Fun in the Sun and an Indian New Year in Goa

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Asia » India » Goa » Calangute
December 26th 2011
Published: August 20th 2012
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After 3 flights, 3 different airports and 21 hours of travelling we finally arrived in Goa, our first stop on a 2 week trip to India. On first exiting the airport we headed to the outdoor taxi rank and immediately had to barter the price for a taxi - welcome back to Asia!

Our hotel was in the beach town of Calungute, about 45 minutes away through winding rainforests and dusty side roads, and at 8am it was already hot, so after dropping our bags at our cute looking accomodation (a small-ish blue guesthouse called the Seagull) and changing, we went for a stroll down to the beach. The beach here was lovely, really wide with yellow sand and clear warm sea, and lined with small beach shacks, (although not as picturesque as the Thai beaches), so we picked a spot and spent the rest of the day sunbathing and eating until sunset. The food was great and so cheap, and as we love Indian food, we knew we would be putting on a few pounds on this trip! Apart from us and a couple of Russians, there were no other Westerners on the beach, it was mainly Indian guys, hardly any women or families which we found a bit strange, and the guys didn't seem to own swimming shorts - they would sunbathe and go in the sea in their tiny pants which we found funny!

After going back to the guesthouse to shower and change, we set about trying to get transport to the nearby town of Candolim, where the annual Sunburn electric dance festival was taking place over the next 3 days - one of our main reasons for coming to Goa! A small point to note here - although prices go up for accomodation over this time of year anyway, having the festival on as well doesn't help, and we paid at least double if not more than what we should have paid at any other time of year for our room, and even the taxi drivers had put their prices up, wanting to charge over £8 to go 3km which in India is extortionate! Anyway, as per usual Scott worked his magical haggling skills and we got a shared truck to Candolim with a few other people for a good price, excited to see what this festival would be like. There is just one straight road to Candolim and as everyone was going to the festival the traffic was solid and what should have taken 5 minutes in a car took over 45 minutes! But we got there in the end.

As soon as we arrived it was mayhem, as we only had our internet print outs for tickets and had to queue up to swap them over for the actual tickets - along with over 10,000 other festival-goers! We noticed straight away that not only were we practically the only Westerners here, we were the only people trying to queue properly - everyone was pushing their way to the front and elbowing us out of the way, shouting to people at the front of the queue to get their tickets for them and generally making it really time consuming and diffifcult to get to the front fairly. It didn't take long for Vic to get annoyed and start shouting at people to queue and stop pushing in, even though it didn't do much good it made her feel better! We eventually got to the front and exchanged our print outs for tickets, then we had to go and queue again to get into the actual festival. The queues here weren't too bad, but they were seperate for males and females, which meant Vic had to go in a seperate queue on her own which was a bit uncomfortable; being a Western girl standing alone she got a lot of stares from the men although more curious rather than leery.

Finally we got in and saw what all the fuss was about - this festival was huge with 4 big stages and lots of bars and food stations around the grounds, which were just behind the beach. We had a look at the line ups and decided who we wanted to see on which stage and when, and had an amazing night listening to great house music and dancing with locals who had come from all over India to experience this festival, and who were all really friendly. It was interesting to see that there were hardly any girls here like on the beach, it was about 80% men, and if there was girls they were part of a couple, no groups of girls like you see back at festivals in the UK. After the last DJ finished it was about midnight and we were starving, so followed the crowds to the main street and sat down for an India meal which was delicious and again so cheap! We both ate a starter, main, shared a rice, nan and side, plus 2 drinks, for about £6! Then came the task of trying to get transport back to Calungute where we were staying, but as all the drivers wanted about 4 times what the journey should have cost, we walked and got back quicker as the traffic was still gridlocked!

The next 2 days and nights followed the same routine - long hot days on the beach relaxing and eating great food, then going back to the hotel to shower and change before heading into Candolim to the Sunburn festival for a night of partying, before getting back to out hotel and eating another great Indian meal in the restaurant and going to bed! At home Vic normally only eats Chicken Korma, but here she was trying and loving everything from Biyriani to chicken tikka! On the 30th after the festival had ended, we had to change hotels as we had only booked the Seagull for 3 nights (silly of us really) so we went on a little mission to try and find some accomodation but everywhere was full! A little panic followed where we thought we may have to sleep on the beach until we came across a lovely guesthouse called Ola House, a couple of roads back from Seagull and the beach, but with a nice clean room and friendly hosts, so we left a deposit, went to get our bags and then dropped them at our new guesthouse where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. Again because of the time of year, we paid about £40 a night for a room which was annoying, as the owners told us would usually only cost £10-£15 a night outside of this period!

That night decided to go into a town called Baga about 5km in the other direction to Candolim, where the nightlife was said to be good, and suss it out to see if it was worth going there for NYE. As soon as we arrived you could tell it was much more touristy than Calangute - loads of shops selling fake designer bags and purses, restaurants with Western menu's and bars with thumping music and heaps of people - not what we had come to India for, so we headed down to the beach to eat instead. Not finding anywhere we fancied eating on the beach, we walked back up towards the main street and came acrosss a lovely restaurant where we had a delicious meal outside (Indian again, the food is so good!) and then attempted to get a cab back to our hotel. Like the road the other way to Candolim there is also just one straight road to Baga and it was solid with traffic, so we tried to walk a bit to try and get a car further down. After about 10 minutes of walking, Vic noticed loads of men staring at her as they walked past us to the main strip and it was making us both feel uncomfortable, so Scott gave her his t-shirt to put on over her top but the staring still continued! We eventually got a cab and called it a night, deciding to stay in Calangute for NYE!

NYE arrived and we spent the day on the beach in front of our usual beach shack, noticing how busy the beach had become in the last couple of days, but still with no women, except for the ones working in the shacks or offering massages along the beach it was all men, but unlike the ones in Baga they didn't stare at us and all the staff at the shack were friendly. That evening we headed to Seagull at about 7pm to watch the Man Utd game on TV and eat dinner, before getting a bottle of vodka from the local shop and heading down to the beach to see what was going on. The atmosphere was amazing! All the beach shacks were packed and had all rigged up lots of lanterns and fairy lights outside, there were lots of families and music so we settled at one and started drinking with a couple of friendly locals. It was only when one of the locals became a bit too friendly, offerring us his food, trying to buy us drinks, taking our photo loads, having arm wrestles with Scott and then looking at Vic in an inappropriate way and nodding and winking at Scott as if to say 'I have given you this now you give me your girlfriend' that we decided it was too much and we needed to move away and get some more drinks elsewhere!

The closer it became to midnight, the more everyone was getting into the party spirit, and even though there were families around it was still mainly a male environment. We found out that alcohol is pretty expensive in other parts of India but Goa is tax free, so a lot of the guys probably hadn't ever drunk very much before and it showed. For the next hour we were constantly asked to have our photos taken with people and dance with them, and although it started off fun and friendly, at one point Vic was pulled away from Scott into a big group of guys dancing and they started to behave really inappropriately and got way too excited, even touching her, so again we had to move away which was annoying. We found our own spot on the beach just before Midnight and waited for what was to be one of the best firework displays we have ever seen! It went on for about 15 minutes and was amazing with all different colours and patterns lighting up the sky. After that we walked down the busy beach where veryone was celebrating and found a boutique hotel having a party with a buffet and swimming pool, so we sneaked in, ate and drank for free, Scott went for a dip in his pants, and left before we got chucked out at about 2am to head back to our guesthouse. Definately a New Year to remember!

Jan 1st we woke up around 11am and it was quite cloudy so we decided to go into the Capital of Goa called Panjim for the day. We could have taken a car all the way there, but to save money and have a bit of an adventure, we got a tuk tuk to the ferry port about 20 mins away, then jumped on a cargo ferry for 20 minutes across the water to Panjim town. There wasn't alot to see here and most shops were closed, but we saw a nice park, a church type building and had a good lunch before heading back to Calangute for our last evening in Goa. That evening we decided to go into Candolim to eat as we had only been there for the festival and it seemed there were a lot of restaurants around. With the festival over there was no traffic and taxi prices were back to normal so it only took about 5minutes to get there! Walking around we noticed how strange it was that most of the restaurants actually had Russian menus, and there were loads of Russian holiday makers around, its obviously a popular place for Russki's and not that far away for them to come to, but we did feel like we were in Russia rather than India here! We walked down another street and had a great Indian meal at the restaurant we had eaten in the first night after Sunburn, before getting a tuk tuk back to our guesthouse. The next day we would be leaving Goa for Mumbai which we knew would be very different but didn't realise how different until we arrived there!!

We had an amazing week in Goa and loved the Sunburn festival, Goa wasn't how we thought it would be; it was much less built up, less touristy, great value, the food was more diverse than we imagined and so tasty, and even though sometimes the men made Vic feel a bit uncomfortable, it exceeded our expectations and we hope to go one day! Overall a great start to India - next stop, Mumbai!

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