Edit Blog Post
Published: February 25th 2008
At last! We had made it. To Goa.
So many times, between mouthfuls of spicy Goan fish curry from Pride of Indian in St. Maarten, we were transported to the Indian subcontinent, to Goa in particular, albeit in delicious thought. But, like we've learnt every minute of the adventure, time and space collapses and dreams become reality under the sheer will of intent and positive projections. Anyway, philosophizing aside, here we were, at Panaji's (aka Panjim's) bus station with high expectations and no place to stay. Relax Inn was little more than someone's home. We had found it by chance tucked away in an inconspicuous side street and we took one of the three fan-cooled rooms. Without missing a beat, we were out and about to see what our neighbourhood, Sao Tomé, had to offer.
If Sao Tomé sounds non-Indian, it's because it’s Portuguese meaning St. Thomas. The Portuguese landed in 1510 and dominated for the next 450 years. The architecture, a bunch of peeling pastel-coloured buildings, and even some major roads (like Avenida Dom Joao Castro and Dr. Alvaro Costa Road) have distinct Portuguese flavours and older Goans still conversed in Portuguese. The quiet, narrow streets made for delightful
strolling except, though, that the sun was murderous. After 30 hot minutes we arrived at the Maruti Temple - dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god. Inside, we met Harry who, after the temple walk-thru, offered to take us up behind the temple to the residential community of Altinhos. The most dominant structure in Altinhos was the residence of the Archbishop of Goa - a huge, startling white palace.
Sightseeing was good, you know. But pastel buildings, white palaces and pink-ish temples were not what had brought us to Goa. Eyeing the steaming bowls of original Goan fish curry in the waiter's hands, we fought back salivation
. But, alas, our expectations were too high. Don't get us wrong. The food wasn't bad but we had had better.
Mid-morning of another day found us in Old Goa. Once an economic powerhouse, Old Goa had shades of its prominent past. Its best legacies are five or six huge churches. The Sé de Santa Catarina sported a Portuguese-Gothic style, a Tuscan exterior and a Corinthian interior and is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. Exquisite carvings and murals adorned the interior and the altar of the stunning Convent and Church of St.
Francis of Assisi. The drawing card though was Basilica of Bom Jesus, famous in the Catholic world. Contained in its hallowed halls are the remains of St. Francis Xavier. Xavier was a 'do-gooder' who dedicated 10 years of his life to missionary work in Asia. When he died on December 3, 1552 on Sancian, a tiny island off the coast of China, a servant tossed a few sacks of quicklime into his tomb. The result was a well-preserved body when it was transported back to Goa a year later. People thought it was a miracle and some claimed to have been healed from varying maladies by touching the body when it was displayed. After years of investigation the Catholic Church 'saintified' Francis Xavier in 1622 but by that time holy-relic hunters had already set about dismembering the "incorrupt" body. An arm went, in sections, to Japan and Rome, a shoulder blade and internal organs are in various locations throughout Southeast Asia. The badly hacked-up corpse is now only displayed in its glass coffin once every ten years but a feast in the honour of Goa's patron saint is held annually on December 3.
In Old Goa we couldn't resist
another helping of fish curry but this one, too, was below par.
It was just before sunset when we made it to Miramar Beach, 3 km north of Panjim. Goa's international reputation is hinged on its supposedly spectacular palm-fringed beaches with names like Palolem and Arambol. But Miramar was closer and only 1 Rupee by public bus 😊 and besides (we've said it before) we don't go ape about beaches. There was no crystal-clear, turquoise waters rolling ashore but don't tell that to the hundreds of locals who flocked to the brownish surf. They didn't seem to care. The beach was a riot of color and laughter; one big family affair. Again we observed ladies wading in full dress, youngsters playing an innings of cricket, families picnicking and naked children streaking happily carefree along the broad brown strand. And then the sun dropped just above the horizon line of the Arabian Sea bathing everything in the rich, lively glow of a dying day. That same night, our last in Goa, we, rather fortuitously, ended up on the roof of a 7-storey building which housed a public observatory. There, young and very knowledgeable enthusiasts pointed out, with the aid of
a high-powered telescope, various heavenly bodies including open and closed star clusters, a comet, a few constellations and the big old moon. They stayed, explained and chatted with us well past the 9 pm closing time. It was our first time getting a close-up view on the moon and its innumerable bumps and depressions. A truly fascinating, learning experience and certainly a highpoint of our foray into Goa. We think we've become astronomy fans.
And thus it was for us; the highs and lows of Goa; of crushed expectations and brand new experiences. But we were just learning that that is how it is in India. That things are never quite what you'd expect them to be. Sometimes you get less than anticipated and sometimes you get a whole lot more
😊 The family at Relax Inn
😊 The astronomy club
Tot: 2.66s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 32; qc: 132; dbt: 0.0955s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.8mb