Having a Portuguese colony in a country like India always felt mysterious and all the stories on spice trading between Asia and Europe made you wonder how things were on the other side of the world.
So here it was. My chance to go and see the traces of the over 400 years of heritage the Portuguese left behind. But… There are almost none… Apart from the fort, some churches that still stand and some local establishments with Portuguese names (I’d say more for the sake of tourist attraction than actually any relation with the meaning), Diu is pretty much a beach resort tourist destination by the Arabian Sea.
Truly there are two different ways of how we talk about Diu in History lessons: the Portuguese — discovering an alternative route to India, pioneering the spice trade by sea between Europe and Asia, all the excitement of conquest around it, the influence there and the influence we brought with us; and the Indian — a place in India that used to be a Portuguese colony until we kicked them out in the early 1960’s (seriously, I have a very reliable source!). That is lesson number two in traveling: perspective. And it’s such a humbling one, especially one to rub on our snob European faces.
So if you’re looking for a place where you can find the oh-so-very-typical (whatever you think that may be) India, this isn’t it. It’s a destination to enjoy the beach, the sea, the food, the beer, the company of friends, the chill-out and do a little sightseeing in between. Very little of the Portuguese legacy is left.
We could have reached Diu by bus or by plane (via Mumbai). Instead, we chose to rent a car and hire a driver to take us all the way to the former Portuguese colony. Although it was a nine-hour ride, it paid itself off on comfort. A bus ride would have take from 10 to (maybe) 20 hours. A plane trip would, of course, be quicker, but would have you said no to your first road trip in India?
This was my second time in India and my first time experiencing off-the-road stops. There was something intoxicating about the food, in a good and in a bad way. Everything was exotic, unpronounceable (by me), and not the kind of food I would choose to eat before lunch time. Certainly not the kind of dish you could easily find in your ‘round the corner favorite Indian restaurant — trust me, I’ve tried. That was before I knew about the complexity of what we call “Indian cuisine”.
We stayed at the Magico do Mar resort by the Arabian Sea where you can choose between Gujarati style cottages or single rooms, with its restaurant serving three delicious cuisines (Gujarati, Goan and North Indian) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The name of the (sort of) resort was Portuguese, but there was nothing Portuguese about it.
From our duplex cottage doorstep to the sand of Ghoghla beach it took us about thirty seconds. Yes, really. The beach was deserted most of the time, maybe because it was for the use of guests only or because it was Monsoon season (it’s not usual for people to travel around the rain seasons).
Diu Checkpost, Ahmedpur Mandvi,
Junagadh, Gujarat, 362510
+91 2875 252567
Eating and Drinking
Diu is a Union Territory and the only place other than Daman in Gujarat state where drinking and buying alcohol is legally allowed. A pro, it’s awesome to know especially when you are coming from a dry state (and you may miss the occasional beer or glass of wine). A con, it also turns Diu into a booze travel destination. To be frank, I didn’t see any signs of people going nuts over alcohol but it’s bound to happen.
When your local cuisine’s knowledge is limited (or, well… influenced by what you think is typical), make no mistakes and go with what the locals recommend you. I was traveling with a group of people who knew the place very well, who had been in the island a few times and who have narrowed the options down to two great places to eat at without blowing up your budget: Cat’s Eye View, the Restaurant of The Hoka Island Villa and Sugati Beach Resort’s Prato Delicioso (just near the resort where we were staying).
The Hoka’s Cat’s Eye View is the bar and restaurant of the resort so it had a laid back ambiance to it. The Prato Delicioso had a more “restaurant-y” feel to it. Both had amazing, mouth watering dishes from North Indian to Chinese cuisines.
+91 2875 275301
Opposite Check Post Ghoghla, Diu
Daman and Diu, 362520
+91 2875 252212
I wouldn’t say that spending time at the beach was one of the reasons for me to see Diu. In fact, I’m not a beach person at all. I’m not a cold block of ice either, I enjoy the soothing of the waves, the sunset, the smell of the sea. But in the back of my head, when I hear the word “beach”, usually that’s not the first image that pops up. I immediately think of a crowd of oiled up sunbathers and not an inch of free sand to be seen.
That is why Jalandhar Beach was a surprise. It was isolated, quiet, peaceful. The perks of a beach that was not near any resorts, restaurants, bars, shops.
I’m all for preserving History, even if it doesn’t always brings you the best of memories. All cultures have a background and a story to tell, so the respect and conservation of their heritage should be top of mind for everyone. The care is the very first thing I see, and in Diu the fort and the nearby churches were in bad condition.
All of them were free entrance and none had employees looking after them, or so it seemed. I don’t remember seeing anyone around.
The fort built in 1535 could use a little restoration work or at least some maintenance — at some parts the original stone floors and walls were covered with cement, to prevent them from decaying any further I assume — and some of the walls are vandalised with graffiti. It still had some signs of Portuguese presence on stone inscriptions and some of nature decorative elements (like grapes and grape vines) around the arches above entrances and doorways.
Within ten minutes walking distance, the still fully functional early seventeenth century St. Paul’s Church with its distinctive Baroque facade that is unique and unusual in India. Although not at its best shape, inside the church some elements were appreciated: the elaborate carved woodwork of the pulpit (the raised platform from which the preacher used to deliver the sermon), the statues of St. Mary and other saints at the altar, the carved decorations in white stucco on the ceiling and walls.
Just neighboring it, the St. Thomas Church that serves as the Diu Museum. Built in 1598 and labeled as Gothic Architecture, this church’s facade and inside walls were in need of some serious maintenance with most of its white coating falling off. Inside several wooden statues of saints and different crucifixes were displayed, along with (I think) some archeological findings (mostly stone inscriptions in Portuguese that seemed to be tombstones). Again it was a visit that left a lot to our imagination, guessing and future searching for details about the pieces exhibited. Either you have some (even if very small) background on Portuguese (Art) History or you don’t know what you’re looking at.
Near Collectorate Office, Diu,
Daman and Diu 362520
Fortside, Diu, 362520
+91 2875 252653
St. Thomas Church building
+91 2875 252653
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