Holiday in Palolem Beach Goa
India

‘Don’t break my heart’ – Palolem Beach, Goa

Goa is the ‘Go to’ (get it? sort of?) place in India when it comes to beach holidays. The west Indian state has a number of beach resorts on the Arabian Sea and each one offers something a little bit different. I read up on all the popular destinations, from package holiday central Calangute to hippy Anjuna, and felt I belonged somewhere in between the two. I judged this to be Palolem Beach.

Holiday in Palolem Beach Goa

Palolem is one of the southern beaches in Goa and has one of the longest stretches of sand – a sweeping crescent from which to observe the striking sunsets. A mixture of bamboo beach huts and wooden restaurants (torn down and rebuilt each summer according to local law) line the coast and offer a tempting new location for every meal.

Palolem is not your typical white sand and turquoise waters affair though, more beige sand and brown sea. For this is India and if you are expecting a picture postcard tropical paradise you should have gone to Thailand.

If you are looking for hospitality, spectacular seafood and a new experience every minute though, Goa is for you – it’s the beach holiday with a twist.

Holiday in Palolem Beach Goa

Cows rule the roost in India and nowhere is this more obvious than on Palolem Beach. They roam freely around the streets of the town and take up large portions of the sunbathing space on the beach. Sun worshippers lie with one eye open, for when the cows get restless and start moving around you don’t want to get in their way.

We preferred to sunbathe close to our amazing resort (Ciaran’s – more of which later) so that staff could save our towels if cows tried to rest on them while we swam. Stray dogs also roam the beach, mostly at night, which means it is a target for fouling from both cows and dogs. Ladies are employed to clean and sweep the sand, which they do every morning before the crowds arrive, in a never-ending battle with the poop.

The crowds at Palolem seem to be made up of European backpackers of all ages, vacationing Indians from the cities such as Mumbai and the beach sellers who move there en mass for the peak season.

Search for accommodation deals in South Goa

Holiday in Palolem Beach GoaCairans beachfront huts, where you can hear the roar of the sea and spy on the cows and fishing boats from your window

The beach sellers are beautiful, charming and more than a little annoying. Dressed in colourful saris and bindis they tend to be young women who move in packs. They will draw you into conversation, elicit your name, and beguile you into promising to buy something from them before you go home. They carry little knick-knacks and jewellery and are asking only a small price for them, but with at least a 100 on the beach you would be going hungry if you kept your promise to them all. “Don’t break my heart“, they call to you, as you run away feeling like pond scum.

I loved the enterprising nature of some of the people we met – especially the beach sellers who know all the tricks of the trade and how to engage their customer.

Lying on the beach one day I was approached by yet another seller. This one was slightly older, more experienced perhaps. She took one look at me and said,

“Tonight I will make offering to the Gods for you, pray that you find nice, not lazy husband. I promise this time next year you will be back in India with your husband.”

Not bad for an opener I thought. She then went on to explain that her husband was one of the lazy ones, that she had to work very hard because he does not. She motioned to a scar on her face, ‘from the not nice, lazy husband’, she said. What do you want me to buy, I replied.

Holiday in Palolem Beach Goa

I purchased an anklet of some sort for the equivalent of a few English pounds and therefore immediately became a target for every other seller in the resort. ‘How much you pay for that?’, they would shout at me as I passed. ‘I sell you for x rupees’. Invariably this amount would be less than I actually paid, invariably I would be gutted, and invariably I would have to explain to the next seller that really one overpriced anklet was more than enough, thank you.

Customer service is personal in Goa too. Bar men, hotel owners, taxi drivers, all will want to know your name and why you came to India. All will remember your name, enquire after your health and offer you business every time you see them for the duration of your stay. You make a lot of friends in India – at least until you leave! One friend I made was enterprising enough to suggest the ‘nice, not lazy husband’ I had have been promised by a beach seller is none other than himself. ‘You don’t come back to India with your husband’, he explained, ‘you come back to India to make me your husband‘. Clever, I see what you did there.

Hanging out at our resort, Ciaran’s, was a respite from the salespeople. Owner John and adorable dogs, Megan and Dave, would prop up the bar for most nights of our stay. From chatting with John I learnt more from him about life in Goa, the best places to eat and ways to get around, than I could ever have picked up myself. We also had a bloody good laugh with him every evening. He kept one eye out for us constantly with the other eye on his highly efficient staff who ran around serving the best banana porridge breakfast and afternoon chai and cake (both of which are included in the cost of the room). A stay at Ciaran’s is like staying with a friend, a friend who owns a really amazing beachfront hotel.

It broke my heart to leave.

19 Comments

  • Reply
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures
    March 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    It was really nice to read a positive post about Goa, as of late all I've been reading is very negative posts. You'll have to let us know if you return to Goa with your hubby this year! ;-)This is my favorite line in your post: The beach sellers are beautiful, charming and more than a little annoying. Hahaha!

  • Reply
    Jayne
    March 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    hahaha sometimes I write as I speak, I can hear myself saying that line to my friends. I think people need to embrace Goa for what it is rather than focusing on what it isn't. Does that make sense? I'll keep you posted on the marriage prophecy 😉

  • Reply
    Heather
    March 8, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Have I mentioned how much I love your India posts?! Thought so! I always bookmark them for that "one day I'll go to India for months" trip and try to give them a Stumble as well.I believed you about the cows on the beach but the photo made it real. Something you'd almost need to see to believe. Lovely photos all around too — especially the first one with the sunset!

  • Reply
    Jayne
    March 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks for your comment and your stumble Heather but most of all thanks for being inspired to travel – that's why we blog isn't it?! :)I didn't believe how many cows there would be on the beach either, it's amazing how quickly you get used to it though!

  • Reply
    elleswim
    March 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    India scares the poop out of me. I guess it's because almost all of the footage of the country that I have seen has shown mass chaos. I know it's only hectic like that in the cities and it's not fair to judge the whole country based on their transportation system but I think it'll be awhile before I get the nerve to consider booking a trip there.

  • Reply
    Jayne
    March 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I love your honesty Elle – keep it coming!!

  • Reply
    Fidel
    March 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Really nice post, especially the good things you say about Goa. How's the new job?

  • Reply
    Jayne
    March 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks Fidel. It's going well although very busy and lots to do – working in social media is harder than it sounds :)Keep safe in Japan please x

  • Reply
    Kerri - Economy Car Hire
    September 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Absolutely loved reading this post! Like Elle I have always been anxious about visiting India but this post has shown me a different side! The picture of the cows really did make me chuckle, somewhat of an oxymoron! One of my favourite “stumbles” today! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jayne
      September 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Thanks Kerri! I flit being being scared and completely in love of India. It’s a fascinating place and often an oxymoron 🙂

  • Reply
    Andy
    September 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Jayne
    loved this im planning a still-as-yet-unknown trip as i write 🙂 cows on the beach i will see that some day good luck with the new job

    on my trip front any tips on cambodia?
    checking flights to goa as well right now
    country 30 coming up!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jayne
    September 30, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Hey Andy, thanks for dropping by. Your trip sounds very exciting! You can get a train from Mumbai to Goa if the flights are cheaper and you are feeling adventurous! I have been to Phomn Pehn overland from Ho Chi Minh City which was brilliant but I have not seen what is supposed to be the best of Cambodia like Siem Riep, Angkor Wat and the beaches. It is a beautiful country though and wuite easy and cheap to navigate so I am sure you will have a great time! J

    • Reply
      Andy
      September 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      thanks Jayne
      i will keep dropping by be assured 🙂

  • Reply
    D.J. - The World of Deej
    March 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Great post…I have a hard time not breaking the heart of sellers I encounter. I remember a lady in a small stand in Beijing call me by name, 3 days after I saw her the first time. Naturally, I bought something…

  • Reply
    Georgia
    January 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Jayne,

    I’m a new reader of your blog, and just came across this post. I’m seriously thinking of going to Mumbai and Goa in October, I was just wondering how big a culture shock it was for you? I’ve travelled in Europe and South East Asia, but I’ve always been a little daunted by India, but really want to give it a go.
    Any tips for a female solo traveller going there for a few weeks?
    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Jayne
      January 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Hi Georgia,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m a huge fan of India and am so excited on your behalf. I won’t lie, however, because India is a huge culture shock, possibly more so than anywhere I have ever been. But, as I said, I love the place so don’t let this put you off. If you have travelled in SEAsia before this will help a lot and Mumbai and Goa are particularly geared towards tourists and popular with backpackers so you will find many like minded people straightaway. Expect poverty and smells, kindness and stares, an upset stomach (which you will discuss with any western person immediately upon meeting them), chaos, colour, millions of people and lots of beauty. If you go in with your eyes wide open and lots of prep in advance you will be fine. And hopefully you will fall in love with the place too. Let me know what you decide to do. J

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