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The former Portuguese enclave of Goa, one of India’s gems, has enjoyed a prominent place in the travellers’ lexicon for many years. The main reason for this is its magnificent palm-fringed beaches and renowned ‘travellers scene’. Yet it offers much more than just the hedonism of sun, sand and sea. Goa has a character quite distinct from the rest of India. Despite more than three decades of ‘liberation’ from Portuguese colonial rule, Roman Catholicism remains a major religion in Goa, skirts far outnumber saris, and the people display an easy-going tropical indulgence, humour and civility which you’ll find hard to beat, even in Kerala.
Gleaming, whitewashed churches with Portuguese-style facades pepper the hill-sides. There are paddy fields, dense coconut palm groves, and crumbling forts guarding rocky capes and estuaries. Markets are lively, colourful affairs, and siesta is widely observed during the hot afternoon hours. Carnival explodes on to the streets for four riotous days and nights prior to Lent. Not only that, but there seems to be a total lack of the excessive shyness which Hindu women display towards men, and there are very good reasons for that. One of them relates to the Goan property laws, which ensure that a married woman is entitled to 50% of the couple’s estate- a far cru from what applies in the rest of India.
Goa has one of the highest literacy rates, and boasts the third-highest GNP, in the country. Farming, fishing, tourism and iron ore mining form the basis of the economy, although the latter two sources of income are sometimes incompatible with the former. Mining has caused damage to paddy fields, and the five-star tourist resorts, with their swimming pools, have placed a heavy strain on water supplies needed by farmers.
Goans are better informed about their environment and what threatens it then many other Indians, and are more prepared to fight for its protection. The Konkan Railway Corporation, currently constructing a major railway line along the west coast to link Bombay with Mangalore, has had more trouble getting planning permission for the route through the tiny state of Goa than anywhere else on the 760-km line.

Goa’s historic stretches back to the 3rd century BC when it formed part of the Mauryan Empire. It was later ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur at the beginning of the Christian era and eventually passed to the Chalukyans of Badami, who controlled it from 580 to 750 AD. Over the next few centuries it was ruled successively by the Shilharas, the Kadambas and the Chalukyans of Kalyani.
The Marathas nearly vanquished the Portuguese in the late 18th century and there was a brief occupation by the British during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. But it was not until1961, when they were ejected by India that the Portuguese finally disappeared from the subcontinent. The enclaves of Daman and Diu were also taken over at the same time.

Goa is justifiably famous for its beaches, and Westerners have been flocking to them since the early 1960s. They used to suffer from bad press in both the Westen and Indian media because of the real or imagined nefarious activities of a small minority of visitors.
There’s a wide range of accommodation at Colva, Benaulim, Calangute and Bega. Places to stay are generally more basic at Anjuna, Vagator and Chapora, which is where travellers tend to congregate. It’s at these latter beaches that the full-moon parties are held. If you fancy somewhere that’s less of a scene, Benaulim is an excellent choice. There’s good accommodation and the beach is relatively peaceful.
All these beaches are tourist, so if you want something quieter, you’ll have to look further a field. Arambol (or Harmal as it’s spelt on some maps), near the northern tip of Goa, is one such place. Betul, south of Colva, and Palolem, even further south, are two others. The ‘freaks’ have gone over the border into Karnataka –though a few still hang on at Arambol.
The Aguada, Bogmalo, Varca and Cavelossim beaches are essentially for affluent tourists staying at beach resorts.

Accommodation prices in Goa are based on high, middle and low seasons. This generally won’t affect you much if you stay in Budget accommodation, but certainly will if you stay in middle or top-range hotels. The high season covers the period from mid- December to late January, the middle (shoulder) period from October to mid-December and February to June, and the low season from July to September. Prices quoted in this chapter are the high –season rates.

Famous throughout Goa for its Wednesday flea market, this is the beach that everyone went to when Calangute had been filmed, recorded reported and talked about into the sand. There’s a weird and wonderful collection of over Landers, monks, defiant ex-hippies, gentle lunatics, artists, artisans, seers, searchers and peripatetic expatriates who normally wouldn’t be seen out of the organic confines of their health-food emporia in San Francisco or London.
There’s no point in trying to define what Anjuna is or what it’s like –it’s many different things to many different people. The only way to find out is to stay here for a while and make some friends. Full moon, when the parties take place, is a particularly good time to be here.

 Anjuna Flea Market
The Wednesday flea market at Anjuna is a major attraction for people from all the Goan beaches. It’s a wonderful blend of Tibetan and Kashmiri traders, colourful Gujarati tribal women and blessed-out 1960s-style hippies. It’s quite a scene. Whatever you need, from a used paperback to a haircut, you’ll find it here-along with hundreds of stalls selling jewellery, carvings, T-shirts, sarongs, chillums, spices and everything else you can think of. You have a bargain hard heeled tourists also make their way here and the traders start high with their prices.

For most people, the evening begins with several beers on the Shore Bar, watching the sun go down. It can get very crowded, particularly after the flea market, and the powerful sound system keeps people here until long after dark. 

Seemingly not all that long ago, Calangute was the beach all self-respecting hippies headed for, especially around Christmas when psychedelic hell broke loose and the beach was littered with more budding rock stars than most people have hot dinners. If you enjoyed taking part in those mass pujas, with their endless half-baked discussions about’ when the revolution comes ‘and the vibes, maaan’, then this was just the ticket. You could frolic around with not a stitch on, be ever so cool and liberated, and completely disregard the feelings of the local inhabitants.
Calangute isn’t one of the best Goan beaches; there are hardly any palms gracing the shoreline, some of the sand is contaminated with red soil and the beach drops pretty rapidly into the sea. There is, however, plenty going on, and people who find Colva too quiet may find Calangute more to their liking. However, the beach at Baga is better and the landscape is more interesting.

Things to Buy
Calangute and Baga have been swamped by Kashmiri traders eager to cash in on the tourist boom. Their incessant hassling and pressure-selling can become tedious. There is, however, a good range of things to buy- Kashmiri carpets, embroideries, and papier-mâché Tibetan and Rajasthani crafts. Interesting jewellery, bangles and other ethnic trinkets (usually Tibetan, Kashmiri and Indian tribal in origin) are available.

This is one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of Goa’s coastline and a good deal more attractive than Anjuna for either a short or a long stay. Much of the inhabited area nestles under a canopy of dense coconut palms, and Chapora village is dominated by a rocky hill on top of which sits an Old Portuguese fort. The fort is fairly well preserved and worth a visit; the views from its ramparts are excellent.
Secluded, sandy coves are found all the way around the northern side of this rocky outcrop, though Vagator’s main beaches face west towards the Indian Ocean. Little Vagator, the beach to the south, is very popular with travellers and lots of people staying in Calangute and Baga come up here for the day.
Many Westerners stay here on a long-term basis but it’s not a tourist ghetto. The local people remain friendly and, since the houses available for rent are widely scattered and there are several beaches and coves to choose from, it’s really only to Little Vagator that you see large groups of travellers together in one place. However, although there’s still no package tourism, the place is starting to change

The ride up the coast between Chapora and Arambol offers the opportunity to detour to some picturesque and peaceful beaches. Morjim Beach, just north of Chapora, has a handful of beach shacks and a couple of hotels at its northern end. Mandrem Beach is not quite as idyllic to look at but is a great place to get away from it all. There are rooms to let in the village behind the dunes.

ARAMBOL (Harmal)
Some years ago, when the screws were tightened at Anjuna in an attempt to control what local people regarded as the more outrageous activities (nudism and drug use) of a certain section of the traveling community, the die-hards cast around for a more ‘sympathetic’ beach. Arambol, north of Chapora, was one of those which they chose.
Initially, only those willing to put up with very primitive conditions and a total lack of facilities came here. That has changed but development has so far been minimal, although there is talk of a golf course and resort being built here.
The seashore is beautiful and the village quiet and friendly, with just a few hundred locals, mostly fishing people, and a couple of hundred Western residents in the November to February high season.
Buses from Mapusa stop at the modern part of Arambol, on the main road, where there’s a church, a few shops, but no bank. From here, a side road leads one km down to the village, and the beach is about 500 metres further on. This mean beach is a good place to swim but to the north are several much more attractive bays- follow the path over the headland. There are some new chalets on the hillside of the first bay. Behind the second bay is a small fresh water pool that’s very pleasant to lie about it. You can give yourself a mudbath with the mud that lines the bottom of this pool, said to be very good for the skin; and there’s a hot spring nearby.

At Terekhol, on the north bank of the river of the same name, there’s small Portuguese fort with a little church (usually locked) within its walls.
The fort makes a good outing on a motorcycle, and you could stop for a swim on deserted Querim Beach, but there’s very little to see at the fort itself apart from the views.
There are occasional buses from Mapusa or Pernem to Querim, on the south bank of the river, opposite Terekhol and also between Arambol and Querim. The ferry between Querim and Terekhol runs every half hour between 6 am and 10 pm.

The most beautiful stretches of white sand in Goa extend sun-drenched and palm-fringed for km after km all the way from Majorda, through Colva, Benaulim, Varca and Cavelossim, down to the point at Mobor.
It’s only fair to point out that this development is contained within relatively small areas. The dozen or so resort complexes which have sprung up along this 30-km coastline are, for the most part, widely spaced and self contained. Colva itself to get away about it. Walk two km in either direction, and you’ll get close to what it used to be like before the cement mixers began chugging away. Despite this, the area has a long way to go before it gets as developed as Calangute, or a lot of other beaches.

There’s a wide choice of short-term accommodation in Clova. At the cheaper end of the market are the places strung out along the roads behind the beach, north of the main area.

Majorda: There are several resort complexes north of Colva, along Majorda Beach. 

Benaulim: If you hankers after the more tranquil parts of this coastline, then Benaulim Beach, less than two km south of Colva, is the place to head for.

The beaches of North Goa extended from Fort Aguada in an almost uninterrupted 30 km sandy stretch to the border with Maharashtra. Sinquerim, the beach below the fort, and Candolim are popular with package tourists, but independent travellers can also find accommodation here. These beaches tend to be quieter than Calangute, particularly at weekends. There are some pleasant places to stay, although there’s nowhere for those on a very tight budget.
Guarding the mouth of the Mandovi River, Fort Aguada was built by the Portuguese in 1612. It’s worth visiting the moated ruins on the hilltops for the views, which are particularly good from the old lighthouse. You can also visit the dungeons.
To the east is Aguada Jail: most inmates (12 of them Westerners) are in on drug charges.

Mapusa (pronounced locally as ‘Mapsa’) is the main centre of population in the northern provinces of Goa and the main town for supplies if you are staying either at Anjuna or Chapora. If you’re staying at Calangute, Baga or Candolim, you have a choice of Panaji or Mapusa as a service centre.
There’s not much to see in Mapusa, though the Friday market is worth a visit. You may, however, need to stay here overnight if you’re catching a bus to Bombay the following day- there’s no need to go to Panaji for long- distance buses.

MARGAO (Madgaon)
The capital of Salcete province, Margao is the main population centre of South Goa and a pleasant provincial town which still displays reminders of its Portuguese past. It’s not of great interest to travellers, though Margao’s richly decorated Church of the Holy Spirit is worth a visit, and the covered market is the best of its kind in Goa – though you may be deterred by the overpowering smell of fish. Margao’s importance, however, is as a service and transport centre for people staying at Colva and Benaulim beaches. 

Rachol Seminary & Church
Six km from Margao, near the village of Raia, is the Rachol Seminary and Church. The Museum of Christian Art was opened here recently, partly funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation. The interesting displays include textiles, some of the silver once used in the churches of Old Goa, a magnificent 17th –century, silver monstrance in the shape of a swam, and a mobile mass kit (complete with candlesticks) – standard issue for missionaries out in the jungle. The museum is open daily from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:30 to 5 pm.
The church dates from 1610 and then seminary has interesting architecture, a decaying library and paintings of Christian characters done in India styles. This is not a tourist site, so you should ask before wandering around.

PANAJI (Panjim)
Panaji is one of India’s smallest and most pleasant state capitals. Built on the south bank of the wide Mandovi River, if officially became the capital of Goa in 1843, though the Portuguese viceroys shifted their Residence from the outskirts of Old Goa to the former Palaces of Adil Shah in Panaji as early as 1759.
While most people pass through Panaji on their way to the beaches or to Old Goa (nine km to the east), the town is well worth a visit fro its own sake. The atmosphere is easy –going and the people are very friendly. In the oldest part of the town, the Portuguese heritage has survived remarkably well; there are narrow winding streets, old houses with overhanging balconies and red-tiled roofs, whitewashed churches, and numerous small bars and cafes. Portuguese signs are still visible over many premises. 

Things to See
The old district, Fontainhas, is to the west of the Ourem River. It’s an interesting area to walk around, with narrow streets, tiled buildings with overhanging balconies and an atmosphere more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than of India. There are numerous little bars rarely visited by foreigners. Even if you don’t stay there, the Panjim Inn is a beautiful, old building that’s worth a visit.
At the centre of Fontain has, the Chapel of St Sebastian stands at the end of a picturesque street. Although it dates only from the 1880s, it contains a number of interesting features- in a particular a striking crucifix which originally stood in the Palace of the Inquisition in Old Goa.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception is Panaji’s main place of worship, and it stands above the square in the main part of town, reached by several intersecting flights of stairs. The original construction was consecrated in 1541. Panaji was the first part of call for voyages from Lisbon, so Portuguese sailors would visit this church to give thanks for a safe crossing before continuing to Old Goa.
The Secretariat is the other building of interest in Panaji. Dating from the 16th century, it was originally Adil Shah’s palace. In 1759, it became the viceroy’s official Residence. In case you’re wondering what the bizarre statue of a man apparently about to strangle a woman by the Secretariat building represents, this is Abbe Faria, a famous hypnotist and his assistant. Born in Candolim in 1756, he emigrated to France, where he became a celebrated hypnotic medium.
Other things to see in Panaji include a small, dusty museum and the modern Mahalaxmi Temple. 

Three km west of Panaji is Miramar, Panaji‘s nearest beach, but it’s neither particularly attractive nor a good place to swim.
Four km further along this road is Dona Paula, a small town, with several resort complexes, that has grown up around a fishing village. 

Nine km east of Panaji, half a dozen imposing churches and cathedrals, (amongst the largest in Asia) are all that remains of the Portuguese capital that was once said to rival Lisbon in magnificence. Some of the old buildings have become museums maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India – maintenance very necessary because if the lime plaster which protects the laterite structure is not renewed frequently, the monsoons will reduce the buildings to ruin. 

Even before the arrival of the Portuguese, Old Goa was a thriving and prosperous city, and the second capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur. At that time, it was a moat, and contained temples, mosques and the large palace of Adil Shah. Today, none of these structures remain except for a fragment of the gateway to the palace.
Under the Portuguese, the city grew rapidly in size and splendors, despite an epidemic in 1543 which wiped out a large percentage of the population. Many huge churches monasteries and convents were erected by the various religious orders which came to Goa under royal mandates. The Franciscans were the first to arrive.
Old Goa’s splendors was short-lived, however, because by the end of the 16th century. Portuguese supremacy on the seas had been replaced by that of the British, Dutch and French. The city’s decline was accelerated by the activities of the Inquisition and a devastating epidemic which struck in 1635. Indeed if it had not been for the treaty between the British and the Portuguese, it is probable that Goa would either have passed to the Dutch or been absorbed into British India.
The city muddled on into the early 19th century as the administrative capital of Portugal’s eastern empire. In 1843, the capital was shifted to Panaji. 

Se Cathedral
The largest of the churches in Old Goa, Se Cathedral was begun in 1562 during the reign of King Dom Sebastiao (1557-78). It was substantially completed by 1619, though the altars were not finished until 1652. The cathedral was built for the Dominicans and paid for by the royal treasury out of the proceeds of the sale of crown property.
The building is Portuguese- Gothic in style with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior. There were originally two towers, one on either side of the façade, but one collapsed in 1776. The remaining tower houses a famous bell, one of the largest in Goa, often called the Golden Bell because of its rich sound. The main altar is dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria, and old paintings on either side of it depict scenes from her life and martyrdom.  

Convent & Church of St Francis of Assisi
This is one of the most interesting buildings in Old Goa. It contains gilded and carved woodwork, old murals depicting scenes from the life of St Francis, and a floor substantially made of carved gravestones- complete with family coats of arms dating back to the early 1500s. The church was built by eight Franciscan friars who arrived here in 1517 and constructed a small chapel consisting of three altars and a choir. This was later pulled down and the present building was constructed on the same spot in 1661.
The convent at the back of this church is now the archaeological museum. It houses many portraits of the Portuguese viceroys, most of them inexpertly touched up; fragments of sculpture from Hindu temple sites in Goa, which show Chalukyan and Hoysala influences; stone Vetal images from the animist cult which flourished in this part of India centuries ago; and a model of a Portuguese caravel, minus the rigging. 

Basilica of Bom Jesus
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is famous throughout the Roman Catholic world. It contains the tomb and mortal remains of St Francis Xavier who, in 1541, was given the task of spreading Christianity among the subjects of the Portuguese colonies in the east. A former pupil of St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, St Francis Xavier’s missionary voyages became legendary and, considering the state of transport at the time, they were nothing short of miraculous.
Apart from the richly gilded altars, the interior of the church is remarkable for its simplicity. This is the only church which is not plastered on the outside (although it was originally). Construction began in 1594 and the church was completed in 1605. The centre of interest inside the church is, of course, the Tomb of St Francis. The construction of the tomb was underwritten by the duke of Tuscany and executed by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista Foggini. It took 10 years to build and was completed in 1698. The remains of the body are housed in a silver casket, which at one time was covered in jewels. On the walls surrounding it are murals depicting scenes from the saint’s journeys, and one of his death on Sancian Island.
The Professed House, next door to the basilica, is a two storey laterite building covered with lime plaster. It was completed in 1585, despite much opposition to the Jesuits. Part of the building burned down in 1633 and was partially rebuilt in 1783. There’s a modern art gallery attached to the basilica. 

Church of St Cajetan
Modeled on the original design of St Peter’s in Rome, this church was built by Italian friars of the Order of Theatines, who were sent by Pope Urban III to peach Christianity in the kingdom of Golconda (near Hyderabad). The friars were not permitted to work in Golconda, so settled at Old Goa in 1640. The construction of the church began in 1655. Historically, it’s of much less interest than the other churches. 

Church of St Augustine Ruins
All that is really left of this church is the enormous 46 –meters-high tower which served as a belfry and formed part of the façade of the church. The few other remnants are choked with creepers and weeds, and access is difficult. The church was constructed in 1602 by Augustinian friars who arrived at Old Goa in 1587.
It was abandoned in 1835 due to the repressive policies of the Portuguese government, which resulted in the eviction of many religious orders from Goa. The church fell into neglect and the vault collapsed in 1842. In 1931, the façade and half the tower fell down, followed by more sections in 1938. 

Church & Convent of St Monica
This huge, three –storey, laterite building was commenced in 1606 and completed in 1627, only to burn down nine years later. Reconstruction started the following year, and it’s from this time that the buildings date. Once known as the Royal Monastery, due to the royal patronage which it enjoyed, the building is now used by the Mater Devi Institute as a nunnery and was inaugurated in 1964. Visitors are allowed inside if they are reasonably dressed. There are fading murals on the inside of the western walls.

Other Buildings 
Other monuments of minor interest in Old Goa are the Viceroy’s Arch, Gate of Adil Shah’s Palace, Chapel of St Anthony, Chapel of St Catherine, and the church of Our Lady of the Rosary 

The 10 – km strip of pristine beach south of Benaulim has become Goa’s resort beach, with at least half a dozen hotels of varying degrees of luxury. As far as resorts go, some of them are quite good, and they are certainly isolated from anything which might disturb the peace. Access to the resorts is along the main road south from Benaulim. Prices given below are the high season, which for these resort hotels tends to be from October to April. 

Varca is five km south of Benaulim, and the first resort you come to is the peaceful.   


Cavelossim, seven km further south, is more developed. Several hotels are currently being built, and there’s even a time-share resort under construction. 

Opposite the narrow peninsula occupied by the Leela Beach Resort is the fishing village of Betul, reached either by boat or by bus form Margao via Chinchinim or Cuncolim. North of the village, near the harbour, is the peaceful. 

Agonda, a little village by an empty two-km stretch of sand in southern Goa. The road to Agonda winds over hills, past the old Portuguese fort of Cabo de Rama. On the edge of the village stands the shell of a resort hotel- a project that was abandoned before the building was completed.
In the far south of Goa, at Palolem, is an impossible beautiful palm –fringed cove of white sand that is becoming a popular spot for day –trippers from Colva and Cavelossim.   

Although the central, inland town of Ponda is of no great interest, it does boast an old mosque and, in the surroundings area, numerous unique Hindu temples. There are regular buses from Panaji and Margao.
When the Portuguese arrived in Goa, they destroyed every temple and mosque they could lay their hands on. As a result, temples in Goa are generally set back form the coast and comparatively new, although some date back about 400 years. The temples near Ponda have been rebuilt from originals destroyed by the Portuguese, and their lamp towers are a distinctive Goan feature.
Five of Goa’s most important Hindu temples are close to Ponda, on the other inland route between Panaji and Margao. The Siva temple of Shri Mangesh is at Priol –Ponda Taluka, about 22 km from Panaji. This tiny, 18th –century, hilltop temple, with its white tower, is a local landmark. Less than two km further down the road is Shri Mahalsa, a Vishnu temple.
About five km from Ponda are Shri Ramnath and Shri Nagesh, and nearby is the Shri Shantadurga Temple. Dedicated to Shantadurga, the goddess of peace, the latter sports a very unusual, almost pagoda-like structure with a roof made of long slabs of stone. Further south are the temples of Shri Chandreshwar, west of Quepem: the Shantadurga, east of Betul; and the Shri Mallikarjuna, east of Chauri.
The oldest mosque remaining in Goa is the Safa Shahouri Masjid at Ponda, built by Ali Adilshah in 1560. It once matched the mosques at Bijapur in size and quality, but was allowed to decay during the Portuguese period. Little remained of its former grandeur by the time the Portuguese left but the Archaeological Survey of India has now undertaken its restoration using local artisans. 

Up in the lush foothills of the Western Ghats, Bondla is a good place to see sambar and wild boar. It’s the smallest of the Goan wildlife sanctuaries (eight sq km) but the easiest one to reach. It’s 52 km from Panaji and 38 km from Margao.
There is a botanical garden, fenced deer park and a zoo which is better than the most, with reasonably spacious enclosures. The zoo was originally established to house orphaned animals, but these days is also a breeding colony for the larger species of deer.
Bookings for accommodation should be made in advance at the office of the Department of Forestry, directly opposite the Air India office, and beside the Hotel Fidalgo, in Panaji. 

On the eastern border with Karnataka are Goa’s most impressive waterfalls. They’re particularly impressive waterfalls. They’re particularly impressive if you’re coming in by train soon after the monsoon, because the line crosses a bridge by the falls and the train often stops tolet passengers get a good view. If the trains are running, Dudhsagar is a two-hour trip from Margao or 50 minutes from Kulem station.

These wildlife sanctuaries are larger than Bondla but you will need your own transport to get to them. There’s a treetop watchtower in Catigao but the animals manage to remain well hidden, so you won’t see a lot.

Close to Mormugao Harbour and three km from Dabolim Airport, Vasco da Gama is the terminus of the railway line to Goa- though a few local trains continue to the harbour. If you arrive in Goa by train, you can get off at Margao to reach Colva Beach; if you fly in, it’s possible to arrive too late to get much further than Vasco unless you’re prepared to take a taxi. Fortunately, there are several hotels in this unexacting town.

Eight km from Vasco, and only four km from the airport, is Bogmalo Beach. It’s a small, sandy cove dominated by the five-star Oberoi hotel, which evaded the restriction requiring all hotels to be built at least 500 metres from the beach. There’s little here apart from the resort hotel and a couple of smaller places to stay, the reasonably pleasant beach, several expensive beach cafes, and the small village of Bogmalo.

Places to Stay 
CIDADE DE GOA (5 Star Deluxe)
TAJ EXOTICA, GOA (5 Star Deluxe)

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