Our one-hour flight from Mumbai to Panjim, Goa was a much better alternative to the 12-hour overnight train, for similar cost. The state of Goa is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. Panjim, the current capital & Old Goa, the previous capital & now a UNESCO World Heritage site, boast old world colonial influence, whitewash churches & beautifully restored buildings. The relaxed culture & endless beaches were certainly appreciated after the hustle & bustle of Mumbai.
We stayed & wandered the tangled streets of the Portuguese-era quarters in Panjim, enjoyed the delicious Goan cuisine (a blend of Portuguese & South Indian flavours), strolled the tree-lined boardwalk along the Mandovi River, enjoying the twinkling lights of the many floating casinos, each evening. A beautiful church watches over the Panjim city centre where shopkeepers hawk their wares & cafes line the streets. We were fortunate to discover a festival on our first day & although loading up with the beautiful handmade crafts from the various areas of India was such a temptation, it is definitely too early in the game to entertain such purchases. We did enjoy the evening shows highlighting music & dance from around India.
Antonio, our Air B&B host organized a driver to take us to the historically & culturally significant sights. Old Goa, once considered the ‘Rome of the East’, was a highlight. This old town boasts 16 churches & cathedrals within 3 kilometres, many still in use & in remarkable condition. One famous church, Basilica of Born Jesus, contains the tomb & still intact remains of St. Frances Xavier, the so-called Apostle of the Indies.
Two local buses & a rickshaw ride later we arrived at our current location, Palolem Beach, located in southern Goa. This continues to be a fishing village with wonderful fresh seafood & fish available in restaurants. Beachfront huts, restaurants & shops line the curved beach, which surprisingly isn’t overrun. Many huts sit precariously on stilts, are ridiculously overpriced & dismantled at seasons end. Regardless, they are booked solid & offer wonderful views of the Arabian Sea. There is a good mix of the young & ‘more mature’ traveller, a haven for back(flash)packers & those who prefer longer stays. The weather is perfect, around 23C morning & evening, however the heat builds early afternoon. Our daily walks in & around Palolem, quieter Agonda, Putnam & Raijag beaches keeps us in shape & provides excellent exploring opportunities.