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Soul of India: The Colorful South 2015

Trip Extensions

Post-trip: Goa & Mumbai

Revel in the Portuguese sossegarde (carefree) rhythm and maritime traditions of Goa. With its golden beaches and world heritage architecture, plus a history of trade with Europe and Asia, this former Portuguese colony is a delightful melting pot of religions, cuisines, and languages. Then, discover bustling Mumbai, the birthplace of Bollywood. As India’s cultural center, Mumbai boasts countless museums and gardens.

It's Included:
Airfare from Bangalore to Goa and Goa to Mumbai
Accommodations for 1 night in Bangalore, 2 nights in Goa, and 2 nights in Mumbai (plus a day room)
9 meals—5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners
5 small group activities
All land transportation
Services of a resident, English-speaking OAT Trip Leader
NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
All transfers
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    As your Soul of India adventure concludes, you arrive in Bangalore, capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, on the vast Deccan Plateau. A burgeoning metropolis affectionately dubbed “the Silicon Valley of the East,” Bangalore bustles with engineers, scientists, and university students, who gather in the city’s many gardens and public parks.

    We’ll have lunch en route with our fellow travelers from the main trip, and the rest of the day is yours to discover the city as you wish. Stroll past street vendors and sample fresh teas and savory local cuisine—vegetarian options abound, but carnivores will also find much to their delight. Perhaps you’ll take in a classical music and dance show or enjoy theater at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. It’s up to you, but your Trip Leader will be on hand to offer plenty of insider tips and suggestions—as well as directions.

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    After breakfast, we transfer to the airport and fly to Goa. Goa’s sprawling sandy beaches—77 miles of them, to be exact—beckon sunbathers the world over, but this charming city has much more to offer as well. Downtown, the aroma of fish curry dances with lively rhythms of the street musicians’ dulpods; on the outskirts of the city, more than 1,500 types of flora carpet endless equatorial forests that teem with exotic and endemic wildlife.

    In the 16th century, Portuguese spice traders set up their home-away-from-home along Goa’s palm-lined beaches, building striking whitewashed Roman Catholic churches so unique they’ve been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll visit the most impressive, the Bom Jesus Basilica, later today.

    After we arrive at our hotel this afternoon, we’ll depart for a city tour that visits the walled city of Old Goa, set inland along the banks of the Mandovi River. Abandoned by its residents in the 1700s due to a cholera outbreak, the churches are remarkably well-preserved, so we’ll get an excellent glimpse into what life was like here 300 years ago. We’ll navigate the old city’s narrow, winding streets en route to the Baroque Basilica of Bom Jesus. The Basilica is home to the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, “the Apostle of the Indies,” who was sent to work in Goa in 1541 by the Portuguese king. Many Catholics consider St. Francis the patron saint of Goa. We’ll marvel at elaborate, gilded altars and ornate sculptures and carvings in marble, gold, wood, and granite, and then explore India’s largest church, St. Catherine’s Cathedral. This breathtaking Portuguese-Gothic structure took 80 years to build and is famous for the sonorous “Golden Bell” housed in its tower.

    If the streets seem oddly quiet this afternoon, remember that many residents observe the Portuguese custom of taking an afternoon nap, called a siesta, during the heat of the day. Enjoy an included dinner at our hotel this evening.

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    Today, you can choose to relax and enjoy the beaches and city life of Goa on your own.

    Or you may opt to join an optional tour on which you’ll visit some of the area’s local people and learn more about the history of this city. First we’ll visit Goa Chitra, which is one man’s collection of the traditional farming tools and domestic instruments that have historically been used by the people who live here.

    Next we’ll visit a 300-year-old Portuguese-style home still occupied by a prominent Portuguese family. As we explore this home furnished with original furnishings from the colonial era, we’ll learn more about life in Goa for the Portuguese, who controlled this area until 1961.

    Our tour concludes with a visit to the Palácio do Deão, a restored mansion, where we’ll enjoy a meal prepared by the family who has lovingly preserved this house for future generations. We’ll dine on local Goan fare and have a chance to chat with our local hosts.

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    Enjoy a free morning, then fly to bustling Mumbai, India’s largest and most dynamic city. Surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea, Mumbai sits upon what used to be a tropical archipelago made up of seven distinct islands. Archaeologists surmise that these islands have been populated since at least the Stone Age. Today, the “City of Gold” is the hub of India’s finance, fashion, and entertainment industries. More than half of India’s maritime cargo ships out upon Mumbai’s glittering harbor, and more films are produced annually here than in any other city in the world—hence the moniker “Bollywood.”

    After we arrive and check in to our hotel, you’ll be free to take a stroll along nearby Marine Drive. Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, we’ll visit the Elephanta Caves. We board a ferry at the Gateway of India and as we disembark, we’ll be greeted by a large stone elephant that protects the shore. Some of the finest examples of Indian rock art lurk inside these unique 1,200-year-old caves, hewn from solid rock in honor of the Lord Shiva. These caverns were used as religious sites perhaps as early as one thousand years ago. Our explorations inside the cavern culminate when we catch a glimpse of Trimurti Sadasiva, a 20-foot, three-headed Shiva in relief, each of his faces representing the three facets of his legendary persona: at right, a young boy full of life and promise, eyes sparkling, lips pouting; at left, an impetuous young adult, rash and full of anger—Shiva the Destroyer, whose fiery rage engulfs the world and propels it toward a new cycle of regeneration, rebirth; and cousin Vishnu at the center—the stoic sustainer, the meditative yogi whose peaceful dreaming keeps our universe afloat. (Please note: The Elephanta Caves are closed on Mondays.)

    After lunch in a local restaurant, we'll embark on a sightseeing tour of Mumbai. We'll stop at the Prince of Wales Museum, an elaborate palace, set among rustling palms and vivant flowerbeds. Next we’ll visit Mani Bhavan, the famous mansion where Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance movement dug its roots into the soil. The Hanging Gardens of Mumbai are the ideal place to conclude our tour. These terraced gardens atop Malabar Hill are dotted with fountains and flowerbeds, and one cobbled walkway after another leads to untold beautiful surprises.

    We’ll move along to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, now known as Victoria Terminus in honor of Queen Victoria, or “Bombay VT” to the locals. This historic railway station and home base of Mumbai’s Central Railway boasts stunning Victorian Gothic architecture and beautifully ornamental fixtures, some of which were painstakingly crafted by students at the Bombay School of Art.

    Next, we’ll enjoy a scenic drive along the famed Marine Drive, a C-shaped two-mile promenade along Mumbai’s natural bay. Sunsets along this palm-lined strip are simply stunning, and Mumbai residents often stroll by just before dusk to soak up the stunning interplay of gold, plum, and rose-pink sunbeams weaving their way through the clouds.

    We return to our hotel this evening for dinner on our own.

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    This morning we embark on a city tour, starting at Dhobi Ghat, “the world’s largest outdoor laundry,” where locals gather daily, and colorful hanging fabrics create a rainbow effect.

    We'll enjoy lunch together in a local restaurant. The early evening is at leisure and we'll have time to relax in a day room. Later tonight we’ll head to the airport for our connecting flights back to the U.S.