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Grasping Ayurveda Philosophy in Goa

May 10, 2011

When my parents got divorced, my mom realized she needed to get back on track and provide for herself and me. Our new family dynamic coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, so by the time their divorce was finalized, the market economy was already booming in all corners of the former USSR. My mom decided to pursue a career in retail sales, and at the age of 27, she went abroad for the first time in her life in order to bring the merchandise and sell it back home. She started traveling to India, and no matter how hard she had to work and how often she had to be separated from me, she forever fell in love with this mysterious country. And even now, my mom carefully keeps her memories of India in her collection of Indian Barbie dolls and animal figures made of aromatic sandalwood, with which I was never allowed to play.

I guess I subconsciously inherited my curiosity for Indian culture from her. The picture of the Taj Mahal that stood on my desk was constantly distracting me from homework. When asked to describe her biggest impression of India, my mom always said it was the country of contrasts, “You could see a gorgeous marble mansion neighboring with the most impoverished shack.”

Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen the Taj Mahal and New Delhi, but I did spend some fabulous vacation time in Goa, the former Portuguese colony and the smallest Indian state located on its southern peninsula. Goa is famous among boisterous world jet-setters as a wild party place. But besides that, this province is perfect for all kinds of traveling, from luxurious resort stays to family vacations to super low-budget hiking.

Goa is officially divided into two districts: South Goa and North Goa. The Southern part of the peninsula traditionally features posh golf and spa resorts, while the Northern part offers more affordable accommodations and legendary trance beach parties.

My girlfriends and I went to Goa during our junior year’s winter break, which in Russia happens to be at the end of January to the beginning of February. Because it wasn’t the high season, we could afford staying in South Goa, at The Leela Palace Resort. The hotel, once voted the best Southeast Asian hotel, was absolutely stunning, and the best thing was it was still cheaper to stay there than in most hotels in Europe.

Besides spacious rooms, varied restaurants, golf courses and the affordable spa, the resort offered excellent service and well-known Asian hospitality. Ayurveda treatments at the Leela’s spa were an essential part of my daily routine. Through the combination of traditional Abhyanga massages, aromatic oils and relaxing Indian music, my mind, body and spirit were finally brought into a perfect balance, which was much needed after the intense exam session.

Goa is also famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and gorgeous sunsets. However, due to its proximity to the Equator, Goa’s sun is pretty dangerous; therefore, high SPF in your sunscreen is quite essential.

As I already mentioned, North Goa is a popular place among budget travelers. Here you can find both five-star hotels and small beach bungalows that you can rent for as little as $10 a day. In terms of dining options, in North Goa you can find numerous restaurants that offer delicious dishes of local cuisine for more than reasonable prices. The freshest seafood, spicy Indian curries and sweet fruit lassi are to die for.

The dazzling nightlife of Goa starts as the sun goes down. Rambunctious partygoers from around the world have endless options on how to celebrate their love for music, dancing and booze. From popular nightclubs, such as Tito’s and Paradiso, to the more casual trance music beach parties under the starry sky, you’ll be able to find all kinds of entertainment to suit your taste. And it’s not a big deal if you decide to stay in the more tranquil South Goa, because you can easily rent a moped or hire a cheap cab to drive you to the more fun North.

I really hope my acquaintance with India won’t be limited to my Goa adventures. Visiting the antique temples of New Delhi and experiencing the Bollywood culture of Mumbai definitely remain on my bucket list. If you have any tips, please share!

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