A 45-minute bus ride up the coast from Panjim, CALANGUTE was, in Portuguese times, where well-to-do Goans would come for their annual mudança, or change of air, in May and June, when the pre-monsoonal heat made life in the towns insufferable. It remains the state's busiest resort, but has changed beyond recognition since the days when straw-hatted musicians in the beachfront bandstand would regale smartly dressed strollers with Lisbon fados and Konkani dulpods.
Beach parties of a less genteel nature first started to become a regular feature of life here in the late 1960s. Stoned out of their brains on local feni and cheap charas, the tribes of long-haired Westerners lying naked on the vast white sandy beach soon became tourist attractions in their own right, pulling in bus-loads of visitors from Mumbai, Bengaluru (Bangalore) and beyond. Calangute's flower-power period, however, is decidedly long gone.
Nowadays, the owners of swish resort hotels look back on the hippy era with a mixture of amusement and nostalgia. But they and their fellow Colongutis have paid a high price for the recent prosperity. Mass package tourism, combined with a huge increase in the number of Indian visitors (for whom this is Goa's number-one beach resort), has placed an impossible burden on the town's rudimentary infrastructure. Hemmed in by four-storey buildings and swarming with traffic, the market area, in particular, has taken on the aspect of a typical makeshift Indian town of precisely the kind that most travellers used to come to Goa to get away from. In short, this is somewhere to avoid, although most people pass through here at some stage, to change money or shop for essentials. The only other reason to endure the chaos is to eat: Calangute boasts some of the best restaurants in the whole state.
Buses from Mapusa and Panjim pull in at the small bus stand-cum-market square in the centre of Calangute. Some continue to Baga, stopping at the crossroads behind the beach en route.