Vince arrives in Goa, where his party radar lets him down. An encounter with a young bracelet hawker however turns into an opportunity to spend the evening with an entire Indian family and form a bond that goes beyond the tourist dollar.
All I’d heard from anybody who’s traveled to or from India was that Goa was a party town; great beaches, parties on the sand, and lots of travelers. Don’t get me wrong, partying is not why I came to India at all, but it’s nice to hit some bars and meet some other travelers now and again. I’ve made some life-long friends over beers in strange lands.
Well, partying was not really on the menu for us. To start, I fell pretty sick for a few days when we first got to Anjuna, a town known for its beach trance parties. Tragically, I’ve never been a fixture on the trance scene, and Anjuna was no exception. But the one night we did manage to troll out to the beach to get amongst it, it was all but dead. I’ve since learned that Tuesday nights in Anjuna are when the crazy beach fiestas go down. Take note from my mistakes.
We did, however, have a really nice experience one of the evenings. We were walking home from the beach around sunset, when the most adorable young girl accosted me with a sack of bracelets for sale. Her cuteness was overwhelming so I forked over for a bracelet that I wouldn’t have bought from anybody else in the world. We sat around and chatted with her and her older cousins (ages 15, 18, 18, and 20) for a while longer as she hilariously tried to hawk more bracelets to my friends. After a little while we made it clear that no more unwanted, cuteness-forced jewelry transactions were happening, but we offered to take them to dinner, and they agreed excitedly. They closed up shop and walked us down to a restaurant that was called Seven-Eleven Cafe (hilarious). We all had a great time, chowing down on Indian food, cheers-ing Pepsis, and taking pictures. It just felt like a bunch of friends or cousins having a meal together.
After dinner they insisted that we come back to their house to meet their family, which we did. To call their housing modest would be really generous. I think by most people’s first world standards it would be considered uninhabitable, honestly. But the sincerity and generosity they showed us was overwhelming. They welcomed us inside, insisted we sit with them, offered us food, and introduced us to everyone around. It was really a special experience; it was very meaningful to have transcended that vendor-tourist relationship, if just for a brief evening. On a personal level, I think most travelers have difficulty sorting out the disparity between their personal experience “on holiday” and the communities who may be affected by their tourism. It’s one of the tough parts about traveling, and I don’t have the answer to what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s beneficial or harmful. But I do know that moments like these are the ones that take the economics out of the equation and bring people together to just be people.
I’m still wearing that bracelet that Silpa sold to me. I’m torn between it being a token of the great memories she gave me or a reminder of the fact that a nine-year-old girl is selling bracelets to idiots drinking on the beach…
After Anjuna we made our way further south to a town called Benaulim, which is an even sleepier beach village that attracts mostly middle-aged European couples (needless to say, the party scene was again quite mild). One of the days we rented motorbikes and took the “On The Road” moniker quite literally. We spent all day cruising the stunning countryside of Goa: jungles, open fields of rice paddies, bridges over rivers, back country roads, and small towns. Even though Anjuna and Benaulim aren’t big cities, it was awesome to get out in that open air of the countryside and just ride for kilometers without stopping. We dodged cows, tested out our honking abilities, and literally stopped every 10km to ask where the hell we were!
We made our way to a town called Quepem and checked out the “Old House” which is an old Portuguese colonial mansion that’s sort of just run down and sitting there. It’s got some nice gardens to walk around in and it’s pretty fascinating to creep around the mansion itself; Goa has a particular architectural flair as a consequence of it’s Portuguese colonization.
As the sun began to set we made one last stop in Margao before heading back into Benaulim. We were just having a look around, eating some banana chips, when we got accosted by these little boys who demanded piggy-back rides and trial use of our sunglasses. What is it about Goa and kids?!
Stay tuned to UTB for more of Vince’s adventures, or follow him “live” on Facebook and Twitter. Alternatively travel back in time and see what he got up to in Mumbai… in the aptly named “Love Birds” restaurant.