Maharashtra

Goa – III

BangaloreGoa – 3 day trip (Nov 2011) – Day 3

Day 3 started off on a lazy note. We didnt really have much to do today, excpet shop and indulge in some water sports.Though of getting up early to watch the sunrise, but the day seemed overcast, so I slept right back.

We’d already informed Innocent, the  helper boy at the hotel, the previous night that we needed a bike for the day. That was arranged by 8am. We took the bike out, and went off in search of fuel, both for us and for the bike. 😉

Breakfast as Anand Sagar was nice, and fuel for the bike was available in the small tea shop opposite it.  We set off to Baga Beach to enjoy ourselves.

Unfortunately, the overcast sky meant that rain was imminent, and also that the sea was rising. Net result was that the maximum we could go into the water was only upto our ankle. Any further, and we had better know swimming to get back to the shore… which we didn’t. The shacks that were close to the water front, and not so close ones too were all being dismantled to prevent damage and loss.

Shacks being dismantled to avoid damage by the sea

High waves at Baga Beach

Also the only water sport option was the boat ride to sea dolphins. And we had already done that so we weren’t keen. By the time we got out of the water, the water had covered our shins, in spite of the fact that the place we stood 15 mins ago had only covered our ankles.

It was already past 9.30am, so I guessed the shops may be opened. So we set off towards Calangute for start our shopping session.

After driving around quite a bit, and shopping at a couple of road-side shops, we stopped for lunch at US Pizza at Calangute. The good thing about road-side shops in Goa is that the prices are a good bargain. As long as you know the actual worth of the item you are buying, you can get a good deal.

There is also a large Tibetian market on the Calangute-Baga Road that sells mainly silver and precious stone jwellery, and brass items. You very rarely see any Indians here.

Tibetian Market

We reached the room at around 1.30. After settling our accounts at the hotel, we left at 3.30pm.

St. Anthony’s Chapel is Calangute is a bus stop for all buses going to Panjim. The place we need to reach for our bus to Bangalore was a minute’s walk from the main bus station. After spending some relaxing time at a park opposite the bus stop, we boarded the bus back to Bangalore.

Panjim Bus Station

We reached Anand Rao Circle, near Majestic, in Bangalore at around 7.30am the next morning.

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Goa – II

BangaloreGoa – 3 day trip (Nov 2011) – Day 2

Day 2 started on a peaceful note. We got up early, and instead of having the usual bread-butter-jam, we headed out. There is a nice Udipi Veg restaurant nearby called Anand Sagar. The breakfast and coffee they serve is quite nice.

Anand Sagar

After a pleasant breakfast, we walked back to the main spot where the tour bus would pick us up, St. Anthony’s Chapel.

St. Anthony's Chapel, Calangute

At around 9am, the bus stopped there, and after confirming our tickets, we sat inside. The day promised to be a really hot one, so we were quite glad to have chosen an air-conditioned bus.

Our tour bus: Fernandes Travels

Our first stop was the Sinquerim Boat House. Here we all paid Rs. 200/- per person to see dolphins. I wasnt very sure how the experience would be, or if would actually manage to see the dolphins. The boat ride far exceeded my expectations. The boat was first taken past the Fort Aguada lighthouse (old and new were pointed out), the Aguada prison, and an ancient church on the hilltop, as well as a huge multi-crore worth house facing the sea. Apparently this house is owned by a diamond merchant from Gujarat and had been used for shooting a Bollywood movie in the past. The various places that were also pointed out were Miramar Beach, Coco Beach (named for the coconut trees there) and Vasco da Gama.

The multicrore house, as seen from the boat

Coco Beach, with its abundance of coconut trees and boats

The best part however were the dolphins. There were two that kept bobbing up at various places, and all the boats would rush towards them to give their groups the best view. The moment of viewing just lasts a second, but the sheer thrill of see these elusive creatures in the wild makes your day! They don’t jump up from the water like they do on wildlife programs on television, but just provide a glimpse of long snouts and gray skin.

The boats finally turned around and headed back to the boat house, all passengers wearing broad smiles. 🙂

Next stop were the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral at Old Goa. There are 15 old churches in Old Goa. These were the only 2 that we covered though with the tour bus.

Basilica of Bom Jesus

Basilica of Bom Jesus  is one of the oldest churches in Goa, and one of the most prestigious as well. It hosts the relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa, apostle of the Indies.It was also the first church in India to attain the status of minor basilica in 1946. The church is dedicated to the Infant Jesus. The mausoleum of St. Francis Xavier is located on the southern side of the main altar. The silver casket of the relics is placed on top of an elaborately designed 3-tiered bier.

Relief of the side on Sr. Francis Xavier's bier

On the opposite side of the same road is the Se Cathedral. It situated in Old Goa and is dedicated to St. Catherine. It stands as a living monument of the conquest of Goa by Alburquerque. At one enters the chapel you will see a statue of Our Lady. There is also a beautiful altar dedicated to St. Catherine upon which stands another statue of Our Lady Of Peity. The tour guide told us that this was the biggest cathedral in Asia… though I have yet to come by that particular claim justified.

Se Cathedral

Next stop was the temple of Lord Mangeshi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is located in the village of Mangeshi on the Panaji-Ponda road.

The history of Shri Mangireesh or (Shri Mangueesh or Shri Mangesh) dates back to the Puranas. The Sahyadri Khand of Skand Purana says that Parshuram invited 66 Panch Gaud Brahmins belonging to 10 gotras from Trihotra (believed to be Tirhut in Bihar) to Kushasthal (now known as Kutthal, Goa) for performing the Yadnya after wiping out the Kshatriyas. Each group had brought with it the idol they used to worship and installed it in the villages donated by Parshuram out of the land reclaimed by him from the sea.Those belonging to the Vatsa and Kaundinya gotra received Kushasthal as gram dan and installed in the village their family deity, Shri Mangireesh. The Purana explains that the Bramha had established the Shivalinga at Monghir in Trihotra and it came to be known as Mangireesh or Mangeesh.
It is stated that when Parvati was in search of Shiva, she was scared at the site of a tiger that was Shiva himself and shouted for help from him. However, instead of saying “Trahiman Gireesh” she said: “Trahimangeesh!!” out of fear and nervousness. The Gomantak Kshetra Mahatmya reports the second avatar of Shri Mangireesh in Goa in the same fashion.
His temple at Kushasthal was a place of pilgrimage till the Portuguese took over this part of the territory in Goa in 1560. On the site of the temple now stands a church. In 1560, anticipating the onslaught of the Portuguese, the devotees had moved Shri Mangesh Shivalinga from Kutthal to a safer place under a Hindu prince. Surrounded by hillocks and covered by forests, the Shivalinga was kept at a place, which now is known as Mangeshi.

Temple of Lord Mangeshi

Mangeshi is also known as the ancestral village of notable singer Lata Mangeshkar.
The location is truly picturesque. After a short walk from the parking lot, we reached the temple. We washed our feet at the communal tap, and paid our respects to the Lord. In spite of the crowd of tourists at the temple, there was still as sense of peace and calm about the place.

By this time it was already 1.30, and there was a discussion in the bus as to the next stop: lunch or temple of Shantadurga? the maximum votes went to the temple of Shantadurga, and thats where we headed next.

Temple of Goddess Shantadurga

The temple is dedicated to Shantadurga, the goddess who mediates between Vishnu and Shiva. The deity is also called ‘Santeri’ colloquially. Local legends tell of a battle between Shiva and Vishnu The battle was so fierce that Lord Brahma prayed to Parvati to intervene, which she did in the form of Shantadurga. Shantadurga placed Vishnu on her right hand and Shiva on her left hand and settled the fight.
The deity of Shantadurga is shown as holding two serpents, one in each hand, representing Vishnu and Shiva. She is then said have gone to Sankhwal a village in Salcette Taluka to kill the demons that were harassing the Brahmins. As a reward, she was given the name of Vijaya. Shri Vijayadurga shrine was located in Sankhwal along with Shri Shantadurga and Shri LakshmiNarsimha but was later shifted to a place called Kerim in Ponda Taluka during the Portuguese invasions.

Finally we headed for lunch. We reached Dona Paula at around 3.30pm, at a restaurant suggested by the tour guide, Taste of Paradise. The plan was to have lunch, and then walk upto the point of Dona Paula, the point where the rivers Zuari and Mandovi join the Arabian Sea.

We were a little hesitant to have lunch there, but then thought we might as well get it done with instead of searching out another place right then. The place was a surpise, definitely. It was clean, and the food was tasty and priced reasonably.

From the restaurant, it was a 10 minute walk to the viewpoint. There is a hammer shaped headland, and on a small rise, is the viewpoint to see the confluence of the rivers with the sea. On the way up, there are 2 statues. Most tour guide would tell you that the statues are of lovers who committed suicide, and they are Dona & Paulo. The truth is very different.

“Dona is the title given to married women according to Portuguese customs. And Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior is the lady in debate. She is not a romantic figure but definitely a historical figure. She was the daughter of the Portuguese Viceroy of Jaffnapatnam, in Sri Lanka. She and her family arrived in Goa in 1644 and she married a Fidalgo from Spain in 1656. Her husband was Dom Antonio Souto Maior. They were an extremely affluent family and the entire property from the present day Cabo Raj Nivas all the way to Caranzalem belonged to the Souto Maiors. She later passed away on December 16, 1682.”  Dona Paula was a woman of charity and is known to have helped the villagers and worked a lot for their betterment, so after her death, the villagers decided to re-name the village as Dona Paula. Initially the village was called Oddavell.

The statues are of Mrs & Mr Robert Knox, and were made by Dutch sculptress, Baroness Yrse Von Leistner who etched the sculpture as she was in awe of the philosopher Robert Knox.

The viewpoint at Dona Paula with the sculpture of Mrs & Mr. Knox in the foreground

View of the confluence at Dona Paula. Note to different directions of the waves around the rocks

There wasnt much to do at this place, after we had seen the point and taken the requisite photos. So we slowly made our way back to the bus. Enroute we had coffee and ice cream (guess who had the ice cream? ;)) and some snacks.  By around 5pm, we left Dona Paula, and drove around Panaji. Miramar beach, the Unity statue signifying religious peace in Goa were pointed out. The final stop for the day was a cruise on the river Mandovi.

Unity Statue

There were about 4 cruise boats at the dock. The one our tour had arranged was called Paradise Cruise. It was the last in line, it was also the last to start. The was quite a pleasant experience. It would have probably been better it we could have actually seen the river on the cruise. However, the cruise set off only at around 6.30pm. But that time, the sun had already set. There were 3 levels to the boat. Level 1, was the roof, where evryone grouped up, and there was a stage set up with DJ console. The programs arranged by the cruise organizers were held here. Level2 was the entrance/exit to the boat, as well as the self-service counter+bar. Level 3 was the in-house disco. Entry free for ladies; for men its Rs. 50 entry fee.

There were some snacks like samosas and sweet corn that were served (at a price, of course) on the first level. The show on the stage started at around 6.15, with a dance that was a traditional offering to the river to offer safe passage. The rest of the cruise was a mix of dance performances, and invites to couples to dance, followed by asking only guys to dance and having the ladies go down to the disco. However, we opted to stay and watch the scenarios rather than going down to the disco. Good fun in all.

We finally disembarked at around 7.15, after a 45 minute cruise.

The last and final stop was a dry fruits and wine shop, for those interested. Goa is famous for cashews, and also for an alcoholic drink called feni, which is made from cashews. Also, after buying the requisite permits, one can buy a certain number of liquor bottles across the state border. We were interested in neither the cashews nor the liquor, so we opted to stay back in the bus.

The bus finally dropped us off that St. Anthony’s Chapel at around 8.30pm. We made our way back to Anand Sagar, where we enjoyed a light dinner and walked back to our room. However, I wouldn’t recommend Anand Sagar for dinner. It didn’t taste very great, nor do they serve tea or coffee in the evenings. The breakfast is the best part of their menu.

We ended the day tired, but with a smile. 🙂

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Goa – I

BangaloreGoa – 3 day trip (Nov 2011) – Day 1

After a long time, I decided to blog about a trip (almost) immediately after its done. Not without a lot of prompting from hubby though ;).

The build-up for this trip was rather more extended than any other trip. It was also the first holiday that we’d taken for ourselves in a very long time. So we wanted to make the most of it.

Firstly we wanted a hotel that wasn’t too expensive, close to a beach, and easily accessible by public transport. We went through quite a few options. We also checked on the reviews for each place online. We were able to finalize on Kismat Mahal Hotel at Calangute. The rates were a reasonable Rs 700/- for a non-A/C room, and the beach was a mere 5 min walk away. Also when we call Mr. Noronha at the hotel, he was quite helpful with his suggestions.

In the initial mail, he had mention day tours for North Goa and South Goa. When we called him, he suggested that we take the tour for South Goa on Saturday, and spend the time we had on Friday and Sunday to go around North Goa by bike. Also we though of checking out on Sunday morning, and keeping the luggage in the reception (check-out time: 9am). Instead Mr. Noronha suggested we take the room for half-day and pay accordingly. That way we would have a place to freshen up before travelling back to Bangalore. Great suggestions, in all.

Secondly, we didn’t want to spend too much time on travelling. The best option in this case was Seabird Travels. They had a bus that went from Marathahalli at around 7pm, making it the most convenient bus option.The reviews for the bus weren’t very great, but we decided to take the risk.

Seabird Travels

So on the 24th of Nov, we reach the bus stop mentioned at the designated time. However, the bus was an hour late. By the time it moved out from the last stop and proceeded out of Bangalore, it was past 10pm.

We reached Panjim, Goa at 9am. The place where the bus stopped was right opposite the main bus stand at Panjim. So we simply walked across and caught a bus to Calangute. Mr. Frazer had earlier sent us an sms with the directions to reach the hotel, and the name of the bus stop at Calangute. It took us a little over half-an-hour to get there, and another 10 minutes to reach the hotel.

View of Calangute-Candolim Road and entrance to Kismat Mahal lane (right)

The hotel is located at the back of the house where the owners live. The entrance is a bit secluded, but has a very peaceful feeling about. There is a small gate located at the back through which you can walk across to the beach.

Doorway of the hotel

We were given a room on the 2nd floor a.k.a. the top floor. There are only 2 rooms on this floor. The rest is a covered terrace that is currently being used to store junk furniture, lines to dry clothes etc. The room was big though. There is a small room in front, more like a mini living room, and the bathroom is off this room. When you walk further, you enter a large bedroom, with a small area partitioned off as the kitchenette. The tv and chairs are in this room. It was spacious and clean.

One can order tea/coffee to be delivered to the room, but for all meals including breakfast, one needs to go to the dining room. Our orders we taken by a guy name Innocent (honest!), and he really was very helpful! After breakfast, he arranged for us to get a Honda Activa for the day.

There are no petrol bunks in North Goa. For petrol, you need to go all the way to Panjim, or buy at any nearby shop that sells it by the litre bottle and charges an exorbitant price of Rs. 80 per bottle.

Bikes, and fuel for the stomach and vehicle! 🙂

We first went across to Anjuna Beach, as I had heard a lot about it from friends. Apparently it was a very ‘cool’ place to be. Further on was Mapusa, famous for its friday markets. But we weren’t very keen on riding very far out in a place we weren’t too familiar with. So Anjuna was the first halt.

It was possibly also the most disappointing stop of the entire trip as well. The beach is rocky, not sandy. All you can do is climb out onto a few rocks and pose for some photos with the cliffs and sea in the background. You cannot have fun in the water, mainly because of the number of crabs sunning themselves around. The weather was blazing hot, so there wasn’t much of a chance I would sit down on a hot rock! The only thing nice about it are the shops around. They certainly sell some nice trinkets and clothes there…

View of Anjuna Beach

Rocks into the sea - Anjuna Beach

Elephant on the roads of Goa

Stop no.2 was Baga Beach. This was a pleasant trip from the time we turned off towards Baga Bridge. The roads were nicely shaded, and there certainly wasnt much traffic. Sign-boards at important points made sure that we didn’t lose our way :). And this was where we actually started having some fun. The beach was full of shacks selling food. Lots of beach lounges dotted the landscape, which hawkers offering trinkets, head massages, foot massages and temporary tattoos. We didn’t opt for the lounges. Instead we just parked our bags and shoes and had some fun in the cool sea water.

There were a lot of water sports on offer: jet skiing, para-sailing, bumper rides, boat trips to see dolphins. We decided to go in for some sports on Sunday. We were more focussed on seeing everything Goa had to offer first!

We had lunch at one of the shacks. The food wasnt very great, but then again the focus of all the cooking in Goa  is non-veg and seafood, while we are vegetarians. So our choices were quite limited.

We left Baga Beach around 2.30. We stopped at Baskin Robbins for some ice-cream, and finally made our way to the next stop at around 3pm.

Stop 3 was Fort Aguada. It was a long ride till the fort. We passed through Calangute and Candolim to finally reach Aguada. The place definitely was a pleasant view. Along the way, there were 2 other turn-offs: Aguada Prison and a helipad. We weren’t keen on either option and stuck to the fort and lighthouse. We spent some time here gazing out on the sea.

Fort Aguada

View from Fort Aguada

Lighthouse

We finally got back to the room at about 4.30.

We again got out at about 5.30pm to see the beach nearby. After a short walk, we found we had reach just in time to enjoy the sunset. After a fun-filled half-house, where I sat on a parked jet-ski and posed as though I was riding it ;), we made our way back to the hotel.

Sunset

We initially thought of going out for dinner, but I was just too tired, and we had dinner at the hotel itself.

We ended day 1 on a tired but happy note! 🙂

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