A visit to Old Goa

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December 17th 2009
Published: December 17th 2009
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The gardeners
Yesterday was a day without yoga practice, so as I had planned I decided to visit Old Goa. This was "the big city" when the Portuguese were here and Old Goa is known for its churches, cathedrals, convents, etc. So after breakfast, I took the bus to Panjim first, and then to Old Goa.

Taking the bus... Well, for people who have never been in India, maybe I should mention a few things. Buses are very frequent here, not expansive, but also not so comfortable. Well, they get VERY crowded and the drivers can be a bit...hum...crazy. Usually there is a driver and then a "manager". I don't really know how they are called but these guys work their bums off... They can say the destination of the bus at a rate of probably 3 times per second (try to say "Old Goa" 180 times per minutes...), trying to get as many people as possible in the bus. And they get possesive... They can almost get into a fight over one passenger between two buses going the same way... Then they have to go in the bus and make their way between all the standing and sitting passengers to collect the money. And they also use a whistle to tell the driver to stop or go, depending on when the passengers want to get on or off the bus. As a passenger, you can get on pretty well anywhere, you just wave at the bus when it comes near you. When you want to get off, you can tell the "manager", or they also stop at certain designated places. Or you can just tap loudly on the side of the bus and it will stop.

So, I took the bus, to Panjim. Then I went to the train ticket booking counter, to book my tickets for my trip south in January. The clerk could not believe I didn't have a cell phone... Then I was trying to find the bus to Old Goa. I must have been looking like a lost tourist, so right away someone came and asked me where I wanted to go. He directed me to the area where the Old Goa buses were leaving from, and soon one of the "bus managers" recruted me for his bus. I was on my way.

I arrived in Old Goa half an hour later. Waw. I have rarely seen a quiet place like this in India. It's like nobody lives there. I visited many of the cathedrals and churches and it was actually quite nice. Many well kept gardens, maintained "manually" by a lot of local men and women (see picture...), I walked around this really green city. It was also nice just to be away from the beaches full of tourists, and to be doing something different. But after 2-3 hours, I was getting close to having a church overdose, so I took the bus back to Panjim.

I love Panjim. It is the capital of Goa, and very quiet too although much busier than Old Goa. I walked around, looked for a restaurant that seemed "safe" and ended up in a real indian cafe. I was looking at the menu when a guy came and said "hi"! I looked: it was a man I met in Candolim, an Indian from Delhi who tries to sell me jewellery every time I see him. I thought how strange it was that in a big city, I end up bumping into someone I "know"... Well, this time he didn't have his jewellery with him so he left shortly after.

Then a woman asked me if she could sit with me. Of course. So I ate a masala dosa and she ordered chai, and we talked. She was born in Mozambique, from Goan parents but now lives in Portugal. She didn't speak great English but we managed to understand each other. We has a good chat, and when I left, I paid for her tea. She was so touched that I did that (even though she obviously could afford it!), that she thanked me, kissed me, hugged me, and wouldn't quit saying good bye, thank you, etc. She gave me her address in Lisbon and told me at what time I should call her if I go there one day, and I can stay with her and she will never forget me!!! Waw, all this for a simple chai! I couldn't believe it. But this is the joy of travelling. Meeting people, seeing new things, when you travel alone, you are rarely alone for long.

After lunch I enjoyed a nice walk in the city. I went to the local market (of course, I can't help it, I love markets...) and it was fabulous. The market in Panjim is covered, and it's huge. And the best part is, it has a second floor, so I could go upstairs and take pictures from there without people noticing too much... It is so colorful, so pleasant, and it smells great too, I walked around and around, just for my eyes' and nose's pleasure! Locals were also very friendly, and I had a real hard time leaving.

But eventually I had to go back home, after I took a few pictures of the streets of Panjim that look like a version of Europe, I took the next bus to Candolim. The "manager: of that bus must have been after a promotion, pushing people into the bus and saying all kinds of things that of course, I didn't undertstand. It was super hot, and it took a while before we got going. I was standing in the bus, but a nice young Indian offered me his seat. It was a very much appreciated because once we left Panjim, we got stuck into some kind of traffic jam. I heard two different versions today about why we were stuck: some said a strike, others said a government official was visiting Goa....

Nevertheless, I was so happy with my day, and enjoying the Bollywood music in the bus so much, that it took me a good 10 minutes to realize we were stopped. By then I was sweating like crazy, our bus being so full and with no air moving in and out of the window (except for some smoke coming form the nearby burning pile of garbage....), but eventually we got going again and an hour later I was in Candolim, with a huge smile in my face.

I finished the day by jumping in the ocean to get refreshed and had a wonderful supper of home-made palak-paneer variation.

That was, I think, a perfect day.

Additional photos below
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Potuguese houses in Panjim

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