Diamond tells me the insects here don’t bite. I am not convinced of course and he smiles his lady-boy smile and gets me some mosquito coils for the night. Fear of assorted insects aside, buzzing inside the room and outside, this place is a steal for 800 Indian Rupees (and it’s 1,500 Rupees for the blonde and her boy who are putting up at the next tent. But who am I to talk about inequality!).
I am inside a shack that looks like a tenthouse behind a raised restro-bar on Anjuna beach. Walk ten steps and there is sand, walk fifteen and there’s the sea. In between, there are heavenly bodies in every possible shape and shade to dazzle your senses.
This is my Day Three in this pretty place. Day One was a blur after an early morning flight, a long drive to Anjuna (I wanted to be here and nowhere else) and lots and lots of Feni in a dark room in a rundown building just behind Anjuna beach, with a cowshed at the back and a narrow lane lined with shops selling trinkets and ‘I love Goa’ tees in front. For some reason, they call it Hotel Sunrise. I was too tired to look for other options.
The lady said this was NOT her idea of a Goan holiday. A cheap room with no sea view, so what if it came for just three hundred rupees. I feebly argued the beach is only a narrow lane and a tattoo shop away. But the voice of reason got drowned in no time. And that is when we met Diamond. We were sipping our cocktails at the Shore Bar and he was eyeing us. ‘Want room?’ ‘We already have one.’ ‘Want better room?’ ‘Where?’ she butts in. ‘On the beach. Only 800.’ Deal sealed! Bye, bye, Sunrise. The best thing about the new place is the sea view from the raised resting-cum-dining space. The golden sand and the glistening sea. I read somewhere that a new survey says eighteen per cent of Indian and 20 per cent of Singaporean respondents believe in intimacy with strangers. And this is among the ways in which they typically indulge themselves on beach vacations. But who cares about such facts when an open sea beckons you from the roof shack at Tantra?
Anjuna is free of the swarm of tourists that crowd Baga. Which is a relief. While Baga is full of men, women and their children too shy to sport swimsuits, little ones getting introduced to the charms of a beach by doting parents, trinket sellers, old women offering you massages and a sea of people just piling on, Anjuna is calm, laidback and perfect. Poster-perfect women lounge in bikinis outside Cafe Lilliput, massages are still on offer (the masseurs strangely are far younger!) and you can put your feet up in Curlie’s with a chilled bottle of King’s beer and calamari as you watch the waves. The splatter of black rocks on one corner of the beach is any photographer’s paradise. If you can brave it, wade through the water, reach the rocks, sit and watch the sunset and ogle firang yogis on the beach with a chilled beer!
The other stunning thing about Anjuna is you can see the change in tides more clearly than in Baga or Calangute. In the mornings, the sands stretch out for a decent mile into the sea but as evening comes, the water seems to eat up half the beach, leaving behind only a sliver where locals crowd with small tables and portable stoves selling maggi, bread, omelets and sandwiches. And of course, the dry pleasure of the rolling paper and the bongs. To laze here is to live.
Night times in Anjuna are all about trippy music drifting out from trance parties that go on till the sun rises above the sea and the sweet smell of marijuana fills the air.
For the saner lot, there is the Flea Market. Decades ago, during the 60s, it was a popular hangout for hippies who sold their wares for a song. The hippies are long gone, but the charm of the market remains.
You really won’t find any great bargains here and a lot of it is available even in Delhi’s Janpath market among other places. There are other local, cheaper, more authentic markets (Mapusa, for instance), but take a stroll. Maybe you will get a pipe that makes you feel like a feudal lord during the puffs. I got myself one such and some posh frocks made from dazzling saris for the lady! Shop for jewellery, handicrafts, ceiling hangings, dancing dolls, sarongs, t-shirts, Goan music, hammocks, and whatnot. Or just go biking around the villages. And return when the sun dips into the sea for one more night of abandon, enveloped by a yellow moon and a psychedelic haze at Paradiso nightclub or didgeridoos playing at Ingos night market..