Beyond the beaches: Ginger Hotels re-launches in Goa, with a property targeted at millennial travellers
Goa, for the longest time, has been stereotyped as a land of sun and beaches.While the tourist business does revolve around the beaches and shacks dotting them, little is known about Goa’s cultural heritage. With an increasing number of youngsters stepping out of their comfort zones to explore on trips and network for work, Indian Hotels Company Limited’s Ginger Hotel, which comes from the same family as Taj Hotels, has relaunched to move beyond a budget hotel to create a unique luxury experience for travellers who are always on-the-go.
With the new Ginger Hotels, we experienced IHCL’s curated experiences, which are a part of their guided tours for Taj, through various experts in Goa, one of them being 80-year-old historian René Mendes. After a brief introduction and having pronounced my name like the Portuguese would have, he went on to explain the origin and semantics of it. René, who calls Panjim his home, we are told is one of the few thousands of Goans with Portuguese origins, and I wasn’t too surprised because it was clearly evident from his mixed accent, while talking to me.
Leaning on luxury
A treasure trove of knowledge, our first tour with him started with the Panjim market, which was busy, with locals scurrying around to get their supplies and with twilight setting in, the cacophony of vendors getting ready for the night market, as several of us pick and choose colourful souvenirs at first sight, before we return to get ready for a busy evening.
After a brief rest, we make our way to the refurbished Ginger Hotel in Panjim, a 10-minute drive from the Vivanta by Taj property. The hotel is one of 12 others to launch in the next two years — and is targetted at the millennial traveller. The largely red-and-black interiors are intended to accentuate the whole experience. We noticed geometrically-designed sections, which are designed for travellers to take a break. The all-day diner Cafe Et Cetera, which also functions as a workstation, serves a variety of Indian food as well as global cuisines and comfort food, making it the ideal spot to start your day. The Lounge is a co-existing space which has been built to create a natural setting for networking as people can play a game of foosball, strum the guitar or even pick a book from the mini-library to read works by their favourite authors, while you sit in a hammock-bench. The refurbished 210 sq ft pastel-coloured rooms exude comfort in every aspect and are completely different from the previous Ginger Hotel rooms.
The next day starts with 18th June Road in Panjim, an iconic road in the state. A lesson in history, we are told that the road is named after the day freedom fighter Ram Manohar Lohia called a meeting to end the Portuguese rule in India. The nugget of history is also what sets the tone for the next few days as an enthusiastic René, takes us on a tour of the capital of Goa and one of its most busiest cities. With Dona Paula next on his mental map, René relates the famous legend about the lovers that many tourists do not know of. All this, while local fisher-folk and vendors set up and get ready for business at the foothills of Shrine Of Our Lady Of The Cape, as they joke with each other in their local dialect of konkani. Our next stop comes as a complete surprise as we take a turn to get into the heart of Panjim.
From Portugal, with love
Fontainhas, or Bairro das Fontainhas in Portuguese, is a heritage site and Goa’s oldest Latin quarters. As we marvel in its sheer beauty, René tells us, it is one of the only places that preserves Portuguese architecture, and is one of the few places where locals still speak the language too. He also goes on to add that the houses here cannot be reconstructed and the government also does not allow new homes to be built in the area. Fluent in Portuguese, René greets an acquaintance and we cannot help but be immediately transported to Portugal, as he tells us about the chapel of St Sebastian, which is used once a week by the locals who attend mass.
Interestingly, one of the tallest buildings in Fontainhas atop the hill is where the High Court of Bombay at Goa is situated, which was earlier a Lyceum (medical college). A rooster atop every house roof is hard to miss, and as soon as we ask René, he tells us it is to simply depict the roosters that used to wake up the whole village in the earlier days. Leaving us with a whole new side of Goa, the gracious historian invites us over for a traditional Portuguese meal at his house. As we make our way back, we realise how much of Goa is missed simply because of the popular ‘sun and beaches’ tag. This experience, however, turned out to be quite a fulfilling one.
The writer was at Ginger Hotels Goa, upon invitation.