5 Exciting Ways You Can Vacation In Goa Like A True Blue Insider!

Shreemi Verma
Summertime Villa, Goa.

I visit Goa at least twice a year. I live in hotels, I go to the same beaches, I go to the same ‘popular’ places to eat, drink and party. Like everything else, even Goa was getting monotonous. That’s why, when the good people at Airbnb India told us about their plans to launch a 31-page Goa Insider’s Guide, I was over the moon. I was taken to Goa for a 2 day trip where I lived in a gigantic villa, participated in a photo-walk, attended a Paul John Whiskey tasting session and saw this handy guide being launched amidst celebrities.

So now that I’m an expert too (just kidding), let me make you a list of the ways you can live the real Goan life, without giving up the luxury and comfort of being on a vacation –

1) Swap your hotel booking apps for Airbnb instead –

This website has revolutionized the way people travel. With Indians finally getting out to see what the world has to offer, Airbnb has been a big help in finding travelers a place to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, home-stays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms.

As a guest, I was put up in a gorgeous villa (big enough to fit the entire Team MissMalini) named Avanilaya. Tucked away in the corners of Aldona, Goa, this little paradise had a bed which belongs to the palaces you’d read about in regency romance novels, a bathroom which looked like a spa, a veranda and a private pool.

Amazing isn’t it? Goa Insider’s Guide features seven luxury homes you will find on Airbnb, curated by the talented Gauri Khan herself. From a 200-year-old restored Goan villa across 2.5 acres to a romantic retreat on a hill-top in Calangute, the booklet features homes that will appeal to people with varied tastes. Here’s what Gauri Khan has said about contributing to the guide –

The essence of a culture is rooted in its people and the homes in which they reside. Goa is characterized by a mix of unique Indo-Portuguese architectural influence, which tells visitors stories from past generations. With the launch of the Airbnb Goa Insider’s Guide, Airbnb is giving curious travelers the chance to soak in the experience of living like a local, by offering them unprecedented access to homes and hearts which best embody the spirit of Goa. The villas, mansions, and homes curated in this Guide are a breathtaking combination of Goan heritage and modern day amenities, accompanied by insights from local experts.

Here are some photos of the gorgeous homes listed in the guide, handpicked by Mrs. Khan-

Exit
Candolim Song
Casa Sol
Figueiredo Heritage Inn
Summertime Villa
The Villa
Villa Solitude
Zoloft

2) Check out the backwaters in Goa –

Ferry ride to Divar. #sunset#divarisland#mi5photography

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There are backwaters in Goa! Flowing around the quaint Divar Island, the gorgeous backwaters were such a refreshing change from the many beaches most of us have already visited.  A photo-walk with the legendary ad film-maker Shantanu Sheorey made us see the quirky nooks and corners of Goa in a completely different light. Divar Island is accessible only via ferry, so keep that in mind before you head out with your DSLRs.

3) Try out Paul John, the award winning single malts made in Goa –

A whiskey tasting session with Paul John was one of the most exciting things in my itinerary. I tried three types of single malts – Brilliance, Edited and Bold, all of them progressively giving me a very, very good buzz (I had it neat, cut me some slack).

But yes, in our obsession with having beers and cocktails by the beach, we forget to experiment with our alcohol as well. This really needs to change, as Paul John is one of the most successful single malt whiskey in the world, and it’s made in India! The bottles are half the price in Goa as compared to what you’d get them for in Mumbai. So take a break from beer and enjoy the good life.

4) Go for a food trail, buy your spices and buy better gifts –

The good folks at @airbnb hooked me up with the most insane Goan food trail in Saligao today. It isn't often that you sit down to a meal that is both delicious and a solid education. Over the many courses of our leisurely lunch, the amazing Odette Mascarenhas took us through the history of food in Goa, and how flavours were introduced or transformed by different residents, communities, immigrants and invaders. Each course was representative of the flavour and palette of a different community and went so much deeper than the standard fish curry, vindaloo, sorpotel menu you see at tourist traps. I understand Goan food a little better today. And I understand Goan siesta MUCH better today. Now if you'll excuse me, goodnight #LiveThere #InGoa

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According to the ‘insiders’ who have contributed in the making of this guide, here are some of the different things you have to try –

After walking the ramp for top Indian designers and hosting a popular television show, Joey Matthew is cooking up a storm at her cafe, Daily Grind, near North Goa’s Donda Beach. A Malayali who found home in Goa, Joey thinks, “You have to be at a beautiful place at the end of the day. The quality of life in Goa is 2,000 notches up than in other cities.” Her favourite food in Goan cuisine are Chicken cafreal and seafood thali. Joey suggests buying some of the finest spices, garlic and turmeric at Mapusa spice market.

– Popular fashion designer Wendell Rodricks suggests that give a rest to feni and cashews as takeaway gifts and instead, invest in the Kunbi Saree, the garment worn by tribal women before the Portuguese invaded Goa. H revealed the one thing not many people know about Goa, that it is the birthplace of the world’s first Indo-Western clothing.

Odette Mascarenhas showed everyone that there’s more to Goan food than just vindaloo. At a food trail in Saligao, she suggested the Chicken Cafreal at Hotel Mondova and Ross omelette in Panjim or Margao, opening up the cuisine to much more than what we’re used to.

Carmen, a former antique curator, a contributor to the insider guide and an Airbnb host owns the villa Ikshaa which narrates stories of her travels across the country—pillars from Thanjavur, tiles from Kerala, furniture from Rajasthan, that has been infused with Goan warmth and hospitality.

She divides her time between cooking for guests and hunting drool-worthy food. Her must-have foods include Crab xec xec, chicken cafreal, mutton xacuti, and pork amsol.

Retail designer and Airbnb host Mark Bell was a Benglauru-based retail designer until he just left it all and decided to live in Goa. The Londoner bought himself a 200-year-old Portuguese villa that was in complete ruins so he got down to rebuilding the house himself. Almost a decade later, Mark hosts travelers from across the world at The Villa in Assagao.

5) And finally, do your pub-hopping in style!

Travel writer and photographer Nolan Mascarenhas totally wants you to party and get the best of Goa’s vibrant night life. His suggestions include iconic restaurants like A Reverie, Chulha, Koi Asian Fine Dining, Route 66, and Spice Goa for food. He then lists Edge Bar, Café Mojo, Cape Town Café, and Love Passion Karma (LPK) as the best pubs to visit. In casinos Deltin Royale and Deltin Caravela are his top picks.

But it’s his pub-hopping guide which is my personal favourite –

Start with karaoke and sheesha at St Anthony’s in Baga, then dance on the bar counter at Cavala and meet locals in Titos lane before hanging out in Cape Town Café. Also make stops at Cohiba, Sinq, and Showbar.

Quite a night eh?

A specially curated guide of things to do and places to visit (which go beyond the Baga stretch) is the one essential everyone who plans to visit Goa needs. Airbnb has all of that and much more in it’s first Insider Guide in India.

Download your guide here and start planning your trip already!

This post is in partnership with Airbnb

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