It’s early morning in Goa. The crows are noisily claiming their territory, the spotted beige crabs scurry sideways from tiny hole to tiny hole. For miles, there is nothing but beautiful beach, swaying palm trees, charming bamboo huts, and sparkling water. Groups of people gather to welcome the day with yoga, saluting the sun, rooting themselves in the earth. Fishermen untangle their nets, which are dotted with last night’s catch. The sun begins to grow higher in the cloudless sky and the sand glitters like gold. Clearly, this is heaven.
Mandrem Beach is a sleepier and less developed part of Goa. South Goa is where you will find the four star resorts, with their concrete structures dotting the various beaches. North Goa is a place to completely unwind, eat to your heart and stomach’s content, and drink copious amounts of the ubiquitous Kingfisher beer. It is the ideal place to detach yourself from reality.
We stayed in a beach hut at a place called Casa D’Calma. The huts are quite charming, although sometimes privacy is a bit lacking, as the only thing between you and your nearby neighbor is a few strips of bamboo. Nonetheless, it has the necessities: bed, ceiling fan, toilet, shower and sink. Over a small hill lies a river, endless beach, and the Indian Ocean. Right next door to us was a place called Dunes Resort that had a great selection of food, and an amazing view of the sunset. The restaurant caters to all sorts of palates, serving everything from Indian, American, Italian, and more. Fresh juice is a big deal here, and the Dunes restaurant served such life savers as the Morning After, with spinach, melon, and mint. The Morning After was concocted to cure your hangover, which was likely caused by the local rum, Old Monk. Old Monk costs around $1.00 per shot, and although it’s not too bad going down with a glass bottle of Coke, that Old Monk will punish you in the morning.
As far as things to do in Goa, there are many. You can be bathed by an elephant, visit the spice farms, go kite gliding or on a dolphin tour, visit temples or the old town, and try your luck at the many casinos. It is easy to see why some people spend so much time here. Actually, in Goa, time seems to almost stand still, dripping slowly like golden honey one day to the next. For what seemed like eternity we strolled the beach, stopping to eat now and then. No matter where we ate, what we ordered, the food was divine. B had the freshest kingfish, rubbed with tandoori spices and fired to perfection. I had the creamiest and most delicious grilled paneer. Paneer is to India what tofu is to China. It is a protein-rich substance with a chewy and satisfying texture. Of course, it is not healthier than tofu, but it tastes a million times better. I also became addicted to naan bread, and would order lots of it with every meal. It wasn’t rare to see me laying on a beach chair, chewing on some naan.
Finally, I tore myself off of the beach and away from the buttered naan, and went to look for something new, that wouldn’t take much effort (all of this eating and relaxing was obviously taking it’s toll). I opted for the massage, as it took the least amount of energy. We were referred to a small and inconspicuous apartment, above the busy street market. I went with the yogic massage, which is similar to Thai massage in that there is a lot of stretching and pressure involved. The practitioner, a stout man with intense brown eyes began to prepare for the massage as he breathed in deeply, and grounded himself. He began by walking on the bottom of my feet, as I lie face down, and it felt quite nice. That nice feeling didn’t last as he dug his fingers in between my shin and calf, I jerked. “You have blocking here.” I believed him because that is exactly what it felt like as he continued to apply heavy pressure there. I gritted my teeth as he pressed and prodded at different parts of my legs. Then, I moved onto my back, he lifted my foot to his shoulder and flexed my foot. I’m holding my breath, hoping to pass out, rather than deal with the pain I guess, “Breathe deep breath.” I follow instructions, and it does numb the pain a bit. The next hour goes by quickly, as I am stretched from limb to limb, socket to socket. I stood up and felt energized, and clear headed. There was something pretty cool about that yogic massage.
As I walk out of the concrete stairwell, feeling like I am floating on air, I see people of all sorts. Burly blond men from Russia, folks from the UK, a few talkative Aussies, and a handful of North Americans. Every once in a while a cow or two would plod past, lazily munching on grass, knowing it’s untouchable. The fine for killing a stray cow or dog is 5,000 Rupees. We learned later from our very friendly and very wise cab driver that there is no fine for killing a person. Imagine that, an animal’s life being more valuable than a human’s.
In this part of Goa, you won’t see are high rise resorts and excess. It’s quite refreshing actually. What you will see are a lot of dreadlocks, drum circles, birthday suits, and free spirits. Word on the street Is that the “real” hippies have gone to another beach, as Arambol and Mandrem have gotten too touristy for them. So, these must be the “fake” hippies then, the ones who don’t grow their own dreadlocks, but purchase them from a stall up the dirt road. I’m not sure I can tell the difference, I just like the fact that people here seem to walk to the beat of their own drum.
We met a lovely couple from Bristol at our favorite spot, the Dunes restaurant, who were on their way to a completely new life in Australia. He is a carpenter by trade, and she worked in insurance. They decided to rent out their flat, close up their affairs in England, and head out for a tour of Asia before settling in Perth. They have been on fascinating travels. On a previous trip around the world they had been to Borneo, Tahiti, Thailand, Laos, and more. On their way to Australia, they just live one moment to the next, going where the airfare is cheap. The night we met them, they were looking into flights to the Maldives. The travel bug is in everyone we meet. We soak in their stories, share our own, and always leave the conversation hungry for another trip.