Ahhhh, Goa. A surprisingly enjoyable time on some beautiful beaches!
Ben here again. I never actually planned to go to Goa as part of my month away from Rachelle, but it all sort of fell into place as Kevin & I were wrapping up a trek in Nepal (post coming soon I promise). After about three weeks of never feeling warm, between the skiing in Gulmarg and hiking in Nepal, I was ready to just hang out on the beach recovering. Being open to just about anywhere, glancing through easy flights, Goa seemed to be the best option & had positive reviews for sandy beaches (pro tip – instead of booking tickets with layovers, book each leg individually to save money!).
Until 1961, Goa was occupied by the Portuguese, who had been there for over 400 years. Because of this, still today about 25% of the population of Goa is Roman Catholic versus the majority India being almost entirely Hindu. With the huge Portuguese Catholic influence, you can see many beautiful churches &, at restaurants, can even find a proper cheeseburger!
Anjuna Beach Experience
I had a bit of a bumpy start (literally) where after my taxi driver stopped for an egg sandwich (at 9:30pm) due to his hunger from lent fasting, our tire went flat. After realizing he had no idea how to change a tire, I gave him the crash course to get the spare on, which was subsequently flat as well. After not finding an open service station, he sent me on my way with a friend of his to my destination of Anjuna Beach in the North of Goa.
Not really doing much research on the different beaches, I went to Hostelworld.com and chose the highest rated hostel in Goa that had private rooms – The Funky Monkey Hostel. It turns out that Anjuna is best known for some crazy beach parties (not what I was really looking for), but staying here ended up being one of the best decisions I had coming to Goa. The hostel ended up being one of those places that just attracted some interesting & fun people (who else would book a place called “The Funky Monkey”)! It had perfect space to sit around outside, hanging out & sharing stories from traveling all around the world. We sat around with people from UK, Germany, Australia, Spain, Brazil, etc. & somehow all became best friends in minutes – one of those kinds of places. I suppose most “normal” people do not travel to India for vacation so maybe that had something to do with it. Over the course of the week, we hung out on the beach, ate dinner & drank beers with whoever was there making the experience more like hanging out on the beach with friends rather than by myself.
The real kicker that truly made the experience was my Royal Enfield. The manager of the hostel was nice enough to set me up with a guy that rented me a Royal Enfield Classic 350 for the four days I was there for only $9/day. For those of you unfamiliar with the brand, it is like the Harley Davidson of India. Being able to have the freedom to explore the beaches & towns of Goa on a true classic motorcycle brings a feeling unmatchable anywhere else. Being a tourist, I would never ride a motorcycle around most areas of India, however Goa’s nice roads & calmer traffic allows you to calmly & safely take in the sights of pristine beaches, never ending coconut trees, & tropical landscapes. It is still, of course, India so you’ll get the occasional cow in the street, monkey crossing & deal with nonexistent road rules, but that is what gives it the irreplaceable Indian “charm”.
Vagator, Morjim, and Arambol Beach Exploring
On the Enfield, I could explore Vagator Beach, Morjim & Arambol.
Vagator Beach I would describe as a day-tripping beach easily accessible by local & foreign tourists staying in nearby areas. Being a large & somewhat secluded beach, which is nice & not littered with bars & restaurants, you get more of a “beach experience”. The beach is also home to Goa’s W Resort, a relatively new build by Starwood, nestled beneath the Chapora Fort, which boats some incredible panorama views of Vagator & neighboring beaches.
The more northern beaches of North Goa offer a more relaxing atmosphere than Anjuna or Vagator & have some interesting quirks of their own. Morjim Beach offers a relaxing day-trip atmosphere & a chance to potentially see some of the endangered sea turtles that live there. Arambol on the other hand is a more vibrant town with many shops, restaurants & places to stay. The beaches are wonderful, clean, & more laid back than many in Goa. There are, however, an enormous number of Russians. Being a 5-hour flight from Moscow, Goa is a popular tourist destination for Russians – much akin to Mexico or the Caribbean for Americans. Many menus & street signs are even in Russian!
On my last day in Goa, I spent the night in Panjim (or Panaji), the capital of Goa, to experience the old Portuguese city. It truly is different than anything you would find in India, something more akin to what you would find in Portugal as they have retained the original look & feel. It is a neat place, worth spending a day or two there & they even have several fancy casino ships in the harbor that I could not resist checking out, landing me some extra cash for the road 😊!
Overall, I truly enjoyed my experience to Goa. The incredible people & motorcycle adventures made the trip for me. Being there as the low season started may have improved my experience as I heard many mixed reviews about Goa, the crazy parties & mayhem that exists there. North Goa tends to be more of a “party” scene during the high season (November-March) while South Goa is typically more laid back (beaches like Palolem & Agonda). Relaxing on the beach was a much-needed respite after hiking in Nepal & before returning to Rishikesh to meet up with Rachelle. I hope we return someday & continue to experience what Goa has to offer!