Sunday, September 7, 2008
The call of Baga
I discovered Baga in my second trip to Goa which was actually my first trip. No, I am not speaking in riddles. My first trip was on an office junket to Taj at Goa. South Goa has a number of such lovely five star properties. The problem is that these could be anywhere in the world. They are not really distinctive.
My second trip to Goa was with some friends, one of whom was a Goa buff. She was the one who told us that Baga is THE place to be in Goa. And she was right. To me it is the ulitmate Goa experience.
Baga is a beach at North Goa and is next to the more populated, Calangute.
If the phrase 'chilled out' was invented for a place, it would be for Baga. The place is full of foreigners head for during season. You will almost feel as if you are not in India. The Indian crowd consists more of young couples or groups of friends. You will find very little of the conservative, family crowd there - so no wailing babies or hyper parents. Very different from Calangute next door.
Baga connected with me in the first trip itself as that was probably the first time I had set off with friends to just have fun. We lazed in the beach shacks in the mornings over beer and chilly chicken, slept, had wine, smoked innumerable cigarettes, ate, drove around on a scooter, discovered new restaurants, threw up, slept. Getting into the sea didn't feature anywhere. We met a few more '6 degrees of separation' friends and really had a ball. In fact the three of us stayed in this fairly tiny room in a 6 room hotel called called Don Juom at 300 Rs (8 USD) a day. I guess it was the final snip to the umbilical chord. Which is why Baga has became synonymous with freedom to me.
My first trip to Goa with Kainaz was on our honeymoon to Holiday Inn. One enjoyed the faceless luxuries of a five star and sat through innumerable buffet dinners. Again, this could be anywhere.
The next time we went to Goa I took her to Baga. She fell in love with it as I once had. That too during off season when half the places were shut. Such is the magic of Baga. Since then we have gone back there at least four times in three years.
So what is the spell of Baga? The beach of course and the stream of shacks (beach side restaurants). Two things though. The shacks are there only during season (November to March). Also they are very crowded towards the tip of Baga and you are better off going to a shack in between Baga and Calangute as that is likely to be less crowded.
There is a sense of freedom which surrounds Baga. It comes from the distant horizons, from staring into the endless sea sitting on the beach, from the relaxed mood of the tourists far away from their daily routines, from seeing the surfers in the distant sea and in the air, from seeing people walk lazily up the lanes, from seeing the happy smiles around one.
The food of course is a dream come true. You get a selection of the best of Goan food. We have our favourites. Infanteria for its pork chilly fry, mussel chilly fry, beef burgers, prawn balchao and lazy breakfasts. Brittos for its view of the sea, its lipsmacking prawn baffat and prawn chilly fry. Love Shack for its sausage fries, pork chilly fries, its chilled King's Beer. Our recent discoveries - Casa Portuguesa for its expereince of colonial, aristocratic, Goa and Lila's Cafe for a European, tropical (!) breakfast. You can read more about the various Baga eats in my food blog.
Finding a place to stay is an adventure in itself in Baga. You live and learn. None of the established names are there. Over the years we have stayed at places... got dissatisfied... checked hotels down the stretch...unearthed some gems...which sometimes turned out to be duds on our next visit...checked more hotels...unearthed more gems...you get the gist. That's the thing about 'places to stay' - there are so unpredictable and they come in all shapes and sizes. We had some lovely discoveries such as Goa Holiday Resort (in the dumps in our next stay), a few lovely times at Villa Goesa (very disappointed this year), discovered a treasure called Waters this time. Hope it remains the same year and that we get a place since there are only six or seven rooms. We also keep checking out a place called Casa Alexio which looks very luxurious though haunted. The average price of rooms in these hotels are about Rs 2500 (60 USD) now.
Things to do? I have seen people swim, indulge in water sports at Baga. Baga is famous for its discs - Titos and Mambos. Kainaz loves to shop for sarongs, slippers and tee shirts. For me its a bit like Seinfeld. Its a place to do nothing at all. At the most eat and lie on the beach and read.
It's a strange vacation. By now there is hardly anything new to 'see'. In fact I feel at home the moment I walk down the streets. There is a certain comfort which I drawn in the sheer familiarity of the place. I would love to retire over there. Kainaz thinks I'll get bored. I doubt it.
I really hope that my luck holds and that I can make it to Baga next February too.