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G o a ... a s   G o a   w  a s


State Goa
Distance 36.8 kms from Margao
Location In the extreme south of South Goa. Till the eighteenth century,
Canacona was outside the 'Goa' boundaries.
Some trains stop at Canacona. Margao is the closest major station nearby.
Buses from Mumbai may terminate at Panjim (Panaji), but some go on to
Route NH17 from Mumbai to Goa going past Panjim (Panaji) and Margao. Driving
straight down takes you to Chaudi, the headquarters town of Canacona. A more
scenic route is the coastal road (right after Navelim) going via Chinchinim,
Assolna, Betul and Canaguinim.


Canacona (pronounced Kaankon) is two hours, yet very far removed, from
mainstream Goa. This shows. It did not face the harsh fury of
sixteenth-century Portuguese rule; and still reflects an unusual
Indo-Portuguese fusion. It's less Westernised than the central coast, but
still obviously very unlike coastal Maharashtra or Karnataka.

This is also true for neighbouring Quepem (pronounced Kepem, not Cuepem), an
even more rustic and less beach-oriented taluka of Goa. History of the
pre-Portuguese era lies buried here or lives unsung among its small

Being far away from the central core of Goa, it is also far less urbanised,
more rustic. It's an interesting place if you want to just relax and unwind.
Don't expect something hectic here.

Canacona has charm of its own. Its coast is scenic and virgin. Tourism is
rather humane scale, people-friendly and relatively more-affordable than
other parts of Goa. Small entrepreneurs man mostly-tiny touristic ventures,
adding a homely touch. Away from the coast, Canacona and its neighbouring
Quepem taluka have a number of off-the-beaten-track destinations and unusual
festivals. This is a Goa where you can still find the secret tracks to the
beach, and feel like a traveller... not a tourist.

No wonder that when Hollywood film-makers wanted to depict the East India
Company's forays into eighteenth century Bombay (or should we us the
then-used Portuguese term, Bombaim?) they zeroed in on Canacona. They've
been scouting around the scenic spot where the river meets the sea at
Galgibaga, almost on the extreme southern tip of Goa.

One added attraction is that the Canacona railway station is located at the
centre of this area, close to the tourist-pulling coast. 

Palolem's hammocks strung on the beach give hint of the kind of place this
is becoming. It's working to build a 'different' identity for itself. A
quieter version of North Goa's Anjuna, minus its noisy and continuous
full-moon parties, but with some interesting attractions that could draw the
discerning visitor.

Come to the locality to live with the simple charms of the rustic life. In
some parts of the village, it's still the pig that cleans up the toilets,
and traditional wells for the water supply are still in use. Local fishermen
convert their boats into taxis-on-the-sea. Ask on the beach for rates and
names. Some beaches, like Polem, have tiny boards announcing who would take
you on a boat-ride. Some tiny homes along the Canacona stretch also take
paying guests. Palolem offers some place for camping; ask around. 


Canacona's beach belt, 'discovered' by tourism only after the 1990s, is
among the most scenic. Palolem is a milder recreation of an east-meets-west
Goan beach, with a rich variety of exotic food and accommodation to cater to
the international palate.

But beyond the better-known Palolem and Agonda, there are nearly nearly a
dozen-and-half lesser-known (or even hidden) beaches. Some are just tiny
strips of sand. So what if you don't find hotels or restaurants there? It's
still makes a difference if the idea is to escape from it all. In some
cases, the road to the beach is nothing but a narrow track.

Getting down to Xendrem beach is a maze, which only a fleet-footed goat or
wise villager could manage. This place was the scene of angry village
protests when a nature cure centre was first sought to be set up there a
decade-and-half ago.

To get to Vaturem, a beach that only local picnickers know of, you need to
stop your two-wheeler, cross a tiny footbridge made of coconut-trees,
navigate a two-feet wide rough path, go by some ant-hills, and generally
keep your faith intact till the beach mysteriously emerges after what seems
like a small jungle.

Quepem has a two or three beaches, known for their picture-postcard quality.

Cotigao wildlife sanctuary is located within this area. Parthagal math is a
five centuries-old monastery. Even if Goa's temple splendor is housed in
nearby Ponda taluka (central Goa), the Zambaulim and Fatorpa temples are
surely worth a visit, specially during the festive season. 

Canacona is one part of Goa where hillocks jut out almost directly into the
sea. Villages are tucked away in low-lying areas, which are carpeted by a
sea of green-topped coconut trees. Till foreign-migration and tourism came
to this area, the coconut tree was the slender line through which many on
this coast eked a living, apart from fishing. 

(Strangely, the coconut tree is not officially classified as a 'tree'.
Cutting down any other tree takes one to encounter the heartless
bureaucracy, but not the coconut. Landlords, in some parts of Goa, have
however been evaluated on how coconut tree-friendly they've been or how
badly they've hacked down plantations.)

Till the early 1990s, Canacona was just another badly neglected backwater of
a Goa dominated by the central coast. Tourism developers belatedly noticed
the charm of this area, probably its best that this happened late. 

It shows. Till date, much of the touristic infrastructure here is run
through small-scale local initiatives. Luxury hotels trying to ram their way
in, like one at Agonda, bit the dust. Today a half-finished ruin lies in
silent testimony to this folly, at the Val end-of-the-road of Agonda.

Canacona and Quepem are rustic areas, with only small towns in the area.
These are not the place to go shopping, though Palolem has a growing number
of touristy outlets. 

Dolphin-watching and fishing trips are what attract foreign visitors to the
area. Signs for these are widely noticeable in some areas, giving hint of
the clout of the power of British and Scandinavian currencies here. 

Palolem, Agonda and the more deserted Cabo de Rama Fort are current
hot-favourites.  The first two are still not overdeveloped beach-villages.
Cabo de Rama is a place for scenic views of the coast. You need your own
transport to reach these places, since public buses are few and far between.

Goa's second-largest wildlife sanctuary is at Cotigao. It's terrain is
fairly plain, with hills in the south and east -- at one very end of Goa.
Much of the sanctuary is covered with dense forests, with a few open grass
lands. Forest crown density is often over 50%. Some trees, Goa's loftiest,
touch 30 metres. 

Cotigao is near Poinguinim, some 44 kms from Margao. Take the Panjim to
Margao road (32 kms), onto Canacona (36.8 km) and further down for seven km
on NH17 upto Poinguinim. At the left is a bold entrance board to the
sanctuary. Some two km further is the sanctuary gate at Shristhal. Entry
between 7 am and 5.30 pm. 

Expect difficulty in spotting animals due to the dense undergrowth, and the
fact that they could be scattered across this sanctuary's 86 sq.km. You'll
need patience and getting atop one of the watch-towers. Villagers have
reported sighting tigers, according to officials. Birds are aplenty. Some
200 species could be spotted, given time and patience. These include the
Indian Pied Hornbill, Larger Golden Backed Woodpecker and the Great Indian

Check out the Nature Interpretation Centre, at the entrance of the
sanctuary. Accommodation available at the Ecotourism Complex at Hattipal. The
Forest Department's scenic but simple rest-house is on the Poinguinim
highway, some 4 kms away. Contact the Deputy Conservator of Forests (South
Goa) at Margao on tel 735361. This place has a four-bed capacity. If food is
needed, you'll need to arrange in advance.

Shantadurga temple, worshiped by both Hindus and Catholics, at Fatorpa
holds its 'zatra' (festival day) on the ninth day of the Hindu month of
Margashirsh. It falls in Goa's cool season, sometime in December-January.
Huge crowds from all over Goa make their way to this small remote village in
Quepem taluka, some 5 kms from Cuncolim. (Goa has a range of syncretic
practices, where both Hindus and Catholics worship at each other's shrines.
Nearly every Catholic trace ancestral roots to Hinduism over generations.)

At Fatorpa, a tall, intricate wooden chariot ('rath') of three tiers, with
the deity inside, is decorated and pulled by male devotees in a night
procession. Hindu temple priests know many Catholic families by name,
because they come to the festival yearly and donate money or goods, says
American anthropologist Dr Robert S Newman, who conducted detailed studies
on this place.

Shantadurga's temple was in the neighbouring village of Cuncolim, in early
colonial times across the 'international boundary' since Portuguese
conquests then didn't extend to Quepem. 

On the fifth day of Phalgun (usually in March), the 'procession of
umbrellas' takes place. Both Hindus and Catholics take part in a fascinating
mix of syncretic practises that crosses over religious border-lines in Goa. 

In nearby Quepem, the Damodar temple was rebuilt in Zambaulim. It came here
after colonial religious intolerance shifted it away from Margao and
relocated in what was then Panchamahal. This region was ruled by the King of
Sunda, till ceeded to the Portuguese in a treaty. Till date, locals point
out that Margao's businessmen have close ties with the deity and often
conduct their business invoking 'Dambab'.

Quepem and Canacona lie adjacent on the map. But because of the hilly
terrain and a lack of smooth roads, a better entry into Quepem via the dusty
mining town of Sanvordem, directly east of Margao. These places are like any
coastal Maharashtra small town: functional and basic hotels, nothing much to
write home about. 

Religious and cultural practices are colourful and rather different in this
part of Goa. Contrary to the image created, there is wide diversity within
the different regions of this small state. Variations are only now getting
the attention they deserve.

"There are simply too many things in this region (waiting to be projected).
Some might interest only the serious student of archaeology," says Pandurang
Phaldessai, an officer at the Panjim-based Kala Academy who has been
finalising his PhD thesis on the cultural history of Canacona. 

Mallikarjun Temple at Shristhal, some 2.5 kms away from Chaudi on the
main-road leading to Karwar (take the road going left) is one where devotees
head for advice from the oracles. Called the 'kaul', the advice of the gods
is taken either from priests in a trance or by them interpreting the way
flower petals drop down. Locally, Mallikarjun is the popular deity, as
visible from the names of local educational institutions. This
centuries-old temple was renovated in 1778. 

Visits to Anjediva Island are permitted courtesy Station Commander Sea Bird
Project.  Such requests should be channeled through Fr. Britto D Silva
Parish Priest St. Anne's Church, Binaga Karwar. Tel No 08382 31132 and email
address [EMAIL PROTECTED] Visits. in future could be curtailed
due to plans by the Navy to step up security.

To visit the Island from Goa one has to proceed by any bus going to Karwar
or Mangalore, leaving in the morning.  The journey is about 2-1/2 hrs. From
the bus stand to Karwar Port, the charge is around Rs 15 for a shared-auto.
A trawler takes you to Anjediv. You might need to alight into a small boat
before reaching the shore, due to the shallowness of the island waters.

Visits are usually around October or February, during local feasts. 

Canacona's aboriginal population, the Kunbis (with Gaonkar or Velip as their
surnames) live in areas around Gaondongri, Cotigao, Chapoli (the site for a
new dam), Assali, Kulem, Khola and Agonda. Besides the Kunbi, there are also
their priestly counterparts, the Velips. Some of their culture has got
shrink-packaged for entertaining tourists, but little has been done for this
oft-neglected segment of the Goan population. 

Loliem has a couple of centuries-old 'hero' stones, etchings on stone to
record historic events of the time dating back many centuries. This
village's statue of Betal, possibly a pre-Hindu deity, itself goes back to
the seventh century if not earlier, according to cultural-historian
Phaldessai. Canacona has a total of four Betal deities, according to him.


Unlike the rest of Goa, Canacona and Quepem has very few luxury hotels. Just
as well. Who needs a touristic monoculture across the globe? Paying guest
accommodation is easily available on the coastal stretch.

Canacona's contribution to Goan tourism is the idea of beach-huts --
temporary beachside thatched huts built on coconut trees usually above
ground level, right on the beach, during the fair weather (October-May)

Sanvordem and Quepem towns -- Quepem is the name of the taluka as well as
its headquarters town -- have many small, functional hotels. In the temples
of Mashem, Mallikarjun and Zambaulim rooms are available in agrashalas,
primarily for pilgrims.


Just before crossing over into Quepem-Canacona, the Salcete coast is full of
hotels. At the extreme southern end is the fishing village of Betul. Check
out this one:

Betul Beach Resort
Doctor on call, fax, laundry, fishing point.
Admn office 108 Naina Gracias Plaza, Near Loyola High School, Margao 403601
Tel 725332 Fax 730365
Resort: Betul Beach Resort, Plot No 1, Rangali, Velim, Salcete, Goa Tel
768123 or 768124. 

Coastal Quepem is not the place to stay. There are very functional hotels in
the area's small and dusty towns (close to the mining belt). Hotels are
scattered along the Canacona coast, most in pockets around touristic centres
discovered by the foreign visitor -- primarily Palolem and Agonda. (Of these
two, the latter is a quieter shade of quiet.)

Cotigao wildlife sanctuary has its own accomodation, the Forest Rest House
is simple yet charming (affordable too, but bookings are a hassle), while
the beach-huts atop coconut trees are a specialty that Canacona is getting
known for. Canacona's first luxury hotel, the Goa Grand Inter-Continental,
has just come up at Raj Bag.

Below is a review of some hotels, moving north to south.


Sunset Bar & Restaurant SEAFRONT
Val Aframento, Agonda 403702
Tel 647381
10 double rooms. Rs 200-300 per day. Some a/c.
Open October to March.
Valid till season-end (March 2003)
Facilities: Restaurant, laundry arranged, food cooked to requirement.
Restaurant cuisine: tandoori, fish-curry, beef steak, beef vindaloo.
Overlooking the beach, in a quiet area.

Dunhill Beach Resort SEAFRONT
Val, Agonda Beach, Canacona 403702
Tel 647328/647604
12 double rooms
Rs 350 per day. Rs 250 in off season
Valid till March 2003
Facilities: Dolphin boatrides, sightseeing arranged, sunset view, ticket
booking arranged, attached toilets.
Cuisine: Chinese, Continental, Indian, Goan. Special dish: chicken xacuti
(shacuti). 6.30 am to 9 pm.
Nice location. Reputed for its food.


Hi-Tide Beach Huts ON THE BEACH
Ourem, Palolem Beach, Canacona 403702
Tel 643104
October 1 to April 31.
Website www.goaunplugged.com/beaches/ (See under Palolem)
20 double (16 'upstairs' and four down)
Rs 300 downstairs, Rs 450 upstairs (Nov 15-March 15)
Valid till March 2003
Facilities: Restaurant, laundry arranged.
Restaurant: Indian, Continental, Chinese, Mexican.
Beach-hut, set up on the sands. Peaceful. 24 hour presence of the owner or
security. Doctor on call. Internet surfing from the beach itself.

Maria Guest House NEAR THE BEACH
Ourem, Palolem, Canacona 403702
Tel 643732 Email [EMAIL PROTECTED]
6 double, 5 single. Rs 400/250 in season, Rs 250/200 off-season. 
Open Oct-April
Facilities: toilets attached, Goan and Indian food, money exchange, STD pay
phone, laundry arranged, cyber-cafe. 
Cuisine: Special, as per order. 

296 Colomb-Patnem, Palolem, Canacona 403702
Tel 643469, 643472
20 rooms. Rs 300-2000. 
Taxes: 5% luxury tax extra.
Facilities: Yoga centre, healing centre, boutique. 
Restaurant: Ahaar. Tel 643469-72. Cuisine: Health-organic food and seafood,
mainly veg. 
Packaged to the "adventure-seeker, health-conscious, nature-lover and

Palolem Beach Resort RIGHT ON BEACH
Palolem, Canacona 403702
Tel 643054, 644094 Fax 643054
Open throughout the year. Tents removed in monsoons.
12 rooms, 16 tents, 6 huts. 
In season Rs 400 / 350 / 250 for rooms/tents/huts. Rooms Rs 300 off season.
Valid upto April 2003
Taxes 8% extra.
Visa/Master cards accepted.
Facilities: Restaurant, STD/ISD, laundry, massage parlour, taxi on hire,
site seeing, boat trips, waterfall trips and spice plantation.
Restaurant: Tel 643054(also fax). Cuisine: Goan, Indian, Chinese.
Recommended: Fish rechado, tandoori fish. Open 7.30 am to 11.30 pm. 


PO Chaudi, Canacona, Goa
Tel 653082, 83 and 87. ???
Fax 643081
Open year round.
42 double rooms, on double or single occupancy.
Tariff valid uptil Sept 2003
Taxes 4% extra
Facilities: Laundry, hot/cold shower throughout, restaurant open through
year, one km from Canacona railway station. 
Restaurant: Authentic Goan. Breakfast upto 10 am, lunch 11am to 3 pm, dinner
7 pm to 11 pm. 

Goa Grand Inter-Continental Resort LUXURY
Rajbag, Canacona 403702
Tel 643288/643848 Fax 643278
Mumbai sales office: 2873050
255 rooms, suites and cottages. (236 deluxe rooms, 3 presidential suites, 2
luxury suites, 12 executive suites, 2 independent two-bedroom cottages)
Facilities: Bath tub, shower cubicle, tea making facilities, mini-bar, colour
TV, international direct dialing telephones, writing desk, outdoor lounging
area, safe deposit locker, 24-hour room service, in-house laundry and
dry-cleaning. Also coffee shop, specialty restaurant, bar lounge and dance
floor, pool bar, barbecue, modern gaming club. 9-hole golf course.  Jogging
track, tennis and squash courts. Banquet and conference halls for 15 to 400


Brandon Bar and Restaurant QUIET BEACH
Colsor, Galjibag 403728
Tel 641512
3 double rooms, with toilet
Rs 250
Open full year. 
Laundry arranged, Goan food on order.
Homely setting, surrounded by authentic village and fields. Half-km from the


Eco-Tourism Complex AMIDST NATURE
Hattipal, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Tel: 735361 (for booking with Dy Conservator, Margao)
Tented (hut-type) Rs 150, mini-cottage (Rs 200), cottage (Rs 400), tent Rs
150. Extra person Rs 25 per day. Tented accomodation not available during
Food prepared on advance notice. Green, pollution-free environment. 

Pepper Valley, Dabemola, Near Cotigao Wild Life Sanctuary, Partagal,
Canacona. 403702
Seasonal, open till end April 2003 
Tel 642370 (sometimes out of order)
Rooms: 6 huts, double accomodation. Shared toilet.
Rs 400 throughout this season (till 2003).
Facilities: Restaurant, small bar (open sunset till 11 pm), a 'natural
swimming pool' in the nearby river, air tubes for swimming, laundry/taxi and
sight-seeing arranged.
Cuisine: Indian, global. Timing 7 am to 10.30 pm.
Scenic settings, close to Cotigao wildlife sanctuary.On the banks of the
river Talpona
Resort de Polem ON THE HIGHWAY
Near Check-Post, Polem, Canacona.
Tel 640477 or 640737
Open year round. 
15 rooms (double, attached bath) (Rs 200 each)
5 bamboo cottages (Rs 200-500 in off-season/season)
Tariff valid till September 2003
Laundry and sightseeing arranged, black-sand beach one km away.
Restaurant: Tel 640737. Cuisine Goan, Chines, Continental, Tandoori. Special
dish: Chicken 65. Open 9 am till 11 pm. 
Mostly used by travellers along the highway to Karwar, and a stopover for
buses. Goa's "last hotel" before the inter-state boundary.


Goa's emphasis on foreign tourists -- all of them are assumed to be
higher-spenders by those in business -- means that destinations preferred by
foreigners are more in the spotlight. Emphasis on the Westerner's food
tastes also lends for either an exotic mix of cuisines, or, alternative, a
tastelessly watered-down Goan/Indian cuisine.

Some places nonetheless manage to come out of this trap quite effectively.

Dilip Gaitonde's Palolem Beach Resort, bang on Canacona beach, offer a range
from different cuisines. Goan dishes are the favourites. Others on Palolem
beach itself include Draupadi (Israeli dishes too), German Bakery (health
food, German cakes, pies, strudels, six-grain bread, croissants), Sameer Bar
and Restaurant (seafood, Indian, Italian), Silver Star (fish tandoor,
sizzlers, beef steak), Ciaran's Camp (pre-booked three-course dinner
available), Fernandes Restaurant (Goan food, fresh juices), and Cool Breeze
("food from around the world" with Jazz).

Reflecting the now-changing ethos of Palolem, there are other outlets with
names like Simba's and Boom Shankar.

Look out for the other 'shacks' that make their appearance on the coastal
stretch when the foreign tourist season starts.

In much of these areas, you could safely give a skip to the many 'bars' that
have sprung up in the area. Most survive on Goa's 'cheap-liquor', and thrive
on being so close to the parched Karnataka market. Some offer basic meals,
only a few are known for a tasty dish or two. 

If you'd like exotic tastes, and something with a difference, Palolem is
your best bet. But don't overlook the simple yet tasty Goan fish-curry-rice
that comes with its finger-licking curry and tasty (usually small) fish.
which is the most popular dish of Goan Hindu cuisine. (The Catholic variant
isn't anywhere as tasty.) This comes at a price of just Rs 20-30; ask for
'extra' fish or rice, for which you pay additional. 

For a region so close to the Karnataka border, the widely-known Udupi food
of the neighbouring state is not so visible. There are some outlets in
places like Chaudi, the central one-horse town. 

For pure veg food (almost all Goans are fish-eaters, except on certain
religious days), you're probably better off in most cosmopolitan towns like
Margao, or further north in Panjim (Panaji). The real Goan has a poor idea
of veg cooking; or at least, one that does not fit in well with pan-Indian
tastes. However, Goan Hindu cooking is a fascinating yet little-discovered
world, that is only now being written about in books in wider-accessible
languages such as English. 

Coastal areas are rich in seafood, with items like 'masala stuffed crabs'
available in some places. Children or foreign visitors need to watch their
stomach; seafood can sometimes be hard on this. 

Goa culinary globalisation is more than apparent here -- Mexican, Italian,
Chinese and even Israeli food is available in places. You can get *Greek*,
*Nicoise* or even Chicken *Hawaiian* salad.

Check out the following:

German Bakery & Classic Restaurant and Bar
Xitto, Palolem, Canacona
Open September to January.
Tel 643251
Cuisine: Health food, pizza, apple pie, croissant, full veg.
Recommended: Paneer tikka, tofu burger, tofu butter masala, chocolate pie,
Crastolan cake.
Open 8 am to 11 pm.

Palolem Beach, Canacona
Tel: 644641 (Res: Sanjay Sharma)
Cuisine: Indian, Chinese, Italian, Continental.
Recommended dishes: Tandoori dishes, spaghetti and lasagne, seafood (all
sorts) lobsters. 
Timings 8 to 11 pm (including 6.30 pm till 11 pm tandoori)
Open year round

Blue Planet
Near the Posro
Beach Road, Palolem
Tel c/o 643691
Cusine: Fresh juices, soya bread, brown bread, tofu, soya milk shakes,
healthy salads, Indian food.
Recommended: Veg mix salad with dressings, humus, eggplant-dip.
Open Oct 15 to April 15. 

FOOTNOTE: Your corrections and suggestions on improving this file are 
welcome. FN
Frederick Noronha    : http://www.fredericknoronha.net  : When we speak of free
Freelance Journalist : http://www.bytesforall.org       : software we refer to
Ph 0091.832.2409490  : Cell 0 9822 122436               : freedom, not price.

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