South Goa a Travel Series (Part III)

Read South Goa a Travel Series (Part I)

Read South Goa a Travel Series (Part II)

I reached Margao at 8:30 pm.  I had booked an Airbnb that cost me Rs. 2000 for 3 nights. Aaron was my host and his house was about 10 minutes from Colva beach by scooter. He was really kind and dropped me to the restaurant Kentuckee on Colva beach, which is quite famous for its food in that locality for dinner. My dinner was very simple; fish curry and rice with a fish steak.  All the places from where I could rent a scooter were shut, so I had to walk back home. The streets were completely dark and deserted with the occasional lights from the vehicles passing by. The 20 minute walk felt a lot longer than it should have and I went to bed immediately, as I planned on starting early the next day.

The locals in Goa are really friendly and helpful. The watchman of the building where I was living at gave me details of a scooter rental place (Valencia Rental, Colva 09921348359). They gave me a deal of Rs. 900 for 3 days to rent a scooter. I headed to Majorda beach. This beach wasn’t as clean as the other beaches I had visited. There is a Lagoon on the beach but it is quite dirty and I would not recommend entering it. There were a very few people on the beach, probably because it was quite early in the morning. I had breakfast at a stall on the beach; Hot cup of tea along with pav and potato bhaji all for just Rs. 30.

Next up, I headed to San Jacinto Island. This island is just a few kilometers to the north-east of Dabolim airport. Silver Gate bridge connects the island to the mainland. This destination is quite underrated and you will not find many tourists here. The island is famous for St. Hyacinthi Church, which celebrates its feast on the last Sunday of September. There is also a chapel on the island that has an underground tunnel leading to the other side of the river. The island is majorly a residential area and life on the island is slow. There also is an old lighthouse, from the top of which you will get a breathtaking view of the Goa coast.

22 km North of San Jacinto is the statue of Dona Paula. This place is a popular tourist attraction and was very crowded when I reached. The fishermen of the area have a collection of ghost stories about Dona Paula. They say that on pitch dark nights and sometimes at the stroke of midnight, she rises from the sea and roams the area, wearing a string of pearls and nothing else. I did not stay here for long and proceeded to Panjim.

Our Lady of immaculate Conception Church in Panjim stands out with its great Portuguese architecture. The entire exterior of the church is bright white. I reached here just around 2 pm and the church was closed for visitors till 3:30 pm. I had a quick meal at George’s Restaurant opposite the church. The pork vindaloo with pav was delicious. The interior of the church is very colorful and has a lot of gold plated carvings. The main alter is dedicated to Mother Mary. On the 8th of December every year the church celebrates its feast with all fervor. The church is decorated with white and blue flowers and there is a procession led by a brass band that plays the festive fados. The procession usually ends with a fireworks display.

The churches of Goa have preserved their heritage and give a sense of calm when you enter them. To explore some more churches I made my way to Old Goa or Velha Goa. Se Cathedral is the largest church in Asia; it is dedicated to St. Catherine. The Cathedral has amazing mosaic work, soaring ceilings and very intricate wood carvings. In the adjoining compound is the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The Basilica is a UNESCO world heritage site and contains the tomb and mortal remains on St. Francis Xavier. His body is placed in a glass coffin under the shower of gilt stars. 3rd December is annually celebrated as the feast of St. Francis Xavier. Once every 10 years his body is taken around Old Goa before scores of pilgrims. The next will happen in the year 2024.

By this time it was already 6:00 pm and I wanted to get back before it got too late at night. I grabbed a quick street snack of pork sausages and pav for Rs. 50 and set off for Colva. Benaulim beach is around 10 minutes from Colva, Johncy’s restaurant is one of the most famous places to eat there. I reached Johncy’s at 8:30 pm and enjoyed a sumptuous meal of tongue roast and butter garlic prawns and headed back to my room. The next day I had planned on visiting ancestral Goa.

 

Ancestral Goa of the ‘Big Foot’ Museum, is a miniature Goan village describing  Goa – like it would have been a 100 years ago. It is located in Loutulim. There are different sections depicting the way of life and the history of Goans. There is a rock with an imprint of a foot. Legend has it that a generous land owner who used to help the poor was taken advantage of and left penniless. He asked the Gods to give him a place to pray, the Gods gave him one hot stone on which he stood on one foot and prayed. Looking at his devotion they took him into heaven and his footprint was left behind.  The museum thus gets the name ‘Big Foot’ from this legend. There is also a laterite sculpture of Sant Mirabai strumming her tambori. This sculpture is the longest  laterite structure in India. An ancestral Portuguese home is present right opposite the museum.  The entry fee for the house and museum tour together is Rs. 170. The guide that takes you around the house is very informative and you learn a lot about how the people used to live centuries ago.

 

Before setting out on my trip I had asked friends for suggestions about places to eat and to see. Star Light restaurant by the river in Assolna was one of the top recommendations for food. I went here for lunch. Their Calamari (Squid) stir fry is the best you can have. I had lime soda and beef chilly fry for Rs. 290. The location of the restaurant makes it an ideal place for reading or just sitting and relaxing. You cannot miss this place!

I wanted to see the sunset at a beach, so I decided that I will visit a few beaches before going back to Johncy’s (Yes, I loved the food so much that I went here again). Zalor beach was where I stopped first; this beach is very clean and had only foreigners, probably because it isn’t very popular. Cavelossim beach was my next stop. White sand and few people, my kind of beach. After a walk along the shore it was about 5:30 pm and almost sunset. I moved on from Cavelossim to Varca beach. There were group of local kids playing football on the beach. I couldn’t resist myself and joined in. We played until sundown; it was a perfect end to my Goa trip.

 

Hope you liked the travel series! Stay tuned for more tips and travel stories. Happy Travels 🙂

 

 

 

South Goa a Travel Series (Part II)

Read South Goa a Travel Series (Part I)

Get to Palolem beach at around 6:30 am to catch the beautiful sunrise over the coconut trees. Just at the entrance of the beach there is a tea stall run by Babu. Do have the bruns (hard buns) along with tea and scrambled eggs. Babu is very welcoming and you are bound to get chatty with him. The moment you step onto the beach you will be bombarded by boatmen quoting prices for a tour that takes you dolphin spotting and then to two islands – Butterfly Island and Honeymoon Island. They quote a cost for the entire package around Rs 2000 to Rs 2500. Make sure you bargain; I struck a deal of Rs 1700 for a trip duration of 2 hours. It was around 7 am and there were very few tourists on the beach. Since I was travelling alone I had the whole boat to myself. The larger the group the cheaper it would be for you.

You will start off with Dolphin spotting, there will be one guide and one boat rider accompanying you and your group. The guide spots the dolphins in a distance and the boat rushes to them and then shuts off the engine so as to not scare the Dolphins away. I was lucky to spot quite a few of the friendly creatures. You will then head to Butterfly Island. Butterfly Island is a very tiny bay nestled between rocks on either side. The water is clear and the sand is clean however you are advised not to swim here as after a few feet from the shore there is a trench. If you arrive early in the morning you can get the entire bay to yourself. Sit for a while, take in the sea breeze and forget your worries. There is a stream that is present in the center of the island that leads into thick foliage. Try and stay away from it as I saw people using it as a restroom. The name is derived as the shape of the rocks in the background looks like the wings of a butterfly. Next up, is Honeymoon Island. During high tide the entire beach is submerged underwater. We went there during high tide and hence could not disembark here. During nights there are parties that happen at the beach and you can rent out a shack to stay overnight.

If you have conveyance at your disposal you can go from the southernmost tip of Goa to the northernmost in a span of about 3 hours. I did not want to rush my trip a lot and just decided to go around South Goa. In the evening of the second day I had booked my stay at Colva and had to leave Palolem by 6:30 pm. So I decided that I will go north up to Cabo De Rama and come back to Palolem by 5 pm to return my scooter and head to Colva by bus. The ride from Palolem to Cabe De Rama took 45 minutes. The roads are well marked, even then I had my google maps on just in case I get off path. 5 minutes before you reach Cabo De Rama fort, you will come across open fields that lead to a cliff. The view from the cliff is spectacular. The water down below is so clear that you can see the rocky sea bed. The cliff is lined with coconut trees. You have to be there to experience the serenity. I just sat at the edge of the cliff for a good half an hour admiring what nature has to offer.

The fort is to the extreme left hand side of the cliff. Before you go there, please go to the right. Once you reach the extreme right hand side you will come across a pathway that takes you down the side of the cliff. It opens up into one of the most beautiful white sand beaches I have seen. This is Cabo De Rama beach. The beach has one hut for the life guard and there is a lagoon that runs through at the back. The lagoon is covered under the canopy of coconut trees. Just lay on the beach get sun tanned, maybe have a picnic here under trees with your friends. Clear blue water makes it irresistible to take a dip and just feel like floating there all day. I then went on to visit the fort. I went on towards the fort from the beach. Cabo De Rama fort is the largest and one of the oldest forts of Goa. There is the church of Santo Antonio inside the fort. The church is in brilliant condition and is still used by devotees. The cliffs of the fort drop directly into the sea. You get a panoramic view of the Colva and Cancona stretches of South Goa.

After witnessing the breathtaking views from Cabo De Rama I began heading back South towards Palolem. The next beach I stopped at was like a piece of heaven. Cola beach nestled beyond a hill this place is paradise. This is by far the best beach I visited in South Goa. Cola is situated 14 km south of Cabo De Rama. You will see a dirt road exit at the side of the highway that leads to the beach. Take proper care while handling a two wheeler here as it is very bumpy. The beach has a clear blue lagoon as the river flows into the sea. Sometimes during high tide the warm salty water of the sea mixes with the cool sweet water of the river. There are just two resorts on the beach and they are quite expensive. Cola beach has soft golden sand and the lagoon is lined with terraced coconut trees. Do not miss out on visiting this beach, it is totally worth the effort it takes to find.

It was 2:30 pm by now and I started to get hungry. There are just two shacks to eat at on Cola beach and they are not light on the pocket. So, I suggest that you head to the nearby Agonda beach. Agonda is a slightly more commercial beach and has a substantial amount of tourists. On the approach road to the beach I stopped at a restaurant and had a fish thali along with fish steak for only Rs. 300. The beach has a number of huts that you can rent out and stay at. I took a nap on one of the beach chairs before returning back to Palolem. I reached Palolem at 5:30 pm and returned my scooter to Shubham. At his place I met a fellow solo traveler from Pune Sabyasachi. He is a freelance travel photographer and blogger. He was to rent the scooter after me and offered to drop me at the Canacona bus stand. I took a bus to Margao at 6:30pm, the cost of the ticket was Rs 30.

Stay tuned for the next part that begins at Colva 😀

Read South Goa a Travel Series (Part III)

 

 

South Goa a Travel Series (Part I)

Friendly people, serene beaches, and great food; a series on South Goa.

I won a contest on twitter held by an airline company. The prize was return flights to Goa and a ticket to a concert. The concert got cancelled on the last moment, so then I got 4 days to explore Goa. I decided to head south since I wanted to be away from the crowded commercial beaches of Goa. My flight landed at Vasco Da Gama airport in the afternoon. I had booked my first night stay at SUMMER Hostel by Hostelcrowd. The hostel is walking distance from Palolem beach. The first task was reaching Palolem, a private taxi charges Rs 1800 and a bike taxi quoted Rs 1000 to drop me at my hostel from the airport. If you are travelling in a group the taxi would be the best option. Try and avoid the bike taxi for a long distance because it will be hard on your back.

For the backpackpers on a tight budget I would recommend doing what I did. I got a bus from the airport to Margao. The ticket cost is Rs 20 and it took 40 minutes to reach the bus stand. Margao bus stand is a central hub from where you get connecting buses to other parts of Goa. I then boarded a bus to Palolem. The journey from Margao to Palolem takes about 2 hours and costs Rs 40. The buses are cramped and lack of legroom made my journey a bit painful and tiresome, but if that’s what comes with saving around Rs 2000 then it’s totally worth it.

The bus dropped me right at the gate of my hostel. Shubham greeted me at the reception and got me settled into my 8 bed dormitory. Interestingly, I was the only Indian staying in the entire hostel. My dorm had students from Germany and France. The cost for a bed per night is Rs 400. You get access to free wifi, a hot shower and a small common kitchen which is totally worth it. I stayed here just for the night since I was heading to Colva the next evening. I wanted to rent a scooter to get around the place; Shubham lives right opposite the hostel and was kind enough to lend me his two wheeler for Rs 150 per day.

I headed to Palolem beach, by the time I reached the beach it was already 8pm. The approach road to the beach is lined with shops selling handicraft items and quirky arts and craft.  Palolem beach at night is the perfect place for a stroll with that special someone. Almost the entire stretch of the beach is lined with candles and you can hear the waves crash on the shore while a light breeze brushes your face. A couple got engaged on the beach that night. The beach has shacks all along, I stopped at one to enjoy a light dinner. There are freshly caught fish on display outside each shack, you can pick what you want and they will cook it as per your taste. I got a red snapper fish cooked in a light tomato gravy, accompanied with rice.

The night life at Palolem is the most happening on Saturday night because of its famous silent party at Neptune point. Neptune point is at one end of Palolem Beach. The silent party happens every Saturday night starting at 10:30 pm and runs unto the wee hours of the morning. The entry is Rs 600 per person, usually they have three DJs of different genres playing. At the entrance you get your headphones and can tune into whichever genre you want to dance to. The genres for the night were EDM, Psy Trance and Bollywood. I was there at 11 pm and people had not even started coming in. The place usually gets full only after 12 am. I had to skip the party as I planned on leaving the hostel early in the morning to catch the sunrise.

Stay tuned for more in the series 🙂

Read South Goa a Travel Series (Part II)