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Between chaos and relaxation: Mumbai and Goa
Jessica Feustle studied journalism and communication science at the University of Zurich and grew up in Zurich. Although she describes herself as a «Reisefüdli», she always likes to come back to her hometown. For her, traveling is always associated with adventure and getting to know different cultures, which is why she never wants to travel to one country twice.
Mumbai and Goa: It couldn't be more different. Relaxation after the great chaos of the metropolis - that's what we thought before the trip. But it turned out differently.
I blink at the sun and notice that it already shines in its typical mixture of orange-red. Kitschy, it is perfectly reflected in the sea and in the wet sand of the slowly receding tide of the Arabian Sea, which washes its waves with steady rushing in front of me on Ashvem Beach in Goa. It's almost 6 p.m. and the sun is far down on the horizon. The pastel-colored horizon slowly awakens me from a trance, back to reality. I am immersed in the thick book, which now falls from my deck chair into the light brown sand as a result of my movements. It is called «Shantaram». In Marathi, a regional language in India, the title means "man of peace". It's the story of an outlaw hiding from the authorities in the slums of Mumbai. Life and death in this metropolis, which often remains incomprehensible for its visitors, is described in this book with extreme precision, colorfulness and sometimes mercilessly.
Before we took the flight to Goa, we spent a few days in Mumbai and were impressed.
In the big city
Mumbai, which was officially called Bombay until 1996, is located on the west coast of India, is the capital of the state of Maharashtra, is home to over 12 million inhabitants, making it the largest city in India. So much for the official facts. It is a city of contrasts: Many of the residents live in dire poverty in the city's huge slums. The tin huts line up like small handcrafted masterpieces and look like an oversized patchwork ceiling made of plastic sheets and aluminum roofs from above. If you only spend a few days in the huge city, these stretches of land are only noticeable when approaching and from a taxi. Everywhere in the streets the noises of small hand-operated sugar cane mills adorned with bells can be heard and tell of the hard work of the market traders. On the other hand, globalization has long since arrived, and wealth is evident on every corner.
The city is loud, very loud. The noises can only be locked out when the hotel room door is closed in the evening. The city is also green. Trees and bushes grow everywhere, the green penetrates the concrete with constant force and entwines the rusted fences. Trees sometimes grow so tall that they hide the many Victorian-Gothic and other impressive or shabby buildings in the city behind them. Colorful flowers display their splendor on the traffic circles. The city is bursting with life, it exudes a charm that grabs me immediately.
We only have two days to immerse ourselves in Mumbai's many alleys. With so little time we have to limit ourselves to discovery walks in the south of Mumbai, although the city has so much more to offer.
Goa - A paradise with a dark side
I am still lying on my lounger on the beach in Goa and watch the sun move further and further towards the sea. Sometimes it disappears in the haze before the horizon ends. There are hundreds of beautiful beaches in Goa, the smallest state in India. We traveled to Ashvem Beach at the very top of North Goa. A little further south is the more famous town of Anjuna; it is overcrowded with tourists because of its popularity and is less recommended.
I never expected such a calm. It's March, the season is about to end, and this year is not going well anyway. That's what Sita complains about, the beach seller and persuasion artist. My friend pretends to be asleep as soon as the tinkling of her ankle bracelets can be heard.
We quickly notice that there are problems lurking behind the paradisiacal facade: the sea is polluted by the inland rivers; the rubbish thrown out of the car windows. Most tourists don't let that bother them. The waves are high, a few surfers are in sight. On Saturday evenings, tourists and locals rush to Calangute at the same time: the weekly Saturday Night Market takes place there. Food stalls with vegan menus and stalls by Western designers line up next to local cloth and jewelry sellers. In the middle of it is a stage on which a rather weird live band (the singer is wearing neon pink overalls) is fighting with a microphone that doesn't always work. In front of it everyone is sitting in a mess on plastic chairs, sipping coconut water, eating curry with their hands and listening to the music. Those who like it quieter should visit the smaller market on Ashvem Beach behind the La Plage restaurant. It's called “From Paris to Goa” and is home to a small hairdresser and pretty designer shops.
The penultimate day has come and I don't want to leave until I've seen the cultural treasures of Goa. So we take a taxi to go to Old Goa. In a small area of this old colonial city, there are four pompous churches from the time when the Portuguese proselytized here. In the bright daylight, the white of the church walls dazzles, inside it is cool and kitschy.
From Old Goa it is only a short distance to Panaji, the capital of Goa. The "Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church" is enthroned in the center. Casino ships wait for playful tourists on the jetties and take them on a few hours' river cruise, where they can have fun inside at roulette tables and one-armed bandits.
Despite the downsides, which I don't want to ignore as a guest in this country, I will remember India as the land of smiles. The fever that one always hears about from those returning from India has gripped me and I know that I will come back.
Click here for the best of beach restaurants on Ashvem Beach in Goa.
Photos: Jessica Feustle
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