India: South India: Sawantwadi and Goa
Meander from Sawantwadi farmlands to richly-textured Goa.
DAY ONE: Sunday
Arrive in Goa today, where you will meet your driver and transfer by private car to Nandan farms in Sawantwadi, approximately 2.5 hours away.
Nandan Farms is a traditional farmhouse (shet gahr) complete with mud walls and a terracotta-tiled roof. Recently renovated to modern standards, this homestay accommodation still retains its old world charm. Spacious rooms with tasteful interiors, a lovely veranda and the peaceful surroundings of a lush agricultural landscape make this a true getaway. The farm is a short drive from the historical town of Sawantwadi.
Your hosts are Ashish Padgavkar and his wife Amruta Padgavkar. ‘Ammu,’ as Amruta is fondly called by her friends, is the moving force behind this home-stay. An agricultural graduate, she is passionate about the gardens and natural landscape surrounding the property. Ammu’s many interests include singing and cooking. Malvani Cuisine, which is nearby Sindhudurg’s distinct style of cooking, is her specialty. Some of the mouthwatering dishes from the region include kombdi vade or chicken curry with puri, bangda fry or fried mackerel and kolambi or prawn curry.
Your afternoon is at leisure. If you would like to get out and explore, there are several optional activities including bullock cart rides, bird watching, hiking in the Amboli Forests, or a sight-seeing trip to the Sawantwadi Palace, the island of Kurte where the 17th century Sindhudurg Fort is situated and the Tarkarli Beach. These activities should be scheduled prior to departure, no less than a week in advance. The additional cost for any one of these options is $15.00 per person.
In the evening, take a stroll through the market and experience life in a small Indian town first-hand. Sawantwadi is renowned for beautifully crafted wooden toys. Walk around the pretty man-made lake in the center of town that takes you past the courthouse and Palace.
Built in the era of Khem Sawant Bhonsle III (mid-18th century), the Sawantwadi Palace is a simple red-stone building. The Palace is home to 73-year-old Satwashiladevi Bhonsle, the erstwhile queen of Sawantwadi, who has been single-handedly keeping alive the languishing tradition of making hand painted playing cards for Ganjifa, a game dating back to the ancient Mahabharata epic.
The only section open to visitors is the main durbar hall at the back, with its ornate silver throne sitting forlorn and abandoned at one end. In this hall a senior artist, whose head is intently bent over the cards, is happy to offer a demo. Bring home a set of Ganjifa cards or a painted jewelry box from the palace museum shop.
Tonight, enjoy a home cooked meal with your host family.
DAY TWO: Monday
After an early breakfast, set out at 8:30am for a full day of guided activities. Drive towards Aasinye Village, located approximately 35 km away, where you will spend the morning with a local family.
Your host Dayadamli lives with her family, including two sisters, her mother and friends who are frequent visitors. The house is located 500 meters from the main road, accessible by a man-made wooden footbridge.
After a refreshing cup of Indian tea, you will accompany the family to their nearby farm to help pick seasonal fruits and vegetables. This area is rich in kocum plantations (Garcina indica) and you can participate in the process of peeling the fruit. It may leave a harmless and temporary deep red color on your hands. Depending on the season, other activities are possible, including making mango pulp or a gentle walk through the farms and surrounding land.
On your return, enjoy a freshly prepared simple, but hearty, lunch with the family before driving back to Sawantwadi.
After taking some time to freshen up this afternoon, you have a choice between two activities:
Visit a potters’ village located 12 km from Sawantwadi. You will have an opportunity to see traditional terra cotta pottery made, and try your hand at the local techniques.
Alternatively, visit a cashew factory that is run as a women’s cooperative. The factory in Vengurla village, approximately 15 km from your inn, employs only women in an effort to help them supplement their family income. You will see first-hand the various ways the cashew nuts and fruit, sometimes referred to as a cashew apple, can be processed. Employees at the factory are busy boiling, roasting and, most importantly, grading, or sorting nuts by hand.
End your day with a stroll on a local beach that is completely untouched, quiet and stunningly beautiful.
Return to Nandan Farms and enjoy another home cooked meal made from fresh organic vegetables supplied by local farms.
DAY THREE: Tuesday
After a leisurely start you say goodbye to your host family and drive back to Goa, arriving in the afternoon.
Goa, India’s smallest state, has been ruled by a number of widely varying cultures. The region’s architecture reflects the influences of the Hindus of ancient India, the Muslims of the middle ages and the Portuguese, who stayed on even after Indian independence. A visit to the famous mansions of Goa highlights the distinct contributions of each of these cultures.
The mansions, many of which are still inhabited, are prominent tourist attractions in Goa. These homes are living museums, preserving, to a great extent, the colonial era of Portugal. On display are antiques, paintings, and other curios that were collected over a hundreds of years.
This evening visit Solar Colaso, a well-known mansion located in the village of Ribander. The property overlooks the left bank of Mandovi River, with a spectacular view of the churches of Goa in the distance, and is surrounded by natural beauty. The architecture is chiefly Baroque, although influenced by local and traditional Hindu styles. Its interiors are equally impressive, with curios and paintings dating back several centuries adorning the large rooms. Of interest are the Ramayana carvings alongside Christian themes. The mansion also has a private family chapel. Traditionally, the main entrance was accessible only by boat, from where you alighted into the lovely garden. A narrow and busy road runs past the back entrance meant for servants and tradesmen.
We will provide dinner recommendations for your stay in Goa.
DAY FOUR: Wednesday
This morning you will visit the market at Anjuna, departing after breakfast. This weekly market is one of the most lively and colorful in Goa, attracting people from all over the state (Wednesdays only). Your guide will accompany you throughout the day.
Everything – from fresh and dried fish, spices, fruits and vegetables, to incense, clothing, housewares and souvenirs – finds its way to this market. Look for colorful sling bags (jholas) and patterned lightweight women’s clothing, sarongs and kurtas. You will also find textiles in rich Indian prints, wood carvings, artifacts, carpets and Goa trance music CDs. Local tastes include fragrant spices and tea powders flavored with pineapple, orange and strawberry. Most exceptional are the colorful glass hookahs and an incredible collection of Tibetan art.
Next, drive to Old Goa, where your visit begins with the Basilica Bom Jesus which houses the remains of Saint Francis Xavier. His tomb, carved by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Battista, was a gift from the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Surrounding the silver casket are 32 plaques decorated with scenes from the saint’s life. Nearby is the Convent of Saint Cajetan, named for the founder of the Order of Theatines, who was a contemporary of Saint Francis. This beautiful church is dedicated to Saint Catherine, on whose day Goa was captured by Portuguese explorer Alfonso De Albuquerque. Inside are catacombs with the embalmed bodies of Portuguese viceroys and archbishops.
En route, pass several other churches you may opt to visit including Se Cathedral, the largest of the churches in Old Goa and The Chapel of our Lady of the Rosary built in 1526, which combines Iberian, Hindu and Moslem architectural styles. The Church and Convent of St Francis of Assisi house an interesting archeological museum and portrait gallery. In Panaji, the capital of Goa, visit the Mahalaxmi Temple and walk among the brightly-painted Portuguese villas in Fontainhas, the old Latin quarter of the city.
Lunch today is at a local restaurant offering a taste of authentic Goanese cuisine.
Return to your hotel where your evening is at leisure.
DAY FIVE: Thursday
This morning, transfer to the airport by private car for your onward flight
This is just the beginning.
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