After shivering our way through the Himalayas for 3 weeks, we made a brief stop in Delhi and then headed to the beaches of Goa to thaw out. Since this was going to be our last weekend together in Southeast Asia, we made it a long one. I was heading back to California to start a new job (boo!), while Annie was going to stay another month and finish up her projects.
Though the state of Goa is on the west coast of India, it was controlled by Portugal up until the mid 1960’s. So, it is known for having a unique, laid-back vibe compared to the rest of India.
Given that we heard such great things about Goa and Goans, we were a bit puzzled by the inept and unfriendly service – something that we were accustomed to in other parts of India (see our taxi ride from hell). But then we learned the root of the problem.
It turned out that many of the businesses were owned and staffed by northern Indians rather than by local Goans. Don’t get us wrong – we think people from northern India, in general, are great. In a restaurant or hotel setting, however, we’ve repeatedly been underwhelmed by their approach to customer service. And it was no different in Goa.
We were also surprised to find out that Goa is essentially the Russian Riviera. It felt like there were just as many advertisements written in Russian as there were in English. We even heard rumors that the Russian Mafia was getting into the resort business on the northern coast.
We based ourselves in a modern hotel just south of the airport. It was surrounded by coconut groves and felt very tropical with regular sightings of snakes, warthogs, and monkeys. If we had just rented a scooter and only planned on exploring the quite southern beaches, the hotel would have been a decent choice. But we also wanted to explore the city and beaches to the north, which were kind of a long trek. And it got kind of noisy in the evening...
The southern beaches were great for relaxing in solitude. There were plenty of places with only a half-dozen tourists and small food & drink shacks. As you go farther north, we found the beaches got a lot more annoying with lots of leering and hawking.
A quick side note…if you happen to be an Indian male who goes to beaches solely for the purpose of leering at women, here are some quick tips:
- Muster some self-control and break your gaze more often. Aggressively staring at someone for 1-2 minutes straight is likely to make them put on more clothes and move away from you, which ultimately defeats your goal of being creepy.
- Leering while your wife stands patiently behind you waiting for you finish staring, so you can then both continue your stroll down the beach is universally uncool.
- Getting in the water, making a straight bee-line over to a woman, and then just staring at her is lame too. Maybe you are just diligently keeping an eye out for a sneaky tsunami wave, but really, it just puts you back into the uncool zone.
One amazingly eye-opening phenomenon that we got to experience was a sunset river cruise out to Arabian Sea. These trips are extremely popular and sell out every weekend night. Why are they so popular? Their secret sauce rests upon the fact that India is very conservative when it comes to courtship.
It is considered scandalous for unmarried men and woman to go out dancing. But these cruises offer young people the chance to get up and dance in front of each other – not together, but in turns. Watch the men's turn!
It felt like “Footloose, the India saga”. Men were invited up to the dance stage for a few songs and then ushered back to their seats. Then, ladies were invited up. But, before they took the stage, the crowd was warned about two serious violations: 1) absolutely no whistling and 2) no pictures.
It seemed a little strange that the boat had about five big bouncer guys, but, it turns out, they needed them. On a few occasions, they had to physically stop men from walking up to the dance stage, camera phone in hand, trying to get a closer picture of the few brave women who were dancing on the stage.
After Goa, we made a short stop back in Singapore, so I could pack up and head back to the US. Annie stayed behind and continued working, making a few more trips to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia without me. The silver lining of my departure was that she now got the window seat on planes.