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A Different Face of Goa

January 2008
A Different Face of Goa

Tourists from all over the world are thronging the beaches in all states of undress, blond women are sunbathing in skimpy bikinis, Anglos are trying to make headway with vendors in pidgin Hinglish, men and women are plopped on beach chairs while deeply engrossed in their books. The beach is chockfull of a variety of vendors. There are shacks selling everything from pans to pancakes, little boys vending fruit platters, the massage-wallahs, and finally, colorful kiosks selling tourist paraphernalia, shell mementoes, beach hats, scarves and tee shirts depicting swaying palms in their full regalia. People are parasailing and water skiing. Beer and wine is jostling for place with kaju feni, the local brew made from cashews?these are a few vignettes of the classic Goa for you.

Yet, there is another side to Goa, very different from the above picture of a hyper-exciting beach paradise. Here, in what can be called “Off Goa”, the lines of beach chairs and stripped umbrellas are missing. So are the throngs of tourist. On a lucky day, you may have the whole beach to your self. No, this is not the private beach of a fancy five star resort costing the heaven and the earth and promising a bit of both.

These beaches belong to the small fishing villages dotting the Konkani coast. Unsullied (yet) by the tourist invasion, they maintain their quaint, old-world charm. They may lack all the modern amenities (there are places where even the ubiquitous mobile signals don’t catch). However, they have the rare serenity and the unspoiled air of an undiscovered place. Nandgaon, Kashid, Ganpati Phule are a few such villages. They are easily accessible by road from Mumbai. The roads are good, shaded with trees on both sides.

The other nearby attractions are the Murud-Janjira Fort that is surrounded by the sea, the Korlai Fort at Rewdanda, and the Nawab Palace. The ethereal emptiness of the ancient forts, as well as the vast expenses of greenery along the roads in the region, is a start contrast to the clamor of Goa.

There are many eateries along the way, serving authentic Maharashtrian food like vada pav, saboodana vada and usal. They are yummy and make a great breakfast on the way. Most of the eateries are mere shacks, others are full fledged restaurants. Some even offer an ambiance-rich meal thanks to the nice touch of hammocks on the tree lined beaches. Lie down in the setting sun while the vendor dishes up a piping hot egg bhurji for you.

It feels great to walk along, hearing the wind swish and the dry leaves crunching underfoot. The beaches are a long stretch of clean sand and water, virgin and unsullied. The water is refreshingly clear. More often than not you have the rare luxury of being the sole occupant of a stretch. It can be an eerie experience after the crowds on the Goa beaches. But slowly, this solitude on the shoreline grows on you.

These coastal villages are dependent on fishing and agriculture. There are groves of chikoo and supari trees along with the ever-present coconut. The local residents offer the main accommodation at these villages. They let out the rooms of their houses. These are simple dwellings with all the basic amenities. You can get home cooked food, even fish straight from the sea.

Some of the villages have woken up to the potential of a place like Kashid. Here the typical tourist trappings have started rising. You will find inns and motels with other frills thrown in. The beaches are also more crowded and vendors have sprung up to sell their wares. Small eateries have sprung up on the beach along with hammocks and chairs thrown in. There is even the typical beach accessory, the pony cart, riding into the sunset with a cache of delighted tourists.

The message seems clear. Enjoy a different face of Goa while you still can!

By Sia Mitra

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