Thursday 8th December 2016
Palolem: Summer Hostel-1 week
When you plan a great adventure and think about your final destination, where you will de-brief, reflecting on your time in that country and relax before venturing back to reality, it feels a little emotional and overwhelming arriving in that said place. I am finally here in the infamous Goa; the origin of the alternative hippies of the 60’s and the niche Goa trance scene, which I often feel like you need to have taken too much acid to appreciate. I honestly did not know what to expect of Goa, and if anything I had pretty low expectations, hearing of how many tourists visit its sands. Regardless, I was ready to unwind after 15 months of adventures abroad and the anticipation of finally seeing my family, which to be honest has got to me for the first time ever. Maybe it is knowing I am returning home, or perhaps having just left the arms of someone I love, I was ready to run into the others. Leaving my travel partner Imogen, it was long overdue that I had some valuable ‘me’ time and I eventually realised that there is no better place than here in spiritual Goa.
Arriving in the south of Goa to the quiet sands of Palolem, I wasn’t immediately blown away. Having pretty high beach standards living in the most beautiful place in Australia for a year, I was expecting a complete tropical paradise like no other I’ve seen before, however you begin to realise that’s not what it’s all about. Time for ‘susegad’, the Portuguese word for ‘laidbackness’. After the week I spent in this place, I really began to fall in love with it and struggled to leave having met some really lovely people and dedicating my time to reading, swimming and yoga. The beach is beautiful, with palm tree lined sands which house the most vibrant beach huts and colourful wooden fishing boats that make it almost postcard perfect. At the beginning of my week I stayed in a guesthouse off the beach front in a central location, which tends to be a lot cheaper than the beach huts. I then moved down to Summer hostel, which I had been told was a little out of the way, however once I found the footpath directly leading to the south end of the beach, it felt like a more peaceful escape. The beach huts, although enticing by how very beautifully colourful they are, are actually very basic with no hot water or wifi. I spent my days kayaking around the rocks that reminded me of home (add some eagles into the equation), clambering the rocks for sunsets, walking the length of the long beach, swimming the lovely calm clean water, practicing yoga, making great friends of the stray dogs, and watching the hundreds of small solider crabs scurrying in the shallows. I found a favourite hangout spot at the very north end of the beach called Cozy Nook, which was like a cozy nook away from everyone else. The paradise I wanted. On one of my days I rented a moped to explore the surrounding area. Going inland to experience the colourful Portuguese colonial houses and lush greenery, made me really realise how very beautiful Goa actually is. Finding quieter beaches like Agonda and Patnem, I figured that although these places were peaceful, they didn’t have the energy of people that you see on Palolem beach. There was something so wonderful about walking the beach at sunset to see local boys playing football with the tourists and ladies practicing their yoga moves in the sand. As I expected, the Indian ladies swam fully clothed, when the men stripped down to their underwear. In the middle of the week I made a great friend of irish Marianne, after realising we had both lived in the same place in Airlie Beach. She happened to be a yoga teacher, so we would meet every morning on the beach for a session. Such a perfect way to wake up! I also went to candlelight yoga one evening with an Indian male teacher. As I expected, the shopping in Palolem was very good, which was very dangerous for my bursting backpack! Having found the most beautiful little shop filled with embellished throws, I came across a gorgeous stuffed elephant that had to be mine. The lady that sold it to me, Bonita, was a beautiful young Indian who told me about her parents moving here from Gujarat when it was still very populated by the Portuguese, hence her gorgeous name. I made good friends with Bonita, returning many times just for a chat! I spent my final evening of Palolem at ‘Space Goa’, where they held a creativity evening full of palm readers, reflexologists, mendhi artists, ancient tibetan masseuses and many more. It was a wonderful and very spiritual evening meeting people from all over the world.
The best restaurants: Cafe Inn, Zest, Little World, D’Costa Cafe, and Cozy Nook.
Panjim: Old Quarter Hostel-1 day, 1 night
Feeling a little tired of the beach days, unbelievably, I decided to spend a day in Panjim, the capital of Goa, while making my way up to the north. Arriving to the incredible little hostel called ‘Old Quarter’, I was smack bang in the middle of the heritage section of town. Stunning Portuguese buildings surrounded churches and the peaceful winding streets, which I was so grateful to experience while in Goa, however I really did not feel like I was in India. It was unbelievable to see the huge impact the Portuguese had on this area during their 400 year reign. I have a feeling a lot of people miss out the small town delights of Panjim, just searching for the beach and party, so I was glad I took time to experience its magic. I spent the day strolling around the tiny town which was so quiet, amongst gorgeous colourful houses with wrought iron balconies. Not far from my beautiful little hostel, stood the stunning ‘Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception’, which pure white walls stood against the backdrop of tropical palm trees and an azure sky. In a bizarre contrast, on the bank of the estuary sit casino boats which look oddly out of place alongside the beautiful gardens and statues of the heritage town. On my way back to the hostel to collect my bag for the next bus journey, I was stopped by the most hilarious eccentric older couple from Sri Lanka who now live in Mumbai. They sat me down on the sidewalk and insisted they buy me a Limca. The man began singing and raving about his life, and asking me about mine. They were probably nutters, but it really made my day!
Arambol: Beach Guesthouse-4 days, 3 nights
Being the end of a 15 month adventure, I decided to leave out the party place of Anjuna which had the reputation of being one of the best places to party in the whole world, choosing to relax and rejuvenate before I arrive in my home country for Christmas celebrations instead. Venturing further north of Anjuna, I was told to visit the beach area of Arambol where I could find relaxed and quieter atmosphere. You know when you arrive somewhere on your travels, choosing to move on from somewhere you loved and hoping the next place lives up to its standards, and instantly regretting that decision, sorry Arambol but this was exactly how I felt. The beach was crowded with the hippies I was expecting, but not in a good way. Not only were there hundreds of Russians, as we approached the peak season, but also loads of Indian male tourists who had chosen to come to Arambol for nights of debauchery that their home towns would not allow. Because of this, I felt hassled and worried about walking alone at night. Not exactly the bohemian peace and love you expect when visiting Goa. I chose to stay in a guest-house right on the beach which was incredibly basic for the highest price tag I ended up paying in the whole of my India trip. Trying to make the most of a bad situation, I spent my last few days exploring the area by bike, visiting Mandrem and Querim beach which were a little nicer. On one of my last days, to my dismay, I discovered the sweet water lake sitting right on the beach which you wandered across the rock face to find. Here I finally found some peace and a less touristy atmosphere where I could watch paraglider’s and finish off my epic novel. My favourite thing about Goa on the whole was the setting sun. I don’t know why or how, but there is something so spectacular about the Indian sun. As it sets, it glows like the embers of a fire. Just like what you would picture whilst reading the words of a romantic story. Before plummeting below the horizon line, it gets immersed in this Indian haze, that I never understand. Is it the heat? The pollution? Who knows.
The best restaurants: This is it, Happy Shakes, and the German Bakery.
Besides being able to fully relax for the first time in this highly intense country, Goa has oddly been my least favourite place in the whole of India. I have come to see India, not the product of hippies from the 1960’s and cheap airfares from Russia. Although a nice experience, I can’t say I would jump at the chance of visiting Goa again any time soon.