So secret is Yab Yum, there are no roadside signs indicating its existence. Even the main gate has no sign, nor does the beach pathway indicate that you have arrived at your destination. Like the Illuminati, it seems this place wants to remain secret, hidden away on quiet Ashvem Beach just off the main Ashvem – Mandrem road.
Welcome to a peaceful oasis (and I mean peaceful, not something I often say in relation to India) in the heart of North Goa, just a few miles from the hippie enclave of Arambol. As you enter, you are whisked away to a world of enchantment where your imagination can run wild, and you can revert to childhood notions.
Entering The Magic Faraway Resort
As the gates creak open to allow you access, you are immediately transported into a magical world, where you half expect elves, fairies and all manner of other magical creature to appear. The Hobbit must be here somewhere…I think he lives in New Zealand but I swear these rooms look just like his home (either that or a bunch of giant coconuts welded together!).
There really should be a sign at the gate saying ‘No Shoes Allowed’ and ‘Leave Your Worries Behind.’ You don’t need either as you wander down the sandy pathway, shaded by tropical foliage and sandy little tributaries leading to the ‘home from home’ of magical creatures (otherwise known as travel elves from the UK). Enid Blyton stories from my childhood flood back to me, conjuring up images of magic trees, but this is no storybook!
Yab Yum Coconuts
Domes and pods are scattered amongst verdant tall pine trees, dense foliage and sandy pathways. Each is truly fascinating, resembling something fit only for pixies, elves or princesses, rather than a 6 foot two Yorkshire lad and his missus.
Each resembles a collection of giant coconuts interlocked to form a large bedroom, seating area and fabulously modern/rustic bathroom. Little shutters complete the effect, and can be flung open to let in a fresh breeze. Otherwise there are no windows and the door is secured simply by a padlock. These are rustic rooms, but colourful, unique and oh so damn cool!
Vibrant cushions line the seating area, making you want to plop down and soak in the enchanting scene before you. A four poster bed draped with mosquito nets (or as I prefer to call them, princess curtains!) demands your attention. It is big, comfy and fit for an Elphin princess (or me) I am sure!
The bathroom is fully enclosed (which gives me some comfort that I won’t become mosquito dinner every time I venture into the bathroom!) with trendy tiling, a cool round sink and modern shower head. The huts may look rustic from the outside, but no expense has been spared to ensure they are modern and comfortable inside.
The information booklet (I only know this because Jason read it….who wants to waste time reading info booklets when travelling?) advises not to be concerned about frogs. Apparently they are regular visitors, as I am soon to discover when a bloody big frog decides to make himself at home in my toilet pan, just when I need to pay a visit! I am not sure who is more freaked by my scream….Freddie or my neighbours thinking I am being murdered! Once I get over the shock, it just adds to the charm of the place (not to mention being entertaining for children!
It is difficult to tear yourself away from these rooms, because the magic continues outdoors. Each hut has its own sandy seating area complete with table, chairs and hallelujah, a HAMMOCK. Whoop whoop! I cannot wait to jump into that but I have history with jumping into hammocks (largely involving me ending up in a heap on the floor) so this time I aim to ease myself gently into its folds, ready to be swallowed up by Yab Yum.
Tear ourselves away we do however, heading first to reception to avail ourselves of the library (you know the one where other guests leave their books, and then other people like me borrow them). Alas, I could not find Shantaram which I sought out on the advice of my fellow Travel Hack Claire.
From there, excitedly we wander, exploring this magical kingdom. I didn’t see any trolls, just a few children playing a murder game (interesting choice!), a few travellers enjoying a beer in the chill out area, and an empty but colourful bar.
From there to the scorching beach to revive my memories of my last trip to this area (minus husband because I needed to find myself on a yoga retreat. I’m still looking by the way but now I have a good excuse to come back. Ssshh though….don’t tell the husband!)
The resort has a simple restaurant and bar overlooking the sea. The views at sunset are stunning, and if you wish to hangout on the beach there are beach beds specifically for guests. A security guard ensures that the hawkers keep their distance but beware, if he needs a toilet break, they will pounce the minute his back is turned!
We head to the restaurant for dinner, and this is where my magic carpet takes a detour and ditches me sharply back into reality. The food is great, and although slightly pricier than some of the beach restaurants nearby, is not extortionate.
The service leaves room for improvement, maybe because it is the beginning of the season, but regardless it took 45 minutes for my food to arrive, a full 15 minutes after that of my husband. Not ideal!
Breakfast in your own private sanctuary
Then there is breakfast, the concept of which is fabulous. A form hung on your door, needs completing and returning to its position. Someone comes and collects it and hey presto, the following morning your breakfast is delivered to your seating area at the requested time.
Unfortunately, in our case, the staff came and left us another card, without removing the completed card, meaning we waited and waited but alas no food arrived. Every time a waiter wandered down the sandy main path with food, we got all excited at the tantalising prospect of omelette and porridge, only to have our hopes dashed.
After grabbing their attention, and further investigation, we discovered the cause of the problem. A further 40 minutes wait, and our fabulous breakfast arrived. Yes, it was a feast for the eyes. Yes, it tasted yummy but it was almost lunchtime!
Yab Yum has its own yoga shala. Classes are extra at 800RP per 90 minute session (approximately £9). A little disappointingly the Shala wasn’t in the open air pavilion where we had seen people chilling, but in a whitewashed brick building.
I was hoping for more of a back to nature experience, but despite its non-traditional structure, it has a lovely vibe to it. It is also fully protected against insects with netting, and still sufficiently close to the sea to hear the fabulous crashing of waves onto the sand, enough to lull me into a full twenty minute self-guided meditation. Let me tell you, it is a long time since I have managed one of those.
Sadly, the yoga teacher failed to appear at the allotted time, leaving four of us disappointed. Thankfully we took advantage of the space, and did our own thing, enjoying the scent of rose incense wafting through the room.
A Perfect Night’s Sleep
Anyone who has been to India will know peace is something in short supply. India is chaotic, colourful and not renowned for quiet! Earplugs and eye mask are a must, especially if you plan to visit before or during Diwali (which I always seem to manage).
Yab Yum is however enchanting, and clearly the sleep fairy has popped round and sprinkled our bed with sleep dust, because I have possibly the best night sleep I have had on this trip in India. Amazingly there are no nutty dogs howling at the moon all night, no fireworks popping and no party animals camping outside our door. A slight party beat can be heard but it seems to synchronise with the booming waves, creating a calming meditational pull which lulls me into sleep.
What do you need to know?
Domes cost between 58 Euro for a standard dome and 118 Euro for a suite pod (a two-bedroom pod) and include a hearty breakfast. The only facilities are a bar, restaurant and beach beds, although massage treatments can be booked onsite.
To find the resort, turn down the dusty orange track between L’Amore and Palm Olive Grove, and you will come to the unmarked gate next to Palm Olive, where your mythical journey begins.
I love this place. From the sandy pathways to the unique, fairy-tale rooms and the option to ditch the shoes at the gate and feel yourself whisked into a world of calm. Swaying in the hammock under the palm trees (even if it is in shade) is a blissful way to spend a few hours, and it is only a short walk to other eateries along the beach.
The service during our visit was disappointing (the one exception being the reception staff who were brilliant) however this would not stop me from returning. I hope we were just unlucky on the day, and that it is simply because the season is not properly underway, but regardless, the lure of those hobbit homes is too much to prevent me returning one day.
Don’t let our service issues put you off. You could come here and simply opt to eat (and practise yoga if you wish) elsewhere. There is no shortage of options, but what you will not find elsewhere are these incredible rooms, with the comfy princess beds, and colourful, vibrant lounging areas. As far as I know, they are unique, and if you have kids, they are guaranteed to have their imaginations running wild.
We stayed courtesy of Yab Yum although our views are our own, and unedited. The sister company also has a range of other boutique properties in India which you may wish to check out. I certainly will be!