Everyone says that if you go to India, you must go to Goa. The smallest state in India, Goa is also one of the richest – in no small part due to it’s booming tourist industry. No doubt, Goa is beautiful and fun. Unlike most of India, Goa has a reputation as a party place and rumor has it that the northern coast is especially raucous (I headed south). I can see why it comes so highly recommended. The place is buzzing with Europeans, Aussies, and Russians on holiday. It’s the same reason that Americans go to the Caribbean – sugar sand beaches, crystal blue waters, fruity cocktails (Goa is also one of the few “non-dry” states which probably speaks to it’s appeal). But as an American, it’s a long way to travel for a beach vacation. I spent a week in Goa and don’t regret it, but I wouldn’t go back and wouldn’t necessarily suggest that any other visitor from half way around the world take too much time there.
But that’s all hindsight. I began my time in Goa in the capital, Panaji, for a little history and culture before heading to the beaches.
January 3, 2011
As if I don’t despise the whole “bathroom as shower” situation enough, this was my first experience with a bucket shower. Given the choice of a cold shower or warm bucket, I chose cold shower. Otherwise the room is growing on me with it’s colorful fabric curtains and quaint neighborhood view. Started the day with a quick visit to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, still decorated with the Christmas nativity. A stunning hold-over from Panaji’s Portuguese days. Managed to find an electric adapter after being told (several times) there were none in town and a market to buy some supplies. Walked down 31st January Road, dodging cars/motorbikes/cows/dogs and checking out communities. Wanted to walk along the river but was too cowardly to play frogger across six “lanes” of traffic.
Highlights: strolling the municipal gardens; scoring adapter (thank goodness for small victories!). Lowlight: still in a city – beep beep! [side note: almost every bus and car in India has a sign on the back that reads “Horn OK Please.” And the honking? Is. Endless!!]
January 4, 2011
I hear waves crashing! No horns!
Left Panaji at noon after another sleepless night. Took a bus to Margao. Bus to Canacona. Bus to Palolem Beach. My cab driver in Panaji offered to bring me here for rs 1,000 (approx $25) but I was actually looking forward to the Indian bus experience. Apart from getting a little lost in Margao, I’m kindof proud that I made it all the way. Not without the help of some friendly locals, however. Roamed the beach to check out huts and decided on Big Fish because they had the best bed and were near the end of the strip. Kingfisher and malai kofta for dinner at sunset.
January 5, 2011
Spent the day reading on the beach and in beachfront restaurants. Last summer, while I dreamed of the idea of taking some time off, I downloaded The Lost Girls onto my kindle. [Not a great book, by the way, which is why I never finished it until I had all this time on my hands – my literary selections actually improved after my kindle options ran out.] Mysteriously, this passage was highlighted – “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.”
January 6, 2011
South Goa is supposed to be the quiet part but as I write there’s techno pumping from a party behind the beach and last night fireworks exploded well past 1am. Got the worst and most expensive mani/pedi of my life literally sitting on a concrete shop floor. Feels like hush money so I won’t be asked every day to “come look at my shop.” Walked around and discovered the village and beach area south of Neptune Point – a hidden gem. Took a 5pm sunset yoga class and was impressed that I kept up after a year hiatus. Keep going between moments of peace and panic but hope to find more peace. It’s only been a week, afterall.
January 7, 2011
Lunched on the main drag at an organic vegetarian spot but didn’t especially love the famed Goan thali (basically a small medley of whatever the cook has prepared). Malai kofta might win as my favorite Indian dish – still. Spent the rest of daylight online and sitting on the beach with my book. Getting better at turning away vendors; probably because I’ve already spent too much and am wise to their tricks. Love going to sleep to the sounds of wave crashing and naan being made!
January 8, 2011
First much needed massage of the trip today in an open air building above the beach. Very relaxing and I’m feeling less tense in the shoulders but still stressed. Started reading The Namesake which has kept me transfixed most of the afternoon and evening with a small break for aloo gobi and a “Goa sunset” cocktail for dinner with my feet in the sand.
January 9, 2011
Last night in Palolem. Just as I’m getting a routine – but maybe that’s a good sign to leave. Lemon juice and lemon sugar pancakes for breakfast. Stroll the beach. Buy water, internet. Read. Sunset yoga with Raja at Neptune Point. Shower. Collect shells. Read, dinner, read. Bed. I will not miss being chased off the beach by vendors, though. “Hello. What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you here? Do you have brothers and sisters? How old are you? Will you look at my things?” I will miss my little hut, the night sounds of waves, trains, and naan-making – even the electrical outages, or more the fact that everyone takes it in stride, shooting off fireworks and lighting candles.
More of my India diaries: