Photo by John Warburton-Lee
The old cliches of hippy shacks and yoga on the beach started on North Goa’s beaches, a broad swathe of continuous sand now bristling with hotels, restaurants and seasonal pop-up eateries.
Once the original haunt of flower children from the West, and still the choice of British package tourists in winter, this stretch around Candolim-Baga-Calangute is also a favorite with Indian visitors. They come during the summer holidays and at New Year, with ringing in the year at Goa having become very cool indeed.
In season, visitors are the target of constant badgering by souvenir sellers, small-time watersports operators and hotel touts, pushing wiser travelers further north or south. But, during the monsoon season, the beach is beautifully desolate and I find a quiet hotel in Calangute. I stroll up to the end of the gently curving bay and back, with a black dog to keep me company. He is a part of the friendly pack of strays that co-exists here with the tourists and souvenir sellers.
My hotel’s owner, Manoj Chodankar, joins me for a coffee at his little restaurant overlooking the sea and shaded by casuarina trees. We talk about the burden of tourism on his tiny state. Although he has a prime location, he prefers to keep his hotel low-key and limited to 16 rooms. “I don’t want to overstep the boundaries of need, to be tempted by greed,” he says.
“We have just over three million visitors every year and that makes our GDP about two and half times the Indian average, which is good for the Goans. But we risk the loss of that special something that drew people here in the first place.”
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