When your iPhone dies in India causing your work life to come crashing to a halt AND you have to travel one hour to fix it, what to do? Make the most of it! Consider it a chance for a new adventure.
While the South Goa coastal towns of Palolem Beach, Agonda Beach and Patnem Beach have Chaudi (in Canacona) as our go-to hub for most shopping and business matters it does not handle everything (even though I did manage to get married in the Chaudi’s dingy and cluttered Civil Registration Office).
Margao (also known as Madgaon) is the next largest city and Goa’s commercial hub. You can shop ’til you drop here and get things at rock bottom prices…especially if you’re good at bargaining.
Apart from some lovely Portuguese villas dotted throughout the city, Margao is not the most scenic of places. It’s pretty congested and run down but still has its charms. If you are traveling via train or bus you will, most likely, end up in Margao at some point. It still has the essence of when the Portuguese were here. When I am in Margao, I can imagine what it must have been like during the Portuguese colonization. It definitely has retained an old world charm which makes it an interesting place to explore.
While Margao has its charms and redeeming qualities (mostly for practical reasons), most people just pass through. It’s not much of an overnight destination. If staying in the area, most people opt to stay at the nearby beaches rather than the city of Margao.
I’ve passed through quite a few times but have never really taken the time to investigate what Margao has to offer. So I just jumped on the back of my friends rumbling Enfield motorcycle and besides a minor hiccup of running out of petrol 10 minutes into our little road trip, we were on our way to Margao to get my iPhone repaired and make the most of the day in Margao.
Here Are My “TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN MARGAO” ………………….
- VISIT THE MARKETS
Margao’s M.M.C. New Market (aka the “old market”) is a lively market, with a canopy covering the colorful stalls in the heart of Margao. It is a fun place to wander around, sniffing spices, sampling soaps and browsing the household merchandise. It’s about a 100 rupees tuk tuk ride from the bus station. Here you can find anything from clothes to household items and appliances as well as intriguing food items and spices such as locally made molasses, watermelon seeds used for making cooking pastes, tamarind pieces used in curries and more! You’ll also come across some mysterious items that are used for who knows what such as “Sita’s Hair” (bottom photo) which is used for Hindu ceremonies and rituals.
(Photos: Old photo of MMC Market from Google photos; spices, molasses, tamarind, “Sita’s Hair – my photos)
One of my favorite parts of the Old Market is the area selling Goan sausage. Follow your nose to the savory spicy area where locals sell their homemade Goan sausage. There are around ten stalls the just sell the famed and iconic sausage of Goa that people from all to buy.
Long strands of sausage are draped artistically over the table tops to entice customers to try their artisan sausages. I have tried (and love) the traditional Goan sausage that has flavors reminiscent of Spanish chorizo. It takes me back to the days when I lived in Andalucia, Spain and would munch on the super delish chorizo almost every day with a bit of manchego cheese while sipping on a robust glass of Rioja…hmm those were the days.
The Goan sausage is rich, having a paprika punch with a spicy undertone and made from local pork. Goans eat a lot of Goan sausage at home in dishes like sausage chili fry, sausago pao (sausage roll) and sausage pulao (rice with spices and veggies) but it’s next to impossible to find in restaurants which is a shame because it’s so totally tasty! I buy it and add it scrambled eggs and sandwiches which adds to much flavor with just a small amount. Some cooks even save the oil left over after cooking the sausage for cooking purposes to flavor dishes.
The sausage vendors also have large chunks of pork for sale which….in this sweltering heat (and their lack of refrigeration) isn’t my favorite to see (and smell) but I do find it interesting. They also have a wide of variety of sausage available such as mutton sausage, pig skin (not sure I understood correctly, but I’m pretty sure she said pig skin) sausage and other variations of the traditional sausage. The different shapes and color of the sausage links indicate what type of sausage it is (to the trained eye).
Get ready for slip sliding down the lanes of the fish market, it’s wet and a bit mucky but well worth the visit. If my companion hadn’t been rushing me through the market because he was hungry I would have stayed much longer and asked a lot more questions. The market is bustling with people – especially early in the morning when restaurant owners and chefs from around South Goa come to buy their daily fresh fish. The atmosphere is lively and fun with all the female fish mongers competing to get customers.
The variety of fish and the sheer size of the fish on hand is very impressive! Huge tuna, red snapper, calamari, prawns, crabs, pomfreet and even more that I have never seen. Lepo is a flat strange looking fish that is used a lot in Goan cuisine but it doesn’t even compare to the strangeness of the Bombay Duck (aka Bombil) in both name and looks. Eaten both fresh or used dried, it is a favorite in local Goan cuisine.
The fish market in Margao is THE hot spot to buy fresh fish and shellfish. The prices are very reasonable and the quality is superb. The majority of the fish comes from the neighboring states of Karanataka and Kerala to the south of Goa. While Goa does have some good local fishing the major industry is in the south where the waters are rich and abundant.
During monsoon time fisherman are restricted from fishing in Goa to give the fish a chance to replenish naturally. This is why you find so many dried fish used in Goan cuisine, for the times when fresh fish is more scarce and, thus, more expensive. Outside the market you’ll see (and smell) sheets and sheets of fish drying in the sun to be used later for curries.
Right next door is the produce market with beautiful produce that is locally grown. I love discovering new veggies and fruit that are from the area and primarily used in only in Goan and Indian cuisine. The massive area is packed with incredible looking produce.
Much of India is vegetarian but Goa has a large population that eats meat and fish almost daily. Just to the side of the fish market is the meat market where there are small shops selling fresh….and I do mean FRESH (as in alive now, and in 5-minutes not so alive) selling chicken, mutton, goat and beef. There is also the choice of Halal meat prepared by Muslims.
The Fish, Produce and Meat market are located very close to the Kadamba bus station and directly behind the INOX movie theater. It’s only a 5 minute walk from the bus station.
2. INOX MOVIE THEATER
The new and uber modern multi-plex Inox Cinema is located just south of the main Margao bus station. If you’ve had to check out of your hotel and have time to kill in Margao before your train or bus departs….enjoy a bit of air-con, popcorn and a Bollywood movie. For long-termers it’s also a nice respite from the beach. You can even catch movies in English here from good old Hollywood. So you have a choice of Bollywood or Hollywood!
Margao is a great place to find authentic Goan food. While the beach towns offer a variety of Goan dishes on their menus, there are so many more. So many dishes that Goans eat daily rarely make it onto restaurant menus. Margao has a handful of restaurants where you can find more of the unusual (but typically Goan dishes). You can also find restaurants with an impressive continental menu and western ambience.
Martins Restaurant is a fine dining restaurant with a great representation of authentic Goan cuisine as well as continental.
Tato Fine Dining Restaurant has a primarily Indian food menu with some Goan items. Their fish thali is excellent! The restaurant all the way upstairs serves veg and non-veg cuisine while downstairs they only serve veg. It’s also very close to the bus station.
Nostalgia – “We strive to serve a little bit of Goa, not just on a plate, but off a plate too, by showcasing the way life was and sometimes continues to be, in many a Goan village and home. Nostalgia is our attempt to preserve the heart and soul of Goa and take it into the future, and the more visitors like yourself that are enchanted by our restaurant, the more impetus it gives us to continue.” You can also enjoy live music during the evenings.
Peppers Gourmet Cuisine If your weakness is Goan cuisine, head to Pepper’s where you’ll find a tempting selection of local delicacies. The experience of dining at Peppers is one that will take you back to the good old days of Grandma’s cooking with a hint of modernity.
Longuinhos Bar & Restaurant An old school place that serves good local food, Goan traditional items and more
If you’re ready for a break from Indian and Goan food (believe me, I understand) – there is a super air-conditioned KFC just a few minutes north of the bus station on the same side of the street as well as a Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut near the Inox Movie Theater. After being in India for 2 years, I must admit that sometimes I do get a hankering from good ol’ (as bad as it is) fast food.*(btw – don’t tell anyone I’m saying this 😉 *
Figueiredo Mansion – After Goa’s liberation in 1961, land reform took back the vast agricultural holdings and dismantled the feudal system that supported grand estates. Of the surviving grand mansions, the gorgeous Figueiredo Mansion which was built in 1606 (House No. 376, Loutolim – 15-minute drive from Margao), is the most beautiful Portuguese home around which is open to visitors. The house retains much of its former grandeur, with magnificent collections of antique furniture and porcelain. You can also dine in their grand restaurant – reservations only. (0832-277-7028, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Much of the sightseeing takes place on the way to and from Margao. The landscape (especially during monsoon time) is electric green and so lush that you can hardly see the sky through the foliage at times. It is really beautiful. Take in the traditional Goan homes along the road, the dhabas (local eating joints) and rivulets of river water running through the landscape. You really feel like you are in an exotic jungle in some remote part of the world….really fabulous!
5. BEACHES OF MARGAO
Some of Goa’s top beaches near Margao are :
Colva : Colva beach is one of the popular beaches near Margao. It is 6 km from Margao, having a throbbing nightlife but a somewhat downmarket ambience by day. Colva’s highly commercialized with resort complexes, large holiday crowds, trinket stalls, discos and restaurants and the waterfront is clean and the water’s safe for swimming.
Benaulim : Benaulim lies right in the center of Colva, 7 km west of Margao. Benaulim is a popular tourist hotspot with a crop of luxury resorts, time-share apartments, guesthouses and moderately priced hotels. Despite its popularity, Benaulim still has an air of tranquility: the beachfront is beautiful, with silver sands, shady palm trees and safe waters.
Mobor: Mobor is the spot where Colva ends and the River Assolna meets the sea. The beach at Mobor lies in a sheltered cave overlooked by cliffs on one side – it makes for a picture perfect setting.
Majorda: Majorda is one of the most alluring beaches near Margao. It lies 2 km north of Colva, and is a pretty beach dominated by a luxury resort, hotels, restaurants, shops, boutiques and the best European bakeries in Goa.
Margao is approximately 36 km North of Palolem Beach and takes about one hour to get there.
The bus leaves from the heart of Palolem Beach (at the bus stand in front of Coffee Inn) or from the Chaudi bus station. The ride is one hour and it costs a mere 30 rupees to the Margao bus station. The buses run every 30 minutes (they stop running at 8pm).
If you’re going posh…then it will be a one hour drive costing about 1,000 rupees.