Goa was a little like an extension of Kerala – laid back, colonial, flavorful without being overwhelming. A welcome reprieve after somewhat hectic Mysore. I made my base in Panjim, the easy going state capital with endless alleyways and winding streets with Portuguese style houses. The restaurants served notable Indian-Portuguese fusion and non-Indian wine in atmospheric unrushed setting, unless they were closed for the ciesta, of course.
The pace of things changed much during the Carnival (Yes! Carnival). Streets were blocked off for a big street party right under my hotel window, so I pretty much didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t one of those wild street parties where glitter-studded tops were flying off into the air, but it was an old-world small-town good clean fun. Everyone came in wearing dressy red and black numbers and sat in their reserved tables, while waiters were delivering Gin-and-Tonics and Whiskey-Colas. The town’s socialites were there – from a prominent interior designer to award winning ballroom dancer to the Mayor. There were also lots of Indian repats from Lucerne and London and LA... keen on catching some ex-hometown action.
About 20 minutes outside Panjim is the church-ridden Old Goa. This former capital boasts nothing but churches – Portuguese, Italian, French – they all placed their bets here, but cholera and malaria drove them away leaving behind elaborate monuments to foreign gods and bread rolls in place of chapatis.
Further north are the famous Goan beaches, out of which I picked the farthest and supposedly the hippiest one, in hopes of psytrance, rather then techno beach parties. When I arrived at Arambol hippies I did find, but they were mostly Russians. Besides a few Israelis and Koreans the place was taken over by Moscovites. The shops owners would bargain in Russian (which was no advantage, since Moscovites would only drive up prices, not noticing a substantial difference between 200 and 300 rupees), the restaurants would have Russian menus, and the internet cafes would tape Russian letters to their key boards. There weren’t just a lot of them – there was a whole village of young (or young-at-heart), hippie, peace-loving people yearning to escape their cold and gilded city. This village came complete with a kindergarten and, for the first time this season – a primary school teacher.
Surprised and somewhat pleased by this development, I joined in. During the day, they hung out at the Beatles Banyan tree, where chilled out youth of all ages would seat around the circle playing drums and guitars and watching the fat guy dance. At night, we were all invited to a birthday celebration of one Kolya, but when we got there, his wife said that he hasn’t come home, and so we had to celebrate without him.
Arambol has a descent reggae and afro-punk scene, pretty good food, if you were craving something non-Indian, which never happened to me throughout the whole trip, and, of course, fantastic spacious beaches. I wish I could hang out here for at least a week, but there’s still so much more to see…
Category:Travel and Places
Keywords:beach, church, colonial
© Alek & Tanya