As “live” gambling (different from slot machines) is banned in India, the Casino Goa, set up in the cruise ship MV Caravela, has managed to circumvent the rules, appealing to Indian high rollers who used to hop across the border to Nepal for their gaming fix. Originally, 10 floating casinos were proposed, but following widespread opposition by a still conservative community (presumably led by the Catholic Church), the number was whittled down to five. After years of monopolising the market, Caravela operator Advani Pleasure Cruise Co. will soon be facing stiff competition from the likes of Nepal casino king Richard Tuttle, who reportedly will launch a three-storey luxury vessel as well as Hotel Leela, which is said to be teaming up with a prominent businessman who runs several electronic casinos located in local hotels, for gaming facilities in a catamaran.

As with that other former Portuguese colony, Macau, Goa and Goans are fiercely proud of their mixed heritage and constantly find ways to share them with outsiders. The latest of these efforts is Calizz (, meaning “heart” in the local language, Konkani, which is a living museum and the brainchild of a local businessman Shri Laxmikani Kudchadkar.

Situated in Candolim, an area popular with tourists, the complex, which only opened in October, is interesting not just for the story it paints of Goa’s past, but also for Kudchadkar’s amazing propensity to collect bits and bobs that would be another man’s junk. However, when placed in the setting of a rich woman’s home and other connected structures and a Hindu priest’s mud house, the artefacts and ordinary household items take on new meaning. One room in the Portuguese-style mansion, meant to replicate a lawyer’s office, features a large installation made up of scores of keys, illustrating a little known fact that besides spices and slaves, Goa also did a roaring trade in locks and keys, which were sent all over the world. It also helps that Calizz general manager Manish Arora, a passionate scholar of history, curated the presentations, which also include some son et lumière exhibits focusing on the Mahabharata epic. Many, if not all, of the articles on display have been in Kudchadkar’s family for decades. His father was also an avid collector.

A 90-minute tour of Calizz costs 850 rupees (US$21) and with drinks and snacks is 1,200 rupees (US$30), while with lunch or dinner starts from 1,800 rupees (US$46) depending on the choice of drinks.

An appreciation for the arts and increased influx of visitors has also led to the blossoming of galleries around the capital Panaji, with a number found in the old quarter of Fontainhas (pronounced fon-ta-nish) and newer establishments springing up, exhibiting the works of younger and more edgy artists. But at places like Gallery Gitanjali (E-212 31st January Road, Fontainhas,, one can pick up more traditional prints and paintings that are no less evocative, while Velha Goa Galeria (4/191, Rua de Ourem, Fontainhas, produces those distinctive illustrated tiles and ceramics Portugal is renowned for.

A gallery owner told us: “Goa, of course, cannot compete with Mumbai as an art hub, but because of its idyllic environment, it does attract its fair share of creative talent.”

One artistic force that Indians grew up with and admire is the prolific Goa-born illustrator Mario Miranda, whose meticulously drawn sketches have captured the local culture and its resident characters with humour but most of all affection. Tiles with his scenarios imprinted on them will make an excellent memento of your visit. The maestro, now in his 80s, is still active.

While times are definitely a-changing in Goa – casinos and more luxury resorts are due and big-time property developers have moved in promising the usual piece of sun and sand to starry-eyed homeowners – there are still Goans who wish those behind development would take on a more reflective attitude.

One such individual is the editorial cartoonist, known as “Alexyz”, who believes it’s a case of “Goa, going gone”. His group, the Save Goa Campaign, he says, “is all about doing our little bit because we care what is happening – that land is being indiscriminately sold to outside developers, that coastal regulations are not being followed and construction is allowed right at the beachfront, that the damming of the Mondavi River (the waterway that flows through Panaji) is being allowed and the fact that the Konkani language is not being actively encouraged”.

He continues: “Pretty soon, we will lose whatever is left of Goa and we won’t know what a Goan is.”

Alexyz’s lament is a familiar refrain wherever paradise is threatened and facing extinction. Let’s hope Goa is more resilient than that.


If there is anyone whose name is currently synonymous with Goan cuisine, only one comes to mind – Urbano Do Rego, executive chef of Taj Holiday Village and Fort Aguada Beach Resort. Chef Do Rego, however, is not only the ambassador-at-large for the Taj chain, which he has worked for these past 35 years, but his home state of Goa as well.

For the uninitiated, Goan cuisine, according to Do Rego, who was born on the picturesque island of Divar off Old Goa, stands out from other Indian dishes due to the heavy Portuguese influence. Prime example is piripiri, the small red capsicum pepper brought over by the foreigners from another of their colonies, Mozambique. But it is cooking with coconut milk mixed masalas (blend of spices) resulting in the distinctive curry dishes that makes eating around the region a true gastronomic adventure.

With its generous coastline, Goa is a natural seafood haven, and Do Rego’s fish curry is legendary. (I’m not really a fish aficionado, but the pomfret he prepared at Taj Exotica’s Miguel Arcanjo Mediterranean restaurant, together with his special gravy, captivated my tastebuds from the first spoonful. And I had several helpings. He turned down the chilli factor for me, but not to the extent the dish lost its kick. Food, the Goan way, tends to make one sweat profusely, the maestro said.)

In his long and colourful career as a culinary icon, who has supervised Goan food promotions in places such as London, Muscat, Hongkong, Singapore and Switzerland (at a Davos Conference to be specific), Do Rego has witnessed many changes in the kitchen and attitudes of the staff.

“Steel containers have replaced clay pots and purified water has replaced water from the well; gas has replaced firewood. All these factors have affected the taste of food. Today’s chefs have it easy.

In the old days, we (apprentices) wouldn’t even think of eating our lunch in front of our head chef. That’s how much we respected our superiors.”



Buggies on 24-hour duty ferry guests from the hotel main building – beautifully laid out with attractive seating that makes you never want to get up and just continue enjoying the soothing somnolence – to private two- and four-bedroom villas. (Those wanting to be nearer the action can stay in regular accommodation.) Located in southwest Goa and facing the Arabian Sea, this Mediterranean-style resort is so self-contained it’s perfect for the traveller who feels no need to go anywhere else.


A self-contained complex with more than adequate facilities and services for meeting planners. Several outdoor venues are also available for events. There are 255 guestrooms and suites on site, three restaurants and two bars, and a state-of-the-art spa equipped with a whirlpool.


This 151-room property is set amid 30.3ha of gardens and lagoons. Most of the accommodation face the water features; the Royal Villas and Presidential Suite look out to the ocean and golf course. A personal plunge pool is found in the premier suite categories. The Club product is for discriminating guests.