26 March 2009

Tight streets tempt tourists, no doubt

The most popular Goan vacationers, according to the taxi drivers, the unofficial tour guides, are still the British and in recent years the Russians and Israelis. One driver and amateur sociologist said many young Israelis created a bad impression several years ago because of their excessive drug use, whereas Russians tend to be very wealthy and frequent the most expensive resorts. Gambling on or near the water has become part of the tourist industry to the consternation of a few locals I spoke with. The owner of the Panjim Inn, where I stayed and would enthusiastically recommend, said his business was down 50% from this time last year.

Another large body of tourists, though perhaps less so in recent years, are the “hippies” (which I can barely say with a straight face), or perhaps more accurately neo-hippies in dreadlocks, and ravers. Practitioners of Aruveydic health, yoga, massage and body work of all varieties are common; so too are gurus and ashrams and street and roadside shrines to Hindu deities and Christian saints, sometimes simultaneously. A great deal of South Indian cuisine is vegetarian, so there are “pure vegetarian” restaurants on every corner, most of which are frequented by the locals. Western tourists tend to go big on the inexpensive seafood and curried fish dishes.

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