After a few days in Hampi we were thoroughly templed-out, so we headed for the coast to India’s biggest resort area. Unlike the coast near Kannur, Goa has genuine beach towns with soft sand, bikinis, and fruity drinks. Goa is not a single town but rather an entire state that runs along a 100KM stretch of coastline. We settled on the town of Candolim for our stay in Goa mainly due to it’s convenient location and reputation as a laid-back destination (we weren’t up for all the rave parties further south).
We had a hotel in mind, but we missed our bus stop and ended up at the opposite side of town. This proved to be a lucky break as we decided to check out some hotels on the north end of the beach and found a paradise among the palm trees called Casa Baptista. For a mere Rs.500 ($9) a night we were a 2-minute walk down a trail to the beach, had a large clean room, amazing shower with 24-hour hot water, and a first for India, a refrigerator!! This small luxury allowed us to go to a store and buy groceries and keep drinks cold. Even more incredible, our hotel had real bacon for breakfast, the first of our trip! Finally a cure for our bacon withdrawal shakes.
We had a number of plans for our 4-night stay in Candolim including taking a tour of a nearby spice plantation, taking a cooking class, and visiting the Candolim Fort which affords beautiful views of the surrounding area…we did none of it! We fell in love with the beach and simply relaxed.
Although it certainly was relaxing, our beach getaway wasn’t exactly a trip to the Caribbean. The majority of the tourists to Goa are Europeans, which equated to quite a few thong bikinis and a fair amount of toplessness. This behavior is quite shocking to Indians, since women here don’t even expose their shoulders and knees, even at the beaches. As a result, the beach at Candolim was teeming with swarms of vacationing male Indians who come to Goa to gawk at the nearly naked Europeans, cell phone cameras in hand.
Also, no tourist destination in India would be complete without touts. Some of the worst variety, the child tout, will bug you regularly to buy their bracelets while women ask you repeatedly if you want massages or snacks. We did find that the number decreases dramatically if you venture further north on the beach. The area near our hotel was essentially tout-free.
Overall, despite the gawkers and touts, we highly recommend Goa and wish we could have stayed longer. But we were still in southern India and had a lot of ground to cover before the Elephant Festival up north in Jaipur.