Goa Stay: Finding the Kunbis in Calangute

Le Meridién Goa in Calangute is an ode to the region’s tribal history.  
Goa Stay: Go Beyond the Beach
An evening spent by the poolside is one of the best ways to relax at Le Meridién. Photo Courtesy: Le Meridién, Calangute

Located in North Goa’s favourite beach, Calangute, Le Meridién Goa at first seems like any other star hotel. One hundred and forty six spacious rooms with private balconies—some with a pool view and others overlooking the town—are packed with amenities such as a swimming pool, gym, children’s play area, banquet area and meeting rooms. Not to mention the five restaurants, including a rooftop one, that cater to varied palates.

However, what sets the hotel apart is how it melds comfort and a contemporary vibe with Goa’s heritage. Its artworks and design are vivid haikus about the Kunbis, the early settlers of Goa. The concentric circles, lines and squares on the carpet in my room represent the mountains and valleys of Goa, and the Kunbis trekking along them, explains Rosette Lobo Sardesai, the hotel’s interior decorator. Everything—from the weave pattern on the room’s wallpaper to the artworks with jewellery fitted on black-and-white photographs of Kunbi women—is an ode to the farming community that has a rich tradition of art and culture. The Kunbi colours of blue, purple, salmon red and mustard, flaunted in the carpets, cushions and throw pillows in the rooms, add pops of colour to the décor.

The hotel’s bar, Longitude 73 is fashioned after a hanging pedestrian bridge. In the mornings, it is a coffee bar that holds éclair-making workshops. Come evening and the café morphs into a sparkling space that serves cocktails and mocktails (tip: try their signature drink, Cocum Blush). For a hearty fill of kebabs, steak and seafood over live music, head to Jazz & Grills. With 40 labels of whiskeys, jazz instrument illustrations on the walls, old speakers and chairs fashioned after drumsticks, it is an ideal place for rumination over a glass of Scotch on the rocks. Don’t miss the armrests of the chairs shaped like the candle snuffers that one can still see used in old Goan churches.  

The neighbourhood outside the hotel brims with fashion boutiques and curio shops. A five-minute stroll down Holiday Street nearby will take you to the busy Calangute beach. The hotel lies in the heart of the city with easy access to all the major attractions. But I keep returning inside—weaving through the corridors of Le Meridién is like embarking on an art trail. The ceiling of the porch is a mixed-media topographical map of Goa, dedicated to the arrival of the Portuguese.  Even walking along the hotel’s corridors isn’t dull—they are lined with black-and-white artworks featuring houndstooth and herringbone, patterns commonly found in Kunbi clothing. Le Meridién Goa has changed the way I look at hotel decor. I sure carried back home a context of the place that has more to it than beaches, bikinis and feni.

Essentials

Le Meridién Goa is located in Calangute and is a 38 km/60 min drive from Goa airport (www.starwoodhotels.com; doubles from Rs8,500).

  • Sudha Pillai is an artist, photographer, and writer. She writes about her encounters with people, places, art, and culture.

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