I’ve had the privilege of traveling a bit while here in India. Not as much as I would have liked but more than my coworkers so I can’t complain.
India has a reputation of being difficult to travel in, as a tentative traveler I decided I wanted an easy destination to practice with. With this in mind, I decided the beach state of Goa was going to be my first trip. The fact that every single Indian I met recommended it for me as white traveler, this also played a role in my decision.
The sunset lived up to its reputation
Goa is on the west coast of India on the Arabian Sea, roughly 600km south of Mumbai. To get there I flew Spice Jet bright and early. I arrived in Goa at around 9 am and then was faced with my least favourite task. Negotiating a drive for the 1 hour trip to Baga Beach (where people recommended I go). I managed to negotiate 900 rupee (about 16-17$) which wasn’t great, but also not terrible. The drive was nice and when we got to Baga I was obviously dragged to all the drivers friends guest houses at exorbitant prices despite the fact that I told him I was meeting people who were already at a hotel. Finally I was able to convince him that I would find my own. Then as I paid him, he “didn’t have change” which is very typical and then when I dug in my pockets and got the exact change, he inquired if I would give him a little extra for trying to help me find a place. The irony was that we had negotiated 900 but was going to give him some extra as tip, but when he tried playing tricks on me, there went his tip and he probably got less money out of the deal than if he had said nothing at all.
Take note Indian cab drivers, I tip well, but if you try and short change me, I don’t tip at all!
Since I was up at 3:30 to get to the airport I was tired. I found a nice Guest House, Francisco’s Guesthouse where I dropped my bags, got some food and then had a quick nap. One frustrating thing I’ve noticed in these rural area’s of India is that there are very frequent power shutoffs. So although I payed for an AC room, the power was off all day with the fan running off generator. The AC ended up coming back on at 8PM, but was apparently going to have another scheduled shutoff the next few days from 8-8 for tree trimming along the lines in preparation for monsoon. Waking up at 11 a sweaty mess I decided I had waited long enough before going to the beach. The beach was about 200m from the house so off I went. Being a Friday morning, the beach was fairly empty. I was told this was normal though because vacation season was over. Come next week all the restaurants would be closed since no one was around. The empty beach though was a sight that I would not see repeated. The water had a medium sized surf. Probably too small to surf on, but large enough that all along the beach there were warnings of dangerous riptides. One thing I’ve noticed at ISB and reinforced at the beach, your typical Indian does not swim too well. I think this played into all the warnings, because as an experienced swimmer, I never found the currents strong. Nevertheless I was never allowed to go out further than 50 feet and really enjoy the water because the lifeguards would constantly blow their whistle at me until I returned to waist/knee deep water. Lame.
Lifeguard Truck, there was no need for it to be driving in the water,
there weren't that many people around.
After spending the mid-afternoon at the beach, as would be expected, I was nicely roasted. Turns out my pasty white skin wasn’t prepared for the sun. I would have thought my Welsh vacation leading up to India would have prepared me. Turns out I’m wrong. This put a bit of a damper on my plans since being so sunburnt after my first few hours at the beach, I was then relegated to being one of those awesome guys wearing a t-shirt at the beach all weekend!
Other than being a nice beach, Goa is also known as being a party town. There are bars and clubs all the length of the beach. I however, did not take part. Because I am a party pooper you say? Nope, because all the bars and clubs had signs outside that said NO STAGS. Unless I went to the club with a girl, I couldn’t get in. I met 4 gay guys at the beach who I joked about my issues with, they were experiencing the same problems. They told the bouncers that they were not stags but in fact 2 gay couples. Despite this being the truth, the bouncer I guess hears this often and wouldn’t let them in. They persevered though and went down the road a few km to a gay club and had a good time. I on the other hand went to a restaurant and had a nice long dinner instead. What was fun about this dinner though was that there was a cricket playoffs on the TV. Since there are not a lot of open televisions along the road, a lot of passerbyers stopped in to watch as well. Before I knew it, there were 10-15 guys around me trying to explain every play, and predicting what would happen next. It was entertaining, and wrapped up by 10pm. Perfect time for me to go to sleep. Like I said. Party ANIMAL!
Something about the sign Cocktails & Dreams made me sad.
The next morning, waking up with a nice crisp to my back I decided the best solution was to hit up the beach once more. This time earlier in the morning when the sun isn’t as strong. Well, the lack of crowd I experienced yesterday was replaced by large crowds of Indian’s at the beach. I was somewhat surprised by the lack of foreigners. I was under the impression that Goa would be crowded with foreigners but I only saw 2-3 groups of 2-3. But have no fear, the lack of foreigners were not missed. There were still lots of opportunity for people watching. There were a few things that I just couldn’t get my head around.
People for Days
The first, no one seemed to mind being sandy. Everyone who went into the water when they came out, plopped on the beach and sat/rolled in the sand. Or they would sit at the edge of the water and have the waves crash over them. Now I sat there for a moment as well and realized that this is a sure fire way of getting sand down your shorts. Anyways, I was the only one who seemed to notice so I kept my mouth shut. Until now that is. Along the same lines with the sand, growing up at Amherst Shore you learn that in order of increasing severity the worst things you can do are:
- let little kids swim alone
- drive seadoo’s near people in the water
and about 15 items down at the bottom of the list the most heinous act would be:
- throw/kick sand at people
This also is not a rule in India. I can honestly say I was in shock when I saw the sand fights people were having. It felt like a bad dream where I was anxious and stressed but no one else seemed to be worried.
After a morning at the beach, I had heard that there was a bookstore in Baga. After an unsuccessful search for bookstores in Hyderabad, I decided this would be a good task. I asked at a shop on the main road and was pointed down the way and was told about 10-15 minute walk. A few minutes later, doubting the directions I asked a new vendor and was told the same, 5-10 minutes down the road. After 2 songs on my iPod and not seeing any bookstore I asked again at the main intersection of town. I was still pointed down the road, but this time told about 10-20 minutes. You can see the pattern forming here. I asked about 10 different people during the 2 hour walk and zigzagged my way back and forth across this small town. Never finding a bookstore until!
The Majestic Book Palace!
Nope, turns out it is an old closed bus booking station. No books in Goa.
I decided to walk back along the beach and realized the end where my guesthouse is is the quiet part. This section about 2km down was where all the action was happening, loads of people, boats, sandcastle of Shrek! I slowly walked back, while having my picture taken by loads of locals.
Bathing suits don’t seem to be a big thing in India, the men just strip down to their tighty whities, and the women go in the water fully clothed. After having my photo taken for the 100th time I thought to myself how beach vacations in India must lead to some pretty awkward family photos.
Fully Clothed in the ocean. 50/50 chance she would end up swimming like this
I capped off my day sitting on the beach under a parasol enjoying food and drink chatting with tourist as they stopped by. I also read a lot, finishing an entire book start to finish on this trip. Albeit a short book. And finished by enjoying another sunset.
Anyways, after a quick weekend at the beach, I was back to Hyderabad where it was a lovely 45*C to welcome me home!
Next up, Mumbai.