New Zealand S
New Zealand N
Vanuatu - Tanna
Vanuatu - Efate
India - Kolkata &
India - Andaman
|Andaman Islands - India|
India appears to have more religions and religious sects than England has people. An airport is often the best place to see them. One of the strangest groups was five men, all dressed in salmon pink from their woolly hats to knitted socks. Initially we thought they had all had plastic surgery, but on closer inspection it was some form of identical white sticking plaster and paint design on their nose and forehead. Each carried a fetching white clutch bag. Before sitting next to their leader they kissed his feet. Two of the five were Westerners.
We are now in the Indian run Andaman Islands, an archipelago of islands off the east coast of India between Burma and Indonesia. This is a totally different experience to Kolkata. Here the people are pleasant and most don’t see you as a cash cow. If someone stops to say “hello”, they are practicing their English and not after your money. Interestingly, only men or children ever speak to us. Women may stare but otherwise keep very much to themselves. The mainly pleasant people have been a refreshing contrast to the people of Kolkata.
Yesterday was a trip to the cellular jail at Port Blair. It is not often that you feel bad to be English, but this was certainly the way we felt walking around the ex jail. The English built it in 1906 to house the Indian prisoners. In the 1930s it was mainly used to house Indian freedom fighters – people who wanted India to be under Indian rule not British rule. Many prisoners lost their lives to the inhuman conditions, beatings and tortures issued by the British. As I said, we felt ashamed to be from the country associated with this. During WW2, the Andaman Islands were briefly occupied by the Japanese, and during this time life was even harder. Numerous villagers lost their lives to indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Now the islanders have a much more pleasant existence. They are trying to set themselves up as a tourist destination, but somehow don’t quite know how to achieve this. Some examples: places that claim to rent bikes don’t; the girl in the main tourist office not only doesn’t know the town but she can’t read a map at all; tourist venues may state three different opening times, none of which apply; roads have no names and maps don’t bear any relation to, well, anything at all. Hotels almost get it right, but somehow not quite – see photo below. Most tourists here are wealthy Indians. There are few westerners. The southern islands were hit by the tsunami in 2004 and in Port Blair there are still some low lying parts with tsunami damage.
The Andaman’s is a place where the ‘how many’ game is played. Examples include how many people can you get into a boat before it sinks (ans: 12 in a small dingy), how many in a car the size of a mini (ans: 9), how many on a motorbike (ans:4), how many animals on a traffic police podium (ans: 4 goats and 2 cows), how many times does it take to order and get black tea no sugar (ans: we do not know as it has never been right), how many Indians can swim (ans: very very few as most use rubber rings), how many motorbike in the boot of a taxi (ans: one plus man in boot to hold it)
Most women only paddled rather than swim, usually in their sarees. Few would dare to be seen in a swimming costume.
Finally, a picture of a pair of motorbikers. Eat your heart out Hells Angels!