Exploring Goa

Guest post by Devarshi Patel.

If you are a beach bum, like me, I am sure you can never have enough of beaches in your life, right? Goa, the beach paradise of India is the most favored vacation spot among the beach lovers. Besides beaches, there are plenty of other beautiful places to visit most importantly churches, water fall and forts.

As the taxis are surprisingly expensive, the best option is to hire a two wheeler. It will cost 250-300 Rs. per day.

It was 1st may, the sky was blue, the air was crisp and the sun was shining gloriously, when I stepped out from the bus. The first day in Goa, We stayed at “SARAYA”. One of the rare place, that brings you very close to nature. Indeed, One sleeps here under a tree, Can have dinner sitting on a wood prank and Can have a pizza made in mudoven. The owners have used natural wood / organic substances to furnish the place, and the surrounding adds more to this harmonious atmosphere. Staying off the beach is, in fact, a far better way to get a taste of traditional Goan hospitality.

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On the same day we went to the Divar Island situated in Old Goa. Portuguese influence is every where here in the architecture and religion. Along the road behind the coconut trees, there are villas painted with bright primary colors. The Church of Our Lady of Compassion is located in Piedade, which is one of the Divar’s largest village, that has great panoramic views. The church designed by a Goan priest is known to be the first Christian structure erected here and is a charismatic building dating from the early 17th century.

After this, we went to a place, where I experienced the eternal feeling of spiritualty, The “Bom Jesus Basilica Church” (UNESCO World Heritage Site) . Construction of this massive structure was commenced in 1594 and was completed in 1605. The moment you step into the church, the feeling of tranquility flows in your body. Inside the church, on the right side, there is the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, that are kept in the casket. The casket is kept at a good height and the amazing thing is that one cannot get clear snapshots of the Saint’s body.

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Just across the road are St Catherine’s Chapel, Archeological Museum and St Francis of Assissi Church.

On the Second day, we planned for the north Goa. We started our day with the Miramar beach, here we did a boat ride in which sighting the Dolphin , the aguada fort, the central jail, House where “haseena man jayegi ” (Bollywood) movie was shot etc were included. It cost us 300 Rs. per head.

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Then we went to the Dona Paula. Dona Paula is on the mouth of River Zuari. So large, that one can easily mistake it for a sea! The place where many of the Bollywood movies are shot like Singham and Murder 3. A viewing point on the cliff offers an excellent view.

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We headed for the Fort Aguada, but on the way we went to the Sinquerim beach. The view here is wonderful and it has the water rides same as the famous beaches like Baga and Calanguate, But here the cost is comparatively less.

The Fort Aguada, it is the Portuguese fort now maintained by the archaeological survey of India. It served as a chamber for storing fresh water and also was a guard against the Dutch and the Maratha’s. A scene in the famous Bollywood movie ” Dil Chata Hain ” was shot here. The fort is locked up after 5.30, make sure you reach before it.

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The light house is situated near by the Fort Aguada. The view from the top of light house is really incredible, The cool breeze and the sound of waves !! I was completely hypnotized by the beauty that I witnessed. Don’t miss the experience.

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Then, the Baga beach (Most popular and crowded beach of North Goa). The main road that connects the Baga and Calanguate beach is lined up with cheap mini mall-style architecture.

Anjuna Beach, just near by the Baga beach. This beach is the most silent beach of north Goa. I felt completely mesmerized by the water here. I witnessed the best sun set and evening of my life, Astonishing beach very silent and peaceful. Don’t miss a walk here. This is the ultimate one, for the people, who love to hear to the sound of waves without any hinderance.

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Next day we started for south Goa. The best way to reach there, is to take a Government bus or it will be very expensive by taxi or auto. On reaching there, we rented a two wheeler. Our hotel was near to the Colva beach, Something similar to the Baga beach.

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We en routed for the Palolem beach !!! I had included this place in my list after being enamored by its description and pics on google. The way to the beach is lined up both the sides, by trees and hills on either sides, astounding view. The numerous small islands visible from the beach, adorning it.

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We took a ride on a boat from here. The helmsman will take you to the butterfly island. This ride was the most thrilling ride of my life, fascinating experience. The moment you reach butterfly beach, it has the high hill on one side and on the other side an incessant sea !! Visit this place in evening to experience its best part.

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The Cabo de rama fort is near by. It was dark, when we left from the Palolem so, we missed this place. On the way to Palolem, we went to Mobor beach, a silent one.

For the next day, we planned for the “Dudhsagar Falls ”. It is quite far from south Goa. We started early in morning around 7.30 AM and reached there by 10.30 AM. Falls are not directly accessible. An easy way to reach Dudhsagar is to hire a jeep from Castle Rock or the nearby village, which will guide you through the forests to the falls, Personal vehicles are not allowed here.

It took an hour to reach falls in Jeep, through the forest. The moment I came out from Jeep, the sound of water fall was apparently audible. I could not wait to see the beautiful place, that I had seen only in Pics. Finally after a walk of 15 mins, the fascinating scene, most appealing one, was there in front of my eyes. The water of it was so pure and clear, the feeling of pleasure was unimaginable, when I touched it. Unfortunately, due to my lack of swimming skills, I could not go near the falls. This is the place, that you ought not to miss, if you visit Goa.

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The optimal time to visit Goa is in october. Goan’s best attitude of live-and-let-live, is what I admired the most. The places which I will surely recommend are : the Basilica church, Anjuna Beach, The light house, Saraya and the Dudhsagar falls.

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Dwaraka & Somnath

After visiting Pasupathinath temple in Kathmandu and from the time wearing ‘Rudraksha’ which I bought it from shop outside Pasupathinath my spritual fevour has stepped to the next level. I boarded a bus from Ahmedabad and travelled over night to Dwaraka. As soon as I boarded the bus, there was a gentleman already sitting and had kept his bag on the seat where I had reserved, he seemed irritated when I went there to sit. He asked rudely where I am headed. When I answered “Dwaraka”, he sarcastically exclaimed “what will you do in Dwaraka, ha ha ha !!”. Though I was first offended, when he started a similar conversation to the person in front I felt better thinking I am not alone.

Dwarakadeesh. #dwaraka #gujarat #travel #live

A photo posted by The Pedestrian (@lepedestrian) on Jan 9, 2015 at 6:35pm PST

The Dwarakadeesh temple is inside the town. Hotels are two minutes away by walk, and they are nominally priced. There were small good shops who serve Dokla, Gaatiya, Samosa and few other Gujarati delicacies. I always stood there in those shops thinking what to buy, but ended up buying small portions of all the names I could grasp when they say me their menu orally.

A photo posted by The Pedestrian (@lepedestrian) on Jan 10, 2015 at 4:25am PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsDwarakadeesh temple is always busy with walking in, walking out and posing pilgirms. The fascinating palace like bygone architecture of the temple evince the presence of unknown and orenda in the land of Lord Krishna. Later in the afternoon I was was on my way to other places of interest. First I visited the Rukmane Temple, a temple on sea shore and Gopi talav, a small lake with historical importance – both temples has interesting stories. Later I visited Bet Dwaraka, which is an island 5 kms away from shore. There are over 150 ferries which are primary transportation to reach the island, usually overcrowded. The emerald green water and flock of sea gulls flying over the boat were moments of “Wow”.

Bet Dwaraka risky boat ride #dwaraka #gujarat #costal #travel

A photo posted by The Pedestrian (@lepedestrian) on Jan 10, 2015 at 3:04am PST

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On the way back from Bet Dwaraka, which is some 30 kms away from from Dwaraka I witnessed a best sunset of my life. The evanescence of the sun at the narrow stretch of road the divine fireball kissed the earth at the horizon.

Next morning I was already in road toward Somnath before sunrise which is 250 kms from Dwaraka. I had reached late afternoon, I had enough time to visit the temple and good time watching the sunset. I was little disappointed since I couldn’t continue the trip with Raan of Kutch and Gir National park but soon turned up in to my checklist of places to visit in Gujarat.

A photo posted by The Pedestrian (@lepedestrian) on Jan 11, 2015 at 4:49am PST

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Auroville, India

Auroville, near to pondicherry is a place to explore and experience culture, people and life as a whole. Unity and peace is the mantra here. Auroville itself is made of many settlements. I had packed my bags to Auorville for a weekend. I had already booked my guest house: Samarpan, is run by a wonderful Donata and Stephano with her very old mother. They came to Auroville 8 year back from Italy, who is more Indian than me; she said “I love the place, the people and their shit” pointing the beach where villagers come for defecating.

Samarpan guest house is just in the beach, with wooden cottages and studios. The cottages are facing the sea, witnessing everyday the divine sunrise which decorates the orange sky. I hired a scooter which is economical and convenient way to visit around. I was served with Idly, toast, pancake and fruits for breakfast.

view from cottage

I relaxed watching the sea with my Kindle.

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To visit Matir mandir next day, booking must be made at the Auroville information center after watching a video. It’s handy to have an Auro card which is like a debit card. A free pass can be got to visit the Matir Mandir viewing point.

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Savitri Bhavan, Solar Kitchen and Kala Kendra are few must visit places. You can make the most of the experience if you plan you trip according to Auroville’s events. There are many cafes and restaurants around, all these places are different in their own way. We can get fresh pizzas and I loved the yummy chocolate cake made of wheat and chocolate balls at “Farm Fresh”, which is few hundred feet away from Auroville Bakery.

Auroville is a place for architects. Building are unconventional, beautiful and eco friendly. I visited a project: houses built by volunteers just by scavenging. I saw some one made a stool with tetra packs. It is also possible for anyone to become a volunteer by applying through Auroville’s website. To get the story: talk to people, everyone there are very polite and good.

You might be tempted you live back if you are deep in your mind frustrated with living the mechanical life and living in the traffic.

Murudeshwara, Karnataka, India

My new found love for coastal Karnataka has brought me here to Murdeshwara, known for Lord Shiva temple at the sea shore. The Shiva statue and 18 floor temple tower brings all the popularity Murdeshwara has. I had come from Bangalore to Murdeshwara via Mangalore. All along the way there were scenic backwaters what seemed to me is like a river. It is absolute scenic stretch of Gangoli beach; on the left is bright blue sea that extends beyond horizon decorated with whitish sand and stone wall and on the right is beautiful backwaters. I had reached around 10:30 after the bus had departed from Mangalore at around 6:30. This day I was sweating uncontrollably, humidity in the air made me notoriously sultry. First thing was to search for a hotel, hotels here are overpriced for what it offers. There are small houses that host travellers. I neither found anyone hosting on couchsurfing nor hostels. Most hotels were reluctant in hosting lone travellers due to some unfortunate incident, identification proof was mandatory at all hotels. I stayed at Dhenu Atithya, hotel gave me a decent discount since I was travelling alone. They have a restaurant attached at first floor of hotel and interestingly they perform “gou pooja” every morning where the guests are also invited.

123 feet Shiva Statue
123 ft Shiva

Aerial view of beach
Aerial View of Beach

The temple’s eighteen floor tower’s top can be reached using elevator by paying meager rs.10–This is probably the most important view to be experienced, it provides an amazing aerial view of the Shiva statue, beach and the town. The beach becomes interesting place by early morning; fresh catch of crabs, indian mackerel, prawns come from boat of all sizes, getting into sea waters is not advisable; beach is crab infested. You can stroll across streets to find small hotels who serve fish but they are only few.

Plan for Murdeswara, can be done along with Nethraani Islands and Gokarna.

Murdeswara town

Temple

Himalayan Trek – Enroute To Yuksum

We reached New Jalpaiguri(NJP) after night long train journey, we arrived in Darjeeling express, which is perhaps the best train comparatively. NJP is the gateway to most treks in Sikkim. With the sight of many trekkers with backpacks and boots, spirit of adventure had already started seeping in. We had our breakfast at a restaurant called ‘Dadha Bhai’, While we just chose it for its name, it proved not bad.

As we started towards Yuksum in a TATA Sumo, our young driver Dillu impressed us in first meet. He also told a sweet lie that he doesn’t have Bollywood songs, and made us listen Nepali songs. We are glad he did it, now we know couple of Nepali songs and we enjoyed it.

Teesta river

Almost entire length from NJP to Yuksum, we had beautiful view of the Teesta river. The clear blue water and beige shores are sure to mesmerize anyone. We stopped for lunch at Jorethang. Our driver suggested us a restaurant, ‘Walk In’ and it was worth the try. Jorethang

After a 8 hour drive from New Jalpaiguri (Near Siliguri) to Yuksum at around 5 pm, It was already pitch dark. We had our rooms reserved at a small hotel called ‘Pemathang’, a warm lady who also owns the place welcomed and served us tea. Soon, as we realized shops and restaurant pull down their shutters around 7 pm, we hurried to finish our dinner. We walked across to the Yak restaurant. We met an wonderful lady ‘Karma’ , who apparently lives up to her name. Looking at the our enthusiasm, Karma knew what she had to serve us, the Chhang, a local made rice brew served hot, served in a bamboo mug and straw, filled with millet seeds. The best part of the drink is, we just had to refill the beer with hot water. After a long day of singing and cheering, all we wanted to do was to hit the sack.

New Jalpaguri