India Travel Guide – Offbeat Goa
Goa, the little territory on India’s western coast a little more than 300 miles from the country’s famous financial and glamour hub of Mumbai (aka Bollywood), has such a reputation as a party oasis for free spirits and for happy (not to mention decadent and debauched) carousing in a way that India’s straightlaced and conventional culture would never allow, that it attracts the tourist crowds for its sun, and its beach parties all the way from America and Australia. But popular India travel guide versions of Goa seem to end right there, not going beyond to some of the best things you get to do when you arrive. Shaking the hangover off, stepping off to some of its many unspoilt beaches, lands you in a tropical paradise that looks like something out of a comic book for the way it seems to have something of everything, all in one place – lush greenery, old abandoned temples, rolling countryside – it becomes easy to see how this was the place the European settlers from Portugal first landed centuries ago, to try to establish a trading post. Let’s look at some of the offbeat Goa attractions you really should take in.
What is the first non-beach-party thing you should probably do in Goa? Get yourself in the right headspace for a beach party, of course. And the best way to do that is to take the Bollywood Booze Cruise. It’ll be a cruise on the Mandovi River that costs a staggeringly cheap $4 for several hours of Bollywood style song and dance spectaculars that all guests are welcome to participate in. And booze, of course. There are several private liners that make the trip, but if you choose the one run by the Goa Tourism board, you’ll find if things are little in control, without the screaming drunk college students.
Would you believe it, that Goa offers gambling – an attraction many India travel guide publications don’t really push, because it is disapproved of. Try the Casino Road next to the Panaji Jetty. It’ll cost you less than $100 to get in, and they throw in all the drinks you can handle (off-brand), and a very glamorous Bollywood show (do you see a Bollywood theme to everything?). The one-armed bandits aren’t exactly regulation, and there are lots of rumors that swirl around them about how they are fixed. But you can take in the table games, that are completely above board.
If all the partying, puts you in the mood for a little quiet time with nature on the beach, you’ll need to pick the right one. India being right in Russia’s backyard, you’ll find thousands of Russian tourists overrun the beaches at most places. A little quiet time, is thankfully to be had at one place – most India travel guide publications endorse the Palolem beach, and they would be right. You’ll find no greater disturbance here than a few friendly types trying to sell you a bottle of chilled beer, and seagulls trying to steal your chips.
As for authentic Goan cuisine, how about trying an Indian cuisine staple, that everyone out West knows – the Vindaloo? That old Indian mainstay was invented in Goa, you know? Perhaps Westerners find it curiously appealing, because it is half Portuguese and half Indian. Try the Viva Panjim restaurant on 31st January road. For about $10, you can sample the authentic taste of the famous dish made with a special variety of garlic native to Portugal, and a wine sauce called Vin d’alho (the name begins to make sense now, doesn’t it?). This place has a great custom with the tourists; somehow, it doesn’t always make it into the India travel guide restaurant recommendations out there. But now, you know better.