Original story and photographs by Ministry of Villas
“The stunning Alila Villas are in a remote location, just over an hours drive from Seminyak. We had the pleasure of staying one night in the one bedroom villa overlooking the beach.”
“The first thing you must do (and I did) when staying in a luxury villa is jump into the pool. Overall we thought the villa had a great layout. There is no kitchen here or kitchenette. It’s a king bedroom with ensuite bathroom housing an epic bathtub that we sadly didn’t try. Plus a “his” and “hers” basin. They also have the best collection of complimentary toiletries and creams I’ve ever come across in a villa resort.”
… “Alila Villas is perfect for a honeymoon, where you can both switch off. There is plenty to see and do here at the resort. Plus there are two restaurants in the grounds, both with stunning ocean views. The staff also know how to mix a mean mock-tail.”
Written by Siddharth Savkur – General Manager of Alila Diwa Goa
It has been said, and most often by delighted tourists, that “Goa is a part of India, but apart from India.”
Here are some top reasons to shun your daily routine, pack your bags and head to Goa this winter.
1) Sun-kissed Beaches
Goa is perhaps best known for sun-kissed beaches. Yet, its coastline is only 101 km long out of a total area of 3,702 sq. km. That’s less than 3%. Imagine how much more lies unexplored, unexploited by the vagaries of mass tourism.
2) Goa’s Colonial Heritage
Goa was the last Indian state to bid adieu to its colonial rulers in 1961, fourteen years after the rest of the country. And the departures were not English but Portuguese. For these reasons, Goa’s colonial heritage is more alive than and different from the rest of India. Visit a 215-year old Portuguese mansion beautifully restored by its passionate owner-couple Ruben and Celia Vasco da Gama (yes, the explorer but they’re not related). As Ruben walks you around the house and feeds you nuggets of history, Celia composes a symphony in the kitchen that will play later on their serene patio. Plate after fine bone china plate of traditional Goan Portuguese and Hindu specialties are introduced as lovingly as if they were family jewels, with Ruben giving a brief background on each. Celia’s culinary expertise is matched only by the grandeur of this place and topped by the unwavering passion of this couple. Make room in your itinerary for Palacio do Deao. You won’t regret it.
3) Crab Fishing
Think fishing is for the lazy and laidback? Try crab fishing (or ‘crabbing’ as some folks like to call it). Sail down the languid River Sal with an occupational fisherman in his little boat and set traps for the crabs. This involves fixing meat in the middle of a ring that has a net tied to its circumference, and dropping the contraption down to the river floor. A rope connects the ring to a plastic bottle that serves as a buoy on the surface. Give it fifteen minutes (during which you can indulge in the more conventional fishing or just sit back with a chilled beer and admire the flora and fauna on the riverbank) and then comes the retrieval. The trick is to yank the net off the riverbed in one swift motion so that the crab drops into the net. Too slow, and it has time to swim free. After a couple of hours on the river, carry your hunt back to your hotel for the chef to cook up the freshest meal you would have had in a long time.
4) The Flavours of Goa
Or just DIY! Learn to whip up an authentic Goan meal. Understand the spices and the play of flavours that are central to the local cuisine. Spice Studio, the award-winning restaurant at Alila Diwa Goa in south Goa, offers a Master Class with chef Edia Cotta. This chatty grandmother from the local village will teach you the only cuisine that she knows – honest, home style Goan. Take back more than just souvenirs to dazzle your friends with. Show off your newly acquired culinary skills in your own kitchen back home.
5) The Goan Pub Crawl
If you thought a pub crawl was an essentially English tradition, think again. The Goan Pub Crawl is a heady mix of revelry, gastronomy, culture and sociology. Start with urrack, the smooth first distillate of the cashew and end the night with shots of feni, India’s only GI tagged liquor (that is, the cashew must be grown and distilled in Goa to be called by that name). In between, stagger through Goa’s vast repertoire of domestic and international labels that will leave you spoilt for choice. Be warned, it might simply leave you spoilt, period!
6) Goa’s Pleasant Life
Swim to the very edge of the stunning infinity pool at the luxurious Alila Diwa Goa and peep over for a voyeuristic view of the rural Goan life. Farmers tilling the expansive paddy fields, a water buffalo grazing in the corner, kingfishers hoping to get lucky with lunch in the shallow stagnant waters, a farm hand returning home with his reaper heaved over the shoulder. And the gorgeous sea, teasingly visible beyond the fields yet always reminding you of its presence with the sound of the waves and the smell of the salty air. Take a break from the voyeurism at sunset and dive into the sunken beds placed in the pool. Bid adieu to the sun with a cocktail in your hand and a song in your heart.
7) A Scenic Bicycle Ride
Goa’s public transport may be vilified for its “problem child” reputation, but who says you have to be dependent on it? Hire a bicycle or motorbike and explore the state as you please. India’s smallest state is a rider’s paradise all through the year. With mostly well laid and motorable roads, easily available maps, friendly locals who will guide you should you lose your way (perhaps even ride with you to your destination!) and delicious pit stops generously sprinkled along the route, what more could you ask for? Goa is also the only place in India where you can hire a ‘pilot’ – a two-wheeler taxi popular among locals for short rides.
8) The People
You’ve sampled the local fare, walked the beaches, acquired the perfect tan and seen all there is to see. Yet, on your flight back home, what you are most likely to reminisce about with a smile on your face are Goa’s people. Friendly bordering on intrusive, helpful bordering on overbearing, fun-loving bordering on erratic and genuine to a fault. Judge not with the cold, formal eyes that Europe sometimes tends to see from. These are people who think with their heart and feel with their minds. Look through Goan eyes and you will see far more than a tourist spot – Goa morphs into a state of mind.
9) The Vibes
Picture this. Your instructor says “raise your arms, lean back and take a deep breath”. As you do, your nostrils are bathed in the crisp morning air brimming with sea, salt and the promise of good health. “Bend forward and touch your toes while breathing out”, she shepherds you. You become conscious of the soft sand squishing in between your toes and tickling your soul (yes, that’s a deliberate play on homophones). You could start every day of your vacation like this, with a yoga session on the beach. Round off the morning with breakfast – full English, even – at one of the beach shacks and plan your day (or plan to do nothing).
10) Alila Diwa Goa…
If you have chosen to go on holiday so that you can get a holiday from making choices, then the Diwa by Design package at Alila Diwa Goa has your name on it. This cool boutique resort offers a stay package where, quite simply, everything is included. Dine at any of the restaurants, order anything off the menu, spa as often as you like, drink from the extensive beverage list or order room service as you laze in your 66 square metre Diwa Room overlooking an exclusive pool. Every hotel service is included and none of it will take up any additional space on your final bill. Freedom from fine print, ugly asterisks and unreadable terms and conditions. Just like life should be.