Beautiful sandy beaches, Mediterranean food and a Western-influenced culture. In this way Goa is advertised on travel sites and in brochures. Many Indians advised me to travel at least once to this small paradise, to enjoy the sun, the beach and the salty sea. Because there – unlike any other place I have visited in India – you can jump into the cool water quite revealing in bikini, shorts or swimsuit. Normally, this is a huge social taboo. Once I was even asked to cover myself a little more and to pull over a T-shirt and trousers as I was swimming in Hyderabad. Of course, definitely not transparent – This may be self-evident. In Goa I should feel a bit more like home and I would free up some space for my liberal soul – So the promise.
Before I went there, to Velha Goa, the capital of the state, I informed me of the local habits and the weather. Because I wanted to pack my backpack as efficiently as possible. There was no need for unnecessary things. A habit that I have become adept at after several trips. The more luggage, the more you haul. And in such a tropical climate every gram of extra weight feels like a kilogram more.
What I didn’t know at that time: The state of Goa was also the scenery for one of the most terrible crimes on a foreign tourist in India. It happened seven years ago as a 15-year-old female tourist was found dead on the beach of Anjuna. The body was half-naked and showed distinct traces of violence. Nevertheless the police declared officially that it was death by drowning. But after a second autopsy – the victim’s mother insisted on that – the cause of death was disproved. Instead it is believed that the girl was raped and murdered afterwards. No single case in India. Like you already know from different media. And also in Goa, there are sexual assaults on foreign tourists from time to time. That is the reason why some newspapers have renamed the state to the “lost paradise”.
But Goa is not lost. Until today, the tourism fills the coffers of local hotel, restaurant and bar owners. In high season, in Velha Goa live even more tourists than residents. The reasons for that are obvious: The alcohol prices are reasonable, the thermometer climbs all year barely below 20 ° Celsius and the social climate is more liberal than in the rest of the country. So liberal that the state had become a pilgrimage site for hippies and dropouts. Today these social groups enjoy very little prestige in Goa. And also the drug use and – sale are punished comparatively strict. Even the possession of a small amount of drugs can be punished with an arrest or prison sentence – according to the regional law. Nevertheless, more than 100 tourists per year die from a drug overdose in Goa. I also have to admit that it was easy for my Indian friends, to buy pot or the like and smoke it in public on a beach party. Somehow you probably can’t prize the hippie culture out of Goa – despite the draconian penalties.
For me, this little state is definitely burnt into my memory. There I have experienced the best New Year’s Eve of my life. In a great restaurant right next to the sandy beach, with a view all over the whole ocean. It was a stormy night. The waves lashed hard against the cliffs and the night was clear and starlit. At midnight the fireworks made its way through the dark night and lightened the entire beach rainbow-coloured. I will never forget as I was standing on the railing staring into the night, watching the fireworks.
But not just this night was outstanding in Goa: In which other place in India can you eat at a pizzeria at 4 A.M.? Where can you drink Kingfisher and Cobra Beer deep into the night on a beach? Or savour cocktails at a beach bar all day while eating shark in fried garlic? Nowhere else in India the alcohol consumption is so openly tolerated. And also the closing time is in most states at midnight. In Andhra Pradesh, for example all clubs and bars close at that time, 12 P.M. Because who opens longer, will be liable to prosecution and will have to pay a fine. Although you could also bribe the police so easily?!
Also in other aspects, Goa differs enormously from the rest of India. And for a good reason: For four hundred years the state was colonized by the Portuguese, and gained independence in 1961 after an armed conflict. Even today, road and surname remind of the former colonial rulers. Likewise, Goa is the most Christian state in whole India. A quarter of the population is of Christian faith, a very high percentage for a country in which predominantly Hindus and Muslims live. With great surprise, I could find out that you can order beef in Goa’s restaurants. An absolute taboo in almost every other state. But in Goa, where the air is saltier and the soul more open-minded, everything seems to be possible. And even flying cockroaches in the hotel toilet, another sunburn and a flock of mosquitoes can’t destroy the special magic of this state. Despite one or another horror story on television. But who travels to India should simply always be aware of lurking dangers, such as robberies and rapes.