Time magazine has included North Goa in its list of ‘THE WORLD’S GREATEST PLACES OF 2021’. The list comprises 100 destinations, and that is reason enough to take a trip down memory lane, to my first trip to Goa in which I explored the south and the north
Goa was everything I had heard about- exotic, enchanting, relaxing, easy going, lovey-dovey and more! Drenched in the first shower of monsoon, I was in love with Goa, like all who have visited this place. Tall palm tress swayed in the gusty wind, as rain pelted down, taming the sultry day into a romantic dream. I was in the Shri Mangeshi temple, one of the most visited temples in Goa on the Panaji-Ponda road.
On either side of the road, vendors were selling clothes and eatables. Coconut water seemed to be the most preferred drink, but thanks to the rain I ran past these stalls.
For a Delhi girl used to smokey skies and noisy roads, this was paradise. Everything had turned lush and luscious as the vast skyline merged with red rocks and green trees danced to Nature’s rhythm. Unlike most who hung around on Goa’s beaches only, I had decided to see Goa with its mix of history, fun, architecture, beaches, watersports in one day.
Forgetting my cares, I put my head back and watched the swirls of green around me as the car whizzed its way to the Marriott Resort & Spa Though wet end hungry, I spent a few minutes in the lobby, gazing at the rising waters of river Mandori and a boat trying to sail steadily. It was an awesome sight.
The day seemed to be going in fast buzz with Succor, my guide and driver, taking me from one amazing place to another. My base was Club Mahinda resort at Varca Beach and it was an hour’s drive from Panaji, the capital of Goa. But clear smooth roads, lined with verdant fields and fairytale houses made it seem closer. An hour’s drive in Goa is bliss.
Unlike the bustling town of Panaji, Varca is the quieter part. Wherever you look, you see shades of green and lovely houses. Painted pink and purple, they looked so quaint and otherworldly. The amazing part was that there were no concrete boundaries, just shrubs or trees divided one house from the other. No proper gates marked the entrance and the houses looked so inviting.
The resort is situated at the edge of a beach, so I had walked in the moonlight the night before for an hour, after a lesson in wine tasting. It also houses a heavenly spa. Bindu, my masseuse, oiled away my aches and pains. The scent of flowers, the warm water washed away the last traces of stress, making me ready for the next day’s adventure.
Coming back to my day out, after lunch I stood at the high point in Dona Paulo, where many scenes of the movie Ek Duje Ke Liye were shot. Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink…the lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge came to my mind. Tum your eye in any direction and there’s water. A former fishing village, Dona Paulo is well known for the legend of the lovers Dona and Paulo who met their sad end here. Dona and Paulo were separated by their caste and nationality and with no option left, they decided to end their lives, by jumping off the cliff. A statue on the rock is dedicated to them.
As we came down the steps, Succor pointed out some crabs crawling in the rocks. It wasn’t easy to see black crabs amidst black-brown rocks, but I finally saw their slow movements-creepy, crawly and so fascinating.
My next stop was the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a world heritage site. That was old Goa, the historically rich part. The drive from Panaji to this place is another visual treat-boats on one side and pretty houses on the other and not a soul to disturb this incredible view, for Goa sleeps in the day. Nothing comes alive till late evening. Siesta, fun and frolic characterize the Goan spirit. For a first timer, old Goa comes as a surprise for it’s quiet, no loud noises and lots of architectural wonders.
“The body is taken out every 10 years,” Succor told me, who had seen it twice out of the casket. Amazed and wondering about this miracle saint, we walked to the church opposite -St Catherine’s Cathedral-to see the blessed cross of Jesus. This cross kept growing for a long time. People would take chips of wood from the cross to heal the sick ones, I was told. Now this cross has a protective wood cover. There is even a chapel for the royal family, now sealed off, and opened only on special occasions.
My day-long tour was coming to an end, as I went shopping at the Panaji market and then for the famous hour-long cruise on river Mandovi, where it meets the Arabian Sea. Goan dances and songs keep you pepped up but you need to be part of a group to feel like partying. I looked at the speed boats and boat-casinos, my eyes stopping at the famous Casino Royale. This part comes alive at night, and I would’ve loved to see this aspect. The cruise came to an end as the sun came down.
I dipped my hand in my bag and touched the souvenir from Big Foot, which is where my journey had begun in the morning. This was Ancestral Goa-a step back to the old days. You see the habitat, lifestyles, flora and fauna and also get a free glass of kokum juice. Reaching my base, I tucked into the coconut prawn curry,, accompanied by a glass of the famous feni.
A relaxing massage the next morning, two bottles of feni in my bag and I was on the way home, carrying the Goan spirit of fun, frolic and friendship.
Facts about Goa
- Arabian Sea makes up Goa’s west coast.
- Panaji is the state’s capital and Vasco its largest town. Well known for beach holidays.
- Other attractions are Portuguese monuments, European architecture, tasty seafood and Goan fun-loving attitude, paragliding on the many beaches
How to reach
By Air: Flights operate to Dabolim from most major destinations of India.
By Road: Goa is connected with all the major towns via the National Highways NH4A, NH17 and NH17A. There are bus services operating to and from Goa to Mumbai, Pune, Belgaum, Hubli, Bangalore, Mangalore.
By Rail: Goa has two major railway stations — Margao and Vasco-da-Gama. The South Central Railway terminus is at Vasco-da-Gama and the Konkan Railway terminus is at Margao. The Konkan Railway has trains which ply between Mumbai and Goa and other destinations.
The article was published in Swagat (September 2009), Air India’s inflight magazine. The last issue of Swagat was published in May 2011.
I went to Goa again in 2016 for a vintage car rally, but more about in another post. Have you been to Goa? Do share your thoughts in the comments box below.