After visiting Mumbai, we flew to Goa. We had heard about it as a beach-oriented area for Westerners. Goa is about 600 km south of Mumbai. Goa is on the northwest corner of Karnataka, a few hundred km from Bangalore (now called Bengaluru). We thought that maybe Goa would be fun for Carol’s kids, Amy and Brody.
A Short History of Goa
Like Mumbai, Goa has a long history. The first historical reference to Goa dates back to the third century BCE, as a part of Ashoka’s Mauryan Empire. In the following centuries they were ruled by Hindu, then Jain, then Moslem rulers, until captured by the Portuguese in the early 1500s. Goa was originally settled, in part, by the Konkani people, who moved south when the Sarasvati River dried up, about 3000 years ago.
The city of Goa (now called “Old Goa”) was one of the world’s leading cities in the 1600s, comparable to Lisbon, Portugal. In fact, there was a Portuguese proverb, “He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon.” Travelers marveled at Goa Dourada, or Golden Goa. The success of Goa had brought on a population explosion, with many immigrants coming to Goa looking for opportunity and also many African slaves who were brought in to perform almost all the manual labor. Goa was devastated by disease in 1635. This was the start of its downfall. The other element was its struggles with the Dutch.
Other powers were hungry for Goa. The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Comnpagnie – V.O.C.), eager to break the Portuguese monopoly hold on spice imports, had some success in Indonesia and several ports in India where they set up spice factories. They were determined to conquer Goa, the center of the Portuguese efforts in Asia. Though ultimately unsuccessful in their efforts to capture Goa, they helped cause the downfall of Old Goa. In 1603 a Dutch (V.O.C.) fleet imposed a blockade on Goa for the first time. From 1636 to 1639 ships of the V.O.C. blocked the entrance to the port of Goa, determined to take the city. On January 4th 1638, the Dutch under Admiral Adam Westerwolt fought a naval battle against the Portuguese. The Dutch, temporarily focusing on other targets (namely the conquest of Batticaloa on Ceylon) ended the blockade when Portugal in 1640 rebelled against Spanish rule.
The 1636 – 1639 blockade by Dutch fleets, and 1635 epidemic brought about the downfall of Old Goa, and started the move to New Goa (now Panjim), capitol of the present-day state of Goa. This fall of Old Goa is still remembered in modern-day Goa.
When India became independent in 1947, Goa remained under Portuguese control. The Indian government demanded that Goa be ceded to them, but Portugal refused, and amended its constitution so that Goa became a province of Portugal. After a few years of skirmishes, on December 19, 1961, Indian troops crossed the border into Goa. Code named ‘Operation Vijay’, the move involved sustained land, sea, and air strikes for more than 36 hours; it resulted in the unconditional surrender of Portuguese forces. A United Nations resolution condemning the invasion was proposed by the United States and the United Kingdom in the United Nations Security Council, but it was vetoed by the USSR.
Under Indian rule, Goan voters went to the polls in a referendum and elected to become an autonomous, federally administered territory. The future of Goa was much debated. Some thought that Goa should be a part of the neighboring state of Maharastra. Some held that Goa had its own history and had been suppressed by the Portuguese for 450 years, and so deserved the chance to govern themselves. To resolve this dispute Indira Ghandi, then Prime Minister of India, decided to put the matter up for a vote in Goa. The 1967 ballot showed a choice of party symbols. The symbols of the two parties the people had to choose between were a Flower for the MG Party – for the Maharastra merger, and Two Leaves for the United Goans Party – for retaining Goa’s unique identity. Two Leaves – UGP – won a near unanimous victory, Goa was to finally have its own destiny. The MG party was able to delay statehood, but with their defeat in 1980 actual statehood was inevitable. Goa was finally admitted to Indian statehood in 1987.
Our visit to Goa
We stayed in Panjim (also called Panaji), the capitol city of Goa. We visited a ‘market day’ near Anjuna. We visited beaches at Candolim and Calangute. We also took a boat tour up the Mandovi River, which exits into the Arabian Ocean at Panjim. All of these are shown on the map below.
We stayed at the Palacio de Goa in Panjim. We thought that we would be able to walk around the city, and take cars out to the beaches. This turned out to be the case. We were also able to find a few good restaurants in Panjim.
Panjim did not seem like most of the Indian cities we had seen. Note that there are sidewalks and curbs. And no cows.
Going to Anjuna Market and Candolim
The next day we hired a car for the day. We were going to the market in Anjuna and the beach at Candolim. It was Rs 1000 to hire the car for the day for that distance.
As we drove over the long bridge that crosses the Mandovi River, we could see a fleet of fishing boats.
Some of the countryside seems familiar, rice fields and palm trees.
There seem to be a number of lakes and waterways.
We drove on small roads between the beach towns. There is a bigger road, but this route is nicer and more scenic.
When we got to the Anjuna market, there were many cars parked and people walking in. This market is only open one day a week, on Wednesday. So we wanted to make sure that we got there on that day.
Brightly colored clothes were offered by many vendors.
Many of the areas also had cloths mounted to provide shade. The cloths are of many colors, adding to the riot of color that surrounded us.
This is a spice booth, with bags of different Indian spices, peppers, etc.
Goan Trance Music is the specialty of the booth in the center of the photo.
Many vendors have jewelry spread out on cloths on the ground.
More cloth for sale, this a big green Siva.
This is a tribal lady. I also saw some women dressed similarly in a nearby village. I have tried to find out more about them, what tribe, etc. and was not able to. Perhaps one of our readers knows more about them.
Back on the road. Across the street is one of many hotels and resorts that dot the towns near the beaches.
Everywhere in the towns are parked swarms of motor bikes and scooters. We tried to see about renting motor scooters in Panjim, but were told Rs 400 per day each. We were also told the the Panjim police have stopped Westerners on two-wheelers, and asked to see their International Driving Licence. We are told that scooter rentals are cheaper and the police less a problem in the beach areas, but we did not check further. We saw many westerners riding motorbikes and scooters in the beach areas.
We finally got the the first beach, Candolim. It was a small bit out of a the nearby town. Ahead of us is the ocean, and many beach chairs and umbrellas.
The beach and chairs and people stretched out on both sides of us. We learned that these chairs were really set out by the beach ‘shack’ that was behind them, for use by the shack’s customers. You can sit in a chair under an umbrella, and the waiters will bring you food and beer all day (and I think, all night). Other vendors will try to sell you things. I think if you stop buying from the shack, at some point they will ask you to move on.
A number of open buildings lined the beach. These are the ‘shacks’, the main commercial element on these beaches, with food and drink during the days, and food, drink and music at night. Some have dance floors in front. This is one beach famous for all night raves and dancing to Goan Trance Music.
Above the chairs we saw a man hanging from a parachute, being pulled along by a boat in the ocean.
We sat in one of the shacks and had lunch, calamari cooked in butter and garlic, and breaded fried calamari. And beer, naturally. It was all very good.
A woman nearby was getting a leg and foot massage from a worker in the shack.
Two kids came by, dancing with a hoop and a drum. They were pretty good, and we gave them ten rupees. We thought that they were pretty special – until we saw a similar pair of children dancing in front of the next shack, too.
This is still India, so it did not surprise us to see a cow walking among the beach chairs.
Sunset in Panjim
We got back to Panjim before sunset, and walked out the the river, near where it exits into the Arabian Ocean. There were many ships moving in and out of this channel, some kind of freighter.
There were also ocean tour boats going out for an evening cruise. The first one shown here had music so loud that it bothered us, several hundred meters away. There are cruises every night. Tonight we saw three cruise boats.
Walking in Panjim to the Fontainhas Quarter
The next day, Carol’s kids took a car back to Candolim beach and Carol and I stayed in town. We wanted to walk around. Carol found a road up into the hill behind the city. Carol was looking for the Fontainhas Quarter. The guide book said it was the only interesting area in the city. Below we are looking out over the city to the river. We are somewhere, but certainly not the Fontainhas Quarter.
Many of the streets were lined with fully grown trees. The shade was great. We walked uphill a lot going west, then started walking downhill towards the east.
A stairway goes up to a house in the distance. I would not want to carry the week’s groceries up these stairs. Maybe there is another entrance in the back?
After you go up, you must come down. We found a nice set of stairs leading back down.
Looking over the red tile roofs. This is not a usual Indian city view, in our brief experience. It turns out that these are old Portuguese-style roofs.
The stairway led down into an older section of the city. I think this is the Fontainhas Quarter, a part of town that most retains the Portuguese flavor. Maybe we have found what we were looking for.
Below is an interesting flowerpot, painted in a colorful style, with Hindu gods on each side. This is in a part of town that seems primarily Christian. Here though, it seems that Hindu and Christian get kind of intermixed.
Looking back up the stairs. There is a small Christian shrine to the left.
A church is down this street. This does not look at all like India.
The other way are narrow streets, lined with European looking buildings. Not India here either.
A plaque with a painting of Mother Mary carrying the baby Jesus is on one house. Since it is India, a flower mala decorates the plaque.
The next day were we going to go to Calangute beach, the next beach past Candolim.
This beach was right next to the town, and the road to the beach was lined with shops selling everything that the tourist might need. We took a car again. This time it was rs 600, including several hours wait time for the driver. The price for a ‘drop’ would have been rs 400.
I guess some of what some of the tourists need is a new tattoo. Many fancy designs are available.
The beach stretches out on both sides of us. It is nearing sunset. We are going to enjoy the sunset and find a place on the beach to eat dinner.
Here is a likely looking spot, the Typsy Shack. I wonder what their specialty is?
It is Saturday night, and many people are at the beach, Westerners and Indians.
In front of the shacks, easy chairs are set out, so you can watch the ocean and sunset in comfort, and be served food and drinks. Carol and Amy ordered a couple of mixed drinks. They were not very good, and were very pricey. One was Rs 400. So watch out. I just stayed with beer, and was very happy.
The number two country for visitors here is Russia. This beach shack has its menu in Cyrillic lettering for the Russian speakers.
A number of parasails operated from this beach.
You can get strapped in here. Want to go for a ride?
This is a working beach, too. Local Indian women watch all the crazy tourists. It must be quite a show!
The men are getting the fishing nets ready for the next day.
Amy and Brody laugh it up by the beach. The water was nice, warm, but not so hot (like the Indian Ocean is near where we live in Tamil Nadu).
Brody and Richard chat while the sun goes down.
The parasails are still at it. A number of them are out past the surf line.
The sun is setting.
Jetskis skim across the water.
They are starting to bring in all the boats before it gets completely dark.
The parasailors keep at it, not wanting to lose a moment’s light.
Bringing in more boats and jetskis.
People stop and watch the last moments of the sun before it falls behind the horizon.
We make it back to the Typsy Shack, for dinner and a few beers.
We took the car back to the hotel, then departed for Mumbai the next day.
We had fun in Goa, and many people seem to love it. Goa, though, is not a place where we will go often. We prefer the quiet peace of Arunachala and the company of spiritual seekers who travel to the holy mountain.