I have to say that Goa is the biggest surprise in India so far. I was really unsure if I wanted to go there, expecting throngs of tourists partying all night. But since I was to be really nearby, I decided to give it a try – and picked the village Benaulim in the southern part of Goa for my stay. And it is great here!
Of course, there are quite a few tourists, but it is certainly not too bad (here it’s mostly Russian; Hebrew got replaced by Cyrillic on the keyboard in the internet cafe). I am staying in a nice and reasonably cheap (300 rs – 6 USD – per night) guest house, it all has a quiet feel – and the beach is great! Wide and long and clean. The sand is really soft, it even feels a bit like cement, when you move it in your hands it shifts and vibrates almost life-like. Really, first I needed to make sure I was not crushing some small animal inside. There are quite a few of them – starfish partly visible hiding in the sand at low tide and various crabs, with or without shells.
They even have a “supermarket” here – meaning quite a big shop (around the size of smallest shops in CR or US). And a nice bakery with decent-looking bread :)
But back to Hampi: besides from walking around the monuments, one day I rented a bicycle. There are many of them on offer and all equally bad. Well, the main thing is that they’re running, so it’s no big deal when the breaks are not working much. And they all proudly claimed the prices they have won in France and Switzerland. On the bike I went to a temple on the Anjaneya hill, where the monkey god Hanuman was supposedly born. Accordingly, there are monkeys jumping around, and of course the indispensable beggars and sadhus (something like Hindu monks or priests), who will mark your forehead with the red or yellow dot.
Then I went to the village Anegundi, also full of ancient buildings, but yet mostly unspoiled by tourism. It’s really beatiful in its simplicity, but I quite felt that I don’t belong there, I certainly wouldn’t like foreign tourists going around Doubravice (my home village in CR) and excitedly studying everything. I guess that’s the dilemma with travelling: either you go to a place that’s prepared for tourists, but at the cost of authenticity – or you go to less spoiled places, but there you are interfering with people’s normal lives.
My journey from Hampi to Goa was also interesting. First you go to Hospet, but even from there, there are not many direct trains to Goa (around 1 every 2 days), so I had a train ticket only to Londa, around 100 km east of Goa. We spent quite a lot of time just standing somewhere in the fields (once for an hour just outside the Hubli train station), so the trip took 8 instead of supposed 6 hours. From Londa I wanted to take a bus, without having any reservation or fixed idea where to go (I was also thinking about going to Gokarna, a sacred village on the coast south from Goa). Londa turned out to be quite a small place, mostly just with mud roads. A bunch of rickshaw drivers at the train station tried to overcharge me for taking me to the bus stop. Eventually I went with one of them and caught a bus to Goa just on time. On the bumpy way down the hills we stopped for a quick dinner – I take a great pride in my stomach for so far being able to survive eating anything (although I’ve of course been drinking only bottled water, I don’t feel that courageous).
Well, that will be it for now :) Tomorrow I’m planning to go to Panaji, the capitol of Goa, it should be full of nice buildings. Have a great time home!