I and my wife visited Goa (on our way to Hampi) during the third week of January 2012. We have been often visiting Goa mainly for attending some ceremony in our family temple. Normally, these visits will culminate in to covering the familiar sight-seeing places like beaches, temples, churches, and river cruise at the cost of repetitions. On this occasion, we decided to explore some less touristy places around Madgaon which was our transit base on our way to Hampi via Hospet.
The afternoon SpiceJet flight reached Dabolim on schedule. A pre-paid taxi engaged at the airport (Rs.700/-) dropped us at Margoa Residency, Madgaon where we checked in (Rs.1500/- AC double bedded room). After lunch at the restaurant, we hired a local taxi (Rs.1000/-) for visiting Casa Araujo Alvares Mansion, a heritage house and adjunct Ancestral Goa in Loutolim village, which was about 10 kms south of Madgaon.
Casa Araujo Alvares Mansion, Loutolim
The mansion is about 250 years belonging to Alvares family which has now been converted into a treasure-house of artifacts and precious items to keep alive the customs and traditions of Goa. Maendra Alvares, the 5th generation of the Alvares family is the brain behind this project as well as Ancestral Goa. Although the house is not in the same grandeur as Braganza Mansion in Chandor village which I visited later, I liked its ‘down to earth’ displays devoid of the arrogance of money power. I rate this place as a ‘must visit’ for those interested in the heritage tourism.
I am not going in to the details of the house as they are already in this link : Casa Araujo Alavres Mansion .
Visiting Hours : 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. – 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Tours every 15 minutes
Entry Fee : Rs.100/- per person with a free English/Hindi speaking guide.
Some pictures below :
|Casa Araujo Alvares Mansion|
|Family Chapel inside Alvares Mansion|
|Old telephone instrument in Alvares Mansion|
|Some displays in Alvares Mansion|
|An oil painting from Europe|
|Sitting and Ball Room|
Ancestral Goa, Loutolim
Ancestral Goa is a theme park depicting Goa’s culture and traditions and a brain child of Maendra Alvares. As we came out of the reception room, a statue of Lord Parshurama with a bow and arrow reminded of the legend according to which Goa was created by shooting an arrow in the Arabian Sea from the Shayadri mountains. Some of the sights inside Ancestral Goa are Art Gallery and Handicraft Center, Casa da Dona Maria, Anand Lotlikar's Ghor, the feni distillery, Legend of Big Foot, The Farmer's House, Cross, Spring and Rakandar, the Fisherman's House, Escola da Musica, Tinto - the village market, Taverna - the country liquor shop, Goan Artisans, Mirabai Sculpture, Big Foot Dance Floor, Bird Habitat, Spice Yard and Rubber Plantation.
For details see the link : Ancestral Goa
Visiting Hours : 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m – 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Entry Fee : Rs.50/- per person
Camera fee : Rs.20/-
No guide is needed as visitors once enter the area, the commentary gets started automatically explaining the displays. The commentaries are available in English and Hindi.
Both these places require at least two hours to explore them fully. Since we had some time before it got dark, we decided to visit Benaulim beach which we had not seen in all our earlier visits. The beach is located about 6 kms from Madgaon and it is comparatively cleaner and less crowded than Colva beach. We had a great sunset view over the Arabian Sea before returning to our hotel room.
Some pf pictures of Ancestral Goa and Benaulim Beach below :
|The decorated gate to Ancestral Goa|
|Display of Parashuram with bow and arrow soon after the entry into Ancestral Goa|
|A typical goan village house on display|
|The imprint of a legendary foot|
|A single rock carved sculpture of Meera Bai.|
|Sunset at Baunolim Beach|
Next day, after breakfast, we hired a local taxi for whole day (Rs.1500/-) to take us to our family temple at Madkai, near Mardol. After finishing our religious part of the trip, we were to come back to Madgaon for lunch and then proceed to Chandor village (15 kms east of Madgaon) for visiting Braganza Mansion, the most talked about heritage house in South Goa. Somehwere near Ponda, our driver suggested that we consider visiting Sahakari Spice Farms about 2 kms from Ponda which, according to him, was worth a visit. The entry fee was Rs.400/- per person which included a welcome drink, 45 minutes of guided tour of plantations and a buffet lunch. It was already getting warm and we had ample time at our disposal to cover the Braganza Mansion. So we agree to his suggestion as spending some time under the cool atmosphere of plantations with buffet lunch was making sense.
Sahakari Spice Farms, Cuti, Ponda
Sahakari is the owner’s surname. After taking tickets (Rs.400/- per person), we were directed by a Farm employee to an inside gate arch where we were welcomed by two ladies with garlands and vermilion. We were seated in a shack like restaurant for a welcome drink of tea made of lemon grass, ginger and colve with cheese biscuits as the accompaniment. In the meanwhile, we were allotted a guide to take us on a plantation tour. The tour lasted for about 40 minutes after which we were brought back to the restaurant for buffet lunch. The lunch was preceded by serving free of charge 30ml of cashew feni. There were both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared in Goan style. The lunch was good. There are other items available in the restaurant for which one has to pay for them.
There was no restriction as to how much time one can spend in the farms. One can simply relax under many shack like structures near the restaurant or take a further walk in the farms. A stream is flowing through the farms where there are options for elephant wash and rides at extra charges. We did not go for it but found that many foreign visitors went for elephant wash and rides.
I had been to a couple of plantations trips in Kerala. So there was not much novelty in this trip. But what I liked most about Sahakari Spice Farm was that they conducted the trip in a professional manner. Even if one is not interested in Plantation tourism, I will recommend this trip, especially for those visitors who are passing through Ponda, just for lunch and relaxation for a couple of hours to avoid harsh mid day sun light.
For details see the link : Sahakari Spice Farm
Some pictures of Sahakari Spice Farm below :
|Entry into Sahakari Spice Farm|
|Some of the Farm employees double up as Goan folk dancers.|
|A Spice Farm guide explains to the visitors the details of farming of some of the spices.|
|Some birds by the side of a stream which passes through Spice Farm|
|Coffee bean fruits|
|Elephant washing in the stream.|
|Washers are 'rewarded' with a shower through the elephant trunk|
|Ganesh made from the coconut shells on display at Spice Farm shop|
Braganza Mansion, Chandor
Barganza Mansion is located in Chandor village, 15 kms east of Madgaon. As soon as we reached the gate of the house, an old lady came out to receive us and to take us to the first floor on a wide wooden staircase. The house is now divided into two wings. The West wing is now owned by Menezes Bragnaza family of which the old lady is the matriarch of the family. The East wing is owned by Pereira Braganza family.
Once we passed through many rooms of the West Wing, the furniture and fixure styles, the types of various antique collections, some oil paintings bear the influence of European lifestyles. The heavily carved rose wood furniture was made by the local artisans. Some of the windows are made up of laminated oyster shells that are found in abundance in the Goan beaches. The floors of the Ball Room is made of Italian marble, the glasses in some of the gothic style windows are from Venice and the chandeliers are from Belgium. The Ball Room looks like to be an attempt to replicate the one of those rooms in Versailles Palace near Paris. The highlights of West wing is the biggest private library of around 5000 books in English, Portuguese, and French. All in all, the West wing rooms shows the aristocracy of the highest order. Since last 2 years, photography in this wing has been prohibited.
The East Wing rooms are almost exact replica of the West Wing except that it is less grandeur and opulent in terms of maintenance of the rooms, collections of antiques, the style of furniture as compared with its West wing counterpart. This may be one of the reason that photography in this wing is allowed.
There is no entry fee but the owners expect a donation of Rs.150/- per person for West Wing and Rs.100/- per person for East Wing. Photography is prohibited in the West Wing which is more opulent than the East Wing. Before visiting the place, it is advisable to know before one proceeds to Braganza Mansion whether the owners are in the Mansion. Otherwise the Mansion is locked.
Telephone Numbers: West Wing: +91-832-278 4201, East Wing: +91-832-278 4227
Again for those interested in heritage tourism, it is a ‘must visit’ place.
Some of the pictures of Braganza Mansion below :
|This was used to be a dinning room but now houses some antique furniture|
|Coloured glass panels on the door leading to a balcony|
|One of the side rooms to the Ball Room|
|Ball Room with Belgian chandeliers|
|Close up of chandeliers|
|One of several such sofas with gold plated designs|
|Close up the Ball Room with gothic style doors leading to other rooms|
|Heavily carved bed made of rosewood|
|Carved chair made up of rosewood with family initials|
|Conversation sofa in the Ball Room. This sofa is also called lovers' sofa as the couple can sit on this sofa facing each other.|
Goa has so much to offer in terms of its heritage houses. I have now decided that in my all future visits to Goa, I intend to cover many such heritage houses, some of which are becoming accessible to the public.
More pictures here.