Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Old Goa and the Goa of Old

There comes a point in every travelers life that he must get off his arse and type up a blog post to keep the people who read it informed about his whereabouts. That time, for me, has come. I've been putting off typing up another blog post for the reason that there won't be many blog posts left to write after this one. The truth is that there's precious little time left for me in this marvelous country and if I catch up with my writing there'll be almost nothing left to write about.

But I must catch up.

If you're wondering where I am at the moment, I will tell you. I am in the diminutive town of Chapora - the Goa of Old. A quaint, one-street town which is a favourite Goa's hippy scene. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before I write about the Goa of Old I must first write about how I got here. And getting here was preceded by a trip to Old Goa. If this doesn't make sense yet, bear with me - it soon will.

Old Goa was the capital of Goa during the era of Goa's Portuguese occupation. It is now pretty much a ghost town. What was once a thriving city at the height of the Portuguese rule is now just a husk of a town. The only buildings which remain are the churches and cathedrals which serve as a testament to the Catholic influence which differentiates Goa from other Indian states. Old Goa is also a convenient 15 minute bus ride away from Panaji, making it a perfect day trip for the travel enthusiast. Well, almost perfect.

Se Cathedral
Old Goa was definitely worth the visit and the churches and cathedrals were large and numerous, but it failed to excite me. I suppose that was partially due to the crowds of other tourists who got bussed straight in, and partly because Old Goa gave off an air of discomfort. It's quite difficult to explain, but Old Goa felt as if it didn't belong in India, in Goa even. Everywhere you looked you were confronted by another massive, out-of-place church. The churches dominated the area and I couldn't help but feel that it was all intended as a display of dominance by the Portuguese. The imposing structures seemed to be built to be formidable. It all felt like a religious prick-waving contest that got seriously out of hand.

Churches aren't my thing, but I do love a good beach. And so, with the beach beckoning I left Panaji and headed north to Anjuna. Anjuna is another stalwart of the old hippy scene and used to have a reputation as the place to go to experience a Goan trance party. I imagine things have calmed down since then because I only caught wind of one party happening and the next day everyone said it got closed down at 11 PM.

The sunset over Anjuna
Anjuna may not be the place to go for a party anymore, but it is a great spot to go for a swim. For once the waves were of a moderate size and could be bodysurfed, unlike anywhere else in Goa. That said, waiting for the waves of a moderate size that could be bodysurfed seemed to take up most of the time that I spent in the water. At this point you can probably deduce where this blog post is going to go. Yep, nowhere. When you're spending most of the day on a beach there's not much to write home about.

I did visit the Mapusa Friday market for a couple of hours, but it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. What was on sale was mostly just tourist crap and fish. I did scour the market for anything interesting or different, but all of the places were selling the same slew of tourist trash - trinkets and T-shirts mostly.

Funnily enough I decided that Anjuna wasn't the best place to be staying. I'm not sure why I came to that conclusion, but it made sense in my mind at the time. I decided to move on after only a few days of lazing on the beach. I even moved away from the beach - to Chapora.

Chapora is a forgotten town. Forgotten by
tourists, at least
The Lonely Planet likens Chapora to the Mos Eisley Canteen in Star Wars and when I arrived here I understood why. It's not much bigger than a canteen, for a start, and its residents (local and hippy alike) have a very relaxed and slow pace of life. That might have something to do with the charas those hippies are smoking, but I can't be certain. It is the Goa of Old and that's what makes it an attractive place to stay. Chapora has not grown up with the rest of Goa. Everywhere else in Goa is full of tourists, Chapora has only a light sprinkling - and most of them are long-stayers. Chapora is still decidedly cheap, whereas the rest of Goa has hiked its prices up to milk the package tourists. I like Chapora. It's just what I was looking for, an almost untainted Goa, a lack of other tourists.

There's nothing to do in Chapora, nothing pressing at least. And I can't help but like that about it. I can spend a full day sipping chai and reading a book and not have to worry that I'm being slack because there's nothing else to do. I think I might just get stuck here for a while...
A short walk from Chapora - Vagator beach


  1. Oliver! We could not find you on facebook but after some fast googleing ("oliver south africa blog vietnam" etc) ended up here. Here's a link to my blog http://maitolaatikko.com/vidvelma/ and you can also find me in facebook by the name of vilma matilda juutinen. Was fun to get to know you! Tiina also says hi!

    -Vilma+Tiina from Anjuna

  2. Haha! I'm really impressed with your googling skills! Yeah, Anjuna was fun and it was great to have friendly neighbours. I'll add you on facebook right now.

    Those are some great photos on your blog, by the way.

    Oh and that was a very flattering mention of me in your blog. Thanks!