BAGA, 10km west of Mapusa, is basically an extension of Calangute. The only difference between this far northern end of the beach and its more congested centre around Calangute is that the scenery here is marginally more varied and picturesque. Overlooked by a rocky headland draped in vegetation, a small tidal river flows into the sea at the top of the village, past a spur of soft white sand where ranks of brightly coloured fishing boats are moored.
Since the package boom, Baga has developed more rapidly than anywhere else in the state and today looks less like the Goan fishing village it still was in the early 1990s and more like a small-scale resort on the Spanish Costas, with a predominantly young, charter-tourist clientele to match. If you can steer clear of the lager louts, Baga boasts distinct advantages over its neighbours: a crop of excellent restaurants and a nightlife that’s consistently more full-on than anywhere else in the state, if not all India.
Saturday night bazaars
Saturday night bazaars
One of the few genuinely positive improvements to the north Goa resort strip over the past decade has been the Saturday Night Bazaar, held on a plot inland at Arpora, midway between Baga and Anjuna. Originally the brainchild of an expat German called Ingo, it’s run with great efficiency and a sense of fun that’s palpably lacking these days from the Anjuna Flea Market. The balmy evening temperatures and pretty lights are also a lot more conducive to relaxed browsing than the broiling heat of mid-afternoon on Anjuna beach.
Although far more commercial than its predecessor in Anjuna, many old Goa hands regard this as far truer to the original spirit of the flea market. A significant proportion of the stalls are taken up by foreigners selling their own stuff, from reproduction Indian pop art to antique photos, the latest trance party wear, hand-polished coconut shell art and techno DJ demos. There’s also a mouthwatering array of ethnic food concessions to choose from and a stage featuring live music from around 7pm until midnight, when the market winds up. Admission is free.
A competitor in much the same mould – Mackie’s – has opened nearby, closer to Baga by the riverside. Spurned by the expatriate designers and stallholders, this one is not quite as lively as its rival, though in recent years has made an effort to close the gap, with better live acts and more foreign stallholders.