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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 6 - Oct. 2000

India - Goa

Situated on the west coast of India and one of the countries most identifiable destinations, Goa is as popular as it is picturesque. Attracting holiday makers and hippies alike, the golden beaches and lush vegetation prove to be a self promoting dream, as word spreads across the globe about this still unexploited stretch of paradise. It's exotic blend of East and West creates a unique Indian state that is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.

When Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama set off in search of spices in 1498, he landed upon Goan shores and the West's long fascination with Goa began. By 1510, it had become a Portuguese colony, which it remained until 1961, becoming a prosperous trading centre with a large Christian following that still remains today (about 30% of the population). Even with the Portuguese long departed, they have left Goa with much more liberal attitudes towards alcohol and nudity than the rest of India. Despite attempts by the police, drugs and alcohol are still rampant in Goa and intrigue and reputation continue to draw wild crowds.

We decided to start our Goan adventures in leafy Anjuna, back packer haven and the party capital of Goa, it is famous for it's legendary full moon parties and Wednesday flea market. However, arriving before the main season, we found a quiet and unassuming town and far less developed than we had expected. Anjuna's many guesthouses, bars and restaurants may make it sophisticated by Indian standards, but it is nowhere near western comparisons.

One of the main attractions is the long golden expanse of sand and perfect palm tree lined shores, which make Anjuna beach one of the finest in the North of Goa. Although we virtually had the beach to ourselves we never had a moment's peace to relax because of the army of hawkers that persistently offer their services. In particular abundance are young girls that tout jewellery from dawn to dusk, but massage and ear cleaning is available for the more adventurous!

Every Wednesday boats from all over Goa converge on Anjuna for the famous flea market, which draws tourists and locals alike. The normally quiet Southern end of the beach comes to life with a bizarre collection of snake charmers, tight ropewalkers and market sellers who provide a colourful and vibrant scene. It was much bigger than we had expected with stalls selling everything from Tibetan handicrafts to fluorescent rave gear. However inflated prices and already bulging backpacks meant we returned home empty handed.

The easiest way to explore Goa is by scooter so we hired one for around 2 per day and ventured just a little further up the coast to the Vagator - a small, undeveloped resort that is popular with long-term dwellers. Vagator offers two beaches, the smallest of which, Orzan (or Small beach), is a picturesque secluded cove set against a steep backdrop of palm trees, which, except for the hawkers, provided a perfect hideaway. Big Vagator beach is overlooked by the ruins of a 17th Century Portuguese fort. Its broad expanses of sand draw many Indian day-trippers so to avoid the stares serious sunbathers head for the small beach.

As we scooted down to Calangute, we passed preparations for the biggest Hindu festival of the year, Diwali; traditionally celebrated by the illumination of houses with candles and the setting off of firecrackers. Children build paper statues to be burnt on the eve of the festival. The statues are displayed by the roadside with the children stopping passers by for donations in an Indian version of 'penny-for-the-guy'. There were little signs of preparations for the festival in Calangute however, which is not surprising as it is the busiest and most Westernised of all the Goan resorts. With more hotel complexes springing up everyday, Calangute has radically changed it's image since the 1960's when it played host to the pleasure-seeking hippies that gave Goa it's hedonistic reputation. Calangute now attracts a much more mainstream set of tourists, but has plenty room for everybody. The beach is long with fine golden sand but is crowded in places with rows of sun loungers and cafes, reminiscent to a Spanish holiday resort.

We spent nearly two relaxing weeks in Goa and, in hindsight, wish we had travelled around and seen more of the state but the lure of the nearest beach was too great. Goa is very different to the rest of India, better in some ways because it is not as crowded and polluted. However it does not offer visitors a great insight into the culture and history of India. That said, if you are looking for sun and sand and a friendly Indian welcome, Goa could be just the place for you.

Jon & liz
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Calangute


Diwali Festival - Calangute


Anjuna


Vagator


Vagator

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REPORT ARCHIVE
The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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