In Muslim Indonesia, the party is on the Hindu island of Bali. In Hindu India, the party is in the Christian state of Goa. Nearly every country in Asia with a sea shore, has some sort of party beach or party island. The travelers know where all these places are, and the focus shifts continually. Like the life of a star, each party place grows more popular until it eventually explodes with a big bang and then quickly collapses to a singularity of what it once was; occupying the same amount of space and occasionally sucking in a passing drifter drawn by the light given off years ago but for which the source no longer remains. The Thai islands peaked a couple years ago, Goa passed it's prime long before that. Forming in untouched space from the pieces of earth which escaped the collapse of Goa, is a new "chill" place called Gokarna.
The locals of Gokarna can see the star forming and are trying to stop it, but once a system gathers too much mass there's no return. Gokarna was very much everything I was looking for when I went to Goa: peaceful enough to be relaxing, populated enough to have fun. Along a beach which requires a slight bit of hiking to get to no matter how you approach it, is a series of restaurants with beach huts out back. For nearly no money at all you can rent a hut and spend the days lounging in the long sand beach which is unsullied by rocks or shells or garbage, which is meticulously reset each evening by the healing tide. In the evenings you can enjoy the company of other travelers, and even perhaps a special lassie. On nearly all the party beaches in Asia—even the one off the über-strict Sultanate of Brunei—the local police turn a blind eye to what the tourists do, but not in Gokarna.
You won't find Alcohol on the menu of any of the restaurants in Gokarna, but it's always available upon request. Many people keep things shanti in a Kashmiri kinda way (if you know what I mean) and the proprietors pay no mind. The people who own the restaurants and guest-houses along the beach benefit greatly from the influx of western tourists, which is why they'll warn you when the police are coming by with their dogs, as they do several times a week. It seems the villagers, who don't benefit from the tourist industry, are bent on keeping the party in Goa. Me? I don't blame them, and I'm slightly saddened anytime I see a nice place which I know will be ruined in a couple years. That said, I joined in a bit of the festivities. After all, I was there during Christmas; a time when many of the tourists are increasingly jolly.
I enjoyed Christmas with a guy from Moldova and four English girls whom I had met at different points on my four-bus trip from Goa to Gokarna. I spent most of my unsolitary time in Gokarna with those people, though usually not at the same time. In the days I enjoyed tossing a disc with the guy from Moldova and working in his presence, as he's also a web developer. In the evenings I usually hung with the girls. Christmas eve was like any other: a barefoot dinner on the beach surrounded by beautiful ladies, followed by hippies dancing around flaming palm fronds.
The makeshift Christmas tree built from brown coconut palm leaves, was only set on fire at the end of the night since the group knew it would be quickly followed by the local police. I stayed and watched for a bit, then went for a moonlit swim where the bubbles created by my movement transformed into spherical crystals of radiance exploding with golden light. Gokarna was just what I needed: a cheap and peaceful place to relax, but also to enjoy the company of others when I desired it. It's sad to think that in several years Gokarna will probably be more like Goa is now, but I suppose that's the next step in the evolution of tropical beaches these days.Soundtrack: Under the Boardwalk (The Drifters)