The world literally descends on Goa for the New Year celebrations and I know this after spending one New Year eve at Calangute beach being the only pair of brown customers in a restaurant near the beach! Goa ofcourse is different for different people, for the party goers one has the Tito’s and the Tito wannabes and for people like me Goa has its villages, farms, forests and untouristed beaches (yes untouristed is not a word, but it should be)!
Burning the old man is a custom very unique to Goa, usually kids take up the task of collecting money for the old man before burning him on New Year eve at the beach. This enterprising bunch of kids we met everyday during our stay there as they were raising money. We stayed at Calangute beach for the New Year mainly because staying somewhere else and then trying to get to Calangute beach would have been madness because the world does descend on Goa for the New Year!
The beach is ofcourse the perfect place to bum out at a shack. The beaches in Goa I must say have improved in terms of patrolling and keeping clean with systems in place keeping up with the increased tourism. The only major thing that bummed me out was the male gaze that kept following women on the beach. I almost didn’t get into the water because of the men who pretended to be taking pics of the beach or the sea and instead were filming women in their bathing wear. This is one place where India and the world so strongly collide.
That said I have seen the other side of Goa as well when my sarong slipped away from my bathing suit and we stepped into a shop near by to buy shorts for me. As he did not have a card machine the shop keeper took my husband on his scooter to the ATM which was a little far away as I waited in his shop unaccompanied and in my new shorts.
I have been to Goa many times before and can see the changes that have come along. The menu cards, boards and other commercial establishments seemed to have boards written in Russian. I am happy for the tourism this brings in but somewhere along the line some intrinsic charm of a place gets changed. I also believe that no place can remain the same for eons together, change will happen and Goa has changed in this manner.
Goa must be different things to different people but the warm, welcoming nature of the people of Goa remains constant. The conversations with the people weather it is a group of fishermen who are trying to convince us to go fishing with them or the lady at a bakery selling bibingka. This last trip, I bought bibingka from a local bakery and ended up finishing the whole pie and more.
Goa has forests and protected wildlife sanctuaries where they are developing eco tourism but it is not as well known in the tourist circles. This is the best part of Goa that I love which is the countryside and the wilderness mainly because my intrinsic nature is that of a dreamer. It is here that I have found gems that I treasure like the Christmas tree made out of wine bottles and the first sun rays of the New Year on a sleepy village road.
Happy New Year folks!