Finally got down to Goa this past weekend! C&C and I flew down on Thursday afternoon. It was a three hour flight, fairly uneventful though the plane seemed to already be in party mode with lots of loud, excited groups. I was a little surprised at the condition of the airport in Goa; it was the oldest and most rundown of all the airports I’ve seen here, and considering Goa is the richest state in India and a major tourist destination, that seemed a little odd.
It was very humid. We got picked up by the shuttle for our hotel (Taj Fort Aguada in Candolim) and drove for about an hour and a half to get to the resort. As usual, it wasn’t that far, only about 45km, but it’s not highway so it moves slowly. They don’t have any streetlights or stop signs that I saw; all traffic control is speed bumps and turning circles. The resort was very nice, very welcoming and friendly staff and comfortable accommodations overall. Since we booked at the last minute, we were in a different room (actually a detached villa) for the first night. On Friday we just hung around the resort and went for a long walk up the beach. It was a surprisingly quiet beach area, considering we’d been told Goa was so touristy. We were in North Goa though, which is less built up than the southern and central parts, I believe. The beach and the water was nice and clean, not a lot of weeds or garbage or jellyfish. We went for a swim and I got very sunburned, even though I was wearing SPF 50 :(. I did feel a little strange as one of the only women in a swimsuit going in the water. Goa is very popular with Indian tourists too, not just foreigners, but Indian women don’t really swim. They will wade into the water fully dressed and get completely soaked, but they’re not in swimsuits. I was wearing a very modest (by Western standards) black once-piece granny swimsuit, but we were still getting stared at a lot and guys kept taking our pictures. At one point some boys came and sat right beside us (this was a very uncrowded beach, I’ll repeat) and started taking pictures of us with their camera phones. I’ve figured out by now that staring just isn’t considered rude here, but c’mon… getting right up close to a woman and taking pictures of her in a swimsuit? It feels just a tad invasive.
On Saturday, we hired a car and went to see the ruins of Fort Aguada and the lighthouse, then went into the market area of Calangute beach. The fort was built in the early 1600s by the Portugese. There’s not really all that much to it inside. The market at Calangute beach was a little different, in that it didn’t feel very Indian at all. It felt almost like southern California or something, with Indian knickknacks instead of surfer magnets. Cute and kitschy, but not sure we really got the Goan cultural experience. We didn’t have time to go to Old Goa, unfortunately, since it would have been a long drive, so didn’t get to see too many churches or Portuguese influenced buildings. That evening, we went for a walk down the road outside our hotel. I find walking around is the best way to really see the life of a place. We didn’t have much time since the sun sets early and quickly here, but we saw some boats and houses and bar huts. Goa has a party reputation, and alcohol appears to be a big draw – something to do with the excise tax, I believe.
Sunday checkout was at noon, so other than a last beach walk we didn’t get up to much. Overall, food was ok, a little bland but I’ve found that’s pretty typical of hotel food here (Hyderabad excepted). They use a different spice mix that has more of what I think of as “Christmas” spices – nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon – which isn’t my favourite pairing with seafood. The flight back was again uneventful; I was knocked out of Gravol so if there were any events I totally missed them. The one weird thing we noticed was that there were almost no women in the airport for the return. It’s a strange feeling being one of about 13 women (C counted) in the entire place, and we have no idea why all these men were travelling on a Sunday afternoon. But no complaints. It was a good, relaxing holiday overall and maybe this burn will offer me some protection when I go to Hawaii!