To Paradise in Steerage

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April 7th 2007
Published: April 7th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY


Sunset on #7
It has been far to long....... (sorry its a long entry)

It starts off being convinced to spend 3 days on a boat with 500 other Indians and shitty food. I really was going to skip the Andaman Islands and part with Martin in Chennai and make my way to Hyderbad and then Kolkotta. But this Kiwi in our hostel made me think when he said the Andaman islands are one of the last unspoiled beach paradises without an international airport and huge resorts on the best beaches. How could I say no to that. I thought about flying and the boat but decided to take the boat and spend time with more of my traveling buddies Martin and the Croat marko. I was also convinced that this would be a great way to escape India but still be able to see the culture. The boat was not as bad as I expected. Yes parts of it were a shit hole and there were lots of roaches and rats but thats just India. I found that if you throw the roaches some food before you start eating they don't run on your plate and spoil the already disgusting
My bunkMy bunkMy bunk

notice the happy birthday bear pillow i bought right before we got on the boat. It was great.
thali that they served every day (It was ok the first day but having the same spicy meal 3 times a day wears on you). Indians are a lot more fun to be around when they are not scheming to rip you off or sell you something. In fact I had a great time mingling with the people when I wasn't sleeping. Martin actually made such good friends that the guys were tearing up when we got off the ship. I just wanted to sleep as long as I could and not be bothered.

A description of the ship: If you can imagine a really crappy cruise ship that is covered in soot and turns all of your clothes black when you sit down you are on the right path. The beds were not so bad and we slept in bunks with about 200-300 other people with fans and small port holes for air. The temperature was pleasant during the day but got fairly hot in the bunks and i usually just slept without a shirt during the day. The only mistake I made doing that was I bought a bamboo mat to sleep on top of the thin
Sunset on Beach #7Sunset on Beach #7Sunset on Beach #7

It does not get much better than this.
cushion on the berth but I didn't think (as I often don't) and by the third day I had a terrible rash and my back felt like pins and needles. Thanks to martin rubbing my back with iodine for the first 2 nights in the Andaman nothing happened (a lot of people get nasty infections or just get sick because of the heat and humidity in the andamans). The boat pretty much just involved drinking a lot of chai, sleeping and talking about America with the Spanish girl Paoula and her boyfriend Alfonso, making fun of Britain with the crazy British guy, and listening to Jouris the stoner Dutch guy laugh and say "thats fucking crazy man." Suprisingly the sea was very calm for the whole ride and we saw hundreds of dolphins when we arrived in port blair. The only thing that pissed me off about the boat was of course the trash disposal. They had all these bins all over the boat but in the end they just threw them overboard when it got full. Also, if you looked over into the sea at the right time you could see a river of poop shoot out of the

Jouris and martin entertaining Indian passengers on the boat.
boat into the water to spoil the beautiful bay of bengal and andaman sea. They continued to do this within view of the islands and port blair, there homes. It is beyond my comprehension. They also did this really funny thing where they washed the boat every morning at about 11 am. So you would be sitting in your bunk and then all the sudden water would start pouring in the port hole and pool up in steerage. I guess it was to long of a walk down 5 steps to warn us. Gotta love India.

When we arrived in Port Blair Martin and I decided to leave the others and not stay in port blair for a night. How could we stay in another crappy Indian town when there was such nice beaches and snorkeling so close. We ended up getting the boat to Havelock instead of the less developed (neither are really developed) because we would then have to stay the night in port blair. It was a good decision. We ended up meeting the owner of this hostel on our boat named Alex. He is the smoothest (sometimes creepy) and most intelligent of the hostel owners we have met. He seems like he runs the island in a way. We decided to give his hostel a try with this dutch guy Fedi who is a reporter that quit his job to travel for a year. The place was a lot like the Goan Corner in Hampi. Amazing people, good food and a great atmosphere. The beach was very nice, a little rocky but nothing beats sitting in a hammock looking at the crystal clear Andaman sea. I can say this... The Andaman islands are the most beautiful islands I have ever seen in my life. I have never seen beaches with such clear water, huge fish, surrounded by dense jungle. The most famous beach Havelock #7 was voted the best beach in Asia right before the tsunami. It is pretty easy to see why when you are there. The first night we met some great people. There was Paul this hilarious British guy whose email I wish I had gotten before I left and this other guy chris. Martin and I had some beers and chatted with them for awhile. We got up early and headed to the jetty to see if anyone would let us join them on there fishing boat. When we failed misreably at that we decided to see if we could get a cheap boat that would take us to some other islands. Because India has crazy bureaucracy no foreigners are allowed on uninhabited islands so we decided to give in and just got snorekling at some spots that are on havelock but not easy to get to by boat. The snorkeling was amazing. THe best part was swimming with the endangered oliver ridley sea turtle. It has been one of my dream to sea a sea turtle in the wild but getting to swim with one was amazing. They are really beautiful in the water. Martin and I ended up swimming with it for about twenty minutes. THey are the first reptile I have seen that look like they have intelligence. Martin ended up diving down to try and touch it but it just swam in circles with him staying just far enough away so he could not touch it. The coral was amazing. There was so much diversity (I am glad i took that rocks for jocks Coral reefs class in college). We say clown fish (neemo), parrot fish, angels,
A little moonlight entertainmentA little moonlight entertainmentA little moonlight entertainment

The beach looked so great with the full moon and clear water. It reminded me of that scene in contact where she ends up in another world and it is a full moon beach scene. It almost looked fake.
and so much more. The only downside to this was watching the Indian tourists. Many Indians do not know how to swim so when they come to the andamans they snorkel with a tube around them and a rope attached to a "guide". what ends up happening is they jump around all over the coral and kill it.Not all of them do this but almost everyone we saw on elephant beach that day was. To our advantage though we just swam out past where they could stand and then the coral became really healthy and abundant. Hopefully the government becomes as vigilant enforcing the laws about concerning the protection of the reefs as they are about the laws concerning foreign tourists. Then the fight began!!!!!!! When we were ready to leave elephant beach and go to our next stop our driver told us no and made us return to the beach where we left from. We decided that since he only gave us half of what he promsied he would be paid half of his money. He was having none of that though. He said we had to pay him all of the money. Everything was calm untill we decided that we would settle this at the police station. The police on the andamans were not the brightest of the bunch. He came out without his shirt on chewing beetlenut and already decided on sideing with his fellow islanders (that was to be expected). THe problem was that he used the worst logic and couldn't even add correctly. I don't want to go to far into this story becuase in the end we paid him 500 of 700 ruppes and the owner admitted he was wrong. This was after martin started screaming and threw his water bottle in the air to the amazement of the Indian police and fishermen. Sometimes in India you pick your battles but this one we all thought was worth fighting on principle because the money is worthless (about 10 USD split between 3 people). It gave us some good stories to tell over dinner where we ended up meeting a bunch of new arrivals. Its always great to bond with other travelers in a chill atmosphere and tell good and bad stories and thoughts on India. We ended up meeting 2 canadians Tammy and kathy, 2 american sisters Katie and Sarah, and Andre from norway. These people were some of the best i have met in India so far. Everyone had great stories, experiences, and insight to share. I am also convinced that the owner alex only let hot girls stay in his place because for some reason every girl in this place was really beautiful. That is in no way a complaint either. Even though I have let martin rub iodine on my back and sleep in the same bed with me I have not changed that much. The third day we headed over to beach number seven for some swimming and snorkeling. This is the beach i mentioned before. Its pretty amazing to arrive at a beach like this at 9 am and only see one other person. Your really cannot beat that at all. THe snorekling was ok, I saw some nice fish and a moray eel but the swimming and relaxing was much better. There are 2 hotels on this beach, one is a tent village and the other is a really expensive for india (100 USD a night) resort set behind the jungle. It just blows away any other beach I have ever been to in terms of its beauty

THats marko, paul, me, martin, katie and sarah.
and the amount of people. There were even dugongs (manatees) the last day i was there but unfortunatly i had to leave to make a boat so I only saw them from the beach. The nights at pristine beach resort involved a lot of lassis, coconut chocolate pancakes, and fruit salads. You really cannot beat that. The only thing that could have been better was beer other than fosters (its better than nothing). We all decided that the next day we would rent a boat and go see some other islands. Alex chartered his boat for us and took us out to button island and some other uninhabited island. THe snorkeling was really nice. We saw 7 huge stingrays, lobsters, a school of about 20 kilo parot fish, some nice coral and the chance to run around on some uninhabited island which we later found out why they dont want people going on. When our boat driver pulled up on shore we got off to walk around and we start hearing rustling in the jungle. It ends up our freakin driver is chopping down a tree for firewood. Only in India. THe bastard was chopping it up while his son
two hot sisterstwo hot sisterstwo hot sisters

Isn't that a cliche plot of some shady porno. But seriously girls, keep in touch. If you ever find your way out to minneapolis give me a holler. I told you that I write bad things about people I dont like on my blog but there wasnt much bad to say. The nice thing about meeting people in situations like this is you can have conversations with people you just met and feel like you have been friends for years. Thanks for the good times. Keep in touch.
(or his apprentice) was picking up jellyfish and showing them to us. I think he was one of those kids that does not feel pain. The next two days were spent lazing around doing nothing. On my second to last day I tried to rustle up the crew to go snorkeling on elephant beach again but the girls couldn't get there shit togather. By the time we did the 30 minute hike through the jungle (we saw some snakes which scared the shit out of paul the brit) and through the muddy mangrove swamp which hopefully did not have crocs in it) the tide was to far out and the sun to far down for us to do anything. Instead we caught a bus to beach number 7 and watched an amazing sunset and one helluva swim as the sun was fading away. We made it back in time to get drunk and go to the 70's disco party. What a night that turned out to be. We heard about it the night before when we checked out the fancy restraunt on the island known as the red snapper in the wild orchid hotel run by a canadian women married to an Indian. The food was great and for 6 USD i got a great tuna steak, jasmine tea and a great brownie for desert which the damn american girls ate more of than I did. Back to the disco. So we sit around ordering double shots of indina whisky and brandy. So indian whisky tastes like downing some tar, masala chai mix mixed with a touch of sewage. THe moment it hits your lips it makes you instantly gag. After two double shots of those I stuck to the brandy. I don't think I have been that pissed since the last night of college. I was a complete mess. It was also the best nights I had on the island and this trip. That had to do with the alcohol and the people i was with. We had a blast. I ended up loseing my sandals, taking off my shirt and dancing at one point, running in the water iwth my pants on, walking home 2 km barefoot, dancing like a freakshow, and I may or may not have been groped by an Indian sailor (well that is a lie but I do have a picture with one). I

I feel bad. I think he thought we were making fun of his english. He actually has a great grasp on english. When we were laughing at him it was not his english but the way he told his stories with such bluntness. ALthough the joke about why a dog licking his own eggs was pretty funny. I guess in croatian eggs and balls are the same words. so he told the joke why does a dog lick his own eggs, because he can. But thats an honest mistake. Keep in touch marko. I hope to make it to zagreb one day and try your grappa.
am glad that when I drink I know my limits so I can be as crazy as I was but not puke or pass out. I think some of the others were worried when i started drinking beer at the party but I was ok. THat must have been because at some point before we left I did drop my pants to show off my boxers. There is no reasonable explanation for this other than indian whisky is more dangerous than tequila. When a few people bailed on the midnight swim I thought it would be funny to jump on them and roll around wet on there beds. I don't think they found it as funny as I did. Anyway it was a great night. IT was so much fun to just get absolutly pissed and let everything go. I am also glad that I made such good friends in that place. ITs not often you meet really cool americans on a trip like this. THe ones I have met have been a little shady or old hippies. Its also fun to meet some great canadians and not suprisingly scandanavians when you are at an asian beach area. The thing
Martin and IMartin and IMartin and I

At this point i bet you are thinking are they gay. But when you realize the men that worked in pristine showered togather and sometimes called me sweetheart even after I told them that you dont say that to other guys because it does not mean what you think.
I will remember best about the Andamans is the people and the ridiculous beaches and scenery. I hope if you have read this far down that some day you get out there. I also hope that the sustainable development projects they are trying out like solar power and waste recycling will work out. I really hope that the Indian people realize how special this place is and save it. If they look to the Central and South americans for eco-tourism hints they may succed.

HEre is the sad part (Sorry if it gets cheesy but the heat has fried my brain). Martin and I had to part. He is flying out tomorrow back to Mumbai and then home. Because I shared almost half my trip with him I wanted to say a few words about our friendship. Its not often you meet people you click with like we did. We spent so much time togather hating and loving India. We had some moments where we just wanted to go home and never deal with India again and moments where we were seeing and experienceing some of the greatest moments of our life. I think we both figured out a lot of stuff on this trip. We talked about things neither of us had talked about with other people because we were both doing a little bit of soul searching on this trip. When martin and I met in Hampi he had a keyhole shaved in the back of his head (hes a crazy guy i hope you all get to meet him one day). However, it slowly faded and is now gone. I hope he realizes the symbolism of this. I am pretty positive he is someone I will keep in contact with throughout my life and hopefully get to see again many times. Shit, I often had to share a bed with him and he rubbed iodine on my back for godsakes. By the end we could really read eachother. We almost knew what the other was thinking. WHere we wanted to go, how much we would pay, should we walk or take a rickshaw, and the best if we had just talked to our girlfriends (judged by the huge smiles and positive energy on our faces) Because of this happening and this being midway in my trip I wanted to liste some of the best moments
Is that an indian sailor???Is that an indian sailor???Is that an indian sailor???

Best picture of the night
that we had togather. If you have traveled like this before or anyway you know how much you learn in such a short time about them

1. Climbing the monkey temple 2 times in one day and never looking back. The heat was crazy but you were convinced to go to the andamanans and then convinced me.
2. Swimming in the hampi resevoir.
3. The dusty red trainride to mysore.
4. The accidental viewing of a porno in mysore
5. Watching the maharaja palace lit up on that sunday night.
6. Seeing your face light up when you got in touch with your gf for the first time.
7. Grilled tuna dinner in kochi
8. Mongooses in Kumily
9. Drunk indian on the toursit boat in kochin (WHAAAAAAA)
10. Sleeping on the top of the houseboat in my mosquito net and watching the sunset and rise with our malteese friend
11. Whenever you played that song you wrote (This guy really should be a signed recording artist).
12. The international dinner in Munnar (oh man)
8. hiking in the tea plantation and taking a nap under that tree
9. The damn desert hike in munnar and all the elephant shit.
10. That fucking bastard hostel owner in mamalapurum.
11. ALl the little screaming indian kids on the stone carvings in mamalapurum
12. The fruist muesli in Kumily. Damn that shit was good.
13. Eating watermelon, guava, chikoo, papaya, melons wherever we were at any time thanks to always carrying a knife.
14. The busride to the eagle temple running up the steps only to be accosted by families of indians.
15. Best thali ever in Chennai
16. 18 hour bus ride from munnar
17. Crazy german people.
18. THe andaman islands (i owe you so much for that)
19. The boat ride
20. The mosquito net in mamaluprum
21. Shopping for stone necklaces
22. swimming with the sea turtle
23. Stingrays
24. Sunsets on havelock.
25. Getting a shave while you got a haircut and the guy tried to use a dirty razor on you.
26. Busrides where we thought we would die. Remember when we got air on that bus from kochi to allpepy and all the women were screaming in the back.
27. Getting lost in the rice paddies of Hampi
28. Teaching you englihs and you trying to teach my danish. scrumbudoodle (marshmallow)
29. Getting pissed drunk and having a helluva time on Havelock at the party.

Tak man, you better keep in touch with me!!!!!

OH yah. SO I am in kolkotta now after a very nice air deccan flight from port blair. Its really niec here. everyone talked so much shit about kolkotta. I am sure there are slums but the part I am in is really nice. I really like it. Its so much cleaner and less polluted than mumbai. The streets are clean to indian standards and nobody gives you a hassel. I watched some cricket, shopped around in the fancy stores and ate some good food. I am supposed to move on to darjeeling tomorrow on a night train. I guess we will see what happens.

If you read this you are a real friend.

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


Cricket field in kolkottaCricket field in kolkotta
Cricket field in kolkotta

They love their cricket here. Its a great city. This is one of the minor league teams playing for a chance to make it into the major leagues here.

8th April 2007

Just discovered your blog, I will be going to India in September and cant wait, I heard a lot about the Andaman Islands and Lakshwadweep and have decided to spend a week or two in the Andamans. Cant wait, your blog gets me so excited for india.
8th April 2007

The photos of the beach are gorgeous, the photos of you drunk are wonderful! Live it up as you have three years of school ahead of you...and a girlfriend that doesn't want to hear about cockroaches for the next six months.
8th April 2007

thanks for the note. If you have time spend at least 2 but more like 3 weeks in the andamans. It is amazing. I hope you can spare the time. 7 days was not nearly enough but india is such a big place. Check out the pristine beach resort nad make sure you visit hampi. If you ever need anything dont hesitate to shoot me an email at enjoy, ben
9th April 2007

I am proud of you Ben...
Hey Ben- I have been reading your blogs but did not realize they could be commented on. I just want to say that I am very proud that you have the courage to muster a trip like this - continue you to see through the bad to get to the good. This kind of trip can change your life forever. Hi Betsy - if you are reading this!
10th April 2007

this is making me jealous. i'm taking you to brasil next . . . betsy you can come, too!
10th April 2007

awesome dude!
india sounds awesome man, really nice posts and great photos. sounds like everytime you take a long train/boat ride but then end up in paradise! sweeeeeeet
13th April 2007

Wonderful discription of India and specially Andemans. I m going to Havelock in end of this month, will try pristine beach resort.

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