Goa and chill
I’m feeling very spoilt as I’m looking at my winter calendar. No more long cold months like I had in Berlin, Washington, Armenia and the Netherlands (my most recent posts) where I had to settle for dark days and down jackets for half the year. Now I live in a country with an eternal summer where I’m spending most of my time off on BEACHES.
I kicked off the New Year in a very special place: Goa. The entire first week we were simply on the beach and I wore nothing but a bikini and a sun hat. And sometimes a protective coverup dress, because you have to. We stayed at Palolem and it was paradise!
Before we arrived in Goa I was a little worried. I’d heard many stories about how amazing the beaches, the relaxed vibe and the Portugese architecture were. Most of them were from a long time ago though—from my father and his old hippie friends. I figured by now the beaches might be overrun and polluted.
When I made my way to the beach, following a narrow (not so clean) path between two beach hut resorts, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But as soon as I laid eyes on Palolem Beach I was sold. Hundreds of tall palm trees line the soft yellow sand, with elegant wooden boats ready to sail into the sunset. I could immediately see myself enjoying that curved, one mile stretch of sand with beach bars for a long time without ever wanting to leave.
And so I enjoyed it! There were plenty of highlights. Being there with my family, I was thrilled that the waves were calm enough to let the kids loose without having to worry too much, but strong enough to play endlessly with, or without, body boards riding waves all the way to the shore. Plenty of kayaks for rent to explore beyond the rock formations on either side of the beach, and boat rides in picturesque wooden vessels to take us to the remote beaches beyond.
During the day we reclined on beach beds, which were promptly exchanged for tables and cushioned chairs at night. There were endless options of restaurants serving fresh seafood and salads, and cocktails. It felt like I invented this beach, although of course nothing is further from the truth! But how long it’s been since I had a casual, but beautifully decorated, lobster dinner by the sea!
Determined to do at least one other thing besides being a beach bum, we took a cooking class one day. Rahul’s cooking class. The food experience was great but naturally, talking to Rahul, we got a bit more information on the local circumstances. As it turned out, he’d been having a rough time financially as the tourists have largely avoided Goa since the onset of COVID. His income had dwindled and, to support his daughter’s education, he was thinking about moving his business to Mumbai. We tried to dissuade him. How could he afford beach such a large property with a commercial kitchen there?! But it’s understandable. He doesn't earn much with the absence of tourists and the bargain prices they have for everything.. it makes sense to dream of greener pastures. Even if you live in Goa, of all places.
I had another “real life” experience when I decided to run 10 miles one morning. I set out around 7 AM, enjoying the cooler temperature and the beautiful greenery. Until the stench of rotting trash almost made me vomit when I passed an open garbage dump. Still it was a nice run, idyllic even. I went all the way to Agonda beach, which is another beautiful large sand beach popular with tourists.
Also, we had a great night of comedy. There are plenty of cool performances around Goa--Afrojack played a set at New Years on the north side. But we settled for an intimate performance by LGBTQI comedian Alok Vaid-Menon, who was born in India but trained in the US. It attracted all the boho (Bobo’s in paradise) from Goa—the entire audience was white—and I even recognized someone from my party days in Amsterdam. Apparently he goes to Goa every year for several months to “get back to basic.”
I couldn’t get enough of Goa so I’m returning with some friends this month for a long weekend. Can’t wait. It’s not like Mumbai isn’t fun, but this beach is really a dream in terms of uncomplicated unwinding. And in March we’re gonna take it one step further.. we’ll go to the extremely remote Andaman Islands for a week. We’ll stay at an established tourist haven called Havelock island. But it’s not far from Sentinel Island, which is notorious for housing one of the few remaining “untouched” tribes that literally kills anyone who tries to approach. I’m just going for the snorkeling, nothing more.