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Travel & Holidays in later life

GO AWAY TO GOLDEN GOA

Cathedral at Old Goa, a World Heritage siteThe 65 miles of gorgeous Goan coastline were 'discovered' by the hippies of the 1960's. Attracted by golden beaches of superb quality, the drop-outs flocked to this idyllic winter paradise where fish, rice and alcohol were cheap, and a palm-thatched hut could be rented for peanuts. 

Following the hippy pioneers, developers built resort hotels that catered for much wealthier visitors. Finally, charter flights arrived, to establish Goa as an international gateway into the Indian sub-continent. Holidaymakers who can afford between 500 and 1,000 for a two-week holiday can be here today and Goan beaches tomorrow in a non-stop overnight flight.

Located 250 miles south of Mumbai, long stretches of golden beach are backed by a lush green countryside.

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

Goa has three seasons: summer, monsoon and winter. The best tourist months are November to March, bone dry and comfortably warm. 

April until mid-June becomes extremely hot. Then the monsoon takes over until mid-October, with a total 88" of rain. 

Land area of Goa is 1,400 sq miles - the size of Cornwall. The main natural resource is iron ore.

The population of 1.2 million is
growing faster through migration. Religion is Hindu 60%, Catholic 37%. Goa's national sport is football - unlike the rest of cricket-mad India.

Regular shop hours are Mon-Fri 9-13 and 16-20 hrs, but street markets are more flexible. Panaji is the main shopping centre, but traditional markets at Margao and Mapusa are more fun. 

In Mapusa the daily market activity peaks on Friday into a big tourist attraction. It's a good place to buy local crafts and souvenirs, and enjoy the hustle and bustle. Gold and silver jewellery is sold here; the local drums called tabla; spices; readymade garments; nuts; liquors.

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Occupied by the Portuguese in 1510, Goa became the capital of all Portuguese territories in India. The 16th and 17th centuries were the age of 'Golden Goa', the greatest trading centre of the Far East, handling luxury products of China, Persia and India: silks, spices and carpets.

For a hundred years the Portuguese kept their trading monopoly until the Dutch and then the English gained a hold in other areas of India. Bypassed for the next few centuries, Goa slumbered in a backwater until Portugal's colonial rule ended in 1961.

Goa's airport still has a vintage Portuguese appearance. Standing half an hour for immigration rituals, visitors begin to get the message that the pace of life is rather more sedated than elsewhere.

In contrast to the great tourist cities and teeming populations elsewhere in India, the largest town and capital of Goa is Panaji with 60,000 people. Most of the remaining 1.2 million inhabitants live in villages. Their houses are built of red stone or brick, with several rooms and a verandah dripping with flowers. It could be southern Portugal, planted among the coconut groves.

Whichever beach resort you choose, rural India is only a short walk away. A drive through the tranquil countryside is beautiful everywhere. 

All along the coast is a lush belt of coconut groves, with spacious bungalows in the shade. Rice paddies are planted with green vegetables and beans after the grain is harvested. Bullock carts take produce to market, while cattle wander in leisured style across the road, heedless of scooters which steer around them.

Anjuna Beach The inland hills are a breathtaking feature of Goa. Winding country roads pass terraced fields and a myriad fruit trees. A major cash income comes from cashews, which yield their nut harvest in April. Cashew fruit also keeps people happy with a local firewater called fenny, distilled from the fermented juice and pulp, and selling for under a pound a bottle. Toddy is tapped from coconut trees, to yield a similar source of alcohol with the delicate flavour of meths.

A favourite tourist excursion goes to a model fruit and spice farm, to watch coconut harvesting, and see the plants and trees which produce black pepper, coriander, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, cummin and tamarind. Most visitors go home with low-cost packets of spices and cashew nuts.

Tropical fruits are part of the holiday. Stubby little bananas have a delicious sweet flavour, far tastier than Britain's imported bananas which are picked green and ripened artificially. Likewise the local pineapples are sweet and juicy, and served in fat segments.

A shack restaurant on a Goan beach The best eating in Goa is seafood, cooked in many styles. Along the beaches, shack restaurants serve lobster, tiger prawns, squid, oysters, mussels, crabs, shark, mullet, pomfret, grouper and mackerel at less than one-third the cost in hotels and more formal restaurants.

There's no such thing as a crowded beach. The sands are powder-fine, often several hundred yards deep from the shoreline to the palm trees. Colva Beach is the second longest in India.

Very little is left of the hippy scene of 30 years ago, though a few veterans base themselves at Anjuna Beach, where an ultra-simple room costs only a few pounds. A weekly craft market is held there, but hippy vendors are greatly outnumbered by Kashmiris and Tibetans. 

All the beach resorts are low profile. By local rules, new buildings are set well back from the shoreline, and nothing is taller than a palm tree. Architectural styles must conform to local patterns with sloping roofs and red tiles. 

Nobody goes to Goa for the nightlife, except for an occasional rave which causes local indignation for the 'noise pollution'. Otherwise, a folk-dance performance at the principal hotels is about the wildest it gets. 

Goan music with Portuguese style Goan music and dancing is a rich cultural mixture of Hindu and Portuguese. The most-favoured musical instrument is the guitar. Many dances and costumes have come direct from Portugal, and popular tunes are sung in Portuguese or in the Goan mother tongue. 

The Portuguese heritage is seen especially in the religion, with one-third of the population Catholic. At Christmas there are serenades of guitars, mandolins and violins, with the singing of popular carols and the Portuguese love songs called fados. This is India, Portuguese flavour!

Consider including other areas of India in your itinerary

DELHI - New and Very Old


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Lonely Planet: Goa" by Bryn Thomas and Douglas Streatfeild-James - Could be rated as the best guide-book of Goa, top choice for anyone aiming for a more independent visit. 

Goa by Annie Dare - A Footprint Handbook that describes Goa as Mediterranean culture grafted onto India stock.

Secrets of an Indian Kitchen - An excellent resource for anyone inspired by the spices of Goa to reproduce the effects back home.

Goa - Rough Guide -  A well-researched guide for the traveller who wishes to explore on his own initiative in carefree old-Portuguese style.


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