India? Or Portugal?

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
Aphonso Guest House

Flag of India  , Goa,
Monday, May 10, 2010

Posted by Genevieve

We woke up in the early hours on our sleeper bus to a foreign sight - open spaces and trees.  We were three hours behind in our travel time, but the scenery made up for it.  As we passed from Maharashtra state into Goa, the landscape became increasingly greener, despite the dry weather, and high rises were replaced with brightly coloured adobe houses.  The roaming chickens and cows certainly seemed to fit in better here than on the sidewalks of Mumbai.

Arriving in Panjim (or Panaji), the capital of the state, it was difficult to get an impression of the place from the bus station.  But once we were in a cab, lazily crawling through the town centre, it became clear that this was going to be a very different experience than Mumbai.  The town is small, peacefully quiet (by Indian standards), and colourful.  Slightly inland from the more popular beach towns, most of the buildings snake alongside the river and inlet that made it an important strategic point historically.  The Portuguese influence is abundantly clear, in the architecture, the food, the religion, and the faces of the people.  We have heard many people speaking Portuguese, a reminder that the colonial government did not vacate completely until 1961.

Arriving at Aphonso Guest House we were warned that the power was out as the town was doing repair work in preparation for the coming monsoon season.  However, our room was on a battery, so the fan was working.  That was all we needed at the time. Our proprietress apologized profusely for the inability to provide hot water - we haven't figured out yet why they think we would want hot water, but some things shall remain a mystery.  (If anything, we have been disappointed by how warm the water generally is). 

We found a sweaty little hole-in-the-wall for lunch (no fans, no refrigeration, all due to the power outage - but fresh, hot food thanks to the modern conveniences of wood burning stoves!) and, dripping, made our way back to our room, only to discover that the battery had run out of juice as well.  We settled in for a stuffy afternoon of lying around doing nothing much.  But isn't that what being on holiday is all about?

Around 4:30 the power came back on, the AC kicked in, and we had time to get ourselves ready for the evening.  In a small town, there generally isn't much to do, besides our favourite activities - drinking and eating.  We went for a walk through town, had a Kingfisher in a chilly bar, and found a riverside balcony to relax on over dinner.

Air conditioning meant that we had the best sleep of our lives after our night of travelling.  Which was important, as we were wakened at 6am by the sounds of the church bells two doors down shattering our dreams.  It  turned out to be a pleasant way to ease into the day, as the sounds of the faithful singing drifted in through our shutters.

A simple breakfast on the roof helped us to prepare for what we thought might be a scary mission - taking the local bus to the next town over, Old Goa.  Although the bus station itself was quite harrowing, we were pleasantly surprised by the bus itself.  And for just 30 cents for a 10km journey, it is hard to complain!

Old Goa is the former capital of the colony, and at one point it was larger than London or Lisbon in population.  Now it is a World Heritage Site and all but a ghost town filled with endless cathedrals, churches, and chapels.  We spent the morning looking through some of them, joining the queue to see the remains of St Francis Xavier interred in the Basilica in his name, and eating ice cream.  When we discovered that the town boasts a new Wax World "museum and art gallery" we had to go - considering our extensive history involving wax museums, it seemed our duty.  It was, in many ways, the highlight of the day, especially the final figure depicting the horrors of drug use, made with a real human skull. 

In Mumbai and now in Goa, I have been asked to pose for photos with Indian tourists.  In Mumbai we befriended a young optician who was staying in our hotel whilst working in the city.  We were sitting in the common area on the rooftop when he asked for a photo.  Whipping out a comb he posed serenely next to me on the sofa, while I must have looked, at best, sweaty and bewildered.  Next, a photo with Kian.  Finally, he asked one of the room boys (hotel employee) to take a photo of the three of us.  The confused boy tried to take the photo holding the camera backwards, with the lens facing himself, but eventually the shot was taken.  Luckily in amongst all this activity, Kian managed to convince our new friend that he should put a shirt on before any pictures were taken.  It was quite the event.  In Old Goa we were captured more than once on video camera, and a young man was brave enough to ask me to be in a photo with him.  It is strange, but I suppose I look pretty weird to them - my skin is pale in comparison to most Canadians, let alone here! 

Feeling confident after our successful public transport experience today, we plan to rent scooters tomorrow, as it has been recommended as the best way to get out to some of the older temples and a local spice farm.  Until then, more eating and relaxing by the riverside! 
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Robin on

Well, that drug addict wax figure has convinced me. No more drugs - I don't want my face to melt!

Angie Percival on

Wow, what a surprise to wake up to church bells at 6 am at that, at least your day started sooner. The pictures in old Goa are nice, the picture of you on the old Bridge in Panja is nice.

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