Saturday, October 10, 2009

I saw an ass today

I have always maintained that there should be a professional certification for parenting and only after that people should be allowed to procreate. Every now and then I see examples that makes view stronger on this. Something similar happened today.
I went to the gym for my usual exercise routine and a father and a son (a kid of approximately 8-9 years walked in). The kid was playing tennis and father called him to join him in gym. The gym instructor also advised him that too much of formal exercise is not good for small children.
Then the drama started, Father pushed the kid on to the treadmill and started it at a speed, the kid started running. After around a minute, the kid is begging and pleading the dad that he wants to get off the machine but the father is not listening. It went on for around 5 minutes and then finally the kid jumped off the machine.
Then the father asked the kid to do push ups. The kid is not able to do push ups and father is reprimanding him and forcing him to push ups.
It went on for quite some time before both of them pushed off. I am sure this is not really the way to inculcate physical fitness in kids.Anyway, just my rant, who am I to say anything about peoples' parenting skills.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Havelock Islands in Andamans

Finally I made the trip to Andaman islands, two days in Port Blair and three days in Havelock islands. It is really a paradise. The beaches are way better than anything that I have seen. Here my trip report.
23-September-2009 06:36 pm
Ready to leave for airport. Walking down to the neighborhood store for last minute purchases related to anti-mosquito cream and some other stuff which was missed over the weekend. All packed up and ready to go.
23-September-2009 07:28 pm
Left residence for the airport. Very anxious to see what is in store in next one week. Got to say that this is the trip that I am most excited about in a long time.
23-September-2009 08:08 pm
Peak hour office returning traffic, taking more time them usual. Makes me more in the mood to get away from all the mess for at least a week.
23-September-2009 09:58 pm
Finally at the airport. Took two hours to reach. Airline counters have a queue, although not a very large one. Check in takes around 20 minutes. I am not sure if it is the vacation of the air travel has picked up in last few months. May be we are seeing the early signs of end of recession.

23-September-2009 10:58 pm
Flight departure time is 11:20 pm. They are still no mood to announce boarding. They are just thinking that if they don't tell, nobody will know. I will give them some more time and see what they have to say. There are many flights delayed, there is a huge slanging match going on at GoAir counter. Apparently customers are very upset at continuing delays in the flight. They never announce the whole delay in one go. They just keep on increasing it 20 minutes at a time.
23-September-2009 11:19 pm
Finally the time has come and they have not announced the boarding, so I decide to go and ask them. They politely tell me that the incoming plane from Chennai is grounded because of technical problem. I am getting worried. If they cancel this flight, my whole schedule is going to get messed.
I go and ask them, if there is any other option that I can take because I have a connecting flight 4:55 AM out of Chennai. They tell me not to worry since they are carrying many onwards international passengers, they will definitely depart no later then 12 AM.
24-September-2009 11:52 pm
I again go and ask them, they tell me that the incoming flight has finally arrived. Things have started looking up. Finally my friend who had left by train earlier in the day from Bangalore also called up and told me that they have reached airport in Chennai.
24-September-2009 12:04 am
Finally we take off from Bangalore to Chennai. Feeling really sleepy.
24-September-2009 01:13 am
Reached Chennai. Very sleepy terminal. People have made makeshift beds out of chairs and are sleeping. I have to kill another 3 hours before next flight. Looking for some Tea Coffee, nothing is there. No food to eat.
24-September-2009 03:46 am
Security check in done for the Port Blair flight. Finally get a coffee, waiting for boarding and departure.
24-September-2009 04:36 am
Flight takes off. It is kind of a longish flight. Takes two hours to reach Port Blair. They serve some snacks. Eat and sleep for a while. The bizarre thing was that they don't carry blankets and pillows. I was surprised at that. Even Jet Airways has then and KF calls itself "The King of Good Times". Anyway, you make do with what you have.
24-September-2009 07:19 am
The approach to the Port Blair airport is truly amazing. You clearly see the natural setup in which the airport is located. It is raining and I am worried that it should not spoil the party for us. We land, the airport is barely functional. You collect the baggage and get out. Barefoot at Havelock people are here to receive us. It is comforting to know that they knew that we were coming and they know what needs to be done. They take us into two SUVs to the TSG Emerald View hotel in Port Blair. We reach the hotel, check-in.
TSG Emerald View hotel is not a great hotel. It is cheap and functional but currently lot's of construction activity is going and it is not really pleasant experience. We chose this hotel because it is part of Barefoot at Havelock's package during return journey.
We decide to do some local sight seeing. Get a cab from hotel and head out in the town. The first stop is the aquarium. It is really good aquarium with lot's of stuff but they don't allow still camera photography. You can take videos.
We go to a beach in Port Blair, just walk around and head to Cellular Jail.
24-September-2009 04:04 pm
Cellular jail is an experience in itself. One can read many stories about it, but to visit it and see the actual stuff is really chilling. Well maintained monument. Visited the Gallows, looked at the Veer Savarkar's cell.
Some interesting stuff from Cellular Jail. From the pre-independence India, most of the people who were sent to this jail were from undivided Bengal. Here are some of the top numbers.

  • Bengal -- 338
  • Punjab -- 73
  • UP -- 10
  • Bombay -- 3, two of these were Savarkar brothers.

Waiting for light and sound show but apparently because of the bad weather the show has been called off.
No choice but to head back to hotel.

 Finally we hit the bed, tomorrow early morning we have to leave for Havelock. The ferry leaves at 06:00 AM.

25-September-2009 04:55 am

We are all ready to leave for the port. The Barefoot pick up is still not here and it is raining heavily. Finally our pickup arrives just in time, we put the luggage and leave for the port. Barefoot people have arranged for tickets and making sure that we board the ferry. The car has to drop us a the gate of port and it is almost half a km. walk in to the port. It is raining heavily. We have two umbrellas and each of us are carrying two pieces of luggage along with making sure that kids follow us. Finally we find the ferry and board it. Most of us are drenched. Kids are not happy at being completely drenched at such early hour in morning.
Barefoot people make sure that luggage is in the boat, put it in luggage shelf and tell us where it is. The boat is ready to leave.
25-September-2009 06:12 am
Ferry leaves Port Blair. It is called Barantang बाराटांग.
25-September-2009 06:58 am
There is no cellular coverage inside the boat but as I reach the upper deck of the boat, there is some spotty coverage. I even tried to do a ustream live broadcast. Some of it did reach the cloud. Here it is. I took lots of pictures en route to Havelock.

25-September-2009 08:48 am

We reach Havelock Jetty. Again the trusty Barefoot people are there to pick up the stuff and guide us to where ever we need to go.

As we are driving from jetty to the resort, the Airtel coverage just vanishes as we reach the resort. We will find out in next few days that the coverage is really not there in the resort but in the Havelock town one can get some decent coverage. Atleast one can send a tweet and check facebook once in a while.

25-September-2009 09:15 am
We reach the resort and check in process is really easy. As soon as we reach, they pick up our luggage and take it to cottages and give us a information form that we need to fill and return back to them. We are advised to have breakfast right away since it is about closing time. We go to the cottages, change and head back for breakfast.
The breakfast is decent, there is choice of veg/non-veg stuff. We eat an assortment of aloo paratha, corn flakes, toast.
The manage of the resort, Julio, meets us at this time and welcomes us and promises us to tell us some dos and don'ts related to the resort in the night.

25-September-2009 11:30 am
We head to the beach right away after the breakfast and spend next 2 hours on the beach. Kids love the beach. This is the best beach that I have been to in my life. The beaches in Goa almost seem over rated compared to this one. The water the clean, not much crowd and no vendors trying to sell stuff to you.

Finally the rain strikes and we head back to the cottage,
25-September-2009 09:00 pm
Walk to the resort restaurant. We order some food. Resort manager Julio joins us and lets us know that resort is full of ants, snakes (even the poisonous ones) and other wild life. Let's us know what we need to do if we find any of these and the need to be careful.
While we are sitting in the restaurant, Diya from the Barefoot Eco Tours drops in. We make a plan to organize the Snorkeling or Kayaking depending on how the weather is.
We finally go to sleep at around 10:30 pm.
26-September-2009 06:21 am
We get up early in the morning all ready to go to Snorkeling but it has been raining really heavily. We are informed by the Eco Tours people that they  are cancelling Snorkeling trip because the rain is really heavy and it is not possible to do that. So we do the breakfast and just roam around the beach and resort pretty much whole day.  Towards the night we spot a snake near the reception stairs and that becomes the spectacle. There are pictures in the slideshow below.

Meanwhile we call up the Scuba people at Barefoot Scuba  and arrange for Scuba Dive to be scheduled for next day. They inform us that even though it is good that people know swimming, for people who have no knowledge of swimming, they have a course called Discover Scuba, at the price of Rs. 4000/- per person where they will teach and do a Scuba Dive. For children between 8 to 13 years, they have a program called Bubble Maker at the price of  Rs. 2000/-.
27-September-2009 06:15 am
We have to reach the Scuba Diving Center before 09:00 am, so we get up early, get ready, do breakfast and take the transport to the diving center. Since Barefoot Scuba and Barefoot resort, both are owned by same entity, they can facilitate the arrangements and even billing. For example the bills for Scuba can be sent and added to your resort bill. Since paying by credit card is a pain in Havelock, it is better that you do it only once.

27-September-2009 09:00 am
We reach the dive center and meet our instructors, Anne and Romila. We need to first fill up the forms and complete other formalities like medical declaration. Once this is done, the presentation start. We are explained the concepts of water pressure, equalization, sign language to be used while underwater and other stuff.
Then we go and have a look a the equipment. How it is to be used. Once the theory part of the training is done, we depart in a boat to Elephant Beach where actual exercises and dive would occur.
Fortunately the weather is good so the boat ride is not very rocky and we take around 40 mins to reach the elephant beach. The boat is anchored and the first two individuals get ready for dive. I decide to go in the first round.
We get into the Scuba gear, the life jacket, cylinder and other stuff. The slowly we practice things like how to breathe through the oxygen mask, how to take out water if it fills the mask, equalization, how to find the mask if it falls off within the water.
All of these take approximately 30 minutes and we two groups, me and my instructor (Anne) and my friend and his instructor  (Romila) take off. The Scuba itself is awesome. You  get insight into the ocean life that you never could fathom existed. I was carrying a water proof camera (Olympus Tough 8000) and I take some pictures from my dive.

We were total 9 people, six adults and three children, of which six adults and one child was going to do Scuba. So while others were doing scuba, I could roam around the beach and take photos. There is pretty amazing place. One of the beaches that was impacted heavily by the Tsunami and one can see uprooted trees all over the place.

Finally around 4PM we start back to Cafe Del Mar where the Barefoot Scuba offices are situated. The Barefoot Scuba team brought the lunch for us but all of it had eggs so we decide to go back and have our lunch. We order some Aloo Parathas and Noodles when we reach back there and then head back to our resort.
28-September-2009 09:00 am
Today is the time for us to head back. We are informed by the reception that we have get out of our cottages by 9 AM. We request them to atleast leave one cottage for us till 1 PM which they promise but finally all their guests arrive on time and we have to leave the cottages for us. This was the only down side in otherwise spectacular service of Barefoot Resort. By design they force people out of their rooms by 9 AM and there is no way to get out of Havelock before 2 PM. So you have to just kill time by just roaming around. We went to the beach but when we came back, they did not have any common shower facilities except an open air shower.
Anyway, we had our lunch and left the resort. We are booked into the 4 PM ferry and we decided to pick up some T-shirts from the dive center so we left at 2:45PM from resort.
28-September-2009 09:00 am
The Barefoot staff puts us into the ferry with our luggage. The ferry that we are taking for the return journey is "North Passage" and is much better ship. It is air conditioned, unlike the other ship and it takes us back to Port Blair in around 2 Hrs.
Barefoot Team was present at the port and they pick us up and drop us to the Hotel TSG Emerald. We check into the hotel.
Since it is Dussera, we decide to take a walk around the hotel but Dussera festivities are very low key around the hotel so we just go to sleep.
29-September-2009 06:00 am
Barefoot people show up at the hotel at 05:45 am to drops us back to the airport. We leave for the airport. Air India pilots have been on strike for last three days. Even though we are booked in Kingfisher Airlines, we still decide to reach there early fearing rush.
The airport has a half a kilometer queue but they are letting King Fisher passenger go out of turn since most of the passengers in the queue are Air India passengers and they are not sure if Air India will come to the Port Blair today or not.
29-September-2009 07:15 am
We take off in Kingfisher flight to Chennai and land in Chennai at around 09:30AM. Finally our great vacation to Andamans ends. It was really a fantastic place to visit.
In the end, we felt that the Port Blair program should be planned to be around 10 days, since we missed many things in Port Blair and we completely missed Nicobar islands. Anybody planning vacation to Andaman & Nicobar Islands so keep that in mind. Nicobar Islands are around 8-10 hours away from Port Blair and one has to stay somewhere there to really go around these islands.
Next time when we visit, we will probably plan it that way.