Indian Travel Diary Chapter 12: Goa
March 18th, Margao
I take breakfast in the hotel dining room. There's a big window overlooking the street below. Some of the larger buildings are very European in appearance, with rows of columns and arches. That's because Goa was for centuries a Portuguese colony. The street is busy but not crowded. Women seem equally divided between those wearing Indian dress (though not sarees) and those wearing European dress. The outlines of breasts are visible in a way common in the West but rarely seen in most parts of India, where any hint of sexuality in public is taboo.
I go for a walk around the city center, where there's a large central park.
It's 2 p.m. and quite warm. The bazaar is quite near, but it seems that at this time of day there's not much to be seen, so I return to my hotel and sleep for two hours.
I decide to go to Benaulim Beach and head for the bus stand. There are motorcycle "taxis" available, and a guy offers to take me to the beach for forty rupees. Great, I accept. We zoom off through Margao's back streets and are soon in the countryside. It reminds me of Indonesia: Lots of palm trees, small back roads, shacks, pigs and geese wandering about.
Twenty minutes later we're at the beach. It's a long, wide beach, nothing particularly scenic about it, and not much in the way of surf. But it's pleasant enough. There are thatched-hut bars and restaurants around, with quite a few Westerners lounging around, and I get a fresh lime soda before heading off down the beach. I walk several hundred meters and come to several places offering rooms. Westerners are lounging in chairs in the restaurants. I take a look at the rooms. Prices range from 250 to 450 rupees (US$10), with the more expensive rooms being decent enough, though far from luxurious.
There aren't many people about on the beach. I sit and watch the sun set, then head back. I go for dinner at L'Amour Restaurant. I get a bottle of Kingfisher beer (it's OK), shark steak with chips (not bad) and fruit salad and icecream (good), all for 130 rupees.
It's nearly 8 p.m., and there are no motorcycle taxis around. But there are some cars. A driver first asks for 150 rupees to take me to Margao, then a hundred. Too much, I say. I stand around until someone else comes up and asks for 75 rupees. Fifty, I say, and he says OK. We jump in his car and head back through the countryside. It's a full moon and a beautiful balmy night. He drives fast and soon we're back in Margao.
March 19th, Margao/Mapusa/Anjuna
Today I want to get to Mapusa (the locals pronounce it "Mapsa"), find a hotel, then go out to the flea market at Anjuna, where I hope to find my friends.
I get a taxi to the bus station where I get a ticket (15 rupees) for a bus to Panjim which is just leaving. The bus is not new, but is of somewhat better quality than your typical local Indian bus, and although all seats are occupied it's not crowded. I'm sitting next to a man who is going to Mapusa, so I just need to follow him to change buses in Panjim.
There are lots of billboards along the road and plenty of palm trees in the background. After about half an hour we arrive in Panjim and I follow the man to a bus going to Mapusa. It's not far (only five rupees) and soon we arrive in Mapusa. I leave the bus station and take a seat in a cafe where I get a fresh lime soda and consult the Rough Guide, and also the cafe manager, regarding hotels. The Hotel Satyaheena is closest so I go there. Their rooms, at about 400 rupees, are overpriced and not impressive. I decide to try another hotel and lug my rucksack a couple of hundred meters to it. They have a good room for 343 rupees.
As usual I pay in advance for one night and when I give the manager a 500-rupee note he points out that it is torn, although cleverly fixed with transparent tape. In India no-one accepts torn banknotes. When changing money I always check the 500-rupee and 100-rupee notes for torn notes, but clearly not carefully enough, since some cunning moneychanger has managed to slip me this torn 500-rupee note (worth about US$10). In theory I can change the torn note for a good one at the State Bank of India.
Before leaving for Anjuna I look for a branch of the State Bank but can't find one. I get a motorcycle taxi for fifty rupees and we set off along the back roads between Mapusa and Anjuna. It's a pleasant ride through the countryside. Twenty minutes later we arrive at the flea market. It covers quite a large area. There are hundreds of stalls, selling a huge variety of things, including incense, jewelry, wood carvings, fabrics, clothes, soapstone carvings, musical instruments, hammocks, Tibetan artefacts, CDs of techno music, compasses and pipes. There are also several restaurants and places to get drinks.
Anjuna Flea Market
(Click on images to enlarge.)
It's 2 p.m. I wander around hoping to see one of my friends, but there's no sign of them. I go down to the beach, which has rocky outcrops extending into the sea, and is quite scenic. I wander around some more among the many stalls, though I'm not tempted to buy anything. There are various beggars, musicians and Indian women in extremely colorful dresses (Lamani women from Karnataka, as the Rough Guide informs us). The visitors are mainly Westerners, dressed very casually. A popular place to hang out in is a bar and restaurant overlooking the beach, where there is some live music and where one can also hear Bob Marley recordings, Trenchtown Rock and other numbers. A few joints are passed discreetly, but chillums are no longer smoked openly here.
Beach near Anjuna Flea Market
As the afternoon wears on I'm getting a bit tired. Sometimes I sit in one of the restaurants sipping a lemon soda and watching the passers-by looking for my friends. 6 p.m. arrives and still no sign of them, so I decide to leave. I arrange with a motocycle taxi to take me back to Mapusa. We set off, then I change my mind and ask the driver, Sam, to take me to Anjuna beach. He takes me down some back roads and soon we're there. There are a few restaurants and guest houses, not particularly impressive, and the beach, although scenic, doesn't look all that great either, and not as pleasant as the beach up by the flea market.
I ask Sam to go on to Vagator. This is also quite close, and we arrive about sunset. This place is more appealing, with various shops and restaurants. Sam tells me that there's a place here called the Nine Bar where Westerners congregate, and I suspect I might find one of my friends here. So I go in. It has a large dance area and techno music is playing (though no-one is dancing yet). Several Westerners are contemplating the sea as the sun sets. Immediately I see one of my friends, Alf. He sees me, and is obviously amazed. He was not expecting me, and hasn't seen me for nearly two years. We greet each other warmly and retire to a table more distant from the dance floor, where he orders a couple of beers.
We catch up on news of each other's activities over the last year. He has been here in Goa for two months, and has had some bad experiences. His room was broken into and several things stolen. He was mugged and had all his money taken. And he also cut his foot badly, requiring several stitches, and for the last week it has been bandaged and gives him trouble when walking.
I ask about finding a place to stay here, and Alf tells me that there may be a room in the house where he's currently staying — not the one where his room was broken into. He takes me on his rented motorcycle to the house, where he introduces me to the owner and some other residents. Yes, there's a room available and the owner is willing to rent it to me for 300 rupees a day. It's quite a way from anywhere, and I'll have to rent a motorcylce, but OK. So I say I'll move in tomorrow.
Alf takes me to one of the local restaurants, and wants us to have dinner there, but it's already nearly ten o'clock and I want to get back to my hotel in Mapusa. I bargain with a taxi driver (it's a car, not a motorcycle) and get a price of 110 rupees. Just then my other friend, Wally, turns up at the entrance to the restaurant. He had been at the flea market late in the day, but our paths had not crossed. Wishing them both a good evening I take the taxi back into Mapusa, arriving at 10:45 just in time to get a late dinner in the hotel restaurant, chicken hakka noodles (quite good). I have arranged with the taxi driver to pick me up tomorrow morning.
March 20th, Mapusa/Anjuna
After breakfast I pack and go down to the reception at 11 a.m. to meet my taxi driver from last night to go out to the house in Vagator/Anjuna (it's actually on the border of these two areas).
The taxi driver does not show up. Around 11:45 I go to the taxi stand and get a taxi. A hundred rupees to Vagator. We arrive around noon, and I move into the room they've prepared for me. It's large, with a high ceiling (actually no ceiling, just a tiled roof), basic furnishngs and an attached bathroom/toilet. Adequate.
Some of the people living in the house (there are about six Westerners here) are having brunch on the porch, and I join them for coffee. Conversation mostly concerns the U.S. and Iraq. Someone asserts that September 11th was a CIA/Mossad operation, to justify the American "war on terrorism", and there is general agreement around the table.
Alf and I are going out on the bike again, but I suddenly realize that I don't have my Casio watch. Where could it be? Did I take it off and put it somewhere? I can't find it anywhere, it's disappeared. Eventually I reluctanctly conclude that it has probably come off my wrist while I was riding on the back of the motorbike, and fallen onto the road somewhere. Presumably to be found by some fortunate pedestrian. Damn! That watch was not very expensive, but useful!
Alf takes me on a tour of Vagator and Anjuna, along what seems like a maze of back roads. There are numerous shops catering to the Western travellers here, including internet places and some places selling art. And numerous restaurants and juice bars. We stop at one in Vagator for orange juice. Then on to the high bluff overlooking Big and Little Vagator beaches, with Chapora Fort (now no longer inhabited) on a hilltop in the distance. It's very scenic, quite beautiful. It's getting on toward sunset. We go to a restaurant overlooking the sea for a couple of cappucinos, actually layered coffee and frothy milk in a glass, looks good, tastes good and is quite pricy (60 rupees) by Indian standards. Many things are more expensive in Goa, though quality is better.
We go to a place which rents motorcycles. They don't have anything suitable right now, but the owner says he'll bring a bike to my house tomorrow morning.
We go next door to a restaurant, where we get honeyed chicken with rice, and share a bottle of Fosters beer. We finish the evening at the Primrose Bar, where mostly young Europeans are starting to gather to dance to Goa trance music. The ceiling is covered in a fantastic/surrealistic painting in day-glo colors, illuminated by black light — a very impressive work of art. We drink a beer, listen to the Goa trance, and around 10:30 p.m. we head back to the house. It's been an interesting day.
March 21st, Vagator/Anjuna/Morjim
I wake around 7 a.m. Alf and I go out for breakfast to the Lila Cafe, quite a way, almost to Baga. It's one of the few places around where you can get bacon and eggs. Rather good, with OJ and filter coffee. Strangely, they don't do toast.
We go back to the house. The guy with the motorbike, expected at 11 a.m., doesn't show up.
Some visitors arrive, including my other friend Wally. After a while Alf and others leave for somewhere, and Wally takes me to the motorcycle place. No motorbike, but the man says he'll come over.
I walk down toward the Anjuna crossroads. There are some motorcycle taxis there. I say to one of the drivers that I want to rent a bike, and he says, sure, take his. It's a Hero Honda, fairly new, done less than 5000 km. He wants 1000 rupees for one week; not cheap, but not too bad, about US$3 per day. I take the bike for a short test drive. It seems OK, except the footbrake is a bit sloppy, so he tightens it. I agree to rent it and give him 1000 rupees. All he wants to know is where I'm staying. No ID or driving license required.
Alf says that no-one here has driving licenses, and that if the cops stop you then you have to pay them a "fine". The cops seem fairly relaxed about all these young Westerners zooming around on their rented motorbikes. In addition to the Hondas and Yamahas there are quite a few Enfields, heavier, more of a classic bike, a bit like a Harley.
I take the bike to the petrol station and fill the tank. Petrol here costs 33 rupees/liter (US$2.60/gallon). I drive around to various places that I visited yesterday with Alf. The bike runs well and I'm pleased with it. I go to the juice bar in Vagator, called Scarlett Cold Drinks, and get a delicious (and large) bowl of fruit salad with icecream for 30 rupees. After just two days in Anjuna/Vagator I understand why people stay long here and keep coming back year after year. The only problem is that for half the year, from April to September, it's either too hot or too wet or both.
Around 4:30 p.m. Alf invites me to go with him to a birthday party at Morjim Beach, a half-hour's drive north of Vagator, across the river. It's a pleasant drive on the motorbike through various villages and past fields. Eventually we arrive at Morjim beach. There are several beachfront restaurants and quite a few young Westerners around.
Restaurant at Morjim Beach
The beach is very nice, with decent sand and mild surf. There are rocky outcrops jutting into the ocean. I walk for awhile in the shallows, taking photos. A group of dogs appears and they run some way into the water, obviously having a good time.
Dogs at Morjim Beach
The sun goes down, providing a nice sunset. The Westerners (mostly Germans) have gathered in the Here and Now Restaurant (and others) and are sitting around in small groups chatting, drinking and smoking the occasional chillum. Goa trance music is being played, and occasionally some German songs (including even "Lili Marlene", much to everyone's amusement). It's about 8 p.m. and dark. Candles are brought out and a fire is lit on the beach. Stars are visible in the clear night sky. It's a very relaxed scene.
Sunset at Morjim Beach
We leave around 9 p.m. and return to Vagator, where we spend an hour at an internet cafe, then go to a fish restaurant. I have grilled kingfish and chips, with a beer. Around 11:30 p.m. we head back to the house on our motorbikes. I am following Alf through the back roads. Suddenly he stops, turns his bike around, and indicates for me to follow him back the way we came. I turn my bike around slowly, noticing what looks like a cop about a hundred meters up the road. When I catch up with Alf (who is sitting on his bike hiding behind a large billboard) he says there was a police check point and they were probably looking for drivers without licenses (such as us), intending to relieve the hapless driver of whatever they could in the way of a "fine". Thanks to Alf's sharp observation and quick action we avoided this. We take the long way back to the house and arrive around midnight.
March 22nd, Vagator/Anjuna
I go out for breakfast to a nearby restaurant. Orange juice, fried eggs, toast and coffee, all quite OK.
I bike over to the travel agent to ask about reconfirming my reservation for my flight out of India.
When I get back to the house the power is off. Again. This is a daily occurrence. It usually goes off in late morning and comes back on again sometime in the afternoon. Annoying. Not only can I not work for long on my laptop, but also the internet places are not working when the power is out.
Around 7 p.m. Alf and I go out for dinner to a French restaurant. A three-course meal can be had for 210 rupees. We select from the choices on a board then take our seats at a table. Soon thereafter I feel stings on my feet. It's hard to see in the dark, but it seems there's a colony of ants under the table which believes this is its territory. The restaurant owner says, yes, we have a problem with stinging ants. We move to another table, away from the ants. It's the first time I've been stung by ants at a French restaurant, and I'm not especially amused.
The mushroom quiche arrives (with a bottle of Fosters). It's good. The main course is prawn brochette, with a couple of mid-sized prawns and a king prawn. Very tasty. Then a slice of meringue-custard tart for dessert. All quite good.
Around 9 p.m. we head for the Apora night market, held once a week. This is quite similar to the Anjuna flea market, but there's also a stage and a band and chairs for the audience, as well as numerous food stalls and places serving drinks. There are many stalls selling a vast range of things, lots of different jewelry items, fabrics and clothes, herbs and spices, wood carvings and wood inlay items, CDs, crystals (quartz, calcite, lots of other kinds), etc., etc. The jewelry items available are generally of excellent quality, many made by Western designers living here. There are many people at this night market, mostly Westerners, milling around in a kind of party atmosphere. Beer and Barcardi Breezers are being consumed in considerable quantity.
March 23rd, Vagator/Anjuna
After breakfast at the same place as yesterday I cruise over to Chapora on the motorbike and take a look around. The Chapora River is low, apparently the tide is out. There are lots of old fishing boats around, mostly looking rather unseaworthy. After cruising around some more back roads I return to the house. The power is still out. It comes back on around noon.
About 2 p.m. Alf comes in and says he needs a lift to his motorbike. He went out again last night after we got back to the house from the night market, and his bike stopped running, so he had to leave it somewhere. I drive him to his bike and a daylight inspection reveals that a fuel line has been cut, probably by people seeking to steal petrol from the tank. It needs a mechanic to fix it, but today the repair shops are closed, so it can't be fixed until tomorrow.
We drive to Chapora for lunch. Alf has mango and curd and I have fruit salad and icecream (can't beat it!). I then drop Alf off to visit a friend of his, and I go on to an internet place. Just as I'm about to start the power goes off. I ride the bike to another place, and they have power, so I get an hour on the net.
I then drive to the cliff near the Nine Bar, overlooking Little Vagator Beach. Concrete steps lead down to the beach, where there are several restaurants. There are deck chairs and umbrellas on the beach. Women are carrying fruit in baskets on their heads, hoping to sell pineapples etc. to the Westerners lounging in the deck chairs. Young girls are also approaching Westerners, hoping to sell them various woven and dyed items. But there aren't many Westerners and no-one seems to be buying.
I leave my shorts etc. on a table where I can see them and head for the ocean. Little Vagator Beach is framed by two cliffs extending into the water, very picturesque. There's a mild-to-moderate surf up. The water is warm. Splashing about in the surf is heaven.
Back on the beach I settle into a deckchair and watch the sunlight playing on the waves while enjoying the breeze coming off the sea. A few Indian men walk buy, taking the opportunity to oggle the scantily-clad Western girls. An Indian woman comes over from a restaurant to ask if I want to order a drink. I get a Maaza mango drink. Lounging there in the deck chair sipping a drink and enjoying the breeze is just fine.
About 6 p.m. I climb the concrete stairs to where my bike is parked and head back to the house.
Around 8 p.m. Alf suggests we go for dinner to Gregory's Restaurant, where they have a barbecue, and where everyone from the house is going tonight. Gregory's is in South Anjuna. I follow Alf on the motorbike along the usual maze of back roads. He leads me down lanes and dirt tracks, gets lost, and has to ask for directions. Finally after negotiating some more dirt tracks we arrive at the restaurant.
Other people from the house are there, and soon my friend Wally and a German man arrives and join us. I order grilled kingfish. A joint is passed around and conversation runs to topics such as crop circles, William Bramley's interpretation of history as strongly influenced by the nefarious "Brotherhood", and the commendable position adopted by the German government in opposing the (in the words of the Spanish foreign minister) illegal, immoral and unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq. The food is good. Another joint is passed around the table. The evening draws on. Around 11 p.m. we depart for our respective residences.
March 25th, Vagator/Anjuna
I go over to the travel agent to book a train ticket to Mumbai, but there's some problem about finding out if a seat is available on the train I want. I spend the whole afternoon (except for a trip to an internet place for an hour) waiting around thinking about travel arrangements. Not much accomplished today, but it looks like I'll be here in Goa for at least another nine days.
March 26th, Vagator/Anjuna
The travel agent has managed to get me on the train to Mumbai, but two days later than I wanted, and in three-tier instead of two-tier (reservations are tight at present since lots of people are leaving Goa at this point). Not so good, but not much else I can do.
I drive over to Chapora to get a fruit salad and icecream at the usual place. There are about ten people sitting in the tables out front. All are dressed very casually, the usual alternative gear (shorts, T-shirt with Om sign, rings), quite a few guys with hair over their shoulders or with dreadlocks. One guy sitting at the end of the table looks to be in a bad way. He is nodding off, as if he can't stay awake; maybe he's on junk. Later we both go inside to pay and I hear him say, "Pain — too much pain," though whether physical or mental is not clear.
I take the bike for a pleasant spin through the back roads of Chapora — this is very enjoyable. Before arriving in Goa I hadn't driven a motorbike for a long time. Here almost no-one wears a helmet, and I like the feeling of the wind in my hair.
Alf and I, along with a German couple, go for dinner to the Alcove Restaurant, a table under the night sky. I order roast chicken and fried potatoes, with a Fosters. A joint is passed around the table. The guy is a techno musician (composer and DJ), and we discuss techno music, a subject of which I know little. We also discuss psychedelics, especially DMT. I raise the question of the relation between the DMT reality and the everyday reality we all think we live in, but, as usual, no answer can be given. A cat appears at the next table, shamelessly begging for tidbits. I finish dinner with a bowl of fresh strawberries and icecream. It's been a pleasant evening.
March 27th, Vagator/Anjuna
Around 4:30 p.m. I drive over to Little Vagator Beach, same beach I went to awhile back. The same sun, sand, rocky outcrops, deckchairs and hawkers. There's a mild to moderate surf and the water is amazingly warm. It's delightful to splash around in the waves. After half-an-hour I emerge and lounge in a deckchair under an umbrella, sipping a pineapple juice, enjoying the breeze and watching the reflection of the sun on the ocean. Heaven.
March 28th, Vagator/Anjuna
I sleep soundly and wake late at 10:45 a.m. Alf and I go out for breakfast to a new place, the Lotus Inn. This is a comparatively luxurious place, nicely decorated in pseudo-Chinese/Tibetan style, a good swimming pool, rooms with hot water and TV going for 1000 — 3000 rupees, very expensive by local standards (generally 200-500 rupees for a room in a guesthouse). The American breakfast is also expensive at 160 rupees, but consists of a large plate of sliced fruit, fried eggs and bacon, toast and filter coffee, all good.
I get an hour on the net then go to the travel agent to pick up my train ticket.
I go to the headland overlooking Anjuna Beach. It's a windy day. I get an hour on the net then go for dinner to the restaurant overlooking the beach. Chicken schnitzel, not bad. A white cat (or rather, a dusty white cat) comes begging for food. Seems a bit forlorn, but probably just a cat's way of getting sympathy. The surf, whipped up by the wind but barely visible in the darkness, can be heard crashing on the beach below.
There's a party tonight at the Lotus Inn, lots of people from the party scene sure to be there. I don't feel like making the effort to put in an appearance. Parties have little attraction for me these days.
I lie on the bed in the dark room, light entering mostly through the barred window looking out to the street from the house, curtains flapping lazily, in the evening breeze. I'm not going to the party tonight.
March 29th, Vagator/Anjuna
Around noon Alf mentions he's going to visit Ior Bock (of Bock Saga fame) in Chapora, and mentions that I could go with him if I wished. Well, why not? Around 1 p.m. we head over. Alf eventually leads me down a back lane; it turns into a dusty track and winds between houses, going over two small one-concrete-slab bridges on the way, before we arrive at Ior Bock's house. As we approach the front door Alf warns me that Ior is always naked.
We enter and Ior, sure enough, is lying naked on a thin mattress, and sits up as we enter. There are a couple of Indian men there also. Alf and I take our seats on the mat, around a circular table. One of the Indian men prepares glasses of mint tea for all.
Ior Bock appears to be an elderly man, with long grey hair, wispy. He has few teeth left, and is a paraplegic. Yet he smiles a lot, and projects a certain warmth. Conversation ranges over various subjects. I gather that Ior is quoting from the Bock Saga and what it says about human history. He spends a lot of time elucidating the meaning of words by tracing them to root phonemes each of which allegedly has a certain meaning. A chillum is prepared and passed around.
It's about 3 p.m. and I'm about to take my leave when my friend Wally arrives, together with a girl. She has an injured foot and leg, all bandaged up. Seems she was hit by an Indian guy driving a motorcycle and not looking where he was going. She has an interesting appearance. Turns out her parents were Swedish and Algerian. Another girl enters. More chillums are prepared and passed around. Wally, Ior and I talk of various things, including the Maya Calendar, and whether it has any relation to solar and lunar phenomena.. Around 5 p.m. I take my leave, thanking Ior for his hospitality.
I'm pretty stoned, so it's good I'm leaving before I have to ride the bike in the dark. Even in daylight I still have to negotiate the narrow concrete-slab bridges and dirt lanes among the houses. I head off in the direction we came and after a couple of judicious choices of ways to go (or with the help of dumb luck or divine guidance) I find myself back at the road. I head off in the right direction, make one false turn and have to backtrack, but before long I'm back at the house. I lie down on the bed for a couple of hours, reflecting on my meeting with Ior Bock. Interesting. I learnt something about Ior by being in his presence, but I didn't learn much about the Bock Saga that I didn't already know.
Alf comes back at about 7 p.m. We go out for dinner. But it's the night when the Apora night market is held, so many of the restaurants are closed. After driving around many back lanes we arrive at the German Bakery. They're open, although there are not many people. It's a pleasant place. I have grilled pomfret and chips, quite tasty. We share a Fosters. We discuss the Bock Saga. As usual Alf tells me more than I want to hear. For me it's a mildly interesting story, but I know of no independent evidence to support it. Alf, however, is a true believer. For him it's almost like a religion, helping him to make sense of the world.
At about 10 p.m. we leave. Alf goes on to the Apora night market and I return to the house. Alf is leaving Goa tomorrow morning, and has to get up at 7:30 a.m., but as usual he stays out late and gets to bed around 3 a.m.
March 30th, Vagator/Anjuna
Alf wakes me at 8 a.m. He's doing his final packing. We go out for breakfast to the German Bakery, which is even more pleasant in the daytime. There's a small "emporium" selling Tibetan thankas, Tibetan and Chinese bric-a-brac, second-hand books and lots of clothing, much of it very "alternative", with colorful designs. There's quite a lot of embroidery work on the clothing (oms, yin-yang symbols, etc.), but I note that it is not as good quality as what I remember was done in Kathmandu in the 1970s.
For breakfeast I have OJ, fried eggs, buttered toasted bun and a large cappucino, all quite good. We return to the house, Alf finishes packing a huge suitcase, the taxi arrives to take him to the station 8 km. away, where he'll catch the train to Mumbai and later his flight to Europe. We bid each other farewell and he's away. Thanks to him I've seen much more of Anjuna and Vagator than I would have otherwise.
I go to Chapora for one last delicious fruit salad and icecream. Can't beat it. When paying I discover I don't have my wallet. Lost it? Maybe I left it at the house. I explain to the shop owner that I have no money with me and will return to pay. He's OK about that. I go back to the house. My wallet is there. I go back to Chapora to pay for the fruit salad. Then go to an internet place, and discover that I haven't brought a disk I need. Oh well ... later.
April 2nd, Anjuna/Panaji
Today I'm leaving here to go to Panaji (a.k.a. Panjim), the capital of Goa. I'm leaving without my wristwatch, which I lost the first or second day I arrived in Anjuna. But I've got by without it quite well here (and I notice that no-one else has been wearing a wristwatch either).
Breakfast this morning consists of a cup of coffee and a packet of biscuits.
I pay for my room and pack. The taxi driver comes at half past ten. At 10:45 we set off for Panjim. We travel along country roads lined with fields and houses. There's something appealing about the houses, some hard-to-define Portuguese influence in the architecture or the decoration.
Around 11:30 we arrive in Panjim. The tax driver finds the hotel I want, the Isabella. There is a decent room available, at 350 rupees, but unfortunately it's only available for one night. I could have it for two, but the manager says she needs it tomorrow night between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., which doesn't appeal to me. So I get the taxi driver to take me to my second choice, the Park Lane Lodge, close by. They have a room with a shared bath for 185 rupees, but the room is pretty grungy. Next we go to the Panjim Inn. This is an old colonial house, with period furniture and decor. They have plenty of rooms free, but at 600 to 800 rupees I consider them too expensive. What to do? I decide to take the room at the Isabella for one night only, though I probably will have to move tomorrow morning.
This part of Panjim is, according to the Rough Guide, the Latin Quarter of Panjim (called "Fontainhas"), where Portuguese influence is still very visible. It does, in fact, look quite Portuguese, with street names on ceramic tiles on the walls, though otherwise its charm is limited.
I wander up a street in the direction of the Tourist Hostel, and on the way find an internet place, where I get two hours in. Afterwards, around 3 p.m. I get a small bowl of fruit salad and icecream (doesn't compare with what I used to get in Chapora). I then go down the street to the Tourist Hostel, renamed the Residency. It's a bit grungy and at 600 rupees it's considerably more expensive.
The Tourist Hostel looks out over the Mandovi River, which runs past Panjim. The best that can be said about it is that it's big and wide.
I wander around some more. There are quite a few government offices (this being the state capital), all closed because it's a public holiday. I check the Hotel Republica. "Grubby rooms", says the guide book, and it's correct. Only 180 rupees, but they don't even put sheets on the beds.
At the church square (dominated by the white facade of the Panjim Church) I find a restaurant and get a soft drink. The shops around here are small and quite uninteresting. In fact this whole town, from what I've seen, is hardly worth visiting. The most memorable sight has been a gaggle of ducks, about sixty of them, being herded across the road by their duckherd, all keeping very close together.
About 6:30 p.m. I go out for dinner. Restaurants here don't open until 7 p.m. I walk for a while, checking a couple of hotels for a possible move tomorrow morning. There's a small river parallel to the road, with dirty, muddy banks.
Eventually I come to the Venite Restaurant, recommended by the Rough Guide. It's one flight up, with some tables on little balconies overlooking the street. The walls of the houses here are all weathered, with faded and peeling paint, no doubt partly due to the ravages of the annual monsoon. The restaurant certainly has period atmosphere. According to the menu it was opened in 1955, and the menu looks to be just as old. I order a beer and pork chops. The beer is good but the pork chops (with chips and vegetables) are tough and unappealing. The best part of the meal is the icecream with chocolate sauce for dessert.
I walk back along a street named January 31, in memory of an uprising in Portugal in 1891. I come to the Relax Lodge, and look at a room. 300 rupees and it looks OK. I decide I'll move there tomorrow.
April 3rd, Panaji
My alarm clock wakes me shortly after 8 a.m., and I get up reluctantly. At 8:15 a.m. there's a knock on the door, it's the hotel manager with breakfast on a tray (I ordered this last night). I ask him to take it to the tables on the rooftop. Up on the roof there are two other Westerners also having breakfast, a girl and a guy, at separate tables. They seem quite alert, and interested in each other. I'm interested in neither. My breakfast consists of fried eggs, a pot of coffee and two buttered toasted buns, "Goan bread". The eggs are OK, the coffee is a bit weak, and one Goan bread is enough.
Downstairs I pack and after paying my bill I leave around 9:15 a.m. I walk a couple of hundred meters to the Relax Guest House, which I saw last night. I take the room (with bath) I saw last night, for 300 rupees. The manager at first seems a bit officious and unfriendly, but later mellows out. He advises me to visit Old Goa, and tells me of the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, which contains his tomb. "Miracles happen there?", I ask. "Not any more," he says, "though there were some in the past. Now things are not good in Goa. 11% inflation. And the Hindus came, and caused communal violence."
I get a motorcycle taxi to Old Goa for fifty rupees. It's exhilirating to be zooming along for the 10 km from Panaji to Old Goa. Mostly the road follows the river. The driver drops me off at the Viceroy's Arch, built in 1597 to commemorate Vasco da Gama's arrival in India. It certainly looks old. I wander up the road to visit the Church of St. Cajetan. This is empty except for the guard and one person sleeping in the pews. There are several altars with baroque wooden carving, looking very worn and dusty. Quite unimpressive.
I then go to the Se Cathedral up the road. Ths is bigger, with more ornate decoration on the fifteen altars arranged around the walls, altars dedicated to various saints, various forms of the Virgin, and even one to the Holy Spirit, protrayed somewhat androgenously, since presumably there was some uncertainty in the artist's mind as to whether the Holy Spirit is male or female.
It's quite warm, and I'm not impressed by the churches. I think of getting an autorickshaw back to Panaji, but decide to check the Basilica of Bom Jesus. This is a formidable hulk of a building, built from some kind of dark red stone. Inside the main altar is elaborately decorated in gold, and "depicts the infant Jesus under the protection of St. Ignatius Loyola." Yuk! I sit in one of the pews at the back. There is a pleasant cool breeze blowing through the church. I feel sleepy and nod off a few times.
I then go to the front for a closer look at the altar. Nearby is the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, built in 1697 and made from marble and jasper. His body is in an ornate silver reliquary. Catholics may be impressed, but I'm not.
I wander out of the church to the main road. I flag down a local bus and for four rupees travel back to the bus station at Panaji. Back at the hotel I shower and then sleep for two hours.
At 7 p.m. I go out for dinner to the Venite Restaurant again. The pork chops last night were not so great but their fish is supposed to be better. And it is. Along with a King's beer and icecream with chocolate sauce for dessert it's not a bad meal.
Back at the hotel I talk to the manager about the requirement for guests to depart by 9 a.m. Inconvenient, since I can't get breakfast down the street until 8:30 a.m. But the manager insists I leave by 9 a.m.
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