1/22/2009 to 2/28/2009 | Andaman Islands , India

The Andaman Islands

There are two ways to get to the Andaman Islands, the topical islands geographically located south of Burma and closer to Thailand but under the governance of India, the easy expensive way, fly, and the long cheaper way aboard a ship for three days, and it’s no cruise ship.  No surprise, I choose the latter.  First I had to procure a ticket.  I went to the office in Calcutta to book my ticket but was told that bunk class for the next sailing which was leaving in a week was already full.  However, there was a ship leaving from Madras in 3 days on which I could get a ticket on, I ran down the street to the foreigner’s rail booking center booked a train ticket to Madras that night, and then returned to book the ship ticket from Madras.  My train was scheduled to arrive in Madras early the same morning the ship was sailing in the afternoon.  That would put me on a train for two nights and a boat for three, five straight nights in bunk.

The ship was actually not as bad as I had expected from the hoar stories I heard about the Andaman voyages.  Yeah, the bunks were infested with cockroaches and the bathrooms were perpetually flooded with two inches of “fluid” sloshing across the floor with the motion of the sea.  The morning ritual was to stand at the doorway of the bathroom timing the motion of “the fluid” to make a quick dash to the raised foot platforms above toilet holes.  Such unpleasantness aside there was a comfortable lounge which it was possible to hangout in, despite being reserved for cabin class passengers the foreigners were also permitted, well at least not tossed out, even though all of them were traveling bunk class.   A diversion for the passengers was also created by the filming of a typically low budget Tamil film, with the standard dance numbers set on various locations around the ship.

In Port Blair, the administrative center for the Andaman Islands, I equipped myself with a snorkel and hammock, requisite equipment for the Andamans, before heading off to Neil Island.  Neil Island was probably my favorite Island of those that I visited.  It has as a good balance of a few simple guesthouses so that there are enough people for a bit of social life but still cheap and relatively quite with natural palm lined beaches and coral reefs.  I slept in a hammock on the beach, waking up to the sun rising over the tropical waters.  It cost me about a dollar a day to store my valuables in a locker provided by a guesthouse, with food I was spending about $5 a day, not bad for a tropical beach vacation.

The next destination on my island hopping journey across the Andamans was Long Island.  With only one guesthouse on the island and only three vehicles, Long Island is quite to the point of comatose.  While the beach nearest the guesthouse was not particularly nice a 1 to 2 hour hike along the coast or through the forest was the most beautiful beach I’d seen in the Andamans.  Lalaji beach is a palm lined strip of deserted white sand straight out of paradise, with a nice bit of coral providing great snorkeling on either side of the crescent shaped bay.  Armed with my hammock, a book, and my snorkel each morning I’d make the hike out to Lalaji for a bit of rest, relaxation and more rest with only the occasional water buffalo to share the turquoise waters.

After a brief visit to Port Blair to renew my permit and book a boat ticket back to the mainland, I was off to the most developed of the Andaman Islands, Havelock.  Beach #7 on the island is the most famous in the islands.  It is a very nice broad beach, lined with old growth forest.  My last hop was the island of North Andaman, staying at a guesthouse in the village of Kalipur.  While the village’s beach wasn’t spectacular by Andaman standards the scenery below the surface of the water was the best I’d seen in the islands.

The ship to Calcutta was worse than the one I had taken to the islands.  I had also been assigned a bunk in the bottom level of the ship in a corner that required me to sided step between the line of bunks and the wall to reach the birth.  It was probably the one spot on the ship one was guaranteed death if the ship when down.  Fortunately the ship didn’t go down and the aged ship and I made it back to Calcutta.

1 comment to The Andaman Islands

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>