Travels: Goa

Attracted by its reputation for collegiate fun, I met up with friend from U of M at Bangalore airport for short plane ride to Goa. On the western coast of India, Goa is known for the beach, trace music, Russian tourists, and as I said, collegiate fun. Additionally, it’s the former Portuguese colony of India with historic forts and churches. Goa’s reputation only partially applies to the off season. Torrential rain, 90-degree heat and humidity so high you swim through the air keeps most people and the Russians away. We went to a tourist town, in the off season to find most of it closed. December and January is the time to go.

My friend and I in Goa

My friend and I in Goa

With a hostel to match the reputation of the state for our short stay in Goa, we meet an interesting number of characters. I met a computer science major from Gujarat blowing off classes that talked my ear off, a britisher who drove trucks in the US illegally and was later deported and banned from the country, a guy who used to work at the hostel and now got payed to gamble (not sure how he managed that but it was what he said,) all in my first two night in northern Goa. The first night we slept in a non-air-conditioned room. You learn to appreciate AC went you are trying to sleep in 90-degrees and what feels like 100% humidity as your tee shirt clings to your skin. Fortunately, after that first night we moved into an air-conditioned room. The power would go out every evening with the torrential rain that preceded it but the insulation kept us cool.

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Early in our trip my friend and I met three medical students from Kerala. They happened to be staying in the same room in the hostel as us and we quickly befriended them. We got up to go to breakfast at the same time and joined them in finding a bit to eat. In selecting a place to go one of the medical students said, “South Indian first,” and that’s what we had. While I ordered idli, everyone else got Dosa. My friend, who had just spent the last month in rural Karnataka, and the medical students said they have idli every day and wanted something else. I needed to satisfy my desire for it before I can’t find it back in the US. The medical students from Kerala confirmed what I thought about the food however, it wasn’t very good. One of many attempts I would make to eat Indian food in Goa and be disappointed.

After breakfast, we rode on scooters up to a nearby fort to have a look around the only sight nearby. In a famous Bollywood movie that no one could remember the name of, three characters posed on the walls of the fort and everyone there wanted a picture of the three of them to imitate it. The vantage point of the fort reviled the lush green beauty of Goa and provided a gust of the sea breeze, the only relief from the heat and humidity. After seeing the fort, we returned to the hostel and I added the medical students on Facebook before they left to continue their four-day vacation from school in another part of Goa. (If they are reading this I wish them all well.)

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Shortly after the medical students from Kerala left, we met an iOS developer from Mumbai. He had an Android. My friend and I hung out with him during the rest of our time there and returned to a beach we’d seen a few days before to find Siva’s face carved into a rock there. During my time in Goa I was always puzzled as to why I couldn’t get good Indian food. Once I ordered a thali and nothing on my plate was spicy. Nothing. People wore shorts and that was socially acceptable. Trance music played at the oddest times. It played when my friends and I sat down to enjoy dinner. At a sea side restaurant while families looked out at the ocean and kids ran around on the outside deck a shirtless DJ played to an empty room. All of this of course has a simple explanation: Goa isn’t in India. Although, I was later told, “forget your time in Goa.”

Shiva's face carved into a rock on the beach.

Shiva’s face carved into a rock on the beach.

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About Chris Olson

Chris is a sophomore planning to major in Political Science and minor in Community Action and Social Change. After graduating he hopes to attend graduate school and earn a PhD in political science to pursue a career in academia. In India he will be conducting independent research on urban planning. Chris plans to examine the master plans of Bangalore and Amritsar and learn what values are motivating planning in the two respective cities and why those motivations are present. From there he will compare those values of each city to understand how and why they may be the same or different, giving greater insight into how urban planning is being conducted in India.

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