I arrived in Goa to find that it is green and beautiful but on the flip side, dirty, rubbish everywhere, potholes in the road AND it was the monsoon season. Hang on, why was I there again? Oh, yes, to see my friend, Nishant.
I stayed in Calangute, a seaside town on the southwest coast of India. It has a definite island feel, much like one of the many islands in Thailand. Palm trees swaying in the wind, shacks selling swimwear and souvenirs and golden beaches right by the Arabian Sea.
Goa was conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and they ruled for 450 years. Reminders of this long history are everywhere from the brightly coloured villas and houses with their covered porches and verandas, to the Baroque style churches and palaces.
In fact, I was in awe of the houses and other buildings I saw; painted in every colour of the rainbow, contrasted with the lush green vegetation surrounding them. Goa was definitely growing on me.
Bearing in mind it was the monsoon season, there weren’t that many people about. I mean foreigners. There were plenty of Goan folks just going about their business; woman walking their children to and from school, peddlers on the beach, groups of men hanging out. As I walked passed, a couple of the men who were with their friends said “Alright darling” (Ha, they wouldn’t be brave enough if they had been alone); another was video recording me as I walked passed them on the beach. I wonder if they saw me scowling when they played it back?
As a single female, walking around alone (my friend was at work), even in the middle of the day, it’s quite disconcerting to get so much attention although, in fact, it’s nice when people say hello. I didn’t feel unsafe, not at all, but I definitely wouldn’t walk around alone after dark. Mind you, I wouldn’t do that in my hometown, it wasn’t just Goa.
Having spent the first evening having dinner and drinks with Nishant, I had the next day to myself. I had been reading up on single women travelling around India and, quite frankly, it got me nervous. There have been so many stories about bad things happening to women, I was really apprehensive about going out on my own.
As it happened, it was raining and I almost used that as an excuse not to go anywhere but, after a while, the rain stopped and I took the bull by the horns and ventured out on my own. And I am so glad I did.
I went for breakfast, had a wander around the town and went to the beach. On the way back, I had lunch and I befriended a waiter and the owner of the bar, Amit and Sunita. They were such lovely people. Sunita told me that during the high season the bar would be packed out all day, every day with tourists but in the monsoon season it’s a different story; everywhere I went there were hardly any people around.
Having been in Goa for a couple of days, I wondered whether I would still go travelling around India on my own. I think if I had landed in Delhi, which I imagine would have been more busy and hectic, I probably would have got on a plane straight back to Thailand. Thankfully, I have since changed my mind about this. I think it was a case of not having been there before and not knowing what I was doing; how to dress or behave, that sort of thing. Even though I had been reassured by Nishant who told me I would be absolutely fine. And I was.
The following day, Nishant had the day off so we went to Goa’s capital, Panjim. We had a full English breakfast to prepare us for our day out. Honestly, who goes to India for a full English? But I have never been one to eat the local delicacies for breakfast. I certainly don’t in Thailand, it’s cereal and toast for me!
We stopped at Miramar beach to take a few photos, went to visit some churches and temples that I wanted to see and drove around Fontainhas, the old Latin Quarter in the city. It’s really beautiful with quaint little lanes and beautifully coloured buildings. The ones that have been restored are stunning, and I saw many villas that I imagined myself living in. Even the ones that hadn’t been restored still had a certain charm about them.
From Panjim, we drove to Old Goa. There isn’t much to see there but the drive along the Mandovi River is fabulous. What we did see is the Basilica de Bom Jesus, a beautiful Baroque style church which is over 400 years old, making it one of the oldest churches in India. Inside, the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier lie. There is a public viewing of his body every ten years and a huge number of tourists come from all over the world to pay respect.
Across the road is Se Cathedral. This cathedral was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese in 1619. It originally had two towers, but one collapsed when it was struck by lightning and was never rebuilt. The architectural style of the Se Cathedral is Portuguese-Manueline. The exterior is Tuscan and the the interior is Corinthian. It has a beautiful, white facade and it’s surrounded by green gardens. Inside, the gold reredos is stunning; carved with scenes from the life of St Catherine.
The last day I spent wandering around, I had lunch and a few drinks. In the evening me and Nishant shared a lovely meal together. One of the things I was looking forward to was the Indian food. I love it. I eat it as much as I can even in Bangkok. So I wasn’t disappointed to find that it was, obviously, more delicious than any I had tried anywhere else. The thalis were amazing.
All too soon it was time for me to leave Goa. It’s always the same, you look forward to something so much and then, in a flash, it’s over. But, having had doubts about India and thinking I wouldn’t go back there, I am definitely going back for more adventures at some point. As for Goa, that trip was unquestionably one for the memory banks.