A Topping On Tourist Pie
A mere 45 minute bus ride up the coast from the capital, Calangute is Goa’s busiest and most commercialized resort, and the flagship of the state government’s bid for a bigger slice of India’s package-tourist pie. In the 1970s and early 1980s, this once peaceful fishing Village epitomized Goa’s reputation as a haven for hedonistic hippies.
The Town And The Beach
The road from the town to the beach is lined with Kashmiri-run handicraft boutiques and Tibetan stalls selling Himalayan curios and jewellery. The quality of the goods – mainly Rajasthani, Gujarati and Karnatakan textiles – is generally high. Haggle hard and don’t be afraid to walk away from a heavy sales pitch – the same stuff crops up every Wednesday at Anjuna’s flea market.
The beach itself is nothing special, with steeply shelving sand, but is more than large enough to accommodate the huge numbers of high-season visitors.
To escape the hawkers, head fifteen minutes or so south of the main beachfront area, towards the rows of olf wooden boats moored below the dunes. In this virtually hawker-free zone, one’ll only come across teams of villagers hauling in hand nets at high tide or fishermen fixing their tack under bamboo sun shakes.
HOW TO GET THERE
Road: Buses from Mapusa and Panjim pull in at the small bus stand cum Market Square in the centre of Calangute. Some continue to Baga, stopping at the crossroads behind the beach en route. Get off here if one can, as it’s closer to most of the hotels.
PLACES TO STAY
Calangute is chock-full of places to stay. Demand only outstrips supply in the Christmas – New Year high season, and at Diwali. Most of the inexpensive accommodation consists of small rooms in family homes, or in concrete annexes tacked onto the backs of houses. The top hotels are nearly all gleaming white, exclusive villa complexes with pools, and direct beach access.
Calangute’s bars and restaurants are mainly grouped around the entrance to the beach and along the Baga road. As with most Goan resorts, the accent is firmly on seafood, though many places tack on a few token vegetarian dishes. Western breakfasts also feature prominently. NIGHTLIFE
Thanks to repeated crackdowns by the Goan police on parties and loud music, Calangute’s nightlife is surprisingly tame. All but a handful of the bars wind up by 10.00 pm. One notable exception is Tito’s at the Baga end of the beach, which stays open until 11.00 pm off-season and into the small hours in late December and January.
Unfortunately, the only other places that consistently stay open through the night are a couple of dull hippy hang-outs in the woods to the south of the beach road; Pete’s Bar, a perennial favourite next door to Angela P. Fernandes, is generally the most lively, offering affordable drinks, backgammon sets and relentless reggae. Further afield, Bob’s Inn, between Calangute and Candolim, is another popular bar, famed less for its court around a large table in the front bar.
Bikes On Rent: Motorcycle taxis hang around the little sandy square behind GTDC’s tourist resort, next to the steps that drop down to the beachfront. Ask around here if one wants to rent a motorcycle. Rates are standard; the nearest filling station is five minutes’ walk from the beach, back towards the market on the right-hand side of the main road. Bicycles are also widely available for rent. Exchange: There’s a State Bank Of India on the main street, but the best place to change money and Travellers Cheques is Wall Street finances, opposite the petrol pump and in the shopping complex on the beachfront. If they are closed, try the fast and friendly ENEM finances in Baga. For visa encashments, go to The Bank Of Baroda, just north of the temple and market area; a flat commission fee is levied on all visa withdrawls. A Taste Of Indian Heritage
Finally, don’t miss the chance to sample some real Indian culture while you are in Calangute. The Ekrkar Art Gallery, in Gaura Vaddo, at the south end of town, hosts evenings of classical music and dance every Tuesday and complete with incense and evocative candlelight. The recitals, performed by students and teachers from Panjim’s Kala Academy, are kept comfortably short for the benefit of Western visitors, and are preceded by a short introductory talk. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. Note: Wherever one goes, though, remember that Calangute’s no nudism rule is for real and enforced by special police patrols; this includes topless bathing.