The Kingdom of Goa
So incidentally one day I stepped into this hinterland. It wasn’t just to enjoy the shade and the groves of the trees. It was to find something different: a balm on the busy mind, to enjoy days of freedom on the gorgeous beaches, to parasail or swim along the tide with fellow visitors, to savour its unique cuisine and imbibe its spirits, to take a long and refreshing trek in its unexplored interiors and to marvel to its majestic temples and churches, essentially to find joy and nirvana.
Down the corridors of time Goa has been different things to different people. To the Portuguese conquerors it was ‘Golden Goa’, the El Dorado, the ‘Rome of the East’. But Goa, since those days, has moved on to attract a multitudinous, peaceful and cosmopolitan school of visitors from all around the globe.
The transit from Margoa to the capital city of Panjim is just under an hour’s drive by road and it offers an impeccable glimpse of the smallest state of India. Goa, being in the tropical zone on the Western Ghats Range of India and near the Arabian Sea, has a hot and humid climate for most of the year. Palm trees dot the long stretches of the narrow roads running along the coastline. A coastline that runs for a majestic 30km beginning at Fort Aguada, continues as Sinquerim Beach, moves on to Candolim which merges into Calangute Beach and then stretches on to Baga, Anjuna and on to Vagator, finally ending at Chapora beach – truly a veritable feast of beaches.
The most photographed beach of Goa, Vagator Beach forms a bay that curves from the headland to the hillock crowned by the Chapora Fort- a fort that gained its reputation from the movie- Dil Chahta Hai. The villages of Vagator have lush green landscapes, soft white sands, black lava rocks and a beautiful sea that turns from aquamarine to emerald green with the movement of the sun. On the other end is the Morjim Beach where the waves gradually die down before entering the backwaters. This beach is known for being the nesting sites of the Olive Ridley turtles.
My personal favourite among all the beaches of Goa is the Anjuna Beach. Located about 18 kms from Panaji, the beach is known for its breeze-catching palms, soft sand, and the unusual rocky formation overlying a cove of whitish sand and black rock that juts into the sea.
The traditional Wednesday Flea Market and Saturday Night Market of Anjuna too is famous for the staggering variety of items that are on sale form trinkets, to guitars, to chess sets, to motorbikes to yak cheese.
Baga Beach on the other hand is a perfect getaway for those looking for peace and quiet- a quite fishing beach ideal for sunbathing in its golden sun. A lazy walk along the shores and a sumptuous dinner with loads of sea-food on the menu – Goan cuisine can’t treat you any better. Baga’s night life is considered the liveliest in Goa and is the perfect synthesis of the Goan and Western culture. As the night creeps in- be it at Tito’s or Curli’s – Goa just seemed to be waking up.
Further south lays the Calangute Beach, a spotless 7 km stretch. Known as ‘The Queen of Beaches’ it is the perfect tourist haven complete with shacks and stalls under the palm trees selling everything from fried prawns and beer to trinkets made of sea-shells. The waves rise high above washing the city blues away.
A walk on the beach is full of small delights, where fishermen’s motor trawlers lie in a line offshore, and tourists in colourful dress throng the beach. Colva at night with its silvery grey sands glittering in the moonlight make moonlit evenings incredibly romantic.
Goa is not just a land of beaches but has probably an unprecedented varied historical significance including age old forts and churches. Among the handful of forts that still hold their ground here is the Aguada Fort.
As one hits the Old Goa Road, it is distinctly marked with Indo-Portuguese style architecture mansions. The “Se Cathedral” of 1652 is the largest church in Asia dedicated to St. Catherene of Alexandria. This imposing structure is well-known for its vaulted interiors. This Cathedral has five bells, among them the famous Golden bell, the biggest in Goa and one of the best in the world.
To top off my journey in this kingdom, I sign off with India’s 5th highest waterfall and the world’s 227th at 310 metres.