Goa in the high season is absolutely rife with overpriced goods and services that often compare and even surpass the stupidly inflated prices of so-called developed nations like the US and UK. Goa’s intense tourism from Europe, America, Russia, and throughout India and Asia facilitates price inflation that is literally unheard of in the rest of the country. These inflated prices are so institutionalized now that Goa has built permanent infrastructure around the supercommercial shopping that targets tourists. Two such examples are the Saturday night market in Arpora, a crazy mix of entertainment, food, and shopping, and the Wednesday market in Anjuna, a large and winding place by the beach with more chatchkies than you can shake a stick at.

At the same time, there are also enough Goans to necessitate more down-to-earth prices on most products available in the state and throughout the country, all in one convenient place. Such is the market in the city of Mapusa, pronounced Mapsa, where a good chunk of the town houses a large market with everything from produce and meat to electronics and fabrics.

Markets are always fun, even the ones specifically made for tourists. If you travel to Goa in the high season, be sure to pop in to these three and enjoy yourself.

Saturday Night Market, Arpora

The Saturday night market is a large open-air market that starts early and goes late. The market area creeps up to the base of a hill and climbs up it a bit to deposit a couple dance floors and stall isles that look down on the rest of the market. An elevated stage at the base of the market facilitates live music into the evening and a couple small areas nearby can be home to mostly-unannounced performances like fire twirling.

Looking in to the market, the far left side is lined with food stalls that charge stupid prices for food that is meh (two hundred rupees for masala dosa lolwat) but the vibe is pretty cool and there is a lot to choose from: Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, Turkish, Goan, Tandori, Punjabi, even a dude grilling up American style burgers.

The sellers at the market run the gambit: clothing, fabrics, jewelry, supplements, spices, statues, crystals, music, singing bowls, even heavy fur coats – a tough sell in the Goan March!

Perhaps most colorful are the people at the Saturday night market. The crowd is all over the place, literally: shitloads of Russians doin the Russian thing, lots of groovy Goan dudes puttin out the vibe, lots of random Europeans with dreadlocks being dready, some Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese types doin their thing, some people who are trying and succeeding at not being identified by their race, color, skin or creed, and of course since it’s India a few random old British couples who are trying not to look slightly frightened by and perversely interested in their surroundings.

The Anjuna market is definitely where Goa’s freaks come out to play. It reminded me of some of the crazy clubs I used to go to in Portland and Boston growing up to see hardcore bands. I saw a girl with horn implants on her forehead. Saw a dude with a forked tongue. Saw a dude with ear plugs so big they could double as spare tires. Saw a girl with makeup and piercings that were so intimidating that I started crying for my mother and ran away without raising my camera.

There are a handful of shops in the market that carry truly unique products, but honestly most of the stuff there is widely available elsewhere throughout Goa for cheaper and throughout India for much cheaper still. It’s convenient to have so many thing in one place, but chances are you’ll pay a premium for buying it there. So to that end, I recommend that you not go to the Saturday night market to shop, or if you do then be prepared to haggle, hard. And be prepared to lose: some of the sellers don’t really care if they lose a sale because you’re trying to haggle them down. They’ll just hold to their price or ignore you. I guess this means that they have numbers on their sides. Don’t know.

The Saturday night market is a fun time. If you’re in Goa then definitely go. It’s worth the trip. Leave most of your rupees home before you go and you’ll be glad for it when you return home.

Wednesday Market, Anjuna

The Anjuna Wednesday market is a big day market held every hump day in the high season. The premises are cool: a big wide road feeds into the market before splitting and branching into smaller commercial tributaries, one of which winds right and hooks down to the shore at the top of Anjuna Beach.

I’ll be completely honest and say that the market is home to pretty much all of the same stuff that you find around Goa, including the Saturday Night Market. Literally, some of the stuff is exactly the same. In any given touristy market town in Goa – Arambol, Anjuna, Calangute, etc. – you’re going to see many of the same things for sale, particularly things like dresses, shirts, sunglasses, figurines, crystals, and the like. If you want to pick something like this up while you’re in Goa, try Arambol if you’re in the touristy areas because it’s known to be cheaper than other spots, or Mapusa outside of the touristy areas because it’s down to earth with prices.

Still, the Wednesday market is a great experience. The hot sun yields a bit to the ocean breezes and hanging tarps, and there are a handful of large spots like this one to duck inside and poke around in the shade for a while.

If you’re carrying a camera then look out for the dude with the ox. The guy is cool but he gets all up into your picture and then strongly suggests that he be compensated for his likeness. Meh.

One not-so-cool thing that happened at the Anjuna market: a guy comes up to me on one of the market streets looking very concerned and says ‘Hey stop! Hold still!’ So I do, thinking as he wants me to that there is a nineteen foot wasp about to swallow my jugular and sell my organs to China. He moves around to my side and I feel hands on and around my ear, and then something more like inside my ear, at which point I carefully but violently pull away from the guy and resist the urge to sidekick him into the sunglasses behind him. I glare at him as he holds up two metal rods, one with some nasty ass brown shit on it and proceeds to say ‘Your ear is very dirty. Need clean?’ Swallow another violent urge and walk off. Not cool man, but my bad for falling for it.

The shit looked like jaggery paste or engine grease or something. Somewhat like earwax but definitely not earwax. Call me crazy but I’m not a big fan of strangers poking dirty rods into my orifices. Pissed me off. Good lesson.

While you’re at the Wednesday market, definitely spend some time in and around Anjuna. It’s a cool ass town, and it’s one of the original backpacker destinations from back in the 70s, so it has a distinctly different feel to it. There are a handful of very narrow and winding roads, more like alleys really, that twist and wind past guest house after guest house just a couple minutes’ walk from the beach. It reminds me a bit of pictures of the narrow roads of an Italian or Spanish city…except yeah, just the winding thin roads bit. The rest not so much.

Mapusa Market

If you want to visit a proper market and do it up like a Goan then visit the Mapusa market. The Mapusa market isn’t an event-like thing the way the markets of Arpora and Anjuna are. It’s a permanent part of the city where business is conducted all year round.

If you want a more laid-back and easy-going experience then go on Tuesday or Wednesday. The market is not crowded and the sellers are more available to talk and hang out. If you want some intensity and the bustling feel of a crowded market then go on Friday or Saturday. Get up early and get there before 11, before it starts getting busy (that’s busy by Goan standards; Mapusa market’s busy is like a drowsy nap to Mumbai) and stay until you’re sated.

Unlike the markets of Anjuna and Arpora, the Mapusa market is made up of almost exclusively Goans, both buyers and sellers. (The Saturday night market in particular can be found more non-Indians than Indians on both sides of the counters.) I counted on one hand the number of non-Indians I saw throughout the market, and I got a lot of those ‘hey a white guy, what the hell is he doing here?’ looks that reminded me fondly of Mumbai. Such moments are the perfect opportunities to flash a nice big smile and usually get one in return, especially from a wide-eyed Goan kid tagging along with mom and staring curiously at the tall guy with light skin.

The Mapusa market is filled to the brim with produce. There are piles of peppers and ginger and garlic and spices in quantities sufficiently massive to defy practical convention. The fruits and vegetables shout their colors from the shade of the umbrellas and tarps, compelling attention and interest regardless of one’s particular palette and preference. Do your taste buds a favor and find the apple sellers. Ask for a crunchy and sweet Kashmiri apple. Best twenty rupees you’ll spend all day I promise.

The Mapusa market also contains a mammoth fish market housed inside a building that is shaped like a C and is absolutely chock full of seafood on the inside, slicers and dicers on the outside. (I’m not sure if the fish market is open every day, maybe someone knows?)

There is the butcher’s alley – these guys are a riot. Stop by and talk to them, they’ll have you laughing in no time. And there’s the big building in the center of the market that is home to a number of cool things: a couple isles of flower sellers, a row of liquor stores, and in the middle a bakery that cranks out fresh bread and rolls. And right next to the bakery is a little food shop that specializes in breaded fried peppers. The guys who work here are super cool and the peppers are fun. Grab a pepper and a chai for ten rupees. Some caffeine and Scoville action will fuel you through the market for a while until you flag, at which point you should pop in for a smoothie.

The Mapusa sellers are honest and good people. I really like Mapusa. If I lived in Goa I’d probably live there. (Hell who am I kidding I’d probably live in Aswem near the waves.)

There are a couple other markets in and around Goa that I have not visited and probably won’t because they take a while to get to and unfortunately I have acquired a wariness of long-distance scooter travel in Goa. But to that point, many of the towns with notable tourism are little markets in their own right. Arambol and Anjuna are two good examples. Get up and off the beach and into the town and you’ll soon find yourself wandering and windows shopping through the town. The coastal towns are almost all laid out so that the main market street follows the coast with many streets and paths connecting the beach to shops.

Check out pictures from each of the three markets here:

 

See you in the markets!

~Nathan