But when the first five star hotel, Taj Fort Aguada (now Vedanta by Taj), had opened in 1974, it was thought to be a highly risky bet. Conventional wisdom held that foreigners wouldn’t travel this far for a seaside holiday, and also that Indians would always remain solar phobes. So while that first resort dominated a pristine arc of beach, every other strip of sand in Goa was gloriously empty: no shacks, no touts, no rooms for rent. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
All that changed rapidly when mass tourism took off. Without adequate planning in place, a veritable tsunami of concrete haphazardly overwhelmed much of the once – beautiful shoreline.
Now Goa goes 24 hours, 365 days a year, cramming in almost three million tourists annually, more than doubling its population all through the high season. Now dozens of flights pour into the state from across India, and another thousand charters annually connect the state to a bewildering array of countries: Iran, Ukraine, Finland, and Taiwan.
But even as the rustic has become overshadowed by rush hour, the fact is that most of Goa’s original charms are resolutely intact if you know where to look. Step slightly beyond the blinking neon of the main tourist drags, and a beguiling, diverse and unique cultural landscape unfolds right in front of you.
And there’s a song at every turn.