Ross Island, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

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(Nature eating buildings : photo courtesy – www.galenfrysinger.com)

The setting is the Asian theatre of war where the Allies are pushed up against the Axis powers and against Japan in particular. The time is the second world war. The British war HQ in Asia is set in a little island among the Andaman group of islands in the Bay of Bengal, halfway between the Indian mainland and Thailand. The hectic social life of the British army officers garrisoned there is under threat. The Japanese are close.

Ross Island finally falls to the Japanese and once the Japanese too leave, is left to mother nature. And what a takeover she has done. Massive trees grow across every building built by the armies. Huge vines strangulate erstwhile offices and churches in a brutal, slow-motion tableau. It is one of the most vivid testimonies to the power of nature that we so often under-estimate.

The day I visited Ross Island, mother nature was at her ferocious best. Continue reading

Tarkarli beach on the Konkan coast

Sindhudurg is the southernmost district of Maharashtra, just north of Goa. Sindhudurg is supposed to have some of the best beaches in India and Tarkarli beach in particular is mentioned by many as a particularly lovely beach to go to. Tarkarli’s reputation is one of clear waters that allow one to snorkel and scuba dive, which is interesting because to the best of my knowledge there is no other mainland beach in India that is good for watching the world underwater.

Goa does offer Scuba, but even the operators themselves agree that Goa’s murky waters are not the place for it. The best snorkelling & diving in India is in Lakshadweep, where Mitali & Prahlad Kakkar run Lacadives (the other option is to dive with Goa diving in Agatti Island; I have come across some vague rumours of safety here, so do check well before you go) . After that is the Andaman Islands, particularly Havelock Island. I haven’t been there and so do not have first hand experience – but many members of HolidayIQ swear by Havelock which is very reassuring.

Anyway, to come back to Tarkarli beach. I do know that a few years ago, a couple of well known boutique cruise operators (Seabourn, I am almost certain was one of them) had an interesting halt offshore at Tarkarli beach from where they brought guests by boat to the beach and then took them on a cycle tour of the local Konkan region. My impression is that this is not done anymore – certainly not at Tarkarli beach. Not sure why.

MTDC has a resort at Tarkarli beach, which has been reviewed and rated by many members of HolidayIQ. Everyone is unanimous in their opinion of Tarkarli beach. Tarkarli is an awesome beach and Continue reading

Best Beaches of Asia

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(Havelock beach : photo from HolidayIQ)

Conde Nast Traveller has ranked Beach No. 7 (Radhanagar Beach) in Havelock Island, Andamans as one of the top beaches of Asia. I have not been to Havelock although I have done other parts of the Andamans. While the place is astonishing and almost indescribable in its sheer natural beauty, I still think Lakshadweep is a shade – just a shade – better. CN Traveller have also suggested Barefoot at Havelock as the place to stay while there. HolidayIQ members who visited Havelock Island have been ecstatic about the place. They also have pretty interesting reviews and cool pictures for Barefoot At Havelock. Check out both by clicking here.

The Top 5 in the Conde Nast Traveller list of the best Asian beaches are :

  1. Palawan, Philippines
  2. Beach No. 7, Havelock Island, India
  3. Nihiwatu beach, Indonesia
  4. Baa, Maldives
  5. Laem Tong Bay, Phi Phi, Thailand

Click here for all my posts on Beach Vacations.

Click here for all accommodation options in Havelock.

Click here to know all about going on a holiday to the Andamans.

Click here for the Conde Nast article.

Utsav – a fantasy island holiday

Last night I was watching the old period movie Utsav. Where have all the Indian women who look like Rehka gone? Anyway, that is besides the point.

It is my thesis that premium holidays are going to move much closer to ‘experiences’ than to ‘places’. While Aman Resorts was the pioneer of the place-based experience holiday (Adrian Zecha, the founder of Aman says that all Aman does is to put a picture frame around an extraordinary natural setting), the next step will involve a creation of a composite, enveloping experience. And in this, I am pretty certain that Period experiences will be a big thing in the future. A new breed of vacations specialists will emerge, combining the detailed recreation of movie sets with powerful mechanical & digital capabilities of the amusement park industry and the sophisticated guest management of top end resorts. Targeted at the premium segment of the leisure market, these vacations will induce people to ‘voluntarily suspend disbelief’ for a much longer time than the 2 hours of a movie, maybe even up to a week.

Utsav, Girish Karnad’s mid-80s period movie is the perfect inspiration for one such vacation. All guests will have to shed their modern togs in favour of ancient clothes, electricity will be completely banned and the mood will reflect the life & times of Vasantsena & CharuDutt. It is my hope that I get to conceive this project. And if given a chance, I would love to set this project in one of the uninhabited islands of the Andamans.

In the meantime, I still cannot figure out where the true Indian woman went.