30 Mar - 31 Mar 2011 Chennai






South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Tamil Nadu
Chennai aka Madras
Egmore
Kennet Lane 15
Hotel Regal +914428191122
Adequate double room for INR 520.- or US$ 11.50 per night.


Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Regal in Chennai, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 13° 04.53' E 080° 15.73'









Meeting up with saffron-clad Nepal Baba, a travelling sadhu/sannyasin/operative aus Kathmandu, heavily deodorised with incense, and exploring together Mylapore’s large Kapalishvara Temple with its soaring gopuram, dedicated to Shiva, which stands proudly out from the rather prosaic neighbourhood which surrounds the temple and consists of a colourful array of shops selling (i) cookware, bakeware, skillets, casseroles, pots and sauce pans which make it a treat for each Indian housewife to sautée, steam and boil her way through to her in-laws' favorite thalis, (ii) religious paraphernalia and non-religious vegetables, (iii) golden wedding jewellery and exquisite silk saris (up to INR 30,000.- or US$ 500.- for embroidered ones in top quality "...made of fabrics whose designers had clearly set out to prove that it was possible to incorporate every colour known to man in a single pattern...", at least according to Salman Rushdie).



Visiting the Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna, an elegant construction combining architectural motifs from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples, as well as Christian churches, while the manicured forecourt echoes the Islamic themes of the Mughals, discussing religion and confirming our personal belief that all religions are nothing more than very profitable multi-billion dollar businesses (i) which sell hope to their hopeless customers with a diversity of competitive trade marks (e.g. Jesus, Zarathustra, Buddha), (ii) which use the common sales techniques (e.g. branding, relationship selling, merchandising), from soft sell (e.g. Buddhism) to hard sell (e.g. Islam), (iii) which operate from diversified head offices all over the planet (e.g. Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca), (iv) which maintain very distinctive sales outlets to meet the expectations of their specific customer base (e.g. churches, temples, mosques), and (v) which apply team-based, efficient and flat organisational charts; since hope is such a pricey good, we would love to put our money into any of the religions if they were only listed on the stock exchange where they were obliged to file annual reports and to disclose their spread sheets to the regulator’s scrutiny.
"Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man ... living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs your money."


Leaving scruffy, dusty and noisy, but always friendly and relaxed Chennai and taking the Kanyakumari overnight express (742 km, 14 hours, INR 315.- or US$ 7.- per person for non a/c sleeper class) from Chennai’s Egmore station to Kanyakumari, situated at the southernmost extremity of India, and the meeting point of (i) the treacherous Bay of Bengal (see: 11 Sep - 13 Sep 2008 Ao Chalong), (ii) the mighty Indian Ocean (see: 15 Apr - 07 Jun 2008 Chagos and (iii) the pirate-infested Arabian Sea (see: 26 Aug - 11 Sep 2007 Aden), three different seas which we had crossed with our sailing ship SY "Kamu II", only a few years ago.

"The only safe ship in a storm is leadership."



Click below for more blog posts about our encounters with religions

Click below for a summary of this year's travels


Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Canada:


For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

26 Mar - 30 Mar 2011 Port Blair






South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
South Andaman Island
Port Blair
Hotel Shah-N-Shah +913192233696
Comfortable and clean enough double room (no. 111) with a great private terrace, overlooking the motley roofs of the noisy covered market, for INR 500.- or US$ 11.10 per night. Friendly and honest staff.
From the family-run hotel’s written rules and regulations: “The guests are requested to keep the doors of room open when any visitor is inside; visitors are not allowed at odd hours.”

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Shah-N-Shah in Port Blair, which we would recommend, and for directions:









Catching up on long overdue online admin work (at our favourite internet joint: Nirman’s reliable e-Cafe near the clock tower ecafeandaman@gmail.com +913192230551), enjoying cheap and genuine South Indian and Bengali food (our favourite place for excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner: the ACC [Andaman Cooperative Cafeteria] near the local market; beer: fortified ice-cold Cannon Ten Thousand Strong Beer for INR 80.- per large bottle) and planning/preparing our upcoming trip through exotic Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Kanyakumari, Tiruchendur, Rameshwaram, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Thanjavur, Chidambaram, Mamallapuram), famous for its colossal wedge-shaped pyramids aka gopuram, often covered with garishly painted gods, goddesses and mythological creatures.



Laundering for INR 10.- per piece (washed, dried and frayed) in the hotel's efficient in-house dhobi where our dirty laundry was shown some old-fashioned discipline: separated, soaped and given a very good thrashing to beat the Andamans’ dirt out of it.



Crossing the Bay of Bengal again and flying uneventfully with Jet Airways (“India's Finest International Airline - Giving the World a Better Choice in the Skies”) in a brand-new Boeing 737-800 from the Andaman Islands to Madras aka Chennai (Kamaraj Terminal of Chennai International Airport) for INR 4,263.- or US$ 96.- per person, all inclusive, and taking the rugged but cheap suburban train for only INR 6.- per person from the airport's convenient Tirusulam Train Station to Chennai’s crowded and mucky Egmore suburb, one the city's busiest neighbourhoods.


Click below for more blog posts about the Andamans

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res photos
Konni & Matt Travel Photos


Facing Andamans
© Konni & Matt


Recommended products - click below for your Amazon order from the United Kingdom:
 
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here 
For Amazon deals from the United States, please click here 
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here

25 Mar - 26 Mar 2011 Rangat






South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Middle Andaman Island
Rangat Bazaar
R.K. Lodge +913192274237
Adequate twin room for only INR 400.- or US$ 8.90 per night.


Click below for an interactive road map of the R.K. Lodge in Rangat Bazaar and for directions:










Exploring the filthy and rather non-descript one-horse town Rangat Bazaar, taking thereafter the A & N State Transport Service’s rugged and run-down express bus (c. 170 km including two short crossings on car ferries, 9 hours, INR 95.- or US$ 2.10 per person) via Bharatang Island in a convey together with other south-bound vehicles and with an armed cop on board to the South Andaman Island and meeting a couple of aboriginal Jarawas inside the Jarawa Tribal Reserve, indigenous inhabitants of the Andamans, who subsist as hunter-gatherers and live on fish, turtles, turtle eggs, pigs, fruit, honey and roots.



Click below for more blog posts about the Andamans
Recommended gear - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:

For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

23 Mar - 25 Mar 2011 Long Island






South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Long Island
Basic and adequate bamboo bungalow with private terrace and attached bathroom, for INR 700.- or US$ 15.60 per night. Friendly staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Blue Planet Lodge on Long Island, which we would recommend, and for directions:








Teaming up with fellow backpackers Anna & Hector from Barcelona, Punam & Santraj from Darjeeling and Amit from Tel Aviv, hiking together along the secluded coast to the sandy and clean beach of the very scenic Lalaji Bay and noticing en-route how the ruthless timber industry has cleaned off in the early 1990s the once beautiful primary forests in the southern part of Long Island, leaving many ugly, scar-like clearings and the unsightly, crumbling concrete foundations of a dismantled plywood mill. 

“My love for traveling to islands amounts to a pathological condition known as nesomania, an obsession with islands. This craze seems reasonable to me, because islands are small self-contained worlds that can help us understand larger ones.” 

Embarking on MV “Jolly Buoy”, dodging the fare for the short boat ride to Rangat Bay and sharing thereafter a worn 4x4 Mahindra jeep (INR 20.- or US$ 0.45 per person) to Rangat Bazaar, a ramshackle sprawl ranged around two rows of chai shops and general stores with a lively night market, located in the southeast corner of the Middle Andaman Island and divided by the strategic Andaman Trunk Road.



 Click below for more blog posts about the Andamans
26 Mar - 30 Mar 2011 Port Blair
23 Mar - 25 Mar 2011 Long Island
04 Mar - 23 Mar 2011 Havelock
02 Mar - 04 Mar 2011 Port Blair

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res photos
Konni & Matt Travel Photos


Facing India
© Konni & Matt


Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United States:

For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here
For Amazon deals from the United Kingdom, please click here

04 Mar - 23 Mar 2011 Havelock






South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Havelock Island
Beach No. 5
Gold Star Beach Resort +919476015038
Basic and adequate beach bungalow with private terrace and attached bathroom, for only INR 600.- or US$ 13.30 per night. Of course, no wifi. Indifferent staff.


Click below for an interactive road map of the Gold Star Beach Resort on Havelock Island and for directions:










Living the good life of blissful beach bums at Beach No. 5 on Havelock’s east coast, a low-budget bamboo-shtetl where the Star of David reigns and where kosher or not-so-kosher Israeli junk-food menus are thankfully written in Hebrew (e.g. “Israel Salad”, “Sabich”, "Hummus in Pita"), and enjoying: (i) the white and clean sand beaches, albeit infested with millions of sandflies, (ii) the turquoise and shallow lagoons, albeit packed with lumps of broken coral, resulting in all but impossible swimming during low tide, and (iii) the green tropical rainforests, albeit dotted with hundreds of rubbish dumps, consisting mainly of thousands of empty water bottles from the top seller Bisleri (for which independent tests revealed levels of pesticide concentration up to 100 times higher than EU norms).


DM Konni: Donning my scuba gear, diving with Barefoot Scuba’s rather inexperienced PADI instructor Martina (INR 1,575.- or US$ 35.- per single dive from a converted dungi fishing boat; dive sites: Johnny’s Gorge, The Wall and Aquarium), floating over desolate coral cemeteries in this previously pristine marine environment, witnessing at first hand the death knell of the planet’s coral reefs (the worst coral die-off that I have ever seen, driven by human-induced global warming but still unashamedly denied by the unscrupulous sales reps of the dive industry and explained as eternal natural cycle where the corals would recover within the next few years) and learning that the sea-surface temperature had risen by almost 5 degrees only ten months ago (from a long-term average of 28°C to a peak of 33°C) which changed a once colourful u/w world into a monochromatic tristesse; good luck Terra Titanic...


Exploring Havelock's picturesque sandy beaches, taking more than one dip and snorkelling (i) off the wild and hard-to-reach Elephant Beach aka Hathi Tapu in the northwest of the island which once had a rich coral reef formation (now bleached and dead but still with plenty of colourful reef fish since it may take up to three years for some fish species to be affected by the loss of their coral habitat), (ii) off the scenic and famous Radhnagar Beach aka Beach No. 7 on the island’s west side, a 2-km long arc of perfect and untrodden white sand backed by stands of 30-m high mahua trees with trunks that grow along the ground for many metres before they begin to grow vertically, and (iii) off the rather remote Kalapathar Beach, with an old elephant training camp, in the east of Havelock Island.



"And everybody knows that the Plague is coming 
Everybody knows that it's moving fast 
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman 
Are just a shining artifact of the past 
Everybody knows the scene is dead 
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed 
That will disclose 
What everybody knows..."

Enduring a week-long period of almost uninterrupted downpours with a daily rainfall average of about 200 mm during this supposedly dry northeast monsoon season (the average precipitation for Port Blair for the whole month of March is less than 30 mm) and a dense blanket of clouds without a single ray of sun as if the first nuclear winter had already begun, hearing in the news about a massive offshore quake which had caused a devastating tsunami and a major emergency in an atomic power plant in Fukushima/Japan (25 years after Chernobyl/Belarus) and wondering if the ongoing rains are already a radioactive fall-out from Japan, trying to keep sane on this lost planet with the help of an almost unlimited supply of VAT 69 (INR 615.- or US$ 13.70 per 700-ml bottle at the local wine shop near the island jetty) and listening to Peter Schilling’s Die Wueste Lebt.



Matt: Suffering a severe bout of moquito-borne dengue fever aka breakbone fever (my symptoms: flu-like fever, nausea, rashes, bone pain, nose bleeding), lasting several days, and being treated symptomatically with Konni's tender, love and care, but not with aspirin since this could worsen the bleeding. 

Saying goodbye to Havelock, a heavily commercialised but still nice enough must-go place on the Indian part of the ever-developing Banana Pancake Trail (with acquisitive locals, bland pseudo-Indian food and a rubbish-strewn environment), and embarking on MV “Rangat” (fare for non-islanders: INR 195.- or US$ 4.30 per person in seat class, one way) for a pleasant boat ride through Ritchie’s Archipelago to Long Island (island tax for foreigners: INR 20.- or US$ 0.45 per person).



Click below for more blog posts about scuba diving in Southeast Asia
22 Feb - 10 Mar 2013 Pulau Tioman
26 Sep - 24 Oct 2013 Tanjung Karang
20 Mar - 07 Apr 2012 Iboih Beach
16 Aug - 15 Sep 2011 Tanjung Karang
04 Sep - 05 Sep 2011 Lebo

Click below for more blog posts about the Andaman Islands
26 Mar - 30 Mar 2011 Port Blair
25 Mar - 26 Mar 2011 Rangat
23 Mar - 25 Mar 2011 Long Island
02 Mar - 04 Mar 2011 Port Blair

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res photos 
Konni & Matt Travel Photos


Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United States:

For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here