Thursday, February 01, 2007


On Christmas Eve day, I met Lisa, one of the 4 Americans I've encountered during my stay in India. She spoke fluent Hindi, because she spent her childhood in Kashmir, and now she's teaching at a university in Los Angles. She had a group of students with her, and she invited me to have dinner with them. Unfortunately, by the time 7 pm rolled around, I'd forgotten what restaurant they were eating in. I checked a few places, but didn't find them, so I settled down for dinner alone at a table near the waves. Shortly, an Indian-looking man sat down at the table next to me, but he ordered in German accented English, so I asked him where he was from. He turned out to be a software engineer from Kerala who has been living in Berlin for 5 years. He was on short holiday, and was paying his first visit to Goa. He was disappointed with the development of Palolem, and he spent a large part of the conversation regretting that he hadn't gone to Gokarna instead. He spent the other part of the conversation trying to convince me to drink whiskey shots.

sleeping shopkeeper, Gokarna

Gokarna is a town of quiet lanes housing head-priest offices, temples, indecipherable Hindu shrines, and a busy marketplace. There are four distinct, uncrowded beaches nearby. It's about an hour south of Goa by train, and when Elad and family decided to make a 2 day visit there, I kept my room in Agonda, packed a small bag, and went with them. For 4 people, the train ticket was 73 Rupees, that's a bit less than 2 dollars.


Gokarna is a charming little place, and 3 of the beaches are accessible only by boat-taxi or a long trek. The accommodations available are very basic. Our first night, on Kudle Beach, we couldn't even find rooms with an attached bathroom (which Irit was none too happy about), and my hut had a sand floor. The next day we moved to Om Beach, so named because it's imagined to be shaped like the symbol for Om.

Gokarna cat

I wish I would have spent some of the time I spent in Palolem in Gokarna instead, but then things wouldn't be what they are now, either. I would have liked to stay longer, but Talia was arriving in Goa, and the family was ready to go. We left Gokarna at 10 am, 2 days after we had arrived; back in Agonda, I rented a bike and made the 1 hour 30 minute drive to the airport (stopping for a few sights and a chai along the way) where Talia's plane was 3 hours late.

holy parade float?

Five years ago, in a northern Thailand town called Pai, Talia and I met on a dark road and decided to share a room. We stayed for a week, getting along exceptionally well, and then I went back to Korea. We kept in touch, and 2 years ago, I stayed at her place in New York for a week. Again, we got along well, which was a relief because you never really know how it's going to be with people when the context changes, and a pleasant surprise because it's always good to find a friend.

Gokarna wall

A few months ago, Talia emailed me, saying she was between jobs and thinking of going to Bali. I replied, "How about southern India?" She wrote, "Anything that's warm and doesn't involve cubicles sounds good to me," and so, there she was, at the airport in Goa. By this time, the room next to mine was empty, and so she took it. She's working for a non-profit affiliated with the excellent NPR show Science Friday. She's keeping a blog about India related science issues while travelling, so we have similar interneting needs, convenient.

Gokarna kids

A few days later, being at the beginning of her travels, she was ready to go; I being at the end of a solid 6 week travel break, was ready to go too, and so one night we put our bags on our backs, caught a ride to the bus stop on the backs of 2 motorcycles, and boarded the overnight bus to Hampi, 10 hours inland.


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