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Goa's Hippie-Era Holdover Is a Shopping Dream

And these days, the Saturday night bazaar has expanded from a foreigners' market to include merchants from across Asia. Hippie purists say the market should have stayed small. But merchants say they saw an opportunity and wanted in on it, even if they did have to print a tie-dyed sari or put pot fauna on Gandhi's head.

On this night, a visitor could wander at 9 p.m. through the market's labyrinth of stalls and find Tibetans selling mini prayer wheels and singing brass bowls, Kashmiris hawking carpets and shawls, and French women chain-smoking as they sell their designer "nomad purses," buttery leather handbags fused with tribal cloth, for around $200 -- after bargaining.

Around 9:30, many Indians, who typically eat dinner late, line up at the food stalls, many of which are run by foreigners. There's Goan rice and spongy bread, soggy pizza, greasy ravioli, overstuffed falafel and creamy but slightly sweaty tiramisu, along with ginger tea, fresh lime sodas and the season's first mango juice.

At several stalls, Nepali teenagers sell burned CDs of Goan trance music alongside Kurt Cobain and Bollywood soundtracks. At 10:15 the disc jockey spins "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

Closing his eyes and swaying to the music, Nila Ales, 25, begs some tourists from Germany to buy a bundle of incense sticks wrapped in a Buddha-embossed silk sack. They look annoyed and head off in search of beer at a nearby bar.

Nearby are star-shaped paper lamps, a Goan artist with hip and colorful prints of auto-rickshaws, a cashew seller -- Goa is the cashew capital of the world -- and homemade basil and thyme soaps and lavender bubble bath.

At almost midnight, the DJ, his voice lucid, cheery and most likely tinged with alcohol, sings out: "This is only a test," laughing at the punch line he's about to deliver. "The next life is for real."


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