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Go Goa

Goa,travel,sight-seeing,panjim,biking,church

So much has been said about the wonderful beaches of Goa, that the only thing that I expected to see, on my vacation, was bikinis. However, I was in for a big surprise!

After my flight landed in Goa, I set off for North Goa. Panaji, or Panjim, the capital city, was my first haunt. Since Goa has remained as a Portuguese colony for nearly 450 years, the Portugal influence can be felt everywhere – from the churches and houses to the culture and cuisine.

BIKING TO THE FONTAINHAS

Panjim is a cocktail city – a mixture of old with new. “ The best way to move around Goa is through hired motorbikes,” the friendly Goan hotel- keeper advised, “but, beware, only bikes with yellow number plates are approved by the Goa Government for hiring purposes”, he said. I heeded his words and set out on a hired Activa to the Fontainhas District.

Fontainhas is Panjim’s Latin Quarter. The 19th century red-tile-roofed houses with window panes of flat oyster shells and large verandahs carry an old world charm. The intricately designed railings in wood, stone and wrought iron mesmerized me. I entered one of the quaint restaurants here and sipped on some fenny, that wonder drink of Goa.

As the evening wore on, I went to the Dona Paulo beach, equipped with a fishing rod. I found a quiet corner and started fishing. Catching catfish and watching the sunset did wonders to my stressed nerves. Only Goa can provide such a relaxing experience.

THE BASILICA OF BOM JESUS

The next day, I set off for Old Goa. This UNESCO world heritage site is famous for it’s 16th century churches. The Basilica Church of Bom Jesus is one such architectural marvel. ‘Bom Jesus’ means ‘good Jesus’ or ‘infant Jesus’, to whom the church is dedicated. The church is a fusion of gilt and silver with fading paint and crumbling plaster. The awe-inspiring interior of the church is 55.77 m. long, 16.76 m. broad and 18.59 m high. It has a main altar, four side altars, two chapels, a sacristy and a choir.

The main altar dominates the whole church and in the middle, stands a giant statue of St. Ignatius in priestly vestments. His face is turned upwards in a state of ecstasy. His face is fixed immediately on the medallion containing the Greek letters ‘IHS’ which are the first three letters of the Holy Name of Jesus – IHSUS. Above the monogram, there sits the Holy Trinity in glory. This Goan church is a fine example of the unity of all cultures, languages and religions of India. The mass at this church takes place in various languages like English, Malayalam, Tamil, etc. Hindus and Muslims also flock to this church and revere and respect it.

THE SACRED RELICS OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER

The sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier (1506 – 1552), the founder of the Jesuit order, is also within this church. The tomb is carved in jasper and decorated by fine bronze plaques depicting the saint’s life. The rich silver casket containing his embalmed body, was wrought by Goan silver smith. The body of St. Francis Xavier has undergone several mutilations. One of the toes was bitten off by a Portuguese lady in 1554. It is said that the body bled when this took place which had stunned and shocked all around. In 1890, another toe fell off which is kept in a separate crystal case. Some portions of the body were removed and distributed as relics of the saint to various places.

The art gallery within the premises of this church is also a feast for all art lovers. This art gallery also houses life-size wax statues depicting ‘The Last Supper’ which is a must-see for everyone visiting this church. A museum is also situated near the art gallery which has pictures and relics of the St. Augustine Church before it’s ruin. There is also a portrait gallery of all the Viceroys and Governors of Goa at the top floor of the museum. Tourists, who flock to Goa for it’s world famous beaches, should definitely set aside a day to marvel at the splendor of this church.

FORT AGUADA AND A JOLLY CRUISE

Next, I decided to set off for Fort Aguada built by the Portuguese in the early 17th century. Just inside the main gateway is Aguada’s famous landmark, the 42ft high lighthouse built in 1864. The Church of St. Lawrence built in 1630 is also near this fort. There is also a prison situated in this fortress.

As the skies turned dusky, I joined a cruise down the River Mandovi. The next one hour passed in dancing and drinking on the ship. The people of Goa are a happy and friendly lot. They keep urging and guiding you to visit and witness all the Goan specialties. Upon hearing their entreaties, I set off next for the ‘Anjuna Saturday night Flea Market’. The vibrant colors, cool music and great bargains are still happy memories in my mind.

IT’S SHOPPING TIME

The next morning, I visited the Shri Baghavati temple dedicated to Parvati. Life-size stone elephants guard the entrance to this temple. A small and charming waterfall is also located near this temple. Next, I decided to visit Margao which is the commercial capital and second largest city of Goa. From Margao onwards, the rural and virgin parts of South Goa begin. The city has huge Portuguese style mansions and the bazaars buzz with activity. Goa’s most important railway station is also here.

I decided to spend the rest of the day in the shops here. The Goan fish curry and Chicken Xacuti had become my favorite delicacies. I bought the masala packets of both so that I don’t miss Goa too much, once I am back home. I also loved browsing through the antiques and handicrafts shops here.

SPICE FARMS AND ELEPHANT RIDES

After a good night’s sleep, I decided to visit the Sahakari Spice Farm in the morning. I was welcomed with a tikka, garland and a welcome drink brewed out of lemongrass, cardamom and ginger. As we formed groups, we were taken out on a expedition by a friendly and humorous guide. The guide showed and explained to us, the properties of palm, pepper, cardamom, turmeric, clove, ginger, curry leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, basil – only to name a few! I learnt that while turmeric cures cough, pepper aids digestion and nutmeg has aphrodisiac properties – I am sure you wouldn’t have guessed that!

Suddenly, huge elephants loomed before me and upon my guide’s urging, I went in for an elephant ride. As my appetite built up, a tempting aroma wafted to me. A sumptuous lunch was waiting for all of us. We washed our hands and sat on the wooden benches to enjoy the simple and tasty food. After the meal, a gift packet of all the spices grown on the plantation was given to all of us. The Spice Farm was refreshing and educational.

Fort Cabo de Rama was next on my must-see list. This fort is named after Lord Rama, who is said to have lived here with Sita during his exile period. The view from this fort is breathtaking. I sat here for sometime and mused about the four wonderful days that I have spent at Goa. Even without stepping near the beaches, my entire four days were cramped with so much to see and do. In fact, there is still so many more forts, churches, temples wild life sanctuaries to see that I can spend the remaining three days too, without stepping on the waves.

The fifth day, however, a strange craving crept over me. I could hear the call of the waters. Nothing could keep me away from the water rides and beach shacks, any longer. I donned on my bikini, hit the seas and parasailed the skies. As I lay on the sands for a beautiful tan, the playful waves and swaying palms lulled me into a beauty sleep. Goa spells B-L-I-S-S.
Published: 2007-05-09
Author: Archana Sarat

About the author or the publisher
I am a freelance journalist for the last one year. my published pieces are displayed in the Blog page of my site. i am interested in challenging writing work in all fields. i can undertake extensive research. i am a student of the Writer's Bureau, UK. I am also a member of the Association of Freelance Journalists, England. my writing style and vocabulary are my strengths.
www.freewebs.com/freelanceauthor

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