(Written in Anjuna, March 15th)
Goa’s had a rep for about 400 years. Way back when, Portuguese sailors used to call into Goan ports to live it up in drunken debauchery after months at sea coming around Cape Horn. It’s maintained that, in successive centuries. As recently as the mid-20th century, Calengute was a favourite watering hole of the Portuguese elite, arriving each year in May. In subsequent decades, it was hippie heaven in the 1960’s and 70’s, centred in and around Anjuna, giving way to the pounding trance beat of ravers in the 80’s and 90’s who took over Anjuna and Vagator.
How times have changed.
There are still parties to be had in Goa — Calengute and Baga are non-stop, party-central till the wee hours of the morning, with mainly European package-holiday tourists hell-bent on having a good time in their two weeks in India. (The Portuguese aristocrats of 50 years ago must be turning over in their graves, to see what`s happened to their favourite holiday spot.) But the rest of the beaches have quieted; locals, concerned about the effects of Western hedonism on the morals of their youth, pressured the police to put a stop to the scene. Now, there`s a crackdown and sound is turned off early; you can still find the music for a short while, but your rave will be over by 10 pm, when it would just be getting started in other parts of the world.
I took a day trip to Vagator today, just up the coast from Anjuna, on a little local bus that cost me 10 rupees (20-odd cents) for a return trip. Vagator was the home of monster raves in earlier decades, from the stories I’ve heard, and you can still see the evidence on the beach. There’s a huge depression in the sand, about midway up Vagator Beach, surround by large red and orange feather-shaped banners; when I asked about it, I was told this was “Disco Valley”, where enormous outdoor parties are held. (Well, till 10 pm anyway.)
The police turn a blind eye (or a deaf ear) to parties over the Christmas and New Year season so the music can carry on later, and Baga, for some reason, has escaped the ban year-round. I’m guessing it’s got something to do with large amounts of baksheesh changing hands.
But this time of year, Vagator and Anjuna are pretty quiet. You can still hear a trance beat pumping out of some of the shops in the towns, or coming out of the windows of passing cars. But your chances of finding anywhere to dance till the wee hours of the morning are pretty slim. You’ll be going to bed early whether you like it or not, when the speakers shut off well before midnight.
Further south, though, they’ve come up with a way around the noise ban. Starting in Palolem and gradually spreading to other beaches, “silent parties” sprang up. You can dance, till all hours of the night and into the next day, without anyone getting upset about the music. That’s because you don pair of wireless headphones, pick one of the channels of music on offer, crank it up as loud as you like and party the night away. In outer silence, but inner bliss, as you dance to the music that only you can hear.
What a brilliant idea. I asked around about such a thing in Anjuna or Vagator, but there’s nothing going on here yet. So maybe I’ll have my own private party: crank up my iPod, and dance like a madwoman, down there on the beach. Dance, to the music in my head.
P.S. No one will think I’m crazy, will they?