|Shri Manguesh Temple|
It's not yet mid-day and its really hot. Thankfully, the 35-minute drive to Shri Manguesh Temple is pleasant as we pass through some greenery away from city traffic and humidity. The gentle breeze that blows in through the windows of the bus is rather welcome as we enter Ponda district.
The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is perched on a tiny hillock and has an interesting legend behind it. Once, Lord Shiva and his wife Parvathi were playing a game of dice and Parvathi lost. She was depressed and wandered off into the forest. As she wandered and wandered, she reached Goa. Shiva went in search of her disguised as a lion. When Parvathi noticed the lurking figure of the lion in the forest and not knowing it was Shiva, she was afraid. She prayed in Sanskrit which meant "Oh Lord of the Forest, protect me". The locals didn't understand Sanskrit and Parvathi's words sounded like "Man-Guesh". That's how the temple got its name and which was built in 1567.
Two notable things about this temple - one is that the surroundings are pretty green; and secondly, the road leading to the temple is very narrow. All it needs is one clumsy car or bus driver to park their vehicle in a haphazard manner and you have a major traffic jam on hand.
Legend of the Big Foot
Once again, we are on the road and headed for Loutlim to recapture the wonders of traditional Goa. It takes us about 40 minutes to get to this spot which is a first of its kind. It's a mock-up village depicting typical Goan life, culture and traditions that existed hundreds of years ago. The concept is amazing and for those who thought that Goa was only about beaches, the open air "Ancestral Goa Museum" is a revelation indeed.
Set on a sloping hillock and spread across 9 acres of greenery, the entire area is a unique and pictorial rendition of scenes from rural Goa through life-size structures and colourful statues depicting actual village situations, dress and lifestyle. The spice of a land's heritage, her culture and traditions, dress code and lifestyles are all there for us to see in one place.
The Legend of the Big Foot is all about a wealth man, generous and kind to all and who lost his entire fortune to who pretended to be poor and gradually robbed him of everything. Yet, the man sought no revenge and when God appeared, he sought no harm for the man who cheated. All he asked of God was a small place where he could stand and pray for mankind. God showed him a rock and here the man stood upon one leg for many years. Finally, pleased with the devotion, God granted him his wishes and took him to Heaven. The footprint remained on the rock and legend has it that anyone who passed by and pure of heart, would be blessed in he stepped on the footprint.
The National Landmark is of course the huge stone carving of Saint Mirabai, created by Maendra Jocelino Alvares an award-winning sculptor. It measures 14 x 5 metres - supposedly the longest laterite sculpture in Asia and finds a mention in the Limca Book of Records' - was chiseled in a record time of 30 days. In fact, much what you find at the Ancestral Goa museum has been designed and created by Alvares. He did this to preserve for posterity's sake, the fast fading culture and heritage of Goa. And his efforts have not gone recognized. The site is certified by the Government of India and the State Government of Goa as an educative and innovative tourist spot and is visited by over 350 tourists each day.
|Lunch and Colva Beach
Moving on from the heritage site, we head for Colva beach 6 kilometres from Margao, where we will halt for lunch and then see the beach, which is supposed to be one of Goa's better beaches. That is, if you've already crowned Calangute Beach as 'Numero Uno'.
We reach Colava beach around 1.15 in the afternoon and head straight for lunch at the beachside restaurant. It's fish curry and rice as usual, downed by litres of chilled mineral water. The temperature has soared, but thankfully the sea breeze provides relief. Bang opposite the place where we had lunch is the beach and to our surprise, considering that it's so hot out there, hundreds of people are having a ball under the stretch of palms along the seashore. Groups of people, families, children playing in the sand under the shade of palms, bed sheets spread on the sand, eating, drinking and indulging in playful laughter - typical of the Goan way of life. Be Happy! Be Merry!
The die-hards - and believe us, there were many - defy the hot sand by running across it barefoot and plunge into the blue waters at the beachfront for a very welcome dip. The beach is full of life even in the afternoon under the blazing sun. Cars, Bikes, Buses are all around and of course, lots of people. Was it some sort of festival? No, none at all! It's just another routine day (and not even a Sunday at that) when the people decide to have some fun at the beach.
It's sad, but true. While everyone is having fun, they seem to forget one basic aspect 'Don't Litter! Keep the Place Clean! ' It's a mess out there with garbage strewn all around. And all that talk of environment consciousness? Who listens? Who cares?
Lunch takes its toll. The guide tells us that our next halt is the Mormugao harbour and that's a clear 30-minute drive. Gives enough time for shut-eye. That's easier said than done. The short bus journey is pretty picturesque and you're left wondering what to do - doze or watch the scenery. Soon enough, we are winding our way through Vasco town and drive uphill and the bus stops at a vantage point. From this hillock, we look down at the majestic blue waters and far ahead in the horizon is the Arabian Sea. To our right is the famed Mormugao Harbour, a popular landmark of Goa and one of hectic maritime activity. A ship was at the docks and being loaded with Manganese Ore. Other ships were in waiting and soon they too will line up, to load or unload cargo.
By 4.30 in the evening, as the bus gets ready to move on to its last halt of the tour - Dona Paula Bay - we have to get off at Vasco. Our train for Bangalore departs from the Railway Station here and it would be meaningless to go all the way back to Panjim and again return to Vasco. Yes, we'll miss the Dona Paula beach visit, which we are told is rather a picturesque spot and offers a beautiful view of the Zuari River.
The guide tells us that the Dona Paula bay forms at the point where the two famed rivers - the Mandovi and the Zuari meet the Arabian Sea. The beach is popular amongst water sports lovers and considered to be an ideal place to relax.
Goodbye Goa! We'll Be Back Soon...Yes! 'That's for sure,' we say to ourselves as we prepare to 'kill' close to 4 hours in Vasco town. We walk around the roads near to the Railway Station, having deposited our luggage at the Railway Station Cloak Room. We find an Internet parlour and check our email, find a quiet park and sit on the bench, reading and eating popcorn. We reminiscence on our trip of the last 2 days and conclude that it'd be worth re-visiting Goa and this time, during the season or during the monsoon months. Look at Goa from a different perspective.
At about 8 pm, we find this small hotel and have some dinner packed for eating on the train during our journey back. This time it's vegetarian fare - vegetable fried rice and curd. Not that we've had enough sea food in the last 2 days, but just because it's not the same thing - eating fish curry rice in a restaurant is much more enjoyable than eating this on the train.
The train doesn't leave at 8.30 as scheduled. It departs 20 minutes late. And next morning, we reach Bangalore 45 minutes late. No harm done.
Nice to be back!
|The Panjim Inn|
In the heart of the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa's capital lie two havens of the old world elegance and charm - The Panjim Inn and The Panjim Pousada. Surrounded by quiet by-lanes, aristocratic houses and old portals of a grand, bygone era.
The original building that houses The Panjim Inn goes back over a 100 years in local history and is still owned by the same Goan family. It is Goa's first heritage hotel. The Panjim Posada is almost as old but has the unique distinction of being one of the Hindu houses in a predominantly Catholic locality. Both mansions have been renovated with care to retain their distinctive character and nostalgic old world charm and elegance.
The Panjim Inn has 14 well-furnished rooms and The Panjim Pousada has 9 rooms. All modern amenities including air conditioning have been provided. Each room retains its distinctive individuality with artistically caved 4 poster beds, almirahs and delicate antique furniture that blends with the aesthetic décor. Typical verandahs and balconies provide ample space for guests, to relax in an ambience which is peaceful and far from the maddening crowds and traffic of Panjim town.
The verandah overlooking the hotel entrance is in fact a restaurant serving authentic Goan cuisine. We had delicious Calamari Chilli Fry (Squid), Fish Curry and Rice one night and the next night we feasted on Chicken Chilli, Prawn Masala and Rice. It's a pity, we didn't get to have lunch at the Panjim Inn, for one would have loved to try the Crab Masala made in typical Goan style.
Many streets in Old Goa town still have the street names written in Portuguese. The corner of the street where Panjim Inn is located is called "Rua 31 De Janeiro" and translated it means "The 31st of January".
If you like peace and quiet then stay at The Panjim Inn. It's good and reasonable. The staff is polite, service is good and you'll be welcomed. Food, as we said earlier, is excellent. However, two things you won't find in the rooms - a telephone and Television. We liked the idea of not being disturbed by these two contraptions
E-212, 31st January Road, Fontainhas, Panaji, Goa, India
Phone: 226523, 435628, and 228136.