Chilling in Diu

After a lot of temples and historic monuments, I must admit that coming to a chilled-out place like Diu is quite refreshing. There’s not much to see here but there’s plenty of atmosphere. It’s our 2nd day here and we’ve already told our hotel guys that we would like to stay two more….

Unfortunately, getting to Diu wasn’t all that fun – it took 3 different modes of transport – a bus, a car and an auto.

In Bhavnagar we were told that the only direct bus to Diu is run by the State Govt – no private buses go there as taxes for entry are high, making it cost-prohibitive. Now traveling in a State Transport bus for an hour or two with just our camera bag and a small daypack is one thing. Hauling our huge backpacks on it and sitting it out for 5 hours, is a completely different ball-game. So yesterday morning we checked out of Hotel Mausam (happy to be leaving) and got to the State Transport Bus Station. There we enquired around and found that private buses ply from Bhavnagar to a place called Mahuva, which is sort of half way to Diu. We were also told that from Mahuva we will have plenty of options to get to Diu via private buses. So we happily boarded the first private bus we spotted to Mahuva and were dropped off at its Bus Station around noon. To our utter dismay, we found that no private buses go from here to Diu either. All the travel agencies that Madhu enquired at cited bad roads, heavy taxes and not enough demand as the reasons.

We then hired a private car, which agreed to drop us off at Una, which is 15 km from Diu Island, for Rs.1,000. The car was an old, beat-up Ambassador with a fresh, bright-green paint on the outside. Thankfully, even though it seemed to have a starting problem, the car ran smoothly and gave us no trouble. We were regaled with songs from Hindi films that were as old as the driver himself. En route, he pointed out a few things of interest like Mahuva is Asha Parekh’s (former Indian movie actress) hometown, some wildlife and the huge cement factory by a company called Ultratech – he was super sweet. At 2pm he stopped at a small restaurant run by a Purohit family where we had a really nice, simple Gujarati thali, for Rs.40 each. Just as we were warned, the roads between Mahuva and Una are in really bad shape; the going was really slow. We realized that East Gujarat has progressed tremendously and has a great, well-maintained road network, whereas Saurashtra is more like East Gujarat’s poor cousin – towns here seem under-developed and poorly connected.

We eventually got to Una by around 3pm. From here we took an auto to the island of Diu, which belonged to the Union Territory of Daman and Diu. The auto ride cost Rs.150 and we passed thru a huge marshland where we saw plenty of birds. I later learnt that there is a bird sanctuary in the area. We had looked up a few hotels within the little town of Diu. There were some beach resorts as well but they were in the outskirts along the coast. Since most of the restaurants and sights were centered around the town, we decided to stay here. We checked into Cidade de Diu around 4pm; it’s right in the heart of the town. After dumping our bags, we headed out to a cyber cafe that was right by the hotel called Uma Cyber Cafe. The internet connection was far too slow so it took us about 2 and a 1/2 hours to upload some pictures and format them and our evening was spent. How I wish we had that wireless access card!!!

Today morning we woke up late, had breakfast in the room and finally stepped out to explore Diu at noon. This place is really cool! The roads , though narrow and littered with animal poop, are relatively well-maintained. Moreover, they are mostly deserted with the occasional pedestrian or two-wheeler zipping by. It has a very laid-back charm, and time seems to move slowly here. Since it’s quite a small town we walked to two of the three churches that we had planned to visit for the day. First one was St.Paul’s Church, one of the finest churches built by the Portuguese in India in 1610. Its front facade is absolutely beautiful and typical of any Portuguese church in India, except that this one is far more elaborate with intricate carvings. Unfortunately, the whole building has been white-washed inside and out, which is rather sad. Inside, thankfully, the teak wood altar and pulpit have been left in their original state. They look dusty and there’s pigeon poop all around but they are still breathtaking! The intricate carvings on them are some of the finest we’ve seen. The altar has the image of Mother Mary with angels holding candles, surrounding her on either side. On the walls of the church, there were many 17th century paintings depicting various scenes from Jesus’ life. They looked a little battered but were fabulous nonetheless.

Our next stop was St. Thomas’ Church, which was close by as well. This church, though, was in real bad shape. It has been converted to a museum now with 400 year-old wooden figurines lined up sadly indoors. The outside facade is typical of a Portuguese church but with paint peeling off in large sections. Indoor, pigeons have made the place their home which has resulted in a lot of poop and filth within the hallowed walls. The wooden figurines are gorgeous – Madhu and I prayed hard that someday some bigger museum would round up these treasures and place them more securely in a cleaner, well-preserved environment. We left feeling sorry for the place. The only interesting aspect of this visit was that I met a nice family of a young newly-married couple with 2 older couples who were visiting Diu from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. I helped take a picture of them in front of the church (hope it turns out well) and showed them how to make a teeny-weeny bag from the leaf of an Ashoka Tree – it’s a trick I learnt back in school. Inside the church I met a traditionally dressed Gujarati woman. I couldn’t stop staring at a thick white bangle on her left wrist. Since she smiled at me,  I mustered the courage to walk up to her and ask her about the bangle. Unfortunately, she couldn’t speak Hindi but through my basic understanding of Gujarati (I’m sure almost all Bombayites can understand Gujarati to some level), I learnt that the bangle is part of their traditional jewelry, made of Elephant tusks and can be purchased in any local market for Rs.3,000. I’m sure it’s sold illegally, nai?

We learnt that the 3rd church, St. Francis’ Church is now under repairs and not open for public viewing. So after lunch, we decided to catch a 3pm showing of the new Hindi film Kurbaan, which was running in a local theatre. But unfortunately, when we got there we learnt that there were not enough people to warrant the showing of the movie. Apparently, at least 15 balcony seats need to be purchased and only 6 buyers had come forward. We left disappointed but also realized that it’s an old run-down theatre with no a/c – it wouldn’t have been a very pleasant experience. So we trudged back to our room, lazed the afternoon away watching the 3rd day of the cricket Test match between India and Sri Lanka – loved seeing our bowlers in form! And now we are in a local cyber cafe catching up again on our emails, blogs and pictures. This one is tucked away in one of the smaller, inner lanes of the older part of Diu town. It was hard to find but it seems to have better internet speeds than the other one … hopefully, we’ll be able to catch up on everything.

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