Friday, November 23, 2012

Elephanta Island


Thanksgiving - a day off school - and a great reason to take a day trip with friends to Elephanta Island.  To get there we went down to the Gateway of India and took a one hour ferry ride to the island.



There was a toy train on the island but it didn't go far and we preferred to walk.



 The caves on Elephanta Island are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The caves date from the 5th to the 8th centuries.    The caves are full of rock carvings dedicated to the god Shiva, and some to his wife Parvati and all are over 5 metres tall.  Unfortunately many of the beautiful sculptures have been destroyed by the Portuguese who used them as target practice.


This was my favourite of all the carvings.  It's called the Trimurti and is over 6 metres in height.  The three headed Shiva represents the essential qualities of the god:  creation, protection and destruction.



After going to the caves we went shopping, but Sharon and Kylie went home - this is the shot they got on the way home of Haji Ali's Darga.  I've been trying to get a shot like this for months!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunsets of Goa

Beautiful, beautiful sunsets over the Arabian sea.  What more can I say.  Enjoy!













South Goa - Beach Life


After a few days in the north of Goa, it was time to move to the south.  On the way south we stopped at  the Braganza House in Chandor - one of Goa's faded mansions.  The 17th century mansion is full of gorgeous chandeliers, Italian marble floors, rosewood furniture and antiques from China, Japan, Macao and Portugal.  The land was originally given to the family by the King of Portugal, but in the 1960s the Indian Government took back Goa and confiscated the land.  The family (who still live there 9 generations on from the original gift of land) are now reduced to showing visitors around their beautiful but crumbling old house and relying on donations towards the cost of maintenance.




Our destination in South Goa was Agonda Beach. It was the quietest of all the beaches that we went to which what just what I wanted.  Small beach huts - lots of sand in between each small "resort".


Most of the time was spent walking up and down the beach (morning and evening), sitting and reading or doing my online course or lounging on a sunbed.  Very relaxing.


On our second day in the South we went to Palolem.  I'd heard this was the most beautiful beach - but actually I liked our beach better as it was quieter.  Here we found a cafe that had sunbeds and I logged onto my online course using just my iPhone.  The password for the wifi was "palmtree"!


I loved our beach - so quiet and peaceful.


Old Goa and Panaji


On our second day in Goa we went to Old Goa and Panaji.  Old Goa's heyday was from the 16th to 18th centuries where its population was higher than that of Lisbon or London - it was considered to be the "Rome of the East".  The Portuguese built huge churches, cathedrals and convents, which are now sadly falling into decay - some that are no longer in use have become museums.


After spending some hours in Old Goa, we then went to Panaji, the new capital of Goa state.  Panaji is characterized by brightly coloured houses.


We had lunch at a restaurant in Panaji - a brightly painted blue, yellow and orange place, where we sat outside in the garden at the rear of the restaurant.


After lunch we still had plenty of time to stroll around the streets and look at the amazing colours.  We also had a stroll through the Municipal Gardens.


The main sight of Panaji is probably the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  Apparently this place was the first port of call for Portuguese sailors who came to thank their lucky stars for a safe crossing from Portgual, before continuing onto the state capital of Old Goa, further upriver.


We went on a sunset cruise down the Mandovi River.  We didn't realize it would be as lively as it was - there was live music and dancing!  I wasn't really into this, but the views were very nice.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Gorgeous Goa


For the Diwali break Lex and I went to Goa.  We stayed for 3 days in the north and 3 in the south of the state.  The first place we stayed was an old country house called Presa di Goa in Nagoa.


The meaning of the name is "captive of Goa".  The owner of the hotel, originally from Luxembourg, worked in international chains and then bought this place when he retired.  As I was doing an online course, this balcony became my "classroom".


The house was set amid gorgeous gardens and had a lovely swimming pool.  It was fantastic to sit and soak up the fantastic atmosphere - and simply to relax.



The hotel did a complimentary drop to a couple of local beaches, Calangute and Baga.  On our first day we went to Calangute where we walked on the beach, looked at the shops and had a meal.  I really like the photo below of our shadows.  I hadn't realised we'd also caught the local boy, running on the beach.


We also went to Baga beach on our third day in the north.  This was a nicer beach and seemed more natural - fishing and so going on, though we also went dolphin spotting.




On our last day in the north we went to a local market in Anjuna which was full of really interesting things to purchase (we bought some as presents).


Five Days of Diwali

My first Diwali in India - the festival goes on for 5 days each with a slightly different emphasis and with different customs.


Day 1:  This is called Dhanteras and is celebrated in honour of the Lord Danvantari.  This is the 13th day of the moon and the name means wealth (dhan) and 13 (teras).  Hindus consider it good to purchase gold on this day (or silver or new utensils).  People clean their houses and decorate them with lamps and rangoli to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.


Day 2:  Choti Diwali is the day that Lord Krishna destroyed Narakasur, a demon, and set the world free from fear.  On this day people are supposed to massage their body with oil and then bathe and rest of the day so that Diwali can be celebrated to the fullest.


Day 3 :  Lakshmi Puja - this is the worship of Lakshmi.  People pray in thanksgiving for the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

Day 4:  Padwa and Govardhan Puja is the day Lord Krishna defeated Lord Indra by lifting the Govardhan Hill to save his people and their cattle from rain and floods.  Large quantities of food are decorated to symbolise the hill.



Day 5:  Bhai Dooj is the day dedicated to sisters.  Lord Yama the God of Death visited his sister Yami and declared that if a sister puts a tilak on her brother's forehead on this day, no harm will come to him.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mumbai Heritage Walks - Fort

I've got a book called Heritage Walks in Mumbai and after last week's adventure going downtown on the train, Lex and I decided we'd try out one of the walks in central Mumbai.  We set off this morning to VidyaVihar station - but there was an enormous queue to get to the ticket office, so we jumped in another tuk-tuk and went to Kurla instead (which was actually nearer).  The train was horribly crowded - people pushing and shoving to get on and off - and people hanging off out of the doorways in a very dangerous way.  The crowds thinned out at the next stop Dadar.


The train went to CST - the new name for Victoria Terminus - a beautiful building from the time of the Raj where it was possible to get a train to anywhere in India from here.  



Our walk took us to Crawford Market, a fruit, veg, nuts and provisions market.  We then followed the route past the police headquarters and into an area of Bombay where I have been shopping before.



This area of Bombay was laid out by the British again as a planned Victorian street with Gothic, Victorian and Renaissance colonial designs.  We went into the Bombay Shop and then left the walking route entirely as I remembered going to a restaurant in the vicinity called Britannia, and we thought we find it for lunch.


We asked and asked and eventually we found it.  It wasn't far away and was in an area called Ballad Estate - an area where the buildings belong to the Indian Navy and Mumbai Port Trust.   Ballad Estate was the first planned area in the city and the aim was to move business out from the Fort locality.  Built between 1908-14 as a premium business district, today it still has that same feel to it.  There are film studios there too (we saw a film being made) and also little cafes such as Britannia and Company - with photos of the Royal Family on the walls (the owner thinks the country has gone to the dogs since the Brits pulled out - he boasts a letter from the queen - actually from her secretary).


So - I'm confident - I can get downtown and do the walks.  I'm gradually putting the jigsaw puzzle of Bombay into perspective.  I can see the links between the places and get around.  And I can push as hard as anyone to get onto the trains!