Category Archives: Beachlife

The Surf Trail- A Sneek Peak

Earlier this year, I had travelled to the Covelong Surf, Music and Yoga festival to Covelong(A small town between Chennai and Mahabalipuram), to cover the festival. I have covered the festival previously writing on this blog and on Cafe Chennai of the 2016 festival. I thought travelling to the 2017 festival, I should experiment with video for my story telling. I leave you with some images and a small trailer on what to expect

Here is a trailer of the documentary that is about to release in November 2017.

Wet Weather and Swelling Surfs
Wet Weather and Swelling Surfs
Water, Water, Not Me
Water, Water, Not Me
Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu
Jonty Rhodes surfing at Covelong-Tamil Nadu
Surfing has its hits and misses
Surfing has its hits and misses
Yoga, Music and discussions by the Yogashala at Covelong
Yoga, Music and discussions by the Yogashala at Covelong

 

Exploring Andamans-Part 11-Wrapping Up Havelock

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check out the previous parts at Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 ,  Part-6 , Part-7  Part-8 , Part 9 and Part 10

No Snooze Required

Sleeping at 9 pm amidst the sound of nature usually means, you wake up refreshed when nature needs you to wake up. To add to this, I don’t stare at my mobile, when I wake up, since there are no mobile signals to invade my phone. It’s just a brick, that I don’t need to see, since there are beautiful sights to wake up to. It’s a very different feeling coming from the city to get accustomed to.

Today was our last day at Kalapathar Beach. We had formed a bond with the sea and the beach and it was going to be a little tough to not wake up to stunning scenery. We would leave by the evening private ferry to Port Blair and spend the night there, before boarding our air plane to Chennai the next afternoon.

It was as if nature had programmed me, that I almost sleepwalked over to the beach, through the little forest roads. The light had started to set in, though the sun was probably yet to rise (which I would find out later).

Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands(India)
Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands(India)

Getting Philosophical staring at Sunrises at Kalapathar

The one remarkable thing that I got about the sunrise, was that it rarely defines itself to be a function of the previous day’s sunset. The sunrise and sunset are independent events, and that’s probably the little lesson I take back this morning, starting at yet another golden light formation in the waters that stretch to the make-believe horizon.

Also another thought that crossed my mind was that sunrises are not yet commoditized like religion [Pay per view or pay for faster line], in the sense that it is for everyone, and it is for us mortals to make best use of the time between the 2 golden hours in the day. Nature does not differentiate and gives the same feeling to every soul, irrespective of the financial worth of the person.

Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands [Andamans-India]
Sunrise at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Islands [Andamans-India]
Throwback to the 1990’s

I came back on the little jungle path to Parvati’s petty shop for morning tea, after lounging on the wet yet fine morning sand on the beach. The sun was out, and I heard a little radio set playing ” Jaane Jigar Jaane Mann” belting out Kumar Sanu numbers one by one. It added to that virtual 1990’s feel about the place. There was no hurry for people to get where they were. People were smiling and ambled about slowly and with the radio music playing, I felt a strange sense of relaxation of a content world. I was in paradise this moment, but I was about to get out of it and it was a tough pill to swallow, just as Kumar Sanu gave way to Kishore Kumar on the radio.

A cyclist ambling down the road inside Kalapathar Village
A cyclist ambling down the road inside Kalapathar Village

A little while later, I walked down to the beach with Nandu, and I saw the most beautiful colours of the sea. Kalapathar beach has magic in it and somewhere within it is an ‘Asian Paints Blue shade card’ that keeps changing.

Feeling The Blues- Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
Feeling The Blues- Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

Quite the perfect place to send out some emails and follow ups that would eventually be sent when I am able to get connected to a 4G/Wifi connection back on the mainland, but I could get used to working with such a view.

Nandu sat next to me with his usual drill of reading books by the sea, just like the previous day.

We spotted a fisherman in a perfectly coloured blue sea, by the Kalapathar Beach. The sea creates a sort of longing that makes you make ‘one final dunk’ where you think you will end up being part of that blue, and take it back with you. It’s thankfully enough we take back memories, only to come back again.

There was a little moment when the laptop was reflecting the sea behind, and I sensed that we really dont need a screensaver on a laptop. It was a surreal moment for me, trying to capture it.

I checked out from the hotel, and bade goodbye to the hotel staff, who were part of my life for the last couple of days. I could stay back here for a day, but the hotel staff and Kumar-my driver from the first day in Port Blair, advised me to come to Port Blair a day in advance, since the sea can turn grumpy and its always good to have buffer.

One Last Look at Flying Elephants
One Last Look at Flying Elephants

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 10-Sunset at Radhanagar Beach

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out.  Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 , Part-6 , Part-7 , Part 8 and Part-9

Wandering Around The Forests

I sat on the beach to stare at the beauty that was around me. The beach at Radhanagar has 2 worlds. One world is the beach and the other world is the Mahua tress adjoining the beach that leads into a forest of sorts, within which the ‘Barefoot Resort’ is situated. I look from left to right, and its full of greenery all around interspersed with shades of tall brown.

It felt like being in the first row of a cinema theatre as my neck strained at an obtuse angle to look at the tall trees inviting my awe. I could choose to get lost in the woods, but we are too close to civilisation. Nevertherless with no humans around, I try to feel like Forrest Gump and go walk through the forest like it is some paradise that I have discovered.

The Mahua Forests of Radhanagar Beach-7 in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
The Mahua Forests of Radhanagar Beach-7 in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

I could chose any path to go through the woods, as there were no right paths to wander.  The only restriction I had was for to be right there for the sunset, as I had some lessons about the sunset to tell my little son.

Wandering into the forests can be fun at Radhanagar Beach
Wandering into the forests can be fun at Radhanagar Beach

As I wandered through the forest, I came to the entrance of the beach where my family was waiting for me. This part of the beach has been modified and enroached upon by the local authorities over the course of the last 10 years since my last visit in 2008. It looks like some trees have been cut down, but the good part is that the beach has not commercially been used like in Baga/Calangute [Goa], but more beautifully blended into its natural environment.

There are facilities for the tourists to come and change clothes, sit down, play in a swing, lights on trees, rest houses for some respite from the sun. These are made from the trees and have a beautiful/rustic feel about it, without any compromise on the quality

Radhanagar Beach- Commoditized beautifully for Tourists
Radhanagar Beach- Commoditized beautifully for Tourists

The beach has a dense cover of green, which acts as a great backdrop to lunge back to if you have made a beeline to the sea. The beaches, despite being the most populated beach in the Andaman Islands, are clean and have well maintained facilities, which is quite the departure from any of the beaches on the mainland. Lets help Andamans stay that way.

A game of volleyball by the beach for burning calories in Paradise [Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island-Andamans in India]
A game of volleyball by the beach for burning calories in Paradise [Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island-Andamans in India]
The beautiful and serene Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island [Andamans-India]
The beautiful and serene Radhanagar Beach in Havelock Island [Andamans-India]
Chasing Sunsets

Moving over to the next most important event this evening, I take my son to wet his legs in the sea, and sit there observing the disappearing sun over the course of the evening.

Nandu’s Lesson #1: Whenever you feel disappointed, go and observe the skies change colours in the evening. The skies change colour to show you how to find beauty in the hum-drum of life. A place that was boring by afternoon is now lit up and decked up. Sunset’s are nature’s own way to connect make us connect to their rythm and then getting back to working on our dreams.

It was a wonderful world where infinitely many things seem possible, when the sun is casting its spell. A moment when anything can happen and where possibilities come out to lay within the dreams of a common man.

 

The whole place was covered in a shade of gold. Maybe this is the gold we humans should chase instead of the metal. The world would probably be a far more peaceful place. The sun coloured the whole place with its pallete and then chose to silently dissapear behind the hills.

My son understands that the sun will set here, and not near our cottage on the eastern side of the island. I was expecting him to say lets catch the sunset at our cottage, but he did not.

It was beautiful to watch children run about in glee, trying to unconsciously get into the frame of the setting sun’s reflection which was now a straight line of orange in a an area where darkness had started to dominate.

It was 5:30 pm and it was time to head back to catch some dinner and get some sleep. I bought some Jhal-Mudi and samosas on the beach, apart from some tea from the local stalls, before we boarded our 2 wheeler to get back home. The last bus was slowly gathering people, including my Jhal-Mudi vendor to scurry in time to get on the last bus.  There is a beautiful sense of orderliness that shows up in the Andamans.

Radhanagar beach retains its sense of beauty and isolation post sunset, when the world that descends here find their way back to their resorts.

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 9- Two Wheeler Ride to Radhanagar Beach

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out.  Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 , Part-6 , Part-7 and Part-8

After a day spent playing at the beach, we ate our lunch and rested at our cottage. At about 3 pm, I decided to look out for the reception person, who I then realized was in the restaurant, based on the little sign that I saw at the reception. The restaurant and reception are about 100-150 metres away in the route to the village at this side of the island. The reception person was from the island of Rangat, further north in the Andaman Islands, and had come to Havelock Island in search of work. I wanted to check with him, if there was any bus service to the jetty, from where I could take another bus to Radhanagar Beach. I had seen the jeep service, which functions like a share-auto service every 45 minutes from Kalapathar Village. Buses/Public transport are the best ways of integrating with the local people, without the airs of being an outsider. The joys of slow rides, with stops in surreal places, helps you understand and assimilate what life in these place could be. It’s a series of jigsaw puzzles that only travelling in public transport can unlock about a place.

I was told, renting a scooty would be a better option owing to the less frequent bus timings and with a couple of hours left for sunset the best option to go and come back would be a scooty. In a while, I had walked over to Beach Number-3 which is a couple of kilometres away. As I walked there, I saw that Airtel’s signals were still not active till the place where I found the 2-wheeler rental shop. My phone was coming to life, and the SMS’s were starting to flood in impatiently to the point when my phone was confused on how to ping and notify me at that instant when the sound can be for one message, but 2 messages decided to come in at that instant.

Reception of Flying Elephants(Andamans-India)
Reception of Flying Elephants(Andamans-India)

After I got the vehicle, I quickly went and packed my beach kit for the evening, and at 3 pm it started to look like 5:30 pm and I thought it was already dark, and I should rush. We walked across the lush expanse of our pathway in our resort and set off on a journey on our 2-wheeler to Havelock Island.

Walking the beautiful paths to the reception-Flying Elephants Resort at Kalapathar(Havelock Island-Andamans-India)
Walking the beautiful paths to the reception-Flying Elephants Resort at Kalapathar(Havelock Island-Andamans-India)

As we started to drive on the 2 wheeler, we did not realize that the route to Radhanagar Beach was actually quite long. 16 kilometres on a route dotted with little hills, mud paved roads, little roads and some roads right through scenic beaches and hills for company.

Rented a 2 wheeler to drive around Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
Rented a 2 wheeler to drive around Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

As I started out on my 2 wheeler, I felt a sense of inclusiveness that the little village had towards me. It felt as if the little patch of sand, the trees flanking the hills, the black roads were traveling with me with a hospitable look, trying to tell me that I was about to have a great experience driving through the woods. The roads leading till Vijaynagar had very few people on either sides of the road, and I happen to see people only in the stretch between Vijaynagar and Govind Nagar, as a clutch of resorts passed by. I went inside a Dive Resort (Doongi Dives) to check, if there were slots for a dive the day after. I found that the rooms in the resort had a Television and the resort had Wifi. It actually felt like, I had been transported back to the rigors of civilisation, and I was feeling like I had just woken up after a beautiful dream. After 15 minutes of wait, I realised that there were no slots on the next days’ morning rides to the nearby islands for dives. I also realised that I had started to take a liking for the quiet life of the forest, away from telephone signals, Wi-fi, People, Television and Air-conditioning. I was waiting to get back to my ‘dream state’ post the trip to Radhanagar, which was probably going to be the most crowded place on this island.

Driving through the Woods-Havelock Island
Driving through the Woods-Havelock Island

The roads are modest, are there are bends and curves as the road meanders its way part into the jungle and suddenly opens out on the right with vistas of a beautiful blue sea by a white sand beach, often interrupted by huge broken roots of trees. Can a ‘Castaway’ type patch of sand co-exist with all the modern trappings of civilisation? It seemed so.

The forests thinned after a while, with open fields on my left. On these fields every few metres were small tea-shops. The coconut trees and the betel trees were lying in unison, creating a surreal green cover that you drive through. The sun was playing hide and seek, every now and then prompting me to drive faster to be in time for the evening sun-set show, but the bad roads ahead slowed me down.

The beautiful fields of Havelock near Beach number 3
The beautiful fields of Havelock near Beach number 3

As I was driving like a little speck on a giant green canvas, I felt so connected to the place, curious at every turn on what my senses would take in. I was driving along the only patch of road on my way to Radhanagar, and beyond a point I just trusted the open road to take me to some place magical. The thing with such soul stirring scenery is that you start discovering a new-younger-at-heart side of you. I was not afraid of getting lost, since the possibility of getting something new as an experience was also there and what’s the point of coming to a pristine island and not being able to explore at your own pace. All that really matters is you leave the place with a smile, being able to be transported to the place, when you are back in the constipated city lives, stuck in a traffic jam and lost in thoughts. Driving through pristine scenery has some kind of therapeutic powers and the more the roads became rugged and difficult to ride with the muddy paths, I knew that nature would compensate me with something more surreal and visceral. How right I was!

I arrived at Radhanagar Beach Number 7 (That’s how beaches in the Andamans are called for some reason, by a number), and the giant Mahua forests greeted me. The sky was not visible from the normal line of sight, since the trees were tall and you only saw the greenery around and the beautiful complementing colour of the blue sea in the background. Such a view immideately has music playing in your ears, your body feels pregnant with excitement of connecting to something as primal as nature. You wish you were part of this place, and this place is part of you. There is so much of love and vibes between your mind and the environment that takes place, if you can observe in silence. Since I had been here in 2008, I knew that I could choose to walk right into the forests that open out into the beach, avoiding the crowds that throng the fringes of the beach, just to get back to connecting with the pristine environment.

The Mahua woods of Radhanagar Beach
The Mahua woods of Radhanagar Beach

As I came out of the forest, I showed my son some games that were going on, and I am glad that he observed something about how nice it is to be playing in a place that has so many colors. The beach cricket was doused in a background of an impending sunset layer of light pink, while the beach volleyball was bathed in a army of green leaves and white sand. Nandu saw new colors that his set of sketch pens could not produce. I felt that being one with nature and seeing such surreal scenery has a way of calming your mind down, and you are just curious to know how so much beauty is around us and we still choose the life that gets clogged in polluted roads, traffic jams and ugly waste lying around (all for some percieved pot of gold at the end of the rainbow)

Children playing cricket at Radhanagar Beach-Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
Children playing cricket at Radhanagar Beach-Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

I spent the next few minutes just basking the silence in the woods and looking at that shade of green. There was something magical about staring into the shades of green. It looked like the brighter green was doing the marketing and was doing it very well. It had ‘acquired a lead’ and I was going through their ‘sales funnel’

Paradise-Beach Number 7-Havelock Island
Paradise-Beach Number 7-Havelock Island

 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair yet.

Exploring Andamans-Part 8-Nandu’s Day Out

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 , Part-6 and Part-7

Nandu and I enjoyed our time on the beach. Time was passing by slowly looking at the open sea, admiring the freshness of the experience by the sea. We ran on the beach, choosing which pebble to pick and throw into the sea, and observed that some pebbles were smoother than the shells that lay washed ashore. Before we went off for lunch, we stared at the sea, and I was telling Nandu that we are in many ways tied to the ocean and that is probably why we keep getting so attracted to the sea and that is where we will go once the eternity of a lifetime passes. I am not sure, he understood anything, but kids have a way to process information and retrieve it contextually on demand.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- For a calming day out, always trust the sea, and some time by the beach is always fun

Nandu was fascinated by the Go-Pro Camera that I was using, and I thought its a good idea to hand over the camera to him, since it was easy to photograph. I told Nandu to use the voice function that just required some one to say ‘Go-Pro Take a Photo’. Nandu lapped it up and went about clicking photos. I gave him a little task to get a peep into what he observes, and asked him to click upto 10 pictures of the things he likes.

These are a few of what Nandu came up with

  1. There was a little dog at the restaurant and at Parvati’s house that Nandu used to play with. It looked like he was on Nandu’s ‘LIKE LIST’.
The little dog at Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)
The little dog at Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)

Nandu’s Lesson #2- In a new place, mix with the villagers and the local and understand their life. Nandu made himself comfortable in Parvati’s shop by relaxing on the hammock and playing with their dog.

Nandu chilling in a hammock at Parvati's store near Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)
Nandu chilling in a hammock at Parvati’s store near Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)

2) Kaushik from the Flying Elephants Team made us our breakfast and lunch. Nandu spent time sitting in the kitchen with him observing him make food. Since he fed Nandu well, Kaushik made it to Nandu’s ‘LIKE LIST’

Nandu developed an attachment to Kaushik-who cooked for us at Flying Elephants (Andaman Islands-India)
Nandu developed an attachment to Kaushik-who cooked for us at Flying Elephants (Andaman Islands-India)

3) Our Hotel room had some bird art made with paint. Nandu seemed to like it.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

4) Nandu liked the portico where we were sitting and spending most of our time at the resort.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

5) Nandu loved running, and he liked the pathway that connected our hut to the reception. So that made it to his ‘Like List’

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

6) I am not quite sure, if I influenced Nandu, but he seemed to also like this view of the open greenery from our windows.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

7) And as a last item, he loved his little beach kit

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

Nandu’s Lesson #3- If you have a camera in hand, and an easy one at that, its very rewarding trying to document what captures his fancy. A camera helps you freeze moments that you can take back home [Despite daddy doing that for a living]

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 7-Beach Bumming at Kalapathar

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 and Part-6

The sun had made its way, by the time my monologue with the greens around had ended. The little world at Kalapathar was now the shared responsibility of other people and I. I woke up in the dawn, with a powerful feeling that darkness has that makes you feel that you own the trees, twigs, paths and nature. The sun had found its way through the crevices that the leaves and trees had hidden the beach from, and the golden hour was looking beautiful. The rain brought happiness, and the sunshine too brought happiness, and the transition was never noticed as the focus was just on the beautiful. It was like 2 people standing on a rug, and the rug was pulled without either of the legs getting affected. Rain or Shine, the beauty of nature was something I was sold on.

The sun cometh! The monsoon makes way for the sun-Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island( Andamans-India)
The sun cometh! The monsoon makes way for the sun-Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island( Andamans-India)

I sat on the beach, and kept my eye frame of reference as one of the sea shells and kept staring at it, while the waves kept crashing nearby. I read somewhere that sea shells bring good luck, and I only wished that I have a peaceful holiday and looked at the waves going in and out, leading to a rythm. I did this for a few minutes before the sun’s rays on my body got a little too warm for my city bred comfort. Every time I stare at the sea, I am in a state of trance trying to comprehend the world and the way it was created.

The sea shells out to sun bathing-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
The sea shells out to sun bathing-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

The leaves were welcoming the morning sun, and the golden shade on the sea confirmed that today was out to be a sunny start to the day despite the seemingly monsoon laced dawn. The dewy freshness of the morning was replaced by the sun’s healing warmth. If ever the plants were depressed by the rains, they were washing themselves in the bath of the earliest sunshine. The Andamans anyway has sunlight coming much earlier than the mainland, so the plants get to get light on their body earlier and quicker.

The sun's rays illuminate the plants on Kalapathar Beach(Havelock Islands in Andamans-India)
The sun’s rays illuminate the plants on Kalapathar Beach(Havelock Islands in Andamans-India)

I went back to my room to read a book on my kindle cloud reader on my mac. I was relaxing by the room, staring at the forest that the end of the hotel path opened out to. I went to the nearby petty shop run by a localite and sat on her mud floor trying to make conversations with Parvati who runs the shop. It was almost an hour of conversations as I sipped 2 glasses of tea. I figured out that Parvati’s parents had come here in 1961/71 when India moved all of the Bangladeshi immigrants from Kolkata to the Andaman Islands, giving them land. Parvati has grown in Havelock, and speaks Bengali which is the dominant language in the Andaman Islands. The ‘modified modern natives’ of the islands are bengali speaking Bangladeshi’s who have been living here for over 6 decades. The local tribes of the Andamans now live in North Sentinel Islands, which still remains out of tourist bounds.

I bought some chocolates for Nandu, who by then had woken up and walked over to the shop. Nandu quickly took the chocolates and asked me to come to the beach.  We went with our beach bucket and found a spot to perch ourselves.

'Working from Home'-View out from my room at Flying Elephants-Andamans
‘Working from Home’-View out from my room at Flying Elephants-Andamans

Nandu’s Lesson #1- The sea is a beautiful place to spend time, even though its warm, and we never do this in the city. Whenever it feels warm, apply sun cream lotion and take a dunk into the sea.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- Youtube is a great place to learn art, but there’s no place quite like the beach and mother nature to pick random twigs, sand. shells and the sea water to learn about elements and art work. There is life beyond Youtube and a 100 MBPS internet connection!

Nandu’s Lesson #3- Life is always better with Sandy shoes. He had no restriction on how dirty he could be while he was playing.

This part of the beach had very less waves, and one could walk into the water for quite a distance. I was anyway following Nandu wherever we went, so there was no danger from the sea. We decided to try our hand at carving some sand art from some of the templates we had. I seemed to have made an airplane and a car from the template we had. Nandu screamed in joy and appreciated that I had done it so well. I was gleaming in joy. My day had been made, since my little son came over and hugged me around the beach art. I took him for an extra ride in the water doing ‘Uppu Mootai’ where i would act like a crawling tortoise and Nandu would sit on my back and we would walk on the ocean floor. A few more flip flops in water, and our stomachs became empty enough.We just had enough energy to walk across to the restaurant at Flying Elephants.

 

Beach Therapy making sand art at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Island in Andamans-India
Beach Therapy making sand art at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Island in Andamans-India

There was no clock or watch needed at the Andaman Islands since we were in sync with nature. We thought it must be about 3 pm, but we realised that it was just about 12:30. There was something about the Andamans that made you start early and feel very productive with a lot of time still lying to use. For some reason, if you lose an hour in the morning  you keep searching for that the whole day and never seem to find that extra one hour.  But now that we were at sea, it seemed like planet Earth’s most potent way to remedy for stress. Being connected to nature in these couple of days, made me cringe and feel a little immature for needing a mobile alarm clock for me to wake up to.

Motion on the Beach-Sand art for an airplane and car-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island-India
Motion on the Beach-Sand art for an airplane and car-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island-India

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 6-Monologue With Monsoon

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  and Part-5 so far.

I stood outside our hut for about 15 minutes, waiting for the dawn light to crawl inside the forest. This post is about those 15 minutes and the little walk thereafter. This post is about my monologue with nature before my little son wakes up.

There is something about the monsoons or the first rains, that leaves you spellbound or attracted to the world outside. It’s like the feeling of the world around you has been bathed and is singing joyously, while you explore the trees, the leaves, the pathways have its own morning monsoon glow, even as the earthy Petrichor fills your senses. Travelling to the Andamans from the mainland can be a little like time travel as you go catch the monsoon before it hits the mainland. You revel in the future by taking a piece of it, and then head back to the sweltering humid climate of Chennai and the world beyond it.

The morning walk across to the reception at Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock Island-Andaman Islands (India)
The morning walk across to the reception at Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock Island-Andaman Islands (India)
Reception of Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)
Reception of Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)

It looked like the rain had abated, and there was a sense of the wind and the buzz from the weather settling down. I actually wished it rained a bit more. There is something about a rainy day where you want droplets of water all around where you live. A blanket around you, a pot of tea and a book to lazily be transported mentally and physically into a different world of the book. The rain continuously falling could even be a GIF image that makes you feel bubbling with energy in the world that your book takes you to. I wanted to live within a book’s world, within the world that this green forest in Kalapathar Village was.  It was if there was a inner belief that rain has a way to heal the battered soul from the fast lives of the city. Rain has a way of making life pause, and take you on a different track for a new trip. It was like the movie ‘Inception’-Dream within a dream within a dream. Since it was not raining I walked out of the resort to the main road that curves its way amidst the chaperoning woods that would take me to the beach.

'Tip Tip Tip Baarish'- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)
‘Tip Tip Tip Baarish’- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)

As I walked outside, I saw the leaves had an extra layer of green and maybe a spring in their step. The heavens had within a few hours revived the beauty and done make up on its subjects below. The leaves and moss around were greener than usual, and the roads were beautifully filled with little brown puddles. I thought rain has its own art form, reflected on the grand canvas that earth’s layers were. It could be the sea, which could have a thousand ripples breaking into it, it could be badly made roads where the bitumen peals off drop by drop, it could be the mud on the roads, which has now become a chocolate ‘milk-shakish’ brown. Monsoon was art, and I was its connoisseur this morning.

That fresh feel of the monsoons- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)
That fresh feel of the monsoons- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)

The leaves around the betelnut trees, were up in arms, literally begging me to look at them. There was so much green around, that you felt like meditating into its gaze. Life was slow, Life was green and the world for a few moments was just me and nature. Mobile signals could not discover me here. Whatsapp’s carefully crafted ‘NASA predicts cyclone’ messages would not reach me. Arnab’s full throated voice or any kind of negative vibe could not find me. There was fun in this kind of hide and seek from media. Have you ever felt this?

Wet, Green and the Rains are around- Kalapathar Village in Andaman Islands(India)
Wet, Green and the Rains are around- Kalapathar Village in Havelock- Andaman Islands(India)

Click here to read the previous part, and the next part

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 5-Reaching Kalapathar Village

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 and Part-4 so far.

Entering Kalapathar

It was about 10 am, when I had come to the Kalapathar side of the island. The island seemed breathtakingly beautiful as we made our way with the sea opening out on one side and the tall trees by a hill on the other side. The road was patchy, as the population decreased along the 10 kilometre stretch from the market at Beach number 3 to Kalapathar Village. There was something very inclusive about the village, as soon as we saw the board that Kalapathar village welcomes us. The beach had a small road which had about 7 shops, selling food and beach wear, and 10 metres from it was one of the most pristine patches of sand that I have seen. In between was a shelter made out of tree logs, as seen in Munda Pahar, dotting the beach sands.

Nandu loved the beach, and made it a point to get right to the beach, and open his book and spend the day by telling us Spiderman tales, and by immersing himself in the turquoise waters of Kalapathar Beach.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- Its possible to spend a day just reading a book by a beach. The sea is calming and is always a source of energy for every session spent playing in the water.

Nandu's day out at Kalapathar Village Beach shelter-Andaman Islands(India)
Nandu’s day out at Kalapathar Village Beach shelter-Andaman Islands(India)

We went and checked in to the Flying Elephants Resort, and quickly came out to the restaurant that lies a 100 metres away from the resort on the village road, with an easy ambience inside. Our food affairs were limited as we mostly ordered bread toasts for breakfast and usually had the Dal-Chawal-Roti combo for lunch in the couple of days that we were there.

At the Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar(Andaman Islands-India)
At the Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar(Andaman Islands-India)

 

The resort had 2 types of huts. One type of huts was having a ground and a first floor through steps within the house, and the other type of hut had a front area as a balcony and a room right inside, all made of wood and bamboo, and that too very tastefully by the founders Lynda and Benny (who we did not meet during our stay, as they were traveling to Neil Island around the same time)

The houses have a pathway connecting the main part of the resort, which also houses a yoga centre. This resort has NO Air conditioners, NO Internet, NO telephone signals. You have chickens walking across the grass on either sides, and you are in exactly the kind of surrounding that mankind was meant to be. Waking up to the sounds of birds at 4 am, talking with fellow humans, sleeping at 9 pm, go for long walks in the forests and use the moon’s light for navigation, See sunrises and sunsets by a calm sea. Nature can help us re-discover that side of us, only when we blank out digital noises around us. It was beautiful and surreal being in a almost zero night pollution zone and our bodies were slowly getting synced to nature. Our mobiles were stashed in a corner safe, as they were of no use. No GPS, No Internet, No Signals.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- It’s possible to stay in the forest without air-conditioning and without television, and to follow a healthy sleeping routine in sync with the environment

The Long Pathway to our room at Flying Elephant Resort (Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island-Andamans)
The Long Pathway to our room at Flying Elephant Resort (Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island-Andamans)

 

Rotis for Lunch at Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village in Andaman Islands-India)
Rotis for Lunch at Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village in Andaman Islands-India)

Monsoon and Siesta

After a little siesta we headed out to the beach again, and it started to get very overcast. I knew that I was missing a sunset this evening owing to the cloudy nature. It then occured to me that this was the eastern direction, and the beach to be seeing a sunset was actually on the western side at Radhanagar. I could do nothing about it this evening, as that would mean, I would need to travel all the way to the market and take another bus from there to Radhanagar, which was easily an hour of public transport. Maybe I could do with a rental vehicle, but for today, I was content watching the pregnant monsoon in the Andamans, since the Indian mainland was having a scorching summer.

Monsoon laced evening at Kalapathar Beach
Monsoon laced evening at Kalapathar Beach

The rains came about slowly. The clouds were slowly building up giving people enough indications that a downpour was imminent and with the gathering of clouds, most of the people packed up early. Nandu and I were in the outer fringes of the sea, and we were enjoying lazing in the water and splashing each other. When it started raining Nandu was still in the water, and he realised that the water felt warmer while being in the sea, and he felt chill as soon as he came to the shelter where new clothes and towels were waiting.

Nandu enjoying the chill reaches of the sea in KalaPathar VillageNandu enjoying the chill reaches of the sea in KalaPathar Village

Monsoons! Yay!Monsoons! Yay!

Nandu and I were brushing ourselves dry, when we noticed a fisherman walk into the sea to cast his net. He did not seem to go far. He was at the fringes and spent some time before coming out. On days like these fishermen, who live by the coastal villages are far more cognizant of nature’s fury (which has probably denied them business for the day), than tourists who come to the island. We city dwellers dont quite understand the slow pace of life, and always plan packed itineraries even when the sea is part of the equation. The locals respect the sea, and the un-predictability that comes with sea life (rough weather, high seas with swelling tides), while we city dwellers cant quite react or manage un-predictability so easily. The city dweller that I am talking about is people like you and me, who find the change in the pace of life so different from the mainland to the Andaman islands.

A fisherman finding his catch in Kalapathar for the evening!
A fisherman finding his catch in Kalapathar for the evening!

Meanwhile, I could smell Maggi in the air. The shop on the beach road was closing down soon, and he was belting out Omlettes, Maggi and Pakodas to the remaining few people, who wanted to savour the smell of monsoon along with some tea and hot tasty snacks. With some Maggi for the night, I walked across the forest path to the resort, to stare into the night sky and tell my little son over stars.

Fresh Maggi for the rains!
Fresh Maggi for the rains!

We had an early start to our bed time, and it was pleasant to watch Nandu sleep before me and that too around 9 pm. 9 pm in the Andamans feels like midnight on the mainland, since the darkness starts to creep in from 5 pm. The next morning, I woke up rejuvenated and energetic at 4:15 am, and noticed that there was light rain outside. The place looked beautiful. I waited to go watch the greens outside the resort in the path leading to the beach. There was a sense of excitement that last probably came during Childhood when you wake up to a cloudy morning, visualizing that there could be no school that day. Today’s feeling was similar, except that there was no element of school coming in here. I grabbed at my rain bag which had my camera, and proceeded across the pathway, waiting to be part of the surreal scenery that would unfold.

Dawn View of our pathway at Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar Village (Havelock Island-Andaman Islands(India)
Dawn View of our pathway at Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar Village (Havelock Island-Andaman Islands(India)

 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes. There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 4-On the High Sea to Havelock Island

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 and Part-3 here

 

I had booked myself on the 0645 am ‘Green Ocean’ Ferry, which I knew was from the Phoenix Bay Jetty. Our hotel, was also in the Phoenix Bay area, so I figured out that a quick auto ride would help us get to the Jetty to find our cruise ferry. I woke up at 4:20 am, and it felt completely normal to wake up at this time, since that is the time the light starts seeping in, and that’s when you realize that your body has a connection with the outside environment. Our hotel serves free breakfast, and they got some nice dosas packed for us with chutney [They usually order for cheap from the army canteen nearby for which they have access].

Nandu was woken up again earlier than his usual time, and he was surprised that it was 5:30 am and really bright. This was his first brush with how the world and timezones work (though the Andaman Islands is wrongly tagged as part of Indian Standard Time as it seems to be ahead of when the light comes and goes). He was waiting to get into the ship and see how a ship moves in water. I had told him that we will do dolphin spotting possibly later today from the ship.

Nandu on his first ship journey
Nandu on his first ship journey

One of his first lessons at day break, was that places where we start our journeys are always loaded with muck and waste [Rail, Bus, Ships]. He saw that the jetty’s calm waters had many water bottles and plastic floating. It’s as if no one cared about places outside their home. People had thrown wrappers and plastic bottles into the sea, since it was not in their interest to keep any place outside their home clean. A lot of us humans are intrinsically selfish and false people. Our sense of cleanliness can reach fashionably reach OCD Levels when it comes to our home, but the same sense of cleanliness is found wanting when we go out of our home. We are completely okay to throw wrappers or waste on the road, all because we did not make efforts to find a bin.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- The definition of home, extends beyond the walls where we live in and the whole earth is our home. We cannot pollute the very place where others/we sit and live. Always carry a spare bag to put all used plastic contents, so that you can put it in a bin as soon as you find one.

Muck floating around in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Islands [Phoenix Bay Jetty]
Muck floating around in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Islands [Phoenix Bay Jetty]
Kishore Da and Magic on the Ferry

We set off our journey, by quickly finishing our breakfast as the ferry started to leave. One of the pitfalls of these private ferry providers is that they don’t allow you on the deck, when the ferry starts from the port or nears a port. The ‘Green Ocean’ nevertherless allows you on the deck in all of the time in between, saving the first and last 10 minutes when you need to be inside your cabin. At one point mid-sea they also play popular music which includes Hindi, Tamil and Bengali songs on the deck. It was beautiful when they played Kishore da’s ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’ and ‘Chalo Jaata Hun Kisi Ki Dhun Me’, as the ferry slowly made its way across the vast expanse of the sea. That moment has magic in the air all around. Magic in Kishore Da’s voice and magic with views of random islands popping out of Bluish-Green sea.

The ‘Green Ocean’ is the best bet if you need the comforts of air-conditioned travel and the pleasure of an open deck. If you are someone like me, who is here for vitamin-sea and staring outside at the sceneries, get a local/agent and book the government ferry. It’s not as clean as the private ferries, but it more than compensates with the views and no rules as the private ferries. The ‘Makruzz’ is the other private provider, with very comfortable seating and lighting, but it allows no time on the deck and it can be quite the bummer. My recommendation is to land up at the ‘Directorate of Shipping Services’ early in the morning or the previous day to enquire about tickets. The locals have a quota, and as a result outsiders have very few tickets on the government ferry.  The ‘Green Ocean’ ferry play a documentary on Andamans, featuring Tom Alter. This can be found on Youtube here

The Air-Conditioned cabin of the Green Ocean ferry from Portbair to Havelock Islands [Andaman Islands-India]
The Air-Conditioned cabin of the Green Ocean ferry from Portbair to Havelock Islands [Andaman Islands-India]
Jetty Blues

Usually it is said that, being on sea causes some kind of nausea or sickness. The only blues that were getting to us on the sea, were the colours on the sea. It was various shades of blue on a paint card. Looking at the sea, as you lean in against the railing, and look at, is when you get an appointment with yourself. Nature manages to do that every time you are following a sunrise, sunset or the vast expanse of the sea.

Resting on the Rails of the Ferry, looking at the vast expanse of the sea
Resting on the Rails of the Ferry, looking at the vast expanse of the sea

There are islands in the horizon, and I wonder how these islands were formed, and whether people can drift off their for picnics there. If I had a genie, I’d ask for a boat or a helicopter that can take me to my island of choice and whims. Nandu was like a cop, coming by my side every few minutes to ask where the dolphins were. I waited for the dolphins to show up, but they did not. He soon found his entertainment in the deck, where people played music and some of the popular music included Nandu’s favourite songs. I meanwhile saw a moment there, out at sea, that reminded me of ‘I am the King of the World’ moment from the movie Titanic, where its only you and the sea, and there is nothing between the both of you. That moment where you feel connected in all vibes to the huge canvas that plays out in front of you. That moment when you are the sea, and the sea is you. It’s a fleeting moment and the moment fades away after a minute as a loud bollywood track on the deck, cuts through my moment.

'I am the King of the World' at sea- Between Port Blair and Havelock Island
‘I am the King of the World’ at sea- Between Port Blair and Havelock Island

In about a hour and a half, we were receiving instructions from the staff on the ferry to get back inside. Our brush with the sea was ending. Havelock Islands were approaching and one part of the island started showing up as a forest lined up against the calm azure waters of the sea.

Havelock Island Approaching [Andaman Islands-India]
Havelock Island Approaching [Andaman Islands-India]

Arriving at Havelock

The ship slowed down near the jetty, and it looked like a dream like sequence, even in a place like the jetty. We slowly got out, waited for our luggage to be pulled out. Airtel’s telephone signals were non-existent. I was given a number by Kumar to call for our taxi needs in Havelock, but due to poor signals, I could not call. Since our hotel at the Flying Elephants Resort was on the side with least populated traffic, we had very few buses directly heading that side, relative to Radhanagar Beach (which is a more populated area).

Arrival at Havelock Jetty [Andaman Islands-India]
Arrival at Havelock Jetty [Andaman Islands-India]
I fixed a taxi, and while the taxi driver was loading the luggage, I noticed that there was a water re-filling station near the Havelock Jetty. I asked Nandu to take our water-bottle and head to the water filling station to re-fill our bottles. This was part of the lessons for him on the island to make sure we never buy plastic water in bottles, and to also drive home the message to others seeing this to avoid plastic and bottled water. The Andaman islands, especially Havelock, encourages travelers to come and refill water at either the water refilling station or at their resort, instead of buying bottled water. It basically means lesser plastic to deal with on an island’s fragile eco system that is already threatened by burgeoning population.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- Always Refill water at re-filling station or the resort in Andamans. Never buy bottled water in the Andamans. Lesser plastic means helping the environment and eco-system survive.

Nandu about to go to the water-refilling station in Havelock Jetty
Nandu about to go to the water-refilling station in Havelock Jetty

Our resort too had a water re-filler at the reception area, which Nandu would frequent to fill water for us. It was convenient and hassle-free instead of being snooty about 2 plastic bottles at your disposal. We were part of the outdoors and nature, and were thrilled that we are privileged enough to be able to explore the world outside our home, which we were also calling home!

Water Refiller at our Resort-Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village-Havelock Island) [Andaman Islands-India]
Water Refiller at our Resort-Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village-Havelock Island) [Andaman Islands-India]
Check out the previous part OR the next part

 

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-Featured in Media

One of the purpose of travel is to be able to transport people visually and sensorily to a place they have not been before. You first travel in the mind, before you get to the actual place and then you start merging the place in your mind to the reality and the concoction can be quite heady and awe-inspiring when you do that.

#TheBeachTrail2017 was a great journey for us, and its a great honour to be able to tell this story to out to a wider audience. This post talks about the places where we were able to reach out to a larger set of people to tell our stories on #TheBeachTrail2017

  • The folks at Musafir Stories featured us on their long form-content story telling podcast show. The ‘Musafir Stories’ are India’s only Travel Podcast show focussed on listening to traveller tales.

You can listen to it here.

 

Exploring Andamans-Part 1-PortBlair to Wandoor

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 and Part-2 here

 

Once we landed in Port Blair, I waited for our luggage at the conveyor belt. The airport was small, and I spent some time at the Andamans Tourism desk, while waiting for the bags to arrive. The trip, as among other trips, despite the fact that I was with family, was only partially planned. For now, I had told the folks at Flying Elephants, that I was coming to Havelock the next day, but the whole of day-1 had to be spent in Port Blair, since my father was coming by a different flight in the afternoon, meaning that I had to wait in Port Blair, and I could not be on the afternoon ferry to Havelock that day.

 

Bandwith Bummer

I thought I’d wait to check for rooms on a travel app, and I strangely found that the internet was virtually non existent in Port Blair. First bummer on the trip. Andamans has very slow 2G, and the only 3G signals are that of BSNL, which again is sporadic. Reliance Jio was yet to come here as of April-May 2017. I went out and decided to take a taxi to find a hotel and also be able to book tickets on the ferry between Port Blair and Havelock, since the online ticket booking websites of Green Ocean and Makruzz did not work at the time, I was traveling. I met a taxi driver called Kumar (who can be reached at +91-9933283384) from the pre-paid taxi centre. I told him in Hindi to help me find an air-conditioned room for a family of 4, and also help me with booking tickets for the ferry to Havelock. I reccomend using Kumar’s services, as he is aware of each place that can be reached by car on the island, and can tell you stories of places. Andamans does not have self-drive car rentals, since there are very few service centres on the island.

Ferry Blues

Port Blair has 3 ferries to Havelock Island, up from the single Goverment ferry it had, when I had been there in 2008 April. The other 2 ferries added were Green Ocean and Makruzz. Kumar helped me to go each of these centres and help me book tickets. Green Ocean accepted only cash, while Makruzz accepted Credit Card payments. If I were to reccomend these ferries, here are my observations.

I go on a ferry to feel the wind on my face and hair, and stare at the sea and the mountains by the sea. I would not really look beyond this. I hate to have restrictions of any kind on my strolling on the ship to photograph. The Government ferry works the best for such travel. The ticket window usually opens 3-4 days before, and is not online for non-islanders to book. So you need to either have a local go and spend time in a queue and book it, or come here with enough time in hand to go and book it. That’s what makes it tough. Most of us city dwellers, love predictability and our air-conditioning, and there are 2 private services to cater for it. The Makruzz is very comfortable and comes with 3 levels of seats, with the highest costing about 1500 Rs per seat. You cant get on the deck, as the Makruzz is small, and has a rule that makes all people, be inside the air-conditioned area. The Green Ocean combines best of both the worlds. While ‘take off’ and ‘landing’ you are not supposed to be on the deck, but you can be on the deck in the time between that, apart from enjoying the air-conditioning inside the ship’s closed seat areas. There is a little documentary that plays from the TV’s inside the seating area where Tom Alter takes you through the beauty of the Andaman. This is also found in Youtube here.

I signed up with Kumar on 2 driving assignments. He would first drive us to Wandoor, we would spend some time on the beach, and then come back to the airport, pick up my dad, have lunch at Annapurna and then head out to catch the sunset at Munda Pahad Beach (Chidiya Tapu). 1300 Rs, each way for each of the trips. Nandu’s lessons were ripe and ready to be learnt. As a first, we quickly settled on a basic air-conditioned room in Phoenix Bay Jetty near the Tamil and Malayalam association at a place called the Ritz Hotel. Not a great place to stay, but very functional. Small pathways, but reasonably okay rooms with air conditioning, heater and television, if you are looking to stay just to board the next day’s ferry.

Missing Mainland

Wandoor is a little beach town around 25 kilometres from Port Blair in a South West Direction. As we were on the drive to Wandoor, Kumar pointed out on my left to little pools of water, which were actually created during the 2004 Tsunami and the water has since then stayed on these fields. We passed via scores of betel nut plantations which seemed to stretch across the length of the journey even as the music that played on the car shifted from Kumar Sanu to Illayaraja. The island seems to have 2 major languages (Bengali and Tamil) spoken, representative of the migrants who have shifted here from the mainland, and has little communities with a similar name as in the mainland. We passed Ranchi Basti and Mallapuram, as we made our way into Wandoor (also a name inspired from a town in Kerala).

Nandu’s Lessons

Cat by the beach at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Cat by the beach at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Nandu spotted a little cat by the beach, which came around us as we sat there to drink some water from our water bottle. We sensed that cat was thirsty and offered it some water. Nandu was sitting next to the cat and was playing with it. He also offered it water to drink and then let some of his bread on the floor for the cat to eat. The summer was about to end. The lesson here was to let Nandu know that, if the cat stayed there for longer than usual, we should not do anything to drive it away, since this is a forest and these are the homes of animals, and we are here to visit and then go away. I asked him to look at whether the cat had the food offered, and if it left the bread an hour later, we should throw the food into the litter bin. One of the biggest problems with virgin places are that people bring food and plastic, and then throw them away, asking “who’s watching?”. Nature is always watching, and knows the problems such behaviour entails.

 

Birds welcoming us at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Birds welcoming us at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Nandu saw very tall trees around, and loved the whole sense of space around him. He was happy and started to loudly exclaim with excitement and run around. I looked at him, and asked him to be joyful, but not shout so loudly so as to disturb the environment. He had a look at the birds and observed the surroundings for a whole 15 seconds (a sense of achievment to make kids observe silence), listening to the chirping of birds and the leaves covering the sun’s light coming inside the forest.

Nandu wonderstruck by the tall trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Nandu wonderstruck by the tall trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Since it was our first day of our holiday, and we were spending the day on the road, I was worried if Nandu would get tired and sleep off or he would start to ask for Cartoons on TV. So far so good. I had not brought his colouring books

 

 

Clear Sky between the Trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Clear Sky between the Trees at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

Postcards from Wandoor

As the first part of this series ends, I leave you with a few postcards from the serene beach of Wandoor, which is the alighting point for trips to the Mahatma Gandhi National Park and Jolly Buoy Island (snorkelling). One needs to go to the tourism office, a day prior to get permission slips to visit Jolly Buoy Island or find a travel agent to do all the paper work for you. Since our trip was just planned on the go, we were not able to find our way to either of the places, where a little ferry leaves at fixed timings. If I had more time on the island, I would have probably taken a bus which would have cost less than 20 Rs from Port Blair to Wandoor. Maybe that’s for later this year. There are a couple of small restaurants near the beach, which we did not go to. We were getting ready for our lunch at Annapurna which was very expensive for a simple Thali meal. Most meals are expensive in the Andamans, because the food is brought from the mainland.

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Made for quiet afternoon siesta
Made for quiet afternoon siesta-Wandoor in Andaman Islands

 

Silhouttes at Wandoor
Silhouttes at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

 

Our Host-Kumar resting by the woods at Wandoor-Andaman Islands
Our Host-Kumar resting by the woods at Wandoor-Andaman Islands

 

Check out the previous part OR the next part

 

 

 

Exploring Andamans- Part 0

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series.

Summer Holidays-The 90’s– Back when I was in school, it was that time when I used to sit at home and watch Prime Sports for its live cricket feed of the ending New Zealand season from 3 am to 10 am, the matches in Sharjah from 11 am to 7 pm, and the beginning of the Carribean Cricket season from 7 pm to late night. Whenever possible, I used to find my sleep in between, because the privilege of watching cricket live and very clearly (as DD’s coverage back then in the early 90’s was poor), was too much to resist. I did this from 1994 to 1996, where the English county season also got added to the mix with Shaun Pollock taking a hat trick on debut.  I was completely addicted to watching Cricket on TV. Those were my luxuries. My world was the little room in our house in Adyar in Chennai, adorned on the 4 walls with posters of cricketers, pulled and cut out from the Sportstar Magazines.

It changed from 1997. On February 18th 1997, my school’s travel/nature club announced that they were having a nature camp trek in the summer holidays in Himachal Pradesh for about a little over 2 weeks in the Bara Bangal range, and it was priced at Rs 3800. My parents felt, I am better off going away on travelling rather than gorging on cricket in front of the television. I was also interested, since it involved going to New Delhi after 7 years. I used to previously live in New Delhi, and it felt like a trip back home, and I knew I had a love affair with staring out of the train windows looking at the scenery changing slowly. On that trip in May, I realised how important practical knowledge of first aid is since I injured myself when I fell off a mountain. I also realised that you need to respect nature and understood the importance of responsible travel where you dont throw plastic wrappers into the wild and dont play loud music in the woods. It got me interested about travel, and about the importance of maintaining our environment around us. That was the clear focus, as the cricket clearly went to the background. I still would borrow transistors from the camp’s cooks to listen to bits of hindi commentary of the on going Independence Cup back then. But Nathan Astle, Saeed Anwar, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya remained figments of imagination when the transistor would boom to life, as my primary points of interest were the tall trees and the flowing Uhl river, in the lap of nature, disconnected for most parts from the world.

Cut back to 2016

I was with my son on a beach in Goa for New Year. My 4 year old son was happy staying inside the air-conditioned place, and was asking for POGO channel to entertain himself. He would not feel like walking on the beaches, and stayed away from the sun, and would shy away from enjoying nature or even observing it. I decided that I needed to take him to a place which was cut away from telephone networks, television, air-conditioning and the usual things he would find at home. A place that would shake his senses up about what his definition of the world was. After a bit of search and deciding between Lakshadweep and Andamans, I decided on the latter based on the costs of flying to and staying there. After a couple of friends reccomended a place, I looked up the Flying Elephants resort tucked away in the woods of arguably the most beautiful, but under-rated beach of Kalapathar

It’s often the easier path taken, when you take a 5 year old to a world of luxury and holidays. Watching cartoons on TV, staying in air con rooms all day guzzling the hotel’s wifi. There is a whole generation at risk that could just miss the beauty of nature because as parents we choose the easier path. I decided to take my son to parts of India to mingle socially with people on holiday, and understand responsible travel. 

We had an early morning flight from Chennai which strangely got pre-poned from 8:30 am to 6:30 am. I had chosen the 8:30 am flight purely because it becomes very tough to wake a 5 year old at 4 am to get him ready for such an early flight. There was no way I could cancel the air plane due to very limited flights between Chennai and Port Blair. We chose Go-Air and Jet Airways for our flights which ideally be flights landing in Port Blair before noon and leaving Port Blair as the last flight out in the afternoon. That works best if you plan to head over to the islands of Neil and Havelock right after/before your flights.

Flying across the Indian Ocean
Flying across the Indian Ocean

We chose to spend a day in Port-Blair and just go walking around, since our tickets to Havelock Island (Kalapathar Beach) were for the next morning. More on that coming up in the subsequent posts.

Monsoon Weather in Port Blair
Monsoon Weather in Port Blair

Do stay tuned to the upcoming parts all through July. If you have a young kid, you should come back for more on how you can entertain a kid and teach them early lessons on sustainable and responsible travel. Here are the themes I agreed upon for Nandu to be learnt

When you go into the forest, you are going into the homes of animals. We should respect them and peacefully-co exist without harming or driving them away. Be a traveller and not a tourist who thinks he/she is the ‘privileged one’.

 

Re-fill your water in a water bottle, and do not buy plastic bottled water. Helps any place do away with the problem of waste and helps kid develop immunity by drinking water the way the locals of a place drink it.

 

 Throw plastic out of the sea, when you see it, and collect them and put them in a dust bin

 

Nature can be the best way to entertain yourself. Observe the trees and plants around and ask questions on why things are the way they are

 

Go stay with the locals who cook for you, or who run shops to get an idea of their lives. It helps you appreciate what they have in their world, and what you have in your world.

 

Develop patience, by sitting a full day out at the beach, and knowing that the mind can be entertained by just reading a book by the sea, making castles,playing in the sea and just resting on the sand.

Here’s a sneak preview on what to expect in 3 images in the next few parts!

Nandu enjoying with glee abandon at Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island.
Nandu enjoying with glee abandon at Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island.

 

Paradise at Flying Elephant Resort in Kalapathar-Havelock Islands
Paradise at Flying Elephant Resort in Kalapathar-Havelock Islands

 

 

Reading books by the beach can be fun!
Reading books by the beach can be fun!

Check out the next part

 

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-IV-Discovering Angthong and Songkaran in Koh Tao

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the fourth and final post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-2Part-3

Once we had folded up our all night vigil at the Full Moon Party (Watch this video to see how it went), we had a van waiting to transport us back to the sea. Back to the blissfulness of staring at the vast expanse of the sea, but this time, we would see a lot more islands jutting out, and infact 42 of them surrounding the Angthong Marine National Park. Each of those 42 islands resemble a virgin paradise, with limestone cliffs, white sands on the periphery and lagoons around some of them.

The 42 islands of the Angthong Marine National Park
The 42 islands of the Angthong Marine National Park
Sailing in the Gulf of Thailand
Sailing in the Gulf of Thailand

It’s fascinating to be on this trip, since its like a slice out of your dreams as you keep staring at the wonders around you, and the wonders beneath you, as your little ferry’s motor slowly switches off  signifying that its time for some snorkelling!

While you snorkel under the surface of the water, a whole new world opens up. It seems very peaceful, and is interrupted only by the humans swimming besides me. Every time a human swam beside me, a whole new series of bubbles would impair my vision of this perfect life with the beautiful colours of the aqua marine world. If I ever get to be God, I would maybe create a world a-new that would just be so colourful and beautiful. As I settled into that thought, it occurred to me that we are humans for a reason and our world is chaotic, since its an option that we humans have. You could either be in the peaceful underwater world but be ready to be eaten any time of the day. Every day survived, is every day lived. You could be a human, live in a complex and chaotic world, without being worried about being eaten, but its a slow death in the concrete jungles of life, where you spend a life time trying to just commute and earn your bread, let alone eating. Such is life!

Our next spot was the Angthong Marine National Park, which has a steep jungle hike on the hill, that opens up beautiful panoramic vistas of the 42 islands. It was searing heat that we had to climb up the hill, and being a tropical place we were sweating heavily in the climb up.

A walk too far? Climbing on the hill trail in Angthong
A walk too far? Climbing on the hill trail in Angthong

There are resting points every 100 metres for you to contemplate if you have the energies to get up to the next point. If you cant quite climb up any further, each of these resting points make for great selfie spots for the young -at-heart. There are totally around 6 such points The entire ascend takes about an hour for people who are not used to any physical activity.This park has basic tented accommodations and a bungalow with 2 rooms. If you have time, you should probably camp here.

Tenting and Camping at Angthong Marine Park
Tenting and Camping at Angthong Marine Park

It’s a beautiful feeling trying to stay here, away from the crowded paradises of Ko-Samui, Ko Tao and Ko Phangan. You may need to bring some ready-to-eat foods, and cans of water, as there may not be too many resources if you plan to stay here for a day or two.  Adjoining the park/island are beautiful beaches that have coral reefs around them, making it hot beds for snorkelling. Inside the park is a beatiful green-emerald lake that is believed to have an underground connection to the sea, which probably still does not explain how does it get its greens.

At the base of the hills, Vikram perched himself to help himself with a couple of soft drink cans to beat the heat. These soft drinks are given on the boat, as part of your boat charges.There is also a little pool of water which people can use on themselves to freshen up with a mug, right after the sweaty trek and trail.

Chilling by the Bay at Angthong Marine Park-Thailand
Chilling by the Bay at Angthong Marine Park-Thailand

After our day out at Angthong, we got back to our boat, having a minimal Watermelon lunch by a cove/island. The speedboat has a way it cuts across the sea, and you need to hold on to dear life if you are sitting like us on the front deck. In choppy weather, be aware of finding a seat inside the closed door of the speedboats, as you are likely to rupture a muscle or two. It works well for the Thai Tourism industry as they would have sold you a tour on a speed boat and a Thai massage in the evening, to work on your body sores.

Watermelons and Noodles for Lunch
Watermelons and Noodles for Lunch

Our hostel, wore a deserted look. Haad-Rin had morphed into a sleepy town over night, after the full-moon party. We chose to hit bed early so that we had more energy leading up to playing Songkaran over the next 3 days. Since there were lesser people in our hostel, we ended up getting closer to the air-conditioner and slept like a log, before I woke up to alert the rest that our ‘Songthaew’ was waiting for us to be dropped to the port. Our next ferry trip was to Koh Tao, to celebrate Songkaran by a beach town, before we would take a train to Bangkok to continue the Thai New Year celebrations.

We had to board the ‘Songserm’ ferry operator’s morning ferry, and these were air conditioned seats, and we were glad to pick up some snooze time in the A.C. It was a short ferry ride of about an hour from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, before we got off. Usually there is confusion between the staff on what luggages to offload, and while we were searching for our luggage, we noticed that it had already been offloaded and it stayed abandoned in a corner. So much so for safety!

We move our luggage, and find a cafe to spend the rest of the day, since we have our ferry to Chumphon from Koh Tao only at 3 pm and its about 9 am in the morning. Most of the cafe’s near the port are expensive, and I really don’t need their Wifi to spend the day. We spot a quiet cafe a little distance away from the port, and keep our luggage there, and Vikram decides that he wants to maybe rest by the beach, that adorns the cafe’s outer fringes. We then decide to find a cheaper breakfast place, and no better place on the little island than these Banana pancake shops.

Breakfast over Nutella Pancakes in Koh Tao
Breakfast over Nutella Pancakes in Koh Tao

I help myself to a couple of Banana pancakes, with Mango, Nutella and Peanut butter. It goes down, melting and warming the inner tubes of my food pipe, letting the stomach know that energy is arriving. As we wrap up our breakfast, a sudden jet of water is thrown in by an expat, that made my vest completely wet. He was spraying all over taking giant steps on the road, and there was a huge tanker coming with local people who had bigger guns. The games needed to start, to welcoming the new year!

Let the games begin! Songkaran in Koh Tao
Let the games begin! Songkaran in Koh Tao

We boarded a little van, that said that the festival was being celebrated in a grander manner at Sairee Beach in Koh-Tao, and off we went with little cash, a Go Pro and an iPhone in boot. The next couple of hours were spent like a child, trying to stave off requests from people who wanted to spray water on us, forming secret guerilla groups to target unsuspecting people and having water from 4 directions, which would stop when the person smiled and walked away.

 

That feeling when you get suddenly hit by a wave of ice chill water
That feeling when you get suddenly hit by a wave of ice chill water

 

Firing water on people from an open jeep in Koh Tao celebrating Songkaran
Firing water on people from an open jeep in Koh Tao celebrating Songkaran

 

Boarding the train at Chumphon

After all the celebrations in Koh Tao, as we proceeded to Koh Tao’s port, we were leaving behind memories of an amazing trail, and the only part missing as in the movie ‘The Beach’ was the train ride, which was up next. A train ride to Bangkok from Chumphon(The closest railway line from Koh Tao).  #TheBeachTrail2017 was a wrap! Thanks Thailand for all the memories!

If you want to watch what happened between the photos, do watch the 4th episode of our #TheBeachTrail2017 documentary

 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-III-Discovering Chaloklum, Mae Haad and the Full Moon Party

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the third post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-2, and Part-4

After our adventures the previous day, we discovered we had a lot of fuel still left in our bikes, so we decided to drive a lot more on our next trip. We could go east or go extreme North. As we were choosing Abhi told us that he wanted to be closer to the waterfall trail, so that he could go for a quick dip, so we decided on 2 other beaches called Chaloklum and Mae Haad.

I preferred to play pillion to do all the filming and be ready to focus on places to capture/experience from the road and also be the one coordinating between Vikram over the directions. The 4G signals were very good in Thailand, so most of our communication would be over Whatsapp video calling, as we would frequently lose each other, blame it on having different interests in gazing at nature’s bounty every few kilometres.

 

2 wheelers for rental in Koh Phangan
2 wheelers for rental in Koh Phangan

As we made our way down the valley from Haad-Rin, we chanced upon a cafe on the hill, which had a beautiful view. The place, by itself had a greek feel to it, with white and blue paint, resembling Santorini, and having a few chairs for guests. The view of the sea changing colours as the day went by is quite an activity to occupy yourself. We had done that a couple of days back in Coco Huts, so we were itching to go back to the beaches, after the previous day was spent with waterfalls.

Viewpoint Cafe- True To its Name
Viewpoint Cafe- True To its Name

We were back on the scenic highway, that had a few more miles to clock, post Paradise Waterfalls, and this highway was starting to look beautiful at a point, when we had the green canopy of the trees on either sides, and in the distance the sea emerged on the top. The wind hitting our hair, music in our ears made us part of a new world, to which we had just gained entry. This whole island of Koh Phangan, was famous only for the Full-Moon-Party, and there were so many sides to this beautiful island, if only people cared to explore beyond the ‘Songserm Buckets’. This scene reminded us of the famous yesteryear classic “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, where heaven was waiting for us at the end of the road, and our new home for the day was the beach life that was awaiting us at Chaloklum

Country Roads- Take Me Home
Country Roads- Take Me Home

The heat during the day reduced, thanks to an involuntary gathering of some Cumulo-Nimbus clouds over the island, and the weather turned overcast and love was in the air, due to the cool winds. We decided to survey the place, after parking our bikes to wander around the bay. The only choices our brains had to make, was to go left or right. We went right, because it curved and something exciting looked like being around the corner.

Overcast Day at Chaloklum Bay
Overcast Day at Chaloklum Bay

I hoped we will find some desolate beach, where I could be ‘ship wrecked’ for a couple of hours. The good thing which such stress free exploratory trips, is that fantasy can run wild, and that means that brain is all in order and corporate life has not had any adverse impact on it.

The Wide expanse of Chaloklum Bay
The Wide expanse of Chaloklum Bay

Once we were at Chaloklum bay, we looked around, and wanted to explore the right end of the beach. The beach was having a long curve, and we realised that we had a lot of distance to cover. Each of us ambled at our own pace, before we perched at a corner of the beach, which ended in a lagoon, which got deeper as you set your legs further with soft soil. Every time you took a step, inside the water, a fish would probably see an explosion of sand particles. I decided to lay on my back, with the water covering me till my neck, while I paddled about, feeling the sun on my watered back. It was a strange feeling of heat and cool at the same time. I wondered what next. Should I go to the other side? It was glowing in green from the afternoon heat, and since there was a port of sorts there (where you get the boats to Bottle Beach, which you could also go via a forest trek), we thought there would be too many people.

The Greens of Chaloklum Bay
The Greens of Chaloklum Bay

We saw a tyre partially buried in sand, and saw a little paradise on the other side of the lagoon. Endless trees dotting the foothills of a little mountain, having a little patch of sand, not having any human settlement or commerce. It seemed like our ‘Robinson Crusoe’ moment at finding a patch of paradise, to spend an afternoon. The lagoon was deep, and could not be navigated by our limited knowledge of swimming. My friends, said they wanted to go back and maybe explore the other side. I could not quite resist the option of getting to the other side, but I had to do it safely. As Paulo Coelho says in the Alchemist-When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and so, I find a boat coming my way. Since the lagoon is not really far to cross over, the boat-man is confused, as to why I wanted to go over to the other side. He says there is nothing that side, and he wont come back. I would have to walk 5 kilometres through the hilly path down to the Chaloklum village. I say yes, looking at the oppurtunity to be ‘quasi-marooned’ for a while.

 

A tyre buried in the sand at Chaloklum-Koh Phangan
A tyre buried in the sand at Chaloklum-Koh Phangan

A minute later, I find myself on the other side of the lagoon. My friends wave away, and one heads for the Paradise waterfall, while the other just wants lunch somewhere by the sea. I go and find myself on a remote part of the bay, and enjoy my silence. I lay on the water as, small waves come and go in a rythmic motion, lulling me into a peaceful mid-day siesta with my head in water. For a good part of the next 45 minutes, I was in a blissful sense of peace, closing my eyes, and while head got gently massaged by the movement of waters in a rythm. I wake up after, closing my eyes for a long time, and look at the beautiful blue skies, and its a wonderful feeling of happiness as you transition from a dark background to a bluish sky. It’s a kind of a visual orgamic high that lasts for a few fleeting seconds, and its gone, as your eyes adjust to the new light.It is a working day in India, and I chose to send this photo to my friends who are at work, right after lunch. I am reasonably succesful in transmitting ‘Vitamin-J’ to the rest of the world, connected virtually on Whatsapp (Note- 4G in Thailand is present in the remotest parts of the country),

Shaking a leg to the sound of water's music
Shaking a leg to the sound of water’s music

I woke up, and trudge through the forest to find a lady and her son, who are there in a car to meet a therapist. They are done with their work, and they were heading back, so I manage to get a lift uptil the local 7/11 store, from where I hop over to the local food store, where I gorge quickly on a bowl of Pad Thai, waiting for Vikram to turn up, while a mellifluos tune from an old lady singing a Thai tune catches my ears.

I hop over to the next beach on our 2 wheeler, and go there to catch a beautiful sunset. The sunset always works like an agony aunt of sorts, as there is something in the orangish sky and sea changing colours to blue over a sunset, as the stillness of the sea, makes me ask the questions to myself, that usually get lost in the hum-drum of daily life. A sunset makes me notionally wiser, as long as I can jot down what my mind tells me.

A beautiful sunset at Mae Haad-Koh Ma (Koh Phangan)
A beautiful sunset at Mae Haad-Koh Ma (Koh Phangan)

Post the sunset, we were heading to the full moon party, back near our hostel. To know how our day went and our time at the Full Moon Party, do catch the documentary which traces what we did in detail between the photos. Here’s- Part 3 of our documentary

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

#TheBeachTrail2017- Part-II-Discovering Coco Beach and Paradise Waterfall

The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the second post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-1, Part-3 and Part-4

S T A R T I N G  T H E   D A Y 

When the day started for us, at 10 am, the city was buzzing and active. I had actually woken up at 6 am, walked my way to the beach, just before sunrise, felt the waters and then come back to the hostel to sleep. We woke up late, since we had been up till about 3 am at the resort nearby(Coral Bungalows), at their pool party. The way we landed there makes for an interesting story. We had a free pick up van roaming near our hostel street soliciting people who wanted a free ride, and we decided we should sit in the van and explore this place. Once at the party, which was basically loud music around the pool, we found our corner of the pool, to relax and soak in a 18-21 hour journey from India to Koh Phangan (depending on where each of us came from). Since a lot of popular music was playing,  Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of Me’ was all over, and people were swaying to it, while jumping in and out of the pool. ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Summer of 69’ had a new successor in ‘Shape of Me’, which would play on until the mP3 files are erased due to frequent use. Our first night at Koh Phangan, was more so spent relaxed at the pool, listening to songs and we decided to walk our way back to our hostel, which was about a kilometre from where we were, and by about 3 am we had settled into slumber.

Getting back to this morning, I woke up at 6 am, because I am habituated to wake up around this time. The little island town was quiet. I took the quieter lane to the beach, which had some people who were probably around from the night, as they did not quite look that they had got up like me and come to the beach. I had my phone with me, and sat at the beach, waiting for the orange layer to percolate into a dark sky. The fisherman were active, and were probably still transporting people back from the parties advertised at Secret Beach, that happens every evening. Their ‘sun-set’ was approaching, after making money on tourists who wanted to go around for parties around boats and islands advertised as ‘secret parties’. As I was watching the sun-rise, I started to fall asleep. That moment, I decided that seeing the sun was inspiring, and it was time for going back to catch dreams, before I start the #TheBeachtrail2017

Sunrise at Haad Rin
Sunrise at Haad Rin

D I S C O V E R I N G  C O C O   B E A C H 

Almost by accident, we walked on the hilly path leading to Coco Huts Beach. As we ambled along post our breakfast at Om Ganesh Cafe (One of the two Indian cafes in Haad Rin), we happened to double check our path. We had no real choice to make, and decided based on gut, that we’d take the road leading down the hill on the right instead of going straight or left. It seemed to be a good choice, as we made our way through a 5 star resort called the Coco Huts Beach Resort. The view that we had, left us gasping for breath. Palm trees swaying to the wind, a little hammock between them, Clear Blue Skies alongside a different shade of blue with a white sand beach, and the picture postcard was complete. We were in Paradise, and were savoring every second of this view. The colour of the sea was changing its shades of blue, depending on the weather and we were lapping it up

The perfect life at Coco Huts Beach-Ko Phangan
The perfect life at Coco Huts Beach-Ko Phangan

Some clouds on top, and the shade of blue became bluer, and we took turns at the swing between the trees. The rythmic motion of the swing, as we swung up and down, made us feel like we were flying in an arc seeing the sea in front of us. Initially I did feel apprehensive that I may fly off the swing and land straight into the sea bed. None of those fears came true, thankfully. The sea bed was also having very small waves, so we could just aimlessly float and feel motionless on the beach, as the waves came every now and then to look us up, if we were wet enough or not. The feeling of waters slowly curving around you, the feeling of sand in your ears, and a near stationery mind is the kind of bliss that we came in search of. Vikram and I chose to find some shade and read some books on our phones, while Abhi chose to walk along the expanse of the beach, and discovered the spa, and came out after a marathon session at the spa.

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We had prepared for a long day out at the beach, and had brought with us some cookies and fruits to spend the day, since we did not want to go back to take a break to eat. One good brunch, and some cookies for lunch, apart from a couple of tender coconuts to keep us hydrated seemed to take care of our energy levels. The whole coastline seemed to be curving beautifully across the hills, but it had very few people on the beach, and boy, were we enjoying the quietness on the beach? We sure were

Is this what Paradise looks like?
Is this what Paradise looks like?

Abhi loves his massages. Being a frequent traveller to Thailand, he is a connoisseur when it comes to the spa treatments in Thailand. He tells me that the Spa at Coco Huts, took very good care of his afternoon, post which he came over to join us for the sunset. He got himself a good break from the routine life of running around, with his newly formed start up.

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The beach has a beautiful walkway going right into the sea. It is not a permanent structure but a semi-plastic-fiber structure that goes out into sea. As you walk, its firm to the point that you wont slip off, but it is shaky since the waves can topple you, if the water inflow is stronger at that point. After a nice siesta post a round of freshly cut tender coconuts, we woke up in time to see a rousing sunset across the right end of the beach by the mountains. While some chose to chase the sun on the walkway, some chose to transmit this moment to their virtual world by clicking a selfie against the golden light of the evening sun.

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We welcomed the sunset with a few games of beach volley ball. After a day of being well rested on the beach, this was the perfect way to get those muscles active as I ran around, the court in an attempt to play a competitive game with some fellow travellers. The evening was relaxed, and my body was now ready for the invasion of vegetarian Pad Thai in the Thai places down the hill this evening.

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D R I V I N G  A R O U N D   P H A N G A N 

The next day, we decided to drive around the island after taking bikes from a bike store near Om Ganesh Cafe. Petrol for the bike is usually sold at 50 Bahts a litre on the smaller shops in Haad Rin, but when you go on the highway near Phaeng Waterfall you get a proper Petrol Station that sells fuel at 37 Bahts, which makes it a few more rides on the beautiful roads of Koh Phangan. The ride from Haad Rin to the northern parts of the islands involves crossing a hill and then going down. As we were going down the hill, there was this beautiful point where you could see the sea from the top of the hill, and it looks like you are heading straight for the sea. It is a surreal scene to catch, and if ever you find yourself there here’s the point to stop and gaze

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The scenery around the drive is beautiful, and calls for driving with an open mind, without having any fixed destination. We off-roaded a little around an orchard and found this beautiful place and stopped there to gaze at the tall trees and the sea beside us. Paradise was finding us, rather than we finding it. We were grateful to nature that we could soak in such sights.

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Fruits! We could never be far away from it, since most of our energy came from tender coconuts, bananas and mangoes that we would buy at the local markets. It helps the locals earn a living and for us to keep our budgets low and keep us on a healthy diet in the tropical Thai weather of April.

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P A R A D I S E   W A T E R F A L L 

Our next stop was the beautiful and serene Paradise Waterfalls, which has a bumpy path right off the beautiful highway, which prepares you for the contrast. The drive is inside a jungle that becomes denser as you drive in, and when the sound of the bats and crickets becomes more than people/vehicles. The waterfall is multi layered and we chose to start with the bottom layer to hold on to a rope and swing our way into the natural pool that the waterfall empties into. The simplest part was to get off all the sweat, from the drive to the place by jumping right into the waterfall. Emotions go from ecstatic to orgasmic to relaxing to jubilant. The water is the same, the force is the same but nature somehow manages to distill different emotions like the staccato of a track that has its ups and downs.

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So the afternoon drill was all about jumping inside the pool, and swimming till the rocks, and then coming back to do the jump all over again. Sounds like a good plan? To experience bliss, you need lesser people and trust nature. In ‘The Beach’ Leanardo Di Caprio also discovers a waterfall this side of the island and jumps from a far higher height. We were having a beautiful #TheBeachTrail2017 so far.

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After a few jumps, I chose to cool off around the fringes of the waterfall, and listening to the music of the forests, observing happiness all around. This is the kind of stuff that needs to go into our system instead of all the negative vibes from the news. We have a beautiful world to look for inspiration, and I have just started.

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 P H A E N G   W A T E R F A L L 

Right after Paradise Waterfall, we decided to search for one more waterfall nearby, since when we had started the day, we did a quick map search and found 2 waterfalls by the highway. A quick drive away from Paradise Waterfall was Phaeng waterfall, which was part of the Than Sadet National Park. As soon as we made our way inside, post a round of Pad Thai, we found a beautiful dense forest that was filtering the golden hour light across the greens into the water at one of the levels of the waterfall. Abhi did a trek all the way to the top of the waterfall, while Vikram and I found solace in observing and playing with a kid and her mother who were enjoying the sunset at the lower reaches of the waterfall.

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There was a girl who was spending her whole evening drawing patterns on the sand near the water source. It occured to me that it had probably been ages since I had idled time away in this creative manner away in nature. The glorious sunset was lighting up the greens, and it probably also let us knew that we were so far having a great trip accompanied with great weather and discoveries of places to spend our time!

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With that ends, Part-II of #TheBeachTrail2017. Here’s a map trail of the places covered so far in Koh-Phangan

Map Trail in Koh Phangan of #TheBeachTrail2017
Map Trail in Koh Phangan of #TheBeachTrail2017

While a Photoblog and text can only convey so much, I suggest you watch our documentary to know what we did in between the photos. Here’s presenting Part-II of the documentary #TheBeachTrail2017

Look out for cheap flights to Bangkok which starts at about 10,000 INR from Chennai to Bangkok. From Bangkok you could directly fly to Koh Samui through Bangkok Airways, but since its a private airport, fares are usually high. You could alternatively fly to Surat Thani from Bangkok, which has direct connections from the airport to the pier and to Koh Phangan/Ko Samui.You could take the train from Bangkok (Hualamphong Station) to Chumphon or Surat Thani, and head to the respective piers in those cities to catch a ferry to Koh Phangan . Alternatively you could fly to Bangkok, and book a Lomprayah Bus + Ferry ticket directly from Bangkok to Koh Phangan

 

 

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-Part 1-Settling in Koh Phangan

This episode talks about settling into our comfort zone at Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’. This is the first post in the series. Click here for Part-0, Part-2Part-3 and Part-4

Once you are on sea, there is a sense of calm in your body. Your blood doesn’t run haywire, as it does back in the city. The kind of calm, that you have not felt or seen. The mountains and the sea seem constant, they dont move. There’s nothing that’s vying for your attention. Your mind is not having to be at many places and act like its at one place. Your mind is still, your body is still, you are still (despite the fact that you are moving on a constantly moving sea) and that takes some getting used to, and if you are like me, most of that emotion ends in being transported to you to a world where you dream, despite being amidst paradise in reality.

Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand
Siesta on the Gulf of Thailand

A journey on a little ferry/ship in the afternoon sun, was about testing 2 contrasting feelings on our skin. We wanted the soft warmth of the afternoon sun on an alternating overcast and sunny day, and the winds on our face. We got both, while we were perched in our seat. The only bummer really was, you could not quite move on the top deck of the ferry, once it picked speed. You would shake and lose balance while trying to move, and if you did find balance the strong wind would knock you down. The whole afternoon was spent either sitting on one of the seats, or sitting on the floor. We did have some inventive travellers who started to create a party of their own, by drinking against the direction of the wind, protecting their plastic cups with their hats. It was fun trying to see if they would spill the ‘Songserm’ whisky on themselves. They fought with the wind, and with every plastic cup downed, they would be inebriated to repeat the act more. One of my friends on the trip, joined in and did this until his hat flew right into the sea.

 

Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan
Colorful People on the Lomprayah Ferry to Koh Phangan

The wind hitting everyone’s faces and hair brought a beautiful sense of everyone being disheveled by the time we reached our first island stop. Wind is again like rain, it looks beautiful when seen for a fleeting second, but it can get irritating when the wind/rain bring their kin/kith along for a prolonged session. I was grateful to providence to be feeling such sensations, and to know that the a full week lay ahead before my flight descends into Chennai’s sweaty air.

 

Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan
Windy Day from Chumphon to Koh Phangan

We reached Koh Phangan, and were forewarned about the expensive taxis. We attempted to bargain with the ‘Songthaew’ [Shared Taxi Vans with an open back] and decided that with our luggage, we were better off to just pick a proper shared taxi that allowed us to reach our hostel. We decided that we will anyway be spending our time on the road, exploring places. It was better we stayed at some place closer to the vibe and energy of the island in the evenings, while we spend the day exploring. We were to get to Haad-Rin area to our hostel, which shared a small lane, across a small lake and had a grassy outback path to the sun-rise beach (Haad Rin Noi).

 

Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan
Jaya Hostel Road at Haad-Rin-Koh Phangan

One of the things with landing in a place, is to walk around and observe what the place has. We also had some research planned on what would be the things we would explore on the island, since we had booked our return flights and booked accommodation for about 4 of the 8 nights, thinking we will figure the rest based on what we discover. We calmed our excited nerves by walking down the road that led to the beach, reminding ourselves that we were on a budget, and we stick to our fruit diet for the trip to minimise costs and stay hydrated in Tropical Koh Phangan.

Fruits at Haad-Rin
Fruits at Haad-Rin

We walked over to the beach, ambling about the Westernization of what used to be a quiet little Thai Town. Haad-Rin is pretty much like Calangute today, which we knew, but we were able to get cheaper hostels only in this part of the town, after a search on Hostel booking sites. As we made our way to the beach, we noticed people playing there trying to get under a rope of fire. Some of them sane, and some of them inebriated with a Chang beer in hand. As people get through below, the level gets tougher and from them only the fittest survive it. What was interesting was the camaraderie that was building up between strangers at the fire place, and that was very heart warming. I ended up knowing some of my to-be-hostel mates from the evening. We had just warmed up to the vibes of Koh Phangan

Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan
Fire Dancing in Koh Phangan

We have made a documentary on our adventures till we reached Koh Phangan. Watch Part-1 of our documentary below.

 

#TheBeachTrail2017-India to Koh Phangan in 24 hours-The First Day

This episode talks about travelling from Chennai to Koh Phangan on Day 1 of our trip. The Beach’ was a Danny Boyle movie based on a novel by Alex Garland set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand.Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’.

“When you develop an infatuation for someone you always find a reason to believe that this is exactly the person for you. It doesn’t need to be a good reason.  But in the haze of infatuation, it’s just what you’ve been searching for all these years.”  (The Beach-1997-Alex Garland also made as a motion picture by Danny Boyle starring Leonardo Di Caprio)

6 pm– 7th April 2016
At the Airport
At the Airport

 

Walking in the heated cauldron, between the domestic and international terminal, I knew my infatuation was moments away.  In a few minutes, I would be up in the air flying to the object of my infatuation. It was 9 years, since I was infatuated and 20 years since the ‘infatuation’ came to life. It was a novel called ‘The Beach’ which was my infatuation. I connected with the book and the dialogues so much, that I had to probably relive the novel by traveling on the same trail. That beach trail! My object of infatuation and I had to celebrate 20 years of the book being written by being on the same trail!

 
March 2016
 
The DVD of ‘The Beach’ lay in my shelf, bruised from the number of times, its been called on for moments of inspiration. As the bandwidth became better over the years, I just chose Youtube and Google Play for playing it. But what was probably missing in these 9 years was to maybe do the trail that ‘Richard’ did. There’s a whole lot of a difference between real travel and vicarious travel, and at some point, I had to break the shackles that the ‘mental disorders’ I suffered from. As a traveller, who wanted to teach his little son the beauty of geography by traveling each summer to the lands that he was to study, I suffered from the normal mental disorders that city bred B-School educated people have by choosing the safe life which had 2 house EMI’s choking the explorer in me. My son and I had seen enough videos on youtube of ‘The Beach’ and the trail that lay ahead in Thailand. I mean enough videos that popped in my “Watch Again” list on Youtube.
 
“If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
― Alex Garland- The Beach
 
This quote got my goat. It felt like a bunch of words, slit me through my neck and told me ‘No more excuses’. I called up my friends over a whatsapp group and decided to go ahead and book. I was not quite sure when to go and whether #TheBeachTrail would be possible. We went over to many of the travel planning sites and started entering the destination pair rates one by one, and we found the visual map search on SkyScanner called ‘Inspire’ interesting that it allowed us to see prices of destinations from Chennai in one visual map.
Bangkok seemed a lot cheaper, than some of the other destinations like Colombo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur. In one long WhatsApp Conversation, the three of us decided on Bangkok to plan our onward and return tickets, and to figure out the rest of things on the go. Tickets booked, we all knew that the that ‘slitting’ quote was behind us. We were going to Alex Garland’s world like Richard did.
 
Now
 
Ok. Who is Alex Garland? Who is Richard? Why are they even important?
Alex Garland was a writer who wrote a book called The Beach’ which was also converted into a Danny Boyle movie which was set in the late 90’s in Thailand around discovering a secret beach. They follow a trail on Thailand’s south east coast along the gulf of Thailand to find that ideal place for life, where only happiness exists! Paradise basically. Seeking the same backpacker spirit of enquiry and awe for people and nature, we are trying to explore that trail to inspire people to take this journey through our tales and also the iconic movie ‘The Beach’.
9:05 pm– 7th April 2016
 
The Air Asia flight was in an hour, and I still had not checked in my luggage. The three of us had met earlier this morning having a look at our luggage for the trip. We had a small equation to solve before we checked in. I had 2 camera bags and a huge suitcase( mostly empty). My friends had single bags. Air Asia allowed us with only 1 bag weighing 7 kg for each of us, and one suitcase of 20 kg (which is the paid luggage we had declared). After 10 minutes of manic scrambling and re-arranging our baggages, we had our weights exactly showing 7 kg for each of the 3 bags, and 20 kg’s for the bag. The Air Asia guy at the terminal was smiling at our level of planning. He removed some heavy paper stickers on suitcase from previous trips, and it brought the weight down to 19.8 Kgs. Our first major port of trouble had been sorted! 
Winning the Luggage War with Air Asia
Winning the Luggage War with Air Asia
 
As soon as we got into the flight, we got our seats. 11A, 11B and 11C. Those numbers were about to transport us away from the familiar as the humid night of Chennai merged with the pleasant morning of Bangkok. Once the seat belts sign were lit up, our world back home in India switched off, as we were on an epic journey to relive a movie. A movie where we were viewers, to maybe a character in the movie. We trusted the armrests and minimal angle backrests with our dreams of our holiday as travelers, along with scores of tourists. I asked myself-why do we place so much trust in travel and places to transform our world. Was the hidden energies in the world subliminally telling us to listen in and call it intuition? Maybe
We landed in Bangkok, bleary eyed and ready for action, as we had to land at 3:30 am, and board our bus in Khao San Road, which was about 30 odd kilometres from the Don Muang Airport. A rushed card drive on an Uber, meant we were well in time at 5 30 am for our 6 am bus. I noticed a French co-passenger in an interestingly captioned shirt, which admonishes Mondays. We were in a zone that did not require us to know which day of the week it was. We were pleasantly teeing off the Saturday with a nice ride in a Lomprayah Bus+ Ferry ticket across the eastern nerve centre of Thailand’s tail.
Never Say Monday
Never Say Monday

Watching the Thai countryside unfold layer by layer, I noticed that the country had a wonderful roadway infrastructure. I never remember seeing pothole ridden roads on my commute 0n the Lomprayah Bus. It alternated between clean roads, crowded junctions, forests shrouded in green and brown until Hua Hin, and then from then on we started seeing beaches a couple of feet from the bus as we alternated between beaches and green reserves of forests, before making way inside the Chumphon National park to reach the pier.

At the Pier, we were blown away by what we saw. The transition from being spectators to being a character had been complete. We were in Thailand staring at a beach that had waters alternating between Green and Blue. We had enough green cover where the palm trees grew over one another on hills by the beaches. Our dream #TheBeachTrail2017 was about to begin.

Chumphon's magical colours-Thailand
Chumphon’s magical colours-Thailand

If you are itching to know what happened on the Ferry, do watch the below video film of our trip which has more details as part of the Trailer.

To view the rest of the posts, click below for

Part-1-Where we settle in Koh Phangan

Part-2-Where we discover our beach bum traits at Coco-Hut

Part-3-In Search of Chaloklum’s paradise

Part-4-Celebrating ‘The Beach’ in Anthong and Songkaran in Ko Tao

Travel Postcards #7

This edition of the Travel Postcard features Cola Beach in Goa.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

Kola Beach(Goa) from above
Kola Beach(Goa) from above

Travel is about exploring and finding vistas. Sometimes you dont get a cookie, and at times you get a great surge of blood running through your veins, when you see a picturesque background. This was on the 1st of January 2017, when I decided to cross a little lagoon, holding my camera bag above my head, and hoping I dont drown. A little hill trek, a barren mud track trek with no directions and then to find this view from the hill! I was exploring Cola Beach on a trek from Agonda Beach, and this view totally made the hike worth it. I had put my son to sleep in the afternoon, and got a couple of hours to trek to a nearby place. Cola seemed like fun to do, and I ended up on the trek with some great visuals. That is the next series of articles coming up on KatchuTravels this February.

You can check earlier editions of the Travel Postcards right here

Travel Post Cards- Series #6

Its interesting to see how a city’s looks and roads can change in the monsoon season. The Konkan coast has a raging sea of brown and is green all around on land, while the east coast of India is more susceptible to cyclones coming its way and changing the way the city looks. Trees are uprooted, roads are swallowed by stagnant water, the land is enroached by the sea, electricity takes a break and the city starts to look a little different. Here are a few clicks from the savage Chennai rains of the 2015. So this series of the postcards is about how different cities can look due to a changing season!

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

Traffic Jams during rains in Chennai
Traffic Jams during rains in Chennai
Whatever remains of the Marina Beach in Chennai
Whatever remains of the Marina Beach in Chennai

Do you have any thoughts on how different your living space looks? Do let us know.

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 4

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

After our time at Honeymoon beach in Part-3, where we did not get down, we proceeded to the next beach called Butterfly beach. Enroute was a small slowdown of the boat at a couple of rocks. Our Boatman suddenly got quizzical and asked me what that shape looked like, since I had a camera on my neck. I did not see any pattern emerging, and no amount of trigonometry or geometry could help me at that instant. I was torn between spotting dolphins on either sides, and his question kind off caught me off guard.

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And then when he went around the next rock, that looked like a turtle, and it turns out that when he asked me the question, he could see the second rock, while we could not based on our positions in the boat. A bird was perched on a spot where it wont be disturbed.

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Some of my friends on the boat were waiting for the ‘promised land’ to arrive. Kaustav was already relaxed and still looking out for dolphins that cared to say ‘hi’. None did. We met Kaustuv( A solo traveller from Pune), during a dinner at a restaurant in Agonda. Shyam, is a known friend, who lives in Bangalore, so it was easy to hop in for him, while Veeranna was holidaying with some known friends on the Hampi-Gokarna-Goa circuit, when I asked him to come over using a night train. He nearly got off at Loliem ( A station before Cancona), but could not find any trace of humans to ferry him, so he came 15 hours later, after having to go to Madgaon and then find his way to our cottage.

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And then we saw ButterFly Beach from the distance. It seemed to have deep tow, with a huge slope. It is not easy for non-swimmers to spend time in the water, purely because of the way the water swells, near the coast. The beach looked pristine though being surrounded by mountains. The only way to reach here is the boat, and that’s what Google will tell you. What Google may not tell you is that, there is a secret path from Agonda Village right into this beach. The locals were reluctant to talk about it, since it endangers their livelihood, but an auto-driver agreed that there was a path, but it was laden with cheetahs. Whether the Cheetah part was true, I am not sure, but it makes for a fascinating trek and discovery to Butterfly Beach.

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We spent time looking at the high cliffs surrounding the beach, and marvelling at the isolated patch of sand in the wilderness. Collecting Shells, watching the sky above, climbing the rocks to pose- ‘These are a few of our favourite things’, that we ended up doing in the 20 minutes that were there.

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While clicking photos for everyone, as is the rite of passage on any trip, I managed to click a decent one of myself, thanks to Veeranna. I thought the rocks in the background, with the coast being a level above made for a good frame.

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Kaustuv and Shyam, managed to find some peace up in the cliffs, but the boatman was’nt quite at peace with himself. He had another boat trip in 15 minutes, and we were about to mess with his next slot. So, I had to coordinate it and get the 4 of us back to the boat. A couple of more hours of lazing around, would have seemed the best thing to do on a beach like this. This beach is remote and there is nothing to eat, so its advisable to come were with food (and please bring a dustbin bag to put the waste inside and dispose at the right places on the mainland)

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It was 10 minutes to go, and Dinesh took off, seeing calls on his mobile.

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We just managed enough time for a quick selfie with all of us, while Dinesh was still speaking on the phone assuring his customer, that he was just around the curve of the beach. We were done! We were to go back and chill on the beach, have breakfast and start back home, with memories of a paradise called Agonda!

 

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