Lovely Locations

All posts in the Lovely Locations category


Published October 28, 2012 by vishalvkale

Rating: **
It could have been 3 stars, even 4 but for the food….

This Dussehra we decided to undertake a holiday (not a pilgrimage, like last year). This is what made it special; it was a first holiday in 3 or 4 years, perhaps more. The fact that we enjoyed was more due to this little detail than anything else.
Getting There
There are several ways… flight, train and bus. Plan in advance if in season, for obviously you wont get tickets. And by advance I mean 2 – 3 months in advance. Also select hotel and book in advance, or run the risk of the non-veg food and/or sub-standard accommodation  If possible,  travel by Konkan Railway (that too second class), for you will be treated to some of the most fabulous views of landscapes and waterfalls. A treat for the eyes… so take a day train to Goa. You wont regret it. The flight and bus is meaningless, as it takes this pleasure away. 
A word of advice: If perchance you have to travel by Bus, give first option to Neeta Travels. The service is the best in class. We planned our tour a bit late, so had to take the bus. Mumbai – Goa was by Paulo Travels, which is decidedly the last option. The return journey was by Neeta Travels, which was excellent. Whichever bus operator you choose, check whether they provide blankets in the AC service Paulo Travels does not do so, which is why I have placed it as the last option. Neeta Travels does, so no worries

Season Time
1st April – 15th June; 1st October – 1st January

Staying There
There is no such town as “Goa” as all of you must be aware of. You have Panjim as the capital, with Margao, Vasco and Mapusa as the other major towns. Neither is the right location to stay at unless you dont have an option. The place to stay is near Calangute Beach, which is 20 kms from Panjim. Second option is stay at Panjim. Be warned: outside Calangute, there is no repeat no repeat no repeat no repeat no repeat no Pure Vegetarian Restaurant. Please note the “repeat nos” … we have suffered due to this, so am emphasising. If you are an orthodox vegetarian, (or even a strict vegetarian), either stay at Calangute, or dont visit Goa. There is only 1 restaurant in the rest of the places: Navtara, which is not so hot, to be very frank. If staying at Panjim or Mapusa, check veg restaurants. Some places serve beef, so check menu before ordering. 
It is recommended that you go through the site and look at the staying options that are present. They have some good properties, and are in the affordable range. If you are a mid or top budget person, I would recommend a good beach property in Calangute, or a good starrer facility. There are plenty available. And I re-iterate, plan well in advance.

We stayed at Hotel Sapphire Comfort, located opposite KTC Bus Stand in Margao. The rook tariff starts from 2500 and goes upto 5000 plus. The rooms are excellent and luxurious, and well worth the tariff they charge. Most importantly, the food is in a class of its own. It has an excellent roof top restaurant, The Kavira:
The Kavira is a superb place, decked in an all-wood finish, with some superb views, a couple of which are attached for your reference. Problem is that it also serves Non-Veg stuff (No beef, relax), so it is not for strict vegetarians. But if you can compromise. then this is the place to eat. Frankly, in my 2 official and 1 personal visits to Goa, the best food I have ever eaten is at The Kavira, at Hotel Sapphire Comfort. 

Goa is divided into North and South Goa, with the beaches mostly in North Goa and the real stuff worth seeing in South Goa. While you do have the option of conducted tours, I would not recommend them fully. If you are not on a budget, book a cab, It will cost you something like 5000  bucks for 2 days, give or take a thousand. Whatever you do, avoid the private tours, except as a last option. If you do take a guided tour, opt for the Goa Tourism tours which are unreservedly excellent. The rest are not upto scratch. Plan for a minimum of 4 days, that way you can get to see all of the sites at a relaxed pace. Also plan for a mix of a guided tour with visits on your own. There is also an excellent local bus service which can take you as efficiently as a taxi service. We tried all three: guided tour, taxi and bus. Try the mix; you will really get into the skin of Goa. Also take time to visit Margao local market  and/or Panjim – if for nothing else, then for the Cashew Nuts!
North Goa is Vagator Beach, Calangute Beach, Anjuna Beach, Baga Beach, Fort Aguada. South Goa comprises Colva Beach, Basilica of Bom Jeses, Dauna Paula Point, Miramar Beach, and the superb temples (aweseome and unique: see it to believe it, very different from elsewhere) – Shantadurga Temple, Mangeshi Mandir, Mhalsa Devi are the ones we visited, which are the best known. 
Shantadurga Mandir:
Mangeshi Mandir:
Mhalsa Devi:
Singham! (Yes, the precise house where Singham was picturised; also Dona Paula, where the first fight scene of the movie was staged…. )
The Beaches: 

(As you can see, nothing too special. But Baga Beach and Anjuna Beach are the good ones, as also Calangute…) Problem is the crowds… you dont get to really enjoy the beach!
Dona Paula Point
Colva Beach

Baga Beach
All in all, it is a good place to visit, although over-rated. If you have visited Marina Beach, or Kovalam, you will be disappointed; but Goa is a good place to visit for a family just starting up, that is if Goa is the first beach vacation you are planning in your life. With the vegetarian caveat, of course…. 

The Beauty of Ratnagiri

Published November 8, 2011 by vishalvkale

Ratnagiri… a land of almost unparalleled beauty just waiting to be discovered. A beautiful town with a nice serene atmosphere, it is a town that is off the beaten track, and is not too well known as a tourist destination. Its natural beauty has not gained prominence, since what is highlighted is only The Ratnagiri Hapus Mango Variety. I was stunned at the lovely town, which far surpassed my expectations

But first, getting there…. I recommended the Rail link- Konkan Railway. This is because of the superlative scenes of stunning visual appeal that greet you along the way. If you are a photo-enthusiast, I suggest you travel by Sleeper class to get some awesome shots, which are so plentiful that you will be spoiled for choice as to what to capture on camera. No joke, there. Some snaps are given below, taken only with a Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone with 2 MP camera. I did not even have a camera in my hand luggage, since as it was not a sight-seeing tour

Ratnagiri lies on the Konkan Railway line, and is one of the most important stations on that line. The station itself is a distance of 6 km from the mail town, and you will require an auto (@100 – 120) to get to the town. It has decent rail connectivity with several major trains having a halt. 

Please note that some lovely scenes were missed – including a couple of other waterfalls as I was not prepared and properly equipped. But these will give you some idea of the beauty of the line

The Konkan Railway is a real treat – I counted 32 tunnels myself, with one being more than 10 minutes in terms of time spent in the tunnel… awesome. Treat yourself – take a trip with konkan railways! At Ratnagiri itself, hotelling is not a problem. Details are easily available on the internet, with contact numbers which you can use to book in advance. 

A word about the food: Pure Vegetarians watch out! If you want a pure-veg restaurant, there is only one, but that is very good indeed – Hotel Mithila. The rates are reasonable, the quality is superb and the taste generally is what you would expect. 

The Sea Beaches at Ratnagiri are awesome in their virgin beauty and unspoiled calm – no crowds, polythene or general littering, untouched and pristine – a sight for sore eyes tired of seeing crowded beaches. These are beaches you can truly enjoy, in whose beauty you can truly revel. 

There are a multitude of locations to visit as per your taste- Theeba Palace, Theeba point, Pawas, Ratnadurg Fort, Ganaptipule, Parashuram Temple, Bhatye Beach, Mandvi Beach to name but a few. For most locations, autos are easily available and indeed recommended – even Ganpatipule and Pawas. In fact, you can even catch a bus to Ganapatipule  – it takes 45 minutes by bus, 35 by auto. There are also several pilgrimage spots – Ganapatipule, Parshuram Temple and Pawas, for example

Ganapatipule is famous for the Swayambhu Ganeshji Temple, and is one the most famous pilgrimmage locations in this part of India. What is not too well known is that Ganapatipule is also home to one of the most spectacular, pristine, clean sea beaches you can even clap your eyes upon. 

Pawas – a village with visual imagery you will by now have become acquainted to – is 15 km from Ratnagiri town, and is home to the Samadhi of Swami Swaroopanand, now a lovely and awesome temple. It is also home to a Parshuram Temple, and is decidedly worth the visit. 

Thiba Point in main Ratnagiri town is home to a lovely stepped garden ( Daytime snaps below is from an online site; we were there at sunset as can be seen from our snap)

Some snaps from my and my wife’s mobile camera are given below that will give an idea as to what awaits the tourist…. Plan a trip to Ratnagiri… not for the mangoes, but for the beauty. I have purposely steered clear from mango and its derivative products that are available, and the Mango orchards, since all too many people are aware of that! There is far more to Ratnagiri than mangoes…