Lazing on the beach

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of India  ,
Sunday, February 18, 2007

He Said:

In the 1500's, the region which is now Goa was a Portuguese colony. Even though I have yet to meet a single Portuguese person here, they certainly left a religious legacy. Goa it is strongly Christian in otherwise Hindu-dominated India. After spending a month in India, the cathedrals in many Goan cities, trucks with signage such as "The Infant Jesus Goods Trucking Company" and restaurant menus conspicuously offering steak and pork are just a few of the things that can make you do a double-take. Liberal laws regarding alcohol, low cost of food and accommodations, and sublime beaches established many Goan coastal towns as legendary pilgrimage spots for beach bumming westerners since the 1960's. Although lately much of the state has gone a bit upmarket courting charter flights and package tourism from the UK, there are still a number of places that refreshingly remain lightly developed.

I spent the final week of my previous trip to India on Palolem Beach in the far south of Goa. I loved it here, so this time around, bringing Katie was a must. Before when I visited it was during the monsoon season (July/August) and the grey skies made things pretty quiet with only had a few dozen travelers and a couple of guesthouses open. There has been a flurry of construction in the last four years. Four years ago, most of the long stretches of beach were bordered by nothing but palm groves. That tranquility has given way to wall-to-wall thatched huts, plywood bungalows and hastily constructed beach cafes. (Look at the before and after photos above) Although we are here in high season and the beaches are dotted with the sun worshipping western backpackers, there is still an authentic air about the place. Fishermen still take their outrigger boats out in the morning and evenings to get the daily catch, cows wander the beach, kids play pickup games of cricket on the sand, and life still remains pretty simple. Although Palolem is a hundred times more developed than I remembered, it is still beautiful and wonderfully relaxing, just not quite as far off-the beaten-path anymore.

Katie and I have pretty much fallen into our beach routine, where the bulk of the day is consumed reading under a beach umbrella and any remaining time is spent sitting in a café or lounging in a hammock. Rough stuff! The only stresses are deciding which of the dozens of beach cafes to patronize for our next meal and occasionally shrugging off the itinerant vendors selling anything from day-glow stickers of Hindu deities to bongo drums.

So here is all have to report:
1. The tan is coming along nicely
2. I finally finished reading the mammoth Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
3. You can actually get pretty good Mexican food here

So tomorrow we are taking a train inland to see the ruins of the ancient kingdom of Vijayanagar at the chilled out town of Hampi. A few days later we'll be moving on to Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India before finishing up our time in India in Mamallapuram and Chennai on the east coast.

She Said:

Since Todd had already been to this particular beach a few years ago, he consistently told me how "far off the beaten path" this place was. He recounted tales of only seeing 3 people on the entire beach in one day. He had me thinking that we needed to stock up on toilet paper and water before arrival. So... either he was grossly exaggerating, or things have really changed here! The path is so beaten down, that it is paved! There are literally 50 guesthouses and as many restaurants along the one mile stretch of beach here. In the last 8 days, we have repeatedly been offered fruit, stickers, book reading lights, books, jewelry, stickers, boat rides, little magnetic rocks that click together repeatedly as they repel, drums, ayurvedic massages, facials, and happy hour specials more than 10 times a day. Once you become deaf to these offers, then it becomes easy to relax and focus on a good book.

The place we are staying is made up of about 20 tiny little individual huts made of plywood walls and tiled roofs (insulated with India's most common building material - blue camping tarps). There is about a one-foot space between the top of the wall and the roof that is open, allowing the sea breezes and crashing waves to lull you to sleep. But at the same time, it also allows the crows, roosters and hundreds of roving dogs to wake you up before dawn. Which by the way hasn't really bothered us, considering we are asleep by 9pm every night! All this laying around on the beach is getting exhausting!

My frayed nerves really needed this time at the beach. All the long train rides and the emotional rollercoaster that goes along with traveling in India had started to wear on me, and I was becoming increasingly homesick for the good 'ole USA. After a week of lazing around the beach, dining in an authentic Mexican restaurant several times, and not using a single form of transportation other than my own two feet, I feel recovered... at least enough for our remaining 10 days in India!!
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