Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A very touristy Palolem

Palolem is touted as the best beach in Goa; for some, it’s one of the best beaches in the world. I must admit that I’ve been incredibly spoilt in life and spent time on beaches in the Caribbean, and Palolem, in my mind, just doesn’t quite compare.

When I arrived on the main road of the street leading down to the beach, the first thing I noticed was the usual rubbish strewn about the place. There were small piles hidden between buildings and an array of plastic bags and bottles carelessly flung out among the palm trees. The beach itself (given the sheer number of beach huts lining it) is reasonably clean and is given a once over every morning during peak season, but during the rest of the year it is often left accumulate rubbish (according to the LP). It’s a real shame that a state so dependent on tourism as Goa is, hasn’t got round to cleaning up its act.

In fact, sat in one of the restaurants on the beach edge, I watched as the Indian man sat next to me proceeded to wipe away the sweat from his face, arms and legs with napkins and, without a second thought, throw the napkins onto the beach. My anger got the better of me and I turned to stare at him and loudly said ‘Do you have no pride in your country? It’s disgusting that you throw rubbish onto the beach.’ One of his friends translated and they all burst out laughing – such is the maturity of some of the guys here. It is blindingly obvious that there is a real need for education to alter the habits of people here in order to protect the environment. Palolem has the potential to be stunning but the rubbish issue clearly lets it down.

On a positive note, Palolem does offer some much needed respite for weary travelers, especially for those heading down from frenetic north India. It is completely westernized with bars selling burgers and chips, roast dinners, pizza and pasta. If you’ve been eating curry three times a day for a month, it can provide a much needed break.

Whilst Palolem is the most expensive place I’ve been to in India, it’s still cheap compared to anywhere else in the world and offers people sun, sea and sand at a fraction of the cost of, for example, the Spanish coast.

Palolem also seems to attract yoga/hippie types so the place has a very relaxed feel about it – partly because many people are stoned for much of the day. Get up early and you see people walking with their yoga mats under their arms as they return from an early morning yoga/meditation session.

In fact, where I’m staying you can have introductory Hatha yoga lessons. I watched as a couple took part in the square of sand in front of our huts. Laying their towels out and placing incense sticks in the ground at four corners, they began their yoga stretches led by an overweight, white guy. There was something rather amusing watching a flabby, white, middle-aged, British guy with no top on lead a yoga class: for some reason, I’d always expected yoga teachers to have svelte, vegan-esque type bodies.

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