The International Writers Magazine:India- Goa
travelling companion Siggi, and her laser beam humour, is the
only redeeming aspect of Calangute that I can recall. Calangute
is the centre of Goas international package tourist trade
and each time I visit I notice more and more new hotels, restaurants
and English pubs.
Given its position,
it should be the jewel in the crown of Goan tourism. But ever sprawling
Calangute is becoming over developed and appears to lack any coherent
planning strategy. If there is any strategy then it doesn't seem to
be having much of an impact at least as far aesthetics is concerned.
The place is commercialism overlaid with more commercialism, with each
trinket and jewellery shop, each overpriced restaurant and each shopping
or hotel complex leaving me craving to escape.
The hippies arrived on Calangute beach in the early 70's, much to the
dismay and even moral outrage of some of the local people. At that time
little existed beyond fisher families and villages. Then in the 80s
came cheap flights from the UK to entice the British package tourist
who sought sun, beaches and low costs. The prices in the various concrete
high rise "costa del hell holes" British tourist spots in
Spain increased and over the last decade Goa has become the new Spain
for many Brits. Now Brits, Germans, Scandinavians and increasingly Russians
It always strikes me as pretty strange that so many Brits travel half
the world to arrive in a place where they expect (and get) fish and
chips, English pubs, and now a fully blown Irish bar, with varnished
floor and brass hand-pumps, which could have been transported from any
number of UK high streets. Its not an imitation its
the real deal. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Calangute
Sometimes when in Calangute I have to remind myself that I am actually
still in Goa. Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and any other number of
places have their own plethora of Calangute type places, each conforming
to the standards of commercial tourism and each having a huge impact
on the local economy, culture and ecological systems. I guess they serve
a purpose however for those hankering after the tourist dollar (or pound
or euro or rouble) and those in search of cheap breaks. Whereas Spain
is just a short hop from the UK, Goa is in India, a faraway place and
one of the most exciting and diverse countries on earth. To travel half
way around the globe and then never venture beyond a six kilometre radius
of Calangute, which is what many do, seems such a waste. Calangute is
the tourist ghetto par excellence.
During my latest visit in October, I found myself on a moped just outside
of Calangute and asked Siggi if she would like to take a photo of the
scene at hand. There was a newly built, surprisingly architecturally
pleasing building set against a forest of coconut trees and green hills.
It was a beautiful scene. Siggi declined the option however and instead
asked, "Is that building a hotel that caters to foreigners who
never interact with local people because there is a bar, restaurant
and pool on site, and they never have to leave the complex?"
I responded that it probably was. Siggi was as sharp as they come but
lets face it, it doesnt take a PhD in world tourism to understand
the nature of much of modern day tourism.
Believe it or not, I actually like Goa. And there is certainly a heck
of a lot more to it than Calangute. It has some lovely beaches, great
historical sites and beautiful scenery ranging from lush paddy fields
and towering coconut trees to the rain forests leading up to Castle
Rock in the Western Ghats. It is an international draw for good reason
and I am continually drawn to the place. But for some reason and at
some point I too often find myself visiting Calangute, which can be
relatively pleasant during the off season. However in December, at the
height of the tourist season, I can give it a wide berth.
Travelling is not necessarily about the places that you visit, but about
the people you meet. Perhaps those Brits who come here have fond memories
of Calangute because of the friendly Goans they encounter. I love Goa
but dislike Calangute and its concrete sprawl, inflated prices, poor
infrastructure and the type of tourism that the place represents.
However, thanks to my German friend, Siggi, I do actually have a soft
spot for it these days. Siggi was beautiful to look at and beautiful
to be with, unfortunately the same could not be said of Calangute. But
are our memories of certain people whom we encounter when travelling
a good enough reason to develop a fondness for a place and excuse it
for all of its man made ills? I dont think so.
© Colin Todhunter March 2006
Colin writers on India and you can find many feature articles on his
favourite continent in Hacktreks
Wold Travel pages
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