From an early morning cycling tour in Anjuna to club-hopping in Baga — our reader shares a delightful travel tale of being in Goa during the monsoons. Text and photographs by Malavika Ranjan
I have heard boisterous boasts about spending winters in Goa. Flea markets, lively beaches, great music and perfect weather. “I can’t believe you’re finally going to Goa!” cheered my friend, “how unfortunate that it’s monsoon time.” I spent my flight journey praying to diverse gods — “Please don’t make it rain for the next five days.” Did God listen to me? No. It rained cats and dogs.
As the clock ticked 10 at night, I knew it was the right time to explore the nightlife of Goa. You don’t have to tread far to find a club here. Walking through the rain-washed streets of Candolim, I felt enveloped in a prism of lights — red, blue and yellow; all reflections of shiny bar boards glistening through rain puddles.
Candolim is one of the luxe spots of Goa. Notorious for being expensive and coveted for being the one-stop destination for the finest bars, Candolim is a regular hub for locals. We walked past a couple of bars and skimmed through the chalkboards lined by loosely hung fairy lights- ‘2 beers with 2 free.’
Curiously entering into a shaft converted bar, we found ourselves a seat and took a moment to fathom Goa in its glory. The ambiance was what a millennial would call ‘lit’, with soft live music in the open courtyard, mixing with the loud murmurs and occasional laughter of those around.
The mood had just set in when I felt a raindrop on my forehead, another on my shoulder and before I realised, it was pouring. While everyone rushed indoor — something gripped me and at that moment I knew, I wasn’t going to budge. As the Goan rain soaked me inside out, my feet didn’t stop. To my surprise, several strangers stepped out in the rain to join me. I hurled song requests to the band. By the end of my tryst, the band members knew my name and the genre of songs I preferred dancing to. It was a tough goodbye, for who connects better than musicians and dancers who love dancing to their beats?
We covered eight clubs in a row that night. We didn’t stop until we were too tired to walk back 3 kilometres to our hotel. Among all the other things we knew by then — like the full catalogue of cocktails, the warm band members, and the significance of wearing slippers in monsoons — one thing we had accepted was that waking up early next morning was impossible.
Come morning, it was the fourth time I was hitting the snooze button. Just when I was about to repeat it for the fifth time, I realised that it is not an alarm ring after all. I received a call — “Hi Malavika. I hope you are up and awake by now.” Hurled into the realisation that it was already 06:30 am, I was rather disoriented. “Yes I am up, but I am afraid I won’t be able to make it. I can’t commute to Anjuna… and it’s going to rain anyway.” On the other side, I heard, “No problem. Get ready, I’m picking you up.”
True to his words, Himanshu, our cycle tour guide, was right outside the gate, waiting for us on his faded blue scooter; he was unusually energetic for an early morning. I was pillion riding along the lush green curves of Goa behind a man I had only spoken to twice over phone calls. As the serene morning and clear sky struck me awake, I could feel the salty air run through my hair.
As the scooter slowed down near a small highland, an adorable stray dog came running towards us, wagging his tail and uttering gleeful barks. “He is Doughnut, the love of my life,” said Himanshu. He cracked a joke or two about their companionship and I gave a genuine laugh. It felt like we were already friends.
We hopped onto our cycles and off we went. Twenty minutes into the ride, we paused at a stand-alone stall on the roadside, treating ourselves with, what I can safely call, the most satisfying meal of channa-paratha. We made another stop for some traditional Goan juice. As I coyly devoured my second glass, this time orange, I ruminated if the exceptional taste lay in the juice or the fact that it was being partaken in Goa.
To call it liberating would be an understatement. As we chatted our way across narrow lanes lined by coconut and palm trees, we took the uphill route to arrive at the flat top. Through several harmless skids, I finally opened my eyes to a breathtaking view. The sea was beneath me, lined by the forests. Unusual cloud formations in the sky and the monsoon breeze on my face — I knew I wouldn’t have loved Goa in any other season. We took a small break and sat down in silence, facing the ocean.
On our way back, it rained. If not for God being cold to my aeroplane prayers, I would have never known the joy of cycling against the rain. By the end of our cycling trip across Anjuna, I gained two things — the ability to ride a geared cycle and a friend in Himanshu.
That night we went clubbing in Baga. It is a pulsating street with countless fashion stores, junk jewellery outlets, crystal vendors and a crowd of hippies from all over the world. We hopped from one club to another. Dancing men and women welcomed us in, waiters were in their form whipping one cocktail after another, music was hypnotic and the soothing pitter-patter of rain kept us company till wee hours.
We took an entry stamp on our wrists and walked into the last club for the night. We saved Indie music for the final abode. Squeezing myself through the crowd, I finally reached the stage where the band was playing. “Hey, can you please play…,” “don’t worry, we got you.” I looked up in surprise, trying to place their faces through the curtain of my sweaty hair. I was right — for who connects better than musicians and dancers who love dancing to their beats…
That’s Goa for you — feels oddly at home but fascinating at the same time.