India's Best-Kept Secret
6 July 2015
Think India is all hustle and bustle? Think again! The western state of Goa is renowned for its laidback lifestyle writes Tatyana Leonov.
My husband Evan and I arrive at Goa airport right on schedule and we’re quickly whisked away into a waiting car for a smooth 20-minute drive to Alila Diwa Goa resort.
Our base for the next few days becomes our haven. It’s not just a place to sleep and eat – it’s a place to explore. There are two pools, a kids' club and teen zone and a spa, and luscious green rice fields border the tranquil grounds making for lovely strolling.
Goa is famous for its talc-like sand and a relaxed vibe that's not generally associated with India. Loved-up couples wander the beaches, hipsters seek out groovy bars, history buffs explore stunning colonial churches, and families swim, play, at and repeat.
Pure India Collection (the travel company that helped us organise our itinerary) tailored everything to suit us – so we decide where, what and when.
Evan votes history first, and together with our knowledgeable guide we visit some old churches and a spice plantation (where we feast on divinely fresh cuisine), learning about the culture and history of the Goan people.
There's a strong Portuguese influence, thanks to 450 years of colonial rule, which is still clearly visible in the pastel-coloured buildings of the Latin Quarter.
The Portugese didn't just influence Goa's architecture, but the religion as well. Catholicism is still practiced today, and services are held in many of the Portuguese churches.
The Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church is a highlight with its unusual staircases. After exploring there we spend an hour studying the grandiose Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, which dates back to 1605.
Cooking Up Adventure
After an epic first day, day two is more indulgent: eating, relaxing and spa-ing (an invented word, I strongly believe the Macquarie Dictionary should embrace!).
Our gastronomic journey begins with a short drive to the fish market, where we pick out plump tiger prawns and freshly caught kingfish for our cooking class later that day.
Then we while away the hours by the pools and beach.
Beaches in India are typically chockers with life – however the nearby Majorda Beach offers that must-do Indian beach experience minus the excessive frenzy. There are a few restaurants peppered along the sand, and we choose the one with the comfiest sunbeds.
A few cocktails later, a dip in the sea and it’s time to cook up a storm. Evia Cotta, executive chef at Alila, runs our cooking lesson, and it’s as hands-on as they come. I peel prawns, marinate kingfish, and learn how to use a traditional tandoor oven. Finally we get to eat our culinary creations alongside tangy chutneys, crisp pappadams and fragrant basmati rice.
After, as we stroll back to our luxurious room, we contemplate the following day’s goings-on. Although we don’t have specifics worked out, there's little doubt we'll swim, play, eat and repeat.
Air India flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Goa via Delhi from $1123 return: airindia.in. For tailor-made luxury experiences: pureindiacollection.com.au.