An unassuming dinner with close friends at the Delhi Club House in June 2018 resulted in all of us whipping our phones out and booking more or less non refundable tickets for a holiday to the Andamans in January 2019. Clearly, being audacious and adventuresome in our plans came naturally to us. But then again, the best laid plans are usually these impromptu kinds.
Come January 2019, we stuck to our guns and were all ready, eager and excited to soak in some sun at the beautiful and picturesque beaches of the Andamans.
We decided to stop over at Kolkata for a day, before heading out to Port Blair. This was done purely to relive memories (the party kinds) for two of us who spent a considerable amount of time in the city.
For me, personally it was a homecoming of kinds as we ended up staying at the ITC- A hotel where I slogged my ass off for 4 years day in and out. Our day in the lap of luxury at the ITC was punctuated by beers, food, a gym session (yes we did that on a holiday as well) and just a little bit of rest. Although one has to put it out there- Service levels on the whole have drastically dropped at the ITC Sonar, even the food was nothing to write home about. It’s a little disappointing when you see that, especially when you were a part of the machinery that ran the place and ensured top notch service levels always.
At night, we decided to paint the town red (wishful thinking). We ended up going out to one place and one place only and were back at the hotel at 0030 hrs. A 6 AM flight and the realization that we were not 25 anymore made us haul our asses back.
Havelock, now called Swarajdeep was the destination of choice for us in the Andamans. It’s difficult and rather unfair on my part to attempt to describe how beautiful the destination is, all I would say is that you’re missing out on a lot if you haven’t visited any of the islands in the Andamans yet. Forget all those International beach destinations in South East Asia that you keep hearing about. Do yourself a favour and visit this gem in your own backyard. Blue waters and white sand, the sight of which makes you feel that everything is right in the world for that moment and if there is ever a representation of how life should be it’s this pristine sight. This is exactly what Havelock and its beaches have.
The best way to get there is a ferry ride from Port Blair which takes about 1.5 hours on the faster one. To our surprise, the ride was very comfortable, the ferry was top notch and the logistics of it all were very well handled- far better that some of the ferry rides that we have taken to get to islands at some International Destinations. Accommodation options are limited, in the sense that you either have a bunch of these high end resort properties which charge anything from 10 to 20k per night or you have the basic back packer kind of places which charge between 2 to 4k per night. The segment in between is completely missing.
Even in the high end resort properties, especially where we were staying whilst the product was great, the villas were great and you had nice views, the service and the food left a lot to question. This was actually the case all across the island (barring a couple of places) both food and service were average to say the least at the places that we visited. Personally, I feel there lies a huge opportunity there but I’ll save those thoughts for another blog 🙂
Our time at Havelock was action packed to say the least. A trip to the Andamans is incomplete without a dive and it’s something that we all ended up doing (some more eager than the others :)). I have to say that I was initially a little apprehensive as I have had and continue to have ENT issues but I’m so glad that I did it. It’s a surreal experience and one that I would recommend for all. We spent a lot of time at the infamous Radhanagar beach (mostly in the water) and it was as relaxing as it was refreshing and re-energizing, I could live there!!. Our hunt for good food was an ongoing process, some places hit the spot and some were a miss. The evenings were mostly spent at the resort and were accentuated with alcohol, conversations and some weird ass drunken challenges. No place in Havelock is open beyond 1030 PM so were also retiring pretty early by our standards, which also meant waking up nice and early for a run by the beach :). The 4 days that we spent there seemed insufficient and gloomy faces prevailed when we had to take our ferry back to Port Blair.
We had a night at Port Blair before heading back home. Ended up staying at a cute little guest house which had a great view, amazing open spaces and just a great vibe. So much so that we spent all our time at the guest house fueled by some day drinking and great conversations. Kudos to us for being all touristy !!
All in All, it was a great start to the year and an absolutely superlative way of spending my Birthday. If I had to do it over, I would do exactly the same thing 🙂.
P.S: On a holiday, no matter how beautiful the destination is or what activity you’re engaging in, if you’ve not gone with the right bunch of people none of it really matters. I feel blessed to have spent this holiday with close friends who contributed to making this experience truly magical.