Goa

I’m in Goa a long weekend, a tiny state south of Mumbai on the west coast of India. I’m staying in Panaji, the capital, which is precisely like transitioning from New York City to Savannah, Georgia. It’s a small city, situated on a large river that feeds into the sea. It’s the off season, due to the monsoons, so it’s not very populated right now. Contributing to the slower pace is the fact that the Ganesh Chaturthi holiday is happening now, so many shops have been closed since Thursday.

Goa is beautiful and unique. The influence of the Portuguese, who occupied until 1961, is still strongly evident in the architecture. I’m staying near the old quarter, which feels like a transplanted European city in a tropical landscape. The streets are narrow, the houses are quaint, and scooters are the primary form of transportation. Many of the buildings have balconies overlooking the street, including Cafe Venite, which has quickly become my favorite restaurant here. I’ve really enjoyed sitting on the tiny balcony overlooking the street and trying out traditional Goan food like fish curry and chicken xacuti.

Goa has an amazing number of old churches, from impressive landmarks like Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church to tiny neighborhood chapels that fill up after a dozen people. The most famous churches are in Old Goa, about 5 miles outside of the Panaji, which used to be the capital during the 1500s. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site now and a handful of original churches have been well preserved. I went there today, and it was both striking and odd to experience architecture that feels so foreign to it’s location. At times I honestly felt like I was in Europe until I exited into lush tropical foliage.

Besides churches, Goa is famous for it’s beaches. These are pretty sparse this time of year due to the aforementioned monsoon, which sprung up multiple times today. At one point I was crouched on the sand, maybe 30 feet from the waves, with my umbrella acting as a insufficient roof for my huddled body. My only goal was to keep my camera and phone dry, and that minmum accomplishment was all I managed as the rest of me was thoroughly waterlogged. The rains struck numerous times today with that kind of intensity, but there were enough clear skys in-between to give me a serious sunburn.

I have one more day here to relax before beginning an intense round of fieldwork that will keep me on the road for the next two weeks. I fly to Bangalore very early on Monday to kick it off. It’s likely that the work travel will leave little time for sightseeing, but I’m excited to get even a basic feel for some different cities. So far Goa has been fantastic, and India is living up to what I’ve heard about each area being unique.

I have a lot of images to add to Flickr once I get back from research travel, but here are a few quick-and-dirty photos.