Why is it so difficult to think of Goa beyond its beaches? Even when I were to close my eyes a month back and think of Goa I too would think of beaches - pristine blue with golden sand and perhaps a bottle of Goa's favourite chilled beer King's. However, my last trip to the land changed it all.
Imagine walking through a lane in Goa with Portuguese houses all around you, and chatter in local Konkani and Portuguese filtering out of windows.
The doors of these homes are open and families are happily wishing each other with cakes and hugs. If you are wondering this would be a typical day in colonial Goa in 1895, think again. The old world charm of Goa is not lost, not yet. It lives on in areas away from the overcrowded beaches, shouts of drunk men check women out and unlimited empty bottles of beer thrown around. If you have seen all of this, and want to explore something new in Goa - discover the Old Goa, discover Goa beyond beaches, alcohol and trance parties.
I was in Goa for diwali and this was perhaps my best ever trip to Goa. I did visit the beach, but that was just a tiny part of the trip. I did so much more, things that can easily get overlooked if you spend all your time at the beach.
Goa is home to some extremely old Heritage Portuguese Houses and many of these have existed for there for the last four centuries. These houses started getting built soon after the conquest of Goa by the Portuguese in the early 16th Century and continued almost till the time they left in 1961.
Over the years many pf these have disappeared while only a few have endured the test of times and live on to tell their tale to the world. One such house is the Braganza Pereira House located in the Chandor area of South Goa.
Read more: A visit to Braganza Pereira House
It's easiest to reach by a cab. Here's the address for reference.
Menezes Braganza Pereira House
Culsabhatt, Chandor, Goa 403714
River Mandovi flows through Goa and drains into the Arabian sea right next to Panjim. The river is beautiful and all along surrounded by a thick foliage of mangrove. Just before the river meets the sea, there is an island which had historically been a very important part of Goa.
The name of this exotic little island is Divar. Divar in native Konkani means small.Before the island became an important symbol of Catholicism, it was an prominent Hindu pilgrimage center. Portuguese targeted the Brahmins on the island first for conversion, and that have rise to the community of Roman Catholic Brahmin.
Much before the present day Panjim became the heart of Goa, Divar was the capital of Olf Goa. It houses three key churches from Portuguese era, the most important of which is the Divar Church.
was on the island for an architecture walk, as its famous for its old Portuguese villas, many of which still survive in pristine condition. It was Christmas day and pretty warm in the day, but we had a superb time discovering interesting villas with distinct architectural styles. I had an architect with me for company, and that made the walk even more fun. I still remember discovering the art deco style house of Alberquerue where we should have started the walk, but actually reached only in the end!
The island is not connected to the mainland by a bridge, so the only way to reach is through ferries. The ferry ride is free and if you intend to take your car you need to pay fee of Rs 10. I recommend taking a car as there is no other means of transportation within the island. Even the main town is a little far from the jetty.
Once you walk around a little in old Goa, it's easy to get addicted to its houses, especially the ones from Portuguese era. These houses have the most beautiful colors and textures, and are very inviting as photography subjects.
The best way to explore these gems is on foot, but be prepared for a lot of walking. If you are in Panjim, the walk can be interrupted by many coffee and cake breaks :) You can eat as much as you like because the walk will anyway digest it all.
You can also visit the home of the wonderful old lady of Goa, Menezes Braganza Pereira, who actually receives visitors in her centuries old house and gives them a tour as well. She is a gem of a person and if you are nice, she will also give you a great account of the history of Portuguese in Goa as well :)
The legend around the Saturday night markets is rather interesting. About a decade ago, a German had this idea and leased out land from a Goan man and started this market. When the lease ended the Goan decided to retain the market but threw out the German. Not to give up, he started another market only to be thrown out once more. The Saturday night market at Arpore is his third attempt and it's certainly done very well.
The market is huge and so is the parking behind it. The market offers something for everyone. You can find the kind of stuff you usually find in flea markers across Goan beaches, especially Anjuna, and can also find more high end designer stuff. Most of the designer type shops are run by foreigners and they sell stuff like clothes, shoes, jewelry etc. It's all quite beautiful but also expensive. We also came across some interesting Indian startups like 'No Nasties', and loved their products.
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