Monday, March 5, 2012

Daman - the Poor man's Goa

We had been planning a trip to Daman for a while now, but it kept getting pushed. For one thing, there isn't much info on the Internet about it except that it has cheap alcohol (no taxes). I gathered what information I could, booked a room in one of the hotels, and we set off on a Saturday afternoon from Bombay.
It is just about 170kms from where we are and the roads are good - National Highway all the way. There are no signboards till just when you are reaching Daman, so don't worry - you are on the right track.

We reached Daman in just under 3 hours. It wasn't tiring and we were able to find our hotel on Devka beach without a hitch. The advantage of a small town is everyone knows everything about the place and you don't need to go far even if you've lost your way.

We had booked a room in Cidade de Daman (had to pay a 50% advance through electronic transfer before we came here). We got the Sea View Deluxe room - fancy name, but don't fall for it. First of all, the beach is nothing to look at - it is rocky, has black sand and is littered with garbage all over. The room seemed clean but looked old and not properly maintained. Don't be fooled by the pictures on their website...heavily photoshopped I would think, or taken when it was brand new. [I had wanted to book another hotel (Mirasol Lake Resort) but they had no rooms available - there was a Harley Davidson biker group in town and they had occupied it.] And even though the check out was for 12 noon the next day, they started calling us 30 minutes before to pack up and leave - it wasn't as if there was a rush to occupy the room after us either. Just bad hospitality.

It's sea-view restaurant is a bit better than the rest of the hotel. Of course, the beach itself is quite a disaster so don't expect much to begin with. But the breeze was cool, not humid and sticky, and food was decent. The main attraction here is obviously the alcohol. We could only see Indian brands on offer though. Most people just come here from Bombay or Gujarat (which is a dry state), get sloshed, pick up a box of booze bottles (which is illegal, but not everyone gets checked at the borders), and leave. We thought we'd take in some sights as well.

We drove around the town for a while to get a feel of the place and bumped into the gang of bikers a few times. First on our agenda was the fort at Nani Daman, or the Fort of St. Jerome. It's not much of a fort as it is an enclosure by the sea. There is a church inside, but it was closed in the afternoon. It opens in the morning at 8 (mass in Portuguese) and then at 6 in the evening (mass in English). Nearby is a Jain temple which was also closed. So we went back to the hotel for a quick nap and returned in the evening.

The inside of the church wasn't as extravagant as even the smallest one in Goa, but the place has its own charm. Since people don't come here for tourism, we were about the only tourists around. Parking was easy, roads were practically empty, no loud chatter anywhere, and no queues. We walked up further to the jetty for the sunset, but the smog covered sky swallowed the sun without any fanfare. The Jain temple was our next stop. There was only a guard at the entrance chatting on his phone so we were left to our own devices. The inside was lit by lamps, which gave the place an ethereal feel but we couldn't make out the beautiful frescoes and other details in the dark. The exterior walls are lined with beautiful carvings of dancing women and Lord Mahavira (in a glass enclosure). The moonlight just added to the drama. It was worth coming back for this.

Dinner was at Mirasol's veg restaurant - a much classier affair (still cheap according to Bombay standards though). Here we saw the Harleys lined up - about 50 of them. The empty streets and the dark, quiet roads seemed unnatural after having been in Bombay for so long.

The next day we ventured out on the 'beach'. First you need to navigate through the garbage, then the rocks, then the clay to get to the muddy waters. It was quite a dampener and we didn't feel like going to Moti Daman and its fort after that. Instead, we went to Veera da Dhaba which was highly recommended for lunch.

It is a kind-of roadside eatery, done up a little bit with traditional cots you can recline on. The food was great - we just stuck to starters of tandoori and kebabs of various kinds - paneer was the only disappointment. The Port wine we ordered wasn't chilled so the server suggested some ice. Somehow, it seemed like the obvious thing to do over there. So, for the first (and probably the last) time ever, we had wine on the rocks. We spent a leisurely 2 to 3 hours here. Even though it was hot outside, the breeze was cool and in the shade, you really didn't miss having an air conditioner.

That was probably the most fun we had in Daman - so I guess the town lived up to its reputation of good (sea)food and alcohol. I doubt if there will be a next time - maybe to Diu which is much further ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Pictures are very beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Bestowed with a captivating historical past, Daman has a strong colonial Portugal flavour. From the busy beach huts to the colonial forts, the town offers a refreshing respite from the maddening chaos of cities. A treat for explorers, photographers, researches and nature enthusiasts, the city is a cultural and historical heaven. Explore all best hotels in Daman.