Stretches of silver sand wetted by a rush of blue waters, the sky mirroring the sea below, the strumming of guitars from distant taverns, white churches resting against green paddy fields and coconut groves, long nights spent over brewed feni, longer days of sun, sand and sea. In other words, Goa. Yet, there's lot more than sand and sea here. Goa is about style, haute couture and sophistication.
The tiny west-coastal state is a slice of the Mediterranean. Being in Goa is as close as one can get to being abroad. No wonder then that the tourists one sees here are international and from all walks of life. There are lords and ladies, bigwigs from Hollywood and Bollywood, businessmen from the world over who seem to find Goa an irresistible place to come to again and again for a holiday.

One of the attractions are the residents of Goa. Ready smiles greet one as does the mellifluous language and a certain conviviality of spirit. Over the centuries, many a conqueror came and claimed 'Govapuri' to be his. Each left behind his mark on the topography and culture of Goa. The resultant cultural intermingling has created the irrepressible Goan spirit one encounters today.

Legacy Of A Glorious Past
One of the youngest states of the Indian Union, Goa attained statehood after 451 years of colonial rule and 26 years as Union territory. Its history dates back to the 3rd century when it belonged to the Mauryas, followed by the rule of the Satvahanas, Chalukyas and then the Shilharas and Kadambas. In 1312, Goa fell into the hands of the Muslims when Harihara of the Vijayanagar Empire evacuated the coastal area. The Muslim rule ended when the Portuguese took over in 1510. During the Napoleonic wars, Britishers had a brief occupation of Goa otherwise the Portuguese were masters of Goa till 1961 when they were finally driven out.

Gifts Portuguese Brought To India
Arabian Sea, Goa Vacation PackagesThe most long lasting influence on Goa came via the Arabian Sea. The Portuguese, pursuing their dream of controlling the golden goose - the spice trade, were looking for a strong base on the west coast of India. They chose Goa, then under Muslim rule. After deposing the sultan, the Portuguese used Goa's numerous resources to their best advantage -
the wonderful natural harbour, the fertile land and the plentiful water supply. Soon the new colony became so prosperous that it earned the title 'Golden Goa'. From here, the Portuguese set up smaller colonies in Daman, Diu and Bassein (Vasai).

The Portuguese brought to Goa their grand architectural styles. These imported ideas, married with the skills of the local craftsmen who executed them, gave rise to some unique and beautiful buildings dotting Goa. Take the wonderful fountainhas area of Panjim, where colourful houses with their wrought iron balconies stand in flower-filled glory. Street after narrow, cobbled street is filled with these quaint and delightful houses.

Not many Indians are aware that the staple of Indian spices - chillies are not of Indian origin. The Portuguese introduced them to India. They were also responsible for introducing Tobacco to India. They brought the Pineapple from South America, Papaya from the Philippines and Cashew from Brazil; Maize, Peanuts and Sweet Potatoes from Africa. They also introduced Lichis and oranges to India. Imagine how Indian would have done without these products, specially the chillies. Best Of Both World's Brach, Goa Tour Packages
Goa's 450 years under Portuguese domination produced a unique, syncretic blend of East and West that is at once exotic and strangely familiar: Christmas and Carnival are celebrated as enthusiastically by the 30% Christian minority as Diwali and Durga Puja are by the mainly Konkani-speaking Hindus. The state's separate identity is discernible in other ways too, most visibly in its Latinate architecture, but also in a preference for a fish-and meat-rich cuisine. Another marked difference is the prevalence of alcohol. Beer is affordable, and six thousand or more bars around the state are licensed to serve it, along with the more traditional tipples of Feni, the local Hootch, and Toddy (Todi), a derivative of palm sap.

Goa's Hep Scenario
Alongside is the haute couture scene. Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodericks' haute couture has held its own in the competitive world of international fashion and his clients come all the way to Goa to buy his creations. Wendell's latest project is a costume museum in Goa to showcase the history of the Goan costume.

Fundacao Oriente, a Portuguese cultural institution working in ex-Portuguese colonies, is doing admirable work in restoring Goan architecture. Their own building, located in the quaint Latin quarter of Panjim called Fountainhas, has been nicely renovated, as have some lovely buildings in the neighbourhood. As a happy sequel to that, the Panjim Municipal Corporation built footpaths in this area. Also nicely restored and painted blue is the Customs House on the bank of the river Mandovi, with the mouldings picked out in white.

Great Shopping
Shopping should be a priority on the itinerary. There are many tempting options among the interesting lifestyle and fashion shops; some located in restored Goan houses. These shops also bring the country's best selections in home styling and fashion to Goa.

Cruising Along The River Beach, Goa Holiday Vacations,
No holiday in Goa is complete without a cruise on the river or on the serene backwaters. Yes backwaters, less known than the Kerala ones, but almost as beautiful. The government run Yacht Santa Monica runs river cruises for an hour along with song and dance. Or if one would rather watch the sunset or moonrise in secluded luxury, then charter an exclusive private yacht. But don't miss out on a fun-filled cruise along the Mandovi.

Goa In The Rains
Goa is magical during the rains. As the warm tropical showers come down, the countryside turns spectacularly lush and green. It is wonderful to sit out on a verandah, to curl up with a book, to watch the rain come down or walk along a deserted beach in the rain and see the waves come thundering onto the sand. Special packages and off-season rates make "Goa in the Rains" especially attractive.

Wine And Dine In Goan Style
Goan cuisine has always been popular, with its repertoire of Portuguese-Goan dishes. To enjoy the best of this, get invited to a Goan home or visit an authentic restaurant to get the taste of a feast. Or you could in Panjim. But the new trend in the restaurant scenario is international cuisine: Italian, French, Fusion, and colourful interiors. In the Konkani language, there is no phrase, which means 'I'm leaving'; instead whosoever visits Goa says 'I am coming back'.

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