The Goan landscape is so beautiful. Coloured with light green paddy fields, tall dark green palm trees, views of the Arabian sea and the often sighting of light brownish colour beer bottles being consumed alongside fried snacks and tamarind pickle. Add a Goan fish curry and you are sorted. If Goa is your first taste of India, you will definitely enjoy a very gentle entry into this massive country. Less poverty, an abundance of Westerners and generally, a more lenient stance on the consumption of alcohol than in the rest of India.
Nicknamed the land of the high, the hyper and the hippie, of course it’s punted for its famous beaches, but Goa is most certainly more than Beaches, sun and Vindaloo. It’s a kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood and spirituality. Sure its nature and landscape are magic, but its tradition embedded within the daily life of its people’s is whats really seductive. Lets just say Goa is a place you could definitely find inner peace whilst simultaneously touching base with your spiritual side (if you’re at all that way inclined that is!) 🙂
For me, Goa materialized over my second visit to India. Driving from the airport, I noticed vendors selling mostly two common things, wine and cashew-nuts. I heard enchanting local music at road-side shacks and saw quaint stores selling alternative books and handicrafts. As we arrived to our hotel, our hotel manager assured us of the different sides to Goa we’d experience. One that involved culture and luxury (the kind all the new rich Russians loved thanks to its warmth and its relative proximity to Moscow). The other, beach shacks and bongos.
The one thing I didn’t like about Goa is that unlike other beach destinations you might have visited in the world, you can’t exactly relax or have a swim as freely as you would elsewhere. In Goa, you stretch out on a beach and gangs of Indian males wander by and take pictures of each other with you as the background. Not exactly tasteful when you’re on holiday and just trying to relax. This is such a mystery to me. The way in which some Indian men perceive women.
I must admit, the moment I feel I’ve unraveled one of India’s deep mysteries, she has an uncanny way of reminding me that it would take more than just a few lifetimes to do so. Like for instance, I found it interesting to learn that some of Christianity’s best kept secrets lie in Goa’s History. For one, the Se Cathedral in old Goa is Asia’s largest Church. Likewise also in Goa, lies the non-decomposing body of St Francis Xavier – a pertinent Saint in the world’s history. Ironically, it is in Goa as well, where one of the oldest Hindu temple lies. The magical and mysterious Mahadev Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva. Carved with Basalt and encrusted with true gem stones, a truly speechless vibe!
Shrine @ Basilica De Bom Jesus – World Heritage Site
We took a ride to South Goa, which is more secluded and rustic in comparison to the North of Goa, which is known more for its party beaches, sight-seeing opportunities and several markets showcasing beautiful hippie scenes to traditional handicrafts. On the drive down South, I notice Goa’s eclectic mix of Portuguese architecture, against the backdrop of sari-clad women. Chapels and seminaries opposite where young children play football – sporting their Messi t-shirts. All I could do was feel the openness and reception. I notice beautiful little villages with a subtle interplay of Portuguese, Indian and European architecture. Instead of taking the river cruise, we opted to explore the markets in Panjim, where we stop for lunch and explore the history and architecture.
After many meals here, I notice a huge difference in the Hindu, Goan and Portuguese cuisine and this varied contrast makes me feel elated with the available choices I can eat and choose from. Goan food is influenced by an exotic blend of sea, spices and foreign invaders. Heavy use of coconut and fish. Vinegar and beef. If you’re feeling for a Tikka or Biryani (the more well known Indian cuisine) you can get that too in Goa. Side note: lots of dishes on menus in Goa feature Cashew nuts as almost every supermarket and corner shop has a “selling Cashew nuts” advertisement. Just like how every corner Pub or Tavern has a Tito’s sign – an attempt to leverage off an acquainted brand name of apparently, the most happening club in North Goa – the infamous Tito’s bar and restaurant.
As its colonial history whizzes past, I notice the dealings of a daily life. On some narrow streets, you can actually see inside people’s homes as they munch away in front of their television sets. In the background, The smell of burning incense. The contrast of lit candles near small prayer houses a few meters away. When in Goa, I would recommend taking walks along the creek and dining (hand-picked Crab & Bebinca dessert) at a beach shack. Sit on antique furniture and push your toes into the sand. Side note: you will find stray, barking dogs on the beach, but generally they’re pretty well-behaved and are super used to human interaction.
@Brittos in North Goa
The days in Goa are as sweet as they are overwhelming. The days seem short, and before you know it, the sun sets with a flourish of powdery pink, a touch of mauve, a hint of coral. Then the next time you look it’s gone.
When I finally settled down on the hammock slung down outside our room balcony on my last night in Goa, I feel snug between a couple of palms, with a book bought at the market for a couple of rupees. Finally, Goa is beginning to chill out. Just when I’m starting to fully embrace the early mornings of my in-house Yoga lessons – the real reason behind my lengthy stay in Goa. My supper on that last night, an Indo-Chinese vegetarian curry. The Puris fluffy and worth the wait. As my mind wanders, I realize that I’m still savouring the flavours of that meal long after I lay my fork down that one mid-monsoon evening, somewhere in Calangute, in the North of Goa.
Choosing Ankle Bracelets on Baga Beach