Friday, 15 June 2012

A Holiday at Andaman - A Review - Day 1

This is Part II. If you have not read Part I of this review, you can do so by clicking here --> Day 0

Day 1: 15 June, 2012

Arrive at Port Blair:
Uneventful flight. Landed at Port Blair Airport at 06:00AM. Port Blair airport is really small and looks more like a farmhouse with a small runway. Tip: Photography is not allowed at Port Blair Airport. The area is filled with AK-47 wielding soldiers everywhere, including the runway.

Mr.David of AITPL was ready at the departure with 2 flower bouquets in hand. Our pick-up vehicle was a white Toyota Innova (just for the 2 of us - again appreciated that we did not have to share a bus with other noisy tourists). 

Mobile Networks: 
Tata Docomo does not have service in Andaman and it does not allow connection to any other network also. The only mobile operators available are Vodafone, Airtel and of course, BSNL. And only BSNL supports 3G network in case you cannot live without your smartphone. If you want to take a new connection in Andaman, there is a Vodafone store near Sun Sea Resort, Middle Point. Documents required - one ID proof that has your address and one photo. It costs Rs.49 for a new connection and it is activated immediately.

Not a great time to visit Andaman. It rains like crazy - but it lasts only 5 minutes and it repeats atleast once every hour from 04:00PM to midnight. The best time to visit, according to folks there is between September and November.

If you have been to Kerala - it is an exact copy of the same. Lots of small hillocks, green fields, and a load of coconut trees. Fully green and refreshing.

Being a hub for the Navy, it is always filled with officers and is extremely strict on rules. Be careful where you smoke. Make sure you are not standing in front of a government building. Despite being an Union Territory, alcohol is as expensive as it is in Bangalore. And good watering holes are extremely difficult to find.

Sadly, most people do not understand English. Surprisingly, Hindi is the most common language, followed by Bengali and Tamil. However, it is not difficult to find English speaking people who are willing to help.

Sun Sea Resort:
 The hotel we selected was Sun Sea Resort at Middle Point, Andaman. According to internet reviews, this is one of the best hotels in Port Blair - yet we were outright disappointed. It was a "normal" hotel - pretty far from the sea and the staff are outright rude. The restaurant is pretty good - but the bar is bad and not very nice to women - they stare! The toilet was not in the best of conditions, but bearable. Window A/Cs instead of Split. Age old Television - but has most English, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam channels.

Lunch @ Hotel Sun Sea!
If this is one of the best hotels, then I do not want to imagine what condition the others are in. Anyhow, I would recommend to avoid this hotel just because of the "I-Give-A-Damn" attitude of the staff. 

Anyhow, The fruit basket was there, the flower basket was there and so were the rose petals on the bed. It was fun. ;) Everything as promised. Thanks AITPL! After staying awake all night, we slept until 10:00AM. Had lunch at the hotel restaurant and started off for the city tour.

Tip: Do not drink normal plain water from anywhere. Always go for Bottled Mineral Water.

City Tour - 1) Chatham Saw Mill:
One of the oldest and biggest saw mills in Asia, Chatham Saw Mill is quite a sight. It is fun to watch the huge logs of wood moving on conveyors and even bigger machines cutting them up into planks. You can walk all around the plant and watch people go about their jobs. The small museum is also a must-see. Altogether you may need just about 45 minutes to cover the whole place. 
Chatham Saw Mill

City Tour - 2) Corbyn's Cove Beach:
Said to be ideal for swimming, but not too great. Much like the normal beaches in Kerala. Nothing too spectacular. You can go for a jet-ski ride here if you want, but I would suggest not getting wet here, cos' there is more to see. Spend some time, have some hot coffee and samosas and head off to see the rest of Port Blair. Around an hour should be enough here.

Corbyn's Cove Beach
City Tour - 3) Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex:
You can do the usual stuff like jet skiing, scuba diving, speed boats etc. But these are available for you all over the island and you can do it anytime you want. Save it for later!

City Tour - 4) Museums:
There are a hell lotta museums here to see. We skipped them all *yawn* and head straight to Cellular Jail.

Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex

City Tour - 5) Cellular Jail:
Have enough time on your hands for this one. Be warned - If you are an Indian and are of the patriotic kind then you will have a lump in your throat throughout this tour. This is the only part of our honeymoon that both of us were silent and sad. Architecturally - this is a wonder. It looks beautiful. But you can actually feel death in the air. Be sure not to miss the Gallows and also to climb to the top-most area of the central tower. It is beautiful and sad at the same time. And then is the much famed "Light and Sound Show". All are escorted outside at 04:30PM and the jail is closed. You have to get a fresh ticket for the show that starts at 06:00PM. The biggest regret for us is that our show got cancelled due to bad weather. *sniff* *sniff* We swore to be back here again soon during a better season. 
Cellular Jail
Back to Hotel: 
That was Day 1 for you. We got back home, had our dinner and slept like logs of wood, tired from all the traveling and sad from our visit to the Cellular Jail. Shortly, it is a day well spent - a day to be remembered.

Tip: Carry a lot of extra clothes if you are going during the rainy season. The rains are heavy and it is extremely windy. There is no use for umbrellas! 

Read Part III of this review here --> Day 2
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