Friday, September 7, 2012

Going Goa in India

When I went to Little India in Singapore a year ago, I was fascinated by the feeling of being transported to an entirely different world. The music, the colors, the people, the houses - they just speak out loud of what an Indian culture is about. And I wonder what would it be like to be in India for real.

I have been to Goa, India twice.  On my first visit, I was both excited and anxious about what awaits 3,000 miles from home.  The 24-hour travel time, including hours of waiting at the airport, definitely took its toll on us. Took us three plane rides before we reached our final destination - Manila to HK, HK to Mumbai, and finally Mumbai to Goa.

Goa was better than what I was expecting. It's very laid back and people are friendly.  We stayed in a resort called Vaniguinim Valley Resort. It's a 30-minute drive from the town, but will only take you 2 minutes to walk to the beach.  This beach is stretch of yellowish sand shore where a five-star  hotel and resort can be found.  I always think about how lovely it would be to just hang out by that beach at night and just chill, though I never got a chance to do that.

Vainguinim Beach

The RayBan Wayfarer I am wearing on the photo above is purchased at Specto Opticals in Goa.  I bought it for about Rs 6000+.  And I bought my sister an Aviator for about Rs 4,000. RayBans are really cheap here!

This year we stayed in a much convenient location right in the heart of Panjim very close to the jetty terminal, where we go to everyday for the event we are organizing, and is surrounded by shops and restaurants - Hotel Fidalgo.

Floating Casino

We were in India for a business trips, to hold the APT Asian Series Goa aboard Casino Royale Goa - a floating casino.  This is interesting... in Goa, it used to be illegal to build casinos, so clever businessmen put them on the water, afloat Mandovi River in Panjim.  You can see several casino ships anchored in their own territories.  It's quite an attraction for locals and tourists alike.  In Casino Royale, to enter the ship you have to pay an entrance fee of INR 2,000 which is inclusive of a buffet dinner, drink and INR 1,000 worth of casino chips. Aboard the ship everything's for free - from drinks, to food, to cigarettes, name it.  Families, groups of friends, couples, people from different age groups go to the ship for a night of fun.  There are a lot of kids too! There's a room for the kids called Turks Room where parents can leave their kids under the care of a babysitter to play, watch TV, or just sleep.

Aboard the jetty, on the way to the ship

During the APT event in 2011, they set up a nice dinner place at the top deck because the even occupied the restaurant level.

Aboard the ship with Rachelle and Asha

Sahakari Spice Farm

When we got the chance to get away for a few hours last November 2011, we went to Sahakari Spice Farm.  Entrance fee is  Rs 400.  A guide will tour you around the farm stopping to explain about different spices that they grow as we go along the way.  The fee covers welcome drinks, 1-hour tour, and lunch.

Sahakari Spice Farm is situated amidst lush green surroundings at Curti. The taluka of Ponda in which it is located, is extremely popular amongst tourists for its rich cultural heritage and magnificently designed places of worship. This Spice farm adds to the variety of tourist destinations that Ponda has to boast of.

We were welcomed warmly at the farm.  An  Indian lady in Sari put a Bindi on our foreheads.  We were also given garlands.  There's also a group of girls who will start to dance whenever new guests arrive.  Before the tour. all guests were gathered under cottage and served with tea and cheeselings. And groups will be formed with a tour guide each, and the tour then will begin.

A Bindi was put on our foreheads. 
We were welcomed by garlands.

Before the tour started, we were served tea and cheeselings.

The tour guide explaining something about turmeric.

A girl is being "blessed" by the elephant by putting its snout above her head and letting out a loud honking sound.

At the end of the tour, the guide poured cold water at tour backs to freshen up.

Lunch consists of  traditional Indian food.

Of course, there's a spice shop inside the farm where you can buy different types of spices grown in the farm and Indian delicacies.  During the tour, the guide mentioned that if you put twigs of vanilla inside a jar of sugar, the sugar will be infused with vanilla flavor.  So I bought some. As I tried it when I got back home, I was not really satisfied with the result. I'm not sure if I did something wrong.

For more details on the farm, you may visit their website at

Churches in Goa

During the drive from the airport to our  hotel when we first went to Goa, I was surprised to see churches and cemeteries on our way. There are about 27% of Christians in Goa. The rest are Hindus.

Last year after the Sahakari Spice Farm tour we went to St. Francis Church.

Last May 2012 during our stay in Goa, there's this beautiful white church we always pass by going to the jetty terminal.  It's also close to some shops we go to and George's, a restaurant we love.  It somewhat resembles the majestic Taj Mahal.

Parasailing in Goa

Our recent trip in Goa just last month gave us a chance to go parasailing at Baga Beach.  What's special about parasailing in Goa? It's incredibly cheap! Believe it or not, it will only cost you INR 600 to experience this really fun water activity.

It was frustrating though that the guys doing the parasailing thing were quite rude to the customers. They would even shout at you and tell you to hurry up, they're speaking in Hindu most of the time so it's hard to really understand.  Once hooked to the parachute, they would not even give you safety precautions nor tell you to get ready.   You will just be released to the wind's mercy without warning.  My camera was soaked wet because the driver of the speed boat we took to get to the parasailing boat got washed up by a giant wave, on purpose. Good thing it was in a thick case the camera itself did not get so wet. If it did really get wet, it would be my third camera casualty due to carelessness in water.

Well in spite all these bad things, we still certainly enjoyed parasailing. The food at the restaurant in the beach was good too.  Baga Beach is more of a hang out for local people, not really a tourist destination, though I spotted a few foreigners lounging here.

These colorful bangles in the night market just shout INDIA out loud!  It was so difficult to choose which to buy and bring home.

Food trip is another thing.  I am not used to the very strong flavors on Indian spices for my daily meals, though I love eating from time to time in Indian restos in Manila.  But being here, in India, with authentic Indian food served everyday can be a little overwhelming.  This is one of the times I would miss food back home the most.

This pepper chicken is really good!  Too bad the next time we visited, the restaurant is no longer serving this.

We ate at this famous family-run steak restaurant in Goa, Ernesto's.  The restaurant is situated among the residences, and the tables are located at the balcony of what seems like a home.  The dishes they serve are superb!

Steak for lunch at Ernesto's
Goa, India is a place so unique and interesting.  I envy the way its people live their culture and tradition until this day. ♥

See all TRAVEL posts.

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xoxo, Monique

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