Let’s be honest about it, the existing beach scene has very much gone to the dogs: Ibiza is past its expiry date, Koh Phangan is being sucked into that same black hole (thanks, The Hangover Part II), and Malia-napa-luf is far too saturated with sleaze for me to waste my time with a rant. My point is that things are indeed looking bleak, which has forced sun worshippers and classier party-goers to be a little more creative. Perhaps India’s western coast is the answer we’ve all been searching for.
Goa is hardly a new global hotspot – it’s been a safe haven for holidaymakers and hippies for decades – but I can’t help but think that we’re not exploiting it to its full potential. Having spent two months getting myself covered in dust on the temple trail, I decided it would be the ideal ultimate spot before returning for a another dreaded term in the smog. So if it’s a mixture of vibrant culture, culinary delights and sleepless nights you’re after, look no further.
An inviting Goan home
As the saying goes, there’s nothing like being invited into a Goan home. But of course, sifting through the endless locations can be tiring, so I’ve done the trial and error for you. The LaLiT Golf & Spa Resort in South Goa is nothing less than perfection, and my stay there was what really made this leg of my trip so enjoyable and memorable. The rooms are immaculate, the staff provides outstanding hospitality (hence their slogan ‘limitless hospitality’), and the facilities on offer will keep you entertained for eons.
An added bonus is that the resort also caters for groups: for rates in the range of a dingy London hotel it’s possible to book out swanky, self-sufficient villas, complete with kitchens, swimming pools, hot tubs, and your own personal Goan master chef. To me the villas just scream ‘perfect post-exam getaway’ – what better way to celebrate than with endless cocktails with friends under a scorching eastern sun?
As with any holiday, the food served is paramount. The LaLiT chefs will not disappoint, and they served up some of the best Indian food I’ve had the pleasure of eating. Over the course of my stay the chefs got to know my palette, and consistently managed to craft dishes that kept my taste buds craving more. Appalled by my culinary ignorance, one of the master chefs even gave me some private tuition in Indian fare – the cooking class was fantastic, though I’m yet to replicate the results.
So for all of the reasons above and below, The LaLiT Golf & Spa Resort should be your Goan home of choice. But it’s not just the hotel and staff that make the stay an awesome experience: the other guests were lovely and great to interact with. One group invited me to their wedding reception, where I enjoyed poolside shisha and drinks while listening to some ambient tunes.
Get out and see the state
When it comes to fine golden beaches, you could really be anywhere in the world. Goa is a lot more appetising when you look at it as a state rather than a coastline: there’s nothing quite like Indian culture, and the activities on offer in Goa cater to everyone’s tastes.
The south, where The LaLiT Golf & Spa Resort is located, is a lot less developed than the north: staying down south is much more soothing, and the most bustling north is easily accessible by car or bike within an hour. Unfortunately my tight schedule only allowed for a day of whizzing through the northern sites, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Instantly noticeable is the Portuguese influence on the state, particularly obvious in cities like Margao with the abundance of charming architecture. There’s plenty of churches, like the Basílica do Bom Jesus, countless brilliant museums, wildlife sanctuaries, and, of course, golden beaches. Every Wednesday in Anjuna is a vibrant flea market, where you can pick up anything from handmade jewellery to hammocks!
And when all is seen and done, you’ll always find good food on standby. The Portuguese-influenced fare isn’t an offensive assault on the senses, more addictive coastal delights with a hint of the east, unlike some of the more brutal curries you’re sure to encounter. Of course if you’re feeling brave, go all out and order a Vindaloo (a Goan classic), but know that you’ve been warned.
Doze away your days
Because after all, you’re on holiday to relax, right? Having dabbled with the sights on offer I spent too-many-a-day relaxing on Patnem beach. While Indian law dictates that no beach can be private, the beach just in front of the The LaLiT Golf & Spa Resort certainly feels like one: it’s snugly nestled between geographical barriers on both sides, separating it from the more busy strips of sand. And being west-facing, the location offers unrivalled sparkling sunsets over the sea.
Of course, for the more enthusiastic sun worshipper the LaLiT offers all kinds of invigorating activities to keep you entertained, from jet skis, to fishing boats, to beach polo! Renting a bicycle is highly recommended: I had a really great ride through some villages, checking out the awesome contrast of the inland mountains with the turquoise Arabian Sea. They’re even geared up to beach riding, if you feel like tearing up the sand and picking up some new friends (well, stray dogs who seem to take a liking to moving objects).
For ultimate lethargy, relax in a lounger by the pool at The LaLiT: the swanky poolside sitting area is a great place to read a book and catch some rays. And if that gets too tiring, you can always swim over to the sunken bar for an ice cold feni (a surprisingly delicious local liquor that comes in coconut and cashew varieties) before heading into the spa for a massage and a hot tub.
About The LaLiT Resort
Located along the western coast of India, The LaLiT Golf & Spa Resort is a luxurious five star resort built on 85 acres of land. It offers a breathtaking view lapped by the Arabian Sea, with a unique confluence of the Talpone River to its left, it’s tributary to the right, cradled by the majestic Sahyadari range and a kilometre long exclusive beachfront. Located at Rajbaga, Canacona, The LaLiT Goa is one of the most exquisite, beautiful and secluded Goa beach resorts. It is also the largest property in Goa in terms of area, as well as number of suites offered.
The Portuguese style architecture with an elegant blend of Goan culture is the base of the resort’s twin storey sprawling structure - all nestled amidst formally landscaped gardens, a golf course and a multitude of hotel facilities ranging from modern meeting rooms to trendy bar and dining avenues, from beach activities to a holistic spa; and from water activities to sports facilities. The resort also has its own luxury Yacht & a Helipad to facilitate the experience of life on all – air, water and earth. Visit www.thelalit.com for more details.
Venturing further afield
I mean sure, Goa is great and everything, but it’s not the end of the line. It’s perfectly located to allow you to zip up the coast to dusty Rajasthan through Bombay, or down the coast to tropical Kerala. If you’re not too bound by time and funds I’d really recommend it: having delved both north and south I’d say that each has their charms and shouldn’t be missed. The mighty subcontinent has so much to offer, and Goa is just the tip of one of the most fascinating and diverse countries in the world.
Planning a trip to India? This article is one in a series of Felix Travel articles dedicated to the mighty subcontinent. If you’re looking for inspiration, log on to www.felixonline.co.uk and scan the archives for great holiday tips.