Moving between places in India is not hard, as long as you know what you’re doing.
This trip is supposed to be all whimsical and romantic and nomadic and stuff; pick a place and go there, take your time doing so, and enjoy the ride. I’m hoping you’re imagining hippies in a combie van rolling down a dirt road, because that’s what I have in my brain. Sadly Andrew and I are not hippies and we don’t own a van….
Booking a train
We had anticipated being able to just book a train on a whim and go between cities, like we do at home. This simply isn’t the case. With 4 times as many people as the NZ population in Mumbai alone, it’s not surprising that you have to be a little more organised than this. Throw in the fact that heaps of payment portals on Indian websites don’t accept foreign cards and we found that making the next step out of the city was hard.
Try a bus instead
So there was no chance of us getting on a train from Mumbai to Goa. After some advice from a friend we decided to try a sleeper bus to take us 600 or so kilometers between Mumbai and our final destination, Anjuna Beach. Our foreign card still didn’t work, so hotel to the rescue! Luckily the hotel was able to book our bus for us, so finally, we had tickets, we booked an Airbnb and we were back on track.
Nestled between the coastal beach towns and inland villages of Goa there is also no doubting the evidence of Indo-Portuguese heritage. The Portuguese arrived in 1510, lured by the exotic East and the promise of lucrative spice routes. Since then it became a haven for hippies traveling the less beaten road in the 60s, and now Goa is a holiday destination of choice for Europeans (especially Russians) who want to soak up some sun, enjoy some good food and take in a slower pace of life (unless they’re attending the raves on a beach…). While April is not peak season (it’s too hot and humid) there was still stuff going on.
Goa boasts a number of beach towns for the sun seeker. Some people choose to base themselves in one place and hire a scooter to travel to nearby beaches, but since we only had 3 days to enjoy the slower pace of life we chose the sleepy town of Anjuna, picked a gorgeous Portuguese villa to stay in and settled in for some sunning, some reading, some good food and some r&r.
The Anjuna flea market
Every Wednesday, from November to April, the town of Anjuna descends on the beach and takes part in a flea market. Originally, back when the hippies were running the show, this was the place where anyone could sell their second hand stuff, and make a quick buck to fund their next beer, bed or meal.
Nowadays things are far more mainstream and the mainstay sellers are there selling locally made and cheaply imported gear. Get past the tribal girls from Karnataka urging tourists to ‘come look in my shop’ where they sell t-shirts and ‘baba’ pants, and the rest of the merchandise comes from all over; spices and tea from Kerala; sculptures and jewellery laid out on the floor by Tibetan traders and beautiful saris and linens from Rajasthan flapping in the breeze. Get past the constant noise of people begging for your attention and it’s really quite a fun day out.
One of my highlights was a man and his cow, who were dressed up to the nines of the day and would offer blessings to anyone who would cross his palm with Rupees.
In our 3 quick days we were offered all sorts of things by people on the streets. Taxis, Aruvedic healing potions, Goan curry, and most randomly, weed. Blokes would sidle up to Andrew and in deep quiet tones would ask ”Hey, you need a…’smoke’?” Of course, we said no. This all happened while we walked the beach, and the main drag, avoiding the scooters and cows that make up the majority of traffic down these ways.
Yup, food features again. Andrew and I found a little family run restaurant called the Buddah Tree, and after a first successful meal of Thali (sort of like a curry sampler with rice and bread) we were pretty much hooked. The crazy french chef and the kids who helped out around the edges just added it its charm.
Goa is all about the seafood and the Portuguese influence. We were told that we must try a Goan prawn curry, so we did and it was good. Salty and buttery and full of fresh prawns, just like you’d expect.
Three days in Anjuna was probably enough, but it wasn’t enough to let us go explore the rest of the region, the other beaches and the inland towns. Its of no surprise to me that people come back here year after year for the slow pace of life, the sun soaked beaches and the gorgeous sunsets.
Where to next
After a hair-raising taxi trip to Goa airport we flew to Kolkata (formally Calcutta) to enjoy some city life, the cricket and the lack of humidity in the north.