If you fancy the monsoon, don’t wait any longer to visit Asia’s first Planet Hollywood beach resort, featuring great food and shopping, plus home brewed beer
My flight into Goa is on time and even the cab driver is surprised. I’ve, after all, landed right in the middle of the Goan monsoon that sees houses nearly wrapped in plastic to keep out strong gusts of wind and rain. After winding through the streets of Salcette in South Goa, we pull over at Planet Hollywood, Asia’s first branch (and second in the world) of the Las Vegas-based hotel founded by entrepreneur Robert Earl (with investments from stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger), which is mine to discover for the next 24 hours. This property (brought to India by Mumbai-based Viiking Ventures) is a tribute to Hollywood and you realise that the minute you step into the reception. I’m unable to stop staring at their wall of fame that has over 50 photographs of Hollywood stars, even as GM Anand Chatterjee starts quizzing me on how I’d like to spend my time here. “Ah. This wall is like a selfie spot. You’ll find similar pictures in all our rooms too,” he smiles understandingly.
As promised, the frames continue in my room, with Jessica Alba and Milla Jovovich smiling down on my bed! A foot massager, giant LCD connected to a home theatre system, and a balcony overlooking the swimming pool are what I have to keep me occupied should the showers not cease. Chatterjee’s also left me with a bottle of red (that has my name printed on the label) for company, but I leave it behind and set out to tour Planet Hollywood. You might wonder why you should choose this over the likes of Park Hyatt that’s just a few minutes away. “Space, light and height — ours is a place where you unwind,” is Chatterjee’s answer. The 12 acre property surrounds you with greenery. Only 50 per cent of this is built up to include 115 rooms, two restaurants, a spa, gymnasium, bar and cigar lounge. On the beach side of the property, look out for an old Portuguese building that is being renovated to become their Presidential suite. Chatterjee shares that a seasonal restaurant will also rise up on the beach, for the first time post the monsoon in October. This is by the way, just their 20th day of operations.
Evening on town
Next, I must choose between old Goan churches, the Naval museum and the white sands of Colva beach. I choose door three despite the constant drizzle and throw in some quick shopping at Margao city on my way there. But no one is allowed into the ocean during the monsoon. If only I had known about the river rafting on the Mhadei river that one can sign up for at Valpoi, a little more than an hour from the resort. As the sun goes down, I contemplate heading to Martin’s Corner, a popular restaurant near the resort. But chef Sundar Sudarsan insists I return to base for a Goan dinner. Fenny-fermented bread, vindaloo, chicken cafreal, Goan crabcakes and beer from their own brewery. And who needs dessert when there’s a napkin with your name in gold to satisfy the narcissist in you.
Post dinner, don’t expect any Goan nightlife thanks to the strict monsoon laws. Instead, snuggle up under a blanket with a glass of wine and a movie. Or like me, go chasing crickets and frogs that seem to be organising an orchestra along the lengthy garden walkway by the beach. Tomorrow I have a brunch of Goan sausages to look forward to before bidding this soaked place goodbye. But Chatterjee will not let me board my flight without a session at their spa. So though my macho sensibilities are sceptical, this is after all Goa and one must learn to susegado!
Rooms at an average of Rs 6,500 to Rs 7,000 in summer and Rs 9,500 to Rs 10,000 in winter.
Details: 0832 6751000
Colva is dotted with plenty of curio shops. And if you’re prepared to hunt, there’s plenty of apparel stores where the T-shirts are as cheap as Rs 200. At Margao city, ask for The Ghodge’s where you can load up on nuts, Goan spices, masalas and of course bibinca. Margao is also the place to be if you’re looking for spicy Goan sausages. Make note, the sausages are best bought between 10.30 am and 11 am, when they are made fresh. And do pick up a bottle of Fenny and Urrack on your way back.
Be sure to ask GM Chatterjee to set you up on a visit to King’s Brewery, that makes the resort’s exclusive, premium brand of beer — Goa Beer. The 50 plus year old brewery also makes Goa’s popular King’s Beer and is about a 60-minute drive from Planet Hollywood.