With its fluorescent painted palm trees and infamous full moon parties, ANJUNA, 8-km west of Mapusa, is Goa at its most “alternative”. Designer leather and lycra may have superseded cotton Kaftans, but most people’s reasons for coming are the same as they were in the 1970s: dancing and lying on the beach slurping tropical fruit. While browsing in the area have a day trip to the famous flea market.
One of the main sources of Anjuna’s enduring popularity as a hippy hang out is its superb beach. Fringed by groves of swaying coconut palms, the curve of soft white sand conforms more closely to the archetypal vision of paradise than any other beach on the north coast. Bathing is generally safer than at most of the nearby resorts, too, especially at the more peaceful southern end, where a rocky headland keeps the sea calm and the undertow to a minimum.
North of the market ground, the beach broadens, running in an uninterrupted kilometre long stretch of steeply shelving sand to a low red cliff. The village bus park lies on top of this high ground, near a crop of small cafes, bars and Kashmiri handicraft stalls. Every lunch hour, tour parties from Panjim pull in here for a beer, before heading home again, leaving the ragged army of sun weary westerners to enjoy the sunset.
The season in Anjuna starts in early November, when most of the long staying regulars show up, and peters out in late March, when they drift off again. During the Christmas and New Year rush, the village is inundated with a mixed crowd of round the world backpackers, refugees from the British club scene and revellers from all over India, lured by the promise of the big beach parties.
Outside peak season, however, Anjuna has a surprisingly simple unhurried atmosphere- due, in no small part, to the shortage of places to stay. Most visitors who come here on market day or for the raves travel in from other resorts. That said, a couple of large package tour hotels have appeared over the past couple of years, and this is bound to radically alter the mix of visitors here.
Thanks to the kill-joy attitude reputation, Anjuna is a rave-venue for big parties that take place over here from time to time, especially around the Christmas-New Year full moon period. Smaller events may also happen whenever some occasion or celebration comes up.
At other times, nightlife centres on the Shore Bar, in the middle of the beach, which has a pounding sound system. The biggest crowds show up accompanied by the latest ambient trance mixes from London. The music gains pace as the evening wears on winding up around 11.00 pm, when there’s an exodus over to the Guru Bar, further up the beach, or to the Primrose Café in Vagator, both of which stay open until after midnight.Musical Amusements
When it eventually gets it act together, The Alcove, over looking Ozran Vagator Beach, will be another worthwhile nightspot. More mainstream musical entertainment is on offer at Temptations, in the Red Cab Inn just below Starco’s crossroads, where Indian classical recitals and guitar based cover bands feature with fire dancers on Mondays, starting at 7.00 pm.
HOW TO GET THERE
Road: Buses from Mapusa and Panjim drop passengers at various points along the Tarmac Road across the top of the village, which turns right towards Chapora at the Main Starco’s crossroads. The Starco’s crossroads has a couple of small stores, a motorcycle taxi rank, and functions as a de facto village square and bus stand.
PLACES TO STAY
Most of Anjuna’s very limited accommodation consists of small-unfurnished houses. Some of the resorts and guesthouse can be found at the main Starco’s crossroads area. But the best choice for accommodation is available in Calangute, Baga or nearby Vagator or Chapora.
Both the beachfront and village at Anjuna are awash with good places to eat and drink. Most are simple semi open air, thatched palm leaf affairs, specializing in fish and western food. All serve cold beer, invariably with thumping techno music in the background. On the beach, one’ll also be approached every ten minutes by women selling fresh fruit, including watermelons, pineapples and locally grown coconuts.
Exchange: The Bank Of Baroda on the Mapusa Road will make encashment against visa cards, but doesn’t do foreign exchange, nor is it a good place to leave valuables. Post Office: The post office, on the Mapusa Road, 1-km inland, has an efficient Poste Restante counter. Note: Whenever one comes, keep a close eye on one’s valuables. Theft, particularly from the beach, is a big problem. Party nights are the worst; if one stays out late, keep the money and papers with oneself, or lock them somewhere secure. Thieves have even been known to break into local houses by lifting tiles off the roof.