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The International Writers Magazine
Goa Travel

The Last Days of Goa
Tom Thumb

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 I’d 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.
The 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.
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.

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 schemes.

If it sounds like I’m 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 don’t know how it will end – after what I’ve seen, I’m never going back.

Tom Thumb is the editor of the Goa Guide ( and Goa Travel Info at Road Junky (
© Tom Thumb June 2007>

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