It remains distinct from the rest of the other Indian states – it is not just the familiar remnants of European colonialism that make Goa seem so accessible, since the prevalence of Christianity allows Westerners to feel instantly at home.
Although Hindus outnumber Catholics by 70-30, this is not reflected in the locals’ liberal attitude towards skimpy beachwear.
This former Portuguese colony became a favourite place for ‘hippies’, thanks to cheap accommodation and the availability of drugs. Naturists also found Goa a sympathetic idyll for their naked peccadilloes.
Backpackers and foreign charter tourists escaping the winter in Europe have now replaced the hippies.
Palm-lined beaches and lapping waters create an illusion of lethargy – laziness or ‘sosegado’, the local term.
Goa still knows how to party though – the blend of East and West is at once exotic and strangely familiar: Christmas and Carnival are celebrated as enthusiastically by the 30-percent Goan Christian population as Diwali and Durga puja are by the Goan Hindus. On our last visit to Goa it was costing us £6 for a 2 course evening meal including drinks and the quality of the food was very good. If you eat out in one of the top hotels it will cost you a lot more but you won’t get the same cultural experience if you don’t visit the local friendly cafes and restaurants.
The cheapness of the local meat and fish-based cuisine is another fillip for the frugal traveller.
Goa’s lifestyle is best experienced during the winter months between October and end of February, thus avoiding the soporific sun and the downpours of the seasonal monsoon between June and August.
‘Carnival’ should also be experienced – a three day festival of fun and floats just before the 40-day Lenten period of fasting.
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