By Somali K Chakrabarti
Winter is generally the preferred season for tourists to visit Goa. Monsoon, on the other hand, is the “off-season” for tourists in Goa. Nonetheless, it is also the season when you can enjoy moving around the places of interest at leisure, without finding yourself in a sea of people all around you.
So here I am in Goa on a short trip, enjoying the monsoon. The rain this year in Goa has been sparse though. It wasn’t raining on Sunday morning. We decided to go to old Goa.
Goa has an interesting amalgamation of east and west, ancient and modern, beaches and hills. There is a bit of everything for everyone it appears. On one hand, you find casinos and clubs, on the other you find a number of churches and temples. It is a small quaint state and yet there is something very lively about Goa.
The greenery on both sides of the road is refreshing. On the way, many old bungalows can be seen with slanted roofs, pillared porches, inner courtyards and gardens outside.
Having remained under the Portuguese control till 1961 (yes even after India became independent from the British Rule in 1947), the cultural influence of Portugal is evident in its architecture, particularly in its churches and in the old houses.
One of the oldest churches in Goa and in India is the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Constructed in 1605, the ancient church situated in old Goa, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The relics of St Francisco, who was known to have miraculous healing powers, are preserved in the church.
Across the road stands the Archeological Survey of India Museum, a white building standing surrounded by a carpet of greenery. We are caught in a sudden downpour but manage to quickly enter the new church next to the Museum.
On the way, we see the Tirupathi Balaji Temple.
We stop at the Mangeshi Temple, dedicated to Bhagavan Mangesh, an incarnation of Shiva. The temple is visited by a number of people throughout the year.
Next, we head towards the Spice Garden. Spices have since long attracted people from all over the world to India.
The Sahakari Spice Garden promotes the concept of Eco – Tourism. Spread over an area of 130 acres, the plantation surrounded by a lake grows a variety of spices and herbs.
On entry, we are served a glass of lemongrass ginger tea before we head for a guided tour. Our tour guide is a young girl, with an extensive knowledge of herbs, spices and plantations.
She introduces us to various spices and herbs. We see the Arabia coffee plants, cardamom, cloves, pepper, cinnamon, lemongrass, betelnut palms, Portuguese chilli (called Piri Piri), nutmeg, turmeric and Vanilla. She explains the medicinal properties of the herbs and their various uses.
We get to know how Feni (the famed Goan liquor ) is extracted and prepared from cashew pods.
As the tour ends we freshen up with a little amount of Feni in a shot glass followed by a buffet lunch. We move out recharged and refreshed.
More on Goa later…
Here’s the second part of the travelogue – Going around Goa
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