Ameya travels in a Hyundai Elantra to Goa in order to rediscover his roots
My dad once told me about his exploits of growing up in a small village in Goa. He told me how he climbed trees, caught snakes and did other brave things. He used this line during debates, especially if I sat home watching television or to remind me that it was his hard earned money I was blowing off on toys.
Turns out, he was no different than I, when he was in school. Every time I go to Goa I get to hear new stories about him, which I can eventually use against him and this time was no different.
I haven’t really explored Goa and so when I got a chance to do it by driving around the state in a Hyundai Elantra, I couldn’t say no. The beaches, the sand, the sun, the beer, the fish and the eventual hangover – they were all part of the travel plan and I didn’t miss out on any of them.
The Goa I had seen was totally different and the roads were always a problem, so getting from one place to another would take hours though the distances weren’t much.
This time around though, with the Elantra by my side, I didn’t fear the roads. The roads have been improved and you can zip past the main highways in no time. Cities like Panjim, are crowded though and as you enter the city it calls for attention and you have to give the devil its due.
The walls reek of charm of the old and the new, and the Portugese sure knew how to leave an impression. The crowded market place, the wonderful Las Vegas-style casinos and the beautiful weather that I was welcomed by, truly had me mesmerised. Yes, parking in the market place is a big issue and an even bigger one if you have a grand car like the Elantra, but then again there are pay and park options available. So, it’s easier to leave the car some place and then walk down the street to shop.
Wine shops are the grand attraction, but you have to go to Zante’s and pick up at least two packets of the most delicious cashews and later on grab a packet of the most stomach-heavy sweet that man ever made – Bebenca. After which, you move around and buy what you like; this is exactly what I did. Shirts that shout Goa, slippers that calm your feet down, it’s all here. Glad that the boot space of the Elantra swallowed all that I bought, else I hadn’t really thought that through.
If you want some peace and quiet after the shopping, move down to Dona Paula Jetty or Miramar beach (they run along the same belt). Dona Paula in fact was named after Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior, a historical figure in Portuguese India and is to date a beautiful tourist destination.
Dona Paula is also home to the National Institute of Oceanography and so a visit is a must. The road to Dona Paula is a bit on the rough side but in the Elantra I didn’t feel a thing. The potholes too were easily negotiated and manoeuvring the car around the city was easy because of the light steering.
I moved on from here to see some churches in old Goa. Some one mentioned that I must go and see the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Charming as it is, Old Goa has lanes, which has place for one car and 2 cows and usually you end up having 7 to 8 animals to negotiate with. Honking never helps. They’re from Goa, they leave when it suits their convenience. How do I know? My relatives stay here.
If you’re driving, stay very alert because these small lanes can be quite tricky at times and you never know which person or animal will pop out of which gate or what lane. Hence, it took me some time to get to the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church, but once I got there I could see why it was such a big deal.
There are guides to help you out with the history but if you have time on your hands, go through the large marble engraving and you’ll know what it’s all about. This 17th century monument holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier and the throng of the public gets bigger every 10 years especially during the public viewing of his body. Miraculously I am here a year early.
Tours are arranged on a daily basis from the airport to all the places you want to see in North or South Goa by Goa Tourism Department. They also have some good hotel stay options, which are extremely well priced and within budget, but if you have your own car, homestay as a concept (that is catching up here) might suit you better.
I’ve enjoyed every bit of time I spent here and can’t wait to get back, because in all my exploring escapades I forgot to visit my hometown and hence couldn’t get any dope on Dad. Goa’s charm has worked again and my dad’s spared. Well, there’s always next time and I hope then that the Elantra will be by my side.