After spending a night at the Prison Hostel, I gained an understanding of the owner’s genius business model. The hotel room was a complete dump and felt like an actual jail cell with bare cement floors, a broken AC unit, icy shower water, stains on the linens, and a family of cockroaches. However, these conditions were all acceptable because it’s “part of the theme”, leading to some very low costs for the hotel.
At least they provided a decent hot breakfast, and we immediately got to know everyone in the hostel due to the intimate size. For the rest of the day we acted like beach bums, laying out on chaise lounges next to the water and soaking up the sun. The strip of beach was filled with shops selling tie dye hippie clothes, catering to tourists and the ragged looking middle-aged crowd that never went back to reality after the 70s ended. There were also a few Indian families enjoying the beach, jumping into the water with their full outfits on.
We took some time to appreciate our surroundings as we sipped icy cold Kingfisher beer while sitting at a table overlooking the water swirling around the rocks. Life was pretty good, and this was a wonderful escape from all the noise and chaos of Mumbai.
Back at the hostel, we rallied the other guests to come hang out in the lounge before heading back out to the beach to experience Goa’s infamous night life. However, it’s off-season at the moment, so it was a very small group of us representing Norway, California, Connecticut and New Zealand. We could hear the psychedelic club music far before we made it to the beach, which was dark except for one glowing club at the far end. As we got closer, we started to see some stragglers from hippie generation stumbling around the beach, looking dazed and confused on their surroundings. In front of the booming club with neon lights casting an eerie glow on the water, we saw hoards of the drugged up hippies, swaying with the music or twitching to some indiscernible beat of their own creation. There were Indians here too, some partaking in the acid induced madness and others selling food and souvenirs to the others. We made an attempt to enjoy the trance music on the dance floor, but our sober selves had more fun just gawking at the others with their minds on some other planet. Luckily we found one of the Indian friends we made earlier and spent the rest of the evening sitting out on beach chairs and people watching with his friends. One Russian woman had come with her 7 year-old daughter and left her child asleep alone in a beach chair while she danced off by herself near the water. It was well past 2am, and I was horrified she could subject a child to this sort of environment.
Our energy was wearing out, so we started the long walk back to the hostel along the dark roads. I wasn’t afraid of the Goans, they’re lovely people from what I understand. I was afraid of the street dogs. During the day the dogs are friendly and want pets, but as soon as the sun goes down they turn vicious and threaten to attack. I grabbed an empty beer bottle to use as my weapon against them, terrified of being bitten and getting rabies. I seriously regretted not getting the outrageously expensive rabies shot before the trip. I had to swing the bottle a few times and reminded myself not to run or I’d be done for. Once safely back at the hostel, my bottle came in handy to battle the cockroaches.
We all rolled out of bed in time for breakfast and decided to rent some scooters for $4 per day and drive to a beach in the north, Arambol. There were six of us from the hostel zipping down the narrow lanes and weaving between tractors, cars, and other tourists on motorbikes. The beach was practically empty without a trace of tripped out hippies, so we relaxed, swam and swapped travel stories for hours.
Byron and I had aspirations to see a little more of Goa than just the beaches since it’s so rich in history from Portuguese rule. We promised to meet up later that evening and took off on one scooter to see Panjim and Old Goa. The narrow lanes were filled with elaborate European architecture, which was an interesting contrast to the classic Indian tuk tuk parked on the street. Grandiose churches and cathedrals stood boldly in the town square, looking somewhat out of place. One of our taxi drivers mentioned to us that certain citizens of Goa born during a specific period of time could apply for Portuguese citizenship.
The sun was starting to sink, so we headed back on the roads to our home of Anjuna and were so close to making it back to the hostel issue-free when a traffic cop stuck out his baton. Yes, AGAIN, those that have read my entries in Vietnam, but this one was much more pleasant. The cop demanded to see Byron’s license since he was driving, so Byron showed him his ID, but refused to hand it over (our hostel owner told us never to give them the ID or they will demand money to give it back). This infuriated the cop and he immediately said, “Arrest, Arrest!”, but the other cops couldn’t be bothered and continued talking amongst themselves. Then the cop demanded to see my license, even though I was a passenger, but I had it and showed it to him without passing it over. This satisfied the cop and told us we could go, but not before telling Byron he looked like a lady-boy in his picture. Good one.
After having dinner with the New Zealand and California girls, we were eager to ditch the scooter and not worry about any more cops. The hostel had a few more people this night, so we all went back down to the beach and enjoyed watching the hippies make fools of themselves again until late in the night.
Luckily our flight to Kolkata was in the afternoon, which gave us all morning to be lazy and pack slowly. We had a talkative intelligent taxi driver, and everyone at the airport was friendly too. It might just be a Goan thing.
Not only was the airport security friendly, but thorough. I’m going to steal a post of Byron’s to describe the situation:
The most confusing part about going through security was when the officers did the iconic Indian head wobble when I asked if I could proceed through the gates or not. This isn’t a simple definitive head nod or shake, but more of a tilted sideways head roll that could be just as much yes as it could be no. Of course I didn’t want to upset security and do the wrong thing, so I tried to use my best judgement to decipher the nod’s meaning.
When we booked our flight with Indigo Airlines, they gave many add-on options including having a cake served to you during the flight. I still teased Byron about my birthday because I never got a cake, so we went ahead and ordered ourselves one. About midway through the flight, an attendant came over to me with a decorated box and wished me a happy birthday. Inside the box was a beautiful brownie cake the size of a large dinner plate, wrapped in a blue ribbon. I was ecstatic and dug right in. The flight attendant came on the loud speaker and made an announcement to the entire flight:
“We would like to wish a very happy birthday to a Miss Erin, who is seated in seat 16B.”
The girl sitting next to me and several other flight attendants shared their birthday wishes. It absolutely made my day.
We only got a glimpse of Kolkata from the bus window as we passed by the food stalls and clothing vendors just getting into full swing around 7pm, but I could tell it was a lively city and I was excited to see more in the morning.