We finally made it to Goa. Thats the irony of life – we travel to exotic places abroad and many a time forget paradise thats right at your backyard.
The Park Hyatt at Goa is truly heaven on earth. Lush green meadows , rooms in lovely Portugese Villas, a huge pool, a great activity Centre for kids – Camp Hyatt , 5 great restaurants (Including one on the beach) and a lovely beach which is as good as private. a lovely gym and a great Spa. ( What else can you ask for !) The only thing missing from this Indralok was the dancing Apsaras (The middle aged Russians & Europeans – couldn’t quite match up to the task) And if you get all of this free (Thanks to Hyatt Platinum Points) – you just say WOW !
The weather in Nov is perfect – warm , sunny and a little humid. And thats what drives the hordes of foreigners at this peak season. 90% of the hotel guests were foreigners and a vast majority were Russians. Surprisingly almost every guest was a family of 4 or 5 – with kids in the age group of 3 – 12.
The Park Hyatt has 205 rooms & 12 suites and is spread across 100 + acres and extends to the beach. The sand is soft and fine like talcum powder and the water really warm & nice. Right on the beach you have water sports run by private agencies. These are not cheap – a 10 min Para Sailing or Jet Skiing can cost Rs 1000/- , and a trip in the morning to watch dolphins can put you back by Rs 3000/- (But you do see dolphins – we saw 5 of them playing around with our boat)
There are some lovely restaurants in the Hyattl – Indian , Italian , Multi cuisine , Sea Food etc – all of which have a common open area where every evening there is some entertainment happening. The Palms restaurant is located right on the beach. Food is decently priced and dinner for a family can cost up-to Rs 3K (Liquor not included). The Child Menu has a lot of options. The breakfast buffet is extensive – so do ensure that your room rate includes breakfast.
What can you do beyond the lovely hotel at Goa ? A Lot – here are some useful tips
1. Goa is a State – so it takes time to go from one place to another. Most of the resorts are in S Goa ( The Park Hyatt is at the N end of S Goa and is 20 Min drive from the Airport) – but some of the popular beaches like Baga Beach , Anjuna etc are in N Goa. You may hear the oft repeated statement that ” The action is in N Goa” – I beg to defer. We visited Tito’s in N Goa , Baga Beach one night – Crowded , Loud Music , mainly youth in their 20’s , Indian Liquor served in plastic cups – NOT my idea of something Classy, and I would definitely not not go back there again . If you are 40 + and want style and class stick to the entertainment venues in S Goa – Martins, or even the Tito’s in S Goa .
2. If you are staying in a wonderful resort with its own beach you may not want to visit the numerous beaches of Goa.
Some of the other Tourist attractions are
a) The Sahkari Spice Garden – A must visit. A 3rd Generation Family Farm spread across 200 acres. they have a tour that includes a nice homely lunch. You get to see all the spice plants and even buy fresh stuff. Tickets are Rs 400 / person. ( This includes a shot of Feni which they distill at the farm) – and a lot of useful tips on how Spices can help you in day to day ills. (Maybe I should start a blog trail with some of those recipes – called Grandmas home made remedies)
b) The Churches in old Goa. Do visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus UNESCO Heritage Site in Old Goa , it contains the tomb & mortal remains of St Xaviers .
c) A few temples – including the 500 + Year old Mangeshi Temple ( This village is home to the Mangeshkar sisters) – not very impressive unless you are very religious and lord Shiva here has a moustache and looks like Ajay Devgun.
d) You can visit Panjim – the capital and do some shopping, drive around the old Portuguese colony Fontainhas, and then drive to Dona Paula. On the way stop by for lunch at Mum’s Kitchen
(Its a great place for Sea Food – Limited Veg options, thats trues across most restaurants in Goa) . Some other places for food – Cafe Mangii at Panjim ( Italian) , Inafnatria at Calangute Beach – Breakfast , Croissants , Sandwiches etc, Fidalgo at Panjim – Gujarathi Thali.
On the way back drop by at Zantyes to pick up Cashews & Feni. (There are 8 stores in Goa). Cashews are priced around Rs 600 /- Kg. ( Point to note – You can find equally good quality Kaju at similar prices at Bangalore . They have farms in the Goa Mangalore coast. Achal Cashew Centre , Shop 2, Sri Jayadeva Shopping Complex, 5th Main , Gandhinagar, Ph 080 22385374,22351777, Near the Horse Racing Track)
e) The Dudhsagar Waterfalls is about 2 Hrs drive from S Goa. We did not go there – but thats almost a days trip. Heard that it is impressive.
f) There are Casinos on the River – housed in large ships on the river Mandovi. Having been to Vegas & Macau we decided to skip these.
g) A visit to Fort Aguada (They also have water sports here. The Taj Group has a hotel here – one of the few large hotels in N Goa) )
h) Boat rides on the River Mandovi
i) A visit to the late Mario Miranda’s museum at Bardez
You can cover most of the sites in 2 day sessions from 10 AM to 4 PM and be back in the evening to hit the beach.
So a 3 night , 4 day package to Goa is all you need to cover this beautiful place, and be rest assured that just like Tirupathi , if you have make a visit to Goa you will be back soon.
The little one loved the resort so much that she was very unhappy when we were checking out and we promised her we would be back soon.