A 2020 deja vu has made all travel plans take a backseat. But from what we learnt in 2020, once things start going back to "normal" we'll be back on the road. Where are you going to go then?
Goa is so fanciful, isn’t it? Every time the word Goa pops up in a conversation, there will be at least one person to pop up and say - Let's go! I’ve been travelling to Goa for over a decade now and when people were raving at Baga, we were throwing ourselves in the Anjuna sea. And when Anjuna became the new Baga, we moved all the way up to Mandrem (which doesn’t feel so much “all the way” anymore).
Circa 2012, I was hired to curate Food & Beverage at a reggae festival in the south, headlined by Jamaican artist Julian Marley (son of legend, Bob Marley). This was my first encounter with the south, Cavelossim Beach was where the festival was held. When you talk about the south over a decade ago, it was all clean sand, blue waters and a handful of foreign tourists. The Goa that we’d all like.
Recently, I made another trip back to that side of the sea (Pre Covid Second Wave) and checked into Bara Bungalow - a property by Rosakue Hospitality and one amongst their 7 beautiful bungalows spread across the country.
A quick round up of this boutique hotel -
- 200 year old Portuguese bungalow in Assolna.
- 3 rooms in the main house and 4 rooms in the villa.
- A swimming pool, living area, dining room, library and garden sum up the rest of the house.
- A lush backyard with hammocks for your afternoon siesta.
The house has a warm aura of its own. Bang on the main road but yet disconnected from the Goan bustle. It beautifully encapsulates the Susegad vibe of Goa. From the gentleman who assisted us through our stay to the driver, the cook and the gardener, the staff is warm and courteous and happy to bend backwards if you are fussy or have umpteen requests (this may be an indirect comparison to me. Tssk!).
This generosity and simplicity that is commonly seen in family-owned, stand-alone boutique hotels is a refreshing experience at this chain of boutique hotels. Bara Bungalow has maintained the charm of a home away from home. The attention to detail (mindfully curated bath amenities), thoughtful gestures (Handmade jewellery and handwritten notes at turn-down service) and accommodating food requests (Ros omelettes for breakfast, mangoes from their tree, fresh poie from the local market) made me feel right at home.
The food is exemplary. You can either enjoy your dinner in the dining room or by the poolside or sit beneath the mango tree during the day. Everything is freshly prepared after checking with you on your preferences. Fresh fish, warm poies with local Goan curries (Chicken Vindaloo, Fish Curry and a BBQ dinner (seafood, veggies with a spicy peanut sauce), all of it was top notch. If you're in the South, I'd recommend you get yourself a meal there.
Things to do:
A tour of the Paul John distillery: which Bara Bungalow graciously organised for us. The tour is 45minutes and can be clubbed with a tasting. You can choose between a 3-whiskey or 5-whiskey tasting (the whole shebang!). I obviously went all out and tried all 5 single malts: The portfolio includes 3 flagship expressions – BRILLIANCE, EDITED and BOLD and 2 Select Cask expressions – CLASSIC and PEATED. The tour is toned down (whiskey connoisseur or not), it's precise, crisp and fun.
Lunch at Seamen's Nest by the Sal river. Popular for their crab Xecxec (A masaledar crab) and a fresh Urak (See video to know more), what really blew my mind was the rawa masala fried mussels. The river brings a freshness to the shack. I'd say take a book and make an afternoon of it.
Sunset at Cavelossim Beach: This is a quiet beach about 10 minutes on a scooter from Bara Bungalow. The water is clean and warm. The beach is quiet and perfect to lay out a mat and sip on some beers (Goa's Maka Di is my go-to beer, especially the Bavarian Kellar).
Drinks at Tesouro, Colva: It's a bit of a ride from Bara Bungalow (25 minutes by scooter) but since time is of abundance, we took the sunset strip straight to Tesouro, a popular bar amongst locals and tourists, alike. Pankaj Balchandra and Arijit Bose run a tight ship with a cocktail menu, curated with local ingredients, crowd pleasers and the one off that will make you go 'Oh! I can drink that?' I'm usually disappointed in bars when it comes to food, but the menu at Tesouro is refreshing and devoid of deep friend snacks (which let me assure you I love but only at my local quarter bar). I recommend the Bimli Sour (Seasonal), The Heisenberg with Cazulo feni, The prodigal Son (Tequila, Lime Acid, Cherry Blossom, Vermouth and a secret French liquor) with the Beef Sando (Pulled meet in Brioche) and Chorisco Kurkurit (Best described in the photo below). Lucky us, Bose was at the bar and treated us to pickle back shots, a taster his rum brand, The Lovers Rum (A smooth gold rum with a little bit fo Barbados, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Panama) and a Cazulo Dukshiri Coconut Feni for a smooth finish.
Samyukta of Urbanaut recommended the Cazulo Feni Experience on the Sal river but they weren't operating that week. It's something I'd like to go back to the south for.
Address: House no.991, Village Assolna, Salcete, Goa - 403701
Contact: +91 82872 64525
Room Rates: Villa Rs 7149 + 12% GST & Heritage Room Rs 8149 + 18% GST. You can also book the whole house and/or the villa for privacy.
PS: Hire a scooter for as cheap as Rs 300 a day.
Assolna ( Konkani:असोळणें or Osollonne) is a scenic village in the Salcete sub-district of South Goa district, in the state of Goa, India. It is known for restaurants, scenic riverside setting, ferry, colourful small traditional market, and local institutions. The river Sal flows through this town.