By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar
People find paradise in Goa. Some like the beach. Some like the drinks. Some like both. And then there are slightly eccentric people like my husband who love to chase ghosts – well he loves to walk around ruins of forts and desolate temples, churches and mosques and calls it the study of heritage.
This was my third visit and am sure am at the far end of the list of ‘number of times visited Goa’ and yet I thought I’ll put together a few lines that might help some first timer or uninitiated like me.
The ones who are driving in don’t need to worry about transportation but the ones who fly in or use the railroads, be warned transport is expensive and one can get heavily duped.
The prepaid taxis are cheaper and reliable, available at the airport/railway station. There is no OLA/UBER service. Autos are rare. ‘Self drive’ is the best option for people who can drive, both – two and four wheelers are available.
A word of caution about the roads – except for the main roads on which one can see a lot of infrastructure development happening and thus creating traffic congestion, all other roads in Goa are narrow. Time distance equation has to be worked out keeping in mind that one can never drive faster than 60 – 80 kms/hr.
Since we flew, as in a plane, we don’t have wings – I’ll talk about the commute to and from the airport. Goa International Airport is growing – development is on and visible. The prepaid taxi booth can be accessed from both inside and outside the terminal. A quick bite joint is right outside the exit and keeps a tasty spread.
We went straight to Colva Beach down south, that was supposed to cost us 800INR change but we lost our way, thanks to the obscure location of the resort we were booked in. Google maps suggested that we walk 200mts on the beach to reach the resort, which isn’t a bad proposition early in the morning or evening – but with two suitcases and backpacks in the afternoon sun, it did not seem plausible.
The resort has its own vehicle to transport the guests from the tourist spot ‘Colva Beach’ that is the beachfront. Our cabbie left us there demanding an extra 100 and soon we found our vehicle to the hidden paradise. Named as C’Roque Resort it is a lovely piece of land on practically the sand – the beach. We had booked two cottages as each had accommodation for only two.
While Roddur our son got salted and baked in the sea, I kept an eagle eye and Rajib took to heels to photograph the ancient temples of Ponda and beyond. He mentioned it was a picturesque journey being almost beside the western ghats. Cost him 3600INR for a day’s driving around.
After spending a delightful time at the beach side and packing ourselves up with calories from the delicious spread available at the restaurant, we moved to civilization – Panjim. It cost us the standard 1400INR.
Our target was to walk the Fontainhas, do the river cruise, visit old Goa churches and have Tiramisu and Serradura. I have had had Tiramisu on an earlier trip and praised it such that Roddur had it on his hit list. But alas! From Colva to Panjim it evaded us – even the famous ‘fisherman’s wharf’ (restaurant) could not delight us with either of the desserts. Finally we found Serradura at a cafe’ near our guest house, and Tiramisu at Vithal Malaya road in Bangalore.
We chose to live in a guest house near the river and at a stone’s throw from Fontainhas – Goa’s Latin quarters. Unfortunately the guest house had only one triple bed room at the ground floor which has a low ceiling without a fan and its door opened onto a public road, though a quiet one with hardly any passerby. It was not to Rajib’s liking but with a powerful AC and a clean bathroom/room it did okie tokie. Location and value for money are the two biggest USP’s for Marquito’s Guest House at Rua 31 de Janeiro (31st January Road).
A mention about proliferation of casinos is adequate. The river Mandovi might be called the ‘casino river’. The river front is illuminated with the alluring party lights of the casino facades and the river comes ablaze with the big and medium sized casino ships anchored in the river. For the naïve like us all it gives is an opportunity for glittering photographs.
The river cruise that was ought to start at 7.30pm but was delayed by an hour and a half for the want of riders. It doesn’t start till a minimum number of passengers are attained. FYI, most cruises have a deck and an AC chamber below. An entertainment program of some sort goes on in that chamber, basically a lot of noise with people gyrating to it, not exactly in tandem. I visited the ‘cultural-chamber’ if I may call it that for about 5 mnts or so – for one it was cold, very cold and second it didn’t have the slightest feel of being on a boat.
The river cruise takes one through the casinos till almost the mouth of the river where it embraces the sea – now on the way back the boat moves slow, very slow as the water is turbulent and it is also dark being a bit distant from the glitters of the casinos. This is the part I like the most, though it is also the part where it rains – most of the time even if there is no rain anywhere else.
Restaurant are open till 11pm so we did get to eat that night – Delhi Darbar was the nearest from the jetty and we quick marched to it. The food was good. Food is good pan Goa, be it the local cuisine or the generic Indian mix or continental or south east asian – veg or nonveg – the cooks know how to cook.
We walked back to the hotel through the drizzle that turned into rain; the streets were quite but felt safe.
Old Goa was a heated affair – literally – it was hot, too hot! Most of the churches don’t allow photography inside them, so that one can’t take a selfie with Virgin Mary or infant Jesus. Unfortunately for people like Rajib who want to photograph every inch of the earth specially architecture and art, it is a big disappointment.
The convent of St. MONICA and Chapel houses the Museum of Christian Art (MoCA). We freshened ourselves up at their facility, took a tour of the beautiful items on display, had a wonderful lunch and bought a few Knick knacks.
The Chapel of our lady of the mount has become a wedding photography venue, with drone cameras rampant. There wasn’t a single tourist there other than the three of us.
The mound gives a beautiful bird’s eye view of the churches and around.
Panaji to Old Goa cost us 800INR in an auto, and then a taxi took us around the churches @ 800INR. We wanted to wrap up the day with sunset at fort Aquada, which cost us 1000INR, but we reached late just in time to enter and have a few quick clicks. The journey back to Panaji cost us another 1000INR.
We wanted to get a glimpse of the Salim Ali Bird Park across the river and made a dash for it right after breakfast on the day of our journey back to Bangalore. For breakfast there are a couple of joints like Kamat, Bombay Shiv Sagar and Udupi cafe – the last one being the tastiest. It would be good to mention that though our guest house was supposed to provide breakfast, inclusive in the price – breakfast was laid out from 10am – a bit too late for us while on a trip.
The ferry carries people and vehicles across the river to Salim Ali Bird Park / the island Charao island. Our auto to and fro from Panaji, cost us 600INR. It is a mangrove forest by the coast where a path has been laid for people to walk through. A boat tour is also available for bird watching.
Fontainhas has a number of good food joints. We chose to have lunch at Panjim Inn.
Way back to the airport was jam packed due to some accident on the way and we made it just in time for everything to go smooth and had a bit of a reading time too! There is lot of traffic at the airport too and thus the takeoff takes time.
And ya! With all parties promising a wonderful future for Goa – you must Go Goa!