Goa, the sunshine state is more than just beaches, sun and sand. Being one of the most favored destination for domestic as well as international tourists, Goa is popular for its seafood, water sports, cheap booze and night clubs. I love Goa but not for all those reasons and I keep going back every year. Goa is more than a vacation, it has become a ritual that I would never give up. My love for Goa is often mocked at because I’m vegetarian, never visit night clubs and mainly because I’m a teetotaler. My experiences made me aware of the myths that surround Goa. There is never a right or wrong way to travel, just different perspectives that bring in offbeat encounters. So let’s bust some myths about traveling in Goa.
Myth: It’s all about the beaches
Reality: In Goa, one can find a beach at every other kilometer and that is what makes this state known for it’s beach holidays. However, there is a lot more to Goa than beaches. Goa is home to some of the most beautiful villages in it’s countryside which are far away from the beaches in the interiors of the region. Rivers, waterfalls, spice farms, black stone temples, islands, sanctuaries, mountain slopes and highways with lush green rice paddies on one and coconut trees on the other side make Goa a palm-fringed paradise that you wouldn’t want to leave. A ride through the villages around Ponda, Saligao, Loutolim, and Quepem will show you the unconventional side of Goa; from green hills, sacred groves, abandoned forts to tranquil village roads that lie under a canopy of forests.
Myth: Goa is not a place for vegetarians
Reality: This is easily the biggest myth when it comes to Goa and it’s high time to bust it. Goa is not just about prawn vindaloo, chicken xacuti and grilled basa, there is so much more to the cuisine. The food in this coastal state is heavily influenced by the use of coconut and that is just what makes the food absolutely drool-worthy. Look beyond shacks and over-hyped restaurants, and you will rediscover the real taste of Goan cuisine. From Mushroom xacuti, Cabbage foogath, khatkhate, sorak curry, Jack-fruit curry, french beans foogath to the delicious Goan bread called poee, there’s an unlimited assortment of vegetarian curries, pickles, chutneys, rice based dishes that are equally delicious and have a homely feel to it. Since no meal is complete for me without dessert, I discovered that Goan cuisine has more to desserts than just cakes and cookies. Desserts like Bebinca, Dodol, Baath, Kulkuls, Perad, Channa doce and Patole are a delicious mix of Indian, Portuguese and Arabic cooking. Although, these foods are common to the locals, they are not to be found in restaurants in touristy places, and you’ll get a taste of this authentic cuisine exclusively at homely eateries or your home-stay. Other than the authentic cuisine, Goan shacks and restaurants are vegan/vegetarian friendly and you’ll find some delicious vegetarian food anywhere you go, right from Italian to Greek, there is something for every vegetarian foodie.
Myth: It is best experienced during new years
Reality: December is the peak season to travel to Goa because the weather is not too hot and new years is just around the corner. But, from my experience, new years is just not the right time to be in Goa. Of course, if you like the sight of crowded beaches, drunk people wandering the streets, selfie-obsessed tourists, and vibe-killers ruining the tranquility of the place, then maybe you should. If there is one season that Goa should be experienced in, it’s monsoons! A few showers and the state is completely transformed from a touristy holiday destination amidst scotching heat, to a green paradise that is idyllic and tranquil. So why is monsoon the best time to be in Goa? Cheaper accommodation, no tourists (that means you almost have the entire place to yourself), clean beaches, a mesmerizing countryside, highways adorned with ride paddy fields and overall a very good vibe. The choice is yours 😉
Myth: You should have your own vehicle to get around
Reality: I love road trips to Goa but that too gets so mundane after a while, you sit in your car and go around places, sounds like the most comfortable way to travel from one place to another, doesn’t it? But the enriching experience you live, by observing the day to day life in a bus ride can never be matched up by a car ride. Goa doesn’t have the best of local transport systems, but it’s reliable, friendly and costs way to little! I would never travel by bus in my hometown but when in Goa, it’s become something that I can’t do without. The pretty villages you come across, the warmth of the locals, the susegad way of life that unfolds in front of you as the wind blows against your face is a memory you will cherish in the long run. Buses, trains, rickshaws ply every route, there’s a bus to every beach and popular tourist destination. The frequency of the buses is pretty good too. If you are environmentally conscious and a responsible traveler (which you should be, more on that later), opting for local transport if the best way to reduce carbon footprint and support the local economy that is majorly based on tourism. So ditch that comfortable air-con car and catch a local bus to your next destination, you will thank me later.
Myth: You get the best food at beach shacks
Reality: Goa is known for its beach shacks but is that the best food Goa can offer? Look beyond the touristy shacks and hunt down local eateries that can’t be found on Zomato or Tripadvisor. These little home-run food joints serve some of the most authentic as well as delicious food dishes that are a mix of Portuguese and Indian cooking, all at a cheap and cheerful price. And because these restaurants are not advertised, you’ll see very few tourists dining here. Some of these restaurants don’t even have a name, you’ll spot a couple of chairs and tables arranged into a dinning like setting with a board displaying what food is available for the day. Goans welcome you into their Portuguese villa-turned-restaurant with such warmth and friendliness that you be will overwhelmed. Food can be customized to your liking and you will be fed with love! Eating local is a wonderful way to taste authentic, home-style food and get an insider’s perspective on the cooking traditions. And to add to that, it’s a great way to support local economy, buy local and eat local!