Beach weddings take Goa by storm

Goa has always been a hot Honeymoon Destination but couples are suddenly deciding that it is also a great place to get married. And is there a more romantic setting to get married than at a Goan beach?

A spew of mega beach weddings are planned in Goa with already 10 beach weddings approved by the Goa Tourism department. Since beach weddings are considered “minor events” in Goa, all it takes to get permission is approval from the Goa Tourism Director and the payment of a fee of Rs. 5000 fee.

One of my close relatives got married in Goa recently and she was full of praise for the destination. While many people choose to get married in their home towns or cities, it has become quite the fashion to jet to Goa and get married there instead. Not just the couple and their families but relatives and friends make the trip too, often booking out the entire hotel.

That said, some couples prefer to stay at a different hotel than their friends and family. “We stayed at a small Homestay while our guests stayed at a big 5 star Hotel. We wanted to have our privacy and some time to ourselves” said the couple.

And it is not just the Goan beach that becoming a hot wedding destination but the Goan river as well. Goan ferry boats offer couples the once in a lifetime chance to get married on a boat. Larger than the usual ferry boats that transport locals across the Mandovi River and far more luxurious, these special ferry boats are big enough to hold between 50 to 100 people as well as a full fledged buffet and dance floor.

And as Goa becomes more and more popular as a wedding destination, you also have Wedding Planners who take care of the entire wedding hassle, leaving you free to enjoy your special day. All the girl has to do, it seems, is to get her man to pop the question!


The Joys of Christmas and New Years in Goa

My dad blogs from Goa:

View from my Balcao

Everyone knows that Christmas-New Year in Goa is special.

Indubitably it is the time to look out for tradition leading to the holy night when Christ was born. Goans indulge in festivities and every nook & corner of this tourist state is lit up with merriment. Goa remains at the cusp of tradition, history & belief in the divine one.

The best, and possibly the cheapest way to enjoy the festivities is to head to the beach-shacks, not the ones serving expensive taste-alikes, but to the thatched make-shift rooming that sprouts up in season and folds up thereafter when the fury of the monsoon comes roaring in. Staying at the beach allows you a hop-in hop-out of any of the many beach-front eating-shacks that dot the beaches in the North (Baga, of course, Anjuna and all the way to Morjim) and nowadays, also in the South (from Majorda to Palolem and upto Cancona).

I chose to hit the relatively less-crowded south beaches and found Cancona quite a refreshing change from the over-run, dirty, populous hip-beaches of the North. Apart from the swank seven-star luxury hotel looming over in the distance, the sea-side remains relatively private and not infested with tourists from all parts of India and the globe. Goa has remained India’s best-known destination since the swinging 60’s and continues to capture the imagination of toursts of all ages and nationalities looking for fun-in-the-sun.

But this is not what I am in Goa for. History beckons, tradition pulls and I end up in a heritage homestay in Mala-Fontainhas, the Latin-quarter of Panjim, close-by to Old Goa, the shrine of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa’s large Christian population. I decide to visit the St Monica’s Museum next to Se Cathedral in Old Goa, the 400-year old St Sebastian Chapel right in the heart of Fontainhas, climb many steps to the magnificient white-washed Panjim Church that is always lit-up at night. This apart, there is lots of carol-singing on the streets of Mala-Fontainhas that spills over to Panjim city proper.

The streets are chock-a-block as are the beaches and the highways and a place-to-rest-your-head-at-night is always at a premium, like everything else in goa during this period through the new year. Do what you will in Mumbai or Bangalore, but if you want to make the grade, you’ve got to be in Goa during the year-end scene. Its one big party that stretches from sundown right upto and past sunrise, with nary a hiccup about closure-timings and all that jazz. I notice that the Goa government goes into over-drive in cleansing away the last-night’s garbage so that the roads do not eventually disappear in the mounds of trash generated by party-hoppers. I settle down in a small beach-shack with a fiery feni and watch the dancers sway in the moonlight … nay, early-morning light !

Goa spells timelessness, merriment and wild abandon, making it the most-preferred destination at this time of the year. I choose to drift in and out of over-crowded bars, (drinking home-made local feni), many of whom have started playing Bollywood tunes to please the numerous patrons that emerge from Mumbai like a deluge, by car, by plane or even by bus or train. Everyone, but everyone, girls and ladies included, feel free to sport shorts & tees, maybe even a hat, to signify departure from the strict confines of everyday life. Their radiant faces mirror the innate wish-fulfillment of a life waiting to free itself off shackles of daily-norms. Those with a taste for intimate, may prefer to meander on the quieter stretches, not worrying about safety, which is taken for granted, barring an odd blown-out-of-proportion incident. Goa has seen its share of nudes to be stirred up by a pair of lovely legs in short-shorts and a revealing top.

City-kids have gathered in hordes, coming as they do for all-night shindigs, beach-combing, flea-markets, fun-in-the-sun. Goa opens its doors to open-minds and an all-pervasive camaradarie prevails everywhere you go.

One of the downsides of Goa at the year-end is that you do not get enough space to stay or roam freely, thanks to the perpetual jostle in public spaces. But nobody, with the exception of some of the oldies & prudes, seems to mind this metro-isation of an otherwise sleepy state of Goa. You will get to know quite easily, that the local people are fun-loving, love to mind their own business and are friendly without being intrusive. They proclaim loyalty to their beloved state, fiercely protect their Goan identity, but throw open their arms (and homes) to the tourist influx, and are happy in the realisation that tourism is a nice way of doing business and making a decent living. A sparkle in the eye, a smile on their face, its the people of Goa that make it the most exciting place to be in during Christmas and through the new year.

I’ll be back home in Goa for Christmas – thats for sure. Thank God I have a home there !!

Contact Us for a special Christmas / New Years Package…


Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” to open IFFI Goa Film Festival 2012

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The International Film Festival of Goa (more commonly known as IFFI Goa) is one of the most famous film festivals in the whole of India. Film buffs from all over the country head to Goa for a taste of the best of alternative cinema. So that means while blockbuster films like James Bond’s latest Skyfall will not be on offer, critically acclaimed films will definitely be making the headlines in Goa. 

In a recent announcement, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” is set to open the 43rd Intl. Film Festival of India, Goa on Nov. 20 2012. Life of Pi is film about a 16 year old boy who survives a shipwreck and finds himself on a lifeboat with an orangutang, a hyena, a wounded zebra and a Bengal Tiger. The film is directed by Ang Lee and based on a 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel. Ang Lee and Pi stars Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma were present during the announcement. 

Director Jahnu Barua’s Assamese-language “Baandhon” will open the festival’s Indian Panorama while Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s English, Hindi, Bengali and Kannada language “Celluloid Man” will open the docu section. Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” will close the fest on Nov. 30, 2012.

The International Film Festival Goa will also celebrate the centenary of Indian cinema as well as the lifetime achievement of  Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi. 

The impressive Inox complex that will form the backdrop for the IFFI Goa is only a 5 minute drive from my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay in Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa. In the past, we have had many film buffs staying with us and this usually led to some very interesting discussions in the evening over a glass of hand pressed Goan wine on our balcao. 

If you are planning to come down to Goa for the International Film Festival, do get in touch with me for Special IFFI Goa Hotel Packages

An tribute to the Fontainhas Art Festival

The Fontainhas Art Festival or “The Fontainhas Festival of the Arts” as it is officially known, was created with the aim of revitalising Panjim’s 200 years old Latin quarter and putting spotlight back on Goa’s neglected architectural legacy.

The week long festival of music, art, culture and hertiage put the spotlight on Panjim’s quaint and picturesque Latin quarter. A settlement on the fringes of the capital Panaji that was meant originally for Portuguese families, Fontainhas (which means “little fountain” in Portuguese and gets its name from the fountain at the foot of the hill) began to sprout around 1770. Patterned along the lines of Lisbon’s Bairo Alto, Fontainhas (also known as Bairro de Fontainhas) has a certain Moorish character to it and is hence referred to as the Latin quarter. Macau in China (originally another Portuguese settlement) also boasts of a similar Latin Quarter. 

With its single-storied bungalows criss-crossing narrow bye lanes, Fontainhas’ Iberian ambience makes it an attractive proposition for tourists, especially French and Portuguese tourists. A number of houses in the area have already been converted into ‘pousadas’ (small guest houses) ranging from the tacky to the upmarket. The Mitaroy, Goa – A Heritage Homestay is the latest addition with its 4 Heritage Suites of 1000 sq ft each. 

The Fontainhas Art Festival was organised by the Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG). The Festival managed to attract a large number of tourists and locals to Fontainhas. As tourists get more discerning, they are looking for more than just sun and sand, they are looking to imbibe the local culture of the destination. And local festivals such as the Fontainhas Art Festival is able to attract such discerning tourists. The uniqueness of the Fontainhas Art Festival  was that artists exhibited their works in the houses within the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas. A selection of singers such as the famous Lorna of Goa and a number of local Goan bands also added to the whole experience, serenading the visitors as they went from house to house appreciating the art on offer. 

Fontainhas Art Festival, Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa

All in all, the Fontainhas Art Festival helped to throw a spotlight on one of Goa’s most charming, yet neglected architectural legacies. And that makes the demise of the Fontainhas Art Festival all the more sadder…

The Monsoon in Goa


There is something quite majestic about the monsoon in Goa as is batters down in fury on the dry earth.

Im sitting in my upstairs Suite at my Mitaroy Goa Hotel and as I type this, I can hear the rain thundering down on the tiled roof above me. Whenever I stay at my Mitaroy Goa Hotel in the monsoons, I make it a point to stay in the upstairs Suite so that I can hear the rain as it hits the tiles.

There is something in the Indian Monsoon that brings out the writer in one and the Monsoon in Goa has the same effect. Images of hot samosas (homemade by one of the ladies in Fontainhas) and adrak wali Masala chai automatically pop into my mind. It was 7th standard Hindi class, if I remember correctly, where we had this one story about a man who came back home after work and had the hot samosas and masala chai that his wife had prepared for him. And the image has stuck in my mind.

During the day, I love to sit on the my Suite balcony and watch the rain as it cascades incessantly from the rooftops. The coconut trees sway in the background, bowed down by the constant rain that falls on it. Sitting on my Suite balcony and watching the rain pour down, I am both enamoured and awed by the force and fury of the monsoon. I also watch as the small rivulets turn into gushing little streams and how the students from the nearby school walk in these streams on their way back home. Like the cliche, it seems to be the girls who carefully and daintily side step the streams while the boys make it a point to step right into the big puddles!

The advent of the Monsoon in Goa also signifies the end of the tourist season in Goa. On the beach mile in North Goa (read Baga, Calangute, Candolim etc), the shacks are securely shut and covered, to be opened after the monsoon has passed. Surprisingly, there are still tourists in Fontainhas and for some reason known to them alone, they all seem to be French. Although originally the Portuguese Quarter of Panjim, it is now French that can be heard in the streets as the French tourists walk around with their cameras and their umbrellas.

The Panjim riverfront is a popular Monsoon hangout for local and tourist couples alike as they hold hands and walk along the Mandovi river. Unmindful of the pouring rain, it seems that these couples only have eyes for each other.

Another popular Monsoon sightseeing spot is the Dona Paula jetty, a few kilometres drive from Panjim. If you climb to the top of the small outcrop, near the statue of Dona Paula and her lover, you can marvel at the force of the waves as they thrash and pound at the Dona Paula jetty, sending their spray  high into the air.

But the Monsoon is best enjoyed outside the city of Panjim. Driving through the verdant green fields and small villages outside Panjim it seems as if the whole of Goa has been washed clean by an unseen hand!

Mihir Nayak