Everyone is always talking about Goa like it’s some sort of exotic dream vacation destination, so I had to find out for myself why it’s so popular. I’ve only spent three days here and I never want to leave! Goa is heavenly, and my accommodations are sheer paradise!
What and Where
I’m staying at a charming home stay called Olaulim Backyards, situated on 3 lovely acres located about half an hour outside of Panjim. Panjim is the capital of the state of Goa. Home Stays are popular in India and one of my favorite types of places. They are typically a cheaper alternative to a hotel and provide a “no frills” style of accommodations. However, Olaulim (the name of the village) Backyards is an extraordinary exception.
I arrived after dark, weary from a day of travel. Pirkko Fernandes, co-owner and hostess, met me with a smile at the car and introduced herself. She is originally from Finland but has lived in India for over 20 years. Her hospitality and graciousness were evident from the very beginning. I felt like I had just arrived home. She showed me to my cottage and I was immediately impressed with every beautiful detail. The bed was soft and actually had sheets (unusual for India unless staying in a 4 or 5-star hotel). The bamboo accents and soft golden lighting instantly helped me relax. The bathroom was an open air style with a 6-foot solid mud wall around it, thatched roof and a concrete floor. It makes you feel like you are part of nature yet still have all the comforts of home. I really had no idea though what a charming and beautiful place it was until the next morning.
I awoke to the sounds of birds singing cheerfully outside of my cottage. I could hear the unmistakable sound of a peacock calling in the distance and wind chimes making soft music in the cool morning breeze. I made myself a cup of coffee and then headed out to the pool area to meditate, do some yoga and watch the sunrise over the bay. It was the perfect start to an incredibly relaxing day.
Breakfast was served family style and included a delightful array of fresh farm grown fruits from their grounds. They organically grow mango, papaya, bananas, coconut, chikoo, pamalo, star fruit, passion fruit, guava, limes and a variety of tasty herbs. I already fear that I’m going to gain all of the weight back I lost during yoga school in just the few days I’m here!
Prikko introduced me to her husband, Savio, and their two teenage children, Manuel and Shameene. I also met the guests staying in the other three cottages. One couple were newlyweds from England, the other two families were from other parts of India. Every meal at the Backyards is absolutely delicious and full of laughter and lively conversations.
I spent the rest of the day swimming in the pool, kayaking in the bay, bird watching, napping in the hammock, petting their giant dog Max, and getting to know everyone. Pirkko and Savio are fascinating individuals. They started the guest house about 6 years ago after realizing they needed to spend more time with their children and less time at work. They already had the grounds so they got busy building the 4 unique cottages, the kitchen and outdoor bar. I must admit, after a month of no alcohol in Rishikesh I’ve spent a good deal of time at the bar. Their neighbors make cashew fenni for them out of their own cashews and it’s wonderful!
I asked them what they like most about running a guest house and the answer didn’t surprise me at all. They enjoy meeting people from all over the world, making new friends and treating them like family. Their children are exposed to many different cultures and languages and are obviously well adjusted, intelligent kids. It’s a win-win for everyone and I hope someday to return to this little hidden paradise in South Goa.