Before going to sleep last night, we had decided to visit two forts, Fort Aguada and and Fort Chapora. I don’t know what’s the logic, but English spellings of these and many other places like Mapusa is nothing like how locals pronounce or write on signboards in Devnagri script. Maybe it’s the same thing which tunred Mumbai to Bombay, Dilli to Delhi.

Fort Aguada and lighthouse

Fort Aguada and lighthouse

We woke up late and decided to visit Fort Agauda in morning and Chapora in evening. Our breakfast was in Vivenda Kafe, a small food joint on the way designed with a European ambiance. We had some sandwiches, avocado milkshake, coffee (or tea) and a delicious Goan dessert.  When we were hiring the car, the owner had suggested that we go on a 4-5 hours boat trip which included dolphin sighting, fishing, visit to some Bat island and a couple for other things for just INR 1600 per person. Almost every other shop had posters like this offering almost the same service at nearly same prices.On the way, we drove through the boatyard where tourists were lining up for the trip. The boats were just a marine version of the rickety public transport buses. Under powered, uncomfortable seating, too big, exposed and full of tightly packed people. One look and we both decided to skip the boat tour. Maybe there were some better services too, but we didn’t feel like searching for them.

A rare photo of me and wifey together

A rare photo of me and wifey together

Fort Aguada was about half an hour drive away with only 2 turns. According to historical sources and signboards, there was a fresh water spring inside, water from which was used to replenish stocks of various ships which docked there.  There is also a old disused lighthouse which is closed for visitors.  The water storage tanks are also not accessible and the visitors can only climb up the walls for the view. Personally for me, it was a bit of let down as the view was nothing special. It wasn’t really bad but was nothing more than a little bit of altitude near the sea. Most places of interest , atleast to me were closed off. But the Indian tourists didn’t seem to mind it and were clicking pictures aplenty.

We had a short nap after coming back to hotel and went on to visit Fort Chapora which was made famous by some movie shoot. The place is nothing more than ruins of boundary wall which is surprisingly intact while there is no trace of any man made structure inside them. I tried searching but couldn’t find anything. It didn’t look like the place was excavated or given any attention by archaeologists. Considering the history behind the place, it was a bit of let down, but the views were fantastic. There is no path left from road to the fort which sits atop a small hill. So people just climb up which way they like to the entrance. Like many other tourist places, local Indian tourists were hell bent on making this place another dumpyard by dumping copious amounts of bottles, cans and plastic. So called Youngistan crowd which formed the bulk of visitors is as idiotic as their pot bellied parents.

View of beach from fort Chapora

View of beach from fort Chapora

I climbed up the wall and went a bit down the hill to get a better view and was rewarded by the scenery in picture. The beach was just below and was probably accessible by foot. I asked wifey to come, but she preferred to stay on the wall. A very strong breeze was blowing by this time. After taking some pictures, I walked too the adjacent ridge and stayed there for a while taking in the view.  Visibility wasn’t that great though, probably due to haze. Walking back, I heard bird calls of 2-3 birds but was unable to spot them. Only sign of any animal life were a few burrows here and there, most probably rats.

While we were driving back, we realised that our train tickets to Mumbai were not getting confirmed and we had to take a bus. I tried Redbus.in which had a number of options, but the actual timings differed from what was provided on website. So we went to a bus operator’s office to confirm bus tickets. We had a flight to catch at 9 am and only one bus had suitable timings. Even that bus had only a few seats left due to the long weekend effect. That part done, we went to Fisherman’s Cove for dinner. A live band was playing Hindi and English songs and there was only one corner table left. We managed to change that later. For dinner, we ordered pasta, some local fish curry and some other stuff which I don’t remember. The service was fast and efficient and the food was OK.

 

Fort Chapora from the end of ridge

Fort Chapora from the end of ridge

As we had still quite a bit of fuel left in the car and this being our last night in Goa, we decided to visit Baga beach. Reaching there was not an easy task with confusing roads, closed off routes and crowds. The place is just a typical party thing with a night club just behind the beach. Almost every single restaurant on the beach had a dance floor and people dancing on the same Hindi, Punjabi, English songs. Very loud, distracting and nothing like the other places we visited earlier.  To make things interesting, a large number of people were lying here and there passed out after drinking too much or snorting something potent. Probably a nice place for certain kind of party people, but not for me. We walked along the waves for a while which pushed us off our feet 4-5 times and then drove back to hotel.

Reaching back to our hotel, we packed up our stuff and went off to sleep. Next morning, we walked to Candolim beach and to have a late breakfast on the beach. Our bus left at 4 pm, so we had a lot of time. On the way, we stopped for a few minutes in a small shop run by a young girl from Karnatka and ended up buying some more clothes,  hippy jewelery kind of stuff.

Sea on our first day in Goa

Sea on our first day in Goa

Upon reaching the beach, we found a restaurant and grabbed a table. I got a squid dish and wifey ordered some kind of biryani. Latter was completely inedible and we returned it. Squid was only marginally better.   Walking back, we stopped a restaurant on main street, Bob’s Inn to eat something. Later on, went back to our hotel for rest and freshening up. We had checked out in the morning, but they kept the room for us . Few minutes after 3 pm, we caught the taxi to Mapusa where we were supposed to catch the bus. The bus was Mercedes but not very comfortable. There were 3 rest stops including one for dinner and we reached Mumbai at about 5:30 am. Spent a couple of hours with family there after which they dropped us at the airport. The flight back landed right on time, a few minutes in advance I think, but the drive back home took longer.

Over all a great vacation in a great place. I will definitely try to visit Goa again and explore some other places , specially southern parts which we skipped this time. Bucket list includes boat trip, para sailing and couple of other activities and places.

 

 

We started packing up our bags and had a quick shower afterwards. We were planning to leave Arambol before evening to explore some other place. Jamaica gave me phone number of a hotel owner who had a property in Candolim, about a hour drive away. I called 5 hotels to inquire about room availability, tariff etc. but couldn’t make up mind. We decided to visit the places and then choose one.

Breakfast place

Breakfast place

For breakfast, we walked a bit further than we had last night and found a nice shack on the beach.  After a breakfast of fruit salad and just sitting around, we walked back. Wifey went to the shack for a nap while I joined Jamaica and family for another dip in the sea. The waves were OK but the sun was really strong. After about an hour, I went back to shack for another shower and for final packing. Jamaica had arranged for the same car on first day to take us to Candolim. After saying our goodbyes, we hopped in and drove towards Candolim. Finding the hotels there was fairly easy as most of them are on a single road. We checked rooms of 5 hotels before settling on one. I wanted to get some place near the beach, but wifey wanted something bit more upscale and luxurious.  Most of the places in area are only about 5-7 walk from the beach. There were a large number of properties near the beach too, but we didn’t feel like spending too much time in the heat going from one place to another.

Sunset on Cnadolim

Sunset in Cnadolim

After checking in and a bit of rest, we walked to Candolim beach. Most of the properties near the beach have been converted in to guest houses and hotels and the place looks like a laid back town rather than a village which it officially is. Not as green as Arambol, but not too bad either. The beach itself had a a fairly large number of tourists, mainly Indian. The other difference was the sand, which was more brownish and coarser. For dinner, I was thinking of going to any of the beach shacks there but wifey wanted a change. So we found our way back to the main road. After a bit of walk, we found Over The Flames in Calangute. It had outdoor seating and a karaoke night was on. During our stay, a foreigner performed Nazar Ke Saamne song, much to the delight of locals present there. He pronounced some words in a funny way, but that’s the limitation of writing Hindi in Roman script.

Lots of ASSn

Lots of ASSn

After some drinks and tandoori snacks, we ordered Vindaloo with rotis. I had heard a lot about Vindaloo but never had the chance to try it. There were a few versions, vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian. Almost all of my meals till then had been meat or sea food and I wanted something vegetarian. Waiter asked me if I wanted it spicy. Considering that all except 3 tables in the restaurant were occupied by foreigners, I assumed that the normal version will be bland and flavourless. So like almost any Indian, I asked him to make it spicy. Big mistake ! Wifey tasted a small bit and immediately pushed the whole bowl towards me. I took one bite and nearly caught fire. The dish was hot in a way that it hurt going in and worse coming out. I struggled to eat some with roti, then gave up.

Found it like this while walking back

Found it like this while walking back

We paid the bill and walked back to the hotel. Along the way, we stopped at a bakery to get a muffin or cake, don’t remember exactly. Upon reaching back, I realised that I had sun burnt skin on my shoulders, face, neck and almost every body part exposed to the sun.  Sunscreen is of limited help, if at all and it gets washed away whenever one takes a dip. I am too lazy to carry and use it anyway.Just 3 days in the sun and it happened yet again. Hot spicy Vindaloo burnt something else next morning.

 

Before going to sleep, I was vaguely thinking about waking up early to see the sunrise as we were going to sleep early and it had been years since I had seen sun rise. That vague thought remained vague after all and I woke  somewhere around 8:30 am. Jamaica and his staff were already up going about their daily routines in addition to their wrapping up the place.

Caught this crab one as it was hiding

Caught this crab as it was hiding in sand

After a quick shower, me and wifey walked along the beach to search for a place to relax and have breakfast. Along the way, I was thinking about jumping in to water again, but didn’t want to take risk with the only one working camera left. Nevertheless while walking along the waves, found a second type of crab which was larger and quite a bit more interesting than the white ones I found last evening. It was trying to hide in the sand while I picked it up. Wifey screamed louder than last time and threatened to  drown me in the sea if I brought it close to her. But to be fair, she did take some pictures when I requested. After I put it back, the crab dug itself in to the sand within 2-3 seconds.

Dessert

Dessert

We kept on walking among the waves and found a beach shack kind of restaurant with ground seating facing the sea. Waiter Pappu told us that the day would be the last working day of the season and they had only about half of the items on menu available for order. We ordered some food and drinks and waited. These places in touristy areas are really nice to have long leisurely meals without staff waiting for you to pay and begone as soon as possible. We sat there watching sea, people while the cook prepared our breakfast or brunch. I ordered some fish tikka while wifey had some kind of vegetable biryani with raita. I had sea food for almost every meal afterwards during our stay in Goa.

After the meal, we spent some more time relaxing and then walked further up the beach to see the sweet water lake Jamaica had talked about. Along the way, we saw a large number of a different kind of crab which digs a hole in the sand to hide or maybe catch prey. There was an area on the beach where they were scurrying about by dozens if not hundreds. At the end of beach, we climbed a few stairs to walk through a typical touristy market with shops selling gaudy clothes, over priced knick knacks and “cheap” food joints. The aforementioned lake was at the other end of the market with just about 30-35 meters of beach separating it from the sea.

Beach near fresh water lake

Beach near fresh water lake

The lake by itself is very beautiful with green hills covering it on 3 sides, clear shallow water, small rocky island and overall great view. But dumbass Indian tourists which are a bane of beautiful places everywhere were here too spoiling everything. We had a bunch of ugly pot-bellied uncles with beer bottles, college kids probably on their first outing away from parental control, families with entitled screaming children and the usual annoying riff raff. Every single type loud as a rabid monkey, taking “selfies”, posing with alcohol like it’s some hard earned award and spreading trash. Even though trash cans were within reach, almost every all the idiots were throwing beer bottles in to the very lake they were swimming in. One of the hills was dug up for some crappy tourist lodge and a corner had some eating joints spoiling the whole beauty of the place further.

Feeling annoyed we stood there for a couple of minutes  before walking on further along the beach where the way was blocked by big rocks. The waves here were strong and were crashing on the rocks loudly. Almost every single rock was covered with sea shells and crabs.  I climbed one rock to take a better look but there was nothing specially interesting. A few tourists were enjoying  parajumping (if that’s what it’s called) by jumping from the small hills nearby. I thought to climb up one of the nearby hills, but it didn’t really looked worth the effort. After the really heavy meal, I didn’t feel like doing that para jumping thing either, so planned to do it later.

A crab digging a hole for itself

A crab digging a hole for itself

Walking back, we stopped at a sea side restaurant for drinks and then walked back to our shack for a shower and nap. In the evening, it was time for another bathing session in the sea. Near about sunset, we started walking in the opposite direction of what we had taken in morning and stopped at another sea facing restaurant for lunch. A Russian man was giving some kind of talk/lecture with some soothing background music and the place was full of people listening to him intently. We couldn’t understand anything but the background music was nice and food (fish curry with rice for me and some chinese noodle thing for wife) was good enough. After we walked out, a nearly full moon was high up in the sky and we walked back to the shack for sleep.

If you think that eating at the restaurants and street food is getting boring, you can try one more category. Quite a lot of religious places offer some really good food, almost always free !   Although it’s not meant as a place  for eating out, it’s still a good experience to soak in the peaceful vibes of the place while enjoying a meal prepared with complete selflessness and devotion.  It’s one of a kind experience to see so many  people from all sections of society, even different religions working together just for the joy of giving. There are no restrictions or discrimination based upon race, religion, economic status etc, at least we haven’t seen any.

 Langar food in Gurudwara

Langar food in Gurudwara

What’s more, you can also contribute in your own way. These places accept help from volunteers in form of  labour, raw materials and money. So, in case  you feel guilty about “misusing the service” or if you just want to help, you do have plenty of options.

One of the most accessible places for such work  is a Sikh Temple or Gurudwara and there are plenty in Delhi.   Some of the famous ones are Bangla Sahib and Shishganj Sahib Gurudwara near Connaught Place and in Chandani Chowk respectively. Food is always vegetarian except a few rare exceptions in order to serve everyone regardless of his/her dietary preference.

 

Another such place is International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Temple in East Kailash Colony.  Their free food service is based upon the dictum issued by the founder  Prabhupada: “No one within ten miles radius of an Iskcon temple should go hungry.” The same organisation also runs Akshaya Patra Foundation which  provides free food to lakhs of poor children all over India.   Food here too is vegetarian but has an amazing amount of variety. Ever heard of  Papite ka Halwa, Seb ki Sabzi ( papaya pudding, apple curry ) ? If  it’s your lucky day, you may have the chance to taste some exotic but really delicious food.

Another religious place serving some really good food is Akshardham Mandir. Although it’s not free, quality of  food exceeds the cost by a long margin. The temple itself is one of the star attractions of the city and considered by many to be one of the best modern temples anywhere. You can spend the whole day observing what the place has to offer without completing all of it.  Apart from the temple complex which is full of very beautiful and highly detailed paintings and sculptures, visitors can learn about history and philosophy of the mission as well as India from museum and multi-media shows.   Needless to say that your trip to Delhi is incomplete without visiting Akshardham.

If you are short on time but still want to sample as many different varieties of food as possible in the shortest amount of time, then there is no place better than a food court. Fortunately, there are quite a few such places where you can have almost any kind of Indian food in clean surroundings at fairly decent prices.

Some of the more famous ones are in Pragati Maidan,  Dilli Haat, and Kingdom of Dreams. Additionally, there area few smaller courts in less famous places like Garden of Five Senses. A food court in general, will have small stalls serving food from all corners from India and sometimes foreign too.  If for you a South Indian food place means a joint which serves the usual <em>idli, dosa, uttapam</em>, curd-rice kind of stuff, prepare to get surprised. You can find many more dishes from ALL of the south-Indian states which includes Kerala,  Tamilnadu, Karnatka, and Andhra Pradesh, each with it’s own stall. Even the staff belongs to that particular state for that extra authentic touch.

Quality of the food might differ from one place to another even in the same premises. For example, a particular state’s stall in INA Dilli Haat may serve some really good food, while it may be not that good in Pitampura Dilli Haat. That was just a general example,  but we hope that you catch the drift.

Of course, food is not the only reason to visit these places as these are some of the must visit places in city. Dilli Haats for example  have handicrafts, traditional clothes, furniture and other knick-knacks from all over India for sale all the year round. In addition  a lot of cultural events like music shows, conventions etc. are held there all the year round.   Similarly, Garden Of Five Senses has some really beautiful and interesting flora, fauna and artistic concepts.

Pragati Maidan with an approximate area of 72,000 sq m is one of the largest exhibition grounds in world. It’s a favoured venue for numerous events ranging from expositions by all kinds of industries to trade, book fairs etc.  Quite often, on occasion of some popular event like  International Trade Fair, Auto Expo etc, authorities are forced to limit the number of visitors in order to maintain law and order.

Bhel poori in Pragati Maidan

Bhel poori in Pragati Maidan

 

 

To cater to demands of so many visitors, Pragati Maidan has quite a few eateries spread all over the area. If you aren’t in mood to eat in any of the restaurants inside premises, you can still have quite decent street food in any food court. Apart from the usual snacks, one can find popular food from almost all corners from India. Gatta roti from Rajasthan, Hyderabadi biryani, Pao Bhaji & Bhel Puri from Maharashtra, most of South Indian dishes, these and many more are available in their authentic flavour.  Although in some case the prices are slightly higher, it’s offset by the sheer variety of food available in such a small area. Another plus point is decent indoor seating facility which is often missed in other places.

Next time you are in Delhi, be sure of including Pragati Maidan or any other food court in your must see places . Even if you don’t like the event being held, it’s quite likely that you’ll like the food.