We decided pretty quick that we all want to go to Goa and the South first. After about two days and countless chais1 in the train, we even arrived there at last. I don’t want to bore you with too many descriptions about Goa – it’s just fantastic. A tropical paradise. And compared to rest-India much cleaner and the locals here are just more relaxed. Goa is very much isolated from rest of India, by swamps and mountains, by culture and by rigorous immigrant policies. And the roads are good and – almost more important – the landscape is astonishing. It gives you so much freedom to drive through this landscape, through these little towns and past forgotten Portuguese mansions, over bridges going over mighty rivers and swamps… But if you don’t know India, it looks like Goa has seen it’s best days and everything is crumbling into ruins now. But this is normal for India(n maintenance) and just adds to this unique atmosphere of “undeveloped paradise”. (And to be fair, not only the Indians are to blame for the bad condition of their buildings but the monsoon, too).
However, on the way to Old Goa we were sacked by the traffic police for driving without license and without helmet and after bargaining, we still had to pay a lot of bakshish. But at least we got an “official” receipt. Joern said, he will enframe it and hang it on his wall as soon as we are home ;)
The beaches are all cool too, of course. After all, this is the main reason to come here. But everything except the South2 is full of beer-bellied package tourists. We spent most of the time in Benaulim (mostly old package tourists but a nice village flair), Palolem (backpacker and hippie stronghold) and Agonda (less crowded and more calm, will be like Palolem in a few years I figure).
1 Jens: “During the peak times on the train from Delhi to Goa, hordes of tea-sellers were running around in our compartments; perhaps as many as a German commuter sees in half his office life. On one morning, I even saw a traffic jam of tea-sellers. They were blocking each others way when they came from opposite directions. Cause they shout what they sell all the time, we could hear them from distance already.”
2 Goa is not a town but a state.