5/146, RUA 31 DE JANEIRO, PANJIM, GOA
It is too early when we arrive by a Kadamba Transport bus from Madgaon* and swaddled in rain clouds, Fontainhas is sleepy. At Old Quarter, the night guard is brushing his teeth. Check-in is at 2:00 pm. We ditch our bags in a closet whose archaic lock mechanism makes me smile and we drag our tired feet in the lilting rain, determined to stay awake and play explorers but more about that later.
Old Quarter’s main building houses four dormitories, a café and a spacious sitting area; single and double privates are located in a restored heritage property 5 min down the street. All The Hostel Crowd hostels, and there are four in Goa, have a girls only dorm. The lower level of the main building houses two dorms, the reception and a lounge. The cozy sitting area is painted bright white and matte black. It is on the upper level and is accessible by a staircase above which, strung from the ceiling, is an installation of a cascade of books. Handsome wooden desks and benches, comfortable chairs with plump cushions and plenty of natural light make the sitting area welcoming.
After a lazy breakfast at the legendary Venité, puff pastries at Confetaria 31 de Janeiro and a rickety bus ride to and from Old Goa, we check-in and are led to the annex. We are pleased that instead of the deluxe double we had booked we have been assigned the cottage: a spacious, airy room with two bay windows leading into an overgrown backyard. Stepping into that room is like taking a step backwards in Portuguese Goa when the then-kitchen-and-dining-space played host to luncheons and family dinners. Sunlight streamed in through the windows like sparkling butterflies. In the corner is an abandoned counter-space and a sink with a faucet that still works. The room is sparsely decorated; the palette is white and cornflower blue, and late that night while we sit at the table drinking beer and popping pieces of prawn koliwada in our mouths, we imagine the house in its happier days: the chirping of crickets in the garden, women singing Portuguese songs as they stir pots of delicacies in the pepper-spiked light, ringing of laughter and clinking of glasses of feni. As if we could almost taste the whiff of joy on our tongues!
We do not know the history of the house but there was something woven into the air of the room, perhaps the weight of joyous memories that once permeated this place that left us restless throughout the night. We didn’t explore the backyard.
Like most hostels, Old Quarter has a laundry room, water purifiers and a tiny space where you can make a sandwich. WiFi is complimentary. Also, if you are an unmarried Indian couple travelling with Indian passports in India, you probably know how difficult it is to find budget accommodation. Thankfully, Old Quarter loves people like us who are too poor to get “legally” hitched!
What we loved:
- Old Quarter is located in Panjim’s old Latin Quarter, a heritage neighbourhood where you can still experience the Portuguese influence. Picturesque villas painted in pastel shades of green, blue, yellow and maroon and with roofs made of red tiles dot the winding alleys.
- It’s a 10 min walk from the bus station.
- There are many good restaurants like The Verandah, Kokni Kanteen, Viva Panjim, and Venité within walking distance.
- You can walk (or ride the bus) to Miramar Beach.
Ambiance & Decor:
- The ambiance at Old Quarter is laid-back. Well-lit and mostly quiet, it is the perfect place to read that heavy paperback you are lugging. The WiFi is fast and there are adequate charging points.
- The variety of board-games and cups of chili chai were great accompaniments to rainy afternoons.
- The moody palette and minimal decor pleased us.
- The complimentary breakfast is filling. You can pick between Continental (bread, butter, jam, coffee and boiled egg) and Goan (chamuça, Goan poi, chhole, pao, coffee). We recommend the Goan selection but ordering a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice might be helpful if don’t like spicy.
- The staff is happy to help you with your travel plans.
- The property is spotless and we are always thankful for clean loos.
What we didn’t:
- We felt the 2 pm check-in to be a little too late. An afternoon check-in wouldn’t hurt, would it?
- We didn’t appreciate the centipedes in our bathroom and the bedroom. We understand it is the monsoons but perhaps it would help to tame the growth in the backyard in the annex.
- We weren’t impressed by the guy who manned the reception the morning we arrived. He was disinterested and not very helpful. Your tired guests could really appreciate a smile, guy!
- The colourful graffiti on the wall outside Old Quarter makes it the perfect Instagram-worthy spot!
- The illustrated maps of Old Goa and Panjim in the annex will help you build your own walking tours.
- If you keep a (travel) journal, you can request the receptionist to stamp it with Bombay Coffee Roasters’ quirky stamp.
- The map of Panjim isn’t free but it’s one of the best souvenirs INR 50 can buy.
- If staying in their other hostels, ask about the shuttle service.
- During the monsoons, an AC isn’t a necessity in this part of the country. Spend the money on a more rewarding experience.
We highly recommend Old Quarter for solo travellers, especially women, and couples but not so much for families with children. Fontainhas is perfect for slow travel; there isn’t a lot to see but so much to understand, explore and absorb. Besides, staying at a hostel means you get to network and strike up conversations.
*We arrived at Madgaon around 5:30 am and quickly realized that the bus station isn’t within walking distance. Having lived all our lives in eastern India, we forgot to account for the difference in sunrise on the west coast (we need another time-zone, please) and thus had to book a tuktuk for INR 120 to the bus station. If you are generally anxious, wait till it is light because the tuktuk weaving through deserted markets, on byroads by the highway and not a soul in sight can be somewhat daunting. Also tuktuks here have doors that close.
Express AC service from Madgaon to Panaji takes about an hour and costs INR 40 per person.
[Stayed in the cottage at Old Quarter in July 2017. We had booked a deluxe double for INR 1500 + taxes and we received an upgrade.]
If you have stayed at Old Quarter by The Hostel Crowd, share your experience with us.