Big Foot, Lutolim

More commonly known as Big Foot, ‘Ancestral Goa’ is a ‘Center for preservation of Art, Culture and Environment’ created by Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares and situated in the small village of Loutolim in South Goa. 

At the entrance, you see a bronze statue of a guard and an elaborate door and wall decoration. Once inside, you see that the uniqueness of Big Foot Lutolim lies in the fact that it is an open-air museum that recreates Goan rural life as it was hundreds of years ago.  You can choose to visit the art gallery, that showcases work done by local children and artisans, a handicraft centre with locally produced Goan artifacts, a restaurant, a cross, a spring, a bird habitat, a spice yard and much more. The model village also includes a variety of miniature houses showcasign the traditional occupation and social classes that existed a century ago – from fishermen, Goan artisans, farmers, liquors shops to village markets and even a feni distillery.

From the dream of Maendra Alvares to the major tourist attraction that it is today, Big Foot Lutolim has certainly come a long way since it opened in 1995. Today, not just tourists – both Indian and European – but artists, students, teachers, nature lovers, environmentalists and others are among the visitors. 

Maendra began Big Foot Lutolim with a barren hill covered with shrubbery and thorny bushes and it is quite amazing to see the metamorphosis into a world famous terraced and landscaped parkland. Although Maendra could have sold off the 9 acres of land to land developers and lived a life of luxury like many other Goans, he chose instead to invest precious time and money to create Big Foot Lutolim. His aim was to create a treasure-house of artifacts as well as recreate the traditions and culture of Goa for future generations to see and learn. In recognition, the Goan Government deemed Big Foot as the “Most Innovative and Unique Project in India’s Tourism Industry” while the Goan State Department of Education called it a “Very Educative Centre” for students.

Have you been to Big Foot Lutolim ? What was your favourite part of the open air museum ? Let me know in the comments…

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Houses of Goa Museum, Bardez, Goa

Goa has enjoyed a unique history as a result of both Western and Eastern influences. This unique history is especially visible in the architecture and layout of Goan Homes.

“When the Portuguese colonized Goa,” the famous Goan architect Gerald da Cunha says, “they brought in their own architectural designs and lifestyle to influence the already strong culture and architecture that prevailed here. As a result of the amalgamation, an entirely new thing emerged. What you see in Goan houses, you don’t see in Portugal, or elsewhere in the world.”

The Houses of Goa is a unique museum by Gerard da Cunha and a must see for all students and fans of unique Goan architecture from the American Ambassador and his wife to local couples who come to discover their Goan heritage. As an architect and a Goan, da Cunha felt that it was his responsibility to document the architecture as a local.

The result is a rather strange ship like structure with exposed brick that houses this museum, located kind of right in the middle of the road !

On the first floor, you have a depiction of Goa in the context of the world as well as wealth of Goan architecture.

On the second floor, Gerard da Cunha delves into the details of Goan architecture with a painstaking collection of doors, windows, a rare hat stand, old French doors from a house in Margao built in 1917 as well as rare postcards of Goa dating back to 1900, giving an exclusive picture of what Goa and its cities looked like a century ago.The panels on the walls showing important Goan monuments such as the Se Cathedral as well as other world monuments that were built at the same time in other parts of the world.

Climb the winding steps to the theatre upstairs and you can see a slide show presentation, with an adaptable screen, conducted by Da Cunha himself and taking you on an architectural tour back to the earliest mud house.

What I personally liked best about the Museum is the fact that it never seems finished, always a work in progress. The many trinkets, paintings and architectural accessoires seem to be in a permanent state of influx. I guess, what I am trying to say is that it is as if the Museum is constantly changing, evolving, like a living being. 

“Goans, who were people who were converted, were looking for a new identity, and thus embarked on the experiment in architecture, to produce something unique and unseen anywhere in the world”. 

Da Cunha’s landmark museum provides a ringside view!

Stay Romantic!


Only a 5 km drive from my Mitaroy Goa Hotel, the Houses of Goa Museum is located in Torda, Salvador-do-Mundo village of Bardez taluk in North Goa.

Please note that the Houses of Goa Museum is open from 10 AM to 7.30 PM and closed on Mondays!

Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Goa

Goa’s only bird sanctuary, the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Goa is named after the famous Indian ornithologist Dr Salim Ali.

On the western tip of Chorao Island along the River Mandovi, mangrove swamps that cover this bird-watchers’ paradise provide refuge and sanctuary to a wide variety of local and migratory birds on the island. Apart from a rich variety of coastal birds, you can even see flying foxes, jackals and the razor sharp teeth of the odd crocodile as he simply sits there, lazing in the sun with his mouth open.

The Mangrove eco system on Chorao Island also has another very important role to play. The Mangrove eco system also provides the ideal breeding grounds for several varieties of fish and insects which form part of the food chain for these rare species of birds.

The Sanctuary is criss-crossed with a network of water channels. Thus, if you travel by boat, you can only visit during high tide. During low tide, the creeks are only accessible by canoe.

A watch-tower has also been erected in the Sanctuary for better viewing of the birds. Apart from the several resident birds, the Sanctuary also plays host to winter visitors such as coots and pintails.

The scenic and serene atmosphere of the Sanctuary make it a highly rejuvenating place for couples to unwind, reconnect and fall in love again.

Stay Romantic!


The Ribandar Ferry Wharf is only a short ride from my Mitaroy Goa Hotel in Panjim. From the Ribandar ferry wharf, you take the ferry across the Mandovi river to the island of Chorao. The Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is then a short walk from the ferry wharf on Chorao Island.

Open throughout the year, the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary can only be visited with the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden.

Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa

Tucked away in a quiet road near the majestic Basilica of Bom Jesus is Asia’s first and only Museum of Christian Art.

Inaugurated in 1994 by the then President of India, Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma, the museum, which has enriched the cultural heritage and history of Goa was originally set up at the Seminary of Rachol in Salcette, Goa.

However, for the convenience of the general public and tourist visitors to Goa and with the support of the Archdiocese of Goa, the Museum of Christian Art was relocated to within the precinct of the Convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa, in the vicinity of the World Heritage Monuments. Most tourists only visit the World Heritage Monuments, leaving the few tourists that trickle in to the Museum of Christian Art enough space and time to look around.

I join a few tourists who have managed to make it past the World Heritage Monuments and are walking slowly, almost solemnly, toward the Museum of Christian Art. Before we get there however, we pass by the Convent of Santa Monica.

Th Convent of Santa Monica, built in the year 1627, has considerable architectural and historical significance. The Convent was at one time extremely important on account of royal patronage and was known as the Royal Monastery. I dislodge myself from the group and take a look inside. Past a few scaffoldings, I enter a large Church which is in the process of being restored. As I look around, I come upon an old cross hanging in the centre of the Church. I read a faded inscription next to the cross stating that sometime in the 17th century (I forget the date), this cross actually wept blood. Millions of pilgrims came from all across Goa and South India to witness this miracle. Now the cross hangs forlorn and forgotten in an old Church. 

The Museum of Christian Art in Old Goa itself forms the other half of the Church. Thanks to an entrance fee and efforts by the Archdiocese of Goa and the Goa Government, the Museum of Christian Art is much better preserved than the old Church.

The Museum of Christian Art houses a number of beautiful old paintings, sculptures and statues dating back to the early reign of the Portuguese in Goa. However, the Museum of Christian Art is unique in the fact that it houses a selection of objects on display that are the Hindu contribution to Christian Art in Goa and India.

Before visiting the museum, I wasn’t aware that many Hindu artists and artisans were involved in the building and creating of Christian artifacts during the Portuguese colonial rule.

At the time, images and paintings could not be dispatched from Portugal fast enough to meet the rising demand in an increasingly developed Goa. Hence, the Portuguese authorities were forced to use local Hindu artists and artisans to complete this religious work. The permanent requirements of producing images of the myriad of Hindu deities coupled with the existence of hundreds of Hindu temples and shrines in Goa was the shining proof of a well established and highly respected Goan School of Art.

Later, Hindu artists even sold images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and many Christian saints door to door, thus depicting their ability to move from traditional Hindu backgrounds to sophisticated forms of European art steeped in venerable Christian traditions.

The Museum of Christian Art in Goa is thus a unique testimony of the close bonds of interdependence, religious understanding and mutual acceptability between Sacred Christian Art and its traditional Hindu artisans in Goa !

While there is a fair amount of silverware such as crosses, chalices and mass plates, my favourites among the items on display are the richly embroidered priestly gowns and a portable Mass kit for priests who had to travel to distant villages to say mass.

Stay Romantic!


Casino Royale Goa Casino

“You are my lucky charm”, say many a couple to each other.  

The Casino Royale Goa Casino floating off the pier in Panjim is the perfect place to see if those words indeed ring true.

A short stroll from my Mitaroy Goa Hotel, the pier of the Casino Royale Goa is quite a fancy affair with a red carpet welcome.  From there, a speed boat with a captain and crew in smart sailor uniforms rush you to the Casino Royale Goa, a floating casino ship that is anchored off the coast of Goa, due to strict gambling rules that apply in Indian territory.

On board Casino Royale Goa, which I am told is the largest passenger/entertainment vessel ever built in the country, I immediately feel an eclectic mix of sophistication and style. The reception area is really fancy, with a classy mix of browns, gold and mirrors. 

Among the couples I notice a few rich looking gentlemen, that look like Russian millionaires to me, looking to drop a million or two. I am guessing that they didn’t come by speed boat. Indeed, Casino Royale Goa boasts of its own helideck where millionaires can land in their own private chopper, before being whisked to the private gambling Suites!

I see a big Bollywood entourage in the main Casino Royale Hall. At the time, Casino Royal Goa is partnering with the Bollywood movie Teen Patti, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sir Ben Kingsley and southern superstar Madhavan. Casino Royale Goa akin to Bollywood seems to be about a winning combination of lavishness, style and grandeur.

I am on board to visit my friend and Managing Director Narendra Punj, who has worked many years for Casinos Austria. I know Narendra’s bother Brij, who lives in Germany very well.

Dressed in a dapper grey suit that matched his salt and pepper beard, Narendra Punj is not at all like his soft spoken brother. I guess that in the casino business, you have to make a mark immediately. And Narendra has made his mark, working for many years for Casinos Austria before he returned to India to take charge of Casino Royale Goa. Narendra managed to take some time off to show me around his floating casino. In addition to the Main Gaming Area and a dedicated poker room, Narendra also showed me the VVIP Gaming Room, where the creme de la creme of Indian and foreign society come to chase lady luck in the privacy of their own room.

Casino Royale Goa also has an Aqua Bar that has a stunning view of the ocean. I order a Goan feni with water. The bartender at the Aqua Bar seems to be quite shocked that I didn’t go for the usual martini. He tells me that I am the first person to order a Goan feni on board, and he opens a sealed bottle of feni as proof.  

As I sip my Goan feni, shaken not stirred of course, and wandered around the ship, I notice a couple sitting at one of the tables. The man gently encourages his wife to roll the dice and she hesitantly does so with a flush of excitement on her face. 

Or maybe it is the flush of love, I think to myself as I stroll away…

Stay Romantic!