Calangute is just 16 kilometers from Panjim and is especially popular with foreigners and those with heavy moneybags who wish to indulge in water sports, luxurious living or just plain basking in the sun. Most 5-star hotel properties are located on these shores with their own stretch of beach and they rent out water scooters, water skis and motorboats to pamper you with and you can indulge in parasailing, water skiing and wind surfing.
Calangute beach comes alive during Christmas and New Year's Eve and it's just impossible to get accommodation unless you book much ahead in advance or are 'somebody'. It's the time of the year when people wish to get away from the bustling metros and land at Calangute to 'freak out'. And naturally, the room tariffs and just about everything else is frightfully expensive. Away from the shores of the beach, one can find less expensive accommodation in various resorts, hotels, apartments, cottages, but when we say 'less expensive' it's still beyond the middleclass and common man. "It's only 2000 bucks a day," someone will say. That's quite a lot, for one day, isn't it?
For the common man and the tourist on a tight budget, the best you can do is 'drop by', walk on the fine white sand, do what they are doing in the picture alongside and have as much fun as you can in your own way.
This beach you'll like. It even has a hillock from where you can look down upon the blue waters of the sea. It's less crowded than Calangute and can be the ideal picnic spot if you wish to go on an outing with friends or family.
Our last halt is the Fort Aguada. It is actually a Fort, but now converted into a prison. So, no one is allowed inside. From this point one gets a panoramic view of the Dona Paula Bay and the westernmost tip which houses the Governor's residence known as Cabo Raj Bhavan.
The guide and the bus driver are kind enough to drop us off at the Panjim Gymkhana (where we are scheduled to witness the Deep Purple concert). We tip the guide and driver well and they are happy. They deserve a tip, something most tend to overlook. We are already very tired, what with the weather having taken its toll on us. "Sweating like a pig' isn't an understatement. Throughout the day, we must have guzzled gallons of mineral water and no matter how chilled the water was, one always wanted more.
Interestingly, after the Deep Purple concert we looked around for an auto rickshaw to take us back to the hotel. We couldn't find one. It took us some walking before we did and were happy to be back at our hotel. A good bath, lots of chilled beer and delicious prawn masala, squid and rice brought curtains to a rather exciting and hectic day.
South Goa Tour
On Day Two Of our short Goa trip, we are up pretty early. It's the day we check out and take the evening train to Bangalore. At 9.30 in the morning, the weather is pretty much the same as on Day One, when we reached the tourist office to board the bus for the South Goa Tour. This bus is different from the one on the previous day, though its condition isn't. Our guide on this occasion is a lady - a local - pretty evident from her Goan accent. She makes it known to all that this is going to be a special kind of tour. There will be halts at two more beaches, (no tour in Goa seems complete without dropping by at one of its many beaches), but the vital element of this tour would be visits to some fabulous churches and their architecture.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
We depart on time and the bus moves from Panjim town, along the banks of Goa's famous landmark, the Mandovi River to Old Goa. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the famous 16th century church that is dedicated to Jesus. 'Bom Jesus' means "Good Jesus' or 'Infant Jesus' the guide tells us. As we alight, the majestic fašade of the church built in laterite stone looms large in the bright morning sun. The architectural beauty, grandeur and the simplicity of the interiors holds one spellbound. In fact, as scores of alight from tourist buses and wind their way inside the chapel, there's a sense of quiet and even the slightest of whispers can disturb the silence. Inside, there are inscriptions on metallic plates in Latin and Portuguese, that tell the story of the building of this church which commenced in 1594 and completed in 1605.
The Remains of Saint Francis Xavier
The other important reason why the church is so frequented by tourists is because it contains the tomb and mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. A former pupil of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Francis Xavier made missionary voyages to the east. On one such voyage, he left Lisbon in 1541 and landed in Goa in 1542, with the main idea of spreading Christianity amongst the Portuguese colonies. St. Francis Xavier died in Sancian, near China in 1522 and was buried in that lonely island. Months later, his successors had the body and found Four was still fresh and had it was sent to Goa in 1554. Initially, it was first kept in St. Paul's college and after 69 years transferred to the Professed House in 1613. After the Saint's canonisation the body was removed to the Basilica of Bom Jesus and now contained in a silver-plated casket and the body is exposed to public view once every 10 years on the anniversary of St. Francis' death.
The last exposition was on the 23rd of November 1994 to 13th January 1995, for 51 days. However, over the centuries due to various mutilations the body is not whole. Its said that a Portuguese woman desperately in need of a relic of the Saint, bit off a toe in 1554 and in 1615, a part of the Saint's right hand was amputated and sent to the Jesuit Church of Gesu in Rome, where it kept in a silver reliquary.
The feast of St. Francis Xavier is held each year on the day of his death - 3rd December. Hundreds and thousands of faithful devotees turn up for this festival and a special mass is held at the Basilica.
Adjacent to the Basilica of Bom Jesus, on the other side of the road is the Se Cathedral, built in the classic architectural style of the Tuscan order of Italy. According to history, the Portuguese Viceroy, Alfonso de Albuquerque first captured South Goa in the year 1510 and this cathedral was built in memory of St. Catherine, who was martyred in the 4th century. Construction of this church, by far considered as the biggest church in Goa, commenced in 1562 and completed after 90 years, in 1652. The chapel of the Cross of Miracles is where a vision of Jesus appeared on the cross on the 23rd of February 1619 and this cross is reported to have miraculous healing properties. Inside the cathedral hangs a huge bell called the Golden Bell and it usually rings at 5.30 in the morning, at noon and 6.30 or 7 in the evening, depending on when the sun sets.