The Journal

Explorations, expeditions and experiences


Pooja Shivanand

amazed in Andamans

It was one amazing experience indeed! A trip to the Andaman & Nicobar islands in October 2012 kickstarted the first of the many travels my husband and me would embark on. Hence this trip has always been very special to me. These islands are blessed with luxuriant evergreen tropical rainforest canopy and vast rich coastline of 6 lakh sq. km. with immense variety of ecosystem and wildlife. The original inhabitants belong to six different tribes (shompens, nicobarese, onges, jarawas, great andamanese, Sentinelese).

Quick facts: comprised of 572 islands of which 37 are inhabited. Country: India; Capital: Port Blair; Currency: Indian rupee (INR); Coordinates: 11.68°N 92.77°E

andaman airport

Stay and cuisine:

We had a Talespin experience boarding the 9 seater Cessna 208A seaplane from Port Blair to Havelock island, officially Swaraj island. This 25 minute enjoyable trip provides an amazing aerial view of the tranquil shorelines, islands and rainforest canopies.

andaman seaplane

We stayed the beautiful Eco Villa Palm Beach Resort in the Govindnager village of Havelock island. This clean, eco-friendly property is well-maintained by its owner Saajan, a marine biologist himself. The Nicobari style cozy huts and cottages are right in front of the beach from where you see the tides come in and go out and enjoy a snorkel in the aquamarine crystal clear waters just outside your door.

andaman ecovillage

Places of interest:

We hiked, biked, walked and even dived in the islands. The easiest means of transport is hiring a bike and zooming away to beautiful locales in the island. Both north and south Indian cuisines are popular and easily available.

Radhanagar beach:

This lovely paradise of breathtaking beauty is one of the stunning beaches of India. You can enjoy the long stretch of white sand beach and the vast sea with the backdrop of dense jungle and mountains. Life comes to standstill here.

andaman radhanagar beach

Port Blair:

The city offers incredible views of oceans and rivers. We visited the anthropological museum, forest museum and cellular jail.

andaman water view.jpg

The Cellular Jail, also known as Kālā Pānī (black waters), stands as a dark reminiscence of the British rule in India. The colonial prison was used to exile political prisoners to the remote archipelago. Many notable independence activists such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar were imprisoned here. The jail complex is now open to public viewing as a National Memorial. It gives a glimpse of years of India’s struggle for freedom as well as the grit, determination and undue suffering of the freedom fighters. We walked through the corridors as mute spectators with a heavy heart. The place now regularly holds Light & Sound (Son-et-Lumiere) shows on India’s freedom struggle in Hindi and English.

andaman kaala pani

My adventures:

Scuba diving: My very first scuba diving in Andaman was an unmatched, fascinating, one-of-a-kind experience. We explored the awesome sea life, vibrant fish and mesmerizing corals.

andaman scuba diving

Treking: We visited deerpark in the Ross island of Andaman by boat. We enjoyed walks in the park, short treks and hikes in the dense jungles of Andamans and its marvelous hillocks.

andaman activity

Joyous bike ride amidst the tropical rainforest to the pristine Radhanagar beach (known as the best beach in India) in central Havelock, Andaman and Nicobar islands. Its fun riding in the narrow roadway flanked on either sides by dense jungles. The journey culminates into a breathtaking view of the serene, clean, white sand Radhanagar beach.

Weekend getaway to Kuala Belait, Brunei

‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ – John Keats
Made time to step outside and witness the beautiful nature in the neighbourhood we seldom enjoy – a magnificent rainbow unfolding during the drive to Kuala Belait (KB), the extraordinary grandeur of golden hue dazzling across the skies during the beautiful sunset by the beach.

Drive to KB from Bandar after work over the weekend is refreshing. The towns of Seria and KB are lovely to just walk around, sight the iconic nodding donkeys which pump out oil, enjoy sunset by the beach and eat good food. Enough to get recharged for next weeks duties.

KB view2

The beautiful beaches in KB offer a breathtaking view of the sunset and vibrant colorful skies.

Tip: carry insect repellant to ward of sand flies on the KB beach.

KB beach

Take time to soak in nature’s delight. Its splendid beauty having a profound effect on the senses, rejuvenates and heals.

Whenever in KB, we stay at the Seaview Hotel. As the name suggests the rooms and service apartments here offer a resplendent view of the sea. The rooms on the second floor are carpeted and cozy. They have a promotion on weekends. Easy access to Coffee bean and supermarket in the ground floor.

Tip: ask for seaside rooms. The other side faces cemetery.

KB also has quiet places of culinary delight. We had a scrumptious Indian meal at the popular Zaika Restaurant which serves authentic north Indian cuisine. Their Masala lassi is ma favorite!

KB Zaika.jpg

Dinner was a lovely surprise at the beautiful locale of Ricardo’s La Galeria serving Mexican food. The ambience was colored with Mexican theme and enlivened with soulful music. The tacos and virgin mojitos are great.

KB Ricardo

If you wish to eat authentic lip-smacking, finger-licking, Indian aloo parantha, poori bhaji, chhole bature with jeear dahi and masala chhaas for breakfast (lunch and dinner), A4 restaurant on Jalan Mckerron, is the place to go to.

Tip: Just make sure you go on empty stomach! The yum food will stuff you to breathlessness.


bewitched in Bali

We had a refreshing getaway to the picturesque island of Bali, Indonesia in May 2017. The island lies east of Java and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. In March 2017, TripAdvisor named Bali as the world’s top destination in its Traveler’s Choice award.

Quick facts: Strategically located in international trade lanes. Country: Indonesia; Capital: Denpasar; Currency: Indonesian rupiah (IDR); Coordinates: 8°20′06″S 115°05′17″E

Stay and cuisine: Our stay was comfortable at the Champlung Mas Hotel And Spa Legian located in the premiere of Kuta – Legian within 10 minute walking distance to Kuta beach, Legian art market and restaurants.

Bali hotel.jpg


The best place for dinner is the tranquil Jimbaran bay with a terrific view of sunset, scrumptious sea food and nice area to walk around. Food can be overpriced!

Local customs and traditions:

Fragrant frangipani and incense adorn the streets, vehicles and houses in Bali. We bought some harum sari (fragrant incense) from the Toko Dupa incense shop.

Bali incense.jpg

Places of interest, history and culture:

Tanah Lot:

Means ‘land in the sea’. The offshore shrine is situated amidst constantly crashing waves and is an iconic feature. It is located in the Beraban village of the Tabanan regency, about 30 km away from Denpasar and 20 km northwest of Kuta.

Bali tanah lot.jpg

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan:

This beautiful water temple is located on the shores of Lake Bratan, known as the ‘lake of holy mountain’ in Bedugul, central Bali. Bedugul area is a cool upland with cold tropical climate at an elevation of 1200 m above sea level.

Bali Pura Beratan.jpg

Mount Batur and lake:

Gunung Batur is an active volcano located northwest of Mount Agung in the Kintamani district of Bali. Though we missed the well known sunrise, the magnificent volcano and the crystal clear view of the lake Batur were truly breathtaking.

Bali mount batur.jpg


Temples in Bali offer a sense of calm to the visitors. They feature magnificent architecture and scenic beauty.

Bali temple.jpg

Bali performances and Kecak dance shows:

Balinese dance and drama are presented live on stage by performers in vivid costumes. ‘Kecak’ is the legendary singing and dancing ritual run in open amphitheater.

Bali show.jpg

Mushroom Beach, Nusa Lembongan:

Bali beach

Bali Zoo and elephant expedition:

Bali elephant expedition

Pura Luhur Uluwatu:

Bali uluwatu.jpg

Strawberry stop:

Located near the Beratan temple, this place serves delicious strawberry juice and pancakes. The pure juice is fresh from the farm. The backyard has a lovely garden with greenhouses of strawberry, vegetables and flowers.

Bali strawberry stop.jpg

My adventures:

Cycling amidst the lush green paddy fields of Bali

Bali cycling.jpg





Speed longboat ride to Temburong

The exhilarating longboat ride to Temburong to explore the pristine rainforest at Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei. The breathtaking greenery soothes the eyes, the fresh air fills the lungs and the sheer speed of the longboat on the river spurs an adrenaline rush.



Ambuyat  – The delicacy of Brunei.

Ambuyat is the traditionally indigenous, calorie-rich carbohydrate staple of sago starch. This gluey-starchy dish is made from sago powder (ambulung) which is extracted from the pith of Sago Palm (Metroxylon sagu). As part of the Global Discovery Programme by Dr. Yabit Alas in Universiti Brunei Darussalam, I had the opportunity to visit the Ukong Sago Factory in Tutong District managed by Mr. Yong Ming Leong. The bark of the sago tree is debarked using an iron rod. These pieces are grated by a machine. The mixture is washed with water in pulping process to separate the starch from the fiber. This water is then collected into a tank where starch settles down at the bottom over a period of 24-48 h. Starch sediments are dried into powder form . This powder is called ‘Ambulung’ which is packaged and sold in the Market. Ambulung is cooked by continuous stirring into a homogeneous mixture in hot water until it becomes glutinous. This translucent glutinous substance is edible and locally called ‘Ambuyat’ and is a local delicacy.

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