The cow that bowed

If there was a shopaholic’s Shangri la, this would be it.

Your eyes teased from all directions with tantalising block prints, batik, embroidery, silk, leather, wood, stone, and wool, fashioned into every conceivable exotic merchandise alongside enough gold and silver jewellery to furnish the arms of The Elephant God every day until the end of time.

Welcome to Goa’s famous Anjuna Market, held every Wednesday from sunrise to dusk in a coconut plantation behind the southern end of its beach.

Twenty years ago this was called The Hippy Market; back-to-back backpackers and dreadlocked ageing European expats smoking nefarious substances – although one or two are still zipping about on scooters weaving between the stalls and dawdling shoppers.

Now it’s more of a commercial concern complete with beggar women in vibrant red saris with babies strapped to their breasts. Both they and the babies (not theirs but borrowed from family/friends specifically for tourist baiting) gently grasp at your arm. There are also wandering barbers intent on extracting ear wax from gentlemen’s ears wielding medical looking pincers. They too are easily batted away. It’s all part of the show. Just like the stall holders, the ‘beggars’ and the barbers pay a fee to the market organisers to conduct their roaming trade.

The market is huge. I mean huge. We spent two hours there and didn’t do it justice.

The first hour was spent wandering its cool cloth-roofed alleyways gawping at the vibrant goods, and taking in the sounds of drums and flutes and wafts of masala. Yes, some stall holders hassle you but the canny ones don’t, realising Europeans are more likely to take a look if not coerced.

Get your haggling hat on and do business. They will round everything up to the nearest 500 or 1,000 rupees and expect you to start from 30% less. This is a ‘game’ sealed with a handshake once done.

We spent just under £50 and bought two T-shirts, two dresses, two bags, a silver chain, three types of spices plus real saffron, a CD, and noshed on hearty portions chicken rice, mushroom biryani and rice with drinks.

Every region in India has a section here so you can pick up authentic Tibetan prayer bowls for example, or Kashmiri shawls – and pretend back home you went there.

But for me, the whole place was summed up by the cow, dressed in traditional finery, bowing majestically to passers-by as his master tootled away on his clarinet-like horn. Tacky tourist stuff I know, but quality tat.

And you gotta love a bit of quality tat…

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