Every year millions of people travel to India the land of mystic stories, exotic dances and melodious music. They want to be awestruck by the incredible sights of the Taj Mahal, the Ajanta Ellora Caves, Humayun’s Tomb and the City Palace. These are amazing finds and your visit to these places will be a must see if you plan to go there.
However, these places are the traditional tourist sites that everyone wants to see. If you want to get a taste of the culture, put your finger on the pulse of India and get to know the real people there I can give you just one piece of advice. Don’t follow the crowd. So after you have seen what everyone else has seen and you want to see India up close and personal you need to follow the locals. The tourists all end up in the same crowded places while the locals actually retreat to the more secluded parts of India.
When you are ready to disappear from the huddled masses (and in India there will be plenty) consider taking a boat ride to the Andaman Islands near the coast of Burma. This group of islands is situated between the Indian peninsula and the Burma coastline in the Bay of Bengal. Getting away from the crazy hustle of the city to the warm and inviting crystal blue waters will be a welcome relief.
Of course you could always take the usual route and board a plane to this remote island but if you are looking for a bit of adventure try taking one of the ferries to Port Blair. This is not the kind of place that you visit on the spur of the moment though since the government places restrictions on the non-Indians who may choose to visit and where and how long they will be allowed to stay. Make sure that you visit the town of Diglipur in North Andaman. It is one of the only places where foreigners are allowed to stay. This is in order to protect the indigenous population from being overrun by outsiders.
You will receive a Restricted Areas Permit when you arrive. Make sure you stay within those areas outlined so that you do not have problems with the local government. But once you’ve done that don’t hesitate to explore to your heart’s content.
You can make Point Blair your base while you visit some of the surrounding islands or you can keep your excursions to just this one location. If you choose to stay in Port Blair there will still be plenty to keep you busy. A walk along the streets is a walk through a unique history. At the peak of every hill you will get a spectacular view of the deep blue sea and your local surroundings. Start your journey at the Cellular Jail Memorial. This was for years the local penal colony for holding political rebels. Anyone that rose up against the government and its policies were held here. It was in fact, home to Mahatma Gandhi when he started his peaceful opposition campaign as well as others that followed him.
If you are a historical buff then you will likely enjoy taking a tour through the Anthropological Museum where you will see and learn much of the culture of the indigenous tribes of the 500 islands that make up this entire region. On the other hand, if you are more of a nature and water lover then the local snorkeling and diving will be more up your alley. The splendor of the coral reefs, the beautiful undersea life that is abundant in every corner. Wait until you see the large schools of humphead wrasse swim by you. Each of these babies is more than a meter in length!
No matter what you choose to do when you visit these once forbidden pieces of paradise you will surely find beauty beyond your wildest expectations. Taste the local “tiffen” when you have the afternoon tea or boat around to the other local island spots. This remote place of India has been for centuries a secret to the outside world but now you can get a taste of it and explore a place far and removed from the India you know.