Hidden Gems of Goa
Almost every year I visit Goa since 2009 but the last trip in December 2018 was unique for me. Instead of partying or vacationing this time I was there for the Goa River Marathon 2018. The start point of the marathon was Chicalim SAG Cricket Ground and hence I decided to stay in Vasco Da Gama. On almost all the previous occasions I have either stayed in Panjim or near the Calangute/Baga beach.
Staying in Vasco da Gama gave a different milieu to the whole trip altogether and I made a promise to myself to explore the lesser-known gems of Goa which the regular tourists and travelers miss.
Goa is famous for its beaches, sun, sand, food and partying. Present day Goa is the smallest state of India by area but it’s history dates back to prehistoric times. The Portuguese who arrived in Goa around 1510 to take control over the spice route has immensely influenced the Goa that we see now. Their reign ended in 1961 long after India got its independence. It got full statehood status in 1987. It was a major trade hub of India because of its location of the Konkan Coast in Western India.
ABOUT THE CITY
Vasco da Gama gets its name from the renowned Portuguese traveler Vasco da Gama. It was founded in 1543 and was ruled by Portuguese till 1961.
The city lies on the western tip of the Mormugao peninsula, at the mouth of the Zuari River, about 30 kilometers from Panaji, Goa’s capital, and about 5 kilometers from Dabolim Airport. The Murmugao port remains a busy shipping route and a major port of Independent India. It is also nicely connected via railway network and the Vasco Railway station is the other major station apart from Madgaon railway station.
The climate is a typical tropical hot and humid climate. Personally speaking anytime is a good time to visit Goa but as per the locals the season is usually from October to February as most of the discos and hang out places are closed during peak summers.
It has its share of public transport, which is considerably cheap but might be inconvenient and irregular for a traveler’s liking. If you know how to drive and are a responsible driver then I suggest the best way to explore Goa is by renting a two-wheeler. The price ranges from Rs 300 – 800 per day depending on the bike you choose.
Note: While renting a bike, please be aware of one-ways as cities and towns in Goa are full of it and they are very strict about it. From the vehicle number, they know whether you are a local or traveler and hence become easier to get hold off.
After finishing the marathon I decided to take rest that day and the next day I rented a bike for about Rs. 500 per day to see and explore some hidden places.
I started with Three Kings Chapel.
Three kings chapel
Three kings chapel is situated in the Cansaulim region in a village called Chandor. It is about 15 km from Margao and about 17 km from Vasco Da Gama. As I was using a rented bike to commute I got to enjoy the scenic route by which you reach the Chapel as it is in an extremely secluded place.
The church was established in 1599 by Fr Gonsalo Carvalo S.J. and is affiliated with St Thomaqs Church, Cansaulim.
The Church also has a haunting tale associated with it. According to the story Goa was once inhabited by three rulers, each of which wanted the complete control of Goa, which wasn’t possible under the Portuguese Diplomacy policy. One of the kings was King Holger Alvunger; he invited the rest two over for a dinner and poisoned them. He couldn’t bear the public outrage that followed and committed suicide. It is believed that the chapel is haunted with their souls.
Haunted or not but it is best advised to visit the chapel during the day time – one it is in a remote location, secondly, because there is an amazing view which is not possible to view in nights.
After returning I decided to rest, as I had to wake up early to witness the sunrise the next day at Hollant Beach.
Goa is the beach capital of India but did you know, this is the only place in the whole of Goa where you can witness a sunrise. It is situated right at the feet of the Western Ghats about 3 km from Vasco da Gama and in close proximity to Bogmalo beach. It’s a lesser-known beach, in fact, it’s a small hidden beach with only locals inhabiting the nearby areas.
It was about 6:30 am when the first rays appeared on the horizon. There was no one in sight on the beach barring a few early morning birds getting ready for their day ahead. Few fishing boats were already lined up the banks but the men were yet to come. It was a surreal experience away from all the hustle and bustle and noise of parties.
The Next stop was the Pilot Point.
Pilot Point Mormugoa Port
Pilot point of the Mormugao Port is situated in the Sada region of Vasco. The point gives you a picturesque view of the Zuari River kissing the Arabian Sea. From here you get a splendid view of the Vasco city as well as the Mormugao harbor. It’s a good place to take selfies or simply just sit beside the road and absorb the relaxing view.
On the same stretch, you need to go further ahead to the top of the Mormugao ridge to reach the Japanese Garden.
Japanese Garden and Sada Beach
There is another hidden place in the Sada region of Vasco da Gama. It is only about 2 km from the Vasco da Gama railway station and bus station.
The secret here is that to reach the beach you need to go through an old small Japanese Garden that has a trail which leads to the beach through a small jungle followed by a temple. The Mormugao Port Trust maintains the garden and it is enclosed within the ruins of huge walls of Fortaleza Santa Catarina. From the garden, you get a breathtaking view of the sea, the sun, and the beach.
Many people visit the Garden but don’t know how to reach the beach and simply go away. The beach is a perfect place to relax away from all the crowd and noise. Here it is only you…the sea…the waves…the sand…and nature.
The next stop is a real secret place because of the way to reach the Fort.
Going further ahead from the Japanese Garden there is a huge complex of Marine department. You need to enter that and keep going straight till the end. Once you reach the end you will find a small trail that will lead you to this Fort that is now completely abandoned and in ruins. It has a spooky and an eerie feel to it. Inside the fort there is a small circular tower with a cross-mounted on it. You get another view of the harbor from here.
The light was fading fast and since there was no ‘alive’ soul in sight I decided its best to return.
EAT & SLEEP
Vasco has lots of suitable options to stay in. I won’t advise you to stay in Vasco if your itinerary is all about Calangute, Panjim and the regular Churches but if you want to try out a different flavor staying in Vasco is a good economical choice.
Anantashram / City shack – their Goan fish thali is a must try.
Shree Kashi Dairy – Decent fast food options at reasonable prices.
The Temptation – lovely café with a good menu, which opens 24 hours.
Udipi Ujwal Restaurant – good veg Goan options.
Goa is not just about beaches and booze – it has a soul – a very alive one 🙂
For all those who love to travel Solo,
For all those who love Goa,
For all those who like exploring hidden places
For all those who think Goa is much more than just beach and booze,
It’s not a goodbye
But it’s a GOOD BYE
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul
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