My name is Cagatay and I was born in the north of Turkey in a city called Samsun. This is my story on how I got stuck in Goa, India for five months.
I moved to another city in the middle of Turkey called Sivas when I was just two months old. Growing up in beautiful nature until I was about nine years old made for some great childhood memories. We then proceeded to move to Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey in 1999. Today I’m 30 years old.
I finished high school and college in Istanbul, studying International Relations. In 2010, I went to the United States on a work and travel programme. It was my first time abroad. I lived in Utah in the west for four months and worked as a lifeguard in a local amusement park.
After this experience my life was never the same. I yearned to discover more and more. And so far, I have lived in four different continents and travelled to over 40 countries. I guess I was six years old when I found an atlas encyclopedia on my father’s bookshelf and started turning the pages.
The different animals and trees which I saw were really impressive to me. Then I saw a world map and asked my father: “Daddy, what is this?”. He replied by saying, “It’s a world map son. You can see all the different countries of the world and where they are located in relation to Turkey”.
My Dad showed me Turkey on the map and at that moment I realised how small Turkey was in comparison to the world. That was an extraordinary awakening for me. All the cartoons I had watched previously seemed like lies. I became more interested in jumping on a plane and flying away.
What Inspired me to Visit India
I’ve been travelling nonstop on a one-way ticket ever since 2017. India was a place that was always on my bucket list, not only to visit but to live for a while too. I didn’t want to be just another tourist seeing only the Taj Mahal and Mumbai. This dream was about going deep inside the Indian culture.
I believed that India had so much to offer – amazing places and an opportunity for personal growth. There is diversity everywhere in religion, language, ethnic groups, food and so on. I’ve always delayed going because I never had enough time or money to sustain a journey like this.
I arrived in Old Delhi first. It was unbelievably colourful! I felt like I was in a Bollywood movie from the 90’s. Old Delhi was chaotic but not in a bad way as I like chaotic places. In that city everyone was just trying to survive. Sometimes it would break my heart to see people living on the streets.
There were so many people who needed help. Basic things like having enough food to eat for the day. On the other hand, I did visit the wealthier areas of Delhi where people had nice cars and ate at fancy restaurants. As soon as I arrived, India began to feed me with knowledge and experiences.
An Incredible Journey across India
I stayed in India for six months in total. Well, my plan was to stay for two months but due to the pandemic I got stuck and my dream to live in India came true. Firstly, I flew from Iran to Delhi. Unlike most travellers, I really enjoy the capital cities. I believe it gives you the true emotions of a country.
In Old Delhi I walked down the narrow streets and bazaars – tasting street food, meeting locals and listening to their stories. After that I took a bus to Agra where one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World are located. It was breathtaking to run in the huge empty area of Taj Mahal at sunrise.
I read about the Taj Mahal’s history before visiting. That moment when I was running while the sun was rising made me feel truly alive. From Agra I went to Jaipur. This might be the city that offers the most places to see. I visited the Monkey Temple (Galta Ji), Hawa Mahal, Patrika Gate and so on.
I even met a Babaji spiritual man in Jaipur whose name was Mukesh. He has been living in a shelter near the Monkey Temple for 24 years! We had an unforgettable conversation and I learned a lot more about India.
Next on the itinerary was Pushkar. I did all my travels by bus and train – so I got the chance to immerse in the local life and learn about the country. Pushkar is one of the most fascinating cities of India. It’s the most colourful city I have ever seen which is established by a beautiful lake.
There is a long street there full of colourful shops and cows pass through all the time. You can walk around many different ghats and temples. This town is famous with its hippie crowd. Many foreigners live in this city and most of them practice yoga, meditation and are travelling India long term.
Blue City to the Golden City
After Pushkar, I went to Jodhpur aka the Blue City! When you look down on the city from a viewpoint it looks so blue because of the sea of blue houses. I enjoyed getting lost in the narrow streets of Jodhpur. They also have the best lassi in India! Lassi is a drink made of yoghurt and some tropical fruits.
From Jodhpur I travelled to Jaisalmer aka the Golden City! What a yellowish city it was – full of sandstone architecture which looked beautiful. Jaisalmer is a historic city with many fortresses. Also from here you can visit the Thar Desert. I had an amazing desert safari experience with camels.
I slept in the middle of the Thar Desert under millions of stars. We cooked pakhoda and other Indian dishes in our camping area. I even visited women with traditional dresses who make carpets in a historic building. They tried to teach me how to make the dresses. It was a real experience.
Then I headed to Mumbai and boy was it a long way! I took a bus for 10 hours to Ahmedabad and then took a train to Mumbai which took another 10 hours. By the time I had arrived I was exhausted. I decided to fly from Mumbai to Varanasi and come back later for the Holi Festival.
Visiting the Mystical Varanasi
Varanasi was the most impressive city in India for me. I spent four nights there but I really wanted to stay longer. The mystical atmosphere is everywhere in Varanasi – people with traditional dresses, narrow streets full of cows and tiny shops, and the famous and holy River Ganges.
This might be the most important city for Hindu people because of the holy River Ganges and ghats. They believe if their body gets burned in the Varanasi ghats and the ashes of their body are thrown in the River Ganges that they will not be reincarnated and will not come into the world again.
In fact, that is what they want because they believe that a state of Nirvana can be reached and an eternal peace will find them. The Aarti and burning ceremonies are something that I will never forget in my life. I rented a private boat and got close to the events on the Ganges. It was incredible.
Celebrating Holi Festival in Dharavi
After that enriching experience I flew back to Mumbai. I started to search for Asia’s biggest slum called Dharavi. This was the place where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. So I decided to celebrate the colourful Holi Festival with the locals of Dharavi. I didn’t want to be stuck with tourists in a hostel.
Most people warned me not to go. This included locals who claimed it was dangerous but I believed on this holy day nothing could go wrong. And my decision was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The locals of Dharavi were so warm. They offered me drinks and we celebrated together.
There was a crazy party down every narrow street. I met a young Indian boy who lives there called Hritik. We partied so hard with paint all over us. He invited me to his family’s house and I accepted this kind offer. His mother prepared masala tea for us. What an amazing experience it was.
Finally from Mumbai I went to Goa. Then my story begins again. I got stuck due to the pandemic. It turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Stuck in Goa for Five Months
I ended up staying in Goa for five months. I don’t regret a single moment in this beautiful paradise. For me it was a place of freedom. No one judges anyone, especially in the town that I was living in called Arambol. You could hug and kiss a tree and no one would ever ask you what you’re doing.
Goa has one of the biggest hippie crowds in the world. People look peaceful and happy. I loved the atmosphere here. Watching sunsets from the hilltops, marvelling at the full moon from the temple and listening to musicians play instruments such as the kalimba – it was magical.
Not only that but I got to swim in the beautiful beaches of the Indian Ocean, play football with locals, cruise down the streets on my longboard, ride motorbikes between palm trees, eat delicious natural Indian food and meet amazing new people. It felt like I was a permanent citizen of Goa.
Favourite Place: Arambol Beach
Arambol Beach was a special place for me with lots of memories. One day I came up with the idea of writing “Stuck in Goa” on the sand and taking a photo of it with my friend’s drone. It took two hours for us to write those big letters under 35 degree heat but it was definitely worth the effort.
It was a meaningful photo because we were stuck here and couldn’t leave the state or country. During the first couple of months of the pandemic we weren’t able to walk on the streets. Still, there were worse places to be and we were all so happy to be stuck in such a beautiful paradise like Goa.
Top 5 Things To Do in Goa
I lived for five months in Goa and feel like I experienced everything this paradise has to offer. It mixes Indian and Portuguese cultures together in a flamboyant way. You can enjoy endless sun, sandy beaches, delicious food and spirituality. Below are my top 5 must-do experiences in Goa.
1. Rent a Scooter and Go Exploring
You should definitely rent a scooter and ride around the towns which include Arambol, Mandrem, Keri Beach, Anjuna, Siolim and Morjim. Put your headphones in, play your favourite songs, feel the wind in your hair and just ride. You will know what I mean when you do this activity.
2. Attend a Party or Festival in Goa
Even if you don’t like partying, you should try to experience one with the Goa vibe. I’m sure it will change your mind. I missed out on the party season because of the pandemic but normally there are heaps of parties and festivals that you can enjoy. You will love partying in Goa.
3. Go Hiking in the Arambol Forest
Go hiking in the Arambol forest and reach the cliff to watch the sunset. The sun looks like a peach – so beautiful as it gently sets into the ocean with different tones of yellow. If you’re in Goa during a full moon then do exactly the same hike for the full moon. The vibe is awesome!
4. Swim in the Indian Ocean at Beaches
There are many beaches which give you access to the Indian Ocean. Some of my favourites include Arambol Beach, Keri Beach and Ashvem Beach. Also make sure you visit this lake near Arambol Beach. Young bohemian people gather and play music. You can meet interesting people there.
5. Join a Yoga Session or Meditation Class
Join a yoga or meditation session near a banyan tree. Even if you don’t know how to do it, you will always be welcomed. The mystic vibe of Goa will never leave you. Many believe Goa is a spiritual place that has its own healing power. You will definitely feel this during yoga or meditation.
Best Places to Stay in Goa
I stayed at three different places in Goa but one of the places was for way longer than the others. Firstly, I stayed at Moustache Hostel in Mandrem. It was quiet and almost nothing was around. After days I moved to Arambol to the cottages called Salt Water. It has a beautiful ocean view.
My last place was Samaaya Guesthouse in Arambol. It was perfectly located just one minute away from the beach and to the main street of Arambol. The accommodation here had a swimming pool, luxurious bungalows with air conditioning and Netflix. I stayed for almost three and a half months.
I would recommend Samaaya Guesthouse to everyone. It all depends on what budget you travel on as some people rented houses while others stayed in cheaper hostels. For a more affordable stay I can recommend No Name Hostel in Arambol. Their view, food and atmosphere was great.
Awesome Food Scene of Goa
There are some amazing restaurants in Goa. I will start with my favourite which was called Food Planet. They have Western cuisine, Asian cuisine and also Indian cuisine. They even served Middle Eastern food. Located in Arambol, it was a great place to eat every second day in front of the beach.
My second favourite place was a restaurant called Artjuna. They had amazing food! But it was a little pricey. The thing that made this place special was the atmosphere. There is a library, table tennis and more.
The third place I would recommend would be Momo House Keri. This restaurant is run by a Kashmiri man. It’s located on the way to Keri Beach. He works alone and uses only natural products. That’s what makes his food so delicious! His momos might be the best ones I tried in all of India.
Momo House Keri served some other fantastic dishes like noodles, hamburgers and so on. But hands down the best dish was a special dessert called “choko moko momo”. It was absolutely out of this world good!
Favourite Memory of Goa
My favourite memory was from the last days of March. I had only been in Goa for 10 days and the virus started to sweep the world making countries close their borders. My two other friends and I started to worry about what the world was going through and so we booked flights back home.
Two days later on the 22nd of March we were on our way to the airport. We reached the airport and were about to get out of our taxi when we received an email: “Your flight is cancelled”. Borders were closed. In that moment we understood our destiny, looked at each other and just smiled.
We travelled all the way back and started to look for a place to spend in quarantine. Not long later in Arambol we found these small private cottages with an ocean view for just $3.50 per day. We settled here, sat on our balcony and put on our favourite music. Life was beautiful.
I can never forget that moment. None of us knew what was waiting for us and what we were going through. Despite all the negative news, we just chose to enjoy the moment and embrace what was happening.
Tips for your Visit to Goa
The first thing people should know is that Goa is not a luxury destination. It’s not easy to find five star hotels and fancy restaurants. What makes Goa beautiful is the rugged vibe. You will know what I mean when you get here.
You need to be open-minded if you are travelling to Goa because, for example, it’s not uncommon to see naked people on the streets. As I said before, Goa is a place of freedom. This is at least true for Arambol.
Not all of Goa is the same. There are cities like Panjim and Mapusa which are quite different to what you might expect. Most people come to Goa to visit places like Arambol. This is why I have mainly written about Arambol.
Renting scooters is the easiest way to get around. Otherwise, there are buses or bike taxis which can’t always be accessed whenever you like. Local people like to quote higher prices to tourists which is to be expected. Of course, you can negotiate with them when you are buying a product.
The main season in Goa is between December and March. After March, the season ends. From June the monsoon season starts. If you visit during this time get ready to get wet! Heavy rains hit so hard without warning like a pouring waterfall. Most places are closed during the monsoon season.
You can visit Goa from most other cities in India by plane, bus or train. Goa has an international airport as well but it doesn’t connect to many places such as Mumbai. As a summer destination, Goa can be more expensive than other places in India. So you need to save accordingly.
Thanks for reading about my journey in India and how I got stuck in Goa during the pandemic! If you have any questions or would like more tips on Goa feel free to reach out on Instagram or email. Lots of love from Turkey!