Goa – Colourful City, Many Flavours

 Goa – Colourful City, Many Flavours

Introduction: The era of hippie parties is over; yet Goa manages to hang on to its colonial charm. It’s the spirit of the city and a laid-back atmosphere, other than the Portuguese architecture that differentiates the city from the rest of the Indian subcontinent. MedhaShri takes a trip down the majestic lanes.
The very mention of Goa conjures up eclectic images of Portuguese architecture, sunny beaches, delectable sea-food and happy tourists. As we stepped on the red soil of this vibrant little state (it’s the smallest state of India), these images came alive infusing a sense of romanticism, clubbed with a spirit of adventure. Often dubbed as India’s ‘party’ city, it has so much to offer that we don’t know where to begin! So let’s just do a bit of names dropping first: From desior India celebs like Shah Rukh Khan and DeepikaPadukone to international A-listers like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have all soaked up the sun on thewhite sand beaches of the state!
The famed beaches are formed by the Arabian Sea that kisses Goa on the West. You could roam around here freely in a bikini or a sari, enjoying the waves that invite you for a dip. Or simply lie on the beach getting a tan. Unlike the rest of the country, the state, situated on the Western Ghats, is an interesting mix of modern India and colonial charms. The Portuguese ruled the state for more than four centuries, and Goa still celebrates the Portugal legacy in its architecture, food as also the language! Portuguese is still spoken in the state besides Konkani and Marathi officially; locals speak and understand Hindi and English too.
As you breathe the air here, you realise why travellers from all over the world head to this place. Fresh air, clear blue sky, fresh green flora and accommodating locals are a pleasant relief from crowded mortar city jungles. Bent coconut trees, cashew orchards, wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls, centuries old temples and churches – there’s so much more to the city than those‘doped-out foreigners banging dreadlocks at a trance party’pictures.
Depending on the kind of tourist one is, one could choose either the old world charms of South Goa or an action-oriented North.The state is so small that you could lap all the flavours of Goa in just a week. We started our journey from the South. After getting down at the airport, our cab, sent by the hotel The Grand Hyatt, took us to our chosen hotel. We chose this hotel because the Bambolim Bay that flanks the hotel on one side, gives it something of a private beach. Also, the 5-star property offers a spa, multi-cuisine restaurant and unmatched services.
The best way to explore the city is on a two-wheeler, which we hired at INR 250 per day, after submitting our identification proof. Even the locals are seen riding gearless scooties, but heavy-duty bikes or cars can be rented too.
We took to the low-traffic roads, lined by dark green trees on both the sides, then crossing the brightly painted shops and Portuguese-styled mansions, we reached old Goa. Clean as if washed roads, yellow or green or red shops on one side and river Mandovi on the other – we fell in love instantly. We decided to visit the famous churches first. We reached the UNESCO World Heritage site, Basilica of Bom Jesus, a 400-years old church. Apart from the stunning mural work and baroque architecture, the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier kept in an embellished silver casket make this church a hit with tourists. Every ten years, the solemn exhibition of the body is held for public. After the stunning tour, we went to the Dona Paula beach. Many a movie has been shot here from the classic EkDuujeKeLiye to Ajay Devgn-starrer Singham. There are plenty of things to do here; from water sports to dolphin tours to the confluence of Mandovi River, Zuari River with the Arabian Sea, best enjoyed from the rock. After a thrilling round of water-scooter, we came back to Mandovi River for a cruise. The cruise was about 45-minutes long, with traditional Goa music being played live, while everyone danced and enjoyed drinks.
It was time for evening meal and we headed to Terry’s, a popular restaurant over-looking the river, which offers a fabulous gastronomical experience. Goa is popular for its fabulous sea-food and delectable world cuisine, especially Portuguese. There are plenty of good restaurants everywhere in Goa, so one can choose a restaurant on the way. Since it was late in the evening, we decided to hit a casino. Goa is the only place where casinos are legal but are mostly on water bodies. These casinos generally have an entry fee (INR 1500 or more) which includes snacks and some chips, while some even have a dress code. Since we weren’t wearing shoes, we were turned down. And we came back to our Indo-Portugal architectural hotel, enjoyed a spa, relished a delicious buffet dinner and slept in sophisticated environs.
The next day was dedicated to local shopping and temple visits. Temples in Goa are many and are ‘younger’ compared to the churches, because the 1540 edict authorised the ruling Portuguese to destroy every single temple in their territory. Thus, not even a trace of these sacred buildings was left (except TambdiSurla, Temple of Shiva dating back to 13-14 AD) and locals weren’t even allowed to go across the border to worship. Then in 1818, almost after 300 years of their rule, the first temple construction was approved. Thus was built Mahalaxmi temple in Panaji, which is dedicated to the peaceful or Satvik form of the godess. The statue of the goddess wears a linga on the head. What one can’t miss noticing is that Goan temples have a different architecture than those found in the other parts of the sub-continent. The local flavour results from Portuguese, Mughal, Christian and Martha influences. For instance, the lamp towers, the curvilinear roofs, and the dome et cetera. We skipped visiting the wildlife sanctuaries – BhagvanMahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, Bondla Forest – or Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
The next day, we asked the hotel to drop us to Calungate Beach. The famous beach infuses delight instantly – happy tourists taking a dip, bikini-clad foreigners getting a tan, adventure water rides, et cetera, all make for a pretty picture. We decided to stay in North Goa for the rest of the trip and picked The Park On Holiday Beach. It’s not a luxurious hotel like The Grand Hyatt, but very chilled out contemporary architecture. It’s located right on the Calungate beach, thus making it highly sought after. We checked in and hired a scooty, thus started our North Goa journey. Crossing colourful markets, picking up cashews, feni (cashew-made alcohol, Goa’s signature), beautiful sarongs, skirts et cetera, and riding uphill amongst greenery, hearing the beckoning of the sea, we reached fort Aguada. A massive fort built by Portugese in the 17th century to protect its territories from the Dutch and the Marathas, it encircles the entire peninsula at the south-western tip, informed our guide.It features in movies like Honeymoon Travels. On the Sinquerim beach, this fort stands outside TajVivanta, another fantastic hote,l located at the right place!
We came back to our hotel’s restaurant called Love, which opens on Calungaute on one side. We picked up a drink from Peace, their bar, and set out to try para-sailing at Calnguate. Later, we went to the Baga beach to rejuvenate and then raced on Go-karting tracks. Yes, Goa’s new-found obsession,Go-karting is a perfect thrill. We went to the one opposite Double Tree by Hilton, Arpora. Later having satiated our sea-food palate at Brito’s we headed to the world-famous Anjuna beach. This is a place to enjoy local nightlife and shop a little. Oh! We also visited the only popular North Goa church Mae De Deus, a gothic architectural beauty. This was followed by fulfilling our casino craving. We entered a casino, won some, lost a little and came back happy.
Goa means a lot of things for a lot of people. From lying on the beach in a bikini, to sipping coconut water, to enjoying a Vindaloo, to a heritage heaven, it has an overwhelming lot to offer. Whether you are a romantic, looking for imperial charm and heritage monuments of south Goa or an explorer expecting some thrilling water-sports and bike rides – Goa doesn’t disappoint anyone. Or if you were a movie buff, you could hit the spots where various Bollywood movies have been shot. We left the city refreshed, rejuvenated and feeling that this pearl of a place was genuinely different from the rest of the continent. By the way, we also picked up some designer-wear, since Goa is also becoming a fashion capital, ask Paris Hilton, if you please!

Pranav Sahay

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