Just had a fantastic, relaxing week in Goa… enjoying the respite from the stresses and strains of intense cities and the pressures of work/redundancy.
To be honest, I didn’t do too much exploring, which is a pity, but it was great to do nothing except laze by the pool, or on the beach, dozing in the sun and reading a few books.
And, of course, pig out on delicious, fresh seafood (the diet’s not going so well… the food out here is too good!!)
The tiger prawns in particular are fantastic – and I have to recommend Electric Cats, which is a great restaurant with some lovely people working there – hats off to Ramesh, the manager. They serve fabulous, traditional Goan food… gorgeous.
Truth be told, Goa is much, much more commercialised than I had realised. It’s a magnet for European holiday makers and travellers, and of course an entire economy has sprung up around the disposable wealth that tourism brings. There are plenty of restaurants and bars, and huge numbers of make-shift shops lining the streets, selling knocked-off t-shirts and bikinis, as well as original Goan garments.
I had wanted to move around Goa, but i’ve already decided to come back to India to explore the backwaters of Kerala, and travel through Darjeeling, Rajasthan, Nepal and Delhi. This country has an unbelievable amount of diversity within it, and I don’t feel as if i’ve even touched the surface, so a return trip is guaranteed (which is partly my excuse for doing bugger all for a week).
Goa was beautiful in parts (above photo excluded), and the palm-fringed beaches were idyllic… until the various bars turned up the volume with their cheesy house music battles, drowning out any pretense of serenity. It isn’t hard to see why a group of hippies and travellers came to Goa 20 years ago and never returned home. They now drift along the coast to quieter beaches, always one step ahead of the property developers, who are doing their best to turn the state into an Indian version of San Antonio in Ibiza (or, if I’m being unkind, Blackpool).
I have to be honest, I had great fun and met some great people… but culturally interesting it wasn’t. The people I met were from England, Russia, Denmark and Germany, and all were in Goa for the party scene… which was bouncing even in the off season.
There were opportunities to hire mopeds or motorbikes and ride off into the wilderness… but there is no way on God’s good earth that I’m toying with Indian drivers on a little scooter. In both Mumbai and Goa, I’ve been struck by the obscenely poor quality of driving, and the seemingly callous disregard for life that everyone seems to have.
In fact, the most exploring I did was on the drive from Goa back up to Mumbai, with a guy called Sachin. Also in the car were his wife, his sister, and his two very young children. They were heading to Mumbai for Sachin’s brother’s wedding, and at the end of the trip I had lunch with the whole family in a suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai. They were absolutely lovely, and it’s some of the best food I’ve had out here: traditional Indian food cooked by the mother of the groom-to-be.
On the journey up to Mumbai, we drove through the Goan and Maharashtran countryside, up the Kolkan coast, which in parts was absolutely stunning: expansive rivers shimmered in the early morning light as they snaked towards the horizon, framed by sweeping vistas of mountainous terrain that lay camouflaged under layer upon layer of dense, tropical woodland.
However, I was unable to take any pictures for a few reasons…
First, he was driving incredibly fast;
Second, i thought i was going to die on numerous occasions, as Sachin drove almost exclusively on the wrong side of the road, basically overtaking anything that got in his way, whether or not the opportunity actually existed;
Third, i really thought i was going to die on a couple of occasions in the mountains where there were some double, and even triple, overtaking maneuvers on BLIND corners… horrific.
Fourth, i couldn’t believe he had his whole young family in the back – without seatbelts – and was driving like this…. it’s one thing driving like a lunatic with a Western tourist in tow, but surely with your own family in the car a slightly more considered approach might have been called for. Am I wrong?
Fifth, every time we saw a crashed car on the side, or an overturned truck (which was more often than I was happy about), Sachin would look at me, smile, and say “Nice Parking”.
Sixth, i really thought i might die.
To be honest, he could probably charge a lot more by marketing his services to adrenaline junkies who are bored of base jumping or leaping out of aeroplanes without parachutes.
Anyway, other than that, the drive was extremely pleasant…..
OK, final thing to say about Goa – the hotel I stayed at was fabulous: completely removed from the madness and surrounded by copious amounts of elaborate foliage and opulent palms… an oasis of calm. I definitely recommend Alidia if anyone’s going to Baga in the northern part of the state… It’s run by a Goan family and is a very chilled out place to stay.
So that was Goa, and now I’m back in Mumbai for a few more #worldview meetings, and then onto Hong Kong…. very exciting.