish spacious huts right on the beach. The place is ideal for retreats, which are regularly held here. There is also a restaurant and a massage parlour.
One of the oldest and nicest places on this beach is the restaurant La plage from the French owner, where you can safely go to dinner. Pay special attention to tuna with wasabi puree and chocolate thali.
And “for dessert” – my favorite of this season – Elevar restaurant, the winner and nominee of numerous gastronomic awards, offers fusion cuisine from all over the world. From Chris Salim Agha Biya, owner of the equally famous Sublime restaurant in Assagao. The place is so beautiful that you want to spend the whole day here, periodically sliding down to the beach or to the massage table of the local SPA under a palm tree.
Literally everything in Elevar is stylish, tasty, beautiful. And even risotto here is with arborio, which is a rarity for India. The soul and chef of Elevar is Vasco Alvarez. It is he who creates these culinary masterpieces, from which you get multiple gastronomic orgasms.
But the main thing here is the atmosphere. The restaurant is part of the Leela Cottages eco-resort, a real oasis of peace and nature. This is where you can truly hide from the hustle and bustle of northern Goa. The territory, on which there are 24 unique bungalows of different categories, decorated in traditional Indian style and furnished with antique furniture, is surrounded by greenery and the shade of coconut trees.
The soul and manager of the resort – Prakash Khavadya will personally make sure that you feel very comfortable in Leela Cottages. Despite the fact that the territory seems small, the bungalows are located at a sufficient distance from each other, and you almost never see your neighbors. You swing yourself in a hammock – and all you have to worry about is what to eat for dinner and what procedure to go through at the SPA tomorrow. And there is plenty to choose from. From your massage table, you can literally take a trip around the world: Balinese massage, Abyanga – Indian Ayurvedic, French chocolate fondue massage, New York Blueberry Cheesecake treatment, Andaman shell salt and volcanic mineral wrap, Moroccan scrub and coffee massage grains. I recommend coffee relaxation massage or chocolate fondue for feet. Facial treatments also deserve special attention.
If you wish, you can book individual yoga sessions in a huge and spacious yoga chalet and master classes in cooking Indian food. This happens in the second restaurant on the territory of Leela cottage – Agni, specializing in Indian cuisine. Breakfast is also served here. The restaurant offers both Indian breakfasts and European ones made from organic products.
India always gives you inexpressibly much.
Removes masks, relaxes, blesses and fills.
This Indian shanti lasts for a long time.
India wants one thing: loka samasta sukhino bhavantu.
Which in Sanskrit means: “may all living beings in all worlds be happy.”