Goa, part 1: Video Night and All That Trance-Dance…

Anjuna Beach, Goa, India

Anjuna Beach, Goa, India

This is the point in a trip—about two-three months in—when I usually feel the need to go home, get domestic, charge some batteries, do some chores, and start planning the next one. That not being the operative concept these days, finding a chill deal on the road is the next best thing. One of the myths about long-term travel—and there are many—is that it requires constant motion, transfers and connections. Now that’s silly. After a couple months of some hard fast travel, it’s nice to kick back, buy some groceries, and do a little settling down, for at least a week or two. Goa’s good for that.

Goa is a bit hard to describe and comparisons don’t come easy, simply because it’s unlike any place I’ve ever really been before. The easiest comparison might be with Bali, but it could only happen in India, really, even though its roots are Portuguese and European. That means that wine, beer, liquor—and bars—are freely available. Though not illegal elsewhere, bars are rare and ‘wine shops’ seldom seen and scuzzy. It seems as though, as in many Muslim countries, to drink alcohol in India is discouraged but tolerated, as long as you feel dirty and guilty about it in the process.

Chapel by the Flea Market, Anuna, Goa, India

Chapel by the Flea Market, Anjuna, Goa, India

That’s not the case in Goa, though, with their Portuguese colonial legacy barely fifty years gone. Evidence of the Portuguese colonial era are everywhere, especially in the churches, the religion, and the names of the people. The faces show few traces of the races, but that’s no surprise. After all, northern Indians and Europeans have a common racial background that separated barely a few thousand years ago. In Malaysia, Portuguese Malaccan fishermen are darker than their Malay neighbors!

Goa is also a good place to catch up on some Western-style food. You’ll likely pay more than elsewhere anyway, so you might as well get some pasta or pizza as part of the package. It’s hard to find in the hinterlands. Prices on some things might be as high as their Western role models, though, so best to monitor the budget carefully, or you might bust it. There are even grocery stores! More than one! Again, that Chilean wine may cost more than in Europe, but it’ll be all yours, on the beach, at sunset.

But the best part of European Goa is the coffee IMHO. Brown-flavored milk doesn’t cut it, and carrying Nescafe supplements is about the best I’ve come up with until now—disgusting. There is an Indian gourmet coffee chain with US-like prices, so I’m growing more accustomed to that. At least they aren’t European prices. They try to pad the bill, though. Resist (and make them feel guilty about it; it works). Better still, Goa’s got the real thing, no hyphens or marketing BS, just pure black gold, from funny-shaped apparatuses, rich and creamy, frothy and foamy. Wait a minute…

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Mae e filho, amor infinito

Mae e filho, amor infinito

Okay, I’m back. That felt good. Where were we? Oh yeah, coffee. The wine’s probably good, too… but coffee’s the main deal for me. And there’s entertainment, heavy on the trance-dance. The fanciest discos cost real money, though, about twenty-five bucks a couple. Yeow! And then there are the beaches, nothing special, basic salt-n-pepper, but still beaches. I don’t know what it’s like in high season, but the customers are few and far between at most restaurants and such right now, likely governed by some Malthusian law of infinite supply and inadequate demand.

To be continued…