How Daman Delighted Me

This is the winning entry for the Prismma Holiday 2015 contest

(January 2015)

With spring’s stolen colour

The water shows me sky.

Gujarat’s younger neighbour,

Daman, is anything but “dry”!

 

Backwaters of Daman

Backwaters of Daman

These words succinctly express what I felt after my three-day trip to Daman last year. Daman arguably has a reputation of being a liquor-haven for people craving for booze in the adjacent dry-state of Gujarat. But there is more to this union territory than cheap alcohol. I could find that out because I wasn’t looking to get “high”. I was on a mission to unearth the natural secrets of Daman!

Greens extending till the horizon

Greens extending till the horizon

It was fairly easy for me to plan the weekend getaway as there are conveniently timed and frequent trains that run between Mumbai and Vapi. Vapi is the closest railway station to Daman. Once you alight at Vapi, you can either take the stairs that lead to Daman, or go the other way and reach Silvassa. After a three hour train ride, I caught an auto-rickshaw to my hotel in Nani Daman. It barely took me twenty minutes to get from one city to another! That is unimaginable in big, crowded cities.

Friendly camels at Jampore Beach

Friendly camels at Jampore Beach

I stayed at Hotel Blue Lagoon which is a centrally located business hotel and has good rooms at affordable rates. After a filling meal of assorted stuffed rotis and curry, I set off to explore the city on foot. Daman does not have any indigenous cuisine to call its own. However, seafood and regular Punjabi and South Indian dishes are widely available at most restaurants. I walked for about forty minutes through almost empty streets and pathways lined by palm trees, before I saw the blazing sun on the horizon. I knew I had reached the pristine Devka Beach.

The dark sand at Devka Beach

The dark sand at Devka Beach

Devka is free of tourists, and an ideal place for some soul searching and quiet self reflection. I sat on the black sand and listened to the soft waves as they kissed my toes and “sizzled” back to the depths of the Arabian Sea. I say “sizzled” because the waters leave a bubbling froth when they retreat. This is because the earth here is slightly acidic. That is also the reason why swimming or taking a dip in the sea is not advisable in Daman. The water can be harsh for the skin.

Soaring like a seagull

Soaring like a seagull

On my way back to my hotel, I bought some vodka and breezer to acknowledge Daman’s significance in a liquor-free state. Over a couple of drinks, I mused how peaceful this city actually is. Devoid of any nightlife, the residents of this place presumably sleep well. Despite being labelled the “Goa of Gujarat”, Daman has neither the crowds, nor the frolicsome atmosphere. The locals prefer to dress modestly even when they are lazing by the beach.

Palm trees line a secluded road in this little union territory

Palm trees line a secluded road in this little union territory

The next morning, I started for St. Jerome’s Fort which is also known as the Fort of Nani Daman. Daman comprises two areas – Moti (Big) Daman and Nani (Little) Daman, separated by the Daman Ganga River. The monikers are misnomers though! Nani Daman is actually the larger of the two! The fort is an old stone-built complex which houses a church. The upper decks of the fort afford copious views of the lovely Daman port that has many boats moored, perhaps belonging to the fishermen. Those boats, unfortunately, do not ply across the backwater to Moti Daman. There are two bridges that connect the two lands though, and only one of those is motorable.

Ruins of the old fort

Ruins of the old fort

Moti Daman has its own share of surprises. It houses the administrative district of this union territory and is much neater and better organized than Nani Daman. The Fort of Moti Daman and  the Lighthouse take up almost two hours to explore. This area also has canons from the yesteryears. Even though Daman was under the Portuguese rule for several years, the Portuguese influence is limited to the architecture of the forts and churches. The Indian people have not thought it important to preserve their food, dressing or language after independence.

The churches here are high-ceilinged and ornate

The churches here are high-ceilinged and ornate

I spent my remaining time in the city visiting various ornate churches – Our Lady of Rosary Church and The Lady of Remedious Church, to name a few. The churches are small but beautifully adorned in golden-bordered statues and murals. I saw also the ruins of the Dominican Monastery, but there’s hardly any building left of it to appreciate. I couldn’t help but notice a lot of lavishly erected bungalows by the sea. These houses, I was told, belong to wealthy Gujarati businessmen who earn in Gujarat and celebrate in Daman. The lax liquor-laws and empty beaches make Daman an ideal party-place and cheap location for holiday homes.

The simple exterior of this church keeps its inner grandeur a secret

The simple exterior of this church keeps its inner grandeur a secret

My final stop was Jampore Beach. Now, this was one crowded and slightly dirty beach with several makeshift shacks that lined the entire stretch and did brisk business selling beer and pakodas. One can try paragliding or camel or horse riding on this beach. As the day wore on, I sat once again, this time on a lounger, to watch the golden sun dissolve into the black waters.

A plant conservation park in Moti Daman

A plant conservation park in Moti Daman

In hindsight, I was glad to have made the trip. It was easy to plan and quite light on the pocket. I beat the tourist rush by visiting in the off-season. Daman fortunately enjoys a pleasant subtropical climate with temperatures always hovering between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. You only need to pack a pair of flip-flops and shorts for your Daman-weekend. And don’t forget to carry along walking shoes if you love to explore places on foot!

The port of Daman awaits you

The port of Daman awaits you

So, when are you planning to visit this tiny union territory? Have you been to a similar place before? Tell me your stories in the comments below!

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Daman – Developing through Tourism

With spring’s stolen colour

The water shows me sky.

Gujarat’s younger neighbour,

Daman, is anything but “dry”!

Clear skies in Daman

Clear skies in Daman

52 years after its independence from Portugal, Daman nurtures new lives in this small union territory in India. With the intention of relaxing in its beaches, I marched along this little city in the month of March this year. But little did I know that a glimpse into Daman’s past would make me cognizant of  the effects tourism has had on this coastal wonder.

This report on the 20-year plan that the government announced in 2002, highlights how effectively tourism will harness Daman’s unique offerings and make it a win-win-win situation for the economy, the locals and the environment!

  • The now deserted forts of Moti-Daman (Big Daman) & Nani-Daman (Little Daman) were once guarded by the Portuguese. However, with the intervention of the Tourism Department, these forts will soon have more visitors. Travel-packages that include heritage-walks, local cuisine and cultural shows will bring equal joy to tourists and the locals as they find more employment-avenues.

 

  • Positioning Daman as a pocket-friendly vacation-spot, the administrator is boosting its infrastructure. The construction of several bridges and a coastal highway are already under way. The most useful bridge, according to me, is the one that connects Moti Daman to Nani Daman. The other route will set you back by several hundred Rupees. I always wondered why the backwaters couldn’t be navigated via boats (which the fishermen use on a regular basis), and was ready to shell out more just to bob up and down the water. My prayers will soon be answered.

 

  • The Waterfront Development Plan aims to maintain & develop the Devka & Jampore beaches, along with the Daman Ganga river and the place where it meets the Arabian sea. The waterway between Moti and Nani Daman is set to be opened to tourists! 🙂 The entire beach-line will get a retaining-wall to reign in beach-erosion. The sand on these beaches may be dark, but their future is certainly bright!

 

  • The focus of this mega-plan is on the conservation of nature. Special care is being taken to avoid adverse impacts to the environment, with the alternate recourse being mitigation & compensation. The international cycle-track (under construction) is the hottest attraction in this soon-to-be eco-tourism hub!

 

  • The inhabitants will now have a special part to play in the bigger scheme of things. Heritage walks and interaction with locals will now take tourists to Portuguese-style settlements too! Locally handcrafted bamboo and leather products are as much in demand as alcohol and fish. This spells a huge boon for the aboriginals.

 

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Daman was once regarded as the most poluted of all beaches due to industrial wastes leaking into its waters. But all that is now set to change for the better! Cleaner beaches, water-sports, boat-rides, walking tours, village-interactions… Do you need any more reasons to pack your bags and head to Daman?