Text Contribution: Dr Bhakti Tunkiwala
As you read ahead you will find that whatever the title may signify to you this is in fact a travelogue, well a travel fetish and not in any way a advisory on falling asleep on furniture that is not quite your bed!
Dentist’s, as most people like to believe are monetarily blessed and while this is a myth, our conferences do happen in travel worthy locations with rather luxurious facilities. Notedly five star resorts and hotels. As a result, with a career of some 20 years we’ve stayed in many such hotels.and when the wide eyed wonder of huge foyers and structured rooms, huge unnecessary breakfast spreads and ” smart” bathroom accessories which let out strategically directed sprays of water wears off, we’re left with a very sheep like reality that says that they are all the same! Cloth or leather covered walls contrasting with dark wood panelling, carpeted hallways, sound-proof windows, and mechanical bland shades, all of which maintain a grim uniformity of existence.
A few years back we decided to stray as far from from chain luxury hotels as possible for our personal trips. Following are the 5 singular boutique properties we chose in Goa and they all are very different from each other except for a very important similarity, in each of them you would be comfortable enough to put your feet up in the common area couch and snooze away while reading a book, the sun warming your bare feet and a quiet breeze just lightly caressing your hair.
1. Olaulim Backyards (Olaulim)
This property is a collection of 3 cottages right on the banks of the backwaters of the Mapusa river, it has ‘open to sky’ stone bathrooms shaded beautifully by thick trees and areas outside to sit and laze, a couple of kayaks that you can take down the stream whenever you please.
It’s run by a lovely couple dedicated to provide great homely service. The breakfast is fresh turmeric poi from the local bakery and a mix of whatever bhaji or egg preparations you could want. It’s casual, very friendly the whole property just invites you in to breathe and let go. We kayaked in the evening till sunset, saw some great birds on the trip and went out for dinner. At entry, we were greeted by their pet donkey and other domestic animals.
The next morning we witnessed a beautiful yoga ceremony on the river and really enjoyed meeting the various people staying there or just visiting.
Quiet by the water, the coolness of breeze that skims over the stream and an urge to sink into cushions and gaze out far away…these were the hallmarks of our sojourn at Olaulim. It’s a great place to unwind and soak in life at a soothing, slow pace.
2. Fort Tiracol (Tiracol)
You’re staying at Tiracol??? That’s really far doctor!! My car guy informs me, too far from all the Baga Calangute action you know! I secretly rejoice at these words. Yes, far from Baga is exactly where I need to be! Fort Tiracol / Terrakhol as the locals call it lies on a triangular projection of land extending right out onto the exact area where the Tiracol river empties into the Arabian sea.
It’s an old fort converted into a hotel which has 4 rooms all of which have balconies looking over the sea and river. There are two ways to get there, by land, you would have to cross into Maharashtra for about 10 kms and then cross back into Goa.
The other more exciting way is to catch a car ferry across the tiracol river. All the embankments and fitting of the old fort including the cannons and towers have been maintained.
There’s an old church in the courtyard and the break‐ fast (always freshly prepared) is served on a gorgeous stone and wrought iron roof overlooking the mighty sea. The service is exemplary and the grounds beautifully kept.
It’s a little far but we still ticked off all our old food haunts in Goa at Assagao or Candolim and drove through lovely old backlanes of Pernem and Bardez to get there. Ashvem, Mandrem and Morjim beaches are close and quieter options in case the sands are calling you. This place is highly recommended if you want to experience heritage in a relaxed mindset amidst the waters of Goa.
3. Champakali (Velha Goa)
Why would you chose a place that has such an odd sounding name?? At one point we felt sceptical about choosing this destination. It’s in Velha Goa (old Goa) close to the church of Bom Jesus and far from any beach.
I found the name very whimsical in fact and was looking forward to staying in an old restored Portuguese house. Champakali has two villas with two rooms each on a big property with three porticis outside in which your meals or tea is served. The staff is there all the time, non intrusive, but very helpful and the rooms are stunning.
Once late at night we sat in the quiet shade of the banyan tree and were served many varieties of tea as we caught up on our reading. The breakfast was particularly scrumptious and local jeera biscuits accompanied all our teas sojourns.
When coming back from the screaming madness of Goa’s night markets or clubs, a place like this can calm frayed nerves (and eardrums).
The peace that it brings to your being is just what the doctors must prescribe to the over stressed urban citizens. This place is recommended for an offbeat and relaxing experience away from the mundane of Goa.
4. Aashyana Lakhanpal (Candolim)
So after a long time the kids accompanied us to Goa. The property had to be close to a clean beach and have a great pool. It should be close to all the places we like to eat at and luxurious enough to satisfy the kids while being quaint and characterful enough to make us happy.
Aashyana Lakhanpal fulfils all these and more and it’s a stunning collection of residential options right off Candolim and has great service. The villa was big with 2 spacious and rustic bedrooms and lovely green tree laden bathrooms that are open to sky.
The highlight was the big wrap around verandah with a secluded garden surrounding it. We and the kids read many books lounging on the couch, played furious card games and dozed off time and again to accompanying sound of the many birds.
The best part is that the Candolim beach stretch just outside this property is very clean and great for swimming. This is one place that will pamper all your senses.
5. Avanilaya (Aldona)
This time my the booking was done in a bit of haste and while I had read the glowing reviews of this place I was unprepared for the true splendour of this haven set in 24 acres of wooded property. Many Goans, especially the ones who live there, will tell you that Aldona is the prettiest village in Goa.
It has beautiful old houses that have maintained the Portuguese architecture in a verdant green facing the ubiquitous Mapusa. The approach to the property is so nondescript, that we missed it the first time. You drive up a dirt road winding up to the top of the hill and are confronted this beautiful house that is marked by a stunning succession of arches. It is as close to a hacienda as you could get.
The rooms are expansive brimming with antique furniture and vast bathrooms are a lesson in comfort and panache. A long common verandah runs outside all the rooms and looks out over the river. There are 2 sitting rooms and so many clustered areas to sit and read and relax in.
The amazing sea food was made to order and the staff were unobtrusive but very attentive. Avinalaya is where we got encouraged to write about these places so more people who enjoy personalized luxury and can love a place for its innate character should come here.
After visiting such rustic places, full of character, we can’t imagine going back and staying in a place that isn’t unique and does not retain a portion of history, heritage and architecture of the olden times. Take some time to tread off the beaten and mundane track when you are in Goa next time and do share with us your thoughts. And if you know more places like these, we are all ears!