While traveling, I try to find experiences that connect me to the place I am visiting and the people who call it home. That is the entire reason why I travel. I want to experience the world in the most authentic way possible. During this past trip to India, I was able to take two village tours in Goa, and while in the past I’ve been hesitant to take them due to negative experiences, these two were very different.
To start, I was staying in hotels that were actually part of the village, not on the outskirts. The tours I was taking were put together by those hotels. Instead of outsiders looking in, we were part of the village during our stay. This made all the difference.
After leaving Panjim, Goa’s capital, I found myself at Casa Menezes in Batim. As a heritage hotel, there are strong ties to the village, and owner, David, ensures that connections stays in place. He is always looking at ways to better the lives of the villagers. Staying here, we were smack in the middle of the village, and I felt like I was actually living there. We’d watch the children go to school in the morning and people go about their daily lives. Often I’d sit on the front porch and just observe life around me.
One afternoon, David offered to take us out on a bike ride, something he does often with his guests. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous about venturing off on the roads in India, but David ensured us there was little traffic where we were heading. We meandered down peaceful, quiet roads taking in the architecture and beauty of our surroundings. Passing strangers, we’d wave and say hello. We took our time, stopping often to take photos, marveling at the bright colors of the buildings and the palm trees that engulfed them.
As we rode down palm tree lined roads, I began to fall in love with Goa. I had been struggling in the days before, especially after a headache knocked me out of commission the day before. But this is what I most enjoyed about spending time in India, the smells, the sights, and the sounds of people going about their day. As the wind blew through my hair, I was completely at peace.
Even now, it remains my favorite memory of the trip. A few days later, I left Batim for the village of Tiracol, and new accommodations. There we stayed at Fort Tiracol, another unique property. Now a luxury heritage hotel, Fort Tiracol was once an armed fortress belonging to the Portuguese. While I didn’t feel connected to the village during my time at the hotel, since it’s a fortress, they offer village tours for guests and we gladly took them up on the offer.
Our guide Agnelo picked us up and took us throughout the village. We started at the cemetery, which was located near the ocean. It was a beautiful spot, and we could see the Portuguese influence on the town based on the names of each gravestone.
Then, we continued on our walk as Agnelo explained what life was like and monkeys jumped from treetop to treetop. We took photos of the colorful homes and watched people go about their day.
It was hot out, so we sat for a bit near the ocean, at an area the villagers use for community events. Then we were invited for coffee and pakora, one of my favorite Indian snacks. We chatted with Agnelo and took in the scenery of Tiracol.
The tour ended near the town’s church, which was probably my favorite place in town. This was another favorite day of mine in Goa. I loved being able to meet some of the villagers and see what life is like for them. When I travel, I make sure not to stay in my hotel or only in areas tourists venture to. That’s what I loved most about these heritage hotels, the opportunity to see what daily life is really like for people in Goa. If you get a chance to take an authentic village tour in Goa, or anywhere for that matter, you simply must take it.
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