Friday, 9 October 2020

Churches & Museum of Goa

Friends, in the previous post, i had shared my travel story on famous beaches of North Goa and Aguada Fort, which was well-received by you all. In this post, i would like to share my travel experiences on my 2nd day in Goa, which includes it's famous churches and Museum. Apart from scenic beaches and natural landscapes, Goa also offers visitors the unique opportunity to witness it's rich cultural heritage and historic monuments, which are nothing, but superlative blend of 15th century Portuguese Architectural creativity and skill of Indian workers. Churches of Goa also become distinct from churches in other parts of India due to indelible imprint of Portuguese craftsmanship.

There are many old and big churches in Goa, all having distinct history and craft. However, we chose to visit some most frequented and famous churches.

i. Our Lady of Penha de Franca Church

Located on the shores of sparkling Mandovi river, the church makes for a captivating sight. It is one of Goa's most famous churches and ideal waterfront wedding destination for catholic couples. The church derives it's name from Nossa Senhora da Penha de Franca, a sailor, who had completed his voyage to India surviving through tough challenges and thus, held in very high regard by fellow seafarers. The church was built in 1626 AD and received status of national monument in 1932.

ii. Church of our lady of immaculate conception

Located at the heart of Panjim city, this church is one of the oldest and famous churches in Goa. Built in 17th century, the bright white church with zig-zag stairs and long palm trees in the background makes a grand spectacle. This is a place of historical and religious importance for devotees. The interior of the church is elegant and colorful. During the festival held each year on 8th December and Christmas, the church is illuminated colorfully, which adds to it's attraction. It opens all days of the week.

Festivities at the church during christmas

iii. Basilica of Bom Jesus


The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a roman catholic church located in Old Goa, the capital of erstwhile Portuguese territory. Bom Jesus means Good or Holy Jesus. The basilica included in UNESCO World Heritage site is famous among travelers and devotees alike due to it's Portuguese baroque architecture. One important feature of the church is that it holds mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, a renowned catholic priest and missionary.

iv. Se Cathedral 

Se Cathedral, located in Velha, Goa is one of the oldest churches, not only in Goa but in the whole country. Known for it's Portuguese Manueline architecture, it was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese under Afonso de Albuquerque over Muslim Army, leading to capture of Goa city in 1510. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine, as the day of victory was on the day of feast on St. Catherine. There is a large bell placed inside the church, famous as Golden Bell, which is one of the biggest in Goa. 

After visiting some beautiful pieces of Portuguese architecture, we planned to visit Goa state museum in Panaji to learn in the depth about the history and art of ancient Goa.

The museum established in 1977 has a wide collection of artefacts, stone sculptures, old coins, paintings, wooden objects & manuscripts. The museum has total 14 galleries on different themes. We visited Sculpture gallery, Christian art gallery, Goa's Freedom struggle gallery, Printing History Gallery, Natural heritage of Goa Gallery & Geology gallery. One can understand Goa's history, polity, culture & practices and learn about it's economy & natural resources by visiting these galleries. The museum has more than 8000 artifacts.

Artifacts from Portuguese era

Proclamation regarding Indian rule in Goa

Old Chariot

Museum remains open from Monday to Friday during 9:30 to 5:30. The place is a must visit for students and researchers and a good place to know about rich Goan cultural traditions for tourists. It will take around 2-3 hours ro visit all the galleries in the museum. We ended 2nd day of our trip with a lot of enriching experience of the place and the people of Goa.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Goa - The Party Capital of India

Think of Goa and what comes to your mind first? No prize to guess, it's a no-brainer. Most of us shall instantly think about it's famous sea beaches, which are over-crowded, but lively. Some would be reminded of it's vibrant nightlife, casinos and parties on the cruise. But, Let me tell you, Goa has much more to see and indulge in. You can explore exotic Goan culture by interacting with locals, choose less-visited tourist places, go on trekking, Dolphin Observation tour, Spice Plantation Tour, enjoy kayaking in backwaters and so on & on... 

I would like to share my travel experience of different places in Goa in my next few posts. This post is mainly related to our first impression of Goa and famous beaches. 

I had chosen the period of Christmas to New year, i.e. from 25th December to 2nd January to visit Goa, hoping to observe festivities of Christmas, roam around and to celebrate new year in the august company of golden sands and lovely beaches. 

Waiting for our flight at boarding gate of New Delhi Airport, it just felt for the time being that i was travelling to some international location, finding countless foreign nationals as my co-passengers. Our flight had landed at Dabolim Airport, Goa at around 11:00 PM and we were on course to our pre-booked hotel in North Goa. As our journey progressed, we were hoping for extravagant glamour and glitz waiting to overwhelm us, but all we could manage to see was christmas lights coming from small churches here and there amid complete darkness. Not knowing the fact that the airport is located far way from the main city, we thought entire Goa has gone to sleep, that too in the night of 25th December. But, as we entered the city area, we were greeted by the numerous sights of vibrant nightlife, Goa is known for. By one hour or so, we had checked into our hotel. 

North Goa is that part of Goa, where all the famous beaches are located and so are all the good hotels. It was an hour past midnight and the place was still buzzing with activities. Carols were being sung in the churches, Bars and restaurants were crowded with the tourists and people could be seen singing and dancing to celebrate birthday of Jesus Christ. As we took a stroll in the lanes of North Goa, the cold breeze welcomed us, again contrary to our perception. Days are humid and warm and nights are colder in Goa.

Next morning, we planned to visit some sea beaches and Aguada Fort in North Goa. We started with Sinquerim beach, which is known as first tourist beach in North Goa. Located around 13 km from Panaji, it is one of the best beaches in Goa, where you can enjoy several water sports activities such as Scuba diving, para-sailing, water skiing, windsurfing etc. Deep blue ocean water, golden sand and a series of palm trees create a magnificent landscape, which leaves indelible imprint on the senses of visitors. 

Sinquerim Beach, North Goa

Water Sports at Sinquerim Beach
One of the reasons, why this beach is popular among tourists is it's proximity to Aguada Fort and many big resorts and nightclubs located near the beach. Goa's famous Sunburn Festival is also held near this beach every year in the month of December.

Located near confluence of Mandovi river and Arabian sea, the majestic Aguada fort was built by Portuguese rulers to save their territory from dutch and maratha invadors. Just standing on the boundary wall, you can see entire panoramic ocean vista. Built in 1612 with laterite stones mainly, the fort has stood the test of time and guarding the city for more than 400 years.

Agua means water in portguese and Aguada means a place, where water is collected. The fort has a cistern having water storage capacity of 20 lakh gallons, citadel and many secret passageways, which fascinates the visitors. Apart from the fort, one can see Lighthouse, St. Lawrence Church and Taj Aguada Hotel. The location has appeared in many bollywood films including Dil Chahta Hai.

Aguada Fort

After having fun at Sinquerim beach and acquainting ourselves with the history of fort as well as Goa, we proceeded for Candolim beach, located just next to Sinquerim. Starting from Aguada fort and extending upto Calangute beach, it is one of the longest beaches in Goa. We found this beach calmer and less crowded. That is the reason, this beach attracts a lot of foreign tourists, who want to enjoy in nature's company away from domestic crowd.

Candolim Beach

Next in our travel list was the lively Calangute beach, which is one of the best bathing beaches in the world. Located north of Candolim and south of Baga, Calangute beach is one of those beaches, which remains crowded by domestic and foreign travellers alike. It's a perfect tourist place, filled with souvenir stalls, shacks, food joints and beer stalls. All these simply add to the popularity of the beach, which makes it a must visit place. Here, you can enjoy in the ocean water, sunbath, indulge in number of water sports and even you can do shopping of handicraft items.

We reached Calangute beach by 2:00 PM and got so involved in the celebratory mood of the beach that we could not keep track of time. As we realized, Sun had started setting and we had the opportunity to capture sunset at the sea beach.

Baga beach can be said extension of Calangute beach only and the crowd and atmosphere are also the same. This beach is located between two beautiful beaches, i.e. Calangute & Anjuna. As we had to cover one more beach that day, we proceeded for Anjuna beach. Anjuna beach is distinguished from other beaches due to formation of laterite rocks along the beach and big black rock protruding into the sea. Rocky crescent and palm trees along the beach make it a perfect spectacle for nature lovers.

Anjuna Beach
Apart from panoramic ocean, one can visit Flea Market near Anjuna beach, which opens every wednesday. Chapora fort and Albuquerque masion are other tourist attractions near Anjuna Beach. This beach is ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and tourists, who prefer enjoying with family and loved ones in seclusion.

Our first day in Goa was well-spent on beaches of North Goa. Though, it's Arabian see all along, but moods and atmosphere at all those beaches were different. It was a great day out in the sun.

Hope, you liked my travel travails of Goa. In the next part, i will be back with my stories on churches and museums of Goa. Till then.. Stay Home! Stay Safe!

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Friday, 20 March 2020

A trip to Manali- Rohtang Pass and Solang Valley

Friends, in the last post i had written about tourist spots in and around Manali, which was well-received by you all. In the series on Manali Trip, i would like to share my travel memoir of the best and memorable part of the trip, which was Rohtang Pass.

With great excitement, we started our journey on a pleasant and sunny morning. As we were leaving the city area of Manali behind, the magnificent views of river beas in the backdrop of snow caped hills had started engulfing us and were giving us a feeling of Deja vu. Our driver informed us that these locations have been picturized in many famous bollywood movies such as KKrish, Jab we met, Fanaa, 03 idiots etc. Only then it became clear why the place was looking so familiar to us. 

River Beas in the upper reaches of Manali
As we were approaching Solang valley, snow on the hills was becoming thicker and whiter and green pine trees along the path of beas were looking, as if there was green painting on white canvas. Solang valley is around 15 km from Manali and it took around 45 minutes to reach there. As we were busy capturing beauty of mother nature in it's pristine form, the travel seemed more fascinating than the destination itself. Here are some glimpses of Solang valley through our camera:

As we reached the valley, the place was already buzzing with a large number of tourists engaged in various sports activities. Solang valley is famous among tourists not only for it's stunning views and magnificent landscapes, but it also attracts winter sport lovers and adventure enthusiasts in huge numbers. The experience of paragliding, skiing or snowmobiling in such a picturesque setup is truly unparalleled. One can also enjoy sweeping views of the valley by taking ride in Solang Ropeway.

There is so much to indulge in Solang that one whole day can be spent there and still you will crave for some more time. As we had to proceed for Rohtang Pass, we spent around two hours there taking joyride in ropeway and just sitting amidst magnificence of Mighty Snow-caped Himalayan Ranges. 

As we started climbing up on Manali- Keylong Road, the temperature had started falling rapidly and the landscapes were also becoming more stunning. We also spent some time in Gulaba, taking stroll along with the meandering hilly road and breathing fresh mountain air. Now, we had started our journey for the ultimate destination of the day and we reached Rohtang pass with in one and half hours from Gulaba. Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by the humongous layers of snow. I have been to similar places like this in Sikkim, but feeling to be in Rohtang Pass was simply otherworldly. Since we visited the place in the summers of 2016, the place was crowded with tourists from all parts of the world.

Located at staggering height of 13000 ft, Rohtang -La is one of the highest passes in Himalayas and offers some of the most breath-taking views of Himalayas, one can ever see in lifetime. The pass is around 51 km from Manali and serves as the gateway to the Lahaul & Spiti Valleys. The magnificence of natural beauty of the place is such that many famous movies and songs have been shot here.

Walking and playing in snow can rekindle the child inside any person and we were no different. There was childlike joy on all the faces around as we were playing with snow balls. Visiting such places once in a while is highly required for physical and mental detox of those living in cacophony of busy city life.

Like Solang, in Rohtang also, one can indulge in many winter sports such as sledge riding, mountain biking, skiing. This is another reason why this place figures in the itinerary of all the tourists visiting Manali.

After having our share of fun in the snow, we started our return journey to Manali taking unforgettable experience with us.

How to reach Rohtang Pass?

The nearest airport is around 100 km away from Rohtang Pass in Bhuntar. From there, taxis and buses are available to reach Manali & Rohtang. Since there are no stay options near the pass, one has to stay at Manali.

Rohtang pass is well-connected with road network and lot of private and Govt. buses ply on this route. One can also hire taxi to visit Rohtang Pass.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Rohtang Pass is September to October and May to June. Maximum no. of tourists visit this place in May-June, therefore getting permit for visit may become dificult. Hence it is advisable to prefer visiting Rohtang in the month of Sept-Oct. You may also get cheaper accomodation during this time as compared to peak tourist season of May & June.

How to get Permit for Rohtang Visit?

Permits can be obtained online by paying fee and congestion charges of Rs. 550/- from the website of Tourism Development Council, Manali Permits are not issued on tuesday, as pass is closed for maintenance that day. One can also check availability of permits on any given day from the website.

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Friday, 23 February 2018

A Trip to Manali - Vashisht Temple & Club House

After visiting Hidimba Temple, Van Vihar and the Museum on Himachal culture, now was the turn for Vashisht Temple, another place of historical and mythological importance.

Vashisht Temple

Our next destination was Vashisht temple, which was in a small village named Vashisht in Old Manali, around 2.5 km from Mall road of Manali. The wooden temple is believed to be around 4000 years old and is dedicated to Sage Vashisht, one of the seven Hindu sages, who is also renowned as teacher (Aacharya) of Lord Rama. 

The temple is also famous for hot springs, which are believed to be curative in nature. There are separate arrangements of bathing for men and women. There is a story behind the emergence of hot springs, which says that when Lord Lakshman came to know that the old sage had to take long strolls to take bath, he shot an arrow in the ground and that's how hot springs emerged. 

The place attracts a lot of visitors especially foreign nationals due to old world charm of the tiny village and off-course the hot springs. We had to leave our vehicle around half kilometer back and then had to walk up to the temple. There are many shops near the temple, from where you can buy handicraft items.

                                                       Vashisht Temple                                           image courtesy

Club House, Manali

Manali Club House was our next spot, which is located just 2 km from the mall road. It is one of the major tourist attractions of Manali and popular among kids and adult alike. Club House is basically an amusement zone, which has both indoor and outdoor game facilities. Tourists can enjoy indoor games like carom, billiards, skating & table-tennis. However the best part is outdoor games on Manalsu river, a branch of Beas river. Adventurous souls can try their hands at Zip- lining, i.e. crossing the river using ropeway. One can also enjoy rope jumping over the river, which gives thrilling experience, especially when you come in contact with the ice cold water flowing beneath. Observing these activities just sitting on a rock beside river flowing with full might fighting all obstacles in it's path is also a wonderful experience in itself.

Outdoor Sports at Club House Manali

Manalsu River

The club house managed by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) also has an in-house restaurant offering delightful snacks and beverages, and there are few shops too, where you can get your hands on woolen cloths and local handicraft items.

Club House, Manali

We spent some time at Club House unwinding ourselves and purchased some traditional wall-hangings made of jute and then proceeded to a Tibetan Monastry which was recommended by our driver. The Monastry is a popular Buddhist religious centre in the region, which was built by Tibetan refugees during Sixties. Though the monastry is not very big in size, but it's vibrant yellow color coupled with it's exquisite surroundings makes a grand spectacle. There is a huge statue of Lord Buddha inside the monastry and number of murals on the wall depicting philosophies of Lord Buddha.

Tibetan Monastry

After visiting major tourist spots around Manali, we thought of spending an evening at Mall Road, which is the main commercial hub of the city. As we reached there, the street was already bustling with huge crowd and the atmosphere was electric. Though the pedestrian-only zone of the road is smaller than iconic mall road of Shimla and M G Marg of Gangtok, still it is worth spending some time taking a stroll at the mall road and trying some Tibetan cuisine. The road also houses Tourism Office, a range of hotels, taxi and bus stand and this makes the area chaotic and busy. We were informed that the beauty of this place increase manifold in the snowfall season. 

Mall Road, Manali
We had a wonderful time roaming around and trying local food at the mall road. With this, we had completed our local sightseeing. 

The most exciting part of our Manali trip was to start next day with Solang Valley, Gulaba & Rohtang Pass. Please keep visiting my blog page to know more about my travel to the most amazing Rohtang Pass.

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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Exploring Himachal - Trip to Manali Part - II

In the previous post, i had written about my journey from Chandigarh to Manali and the tourist spots located in between. Our next day in Manali was earmarked for local sightseeing and exploring local markets of the hill station.
It was a sunny morning in Manali and when we came out of our hotel, we found the streets bustling with the tourists, tour guides and the locals. As i had said in the previous post that our hotel was also sort of a small view point, our sightseeing started from the garden of our hotel. The views were simply irresistible and superb and we knew our camera had a field day. Here are some glimpses of  natural beauty for you:

View from my hotel's garden

Hidimba Devi Temple

The first among our visit list for the day was Hidimba Devi Temple around 3 km from mall road of Manali, which is very popular among tourists due to it's location amid beautiful cedar forests on top of a hill and tranquil environment. The temple holds great significance for the locals and tourists alike, who visit the temple to seek blessings of Goddess Hidimba. 

The temple is dedicated to Goddess Hidimba, who was wife of Bhima, the strongest of Pandava brothers. As per Hindu Mythology, Hidimba, born into a Rakshasa Family, had taken a vow to marry the person, who will defeat her brother Hidimb, a brave and fearless giant. During Pandava's exile, Hidimb was killed by Bhima and Hidimba married Bhima and gave birth to Ghatotkach, who became a great warrior in Mahabharat battle. When Bhima and his brothers returned from exile, she stayed back and started meditation (Tapasya) to atone her sins and eventually attained the status of Goddess. 

People in Manali worship her as deity and especially during Navaratri, the devotees throng to the temple in large numbers.

The temple was built in 1553 AD by Raja Bahadur Singh in a distinctive architectural style having three square roofs and one cone-shaped roof at the top. It is a protected monument and it's premises are being maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). One thing, which caught our attention was the skeletons and horns of animals hanging on the walls of the temple. There is an idol made of wood of Ghatotkach at some distance from the temple.

Hidimba Devi Temple
A long serpentine queue was there outside the temple to offer prayers to the goddess, when we reached there. It took us one and half hours to reach inside the temple.

Long Queue outside temple

See below the display board - Archaic traditions still continue

Horns & Skeletons of Animals

After the prayers, it was time for indulging in some fun activities, which are there in plenty. You can get your photographs clicked in traditional attire holding rabbit in your hands, you can ride the yak or you can buy souvenirs for your loved ones and yes, you can also spend some time in the Forest Park located just behind the temple. Traditional dress for women is called Pattoo, whereas for men it is known as Lachhoo. 

We also had our moment in the colorful dress and then we spent some time in the wilderness of mighty deodar forests. Sitting or taking a stroll in the tranquility of these forests far away from the chaos of urban life can reinvigorate one's mind and body and re-establish the broken link with the mother nature.

Van Vihar near Hidimba Temple

View from the forest

Himachal Culture & Folk Arts Museum

We also visited Museum of Himalayan culture and Folk arts located near the temple which was showcasing culture of Himachal through traditional dresses, utensils, musical instruments, wood carvings, paintings and several other traditional articles depicting life in mountains. The wide range of artifacts kept in the museum gave us a deep insight of the old-age practices and rituals followed in the hilly state. 

Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art, Manali

Utensils of Old days 

Statue of Goddess

After enriching ourselves with the Himachal culture, we proceeded further for our next destination Vashisht Temple, an ancient temple and a village of hot springs, about which i will write in the next post.

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