I am currently working at Walmart, and Walmart recently made it mandatory for its associates to work 2 days a week from their offices, from April, 2023. So, I pulled off a week-long workation at Goa in the last week of March. This article is my journal entry, and in no way a complete guide to exploring Goa. I stayed in a Zostel in Morjim for a week, and had the time of my life. I will share some of my reviews, pictures, and memories of the beaches, places, cafes, pubs, alcohols and experiences in North Goa.
Bangalore to Goa — The Journey
I stay in the Marathalli area of Bangalore, and since I was going on a solo workation, I decided to take a bus, and explored options on RedBus. I found one, that will pick me up from Marathalli Innovative Multiplex bus stop, and goes to Mapusa bus stop in Goa. I went ahead with it. I was really impressed with RedBus’s service. On the day of the trip, it shared me the contact number of the conductor, and shared a link to track the location of bus in real-time. It really helped, since when it was on its way to the other pickup point (for Bangaloreans — on its way from Bellandur to Marathalli Bridge before taking a U-Turn from Kalamandir to start the journey), and I was already waiting at my bus stop (just a 5 minute walk from my flat), I called the driver up and was the first to board the bus (incidentally I was also the last to deboard).
The bus journey was an overnight journey, and it was comfortable. Since it was a RedBus Primo Certified bus, I got snacks, water bottles, pillow and blanket on my sleeper seat. It took two-three stops for a washroom break and dinner on its way.
From Mapusa, I took a bike taxi to Morjim, where I was staying. It was a pretty uncomfortable one, and needs a lot of negotiation to not be looted.
In hindsight, had I checked flight prices, I would have opted for a flight and saved 12 hours 20 minutes of journey time and some money too. My bus charged me Rs. 1800 and the flight price as Rs. 1600 (which I later found out from one of my Zostel Dormmates). Additionally, if you are at Mapusa, do not opt for Bike Taxis, buses are available to all major beaches and drop locations, so opt for that instead. If you are coming from a nearby city, flight prices might actually be faster and cheaper.
For my stay, I decided to stay at Zostel Goa (Morjim). This was my first experience of staying in a hostel during a vacation, and I had purposefully chosen to stay at a hostel instead of a hotel/ AirBnB because I wanted to experience the community experience and meet and interact with new people. And it was definitely an amazing experience.
I met tons of new people, and I am in touch with a lot of them even after the trip ended. We keep sending each other memes, and planning next vacations together. If you are going to Goa, do try to stay at some sort of a hostel, even if you are traveling as a couple, just take a private room at the Zostel. It will be an amazing experience and you will meet new people and leave Goa with new friends, and travel buddies.
Coming to the experience, I stayed in a six bed mixed dorm, and my dormmates kept changing (some of the beds), and we had a shared bathroom. So on paper, it might sound like sceptical, but in reality it was amazing. The washrooms were clean and sanitized 24*7, and the linen was changed on request daily. My only minor complaint would be about the WiFi (since I was on work — on paper 😉), the WiFi at the workstation, the cafe and my room was choppy at times (I had to reroute data through VPN so that didn’t help either), so I was using my mobile data as a hotspot, or going to a nearby cafe called Cafe Morjelo (will cover it later) for important calls. The Zostel had a pool where I spent around 2–2.5 hours daily with my dormmates, a TT table, a dedicated workspace, a cafe with good food and friendly staff. You can also rent a scooty directly from the Zostel.
Basically, if you want a hostel experience, and do not want to go too hippie, Zostel offers the perfect balance (minus the unreliable WiFi). If they sort out their WiFi with a UPS, and a reliable broadband, I would choose the Zostel experience over anything else.
Beaches in Goa
Morjim Beach — Balance of serenity and activities.
I reached the Zostel around 10 AM, and since the check-in time was around 12 PM, Zostel asked me to wait in the cafeteria for some time while my bed was being prepared. I took a scooty for rent from the Zostel and went to the Morjim beach, which is just a 5 minute ride from the Zostel.
I explored the beach for around 3 hours. It is serene and never ending. I checked some of the shacks on the beach, and since it was a Sunday morning, it had some people enjoying a bath, some surfing, a few foreigners getting a tan on the benches. It was not packed but not deserted either. I used the time to walk on the edge of the beach, getting my feet wet and enjoying the breeze when I saw some empty pockets of space.
Later, after I had checked-in to Zostel, I came back with one of my dormmates Lipika, and we explored a shack called Silver Sand Beach Resort. I tried out Cashew Feni (had to start off with local drinks), and loved it. I had it on the rocks, so got the authentic taste of it. Interestingly, through out the trip, this Cashew Feni was the only drink that gave me a bit of a hit (and I did drink quite a lot on this trip — as you will see). Silver Sand overlooks the sea, and Lipika went for a quick dip, as I tried out a few beers.
Later on, I think on the second or third day of my trip, I tried out surfing on Morjim Beach. You can find a mini surfing school inside Montego Bay. Olga would help set you up with a coach, and you can either opt for a single surfing lesson, or a course of 4 surfing lessons.
Surfing for the first time was an amazing experience for me. It was a calming experience. When you’re on the surf board waiting for the next proper wave, and the water is playing on the surfboard, hitting you slowly it’s very calming. Thoughts start running only to tell you that you can be more aware and present, but once you see the wave and your coach pushes you, everything else is a blank, for 10–15 seconds it’s just you trying to perfect the push-up, trying to position you left leg in the back at a perfect 90 and the right leg in front at a perfect 45, trying to balancing the weight on the two legs according to the wave, and trying to stay afloat and navigating the wave to the beautiful shore.
Had a few minor cuts and bruises, but could start navigating the waves till the shore and was very happy. On the last one, I peddled myself and then surfed all the way to the shore, and it was exhilirating. I would defintely suggest you to try out surfing lessons if you have never tried it.
Ashwem Beach — Silent and Serene
On my third night, I joined Manas (dormmate), and Lipika (ex-Dormmate) and her friend for a some drinks on Ashwem Beach. We went to a shack called Koleso 24/7. It had reclining chairs and umbrellas on the beach, and the weather was chilly, there was dew on the seats (In Goa!). I tried a Feni based Cocktail, this was my third time trying Feni. The first two times, I had tried Coconut Feni and Cashew Feni on the rocks. I had loved both of them. Incidentally my Coconut Feni on my very first day in Goa at Silver Sand Beach Shack on Morjim, was the only time I got a bit tipsy in Goa.
Anyway, the entire beach was beautifully silent and serene, and we watched the moon descent into the beautiful sea. Lipika and her friend asked why the moon changed colour to blood orange. And the two engineers, I and Manas started explaining refraction (facepalm, I know!). I hope years from now, we remember these memories and it brings a smile on our faces!
Calangute Beach — Loud and Not me!
I joined Nikhil, Sourabh and Mitthyu (dormmates) for a trip to Calangute beach, since it is one of the popular beaches in Goa. The four of us went to Calgunte beach, and the beach was super packed. Loud Bollywood music was playing, and it was mostly a purely Indian Crowd (unlike Morjim, or Ashwem where foreigners — mainly Russians are in majority). Calangute beach was comparatively dirtier too, and street vendors would keep coming in your face trying to sell you cashews, beach wear or temporary tattoos. It was very different from who I am, and I really felt like running back to the peace of Morjim. When we were walking around, a person slowly came near us, and asked us if we wanted him to “arrange any item — he had Indian and Nepali girls ready”. Someone else walked to our face and asked if we wanted to visit their bar, their USP — “you can dance with girls”.
I assumed that Calangute is definitely not anyone’s vibe, until someone at Zostel mentioned, that they didn’t like Morjim, Ashwem or Anjuna, because of how quite they are, or because the music was mostly psytrance, and they preferred Bollywood, so they liked Baga or Calangute.
That was an eye opener, that just because we have certain tastes, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to adhere to that, the best part of Goa is — it has something for everyone, it caters to every audience, and leaves a beautiful aftertaste in your mouth leaving you craving to come back to its serene beaches. As I am writing this, because of my short attention span (thanks to IG pushing out short content — I came across this scene from Ted Lasso on IG — Ted shooting darts with Rupert, and describing a quote by Walt Whitman — Be Curious, Not Judgemental”.
Vagator Beach — Beautiful Sunset
On my second day at Goa, I joined Nikhil, Sourabh and Mitthyu to check out the sunset at Vagator beach. The beach has hilly rocks behind the beach and if you are adventurous, you can actually hike down the rocks to the beach, which is what Sourabh did. If you want an easier road, you have that option too. The beach is rocky, and offers the perfect sunset view. It is perfect for clicking sunset pictures, and we did just that. I hope Sourabh will share the pictures by the end of this decade, and when he does, I will update this article with a few of those pictures.
Queirem Beach and Caves — Hidden Gem!
Zostel organized yet another activity to explore the Queirem Caves during sunset, and it was one of the best experiences I have had in a really long time. Queirem beach is at the north end of Goa, and pretty much shares the border of Goa and Maharashtra. The trip was almost a 2 hour journey reduced to a one and half hour journey, thanks to one of my dormmates driving the car as if there is no tomorrow.
The beach is serene and silent. There are a few shacks near the beach entry point, and then we have a beautiful beach, flanked by mountains behind us, and the clear blue water with milky waves in front. The sand was soft and gave way as I walked on the beach, almost like it was melting on every touch. We made our way towards the caves and it was beautiful. We entered the small cave from one end, and making a small U shape, the dark caves quickly opened to the sea, and then back into another small cave. Sea water and waves constantly kept gushing into the caves, and if you were not steady and alert, you’d keep tripping on the rocks due to the strong current. We had quite a few people slipping on the rocks and hurting themselves and getting completely wet. I took a seat on one of the rocks, and was constantly drenched by the waves, but I didn’t care because the sunset view from the caves, with the suns rays playing with the rocks to enter the darkest corners of the caves, and reflecting on the waves to create a orange hue everywhere was a scene to die for.
It is a must try if you ever find yourself in Goa. It is a hidden gem and I am not sure how long it will stay hidden. Every moment I wish everyone gets to experience this, but I am too afraid that we will ruin this. I would rather have the sea engulf this small cave to keep those sunrays and that orange hue trapped in those beautiful caves!
Cafes, Bars, Pubs and Alcohols
Since this Article has already grown pretty long, I will cover the different cafes, bars and pubs I went to, and the different local spirits I tried in the next article.
If you have already made it this far, you might like my style of writing (pretty please!?). I write (or try to write) about Tech and my travels. I intend to travel and document my travel, a lot more.
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See you in my next article (Part 2) — https://anirban-saha.medium.com/goa-a-journal-entry-part-2-n-f865274a604c