May 02, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Tourism in the developing world 

Experiences of a Whistler writer in Goa and Sri Lanka

"The essence of Goa lies in its marvelous expanses of palm fringed beaches and azure-blue seas, all warmed by the sun and local hospitality."

— Vikram Devdutt, Secretary of Tourism, Government of Goa.

For vacationers and tourism marketers around the world, "paradise" is a promise often made but less frequently delivered. To many, sun, clean beaches and a laid back pace of life are part of the broad definition of paradise, but something more is required to make it truly special.

And then the place is usually invaded.

That’s what’s happened to the Indian region of Goa, throughout its history.

Goa is situated on the Arabian Sea in south-west India. It has a total area of approximately 3,700 square kilometres. There are no big cities, just a few commercial centres, none which reflect the craziness of Indian cities.

With its 106 km of coastline, it is a place of natural abundance and tranquillity, envied throughout the country.

There is no doubt, Goa is profoundly different from the rest of India. The landscape is made up of paddy fields, coconut and mango groves – and long beaches. Sea breezes fill the air, but there are also several problems.

In 1510 the Portuguese occupied Goa and made it one of their colonies. The Portuguese aimed to use Goa as base for the spice trade; their other motive was to spread Christianity.

The famous Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier, arrived in 1542. Today, the Basilica of Bom Jesus (a World Heritage Monument, famous throughout the Roman Catholic world) hosts Xavier’s tomb. It is an enormous mausoleum for the great saint. Roman Catholicism remains the area’s major religion.

The Portuguese ruled from 1510 to 1961 – 451 years in total. They built baroque cathedrals, government palaces, austere monasteries and estancias, elegant homes.

India’s independence in 1947 ultimately led to Goa’s liberation. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, threw the Portuguese out of the country. On Dec. 19, 1961 Goa became a Union Territory of India. But, it wasn’t until May 30, 1987 that Goa was upgraded to a state in the Indian Union.

Goans are proud and profess to have a different mentality than their Indian countrymen. They have a different language, culture, and way of life. Goans state that the bond was strong between colonizers and the colonized. Today they blame Indian politicians for not living up to their election promises.

"Indians cut down our forests and created havoc," said one unhappy local.

Goans eat bread rather than chapattis; many are Roman Catholic, not Hindu. Although public signs can still be found written in Portuguese, the language is no longer taught in public schools.

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