Panaji or Panjim, we wondered aloud minutes after deboarding from the bus that had brought us to the capital of Goa from Margao. It was the beginning of August. Rain clouds flecked the horizon. The bus station was empty except for a few bus drivers and hawkers who were prepping for the day. In the next two days over delicious curries and cans of chilled beer, we would learn that Panjim (the final ‘im’ that also appears in names of other Goan towns like Betim, Siolim, Candolim, etc. indicates a nasal ending, so the ‘m’ is never heard) is the older Portuguese name and the official name is Panaji. Locals usually pronounce it as ‘Ponnjee.’
Old Goa was one of the three principal cities in Portuguese Goa and Panjim, on the left bank of the Mandovi estuary, was originally a suburb of Old Goa. The city is laid out in a grid; the main roads run parallel with the seafront. In 1500, Yusuf Adil Shah of the Bijapur sultanate built a palace here that would later be seized by Albuquerque and renamed the Idalcao Palace. After malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged Old Goa, the Portuguese Viceroy moved to Panaji in 1759 but Old Goa continued to the de jure capital of Goa until 1843.
Panaji is often overlooked by visitors impatient to see Goa’s stunning beaches. We spent two beautiful days walking through the old Latin Quarters, dreaming about moving into a traditional Goan home and inviting friends over for potlucks, visiting churches, and lamenting that we didn’t have enough time to visit all the eateries we wanted to.