<<  Goa, 16-Jan-2015  >>

Goa: beaches, cathedrals and 'drugs'

Lots of sand, palms, ocean and a lot of Russians.

Ahhhh, the famous Goa…
During my first (business) trip to India, in 2009, I had spent (together with my business co-trippers Jirka, Jano and David) a long weekend in Anjuna Beach in Goa. By then it was a peaceful village, with bunch of beach bars, some but not too many tourists, out of whom a surprising percentage was the Russians. We spent there a relaxing weekend, not doing anything else than eating fresh seafood, drinking Kingfisher beer and enjoying the ocean. Ever since then I knew that Goa is definitely not any tropical paradise – the hippies had been long gone, the waters of the Arabian Sea in Goa are quite murky due to all the rivers flowing into the ocean in Goa, the sand is rather golden-brown than white and anyway, anything discovered by the Russians simply cannot be a paradise. But it surely was very agreeable place for a small summer vacation. But I’ve heard that a lot has changed during those last 6 years. That the place has been completely overrun by mass tourism, that the British drinking squads have arrived and that the place is simply commercial bullshit. It was also for this reason that I avoided it on my first big journey to India in 2012-2013. I felt that there would be nothing inspirational or even real-Indian about the place. But this time Goa sat right in the middle of our semi-planned route, so it would be shame to skip it completely. And so from Aurangabad we boarded a sleeper bus and headed straight to Goa, which took 15 hours.

We started from the north of Goa, from Arambol.
Arambol: What a place! :-)
Byron Bay meets Kuta Beach in Bali.
The place was just swamped by wanna-be yogis, esoteric and etheric beings and other “enlightened white people”. There were 3 kinds of these illuminates.
1.   Fully Loaded Deep Chakra Being of Light. The one with that typical most enlightened brain-washed super-high smile (usually seen on faces of heavy marihuana smokers), who resonate the mystic vibrations of the Universe
2.   Your traditional backpacker-cum-half-hippie-yoga-practitioner
3.   Beer-bellied dickhead with golden necklace, with Third Eye dot on his forehead and with Ganesha-themed T-shirt tightly outlining his beer belly

Of the third kid, 80% seemed to be Russians. Generally, almost everyone around was Russian.
It seems that Crymea was not the only sea-side region annexed by the Russia this year. Half of all advertisements, poster and menus is written in Russian here. Too bad that so many of the Russians still hang on to their good old Soviet arrogance : words like “thanks” or “please” are still not in their dictionary and generally they seem to treat everybody else as under-people.

The closest encounter of the First Kind - the Fully Loaded Deep Chakra Beings of Light – we had when we attended a “Silent Concert”. It turned out not to be so much a concert (although they were 6 guys playing gentle background music). In fact it was a hugging ceremony by a 30 year old or so girl, dwelling in spiritual planes higher than the edge of stratosphere. Who knows where she was from, she spoke so little and so weirdly that not even the accent was clear. First she instructed us in her lousy English “You don’t doin’ nothing. Nothing. Don’t try meditate. You don’t doin’ nothing! Is so easy but so difficult to doing!” And continued to let us know that “Do not expect any information from me. I’m not here to give you any information. What kind of information do you need? I don’t have information. I am the Queen of the Ignorance. Just you letting go…” and then she kept on blessing us with gestures and free hugs and her super-high smiles. Well, this surely was a true Goan evening :-)

Luckily most of the people in Arambol were the most normal, the Second Kind of beings: the relatively normal backpackers who turned to yoga, and love, and fire shows and drumming on the beach.

I any case, the place was very crowded. Come sunset and the beach was more busy than Tokyo’s metro.

Unfortunately, we had to stay in our coconut hut bit longer than expected, because India has already got Irene. I would tell you more, but first of all she prohibited me to do so :-) and secondly, no one needs to read something so disgusting :-DDD So let me just tell you that the second day doctor Marcel prescribed Irene Ciprofloxacin, which is antibiotic for digestion system.
Irene’s sickness not being enough, the 15 hours in the air conditioned bus cemented by starting sore throat and coughing, and as my fever was rising and rising I prescribed myself antibiotics as well.

I was always secretly dreaming about Goan drug expierence, but what I had in mind was something with lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin or at least tetrahydrocannabinol. Unfortunately, the only drugs we are experimenting with are azithromycin, ciprofloxacin and tinidazole. Not cool.
OK kids, That's enough of today's chemistry lesson.

When we finally felt better, we left the yoga paradise of Arambol and went for one day to Anjuna, the place I had been 6 years ago. Just out of curiosity how much it has changed. Well, it hasn’t changed that much, it was still rusty tiny village, more local than Arambol. Just the number of beach bars doubled and the number of tourists increased 20 times. Compared to Arambol, Anjuna now seems to be a more mainstream/party tourism place. But the beach is still gorgeous.

Next stop was Panajim, the capital of Goa. It’s relatively small town, easy to walk around, with not much going on. A beautiful Portuguese cathedral straight out of your Mexico dreams crowns a little hill in the middle of the town. The town also has a pleasant used-to-be-Portuguese district, which feels almost like Europe. During the day we did a side trip to Old Goa, former Portuguese capital of Goa, until the Portuguese abandoned it and moved it to Panajim. Lonely Planet claims that at the height of its spice-propelled glory Old Goa was bigger than Lisbon or London! What it is now, some 150 years after the Portuguese had enough of its malaria and left it behind, is an odd archeological park with 4 massive cathedrals. There’s practically nothing except the white washed, well-maintained huge cathedrals set amid a peaceful park. But boy are they huge! One of them is supposed to be the largest cathedral in whole Asia. It’s obvious that the Portuguese truly enjoyed building the cathedrals, probably as part of hopeless measure against malaria. As the mosquitos just didn’t care, the Portuguese had to leave all their holy glory behind and move closer to the ocean.

Last stop in Goa: Palolem. This one is a gem. This is the one. A beautiful, tropical-paradise-feeling beach. Almost white sand, coconut palms swaying over coconut huts, neither party atmosphere nor chakra Disneyland, Palolem is definitely my Goa winner. The second night of our stay we even stayed to one of the nicest places I’ve stayed on my travels, especially when considering the price. A beautifully made coconut hut with a snooze-friendly bed located on its porch, set amidst a wonderful jungle-garden a bit hidden off the beach. Thumbs up! Soooooo relaxing!

Too bad we are already bit over-beached so we didn’t feel like staying longer and after two days of doing sweet nothing except kayaking out to see dolphins we left Goa and headed more south into Karnataka state to Gokarna.
It was good to see the 3 beach-resorts, all of them having different vibe, but truth be told, if you wanna have your tropical fantasies come true, you are surely better off heading to Southeast Asia or Indonesia. Although, and that’s one thing I forgot to mention, for seafood Goa might be your place. Luckily for us, the carnivores, apart from the cathedrals and crumbling houses, the Portuguese left behind something else: Christianity and its meat-eating habits. Viva the fish, viva the calamari!

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak