ANJUNA, the next sizeable village up the coast from Baga, was, until a few years back, the last bastion of alternative chic in Goa – where the state’s legendary full-moon parties were staged each season, and where the Beautiful Set would rent pretty red-tiled houses for six months at a time, make trance mixes and groovy dance clothes, paint the palm trees fluoro colours and spend months lazing on the beach. A small contingent of fashionably attired, middle-aged hippies still turn up, but thanks to a combination of the Y2K music ban and overwhelming growth in popularity of the flea market, Anjuna has seriously fallen out of fashion for the party set.
As a consequence, the scattered settlement of old Portuguese houses and whitewashed churches, nestled behind a long golden sandy beach, nowadays more closely resembles the place it was before the party scene snowballed than it has for a decade or more. There is, however, a downside to staying here: levels of substance abuse, both among visitors and locals, remain exceptionally high, and the village suffers more than its fair share of dodgy characters.
The north end of Anjuna beach, just below where the buses pull in, is no great shakes by Goan standards, with a dodgy undertow and lots of even dodgier Kashmiris selling hash, as well as parties of whisky-filled day-trippers in constant attendance. The vibe is much nicer at the far, southern end, where a pretty and more sheltered cove accommodates a mostly twenty-something tourist crowd. A constant trance soundtrack thumps from the shacks behind it, cranking up to become proper parties after dark, when Curlie’s and neighbouring Shiva Valley take turns to max their sound systems, hosting international DJs through the season. Chai ladies and food stallholders sit in wait on the sands, just like for the raves of old, but the party grinds to a halt at 10pm sharp.
The biggest crowds gather on Wednesdays, after Anjuna’s flea market, held in the coconut plantation behind the southern end of the beach, just north of Curlie’s. Along with the Saturday Night Market at Arpora, this is the place to indulge in a spot of souvenir shopping. Two decades ago, the weekly event was the exclusive preserve of backpackers and the area’s seasonal residents, who gathered here to smoke chillums and to buy and sell party clothes and jewellery. These days, however, everything is more mainstream. Pitches are rented out by the metre, drugs are banned and the approach roads to the village are choked all day with a/c buses and Maruti taxis ferrying in tourists from resorts further down the coast. Even the beggars have to pay baksheesh to be here. The mayhem is, however, fun to experience at least once.