A Goa hen weekend escape: Goan to get married part 1!

Before the congratulatory messages start, no it’s not me heading down the alter, but it is one of my closest friends in Dubai. The couple’s story has actually already featured in my blog here, and I’m sure their impending nuptials will be the subject of many more posts as they are planning a hen weekend in Dubai, a hen weekend in London, a wedding in The Lake District in England and a wedding in Nepal, as well as the initial hen celebration in Goa. Naturally I’m excited and ecstatic for my friend and her superstar fiancee – and am also more than happy to celebrate the marriage with them over the next five months of events!

Goa was the preferred destination for the hen, I had never been before, but luckily my friend (my partner in crime in the organisation of the weekend) had, so she was absolutely fantastic at organising the flights, visas, transfers and accommodation, finding us the most idyllic retreat we could have wished for. We were finding it incredibly difficult to book things at a distance, especially given the season was just finishing for the monsoons, so as the organisers we made the executive decision to go a couple of days ahead of the others – just to make sure everything was arranged!

We arrived in Goa bleary-eyed after a surprisingly short flight (and a car journey almost as long!) which between them had taken the entire night. By the time we reached our tropical beachside retreat, it was almost 7am, so after a welcome celebratory Kingfisher we headed to bed.

The rustic desert island romance of the Elsewhere Resort charmed us from the moment we woke. Taking our first nap in The Piggery before moving on to The Priest’s House, we sampled a couple of the boutique resort’s beautifully restored old Portuguese buildings, each private building discreetly tucked away behind sand dunes or between dense patches of jungle, flanked only by a couple of wide hammocks, strung lazily between the sweeping palm trees. Inside the two and three room buildings, the colonial vibe took shape in the form of dark wood furniture and simple white linens, four poster beds and large droning ceiling fans, along with an open air bathroom and shower.

Thanks to the warnings about the season finishing, we were prepared for a lot of things to be closed and for the possibility of rain… And we certainly experienced rain! But this was only during our first couple of days and we did still manage to catch the last day of Anjuna Market at least, plus it made a welcome break from the humidity – something I had not been fully prepared for. Coming from the desert, I had forgotten about this type of sticky heat, the type that leaves you permenantly feeling saturated, but unsure whether its from the air itself or the rivers of sweat you feel running down your back when you are stationary for more than a minute.

The stormy, sultry skies made for excellent photos however – there is nothing more atmospheric than a tropical rainstorm, and the oncoming monsoons made for one truly unique evening at the resort. The dining area was a small patch of cleared forest, open on all sides with a low tented ceiling and the naturally soft sand underfoot, and on the night in question we had just started eating dinner as the wind picked up. It was amazing to watch such a dramatic storm roll in – before the light went, the dark clouds were literally boiling on the horizon, and once it was dark, we could really appreciate the approaching lightening bolts. We were the only guests and so the loud cracks of thunder together with strong gusts of wind (enough to knock over a few glasses) caused a couple of startled shrieks which sent the staff running to check on us. They helped us move to the other side of the tent out of reach of the rain blowing in, but there was no way we were heading back with such prime views, and by then the rain was so heavy that we really had very little choice! The power soon went out but we had a candle and our torches and so carried on with our meal, with the frequent bright flashes of lightening highlighting the silhouettes of the jungle around us, and making for a truly stunning natural show.

We only experienced a couple of storms in our week’s visit though, the rest of the time the sun shone brightly, allowing us to appreciate the picture-postcard beauty of the beaches of Goa. We travelled around and through many of the local towns and beaches in Northern Goa, including Candolim, Calangute, Baga and the Old Goa heritage site, but none were a match for the long and prstine stretch of beach at our resort however, and the local village boys (most of whom worked in some way at the resort) were keen to keep it that way, working hard to keep it clean and clear of unwanted guests. We could walk for miles and see no one, or simply sit and watch the local men take out their boats and nets, and fish in the shallows in front of us.

Not being someone who is accustomed to lying around on beaches for days however, I particularly enjoyed our trips out. The resort employs the local boys as taxi drivers, and with their assistance, we were able to take our time and see plenty of the countryside. The swarths of green jungle were broken up by brightly painted houses, in rich reds and terracotta, bright yellows, pinks and greens, keeping the pristine white churches a focal point. Whilst many of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season, a few tenacious street vendors remained, selling fresh fruits, and making freshly squeezed sugar cane juice at the side of the road. With fewer tourists clogging up the streets on their mopeds, the only real problems on the roads came from the cows, but it wouldn’t be India if there weren’t!

The highlight of the trip however was the entire reason for our visit – the celebrations. We took one night as a party night (though nothing like the parties you would normally find in Goa during high season, from what I understand!) We chose Baga as it seemed to still have some atmosphere, and had dinner on the beach at Brittos (somewhere we had previously scoped out), which was lovely, but somewhat overshadowed by the Jaegerbombs to start, and the silly fun provided by the penis party straws!! (I’m not a huge fan of traditionally tacky hen parties, but there are some parts which are good fun to include!) We made one beach vendor’s night when we took his big flashing hairband bows for each of us to wear and then spent the evening in a great live music bar, dancing around to the music and having a bit of a giggle.

For the second day of celebrations, we had found a lovely ayurvedic centre in the jungle and had booked us all in for a long yoga session, followed by a series of ayurvedic treatments, including a synchronized massage, shirodhara (basically dribbling hot oil on the forehead and through the hair), a steam bath (actually in some kind of weird cupboard), and a herbal facial. The day of relaxation and recovery was finished off with celebration back at the resort. We had asked the resort staff to decorate the dining tent and I couldn’t help welling up when we went to check on their progress! The security guards had spent all day creating lovely big corn dollies, the other guys had been cutting butterflies out of magazines and hanging them around the tent, and draping long golden garlands of marigolds in key places. We blindfolded the hen and led her through to the prepared area, lit by candles, where we had ordered a selection of delicious Goan treats (including the amazing Goan prawn curry) and Indian sparkling wine (which was surprisingly good!) and played video messages from friends and family who couldn’t be with us, before the local guys from the village came to join us as arranged. One of the older groundsmen had dressed specially for the occasion in an electric blue silk shirt and tie, and had gelled his hair (an almost unrecognisable transformation from his usual khakki shorts, shirt and hat!) and sang a Hindu and an English love song to the hen (another tear inducing moment) before all the guys joined him to teach us some Bollywood dance moves – they brought their own music and we had a crazy couple of hours bouncing around and laughing hysterically (I’m just not sure how many moves I’ve retained that I could use at the wedding in Nepal!) Finally after a lot of fun, we made our way back by torchlight, stepping carefully over the fallen palm fronds and coconuts, before sitting out under the stars for a final glass of wine and chat  to the sound of the sea.

Relatively tame by hen party standards, I guess it wasn’t a traditional hen weekend away – there was certainly no crazy misbehaviour or scandal, although there were some pretty embarrassing dance moves (and not just the Bollywood ones!) and I do have a some very drunken looking photos that aren’t going to make the Facebook cut! But it was a lot of fun and at the end of the day, it was perfect for the hen and we all really enjoyed it and that’s what matters.