LOVE ON THE ROCKS
State Goa Place Anjuna
Location Anjuna is a picturesque seaside village in Soranto Vaddo, in North Bardez Taluka, just south of Vagator Beach and north of the Baga-Calangute-Candolim stretch of beaches. Mapusa is 7 km to the east of Anjuna
Distances 25 km NW of Panjim, 51 km N of Dabolim Airport
Route from Dabolim Airport NH17 to Porvorim via Panjim and Mandovi River; district road to Anjuna via Calangute and Baga
BY SONIA NAZARETH
We decide the seaside is the perfect setting to nurture a blossoming romance. We head to Laguna Anjuna, a resort 700m from Anjuna Beach, to further this aim. At first glance, it immediately seems like a good choice: part of the resort looks out over a stretch of paddy fields extending to the hills between Anjuna and Baga towards the south, and the famous beaches them- selves towards the west, while the guest cottages are built around full-grown trees creating intimate courtyards. We are glad of the spaces between the dwellings, for the only entities that will overhear us whispering sweet nothings to each other are the tropical trees and shrubs, with which the resort seems to abound.
Up a lazy stone pathway is our cottage, built in thick laterite stone with pillars and domes. The minute we enter we want to dance around our spacious residence, light the candle on the stand in the traditional drawing room, toast each other with the wine from the mini- fridge by our dining table, bounce up and down on our springy bed, and read love poetry in our grand bathtub. But we have told Farrokh Maneckshaw, the friendly owner, that we will meet him for lunch, so we leave these adventures for later.
Maneckshaw is a walking encyclopedia on the subject of Goa. Over a delectable feast of fish, he tells us that the word sossegado, which people commonly use to refer to a lazy fellow in Goa, can mean something quite different. "If you look at the word another way, it could mean contentment and a very sane refusal to be rushed." Life here reflects this spirit. The hammock swinging enticingly in the wind by the free-form swimming pool clearly agrees with Maneckshaw. There's no pretence about either Maneckshaw or the resort. Both are stylish. But neither is opulent in manner or style. He says, gesticulating at the wild, natural lushness around us, "Those who aspire to the modern ceramic five-star hotel may be better off making another choice. This is a country resort for leisure, for romance. No conferences, packages and bulk bookings here." We heave a sigh of relief.
Back in our cottage, we potter around drinking in the interiors. What appeals most is the way comfort has been achieved through the use of locally available materials and traditional workmanship. The roof is made of terra cotta ties. "The use of porches and balconies, particularly incorporating Goan balcaon- style seats, are designed in ways of old to promote gossip," whispers the room attendant with a twinkle in his eye. We play scrabble in our own private sit-out and feed each other the chocolate truffles sitting in the fridge. But sweet love comes at a price, and we later learn that anything we eat or drink from the fridge will be added to our bill.
To digest the newly ingested candy, a stroll down the beach is in order. Love is all around. A foreigner is caressing a cow. A couple is throwing a heart-shaped balloon at each other. But the love bubble is pricked as a little urchin girl says, tugging at his sleeve, "Hello motorbike," and then turns to me and cries, "Come look my shop." The shop is a moveable feast of necklaces and assorted baubles that, once thrust in front of you, demand to be yours.
Curlies, the popular beach shack, is the next halt. Like the beach, Curlies manages to contain a variety of travellers with absolute equanimity. Hang around long enough and you'll be instructed in the history of the hippie movement, meet daughters and sons of the sixties whose free-spirited escapades motivate us to engage in some of our own. You may even encounter the native Goan woman who tied her son to the bed each night, for she didn't want him to sneak out to party with the 'flower children'.
When to go The peak season is winter. But if you'd like a quieter time, visit between January and mid-March when the weather is still bracing
Tel: 0832-2273248, 2274131/305
How to book If you plan to visit during peak season, you need to pay 50 per cent in advance, otherwise paying upon arrival is fine. Credit card works well Beaches nearby Anjuna Beach is walking distance, just 700m away
STD code 0832
Before dinner is the perfect time to laze in the resort's large, lagoon-like swimming pool. Floating on our backs, a contemplation of the granite boulders scattered amidst the pool's peripheral frangipani, banana and mango trees feels like meditation. The water in the pool sparkles bluey-green perpetually. I wonder about this phenomenon. Later I learn from a brochure that this is due to 'ionization', and minimal use of chlorine, which gives the experience of swimming in always sparkling water. As I step out of the pool, these facts are forgotten for all I can think of is dancing to the birdsong that surrounds us.
Spiritually refreshed but starving for dinner, we head to the resort's restaurant.
Availing of a full silver service Champagne Breakfast for two is a grand way to toast your togetherness. For Rs 3,050 you can indulge in a feast that would make Bacchus beam: Champagne (Sula Brut), Caviar on toast, fresh fruit juice (orange, pineapple, watermelon), savoury dips for vegetarians, smoked salmon with gherkins, capers, asparagus, coconut cream, savoury omelettes to order, a cheese platter which consists of a selection of camembert, gouda, blue Danish, herbal cream cheese, goat's milk cheese with different breads and biscuits, a fruit platter topped off with tea, coffee and chocolates. Leaf through any manual on food with aphrodisiacal properties and you will find quite a few of them are contained in this Champagne Breakfast. Caviar, for instance, makes the grade as it helps increase blood flow. Right!
As a special request, our table is moved out of the verandah of the large Portuguese House, onto the lawn by the pool. The red tablecloths are covered with silverware and starters. Candlelight illuminates the heartily constructed aigrettes au fromage (golden cheese puffs) served with mango chutney and sushi rolls that we are on the verge of tucking into. Music plays softly in the back- ground, as it should. Now it's Al [areau. A minute ago it was the Beatles. The owner's friends drop by. Tonight it's the Viennese lady who makes the resort's delectable desserts.
After our repast of kingfish, fresh pomfret, rockfish, butter garlic prawns and lobster, the owner takes us to Nine Bar. By moonlight, this popular dance spot seems more beautiful than it actually is. Groves of palm edge the miles of beach below. The dancing is energized. The techno party is swinging. But although this nightspot shuts by 10 pm, we are not entirely sorry. For we're eager to go back to our room and toast each other with the Sula wine chilling in our fridge.
To cleanse ourselves of the excesses of the previous day, we spend a lazy morning in the resort's spa. The masseuse is efficient and friendly but discreet. Much like the hotel attendants who always seem to appear when we need them, but melt into the bamboo and banana grove when we want our privacy. She explains the massage menu to us, but eaves us alone to decide upon the treatments.
When departure time comes around, we realize that apart from the laidback attitude of this seaside resort, we'll also miss our conversations with Farrokh, the owner. His snippets on Goa have added much to our adventure. Our trip to The Other India bookstore near Mapusa Clinic is an outcome of these chats. While bidding us goodbye, he informs us of an offbeat Garden Film Festival held at the resort every February.
We imagine that the next time we crave alternative cinema, world cuisine, the option of beach parties, live music performances and conversations with people from around the globe, as well as the possibility of time alone with each other in peaceful, green, lagoon-like surroundings, we'll simply dance our way back here.
ABOUT LAGUNA ANJUNA
"Now and then it is good to pause in the pursuit of happiness and just be happy", the Laguna Anjuna website quotes Guillaume Apollinaire. This could have passed off as a pretty quote, functionally used, but we come across increasingly lovely thoughts, evocative of the resort's philosophy. There's the Portuguese pro- verb, "Be content with what you have if you want to live peacefully". There's "a very sane refusal to be rushed". The site even emphasizes that people who aspire to the modern ceramic kind of 5-star or "boutique hotel" may be better off making another choice. This resort lives amid natural greenery - insects, small animals and all. And it ends with a lovely story. Nothing is more important to us, says the website, than old-fashioned basics like humour, bonhomie, respect for law and learning, and openness to all cultures. "One New Year's Eve, we heard an old gentlemen talking to his grandson as they walked hand in hand to the Anjuna chapel for midnight mass, while roaring motorcycles heading for frantic nightlife celebrations shattered the peace of the village. 'The foreigners and tourists have their own ways and we have our ways. Our ways are our ways and their ways are their ways. We must all respect each other and live peacefully together'.
That man has said it for us." The accent at Laguna Anjuna is on style and comfort without ostentatious opulence. Designed by architect Dean D'Cruz whose creation 'Nilaya' attracted much appreciation, Laguna consists of a set of cottages built in Goa-country style.
Inspired by the Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, Laguna is charmingly old world. Motorbikes and scooters are a rather popular way of getting around the resort. The facilities here include: a spa with steam and massage rooms, a bar and lounge, wireless Internet, a swimming pool, a doctor on call, laundry service, Ayurvedic treatments, an in- house solar heating system that provides hot water, safe deposit lockers and TV with satellite channels.
Air Nearest airport: Dabolim (51 km/ 1 hr), to which most Indian metros are connected. But it's not an international airport. The resort pick-up or drop for the hour-long journey costs Rs 800
Rail Nearest railhead: Thivim (30 km/ 1/2 hr). Taxis cost Rs 400 to the resort
Road From Mumbai, it's a long, long drive down NH17 via Pen, Chiplun, Kudal, Vengurla, Pernem and Mapusa. Over 13 hrs. Do it only if you must. Bus If you're coming from Mumbai, get off at Mapusa and then change to another going to Anjuna. If you take a taxi, this will work out to Rs 250
ACCOMMODATION AT LAGUNA ANJUNA
Each cottage, like the shells on the beach nearby, is of a different shape and size and defined by its own unique features. The wrought iron frames, lamps and mirrors are designed in keeping with the theme of each room. Built-in levels and seating areas are also constructed to suit the particular cottage. The big bathtub is a special treat. But not every room has one. Ask for it, if you'd like to lounge in waters other than the pool and the sea.
If you're on a romantic holiday, the one-bedroom suite is perfect. The two- bedroom suite is designed to accommodate a group of four. In season (October to mid-December, mid-January to April), a one-bedroom suite costs approximately Rs 5,500 a night and a two- bedroom suite Rs 7,000. In peak season (December 20 to mid-January), the rates are higher - approximately Rs 8,500 - for a one-bedroom suite and Rs 12,500 for a two-bedroom suite. Between May 1 and September 30, the rates are lowest: Rs 3,200 for a one-bedroom suite and Rs 4,600 for a two-bedroom suite. These rates are inclusive of an American breakfast. Checkout time is 12 noon.
MEALS AT LAGUNA ANJUNA
The restaurant and bar are set in a large Portuguese house distinguished by long verandahs and patios. The waiters are friendly and always at hand. Breakfast is served till 11 am as buffet. We want to be energized to meet the demands of the day, so we tuck into coconut cream, juice, breads and home-made jam with hearty appetites. For lunch and dinner, expect a multi-cuisine spread. The owner says with obvious pride, "We've chosen classics from a wide-range of menus: Goan, Parsi, Italian, French .... " You get the drift.
The rates are fairly reasonable. A Middle East dip platter costs Rs 120 while a Soya Wasabi dip works out to Rs 115. Coq au Vin, which is probably the most expensive item on the menu, sets us back by Rs 450.
Around the resorts are scores of little shops selling leather bags, wrap-around skirts, chunky jewellery. You can get discounts as deep as the range of products is wide, but you must bargain. A veteran shopper at a Kashmiri stall states, "Whatever price you're asked to pay, quote half immediately and start the bargaining from there."
Another shopping hot spot is the Saturday Night Flea Market which has captivated millions of tourists in pursuit of various odds and ends - from junk jewellery to colourful sarongs. I pick up a floral print for Rs 250 and a silver ring for Rs 300 after an oscillating bargain. Inside the resort the only items you can pick up are from the in-house spa. These include glycerine soaps, tulsi moisturizers, shampoos and oils (all herbal and manufactured by Gulnar). The prices are reasonable. An apricot oil, for instance, will cost Rs 100 while the Nilgiri Camphor Oil costs Rs 125.
AROUND LAGUNA ANJUNA
Laguna Anjuna's own 'offbeat guide to Anjuna' on their website is a fun guide. It suggests the best restaurants and cafes in this area, and gives tips about their ambience and highlights. It talks of live performances, fusion music, stand up comedians, bookshops ... and more.