Goa is perhaps my most favorite vacation spot in India. Many think that Goa is only for people who booze or love sea food or party animals. But you can enjoy Goa equally if you love flea markets, the churches, museums, the sea, the sand, the sunsets, the pancakes at the beach shacks...!
This was our first trip post marriage where we decided not to approach a travel agent. One, obviously the financial constraint and two, we wanted a sense of adventure and unexpected. So I started doing what only eminent scientists and nobel aspirants did a few decades back. R&D! I was at my maniacal best of clicking through links, gathering info and preparing an itinerary. After searching over a hundred options, we decided to stay at Candolim. But no amount of R&D will stop you from getting surprised by gems like these.
"Original Fakes" - actually saw the same name in two shops!
Tuk Tuk Cab Rickshaw Stand
Transport When buses are very infrequent, autos unavailable in most places and taxis obscenely expensive, what comes to your rescue is the National vehicle of Goa - Honda Activa. Easy to hire, for around 200 bucks a day, decent mileage, smooth ride and enough space to hold all the items you shop. And did you know that there are two kinds of two wheelers in Goa? Honda Activa white board and Honda Activa yellow board. It seemed to me as if every second home in Candolim region is in the "Letting Honda Activa for hire" business!
Ponda It boasts of some lovely temples like Mahalsa, Mangueshi, ShantaDurga etc. Though not a tourist destination, it had very nice roads and signboards at every intersection. Even a severely geographically challenged person (Div has enough material to write a big post on that) The temples are very colorful with yellows, oranges, pink etc. Even the "tulasi katte" in every household is very colorful.
There are some things about Goan temples which I found interesting.
In Goan temples, you can wear footwear into the main entrance of the temple, but need to leave them just before entering inside the temple.
The "deepastambha" in the temples are elaborate and reminded me of the leaning tower of Pisa.
The flower sellers sit inside the temple premises and sell you in either Marathi or Konkani. No english here!
The "golaka" or "hundi" is called "Fund Peti". Fund seemed as though its some kind of investment. Peti very funnily reminded me of Sanjay Dutt's gangsta movies.
The priests dont offer "theertha" in the temples. A vessel containing theertha and a chained spoon will be placed in a corner and the devotees have to take it on their own.
There are non-veg hotels and wine stores just outside many temples. When things are not taboo and just a way of life, they probably cease to be offensive, right?
If you are into visiting old churches, stroll around lovely museums, interested in history - Old Goa is for you.
Ruins of St. Augustine Church, Old Goa - completely blew me away. What a masterpiece it might have been when it was intact!
Tombstones, with Latin inscriptions on them, dating back to the 1500s. Saw one name "Ursula" written as "VRSVLA". I was laughing uncontrollably remembering Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1 (which never had a sequel though) where he makes fun of Latin. In one of the sequences, he tells his friend - "Buddy, I am hurt. HVRT hurt".
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary - a deserted magnificent structure adjoining the river Mandovi.
The most well known of them all - Basilica of Bom Jesus
Se Cathedral - St.Francis of Assissi. Has some really well maintained museums.
Church of St. Catherine. You could easily mistake it for one of the montage shots of "Before Sunrise".
"A cross here. A cross there. What do you call that?". Double-cross!
Every nook and corner has a beauty like this one.
Beaches Though we stayed close to Candolim beach, we did not go to the beach for 3 days. The sand varies in texture from beach to beach. Almost every beach now has marked safe zones for swimming and many life guards on duty, which was not the case 3 years back. Here are the beaches we visited: Sinquerim beach - We had gone for an amazing early morning walk. The nearby Aguada Fort with its mammoth light house is a delight to watch. We were very surprised to spot a peacock there, which was not gracious enough to pose properly for my camera. Calangute beach - Its not called the Queen of beaches without reasons. It is great for water sports, though the beach is a little too over crowded. Candolim beach - A personal favorite of mine, so it was quite ironic that we visited it last. But I enjoyed so many new discoveries this time, I rarely missed Candolim beach. Baga beach - Quite close to the Mackies Saturday Night Market - a place for amazing knick knacks, live music and expensive food. The market was the first place we visited on reaching Goa. If it is your first time in Goa, you would be shocked by the perfectly accented English that village women speak here (yes, it is actually Arpora village) and their amazing sales skills can put the a B-school student to shame ("Come my friend, I will give you the best price" is their mantra!) Anjuna beach - The wednesday flea market was so huge, that it felt as never-ending as the sea itself. I guess it was the pulsating sound of Prem Joshua's "Shiva Moon" that kept us going.
Sinquerim neach - capturing somebody's "Dil Chahta Hai" moment
The gigantic light house at the Aguaga Fort
Beautiful sunset at the Calangute beach on the penultimate day
Not the queen, but the most beautiful of 'em all - Candolim beach herself
Panaji Driving inside the city and on the bridge is a delight. There is plenty of parking space everywhere and is mostly free. The shopping on the 18th June Road is an ideal option after a tiring day. The relaxing massage we got at an expensive spa here still brings a bright smile on our faces.
The sunset cruise over Mandovi river made me realize this. There were probably a hundred handicams/digicams/mobicams capturing the performances in the cruise. Imagine 100 youtube videos of a routine performance that happens daily. I am amazed by the amount of redundant and unimportant online data that humanity might have generated in the last 5 years.
Our Lady of Immacute Conception overlooking the city of Panaji
I want to end this writeup with a PJ that occurred to me in Old Goa.
Q: How does Jesus address his mom when he is annoyed?
A: Arrey Mary Maa :)