I’ve been to Goa so many times I feel I should be awarded a honorary PhD on it. Goa exists in our collective psyche as the ultimate vacation destination – a coming of age for young people, an exciting place to have your bachelorette or long awaited girls’ trip and an opportunity to gaze at the vast blue sea for those of us landlocked.
Things changed a bit during the pandemic when everyone decided to work from Goa. In fact, we contemplated it too and found ourselves in Goa scouting for viable villas to move into. That’s a story for another blog. Suffice it to say that because tourism to Goa is an unprecedented high, travellers now look for activities off the beaten track. My last trip to Goa was certainly that.
We formed an assorted mix of four – my mother in law, her sister, a dear friend of her’s, and me. We were game for an adventure.
Divar & Chorão Island
The first day we decided to go to Divar Island. The Mandovi River around Goa is home to many islands, all of which have and mangrove forests, churches, temples and grand old Portuguese villas. The night before I’d looked up how to get to the island and found that we had to take the ferry to Ribandar port. Unfortunately Google directed us to a port slightly before Ribandar, and not knowing any better, we took the wrong ferry and ended up in Chorão Island. We decided to make the most of it and drove around the island for a while. The island is lush, green and largely uninhabited. However, there are several churches and chapels dotting the greenery. The most significant one I spotted was the chapel for St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa). A surprise find was The Yoga Institute, a swanky residential yoga centre. (Something to keep in mind for my next yoga retreat.)
Divar island proved to be a bit more eventful. We spent some time at Our Lady of Piety Church (Nossa Senhora de Piedade). The church and it’s adjacent graveyard lie atop a hill. The church was under renovation, so we spent some time walking around and taking in the panoramic view of the island from that vantage point. You can see the Mandovi river and the mangrove forests around it. You can also see a Hindu temple, with its distinct Goan architecture, close to the church.
After a sumptuous lunch at the Rock Inn Restaurant, we decided to head to the Koti Tirth Tali – an ancient site that used to be a significant pilgrimage point once upon a time. It is said that this used to be the Saptakoteshwara Temple, the kul devta of the Kadamba kings. It is now protected by the ASI. It was a peaceful place and we found the ancient architecture very beautiful. Just a little further down the road from the Koti Tirth Tali is a beautiful Shiva temple. When we visited it was calm and clean, and right on the banks of the Mandovi. We spent some time gazing at the beautiful lake surrounded by mangroves, and even spotted a snake swimming in the water!
All the islands in Goa are connected by ferries and I think it would be interesting to spend a day island hopping on a future trip.
CIPA – Center for Indo Portuguese Arts
We stumbled upon CIPA during a three-week stay in Goa during the second lockdown. The place had just opened up and we spent some time browsing through the 200-year old heritage building, looking at the books, the hand painted tiles and other art. We also spoke to Orlando, the owner who told us about the Portuguese connection and his work to keep the Portuguese heritage alive in Goa. Incidentally, he has learned the traditional art of tile painting in Portugal and can customise tiles on order.
We met Orlando again and just as we were about to leave he told us about the Serenate concert they were having in the evening. We ended up returning to CIPA that evening for an eventful night of music and homemade Portuguese snacks. Serenading was very common in Fontainhas, where a boy would attempt to woo a girl by singing outside her balcony in the night. If she appreciated the gesture him and his entourage might be invited inside for some snacks. The night was full of revelry as the musicians asked the audience to join in the music and even asked for requests from the crowd. This was the cultural aspect of Goa, and I feel this should be on everyone’s itinerary.
Below are a few images from our wonderful vacation.
I realise I’ve written another ‘Off the Beaten Track’ blog before. It’s about Coonoor and you can find it here.