Beach

Picture perfect beaches on Jolly Buoy

The Emerald Islands of Andaman and Nicobar

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The view from underwater is breathtaking. Corals, oysters, sea weeds, colored fish  and the surrounding blue water is mesmerizing. Touching endangered species such as corals are  not allowed. The best part of the sea walk actually came when we fed pieces of bread to the  fish. As soon as you hold up the bread pieces, fish of different colors gather around you and it does get a bit ticklish but it is definitely a wonderful experience.  After 20 minutes of  “seawalking”, the divers  escorted us back up to the pontoon. When you climb up, one is likely to experience  the pressure factor again . At the end of it, the whole experience leaves you spellbound and the sparkling blue water always tantalizes you to go back underwater.

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An Ode to Radhanagar Beach

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I had just arrived and a mere look at the beach is what made me fall with it! Let me describe what Radhanagar beach was like. The place was super clean and had a handful of tourists. Radhanagar beach was guarded by police officials who were also responsible for the safety of the tourists. Next to the beach was a famous hotel chain which provided accommodation in beautiful huts made of bamboos and natural products. The place was serene and calm.

The view of the blue sees was amazing and I had never seen such a beautiful shade of water. The sand was perfect and was near to white. Radhanagar beach also had tourist huts made completely of bamboos. Radhanagar beach is not for the ones who are looking for some action. The beach doesn’t have any facilities for snorkelling, scuba diving or boating.

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Hello Havelock!

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The Phoenix Bay Jetty is situated in the city and is home to all merchant vessels which are responsible for trade and commerce. The Jetty is the boarding point for the ones who want to visit Neil or Havelock Islands. We had our tickets in hand which were booked prior by Mr. Ravi (Tour Manager, Contact: 09434261219). The tickets for Havelock Islands are sold out within minutes. It is advisable to ask your agent/tour manger to get the same booked as soon as you land up in the city. There are private as well as government ship operators which provide connections to Neil and Havelock. Being the off season (August) the private operator (called as Makcruzz) was closed down and the only available option a government run ship.

The tag ‘Government’ automatically lowers the standards and gives me a bad impression of what so ever even before I see it. Anyways, the ship that we had to board was called ‘M.V Jollybuoy’. We were booked in the only available option of seating lounge. One needs to spot his vessel and then proceed for boarding. As we stepped inside the ship, we were greeted by the Chief Officer of the ship who also checked our tickets. He later on transferred us to the seating hall. The so called seating hall had three rows and seats faced opposite to each other. It also had a television set which was cleverly hidden in one of the compartments. The hall seemed more like my seamanship class room with lots of safety boards and demonstrative visuals. Good enough! The ship departed right on time at 0630 and that is when I got to know that we can go on the bridge.

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Baratang: A Tribal Treat

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Long back, a group of tourists shot a video of the Jarawas and uploaded the same on the web. According to the United States, this act was not justified and it was classified as hindrance to the tribal life of the Jarawas. The issue was raised out loud and was finally brought up to the Indian Government. After all sought of discussions and panel meetings, the government decided to offer protection to the community. The jungle was then handed over to the police and CCTV cameras were also installed amidst the wild. A convoy system was setup wherein a convoy of vehicles at specific time will be accompanied by the Police officials to cross the jungle from Jirkatang to Baratang and vice versa. The government also banned the use of mobiles and cameras in between the journey. The first convoy had to depart at 0600 hours and we were to go in the same.

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Setting Sail to the Three Islands

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Always remember to carry your ID Card along with you as it is need at almost every tourist spot in the Andamans. The ferries depart every hour and we were to go by the 0930 one. We were not offered any lifejackets and the ferry setup made me worry. Safety was on compromise but yet again one doesn’t have any another option. Recently, a ferry sailing from North Bay to Ross Island sunk and as many as 21 people died. Why can’t we follow safety guidelines rather than waiting for accidents to take place? As soon as the boarding began, I was the first one to step in and occupy the seat ahead of the wheel room.

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Welcome to Andamans!

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The pilot announced “Crew, Ready for takeoff!” The flight from Chennai took off sharp at 0500 hours. It is advisable to opt for a windows seat as on the approach towards the beautiful Islands, one gets a visual treat offered by Andamans.

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Bonderam – The flag festival of Divar Island, Goa

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A little background on this ‘one of its kind’ festival. The “Bonderam” festival is celebrated on the Island of Divar on the fourth Saturday of August every year. The word “Bonderam” originated from the involvement of flags. “Bandeira” is the Portuguese word for flag. It is stated that during the Portuguese rule in Goa there were frequent disputes between two sections of the Divar village, namely Sao Mathias and Piedade over property issues. These often led to violence and fights in the village. Subsequently, the Portuguese introduced a system of demarcation of boundaries with flags.

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The retreat of the tide

The Emerald Islands of Andaman and Nicobar-II

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Our plan was to take a government ferry to Havelock and halt there for two days. For our return journey we planned to take the Makruzz back to Port Blair. We had to wake up at 5 in the morning to catch the ferry which leaves at  6:30 am. The harbour at Port Blair is lively even at these early hours as it caters to to the goods coming in from the mainland, as well as from nearby countries like Thailand. The ferry which we were to travel on, was operated by the Shipping Corporation of India. Our reserved seats in the first class compartment akin to the Indian Railways chair car coaches made our travel comfortable. During the journey to Havelock, you are free to go on deck. Travelers can hear the soothing sound of the waves hitting the craft and enjoy the vast expanse of the ocean. The blue sea, and the green emeralds dotting them, complement each other, and add to the experience. After standing on deck for 15 minutes, we decided to get a quick nap. When we woke up, the ferry was docking at the Havelock Jetty. After getting off the ship, we were picked up by a taxi our friends had arranged.  We were dropped at our hotel, a government enterprise called the “Dolphin Hotel”. There are various grades of rooms available and it is important to reserve the rooms early.You may reserve the rooms through online payment on the website. Make sure to get a sea facing cottage. The drawback about Dolphin Hotel was  that though it was set in a nice sea-facing location, it did not have a beach.There are a multitude of options to stay at in at Havelock, which suit all budgets.

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Wanderings in South Goa.

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You are really spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants in Goa. Besides the beach shacks, where you can sit on the sands and gaze out at the sea, sipping on a drink, while waiting an hour or two for your meal to arrive, there are many restaurants inland which also serve excellent food at very reasonable rates. There is a fusion of East and West, Portugese and Indian, meat and vegetables, which makes Goan cuisine unique. Coconut is used liberally, along with other Indian spices in the cooking. ‘Fish curry rice’ is the most common food and available virtually in every restaurant. The different types of seafood on offer in Goa includes pomfret, kingfish, ladyfish, mackerel, tuna, shark, crab, prawn, lobster, squid and mussels. Chicken, pork, mutton and beef dishes are also on offer at all the restaurants, cooked in the popular Goan flavours such as vindaloo, balchao, recheado, xhacuti and caldin.
We had already planned that we would include at least one meal out at a shack or restaurant in our daily sight-seeing itinerary. One precaution we always took was to carry our own drinking water if we did not want to order a drink, or pay for a bottle of branded mineral water.

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Pune to South Goa Road Trip

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At 12.30 pm we crossed over into Karnataka, and paid another toll. Immediately we could sense that we were in a different state. The traffic was much less in Karnataka as compared to the heavy traffic right upto Kolhapur in Maharashtra. The scenery was better, with undulating hills in the distance. There were flowering bushes in the road divider which made the drive more pleasant, and lay-byes with public utilities at regular intervals along the highway.

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Self-Drive trip across Thailand (7 days, 2000 kms) : Part 5 – Bang Saen to Kampaeng Phet

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We had plans of visiting heritage sites and local night market, but lassitude takes over as soon as we arrive. After strolling around the neighbourhood, spying on local shops and outlets, we are back to the guest house.
There are number of cosy sit-outs within the house. In the evening, guests have gathered here to relax and chat-up. Soon I connect up with Bill, an Austrian from Vienna and Shoo, a Thai traveller. Yes, they tell, they are also travelling across Thailand. While exchanging notes I discover that both of them (though travelling separately) are very special Ghumakkars. Bill (actually Bills, a couple) has arrived here Cycling all the way from AUSTRIA! Well, the story goes like this. They are avid cyclists. They have covered large parts of the globe cycling. Bill roughly cycles for an year in one go! By end of the year long loop, he is back in Vienna to earn his livelihood. After earning for about 6-8 months, he is again out for the next trip. He tells us that he does not own a car and has a very small house in Vienna. He works just to make enough money for the next trip. Same is the story of his partner. She is from the same place and they share the same passion. They are 6 months into the current trip and plan to cycle north to China and then through Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe to Vienna. Their belongings, typical for cyclists, comprise of two rucksacks (strapped to either side of the carrier) and a sleeping bag cum tenting equipment.

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