Goa - An ex-Portuguese Colony with Breathtakingly Beautiful Beaches
Cradled in the Western Ghats, Goa is located on the coast of the Indian Peninsula and is bounded by the Arabian Sea on the west, Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the south.
Also known as 'the pearl of the east', it is famous for its breathtakingly beautiful beaches, Silvery Sand fringed with palms, hill-top forts, little white-washed churches, soaring Portuguese-era cathedrals, Gothic churches, sprawling cashew plantations, coconut groves, intoxicating Feni, bubbly folk music and laid back way of life. With its Sprawling hills, meandering rivers, lush green fields, miles and miles of virgin beach and silvery waterfalls, the gift of nature has endowed Goa with enchanting exquisiteness and idyllic serenity.
A Portuguese colony till 1961, Goa's Portuguese influence makes it the perfect combination of east and west. The confluence of the East and the West ensures its culture is a unique blend of the Indian and Portuguese, laced with the Iberian and Goan spirit of happiness, friendship and harmony. With its 131-km-long coastline Goa’s balmy beaches are the perfect escapade with tourists soaking up the glorious sun and sampling the delicious local cuisine.
Panaji has been the capital since 1843. The population of Goa includes native inhabitants, Portuguese descendants, and the descendants of marriages between the two groups. Most of the native inhabitants are Hindu, while many of the Portuguese descendants are Christians. Christianity and Hinduism co exist in complete harmony. There is more to this tiny western state than sea and sand, hippies and hedonists. A rich amalgam of Portuguese and Indian influences, its history alone has ensured that its persona is unlike any other in India. Arriving in 1498, the Portuguese left an indelible impression on the local population and landscape. The local vindaloo is made with pork. Dotted among the palm groves and rice fields are dainty villas bearing European coats of arms and imposing mansions with wrought-iron gates while Majestic churches stand alongside towering Hindu temples.
The beaches in Goa, like the others along the Konkan coast are dazzling stretches of golden sand edging the aquamarine expanse of the Arabian Sea, with a prevalence of tropical weather all year long. However the climate in Goa experiences a monsoon season from June through September. There is nothing more pleasurable as walking in the rains. Unlike a metro like Mumbai, where monsoons means collapsed transport and clogged roads, in Goa rain is refreshing. Mondays in Goa are the same as Sundays or Tuesday or Saturdays.
The State is organized into two districts North Goa and South Goa.
Panaji, the Capital of Goa, on the banks of the river Mandovi, was originally a major port. This lovely state capital has retained its Portuguese heritage in a lived-in, knockabout kind of way and exudes an aura more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than of Indi.. It contains all the quaint features of Mediterranean architecture from the cramped cobbled streets, pastel-hued terraces and flower-bedecked balconies to the terracotta-tiled roofs, whitewashed churches and those small bars and cafes that are the social lifeblood of secular Portugal. The Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is one of the oldest buildings (circa 1541) in the city. It is Panaji's main place of worship, and it was here that recently arrived sailors from Portugal gave thanks for a safe passage.
A place of great historical value is the old fort area. Built by the Portuguese in 1612 to defend Goa, the fort is now better known as the location of the Taj Group's luxury resort. Walk along the keyhole shaped jetty for a superb view of the coast from Sinquerim almost up to Baga, and then, walk up the hill to see the citadel and the 1864 lighthouse. The fort also has a prison that is no longer in use.
Though not as resplendent as Goa, Old Goa has retained its Portuguese charm. It has a rich architectural legacy of many beautiful churches like the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
Half a dozen imposing churches and cathedrals and a fragment of a gateway are all that remain of the second capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur and the Portuguese capital that was once said to rival Lisbon in magnificence. Ravaged by time, eroded by monsoon rains and disquieted by creepers, Old Goa has declined from a vibrant city but still remains the spiritual heart of Christian Goa.
Anjuna was the haunt of the flower generation in the sixties - and is still popular with the younger generation. In Anjuna there is magnificent Albuquerque mansion built in 1920, flanked by octagonal towers and attractive Mangalore tiled-roof. It's famous for its Wednesday flea market, and has retained an undeniable, if somewhat shabby, charm.
Calangute was the it beach for hippies, where flower children, ganja peddlars, drug-addled musicians and other lost artistic souls predominated, however Calangute is no longer Hippy Central. Instead it has changed to a bustling and somewhat dirty town.
Chapora is charming with its patchwork of coconut palms and the enigmatic character of Chapora village, where you can truly savor living like the locals, the beach is both a farmyard and a fishing community doubling as a beach resort. The village is on the estuary of the Chapora River and is overshadowed by a rocky hill which supports a well-preserved Portuguese fort. There are sandy coves, pleasant beaches and rocky cliffs at nearby Vagator.
Head to the southern fringe and at Palolem beach. There are lots of dolphins at Palolem beach. Dolphin spotting trips are available at reasonable prices. While on this trip, stop by Butterfly beach where you will have the entire beach to yourself.
Go north for the untouched unspoiled beaches, found in the Pernem subdivision and the names to watch for are Keri Beach, Arambol, Mandrem which has two little beaches Lemos and Asvem. Although the accommodation tends to be in thatched huts the endless stretch of the pristine beach-land is well worth it.
Goa cuisine, a blend of different influences especially Portuguese, is famous for its seafood. Goa cooking generally includes lots of spices giving the dishes a distinctive taste and aroma. Goan food and drink is not limited to "fish and feni". There are several other options that most visitors are often unaware of. Not only is Goa famous for its sea food but each village is famous for its food products. Aldona is the village to visit for big, fat dry red chillies. Agaciam is the capital of Goan sausages and sweet potatoes while Ambelim is known for its salt-pan fish. A must try is the vindaloo and classic sorpotel Pork Vindaloo, The internationally famous dish of Goa. Before being braised, the pork is marinated in a spicy, garlicky vinegar marinade. Pork Vindaloo derives its name from the Portuguese phrase "vinho d'alho" literally, "wine of garlic".
If traveling is on your agenda, hire a bike or a car and see a bit of the beach state. Travel across its emerald paddy farms, through slats of palm-fronds, skimming its wide rivers and the vast Arabian Sea, all the way from secluded Palolem in the farthest south to Querim in the craggy, spray-swept north.
South Goa is also home to several beautiful cathedrals, churches and temples, especially the Shanta Durga temple, the only one in India to be dedicated to the peaceful version of Durga. The idea is: there is more to Goa then just dressing up like a bunch of hippies and hanging out on its beaches. Discover its quite beaches, its ancient churches and its equally antique villages of Arpora and Anjuna, Assagaon and Siolim, or the peak of the beautiful island of Choraon in the Mandovi where a frail Christ the King raises His arms in a marble embrace towards a wide valley. The people of Goa are affable and hospitable and there is a lot more to this glorious speck that go much further than the beaches, making its allurement pretty distinct from other Indian states in India.
A lot of fishermen offer their boats for cruises to small islands all around. On the way, you will see loads of dolphins for whom the sea around Goa is home. These fishermen will also take you fishing. Most hotels also arrange for dolphin watching trips at Rs 2000 for the entire day. Boats will even take you for a romantic rendezvous down the river, for about Rs 500 per person. Spend an entire day on the beach, with each other, some good food and the sea for company.
Churches in Goa are the most prominent legacy of the Portuguese, some of the many churches that are worth seeing are The Church of Mae de Deus which is situated 13kms. from Panaji in the village of Saligao. The shrine of the miraculous statue of Mae de Deus was brought from the ruins of the convent of Mae de Deus at Old Goa. This beautiful church is the finest piece of Gothic style. The Se Cathedral is perhaps the most imposing churches of all the churches at Old Goa. Its vaulted interior overwhelms the visitors by sheer grandeur. This Cathedral has five bells of which one is the famous Golden bell, the biggest in Goa and one of the best in the world. The church is dedicated to St.Catherine. It originally had two towers of which only one exists today. Old Goa’s most famous building is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb and mortal remains of the peripatetic St Francis Xavier, credited with introducing Christianity to much of South-East Asia. Also of interest is the Convent & Church of St Francis of Assisi, which has gilded and carved woodwork, murals depicting scenes from the saint's life, and a floor substantially made of carved gravestones
The churches are complimented by the ancient temples in Goa like the Shiva temple of Shri Mangesh and the Shri Mahalsa, a Vishnu temple are near the capital of Goa. The 500-year-old temple of Shri Bhagavati is famous for its Dussera puja festivities.
A vacation is incomplete without souvenirs. One can shop in the shops by the street as well the beaches or you can choose to visit the many boutiques and designer stores dotting the beaches in Goa. You can pick up locally made artifacts or items made from seashells that remind you of the stunning beaches in Goa. The shops by the beach prove the best hunting grounds to pick up souvenirs that remind us of the colonial history of Goa. The Anjuna Beach is known for its flea market in Goa. A shoppers delight, the pale golden sand of Anjuna beach sees itself being decorated by colorful shops offering you just about everything right from cameras to swimming gears to bikes to ethnic Indian handicrafts. Liquor brews like feni and urak, Goan sausages, cashews, meat and farm produce, native jute, leather, and ceramic ware are popular items to shop at Goa. Friday market at Mapusa which is a commercial hub in Goa is also a good place to shop. The excellent local handicrafts of Goa are easily the most popular souvenir items and include brassware, terracotta, shell work, crochet, carved furniture, bamboo work, papier-mâché, etc. These are available in the Government Emporia and also at shops and stalls near the popular tourist spots. A must buy are the cashews and spices that Goa is so famous for.
Infact India is probably more famous for its spices than it is for its tea. It is said that when you descend from the Tibetan plateau into the subcontinent, the sweet spice aromas hit you from 1000km away. Goa is home to the largest spice plantation in the country, called Sahakari Spice Plantation. A couple of years ago, it embraced tourism, and now takes visitors on guided tours. The spice gardens are set amid Goa's beautiful tropical scrub and home to an amazing array of wildlife. The spices are all grown organically include Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Mace , Ginger, Tumeric, Cocoa also the most expensive spice in the world, Coffee, Vanilla, Lemon Grass, Cardamon , the Queen of Spices, Pepper , Chilli and Clove. Here one can also see how cashew nuts are harvested from their juicy fruit and how the fruit is distilled to produce a strong whisky called Cashew Feni.
The other delightful ways to spend time are to sit in a seaside café, talk to each other, walk down the empty road hand-in-hand, read a book, drink feni (or a beer if you like), or stare into the horizon, beyond the sea, where huge ships appear as tiny boats fighting the Sea.
Goa became world famous for it’s trance parties in the 1970s when flower children, hippies party demons and naturalists spent all-night partying and tripping sauntering along sun-soaked beaches. It is still a mecca for party goers worldwide.Thousands of tourists descend on Goa, Every year in December giving it a very international village feeling.Over the past ten years Goa has undergone a complete transformation, the hippies are replaced by hip women dressed to kill in their designer outfits, glitzy restaurants have sprung up alongside the roadside eateries, Local shops have given way to trendy apparel and lifestyle stores, Cosmopolitan tourist-oriented hotels, five-star resorts and boutique guest houses have been constructed to cater to the droves of fresh-off-the-charter-plane Europeans here to sample paradise at bargain prices and the yuppies Mumbai and Bangalore crowd. Goa has an impressive infrastructure of hotels and beach resorts, restaurants and bars, which cater to all price ranges, from top-notch 5-star luxury, to hippy flop-shops
There are endless opportunities for all-night partying and raving into the wee hours of the morning, but Goa's true pleasures are found away from the crowds, on the more remote beaches to the far north and south, on the semi-private beaches adjoining expensive luxury resorts, or in the charming guesthouses located farther inland. Goa is a great place to lose yourself for a while as long as you live like the locals. Ate mais tarde tudos!
"Sossegade": (Take it easy).