Well where else would a Gohemian go in India? To GOA of course!
Make the journey from chaotic Mumbai to this state of beach bliss and you will not believe you are still in the same country. You sure ain’t in Kansas anymore Toto! It’s cleaner, there are large houses with fenced gardens, lazy towns and the roads are amazingly quiet!
We were amazed, after being in numerous other packed-to-the-brim cities, it was mightily refreshing.
It’s beautiful! It’s relaxed. There is fresh air and no horns being blared – JOY!
It’s out-of-season and pretty perfect if you can handle the heat at end of March/April. From November to February Goa is insanely busy and very expensive, so this time of year really is great. There’s not half as many parties and therefore drugged-up idiots to disrupt your relaxation.
The sea is the temperature of a warm bath, the skyline is dominated by skyscraping coconut trees, the dominating sound is that of the vast selection of wildlife Goa chooses to home. Just beautiful.
You will still experience classic ‘India-isms’, as I like to call them.
- You will see rubbish everywhere. People throwing their bottles to the floor and even worse on the beach and into the sea.
-You be approached by people from stalls as you walk by. Even more so probably because, now, you’ve entered into holidaymaker’s territory, your ‘moneybags’ status has been upped even higher. You are a millionaire to these guys and boy do those sellers want you to part with your cash.
As soon as we walked onto the beach for the first time, we heard cat calls of ‘Hello Friend! Hello Madam! Come look my shop!’ from sellers and they won’t stop until they’ve ‘befriended’ you and dragged you in to just ‘look no buy’.
But what you will find even more frustrating, my travel buddies, is how sunbathing and relaxing is unfortunately near-impossible thanks to these sellers bothering you every 5 mins. :/
But past the India-isms Goa is a very beautiful part of the world and you will love the scenery, the social pub and bar culture (unlike in the rest of India) and the clean air! Ahhh.
We stayed in an amazing place on Anjuna Beach called Vanilla Guesthouse. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to Anjuna, you MUST stay here! I’ve spoke about family-run guesthouses previously but this place really is the best. The Bocarro family make you feel so welcome, it’s pretty heartbreaking to leave them.
In fact, we decided to stay in Goa for 18 days, instead of 14, because we felt so at home there. The family even let us cook our own food using their BBQ, which saved us so much money. They showed us their family photo albums, shared stories, gave us endless pieces of advice and even gave us an insight into traditional food preparation.
Erwin, the father of the household, works in the next big city Panjim and so very kindly took us there and brought us back one day, so we could sightsee. They really do go the extra mile for their guests and expect nothing from it (but we of course bought them a thank you gift).
The guesthouse in itself is perfect. Pauline loves gardening so there are beautiful plants everywhere you look, her children love animals so there are birds and terrapins to look at downstairs. Our room was very nice (on the front of the building), it’s a stone’s throw away from the beach and it has a great patio/balcony area which is great for relaxing. It even has a chair swing and hammock (so of course I had to have a go in that).
Now Anjuna is a busy holiday and partying destination, so you will be hearing trance parties on the beach and seeing groups of drunken folks around (just like the average Saturday night eh?). But like I said going this time of year, is much better than at peak season. We experienced next-to-no trouble during our stay there. The only thing was a football fan in a bar, who just got a little bit too aggravated by the fact we cheered on the opposite team to his. Oh dear what a loser :/
But our friends at Vanilla Guesthouse told us there is a real drug issue here and naturally a lot of trouble that stems from that. They refuse to let their kids go roaming too far and not even onto the beach unsupervised because of needles lying around etc.
But there are lots fun things to do to entertain yourself within the area, without having to get super wasted. So here are my Goho Goa tips:
Eating and drinking is always fun right?! So go to the Moon Star restaurant near the market stalls before the beachfront. They do the cheapest eats and cocktails/drinks are much more reasonable here than elsewhere and the staff are lovely too
Guru Bar is fun on a Wednesday night for the live Reggae band. This place generally has a more alternative/hippy feel to it and they play descent music. It also has it’s own guesthouse but being next to the bar means it could be that little bit noisier but very sociable at least.
Janet & John’s restaurant and bar on the beach, do a buffet on a Monday and Thursday with a live band playing every week. They play blues/rock, do some funny covers including a pretty rad mashed-up version of Ghostbusters and get everyone involved. It really is a treat to hear live music instead of the awful techno crap booming out of everywhere else so I definitely recommend. This place also has a really friendly community feel to it, so you will spot some fun hippie types that have been around since the 70s. This place also proved a great spot for finding celeb lookalikes. We spotted an Indian Keith Richards, an Indian Billy Joe (Greenday) and a hippy Johnathan Davis (Korn) with a handbag.
Go to the Sea Queen bar and restaurant to watch a movie. The staff are, unfortunately, pretty rude here, especially if your only buying drinks and no food, but when there’s no other movie places to go – it does the job. Wander over to the bar in the day and outside on a blackboard will be a sign saying what movie will be showing that night. If the film quality sucks (especially if it’s bad pirate copy) don’t be afraid to kick up a fuss and get them to change it. We watched everything from Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill to Big Stan (a fave of mine) and Don’t Mess With The Zohan, it was pretty fun.
Go to Anjuna’s Flea Market on Wednesday. It’s overwhelmingly large and has everything – clothing and gift wise, but prepared to haggle (as with everything else, they will try to rip you off), so think of what your happy to pay and don’t go above that. If they refuse, just walk away – you may get a better deal out of it, you may not so just go with it, your wallet will be happier for it
Outside the beach entrance to the Flea Market are some sun-loungers and parasols. This place is perfect for relaxing. We hardly got hassled at this spot at all so you can actually relax and enjoy the peace and the view. The chairs and parasols belong to the bar located at the back of the Market, so staff will come out and ask you if you want anything but there is no pressure whatsoever to buy. The older gentleman who works at this bar is a darling, super polite and gentlemanly – he deserves the big tips if you go there!
Stroll along the beach and people watch. Anjuna is a really nice stretch of coastline, and offers much more than just sunbathing/drinking. Walk the length of the beach and you will reach some rocks which you can climb over and then go up a pretty steep hill to take in the amazing view.
You can try to catch crabs, watch the little transparent ones as they run to and from the water in a panic and create these amazing little homes. They are hugely entertaining little critters.
Then I recommend getting to know Anjuna a bit better. So why not just go walking and get exploring. Ignore the taxi and scooter offers and just have a good stroll. There may not be pavements but people will blare their horns when they see you, so you always know when someone is coming. Get off the beaten track, I dare you.
Venture over to the other beaches. We tried to get over to Baga beach but you have to go by taxi/water taxi so we decided against it as we were trying to be sensible with £. There also were less water taxis due to it being out of season, but any other time I’m sure it’s fine. But you can instead, make your way to Vagator and enjoy some new scenery. In fact, this beach really is very nice as it’s less commercial, quieter and has people patrolling the sand to collect any rubbish (unlike elsewhere).
Go to Panjim on a day trip. It’s a beautiful and really well-maintained city. We ventured into public parks whenever we could, to get away from the chaos, but the Art Park in Panjim was definitely the best. It was spotless and so well-cared for, I’ve got to admit the others are not like that – there’s usually rubbish around and the grass is usually flooded from hoses that are left on an area of grass but never moved. The streets were also spotless, it was definitely the cleanest city, we had seen, in India.
Then you could do something really different:
Go to church – it’s been a while right? Well St Michael’s and St Anthony’s whitewash, Portuguese-influenced facades are really worth seeing. In a country dominated by temples and mosques, it’s really nice to see something a bit closer to home. And the chorus of hymns you hear cascading out of them on a Sunday morning is just beautiful!
Go coconuts! You learn as soon as you hear that loud crack of a falling coconut, you need to get out there fast to find it. People run out trying to find them as soon as they’ve hit the ground, so make a game out of it yourself. It’s pretty fun trying to get your own fresh taste of paradise. Sure, you can buy them from anywhere but where’s the fun in that?!
Cook your own food (if you can). If your guesthouse can provide a BBQ, like ours did, then get those culinary hands working up a treat. We had a lot of fun playing around with flavours and styles. It really is worth getting out of Anjuna to buy your food as the supermarkets are geared more for tourists and so are very expensive.
We went to the nearby town of Mapusa on the bus (which was a hot, sticky, cramped experience in itself) but we got some amazing fresh fruit and veg and some spicy Goan sausage at the market there.
Look out for a future post from me with lots of recipes of great cheap meals to cook while backpacking. We cooked lots of yummy, filling meals chock full of fresh veg and goodness so I’m sure you’ll enjoy them too.
Toast to living the good life with a glass of Old Monk Rum and Coke. It’s the best rum I’ve ever tasted (it tastes just like the rum flavouring in rum and raisin ice cream) and it’s very cheap (in the bars and in the supermarket).
Take sunset pictures on the beach and just revel in being far away from home and in a little bit of paradise!
Enjoy lovers and I’d love to hear more feedback, thanks so much for all your comments and kind words it’s always appreciated.
Love & suntan lotion Em xoxo