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Is Goa Still One Of The Best Places To Spend NYE?

Is Goa Still One Of The Best Places To Spend NYE?

India’s coastal “party state” Goa regularly tops travel mag lists of the best places in the world to spend New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, other regular top-rankers in those lists are places like Hogmanay in Edinburgh and the fireworks in Sydney, and anyone who’s been to either of those celebrations knows that the  shoulder to shoulder Tetris-packed events can be a little disappointing.

So how does Goa compare in reality? The old days of ‘80s and ‘90s Goa – when it was a hedonistic, lawless paradise with unlicensed beach parties raging for days – are long gone; a decade-long government crackdown on feckless tourists and loud soundsystems has put the Goa of legend to rest. But does modern Goa still deserve a spot on those ‘best NYE’ lists? AWOL took six flights, countless taxis, six motorbike pillion rides and one suicidal tuk tuk run to find out.

If you’re into big dance music festivals, you’re in luck


AWOL was visiting Goa to cover dance festival Vh1 Supersonic, one of two major music festivals in the region (the other being rival Sunburn) running from 27 to 30 December. Both festivals offer fairly similar experiences: dancing on sand, big mainstage pyrotechnics shows and lineups that range from big league trance and EDM acts like Above & Beyond and Krewella through to house and techno legends like Sasha and Carl Craig. And if you’re a dance music fan, there’s a lot in favour of travelling to Goa for your festival kicks: the lineup and production at Supersonic rivals any large-scale Australian festival and of course, being India, the prices for tickets and drinks were a fraction of Western costs. Even better, the crowd was made up of university-aged middle class kids from all around India there to get a bit loose and have a good time – no fluro Speedos in sight.

The related parties are rather good as well

Finding an illegal psytrance rave in Goa might be as rare these days as finding a strip of beach without either a bar or bungalow hotel perched on it, but there are plenty of classy bars to be found, and during Supersonic and Sunburn the afterparties can be legendary. The festivals mean there are dozens of touring DJs in town looking to party, and no one parties quite as hard as an artist in town for one night only with rider to spare.

There’s that world famous natural beauty

(Photo: Nick Jarvis)

After the festivals, you could stick around the famous bar areas like Anjuna, in between the two festival venues at Vagator and Candolim, and a place once so renowned for its parties it lent its name to a major trance label. These days, though, Anjuna is more like Kuta Beach and crowded with tourists, so instead AWOL went south to Palolem Beach, a mile long crescent of brown-to-white sand, shallow warm water and beachside shacks. If you’ve seen The Bourne Supremacy, it’s the tropical paradise where Jason Bourne is hiding out at the start, which might explain why solo dudes hanging out there tend to get odd looks, despite lacking any resemblance to Matt Damon.

It is a beautiful place – although far from “untouched”. The main demographic is middle-aged English (pale, peppy) and middle-aged Italian (leathery, loquacious), although the beach is still used every night by fishermen to store their wooden outrigger boats. The boats head out before dawn and return just before dusk with fresh seafood, which you can buy and have cooked at the various beach-side restaurants built around pit-fires (not cheap by Indian standards, but fun). The accommodation is basic but more than enough – beach shacks with a bed, mosquito net, toilet and shower – and the food, naturally, is fatteningly-excellent.

And the ad-hoc fireworks celebrations


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On either side of New Year’s Eve it’s a quiet place to exist, with not much on the agenda other than walking along the beach, lying on a sun bed, swimming in the amniotic warmth of the ocean and drinking Kingfisher lager. On New Year’s Eve, though, the place is a crowded riot of tourists drinking in the bars and locals drinking on the beach, setting off impromptu fireworks and sending turps-fuelled wish lanterns floating out to sea.

Come midnight, every bar, restaurant and semi-conscious adult on the beach lets loose with a fireworks barrage that rivals Sydney’s tightly-controlled, tax-payer funded display. It’s a genuinely joyous occasion with a slight edge of anarchy and a lot of hugging random strangers… Goa, for the meantime you can keep your spot on those “Best NYE” lists.

AWOL travelled to Goa at the invitation of Vh1 Supersonic festival.

Make next new year’s your best and start planning now.  Check out Qantas flights to India.

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