GOA INSIGHT GUIDE

Great Experiences

You know about the endless white sand beaches bounded by picture post card palm trees, the historic Portuguese fortresses, the curries with their elaborate ingredients and did we mention the beaches? That's all very well, but we thought you might be interested to learn some lesser-known facts about India's popular southern state

Let's begin with a common misconception. The majority of Goa's population is obviously Roman Catholic, thanks to the state's history as a Portuguese colony. Not so. In fact, only 30% of the 1,400,000 strong population, while 65% are Hindu. Still, Catholicism remains a very visible presence and its devotees are…well, extremely devoted. One interesting custom associated with Goan Catholicism involves the public showing of the remains of St. Francis Xavier, who died in 1552 but whose body remains 'as fresh as a living man' despite no embalming or preservative treatment. You'll be lucky to catch a glimpse however - they only bring him out every 10 years.

And whilst we're exploding assumptions let's turn our attention to sport. Whilst cricket is by far the most popular sporting activity throughout the Indian subcontinent, in Goa it's football - not the American gridiron variety, but good old-fashioned soccer. Despite it's diminutive size, Goa is home to many of the country's top National Football League (NFL) clubs. During your holiday, you're likely to see impromptu games happening, whether on the beach or on the abundance of local fields set aside for the world's favourite game - joining is often an option if you fell like a kick about.

Goa may be small, but it punches well above its weight economically. The GDP per capita is two and a half times that of the country as a whole and also boasts one of the fastest growth rates in India. No wonder Goans are known for their laid back, happy go lucky approach to life and smiley countenances.

The Portuguese presence in Goa was long lived, to put it mildly. Portuguese merchants first arrived as early as the 15th century and the colony was in place for around 450 years - right up until 1961, when India finally decided that four and a half centuries of occupation was quite enough, thank you very much.
Being on the small side, Goa is divided into only two districts - north and south Goa. The state is also distinguished by the fact that it was the birthplace of a genre of music that can now be heard around the world - Goa Trance, a form of hypnotic psychedelic techno that emerged as a byproduct of the districts famous full moon parties of the late eighties and early nineties.

Turning to a rather more sedate pastime, bird lovers will be pleased to learn that there are at least 450 species in Goa - there's a burgeoning tourism industry geared specifically to bird watching. It helps that an impressive 30% of Goa remains covered in forest, most of which is owned by the government.

So now that you have the inside track, what are you waiting for? Go and impress the locals with your knowledge!

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