HCMC Dining Guide

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goa: Gay Day at Colva Beach


I woke up early the morning after the events of Curlie's only to discover that someone had put a jackhammer inside my head: the lack of drinking water or a full dinner the previous night resulted in a wicked hangover and, after the taxi ride from Anjuna down to Colva in southern Goa, a plastic bag full of vomit. (That was all well worth it though - Goa is one of the only places in India you can properly party so we didn't want to miss out.) Fortunately this left me feeling vastly better, and I was able to head straight to the beach with Ryan and Jobie after we checked into a hotel. Kevin, on the other hand, was incapacitated in bed for most of the day.

After two days in Anjuna we were ready to check out another part of the state, especially since the beach wasn't that great, and we had settled on Colva. The taxi driver insisted that we wouldn't like it there since it is mainly visited by domestic tourists and there is only Indian food to eat...but that was exactly what we wanted.  What we didn't know was that apparently Friday is the day when every closeted guy in India heads to the beach. More on that in a minute.
A much prettier beach than Anjuna. The sand was broiling.
cheeseburgers in paradise
When we first got to the beach we struck up a conversation with a group of young Indian guys from Maharashtra. They invited us to sit with them and offered to share their beer, whiskey, and chicken wings. I didn't want to be rude so I took a few sips of booze, but I was more than happy to indulge in some chicken after eating nothing but veg thus far. These dudes were so hetero they were basically homoerotic: as with all Indian males they had no qualms with touching each other in ways that come off as way too intimate to a western male. Some of them were fully dressed, but one guy was wearing a serious banana hammock, and another had on tight boxers that gave away far too many details of his penis, yet no one batted an eye. The funny thing is that Ryan and Jobie are both gay, so they were surely enjoying the eye candy, but if they had actually said that, the reaction would not have been pleasant in such a conservative country. I've yet to figure out how Indian men can be homophobic while they walk hand-in-hand with their best friend.

The guys then devised a game in which they got into the ocean, filled an empty beer can with water, and played 'keep away' with it. I played for a few minutes but they were way too intense, so eventually I wandered off. Plus, I didn't want to get tackled by a guy in boxers.

I saw Ryan talking to a young man so I sat down and chatted a bit. He was Muslim and had worked in construction in Dubai. I was getting a strange vibe from him so I decided to walk around. Later, Ryan told me that the guy asked straight-up if he wanted to have sex with him. Later, a couple of Indians told Ryan and Jobie that they were willing to do pretty much whatever they wanted, making it abundantly clear that this was a major day for gay cruising at Colva.

Not all of this blatant lust was homosexual though. At one point I was standing in the surf, contemplating life, when an Indian guy approached me with a question. Through his thick accent the only word I could make out was "lady", but after eight tries I finally understood the question: "Did you bring a lady?"
"Um no, I didn't bring a lady."
"Would you like an escort service?"
"Nope, I'm fine, thanks though."

He started to walk away, turned back around, and asked: "Are you a virgin? Or you ever fucked somebody?"
Taken aback, I replied with a curt, "Dude, that's pretty personal," and walked off. That was enough of the beach for me, at least for a few hours.
As evening approached I went back to the beach to catch the sunset. Kevin was finally functional again, so he came with. At this hour the atmosphere at the beach was much more familial, with mothers in saris watching over naked, scrawny kids playing in the surf. Much to my relief, no guys came up offering sexual favors.

The sunset was spectacular.

you can go paragliding at Colva
The following morning was our last in Goa, and we didn't want to waste it. We all took it easy the previous night with a good dinner, after which Kevin and I watched most of the semifinal of the IPL cricket league. Once we were all up Ryan and Jobie went off on their own, while I got a dosa for breakfast with Kevin.
the classic South Indian breakfast
After that the two of us hopped into an auto and headed to Chandor, a town 30 minutes east of Colva in Goa's lush interior, where the Braganza House is located.

This sprawling mansion, built in the 17th century, is a stunning reminder of Goa's colonial past. Constructed on land originally granted by the King of Portugal, Braganza consists of the West Wing and the East Wing, both of which are still lived in by different sides of the same family.

The West Wing is held by the Menezes-Bragancas family, and has been maintained to a high degree, especially considering its age and the tropical environment it is located in. The only problem was that the caretaker, an aging woman who spoke fluent English, didn't allow any pictures to be taken. Every room in the wing was opulent and gorgeous, and it became immediately apparent just how massively wealthy this family had been at one point: Venetian chandeliers, Italian marble, and Chinese ceramics were everywhere. It wasn't hard to imagine how grand this place must have been during the peak of colonialism, when visitors and traders from around the world lavished priceless gifts on the owners. The caretaker shared a number of intriguing anecdotes, one of which I found particularly amusing: in one room she pointed out two rare Chinese vases, and said that there used to be three. One day, a group of monkeys climbed through the second-floor windows and knocked one of the vases onto the floor, shattering it. As a result they have to keep all of the windows closed, as she was quick to remind the cleaning women.

She also explained that the family is now landless, thanks to a program of land reform enacted in the 1990's in which the Indian government took all of the property that had been collected by the Braganzas. Therefore, the main source of income for maintenance of the huge, luxuriant house is now donations from visitors. We gave a bit of money, but in all honesty it's tough to feel too much sympathy for this sob story. The mansion was built on the wealth generated from plantations, where Indian laborers were undoubtedly forced to work in the fields under a blazing tropical sun, while the family parlayed the favor of the Portuguese rulers into even more land and lived in the lap of luxury. I couldn't help but picture something similar to cotton plantations in the pre-Civil War American South, where landowners enjoyed the grandeur of huge mansions while slaves toiled in the fields.

Across the hall from the West Wing is the East Wing, still held by the Pereira-Braganza family. This half of the house is much more decrepit, but it still impressive, and you are allowed to take pictures to boot. There is a small chapel in one section that contains a fingernail of St. Francis Xavier, and more furniture and decorations from around the world abound.


the ballroom

trying out an old-fashioned toilet
We headed back to Colva, ate a lunch of channa masala, and checked out the beach one last time before packing up and heading to the airport.
For such a popular tourist destination, Goa has a surprisingly small airport, and it has all of the organization of a moshpit, with lines streaming in every direction and general chaos ruling. I did get a kick out of the politeness of the signs posted inside though: the security checks wished for you to have a "pleasant journey", and one door into an office stated "Public grievances may be lodged here". That just sounds so friendly and old-fashioned. Overall I really enjoyed Goa for its mix of history, wacky hippy culture, and interesting locals. It's a beautiful state, the food is great, and it's an awesome place to go.

We were flying back to Bangalore (airport visit #4!) and immediately catching a bus to Mysore from there. We were on our way to destination number three.

9 comments:

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