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Goa

Thursday, July 2, 2009
After the noise and bustle of Mumbai, Jules Lund was happy to head to the Indian state of Goa on the country's south-western coast. India's smallest state has been popular with Westerners seeking inner peace since the mid-1960s. Goa trance, a form of electronic music, originated there in the late 1980s.

Goa's history sets it apart from the rest of the country. 450 years of Portuguese rule have given it a European look and feel. Cabo de Rama fortress has seen it all, predating the Portuguese by centuries. It was the centrepiece of major dynasties — as almost everyone at one stage craved a piece of the paradise.

Neighbouring 15th-century maharajas, the Dutch, British and French all had a go at Goa. Even today, more than 2 million Indians head there for a slice of the local action. Locals call themselves Goans first and Indians second and thanks to farming, fishing and tourism, they enjoy one of India's best standards of living.

So with a little knowledge of Goa's past and the desire to learn more, Jules found himself in the town of Margao.

Margao

The commercial centre is chaotic and noisy with architectural reminders of its Portuguese past. Surrounded by fertile farmland, Margao was once a major religious centre with dozens of temples and dharamshalas (dormitories). Most were destroyed when the Portuguese absorbed the area in the 17th century, but it has magnificent specimens of old houses and churches, including the Largo de Igreja at the entrance to the town. The wonderful example of late-baroque architecture has a pristine white facade and an interior dripping with gilt, crystal and stucco.

Palolem

After a good look around Margao, Jules rented a scooter and headed out along the back roads to Palolem. Scooters cost about $11 a day and, believe it or not, a car with a driver is even cheaper!

Palolem has beautiful white sand and faces a blue bay between two headlands. There are little wooded islands on the northern headland and you might like to persuade a local fisherman to ferry you across. They do take passengers dolphin spotting so it's worth a try. There are shacks selling seafood snacks, souvenirs and bright, informal clothing.

Ciaran's Beach Huts

It's the least touristy strip of sand with no established hotels of any note, but Ciaran's Beach Huts have built a reputation for their large, clean waterfront rooms. Set on the crescent-shaped bay lined with swaying coconut palms, the boutique beach cottages are surrounded by lush green tropical gardens.

Each year after monsoon season, Ciaran is redesigned and rebuilt. Cottages are made from coconut coir which is sustainable and plentiful. The beach is replenished and the owners think about guest improvements before reopening. Recent additions are hammocks from Mexico and rooftop day beds.

No cottage is further than 20m from the beach and some are right on it! All have outdoor seating areas, ensuite facilities, hot showers, mosquito netting and quiet fans gently circulate the sea breezes. Guests choose from Garden, Ocean View and Sundeck cottages.

Twenty full-time members of staff have been there since day one, and the biggest time of the year is a special New Year's Eve dinner. Locals will celebrate Ciaran's 10th birthday in 2009, and the party will be bigger than ever.

Location

Goa on the south-western coast of India.

Cost

Ausindia Holidays has a 17-day Indian Affair tour from Delhi. It includes three nights in Goa, all accommodation, all meals, internal flights, transfers and sightseeing. Fares start at $5623 per person twin share. Tours are scheduled for November 15 and December 10, 2009 and January 15 and February 12, 2010.

Thai Airways International has flights to Delhi. Sales and validity dates apply.

Fares from:

  • Perth $1450
  • Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane $1665

Jet Airways has connecting flights to Goa. The airline is represented in Australia by World Aviation Systems.

Prices correct at July 2, 2009.

For further information

Thai Airways International
Ph: 1300 651 960
www.thaiairways.com.au

World Aviation Systems
Ph: 1300 361 400
www.jetairways.com

Ciaran's
Palolem Beach
Goa
Ph: +91 832 264 3477
www.ciarans.com/index.html
hello@ciarans.com

India Tourism
Level 5, Glasshouse
135 King Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: (02) 9221 9555
Fax: (02) 9221 9777
www.incredibleindia.org
info@indiatourism.com.au

Ausindia Holidays
Level 2, 32 York Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 1300 146 342
Fax: 1300 724 490
www.ausindiaholidays.com.au
info@ausindiaholidays.com.au

Visas: Entry visas are required before arrival. Six-month multiple-entry visas are issued to most nationals regardless of intended length of stay. Most Indian embassies and consulates will not issue a visa to enter India unless you have an onward ticket. They are valid from date of issue, rather than date of arrival in India.

Electricity: 230-240V/50Hz. You will find two sorts of plugs — one with two circular pins above a large circular grounding pin or a European plug with two circular metal pins.

Currency: The Indian rupee.

International dialling code: +91.

It is recommended travellers to India see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be required and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au or www.smartraveller.gov.au.

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