The 12 Tribes of Goa

Meet The Goa Tribe’s

Goa is India’s smallest state and it’s most firmly established tourist destination. It is also perhaps my favorite little corner of this great big planet.

I am not alone in my love of Goa and each year the destination attracts countless visitors from within India and the wider world. The visitors who come to visit and backpack in Goa are drawn from all walks of life and in fact, the sheer diversity of the travelers who arrive into tiny Goa is quite remarkable in of itself.

From the busloads of weekend boozers, the annually aging hippies to the planeloads of Russian holidaymakers, they all contribute to making Goa, the festival of life that it is today. 

So let’s meet them. 

Here are the 12 Tribes of Goa! (expect mild offense and severe stereotyping)

1. The Natives

The Natives of Goa are quite unlike most other Indian’s. Firstly, the Portuguese, catholic legacy means that many have names like Rosario and De Cruz (which is kind of novel) and then, a steady exposure to large numbers of Westerners ensures that they a bit more chilled-out than their brethren in the rest of India.

The natives come in many forms. We have the old ladies selling chai and omelets to tripping ravers at all night trance parties. We have the hustlers of Anjuna selling anything from t-shirts to LSD and of course, there are the youngsters hedonistically throwing themselves headlong into the Goa lifestyle, which is one surefire way to guarantee either madness or death by the age or 30.

The one thing they all have in common is that they grew up in Goa so presumably view naked hippies, dreadlocks and all night raves as being kind of normal.

2. Lads on Tour

Despite its veneer of modernity and “westernization”, India actually remains a deeply conservative society. As such, the nation has a complex relationship with alcohol and recreational debauchery is not encouraged. 

Because of this, repressed groups of Indian lads (by lads, I mean men ranging from absolutely anywhere between 20 – 50) descend on Goa every weekend determined to take full advantage of its liberal values and cheap alcohol prices (a bottle of Kingfisher is less than half the price as in the rest of the country). 

The consequence? By no later than midday every single day, you will see a (usually over-weight and mustached) fully grown Indian man been dragged into the sea by his friends as they attempt to revive him from some drunken stupor.

The drunken men are also a regular fixture at the trance parties. Keep an eye out for them clumsily trying to chat up disinterested tourists right in the middle of the dance floor.

3. The Cossack’s

Russian’s flock to Goa by the planeload each winter to escape the punishing weather conditions back home. This is of course completely understandable considering the exact same conditions sent both Napoleon and Hitler beating a hasty retreat (although they both retreated towards defeat and eventual death rather than to a sun-kissed paradise).  

The Russians seem to treat Goa the exact same way as Brits treat Benidorm – as a place to pitch a sun lounger, eat their own national dishes and then get dangerously drunk for a week. It is not uncommon to see Russian men decorated head to toe in bandages and bruises earned from the previous day’s drunken motorcycle crashes.

On the flip side, a growing number of them seem to have totally embraced Goa’s aesthetic. You will spot could-be-ballerina’s and supermodels fully decked out in the modern hippy outfit of Ninja boots and hemp skirts. An ever-growing number are even starting to settle here.

4. The Seasoners

Each winter, Goa becomes the seasonal home to an international cast of artisans and entrepreneurs migrating south in search of sun, sanctuary, and salaciousness.

They arrive early November to bag the bargain rentals and hang around together (in Uber-tight cliques) until late February before returning home to their thoroughly bourgeois lives back in the west. 

By this point, (taking full advantage of Goa’s hippy, free-love aesthetic…) they will all have slept with each other and with each other’s partners, thus ensuring an under-current of bitter resentment that will quietly brood when they arrive back in Goa the following season

5. Indian Families

Goa is very popular with Indian families who come down for some leisurely beach time and respite, seemingly unaware of the hippy free-for-all taking place all around them. 

They are mostly harmless and tend to keep to themselves, dining in the “nicer” (ie, soulless & expensive) restaurants and avoiding the hash smoke as much as possible. Be prepared for proud Indian fathers asking if you will pose for a photograph with their son(s) and try not to do anything too outrageous in front on the under 7’s.

Did you know – Many Indian parents bring their children to Arambol during peak season to offer them their first glimpse of an aging white man’s shriveled genitals?!

6. The Israeli Squaddies

The tribe of Abraham look set to continue their diaspora across the face of India for yet another decade. Backpacking India is an established rite of passage for young Israeli’s who, after finishing the army, come here to get as stoned as possible whilst seeking out the nearest Falafel kiosk. 

Whilst the Israeli presence in Goa is still very strong, recent years have seen the base move northwards up to Himachal Pradesh. It’s almost as if the arrival of the wealthier, more aggressive Russians has forced them out…

(…well, the concept of Karma did originate in India I guess.)

7. The Old Timers

 

The old-timers are the ones who have been coming here since the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or even just the 1990’s. They all disagree amongst themselves about when the actual golden age of Goa was, but each and every one of them will confirm to you in no uncertain terms that the place has utterly gone to shit. 

Some will lament the mass arrival of espresso machines whilst others glorify the days when there was zero electricity in Anjuna you and was guaranteed dysentery as least once per season.

The 90’s generation will say “Psytrance is not as good as Goa trance” whereas the few surviving original originals maintain that all electronic music is horrible and things were much better when all they had to party with was a battered acoustic guitar and a Bob Dylan songbook.

The only thing they can agree amongst themselves on is that you are most definitely, too late to this particular party…

8. The Goan Trancers

You cannot miss the modern, anarchic hippies who inhabit Goa’s Northern reaches from Arambol beach down to Anjuna forever following the beat.

You will spot them selling handmade jewelry on the beaches of Mandrem adorned with matted dreads and clothing seemingly salvaged from the Waterworld set’s bankruptcy sale. These are without a doubt the most visually noticeable of all the Goa tribes and even if you don’t actually see them, you will certainly smell them if you get too close. (Editors Note – Most are actually very hygienic and clean. However, the ones who do smell, really do fucking smell).

They come to Goa for the legendary, nightly trance parties and spend their evenings dancing across Anjuna’s beaches on a head smashing cocktail of acid, amphetamines and ketamine. They will not sleep for one single minute until they go home.

Somewhat disturbingly, I find myself identifying more and more with this tribe with each passing year.

9. The Grand Tour Backpackers

These are the wide-eyed, optimistic first-time travelers to India. They have naively set out to see the entire country in just month, vastly underestimating the sheer size of the nation whilst woefully overestimating its crappy transport infrastructure.

They will check in your hostel dorm announcing that they have 3 days to see Goa before moving on so will not really have time to try yoga, attend a trance party, have an orgy, or do any of the things that people come to Goa to do.

They plan to be in Manali this time next week and you don’t quite know how to tell that (1) it’s a long way to go so they had really best set off, like, yesterday, and (2), it’s January, Manali is still knee deep in snow and so the cotton hippy pants they’re wearing aren’t quite gonna cut it…

Interestingly, the Grand Tour backpackers have an overwhelming tendency to be British. I blame Michael Palin.

10. The Hot Little Yogini’s

You probably already know that the population of India is over 1 billion strong.  

But did you also know that each year, the country churns out a similar number of Yoga instructors?! They obtain their “Yoga Teaching” certificate by way of a grueling 4- hour, $10 course before returning home to haunt the community center notice boards of the western world.

The Yogini’s of Goa are the tight bodied and tanned little things you see strolling along the beach at 8 am each morning with their Yoga mat tucked tightly under-arm. You may not have slept in 3 days, but they were in bed at 9 pm last night, and right now you can kind of envy them.

I’ll be honest, whilst I am partial to “the view” they offer from the back of the yoga class, they do often tend to be pretty boring.

11. The Police 

The Police are an essential part of the fabric of Goan life. You will meet them extorting bribes from foreigners for riding scooters without a helmet and possessing large quantities of banned substances. 

Last year, the Police turned up at pretty much every party I attended. They made a show of closing it down before been quietly paid off allowing it to resume 5 minutes after they left. 

God bless the guardians of Goan justice.

12.  

Ok so there is no 12 

But “11 Tribes of Goa” just doesn’t quite have the same biblical resonance, which I’m sure you agree, became particularly apt at 6. 

Let this be a lesson to you about Travel Blogs wantonly using numbers in post titles.

Choose your tribe wisely. 

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