Tuesday, March 30, 2010

…why the South beats the North

There is a severely commercial side of Goa geared to the tourists in every way. Mostly in the North. where the beaches are dotted with shacks, with neatly lines up sun beds for as far as your eye can see. Where the shack owners speak perfectly accented English that makes you look twice to see if the words are really coming out from the mouth that is speaking them! Where there are almost as many nude foreign tourists as there are newly wed, chooda-wearing Indian tourists. Where it’s more likely that the Italian and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food on the menu is authentic, but the tempered down Goan delicacies that you are served are anything but authentic. Where you often see the piles of litter and wonder what can be done to correct the vicious cycle. Where it seems like the beach is a commodity. A carrot, dangled in front of the eyes of the millions of tourists who are lured here year after year.

And then there is the South. More importantly, there are beaches like Palolem. Where the sand is whiter, cleaner and soft on the feet. Where the sea is sea-blue, like it is meant to be. Where the waves lap gently, and don’t bring back garbage on to the shores. Where the beach is dotted with palm trees that lean and reach far towards the water. Where the shacks exist, but are far less crowded than up north. Where the beach is beautiful and inviting. Where you’re more likely to meet the true beach loving tourist, and not the trashy in-a-trance tourist. Where Cafreal, Sorpotel and Vindaloo is the real deal. Where the beach experience is mellow, serene and perfect. Where you can soak up the sun, the sand and sea, or just lie back with a book. Unperturbed by loud music, chattering crowds, the sounds of high speed sea sport, hawkers and sales talk. Where you’d love to go every chance you get.

Palolem is roughly a 2 hour drive from Panjim. And if you bike it down like we did, the drive can be beautiful for the senses but a pain in the ass. But the view of the sea on reaching Palolem, quite makes up for it all.

It’s true, the south and the north are poles apart. Palolem is more like a quaint village, with a shanty market area leading into the beach. Somehow this is more appealing than the drive up to some of the beaches in the north. Firstly, Palolem is a smaller beach, and slightly cut off from the open sea, as it is a little curved. Perhaps this is why the waves are gentler, smaller and make the sea far more suitable for swimming. I found myself quite peacefully swimming far out into the ocean, without really feeling at sea! On a good day, if the sunshine is just right, the rocky edges make for a good snorkeling experience. Otherwise Palolem is the perfect beach to spend a day, alternating between swimming, relaxing in the shade with a chilled drink, and kicking your legs back. Take in the blue view, read a book, listen to music, spend some quality time alone – Palolem is apt for it all!

We stumbled into a shack called The Big Fish, quite by accident, because we happened to enter the beach through their access way. And once we had hit the sea, we were too lazy to move around and find a better shack. Big Fish wasn’t all bad though. Despite lazy, slow service, the food was good. Thankfully the beach and the sea more than made up for the service that really made us feel like the shack owners were doing us a favor by entertaining us!

So it was a day well spent for me. A nice early morning drive, when the sun isn’t fully out as yet. A gorgeous beach. Some great swimming. Decent food. Some much needed peace and quiet. A lovely bowl of fresh fruit and ice cream to end it all. And a peaceful drive back to Panjim. None of which I could have done in the beaches of the North.

To Palolem and back. All in a day. The best way to spend a Sunday.

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