Palolem Beach

Palolem Beach at sunset

Goa is serviced by a haphazard yet cheap and easily-navigable network of rattling local buses, and so I used them to make my way southwards through the state on my way to a beach I had read about called Agonda. The novelty of taking these rickety old things passing through all the little rural villages was great, though by my fourth bus – and third hour of travel – I had only reached the neighbouring beach but one of Palolem, and tired of arseache from the hard seats, I decided I couldn’t hack any more boneshaking rides and disembarked to bunk down one night in Palolem and head to Agonda in the morning.
Palolem had become famous for being the beach knucklehead Matt Damon (altogether now: “Maaatt Daaamooooon”!) runs along in the opening scenes of The Bourne Supremacy, which has helped give it more exposure. Well-developed and firmly on the backpacker circuit even before the film highlighted its existence, it was packed with stalls, restaurants, bars pumping out music and countless mini resorts of so-called “co-co huts”: rudimentary wooden beach shacks with a bed with mosquito net, a bog, a fan and little else. I think I managed to grab the worst example on the long stretch of beach, a leaning, rotting excuse of a shack. At least it was cheap – 150 rupees (£2) per night – and I’d just be using it to put my head down for the night. I wasn’t too keen on the spider webs in the rafters, though, and I didn’t look too closely for fear of what I might find.
As night fell I wandered the beach for a restaurant to settle in. Most were deserted; the off-season was really starting to bite. The most popular by far was a cosy two-level place called Cuba, with the strapline “Where time takes a break!!”, but since I have a policy of refusing to give my money to any business that uses more than one exclamation mark in its marketing as a matter of principle, sadly I can’t tell you what it was like. The place I plumped with produced so-so food, which was a disappointment after my five days in Anjuna during which virtually every meal I had ordered had been superb (not to mention cheap – less than a quid for a huge portion of great-tasting home-made curry and a naan bread).
Whilst Palolem was undeniably attractive to look at – the fairly golden beach was far cleaner than the dirty stretch of sand at Anjuna – it didn’t win me over. It was just too far down the track of development for my liking. I had come south to seek out a quiet beach on which to lay up on my own in peace, and Palolem just did not fit the bill. As I set out for Agonda the next day, I dearly hoped it would live up to the glowing praise I had read about it.