Goa-ing beyond, part 2 : A discerning traveller’s ultimate guide to contemporary Goa

Goa’s greatest draw for tourists, both foreigner’s & Indians, is the experience of slow-paced India and its authentic cool vibe. Here is an insider’s guide to spaces and experiences which are world-class, unparalleled and far (far) away from the tourists or the ordinary. Welcome to exceptional Goa.

This article was originally published in the Intelligent Traveler section of Open Magazine. Authored by me, it’s re-published here with additional images & coordinates as a three-part series : Historic Goa, Contemporary Goa and a list of six unusual experiences which are meant for cool hunters.

Exploring Goa’s Authentic Cool

Having explored Goa’s historic gems in Part 1 of Goa-ing Beyond series, lets wander into the idyllic heart of Goa’s unique & exceptional experiences.

Until a few decades ago, Goa’s ‘cool’ was synonymous with the hippie-era and liberal counter-culture. In recent years, however, a small, close-knit community of local Goans and ‘outsiders’ are carefully crafting experiences which are a blissful departure from it’s conventional and stereotypical tourism. This community is infact, creating yet another counter-culture – but one which is deeply rooted in sustainable design, re-contextualising heritage crafts, architecture and ideas for a modern consumer.

Bhagyashree Patwardhan, for instance, owns & curates a concept lifestyle store in Saligao called Paper Boat Collective where she handpicks organic, handcrafted products created by designers across India. She says, “In Goa, people have time. They are open to dialogue and to understand the complexity and value of artisanal design”. On most weekends she hosts art-filled events and workshops at her store & restaurant.

Bhagyashree Patwardhan (Pattu) on Goa's retail scene and hand-crafted design
Image Courtesy : Paper Boat Collective

Another great favourite is Sacha’s Shop in Panjim – a tiny shop with a huge style and art quotient. Curated by writer and fashion stylist Sacha Mendes, it hosts edgy resort wear with laid-back elegance, including a collection of Goa’s very own cult designer SavioJon, and quirky collectibles such as leather puppets, cross stitch towels and a recent addition of delightful vintage lace doilies.

Sacha's shop is a tightly curated shop in Panjim
Image Courtesy : Sacha’s Shop

Goa’s unique culinary scene

A new generation of gourmet designers are creating bespoke, private dining experiences or free style kitchens: another Goa experience for epicureans. Shagun Mehra, recently named one of the top 5 craftspeople in India by the luxury edition of Fortune Magazine, created Food Design Studio which uses Goa’s local produce and traditional recipes  with a modern twist and serves delicacies like pork vindaloo ravioli, prawn & chorizo bruschetta, balchao quessadilla at pop-up restaurants, private dinners.

Goa's best restaurants
Gourmet designer Shagun Mehra serves an unparalleled culinary experience at her pop-restaurants and private dinners. Image courtesy : Food Design Studio

Further north, in a remote location in Arambol celebrated Israeli chef Gome Galily cooks up a gourmet storm at Matsya Freestyle Kitchen. Reservation, a day ahead, is mandatory to tell Gome of any allergies or foods you do not eat. Then leave it to him to hit the local markets to find fresh produce and cook whatever inspires him that evening which is then served in an elegant fine-dining setting.

Note : Matsya is currently closed and will change its location for the upcoming season.

Among restaurants, Baba Au Rhum as well as Shamba in Anjuna, Gunpowder in Assagao offer unique Goan setting and superb food. As for beach shacks, Elevar and Baxter’s in North are the most recent and coolest places to hang.


Fine Arts (and artists) find a new home in Goa

While Delhi is obsessed with success and Mumbai just extortionate, Goa’s winning mix of cultural dynamism, transnational community, space and time has created an exceptional opportunity for artists living and working in India for some time now.

Yahel Chirinian, an award winning artist, has been living between Goa and Paris for over two decades. Considered a muse of pop-art, her mirror mosaic sculptures and installations erupt simultaneously with energy and light and are on display at Monsoon Heritage Studio in Arpora which she refers to as her island.

Monsoon Heritage Studio art installation in GOa
FLYING FISH art installation by Yahel Chirinian

In recent years, however, a new surge of activity has begun. As Shivani Gupta, a fine-art photographer and performance artist says “Not just a wonderful place to create art, Goa’s growing critical audience and alternate galleries is making it a new destination for Fine Arts”.

Shivani Gupta Photographer on Goa
Fine Art Photographer Shivani Gupta on Goa’s emerging Arts scene. Images in the first row from her fine art photography series ‘Thread Whispers’

One such fantastic space is The Heritage Hotel – a 100-year old Goan Portuguese villa which was transformed into HH Art Spaces. India’s leading performance artist Nikhil Chopra who moved from Berlin, collaborated with Romain Loustau to create an edgy and creative hub offering an exhibition gallery as well as residence for artists involved in performance, sculpture, photographic and visual Arts.

The pick, however, is Dattaraj V. Salgaocar’s Sunaparanta housed in a beautiful old Portuguese home hidden behind banana and coconut trees on a winding road to Altinho Hills in Panjim. Exceptionally curated by Siddharth Dhavant Sanghvi, an award winning novelist, who recently moved to Goa this professionally run center has a strong programming calendar throughout the year. Sunaparanta was also recently nominated for Forbes Art Awards in the Not-For-Profit Art Initiative category.


Where to Stay in Contemporary Goa?

As to where to stay, the best experiences are off the beach — inland and along Goa’s many rivers. Thanks to Goa’s booming tourism, several great boutique properties are now run as private hideaways. At the top of the list is Coco Shambala – a short walk from Coco beach this luxurious four villa property is a haven for design-lovers & discerning travelers. Thoughtfully appointed with spectacular indoor / outdoor living areas, private pools, be-spoke dining and a Forest Essentials’ Ayurvedic Spa located in the thick of their jungle gardens, there is nothing left for wanting at this property. 

Coco Shambala (1)

In Siolim village, Shunya Villas’ eight beautifully appointed bedrooms and an in-house chef combine the luxury of a boutique hotel with the exclusivity of private residences. For those who’d rather live with nature, Casa Colvale ticks all the boxes. Designed as a private estate, near Assagao, this 12-bedroom villa property is located along one of Goa’s cleanest and most beautiful rivers – Chapora.

As for beachside properties, it is rather unfortunate that Goa’s 100+ kilometre beach is now crowded especially during peak season when cheap charter flights from the West and trucks from neighbouring states deposit hordes of tourists on its coastline. An exception would be a 13-room secluded hotel, Elsewhere, at a secret location which happens to be a protected island at the northern edge of the state. In Morjim, Amarya’s Paros is an enchanting beachfront hideaway on Turtle beach — one of India’s best glamping sites with eight stylish guest accommodations. There is also a three-bedroom, beautifully restored Portuguese villa for those who prefer a brick & mortar roof over their head. In the South, the sophisticated and beautifully appointed 75-acre resort, The Leela Goa includes a super spa, 12-hole golf course and  magnificent views.


A Final Thought

Goa may no longer be a hippie destination but its charm carries on. This idyllic setting, however, is struggling against bureaucracy and haphazard urbanisation which is turning this historic gem into yet another poorly planned town as we’ve seen so often in the country. Throughout its chequered past, the powers that be came to Goa and abused its natural resources for their own gain, oblivious of its cultural heritage. Once again the demon looms. The irony though, is that this time the threat is from within.


Curating Contemporary Goa’s Authentic Cool

While every recommendation in this article / series tick all the boxes for a discerning traveler, here is curating the ‘already curated’ for those who are obsessed with design and love boutique experiences.

Stay

My Pick : COCO SHAMBALA Coco Beach, Nerul, Bardez, North Goa
T. +91-937-226-7182

In the heart of North Goa : AMARYA’S PAROS Morjim, North Goa
T. +91-982-389-2353

Quiet but not secluded : THE LEELA GOA Salcette, South Goa (club rooms & villas only)
T. +91-832-662-1234

Eat

Be-Spoke & ultimate indulgence : FOOD DESIGN STUDIO
T. +91-909-992-8903

Casual dining : BABA AU RHUM, Anjuna
T. +91-965-721-0468

Beach Shack : ELEVAR, Ashwem
T. +91.913-035-2188

Shop

PAPERBOAT COLLECTIVE, Chogm Road, +91.832-652-1248

SACHA’S SHOP, Panjim, +91-832-222-2035

Art

For buying pleasure : MONSOON HERITAGE STUDIO, Arpora, By appointment only        T.+91 9822122771

For viewing pleasure : SUNAPARANTA, Panjim
T. +91.832-2421311

Next in Series, Part 3 : An ultimate insider’s guide to Goa’s unusual  experiences

Previously in Part 1 : A discerning traveller’s ultimate guide to historic Goa

Author: Chanda Chaudhary

Aesthete. Storyteller. Wanderer. Chanda is a lover of design, craftsmanship and individualistic style. She’s best known for hosting long champagne lunches filled with stories and tales of adventure, living life on her own terms and making the ordinary, extraordinary. She lives and works in Goa, India.

4 thoughts on “Goa-ing beyond, part 2 : A discerning traveller’s ultimate guide to contemporary Goa”

    1. Hello Noreen, thank you for making the time to read this and to share your comments. I thought about MOG – but the idea here was to share spaces which are rich in exhibitions and shows. I love Dr Kerkar’s permanent exhibit and intend to do a separate post on his works and their journey through Goa. As for Cube Gallery – well, some shows can be good in that space but as a curator of style my job is to share what is consistently fabulous. Having said that, thank you once again for your feedback. Much appreciate. Part 3 is coming tonight with some of the most unusual experiences in Goa.

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