Our flight from Kathmandu to Goa took us via Delhi and we spent 4 very unpleasant hours in Delhi airport which is, in our opinion, pretty average. On the plus side it does look like it has been built out of Daleks.
The highlight, however, was the truly uninspiring food court where the sound system was playing instrumental versions of songs in some kind of aural torture. The “artist” seemed to be attempting to use all of the different instrument buttons on a 50-year old keyboard; you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Despacito played slightly too slowly on a Casio pipe organ. 10 times.
We arrived in Goa in the early hours of the morning and, for ease, jumped in to a prepaid taxi. The driver thought he was a racing driver and pushed his clapped-out Tata to the limit, making the trip to Anjuna in record time. We spent 10 minutes or so hunting for our accommodation down the narrow lanes behind the seafront before eventually calling the owner who directed us to a hotel with a completely different name to the one which we had booked. It turns out the hotel had two names but by this point we were too tired to care about such things anyway. We were shown in to our room and the chap disappeared to find us sheets, something which we thought could perhaps have been achieved before we arrived at 2am. Eventually we made it on to the horizontal.
We emerged the next morning still bleary eyed to explore our new surroundings. We had decided to go to north Goa first because it is the party end of Goa and we thought that we would give it a try and if it turned out that we weren’t cool enough to be there (highly likely) then we would make our way south for the remainder of our stay. It had been dark when we arrived so we hadn’t been able to fully appreciate the view from our hotel, which could generously be described as rural.Fortunately, our friend from the previous night was awake and able to give us directions to the beach just 5 minutes away and we made our way there in search of breakfast. Being cool, Anjuna is full of vegan cafés, organic tattoo parlours and the like and we settled in Eva Café which James beautifully described as being a Pinterest dream with artfully distressed chairs and empty picture frames hung at different heights from a clothes rail. Absolutely every option on the menu had avocado in it and there was no such thing as a normal cup of tea, that’s the sort of place where we had found ourselves. We ordered the only two things on the menu in which we recognised all of the ingredients and were presented with very pretty, if a little unfulfilling, food.
That being said, we could not fault the view.
You can walk along the beach but, as there are a fair few outcrops of stones and the tide has a habit of coming all the way up to the back of the beach, we opted to walk along the road that runs behind the beachfront properties, through the ever-present markets stalls.
It was mid-April and the temperatures in Goa were in the high 30s, in other words; really bloody hot. We therefore tried to restrict our walking as much as possible and on that first day we lay down on the first sun loungers that weren’t in danger of being washed out to sea by the waves and stayed there all day.A majority of our fellow beachgoers were Indians on holiday and we were in a prime spot for some excellent people watching. What followed was a display of delightful, baffling behaviour accompanied by the usual flurry of selfie-taking. We were approached for pictures on numerous occasions which was even more uncomfortable than usual as we were essentially half naked and the requestors all fully dressed. We politely declined. There were so many notable moments but there are a few that we will mention so that you get a taste of our experience.
No.1: Large groups of men would come and sit on the sun loungers until one of the lads from the restaurant would arrive asking them for money at which point they would move on again. One such group of 10, all in matching swimsuits, did decide to fork out for the shade and spent the next two hours shouting and taking hundreds of pictures of themselves in various positons holding bottles of beer. They did have a rather upsetting habit of buying packets of food, wading out in to the sea to eat them and then throwing the wrappers in the sea, so we were quite glad when they decided to migrate up the beach. Sadly, this behaviour is not that uncommon in Anjuna and once you step back from the beachfront the litter is really quite dreadful.
No.2: Three couples, none of whom could swim, standing fully dressed in the sea and screaming every time a wave hit them. They all insisted on holding hands in a circle as if this would somehow help them once they were knocked over. A particularly powerful wave knocked one couple over and somehow, she ended up face down in the sea with someone on top of her for a good 10 seconds. She coughed up a few lungfulls of seawater before they all plunged back in. So, there seems to be fairly little understanding of the dangers of the sea.
No.3: A single white man, who we took to be Russian. He was the most burnt man we have ever seen and he kept joining groups of strangers in the water and posing for selfies.
No.4: A group of 4 young Indian lads who stripped to their vests and tighty-whiteys immediately in front of us and spent 20 minutes piling sand on their heads and taking selfies. It was like watching an adult-sized kindergarten.
No.5: We saved the best until last. The most fabulous couple, who looked to be in their mid to late 40s, sat down on the sun loungers right next to us. It was fairly evident from the get go that neither of them could swim but this did not deter them in the slightest. The woman plonked herself down in the surf and proceeded to splash and play like a child, clearly having the time of her life until she was bowled over by a large wave and emerged coughing and spluttering. The obvious next step was to scramble up the beach and coerce her equally aquatically incapable husband in to the sea with her. He was about 7’10” and very thin and we immediately dubbed him the Indian Sheldon Cooper. Surprisingly, the pair managed to stagger around in the waves without drowning and returned to the sun-loungers soggy and perfectly content. James was watching all of this unfold intently as he is unashamedly nosey whilst Caro was drifting in and out between sessions of turning her face to the sun like a happy lizard. So, it was James who first drew attention to the following scene:
James: (Whispering) Chicken, chicken, chicken
James: (Still whispering) Sheldon is shampooing his hair
James: (Whispering slightly louder) Sheldon is shampooing his hair
Caro: (Not whispering) What?!
Sure enough, Sheldon was sat on his sun lounger lathering up. This required our full attention and we watched in incredulity as he strode back to the sea looking like an enormous cotton bud. Washing the shampoo out was problematic as he was unwilling to go any further than calf deep in to the sea and was forced to cup handfuls of water and pour them over his head. Each time a wave came in Sheldon decided that the water was too deep and scuttled back up the beach, as the water receded he followed it back in to the sea, all the while bent double trying to collect water in his hands. This all gave the impression of a slightly demented crab with a frothy head. He did eventually manage to wash all of the shampoo out of his hair and returned to his sun lounger utterly exhausted. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that there was a shower on the wall behind us.
All in all, it was a very successful day on the beach and only slightly marred by the constant streams of ladies offering henna, massages, bracelets and hair braiding all of whom introduced themselves to Caro and all of whom claimed to be called Sharon. This too was made worthwhile because there were also men doing henna tattoos and Sheldon, being the absolute hero that he is, opted to have a dragon on his arm.
We spent pretty much all of our time in Anjuna on the beach or eating. For day two we went further down the beach to Curlies which is famous for its parties but during the day offers a quiet corner of the beach which is relatively unpopulated and made for a more relaxing day than the first.We largely used tripadvisor to find places to eat and this frequently took us away from the busier restaurants on the seafront and back through where the locals live. You sometimes forget when you are sat on the beach quite how poor the area is, 5 minutes walk quickly reminds you.
About half a kilometre back from the beach we found ourselves in the jungle and all the relief that the sea breeze provided had gone, it was very sweaty but really quite pretty.
Peak season was definitely over and a couple of the restaurants that we tried were closed but we did manage to find a couple of nice meals; Goa’s Ark, Artjuna and Sun Set Guest House all served up tasty food and the latter is on the seafront so we enjoyed dinner and a gorgeous sunset on our second night.On our final day in Anjuna we had kept the morning free to go to the famous Anjuna Flea Market. We had read that the market has lost some of its edge and is no longer a place to track down oddities and vintage clothes but still had appeal for visitors. Unfortunately, we didn’t really agree. Granted, the market is impressively large and the ramshackle, rambling construction of the place is cool but beyond that it is just an expanse of tat stalls and definitely wouldn’t advise planning your trip around being there on a Wednesday.
We had a late breakfast back at Sun Set Guest House to close out our north Goa trip.
So, we didn’t necessarily think that north Goa was too cool for us, although it probably was, but we just didn’t feel that inspired by the place. We had a couple of good meals and the beach was quite nice but the extensive litter and the fact that there was no substance to the place beyond tourist tat shops just did not appeal to us at all. In all fairness, north Goa is known for its party scene and there is a good chance that we would have enjoyed it more if we were willing or capable of staying up beyond 10:30pm. Never mind, the more laid-back vibe of south Goa beckoned.