Visiting Goa, India

1950’s Beach Fun

Intrepid Correspondent Paul Terhorst sends his final dispatch from India (because he’s moved on now to Cambodia), with the hearty recommendation that, recent events in this country notwithstanding, you should “Come on over and check it out.”

Paul continues:

“I’m on the beach in Goa. So lovely here. Today I went to a beach shack for lunch–calamari chili fry–and while sipping a beer watched a show. Local kids stuck two sets of crossed bamboo poles in the sand and stretched a tightrope between them, about two meters off the ground. Setup took only a couple of minutes. Then a 7-year-old girl climbed up and walked the tightrope. She used a balance pole, although I figure the two-meter height above the thick sand posed little risk.

“To keep her company, her older brothers pounded drums, giving the show a circus feel. Her little sister played in the sand nearby. Altogether she went back and forth along the rope five times, first by herself, then with a vase on her head, then standing on plates, and so on.. What creativity. Afterwards, they passed the hat.

“I wrote last time that, as a guess, several thousand expats live up and down the 60 miles of white-sand beach here. Some beaches have more of a resort feel, others cater more to locals. Some attract large crowds during the season, with partying on the beach at night. Some remain quiet and isolated even during high season, while others fill up with Germans on charter flights. Whatever you’re looking for in a beach scene, you’ll likely find it here.

“I chose Colva Beach, small, quiet, postcard beautiful. To approximate the feel of Colva Beach, think back to salt-water taffy, soda fountains, souvenir shops, fried dough, boardwalks, cafes, and bars. Indian families come here for the day, sometimes longer. There are guesthouses, rental apartments, and resorts. There are five Internet cafes. The main Goa train station is 15 minutes away, the airport 40.

“Colva Beach has two roads, one perpendicular to the beach, the other parallel to the beach and just behind it. Each road is six blocks long. The roads intersect behind the lifeguard station on the main beach. This is where locals tend to gather; at any time, perhaps a thousand Indians crowd together in the water, many with their clothes on. There are boats that pull kids around on a parachute and other boats that offer rides along the coast. Behind this main beach, there’s parking, a cabstand, a rickshaw stand, and a bus stop.

“My guesthouse, the Hotel Lucky Star, is on parallel road a few blocks north. Here there’s much less activity, with only a few people on the beach and even fewer in the water, mostly Westerners. There’s a seafood shack on the beach every 50 meters or so.  Eat or drink something, and they give you a free beach bed for the day. Swim at your own risk here, although the surf is gentle with easy currents.

“Rent a one-bedroom flat in Colva Beach for US$180 a month, year round. The flat could be in a nearby village, on perpendicular road, or back in the jungle. These are fairly large places, I’m told, with bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen. No view.

“As an alternative, a long-stay English couple told me they rent the same furnished flat every year, on perpendicular road, during the five-month high season October through February. They pay US$240 a month for the five months. Their compound has some 200 units, 50 of them rented to tourists and expats. There’s a pool and other resort amenities.

“This English couple takes the bus to market maybe three times a week. They buy fish and veggies and cook at home. The rest of the time, they eat at seafood shacks on the beach or at restaurants on one of the two roads.

“My hotel room on the beach costs US$6 a night, low season. The rate goes to US$9 a night in high season. The room has a swishy fan, two beds pushed together, two nightstands, a desk, a closet, and a bathroom.

“Outside my door there’s a balcony with a view of the water, restaurant, and bar downstairs. To walk to town (perpendicular road) takes 8 minutes. My favorite restaurant, Fishland, is just a few blocks farther along the road the other way.

“Idyllic. Again, I say, come on over and check it out.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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