|A 20+ hour train ride (not many cockroaches this time, but Christy did spot a mouse) took us to another former Portuguese colony, Panaji (population of 100,000). Similar to Ft. Cochin, this town was packed full of historic buildings, colorful homes and interesting lanes.
Once a very important Portuguese city, Panaji and nearby Old Goa, were packed with Catholic churches of amazing detail and scale. In Panaji, the imposing Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (1541) was built on top of a hill overlooking the city and is still a popular place of worship today. The smaller Chapel of St. Sebastian, was close to our hotel and where we watched a Christmas festival take place (nevermind that it was a few days after Christmas). Santa and many local kids and townspeople played games and sang. One of the games, (rather disturbingly) called "bomb the cities" was popular. It was a bit like musical chairs as people walked, to music, around a large circle with signs with names of popular Indian cities on them. When the music stopped, people had to choose a city to stand next to. A name was then drawn from a hat to determine which city had been "bombed" and those people were out. Still, a fun-loving celebration that was great to see. Also walked up many steps to the Maruti Temple (dedicated to the monkey-god, Hanuman). Very good views over the city from here.
Took a daytrip to nearby Old Goa, where many of the grandest churches are located. The area is a world heritage site and contains the Se Cathedral (mid-16th century), the convent and church of St. Francis of Assisi (early 16th century) that has a beautiful floor built of gravestones, and the pilgrimage site of the Basilica de Bom Jesus (early 16th century) where the tomb of St. Francis Xavier still rests. Beautiful churches!