I left British Columbia at the beginning of the year and headed to Seoul
burned out from a massive dose of MDMA and MOA that I ingested at a rave
the night before leaving. I had a friend drive me to the airport,
bug-eyed. We got stoned and I handed over my stash of herb and "E". By the
time I got to Seoul I was still so empathogenized I felt like shaking hands
with the rather dour looking Koreans.
From Seoul, I flew to Bangkok. By the time I arrived I was craving cannabis
and blearily beginning to re-realize my role as foreign
correspondent. “Research”, I muttered to myself, and went on a search for
smokeables. Despite its reputation as the “Sin City” of Asia, there was no
pot to be had during my short stay in Bangkok.
Whether I asked for “grass”, “marijuana”, or “smoke”, my queries were met
with the same reaction from Thais and travellers alike: a confused look,
pursed lips, and a gesture of sympathetic understanding.
Apparently one must be very careful about drugs in Bangkok. The rest of the
country is supposed to be harsh, but more relaxed than
Bangkok. Nevertheless, from the look of things, good old alcohol and
tobacco seem to be doing roaring business.
With the help of a small amount of beer, I didn’t really mind being potless
for a few days. I will say that my dreams returned with a vengeance after I
stopped smoking cannabis. I had sweaty, feverish nightmares about being
busted or killed, and even one about being sent back to high school.
Bangkok was ok, less nightmarish than described to me, but I wanted to get
out right away. Despite the fact that I had been warned about Air India, I
bought an Air India flight one-way to Bombay. True to form, my flight was
delayed for over forty hours. Luckily, I met a fellow pot-head from Britain
among the bedlam at the Air India counter. We were soon imprisoned in a
five star hotel, with a pool, a jacuzzi, and eight course meals. Amusing,
Unfortunately, there was no pot. My new friend was a customs employee in
England. He was a big fan of Jefferson Airplane and told me that he often
smuggled small quantities of drugs. We drank some watered-down Thai
whiskey, admired the polluted Bangkok sunset, and lamented the
victimization of cannabis smokers throughout the world.
I began to realize that my role of cannabis researcher was going to be
harder than I thought – the look in some of the locals’ eyes indicated that
they had no love of westerners arriving in search of “the high”.
I arrived in Bombay in the middle of the afternoon. Entering was mellower
than I expected, a breeze compared to crossing the Moroccan border. My bags
were barely checked as I strolled through customs.
I met three other travellers on the plane and we split a taxi to the centre
of Bombay. After getting to the main train station we decided to head south
together, into the Indian state of Goa.
Goa is one of the most fabled stops on the “Gringo Trail”, which has led
countless journeyers to the East, through Amsterdam to Greece, Istanbul,
Kabul and Karachi (in the good old days), and then Goa.
In the Indian newspaper, The Hindu (December 25, 1994), Goa is described in
the following way:
Anjuna [the freak centre of Goa]like Baga and Calangute, beaches that shot
into the limelight in the seventies for the hippies, nudists, and assorted
druggies who sought a shortcut to Nirvana …
From Goa, according to some, the next step on the rainbow is Kathmandu. Who
knows? One thing is for certain, Goa is a unique blend of Indian and
Portugese culture mixed with the Catholic, Hindu, and Islamic faiths. Every
year, especially around Christmas, it is flooded with counter-cultural
types, travellers, package tourists, and Indian tourists.
As The Hindu rightly comments, Goa achieved international noteriety in the
early to mid seventies for drugs, nudism, decadence, and free
sex. Unfortunately the Indian police have clamped down, and many of the
travellers of yesteryear lie buried in cemeteries or have followed the
Although drugs of all varieties remain a staple of life in Goa, some of the
quality is poor. There is limited nudism and even some free love; but even
here there are billboards next to the highway about AIDS that gave me that
wounded feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I arrived in Goa a couple of nights before the full moon. As soon as I sat
down to my first beer in Anjuna, the centre of freakiness in Goa, I was
offered hash by the restaurant owner: a large man with a goatee who sang
along to the live Neil Young songs blasting from the kitchen.
My travelling partners and I smoked the sample “European style” – mixed
with gobs of tobacco, with each person taking three or four good tokes
before passing on the joint. As a non-smoker, I got quickly whipped from
the strong effects of the nicotine and then blasted from the potent black
hash, called “charas” in India.
As the sun set over the palm trees in the distance, and the crimson flowers
above our heads began to glow, I felt fine. The beer synergized with the
cannabis and I found myself melting into the chair in a rather pleasant
After smoking the sample, my road partners and I decided to split a
“tollah” (10 grams) from the restaurant owner. We paid the outrageous price
of 700 rupees (about 30 Canadian dollars). However, the hash was soft and
potent, allegedly “pavarti“, and was split three ways.
it with the
The following day I got a place near Anjuna at Vagator Beach and decided to
kick back, put on the Dead, and just smoke it.
My first experiment of the day with the charas convinced me that what I had
was the genuine article. As the early afternoon sun filtered through my
window, I smoked hit after hit – until I felt my head glow like the picture
of the Guru on the wall, bathed in blue and white light. The flutter of
birds, the azure walks, the hum of the fan, sweat beads on my forehead, a
double agent… Interzone.
On my third day in Goa I metup with one of the people I had shared the ride
down with – a fellow DMT/rave freak from England. He and two other friends
had rented a part of a family’s house, and I rented a room at the back. All
three Brits were into “party music” (electronic-techno), so my days were
ushered in, and smoked out, to the sounds of pulsing beats and hypnotic
In fact, party music is the unofficial music of the evolving new world
cybernetic youth culture. Through my chillum haze I caught samples of
Terence McKenna lectures mixed with trance music, and Timothy Leary and Ken
Kesey expounding on the possibilities of psychedelics to thumping bass
We began a long wait for an ounce of weed that was not satisfied until soon
before we left Goa. At the very beginning of my stay in Goa there was the
pleasant appearance of a small amount of powerful skunk that had been
smuggled from England. The pot had the smell of ammonium, but tasted sweet
when smoked. It made a pleasant change from the charas. Unfortunately, the
Euro-effect of adding tobacco to everything persisted.
(As a British Columbian I have always found the European penchant for
mixing a copious amount of tobacco to cannabis products to be rather
bewildering for my tastes. The tobacco seems to pollute the high of the
herb. In addition, for a pot smoker to give money to tobacco companies is
paramount to funding the enemy. Multi-nationals like Phillip
Rothmans provide millions of dollars to anti-drug groups such as
D.A.R.E. in the United States.)
Most visitors in Goa spend their days lazing on the beach and smoking
charas. I was not much of an exception. However, my reading material and
charas tended to vary almost daily.
One interesting book at the house was called Cyberia: Exploring the
Trenches of Hyperspace (1994) by Douglas Rushkoff. I read it quickly and
was excited about some of the information regarding LSD, morphogenetic
fields, computers, Rupert Sheldrake, DMT, and Terrence McKenna. The book
contains a number of factual errors and ends badly, but also presents some
fascinating ideas. Check it.
The quality of the charas varied along with the reading material. The
second tollahs were said to be high-grade pavorti. Excellent quality hash –
soft, brown/gold in the middle, able to crumble (but not too readily), with
a sweet taste and a potent effect. When I smoked this stuff out of the
evening’s many frothing chillums, I knew I was in India.
The third tolah session was a disaster. We ran out all of a sudden and made
an ill-fated attempt to buy something off the “husband” at the house where
we were staying. Upon payment we ended up with one of the worst pieces of
hash I’ve ever received in my life.
The chunk was wrapped in cellophane that looked years old and had little
odour. On the inside, upon closer examination with my jack-knife, the
charas showed signs of a white-speckled, rather rank-smelling mold. I asked
“Mr Manali” (as we had christened our landlord) for another, better,
tollah. He responded by giving me another, exactly the same. We smoked it
dutifully, but it provided us little pleasure.
As the season in Goa neared its close, a number of raves/parties happened
with rapid intensity. Full-moon parties with European techno and dance
music have been popular in Goa for “past three seasons”, according to a
local tape merchant. Goa parties are noted for their hedonism, outdoor
locations, and dawn re-dosing.
I found the parties varied. Some were out of this world, others seemed
anemic. At the good ones, I enjoyed dancing to two Dutch DJs under the
influence of a dose of some rather methy E, with the moon, the stars, the
Indian jungle and the throbbing amplifiers. Brightly coloured banners hung
from the trees and some plants were covered in day-glo paint.
At my first Goa Full Moon Party I took a poor hit of blotter acid
called “Voyager”. Unfortunately, I sailed out of the conversation I was
having with a friendly Australian woman, and found myself immobilized on a
chai mat (tea-drinking place), with my hand on my stomach. I was amazed at
the seeming staleness and poor chemistry of the European dose. Luckily, the
bad aspects of the hit waned rapidly.
When the dawn arrived I enjoyed dancing to the beat with the morning
light. The many long-hairs, worn features, and traveller-types made me feel
that I had been teleported far down Kerouac’s road to some other world. The
appearance of a new contingent of begging, emaciated children, women and
crippled old men added to my delirium.
Being stale, the dose became better in the fifth hour after ingestion. I
began to trip on my surroundings and felt the acid vibe spread out of the
trees and the patterns on the ground. I even had vague flashbacks of some
powerful DMT experiences I had had before leaving British Columbia.
One of my British friends stumbled off the dance floor and found me gazing
through the branches of a Banyen tree. The veins in his forehead were
popping from hours of dancing, two alleged ecstasy tablets, and one dose of
acid. He was stunned, I was fazed, and we drove home on my scooter
(helmetless), which I somehow managed to find among a forest of honking,
tweaking, two-wheeled clones.
A number of times I was surprised that the authorities in Goa allow raves
and the accompanying rampant drug use. As the inevitable Lonely
Planet guide warns:
For a long time India was a place where you could indulge in all sorts of
illegal drugs (mostly grass and hashish) with relative ease – they were
cheap, readily available, and the risks were minimal.
These days things have changed. Although dope is still widely available,
the risks have certainly increased – currently there are a number of
foreigners languishing in jail in Goa awaiting trial. Many claim they are
innocent and that the drugs (in most cases an insignificant amount) were
planted on them.
In the Indian justice system it seems the burden of proof is on the
accused, and proving one’s innocence is virtually impossible. The police
forces are often corrupt and will pay witnesses to give evidence. If
convicted, sentences are long (minimum of ten years), even for minor
offences, and there is no remission or parole for drug sentences.
So, if you partake in drugs, be aware of the risks and be discreet.
Even in my short time in Goa, I found the Indian police to be a
considerable threat. They are the most pig-headed, corrupt, and vicious
force I have ever encountered (and after having a run-in with the LA cops,
that’s saying something!).
My traveling partner was stopped on his motorbike and searched. Some charas
was found and he was forced to pay 300 RS Baksheesh (about $15 Canadian) –
he got off lucky – however, the cop also kept the tollah!
One other traveler was not so lucky, he got busted with two and a half
kilos and there is a possibility that he will go to jail for ten
years. Disgusting, barbaric, draconian – the blood boils that our culture
is so brutally repressed. It is hard to believe that with such a long
history of cannabis smoking it is still illegal in India.
I myself had only one run-in with the Indian police. My friend and I took
our scooter and motorbike to Panjim (the capital city of Goa) in order to
get a camera repaired. Upon attempting to leave we blundered down a one-way
street, right into the hands of two Indian cops on motorcycles.
“License?” barked the nasty-looking one. “Lights, lights?” My
friend pretended to not have heard and we roared off at top
speed. Unfortunately, we were followed by the honking, whistling pigs, and
got caught down another one-way street.
In the blinding noon heat, with the cops yelling in Hindi and my scooter
screeching to a halt, I freaked. I grabbed the gram and a half that was in
my shirt and quickly gulped it down. To make a long story short, the cops
grabbed our vehicles, impounded them, refused to give them back even after
we had paid a fine, and only gave one bike back after we had the proper
If there is one thing I am sure of, it is that I never want to see the
inside of an Indian police station ever again. I have never felt such a bad
vibe – the smell of hatred and the atmosphere of corruption was
sickening. To say that we were treated badly is an understatement. (I
didn’t catch much of a buzz from the hash either, I was too wound up from
the encounter with “the man”).
Despite constant threat, the Indian Thought Police never arrived on the
door-step of our pleasant Anjuna Guest House. Many mornings the “Mama” of
the house greeted me with a terrified look, warning me of an imminent
police raid and telling me to keep everything out of my room. She told me
that the police had been searching houses in the area for the past few
Although she made me a bit paranoid in my bleary pre-coffee state, Mama had
some good advice. All British Columbian potheads should acknowledge that
drug use while traveling is possible but risky. Thus, a series of
precautions should help keep you out of trouble:
- You should always try to buy from Westerners when you first arrive
in an unfamiliar place.
- Never buy more than a couple of weeks supply. A check into local laws
to determine size penalties can be worthwhile.
- Keep the drugs stashed outside of your room at night, which is the most
likely time for a police raid. (I kept my stash hidden in a filthy sock in a
stone wall which I usually visited around midnight.)
- When out and about only carry a day’s supply with you, and keep it in a
place where you can get to it to either eat it or throw it
away. While in Goa I heard horror stories of pigs searching the ocean after
people had thrown their stash in the sea.
- Smoke carefully, watch out at train stations and airports, and don’t
admit anything to anybody, especially about LSD and other chemical
“Take it easy, but take it.”
Negative thoughts aside, travel in India is a journey through cannabis
history and culture – what Terence McKenna calls the Visible Logos.
One of the most interesting logos of Indian cannabis smoking is the ritual
of the “chillum“. The chillum, as most readers will know, is usually
a long clay pipe, equipped with a small stone to filter the ganja
smoke. Usually one smokes a chillum with a group of people. A large
“blimb” of charas, usually about a gram and a half, is mixed with
ganja and tobacco.
A small piece of cloth is then wetted and placed over the mouthpiece of the
pipe. This cloth, sometimes a piece of white bandage, is called a
After the chillum has been passed from person to person, with ecstatic
shouts of “Bom Shiva!” and “Bom Shanker!“, the pipe and the
stone are cleaned with another small piece of cloth, until all black
encrustations are removed. A small piece of cloth is pulled through the
chillum and held onto by two people, each holding an end. By pulling and
pushing the chillum across the string, two people clean the chillum with
Fun for the whole family, and one is
One of my best chillum experiences occured at a Shiva Shrine near Arambol
in Goa. One bright blue sunny day my friend and I walked through the jungle
to the much-mentioned Banyen Tree. At the Banyen Tree we found a Shiva
Shrine, kept by a Shiva boy and a Western assistant.
As we arrived, a group of surly Indian men split. The Shiva boy told us
that the men were cops and that they had wanted to search us. He, however,
had convinced them not to. Nonplussed, we sat on the mats and prepared to
We sat around a ceremonial log that was surrounded by small bricks and a
number of chillums. Behind us, there was a small shrine with pictures of
Shiva, offerings, and flowers. As we smoked the charas I was filled with a
sense of inner peace and transformation.
When the keeper of the Shiva Shrine lit the chillum by placing a small
piece of ember from the fire into the pipe with a pair of black tongs, I
knew I was witnessing an ancient ritual.
As we smoked we ate small cookies and drank delicious coconut milk. Not
even a rather obtrusive Dutch man singing Elton John songs managed to spoil
the peace. The place was delightful – a peaceful, pleasureable place with a
As the days wore on the heat increased, and the charas decreased. I drank
endless lemon teas, read Proust and Graham Greene, and tried to dodge the
minions of obtrusive Licensed Ear Cleaners who clog the beaches of Goa from
mid-day to dusk.
One day, while getting madly stoned under a tree at the weekly Anjuna flea
market, I met a member of the Ohio Hemp Coalition: we discussed cannabis
activism “back home”, and he told me of his friendship with Jack Herer and
Chris Conrad. He was aging, but still puffing away.
Unfortunately, he also informed us he had just finished an eight year
sentence for a second offence of importing pipes from India to Ohio. Truly
As the sun set, and the sweet smell of charas filled the air, he seemed to
wear an air of peace. Like a great warrior, he had not been
destroyed. Likewise, the Indian Cannabis Culture is a peaceful
warrior. Attacked by countless invasions, British Colonialism, and Indian
fascism, Indian smokers continue to cherish their traditions and to worship
the plant and venerate the holy smoke.
At this point I am at the bottom of the Indian sub-continent in Kerela,
“the land of green magic”. Unfortunately, we haven’t found any of this
magic, so we’ve been smoking up the last of our Kanataka weed for the past
few days. We are heading North, some visa hassles in Madras, and then off
to Orissa – where there are legal bhang shops. I can hardly wait!
Stay safe, be peace, and follow your bliss.