Happy Halloween! Another month has passed. As the end of October approached, a group of six of us took a trip to Goa this weekend. Goa is a state on India’s western coast, bordering the Arabian Sea. Though the smallest state in size, it is a huge tourist destination because of its beaches.
The trip was, decisively, a vacation. We got to Goa on Friday night and left Sunday night. Half of us stayed at the hostel Zostel Goa, and the other three stayed down the street at a hotel. After checking in, we walked to have dinner at a restaurant on Calangute Beach. We ate at a table outside on the sand, talked, and watched all of the people dancing beachside. The night was cool as we sauntered along the shore. We stumbled upon a little party and joined in the dancing for a while. Everyone danced to music (in Hindi, English, Punjabi) under the beach tent, even parents and their cute toddlers.
Unsurprisingly, Calangute Beach is much hotter and much more crowded in the daytime. We came back and spent the morning and afternoon there. Calangute is well-known to vacationing foreigners, but it evidently sees a great number of domestic tourists, too. Most of the beachgoers were Indian. Nearby streets are busy, as well, full of stores selling all kinds of souvenirs.
Later in the day, a couple of friends from our hostel accompanied us to Goa’s capital, Panjim. We drove around to see the city, wanting to visit one of its churches. Goa, like much of India’s west coast, was once under Portuguese rule. Portugal historically was and currently is a Catholic-majority nation. As a result, the state of Goa has a fairly high percentage of people identifying as Christian or Catholic. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim is one of the prominent examples of this influence.
On Sunday, we made our way to Mandrem Beach. Mandrem is a village, north of Calangute. It is smaller and quieter than Calangute, which made for a day even more relaxing than the first. Foreign tourists were the majority there, we found – particularly British and Russians. Areas catering to tourists across North Goa commonly had signs in English and Russian. These are often in addition to the widely spoken Konkani and Marathi, both written in the same Devanagari script as Hindi.
Anyway, I guess I was surprised at the Russian influence in Goa. I did not know before, but I found out why: India, following independence from the British in the 1940s, maintained friendly relations with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. Russia and India remain close today, and Goa is the state with the largest population of Russians. The relationship makes sense. I simply never thought to make the connection before seeing it.