Goa: The state of ‘sosgado’

Juggling on Patnem Beach. ©MRandin

A man, with matted hair sits in the lotus position with his face raised to the sun. A few metres down the beach, a 30 something woman, sporting a bright pink sun dress, cavorts through the waves playing a three note tune on a tiny flute. Welcome to Patnem beach in the south of Goa – a place which fulfils every tired cliché about the state’s famous hippie culture.

For me, Goa was just way too hot to get transcendental. It was the hottest winter they’ve had in a few years, which meant that the attitude of ‘sosgado’ (laidbackness) was taken up a notch. The “no stress, no rush” attitude of Goa is a brilliant feeling to soak up when you’re on holiday but frustrating (I was told) when you’re a resident trying to get building work up and running and workers disappear off site for hours at a time.

Goa’s ‘fun in the sun’ reputation has come under scrutiny lately and there were no shortage of safety warnings from family and friends. M. and I being on the wrong side of thirty had no interest in sampling the night life of neighbouring Palolem beach and so we stayed well clear of any dodgy situations. We preferred the candle lit dinners on Patnem beach, with the sand under our bare feet and sound of the waves lapping up on the shore.

If you’re looking for the real Goa, though, you won’t get it staying on a beach hut on Patnem beach. In terms of food, most (if not all) of the restaurants along the beach front cater to the tourist crowd. The phrase, “Authentic Goan Cuisine”, is open to debate and you will find a ready supply of bland unexotic food to suit the unadventurous palette.

If you want to really taste Goa, I suggest you go to Viva Panjim.

©MRandin

I chatted with the owner Linda de Souza (who the Lonely Planet describes as the restaurant’s “founder and doughty matriarch”!) who lamented about the lost of art of Goan cooking. She’s on a mission to put Goan cuisine on the international map. If she keeps turning out food of the kind we were served, I think she’s well on her way to achieving her goal!

If you want to really experience Goa buy a few bread rolls, head down to the local market and ask the lady who makes chourisso sausages to make you a “Chouris Pau”.

©MRandin

You will then know why every Goan salivates at the mere mention of the phrase.  (As a side note M. and I tried cashew and coconut fenny for the first time. My apologies if I offend any Goans reading this but we found your port wine more pleasurable to ingest!)

Relics of Goa’s Portuguese past can be found everywhere and you can spend your whole holiday visiting different religious sites and stately homes. Goa also has a lot to offer the nature lover, though with the crippling heat it was difficult to get the energy to go and see it all.

Ruins of St. Augustine (©MRandin)

Donna Paola (©MRandin)

Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa where the body of St. Francis Xavier rests.(©MRandin)

Hindu Temple in Goa (©MRandin)

I was, however, particularly disappointed with my visit to the Branganza House in Chandor and I don’t believe it merits the specific text box dedicated to it in the Lonely Planet.

The Branganza House in Chandor (©MRandin)

Although this stately home is impressive, I did take issue with the brusque manner in which a “donation” was demanded from all visitors. (“A minimum of RS100 per person, madam. Anything higher than that will be greatly appreciated.”) Visitors are given a hurried tour of a few rooms in the house. There’s little attempt to explain the history and background of the house, though you do get a lot of information about specific vases, and silverware scattered around the house. You’re hustled out quickly to make room for other tourists and photographs are not allowed.

But at the end of the week, was I sorry to leave Goa? Yes, I was. The place grows on you quickly and I know why people keep coming back for more. The upside is that I know where to go now if I ever need a healthy dose of “sosgado”!

4 comments

  1. Praful Lobo says:

    I am sorry Vanessa Martin but it is Indians like yourself who cannot see the forest for the trees. You get to caught up with Europe and somehow miss the beauty of India. Don’t live in a tiny mickey mouse country like Switzerland and compare it to the rest of the world. They neither have the population or cultural diversity of India along with 5000 years of civilization.

    Switzerland is the darling country of all the African dictators where they hide all their wealth in those wonderful swiss acounts.

    So please start writing a blog about that and see what kind of responses you will get from the Swiss people.

  2. Vanessa Martin Randin says:

    Thank you ever so much for your comment. It’s good to know that people are reading my blog. I do hope that you’ll re-read this post and others on the blog more carefully. You may find that I’m not such a bad Indian after all!

    Hope you have a wonderful 2010 Praful and that you’ll come back and visit often! Vanessa

  3. lynette says:

    Dear Vanessa – I did warn you about visiting Goa without a local guide – meaning moi! Having said that, I must agree that we Indians do not have the foggiest idea on how to present our beautiful history, culture and our gorgeous country. Switzerland may be boring, but boy you do know how to direct your tourist traffic. Next time come and stay with us in Arpora – and maybe we can invite Praful Lobo so he can see that we really are Indians who long for home, and to whom the Chikmaglur coffee estates are constantly calling – you can have your first baby’s christening at Balehitlu and maybe uncle Alfie will light up the drying grounds (as your Abba promised you)

  4. lynette says:

    p.s M’s pictures are gorgeous

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