Checking Out Old Goa

Sooooo you know what’s not fun? Catching a bus with all of your bags when you’re still not sure if your digestive system is ready to rejoin civilised society. I chucked a couple of precautionary tablets down my throat and we went to the end of the road to wait for the bus to Mapusa. I started to feel a bit sick. Hmm, maybe perhaps you shouldn’t have taken antibiotics and anti-shit pills on an empty stomach, genius. The bus arrived, we boarded, it was crowded already but we got seats. As it wound down the small roads in a way only Indians in large vehicles have the bottle to do, my stomach started trying out for the international cement mixer championships. Oh god. I wasn’t going to make it to Mapusa. I handed Tarrant my bag, fled to the front of the bus and asked to be let off, leaving Tarrant to fend for herself as the bus pulled away and I slumped on a wall, violently coating the ground with bile and stomach lining. I’m a sexy motherfucker, me.

I love the colours. I wonder if they get to choose the colour or if they’re handed a tin of paint and told to get on with it.

There. That felt better. Now all I had to do was try and get hold of the mrs but her phone was going straight to voicemail. I had no idea of she was going to stay on the bus or get off at the next stop so I started walking with the notion that I’d just flag down the next bus and keep an eye out for a lost looking lesbian surrounded by luggage huddled on the side of the road. I was still about 4km away when a chap on a scooter pulled up, asked me where I was going and offered me a lift. Now, I never usually accept lifts off people because I know where it goes. Indian men are pretty confident with foreign chicks and they have no qualms about enquiring into your marital status, asking for your phone number or offering to take you for a drink and all in under five minutes of meeting. They also have no boundaries when it comes to personal space, even I have to deal with this despite looking like a bloke to a lot of Indians. Buuuut I needed to find Tarrant and I needed to get to Mapusa as quickly as possible so I accepted his offer, jumped on the back and endured a good ten minutes of him snuggling into me as I agreed through gritted teeth that of course we could swap numbers, and of course I’d love for him to pick me up tomorrow and show me around. I managed to avoid making solid plans despite him pushing, saying I had to speak to my friend, but we’d be in touch. He insisted on the missed call thing so I couldn’t even get away with giving him a wrong number but it was ok because I’d gotten to where I needed to be and managed to locate Tarrant who, it turns out, had left her phone in Anjuna.

Seriously, if this was how today was going to continue then today could just fuck right off. She managed to negotiate an okay rate with a taxi driver to take her to Anjuna and back though, retrieved her phone whilst I sorted us out some accommodation at our next destination and we set about finding the bus to Panjim, a journey which was mercifully uneventful. Panjim is a lovely little place too ay, at least the area around A Pousada Guest House is. All these little old Portuguese buildings that would look right in place in a Brazilian centro historico. That’s the only comparison I can make on account of having never been to Portugal but I’m assuming that because both Goa and Brazil were, at one point, occupied by the Portuguese then they’d probably be kinda the same same but different in parts. It’s significantly less touristy here though so our mission for bland, non-Indian food to appease my tortured stomach was proving difficult and in the meantime I’d had two text messages and six missed calls from Johnson, my slightly creepy knight on a shiny, red scooter. Well this was awkward then! Thanks LG for the handy built-in “reject” list I never knew existed. As we relaxed in the air conditioning of Cafe Coffee Day, eating chicken wraps that cost as much as a night’s accommodation, Tarrant added his number to this wonderful list to stop him from wearing my battery down with his near constant calling. Weeellll that’ll teach me then. Next time I’ll just wait for the fucking bus.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus

I was pretty confident by now that everything in my stomach intended to stay where I’d put it for a respectable length of time so off we fucked to Old Goa which is basically a tiny place with a bunch of Christian buildings to put in your eyeholes. It used to be the capital of Goa until it was abandoned in the 1600’s because people kept dying of cholera and malaria which is a good a reason as any to up sticks and move to a better neighbourhood. The bus dropped us pretty much in front of the Basilica of Bom Jesus so we checked that out first. You have to make sure your knees and shoulders are covered if you want to go inside, not that many foreigners respected that, and they have this bizarre rule whereby you’re not allowed to photograph people inside. I initially thought they meant worshippers which is absolutely fair enough, but it actually means anyone, ever, unless they’re incidental to your shot. So you can photograph the interior of the church with all the tourists as long as the main focus is the church, but as soon as a friend poses for a photo that’s a no no and security will ask you to stop. I have no idea why.

What’s left of Saint Francis Xavier is up the top there where no one can bite his toes off.

So I read about Saint Francis Xavier whilst I was visiting the wax museum in Kodaikanal. His remains are laid out here in a glass coffin, way above head height, but every ten years they parade his remains through the streets. I think they call it the exposition, the last one was in December just gone so we missed that, and according to the information board in the wax museum, some dude bit off one of his toes during the first exposition. So yeah, that redefines creepy! You can still view his coffin though and take photos.

The Tower of St Augustine is obviously that thing to the right but there’s way more cool shit to it than that.

After a quick look around a museum we headed to the tower of St Augustine which I honestly thought would simply be just that. A tower. I knew it was once part of something much bigger, I didn’t realise that the “much bigger” part was still there, lying in ruins. It’s awesome! I love ruins and so does Tarrant, we spent ages picking our way through what was once a huge monastery built by Augustine friars in the late 1500’s and eventually became large enough to house a convent, a dining hall, a guest house and an infirmary. Legend has it that during construction the vault kept falling down. The third time it was erected though the architect had so much faith that it’d remain standing that he stood his only son underneath it and fired a cannon at it. Fortunately it held up because can you imagine having to make that announcement to the son’s mother during the usual dinner time discussion about how work went today? Oh, y’know, rebuilt the vault. Fired a cannon at it. Oh, and Dave’s dead. Turns out the vault wasn’t as sturdy as I thought. Fourth time lucky though ay? Pass the gravy?
It was abandoned in 1835 though when the Portuguese government expelled all religious orders from Goa and its demolition was ordered. These days it’s been excavated and conservation efforts have been made. It’s a cool place though, well worth the walk up the slight incline in the blazing, sweaty Indian heat.

Some of the ruins around the Tower of St Augustine.

Aaaaanyway, that was about all I could handle today. With my phone still flashing up occasional “call rejected” messages we headed back to Panjim for an early night because we’re rock and roll like that, but not before Tarrant was introduced to the joy that is idli sambhar. See, this is the problem with India. It’s the food. You discover all this amazingness that you’d never get in any Indian restaurant in the UK then when you leave the country you can never ever have it again and you suffer withdrawals and are doomed to spend the rest of your life weeping into your chicken madras as you sip your substandard lassi. I guess Indian ex-pats cook proper food at home and leave the restaurants with their westernised dishes to us Brits. Someone needs to open a real Indian restaurant in Brighton, guys. One that serves dishes to people that have been to India and crave chai and masala dosas and thali with the proper levels of heat and flavour and not the usual face melting dishes that you get that simply strip your tongue of all your tastebuds. Either that or I’m simply gonna have to learn how to cook Indian food properly. I think the former might be a safer bet for everyone in my immediate residential vicinity though.

Old Goa (Velha Goa), Goa, India
Stayed at: A Pousada Guesthouse, Panjim, Goa

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