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Friday, November 9, 2012

Goa

Goa, a state on India's West coast, is a former Portuguese colony with a rich history. Spread over 3,700 square kilometers with a population of approximately 1.4 million, Goa is small by Indian standards. It has a unique mix of Indian and Portuguese cultures and architecture that attracts an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year (including about 400,000 foreign tourists). Since the 1960s, Goa has been attracting a steady flow of visitors -- first the hippies and returning expat Goans, then the charter tourists (starting with the Germans in 1987), pilgrims visiting Catholic and Hindu shrines, those opting to settle in Goa as their home, people going for medical treatment, and a growing number of those who attend seminars and conferences in Goa.

Goa is visibly different from the rest of India, owing to Portuguese rule which isolated it from the rest of India for 451 years. The Goan population is a mixture of Hindus and Roman Catholics, the distribution being approximately 65% Hindu and 24% Christian. There is also a smaller Muslim population. Despite this, communal violence has been virtually non-existent and Goa is regarded as one of the most peaceful states in India.



























Culture
Goan culture has been shaped mainly by the Hindu and Catholic population. People are mostly easy going ( 'sossegado' in Portuguese). With better connectivity by Air and Rail, there has been an influx of people from neighbouring states that has led to different cultures. Many Indians from other states have now come and settled here.
Goan Catholics generally acknowledge their Hindu roots, and carry traces of a caste-system within their social beliefs. It is recorded that in many instances the Hindus left one son behind to convert and thus continue to own and manage the common properties while the rest of the family preferred to emigrate to neighboring areas along with the idols representing their Hindu deities.
Over the years large numbers of Catholics have emigrated to the major commercial cities of Bombay and Pune and from there onward to East Africa (to the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique), to Portugal itself, and towards the end of the 20th century to Canada and Australia. Many old Goan ancestral properties therefore lie either abandoned or mired in legal tangles brought about by disagreements within the widely dispersed inheritors of the property. In recent years, expat Goans have been returning to their home state, often purchasing holiday homes along the coast (which are then converted into 'rent back' apartments, hired out to short-staying tourists by realtors).
The best time of the year to visit Goa is mid-November to mid-February when the weather is comfortable, dry and pleasant.

Holidays

For a state which has a lot of people passing through, Goa has nearly two weeks of holidays each year. Government offices have a five-day week (closed Saturday-Sunday). Panjim closes early (around 8PM) each evening, and shops here could have a fairly longish siesta break (from around 1.30PM till up to 3.30PM). Goan shop owners take this siesta break seriously, and no business is conducted during this time. Bars, restaurants and other shopping centers are more buyer-friendly.
Major public or special holidays are around Christmas, Republic Day, Id-ul-zuha, Gudi Padva, Good Friday, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi (both days), Gandhi Jayanthi, Dussehra, Diwali, Id-ul-fitr, Feast of St Francis Xavier, Goa Liberation Day, Mahashivratri, Holi and Id-e-milad. Banks may remain open during local religious celebrations.
Expect a huge influx of tourists and locals residing in other states during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and the Carnival, which is celebrated at the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. It is advised to make bookings for trains, buses and flights well in advance if you intend on visiting the state during these times.

Region

By Indian standards, Goa is a very small state with only two districts -North and South Goa. These districts are together further divided into 11 talukas. These divisions, however, don't make much sense for a traveller. North and South Goa are similar, and each has its own "coastal" and "interior" areas. The major division in Goa is actually between the central coastal areas where the beaches are located and the hinterland. The coastal areas were under colonial rule for longer, reflecting more of Portugal's influence, including having a relatively larger Christian population. The interior is more Hindu, and has more protected forest areas, mining zones and villages.
Contrary to popular perception, Goa is not an island, though parts of what was considered "Goa" in the past were cut-off from the mainland by the many rivers this region is known for.

  • Panaji (Panjim, also referred to a Ponn'je in Konkani, and earlier called Pangim and Nova Goa during Portuguese rule) – the state capital
  • Margao
  • Vasco Da Gama
  • Old Goa, home of famed sixteenth century churches, convents and monuments
  • Mapusa
Goa also has a number of other smaller, charming and sometimes crowded towns such as those along the beach belt (Calangute, Candolim), and in the interior (Chaudi in Canacona, Sanvordem-Quepem, Bicholim, Pernem town, etc). Some of these are gateways to the nearby touristic areas. In addition, Goa has some nearly 350 villages, often scenic and each having a character of its own.

Beaches

  • Agonda — also known as Turtle Beach
  • Anjuna and Vagator
  • Calangute
  • Candolim
  • Colva
  • Dona Paula - a popular beach.
  • Palolem
  • Bogomolo- A beutiful and serene beach near Vasco

Wild life sanctuaries and others


Language
Goa's state language is Konkani. Most Goans speak Konkani, English, Hindi, and MarathiPortuguese is also known by a small segment, especially the elite and earlier privileged class or the older generation which studied in pre-1961 Portuguese-ruled Goa.

Get There

Goa can be reached by its lone airport (Dabolim), by train, and by the many buses connecting the state with cities in India (primarily Mumbai, Mangalore and Bangalore). If you are travelling from Mumbai or Pune, car travel will provide you a journey through breathtaking scenery of the Konkan area.

By plane

The Dabolim airport in Vasco Da Gama is Goa's only airport. Some airlines fly directly to Goa, but most international flights arrive via Mumbai. Air India has international flights to Kuwait and UAE twice a week. Air Arabia has discount flights to Sharjah. Qatar Airways has flights to Doha, along with convenient connections to Western Europe, Africa and USA.
Flights can be chartered to the United KingdomGermanyRussia and Switzerland.
Many domestic airlines have daily flights to and from BangaloreDelhiHyderabadMumbaiPuneChennai,JaipurAhmedabad and Kozhikode (Calicut).
On arrival, take pre-paid taxis from Dabolim Airport. A yellow pre-paid taxi booth can be found 30 metres on the left when you exit the main building. There is also a pre-paid taxi stand in the international arrival area. Rates are slightly cheaper than the yellow cabs .
Many resorts pick up guests from the airport for free, so make sure you ask your resort for free pick-up.

By bus

There are several bus routes from various cities, but most traffic is from mainly Mumbai and Pune. Due to increasing demand from the south, there has been an increase in buses and trains from Mangalore, Bangalore and New Delhi. Overnight buses from Mumbai to Goa are an alternative to trains and flying. Book in advance during the crowded seasons (particularly during the Christmas-New Year rush, for Carnival, or when other Indian regions have school holidays when families travel).
Kadamba Transport Corporation is the Goa state-run transport service. Its buses have seen better days, and more efficient times. There are also other state-run buses run by the governments of Karnataka (some services are efficient, specially the Volvo buses), Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Many private players also offer bus connections to other cities, with varying levels of discounts and efficiency, with the two usually being inversely related.
The main centre for booking train and bus tickets, in Panjim, is around the Kadamba inter-state bus terminus. Tickets for the Konkan Railway can also be booked here, though expect long queues during the holiday season (which in India, can also coincide with the timings when children have a school break).

By train

Indian Railways [2] connects Goa with direct train services from DelhiMumbaiAhmedabadMangalore,KochiKolkataThiruvanantapuramBangaloreChennai and Hyderabad. The destination station is usuallyMadgaon in South Goa. Travelling to Goa by train is a real pleasure as the route passes through greenery and many tunnels. Goa is also connected to Pune via the Belgaum Miraj line. A railway station most tourists tend to miss is Thivim, which is served by most trains and is just 20 minutes away from Calangute beach by taxi. For budget travellers, this is the cheapest option, along with being faster and much more comfortable than travelling by road. It is advisable for tourists to make reservations well in advance as the major trains (Konkan Kanya, Nethravati Express, etc.) are usually heavily booked.
Trains from Mumbai and most other places have a quota of seats set aside for tourists. Quota tickets must be purchased in person at the rail station by the tourist and cannot be booked via a travel agent. Note that quota tickets are only sold at the station of origin. Tickets can be booked online[3]
Unless traveling on a shoestring budget, it is advisable to travel in air conditioned sleeper coaches. These are quieter and much more comfortable. Each bunk is provided with two freshly laundered sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. You can also have a hand towel on request.
Most travel agents will book tickets for a small fee (₹200), but be aware that trains do get busy and you need to book in advance. Do not leave booking your ticket to the last moment as you may be disappointed.
Here are some useful trains to get into Goa:
Train NumberTrain NameYou may board atYou may alight at
12432Rajdhani ExpressNizamuddin (Delhi), Panvel (Mumbai)Madgaon Junction
12618Mangala Lakshadweep ExpressNizamuddin (Delhi), Kalyan (Mumbai), Panvel (Mumbai)Thivim, Madgaon Junction
0103Mandovi ExpressMumbai CST, Panvel (Mumbai)Thivim, Madgaon Junction
0111Konkan Kanya ExpressMumbai CST, Panvel (Mumbai)Thivim, Madgaon Junction
12051Jan Shatabdi ExpressMumbai CST, Panvel (Mumbai)Thivim, Madgaon Junction
12450Sampark Kranti ExpressNizamuddin (Delhi)Thivim, Madgaon Junction
17309Yesvantpur-Vasco ExpressYesvantpur (Bangalore)Madgaon JunctionVasco Da Gama
17311Chennai-Vasco ExpressChennai Central, Yesvantpur (Bangalore)Madgaon JunctionVasco Da Gama
18047Amaravathi ExpressHowrah (Kolkata)Madgaon JunctionVasco Da Gama
16346Netravathi ExpressThiruvananthapuram Central, MangaloreJunctionMadgaon Junction, Thivim
12431Rajdhani ExpressThiruvananthapuram Central, MangaloreJunctionMadgaon Junction
Travelling by train can be quite an experience as you are more likely to interact with fellow Indian travellers visiting Goa from different parts of the country, under more relaxed conditions.
See also Rail travel in India

By car

Distance from Goa to various cities:

By ferry

Occasional cruise services used to sail from Mumbai to Goa. This was run in past years, but is currently discontinued.

Get Around

High resolution maps are not available for Goa. For example, some popular isles are not shown in many maps.
Parts of Goa lack sign boards, so finding your way around could be challenging. When in doubt just ask - usually people are friendly and helpful- but don't expect precise answers(a so-called 'five minute drive' could take a good twenty minutes).
When driving, expect surprises like domestic animals and little children darting across the road and unmarked speed breakers / speed bumps.

By motorbike

Choice of geared and un-geared motorbikes and scooters can be rented (typically without helmets). Those planning to stay long may consider buying one instead. Rentals are around ₹300 a day (₹200 in non-peak season) for a Honda Activa scooter and a little more if one is looking for a geared motorcycle (you buy the gasoline as needed). Many small roadside shops sell gas at ₹75 a liter, while the going rate at a station (these are hard to locate in the coastal areas) is around ₹65 a liter.
For the motorbikes, always ask for a discount if renting long-term (one month or more). You should not have to pay more than ₹100 per day. Ensure that you have all the ownership documents of the bike. Also, avoid taking motorbikes with yellow plates out of Goa, as it is a punishable offense. Hiring a bike with white plates is ok for local travel in the immediate vicinity but if you want to travel further afield then always rent a bike with yellow plates. Wearing a crash helmet is compulsory when you go on any major roads (there is ₹100 fine for not wearing one). Foreigners will need an International Driving Permit (Convention 1949); this is the first thing police will ask you for if stopped. You should also carry your normal driving licence with you.

By bus

Fares: 4-6. Buses are an inexpensive and great way to travel and see the country. 10-15 will often get you a 30-40km ride.

By car

Mahindra, Willys or Maruti Gypsy makes are similar to the long wheel base version of the Suzuki Jimny. Some of these jeeps are open roof. Expect to pay around ₹1,000 - ₹1,200 a day.
There are many car rental companies available. Car rental agencies such as Clear Car Rental , Avis and Hertz .
  • taxiGUIDE.in (Goa Car Rental),  +91 888 023 4455 (). Inquiry: 7am to 11pmGoa Car Rental services on taxiGUIDE.in - Cabs can be booked from Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad & Pune as well on taxiGUIDE.in Fares starting Rs.1120 for within city and Rs.13/km for outstation.

SEE

Art & culture

Goa has a more than its fair share of museums, art galleries and libraries. You will find many government run museums inPanaji, including the Goa State museum, the Kala Academy, the Central Library and the Goa Science Centre. In Vasco Da Gama, you can find the Naval Aviation Museum, a great place to see vintage aircraft.
Old Goa is a great place to see examples ofChristian religious art, and sometimes, secular art. There you can find the Christian Art Museum and also a modern art gallery containing the works of surrealist Dom Martin. In Mormugao, you can find the Religious Museum of the Blessed Joseph Vaz. The Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Bardez also has a gallery on Christian Art.
Attracted by Goa's bohemian life, many artists, painters and architects have made their home here. They too have proceeded to set up art galleries and museums. An example of this is Subodh Kerkar's art gallery inCandolim. Benaulim also has the Goa Chitra Museum, containing the largest collection of ethnographic artifacts ever assembled in one place.
Other museums of note are Gerard da Cunha's architectural museum Houses of Goa in Benaulim, Big Foot(aka Ancestral Goa) at Loutolim, Salcette, an attempt to illustrate and recreate Goa's traditional past. There's even a vintage-cars collection of sorts -- Ashvek Vintage World, in Nuvem, Salcette

Beaches

Goa is famous for its beaches, ancient temples and churches, and the Goan carnival.
    Anjuna Beach - Close to the Chapora Fort, its key attraction is a magnificentAlbuquerque Mansion built in 1920, flanked by octagonal towers and an attractive Mangalore tile-roof. Anjuna was the second home (and main location) of the hippies in Goa in the 1960s and 1970s, after other destinations like Calangute got too "crowded" for them. It is still the venue of a (vastly-changed and more mainstream) flea market held each Wednesday. In the nearby village of Arpora, two colourful Saturday night bazaars are held in the non-monsoon seasons. This is still part of "alternative" Goa, though charter and other tourists also visit in increasing numbers to "get a feel of the hippy years".
Arambol Beach - a quiet beach in North Goa near Pernem. Not too many facilities in terms of hotels or eateries. The water is shallow and good for swimming.

Palolem Beach-a scenic beach in extreme south Goa with scenic rocks and islands off its shores. Good eating options. It is becoming pricey (by local standards) and getting a bit crowded, but still less crowded compared to other popular beaches.
Patnem Beach - a small and quiet beach in Canacona Taluka.
Vagator Beach - a beach in Bardez, neighbouring Anjuna.

Morjim Beach - a beautiful beach, inhabited by Russian tourists. This place is popular among kitesurfers due to the shallow depth of the sea and a very wide beach. Prices are high, with many restaurants offering Russian cuisine. Nightlife is vibrant here.

Asvem Beach - a quieter beach in extreme north Goa's Pernem Taluka.

Mandrem Beach - another beach in extreme north Goa's Pernem taluka

Candolim and Sinquerim Beaches in North Goa's Bardez taluka. Once humble fishing villages. Now the crowded concretised coast of North Goa. Goa's Benidorm. Or quickly getting to be as crowded.

Colva Beach - This beach's spectacle of sea, sand and sky blend in a enchanting natural harmony, weaving their magic spell on the visitors. Known for its scenic beauty. This is part of Salcete, Goa's only Catholic majority sub-district. Once a very hospitable area, now relations are getting monetized thanks to tourism. Beware of mountains of trash on the beach and nearby locations, stray dogs  nd bad odors.

Calangute Beach - aka Queen of all Beaches in Goa. Once highly rated. Now crowded. Expect traffic jams along the main crowded street. Beach is full of Indian tourists, a lot of noise, a lot of souvenirs and water sports beggar. You won't get peace here. Many famous clubs are located here. Nice eating options.

Baga Beach A family-beach and charter tourist destination just outside Calangute.

Chapora Home of the Chapora fort. Close to Vagator and Anjuna beaches. Also site for a fishing jetty where trawlers (introduced into Goa in the 1960s and 1970s, amid protests from traditional fishermen, who were affected by them) bring in their catch. Dil Chahta Hai Movie's one song was shot at this fort. Although in pretty damaged state, Chapora fort offers mesmerizing views of sea and both beaches. It's a bit difficult to find the way to the fort, but bikers won't mind it. Built on a hill top, fort offers some resistance for climbing up.