The International Writers
Last Days of Goa
Goa has had a
strange history, shaped over the ages by various invasions, both
military and cultural. The Portuguese made Goa their own with intoxication
of wine and the Inquisition in the 16th century, the Indians reclaimed
the state for the country in 1961 and, just a few years later, the
first hippies arrived and laid the foundations for the explosion
of tourism Goa sees today and which threatens to destroy
all that was beautiful about it.
I first landed in Goa in 1995, just as they heyday of the trance party
scene was setting into decline. For years the freaks had held naked bongo
parties on the sands but with the arrival of electronic music, a new wave
of ravers had come from around the world to make Goa their Asian playground,
take psychedelics and generally have a lot of fun.
The upshot was that Goa party scene became world famous and, as with any
scene that receives a little too much attention, the local authorities
and mafia wanted their share. The police began to close down parties as
they clamoured for ever-larger bribes and mafia types from Bombay constructed
discos to replace the wild parties held out in the middle of nowhere.
I headed back to Goa this year for the first time since 2000 and whilst
Id expected to see changes, I was in shock. Rent prices had increased
four fold, the free parties had been squashed and now the only way to
go and dance all night was to pay a disco owner for the privilege.
Motor boats roared
into the beach every day to deliver pasty English or gawping Indian tourists
onto the sands to stare at the hippies for a minute or two, buy a beer
and then road off again. Restaurants now lined the beach from one end
to the other and there were rumours that even the empty beaches had now
been bought up by developers representing 5 star hotels.
wave of colourful freaks who had given Goa so much of its seasonal
character had moved on to cheaper Indian beaches and everywhere
was construction and development. Part of the charm of Goa had been
renting the old colonial houses and listening to the sounds of the
waves whilst sat n the verandah. Increasingly, these houses now
included satellite TV and even air conditioning.
There was still a vibrant international community renting houses amid
the palm trees and jungle bushes but it was becoming distinctly middle
class. I remembered the days of smoking hash in chillums on the beach,
dropping acid on dance floors at full moon and arguing about the personal
lives of the Hindu Gods over endless cups of chai. Now it was more common
for the talk to centre around property investments, websites and export
If it sounds like Im moaning about only the disappearance of a traveler
scene, consider the effect on the locals. These beaches are populated
by village people who hardly ever go more than a kilometre from their
homes. They understand the economy of a kilo of rice or haggling for fish
in the market but they were being eaten up like sardines by the property
sharks who cheated them out of their land. Even if they did end up with
a pile of money they had no idea how to use it and lost their homes forever.
Cell phone towers had been erected above the local schools, pollution
had scared off much of the local fish and now cars ruled the narrow Goan
roads, forcing pedestrians, bicyclists and scooter riders off into the
ditch. The forces of Progress had arrived and now the sleepy harmony of
Goan life on the beaches was disappearing forever.
It began with a few ragged freaks turning up to sleep under palm trees
in 1965. I dont know how it will end after what Ive
seen, Im never going back.
Tom Thumb is the editor of the Goa Guide (http://www.goaguide.org)
and Goa Travel Info at Road Junky (http://www.roadjunky.com/guide/323/goa-travel-guide-online)
© Tom Thumb June 2007
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