In Goa, as if a metaphor for our travels in general, we were caught in between two worlds.
We stayed on sleepy Mandrem beach, a place of smoking hot Russian girls with thuggish boyfriends, western travelers with kids, random older hippies and a few Indian families. Our first night there we found it to be very boring. Our guest house restaurant had no music and instead we were “entertained” by the obnoxious screaming of a few Russian kids who were running roughshod through the place. All the tables were obviously bothered by the kids, glaring at them with disdain. The one table that didn’t take notice was the table of the parents. The manager finally had to ask the kids to stop.
So, after the first day of our Goan holiday, we walked down the sprawling beach to the north where Mandrem blends imperceptibly into Armabol. Whereas Mandrem consists of mellow resorts spread out along the beach, the far end of Arambol was chock-a-bloc with trance music thumping bars (didn’t people stop listening to that about 10 years ago?) and eateries with billboards announcing “We specialize in Indian, Asian, Israeli, Mexican, Italian and Thai Cuisine and Wood Fired Pizza.” We’ve learned to avoid places that “specialize” in more than five regional cuisines.
There were young people with toned bodies and carefree attitudes towards sun damage playing assorted beach games, hippie types practicing fire dance moves, people doing yoga and tai chi on the beach. A youthful, party vibe permeated the area. It was only noon.
We had a beer (yes, it was only noon) and pondered moving to Arambol. We imagined meeting adventures travelers and sharing tales of our travels over sunset beers. We would have a variety of restaurants to choose from where we would be bothered merely by bad trance and not bad kids. It seemed like a little beach resort utopia for us.
But Arambol is not us. We may enjoy the nightlife until, say 9pm. We might enjoy hanging out with the 20-somethings for awhile, but we absolutely don’t want to be kept awake by their parties, music and laughter. We retreated back to Mandrem.
We spent a good deal of our time in Mandrem hanging out in the restaurant at our guesthouse that overlooked the sea, drinking juices, teas, soft drinks and reading books during the heat of the day, sheltered from the blazing, carcinogenic, wrinkle-causing tropical sun. We overheard absurd conversations by those staying at our guesthouse, including an animated discussion by six Americans about astrology. In India there are a lot of western types who have beliefs that run counter to my own, and thinking that what month a person was born in dictates their personality or potential love matches is one of those areas where we differ. We also suffered through overhearing four drunk Irish people talking about how much they hate Facebook. (I happen to like Facebook.)
One night we went to Arambol to meet Chantel and Stephanie – two girls we met in Varanasi who are teaching yoga in Arambol. We found them at a sunset drum circle where hippies clad in flowing skirts danced with hula hoops while dreadlocked men, who seemingly hadn’t bathed since they were washed clean by the monsoon rains, beat drums and played flutes. It was a cool scene and I felt that at any moment one of the hippies might give a speech about how we need to end the Vietnam War. There were no drum circles at mellow Mandrem.
Our Arambol guides took us to eat at a cheap dive in town – a secluded hovel we would never have found on our own – where we got a thali for about a dollar and then went shopping on a street lined with stores bursting at the seems with hippie-chic clothing. We moved on to a small cafe where we had a drink and met an affable, long-haired Swede who had probably spent most of his adult life unemployed, living on the cheap in assorted foreign countries. The Swede gave us some valuable travel advice and it was fun to have friends, fun for Kristi to have girls to shop with.
We took an overpriced $4 taxi back to Mandrem, (it cost the same as Chantel’s and Stephanie’s room for one night) back to where we belonged, sort of. Back at Mandrem, we had one last drink and an order of French fries at our funereal restaurant. Everyone at the restaurant/bar was in their small groups, inaccessible to us, which is probably how we looked to them.
At that point we realized we had found our compromise. Arambol, with its noisy partiers and ultra-budget accommodation was not the place for us. Mandrem, with its families, Russian mafia and catatonic nightlife might not be our place either. But if executed correctly, we could spend the evening in Arambol and the night at Mandrem, getting the best of both worlds, the two worlds we are stuck in between.
A note about the Russian women:
About 25% of the tourists at Goa were Russian and almost all the Russian girls at the beach were stunningly beautiful with perfect bodies. (The guys were mostly burly, not-so-handsome men with utilitarian bodies and back hair. Oh, and they wore Speedos. They ALL wore Speedos.) I can talk about the hotness of the Russian women as a married man and not get in trouble because A) it is true and B) my wife was amazed also.
“I didn’t know Russian women were so hot!” she was quoted as saying.
We saw a pregnant Russian who was seriously sexy even though she was maybe 3 months away from bringing life into this world.
“That pregnant woman looks better than I do. Hell, she has a nicer belly than I do,” said Kristi.
If I could give any advice to the young, single guys in the world it would be this:
1) Learn Russian.
2) Visit Goa.
Oh, and learn self defense because I am pretty sure their boyfriends are in the mob and adept at street fighting. And bigger than you.