We have been big fans of Hop On Hop Off ,tour buses as a family . We have seen the Brooklyn borough and visited Juniors cheese cake during our stay in New York, we have visited the markets of Sicily from the safety of the double decker bus even as we travelled famous lands of Italian Mafia, we have travelled on sightseeing tour buses in Barcelona, and hopped from the Sagrada Familia to the Camp neo stadium of the Barcelona football team. And so we were thrilled to see the double decker hop on hop off buses come to Goa.
What is a hop on hop off bus?
It is a sight seeing bus, which takes you to the various sights of the city. You pay a one time fees and can get off anywhere and get on at the other stop. It allows for you to visit many sights in a tourist area for a very affordable price.
These tour buses also have tour audio guides or personal guides , who tell you about the history of the place or the sights as you cross them on your journey.
Many a time they are double decker buses, allowing you to get an aerial view of the city, and really take in the atmosphere, without being couped inside a car/vehicle. You feel more connected to the place, when you don’t have any windows between you and the world.
|The double decker bus at Miramar circle|
The hop on hop off bus , in Goa.
We decided to finally try the bus in Goa, even though we live here, because my two year old is obsessed with ‘wheels on the bus’ and we even had a bus themed birthday party for him, cake, tshirt, invites and décor all matching the theme. I had wanted to celebrate the birthday on the bus as well, and apparently that is also allowed , you just have to book the bus in advance. (how cool is that)
So we caught the bus at Miramar circle. You may either get it at the main stop, or at the Goa science center stop, or at Miramar beach. Facility to catch the bus anywhere is available, all you need to do is call the helpline number. This was a huge plus.
The cost is Rs 300 per person, for either the double decker or the single decker bus. We availed the 15 august offer of Rs 200 per person. Always check the website or their twitter handle for offers available.
|an upcycled red bus, I made out of an Amazon carton|
|personalised double decker bus birthday logo|
We took the double decker bus, and it was magnificent. Very clean, very new, everything in working order. There was ac in the covered section, but we chose to sit on the top deck.
Things I wish they had :
Since we have been on very many of the hop on hop off buses, here is what was missing, No disposable rain jackets in case of rain ( this is a MUST, since we were travelling in august) , the disposable jackets also make for cute pictures , and we have worn them in Newyork as well as Genoa.
Second , and more importantly, no audio guide in multiple languages. As I understand this is again a MUST. The website says that 15 odd language guides are available, but there were no audio plug ins near our seats, no audio head sets, either. When we asked the guides, they said they themsl\elves talk to the guests, and it is mostly in English. If Goa wants to be an international tourist destination, we need it in multiple languages, andI would appreciate the audio in Indian languages as well.
There was no audio at all for our tour, no one explaining about the various sights as we crossed. Ok, so we knew most of the sights, but a pre recorded audio, must go on at all times.
Now the ride:
We started at Miramar circle, circled around the first stop which is the Goa science center, you can get off here, for a quick tour of the science center which has a pre historic park which dinosaur statues, a space station, a planetarium (extra charges), a 5 D movie show (fixed timings) enjoy the crazy mirrors, and a labyrinth of mirrors. The cost of entry is Rs 20 which is extremely affordable and they are open on Sunday as well.
You can also cross over to the caranzalem beach and enjoy a cleaner nicer beach than the Miramar beach.
If you are looking for a meal at Lunch time, go over to a place called SWING which is situated in the veranda do mar hotel. (order for baked broccoli in cheese , and tandoori fruits )
|notice the little ones Tshirt with the double decker bus|
|we watched the other Hop On Hop Off buses from our vantage point|
NEXT STOP, Miramar circle again
Here you can visit the popular beach, walk over to the chowpatty which sets up at 5 in the evening for some pani puri and shawarma, or the Goan cutlet pao. If you are feeling hungry, head over to Miramar residency which has a very old school ‘mama made pizza at home’ and the fresh made juices and milk shakes. Would recommend the double chocolate shake. They also have a café with the Mirmar residency which serves cakes and small eats. Feeling religious? There is holy cross, at the right side of the circle, if you are on the beach side facing the circle, also a Hanuman temple bang opposite the beach side. Walk a bit further for a fancy meal at Fortune Mirmar, or a pack and move meal at Carasid (I would recommend the tandoori chicken sandwich and the chocolate mousse)
NEXT STOP , kala academy, and park by Forest dept.
Don’t get off, but if you want to , and have kids, then visit the kala academy and walk over to the lighthouse on the riverside. Take a walk in the forest dept park, and take a boat ride in the small paddle lake, there is also a childrens park there. eat at the For-rest restaurant. The sugar cane juice is allthat I have tried there and it’s good. Can try the pani puri wala stationed outside, I like his hygienic approach and he always gives me extra raw mangoes, when I visit. (thumbs up)
|be careful of low hanging branches|
|yes, we carriesd the traffic signal themed ballons to the bus, toddler birthday celebrations continued|
|the mandovi promenade is a lovely place for pictures|
NEXT STOP, panim market
Don’t hop off, unless you want vegetables and fish. This is a local market. If you are a foreigner, then get off, see a traditional Indian market place, they even have a big Mario Miranda painting on one of the walls of the indoor market. Walk past the fish, and then the vegetable carts, ask for the flower market, buy a garland for your hair or around your neck, for added ‘travel to India’ feel. There are no souvenir shops, and no cashew stores here, don’t bother shopping here. They do have a government certified liquor store on the other side.
NEXT STOP, Mandovi promenade and Casinos
You can hop off to take a few pictures, or stay in the bus and take pictures from the bus itself. Stop for lunch at the Hotel Mandovi, one of the oldest hotels in the city. Order the chicken cafreal, or a fish curry rice at their Goan specialty restaurant Riorico. Or eat by the riverside, by the Mandovi, order for the prawn cocktail, it used to be good, been a long time since I visited, also the calamari batter fry.
All in all we had fun , on the HOHO bus, can it be better , YES. Their serveices, and the route, and the commentary can all be better. But the bus as such is JUST like the buses we have riden across the world, and for Rs 200 this was a paisa vasool ride.
|the mangroves, back waters and greenery|
NEXT STOP, well there isn’t any, we drive to the panjim circle, with the totem poles, take a right to drive along the Mangroves , and then turn back at the Raibander circle, all the way to Miramar circle. If you wish , you can get off at Raibander circle, walk down to the jetty, and take the free ferry across to the river Island of Divar and the devaaya ayurvedic spa, or take the other free ferry to Bicholim, but be sure to take the correct ferry back to ribander, and catch the hop on hop off bus back to Panjim city.
So if you see, the double decker bus, doesn’t really show you any of the great sights of Panjim. I have tried to give you the BEST info, and hope you can enjoy all of that, but the bus, DOES NOT go to the Panjim church, neither does it take you to the fontainhas section, or to Dona Paul jetty even, or to 18 june road or Altinho hill.
On asking, they said the city has not given them permission to ride within the city, which is a shame really. They informed the single decker bus goes till the Dona Paul stop, but doesn’t ride within the city to the Panjim church. The roads in the city are too narrow and congested for the large tour buses. The double decker bus is not allowed to ply all the way to the olf goa churches, which is a shame because the new fancy highway leading from Panjim, Merces and to Old Goa, can easily allow for the double decker buses, but certain low lying electric wires have prevented permissions.
We enjoyed the low lying branches and trees along the road, it added to the adventure of the travel, but there is a particular branch which is so low lying, that the guide made everyone sitting on the left side on the top deck, move to the other side!! On asking why it cannot be cut, she said, since the mangroves were ‘protected land’ , but this was not even a Mangrove, it was a tree by the road. I really wish the powers that be, and the babus of the land make intelligent decisions while making blanket rules.
|hope you enjoyed the ride with us|
(This post is from my Being Goanese collection. There is nothing called ‘Goanese’ and yet almost every tourist who comes to Goa, expects the language, or the people or the food to be ‘Goanese’ ; The language is called Konkani, the people Goans, and the food Goan. So what is Goanese? My Goa collection of blogs is called Goanese J
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