Snippets of Goa, India.
Snippets of Goa, India.
There comes a point in just about every cross-country trip when you are in desperate need of a rest. We had battled the manic crowds of New Delhi and hit the historic sights of Agra. We’d survived the festival of bad luck that was Jaipur and journeyed by camel through the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. Elsewhere, there had been James Bond-driven shenanigans in Udaipur and a few days exploring Mumbai, with its delightful colonial architecture and boat cruise to nearby Elephanta Island.
Thus, by the time Allan and I arrived in Goa, it felt high time to recharge our batteries. That meant basing ourselves as far away from the region’s infamous party zones as we possibly could. Happily, the peaceful Benaulim Beach in Goa’s drowsy north did just the trick. It really was the perfect base for napping, swimming, eating, reading and reflecting on our action-packed escapades.
Our Benaulim base was Rosario’s Inn, a dirt cheap guesthouse run by a plump, middle-aged woman, Mama Rosario. Just a hundred meters or so from Benaulim Beach, Rosario’s appeal was all location, location, location. It certainly didn’t have much else going for it, mainly due to the fact that Mama’s lazy gaggle of sons were responsible for the day to day running of the place. Still, Rosario’s had a certain charm and the woman herself possessed a booming laugh that always made me smile.
Snippets of Goa.
Unapologetically sleepy, Benaulim Beach really was a slice of paradise. Each day, we would wake up, set up camp under an umbrella and rest like we’d never rested before. It was here that I devoured Donna Tartt’s excellent novel, The Secret History. And listened to album after album on my CD Walkman, now pretty much an antique item.
Unfortunately, I have little remaining evidence of my time there to go with my fond memories. But I do like this lone shot of me unfolding my sarong one morning. The original photo was a mess, but I was able to give it an artistic makeover courtesy of the photo editing app Prisma.
Those days on the beach were also memorable for the many fascinating characters we met. The fruit ladies, for example, who strolled by every day. The young local boy and his relentless campaign to sell us a bag of cashew nuts. The certified fruitcake of a grizzled expat who seemed to genuinely believe he was Paul Newman. You can read all about them in my short story Butch Cassidy and the Cashew Kid.
For the most part, nightlife wasn’t much of a thing. Not beyond a beer and a bowl of calamari at least. However, there was a beach bar called Domnick and, if memory served me well, it opened for a couple of nights during our stay. In truth it was little more than a shack, but on the night we popped our heads inside the sandy interior had been transformed into a rollicking dance club.
It was here, to the sound of YMCA, Dancing Queen, I Will Survive and all the other usual cuts, that we met Benaulim’s self-professed King of the Dance Floor. I don’t know if he was high on some questionable substance, but this guy was nuts. Totally intent, for reasons that are still beyond me, on forcing Allan and I into a frenzied dance-off.
After four days or so of lying around I began getting restless. As a result, I hatched a plan to spend a few days in Panjim, Goa’s Portuguese flavoured capital. While Allan was not keen on leaving his spot on the beach, I did meet a Scottish gal called Lisa who said she was up for joining me.
Those days in Panjim were very blasé. We strolled down the main promenade taking in the views across the Mandovi River. We took a night cruise, which the operator proceeded to completely ruin by blasting incredibly loud and unspeakably shit music through our skulls.
Elsewhere, we wandered Panjim’s leafy streets admiring all the old colonial houses. Many of them were set along cobbled lanes and squares, rows of pretty yellow residences with tiled roofs and plant-laden balconies. My standout memory though was of this quartet of schoolchildren. Upon spotting Lisa and I, they came rushing down the steps of their school to greet us.
Snippets of Goa.
“London Cool!” announced one of them, having discovered that I hailed from the English capital. “Panjim boring!” added another, thumbs down. It literally blows my mind to look at this photo and think that these kids are now in their early 30s.
In Panjim Lisa and I met an Englishman by the name of Phil. He was such a curious and charismatic character that from the moment we met, the three of us slipped into a familiar routine of jokes and travel anecdotes. Once Phil was sure that he wasn’t intruding, he decided to join Lisa and I on an overnight trip to check out the famous Vagator Night Market.
Our choice of digs was the surprisingly decent Jolly Jolly Roma Guesthouse, with rooms set around a clean and leafy courtyard. Moreover, the owners were friendly and it was such a peaceful place for breakfast.
Vagator Night Market.
I remember feeling bowled over by the sheer scale of the market. At some point the three of us got separated between the tangled rows of stalls, food tents and barbecue stations. When I eventually stumbled upon Phil he was flopped out at a seafood joint. Feet up on a chair, beer in hand… that mad doctor grin plastered across his face.
It was a lot of fun hanging out with these two, so much so that we are still in touch nearly twenty years later. For a deeper look at these long ago adventures, have a read of my short story Lisa and Phil.
Check out more of my travel reports from across India.
For a deeper look at my time in the country, have a read of my short story collection Incidents in India.
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Interesting article…. 💥🌝 I am really enjoyed this vintage article from Goa
Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment! I have great memories of my time in Goa.
It sounds like such a fun trip. It’s funny how 20 years ago feels like so long ago, especially when you mention the Walkman; I had one of those. I remember my bag always being full of CDs so I could play them 🤣
Hey Natty, it’s great to hear from you! Yes, it seems almost ridiculous to believe how much stuff we had to carry around to listen to music. Thanks for checking out my ‘Snippets of Goa’.
You read Donna Tartt’s Secret History… I knew you were a good sort when I stumbled upon your blog a few months back! 😜
Ah Anna, I’m always glad to meet another Donna Tartt fan. The Secret History is one of my all-time favourite novels. Having read that one on the beach in Benaulim, I went on to devour her second book, ‘The Little Friend’, on a hill in the Scottish Borders one summer. And then her third novel ‘The Goldfinch’ on my sofa in Beijing during a particularly icy winter. Looking forward to her fourth book, if indeed there will ever be one.
You’ve read them in more interesting places than me! My reading is mostly on the couch after I put my child to sleep! Lol. I love her books, but she sure takes a while to write them! The Little Friend was fantastic as well, I loved that one!
I have heard that Goa is a nice place to relax and enjoy some down time, and it seems as though you found it to be just that. The photo of you unfolding the sarong looks more like a painting than a photo; the colors are stunning! I will add the other Donna Tartt novels to my reading list; I’ve read only The Goldfinch which was quite a rollercoaster. She’s an excellent writer and story weaver.
Thanks Tricia! Yes, a little bit of app trickery went into the transformation of that photo. Prisma is a clever piece of technology, but I only use it sparingly. I’m sure you’d love ‘The Secret History’. Do let me know if you ever read it, I’d be curious to hear what you think.
Sometimes you just need to chill for a while. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the hurry up and go in an attempt to see everything. You convey the laid back decompressing very nicely, even down to the irritating techno river cruise. Why do they do that? Do they think you can’t enjoy yourself without having your ears overwhelmed?
Blasting crap music at people is a global obsession. Gorgeous riverside restaurant in Serbia? Awful ear-shattering techno music. Beach bar in Thailand? Awful ear-shattering techno music. A sleepy little cafe here in Tbilisi for a morning coffee and breakfast? “Excuse me, could you turn that down please?” I will never understand it.
I laughed at “lazy gaggle of sons” that’s a great description! How neat that you’ve stayed in touch over 20 years later. Looks like a nice place to recharge your batteries.
Ha, thanks Lyssy. It was a great chill out spot, and one that certainly brings back nostalgia as I write this from the icy Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Thanks for reading my ‘Snippets of Goa’.
It is amazing how so many when they find a place like Goa, just let go and relax or celebrate. Like Mr. Dance Off. He had a schtick to attract attention and he was not going to let it go for any body or any reason. Even the gaggle of sons relaxed, way too much, methinks. No way to run a business, but hey, they were on Goa time. Thanks for another great episode Leighton. Allan
I like the idea of “Goa Time”, Allan, I think that sums up how it was. Yes, the sons were too relaxed. Everything was half-assed and I remember taking their laundry service and, days later, having to badger them about where the heck my clothes were. Still, great memories, thanks for looking through these latest snippets.
Goa looked to be the perfect calm oasis from the bustling cities. I know of friends who have visited but I learnt more from reading your post.
Thanks Marion. I’m glad I chose Benaulim over Goa’s many party zones. Even the trip to Vagator Market was enough to have me pining for a return to our sleepy beach town.
Well, Leighton, we have this morning arrived at our Christmas week lazy hangout location so from here on in I intend to devour your India short stories. One of our most bizarre locations so far was Bakkhali on the Bengal coast, nothing like Goa because a) it was virtually devoid of facilities and b) it’s in a region where alcohol is completely banned…..no sipping beer on the beach in Bakkhali, that’s for sure! The fish was good, mind!
I had to look up Bakkhali, as I had never heard of it. Certainly looks like the outpost you describe. I think Benaulim had a good balance in that it had facilities but wasn’t too touristy. Enjoy your hangout week!
Oh, Leighton, what an adventurous life you live! Goa sounds like a perfect place to chill. I loved reading about Butch Cassidy and the Cashew Kid and Lisa and Phil. Not being as adventurous as you, I doubt I would’ve taken off with people I’d just met. I love reading your descriptions of the people you’ve met along the way. I’m anxiously awaiting the next snippet!
Thanks Kellye. I should point out that this was the old/young Leighton who was quite sociable and up for anything ha ha. I have, over the last (nearly) twenty years, become much more introverted. But it’s still fun to look back on those adventures and have a laugh at it all. Thanks for catching up with a few of the stories, my final Indian snippets comes out on Christmas Day. Hope all is well with you and Mike!
Yeah, the things we did when we were younger – it’s hard to imagine we lived through some of it – LOL!
I like what you did with the picture of you with the sarong. Goa was not what we had hoped it would be, but we went there after a few months in Sri Lanka and an Indian beach will never live up to those. I remember the short story with you, Lisa and Phil, good tie in here. Maggie
Hey Maggie, I have heard so many great things about Sri Lanka, interesting to hear you rate their beaches streets ahead of Goa. One day…
They have gorgeous beaches that are mostly clean, with cute beach towns, beach bars, the usual beach vibe.
Season’s Greetings Leighton! Chilling out didn’t stop you from having some great experiences. Those were the days my friend. I have one problem now: that amazing photo of the King of the Dance floor is an eye worm (if that is a term) I can’t shake.😄
Ha ha thanks John. He was a character for sure, it’s so rare I even find myself anywhere near a dance floor. This is perhaps why. Still, it’s an experience to laugh about and a photograph to treasure. Thanks for leafing through my ‘Snippets of Goa’.
Yes, places …… and people! Top Cat… He is known as “Don Gato” here in Peru!
Ha, brilliant. I would love to watch an episode of Top Cat in Spanish! Thanks for reading, Geoff.
Thanks for your comment.
ah yes goa, an important rest station in any long period of travel. the cashew kid was one of my favourite characters from your india stories. by the way, i noticed you skipped udaipur in these snippets, how come?
Yo, Stan! The Cashew kid was a loveable character for sure. Sadly, I decided to scrap Snippets of Udaipur as I just didn’t have enough to material to make it work. This is a bummer, as I loved the city and had a great time there. Still, at least Udaipur gets its own treatment in my story: ‘Octopussy’ https://leightontravels.com/category/9-octopussy/
Benaulim Beach looks like a nice spot to enjoy some peace and quiet. Sounds like it was a good opportunity to people watch as well. I got a good laugh at the mention of your CD walkman. I used to have one of those back in the day.
I should have kept hold of my CD Walkman, it’s something of an antique piece now. Benaulim was a dreamy place in many respects. I would do pretty much anything to teleport Sladja and I there for a few days over the Christmas period. Hope you guys are staying warm and safe.
That sarong photo is fantastic- I would even say art gallery worthy! Top notch editing skills on it. Goa sounds like a paradise and a perfect place to rest and recharge. But my favorite part about this post was the random people you met that turned out to be friends for all these years after. Those connections that come from happenstance of timing and location and stay with you forever are really special 🙂
Thanks Meg, an app I used to have, Prisma, did most of the legwork on that sarong photo. But yeah, what was a horribly blurred shot has come out nicely. I find that those friends you make when you’re young and on the road are the ones that stay most romanticized in the internal memory box. It feels good to put these India chapters ‘to bed’ on the blog. Last one comes out on Christmas Day. Is Tessa excited about all things Christmas?
Oh yeah, she has all the Christmas feels. Were in Missouri at my in laws and she is loving playing with cousins, cooking with grandma, andmaking snow angels. Merry Christmas! 🙂
It looks like you really found a slice of paradise in Goa. And I love your artistic photo makeover.
It did feel like a slice of paradise, especially after so many challenges and frustrations. Thanks for dropping by, Hannah.
Beautiful memories. The dance-off guy sounds hilarious 😁
Ha thanks Cherryl. King of the Dance Floor was a nutcase, but the right kind of nutcase I guess. Thanks for your comment!
This sounds like a more relaxed area to check out in India. The night market looks really cool, and I bet there was amazing local food there!
Hey Allie, yeah there was great food at the night market from what I recall. Thanks for commenting and Merry Christmas!
I read somewhere that Goa is liken to Hawaii in the US, given its tropical, beachy vibes that are separate from the rest of the continental country. Looks like you had a calm time, although venturing out, you did meet quite a few characters, haha! I like how you connected this post with the other posts you’ve written about Goa; I still remember them! Thanks for sharing, and happy holidays!
Thanks for checking out my ‘Snippets of Goa’ Rebecca. Merry Christmas to you!
Goa (and Benaulim Beach) really sounds like the place to recharge one’s batteries! And yes, that photo of you on the beach – that’s a winner! As for Mr King of the Dance Floor – he looks a little bit crazy … or maybe he was just excited that foreigners visited Domnick Bar 😄. Ah, I like the photo of the school boys – one wonders where they are today (who knows, maybe some of them got the opportunity to visit ‘cool London’). Great to read that you’re still in touch with Lisa and Phil! Merry Christmas to you and Sladja 🎄.
Yes I can imagine the Dance Floor King had been waiting his whole life to show foreign dignitaries what’s he’s made of. 😆 Merry Christmas to you, Berto and your families.
looks like a peaceful time in Benaulim.
Yeah it was inexplicably peaceful. It’s amazing how all the partygoers flock to the same places, leaving Benaulim all the more chilled out for those looking to kick back.
love these snippets. great piece from a great series. friends from travelling are friends for life.
Hey Dilranga, yeah sometimes it does turn out like that. Thanks for reading!
So so fun!
There’s nothing like a beach respite, with a little culture to make it more interesting.
Thanks for your comment Ruth.
What can be better than swaying palms, uninterrupted stretches of glittery gold sand, and smooth azure surf that promises to soothe the stresses of travelling in India? Goa might be among India’s smallest states, but it sure has a bounty of beaches that beat any other coastal areas of the subcontinent. Thanks for sharing and have a great day 🙂 Aiva xx
Thanks for catching up with recent articles Aiva, your description of Goa is apt and sounds very familiar.
Great article Goa is such a peacefuls place and your words and picture show it good
Beautiful blog. Love the beach drawing with the blanket. Happy new year and safe travels!
Thanks so much for reading and leaving your mark on the comment thread. Goa is a tranquil retreat from the often manic nature of travel in India, I’m glad I found time for it.
That photo with the artistic twist works really well! Definitely feels like you were having a grand time. The Secret History is one of my favourite books, but I only devoured it about 4 years ago 🙂
Ah, another person who has read The Secret History! You’re in good company Nic, across this thread. I think with your Portuguese riots you might be interested to see Panjim, I’m curious what you would make of it.
love this article about the nostalgia of Goa. Great blogging my friend!
Thanks for reading and commenting, agndoden.
Catching up with some old posts and really enjoying your tales of this long-ago trip. Your encounter with those schoolboys reminds me of similar ones we had in Rajasthan. It’s those little things that stick in the memory, isn’t it?
Hey Sarah, thanks for takinng the time for a mini-catchup. I’m glad that my tales compensate for the photos, which believe it or not I actually spent some time improving ha ha. Yes, the little things, all the way.