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Travel, India, boutique hotels, culture, secret, hotel booking, reviews
Travel, India, boutique hotels, culture, secret, hotel booking, reviews


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There's a LOT of Goa-related travel info out there. But a lot of this info is written by vistors to Goa - bloggers, travellers who like to share, guidebook researchers - and while that doesn't invalidate it, you have to concede that, especially when it comes to a very changeable place like Goa, there's nothing as trustworthy as information from local residents.

Here then, is a Goan resident's guide to nightclubbing in the sunshine state. We know this info is trustworthy because: a) Matthew lives in north Goa b) Matthew goes to these places and c) he always tells it like it is!

This post first appeared on our blog here:

Goa is not the party place it used to be, the change in fortunes a consequence of both the shifting demographics and the 10pm loudspeaker ban that came into force around the millennium.

Where once outdoor raves held sway, indoor clubs are now de rigueur, and the domestic, beer guzzling crowd have pushed out the more herbally/psychedelically inclined foreign ‘freaks’.

If the former is what you’re after, head to Baga, Calangute, Candolim and, increasingly, parts of Anjuna, where clubs like SinQ and Tito’s cater to the raucous Commercial Dance and Bollywood loving crowds, and Ladies Nights, VIP booths and pool decks are a common sight.

If you want your partying a little more old-school, and more outdoors, the following places are recommended:

Chronicle – Vagator
In a great, terraced location on the cliff-side overlooking the ocean and Little Vagator beach, Chronicle is a multi-level dance venue offering Deep House, Tech and Progressive Trance, along with day parties, and good food and drinks from their restaurant and bar.
+919167239345, +918411020762
Teso Waterfront – Siolim
A laid-back but stylish resort that doubles up as a sunset chill-out/party place, with spectacular views of the Siolim bay. The cool clientele is a mixture of moneyed urban types and the more hippyish long-term foreign crowd, with a bit of hipster thrown in. The Sunday evening Soma Project takeover is a highlight.
+91 832-2270091 /92 / 96/

Hilltop – Vagator
Old is (sometimes) gold. Hilltop, along with Nine Bar, is where Goa used to really party. Its heyday is over, but Christmas and New Year parties still get some of the glory back.

Leopard Valley – Agonda
South Goa’s big party place, Leopard Valley is a secluded spot just outside Agonda that offers a vast space for EDM.
+919405507115 /  
Shiva Valley/Curlies – South Anjuna
A small beach shack next to the famous Curlies, which turns into a proper old-school Trance rave on Tuesdays, complete with Chai-Mamas who set out their stalls on the sand. Parties frequently go on past midnight. Not for the faint-hearted.
Katzensuppe - Vagator
Starting at 10pm and running to the early hours, this indoor club with outdoor hangout and restaurant is one of Goa’s best nightspots, attracting quality DJs and a smart crowd. The extensive cocktail list runs from classic to interesting (Maple Whisky Sour; Pineapple & Sage Margarita), and the drinks are all professionally made.
Open Wed-Sun, 22:00 onwards. 400-500 rupees per cocktail.
+91 84119 32015 / Vagator Beach Road /

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Pondicherry's best cafés

The eastern coastal city of Pondicherry is a unique place in India. Cherished for its French colonial architecture and French-inspired cultural idiosyncrasies, it's a great place to spend a week, camera in hand, good book in your bag, and with little need for an adventurous spirit to get the best out of your visit.

The old town centre is where you should base yourself, commonly known as White Town or the French Quarter. Best of all are the small, quaint cafés that sit on the most picturesque streets, offering tourists a chance to sit, ponder and relax.
We asked contributor Aditi Datta to give us a rundown of the 5 best cafés in 'Pondy'. This article also appeared on blogzuki here:

By Aditi Datta.
If there were a golden mathematical principle for the ideal travel spot, I imagine it would be something like this: the distance travelled should be inversely proportional to how far away you feel, multiplied by the number of officially awesome places where you can eat and drink. For relatively cheap.

To this writer at least, as much as I relish the knowledge of racking up miles spent in transit, what matters most is the feeling of remoteness and utter unfamiliarity.

And in this way, if no other, Pondicherry packs in an unexpected treat.

With an unusual comfort in its colonial history and a strong pride in its rooted identity, traipsing between two worlds by simply crossing the street comes easily to this seaside town.

Nowhere is this duality more delightful than in Pondicherry’s cafes and courtyards. If architecture and gastronomy are the building blocks of a civilization, where you end up eating in Pondicherry might tell you a glorious tale of two cities, all wrapped up in one. So get away, and get further away, with these Pondicherry restaurants that truly are the best of all worlds.

La Maison Rose
Type: French Bistro
Location: Romain Rolland Street

A fairy-light adorned courtyard defines this café, along with accidental sophistication. The signage and menu are charmingly simplistic, reflecting the sincerity of its no-fuss dishes and honest flavours. Besides a superb Grilled Beef Fillet, the deceptively humble Chocolate & Coffee Parfait had us at bonjour.

Café Des Arts
Type: Café with breakfast specialties, light eats and coffee
Location: 10 Suffren Street

It’s probably the cheeky wall art, sporadic smattering of books and tables full of young crepe-hungry students that somehow make us feel vaguely hopeful, and happy. Keep any cynicism away; the menu doesn’t promise greatness but if you care about the company you keep for coffee, the croissant with homemade jams and butter aren’t too shabby at all.

Villa Shanti
Type: Traditional Indian and European food
Location: 14 Suffren Street

The name says it all. Expect Tamil temple art on the walls and a side of French fries on your table. This villa seems fairly contemporary and does traditional Indian as well as European dishes. The neatly arranged tables around the inner patio pack in quite a crowd; inner peace is for the taking.

Carte Blanche
Type: Modern French & Creole
Location: Hotel De L’Orient, 17 Rue Romain Rolland

Short of trying to board the Orient Express, this restaurant at Hotel De L’Orient is perhaps the quickest way to have a taste of that part of the world. The menu does pay homage to traditional French cuisine but also isn’t afraid of experimenting with some modern interpretations emphasizing local produce. The Creole section of the menu goes back deep into Pondicherry’s heritage, at least as seen in the kitchen.

Le Dupleix
Type: Pan-Indian, European & Pondicherry Fusion
Location: 5, Rue de la Caserne

Le Dupleix is possibly the most swish of the lot, with traditional accents done elegantly. The waterfall in the backyard makes for an idyllic background score, while you pore over the menu which, rather interestingly, does not demarcate its offerings into separate columns for French and ethnic Indian. A poetic reflection of the town’s perspective, maybe?
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Tripzuki was featured on India's biggest site for start-ups and entrepreneurial news:

The piece actually has a few errors (including the number of hotels we list and a picture of a hotel we don't even feature!) but by and large it gives a good overview of what we're about.
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Views of wonderful Ladakh
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And our full guide to Goa, by our Goa resident writer Deepti, including restaurant listings fully updated for the forthcoming holiday season!

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We finally uploaded our complete guide to Hampi - once the second biggest city in the world!!

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Boutique Ladakh

Ladakh is a region within the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, and in the last month we've slowly been adding the hotels from the trip that our researchers Matthew Parker and Deepti Kapoor did there in June.

We found some cheesy places (mentioning no names) which didn't make the cut, but we did find some absolute gems as well.

In fact, it's fair to say that the standard of boutique hotels in Ladakh is perhaps the highest we have experienced. There aren't many big hotels here, which is an absolute blessing, though we know of at least one that is planned for Leh.

What there is, however, is a handful of boutique properties that stay utterly true to the meaning of the word 'boutique'. Small places, 20 rooms at most, run by small, owner-led teams that cherish their work and treat guests like royalty and friends.

Most surprising of all, these are properties with exceptional food. Perhaps the dearth of what would often be standard ingredients actually pushes the talented chefs we found to stretch their imaginations and make the absolute best of what is available.

Here are some shots from our favourite discoveries in Ladakh:

Ladakh Serai: an amazing place in a village not far from Leh, with 12 yurts and 6 mud cottages. Stay here and hire bicycles to explore.
More info and to book:

Nimmu House: a fantastic traditional building sensitively renovated into a wonderful hotel in a lovely village. Awesome food too!
More info and to book:
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Not so long ago we posted an article on Huffington Post, asking what were the 5 most irresistible veggie dishes in India. This led us to rope in a few experts in the field of Indian cuisine, including Nonchalant Gourmand and Reshmy at the Bombay ChowParty blog. Check out her latest, which takes the conversation one big step further - her knowledge of Indian cuisine is awesome:
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What's the best way to get from Mumbai to Goa?

We get asked this a lot so we took some time out to write up all our experience on that route. This was first published on our blog here:

As always there are 2 factors to consider: time and cost. On balance, the plane wins hands down. In fact, it's not even a contest unless you want to:
a) Go by train or bus for the experience. We think this is overrated; there are better train or bus journeys you can do in India, and you’ll probably do most of it overnight anyway.
b) Save money or be really eco-friendly about it, which is fair enough and a better reason than a).

Bus: A pretty harrowing journey.
If you are on a really super, super tight budget then maybe do it, but I doubt many would be on such a budget. In fact, no, forget it, don't do it, it's really not worth it. And the bus costs the same as a 3-tier train ticket anyway.

Plane: 1 hour approx. / average one-way fare 3,000 INR, can vary greatly but there is a lot of choice.

There are a handful of airlines flying to Dabolim, Goa’s only airport. As of May 2015 these are Jet, SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir and Air India.
Note that there are international charter flights that fly to Goa as well, so you may actually be able to bypass Mumbai altogether, but that’s another article.
Forget trying to book flights with the airlines directly. Instead, just use which is easy and doesn't cost any more than booking direct. If you need a return ticket it also allows you to easily mix and match both legs with different airlines, which is often worth doing to get the best overall price. You may have to wrangle with the payment system a little if you're using a foreign credit or debit card, but ultimately it should work fine.
Planes to Goa leave constantly throughout the day, and a few leave during the night. On Makemytrip you will see flights listed with, for example, 'duration 16 hours'. These are the ones that do crazy stuff like going via Delhi (in the opposite direction), so make sure you select '0 stops'.

Don't worry too much about which airline to use, it's a short journey, but at Tripzuki we always recommend Jet or IndiGo if possible, they tend to have less inexplicable cancellations (these are quite common) and more professional staff. We would almost go so far as to say ‘avoid Air India’, which may be a bit harsh but it’s a long while since I, personally, have experienced anything positive where Air India has been involved.

Note: the international airport in Mumbai is near but not the same as the domestic airport. Do yourself a favour: do not try to get the shuttle bus from one to the other, it's a bizarre and poor service. It's free but has no other redeeming feature, and if you’re running even slightly late you’ll be in bits by the time you get off.
Instead, go to one of the cab booths near the airport exit doors and get a taxi from one airport to the other for just a few hundred rupees. Mehru Cabs and EasyCabs are located there and both are reliable, just don’t expect a fancy car or a smart driver. You pay the booth operator a fee and then take your slip outside to the allocated taxi. You'll probably stand around looking for the number but don’t worry, the driver will most likely find you. Don't be paranoid about getting ripped off, like a lot of things in India it can be confusing but these cabs are pretty good, plus worrying about 100 rupees extra is not worth the anguish.

Train: 12 hours-ish/ average one-way fare 1,800 INR approx.

You will need to book the train well in advance, but you won't be able to book a train ticket online without an Indian phone number, so international visitors will have to use an agent; try our friends at

If you still want to take a train then you will need to head into Mumbai to the main train station which is Mumbai CST aka Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It will take you about an hour by taxi. Again, use one of the pre-paid taxi booths.

From here there are a few trains that leave at night - post-10pm - and get you in to Madgaon (Goa's main station, in Margao) at around 9-10 am. These are the Konkan Kanya Express and the Mumbai CST-Mangalore Express. The 2-tier A/C tickets will cost approximately 1800 INR (about 28 USD / 27 euros). 
Another option is the Shatabdi which leaves early in the morning at 5.25 am and gets in during the afternoon at 14.30 pm. The Shatabdi is a seater train and not a sleeper, it's also the fastest.

Note: All trains stop at Madgaon which is centrally located in Goa and not far from the airport (Goa aka Dabolim). However, bear in mind your final destination. You will be coming in from the north so if you are staying in the northern half of Goa it will probably be easier to get off at Pernem or Thivim instead of Madgaon, and you may save as much as a couple of hours doing this. Pernem is about 8km inland in the very north of Goa, making it ideal for access to hotels anywhere from Morjim in the south up to Fort Tiracol in the north. That means beach places like Sur La Mer, Elsewhere, Yab Yum and Little Palm Grove,
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