While planning my trip to Goa, I expected to be going to a relaxing beach town with grand, old Portuguese buildings. What I found instead was an eerily charming state with Portuguese ruins that were sometimes more run down than beautiful. There were small churches every mile or so that were often next to abandoned buildings surrounded by stray dogs fighting for food. The grass around these building was overgrown and almost artificially green because of the monsoon rains. The old Portuguese churches were still vibrant in color, like something out of a Wes Anderson movie. This added a whimsical charm to every place we went. The complicated stories of colonialism and tradition could be felt while passing by.
There was something haunting about the juxtaposition between all of the abandoned hotels in sparsely populated areas and Goa’s reputation for being an area where hippy tourists come to party on the beach. Outside of the tourist areas, I found myself spooked by my surroundings. Other than the abandoned buildings, there was often a lack of street lights and a lack of people nearby. The sinister sky that the monsoon rains created added to the generally mysterious and frightening ambiance.
Although I often felt like I was on the set of a horror movie, I found the people in Goa to be particularly friendly. People were always more than willing to help the group I was with (probably since we often looked lost, which we usually were). Locals were constantly asking where we were from and what it’s like in the States. I have never met a group of people who were so excited to show off their home and their culture. Goan history is fascinating to learn about, especially since it is so different from the rest of India’s history.
(My friend and I moments before getting devoured by the rain)
Overall, Goa gave me helpful insights into the complexities of Indian culture and history. I loved going to all of the churches, forts, and spice plantations. My favorite part was getting the opportunity to talk to people at small roadside restaurants. There was something charming about interacting with locals while their restaurant dogs tried to get me to give them food, which clearly worked with other tourists because many of these restaurant dogs were severely overweight (we affectionately named each of them “sushi roll”). These conversations were the most meaningful to me as they gave me valuable insight into their everyday lives and the beauty of Goan history.