There’s an old picture of my mom in our house. She’s standing on a boat, eyes almost closed, looking into the distance, almost as if she’s staring into the future. Her expression’s calm, serene even, as if she’s unaware of the troubles of the future.
Ok, ok. I know its a cliché that Indian guys love their moms. But I bet even the most hardcore Indian guy would think twice before taking their mom for a holiday in India’s top party destination. But it can be done. And has been done with style. All explained below. Warning – you may be overcome with an irresistible desire to gift your parents a dream holiday. In which case my work is done.
I’ve always been a pretty calm guy. But, as any kid knows, I have driven my mom mad at several occasions, sometimes out of genuine doubt, sometimes just to see how far I could test her patience (we all do this, don’t deny it). Bless her heart, despite going through a difficult divorce and raising me and my brother on her own, without any family support, my mom somehow survived it all. I promised myself that I would make sure her troubles and struggles would be worth it, sooner rather than later. No one deserved an awesome Goa holiday more than her.
I love to travel, to new places and old. I love good food and discovering all kinds of quirky things which people don’t know even about well known places. Having been involved in the luxury hotel business in Maldives and Goa, I had a good background to prepare the ultimate holiday for my mom. And by a great holiday, I mean one with great experiences, not just expensive hotels.
It was the month of August, 2013. Mom’s birthday’s there in the first week. This is how it went.
It was a cloudy morning when I headed to the Dabolim airport in a hired car, which I was driving. I’d just quit my job, and planned to spend the next few days in Goa with mom, before returning home to Delhi. So we had a good 3-4 days in Goa. I drove fast but carefully, a little apprehensive. Didn’t want mom to get caught in the rain.
The first place we headed was this lovely restaurant in Panjim called Down The Road. We had a light lunch there before heading off to our hotel in Candolim. This was my mom’s first proper visit to Goa, she’d last visited as a child on a school trip. We settled into the very laid back hotel Casablanca, and then spent the day exploring nearby places. I took her to the Fort Aguada nearby.
Then we drove on the road to the Aguada prison, and I stopped by this place by a massive old banyan tree. There was an unbelievable view of the sea from there.
Mom’s eye’s lit up and she went running forward like an excited little girl; I was a bit afraid that she might slip. It was nice to see her so happy and carefree :). We clicked a few pics, and sat for a while, enjoying the fresh sea breeze, the grass and flowers. Later, we even saw a flock of brilliantly blue peacocks crossing the road. We visited the popular Café Bhonsle and the famous Ritz Classic later.
I’d hired a white Wagon R for the trip (rented at about Rs. 600 per day), which I drove. The freedom it gave us, was great. I had a rough itinerary in mind, knowing a few places that we should definitely not miss.
Whenever wherever we liked, we stopped to take photos, anytime we saw anything interesting. My mom loves seafood, and I had something really special planned for that. Later.
August is a great time to be in Goa. The seas are wild and rough, swimming isn’t allowed. Its the monsoon period, and the sky can pour torrents any time, the rain gods having devious fun opening the heavenly faucets to drench us unsuspecting mortals.
The upside was that there was a heavenly smell of the freshly moist soil, the bright green grass and plants everywhere, and absolutely no traffic anywhere. You know what a blessing that is if you’ve ever been stuck in traffic in the rain in any of the metros. None of that here. Just your heart singing as you press on the accelerator, taking you where you desire, warm and snug in your own car with old song’s playing in the car’s music player. It helps to prepare a playlist of your mom’s favourite songs before hand :).
As beaches were out of the question, we drove to Ponda to visit the Tropical Spice Plantation. We got lost and took the wrong way, but even that was fun as we stopped, and while Google Maps was caliberating, took a few photos on the road with the lovely green meadows and some curious cows. The Spice Plantation is a great place to take your parents. In the parking area, they have 2-3 elephants which you can ride (and maybe bathe). After buying tickets (a very reasonable Rs. 400 per person), walk down across a small wooden bridge into a wooden hut area, where a local Goan guide awaits to show you and your group around.
The guides first offer you an aromatic lemongrass tea and garland you with small, delicate white flowers.
Then they take you and show you lemongrass, cardamom, a spice plant which has 5 distinct flavours (I forget the name, it was panch something). As it was raining, I was given a giant Kingfisher umbrella, which was pretty funny to carry around. We also saw how Uraak, the local Goan liquor made from cashew nuts, is traditionally prepared.
The tour ends with a sumptous lunch made with all the locally grown spices. Both veg and non veg options served in traditional earthen pots and are eaten on coconut coir plates. Mom and I sat peacefully, enjoying the delicious food, and watching other families and kids around us.
Another place which few people know about is the Butterfly Conservatory in Goa. Mom loved this place, with all its beautiful butterflies and various fragile, flowering plants, specially grown to attract the butterflies. A citizen’s initiative, the Butterfly Conservative is run by a very amiable Goan couple, Dr Jyoti Heblekar and his wife, who even serve a delicious lunch (on request). Dr Jyoti also takes you on trek up the mountains through heavily forested area to visit a waterfall which is quite an adventure (one I did not take my mom on :P).
The best time to visit here is September, when the valley begins to bloom with dainty, pretty flowers making it feel like a verdant paradise interspersed with stars that have fallen down and taken root. The couple have a pretty amazing house, their roof is covered with grass!!! They take you to the top and you can even sit and have tea and see the hill rise up above you. Visit it if you haven’t already.
Next stop was Old Goa, where we visited the famous Basilica of Bom Jesus, a huge church. The high ceilings, giant glass chandeliers, red-blue stained glass windows and statues with beatific expressions always inspire a deep awe, no matter how many times I visit.
We checked out of Casablanca the next day, and shifted to the Maitri guesthouse in Baga, a very comfortable place run by a very friendly family. I was friends with Sudi, who manages the place. They warmly welcomed us, and we moved to a very comfortable room.
We spent this day driving and exploring beaches. From Anjuna to Arambol, we drove far. It was a grey, cloudy day with a heavy hint of rain. At Arambol, we had a delicious snack of Cheese Garlic Naan and hot chai, a brilliant combo that is especially heavenly in the cool weather.
On our way back, we stopped to visit the famous Chapora fort, where the Dil Chahta Hai scene was shot. Mom had a little trouble climbing up, but she good naturedly made her way walking “diagonally” (in a zig zag manner), as she so cutely put it. You gotta love your parents for their little quirks.
Lunch was at the Mango hotel at Vagator. Egg salad,chili chicken and my most favourite ginger lemon tea with honey.
We dropped by the Asterix Hostel, and Mom had great fun exploring the place and reading the colourful messages other travelers have scribbled on the walls.
I’ve written a whole post about it here.
We went back to rest after the whole day of driving. Evening was upon us and I told Sudi it was my mom’s birthday, and I wanted to do something special. We booked a table at the famous Britto’s on Baga beach, which was a perfect setting.
At night, we left for Britto’s. The restaurant glittered with candle lit lamps on the tables, and various assorted memorabilia. We ordered drinks and talked, as I waited for the surprise to come. A black forest cake with a huge Happy Birthday message and candles was brought to the table, much to mom’s delight.
The prawn curry, and chicken curry were perfect accompaniments to a lavish birthday dinner.
After dinner, we went to the bar next to Britto’s so that Mom could get a feel of the famous nightlife of Goa. We heard some bad karaoke singing and the took a walk on the beach, which was full of people even at that late hour.
Mom and I spent some time chatting to this guy trying to sell us glow-in-the-dark bands, asking him how he came to be in Goa and his story. Though we didn’t buy anything from him (he was charging almost Rs. 1000 for the band!), he was happy to talk and tell his story.
One of the best parts of the trip was when we drove to see the sea at Vagator beach that night. Quiet, with the silver moon shining above and the gushing sound of the waves, it was peaceful in a way that only Goa can be.
Finally, the next day, I drove mom back to the airport. We stopped at a temple on the way to take blessings for the journey home. The smile and relaxed expression on Mom’s face, and the happy memories of the past few days, was enough to know I’d done something right.
So who says you can’t party with your Mom in Goa?
Gift your parents a Goan holiday, they more than deserve it.
Links to places we visited:
- Butterfly Conservatory
- Tropical Spice Plantation - great for a one time visit and lunch. Elephant ride and batch seems to be a bit overpriced at Rs. 600 each for 10min (as of August 2013).
- Hotel Casablanca - nice place, with an ok ok buffet breakfast. Rooms are comfortable, and staff is friendly, but I recommend eating somewhere else.
- Maitri Guesthouse - Great, comfortable place, and I think the wi-fi has been installed. Call Sudi to book a room. He can even have a car sent to the airport for you. Super convenient.