1 January 2017

Goa 08.12.16 - 17.12.16

Three things we won't forget - Goa

Living like a local

Our final destination was Goa, a small state on the western coastline of India. Having started our Journey in the North, before travelling through Kerala in the South, Goa felt nothing like the India we knew. Hippie travellers came to Goa in the 70s to basically take acid and listen to trance music 24/7, and the place has pretty much evolved around this for the last 40+ years. With this in mind we thoroughly enjoyed encountering each and every 'travelling stereotype' you could possible imagine during our 10 day stay. From tattooed and sunburnt middle aged men hard on it every night, to barely 20 year olds claiming taking acid has changed their life and turned them into an experienced philosopher; you name it, we met them. Having said that we also met some great people at our hostel, in particular the owners Druhv and Marie who were completely down to earth and inspiring in much more modest sense. What we enjoyed most about Goa was the chance to really live like a local. We hired a scooter for the duration of our stay, offered a helping hand to the development of a brand new hostel, shopped in the local markets for supplies, cooked more than we ate out (and ate our lunch out of plastic bags!) and became recognised regulars in the local bars and cafes. In other words we integrated ourselves into the local community as best we could in the 10 days, which was a great feeling. Although we found the modern culture more amusing than eye-opening the distraction gave us a chance to find our own place within the network and realise it's not always about city hopping, site-seeing and learning a culture through mimicking the locals. Through finding our own feet within a community we actually experienced how we as individuals would slot in and live our lives somewhere, which I felt resulted in a much more honest encounter. 

Paradise Beach

Many of the beaches we visited whilst in Kerala and Goa didn't turn out to be the most relaxing of places. "Coconut? Sarong? Massage?" Mixed with booming trance music (that never changes beat) is all you can hear as people continue to tower over you, crouch down next to you or do whatever it takes to get your attention even if you have managed to drift off to sleep. In all fairness people are out trying to make a living, but after the 15th time someone has stood shouting 'mam' at you until you look up from the page you've been attempting to read for the last 20 minutes it's pretty hard not to lose your patience. Rant over, we were over the moon to discover an un-commercialised and quite incredibly empty Paradise Beach about 45 minutes drive from our apartment in Arambol. White sands, sparkling clear turquoise waters and amazingly only one small bamboo shack reserved for the local life guard. No coco-cola signs, no awful remixes and no ray-bons in sight; we were in heaven. We spent the entire day there soaking up an atmosphere so totally different to the India we had experienced so far. The contrast was in the vast amounts of 'un-used space'. Druhv from our hostel had been explaining to us only a few days earlier that it's rare to come across what he called 'un-used space' as it's a big part of Indian culture to make the most of what is available; people see space as an opportunity to both offer a service and make a living. He told us a story about how his mother had come across a man selling Jack fruit on the side of the road once, as she hardly ever saw any for sale and loved it so much she offered to buy the whole fruit off him for whatever he expected to make by selling the fruit in individual portions. The man refused her offer explaining that he would have nothing to do for the rest of the day; the space, his time and service would be un-used. Our time on the paradise beach made us truly understand Druhv's point; it really was the first time we had been in a 'un-used' space in India. That said it is hard not to appreciate the work ethic the people of India demonstrate. Almost every corner of every street is used to offer a service, fulfil time and most importantly feed a family. 

Night Bus

Having mostly travelled India by train we decided to book a night bus for our last long journey from Goa to Mumbai. Having heard awful stories of buses racing each other and scarily steep climbs and narrow roads we felt it would be one last crazy experience we had to tick off the list. Even just locating and boarding the bus was stressful. Each coach joins a queue along a busy strip of shops collecting its passengers as it moves through the queue before continuing on its way; the main issue is that there's no telling which coach will be yours. I think I got on just about every coach drivers nerves asking each one several times whether they were the 19:30 to Mumbai whilst waving our ticket in their faces like a mad woman. Eventually our bus came through, but the panic wasn't over. The cabin was actually fairly comfortable aside from it slightly resembling a coffin, which was ironic considering we felt on the verge of death for the next 12 hours. The only thing I can compare it to is the knight bus from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban. Every time we started to drift off we would be thrown aggressively into the window wall or ceiling. It was one of those times in life where all you can do is clutch each other and nervously laugh for the sake of holding back tears - and vomit. We attempted watching a film for the first hour or so which must have been comical to watch, the two of us bouncing around and sliding up and down the cabling whilst trying to keep the iPad still enough to focus on. Somehow we made it to Mumbai sleepless but in one piece and ready for the next adventure; HELLO THAILAND!

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