Destination: Patnem Beach (Goa), India
Number of days spent: 10 days
Where we stayed: Parvati Huts (600RP/$13) & Vasta’s Secret Garden (300RP/$7). All accommodation on Patnem beach are basic huts that get taken down every season. We stayed right on the beach at Parvati huts for the first week – ok place but the owner/manager is a bit of a jerk and likes to nickel and dime everything. Much better and half the price is Vasta’s Secret Garden. It’s not on the beach but the owners are super friendly, and at half the price + free WIFI it’s our recommendation for Patnem. There are others that are nice on the beach (Home and Papaya’s looked the best), but expect to pay at least double.
We sampled tons of restaurants when we were in Patnem…here are some of our favorites!
Best Coffee – Home (they also have a pretty tasty sandwich with tomatoes, basil, cheese on focaccia)
Best Fish Vindaloo (caution: spicy) – Sealand Restaurant (they also have a pretty decent happy hour)
Best Fruit Salad with Curd - Papaya’s
Best Happy Hour (with view) – Boondocks? – or something like that – just walk north through the trees a little ways and you come to a smaller rocky cove in-between Patnem and Palolem Beaches. It’s quiet and the drinks are great! Try the strawberry daiquiri's!
We however did not try UTI :-)
Best of: Fantastic Sunsets, relaxing on the beach with a good book, not as crowded as the beaches to the north, Daily Yoga
Worst of: The seas are rough! Tracy had her sunglasses sitting on top of her head…first big wave and Kate Spade was out to sea. The heat was almost unbearable – what breeze happened felt like a hair dryer blowing directly in your face and just sitting in the shade produced sweat. 2-3 cold showers per day were the norm.
Most memorable: Cows on the Beach! Only in India.
Useful Tip: Nearly every train into Goa arrives at the Margao train station. To get to the beaches one can take expensive pre-paid taxi’s (over 1000RP in some cases; 600RP for Patnem) or take the public bus for 25RP each. The only down side is that the bus station is far from the train station in Margao. To get to the long distance bus station, walk across the street from the train station to the local bus stand. Getting back was tougher for some reason – take a taxi from the bus station to the train station for about 50RP – still a lot cheaper than a taxi all the way.
We could bore you with all the historical significance of Goa – it being one of the first Portuguese colonies in India, bringing Christianity to the sub-continent, ushering in the Sea Spice routes, leading to the eventual discovery of the Americas, etc. etc. etc. – but that really has nothing to do with Goa today.
For many visitors to India, Goa is where their trip begins and ends. By Indian standards, Goa is an extremely progressive state. Liquor is consumed freely and openly and the dress code is far more relaxed. Top that off with some beautiful beaches and it doesn’t take long before the resorts find the place. An ever increasing amount of high rise hotels, bars and nightclubs are taking over. The citizens of India’s smallest state are constantly in flux – grasping to the slivers of the past that remain while reluctantly embracing the wealth that comes with being a beach destination. Despite the rapid growth, a few small pockets of relative solitude can still be found. Enter Patnem Beach. The last beach in Goa to the south, Patnem has a more relaxed feeling than it’s neighbors to the north but still has enough food and lodging choices to satisfy those travelers looking for a little break from the chaos that is India.
By beach standards, Patnem would not be considered world class, the rough and tumble Indian Ocean has a large part to do with that. During the summer months, when many North Americans and Europeans take vacation, the heat is approaching unbearable. To top all that off is the modern day Indian young male. Curious, sex starved and impervious to embarrassment from being caught ‘looking’ these gawkers are ever present. Traveling in packs, they show up in blue jeans and long sleeve shirts on even the hottest day constantly scanning the horizon for a shard of revealed flesh. Once their prey is in sight, out comes their primary weapon. Normally used for blaring their favorite tunes through blown speakers for all the world to enjoy, the cell phone is raised and the ‘snap’ of the camera is all it takes. That’s the bad side of heading to a beach in India.
So why go? Well it’s India, and anyone who has spent time here can attest – you need a break. Goa is as close as it comes to having a break from India. The prices are still reasonable. A bungalow facing the ocean can be had for less than $25 and the food and drink – thanks to ‘duty free’ liquor status (for now anyways), are equally budget friendly. And at least in Patnem, the vibe is relaxed and hassle free with few gawkers.
We had originally planed to stay here for only a couple of days but because of the train schedule we ended up here for ten. That gave us plenty of opportunity to catch up on some reading, experience yoga, Tracy to work on her tan and Jason to take a few afternoon naps!
Being the people that we are, just sitting on the beach for a week and doing nothing else is not in the cards. Fortunately there was a little yoga center just down the beach. After reading about him in another couple’s blog, we decided to give it a try.
With India being the birthplace of Yoga there are no shortages of centers, ashrams, and gurus. If you have ever done Yoga in the states, you will quickly realize there is more to it than just the exercise aspects. Real Indian yoga focuses on the stretches and poses as well, but throws in a spiritual element as well. Breathing, meditating and trying to focus your mind are intertwined into a physical regimen that left us sweating bullets in the South Indian heat. No experience is required as every stretch and pose can be made simple or difficult “depending upon your ability”.
And what’s a beach without the beautiful sunsets/rises? Here are just a few of the shots we got of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean.
Before we left the area we decided to hop on the bus and head up to Palolem for the day. What a difference a couple of miles and about 5 years makes. This beach used to be the quiet one, but as it always seems to go – one person tells another, and then another, and pretty soon the place is crowded. While the service were more, and we finally saw the cows on the beach, we felt like we made the right decision in choosing Patnem for our wind down time.
Leaving the beach behind, we boarded the train and kept Mooving south. Next stop – Kochi; home to Mongolian fishing nets and a Jewish quarter? Only in India!