Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States

9th Feb 2018
Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar
Day 1

There is good reason why Goa is the party capital of India. With its scenic beaches and impeccable natural beauty, Goa is a destination unlike any other in India, at the very least.

Photo of Vagator, Goa, India by open durbar

Above: View at dawn from Vagator Beach

Immediately upon arriving at Vagator (about an hour away from Dabolim airport, depending on traffic conditions near a new flyover being constructed along the route), the refreshingly chilled land breeze freshens up one's mood. At the left edge of the beach is a trident, ascribed to the venerated Shiva but also apt as Neptune's or Poseidon's preferred symbol of dominion over the seas.

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

Above: Sunrise takes over the sky

With our faces towards the grey horizon, the sun rose without discomfiting our eyes. Vagator beach has a low hill towards the east, ensuring that for early risers, the reflections of the sun from the boats anchored a little way out to sea make for a sight to behold. At its own languid pace, sunlight starts to glance off the smooth surface of the sea. Deck chairs are spread out all along the length of the beach, aiding in contemplation and even a spot of morning meditation, if one is so inclined - pun intended.

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

At the top of the hill is Waters, not a bad place as far as beach-side clubs go. Just a short walk away from Waters was the venue for the 3-day Hilltop festival. We had booked our airbnb in Vagator itself, and it turned out to be far better than we expected. Our host was a gracious Australian, Amy, who had already been in Goa for 3 years. Apart from having the rooms spic and span, she also got us the ubiquitous two-wheelers that are essential for short commutes between the beaches - Vagator, Anjuna, Calangute grouped close together, and Morjim and Arambol towards the slightly mountainous north.

On the walk to our accommodation, we had crossed the age-old Manali Guest House, invoking that Himalayan paradise, and Lazy Llama, an intriguing Tibetan name for a Goan hangout. [ Leh-Ladakh on your bucket list? Read this!]

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

We proceeded to attend the first day of Hilltop, which was beautifully decked up and smoothly organized. The sound stages were intricately constructed and vibrantly painted. The sound system itself was sonic perfection, and our fellow attendees were a (thankfully) world-wise and non-interfering cross-section of people. In such gatherings, it becomes apparent how Goa is a culturally diverse melting pot of international humanity. Mixed in with the party people were families with small kids, ranging from the just-learnt-to-walk to pre-teens, which just goes to show how differently 'experience' is viewed by Western society.

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

On all 3 days, the Hilltop festival came to a punctual end at 10 pm, which was a bit early by Goa standards, so we would head to the beaches and soak in the late-night scene. There is no dearth of places that stay open till the small hours, and the beach remains a hotbed of activity - for example, we were treated to fire-tricks by an American on one memorable occasion.

Day 2

For lunch the next afternoon, a visit to Anjuna for making the Goan pilgrimage to Curlie's was inevitable, but on this trip, we reached a little earlier than our usual evening time. The sea-facing deck was full to capacity but we managed to manoeuvre into the corner table, but by the end of our meal, our prime spot couldn't make the experience much better. We concluded that the Curlie's staff was probably still drowsy at 4 in the evening, and that their kitchen was trying to become more efficient by not keeping much of their menu in stock. Nevertheless, the view remains unchanged as ever, and isn't that most of the point of Goa - the boundless sea?

Photo of Anjuna, Goa, India by open durbar

Anjuna Beach

Hilltop beckoned us for day two, and we were not disappointed. Spirited music was the order of the day and the artistes didn't hold back on their booming beats. The lighting was spot-on, as were the sideshows - fire-breathers, LED-suited stage dancers and confetti cannons were in the mix of sensations at the festival.

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

Hilltop at night

When the music stopped, to paraphrase Eminem, we continued our nighttime beach-lazing, taking in the calm breaking and rolling back of the waves that was in such contrast to the uptempo music at Hilltop. At times when we felt active, the hangouts on the beach provided excellent beats to groove to throughout the night. A few were densely crowded with the after-party spillover from Hilltop, and it was apparent that their energy levels had not abated. The seafront wasn't empty either, as the tide came on. Lots of water enthusiasts kicked about in the foam-crested waves, or stood still while the water danced its eternal dance.

Day 3

The next day saw us try out Thalassa, a Greek-themed eatery on the Ozran beach. While the service may have started off on a rocky note, the food made up for the callousness of the staff. The aloofness of staff at the posher eateries became more apparent on this trip than any other: perhaps the result of the highly profitable New Year rush having come to an end, leaving the more discerning tourists and travelers who, I believe, appreciate the real qualities of the places they are in rather than the projected image of that place, cultivated through brochures and tourism websites.

Photo of Ozran Beach, Vagator, Goa by open durbar

Ozran Beach

The third day of Hilltop was the best. Our spirits were buoyed both by Goa's fresh tropical air and the continuous waves of sound over the past two days, so we reached early and managed to capture 360-degree videos and images in daylight. The music breached crescendos repeatedly till the fiery conclusion of the festival, and we emerged satisfied from the gates at ten, determined to see the moon rise at the very least. It was an objective easily achieved, time flying by till it rose from behind the hill, following a trajectory almost similar to the sun twelve hours before it. Sitting in the dawn's early light, with the sky serving as our star-spangled banner, we were lucky enough to catch the fleeting glimpse of a solitary meteorite burning up in the atmosphere. The upcoming sun brought a fitting end to our eventful night, and we returned to our lodgings for checking out (like good guests should, we tidied up before leaving at noon).

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

After a late afternoon repast at Anjuna beach, I took a cab to Dabolim, envying my friends who had more time left to spend in the sun, surf and sonic states of Goa.

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar

Cafe Lilliput, Anjuna

Photo of Goa: Sun, Surf and Sonic States by open durbar
Day 4

PS: To add to the serendipity that I have come to look forward to, I was reminded of my upcoming trip to - specifically - Bandipur in Nepal in April, which will give me a chance to refresh my memories of my earlier visit in January 2017.

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