Initially I had wanted to get the overnight train to Goa but due to it being nigh on impossible to make a reservation at such short notice (or my failure to understand how the train system works), I had a ticket for a 50 minute flight from Mumbai to Goa instead. I hate planes. I hate the noises they make, the flicker of the lights as they prepare for take-off, that horrible feeling as they change direction once airborne … I had an image in my mind of Indian airlines being like Ryanair but ten times worse, especially after my experience of the international terminal at Mumbai airport. However, as I entered the domestic terminal and was greeted by friendly staff, efficient service, 21st century decor and a Baskin Robbins (mmm), I grew hopeful. IndiGo airlines turned out to be the best budget airline I’ve used thus far. The air stewards were fantastic, the plane was so new you could almost smell the plastic and – bonus – no turbulence. Woohoo!
I had booked a few nights at a hostel in Vagator, North Goa, and during the taxi ride there I became more and more convinced that I had done the right thing in leaving Mumbai early. Coconut palms lined the roads, the sea looked incredible and everything felt so much more laid back. One sign which read ‘Don’t be a hell mate, wear a helmet’ amused me to no end. Staying at Asterix Hostel also turned out to be a great decision; I would recommend this place to anyone travelling to Goa. Hostels like the ones we have back in Europe are few and far between in India so this place is a little gem. It’s more expensive than some of the other options in Vagator but perfect if you want somewhere with a social atmosphere. Within a few hours I had befriended some other travellers and had such a fun time that I ended up extending my stay and spent the next five days with them.
My first experience of Goan beaches was Calangute. DO NOT GO THERE. Unless, of course, thousands of people squeezed into every possible inch of sand, dogs shitting on the unclaimed patches and people hocking up into the sea is your thing. The food was good; I’ll give it that, but not tasty enough for me to ever go back there in my lifetime. Now, Morjim – that’s the place to go. The beach stretches for miles, hugged by palm trees at either end and there was barely a handful of people there when I visited. It was almost completely hassle free too, except for a rather rabid-looking dog. I tried out Vagator beach too and had my first taste of being randomly photographed by an Indian man – not cool but quite common here.
There are plenty of day trips you can do in North Goa: Panjim, Old Goa, Dudhsagar (a.k.a. “dude shagger”) Falls, spice plantation tours, etc. I visited the waterfall and absolutely loved it, despite all the tourists. Swimming in the pool at the bottom was amazing; the water was freezing (well, close) and at first I thought I might just drown but then my body went numb and it was ok. A random Russian lady in a rather risqué swimsuit swam up to the rock me and Shondra were standing on, flashed her nipple and then swam off again. Hm.
Those first five days in Goa were everything I needed them to be: sun, sea and probably too much alcohol. I did occasionally guiltily look back on the moments in Africa when I had told my friends, with a G&T in one hand and a cigarette in the other, “It’s ok, I’ll detox in India.” But only occasionally. Anyway, Goa is so Westernised that if it wasn’t for the cows on the beach you’d be hard pushed to think of it as India.