Difference between revisions of "Goa"
Revision as of 16:52, 26 March 2011
Goa a state in India's West region, is a former Portuguese colony with rich history. It is 3,700 km² with a population of approximately 1.4 million. Goa has a unique mix of native and Portuguese cultures and architecture that attracts an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year (including about 400,000 foreign tourists).
Panaji, Goa's state capital is also known as Panjim, Ponnje or Pangim. It is one of the most charming cities in India.
Goa is a hub of tourism in India. From the 1960s, Goa has been attracting a steady flow of visitors -- first the hippies and returning expat Goans, then the charter tourists visiting (starting with the Germans in 1987), pilgrims visiting Catholic and Hindu shrines, those opting to settle in Goa as their home, visitors coming here for medical treatment, and a growing number of those who attend seminars and conferences in Goa.
Goa is visibly different from the rest of India, owing to Portuguese rule which isolated it from the rest of India for 451 years.
Goan Catholics generally acknowledge their Hindu roots, and carry traces of a caste-system within their social beliefs sometimes. It is recorded that in many instances the Hindus left one son behind to convert and thus continue to own and manage the common properties while the rest of the family preferred to emigrate to neighboring areas along with the idols representing their Hindu deities.
Over the years large numbers of Catholics have emigrated to the major commercial cities of Bombay and Pune and from there onward to East Africa, the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, to Portugal itself and towards the end of the 20th century to Canada and Australia. Many old Goan ancestral properties therefor lie either abandoned or mired in legal tangles brought about by disagreements within the widely dispersed inheritors of the property. In recent years, expat Goans have been returning to their home state, often purchasing holiday homes along the coast (which are then converted into 'rent back' apartments, hired out to short-staying tourists by realtors).
The best time of the year to visit Goa is mid-November to mid-February when the weather is comfortable, dry and pleasant.
Apart from the consulates there are cultural organisations active in Goa, with the Portuguese again being most active.
Fundacao Oriente has a large presence in Fontainhas, the latin quarter of Panjim. It does organise an occasional interesting programme, Fundacao Oriente, which sponsors cultural events and adds variety to Goa's cultural scene. This faced some major problems when it was first set up. Goa's uneasy parting of ways with its former Portuguese rulers, and lingering ultra-nationalism amidst a section of freedom fighters could be seen as the reasons. The Fundacao also has been subsidising a book-publishing plan which has helped put out more Goa-related titles in what is otherwise a small but colourful market for books dealing with a tiny region of South Asia.
For a state which has a lot of people passing through, Goa has nearly two weeks of holidays each year. Government offices have a five-day-week (Saturday-Sunday closed). Panjim closes early (around 8PM) each evening, and shops here could have a fairly longish siesta break (from around 1.30PM till up to 3.30PM). Goan shop owners take this siesta break seriously, and no business is conducted during this time. Bars, restaurants and other shopping centers are more buyer-friendly.
Major public or special holidays are around Christmas, Republic Day, Id-ul-zuha, Gudi Padva, Good Friday, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi (both days), Gandhi Jayanthi, Dussehra, Diwali, Id-ul-fitr, Feast of St Francis Xavier, Goa Liberation Day, ; Mahashivratri, Holi and Id-e-milad. Banks may remain open during local religious celebrations. Weekend: Saturday and Sunday.
Expect a huge influx of tourists and locals residing in other states during festivals like Ganesh Jayanthi, and Carnival (celebrated at the begining of Lent in the Christian calendar. It is advised to make bookings for trains, buses and flights well in advance if you intend on visiting the state during these days.
By Indian standards and size, Goa is a very small state with only two districts. These districts are together further divided into 11 talukas (sub-districts). While for administrative purposes Goa is divided on a North and South Goa basis, for touristic purposes (other than understanding the geography), this distinction doesn't make much sense to the traveller. Both North Goa and South Goa are similar, and each has their own "coastal" and "interior" areas. Likewise, the central coastal part of both the district have similar histories, and underwent Portuguese rule for longer than did the hinterland, making them more Westernized in appearance.
Goa's different regions, if these are to be pointed out, are actually its central coastal areas (where the beaches are located, and these area were under colonial rule for longer, reflecting more of Portugal's influence, including having a relatively larger Christian population), and the interior hinterland areas (more of the nature sanctuaries, mining zones and rural areas are located here).
It must be however noted that despite popular perception, Goa has a minority Catholic population (a little over 25%) while the Hindus (in varying caste groupings) form the majority. Likewise, contrary to popular perception, Goa is not an island, though parts of what was considered "Goa" in the past were cut-off from the mainland by the many rivers this region is known for.
Goan culture has been shaped by the mainly Hindu and Catholic population. People are mostly easy going ( 'sossegado' in Portuguese). With better connectivity by Air and Rail, there has been an influx of people from neighbouring states, that has led to different cultures. Many Indians from other states have now come and settled here.
Goa also has a number of other smaller, sometimes charming and sometimes crowded towns such as along the beach belt (Calangute, Candolim), and in the interior (Chaudi in Canacona, Sanvordem-Quepem, Bicholim, Pernem town, etc). Some of these are gateways to the nearby touristic areas. In addition, Goa has some nearly 350 villages, often scenic and each having a character of its own.
Some other places which you could find more information about:
Goa's state language is Konkani. Most Goans speak Konkani, English, Hindi, and Marathi. Portuguese is also known by a small segment, especially the elite and earlier privileged class or the older generation which studied in pre-1961 Portuguese-ruled Goa.
However, different languages tend to be used for different purposes in Goa. Konkani is the most widely spoken. English and Marathi tend to be most widely read. (Most newspapers are read in these two languages too.) For primary schooling, education has to be imparted in "local regional languages" (i.e. Konkani or Marathi) to be entitled to receive government grants, on the argument that elementary education is best imparted in the "language of the child". At middle and high-school, and college too, education is almost wholly imparted in English.
Catholics largely use Konkani for their prayer services, while the language for religion is largely Marathi for Hindus. The administration is largely conducted in English, which is also the language of publication of the official gazette, and the main used tongue in the courts.
It can be rather difficult currently to be able to learn Konkani, with options for learning rather restricted. The language is written in four to five scripts, in and beyond Goa -- Devanagari (the official script), Roman or Romi (widely used in Goa), Kannada-script, Malayalam-script and Perso-Arabic reportedly used by some Muslim communities further south along the Indian west coast. Recently, books to learn Konkani in the Roman script have also been published, making it easier for those not knowing the Devanagari script (used to write Hindi, Marathi and other languages too) that is the officially-recognized script for Konkani in Goa.
Goa can be reached by its lone airport (Dabolim), by train, and by the many buses connecting the state with cities in India (primarily Mumbai Mangalore and Bangalore). If you are travelling from Mumbai or Pune, car travel would provide you a journey through he breathtaking scenery of Konkan area. Travel from Mangalore to Goa is through konkan rail and you can see its breath taking scenary and doodh sagar.
Distance from Goa to various cities:
There are several bus routes from various cities, but most traffic is from mainly Mumbai and Pune, but with increasing demand from the south, there has been an increase in buses and trains from Mangalore,Bangalore and New Delhi. Overnight buses from Mumbai to Goa are one alternative to trains and flying. Note that while many of the coaches are newer Volvo models, you will share your sleeper bunk with one other person. (2 Person bunk)
Indian Railways  connects Goa with direct train services from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Kochi, Kolkata, Thiruvanantapuram, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The destination station is usually Madgaon in South Goa. Travelling to Goa by train is a real pleasure as the route passes through greenery and many tunnels.
Unless travelling on a shoe string budget, it is advisable to travel in air conditioned sleeper coaches, that are relatively quieter, and much more comfortable. Each bunk is provided with two freshly laundered sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. You can also have a hand towel on request.
Most Travel Agents will book tickets for a small fee, R200, but be aware that trains do get busy and you need to book in advance, do not leave booking your ticket to the last moment as you may be disappointed.
Here are some useful trains to get into Goa:
Travelling by train can be quite an experience as you are more likely to be able to interact with fellow Indian travellers visiting Goa from different parts of the country, under more relaxed conditions.
Also see Rail travel in India
Goa has one airport at Dabolim in Vasco.
Some airlines fly directly to Goa, but most international flights arrive via Mumbai.
Air India has international flights to Kuwait and UAE twice a week. Air arabia has discount flights to sharjah. Qatar Airways has flights to Doha, and has convenient connections to western Europe, Africa and USA
On arrival, pre-paid taxis from Dabolim Airport are preferred. Find yellow pre-paid taxi booth 30 metres on the left when you exit the main building. There is also a pre-paid taxi stand in the international arrival area .The rates are slightly cheaper than the yellow cabs .
Normally most resorts pick up from the airport for free so please make sure you ask your resort for free pickup.
Occasional cruise services ply from Mumbai to Goa. This was run in past years, but currently it is discontinued.
High resolution maps are not available for Goa - for instance, some popular isles are not shown in many maps.
Parts of Goa lack sign-boards, so finding your way around will be a challenge. When in doubt just ask - usually people are friendly and helpful- don't expect precise answers though (a so-called 'five minute drive' could take a good twenty).
While driving, expect surprises like domestic animals and little children darting across the road and unmarked speed breakers / speed bumps.
Choice of geared and un-geared motorbikes and scooters can be borrowed on rent (typically without helmets). Those planning to stay long can consider buying them too. Rentals are around Rs 300 (+ about Rs 100 for fuel) a day on a Honda Activa scooter and a little more if one is looking for a geared motorcycle. Always ask for a discount if renting long-term (one month or more) when you should not have to pay more than Rs 100 per day (scooter). Ensure that you have all the ownership documents of the bike. Also, avoid taking motorbikes with yellow plates out of Goa, it is a punishable offense. Hiring a bike with white plates is ok for local travel in your immediate vicinity but if you want to travel further afield then always rent with yellow plates. Wearing a crash helmet is compulsory when you go on any major roads, ask for local advice. Rs 100 fine for not wearing, or a large hospital bill. Don't forget that foreigners will need an International Driving Permit (Convention 1949) and this is the first thing the police will ask you for if stopped. You should also carry your normal driving licence with you.
Fares: 4-6 rupees and buses a great way to travel and see the country and are inexpensive. 10-15 rupees often get you a 30-40km ride.
Mahindra, Willys or Maruti Gypy makes are similar to the long wheel base version of the Suzuki Jimmy. Some of these jeeps are open roof. Expect to pay around Rs. 1,000 - Rs. 1,200 a day.
There are many car rental companies available.
Art & culture
Goa has a number of museums. There's the Goa State Museum and then there's Architect Gerard da Cunha's relatively-new architectural museum called Houses of Goa. The Xavier Centre of Historical Research, at Porvorim, has its Gallery on Christian Art, named the Xavier Xandev Museum. the archaeological museum and portrait gallery is at Old Goa, the Christian Art Museum at the same location (a little further away at the Santa Monica Convent annexe), and the Pilar Seminary Museum. At the Bom Jesus Basilica is a modern art gallery containing the works of the Goan surrealist, Dom Martin, as well as photographs of Churches and other monuments taken by the world-renowned photographer, Benoy Behl. Big Foot at Loutolim (aka Ancestral Goa) is an attempt to illustrate and recreate Goa's traditional past. In the village of Benaulim is the Goa Chitra Museum, containing the largest collection of ethnographic artifacts ever assembled in one place. There's even a vintage-cars collection of sorts -- Ashvek Vintage World "dedicated to restore and preserve motoring and motorcycling gems of historical interest in Goa". You can find cars ranging from ye old Mercedes Benz, to the Peugeot, Morris, Chevrolet and the Volkswagen. Check it out at Nuvem, on permanent display. Entry Rs 50.
Art galleries in Goa include Gallery Gitanjali (run by Ajit Sukhija in a building that once was the People's High School at Panjim's latin quarter of Fontainhas), Galeria Cidade at the Cidade de Goa luxury resort, Peace Cottage Fine Art Gallery perched between two luxury hotels at Betalbatim, Gallery Boa Arte opposite the Municipal Garden in Panjim, Picturesque opposite the Goa Urban Cooperative Bank also in Panjim, and Gallery Yemania in Verem. Other art centers are also open in Goa. Art Chamber at Calangute, the Kerkar Art Complex and more. Dr Subodh Kerkar has two galleries, one for his permanent collection, and the other housing the works of Indian and foreign artists. The open air auditorium puts up performances in Indian classical music and dance.
Goa is world famous for its beaches, its ancient temples and churches, and its Goan carnival.
Global items come in amazing diversity specially at the night markets of North Goa. In Panjim, the 18th June Road is faster emerging as a lure for shoppers and tourists. Mapusa, while hosting a traditional market each Friday, attracts a number of tourists, specially foreigners. Goa's talented goldsmiths are neatly located in a line at Mapusa's market, and in parts of Margao and Panjim. Check out traditional Goan lacquerware toys (available at the Aparant emporia).
Every major hotel has its own bookshop, of varying quality. Books tend to be priced amazingly inexpensively in India, including in Goa. For the best collection of books related to 'alternative India' and the environment, visit the almost hidden Other India Bookstore. It sits atop the old Mapusa Clinic, at Mapusa's Feira Alta locality. Entrance from the behind.
Broadways Book Centre at 18th June Road (near Caculo Traffic Island); Confidant's Golden Heart Emproium in Margao (2732450); Mandovi Square near Cine Nacional (2234241); and Varsha Book Stall (2425832) near the Bank of India and Azad Maidan. The last two focus on newspapers and magazines coming in from the rest of the country and abroad.
Reading Habit, at Campal on the way to Miramar Beach, has a wide variety of books.
One Goan unique product is that of hand-painted ceramics. *Furniture is another area of interest, in terms of shopping options, despite its bulky nature. Antiques are also a growing business here.
Foreign tourists increasingly go "shopping" for medical services. There are a number of outlets that offer a form of 'health tourism'. These include centers like Dr Pimenta's Dental Practice (www.goadentist.com) at Romano Chambers (near the Old Petrol Pump in Calangute) and Lake Plaza near Nehru Stadium in Margao.
Want to shop Goan? One good value-for-money place is the Aparant network of outlets managed by the State-run Goa Handicrafts network. In their ten outlets across Goa you could expect to find an interesting range of handicrafts from Goa. And reasonably priced too. Items range from shell-work to clay, bamboo, paper mache, coconut-items and fiber. "If visitors have a problem with carrying back some the (more fragile) handicrafts home, then fibre is a good option. These outlets are, besides four in Panjim, located at Vasco da Gama (on Swatantra Path, at the Vasco Residency) and at the local GTDC-run "residency" hotels in Margao, Mapusa, Calangute, the Bicholim Pottery Production Centre at the Industrial Estate, and at Loutolim's Big Foot.
In Panjim, the other outlets of Aparant are located at the Udyog Bhavan (opposite the Goa Police Headquarter, near the Ferry Jetty); at the main Kadamba bus-terminus; and at the Crafts Complex office of the Goa Handicrafts in Neugi Nagar (Rua de Ourem). The largest number of items are available at the last location, about 2.5 kms off the center of town.
Most of the Aparant outlets are open between 9:30 or 10AM to 6 or 7PM, depending on their location.
Products of dry coconuts and coconut-shells are carved and often designed to fit on a wooden base. Items produced here include table lamps, flower pots, table clocks, different religious statues and decorative items.
Cotton thread is transformed in an artistic way with the crochet steel hook, rendering it in beautiful designs and shapes. Likewise, sea-shells that were once discarded by the beach get transformed by artisans. Traditional clay art -- in the form of pots, ash-trays, flower pots, images of gods -- is a skill that has been built up across generations in Goa. Ditto for the case of bamboo products.
A few of these items are produced in-house at the Goa Handicrafts' center in Bicholim. Others come from artisans across the state. This network has done a fair job in highlighting the skills of geographically-scattered local artisans, and also finding them the market they so-badly need to sustain their rich talent.
The Goan staple diet consists of rice and fish curry along with pickles and fried fish. This can be found on many of the beach shacks. The Goan cuisine is a blend of Portuguese and local flavours. Many dishes such as prawn balchao and Kingfish in Garlic have distinct Portuguese flavour.
Dishes such as Vindaloo and Xacuti (pronounced Cha'cuti) will be familiar from Indian restaurant menus, and are originally Goan dishes.
Most beaches have shacks that serve surprisingly delicious meals, specially sea-food and they'll usually consult you to see how you like your food. Don't miss the shack eating experience. You'll want to go back and do it again. Most fancy hotels and restaurants serve terrible foods, it is best to eat at local places, ask a taxi driver where these would be and don't let him take you to any fancy restaurants as they receive commission.
Here, you can find so many restaurants with sea food is available.
There are two local brews long made and drunk in Goa -- cashew feni and coconut feni. One comes from the cashew apple, and the other from the sap of the coconut tree. Goa's feni-making has been much focussed on.
Feni-brewing skills have been honed by Goa's former Portuguese rulers. Strange but true: the cashew was brought in by the Portuguese themselves, and today it seems like a closely integrated part of Goa. Cashew-apples go to waste in neighbouring states, and in the fruiting season, one could get a strong smell of semi-fermenting apples being transported specially from Maharashtra into Goa, at locales close to the border.
Feni has come to become synonymous with Goa. "Indigenous alcoholic drinks include coconut palm toddy from south and eastern India and the Goan liquor 'feni' based on coconut palm juice or cashew nut," explains the website of the Indian Embassy in Russia.
Needless to say, feni has its own strong taste. Some like it, some don't. At one of the liquor outlets in Panjim, you can run into bus-loads of tourists picking up their 'souvenir' of feni.
Of course, there are a range of other options too. Local wines are priced at between Rs 40 to Rs 150 per bottle (of 750 ml).
In recent years, Goa has been hosting what it calls the "Grape Escape", a festival of wines, around the start of each year (held in mid-February 2007 and May 2006, for instance).
In Panjim, new ventures are also bringing in new products. A Nau ("The Ship" in Portuguese, unfortunately since closed down, as of the time of writing this, October 2008) brings in a range of wines and other commodities from Portugal.
Global Spirits and Foods, which operates out of the Pilerne Industrial Estate some 10 kms from Panjim, wholesales a wide range of products from across the globe -- champagne and cognac from France; wines from Argentina and Chile, Australia and New Zealand; vodka from Poland; single malt from Scotland; and even the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage of Brazil Cachaca. (Cachaça is the product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, with its alcohol strength between 38% and 51% by volume. It is often said to differ from rum in that it is made from sugarcane juice while rum is made from molasses.)
In terms of local products, Madame Rosa has also been diversifying into coffee and other liqueur. Flavours include mango, anise, almond and chocolate mint. PVV (Pedro Vincent Vaz), another prominent brand, comes out with its cashew and palm products (in sizes of 750 ml, 180 ml and 60 ml). Other brands have names like Dom Pedro, Goan Treasure, Cashew Inside, Fruit Shape, among others.
Alcoholic Beverages The popular alcoholic beverages in Goa are Beer and Wine. There is also the local liquor, Fenny, which is quite potent and strong. It comes in 2 flavours, Cashewnut and Coconut.
Goa is one of the more expensive states in India to stay in. During the peak season, which lasts from November to late March, the prices are very high. Especially in December, 5 star hotel rates rates range from around Rs.20,000 - Rs.35,000 per night. A room / hut at peak times will cost you around 600 / 800 Rs. All tourist spots charge more in the peak season.
Goa really has a lot of places to stay at, except during the last week of the year, between Christmas and New Year, when the place is usually completely packed. Try to avoid that overhyped week and you will get a better deal without the added pressures.
Goa has a large network of banks, some of which will change currency. In the tourist pockets and urban areas, one comes across such services easily. Reserve Bank of India's Foreign Exchange Department is at 3A/B Sesa Ghor, Patto in Panjim (Ph 2438656, 2438659, fax 2438657) though one need not go specifically here.
Leading hotels, shops and travel agents will also offer foreign currency exchanges.
Phones (needs work)
At the time of writing, Goa's telephone directory hasn't been published for at least four years. In a state with among the highest teledensities (phones per hundred users) across India, this is a serious handicap.
Add to this the reality that the telephone network here is frequently growing. And that telephone numbers have grown from four-digits to the current seven in not too many years. Finding the right number you need can be tough.
Old telephone directories have segregated phone subscribers on the basis of the many small phone exchanges in the State. (Earlier, it needed a trunk-call to call from one exchange to the other, not anymore.) So it can be very confusing to locate a particular phone number.However if you do have a phone Number of the Bsnl co. gettin the Adress is easy by dialing 197.
Goa's main telecom ISP BSNL has this online telephone directory  which is partiallly useful.
Government of Goa's Department of Information and Publicity (located at Udyog Bhavan, near Azad Maidan and the Goa Police Headquarters in the heart of Panjim) comes out with a fairly-regularly unpriced -- but not easily available -- pocketbook of phone numbers. This focusses largely on politicians, goernment officials and media persons. Some useful fax numbers, email addresses and websites mentioned here. But don't expect officials to reply to your e-mail!
Yellow pages are also available. To enquire about local businesses contact Hello 2412121 (0832-2412121) ,The Talking Yellowpages Of Goa and Online Enquiry Hello Yellowpages Goa . Both these services from Hello Group Goa . offers information on a range of businesses in Goa.
Mobile services have grown fast in Goa.
It is very easy to get a Prepaid mobile SIM card. It will cost around 100Rs, just take a copy of your passport to a phone shop and away you go. It is worth thinking about cost and coverage if you are travelling around india as once you leave Goa and travel to anoher state you then pay roaming charges for all calls. It is still cheap though. A single text to the UK from Goa costs 10Rs and calls cost about 12Rs a minute.
and now GSM
Internet cafes can be found in Goa's urban areas, tourist spots and hotels. It is not difficult to find an internet center in a state known for its large expat and tourist population. ID has to be presented and foreigners will need to present their passport before being allowed to use the internet.
Consulates and High Commissions
Goa is home to the Consulate General of Portugal. Obviously so, as this distant country has had close and long historic and colonial ties.
Getting a Portuguese passport -- or, rather, "regaining" Portuguese nationality, going by what it actually implies -- is no longer as easy as it once was for people of Goan origin. This continues to be available, even if difficult and time-consuming to obtain now, and also for those born after 1961. There are still many queueing up at the lavishly done-up consulate.
Portugal's consulate has itself changed home thrice in a few years. It has now settled along the route to Panjim's one-time -- and still, in some ways -- elite area of Altinho.
Britain, which has a significant number of tourists visiting the region, also has its Tourist Assistance Office (earlier designated as a consular officer) based here. Germany, Austria (in the port town of Vasco da Gama) and Italy have their honorary consuls.
Goa is an ideal holiday destination for travelers, but tourists should bear in mind that like any country with all its heritage and culture comes its own set of safety issues. Readers, please don’t be alarmed with the advice you may get here, but it's just the guidelines to the dos and don'ts in Goa.
Goa now has a common number for police/fire/ambulance services. Just dial 108 in case of any emergency. This service is run by the GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) and is based out of Goa Medical College (Bambolim) and has ambulances posted at various parts of Goa. These ambulances are fully equipped and have trained paramedics.
Fire service The number to Fire Service is 191.
(These should maybe be sorted and moved to appropriate articles)
Most tourists travel to and from Goa by bus. Book in advance during the crowded seasons (particularly during the Christmas-New Year rush, for Carnival, or when other Indian regions have school holidays when families travel). Trains connecting Goa offer an inexpensive and fairly pleasant ride, provided you get confirmed reserved seats. Unconfirmed travel can be pretty harrowing.
Goa is fairly well connected to other nearby Indian cities (Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, etc) via bus. One problem is that most buses ply in the night, and reach their destination the next morning. If you have a connecting bus, train or flight, this means that the timing you reach there might be inconvenient.
Kadamba Transport Corporation is the Goa state-run transport service. Its buses have seen better days, and more efficient times. There are also other state-run buses run by the governments of Karnataka (some services are efficient, specially the Volvo buses), Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Many private players also offer bus connections to other cities, with varying levels of discounts and efficiency, with the two usually being inversely related.
The main center for booking train and bus tickets, in Panjim, is around the Kadamba inter-state bus terminus. Tickets for the Konkan Railway can also be booked here, though expect long queues during the holiday season (which in India, can also coincide with the timings when children have a school break).