Words: ATSALA YALNAZ
Out of MUMBAI (600 km)
In a quiet corner of the sunshine state, a resplendent Indian monsoon leaves Ashvem Beach awash. In giddy proximity to, but serenely distinct from the party cruises and thrilling watersport spots of north Goa, the sands of Ashvem drape themselves around polished rocks and retreat from the swaying palm trees that dot the shore. Under the leafy shade, you might spot a hammock or a sunbed calling out to you to spend an afternoon with a book and a cocktail. The only footprints in the sand for miles to come will be your own, with the exception of perhaps a newly-settled foreign visitor who has found their temporary paradise – in which case, you’re sure to leave having made a friend.
For an early breakfast, head to The Rice Mill Café and Bar, transformed from a rice mill (duh!) to become a haven for seekers of good Goan cuisine. Try the papaya smoothie and the poi and kheema at this eatery in the lanes of Morjim, and sit back with a book or a board game by its charming blue windows or in its quaint attic. If you’re looking for entertainment, come back on a Saturday evening when the chairs and tables are shoved aside to make space for a busy dance floor, with jazz performances in accompaniment!
Next, drive down to Monte Santo in Velha Goa, where you can visit the Convent of Santa Monica and the Chapel of the Weeping Cross to marvel at fine examples of Portuguese architecture. Stroll through the historic building that cocoons both of these and explore the grandeur of its fortress-like structure standing tall atop a hill, or soak in some history at its Museum of Christian Art, which houses paintings, inscriptions, and manuscripts from the 16th to the 18th century.
If you’re in for a quick but rewarding road trip, head to the picturesque Chorla Ghat on the Goa-Karnataka border (70km down State Highway 4, Belgaum). Particularly a treat in the monsoon when a winding road disappears into a cloudy sky ahead of you and the petrichor pleasurably overwhelms your senses, this is where you will discover gems such as the alluring Vazira Shakira Falls. You can also find yourself in complete sync with nature on a mesmerising cruise on the Cumbarjua backwaters amid the verdant mangrove forests; keep an eye out for crocodiles lazing on the banks as you let yourself be enveloped by the sounds of rustling leaves and birdsong.
On your last night, hit up Moki Bar and Kitchen in Porvorim, a rooftop restaurant that serves up an inviting fusion of European and Asian cuisine (the bacon-wrapped fish, crème brûlée and the sea salt chocolate mousse should definitely be on your list) and delightful sangrias. You will be welcomed by the dreamy sight of polaroids strung with lights across untouched rock walls; evenings at this homely hangout spot feature live music acts that make for the perfect aural backdrop to a candle-lit dinner, or, alternatively, offer you the chance to get up and jam after a couple of drinks! Goa – its name swirling at the tip of the tongue at even the slightest chance of a getaway – is as much a churning, pulsating, and celebratory experience as it can be a quiet, tranquil, and ruminative one.