Goa: Reggae, riding and russians

First, let’s make one thing clear. Goa is NOT India. This assumption underlines our Goa experience, and once we accepted this assumption as the truth, we had a much better time. When most travellers, unfamilliar with India, arrive to Goa they are shocked and a little frightened by what they encounter on that first day or two. Many peoples first experience is that ride from the airport to their hotel, with what appears to be crazy traffic, all the smells of burning plastic, all the cows, buffalos, mixed in with the characteristics of paradise, such as palm trees, and a tropical vibe. I too was once one of the astonished tourists who sit in terror in a backseat of a taxi with out seatbelts. Now I know better. Goa is calm, the traffic is light, the roads are excellent and EVERYTHING is twice the price of real India.  Goa aint nothing but a light, watered down version of India. I dont know what I expected, but Goa is growing fast, too fast. Goa as a tourist destination feels fake after coming in from India. It has been created for tourists by people who doesn’t even come from Goa! In Goa, there are around 500 000 people who are born there and around 600 000 people who are there from other parts of India to work. Most of these “guest workers” come from Karnataka, around the Bijapur area and just come to work for the season. In off-season they go back home and live of the money they made in Goa until next season. So, now that we have established that Goa is NOT India, we can move on. So let me start from the beginning.

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August at the Portugese Fort Aguada

Arambol and Goa Sunsplash!!!!

We started our Goa visit in the north of the north part of Goa, in a village called Arambol. The reason we went there is that they have a reggae festival there every year called Goa Sunsplash. Me and August planned to go there all ready last summer, when we knew that we were going to India. So as soon as they released the dates we booked accommodation, and we bought the early bird tickets in November for 2000 rs per head. So we arrive in Armabol in the morning, after our Mumbai fancy bus has dropped us off in Mapusa, we get a taxi for 700 rs to take us to Namahstay Hostel. When we come there, our booking that we made so long ago had disappeard somehow in Booking.com’s system. Due to the festival that weekend, the place was fully booked. We tell the manager that we are there for Goa Sunsplash and he says “Now I HAVE to find you a bed!”. In the end he finds one bed in a shared 10 bed dorm, and me and August share this one bed the four nights we stay in Arambol. Matéo, who we met at Sapna Ranch has come to Arambol to join us for the festival. He arrives at Namahstay Hostel the same day as us, after spending a few days at another hostel in Arambol.

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Matéo chillin on the ground

Our Hostel, Namahstay Hostel is GREAT! They have a nice little bar where they serve breakfast and other meals, beer and liquor to affordable prices and the staff is super nice. There is alot of them too, so there is always someone around. The rooms are clean and there is a house outside which has four or five toilets and showers which helps alot, since there is only one bathroom in a room shared by atleast ten people. The atmosphere in the garden is very relaxed and at the time when we were there, I think everyone  there was going to Goa Sunsplash. We fit right in in Arambol, it was our demographic as well as old hippies and adventurers, people from all over the world and here it was natural to adress your neighboor as “Brother” or “Sister”. But Arambol is small. There is basically one street that is filled with little shops selling all your hippie gear and restaurants and cafés. If you go to Arambol, you should try the food at the restausant “Double Dutch”. We had our breakfast there every day 🙂

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Mateo and August chilling with a lassi each at the beach after a Volleyball and a swim

There are almost only white people here, and when we on occasion met indian people, I could not have guessed that they are from India, due to their speaking english without an accent, or if any, an American accent. It’s easy to make friends in Arambol, everyone is friendly and and like Rishikesh, for example, it’s very easy to lose one self in this paradise. A day goes very fast when you take your time and do nothing but eat and bathe in sun and sea. The beach is amazing. Its fairly empty and the water is calm, compared to other places in Goa. In the night the beach transforms into a party street with a differnt DJ per shack, mixed up with the resturants keeping tables in the sand, sellers that want to sell you laser swords and illuminated bracelets. White people dancing with fire and light sticks, and people selling their arts and craft in the sand. When we were there, we though it all to be very expensive. Now we know that compared to GOA it wasnt. Compared to INDIA it was all twice the price.

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If you want to party, Arambol is the place to be. We made another friend which Matéo had picked up a few days before, named Marcel. He comes from Brazil but has lived and worked in Australia for a couple of years, and are now seeing the world on his way back home. The four of us makes company and prepare for the festival. We arrive on the tenth and it begins on the 12th. First day we go to a preparty at Rock water in Morjim. Its a blast. Many of the artists are there already, and its around now that we understand that the reason we didnt recognise any of the bands is because they are soundsystems, they are DJs basically. But the preparty is great! Its right on the beach and we sneak out to buy cheaper beer in one of the shacks next to Rockwater. It turns out to be a crazy night and we all get a taxi and head home around 2 in the morning. This is late for me and August, usually going to bed around 10 pm. Well on our way we see a recent accident with a guy who crashed his scootie (a vespa),and we have to stop to assess the situation. Its a big fellow  from Turkey with a shaved head and a long, white beard. He is still laying down as we reach the scene, but he is consious. Its us and five, six indians there, and when one of the Indians pick up their phone to use the flashlight to see how badly wounded he is, we all hold our breath. If the guy would have wore a helmet he’d be fine. Unfortunately he did not, and scraped his head on the ground, scraped his leg, but he said that the back pain was the worst part. So he definitively had a concussion, but when he started making jokes we all felt a great relief. Our taxi driver refused to drive him to the hospital, but he called for an ambulance. We left the scene, the Indians stayed to wait with the Turkish guy. This event effected us all deeply and we were all kind of shaken even the next day, until we discussed it in between ourselves.

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The next day we were too tired to party, Marcel was out of it and Matéo felt sick later in the night. A side note to all this is that we got to enter all the pre parties for free for having bought the early bird tickets. For people who bought tickets IRL the price per party was between 300-500 rs.

When the day finally came for the festival, which we had been waiting for for several months, me and August were there when they opened at 12, 12:30 and walking across the bridge, an official festival photographer clicked this photo of us:

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The first day of the festival was tough because it was too crowded, and it takes a while to get used to the extreamly loud music and for all visitors to settle in the festival spirit. Not even 10% of the crowd at the festival had been to the pre parties. We did however have alot of fun, but when the last artist played, Dub FX, which for some reason was the major hype of the festival, we went home and had a late dinner and went to sleep before midnight. Next day Marcel was ill. He stayed home the whole festival, and I guess that many others experienced similar problems, because it was way less people the second day, which was great for us! This day was amazing, we did well on the fruit we had brought, and only ate the expensive festival food in the evening, after all bands had played. A real highlight of this day, and probably the best performance of Goa Sunsplash 2019 was Channel One Soundsystem. Other gems the secound day was Forelock and Arawak and Kibir La Amlak. We also went to a panel discussion with Denisha Pendergast, Bob Marleys grand-daughter, Chris Black who is a dancehall teacher from Jamacia, an Indian Soundsystem guy and an indian expert on rastafarianism in India. This was a well spent hour. We learned alot about rastafarianism from Denisha, who also told us that it is time to stop dancing and start to enact the change we all want to see. She is a film maker and an actress and her main focus is to keep Bob Marleys political movement alive. She said, repeatedly, that the reggae fans makes the largest political party on earth and that it’s time for us to unite

No more fussing and fighting…

we want no moooooore,

we want no mooore,

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Denisha Pendergast calling us to action!!

We stayed late the second night. The after party continued until four in the morning, but me and August gave up at 2 am. To keep going for so long we bought a Club Matte, a German beverage which is mainly sugar and caffine, and is a great alternative to both booze and other energy drinks. It has a special taste that reminds me of plums, and the first time I had it, in Germany in 2016 I hated it. This time it saved the party for us! We met some people from the Hostel at the festival, and our crew grew bigger, which is always fun. I got my dancing complimented and we both were shining. One person I would like to thank for the good times in Addy from Himachal Pradesh. Here is a pic of him and us the day before the festival.

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Me, Addy and August with the colours of rast

The very next day we left Arambol and our friends. We had a great time with Matéo, and it was truly fun to separate after Sapna Ranch and then reunite again in Arambol, in a different setting. We had a lot of fun and now we miss our french person ❤ We also had a great connection with Marcel, that guy was true and we have an eternal respect of people like him. Its all about the people.

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Matéo, August and Marcel in Arambol

Calangute and Candolim

Calangute is more like India because there is more Indians. There is also more traffic, more honking, more shops, restaurants, more everything. Its a small city basically and we stayed slightly to the right of the craziest part of town. We arranged our accomodation months before we left Sweden, because an old friend of mine, Antony, had open his own guest house in Calangute, called “VINCYS PLACE INN GOA”. It’s squeezed in between a dozen other guesthoses, all in bright pastell colours and Portugese architecture. Vincys place inn Goa is a blue building with four floors plus a kitchen and roof top terrace on top of the bilding from where you could see the ocean. I think we got the nicest room in the house, it was big with a private balcony with a view of nothing in particular, a big fridge with freezer compartment, western style toilet, a shower and a big wardrobe and of course a big bed with semi soft matresses. For me, I think the guesthouse was the highlight of our whole stay, because we made some unexpected friendships on the roof, but I’ll get back to that in a second.

We rented a bike on our second day in order to go to Anjuna Day market. Its a 20 min drive from Calangute, but we had some troubles renting a scootie. We made friends with a lady named Agnes who tried to arrange a scootie for us. Problem is, I havent ridden a bike in 7 years, and August has no experience on one whatsoever. So when Agnes finds a guy who has a bike to rent for 300 rs a day, he gives us 3 seconds on the bike and decides we arent qualified. So we find Antony and he lets us practice on his bike for 10 minutes, and then we go and rent a bike, and they give us no trouble, we drive well enough. In Goa the rules are that the driver must wear a helmet. Problem is the helmets that they give you with the bike are more likley to save you from a bullet in a trench war than to do anything for you in case of a traffic accident. My helmet actually flew off on this trip to Anjuna Market.

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Tourist no. 1

We had one mission at Anjuna market, and that was to find some Harem pants (or Alibaba pants as they call them here). But the market is HUGE! We walked for so long we had to stop for lunch haha. Its definitively worth a visit, and if you go, skip the first few blocks of shops, the more unique stuff is further into the labyrinth. With our mission accomplished we went to Candolim, the place I have been to four times before, to meet my old friends who all work there at the beach. It has changed alot since the last time I was there and mostly for the worse to be honest. Its over crowded and all the westerners has moved elsewhere which gives room for more Indian tourists.

I am worried that people who travel to Goa will get the wrong image of India and its people. Groups of Indian men come to Goa to party, and not being able to drink in the same fashion wherever in India they are from they behave badly. I can tell you that swimming in a bikini on one of those beaches are out of the question.There is a clear majority of men also, the few women we saw was most likely there for their honey moon. A strange phenomena we witnessed amongst these men was that they all bought the same T-shirt. It looked pretty funny and we had ourselves a good laugh several times a day on account of these fellows. My friends were still at the beach and they gave us free sunbeds and looked after us. I met my mothers old friend with whom she has been engaged in the education of  her children, Anita:

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Me and Anita in the Boat Shack on Candolim Beach

In some ways it felt like nothing had changed since my last visit in 2013.

August was very disappointed already after our second day in Calangute. He had expected Arambol, or India, but instead we had come to some perverted version of both. “It’s not relaxing” he said, and I have to agree, although I couldn’t at the time, due to pride. The food in Goa is bland compared to the rest of India, it’s watered down some how to fit a western pallet, and we had to look carefully for every place we ate. And as I said earlier, Goa is expensive. A few highlights when it comes to restaurants are Kailash Prabat, The Moonlight and Southi. They are all within our pricerange too. Every morning we used Antonys kitchen and made ourselves breakfast, containing of cheese toast and oat porrige. We are very grateful to Antony for opening up his kitchen to us, because much due to this, we made friends with a family  of three living in a tent on the roof. We never quite figured out their relationship to the house or to Antony, but the father, Pritam 30 y/o, seemed to work as a cleaner and general management of the quest house, calling Antony “sir”. The mother seemed to mostly take care of their 1,5 y/o daughter, Bito, who is amazingly cute and funny. In the evenings we cooked dinner side by side, not sharing a common lanugage, communication was more difficult, but somehow it worked anyway. They were very interested in our pasta dishes and kept debating and watching us prepare these, to us, basic meals. Vegetarian Carbonara or Tomato sauce. That’s it. This whole countrys culinary culture is build upon a gas stove. For most of our food we make at home, we require an oven… thus we lived on pasta!

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Me and “the family” on the beach at sunset after a rough game of beach foot ball

If you walk up and down the beach road in Calangute, people will most likley talk russian to you, if you are white. August said repetedly that he had NEVER seen so many russians, collectevly in his life :P. In the beginning we didnt care much for the russians, but now I think they are quite cool actually, many of them. Many of them are rocking a unique style. And the only young white people apart from me and August were russians. The menues are in russian, the people SPEAK russian. They even marry!! At one point a young russian man came up to us when we were walking up Calnagute Beach road, and asked for 30 rs in english. We talked with him for a while, and it’s very difficult to say niet to a russian speaking english. Its like in sweden, saying no to someone from Gotland, or someone from Scotland who has that beautiful accent… you know what I mean.

If you are not approached in russian in Goa, they will call you Sir or Madame. This drove me CRAZY. Even people older than us would do this, people our age, EVERYONE. Coming from India with its Bhai meaning brother and Behen meaning Sister as a way to adress anyone basically, Sir and Madame feels fake and colonial. Even when we had givien our names, people kept adressing us with Sir and Ma’m. Worst part is that I also started doing this after a while! Brother and Sister didnt seem appropriate in Goa anymore. There is a divide between the tourists and the Indians in goa, they live two different lives, eat at different restaurants, go to different beaches.. In Goa we were not equal to everyone else. This was by far the worst part of it all.

Vehla Goa, Panji and Corruption

One day we took our bike on a small adventure into Old Goa. It was a 40-50 min drive with the scootie, but before we even reached old Goa, a policeman stopped us. He had no reason to do this, we were not driving too fast, both of us were wearing helmets, even though its only required of the driver. Only reason I can find is that we are white. So in The Sapna ranch post I wrote a little about the corruption that is undermining the whole Indian society, now we have experienced it. The policeman had no reason to stop us, but when he did, we discovered that one need an international driving licence to drive in India. So he threateded to confiscate our bike and take it to the Panji police station, which is kinda far from where we were staying. Then he said, for him not to do this we should pay a “fine”… a FINE of 4000 rupees. We didnt even have that much money on us, so after a while he agreed to take 2000 rs, which still was a robbery, since our daily budget is only 3000 rupees. The whole time he was talking to us, he was smiling and giving little embarrased laughes now and then. Nothing about this encounter was funny. I seriously cried as we drove away, having taken a sever moral hit by paying a BRIBE! We had to stop further down the road to pick ourselves up to be able to continue. So this day didn’t have a great start. Old Goa is basically a few churches, all built next to each other for some reason, one even grander than the other. But seriously, why are they all in the same place?

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That white church behind August is actually TWO churches, right next to eachother. If you look to the left from where the photo is taken, is ANOTHER church…

We found an old ruin from an old Augustinian complex, which used to have a church, a university, dorms and a library. We found this much more interesting than the churches, cause it was only slightly older that the Portugese churches, and was totally in ruins. Even the towers had fallen in. It looked much like it had been a victim of bombings. The Portugese forced the Augustinians out of Goa, even they were there before them, and like 4 years after they left this complex mysteriously collapsed. .. Its just up the road from the main churches, definitively worth a visit. On a side note, when we left the Augustinan  ruins a man comes up and tells August “I saw you on a local Mumbai train 10 days ago”.. What are the odds? 😛

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After our incident with the police we stayed to the backroads as much as possible. Doing this we found cute little houses and cozy restaurants. One doesn’t have to go far away from the most turistic areas for the prices to drop. We did how ever have to go into Panji to get a simcard for August. Now, four months in to our trip he has his own internet 😛 No police stopped us, but now, of course we have developed a disregard for them. My dad used to say that not being afraid of police is a sign that one has grown up, as opposed to being a teenager. No one likes the police in Goa, they have told me to spread this message of how corrupt they are. Its a poison running through this whole place, these rotten eggs, undermining all levels of Indian society. Its holding this country back… Speaking of corruption, the Goan government are putting in HUGE amounts of money in infrastructure projects, which usually means that there are high level corruption going on.

We went to the Latin quarter in Panji, where the streets still have portugese names and the houses have bright pastel colours. Its quite nice there, worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.

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Our Goa experience hasnt been the best, August got sick for a few days and couldn’t leave the room. This meaning we could not execute other plans we had of adventure and we ended up on the beach most days. But in the end we ended up making friends with the family on top of our house and quite unexpectedly, two russian women who hung out up there. We had dance parties twice or trice and they gave out Goan rum, drinking it straight up, as I would imagine russians to drink :p Again, they didn’t speak english, and we speak even less russian than we speak hindi, but somehow, it worked anyway! We had long conversations in completley different languages and we were invited to come to them in Moscow even. Crazy how life can be. Antony, all the time in the background speak quite good russian to my knowledge and hindi aswell, so he could communicate well with the family, the russians ans us.

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The party crew of Vincys place inn Goa.

 

Driving in Goa and End notes

I also want to say a few words about driving a scootie in Goa. Driving a scootie anywhere is fun, but it’s very special in India, people, cars, scooters, bikes, fruit wagons, dogs and cows all share roads that were build for alot less people. We are used to the indian traffic now, not driving in it, but navigating as pedestrians, which made it fairly easy for us to switch from our feet to a vehicle. To the untrained eye, it may seem like its all a big mess, but there is a delicate order to the chaos. Drivers keep their cool, even if some try to go past a car blocking the road, only to make a bad situation worse. The honking fills an important function since its enough just keeping your eyes infront of you, one cannot risk looking backward too often. But in goa there are this group of scootie drivers we call “Sightseers”. They drive around looking at stuff along the street and they can stop at any time completely unaware of what is going on around them. They are very dangerous. We only had one small accident, due to us being new on the bike, but August only scraped his leg a little, and it’s all healed now so no problemo. The worst part about driving in Goa, or at any place with major traffic is the fumes, the gases that all vehicles spew out. I think this is the reason why me and August both have developed a bad cough.

We are quite done with Goa, for all its great beaches and people. I dont know if we will go back there, to be honest. I feel like it’s kinda outplayed for me, and August dind’t like it in the first place. As of writing this we are one a train to the city of Hospete from where we will catch a bus to Hampi. Today we celebrate three years together and will eat a fancy dinner at this famous place in Hampi.

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August and me in Agnes restaurant in Calangute having breakfast

Lots of Love

August & Linnea

5 thoughts on “Goa: Reggae, riding and russians

  1. Great to read about your exciting adventure Linnea & August. Looks like you are having the time of your life. So not fun with corrupt police. But more fun with your helmet August, but it would look better if you were on a horse:) Have a fantastic journey and take care. //Peter

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  2. Thank you for taking me back to Goa. I’ve always suspected Goa to be what you describe it to be and I’m glad you have got to know and love the “real” India. Still Goa means a lot to me. Interesting to hear about how tourism has changed. So nice to read about your adventures. Hope all will be well at your coming stops. Take care. /dad

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