I leave the hotel around midnight for my 2am flight from Mumbai to Panjim, the capital of Goa. I arrive at 3am, and my bag does not come off the conveyor belt. I feel a slight panic. After asking a few airport employees what I should do, someone comes out with my suitcase on a trolley. The zipper has broken, and the suitcase is wide open, unable to zip shut. I quickly look through to see if anything is missing and we’re good to go. I have to say I’m really impressed with the staff of either Jet Airways or the airport for keeping my belongings safe! Kim is waiting for me in the arrival area; Kim is one of my oldest friends from my hometown whom I met when we were 12. She currently lives in Dubai, so she decided to join me for this portion of my trip. Luckily, I have also brought my large backpack on this trip (it was in the suitcase), so I have no problems transferring my belongings and throwing out my broken suitcase!
We check into the hotel and sleep for a few hours before we explore the city for the day.
Goa is a state on the west coast of India, most visited for its beaches and churches. The Portuguese gained power back in the 1500’s and it lasted over 4 centuries. To this day, it is a cool mix of Indian and Portuguese culture and influence.
Our hotel is located in the Fontainhas district of the capital city Panaji(or Panjim), and we have a wander down the cobblestone roads, admiring the colorful buildings.
Our first stop is the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church. It is baroque style, and is bright white with a large bell on the top. A few flights of zigzagged stairs take us up to the church, overlooking the square below. It is closed so we admire from the outside. We wander around again, and end up along the banks of the Mandovi river.
There are floating casinos in the river, and we decide not to gamble today. There wasn’t much else to see, so we grab a taxi and head into Old Goa.
Old Goa is a historical site, with many UNESCO World Heritage churches. The first stop is the most famous church, the Basilica of Bom Jesus , another baroque style church.
Inside are the remains of St Francis Xavier. There is a public viewing of his body every 10 years, and worshippers believe in his healing powers.
The inner area of the church is relatively modest, aside from the main alter that is gilded, and the marble floors with inlaid precious stones. We cross a small road that takes us over to two more large white churches. Inside the St Francis of Assisi church, the altar is a large statue of St Francis, and Jesus on the cross.
The walls are adorned with frescoes, some depicting the life of St Francis. Right next to this church is the Se Cathedral. The architecture is Portuguese gothic.
The main altar is dedicated to St Catherine, and there is a large bell in the tower called the Golden Bell. It is the largest in Goa; back in the day it could be heard all over the town and it’s considered one of the best in the world.
We switch direction and walk up to the St Augustine monastery…I’m wondering why people don’t want to see this?
The other churches were packed full of tourists, and this site is not. To me, it is amazing…I’m beginning to realize I have a thing for ruins. The monastery is now in ruins due to neglect; what remains is the shell of half of the large tower.
The bell from the tower is now at the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church in Panaji, which we had visited earlier today. We wander around the area, taking in the energy of what was once a place of worship. The ground is a bit slick, and I slip on one of the steps, scraping my elbow. Luckily, we have some first aid wipes and band aids for my bleeding wound. No problem, we cross the road to another church. I’m not sure which one it is, and I can’t find any info on it anywhere. It’s small and quiet, and we sit for a few minutes to take it all in.
Hailing a tuk tuk, with ice cream in hand, we head back in to Panaji and to a cute cafe called Cafe Bodega up on Altinho Hill. It’s also a small gallery, and we can have some cool views of the city from atop the hill.
We head back to the hotel , and go for dinner at this quaint restaurant that serves traditional Goan food.
Even though it’s pouring rain, we sit outside on the patio. It’s sheltered, no worries. We try calamari, mushroom xacuti(mushrooms in a spicy gravy), Goan cauliflower(delicious!), and bebinca which is a layered pudding cake. We pair the meal with Feni, a very strong spirit that is only available in Goa. It’s best mixed with Limca, which is similar to Sprite. It’s definitely an acquired taste. Overall, the perfect way to end our first night in Goa.