As 2016 comes to a close, everyone is talking about New Year’s Eve parties and where they’ll be ushering in the first sunrise of 2017. But it’s Goa — with its warm sun, salty sea and vast stretches of silken sand — where the beach folk are this holiday season.
Goa fulfils the three most sought-after Fs of life — fun, food and fashion — in a manner most susegad, which is a term used to describe the laid-back pace of life in the smallest Indian state. And there’s better time to be in Goa than Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Here are the top five reasons to visit Goa — apart from its innumerable beach parties and rich music scene, and its beaches stretching from north to south — every year, all year round.
The opening of the first W hotel in India earlier this month, the W Goa in Vagator (north Goa), has flipped the old Goan mood board into a glamorously, sassy one. W Goa is spread across 10 hectares of greens along the Arabian Sea, with views of swaying coconut palms and the idyllic Vagator Beach from its elevated rock pool. The Goan red laterite stone is dominant in the hotel’s contemporary architectural style, with installation artist Subodh Kerkar’s art works from his Indigo and Chilli series occupying places of pride in the hotel. The Kitchen Table, an all-day diner overlooking the pool, serves the best Goan thali. The bamboo charcoal prawn tempura with mango and wasabi, a signature dish of Chef Tanveer Kwatra, at the pan-Asian Spice Traders restaurant, is just exquisite, as is the baked Singapore chilli crab and the tuna truffle tostadas with caviar. The food at W Goa is exemplary in its tastes, flavours, finesse and technique. The neon-hued WeeKids, a kids club, a first for the W globally, is popular. And what’s a little glamour without some Bollywood thrown in? Bollywood superstar Salman Khan and his family were one of the very first guests during the W Goa’s inaugural run in India. So, if you ever wanted to sleep in the same bed as Khan (without him in it, of course!) well, now you can in the W villa.
The culinary scene in Goa is as diverse as its people, not to mention, addictive. There’s no dearth of restaurants and bars in Goa, with world cuisine being served in beach shacks and luxury hotels alike. The coolest places to hang out and eat in, rather than just be seen in, are undeniably Thalassa Greek Taverna (Greek/Mediterranean) on Small Vagator, and Gunpowder: The Peninsular Kitchen (South Indian) in Assagao.
Thalassa is always bustling with people enjoying their lamb gyros, feta moussakas and risotto prawns, while taking in the spectacular views from the restaurant. The blue and white Greek village environs add to its charm.
Gunpowder’s cuisine includes flavours from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and even some parts of Maharashtra. From Syrian Christian beef, Kerala mutton curry and Andhra prawns to their famous fluffy egg appams to the south Indian staple — a steaming plate of idlis with gunpowder chutney — it’s like a little bit of India on a very big, rotating plate. You might just run into Twinkle Khanna riding in on her yellow scooter here since it’s one of her favourite restaurants in Goa.
Fashion in Goa is refreshingly personal. It’s you and your vibe, but a new outfit on New Year’s Eve is de rigueur, wherever you might be in the world. Fashion designer Malini Ramani’s vibrant store in Calangute can help you get your Goa glam on with everything resort — from shimmering off-shoulder dresses and feathery tops to sundresses and sequined shorts and bikinis. So whether you’re going to a sundowner at a resort or a fireworks and bonfire party on the beach, or just taking a selfie with a cow on the streets, you’ll find something that works.
What’s a holiday without a round of golf a la Rory McIlroy on the Double T 9-hole golf course at Lalit Golf and Spa Resort in South Goa or some good old soccer on the beach? Spread over 34 hectares, the Baroque-Portuguese styled resort has an imposing hand-painted tile mosaic of Sao Rafael, one of the first Portuguese ships that landed in Goa, steered by Vasco De Gama, to add to its cultural charm. With sweeping views of the Sahyadri mountain range, along the confluence of the Talpone river, the Lalit’s grounds are ideal to commune with yourself. If doing sports is your idea of a relaxing holiday then the Lalit has everything from lawn tennis to table tennis, squash, volley ball, badminton, cycling and zorbing (the sport of rolling downhill inside a plastic orb). And if you love spas, then Rejuve at the Lalit is an added must to your itinerary.
The pursuit of an energised spirit is on everyone’s mind for 2017 and the Detox Detour at the Alila Diwa Goa offers just that. The hotel is set amid rice plantations and mango, banyan and peepul trees, and sits along Gonsua Beach in Majorda, South Goa. Just the idea of a detox detour is so appealing that it does not take any persuasion to check right into the soothing environs of Spa Alila. Their detox detour works at correcting imbalances and health deteriorations due to the stresses of modern living. After all the hedonistic partying and food indulgences during the holidays, Spa Alila’s bespoke treatments infuse elements of ayurveda, yoga, hypnotherapy, pranic healing and nutrition to nourish and cleanse your mind, body and soul, so you can take on 2017’s exciting new adventures with renewed fervour.