I am sitting in a rooftop terrace garden sipping coffee. The morning breeze cool, gentle. In a distance I can see the St. Sebastian Chapel amid the swaying palms trees. Strains of Alyssa Mendonsa’s soothing Khwabon Ke Parindey fill the air followed by an Enya track.
I’m sitting here drinking coffee just how I like it, listening to music I would’ve generally put on my ipod for, stretching out the knots in my neck and watching it all flown away by this gorgeous Goan morning. Coming to Goa wasn’t planned. Never was on ‘the list’ actually. But when I arrived from Kathmandu to leisurely spend 10 days in Mumbai, I hadn’t anticipated how expensive Mumbai is. Budget-wise 1 day in Mumbai was equal to 5 days in the rest of India! So after 3 nights, I hastily made my way out of the there. Goa only an 1 hour away by flight was expensive as well. Getting off and trying to find accommodation added up. The airport is a good 45-minutes away from most places. Goa (which also is a state on its own – I didn’t know) can be generally divided into 2 areas; North and South Goa and with many small towns along the coast with their own little charms so it can be a difficult to pick up one if you just rock up like me! It was well into the evening when I found this charming little guesthouse. With all that slept off and digging into this delicious crispy Portuguese bread with cheese, butter and honey, it seems like Goa was a good bet.
I am not alone on the terrace having breakfast but 3 other women as well. All of us traveling solo. A German b’n’b owner from France, a Greek retired lady from Canada and an English, English teacher from Scotland. See how small the world became in 2 minutes? 🙂 Chairs were dragged to a common table, stories were swapped, laughs went around in the intimate way only when women get together! But things came to standstill when I revealed I was from Fiji. Almost spluttering her coffee, the Greek woman exclaimed, “Fijiiiiiii??? What are you doing here?”
Till I had come to Goa, I had the same sentiments. Why bother going to Goa when I live in Fiji? Hands down we have better beaches. And that’s precisely the reason, Goa was never on the list. However as I would discover in the coming days, Goa is just not about beaches.
And here are 5 reasons why a Fijian traveler should never bypass Goa!
The Latin Quarter of Panaji
Bairro das Fontainhas or simply Fontainhas is a piece of Europe in India. Once ruled by the Portuguese, Goa still retains its latin heritage. The winding streets, mediterranean architecture and the diluted strains of Portuguese accent makes Fontainhas a pleasure to plotter around and peep into the Goan lifestyle.
Goa compared to the rest of India is much cleaner with better sanitary hygiene.
The Indian travel expression ‘all templed-out’ does not apply in Goa. You’re more likely to be all ‘churched-out’! A 30 minute Rs.10 local bus ride from Panaji bus station takes you to Old Goa where time still sighs about the old days.
Beautiful churches, museums and cobbled streets speak in hushed whispers telling stories way back to the 18th century.
The Goan Food
Yess…I know we have some good seafood (by the way, it’s nitali (whitebait) season in Fiji and I’m quite overdosed on it!) but Goan cuisine is pretty awesome. With Portuguese flavors overlapping Indian style dishes, I pretty much planned my days around a good curry and couple of Kingfishers (new favorite brew!)
Of-course we do some pretty mean fried-fish in Fiji but rawa-coated (semolina) fish brings it to a new level! Suruj is adamant to try it the next time she fries fish. (Yeah, I get my competitive streak from her)
Goan History & Art Culture
I happened to be in Goa when the #GoaPhoto exhibition was on and I was mind-blown! While it also featured international work, it introduced me to some stunning local photographers.
Boutique art galleries are scattered all over Goa especially in Panjim. Also a well maintained fort, Reis Magos (not connected by public transport) in Bardez overlooking the Mandovi river has some old exhibits in the lower chambers.
In Panajim CBD tucked right adjacent to the Immaculate Conception Church is a TOI bookshop. Hours can be spent inhaling the smell of fresh print in the little gem of a place!
Still in India Though!
Writing this post almost made me forget that I was still writing about India! And while it’s easy to forget you are in India when in Goa, you can’t completely escape it. After Cambodia, some 5 weeks later traveling from Rangoon to Kathmandu, I had pulled up a pair of shorts for the first time, so Goa is quite liberal.
Most conversations even with bus conductors are in English so Goa is really travel friendly but if you still want something desi, there’s always a nimbo-pani cart around the corner!
….and the beaches?
Nope. Definitely not as good as the ones in Fiji!