Goa: Chillin’ in a Fridge

This past Diwali weekend we had Monday off, so we figured the best thing to do would be go on an Adventure! We managed to take a mini-vacation before our finals really kicked into gear!

The cricket stadium was just across the river from Panaji/Panjim

Goa pulls 12% of the tourists to India, especially international tourists. Goa may seem like a city, but it is actually a small state sandwiched between Maharashtra and Karnataka. It was ruled by the Portuguese for over 450 years and its Latin culture distinguishes itself from the rest of India.  It was a weekend chock full of beaches, churches, cricket matches and parties.

View of Panjim next to the Mandovi River from the footbridge

From Mangalore there is an express train to Goa, but we wanted to arrive early in the morning on Saturday, so we went by bus. We slept on the bus and arrived in Panaji/Panjim early Saturday morning. After grabbing some breakfast, we walked through this capital city. On our way to the large Portuguese church we were able to glimpse a fashion shoot! The photographers were pretty “hush-hush” about what magazine it was for, but either way, it was neat to see!

My paparazzi picture! We saw the photographers doing a photoshoot for the girl in the yellow dress.

We checked out the Municipal Garden and large Portuguese baroque Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church.

The huge white church!

The church holds services in English and Portuguese. We went up to check out the Church’s interior, but it was during service, so we just turned around and caught a beautiful view of the city. The church was built in 1540, but was entirely rebuilt in 1619. It can also boast the second largest bell in Goa!

The view of the city from the church steps

Afterwards, we strolled through the beautifully kept municipal gardens and over to the bus station, where we caught a local bus to the Porvorim Cricket Academy Grounds to catch the second day of the four-day Ranji Trophy Group C matches! All I know about cricket, I learned from the movie Lagaan…I was surprised to see that it is really similar to the movie! We just walked inside the “stadium” which was just a building with balconies that had chairs on them and sat down in 8 chairs. The match was Jammu & Kashmir vs. Goa and Goa looked to be winning! We left after an hour and caught a bus over to Vagator.

The cricket match!

One of the girls in our group was vegan, and as there are very few vegan restaurants in India, we decided to go and check out a vegan restaurant. Well two hours later, when we finally arrived by public transport and walking, the restaurant was closed…in fact, they weren’t open at all on Saturdays. Lesson learned? Call ahead.

Well, hungry and ready for a drink, we stopped at a restaurant called Hill Country. Yummy food and a drinks (mixed drinks and an entire liter of water for each person!) we were ready to get to the actual beach. We planned to stay at Baga Beach, and due to the length of time and indirect route it would take to get from Vagator to Baga, we opted to hire a taxi.  Many people who visit Goa choose to utilize the readily rent-able scooters to get around. Once you get outside of Panjim, there are no more rickshaws. Not comfortable driving in India at all, we chose to get taxis a few times while we were there!

We stayed at a hotel called “Rita’s” on Baga Beach, it was right behind Tito’s Lane (the place with all the evening excitement in Baga). It was more expensive than other homestay options or hotels further away or even at other beaches in Goa, but it was the perfect location – close to the action. After we settled in, the first thing we did was head to the beach!

The south side of Baga Beach, at the beginning of the tourist season, we were able to avoid the busy beach

The beach huts were still being constructed!

About a 3-minute walk later, the sand was between our toes, and we were lounging beach-side. You could choose to either take one of the lounge chairs outside of the beach-huts, or just throw open a towel on the sand. I opted for the second option. We arrived at the very beginning of the tourist season, in fact, this was the first weekend that many of the huts on the beach were open! After we watched the sun set on the beach, we decided to go out and explore the party scene around the town.

Chillin’ on the beach as the sun set

There are many different places to go out and party along Tito’s Lane. The best part of the night? Free admission to the clubs and free drinks to the ladies! I don’t know if this is a common occurrence, but it was definitely the best part of the weekend! There weren’t as many tourists populating the town, so Tito’s was really the only place that was hopping with activity, and it was a blast! It seemed like people young and old came to have fun!

The next day, I wandered around the town, hung out on the beach and later in the afternoon we hired a taxi to take us to the churches in Old Goa. Our first stop was the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The foundation was laid in 1594, and is currently a world heritage monument. What seems a bit out of place, is that it is not plastered on the outside (a zealous Portuguese “conservative” stripped off the plaster in 1950). Thankfully they didn’t strip the gold from the altar as well!

The gold-leafed main altar. The altar was carved out of wood, then covered in gold. There is a small statue of baby Jesus in front of the gold statue is of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. His statue stands nearly 3 meters high. He is looking on a medallion that says IHS the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Latin.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus (Good Jesus) and the museum attached to it were beautiful to see and walk through.

This is located to the left of the altar and is a mausoleum containing the Venerable relics of St. Xavier in a silver casket.

After we checked out the Basilica, we headed over to the Old Goa Church, across the road. Old Goa itself has a long history. At the height of Portuguese power, it was called the ‘Rome of the Orient’, its population surpassing that of even the European cities of London and Lisbon. In the 15oos, the  Se Cathedral, the largest church in Asia, began to be built. It took 80 years to complete!

The church was burned in a disastrous fire, the year is unclear. These are the ruins of the original building.

The Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina, there was a service going on, so we couldn’t go inside.

After checking out the churches, we headed back to Tito’s Lane, and hung out for the rest of the evening on the beach. It was going to be an early morning, to get to Gokarna but I was still ready for an adventurous weekend!

*What surprised me most was the large Russian population in Goa – in fact, Goa is where the lion’s share of the Russians who live in India reside. We didn’t visit it, but the little town of Morjim is dubbed “Little Russia,” due to the large number of Russians who have settled there…also, 75% of the charter flights to Goa come from Russia!  

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