I’m back with more updates from India.
In the last article, I talked about the beginning of my first Indian adventure.
This time, things go south… both literally and figuratively.
Our last evening in Mumbai, we meet up with the Globetrotting Cupcake.
(That’s her artistic name.)
Mumbai, I must say, has really grown on me in the few days I’ve been here. I’m no longer terrified by speeding around in autorickshaws. The chaos isn’t bothering me as much. It’s actually kind of nice.
With the Cupcake is Alexx — yes, two Xs — an American actor who’s made himself a career in Indian TV and cinema. Later, Morena shows me a clip of him as the evil British imperialist in a Tamil film.
The food at Arth is great. And afterwards we go for cocktails at a place called Olive.
Throwing caution to the wind, I have a gin and tonic with extra gin — and extra ice. And it might be the ice which causes the gastric distress I experience for the next several days.
Then again, it might be any one of a dozen other things. The street food from that morning? Those two pieces of guava from the day before?
I have no way of knowing.
In any case, explosive diarrhea is just part of the real – dare I say authentic? – Indian experience.
Be careful out there, kids!
The next day I’ve got some little yellow pills to pop, and my stomach is feeling fine as we board (much-delayed) SpiceJet flight to Panaji, the capital of Goa.
Goa, it turns out, is a whole new adventure.
Adventures in Panaji and Anjuna
We spend the first couple of nights in a place called Dona Paula, a bit outside Panaji.
It’s got a small-town vibe. Little two-storey houses. Red clay roads. Banana trees in the yards.
The beaches are pretty much abandoned, except for a few fishermen and young people playing cricket.
My main problem in Panaji is that I can’t get coffee. The hotel has filter coffee, which isn’t very good. And other places have instant.
Nobody seems to have heard of espresso.
Finally, after a couple of uncaffeinated days, I google around and find a café nearby. It turns out to be the little sandwich shop inside the clubhouse of an exclusive residential development.
The guards at the gate wave me through, for some reason. I order an espresso and sit to watch the Indian soccer moms coming out of yoga class.
In a few minutes, the waiter brings me my coffee.
It’s instant, served in an espresso cup. Blech.
A couple hours later, we check out of the hotel and get a taxi up to Anjuna.
Anjuna: hippie paradise
Anjuna is even more rural than Panaji, and for some reason seems to be much more touristic as well.
The hippies are out in force. You know the type. Guys with manbuns, dozens of bracelets and long necklaces, but no shoes or shirt. Genie pants and Ganesh tattoos. The girls look pretty much the same, but with shirts. It’s all very spiritual.
There’s a lot of farmland, more red clay roads, coconut palms and people speeding from place to place on motorcycles.
Down at the beach, it’s bar after bar. The day we arrive, there’s no electricity anywhere, so we drink warm beer and watch the waves. It’s hot.
How did the hippies choose this place, out of all the world’s tropical beaches? I’m not sure.
I’m not even sure if this is on or off the famous “beaten path” that all the real travel writers talk about. On the one hand, it seems pretty remote. No buses. Not a lot of taxis. Not much to see except guesthouses and restaurants.
On the other hand, all these hippies.
Sleeping dogs and sacred cows
There are dogs everywhere in Anjuna.
Wandering around outdoor cafés, sleeping wherever there’s shade.
On the narrow stairs up to the hostel, I have to step over not one but two sleeping dogs.
In any case, they’re not too friendly. More avoidant.
The cows are out as well, wandering down the dirt roads, standing on the beach or lounging in the shade of banyan trees.
They don’t seem to be starving, but their diet can’t be great. We see one cow standing on a pile of trash, slowly chewing pages from an old magazine.
No problem, I guess. Cellulose is cellulose. That’s what the four stomachs are for.
Do these animals belong to someone?
Morena (whose actual name, in Hindi, means cowherd) says that when cows stop giving milk, people will simply let them go. Can’t afford to feed them, and can’t – for religious reasons – eat them, so they just wander around, living out the rest of their bovine lives in public.
Panaji and Anjuna wrap-up
I finally found coffee.
Anjuna’s got a lot of it, I guess.
Right now I’m at a place called German Bakery, drinking a double americano out of a large glass mug. It’s not bad at all.
There’s outdoor seating, only a few mosquitoes, and the food is pretty good.
And as I said in the beginning, India is growing on me. It’s certainly different than what I’m used to.
Anyway, I suck at forming large over-arching conclusions from short trips. So this time I’m not even going to try.
I’ll write more soon.
P.S. I got an editor to put some videos together while I’m here and the wifi is sub-optimal. Here’s Mumbai adventures, and here’s one from Panaji. More in a couple of days, from beautiful Thailand. Enjoy!