Being our last day in Goa we wanted to make the most out of it. Our tickets were already booked for the next day. That left us with only 24 hours and we did not want to waste a single second of this precious day. And having breakfast meant wasting a minimum of 30 mins. So, we skipped our breakfast and went to the Calangute bus stand to catch a bus which would take us to Old Goa via Panaji.
A one hour ride from the Calangute brought us to Old Goa. On the way to Old Goa or Velha Goa as it is known, we saw the Goa Institute of Management which is located at Ribander, Panaji. The way to Old Goa is simply amazing as you get to witness the Mandovi River. The Mandovi River flowing towards the Arabian Sea is the lifeline of Goa. Both the Old Goa and the capital city Panaji are situated on the banks of the River Mandovi.The majestic beauty of Mandovi River is further enhanced by the beautiful Mandovi Bridge.
Fighting hunger all the way we reached Old Goa. Now, we were in for a surprise. There were no restaurants in sight. But our hungry eyes did manage to find a posh restaurant just near to the Bom Jesus of Basilica Church. I don’t recollect the name of the restaurant but its reception area was nothing less compared to a 3 star Hotel. That intended that I and Rehan go and check out the rates. And we found the rates good enough to have a hearty meal without draining our pockets dry.
After some fishes from the Arabian Sea and the Mandovi River were transferred into our bellies, we set out for the Tour de Old Goa. We started with the Bom Jesus of Basilica Church. This basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier which attracts millions of devotees from all over the world every year. Every 10 years (last held in Dec 2004), the body of this revered saint is taken down from the silver casket kept in the church and kept for public display.
Bom Jesus of Basilica Church
Though the saint died in the year 1552, his body has still not decomposed. You need to witness this spectacle to believe the miracle. This splendid church built in the year 1695 has been conferred with the World Heritage Monument title. The church is also famous for its first and the largest art gallery of its kind in Asia, comprising of many oil paintings and ink drawings. In this world of electronic media you have the luxury of viewing this magnificent gallery here.
After spending an hour in this church we went to the Se Cathedral, located bang opposite to the Bom Jesus Church. Se Cathedral is the largest church in the whole of Asia and was built by the Portuguese. This church is dedicated to St. Catherine. Earlier, it was at Se Cathedral that the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier were shown to the public.
A statue of Jesus at Se Cathedral
After spending some quiet moments in the church, we set off for the St. Augustine Tower located just 10 mins walk away on a hill. Even though in complete ruins after it was deserted by the Augustinians, it still seemed striking to us. With a soaring 46 metre high tower this was one of the largest churches in Goa. Now, it is one of the excavation sites of the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). Our fascination and investigation helped us discover a cave and a hidden chamber in the ruins. It was quite a treasure hunt location for us.
Even ruins could not prevent the Bollywood directors, who have shot the most famous scenes of Gumnaam and Josh here. After a short photo shoot we went on our way towards Panaji but not before we were duped by a local ice cream seller. He was selling the cones on prices marked higher than M.R.P. We caught him but then our hearts of gold let him go. *Chuckle*
A local bus ride brouht us to Panaji. I have never understood one simple thing that why do locals pronounce Panaji as Panjim??? Anyways, when in Goa do as the Goans do. The last time I was in Goa, I had seen a beautiful church in Panaji in the night. I wanted to experience exquisiteness of this church once again.This is the Our Lady of Rosary, one of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen. Standing tall on a two storied portico, painted in spotless white with some borders of blue, it is a church you should not miss when you are in Goa.
The most astounding thing about this church is that it's name is not engraved on the church building nor displayed anywhere. The only words engraved on the white building in blue letters are “ORAPRONOBIS”.
The meaning is unknown to me. After ascending the stairs of the portico, we were at the entrance of the church. As the Mass was in service, we waited outside for sometime. After the Mass, we went in and knelt in front of the altar. It was a moment of calmness and peace.
You can catch a splendid view of the Panaji city from the Church. Well, the origin of the name Panaji or Panjim has many explanations. One of them means “Ponjy” – the land that never floods. As the Church is located opposite a busy road, we sat on the steps and watched the traffic flow. It was a beautiful moment. A striking lavender India Tourism building added to the beauty of the place.
Opposite the Church - Whats our Future???
After a long break, it was time to buy some mementos from Goa and what can beat the Cashews and Wine of Goa. With Cashews loaded in our bags, we sent out for Calangute. On the way, we saw Santa Monica which is famous for its cruises. This time we did not have time to go on a cruise. The last time I had been on this cruise with Tatun and Naveen.
The return bus journey to Calangute was tiring and sleepy. But, it was made memorable by a foreigner. You will be surprised but he managed to surprise as well, especially Ali. He managed to bamboozle us with his fluency of Hindi. When asked, he said that he had been staying in India for the past 20 years and had also taken the Indian citizenship. Something to ponder when you criticize your country.
Back to our rooms filled with excitement and tiredness, we had a quick wash and made plans to visit TITO’s - the most happening night club of Goa. All of us were really excited to dance the night away but our legs were exhausted thanks to our “Keep Walking” Adventure. So, we dropped the idea of pleasing our legs and thought of flattering our stomachs instead. This time, there would be no restrictions. Anyone could order whatever they liked, no questions asked. A royal feast was on the cards. This brought us to a nice restaurant in the Calangute Market which was only filled with firings. There was a pool table too. We only posed with the cue sticks but did not play as it was already late in the night and most restaurants in Goa stop taking orders after 10:00 in the night.
Just imagine this scenario. 7 animals… no restrictions… order to your likes… Wow!!! The orders started flying and every sea food on the Menu was ordered. Right from the Sharks, Squids, Crabs, Prawns and King Fish we ordered it all. Can you believe we also ordered Prawn Cocktail? It was simply amazing. There was a power failure once and this meant we ended having a Candle Light dinner.
Chocolate and Protein milkshakes were ous desserts. The manager of the hotel was a nice guy. He summoned us to his bar. It was a nice bar with the bar stools and all the alcohol in place. We sat on the bar stools and clicked more photographs. After thanking the manager for the quality time, we set off towards the Calangute beach. The beach looks as awesome in the night as it does in the day. It was here that we discussed our future, our plans our ambitions and our friendship.
Late in the night we reached our rooms. It was an unforgettable day for us all. But Anna and Gala won’t ever forget this night. Kyun..Sahi bola na Anna??? We all retired to beds late at around 3:00 in the night… oops rather early in the morning. The last night in Goa had come to an end and a new morning was in the offing to begin a new day for us.
The new day will rise with a new post. Till then… keep discovering… And yes...today is Mother's Day. I think we need to celebrate each and very day as Mothers' Day. Just one day doesn't make a difference. Anyways, I take this opportunity of wishing all the moms over the world and especially all the moms of the Animal Kingdom... A HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY... You all deserve it!!!