Goa Series: Anjuna, Calangute, Baga – Three fading jewels
Long before I began to head to the quieter beaches in Goa; the 3 sister beach stretches- Anjuna, Calangute-Baga- were synonymous to Goa for me- and I am guessing for most us Indians. They were three brightest jewels in the Goan crown for a long, long time.
In my earliest Goa memories – If there was a place to stay in Goa, it was at Calangute/Baga beach; If there was a place to party, it was at Anjuna,; if there was a place to eat, it was at the likes of Titos/Brittos at Baga. When I visited these places as a teenager- it gave me a sense of empowerment- as also a sense of being “in”. All around there were scores of similarly dressed people, who spoke in a familiar fashion. Sitting amidst that in a shack, one really didn’t feel like you are ~500 kms away from a madness called Mumbai. Not unless of course, you strain your ears amidst the trance music to hear the sound of the waves. Yet-it defined the Goa experience for me then. Maybe not so much now.
These days whenever I visit these places- I feel a strong sense of nostalgia over the old times. Not that they don’t have the cool places anymore. They very well do. But these beach stretches don’t inspire me anymore. Maybe it is the overexposure. However, these beaches do deserve a fair write up.
The 3 beach stretches are unique in their own way. Anjuna- with its cliffs and rocky structure- provides an element of thrill and mystique. The beach has an aura- of the hippie years of yesteryears. Flowery clothes, junk jewellery, noisy Enfields- Anjuna’s look and feel is what the Hippie stereotypes are made of! The beach, though, is breathtaking. Anjuna is still popular for its flea markets held every Wednesday and Saturday. If you can remain undisturbed by the hippie buzz and the haggles of the trinklet vendors, you can get some real good bargains out here. The waters don’t seem safe for swimming. But then hey! who needs to swim after a bout of shopping!? Just strut your newly bought stuff at the various party hotspots of Anjuna!
There is no direct access via the beach from Anjuna to Calangute, however Calangute is a pleasant 15 minute ride. Moving south towards Calangute stretch- It get more crowded, noisier and for some strange reason- smellier. The smell of food and alcohol takes over the Calangute beach entrance, especially in the evenings. Calangute is a beach that has surprised me- Its an average stretch of a beach, yet so-so popular! Maybe the presence of GTDC hotel there makes it so prone to crowds. Or maybe the numerous bars, hotels, restaurants, shacks. It is difficult to walk through the lanes of Calangute beach entrance on most evenings. Honestly, there is really nothing more than this I can share about Calangute. Readers are free to provide some good tips on Calangute. If you happen to enter the beach area at Calangute, it will be best if you make the effort to walk it down to Baga through the beach itself. It is a long but lovely walk. There are places on this stretch which are devoid of crowds. And that is really a luxury to have in this part of Goa!
Now Baga boasts of same amenities and conveniences of Calangute – albeit it is a much prettier beach stretch. Baga is my personal favourite among the 3 places. You can hunt for privacy, you can seek beauty, you can hear the waves and you can still dance the night out! I particularly love the concept of tables on the beach with the sand beneath your feet. This is now popular across Goan beaches, but Baga shacks were probably one of the earliest to introduce us to it. Food variety and quality is also a highpoint at Baga I believe. All cuisines, catering to all tastes are available here. And not just merely available- its pretty darn good too! St. Anthonys shack at Baga is a personal favourite- inspite of the uber popular Brittos next door! The food here has never failed me. Nor has the service. I have had the best garlic butter grilled fish here! Everytime I go to St. Anthonys, I come back with a new waiter friend too! Thats Baga for you!
Anjuna- Calangute-Baga stretches do attract the most number of Indian tourists today. Maybe for many teens and first time visitors-they provide a glimpse of the Goan culture, cuisine and beaches. And because they attract so many tourists you can safely find decently priced neat accomodation, here as well as excellent food options. In hindsight- this may very well be the reason for its popularity!
At Baga , Captain Lobos beach hideaway- CSM resorts are some places where I have stayed and found them to be great value for money. Not to miss is also a breakfast/brunch at Infanteria Cafe on Baga-Calangute road. Although after a hearty breakfast there- one really has no room for lunch! (Burrrpp!).
All said and written, I do have fond memories of these places. I also will be going back to these beaches –primarily for their convenience and nostalgia though. Frankly, Goa is so much more than what one gets to see here. But I believe as a starting point for anyone to get to know Goa, exploring these places will be worth the time and effort . There will be no better introductory course! But I will pass them for now- since there are just so many beaches yet to be explored and experienced in and around Goa. And if and when I am done with them all- I can happily come back to party at the Titos and Mambos of the world!