January 30, 2013

Arambol- The Bohemian Beach...!!

It was a nice drive past the wonderful serene beaches of Morjim and Ashwem to the bohemian Arambol. It is not without reason that the hippies, foreign backpackers and bohemian lovers call this beach their home. It is a far cry from the maddening crowds of Baga, Calangute and Anjuna. This serene beach which is mostly frequented by foreign backpackers has a beautiful landscape with hills in the background, white sands and occasionally jutting rocks. Arambol also boasts of numerous beach shacks which are some of the most wonderfully built ones I have ever seen.

As we walked into the beach, the sun was about to set, the colourful boats were laid back on the shore, bohemians were frolicking, children were playing a game of cricket, youngsters were dribbling a football, a few were building sand castles, a couple of them were having a session of yoga, many were strolling on the beach with the waters kissing their feet and a few like me were capturing all these wonderful moments. The beach has numerous massage centres, yoga centres and body painting options to attract the travellers.


After a long languorous stroll across the beach, we moved towards the northern end where we climbed on to a elevation which is lined with numerous stalls, restaurants and shacks. Across this hill lies another beach which also happens to be a part of Arambol. The beach is called Paliem/ Colomb beach. More foreign crowd and more serenity is what welcomed us to this small beach. It also has a small fresh water lake close to the colourful shacks with Waghcolomb hill in the background.

We walked further north and a small winding pathway took us up the hills in the background through a small forest cover. After a walk of about 20 minutes we reached a banyan tree where a lot of people were meditating, mostly foreigners. They had set up a fire camp and also had an idol of Shiva. We had two options, either to sit there with them or walk up further. With the light fading at a quick pace we decided to tread further up the hill. A further 10 minutes walk and we were on top of the hill from where the splendid views of the beach, the fresh water lake and the sun was mind blowing.

Without wasting much time on top which was devoid of people we trekked back and the last few stretches in complete darkness. By the time we reached the beach, the shacks were all lit up, the crowds had moved into them and the sun had given way to the moon and stars. Arambol still exudes what the real bohemian lover or hippies are looking for. Hippies have moved on from Calangute to Anjuna to Vagator to Arambol. However the crowds have also followed their trails. So before it turns out into another weekend beach in Goa, make the most of bohemian Arambol.

Signing Note- Transform yourself into a hippie in Arambol...!! 

Route- Panjim- Mapusa- Siolim- Mandrem- Arambol
Distance- 35Kms

January 25, 2013

Vadakkumnathan Temple...!!

Situated at the centre of Thrissur town, this quintessential Kerala temple is the abode of Lord Shiva and has one of the largest temple complexes in the state. Wonderful architectures and mural paintings make Vadakkumnathan the epitome of Kerala temples. Thrissur pooram, which is one of the biggest temple festivals in Kerala is conducted within its premises. The temple is very well maintained and its peaceful environment is sure to leave you spellbound for long. Chirping of the birds and Shiva chants are the only audible decibels. 

Signing Note- Undoubtedly one of the most serene temples in the country...!!

Location- Thrissur, Kerala.

January 10, 2013

Old Goa- Of Cathedrals, Churches, Chapels and Convents...!!

It was a lovely morning ride on my hired Royal enfield all the way from Anjuna to Velha Goa. Velha Goa!! That is the Portuguese translation for Old Goa. In fact the name Velha Goa is quite commonly used by people of that region. From Panjim, along with the enfield I had River Mandovi for companionship through the villages of Ribander till I reached the UNESCO world heritage site of Old Goa. As I rode from Panaji, the landscape, houses, people and everything changed. Even though it was crowded, the place with numerous Cathedrals, Churches, Chapels and Convents still holds an old world charm. The prominence of Christianity cannot be ignored in this part of the world.

Built by the Bijapur Sultans in the 15th century, the city was evangelised from the 16th to the 18th century by the Portuguese before abandoning it in the 18th century after it was hit by a plague. The beautiful structures have intricate carvings both on the outside and inside. 

Basilica De Bom Jesus with its imposing facade and baroque architecture stands tall and was the first one that I visited. The Basilica looked quite different from others with   respect to its dark colour and size. Though it might seem dilapidated at the first look, the Basilica with its reddish brown colour, ornamented pillars and magnificent carvings stands rock solid even after 400 years. Dedicated to infant Jesus, this grand structure also rests the mortal remains of St.Francis Xavier which is taken out for public viewing once in ten years. The interiors of the basilica has a lot of art work, murals and numerous altars which captivate every visitor.

Basilica de Bom Jesus

Remains of St.Francis Xavier

As I came out of the Basilica, a few meters away stood the white coloured Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina. Dedicated to the Catherine of Alexandria, it was once considered the largest cathedral in Asia. Built in Portuguese architecture, it was constructed to portray the power and fame of the Portuguese. The cathedral also houses many altars, paintings and a large bell known as the Golden bell.

Se Cathedral of Santa Catarina

From Se Cathedral I moved to Church of St.Francis of Assisi which also has baroque style architecture with beautiful frescoes on the walls and ceilings. The church also houses some brilliant 17th century wall paintings. Next to it lies an archaeological museum which displays ancient statues and portraits.

Church of St.Francis of Assisi

Half a kilometer away lies the beautiful Viceroy's Arch next to Mandovi quay. The arch built in 16th centuy must have been witness to thousands of people landing on the goan shores.

Viceroy's Arch
Near to the arch lies the Gateway of the palace of Adil Shah. Built before the arrival of the Portuguese, it is only the gateway that survives now.

Gateway of the Palace of Adil Shah
From the gateway I walked towards the immaculate looking Church of St.Cajetan. It is built in Corinthian architectural style using laterite blocks with two towers on either side of the main dome. The interiors of the church  look neat and its altar is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen.

Church of St.Cajetan

The beautiful altar

I walked further towards the de Bom Jesus Basilica and from nowhere appeared the Chapel of St.Catherine which looked abandoned and dilapidated. It was built by Alfonso de Albuquerque in early 16th century when he took over the possession of Goan territory.

Chapel of St. Catherine

In a different direction but not far away from de Bom Jesus lies the Towers of St.Augustine church. Built in the early 16th century this church was over a period of time abandoned and neglected which led to the fall of the vault and the body of the church in mid 19th century. By the mid 20th century every part of the church collapsed except for one of the four towers that existed. Now this single tower is the only remnant left.

Tower of St.Augustine church

Next to the Augustine tower lies the Convent of Santa Monica and a christian museum which definitely is worth a visit.
Convent of Santa Monica
A few meters away from Santa Monica and Augustine tower is the Church of Our Lady of Rosary. Built in the 16th century it has a mix of renaissance and gothic architecture. The view of the Mandovi river from the church is spectacular.

Chuch of our Lady of rosary

There are many more churches, structures and museums to excite any traveller in Old Goa which have not been mentioned here. The above list shows the most well known and frequently visited locations in Old Goa.

Signing Note- Velha Goa is the true portrayal of real Goa...!!

Route- Panaji- Ribander- Old Goa

Distance- 12 Kms

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