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marianne Panaji - A travel report by Marianne
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Panaji,  India - flag India -  Goa
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marianne's travel reports

Panaji: Little Portugal

  16 votes
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Panaji, or Panjim the old Portuguese spelling, is Goa's bustling capital city. Although the city is not a number one tourist destination, it deserves a stop for a few days.

Portuguese houses and autorickshaws
Portuguese houses and autorickshaws
There are not any real sights worth seeing but it is a pleasant place to stroll along red-tiled Portuguese mansions, toothpaste-white Catholic churches and Hindu Temples. It is also conveniently close to Old Goa and the Hindu temples at Ponda.

If this is your first visit to India, Panjim is the ideal place to get used to the country. The city is not too crowded, not too polluted, not too noisy. It is exactly right and a gentle introduction to India.

Best time to visit: November to May (dry season).The worst time June to September (rainy season).

There are ATMs everywhere. They are very safe as they are always in small booths, often air conditioned and guarded 24/24 by a security guard.

Favourite spots:
Chapel of St Sebastian
Chapel of St Sebastian
What I liked best was the Portuguese atmosphere in Fontainhas and Sao Thome, two old Portuguese districts. Their narrow streets, lined with ochre, pale yellow, and green and blue façades begged to be explored and made me feel as if I was in Portugal.

In colonial days the Portuguese insisted that every Goan house should be colour-washed after the monsoon. This tradition is still kept up and the result is that Panjim is more like Portugal than India.

Panjim is a city of contrasts. On the one hand Portuguese, read Catholic reminders, such as The Chapel of St Sebastian and the Church of Lady of Immaculate Conception, on the other hand truly Indian temples and slight traffic chaos.

What's really great:
Church of Our lady of Immaculate Conception
Church of Our lady of Immaculate Conception
Chapel of St Sebatian is a gleaming white church near Afonso Guesthouse and in the same street as Panjim People's Hotel, a beautifully restored old school house. Streets seem to have no names, addresses are given as near to some land / city mark.

The ivory white Church of our Lady of Immaculate Conception is the place where sailors arriving from Lisbon would give thanks for their safe passage. We climbed the steps and looked down on the municipal garden, slightly unkempt but a pleasant place to walk.

It is quite a climb to the pink Maruti Temple in Fontainhas.The temple's veranda is a good place to rest and catch the afternoon breeze. The temple is dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey-god. This deity is a provider of courage, hope, knowledge. He is pictured as a monkey and can be seen in many temples. Very Indian is the water tank in front of the temple. It is a lively place from 4pm onward when people come to have a bath.

Buying Tickets at the bus station
Buying Tickets at the bus station
It is very easy to get to Old Goa or Goa Velha as all buses running between Panjim, Margao and Vasco pass through Old Goa.

Old Goa is a popular place, not only for Western tourists also for Indian tourists who come here for the 'foreign' feeling: no stupas, no Buddhas, no temples but churches whose architecture is reminiscent of Portugal, Mexico or Spain.

The Church of St Francis of Assisi, has a beautiful ceiling and carved wooden panels cover the walls.

The next church looked very much like St Peter's in Rome, and I was right the Church of St Cajetan was modelled after the St Peter. Italian friars were not allowed to build their church in Hyderabad, so they came to Goa. Old Goa was the capital of the Portuguese colony and known as the Rome of the East. The city became famous throughout the world for the volume of trade and wealth.

Its fall was as swift as its rise and eventually the city was abandoned. These days only the churches remain.

Entrance of Afonso Guesthouse
Entrance of Afonso Guesthouse
Accommodation in Panjim is more expensive than elsewhere in Goa. When you arrive late in the day it may be difficult to find a suitable place. That's what happened to us.

The first night we had to stay in Hotel Avanti, near Patto Bridge (just across the bus station). We had a bare room without facilities at Rs 300 (€ 7), very friendly people but the mattresses were paper thin. It felt as if I slept on the floor. The dividing wall between our room and the next had a large fanlight. The occupant of the adjacent room had his light on all night.

The next day we moved to Afonso Guesthouse, near St Sebastian Chapel in Fontainhas. I can highly recommend this, fairly spacious en-suite rooms and the bonus is the roof terrace. At Rs 800 (€ 16) is slightly expensive, but there is no true budget accommodation in Panjim.

Cashew nuts on sale everywhere
Cashew nuts on sale everywhere
No clubs but more about Old Goa:

Actually Old Goa is a cluster of churches, a big open-air museum. It's not difficult to recognise The Basilica of Bom Jesus. It is a dark building, no plaster on the outside. This was removed because it was thought that exposure to the elements would make the building more durable. The contrary proved to be true. However, the plaster has never been put back.

You may know this name: St Francis Xavier, he was a pupil of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. In the Basilica of Bom Jesus you can find his mortal remains. That’s to say what remains. Relic hunters had taken away one arm and divided this between Jesuits in Japan and Rome, each of them wanting to have a relic of their founder. Part of the shoulder blade and the internal organs were brought to churches all over south east Asia.

St Ignatius mortal remains are exposed every 10 years. The last exposition was December 2004.

Buying and consuming alcohol is no problem in Panjim. Local brews are sold in small shops, hole-in-the-wall places and in bars that dot the city.

You might like to try Feni made from distilled cashew apple. It is an acquired taste and very strong. Therefore best to be mixed with a soft drink like Limca or coconut milk.

Toddy is a fermented brew of coconut sap, often home made and heady.

Kingfisher is Goan beer, slightly sweet and sold in large bottles. If you are not a heavy drinker it is perfectly normal to order one bottle and two glasses.

Vegetarian Thali
Vegetarian Thali
Kamat Hotel, south side of Municipal Garden (remember there are no 'real' addresses in Panjim) is a vegetarian restaurant. Don't be confused by the word 'hotel', because its meaning is both restaurant and hotel. Hotels often add: board and lodging.

Kamat Hotel is a good place to try thali. It is a mound of rice served on a round tray accompanied by small bowls of dhal (lentils), curried vegetable, curd (yoghurt) and pickle, poppadom or other Indian bread.

Thali is my favourite Indian dish, also because there are endless refills, at no extra costs.

Other recommendations:
Washing clothes in the temple tank
Washing clothes in the temple tank
Ponda is the major town of East Goa. The area around Ponda is worth a visit as quite a few Hindu temples are scattered among the surrounding hills.

Don’t expect to see architectural wonders. Most temples were built or rebuilt by the Portuguese. You remember: Vasco da Gama, he set foot in Goa in 1498, so these temples are fairly recent.

It is not too difficult to get to Ponda. It is only 30 km east from Panjim. The only problem is that these temples are not within walking distance and there is no public transport. It’s possible to hire a taxi in Ponda.

We visited Old Goa in the morning, then went to Ponda and the spice garden in the afternoon: a day well-spent.

Are spices for you small plastic bags with colourful powder? If 'yes' is your answer you should visit the spice garden in the village of Savoi Verum, 10 km north of Ponda.

Goa was taken by the Portuguese to control the spice trade. Until today spice gardens are still very much in operation.

Published on Saturday March 4th, 2006

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Sat, Mar 11 2006 - 12:37 AM rating by downundergal

Another great report packed with details.

Thu, Mar 09 2006 - 01:26 PM rating by jesusferro

Portugal in India…. This is a very original, unexpected and striking report. 5*

Mon, Mar 06 2006 - 05:14 AM rating by gloriajames

Deftly calls for a visit!

Mon, Mar 06 2006 - 12:05 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Sun, Mar 05 2006 - 07:55 AM rating by davidx

I prefer the idea of Portugal in Europe - that heat wouldn't suit. However this doesn't detract one iota from your excellent and highly interesting report.

Sun, Mar 05 2006 - 02:00 AM rating by rangutan

A great report dotted with a hundred delightful details and perfectly fittintg pictures. Little Portugal in India! Are there still portuguese descendants or speakers there like there are in Mozambique or Macao?

Sat, Mar 04 2006 - 08:18 PM rating by mistybleu

It's so wonderful to learn things about places I'd never even heard of, let alone visit. But this is a very informative report and very intersting to read.

Sat, Mar 04 2006 - 07:53 PM rating by eirekay

Marianne, I am charmed by the thought of two such different cultures coming together. And I always love pictures of food!

Sat, Mar 04 2006 - 04:36 PM rating by isaacmolina

Very good report. I want to go there to practise my portuguese language.

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