Tuesday, 29 September 2015
30 Things to See Do Eat Buy in Goa India JK1251
I recently visited Goa with AirAsia. It was a fascinating trip as I saw many parts of this smallest state of India with a unique history - Goa was ruled by the Portuguese until 1961. Travel helps us understand ourselves better. Some of my friends in Malaysia and Singapore have their roots in Goa.
Here are 30 things I experienced in Goa during my 5 day visit. I am sure there are many other things we could see, do and eat, if we visit Goa again :-D
Visit Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Goa - originally a humble chapel in 1540, before the present grand church was built over it in 1619. This was the first stop of Portuguese sailors when they arrived in Goa from their arduous sea voyage, to give thanks for safe landing. The church still conducts mass everyday in English, Konkani and Portunguese. Konkani is the Goan language. Address - Emilio Garcia Road, Panaji.
Visit Aguada Fort. Goa has 8 old forts - Aguada is the largest. Built in 1613 by the Portuguese, the fort guards the mouth of the Mandovi River. The name Aguada came from the Portuguese word for water as the fort has an underground reservoir holding over 2 million gallons of spring water. The lighthouse in the fort was the beacon for Portuguese ships. Aguada Fort was never breached, so it is well preserved. Once defended by 79 cannons, though none remained here today.
Visit Reis Magos Fort. Built in 1543 by Alfonso de Albuquerque to protect Old Goa (the old capital before Panaji). Reis Magos sits high at the narrowest point inland from the mouth of the Mandovi River (guarded by Aguada Fort). Home to a battery of 33 cannons, some of these ancient weaponry are still here at the fort today.
Visit Fort Tiracol. Built by Maharaja Khem Sawant Bhonsle in the 17th century to guard the entrance to the Terekhol River, it fell to the Portuguese in 1746. Sitting right at the edge of Goa's northern border, Fort Tiracol was the base of several rebellions against the Portuguese. We can see the Arabian Sea and the white sands of popular Querim Beach from the fort. Today, Saint Anthony Church sits in it's courtyard and an exclusive boutique hotel occupy it's ancient rooms.
Visit the Viceroy Gate in Old Goa. There is an old saying that, "If you have been to Old Goa, there is not need to visit Lisbon". Erected in 1597 by Vasco da Gama's grandson Francisco who was then Viceroy of Goa. Visitors to Old Goa who arrived along the Mandovi River, entered the great city through this arch. This road known as Rua Direita ("the Right Path") used to be lined with grand buildings and thronged by traders from Arabia, Africa and China. Just steps away up this road is the grand Saint Cajetan Church (on the left).
Visit Saint Cajetan Church in Old Goa. Saint Cajetan built in 1661 is the only domed church in Goa and was modelled after the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome.
Visit the Adil Shah Palace Gateway in Old Goa. This gate is the only remnant left of the palace of Yusuf Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur which fell to the Portuguese in 1510. This gate is at the same location as Saint Cajetan Church which was built on the grounds of Adil Shah's palace.
Visit Se Cathedral. Built in 1619, this is the largest church in Goa. One of the two bell towers collapsed in 1776 due to lightning strike and was never rebuilt. The remaining tower houses a "Golden Bell" known for it's rich tone. Mass is still conducted here.
Visit Basilica of Bom Jesus. Also located in Old Goa, the church was built in 1605. A UNESCO World Heritage Monument. Looking at the number of people attending mass, Basilica of Bom Jesus is still a thriving church today.
Visit the Relics of St. Francis Xavier. The ornate silver casket containing the body of St. Francis Xavier is inside Basilica of Bom Jesus. St. Francis Xavier led extensive missions into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He died of fever in 1552 in Shangchuan Island 上川岛 (west of Macau) during a mission in China.
Visit the Ruins of the Church of St Augustine in Old Goa. Built in 1602 by Augustinian friars, the grand church was Goa's largest but was abandoned in 1835. Only part of the 150 feet high laterite tower remained as a reminder of it's past glory. The rest of the church were crumbled remnants fighting back the invasion of creepers and weeds.
What happened to Old Goa that led to it's devastating decline? Old Goa was hit by epidemics, wiping out half it's people in the years between the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The death knells were probably the silting of the Mandovi River, so ships could no longer berth at the wharf at Old Goa.
The final blow came in 1759 when Viceroy Conde do Alvor, ordered the shift of the capital city from Old Goa to Panaji. To build the new capital, most of the buildings in Old Goa were pulled down for building material to build Panaji. Only selected churches were spared. Church of St Augustine was not one of them. The tower’s huge bell was moved in 1871 to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Panaji, literally sounding it's final death knell.
Visit Safa Masjid in Ponda, Goa. Safa Shahouri Masjid built in 1560 by Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shan of Bijapur is the biggest and most famous of mosques in Ponda. The Ponda region did not fall to the Portuguese until 1791.
Visit Shree Shantadurga Temple in Kavalem, Ponda. This Hindu temple is dedicated to Shantadurga, the Goddess of Peace - this temple has an unusual pagoda-like structure with a dome at the top. The Portuguese destroyed the original Shree Shantadurga temple in 1564 during the Goa Inquisition. The deity was taken away to safety in Kavalem where it was hidden until this temple was built in 1738. This is the largest and most important Hindu temple in Goa.
Take a walk in Fontainhas in Panaji - the old Latin Quarter of Panaji. Walk among the well preserved old Portuguese homes with balconies and verandas in yellow, brown and blue tones. Scottish historian William Dalrymple described the Fontainhas as a "small chunk of Portugal washed up on the shores of the Indian Ocean" - which is quite apt.
Visit "Ancestral Goa". At Ancestral Goa, the everyday life of Goans are literally casted in stone for posterity (hopefully). Everyday scenes like this traditional Goan fisherman are captured in painted statues made of cement. These scenes are disappearing slowly.
Ah.... now I think I know where our beloved kacang putih man came from. (This trade has disappeared from Singapore and Malaysia.)
See the world's largest laterite sculpture. Laterite is a hard reddish brown mineral commonly found in Goa. It's used by the Portuguese to build forts and churches, and is still used today to make houses from humble village homes to mansions. Maendra Alvares chiseled this "Sant Mirabai" out of a 14m by 5m block of laterite. This sculpture is at the grounds of Ancestral Goa.
Visit Casa Araujo Alvares. The entire large 250+ year old home of Alonso Alvares (Maendra Alvares's forefather) is an artefact. A visit offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of a wealthy Goan family. The mansion has many rooms - worshipping room, children's room, master bedroom, meditation room, kitchen, dining room, bathrooms etc. Plenty of antique furniture. The house and furniture are all in good condition.
Visit Goa Chitra Museum. A large, somewhat eclectic collection of Goa's traditional farming tools and lifestyle artefacts like carts. Founded in 2010 by the artist-curator-restorer Victor-Hugo Gomes, Goa Chitra Museum preserves the Goan heritage which are otherwise consigned to the scrapyard or sold overseas as curios.
Visit a spice plantation. If you have not seen spice plants like chili, basil, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla etc before, a guided tour at a spice plantation would be interesting. Spices were what brought the Portuguese to Goa.
Ride a Bajaj auto rickshaw. Nippy three-wheeler found everywhere, go anywhere in Panaji. Ultimate test of your bargaining skills or (better) have a local friend ride with you.
Stay at a beach front resort. Goa is famous for it's beaches facing the Arabian Sea. The tiny state has the longest stretch of white sand in the whole of India. Goa's beach front resorts have beaches that are just a short walk from our rooms. Many have water sports facilities like water scooters and para sailing. Calangute Beach is known as the "Queen of Beaches" as it is the most popular with tourists visiting Goa.
Watch traditional fishermen catch fish with nets. This centuries old method of fishing involves most of the able bodied men of the village. Do try to catch one of these sights as they may not be around for much longer. The catches have been meagre these days, so this way of fishing is no longer sustainable. (This was at Dona Sylvia Beach Resort at Cavelossim Beach <- click.)
Get a henna. But, make sure that it's the temporary kind, using herbal dyes and there is no pricking/ breaking of the skin (to avoid risk of infection and long term scarring).
Eat this Goan fried fish. Marinated with masala and other spices, then battered with a mix of rava (semolina) and rice flour. The rava flour gives the fried fish a gritty crisp outside while the juicy well marinated fish remains moist and tender inside. Kingfish (a barracuda) is usually used in Goa for this dish.
Taste Goan fish curry. Maybe this might taste familiar if you are from Malaysia or Singapore. The curry spices and chili peppers are balanced with lots of coconut milk and tamarind which gives the gravy a more sophisticated blend of flavours.
Get a taste of bebinca. A traditional Goan sweet dessert made with flour, sugar, ghee, egg and coconut milk. It reminds me of Indonesian kueh lapis but the piece I tried was firmer and less eggy. Often eaten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Eat some Goan cashew. Cashew was brought to Goa from Brazil by the Portuguese in 1570. The nut itself tasted the same as those from other places. There might be some unique local flavours used to roast or fry the nuts but I didn't find any during my short trip. You may have better luck :-D
Try some Feni. A locally brewed vodka made with cashew apple pulp. Strong heady stuff - at least 47% alcohol. Very popular here and is Goa's signature drink.
Try some Goan port. Naturally, with 500 years of Portuguese rule, port is a common locally brewed drink in Goa too.
Try a paan. Not unique to Goa but since you are in India, why not. It's like chewing a gum of sweet perfume. Try it and you will see why it is addictive :-D
This is an old video of Goa in 1953 while still under Portuguese rule. Some of the places and activities back in 1953 have not change that much and can still be seen in Goa today.
Recommended for you:
My first day in Goa <- click
The ancient forts of Goa <- click
Traditional fishermen of Goa <- click
Now, getting to Goa from Kuala Lumpur is easy and affordable, thanks to AirAsia.
Aireen Omar, CEO & Executive Director of AirAsia (left) and Dilip Parulekar, Tourism Minister of Goa (right) led the launch celebration on 4 Sep 2015 of Goa - Kuala Lumpur direct flights.
AirAsia AK 96 departs Kuala Lumpur KLIA2 for Goa at 8:30pm every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
AirAsia AK 97 departs Goa for KLIA2 at 10:55pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Acknowledgement: My heartfelt thanks to Goa Department of Tourism and AirAsia for their generous hospitality.
Dates visited: 3 - 9 Sep 2015
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