Trip to the Andaman Islands

Our flight is at 11 am to Port Blair, capital and gateway of the Andaman Islands. The flight was initially at 12:50 but then advanced to 10:55. The boarding gate is different from the one printed on the tickets, but well nothing happens. Before the flight, of course, we cross the controls and that's it, we're going to Andaman!

We arrived at Port Blair at 13:40. We get a prepaid taxi to the port with two more guys, but we do not have time to catch the ferry. In August, only the government ferry operates, at 6:30 in the morning and at 2:00 pm. Another slightly more expensive and faster operates in high season.

We go to the hostel that is very close to the ferry dock. It is not good but it is quite clean and we are interested in its location. We have lunch in an excellent restaurant recommended by the hostel and also some locals with tiger prawns, squid (also soup, rice, drinks).

From there we go to the nearby Carbyns Cove Beach, 7 km from the city. It is not a beach comparable to those of Havelock, but it is pleasant and we spent the afternoon with the new friends. Between beers we decided that we will take together the ferry that leaves at 6:30 in the morning. So we all go to dinner and to sleep soon, as tomorrow we will have to get up early.

Day 2

At 5:30 we go to the port to buy the tickets. At 6:30, the ferry leaves for Havelock. Having bought them on the same day, the part of the boat with seats is already full, and we have to go on the deck. The journey lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes that we take advantage of to read and see the landscape.

The remote Andaman Islands are a great destination for scuba divers and nature lovers. This archipelago shelters extensive and virgin coral reefs, jungles with wild animals, mangroves and impressive empty beaches. Of the 550 islands, only 26 are inhabited, originally by Adivasi indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Although at present most of the inhabitants of the islands are immigrants from mainland India, leaving only about 1,000 people of indigenous origin.

Arriving at the port, we pass through an open-air office. After crossing the ramp, we arrive at the island where the thrishaw try to take us to our hostel. We go to our resort and we arrive promptly. The place is beautiful. In all this part of the island the low tide is towards 12 and it returns to raise and to be apt for the bathe towards 5 in the afternoon.

The little cabins are very simple, with shower and sink, but without a bathroom. The beds are on a higher floor, so it is very practical to enter and exit without leaving everything full of sand. In the central area there is a restaurant, and a meeting place for guests. The bar does not serve alcohol, but they allow to bring it from the alcohol store in the main town.

The beach is quiet, and very beautiful. The trees remain above the water at high tide. At the beach number 5, is where most of the resorts are. We ate on the same road of the resort with rolls, pakoras and noodles. Then we went to the wine shop in the town to stock up before returning to take another swim.

We rent a motorbike to go Radhanager beach number 7. It is about 14 km from the other side of the island. The beach, chosen several times as the most beautiful in Asia, is certainly beautiful, although under the grass and vegetation proliferate plastic bottles and dirt, something sadly common in too many Asian beaches. The forest behind the beach with its tall trees is beautiful.

The wind blows strong and the waves beat in the sand. We walk through Radhanager until we reach Neil Cave, a kind of lagoon at the end of the beach that we see but where we did not stay, since there are warnings that there may be crocodiles.

On the way back we tried to go to Elephant Beach, but we did not enter as some let us know that there is still an hour to walk. So we go back and decided to see her when we go snorkeling there. With the motorcycle, we continue to town 6, where there is a quiet village completely foreign to the tourism of the coast.

We eat soups, shrimp fritters, chicken, vegetable rolls. There we met a French couple who came with us on the ferry and they tell us that they have stayed to go snorkeling the next day. From there we went to the port to buy the return tickets, but they do not sell them to us because they say it is closed at 16:15, with them inside.

We go to the south of the island, where there is supposedly an elephant farm but when we arrive they tell us that they are in the hotel on the beach number 7. On the way to the south we see deserted little beaches of white sand and always, in the background, the intense green of the jungle. When we arrived we bathed in the moonlight before going to have dinner with the friends. We have fish, lasagna, rice, rotis, tuna. Here they also let us open the wine since they do not serve alcohol.

Day 3

We get up early. The snorkel is not good, and Elephant Beach is not (it seems that it was before the tsunami) but we still enjoy the day and see a sea snake! We eat and from there we go to the port to process the return tickets. As it rains we decided to return the rented motorbike. Even so we dedicate to walk and buy shirts for nephews, before going to bathe with jellyfish and go back to eat.

In the afternoon, we give ourselves a Ayurveda massage. And at night we dined with the dignified Indian wine, to say goodbye to that fantastic place.

Day 4

In the morning, at 9, we take ferry to Port Blair. We arrived and we moved to the hotel, which must be the best of the town. The place, on top of a small hill on the sea, is privileged and it is close to the restaurant and the town. Port Blair has a large boulevard full of shops where we can shop comfortably and more pleasantly than in other parts of India.

In the afternoon we go to the town. We visit Cellullar Jail. It is an interesting visit, both for what it represented for the island and for the prisoners, as well as for the type of penitentiary architecture.

The dinner takes an eternity with chicken, rice, prawns but the restaurant has a great terrace full of men who drink alcohol. Back to the hotel, we extend the night in the bar that closes at 11.

Trip to the Andaman Islands

Diwali Weekend in Agra

At the end of October, Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in India, which mobilizes the country for five days. This festival of lights consists in venerating the gods to attract long life and prosperity. It is celebrated with family, and is manifested outside by garlands, candles, fireworks, evoking a mixture of Christmas and July 14.

A few weeks before, we already see the locals decorate their homes. The stores also illuminate their facades, taking advantage of this moment where the euphoria is mixed with the usual effervescence. As festive days approach, firecrackers resound in our neighborhood. We enjoy it from the roof of our building.

My friend invites me at his home in Agra. I go buy train tickets at the station and wander in old town on the return. The next day at 5:15, I reach the station near my home on foot. During the holiday season, the trains are crowded and the six hours of travel are not very comfortable. As often, the train is late, and my friend has been waiting for me at Agra station since 1:30.

We meet and buy flowers and sweets for the lakshmi puja at home. At home, the parents of my friend and his little sister warmly welcome me and invite me to nibble potato fries. I go for a nap in the room I have been assigned as I have to be in shape for the evening that awaits me. When I wake up, my friend was preparing the diya in a large metal tray.

Our mission is to put in each clay cup a cotton wick and a spoon of ghee or mustard oil. It's a very enjoyable activity. I discover things and the calm of the house makes me feel good. We lit all the candles and carried the tray outside to arrange them in the driveway. My friends sister decorates a colorful sand plateau welcoming guests. His mother offers us each a traditional outfit.

At prayer time we all sit around the temple of the home. It is a small reserved room, flanked by the living room, where an altar houses statues of deities, flowers, containers, rice, incense. Today, a plate filled with dried cow dung is deposited there. In turn, we proceed to the ritual of prayer. We dip the ring finger in a red pigment to mark statuettes, pieces and dung.

We then have some flowers in these same places, and we throw rice. Finally, we lift the cup of food and the glass of water, for a prosperous future. We play the game very seriously, without fully understanding the meaning. The guests arrive. I spend the evening with my friends uncle, his wife and children. We put chairs and benches in front of the house, and we take a seat to watch the family fireworks.

In this residential area, all the families are outside and each one has a little show. We stay there for a good half hour, then come back to enjoy the hearty meal. We have malai kofta, dal with cream and butter, and paratha. To end the feast, everyone begins to sing under the guidance of the aunt, a singing teacher. First reluctant to their solicitations, I still start.

The uncle beats the rhythm on the marble table, and the traditional songs in local languages ​​are linked together. It is in this warm atmosphere that our evening Diwali ends at 2 am.

Day 2

The morning's sleep makes me miss the post Diwali prayer. I swallow a hearty breakfast at noon with cold milk, corn flakes and grilled bread. We plan to visit Fatehpur Sikri, located 40 km west of Agra. We leave around 9:45, with a full belly, in a auto rickshaw with my friend. It takes one hour to reach the fortified city.

We first visit the complex of palaces and pavilions built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the late sixteenth century, to mark the new capital of his empire. He stayed there 14 years till he realize that here, the water is less drinkable than elsewhere. The sandstone buildings are separated by esplanades, courtyards and gardens.

They originally welcomed the wives, concubines and maidservants of the emperor. Tourists are numerous. We meet a couple of retirees who tell us about their upcoming visit to Jaipur. I also meet my friends uncle, who is a tour guide and gives us some information. Like most UNESCO sites, it's nice, clean and quiet.

Outside the compound, the Jama Masjid Mosque is worth a detour. We appreciate the free admission, but the street vendors are invasive. A white marble tomb is erected in the immense courtyard delimited by imposing buildings. It houses the body of the one who predicted the birth of an Akbar heir, a truth that initiated the construction of the capital.

We enjoy the view of the small town of Fatehpur as well as the Elephant Tower before joining the shuttle bus back. We return to Agra around 4, with the same auto rickshaw which waited for us. We are hungry and we have some specialties of South India and I eat greedily until saturation. I rest to digest until 9.

All together, we go to his uncle's place, to eat again as much as possible. At dinner, we quickly organize our next day. We spend a good time with the family, having fun with the uncle's jokes. We come back late, and we collapse on our mattresses.

Day 3

At 8:15, we leave the house to reach the bus that takes us to Jaipur in 5 hours. We return home filled with the warm welcome we have been given. We are refreshed like after a weekend in our families.

Diwali Weekend in Agra