One big part of our holidays at Baga, Goa, is finding the right place to stay. North Goa, where Baga is situated, doesn't have the branded hotels such as Holiday Inn, Taj, Leelas, of South Goa. You have a variety of hotels which are all quite different from each other. What we look for is location (close to the beach and and close to our favourite restaurants), clean rooms AND clean bathrooms. The last means the world to Kainaz.
So our trips have seen Kainaz look at a number of rooms before settling on one. Didn't matter that we could be tired and bedraggled from the journey from Mumbai. We have spent hours walking the Baga Calangute stretch checking hotel after hotel after feeling dissatisfied with where we were staying. Kainaz is very picky. This has happened so many times now that it is as much a part of our Baga ritual as is having Baskin Robbins ice creams after fish baffat at Brittos or having a pork chilly fry on the shack the day we leave or going there in the first place on my birthday. The latter three are my obsessions just as clean toilets and hotel rooms are Kainaz's.
I will never forget Don Juom's which is the clean, two storied family run place opposite the Church at Baga. I had stayed there during my first trip to Baga with two of my friends. Somehow the three of us managed to share the tiny, very basic but clean and neat room for a princely sum of 100 Rs per head. This was ten years back. Frankly I don't remember the bathroom but I went there recently to show the place to Kainaz and IT seemed fine. Especially for those bachelor days where the idea was to just have fun away from draconian bosses and restrictive paying guest digs in Bombay where one shared a room and a toilet with many others.
Kainaz and I stayed at The Paradise Village the first time we went to Baga together on her birthday. This was a cluster of cottages which were not bad but not good either. The walls were damp, the bathroom mouldy and gloomy and the location was a bit off as it was at the end of Calangute and therefore quite far from Baga.
Our later trips were always in February during my birthday. This is peak season at Goa when rooms are at a premium.
The next time was carnival time and a friend help us find a place at The Saffron Resort as most places were booked. It was the same deal as Paradise Village, cottages with dank rooms and this was even further off from Calangute.
So we begun the first of our famous walks looking for a new hotel down the streets of Baga. We despaired as we saw that most of the good ones - Ronil, Cavalla Inn, Villa Goesa - were full and that the ones available were hell holes.
That's when we chanced upon the Goa Holiday Resort. This place was opposite Infanteria and was owned by Punjabis settled in the UK. The room available was neat and clean and the bathroom was small but shiny and polished. The AC rates was the then Baga average of Rs 1500 or about 30-40 USD. We liked the place and booked ourselves without a thought the next year. We were shocked out of our wits when we reached. The room was dirty, walls were grimy, shower curtains were stained, basin was chipped and the restaurant which served steaks was replaced by a vegetarian restaurant. Then we discovered that the ownership had changed.
Kainaz and I begun our desperate alternative hotel hunt the first night itself. By a stroke of luck we got a room at Villa Goesa. This was a place where my boss from those days had stayed. We never got a room earlier as they are always full. This is a lovely place. The entire property is well landscaped and neat. The staff is very friendly. The rooms are airy, bright, clean and they have an elegant white paint and dark wood theme going. The bathrooms were neat and clean and the plumbing sparkled. The location was lovely as it was by the road in between Baga and Calangute. You came out of the property and walked through their private coconut grove and hit a slightly peaceful part of the beach. The rates were reasonable too and were around Rs 1700 - 2000 or 50 USD.
We loved the place and stayed there during our next trips. Paradise found? End of hotel searches? Not Really!
Our luck ran out when we went for our fourth trip this February. The internet booking agent had messed up the booking and the hotel claimed they didn't know we were were coming. This after we had paid in full from Bombay. So we got a gloomy room, with a groaning aircon, creaking bed and a hand shower in the bathroom which was quite geriatric. We raised a stink and then got a room which was better but where the bathroom flooded. We were mighty peeved! This too on our fourth stay there and after recommending the hotel to all.
So the Karmakars set off on their hunt again. That's when we chanced upon a boutique hotel called Waters in the lane behind the Subway sandwich shop. This tiny two storied hotel had about eight rooms. It was very tastefully done and the rooms were named after various colours. We got the red room. This had a chirpy red wall, a red candle, four coaster beds, a very nice and large bathroom with red tiles. We just loved the place and ran out of Villa Goesa which had betrayed us and moved in there.
The little stuffed toy which we picked up from the Mumbai airport with its red shirt was quite at home there. The pace was a steal as the room was a couple of hundred Rs cheaper than Villa Goesa and the room was much much better. The staff was very helpful too. It turned out that it was run by a couple of young people, one of whom was from Calcutta! The place was so lovely that it really a bit of magic to the holiday. In fact we cancelled our air ticket, lost money, paid more for a new ticket and stayed an extra day once we moved in here. That's how much we loved Waters. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can go there next year and that it doesn't let us down.
After all this bathroom did meet Mrs K's approval!
There is another lovely place which is slightly more expensive. It is called Casa Alexia. It is a villa with lovely rooms with elegant, antique furnishings. This is beside the old people's home on the Baga Road. The only problem is that we have never seen any guests there and it does look a bit spooky. Perhaps the Sunset Boulevard of Baga?
PS. Despite our recent bad experience I would not write off Villa Goesa completely. It is closer to the beach and it is a larger property with lawns and a swimming pool. This would be a better place to go to if you are with kids. Just book in advance and try to book directly or through a site called www.nivalink.com who are quite efficient