Friday, 12 May 2017

INDIA: Goa And Zhejiang - China Partner To Promote Tourism

Goa and Chinese province of Zhejiang today expressed willingness to boost tourism ties between the two regions.

"Goa Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar proposed furthering tourism ties with China during an interaction with Zhu Chen, Mayor of Lishui city in Zhejiang province, and his delegation in Panaji," a state tourism department spokesman said.

The ten-member delegation, led by Zhu, is in Goa as part of a four-day official visit to India.

"Lishui, a tourism hub in Eastern China, is haunted by Indian travellers in large numbers," the spokesman said.

Ajgaonkar and Zhu "expressed eagerness to boost tourism ties between the two regions", he said.

"Zhu said he was overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality extended to him and his delegation by Goa Tourism," the spokesman said.

"He described Goa as a well developed State and was mesmerised by its natural beauty," he added.

The best time of the year to visit Goa is mid-November to mid-February when the weather is comfortable, dry and pleasant.

Tourism

Tourism is generally focused on the coastal areas of Goa, with decreased tourist activity inland. There have been more than two million tourists reported to have visited Goa, about 1.2 million of whom were from abroad last year. Goa was a destination of choice for Indian and foreign tourists, particularly Britons and Russians, with limited means who wanted to party.

Goa stands 6th in the Top 10 Nightlife cities in the world in a National Geographic Book.One of the biggest tourist attractions in Goa is water sports. Beaches like Baga and Calangute offer jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, water scooter rides and more.

Over 450 years of Portuguese rule and the influence of the Portuguese culture presents to visitors to Goa a different cultural environment than what is found elsewhere in India. Goa is often described as a fusion between Eastern and Western culture with Portuguese culture having a dominant position in the state be it in its architectural, cultural or social settings.

The state of Goa is famous for its excellent beaches, churches, and temples. The Bom Jesus Cathedral, Fort Aguada and a new wax museum on Indian history, culture and heritage in Old Goa are other tourism destinations.

Goa, a state on India's West coast, is a former Portuguese colony with a rich history. Spread over 3,700 square kilometres with a population of approximately 1.8 million, Goa is small by Indian standards. It has a unique mix of Indian and Portuguese cultures and architecture that attracts an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year,including about 400,000 foreign tourists.

Since the 1960s, Goa has been attracting a steady flow of visitors,first the hippies and returning expatriate Goans, then the charter tourists starting with the Germans in 1987, pilgrims visiting Catholic and Hindu shrines, those opting to settle in Goa as their home, people going for medical treatment, and a growing number of those who attend seminars and conferences in Goa.

Goa is visibly different from the rest of India, owing to Portuguese rule which isolated it from the rest of India for 451 years. The Goan population is a mixture of Hindus and Roman Catholics, the distribution being approximately 65% Hindu and 24% Christian. There is also a smaller Muslim population. Despite this, communal violence has been virtually non-existent and Goa is regarded as one of the most peaceful states in India.

Goan culture has been shaped mainly by the Hindu and Catholic population. People are mostly easy going 'sossegado' in Portuguese. With better connectivity by air and rail, there has been an influx of people from neighbouring states that has led to different cultures. Many Indians from other states have now come and settled here.

Unlike urban areas, the villages tend to be neat and clean, friendly and even good value-for-money, except maybe in those areas where there are a lot of tourists already.

Goa has many different faces. The coast varies from the hinterland. Below is a list of some villages where you could find something unusual. But don't restrict yourself to this list alone.

Assolna, Benaulim, Britona, Cortalim, Curtorim, Goa Velha, Mollem, Usgao, Reis Magos, Savoi Verem, Shiroda. But this list is far from complete. Please note that you wouldn't necessarily be looking around for accommodation though you can find it in some places, because these villages are often close to the places where most tourists stay.

Goan Catholics generally acknowledge their Hindu roots, and carry traces of a caste-system within their social beliefs. It is recorded that in many instances the Hindus left one son behind to convert and thus continue to own and manage the common properties while the rest of the family preferred to emigrate to neighbouring areas along with the idols representing their Hindu deities.

Over the years large numbers of Catholics have emigrated to the major commercial cities of Bombay and Pune and from there onward to East Africa,to the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, to Portugal itself, and towards the end of the 20th century to Canada and Australia.

Many old Goan ancestral properties therefore lie either abandoned or mired in legal tangles brought about by disagreements within the widely dispersed inheritors of the property. In recent years, expatriate Goans have been returning to their home state, often purchasing holiday homes along the coast,which are then converted into 'rent back' apartments, hired out to short-staying tourists by real estate agents.

For a state which has a lot of people passing through, Goa has nearly two weeks of holidays each year. Government offices have a five-day week,closed Saturday-Sunday. Panjim closes early around 20:00 each evening, and shops here could have a fairly longish siesta break from around 13:30 until about 15:30. Goan shop owners take this siesta break seriously, and no business is conducted during this time. Bars, restaurants and other shopping centres are more buyer-friendly.

Major public or special holidays are around Christmas, Republic Day, Id-ul-zuha, Gudi Padva, Good Friday, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi (both days), Gandhi Jayanthi, Dussehra, Diwali, Id-ul-fitr, Feast of St Francis Xavier, Goa Liberation Day, Mahashivratri, Holi and Id-e-milad. Banks may remain open during local religious celebrations.

Expect a huge influx of tourists and locals residing in other states during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and the Carnival, which is celebrated at the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. It is advised to make bookings for trains, buses and flights well in advance if you intend on visiting the state during these times.

By Indian standards, Goa is a very small state with only two districts -North and South Goa. These districts are together further divided into 11 talukas. These divisions, however, don't make much sense for a traveller. North and South Goa are similar, and each has its own "coastal" and "interior" areas.

The major division in Goa is actually between the central coastal areas where the beaches are located and the hinterland. The coastal areas were under colonial rule for longer, reflecting more of Portugal's influence, including having a relatively larger Christian population. The interior is more Hindu, and has more protected forest areas, mining zones and villages.

Contrary to popular perception, Goa is not an island, though parts of what was considered Goa in the past were cut-off from the mainland by the many rivers this region is known for.

Goa's cities

For a state which claims to be half urban, Goa has a surprisingly large number of villages. Even its cities are more like small, crowded,in Panjim's case, scenic towns. Currently, not one city has a population significantly more than 100,000, though some are close to it. The villages can be charming, and in a world of their own, though sadly, tourism and the real estate boom it engineered is seen by locals as destroying the very place the visitors come for.

Panaji (Panjim, also referred to a Ponn'je in Konkani, and earlier called Pangim and Nova Goa during Portuguese rule – the state capital

Margao

Vasco da Gama

Old Goa, home of famed sixteenth century churches, convents and monuments

Mapusa

Goa also has a number of other smaller, charming and sometimes crowded towns such as those along the beach belt,Calangute, Candolim, and in the interior Chaudi in Canacona, Sanvordem-Quepem, Bicholim, Pernem town, etc. Some of these are gateways to the nearby touristic areas. In addition, Goa has some nearly 350 villages, often scenic and each having a character of its own.

Goa's Beaches

- Arambol
- Agonda
- Anjuna and Vagator
- Calangute
- Candolim
- Cavelossim
- Colva
- Dona Paula - a popular beach.
- Palolem
- Sinquierem
- Polem
- Bogomolo - a beautiful and serene beach near Vasco da Gama.
- Galjibagh - Also known as turtle beach.
- Uttorda Beach - a pleasant beach.

Goa's Wild life sanctuaries

- Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary has sambar, gaur (Indian bison) and wild boar, amongst other animals. Elephants have also been spotted here at times.
- Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
- Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
- Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
- Dudh Sagar Waterfall
- Abyss Aquarium Verna

Goa's state language is Konkani. Most Goans speak Konkani, English, Hindi, and Marathi. Portuguese is also known by a small segment, especially the elite and earlier privileged class or the older generation which studied in pre-1961 Portuguese-ruled Goa.

Different languages tend to be used for different purposes in Goa. Konkani is the most widely spoken. English and Marathi tend to be most widely read,most newspapers are read in these two languages too.

Catholics largely use Konkani for their prayer services, while the language for religion is largely Marathi for Hindus. The administration is largely conducted in English, which is also the language of publication of the official gazette, and the language mainly used in the courts.

It can be rather difficult currently to learn Konkani, with options for learning rather restricted. The language is written in four to five scripts, in and beyond Goa Devanagari the official script, Roman or Romi widely used in Goa, Kannada-script, Malayalam-script and Perso-Arabic, reportedly used by some Muslim communities further south along the Indian west coast.

Enter Goa

Goa can be reached via its sole airport Dabolim, by train, and by the many buses connecting the state with cities in India primarily Mumbai, Mangalore and Bangalore. If you are travelling from Mumbai or Pune, car travel will provide you a journey through breathtaking scenery of the Konkan area.

The Dabolim airport in Vasco da Gama is Goa's only airport. Some airlines fly directly to Goa, but most international flights arrive via Mumbai. Air India has international flights to Kuwait and UAE twice a week. Air Arabia has discount flights to Sharjah. Qatar Airways has flights to Doha, along with convenient connections to Western Europe, Africa and USA.

Flights can be chartered to the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and Switzerland.

Many domestic airlines have daily flights to and from Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Kozhikode (Calicut).

On arrival, take pre-paid taxis from Dabolim Airport. A yellow pre-paid taxi booth can be found 30 metres on the left when you exit the main building. There is also a pre-paid taxi stand in the international arrival area.

Official Govt Rate Taxi Board,Taxi Board is just outside arrivals. Those who want to make the trip to their hotel before the supplied coach may like to go by taxi, Just outside arrivals there is a taxi board showing rates for all the popular destinations. Another option is to find a taxi just outside the airport gates who might be on their way home and save yourself a few hundred rupees.

Many resorts pick up guests from the airport for free, so make sure you ask your resort for free pick-up.

There are several bus routes from various cities, but most traffic is from mainly Mumbai and Pune. Due to increasing demand from the south, there has been an increase in buses and trains from Mangalore and Bangalore. Overnight buses from Mumbai to Goa are an alternative to trains and flying. Book in advance during the crowded seasons,particularly during the Christmas-New Year rush, for Carnival, or when other Indian regions have school holidays when families travel.

Kadamba Transport Corporation is the Goa state-run transport service. Its buses have seen better days, and more efficient times. There are also other state-run buses run by the governments of Karnataka,some services are efficient, specially the Volvo buses, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Many private players also offer bus connections to other cities, with varying levels of discounts and efficiency, with the two usually being inversely related.

The main centre for booking train and bus tickets, in Panjim, is around the Kadamba inter-state bus terminus. Tickets for the Konkan Railway can also be booked here, though expect long queues during the holiday season which in India, can also coincide with the timings when children have a school break.

Indian Railways connects Goa with direct train services from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Kochi, Kolkata, Thiruvanantapuram, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The destination station is usually Madgaon in South Goa, one can also choose to get down at Thivim in North Goa. Travelling to Goa by train is a real pleasure as the route passes through greenery and many tunnels. Goa is also connected to Pune via the Belgaum Miraj line.

A railway station most tourists tend to miss is Thivim, which is served by most trains and is located very close to the popular beaches of North Goa. In case one had already booked a hotel, it would be a good idea to consult them on which station to get down at.

For budget travellers, this is the cheapest option, along with being faster and much more comfortable than travelling by road. It is advisable for tourists to make reservations well in advance as the major trains,Konkan Kanya, Nethravati Express, etc are usually heavily booked.

Trains from Mumbai and most other places have a quota of seats set aside for tourists. Quota tickets must be purchased in person at the rail station by the tourist and cannot be booked via a travel agent. Note that quota tickets are only sold at the station of origin. Tickets can be booked online

Unless travelling on a shoestring budget, it is advisable to travel in air conditioned sleeper coaches. These are quieter and much more comfortable. Each bunk is provided with two freshly laundered sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. You can also have a hand towel on request.

Most travel agents will book tickets for a small fee (₹200), but be aware that trains do get busy and you need to book in advance. Do not leave booking your ticket to the last moment as you may be disappointed.

Distance from Goa to various cities:

Mangalore (360km)
Pune (485km)
Bangalore (592km)
Mumbai (608km)

Occasional cruise services used to sail from Mumbai to Goa. This was run in past years, but is currently discontinued.

First thing to bear in mind is that when you are visiting Goa, you are visiting a whole state, not a city. So there are several towns spread out with considerable distance between them and so it is essential to prepare, or at least have an idea of, what kind of local transportation you will be using while there.

High resolution maps are not available for Goa. For example, some popular isles are not shown in many maps.

Parts of Goa lack sign boards, so finding your way around could be challenging. When in doubt just as, usually people are friendly and helpful- but don't expect precise answers,a so-called five minute drive could take a good twenty minutes.

When driving, expect surprises like domestic animals and little children darting across the road and unmarked speed breakers / speed bumps.

Choice of geared and un-geared motorbikes and scooters can be rented,typically without helmets. Those planning to stay long may consider buying one instead. Rentals are around ₹400 a day (₹200 in non-peak season) for a Honda Activa scooter and a little more if one is looking for a geared motorcycle,you buy the gasoline as needed.

Although in the peak season,November - January prices may rise up to twice the original price. Many small roadside shops sell gas at ₹80 a liter, while the going rate at a station these are hard to locate in the coastal areas, is around ₹59 a liter.

For the motorbikes, always ask for a discount if renting long-term one month or more. You should not have to pay more than ₹100 per day. Ensure that you have all the ownership documents of the bike. Also, avoid taking motorbikes with yellow plates out of Goa, as it is a punishable offense.

Hiring a bike with white plates is okay for local travel in the immediate vicinity but if you want to travel further afield then always rent a bike with yellow plates. Wearing a crash helmet is compulsory when you go on any major roads,there is ₹100 fine for not wearing one. Foreigners will need an International Driving Permit; this is the first thing police will ask you for if stopped. You should also carry your normal driving licence with you.

There are some online platforms available where you can get yourself a bike.

- Freeways
- Dolphin Rentals

Fares: ₹8-10. Buses are an inexpensive and great way to travel and see the state. ₹10-15 will often get you a 30-40km ride.

There are lots of cars for hire all over Goa. The best place to start inquiring for the service is with your hotel. In general, you are required to book a daily package of 8 hours or 80km at around ₹1,000-1,500 depending on the vehicle's model and whether it is air-con or not.

Extra charges are usually around ₹100 per extra hour, or ₹10 per extra kilometre. This is usually the most effective option to explore the region, as there is no taxi you can hail off the street.

Mahindra, Willys or Maruti Gypsy makes are similar to the long wheel base version of the Suzuki Jimny. Some of these jeeps are open roof. Expect to pay around ₹1,000-1,200 a day.

Art & culture

Goa has a more than its fair share of museums, art galleries and libraries. You will find many government run museums in Panaji, including the Goa State museum, the Kala Academy, the Central Library and the Goa Science Centre. In Vasco da Gama, you can find the Naval Aviation Museum, a great place to see vintage aircraft.

Old Goa is a great place to see examples of Christian religious art, and sometimes, secular art. There you can find the Christian Art Museum and also a modern art gallery containing the works of surrealist Dom Martin. In Mormugao, you can find the Religious Museum of the Blessed Joseph Vaz. The Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Bardez also has a gallery on Christian Art.

Attracted by Goa's bohemian life, many artists, painters and architects have made their home here. They too have proceeded to set up art galleries and museums. An example of this is Subodh Kerkar's art gallery in Candolim. Benaulim also has the Goa Chitra Museum, containing the largest collection of ethnographic artifacts ever assembled in one place.

Other museums of note are Gerard da Cunha's architectural museum Houses of Goa in Benaulim, Big Foot or Ancestral Goa at Loutolim, Salcette, an attempt to illustrate and recreate Goa's traditional past. There's even a vintage-cars collection of sorts, Ashvek Vintage World, in Nuvem, Salcette

Beaches

Goa is famous for its beaches, ancient temples and churches, and the Goan carnival.

Arambol Beach - A quiet and virgin beach in North Goa.The nature has gifted it a lot of beauty.There are many water sports available like paragliding,parasailing,many massage options,a very big beach market.

The sweet lake is one of the miracle wherein the sweet water lake is touching the sea.The deep forest behind sweet lake is also the attractive point. There are a lot of accommodations in Arambol.Om Lake Resort is one of the popular accomodation there which offers the budget cottages.There are around more than 100 's of restaurant in the beach.There are live music options also.

The water is shallow and good for swimming. Arambol is not what it used to be, there are plenty of shops, eateries and places to stay. It has in-fact become huge and not as peaceful as it used to be, but it has turned into a cultural hub. It is like goa within goa now.

Anjuna Beach - Close to the Chapora Fort, its key attraction is a magnificent Albuquerque Mansion built in 1920, flanked by octagonal towers and an attractive Mangalore tile-roof. Anjuna was the second home and main location of the hippies in Goa in the 1960s and 1970s, after other destinations like Calangute got too "crowded" for them.

It is still the venue of a vastly-changed and more mainstream flea market held each Wednesday. In the nearby village of Arpora, two colourful Saturday night bazaars are held in the non-monsoon seasons. This is still part of alternative Goa, though charter and other tourists also visit in increasing numbers to get a feel of the hippy years.

Palolem Beach-a scenic beach in extreme south Goa with scenic rocks and islands off its shores. Good eating options. It is becoming pricey by local standards and getting a bit crowded, but still less crowded compared to other popular beaches.

Patnem Beach - a small and quiet beach in Canacona Taluka.

Vagator Beach - a beach in Bardez, neighbouring Anjuna.

Morjim Beach - a beautiful beach, inhabited by Russian tourists. This place is popular among kitesurfers due to the shallow depth of the sea and a very wide beach. Prices are high, with many restaurants offering Russian cuisine. Nightlife is vibrant here.

Asvem Beach - a quieter beach in extreme north Goa's Pernem Taluka.

Mandrem Beach - another beach in extreme north Goa's Pernem taluka

Candolim and Sinquerim Beaches in North Goa's Bardez taluka. Once humble fishing villages. Now the crowded concretised coast of North Goa. Goa's Benidorm. Or quickly getting to be as crowded.

Colva Beach - This beach's spectacle of sea, sand and sky blend in a enchanting natural harmony, weaving their magic spell on the visitors. Known for its scenic beauty. This is part of Salcete, Goa's only Catholic majority sub-district. Once a very hospitable area, now relations are getting monetized thanks to tourism. Beware of mountains of trash on the beach and nearby locations, stray dogs and bad odors.

Calangute Beach - aka Queen of all Beaches in Goa. Once highly rated. Now crowded. Expect traffic jams along the main crowded street. Beach is full of Indian tourists, a lot of noise, a lot of souvenirs and water sports beggar. You won't get peace here. Many famous clubs are located here. Nice eating options.

Baga Beach A family-beach and charter tourist destination just outside Calangute.

Chapora Home of the Chapora fort. Close to Vagator and Anjuna beaches. Also site for a fishing jetty where trawlers (introduced into Goa in the 1960s and 1970s, amid protests from traditional fishermen, who were affected by them bring in their catch. Dil Chahta Hai Movie's one song was shot at this fort. Although in pretty damaged state, Chapora fort offers mesmerizing views of sea and both beaches. It's a bit difficult to find the way to the fort, but bikers won't mind it. Built on a hill top, fort offers some resistance for climbing up.

Chapora village offers an interesting mix, a small street market with lots of eateries, juice center and rooftop restaurants and cheap accomodation. A few places to note would be, Seaview Guest House, Ganesh Juice center, Baba rooftop restaurant.

Churches and Cathedrals

It is no exaggeration to call Goa, a city of churches which are a proof of the rich history of the beach city. During the initial stages of the Portuguese rule in the city, building of church building was a favored activity, mainly because they wanted to spread Christianity and convert as many people as was possible. These churches are world-renowned as they have kept intact the old-world charm and thus are famous as tourist attractions. They are an indispensable part of the culture and society of Goa that have helped in the spread of education also. Here is a list of 5 churches you just cannot miss in Goa:

Bom Jesus Basilica (1605) - built in 1605, this Basilica has the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, one of the patron Saints of Goa. It is known for its distinctive baroque architecture that has a display of architectural pieces in wood, stone, gold and granite. Francis Xavier died while aboard a ship and his body was taken to Malacca but it was decided that he should be buried in Goa. After 2 years, it was noticed that his body had not decomposed, that was no less than a miracle. After every 10 years, his body is put for public display in a silver casket designed in the 17th century.

Se Cathedral - built in 1619, one of the largest churches in Asia, which took around 80 years to get constructed, Se Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. It was built to remember the victory of the Portuguese over the Muslim rulers in the city. The building has a Golden bell that can be heard in the whole of Goa. Located in old Goa, one of the bell towers of the church was destroyed during a lightening storm. The structure also consists of 14 alters inside, with each being beautifully carved.

Church of St Francis of Assisi - built in 1661, located on the back of the Se Cathedral, this church is a beautiful piece of ancient workmanship. The structure has striking painted panels showcasing the life of St. Francis of Assisi on the walls. The adjoining seminary has been converted into an art museum, which preserves the painting that was previously kept at the Panaji Secretariat. The church also has an octagonal tabernacle decorated in an ornate style.

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception -built in 1541, a famous landmark of Goa, it is the oldest church situated in Panaji. The towers of the church have a statue of Mother Mary at the front. Around 450 years old, this church was built to welcome sailors home. This church is largely visited even today by Catholic devouts and has been beautifully preserved. The bell of the church is 2nd largest in the world.

Church of St. Catejan - built in 1700, Church of St. Catejan has a striking resemblance St. Peters Basilica in Rome. It was built by a group of Greek and Italian priest to initiate a contrast to the other churches built during the Portuguese times. On the left, there three altars dedicated to the Holy Family, Our Lady Of Piety and St. Clare and the right-side altars are dedicated to St. Agnes, St. Cajetan and St. John. Though the building is 300 years old, but has been beautifully preserved.

Temples

Shree Manguesh Shantadurgai Prasanna Temple:- The temple is dedicated to the deity of Lord Shiva. Shree Manguesh temple is located at Mangeshi in Priol, Ponda Taluka,1 kilometer from Mardol close to Nagueshi, 22 km from Panaji the capital of Goa and 26 km from Margao. Sri Mangesh temple is famous for its pristine glory, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

In Maha Shivratri Festival here you can see a very big fair.In 1560, anticipating the onslaught of the Portuguese, the devotees had moved Shree Manguesh Shantadurgai Prasanna Shivalinga from Kutthal to a safer place under a Hindu prince. Surrounded by hillocks and covered by forests, the Shivalinga was kept at a place, which now is known as Mangeshi.

The Peshwas donated in 1739, the village of Mangeshi to the temple on the suggestion of their Sardar, Shri Ramchandra Malhar Sukhtankar, who was a life-long devotee of Shree Manguesh.

Since then this little village on the Panaji-Ponda road has become a place of pilgrimage for the followers of the Lord and an attraction for the tourists from rest of the country and outside.

Known for its natural beauty and pleasant surroundings, Mangeshi is still a hamlet with about 1,000 families. But it is a center of culture and the musicians from this place have earned countrywide reputation as master singers for several generations.

What You Can Do

Relax at the beaches. Goa has an almost unbroken 70 km coastline of beaches . Don't forget to carry suntan, towels and chappals (flip-flops) along when hitting the beach. Beach beds can be hired for 100 per hour, bargain for a free beach bed if you are ordering snacks from the shack.

Chill out at the discos and pubs

Visit the Anjuna flea market

Browse the libraries: Central Library in Institute Menezes Braganza (Panjim) and Mapusa's Athaide Library. Other research institutions with good collections include the Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Alto Porvorim, the also-Jesuit run Thomas Stevens Konknni Kendra next door at Porvorim, the Goa University, and a quaint Konkani-focussed library called Amchem Diaz (Our Traditions) that functions out of the first floor of a commercial establishment not far from the Margao bus stand and the local court.

Diving: The season is between mid October to mid May. Diving is not possible during the monsoons in India (June till mid October) The water temperature is between 27-30⁰ C. The local diving here consists of dive sites around Grande Island, just off the coast near Vasco da Gama. The dive sites are mostly 12-18 m deep, and the visibility varies through the season, averaging around 5-6 m. Marine life is abundant, with many species of reef fish, hard and soft corals,and several shipwrecks to dive. Several dive centers conduct PADI courses, and organize dive trips to Pigeon Island,also known locally as Netrani Island in the neighboring state of Karnataka.

Kitesurfing : is certainly not the best place in the world to try kite surfing, but it still has something to offer. Check Morjim, Arambol and Aswem beaches in North Goa. You can find instructors in Morjim, that take Rs 8,000-12,000 for beginners course. Season starts in January, you can expect 1-2 windy days a week during January and February, and 2-3 days a week during March. Most people use 10-14m² kites. Water is choppy most of the time, don't expect wave riding.

Paragliding : Check Arambol Beach in North Goa for tandem paragliders. There are no "schools" in Goa, as of Dec 2016. The nearest Paragliding schools are in Kamshet, near Pune.

Jet-Ski, banana ride and paragliding: Goa has one of the cheapest beach adventure sports rates. Head to Anjuna or Baga beach during daytime and you will find many small group of vendors offering these. If in a small group, with adequate bargaining and luck, you can bargain to around Rs 800-1,000 (off season) for a 10 min jet-ski ride, 15 min banana ride and a 15 min paragliding session, for each person. These activities are also available on less popular beaches and you could get a bargain there as compared to popular beaches where demand exceeds supply.

On the Calangunte beach, there is a wide-range of aqua-sports - and a ticket counter where you can purchase so-called tickets,they write the amount on a piece of white paper. Paragliding is a great experience - the offical ticket rate at the counter says Rs.600/- for a double,covers one ride - for two people harnessed together to one paraglide.

A motor boat will transport you from the beach to another parasailing boat - but mind you, the motor boat will wait at the shore, till they get a minimum 10 members, viz 5 couples. Once they transfer you from the motor boat to the parasailing boat, they'll take further inside the sea.

The main guy will now try to convince you that the Rs.600/- that you paid will only fetch you a 45 second ride - take off from the boat and after about 40 secs they'll pull you back onto the boat. If you want to experience the REAL fun, then pay up another Rs.400/- and he'll dip you into the water, a couple of times and will take you to a higher altitude. But it's worth the extra Rs.400/-, if you wanna try. They even have smaller sized harnasses for kids!

Butterfly Conservatory Of Goa, Rajnagar , Pisgal , Priol , Ponda Near Surya Masala Factory, en route Tropical Spice Plantation Conservation project open for visitors. Watch free flying butterflies and an unique rain water harvesting experiment. Rs.100.

Volunteering Goa:, Based in Porvorim (On the main Panjim - Mapusa highway (NH17)). An opportunity to make a lasting difference in Goa. You can experience the real Goa while helping in projects in orphanages, nature centres, animal rescue and charity shops. Be aware that Indian Visa regulations insist that you now can only volunteer on an Employment Visa ie not on a Tourist Visa even if you contract to totally unpaid work. Depending on your country, this can be expensive.

Support Local charity work, Karaswada Mapusa Goa. There are many charities doing great work with street and slum children in Goa, the site listed makes donations go that little bit further and keeps people updated with regular blog posts. A lot of the work done is help with education, getting the children into proper schools and helping the families with medical issues which there are many of. Most of the children they help are originally from out of state but have lived all their lives in Goa.

Great Live Music 2014 International Music Festival, Elliot Grounds, Baga Bridge, Goa, . This is a 2 day music festival featuring best of bands from Russia and India from Rock and Jazz Genre, performing Live on 31st January and 1st February 2014. From 5pm to 10 pm . A well known festival for cross-cultural music event

Dudhsagar Plantation - Spice Tours, Karmane, Goa. 9:30 - 17:00. A guided tour takes you into the world of exotic spices and medicinal plants. The tour is followed by tasting of locally brewed cashew fenni and a goan lunch buffet. Visits to the plantation can be combined with a trip to the Dudhsagar Waterfall. Rs 600.

HomeStays in Goa, Goa. Homestays in Goa - ZaraHutke offer comfy stays which will indeed be the highlight of your vacation!

From wines to cashew-nuts, enchanting local music to alternative books and handicrafts, Goa has a lot. Goa's handicrafts are clearly under-rated and under-appreciated, even while being reasonably priced. Their range includes carved furniture, brassware, crochet and more.

Global items come in amazing diversity specially at the night markets of North Goa. In Panjim, the 18th June Road is faster emerging as a lure for shoppers and tourists. Mapusa, while hosting a traditional market each Friday, attracts a number of tourists, specially foreigners. Goa's talented goldsmiths are neatly located in a line at Mapusa's market, and in parts of Margao and Panjim. Check out traditional Goan lacquer-ware toys available at the Aparant emporia.

Every major hotel has its own bookshop, of varying quality. Books tend to be priced amazingly inexpensively in India, including in Goa. For the best collection of books related to 'alternative India' and the environment, visit the almost hidden Other India Bookstore. It sits atop the old Mapusa Clinic, at Mapusa's Feira Alta locality. Entrance from the behind.

Broadways Book Centre at 18th June Road (near Caculo Traffic Island); Confidant's Golden Heart Emproium in Margao; Mandovi Square near Cine Nacional; and Varsha Book Stall near the Bank of India and Azad Maidan. The last two focus on newspapers and magazines coming in from the rest of the country and abroad.

Reading Habit, at Campal on the way to Miramar Beach, has a wide variety of books.

One Goan unique product is that of hand-painted ceramics.

Furniture is another area of interest, in terms of shopping options, despite its bulky nature. Antiques are also a growing business here.

Foreign tourists increasingly go shopping for medical services. There are a number of outlets that offer a form of health tourism'nclude centers like Dr Pimenta's Dental Practice at Romano Chambers near the Old Petrol Pump in Calangute and Lake Plaza near Nehru Stadium in Margao.

Rangeela Goa, Naikwaddo, Calangute,Opposite Azzure hotel near Maria Rosa Apartments run a Google maps search on Rangeela Goa). Rangeela is a one-of-a-kind boutique selling clothing and accessories sourced from all over India. Traditional handicrafts and materials are used to make modern, light and fashionable clothing ideal for the Goan climate. The store is located in a centuries-old ancestral home surrounded by lush gardens. Rangeela means colourful in Hindi.

Want to shop Goan? One good value-for-money place is the Aparant network of outlets managed by the State-run Goa Handicrafts network. In their ten outlets across Goa you could expect to find an interesting range of handicrafts from Goa. And reasonably priced too. Items range from shell-work to clay, bamboo, paper mache, coconut-items and fiber. If visitors have a problem with carrying back some the more fragile handicrafts home, then fibre is a good option.

These outlets are, besides four in Panjim, located at Vasco da Gama (on Swatantra Path, at the Vasco Residency) and at the local GTDC-run "residency" hotels in Margao, Mapusa, Calangute, the Bicholim Pottery Production Centre at the Industrial Estate, and at Loutolim's Big Foot.

In Panjim, the other outlets of Aparant are located at the Udyog Bhavan,opposite the Goa Police Headquarter, near the Ferry Jetty; at the main Kadamba bus-terminus; and at the Crafts Complex office of the Goa Handicrafts in Neugi Nagar (Rua de Ourem). The largest number of items are available at the last location, about 2.5 kms off the center of town.

Most of the Aparant outlets are open between 9:30 or 10AM to 6 or 7PM, depending on their location.

Products of dry coconuts and coconut-shells are carved and often designed to fit on a wooden base. Items produced here include table lamps, flower pots, table clocks, different religious statues and decorative items.

Cotton thread is transformed in an artistic way with the crochet steel hook, rendering it in beautiful designs and shapes. Likewise, sea-shells that were once discarded by the beach get transformed by artisans. Traditional clay art in the form of pots, ash-trays, flower pots, images of gods is a skill that has been built up across generations in Goa. Ditto for the case of bamboo products.

A few of these items are produced in-house at the Goa Handicrafts' center in Bicholim. Others come from artisans across the state. This network has done a fair job in highlighting the skills of geographically-scattered local artisans, and also finding them the market they so-badly need to sustain their rich talent.

Dining and Drinking

The Goan staple diet consists of rice and fish curry along with pickles and fried fish. This can be found on many of the beach shacks. The Goan cuisine is a blend of Portuguese and local flavours. Many dishes such as prawn balchao and Kingfish in Garlic have distinct Portuguese flavour. The cuisine is mostly seafood based, the staple foods are rice and fish. Kingfish,Vison or Visvan is the most common delicacy, others include pomfret, shark, tuna and mackerel. Among the shellfish are crabs, prawns, tiger prawns, lobster, squid and mussels.

Dishes such as Sorpotel, Vindaloo and Xacuti or Cha'cut), Cafreal will be familiar from Indian restaurant menus, and are originally Goan dishes. For those with a sweet-tooth, Bebinca is a must. A traditional goan pudding, Bebinca is made of flour, egg-yolk, and, coconut milk. It is certainly a great way to finish that sumptuous meal.

Most beaches have shacks that serve surprisingly delicious meals, specially sea-food and they'll usually consult you to see how you like your food. Don't miss the shack eating experience. You'll want to go back and do it again. Most fancy hotels and restaurants serve terrible food, it is best to eat at local places, ask a taxi driver where these would be and don't let him take you to any fancy restaurants as they receive commission.

Some really good restaurants not to be missed are 1. Souza Lobo Bar & Restaurant,Off Calangute, North Goa 2. O Coqueiro ,Porvorim, Goa 3. Florentine's 4. Viva Panjim, Panjim 5. Starlight, Anjuna 6. Bob's Inn, Candolim.

For a destination which tends to be costlier in almost everything than the rest of India, Goa has liquors and wines that are priced noticeably low. Products available range from wine (red and white), to the oddly-named Indian-made foreign liquors IMFLs, which include whisky, brandy, rum, gin, vodka and more, and local liquors basically cashew and coconut feni. Prices of domestic products range from Rs 40 to Rs 350 per bottle, depending on product and brand.

There are two local brews long made and drunk in Goa,cashew feni and coconut feni. One comes from the cashew apple, and the other from the sap of the coconut tree. Goa's feni-making has been much focussed on.

Feni-brewing skills have been honed by Goa's former Portuguese rulers. Strange but true: the cashew was brought in by the Portuguese themselves, and today it seems like a closely integrated part of Goa. Cashew-apples go to waste in neighbouring states, and in the fruiting season, one could get a strong smell of semi-fermenting apples being transported specially from Maharashtra into Goa, at locales close to the border.

Feni has come to become synonymous with Goa. Indigenous alcoholic drinks include coconut palm toddy from south and eastern India and the Goan liquor 'feni' based on coconut palm juice or cashew nut.

Needless to say, feni has its own strong taste. Some like it, some don't. At one of the liquor outlets in Panjim, you can run into bus-loads of tourists picking up their 'souvenir' of feni.

Of course, there are a range of other options too. Local wines are priced at between Rs 40 to Rs 150 per bottle (of 750 ml).

In recent years, Goa has been hosting what it calls the "Grape Escape", a festival of wines, around the start of each year,held in mid-February 2007 and May 2006, for instance.

In Panjim, new ventures are also bringing in new products. A Nau "The Ship" in Portuguese, unfortunately since closed down, brings in a range of wines and other commodities from Portugal.

Global Spirits and Foods, which operates out of the Pilerne Industrial Estate some 10 kms from Panjim, wholesales a wide range of products from across the globe, champagne and cognac from France; wines from Argentina and Chile, Australia and New Zealand; vodka from Poland; single malt from Scotland; and even the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage of Brazil Cachaca. Cacha├ža is the product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, with its alcohol strength between 38% and 51% by volume. It is often said to differ from rum in that it is made from sugarcane juice while rum is made from molasses.

In terms of local products, Madame Rosa has also been diversifying into coffee and other liqueur. Flavours include mango, anise, almond and chocolate mint. PVV or Pedro Vincent Vaz, another prominent brand, comes out with its cashew and palm product,in sizes of 750 ml, 180 ml and 60 ml. Other brands have names like Dom Pedro, Goan Treasure, Cashew Inside, Fruit Shape, among others.

Goa is one of the reasonable places to stay in as compared to rest of India. During the peak season, which lasts from November to late March, the prices are very high. Especially in December, 5-star hotel rates rates range from around ₹20,000 - ₹35,000 per night. All tourist spots charge more in the peak season.

The last week of the year, between Christmas and New Year Goa is usually completely packed. Try to avoid that overhyped week and you will get a better deal without the added pressures.

A great time to visit Goa is between September to November. The peak season isn't quite there and hotels are available at lower prices.

Huts/Shacks are an economical and fun option to consider with prices ranging from ₹400-600s and you get a whole hut with a double bed, lock , towels and an attached bathroom with toilet. These shacks are closed during the monsoon. Alternatively, budget hotels offer rooms starting from as low as INR 699 per night.

Do not forget to explore special discounts during the off season.

There are lots of traditional Goan Portuguese villas and beach houses where you can stay to get a local flavour of Goa, especially if you're travelling in a group.

In recent trend many tourists are preferring to stay in service apartments since these service apartments are spacious in compared to hotels and comes with kitchen. It gives a feel of a home away from home. These are very suitable for families and couples and also comes within budget. In peaceful villages like oxel and siolim one can get a really good deal in gated communities with different facilities.

Goa has a large network of banks, some of which will change currency. In the tourist pockets and urban areas, one comes across such services easily. Reserve Bank of India's Foreign Exchange Department is at 3A/B Sesa Ghor, Patto in Panjim though one need not go specifically here.

Leading hotels, shops and travel agents will also offer foreign currency exchanges.

Add to this the reality that the telephone network in Goa is frequently growing, and that telephone numbers have grown from four-digits to the current seven in not too many years, finding the right number you need can be tough.

Goa's main telecom ISP BSNL has this online telephone directory which is partially useful.

The Government of Goa's Department of Information and Publicity,located at Udyog Bhavan, near Azad Maidan and the Goa Police Headquarters in the heart of Panjim comes out fairly regularly with an under-priced,but not easily available pocketbook of phone numbers. This focuses largely on politicians, government officials and media persons. Some useful fax numbers, email addresses and websites mentioned here. But don't expect officials to reply to your e-mail!

Yellow pages are also available. To inquire about local businesses contact Hello, The Talking Yellowpages Of Goa and Online Enquiry Hello Yellowpages Goa. Both these services from Hello Group Goa offer information on a range of businesses in Goa.

Mobile services have grown fast in Goa.

It is fairly easy to get a Prepaid mobile SIM card. It will cost around 100Rs, just take a copy of your passport,visa page, entry stamp and photo page and two passport photos to a phone shop and away you go. It is worth thinking about cost and coverage if you are travelling around India as once you leave Goa and travel to anoher state you then pay roaming charges for all calls. It is still cheap though. A single text to the UK from Goa costs ₹10 and calls cost about ₹12 a minute.

It is also worth noting that Vodafone coverage across Goa is patchy and can lead to delayed delivery of messages, dropped calls, poor signal quality and battery drain,the local recommendation within Goa seems to be Airtel.

Internet cafes can be found in Goa's urban areas, tourist spots and hotels, like Taj, Lemon Teee, Ginger, OYO, etc. generally provide free Wi-Fi facility. It is not difficult to find an internet centre in a state known for its large expat and tourist population. ID has to be presented and foreigners will need to present their passport before being allowed to use the internet.