Having spent around 3 weeks in Goa we were beginning to get itchy feet. The extremely difficult life of living from beach hut to beach hut was starting to wear and we were craving a bit more substance and culture than we’d been exposed to lately. That, and the mice and cockroaches that frequent beach huts, meant we were very ready to do something different.
Two packed buses later and we had arrived in Anjuna, a town famous for its numerous flea markets but also had a beach which we thought would work in our favour. Having got off the bus, within two minutes of walking we could hear shouting coming towards us but it didn’t sound like the usual Indian dialect we were so used to hearing around us. As it got closer, and the owner of the voice appeared in a cafe we were walking past, we realised it was our native neighbour of France! The Frenchman stood at the edge of the cafe shouting towards us in fast French making huge gestures all over the place as if he was surrounded by bees. Swatting back and forth and moving between random English and French words we simply stood and stared at this larger than life character. We were dubious – this man was the only person in the cafe at 9am. He was wearing a black, striped shirt done up only at the top button meaning the two sides of his shirt flapped and fell alongside his huge naked potbelly. He was old, maybe in his 60s, and only had four teeth on his bottom left hand jaw and they jutted out over his lip as if to prove he wasn’t entirely toothless. We got the impression he wanted to show us cheap accommodation and with no signs for guest houses or hotels around us we reluctantly accepted.
We instantly regretted this choice because as soon as we accepted, he smiled his (almost) toothless smile, got up, and revealed that he wasn’t wearing any pants. Getting the girl in the cafe to go fetch his long flowing trousers he got dressed, put on his jelly shoes without doing them up and then shuffled us along the a dirt track talking randomly in French so fast I couldn’t keep up with my basic conversational French skills so we just said yes a lot and kept looking at each other thinking ‘what have we done….’
Thus proceeded the next hour of our hunt; being led around by the crazy Frenchman to very basic rooms that we weren’t that impressed with, having his trousers fall down around his ankles a couple of times and after doing them back up, the Frenchman continuously mimed people throwing up. All the while, the heat of the day was starting to really make us sweat and we were no closer to finding accommodation. We thanked him for his time and quickly ran away.
Our Frenchman with his flowing trousers – just be thankful they were holding up when we took this picture.
Much like how our morning had started, Anjuna didn’t get much better. We were a madman down but we were, I have to admit, pretty disappointed. The road along Anjuna beach was a dirt track covered in people selling the usual tourist tat. Stall after stall, we were harassed to go inside and ‘just look just look’ despite our 4 backpacks and obvious disinterest in buying a superman tshirt.
After walking for about 40 minutes we’d found that, like most places, due to the beach room prices were higher than usual while the room options were pretty horrific. Very tired, very hot and very ready to find something, we stumbled into Sunset Guesthouse. They were the nicest rooms we’d seen in a long time and had all our toes and fingers crossed that the price would be negotiatiable. While their normal rooms, it turned out, were still too high, we settled on another room they had at the top of the property. The top room in a tower at the front the property had a beautiful breeze coming through its three windows, a huge mosaic balcony and a washing line for all our washing needs. We took it on an agreed price of 600 rps.
Our top floor room with balcony
Out of all our destinations so far, there was no denying that Anjuna was the least impressive. The small beach was crowded with cheap sun loungers and umbrellas which were filled with package tourists from Britain – all rather large and rather burnt. It was also a popular place for the locals who filled the beach up to maximum capacity taking part in the water sports offered there as well as leering at the bikini clad women. Having been spoilt by the beautiful beaches down south , this wasn’t our cup of tea.
We decided quite early on that we didn’t want to stay in Anjuna long so we decided to try and get train tickets up to Rajasthan early. The 27 hour train only runs once a week and due to the season ending it was fully booked with Indians leaving the tourist spots down south to go home up north again. We were on the wait list for tickets the following week but decided to go for some last minute tickets for the current week that the Indian Railway release the day before departure. These tickets are in high demand and it is estimated that in the one hour they are available, around 50,000 tickets are sold. It is down to pure luck if you get them or not and they sell out within 3 minutes normally.
Long story short; we didn’t get them. Our only option was to wait another week and hope our wait listed tickets pulled through. This meant rather than spending 3 days in Anjuna we were faced with 11. With this knowledge we were thankful that Anjuna’s saving grace was its flea markets.
Anjuna runs a Wednesday flea market while Arpora and Mapusa (both neighbouring towns to Anjuna) run Saturday and Friday flea markets respectively. Arriving on a Thursday, and leaving two Monday’s later, we got a healthy dose of all the flea markets had to offer. Hiring a moped for 250 rps. (around £3) a day, we raced around all over the area finding ourselves pleasantly surprised. Further away from Anjuna beach, Anjuna has a lovely town with many really pleasant, modern restaurants/cafes. It also has a huge supermarket which sells everything under the sun included beers which sell for 35 rps. (50p). As well as this, the flea markets are based on bartering everything which means it’s one of the few places tourists can try to buy goods at decent prices.
Here is a breakdown of each flea market for those interested …
Anjunas Wednesday Market:
Set up on the south end of the beach, Anjuna flea market is mainly set up for tourists. With a lot of Europeans having emigrated to India, they sell some western clothing lines (like Topshop) for fairly steep prices as well as home made jewellery etc. However, the market is mainly locals selling what they believe the tourists want; long flowing om symbol trousers, lots of throws, drums, anklets, etc. They all buy their merchandise from the same suppliers so it’s a lot of searching to find something original, however, the prices are dirt cheap especially at the end of the season. The market is big enough that the sellers know other stalls are selling the same things but not too big in that they are guaranteed other buyers which puts you in a good position to haggle.
Arpora’s Saturday Night Market and Saturday Nite Bazaar:
These two markets are along the same road and if you don’t know two exist you will most likely miss out on one of them which is what happened to us. Finding the nite bazaar first we just assumed this was the only night market so visited it twice before finding the other one.
Saturday Nite Bazaar is really similar to the Anjuna Wednesday market, the only difference being that it’s slightly smaller (which works in your haggling favour) and that it has food trucks. This was our sweet spot as the food trucks sold guilty pleasures of the western variety; donuts, pizza, gelato, steak sandwiches, etc. as well as Indian and Chinese dishes. Our favourite dish (other than the donuts) were the Indian khali rolls – delicious fillings of chicken or paneer, covered with sweet and spicy sauces, wrapped in a khali (much like a paratha). We came back a second time to that market just for the food it was THAT good.
Other than the food, this nite bazaar had the best haggling anywhere and it was here that we really learnt just how cheap sellers can sell their items and still make a profit. It obviously goes without saying that when street sellers see a white face, they bump up the price. This is totally their prerogative; they know our value systems back home are much higher and that any number they give will seem cheap to the people on one week holidays. Having just glanced at a necklace that I wasn’t really interested in I had a seller trying to give me it for 900 rps. This is almost an entire day’s budget for us beside the fact that I didn’t want the necklace so I straight away said I wasn’t interested. Of course, all genuine intentions can seem like haggling (saying you’re not interested, walking away, etc) so I suddenly had this seller following me all over the market lowering his price as he went. Despite our best efforts to make it clear that we simply didn’t want the necklace and are poor penniless backpackers, he kept going, ultimately lowering his price to 200 rps. We experienced this a couple of times at this bazaar and did show us just how much they add on when they think you’ll pay.
Saturday Night Market is without a doubt the most impressive market around Anjuna. Set up by a German lady, it has the foreigners touch that appeals to western tourists. Set away from the road there is free parking set up with twinkle lights and stars all over the place. Security guards at each entrance welcome you in and you suddenly find yourself in a maze of stalls. Set on the grounds of huge trees, all stalls are brightly lit with beautiful branches of leaves hanging over you like a ceiling. While this market has more of the similar tourist tat, it also has huge variety with a lot of boutique Indian stalls setting up shop there and selling some truly gorgeous pieces. Complete with a food market, you could spend hours wandering through this wonderland. While we didn’t buy anything, it did seem to be much more upmarket than the other two markets and I’m not sure the prices would drop as low as the others. The crush of westerners there also seemed to kill the mood a bit for me but it is without a doubt somewhere you should go at the very least just to wander around.
Mapusa Friday Market:
Mapusa has an abundant market that thrives 6 days a week (Mon-Sat) but really picks up on a Friday morning. If you want to visit and authentic, local, huge market then this is where you want to be. Heaving with Indian locals from all over Goa, we were one of a few tourists who had the stomach to walk through the stinky fish markets, cough our way through the masses of dried chillies and ultimately find ourselves amid a brawling vegetable and clothing market that stretches as far as the eye can see. Having got a bit bored of the usual tourist stalls at markets, this was definitely a breath of fresh air and a really interesting insight into the locals weekly shops and haggling techniques. Souvenirs in this market are few and far between as their main produce are veg, cheap clothing (such as wholesale underwear and tracksuits) and crockery but is definitely a worthwhile experience.
Our long stay meant we got to collect a few precious souvenirs for family and friends, we were ultimately more happy with Anjuna after our 11 days were up than we expected. Having been pleasantly surprised by the town and its surrounding areas – and having stayed far away from the beach – we felt we had managed our time there quite nicely in the end.
Having failed to get our last minute tickets again for the train, our last hope was for our wait listed tickets to pull through once others had cancelled. A 27 hour train journey without a seat allocation is not a pleasant one and we had splashed out to try and get ourselves a coach that was air conditioned (normally out of our price range) to try and help us through the journey. Alas, having checked and checked and checked, it came to the morning of departure and while our tickets had come down from a queue of 31 and 30 down to just 4 and 5, we never got confirmed and felt our hearts sink and we realised we are going to have to go to the train station and buy general seater tickets (the lowest class with no seat allocation or booths to sleep) and hope that we could upgrade to sleeper class (has booths to sleep in during the night but no air conditioning, stifling heat and normally smelly toilets).
We had only travelled on Sleeper Class so far, so we were hopeful that this tactic wouldn’t be too hopeless, having done it a couple of times with mild success. Setting off in the bus that morning we were still vaguely hopeful and while we were disappointed we simply kept our hopes up saying ‘how bad can it be?’ to one another. Something I’m glad for in the end for if we had known just how awful it actually was going to be I’m not sure we would have been able to get on the train. A post on our horrific ordeal will be uploaded shortly….. That being said, we made it to our next stop Jaipur and have no more 27 hour trains ahead of us!
Favourite Places in Anjuna:
- Sai Laxmi Restaurant – the best curries around and really reasonably priced.
- Green Mango – the only cheap restaurant on the beach front with good food. The owner also lets you bring your own booze.
- Pink Chilly – very colourful place with a very colourful menu.