Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Goa In Pictures

Goa this time around was on work. But there were two days off and lots of free time in the mornings and evenings. I also had Vivek and Vidyuth for company, who know Goa pretty well, which meant that I could now get to see much more than what I normally would have. Left to myself life would not have gone much further than my hotel room, the breakfast corner around and perhaps my routine mandatory walks. And I think, what a stickler to routine I am, how difficult it is for me to step out of the routine, to indulge myself.
Casinos early in the morning on the Mandovi river

The fish market in Panjim

The interesting thing was that we chose to drive to Goa. My faithful Santro ran up the 800 kms (one way) brilliantly though the air conditioning protested and gave up early. Then you realise life is not so bad after all, even without an air conditioner. The things we could do without! The route we chose was the Mahbubnagar, Raichur, Lingsur, Hungund, Bhagalkot, Belgaum, Sawantwadi and Panjim route. Most of it is the state highway which is in really good condition save one small stretch of 30 kms between Raichur and Lingsur. After Lingsur and Mudgal we hit the NH near Hungund (one must keep an eye out for that). Turn right, and after a few kms turn left on to the state highway again towards Bhagalkot. By pass Bhagalkot, head past the diversion to Badami caves on the left and you're coasting along to Belgaum. It will take you 13 hours to reach Panjim though.
Panjim gymkhana where we saw the Zakir Hussain concert

Old Goan buildings

Another lovely Goan building

With some sun fx

Yet another one

The promenade where I walked everyday along the Mandovi

Lovely sights

In Panjim I had planned to visit Dona Paula and the route that Meghna and Aditya took in their walk - Panjim, Fort Aguada, Baga. Nothing much else really. I got up early and enjoyed the early morning walks on the promenade along the Mandovi where one can see the floating Casinos. I'd walk up to the Panjim Gymkhana, past the morning fish market, some early morning walkers and a tranquil sea, and head back by the time the sun started lighting up the eastern skies. I knew that the Miramar was just round the corner but never had the time to go there which is a big regret. But I will return. Soon.
Goan road

Old Goan house

Yet another

I am not much of a casino type guy. I think I am happier sitting on a bench on the promenade looking at the trees or the sea. The first real outing was checking out Butter, a new bar in Panjim with Vivek. Good food, bang in the middle of the town in the Patto area, and nice retro music. They all have this new system of paying upfront for a charge on which they give you a card from which the balance keeps reducing each time. In Panjim Butter is a good choice to go for a late night drink with some good company.

Fort Aguada

Vidyuth enjoying the view

Me enjoying the view

The lighthouse in Fort Aguada

The other places I visited in Panjim were another restaurant 'Baba's' in the Foutainhas area which served lovely thin crusted pizza made on some oven type contraption. It was a house that was part furniture store and part hotel, set in the middle of old Panjim, and owned now by a lovely foreign lady who looked genuinely pleased to have us there. Looming over us was a beautifully painted temple, in colours we normally associate with movies. Then Vivek took us along to another pub 'Down the Road' along the Patto bridge with live music where the singer sang beautifully despite her bad throat. Her renditions of the Carpenters etc were lovely to listen to. After another stop at Butter, I was drunk heavily on fresh lime soda and snacks and we decided to call it a night.
Beautiful church seen from Fort Aguada



Temple near Baga

One other evening I went with Vidyuth to a crowded Baga beach where shacks were outdoing one another with loud raucous music that was good enough to give you a headache. It's amazing to see the number of newly married couples honeymooning - all in shorts and t shirts or rather skimpy skirts. But you cannot beat tradition in India and with their hip t shirts and tight shorts, the girls wear those twenty odd bangles that Punjabis apparently do in the early days of their marriage. Ah, the land of contradictions, of so many sides pulling at us, so many wants and desires. Anyway after listening to some Punjabi music we headed off to the quieter environs of a nearby restaurant cum hotel by the side of the river, aptly called Riverside. Now this Riverside has a lovely ambience, is right by the river, and has a wonderful restaurant run by Danny, who seems to love his food and loves serving it to his customers. I enjoyed all he served. I don't remember what I tried except that I loved it. I also ate a bibanca which is a Goan speciality and then headed back rather late in the night.

On the rest day I forced Vidyuth to crawl the beaches with me. First we drove along the rather long route that goes out of Panjim, heads down the road to Candolim and onwards to Fort Aguada. We walked along the Fort, small and compact, with a neat little moat, but offering a spectacular view of the Arabian sea. Built in 1612 Fort Aguada was built by the Portuguese for protection against the Dutch and the Marathas. It served as a watering station for passing ships and had the largest storage capacity in forts of its kind. It also had cannons and secret tunnels, and was later converted into a jail. (Aguada means water.) On the way to the fort one sees a lovely church on the adjoining hill top, so beautiful that you want to stop there. Wonder who built it. We headed down and drove along towards Baga where we met Vivek at this fine hotel that also has a beach shack. What was that called I wonder now but its a good place to hang out or even stay.
Land and water

Water and land

Preparations on the way

From there we crawled upwards to the northern beaches, passed by Morjem, where there was once a resort that Vivek built and sold and finally ended up at a nice beach, shallow as the ones in Maharashtra where you go deep and deep and only wet your ankles to show for it. A I fail to recollect but I know how to get there! We watch the sun dip and then we parted ways. Vidyuth and I watched a small wedding ceremony attended by just the bride and the groom, the priest or someone who was standing in and a girl who clicked pics. It was all over in a few minutes but they made enough arrangements on the beach to make it a special sunset wedding.
Preparations for this wedding - lovely stuff


Lovely sunset on the way to Anjuna

Vidyuth decided to aquaint me with the wild side and led me to Anjuna where the famous Curleys and Shiva Valley shacks are situated. I remember a time in another lifetime when I went with another cricketer friend on a long, unguided tour along these beaches, led only by the wildness of one beach after another. Loud trance music, a beach party going on, little vendors selling Snickers, bread omelette, chai, baubles, trinkets. More fresh lime juice for me, a lovely moon right on our heads. An hour or two and off we went to Mango Tree, Vidyuth's favorite haunt by Vagator. Now this is an informal joint with some great food and even greater prices. It appears open all night and has a whole load of Indian students populating it. Full marks to Mango Tree - but go only if you don't mind a student type of a no-frills joint.

The Arabian Sea

Then there was Angel's which is a lovely little joint on the road that leads up to Calangute and one must stop here for a leisurely drink or a meal. Right opposite my hotel was this cute little joint called Mojo's which was pretty small and has some rather uncomfortable looking high stools but well worth a visit or two. Decent music, too loud for me though, a good food. I got a card from them too. There was yet another Goan food joint that Vidyuth and I stopped by one one of the days - a real Goan bar with zero frills but some amazing kababs. Totally downmarket stuff but well worth the money.
Sunrise on the way back

More sunrise

State highway

Sunset as we approach Hyderabad

I enjoyed clicking all the old churches and somehow managed to miss the main one in Panjim. I did shop around for some wine, some cashew and some stuff for Anjali on the last day. I'd have loved to roam the beaches some more but I'll save it up for later when I get here on vacation.

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