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Hidden Gems of Goa – Vasco da Gama

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.

HISTORY

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.

On the road on my bike

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

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.

Hollant Beach

Unfiltered Hollant Beach Sunrise

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

View from Top of Japanese Garden

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.

Mormugao Fort

Mormugoa 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

Maggi and Pav

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 🙂

Me at Sada Beach

For all those who love to travel Solo,

For all those who love Goa,

For all those who like exploring hidden places

And

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

 

“Today the #XploreBharatBlogTrain has come to Vasco da Gama at The Contemplation Of a Joker from Chennai – Prernawahi.com The next stop of this #XploreBharatBlogTrain is Jharkhand – shravmusings.com

 

This post is a part of the #XploreBharat Blog Train hosted by
Aditi, Esha, Maheshwaran, PraGun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya

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52

‘Joy’ of the City of Joy – Kolkata

“Today the #XploreBharatBlogTrain has come to Kolkata at The Contemplation Of a Joker from Hyderabad – Hackytips. The next stop of this #XploreBharatBlogTrain is Manali – Panormic Ripples

One of my closest friends was getting married last year in Deoghar (Jharkhand). He was my batchmate in MBA and over the years we have developed a special bond and hence I had to make the journey to his hometown for the marriage. This was the first time I was traveling to the Eastern part of India. In fact, I have traveled to more than twenty states in India with East being the only exception. This was my perfect opportunity.

Kolkata is just about 4 hours away via a train journey from Deoghar and I had already made up my mind to explore it before I even left for Deoghar. After the ceremonies and rituals of marriage throughout the night, I reached Jasidih station, which is the closest railway station to Deoghar. I wasn’t able to successfully procure a confirmed reservation in the early morning trains to Kolkata hence I decided to purchase a general ticket and board the first going to it.

I reached Kolkata in the afternoon and the weather, for once, was as forecasted. I was greeted by a thunderstorm and it was raining heavily. I checked in a hotel at Park Street as it is centrally located and all the major attractions are more or less equidistant from it.

HISTORY

Victoria Memorial

Kolkata or as it was spelled, Calcutta till 2001 is also referred to as the ‘Cultural capital of India’. Kolkata is celebrated for its cultural heritage, literature, food, festivals, arts, theatre and above all its people. The city is also known as the ‘City of Joy’ because of its seamless amalgamation of food, festivities, and people. French author Dominique Lapierre gave this name after he wrote a novel with the same title. People from every walk of life find their place and space in this jam-packed city.

The British East India Company arrived in Kolkata around 1690 and made it the capital of British India in 1772 till it was replaced by Delhi in 1911. They also constructed the Fort William in 1702 but I was denied the permission to visit it as it is currently under Indian Army jurisdiction.

During the 18th century, it was truly a cosmopolitan city with multiple cultures flourishing here. In fact, the city still has India’s only Chinatown because of Chinese migrants during that era.

ABOUT THE CITY

Kolkata is the third largest city in India with approx. 15 million people after Mumbai and Delhi and is situated on the east coast of India. It is the capital of the state of West Bengal.

The fifth busiest airport in India and with three major railway stations – Kolkata railway station, Howrah Jn and Sealdah railway station, connect it.

Climate: It has a tropical climate and usually hot, wet and extremely humid during summers and comparatively cooler during winters.

Best time to visit: November to February.

Getting around: Kolkata is well connected through public transport. There is a good network of metros, local city buses, local taxis and others like rickshaws and auto rickshaws. Kolkata has upgraded to app-based taxis also – Ola and Uber are operational throughout the city.

The old heritage tram system is still operative but the coverage has come down drastically and it is only there as a tribute to the city. Don’t forget to take any random ‘Tram Ride’ just for the sake of experience. It is considerably cheap. Other striking notable things when it comes to transport are ‘Yellow Taxis’ and ‘Hand-pulled’ rickshaws. Kolkata’s streets are filled with these Ambassador yellow taxis. Most of them have “No Refusal” written on them – to signify no driver can refuse any ride. But be prepared to test your bargaining skills.

As the city is growing and modernizing, the number of yellow taxis is reducing at a faster pace and it is being replaced with an air-conditioned white one with blue stripe; most of which are Maruti Suzuki Dzires.

I didn’t like the concept of hand pulled rickshaw and it reminded me of slavery and hence avoided it completely.

I decided to stay back in the hotel and catch up on some sleep and waited for the thunderstorm to pass. In the evening I took an auto rickshaw to the college street to visit the Indian Coffee House.

TOP ATTRACTIONS

Indian Coffee House

Indian Coffee House

It is an old café with immense heritage attached to it. Also known as College Street Coffee House, this place was one of the locations where a lot of freedom fighters and eminent personalities used to gather before independence. To the credit of Indian Coffee House they have been able to maintain that old rustic charm and if you go by the prices on the menu you will feel they are pre-independence era too. You can get a plate of cutlets and a cup of coffee for a meager sum of Rs. 30. It is crowded by narrow lanes from all sides and is in close vicinity of the Presidency College and the University of Calcutta.

Note: It closes fairly early so make sure to reach there before 6 pm for your tea.

I decided to head back to park street as places start closing early in Kolkata.

The next morning it was already raining by the time I got up. I decided to give up the plan of taking a taxi from one place to another and instead, hired a cab for a full day. I had a lot of places to visit and this would have surely helped in saving time considering the rain too.

I began the day with Victoria Memorial.

Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial

The British built the Victoria Memorial in the memory of Queen Victoria and it was completed in 1921. It is made of white marble and currently serves as a museum and houses collection majorly from the colonial period. This is the closest they ever came of Taj Mahal, something they wanted to make in white marble.

Location: Southern end of Maidan along the banks of Hooghly river.

Timings: Closed on Mondays; Tues to Sun – 10 am to 5 pm

The Maidan region of Kolkata is a huge open space under the control of the Army but is open for public for sports and leisure. All around the Maidan, there are prominent monuments that can be covered on foot. The same stretch has Eden Gardens and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral was the first Cathedral built in the overseas territory of British Empire. It is the seat of Diocese of Calcutta and is famous for its Indo Gothic Architecture. It was completed in 1847 and suffered massive damage during the earthquake of 1897. The Cathedral complex has a library and a display of plastic art forms and memorabilia. It gives you a European feel and is a captivating sight the moment you enter the complex.

Location: Southern end of Maidan – walkable from Victoria Memorial

I headed to the Indian Museum, which is about 1.5 kms from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The Indian museum

The Indian Museum

The Indian Museum is the earliest and largest museum not only in Indian but also in the whole of Asia Pacific region. It was founded in 1814 and has a huge collection of antiques, fossils, ornaments, paintings etc. Make sure you have a complete day if you really want to visit each and every section of the museum. One of the special attractions is a real well-preserved Dinosaur egg.

Location: 27, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Park Street, Kolkata

Timing: Mon-Fri 10AM-6:30PM Sat-Sun 10AM-8PM

I tried to cover as much as possible in the time I had. My driver informed me that Marble palace and Jorasanko Thakur Bari are close to each other and they were our next stops.

Jorasanko Thakur Bari

It is the ancestral home of first non-European Nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore. Thakur Bari is the Bengali name for ‘House of Thakurs’. It is now converted into a museum and depicts all the important events of Gurudev’s life. The more you explore the more you realize that their whole family was full of intellectuals and creative people. The house even has a separate segment where it highlights Tagore’s deep connection with the Japanese.

Location: Rabindra Bharti university campus, Jorasanko.

Timings: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm – Monday closed.

Marble palace

Marble palace and Thakur Bari are only 400 meters apart. Raja Rajendra Mullick, a rich Bengali merchant, built it in 1835. It is like a palace and is also made up of white marble and hence the name. The decedents of the family still occupy a portion of the palace while the rest is open for the public as a museum. There is a catch while visiting the Marble Palace. It requires a special permit issued by tourist bureau and photography is strictly prohibited even from the outside. I didn’t have the permit but was able to work my way around by having a word the guards. Though it is highly unadvisable to do so.

Location: 46, Opp Ram Mandir, Muktaram Babu Street, Jorasanko.

Timings: 10 am to 4 pm – Monday & Thursday closed.

My next stop was Dakshineshwar Kali temple.

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple

Rani Rashmoni founded it on 31st May 1855. It is one of the most famous and largest temples in Kolkata and is built in the Navaratna style of architecture. It is believed that the famous religious thinker Rama Krishna Paramhamsa attained spiritual vision here. The Ramakrishna mission takes care of all the operations of the temple. After the darshan, I strolled down to the ghat. It was a mesmerizing sight of the bridge, lights and the calm river.

Location: Dakshineshwar – It is situated on the Eastern bank of Hoogly River about 20 kms from city center alongside the Vivekanand Bridge.

Timings: It is separate for summers and winters and opens twice a day. Do check before going.

Speaking of Ramakrishna mission my next stop was Belur Math.

Belur Math

Belur Math

Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna mission and math founded by Swami Vivekanand in 1897. There is a temple in the center of the math surrounded by lots of trees and gardens. It is about 4.5 kms from Dakshineshwar Kali Temple is on the Howrah side of the twin cities. You can reach there by crossing the Vivekanand Bridge.

Location: Belur, Howrah.

Timings: Separate timings for Summers and winters; opens twice a day and closes early.

It started getting late and for my last stop, I headed to the Kalighat Kali Temple passing the Howrah Bridge.

Howrah Bridge

The moment you think of Kolkata the first that comes to mind is of Howrah Bridge. This is the most iconic feature on Kolkata’s landscape. It connects the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata and is built on Hoogly River. In 1965 it was renamed Rabindra Setu. The traffic isn’t allowed to halt on the bridge that makes it really difficult for a view and take photographs. I will forever be in debt of my driver that he took me to a spot from where I could get a full view of the Bridge.

Kalighat Kali Temple

Kalighat Kali Temple

Kalighat Temple is the older of the two famous Kali temples in Kolkata. It is one of the 51 ‘Shakti Peethas’. It is of more historical importance than the other temples in Kolkata but currently, the locale around it has become overcrowded. Be prepared to be surrounded by pundits and shopkeepers who will swarm upon you for getting some or the other puja is done for you at some expensive price.

Location: Kalighat

Timings: 5:00 am to 2:00 pm & 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm

Mullik Ghat Flower Market – Ref – TheWrongShot

Other noteworthy places to visit, which I wasn’t able to cover, are:

Mother Teresa home – The home of Mother Teresa – the tomb of Mother Teresa is also kept there.

Kumartuli – it is famous for sculpting clay idols for festivals. It is particularly a great sight during the Durga Puja days.

South Park Cemetery – visiting a cemetery isn’t a normal thing but it is famous for its colonial history

Old Chinatown – famous for its Chinese breakfast and other oriental cuisines.

Mullik Ghat Flower Market – for its colorful array of flowers at the display.

FOOD & STAY

Food is an equally significant part of Kolkata’s heritage dominated predominantly by Bengali cuisines. Bengali sweets are a must try – Rosogulla, Sandesh and Mishti Doi. Do try their peculiar Biryani, which is cooked with a whole potato in the middle of it. Baked Rosogulla is the latest craze and I found it absolutely amazing, as Gulab Jamun is my favorite sweet delicacy.

I can personally vouch for these places:

Balaram Mullick – for baked rosogulla and other Bengali sweets.

6 Ballygunge Place – a chain of restaurants for authentic Bengali cuisine.

Bhojohari Manna – typical Bengali meal but at a nominal cost.

Arsalan Restaurant and Shiraz Golden on Park street for non-veg.

Kolkata has no shortage of places to stay – you can choose as per your needs. But if you want to cover most parts then Park Street is the best centrally located region. It has good restaurants as well as nightlife options with awesome connectivity.

TO SHOP

New Market

New Market – ironically it is one of the oldest markets in Kolkata, built by the British in 1874. If you are good at bargaining then this is your heaven. It is closed on Sundays if you are travelling on weekends to Kolkata.

Garihat Market – It is another paradise for shopaholics. The street market is full of options. Wherever I travel I make it a point to buy a saree for my mother. The market is famous for its ‘Tant’ saree, a traditional Bengali saree and ‘Sakha Paula’ – the handsomely crafted shell and coral bangles usually worn as a combination of red and white.

Kolkata has very aptly played its part in the history of India and no Saga of India’s heritage is complete without Kolkata featuring in it.

For all those who love traveling,

For all those who love Bengali sweets,

For all those who love Kolkata

And

For all those who find the ‘Joy’ in the city of joy…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

About #XploreBharat

This post is a part of the #XploreBharat Blog Train hosted by
Aditi, Esha, Maheshwaran, PraGun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya

And a big shout out to our sponsor for taking this Blog Train experience even further.

KAIV is a personal grooming accessory and appliances brand offering a wide range of world-class products.

FabZania is an upcoming food, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle web portal