Move beyond beaches and booze on your next Goan sojourn and try these amazing Airbnb experiences, that allow you to travel like a local.
BY NAMITA GUPTA
Travel is more than just seeing, lolling around and chilling. For some, it’s the feeling of truly living somewhere, experiencing the local culture and enriching yourself with the local culture, cuisine and more. There is more to Goa than what meets the eye. While relaxing on the blissful sun-kissed beaches with a beer in hand can be fun, how about squeezing in an immersive experience you’ll cherish for a lifetime? Thanks to Airbnb, you can now not just stay at one of their comfortable and chic Airbnb homes, but also indulge in some interesting Airbnb experiences. Here’s how you can make the most of your next holiday to Goa, live like a local and learn a thing or two from them, just like we did.
After settling at our luxurious yet homely Airbnb home at Casa Sol, Candolim Road, Marra, we walked around the quaint neighbourhood and instantly felt at home. Sol Banyan is a lush green neighbourhood in the heart of bustling Candolim, a beautiful locality in North Goa and a five minute walk away from the beach. It is a spacious villa and includes a lounge area split in to the dining area and sitting area, fully furnished kitchen, four large bedrooms with washrooms and a long balcony with seating area facing the infinity swimming pool and the banyan tree. All the rooms offer an expansive view of the sprawling greens and open skies. Our first pit stop for lunch had to be typical Goan. The Lazy Gooze restaurant facing the Nerul River serves delicious Goan food. I loved my Kingfish Curry and Brown Rice here. The Nerul River that flows here joins the Arabian Sea and we loved the vivacious vibes of this eatery.
Although I’ve been to Goa many times before, everytime I see it in a different light. Our first Airbnb experience began with Nupura Hautamaki, as we went on a trail exploring Goa’s local watering holes very differently. Airbnb has partnered with local insiders in the state to curate Airbnb’s Goa Insider’s Guide offering a look at stunning homes spread across, as well as unique ideas to experience Goa ‘Like Locals’. The experiences allow you to make the most of your holiday, understand the local culture and meet interesting people.
“No good stories started with – I had a glass of milk last night,” said Nupura, a seasoned alcohol specialist just as I meet her and I instantly begin to like her. We drive to Goa Brewing Co., the newest addition to Goa’s pub culture, that’s opened doors only last month. I tried the IPA India pale ale and loved it for its fresh, frothy and citrusy flavours. Guzzle on some fresh brews at the tasting room and share interesting beer notes with the brewmasters here. Next stop on Goa’s local watering holes trail was Mafia cocktails in Candolim. We were taken aback with this dingy hole in the wall bar at first sight, but Nupura who is from Goa promised we would love it. Once we were seated and began to down a few drinks, we couldn’t agree more. Gandhi-smoking-weed graffiti on the wall facing our table with a line that reads – Sister Cook gets us all excited and within a jiffy we’re clicking photos of this cool caricature. We try the Cazulo Feni. Even if you’re not a fan of Feni, chances are that Nupura will convert you into liking it. She states that most of us had been drinking Feni the wrong way all along and she initiates us into right nuances of sipping on a Feni and she’s right, yet again. We did begin to fancy the local Goan drink, made from cashew or toddy palm that we were almost averse to initially. The bar owner’s sister Tony cooks some of the best prawns and beef you’ll get in Goa and we mop up the plate in no time. We hopped on to Babazin’s next on our quest for some of the best local drinks. It’s charming, open air and away from the maddening crowd. Locally brewed rum, the Cabo rum did the trick and won our hearts and each of us decided to buy a bottle of Cabo rum before heading back home. We didn’t limit ourselves to the watering holes itself, as Babazin’s is also a foodie’s hub, especially with the locals. Do try the Prawns Recheado Masala here and the also the Modso (Lemon) Fish Coated with Rava (semolina) and you won’t be disappointed. We also took a bite of Serradurra (Portuguese Sawdust Pudding) for dessert and it was delicious.
I slept like a log at my Airbnb home for the night and was up fresh as a daisy for a dash of the unexpected – another unique experience, curated by Airbnb, the morning after. We ate a hearty homemade breakfast at our Airbnb home and drove to Mapusa to meet Aditya Roy of Light Haven India, a Martial Arts School. Aditya is a direct student in India of the legendary Filipino master GrandTuhon Leo T Gaje, who took us through an Urban Survival and Self Defence Workshop. His academy, LightHaven is an immersive martial arts and movement training space, where one can pick up skills not just to defend themselves like a warrior, but to also live like a warrior in their everyday lives. Aditya taught us how to tips, tricks and techniques that can be used whether you’re armed or not and how you can respond and survive in a wide variety of situations. Awareness and trusting your instincts are important, he informed us, besides other things.
After three hours of insightful practical training, we had worked a good appetite and were set for our third Airbnb Experience – Brought in by the Portuguese Caravels. A shower and change of dress, we were all set to dine with Odette Mascarenhas, co-founder of the Goan Culinary Club at her lovely Goan villa. Odette is also a culinary TV host, an award- winning author and with her dining experiences she takes you through the influences that the Portuguese occupation (17th century), have left in local kitchens. She shares the history behind the Recheado, Caldine, Balchao and the Almonas through her demo and tastings, while Joe Mascarenhas, her charming husband serves us some wines and we continue our exchange of interesting conversations on Goan spices and Odette’s many cookbooks. We discuss how these curries and masalas reach the traditional Goan table over a lunch of Fish Caldine with rice and Balchao pickle, fish cutlets and Bangda (Mackerel Almonas) Recheado masala, that Odette prepares live in front of us. All her dishes are whipped up from traditional grandmother recipes passed down through generations. We end the meal on a sweet note with Dodol, a soft gooey; melt-in-the-mouth sweet Goan dessert made with rice flour, coconut milk and jaggery. Odette also shares her Fish Caldine recipe, and we promise to try and make the same back home. This culinary experience is a definite must-do Airbnb experience for every food connoisseur.
A siesta is what you’ll need after this satiating meal and that’s exactly what we did after heading back to our Airbnb nest. A couple of hours of shuteye and a quick round of chai, we were ready for our dinner. Since it was our last night in Goa, we decided to ditch the shacks and go eclectic. Koi Asian Dining, Calangute it was for some delicious sushi, dim sums and one of the best Khow Suey in this side of the country. Shefali Gandhi and Aziz Lalani offer Art of Zen on a plate with the flavours of Far East Asian cuisine.
Airbnb has many other trails including the Feni Trail, Windsurf with a Champ, Panaji City Walking Tour, Old Goa Heritage Walk and a Wildlife Trail. Did you know Goa has a thriving wildlife ecosystem with a national park, six wildlife sanctuaries inclusive of the Salim Ali bird Sanctuary? We didn’t either. Well, now we know exactly what we’re doing on our next trip to this beautiful beach hotspot.