India - What Mallorca is for the Germans, North Goa is for the Russian
I was so sad to leave my little paradies Agonda. But on the other hand I was very happy - because it meant that Markus would join me very soon. So I took a local bus from Agonda to Chaudi from where it was another bus to Madgaon, the transport hub of South Goa. Here I changed to an express bus that brought me non stop to the Kadamba bus stand of Panaji, or Panjim as the locals call it. It is the capital of Goa. As high season had now started I had already booked a homestay in a quiet area of town, in Miramar. The @Home B&B was a wonderful place. It was so very clean - a wonderful contrast to the never ending sandy beach hut (which I loved - but it was finally nice to get rid of the sand).
I settled in, washed some clothes and had a great hot shower (also a nice change after 2 weeks of cold shower). For sunset I walked to the nearby Miramar Beach which is really nice considering it is a city beach. However, after having been in Agonda, this beach was too busy and too dirty for me. Lot of people went swimming here - I would not do it at all. But for sunset it was really nice and I enjoyed a tasty fresh green coconut. For the evening I enjoyed a home made meal. I went shopping in the Magsons Superstore (sounds huge, but in fact it was just a small supermarket around the corner. I bought a huge avocado, some nice crackers and fresh fruits. Perfect for a light dinner. I had a wonderful peaceful night. The next day I visited Old Goa and was really surpised. It has some wonderful portugues churches, most of them still in use. Some of them are already in ruins but equally impressive. After wondering around for 2 hours I took the bus back to Panjim for a nice lunch. Panjim is a very relaxed indian town. In fact, it is the most relaxed town I have visited so far in India. There are a lot of pedestrial walkways. The old part of town is full of colonial buildings which are strongly influenced by the portugues. I just enjoyed walking randomly through the alleyways.
I visited the main church, relaxed in the nice botanical garden, watched the famous floating casinos on old ships on the river and was surprised that Panjim is excellent for shopping. There are great shops for everything! Unfortunately, we still have some travel in front of us. So all I buy, I will have to carry later on. So I tried to avoid to buy too much ;-). After another relaxed evening with a beautiful sunset at the river and another early night, the day had come to pick up Markus from the airport in Goa. I tried to get there on the cheap - it was an adventure. I took a bus from Panjim to Vasco de Gama to realise, the bus did not pass the airport. So from Vasco I took another bus back to Chicalim and yet another one passing the airport. Thankfully, most of the goans can speak english so it was just about to find a person who knows the way (which was difficult enough). Anyway, shortly before the arrival I was at the airport. Fair enough that on the way back we took a taxi ;-). We spent the afternoon and evening walking aorund the streets of Panjim and visiting the beautiful Mahalakshmi Temple and Radha Krishna Temple. We had a nice dinner at "The Legends of Bombay".
The next day I showed Markus around some more parts of Panjim before we took the bus to our next destination: Sangold. It was just a 30 minute ride by bus. We had booked 4 nights at the Saraya Art Cafe. This is an art gallery, a great pure veg pizza restaurant and an alternative eco retreat. One can choose to sleep in a tree house (this is what we did) or an earth house. Well, this also mean you stay with lots of creepy crawlies.... We were a bit shocked in the beginning as it is really simple. But at a second glance we realised, there is all you need. The bed was clean, we had fresh towels every day, there was a good mosquito net, even in the shower there was plenty of hot water. And it was peaceful. Anyway without your own
transport, there is not much to do in Sangolda - well, in fact nothing. The first day we took a rickshaw to the nearest beach. That was a big mistake. We did no research before - another big mistake. Imagine the Ballermann in Mallorca in high season - but 10 times bigger full of indian bachelor groups heavily drunk and rich russians even heavilier drunk. Additionally some cheap drugs, sunshine and a beach full of filthy beach shacks. Welcome to Calangute! In some parts it was hard to see the beach as there were so many people. We walked down to the south end of the beach. This was still full, but much quieter without loud music. For a couple of hours we enjoyed what we had: the sea, a nice view and the sunshine before we went back to our treehouse and a delicious pizza in quiet surroundings. For the next 2 days we rented a scooter to be more flexible and to do some beach hopping. So many people rave about North Goa - we wanted to find the places where they go. We visited some temples around Mapusa which were very nice. We could even attend a pooja in one temple which was very beautiful. Our first beach was famous Anjuna, the beach where all the hippy spirit of Goa started years ago. It is an OK-beach, still too many people, too many tourist shacks and beach hawlers but not as shocking as Calangute. We had lunch and Chai in Eva Cafe, a relaxing place at the north end of the beach. Then we continued north to the Chapora Fort. From here we had beautiful views over the area and down to Vagator beach. But still, North Goa has not the peaceful spirit of South Goa and its beauty. Finally we went to Vagator Beach for a quick swim and sunset before driving back. Going around with the scooter was great and easy. So we were not so frustrated any more. Still, North Goa with all the tourists and menus in restaurants written in english and russian was not our favourite place to be. Our last day in Goa again we went north to the most beautiful beach - Ashvem beach. It is a decent beach - but still so touristy and packed with people. In the village, the signs are not even in english - they are all in russian! North Goa is the russian outpost. We found a cinema where they only show russian films! And, overall, it is not cheap. In fact it was much more expensive than South Goa.
So we were not too sad to leave Goa. We will definitely go back to Agonda one day if we need a relaxed beach place. The rest of Goa - no thank you. It was nice and interesting to see. But once is enough.