Monday, December 27, 2010

The Dolphin Trip : Goan Odyssey (Part 7)

Day 4 - The Dolphin Trip

After the quick walk around Calangute, our desire to have a ride through the sea waters in a boat has to be fullfilled before we make our return journey. When the agents were canvassing us for various rides during the beach visits, the name Dolphin trip somehow got registered in kids ears and from that point they were demanding for it. So we decided to do a dolphin trip too.

Checked out of Hotel Sunflower and took a cab which will take us back to the Madgaon Railway station from where we will make our return journey. But before returning, we asked our cab driver to take us to a point from where we can embark on the Dolphin trip. Our requirement was to start the journey from any one of the rivers and then join the sea through an estuary which will save us from the bumpy ride which can be expected if we start our ride from a sea shore.
Before the ride we had to have a breakfast and stopped by the Plantain Leaf, a vegetarian restaurant at Calangute. It seemed the best was saved for the last as we got to taste some yummy yummy south Indian Delights, with the Rocket Dosa taking us by surprise because of its sheer size.

The cab driver took us through the route to Fort Aguada and stopped at a boat jetty near Fort Aguada managed by the Government of Goa. The place was crowded with prospective dolphin trippers and the eagerness of seeing one of the beautiful creatures of the world was writ large on the crowd standing in the queue. River mandovi was flowing by the side. The colorful boats were waiting for their turn

Paid a charge of Rs 100 per person for the 1 hour ride and got inside the boat. The life jackets were in pathetic condition and they did not give it for children. When asked the reply was nothing will happen. The journey started and the boats engine began to makes wakes in the other wise calm river.

As we moved ahead in the Mandovi river, the thought of getting a feeling of turbulence when in the sea began to haunt me, coz I don't know how the kids will react to that. As of now they were in high spirits with the exciting prospect of seeing a dolphin live triggering their positive spirits.

Slowly but steadily the boat moved through the estuary into the sea, and began travelling northwards. The cliff like geography ensured that there no high tides and the sailing was smooth with the occasional bump. Once in the wide open sea, the boat driver asked us to keep our eyes wide open for sighting the dolphin.

Meanwhile I could see some buildings along the coast line.

There was a retaining wall kind of construction at the point where sea met land, but on a closer look found that there were lot of openings in the wall.

I still could not make out what the purpose is. The boat driver could not answer it too.

As we were wandering around in the wide open seas searching for that elusive dolphin, something else was spotted at a distance, standing majestically and attracting everyones attention.

The boat driver announced that it is the private boat of the brewery king Vijay Mallya, whose residence has an opening towards this side of the sea. The boat had all the stuff to match the stylized life style of the business tycoon. As we approached more and more closer to the kingfisher boat, the Aguada fort also began to make its presence in the backdrop.

The boat driver took us for a ride around the kingfisher boat so that we could get a close glimpse of the beautiful carrier.

By this time someone was shouting that they saw a dolphin. The boat driver took us in that direction and suddenly there were lots of them jumping and almost instantaneously going down in a pattern. I failed to operate my shooting machine at the right time to capture the shot. It so happened that a dolphin appeared in exactly opposite side to which I was pointing my camera too. Finally I managed to click some images. But none of them do justice to the beautiful creature whose movements up and down has a rhythmic pattern associated with.

The sight of the dolphins made all the people excited and the boat driver began to get close to the dolphins. But the moment we were near them they will not jump up again and another set will appear at a distant position. We learnt from the boat driver that dolphin sighting is possible only in the mornings, because once the sun gets hotter these guys won't come up.

The journey continued further north bound after some rotations in and out when the dolphins were sighted. Soon we were near the Aguada fort, but from the sea we could see that part of Aguada fort which we did not see from top of the fort yesterday. The Aguada prison was in the lower end of the fort.

The Aguada prison was constructed by Portugese to keep hold of the war prisoners. Even now it is being used by the Goan police to house criminals. It is truely a haunted place with high rising hill forming its one side and the vast sea on the other side.

Another thing which captured the attention of every one was a beautiful house or to be more precise a palace sort of construction by the sea side.

The boat was taken close to the mansion and the boat driver revealed that it belongs to a diamond merchant and itz worth could be well over 70 crores Indian Rupees. What a building it is !!

Watch an extreme close up of the mansion, which is constructed on one side of the hill without actually disturbing the natural geographical incline

Forty five minutes had passed after we started this journey, but the dolphins, the kingfisher boat, aguada view from the sea and jeweller's mansion had kept us busy all through the journey. Soon we were on the return path. The return journey seemed to be much faster than the onward journey.

We were back on the cab after satisfying our wish for a journey through the sea heading towards the Madgaon railway station to catch the Rajadhani express for our return trip through the enchanting Konkan once again.

Overall the 4 days at Goa presented us with many beautiful experiences, the most cherished one being the hospitality of the Goan people, something which adds much more to the geographically gifted place.

The beaches are all beautiful, vast and neat. Goa seems to be the apt place for the beach lover and night life at Goa is pretty interesting too.

The tourism hoardings of Goa says it all - "It is better in Goa"

Thanks to the blog readers for travelling along with me for this Goan odyssey. I will soon come up with a post which will aid in creating a tour plan to Goa !!


The Goan Odyssey -The story so far...

Part 1. The Konkan Experience - Watch the beautiful pictures of Konkan rail route 
Part 2. Baga Beach - A beautiful beach
Part 3. Vagathore Beach and Chapora Fort - A place with diversified ambiance.
Part 4. Anjuna Beach & Fort Aguada
Part 5. Scootering @ Goa: Destination Panjim
Part 6. Calangute 
Part 7. The Dolphin Trip

Friday, December 24, 2010

Calangute - Another Wide Open Beach @ Goa (Goan Odyssey Part 6)

Day 4 - Calangute - Another beautiful Beach !!

Three days already spent in Goa,
Day 1 experiencing the brilliant engineering feat amidst the most picturesque Konkan route ( Click here to view),
Day2 enjoying the north goa beaches Baga (Click here to view), Vagator(Click here to view) and Aguada(Click here to view),
Day 3 a leisurely scooter trip through the capital city - Panaji(Click here to view),
all these resulting in joyful experience.

Interestingly the place where we stayed was not explored at all. Every time a plan was made, it was postponed thinking that we can explore far away places first. But the real gem was quite nearby - The Calangute Beach and we are not left with any other option but to explore this beach town before we set out on the return journey by noon.

Calangute is one of the biggest towns in North Goa. A completely tourist oriented town with a Football ground in its centre signifying the football crazy Goans.

It is a beach destination with one of the most beautiful beaches of Goa. When we were in search of a place to stay at Goa, someone suggested that Calangute will be the apt one due to its proximity to lot of good places around. Hence we had limited our search to Calangute only and based on googling had booked the Sunflower Resort.

The approach road to the Calangute Beach contained lots of way side shops. The hotel sunflower looks to be one among them.

The rooms of this resort are in the first floor. All are neat and well maintained ones, but little bit dark. This property is not a very huge one, but a lodge kind of a thing with basic lodging facilities and very pleasant and helpful staff serving the inmates.

The hotels has a good swimming pool too

A restaurant also is housed inside which seems to be a makeshift one, but very colorful.

The name of this property contains a resort, but I am not quite sure whether it qualifies to be a resort, when we consider the Aquaserene resort(, the Punnamada Backwater resort (, the Ashtamudi Resort( or the Sterling resorts ( in Kerala.Ofcourse traiff in these resorts are on the higher side. The Rs. 2500 - Rs 4000 Tariff of the Sunflower resort for October to March is not on the low side too. Note that the tariff for December 25 to Jan 2 is pretty much higher than this. The off season tariff is almost half of this.

But Goa has to be enjoyed outdoors and the hotel is needed only for having a good night sleep. If this is the motto, this is a good place. But don't think that this is a beach facing thingy. We have to walk for 10 minutes to reach the beach. Never expect a cool sea breeze or a beautiful view out through your hotel room.

We decided to have an early morning walk to the nearby Calangute beach during Day 4 of our Goan Odyessey. The road leading to the beach contains lots of shops, ranging from crafts, beach wear, jewellery, footwear, hotels, bars etc. But the most unique among them is the one which sells Kashmiri and Tibetan Art, christened Malik Emporium. Most of the items on display there very well jell with a halloween night.

The crafts emporium also presents a beautiful picture especially at night.

Interestingly amidst these array of shops there were some houses too. The Goan houses are strikingly similar to what we find in Kerala. Wonder whether the western side of the western Ghats share a lot of similarity.

The narrow roads open up a little wider as we approach the beach. Right in the middle of the final junction before the beach, stands a proud figure, a statue of Mr. Dayanand Bandodkar, the first Chief Minister of Goa after Goa was returned to India by Portugese in 1963.

Believe me, this statue looks even more elegant at night with the focus lamp litting it up well and the wide open skies in the background.

Exactly behind this statue is the entrance to the hotel Calangute Residency - A goa tourism development corporation venture. What I found is that, this is the only hotel property which has got a sprawling campus and is the real beach facing property.

Had we known this earlier, we would have booked our rooms here as the Tariff (Rs 3000 to Rs 5000) was almost similar to the hotel where we stayed. Online reservation was available too
From Next time onwards we will book only in GTDC hotels since we love to have a good view from the window side and being a beach destination we would like to have a direct view of the beach enjoying the cool sea breeze right throughout our stay.
Even in other places GTDC hotels are positioned in prime location and any one of them can be booked online, I am not sure about the service quality inside, still it is a safe bet.

Right before the beach there are lots of coffee shops and chaat shops, but this one was standing out because of its unique design.

Wonder how a simple innovation can change the whole game.

After the walk through the heart of Calangute we are near the beach's entrance, which is nothing but a series of steps downwards opening up the wide open beach.

One look at the beach and suddenly we could feel that this one can give Baga Beach, a stiff competition in terms of beauty. The Golden sand and the magananimous space being its USP.

There are lot of beach side eateries too, which provide the tourists with an oppurtunity to dine near the beach side.

Interestingly many new eateries were being constructed, must be in anticipation of the impending new year business. Since this beach had a wide area the beach side eateries were not really eating up on the beach space. In baga some of the eateries were extending to the beach face making it difficult to walk through the beach.

Beach had come to life even at this time of the day. It was only 7 in the morning, but all the rides had begun. The most interesting one was the Banana ride itself. Enjoyed people doing the banana ride from the shore, while the gentle waves were soothingly massaging our feets.

The banana boat was being pulled along by another motor driven boat. All of a sudden the banana boat will be overturned and the riders will fall into the sea, with the lifejacket and the rope tied to the boat helping them to stay afloat near the boat. But the riders sure will get a scare by the fall to the sea.

The colorful banana shaped boat coming back after a ride.

Another good thing about this beach is the 24 x 7 Lifeguard service who has a beautiful dwelling too

The life guards occasionally roams around the beach in there jeeps. How many precious lives would have been saven by these fellows risking there own life.

Of all the beach side restaurant the most premium one seem to the Souza Lobo restaurant.

Last night we had a dinner at this restaurant, which was pretty much crowded, with a live performance of a Goan band playing some interesting music. The food rates are little bit on the higher side when we consider other restaurants of the area, but the ambience sure is pretty good and the sea food surely is mouth watering.

The Goan Odyssey -The story so far...

Part 1. The Konkan Experience - Watch the beautiful pictures of Konkan rail route 
Part 2. Baga Beach - A beautiful beach
Part 3. Vagathore Beach and Chapora Fort - A place with diversified ambiance.
Part 4. Anjuna Beach & Fort Aguada
Part 5. Scootering @ Goa: Destination Panjim
Part 6. Calangute 
Part 7. The Dolphin Trip

Monday, December 20, 2010

Scootering @ Goa: Destination - Panjim (Goan Odyssey - Part 5)

Day 3 - Exploring Panjim

Right from the moment we landed in Goa, we saw a lot of yellow board scooters. Generally in India two types of Number plates are given for vehicles, one indicating privately owned vehicles and others indicating taxi operation. We were wondering what the yellow board indicates. The cab driver had cleared the doubt that it is two wheeler taxi and we can hire one for a day too.

The hotel receptionist of Sunflower hotel at Calangute where we stayed was more than helpful as he spent atleast 30 minutes a day to discuss with us on where to explore the next day. He only arranged for a cab for the North Goa Trail after finding that a bus trip touching all the locations was not something which we liked. He had ruled out a scooter too as there were intermittent rains. We had thoroughly enjoyed out trip to Baga, Vagator Chapora fort and Fort Aguada during the North Goa Trail.

The sky had cleared on Day 3 and we decided to explore South Goa in a scooter. The receptionist arranged for one from a nearby shop. The rent was in the order of Rs 350 for a bullet, Rs 300 for other bikes and Rs.250 for scooter. I demanded for a bulled and also had specifically asked for a helmet too as we had to travel through the highways for some distance and helmets are compulsory in Goa.

The vehicle was present in the hotel lobby at the exactly agreed time. The model which I requested was not available, hence he gave a Bajaj Avenger, a mini cruiser modeled bike which had a very low stance. The four of us fitted perfectly with my son in front and my daughter in between wife and myself. Brought the vehicle to life, but the sound of the engine was not something which pleased me. Being an avid biker I somehow sensed that something is not Ok. The bike shop owner was nearby and he told that everthing is perfect except that there is some clattering from the engine side. Slowly we rolled out the bike through the busy Calangute streets and decided to find a hotel for a good breakfast. Before reaching the hotel I had found out that the bike had a clutch slipping problem and it was a pain to ride in 1st gear and 2nd gear. After dropping my family at the hotel for breakfast I made a quick return to the bike shop and asked for a replacement. Unfortunately all the bikes available there were having some problems. Finally I settled for a Honda Activa scooter. Being a vehicle with small tires, ride will not be as comfortable as that of a bike, but still something is better than nothing.

After breakfast the four of us again were packed into the scooter. The seats were not that lengthy and hence the seating was not too comfortable. I had an apprehension on whether we will be able to ride like this for the entire day, but finally we decided that what ever it may be we want to feel Goa much more closer.

As the saying goes

But here Two wheels were moving FOUR SOULS !!

We were headed South, but before getting into the National Highway, we had to feed the little scooter with some fuel. Interestingly no Petrol Pumps were around. On enquiry it was found that petrol are sold in road side shops in bottle and it costs more too. Goa is different !!

Found one petrol shop 'manned' by a woman and got one litre of petrol for Rs 60. The Goan hospitality was on show there too as the lady got befriended with my wife and kids in no time and gave some tips on where to do shopping at Panjim.

We rolled out to the highway and slowly but steadily progressed southwards. After about 5 to 6 Km of journey our backs began to ache, thanks to the lack of space and the sun was at his scorching best. Another round of discussions sprang up on whether we should proceed or return back the scooter and get a cab. Finally it was again decided that no more discussions on returning the scooter, we are going to ride like this.

This firm decision worked wonders and the pain went away immediately. Another example of how mindset works.
If we think that there is a more comfortable option, then umpteen problems crops up with what we have now, but if don't have another option we tend to live happily with what is available.

The ride was smooth as the roads were good, the wind gushing across our face reducing the impact of the sun, speeds never exceeded 50km/hr as even that speed seemed too high on this scooter. After 20 minutes of travel through the highway we made a stop, just to loosen our legs. Another 20 minutes of travel more and we reached the Panjim bridge. Panjim is separated with North Goa by the river Mandovi and this huge bridge connects both the mainlands.

Ride through the bridge was quite bumby and my son was wondering whether we were sitting on a horse. Just after passing the bridge, we turned right towards the Panjim city. This road was alongside the Mandovi river which was flowing westward to join the Arabian sea. The proximity of the river made the ambient temperature levels quite low, due to the cool winds.

We were in seach for an apt location to just spend some time near the river side. Soon we saw a neatly paved walkway near the river, where there was some crowd too. Immediately stopped the vehicle for a much needed break after the 1 hour jouney in the scooter.

We had stopped near the Ferry, which took people to the other side of Mandovi river and part of North Goa. So this ferry was another option to travel to North Goa without travelling through the bridge which we came and it saves atleast 5 kms of the travel. My kids were really surprised to see the amount of load which the ferry was carrying.

The ferry seemed to move a city - it consisted of people, scooters, bikes, cars, autos etc and we stood watching as it slowly sailed across. There were not seats at all. People who were on vehicles did not disembark while others were standing.

This river also housed lot of luxury boats and it seemed like the night cruises starts from here. The boats with multideck were looking beautiful.

The walkway looked pretty inviting too, with the beautiful river on one side and the neatly lined up trees on the other side.

But we decided to just relax at the concrete benches on the side.

Soon an ice cream vendor approached us. Naturally both my kids were longing to have one, but since my daughter was having some throat infection we were against it. Typical parents eh!! But the ice cream guy was not willing to leave, even after we told him that kids were unwell. Finally he took one ice cream and was telling us that he want to give it for free because he felt bad seeing the disgusted face of my kids. Somehow I managed to convince him that, if he is truly concerned then its better not to give them ice creams. All the while he was talking in a pleasing manner though. Goa is different, infact Goan people are different !!

We too felt bad when we saw him return disappointed.

From the map of Goa which we had, we found out that we were now on the road which leads to Miramar beach ( the most crowded beach of Goa) and ending at Dona Pola, a peninsula kind of place where river Mandovi to its north and river Zuari to its south joins the Arbian Sea. We did not make any plans to visit any specific place, but we wanted to do some shopping for which we have to get into the heart of the Panjim city.

Even at this pathway we spend a lot of time as we felt good to just sit and relax here rather than being at some crowded place. It was almost noon and kids were starting to get hungry.

Our two wheeled carrier was again brought to life and we started our travel westwards by the river side route. A short distance ahead we saw a restaurant board. Along with the restaurant there was a kids park too. No wonder my kids readily agreed to take another break here.

Filled our tummies first and then walked into the wide open spaces. This place had a lot of trees and the shade it provided made this really a very cool place.

It felt really nice to see the kids enjoy themselves wandering around and making use of the rides available in the park. They preferred this park over a beach. We also decided to go by their decision.

The park also housed an artificial pond running across its length.

The walkways near the side of the Mandovi river were beautiful too !!

Just cross the walkway and you are near the River bank. The river is very sprawling and the banks looks like that of a mini beach. Towards the West we can see the Arabian sea. So the tip - Dona paula is not too far away.

But I don't think we will be reaching till Dona paula as we were spending more time here and were hesitant to leave this place.

It was about 4pm when we decided to move out, but not before having our tea also from this restaurant. While crossing the small bridge inside the artificial pond my son spotted a water snake too.

Overall the experience of my kids at the park can be summed up by this pic

I had plans to return to Calangutte before night since we were on a rented scooter and didn't knew how its electricals will perform. Thanks to our method of spending a lot of time at the place where we like, it was almost evening and we had one important thing pending too - SHOPPING.

Took the route to Panjim city, and headed towards Bombay Bazaar which was suggested by the hotel receptionist. Found out the shop, which seemed a relatively big one too. For the first time in Goa we felt quite uneasy because of the attitude of the people inside the shop. I wonder whether it is manned by Goans. We soon got out of it as we felt it completely unGoan.
Wandered around other shops and found some good ones too. My wife was happy as she got a collection of tops and sarees, most of them to be gifted for our near and dear ones.

It was already 15 minutes past seven, when we decided to make a return. So the return ride is to be made with a heavy luggage too. Thankfully being a scootter, we could place some of our luggage in the front too. By this time the ride in this small thingy has become a kind of joy for us. We treaded back the road through the side of Mandovi river. By the time we reached the ferry point we saw that one ferry is about to make a trip. Immediately turned the scooter and rode towards the ferry.

Luckily got a chance to get inside. It was altogether a new experience. I was wondering where to pay for the ferry trip. When I enquired with a co passenger he told that this journey is free. I was surprised to hear this though. The night life of Mandovi river had started and it was a visual treat to watch those cruise boats fully lit up.

The ferry was jam packed, but the ride was smooth and I could see the excitement on the kids face as this is not something which we do daily. We could see the Panjim bridge at a distance and my elder one was saying that he escaped the horse ride over that bridge.

Soon the ferry hit the mainland and we alighted. On enquiry to a localite he told that we need not go through National Highway, but proceed through a route by the river and then beach side towards Calangute.

This route was nice too as we could travel by the side of the beautiful river with the well lit Panjim on the side and some beautiful cruisers on the river

The headlight of the scooter was behaving well and the ride was smooth. Infact we were feeling pretty much relaxed sitting here after exhausting us out walking through the Park at Panaji and then for shopping. As a matter of fact we didn't visit any of the place listed as part of the normal South Goa Trail which comprises of many churches in Old goa and beaches which includes Miramar and Dona Paula. But we are not complaining as we had a beautiful day with the scooter ride making us quite familiar with the routes of Goa. We have to come back here again and again, so we have to leave out many places tooo. An excuse for a visit later.

If you happen to be in Goa, Don't miss out on a scooter journey. It is truly a different experience!!

Some tips for Scootering at Goa.
  • If you are staying in North goa, then a scooter is most advisable for the North goa trail which comprises of many beaches and most of them are quite nearby.
  • Always insist on a helmet as the people who give bikes tend not to give the helmets and police are out everywhere to catch helmet less riders.
  • Ride slow as the roads are narrow and there are lot of newbie riders around.
  • Get a scooter arranged by the hotel where you are staying.
  • Knowledge of routes is absolutely unnecessary as people are more than willing to help and there are lot of sign boards.

The Goan Odyssey -The story so far...

Part 1. The Konkan Experience - Watch the beautiful pictures of Konkan rail route 
Part 2. Baga Beach - A beautiful beach
Part 3. Vagathore Beach and Chapora Fort - A place with diversified ambiance.
Part 4. Anjuna Beach & Fort Aguada
Part 5. Scootering @ Goa: Destination Panjim
Part 6. Calangute 
Part 7. The Dolphin Trip


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