Goa – The Magaluf of India?

Taken from: http://www.whatsupgoa.com/dyn/establishments/articles/photo11-828.jpg

When we decided to come to India as backpackers it was almost a necessity to go to Goa. The fabled hippie mecca of the 70s, 80s and 90s, full of travellers, aging expats propping themselves up on bars, and a variety of families that flock to the beaches to soak up the sun while it rains back home. These things were all expected, and Goa really did live up to my expectations. The surprising thing was the huge number of Indian tourists who come into the state for the cheap alcohol and much more lenient views of cultural and religious laws. Perhaps much to do with its previous Portuguese rulers who have meant there is still a strong Christian population, Goa is the place people come to drink, search for drugs, do things you would be ashamed of usually and generally cause a bit of mayhem in India. For Indians Goa is the Magaluf or Amsterdam of India, just a little hotter, spicier and further away (and with way less intoxicated British teenagers).

I think much of this relaxed party atmosphere comes from the exceedingly low alcohol tax, meaning drinks are less than half the cost that they are further north and south. Combine this with the huge number of free thinking, dreadlock wearing hippies, who even now still make the trip in search of weed, trance music and colon/soul cleansing therapies, and you would probably find it hard not to join in on the party too.

Just as the tourists make their way to the white sandy beaches, so do the Indians. Everywhere we went in the north, people would tell us how fun it was, with some saying it’s where married men and bachelors go for a little extra fun. When we did arrive we could see that no one had been lying. Where we wouldn’t see anyone drinking in the north, here groups of guys would head to the beach with a bag full of beers and begin the pre-drinking early. By early I mean from first thing in the morning. Just as happens across the coast of European booze destinations, Goa is a perfect excuse to begin getting a bit silly from early in the day.

Towards the mid afternoon as you look out on the beautifully flat sea lapping at the endless palm fringed white sand you can also catch a sighting of a rather wobbly man in just his pants, and of course sunglasses, (I think that due to a lot of Indians not being the best swimmers, the need for swimming trunks doesn’t really exist) swaying as the tide moves inconveniently around his legs trying to knock him off balance. When you’ve decided that today is not a ‘sesh day’ it is actually very enjoyable to watch the ballet unfold as a couple of men dance through the moving water.  And if it is a sesh day then it is just as fun to join them.

Having moved further south the party state label is ever more present. Kerala, which I thought was another party state where rivers run freely with booze and fags is just not true any more (that would be a disgusting river, so good thing it doesn’t). Due to a state law passed in 2014/15 alcohol is only available at beer and wine parlours and even then, no spirits apart from in 5*hotels. Apart from that it is just in the booze shops, just like everywhere else. While the party atmosphere might have dried up a little further south, if you look with the right eyes you can still see the glow and haze of trance music pulsating over the flat Arabian Sea. This free state of Goa offers cheap alcohol, free inhibitions and an excuse for everyone from outside of Goa to make the pilgrimage of party at least once. For tourists and backpackers it offers a part of India with similar cultural rules to the west, and a travelling trap that is hard to leave.

While it may seem great at the time, Goa is only worth the visit as an interlude to the rest of the country which in a way seem so much more unspoilt.

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