Local markets are always a good way to get to know a place. One of the days in Goa I decided to go to Mapusa, north from Calangute where I was staying. Armed with an empty bag, craving for spices and mustering all haggling techniques I could think off after being to the East-Asian markets, I set off.
First opportunity to use the skills comes when negotiating the taxi fare. I heard previously about a bus that goes that road, but apparently, on the presumed bus stop there are just people who claim that “the bus doesn’t go that way, but I can drive you to Mapusa”. Well, rain won’t wait with me for the bus, so I take the taxi and arrive in Mapusa to see a bustling marketplace with crazily colorful Indian buses parked in front. Probably one of them has just arrived from Calangute – oh, well.
From the gates I am approached by children and women who offer to take me to all the spices in the world I want, as long as later I visit their stands or shops. Here I get the second taste of the selling tactics – being the first customer during the day apparently “brings luck”, and the price can be much lower, almost no profit for the “first customer”. In no time I have a whole entourage following me, pointing to places and products I would never buy. One of the rules of taking good pictures in such places is to blend in, but it seems impossible in these conditions… so new tactic is in place – buying one thing at a stand in exchange for a picture. Spices, cashews (as Goa is pretty famous for them and I absolutely love cashews!), small snacks, hot peppers, tea. And a dholak – two-sided Indian drum – instruments are always on my shopping list.
Soon I tire all my entourage with those low profile buys and I have an opportunity to roam more freely through the market. Not that I feel threatened or unsafe, but definitely a bit pushed (from stand to stand) and nagged to buy. I generally prefer to be less visible and choosing my own way around.
Generally, be prepared to have the guidance through the market if you happen to look as pale white and out of place as I do. The strangest experience was when I got asked to touch the fabrics sold on one stand as it “brings luck”. Sales tactic to feel the softness of the cloth or a genuine belief – I don’t care as long as it is harmless.