First world problems in the third world

Coming up to one week in Goa and it hasn’t all been as easy as we might have thought. Goa, if you didn’t already know, is one of India’s smaller states and up until 1961 was ruled by the Portuguese. The Indians are to be commended for kicking out the Portuguese who were always takers and gave little in return. Portugal was run by an awful fascist government at the time and were one of the last European powers to be dislodged from their significant colonies after that government was deposed in a military coup in 1974. Portugal is now an altogether nicer place and the disparate international lusophone community is an interesting legacy. Anyway, the Indians had little patience in showing them the door and the rest is history. Geographically the state is spread down the coast with the capital, Panaji (or Panjim) more or less dividing into north and south Goa. Legend has it that in the modern tourist world north Goa is party town and south Goa laid back and quiet.

Map of GoaAs usual, the real world is not that simple, but we based our decision to spend time here on the basis that we would head north first before looking at the south. Not that we were looking for Ibiza style rave parties but were keen to find a vibrant place and like-minded people to pass the time. Accommodation ranges from the extremely high upmarket resorts and downwards.

So, we have been staying in a place called Calangute. This is a fairly busy place compared with some of the other beachside towns but is reasonably closer to central Goa and has a lot of amenity. We have now completed short tours of the north and south and in some ways are none the wiser about where to set up a more permanent home. We went as far south as Palolem beach which is very nice but undergoing rapid development and dropped by at others like Agonda, Colva, Majorda and Cansaulem beaches. The lush south is lovely (around Palolem and Agonda) but kind of falls a bit short of our needs a bit by being quite far from long distance travel infrastructure such as airports and train stations. By the way I stupidly did not visit Goa on my first trip to India in 1976 but the downside of that is I may have been grievously disappointed by its current state. As we moved north, towards Panaji, the beaches got a bit awful but some of the hinterland wasn’t too bad. I was hoping for more from this area as it would be more convenient for the airport and long-distance travel.

Panaji is a pleasant enough city but doesn’t really attract as a base to live. Being near the beach is part of the reason for being here. There are city beaches in Panaji but not really very nice. I’m not too sure about the water quality there, being next to a port.

North Goa was more crowded with tourists. Morjim being the stand out beach in terms of beauty. But to be honest they start to seem much the same. Russians are multiplying everywhere. They can be seen splodging on most beaches like bloated white things gradually turning into lobsters. There are the few very hot exceptions of course. At first, we treated them as potentially not people you want around but after the raucous sound of loud Americans trampling around Iceland still ringing in our ears, they seem largely unobtrusive and quiet. A taxi driver told us that they had “evolved” over the years. The first of them being known for being incredibly rude and condescending but they had changed as they morphed into mainstream tourists. For the most part they are in family groups and there are the occasional twits walking down the beach with their ghetto blasters blaring.

Complicating the picture now is the Diwali holidays have brought in huge numbers of Indian tourists. Other concurrent festivals such as the Guajarati new year have swelled the number of badly-behaved groups of blokes blokeing around town and annoying locals with their behaviour. This is their tendency to drink to excess and leave a trail of litter throughout the local towns and beaches. Many of them are friendly and impeccably polite it must be added.

After the week we are not much the wiser. We may well stay in the area but will seriously start looking for longer term deals. This will also be an iterative process no doubt but the serious searching begins this week. We are looking for a two-bedroom apartment to accommodate Max, who arrives in three weeks, and itinerant festive friends.

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