After a long, miserably-cold train ride, we arrived in Goa. It was already late in the evening when we arrived and we hadn't booked a room anywhere for the night. Luckily we met a friendly Indian guy on the train whose friend was meeting him at the train station. They offered us a lift to where they were heading, Baga beach. Our memories of Goa were good ones. Ten years ago we spent a few days in Panaji (Panjim) and toured around the beaches and nearby towns by motorbike. When we were last in India it was the dead of the summer and very much out of tourist season. Our days on the Goan beaches were sublime- nary another traveller around. We had heard from other travelers that Goa had changed drastically since those days. Nothing could have prepared us though for what we saw during our drive to Baga beach. For 15 solid kilometers up the coastal road from Panaji it is nothing but restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shops of various kinds. Dominating this commercial landscape are loud and obese Russians by the scores and elderly slow-roasting Brits. The beach itself is comprised of five parts sand to one part cigarette butts and plenty of other debris to fill-in the gaps. It is just packed with people and beach beds. What the f*#k happened in 10 short years? It's weird to think that the next generation of Goan children are growing-up speaking Russian! We spent one night in Baga and got the hell out of there early the next morning.
We decided to base ourselves out of the quaint colonial capital of Panaji, just as we did before. Panaji makes no concessions or exceptions for tourists. Indian life goes on with or without tourism, and that's just the way we like it. We travel to escape the mass commercialism of the Western world, not to see it explode in a once tranquil and natural setting. While we travel, we like to be spectators and participants of cultures different than ours- our intentions are not to mold a place into our liking and change the cultural landscape forever. From Panaji we did much the same that we did during our first romp through Goa. We rented a motorbike and visited Old Goa (where you can see the embalmed St. Francis of Xavier) and some of the beaches that we went to before. Anjuna and Vagator beaches escaped the worst of the mass tourism and still desperately cling to some semblance of its earlier charm. These stretches of beach are frequented by a younger crowd of hippies (and wannabe hippies), Israelis, and, of course, Russians. We enjoyed our time in Panaji, but without its pristine and peaceful beaches, Goa holds little allure for the two of us now. Still in search for the 'real' India, it was time to move on again. Hampi, in the state of Karnataka, was where we were heading.
28 hours on buses and trains to date.