First, the rant: What has happened to Baga? It is like a massive Botox surgery gone horribly wrong.
I was going to Goa after half a decade and I don’t know what sort of makeover the area was seeking but the club scene they push so aggressively is terrible and so is the vibe of all of Baga. There’s this jarring international mishmash that has nothing to do with global communities coming together and that sort of thing. To the contrary in fact. It is as if someone has collectively crapped souvenirs, touts, and abhorrently mannered tourists all over Baga.
|Crowded and disappointing Baga. What’s to love?|
So where in North Goa where can you find a healthy mix of a good time and the beach life? In trying to seek this vision of Goa I had in my head, I revisited my old haunts and was constantly disappointed. Arambol was now a crowded mess and so was Calangute.
Arugam had managed to retain some semblance of a vibe but I still felt cheated. The increasingly “epic” Curlies used to once be one of the two lone shacks towards the end of Arugam beach. Now, it has quadrupled in size and started a really weird disco upstairs. Earlier, we’d just dance outside on the beach. To be fair you can still do that among the lovely omelet selling aunties. Though the numbers have gone up most of the travellers hanging out in Curlies are relaxed, easy going and for the lack of a better word “normal”. You’d be surprised how hard that is to find in Baga and it buddies.
Arugam and Vagator haven’t sacrificed their souls yet but give it another few years and I reckon they will. All I wanted was a beach with beach facing huts and a good vibe where I wasn’t constantly being sold one thing or another. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, it was. We didn’t have enough time on our hands to undertake a South Goa mission so we continued looking. Oh a special mention here to the organic restaurant: Bean Me Up located near the Petrol Pump between Vagator and Anjuna. They cook some amazing soy-based meals, hold Yoga classes and apparently also run a guest house.
|At Bean Me Up: A delicious smoothie. This wasn’t one of those “too healthy to taste good” things|
Finally, somewhere in between Ashvem Beach and Arambol we found Mandrem. Ashvem beach itself is beautiful and has a fair share of restaurants and boutique hotels to stay in. You can stay in tipis, wooden shacks, palm bungalows and sci-fi esque domes. We were really keen on spending some time in Yab Yum resorts- just because of how cool it looks- but unsurprisingly they were fully booked for the entire time we were there. If you ever manage to stay there let me know how it was!
|That’s the Yab Yum domes on Ashvem Beach. A luxurious Hobbit home if there ever was one. Credit: Yab Yum|
What I was looking for, however, I found in Mandrem Beach. It was all there: my beach facing huts , zero chaos, and a gorgeous uncrowded beach. There are tiny villages surrounding the beach, local schools, and barely one or two souvenir stores. There was also the occasional party which was way better than anything I found in Baga. It’s a North Goa miracle. My favourite thing about Mandrem Beach is that a tiny rivulet runs along the ocean here, therefore the landscape of the beach is constantly changing depending on the tides. Evenings in Mandrem are spent easily with beach volley sessions, bonfires (remember to take your rubbish with you), parties with home-made sangria, local food in local restaurants and conversations.
|Our hut with a view and the ever-changing Mandrem Beach.|
|Sunset in Mandrem|
Another Mandrem highlight for me was Yoga at the Himalayan Yoga Valley Center. It was amongst the most reasonably priced centers with the best teachers that I came across while in Goa. The Yoga Shala is located very close to the beach and the sunset coloured skies while doing Warrior 2 just adds to the charm of Yoga in Goa. If you’re after Ayurvedic treatments or a detox program find Dr. Rohit Borcar of Ayurclinic Goa. Those doing Yoga at Himalayan Yoga Valley are *I think* entitled to some sort a discount.
When in Mandrem, hire a scooter and head to Keri Beach. This is where we spent a lot of our days reading; completely oblivious to the concept of time. The village near Keri Beach has a house or two which are available on rent should you be looking for something more long term. This is where you’re truly away from everything in North Goa yet only a quick scooter ride away from chaos, should you seek it. Keri Beach is calm and ideal for a swim. Life here means days of lounging on golden sands, sauntering in lazy villages and jungles.
|En route to Keri from Mandrem|
|Beach facing temple, Keri is kind of cool like that|
|It was easy to forget time on Keri Beach. Do you see why?|
So yes, as of now it is still feasible to find non-chaotic beach living in North Goa. For how long will this last, though? Your guess is as good as mine.