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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 • ` 1 5 0 • VO L . 5

MADHYA PRADESH TIGER TERRAIN LADAKH DECODING LANDSCAPES

I S S U E 7 • N AT G E O T R AV E L L E R . I N

WHERE TO GO IN 2017

SEOUL TO MALTA, COLOMBIA TO CANADA, 20 MUST-SEE DESTINATIONS


n a t i o n a l g e o g r a p h i c t r av e l l e r i n d i a

JANUARY 2017

CONTENTS Vol 5 Issue 7

T R AV E L I D E A S F O R 2 0 1 7

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63

WILD BOUNTY

Thanks to relentless conservation efforts, the tiger population in India is up significantly. Visiting Madhya Pradesh’s stunning national parks is one way to keep that number growing By Neha Dara

WHERE TO GO IN 2017

From South Korea to Switzerland, Canada to Colombia, we celebrate 2017’s must-see destinations around the world. Here’s our pick of 20 places to visit in the new year

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EVERY ROCK TELLS A STORY Decoding landscapes in the geological goldmine that is Ladakh offers new perspectives on an old favourite By Kamakshi Ayyar

63 Moscow, Russia

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY NOVEMBER 2017 2016

MORDOLFF/ISTOCK

JOURNEYS


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VOICES

J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 • ` 1 5 0 • VO L . 5

22 Inside Out

From Bengaluru

118 Beach views, seafood, and ancient dances

Lessons in generosity and contentment at a mountain retreat An illustrated travelogue on the temples of Angkor in Cambodia

N AV I G AT E

26 The Insider

Palaces, scones, and literature in London

34 Detour

Birdwatching and dolphin-spotting in Narora, Uttar Pradesh

40 The Connection

A familiar script at Vietnam’s My Son ruins

42 Go Now

A cold, fishy, aurora-viewing adventure in Norway’s Lofoten Islands

44 Take Five

in Kannur

MADHYA PRADESH TIGER TERRAIN LADAKH DECODING LANDSCAPES

WHERE TO GO IN 2017

SEOUL TO MALTA, COLOMBIA TO CANADA, 20 MUST-SEE DESTINATIONS

On The COver The tiger is the star of the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, bringing thousands of visitors to the state each year. Photographer Rajarshi Banerji captured this moment at Kanha National Park, one of the state’s more popular tiger-spotting destinations. Visitors who come here in search of the big cat, return enthralled by the plentiful forest.

Inspired spaces where artists and writers once lived

46 Local Flavour

Singapore’s sweetest start begins with a bolt of kopi and a spread of kaya

48 Adventure

Cold feet and raging fear: rafting the Nile in Uganda

50 The Experience

Hops and thrills at the oldest Heineken brewery in Amsterdam

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

REGULARS 16 Editor’s Note 18 Notebook 122 Inspire 128 Travel Quiz

Stay

120 A lush green oasis in Gujarat’s Little Rann of Kutch 121 Head to Karaikudi for heavenly spreads and heritage excursions 48

PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IMAGES (MUSEUM), CARL PENDLE/PHOTOGRAPHER’S CHOICE/GETTY IMAGES (TOAST), PETER STUCKINGS/LONELY PLANET IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (BIRDS), RAJARSHI BANERJI/AGE FOTOSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES (COVER)

24 Book of Hours

SHORT BREAKS

I S S U E 7 • N AT G E O T R AV E L L E R . I N


Editor-in-Chief NILOUFER VENKATRAMAN Deputy Editor NEHA DARA Senior Associate Editor DIYA KOHLI Associate Editor KAREENA GIANANI Features Writer RUMELA BASU Photo Editor JEREMIAH CHRISTANAND RAO Deputy Art Director SOUMIK LAHIRI Associate Art Director DEVANG H. MAKWANA Senior Graphic Designer CHITTARANJAN MODHAVE Editor, Web NEHA SUMITRAN Assistant Editor, Web SAUMYA ANCHERI Features Writer, Web KAMAKSHI AYYAR

N ATIO NAL GEO GRA P HI C TRAV EL ER U.S. Editor In Chief, Travel Media GEORGE W. STONE Design Director MARIANNE SEREGI Director of Photography ANNE FARRAR Senior Editor JAYNE WISE Features Editor AMY ALIPIO Associate Editor HANNAH SHEINBERG Copy Editor JUDY BURKE Deputy Art Director LEIGH V. BORGHESANI Associate Photo Editor LAURA EMMONS Chief Researcher MARILYN TERRELL Production Director KATHIE GARTRELL Digital Director ANDREA LEITCH Producers MEGAN HELTZEL WEILER; LINDSAY SMITH Associate Producers REBECCA DAVIS; CHRISTINE BLAU Senior Photo Producer SARAH POLGER Associate Photo Producers TYLER METCALFE; JESS MANDIA Editors at Large and Travel Advisory Board COSTAS CHRIST, ANNIE FITZSIMMONS, DON GEORGE, ANDREW MCCARTHY, ANDREW NELSON, NORIE QUINTOS, ROBERT REID Contributing Editors KATIE KNOROVSKY, MARGARET LOFTUS, HEATHER GREENWOOD DAVIS, MARYELLEN KENNEDY DUCKETT Contributing Photographers AARON HUEY, CATHERINE KARNOW, JIM RICHARDSON, SUSAN SEUBERT I N T ERN AT I O N AL M AGAZ IN E PU B LI SH I N G Senior Vice President, International Media YULIA P. BOYLE Director, International Magazine Publishing ARIEL DEIACO-LOHR

N ATIO NAL GEO GRA P HI C SOCI ETY President & CEO GARY E. KNELL

N ATIO NAL GEO GRA P HI C PARTNERS CEO DECLAN MOORE

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Disclaimer All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is strictly prohibited. We do our best to research and fact-check all articles but errors may creep in inadvertently. All prices, phone numbers, and addresses are correct at the time of going to press but are subject to change. All opinions expressed by columnists and freelance writers are their ownand not necessarily those of National Geographic Traveller India. We do not allow advertising to influence our editorial choices. All maps used in the magazine, including those of India, are for illustrative purposes only. About us National Geographic Traveller India is about immersive travel and authentic storytelling that inspires travel. It is about family travel, about travel experiences, about discoveries, and insights. Our tagline is “Nobody Knows This World Better” and every story attempts to capture the essence of a place in a way that will urge readers to create their own memorable trips, and come back with their own amazing stories. COPYRIGHT © 2016 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PARTNERS, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER: REGISTERED TRADEMARK ® MARCA REGISTRADA.

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Editor’s Note |

N I LOU F ER V E N KATRA M A N

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

E

Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes a miss. But these recommendations always add to my travel experiences

ver since I can remember, people have been giving me tips on what I should eat when I’m travelling to a new place. For Maharashtra, the state in which I live, I’ve received plenty of food advice. In Karjat, you must eat the local batata vada. If you go to the hill station of Lonavla, it is decreed that you must sample and return with some chikki. If you happen to travel to Bhandardara or Varangushi, you must gorge on the excessively sweet peda sold there. So popular are these pedas that locals crush them into tea instead of adding sugar. Friends have even mentioned that when I’m in Mahabaleshwar, I must try the corn patties. Where? I’m not really sure. Looking at all of these recommendations objectively anyone can tell that none of them are in any way connected to the special produce of the place. None of them identify an actual establishment that does an amazing job of making any of these dishes. Then how and why have these places come to be associated with each of these specific items? My guess is that such widespread perception about a particular food item from a place starts with one local restaurant making an exceptional dish. This quickly becomes well known and travellers spread the news to others by word of mouth (and the Internet of course). Very soon other joints in that location decide to cash in on the success of their competitor and start serving the same (or similar) item. Lines get blurred over time, and what was once excellent chocolate walnut fudge from a particular

shop in Lonavla soon becomes, by association, something the entire town is known for. It doesn’t matter anymore where you buy it. It doesn’t matter if it tastes good. It’s only significant that it’s linked to the place and is designated a must-have. We have all heard of dishes linked to specific establishments, even at destinations we’ve never visited. And we happily pass the untested suggestions on. As soon as I said I was driving from Johannesburg to Hazyview, during my Christmas break in South Africa, along came the recommendation to try the pancakes at Harrie’s in the town of Graskop, a 30-minute drive from Hazyview. I did. The pancakes left a lot to be desired and my family and I came away disappointed. I make pancakes regularly at home using Nigella Lawson’s easy recipe, and even if I say so myself, they are better. But when I looked up the Internet, I saw that Harrie’s is super popular. This is true of other places I’ve been to as well. Around the world, gastronomical perceptions about a particular food or restaurant continue to persist despite evidence against their veracity. So does Shree Datta’s at Panvel serve awesome kothimbir vadi? I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But I probably will if I’m in the area. Does Lucky Dhaba outside Jalandhar serve lip-smacking aloo parathas? Yes, I can vouch for them. Do both Pat’s and Geno’s in Philadelphia serve the best Philly cheesesteaks in that city? Indeed. I can repeat that recommendation over and over again. Does all of Italy serve good pizza? Definitely not. I’ve eaten some really terrible slices in Rome. Yet, every time I travel and someone suggests a must-have, I’m happy to hear it. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes a miss. But these recommendations always add to my travel experiences and enhance my gastronomic repertoire. So the next time you or any one you know is headed to Macao, ask them to get you egg tarts from Lord Stow’s Bakery or Café e Nata. At home, bake them for ten minutes, sprinkle cinnamon powder, and devour. I did this two weeks ago and still can taste their yummy goodness. Likewise, have at least one plateful of dumplings if you are anywhere near a Din Tai Fung outlet in Asia. And of course there will be the occasional kachori that is mediocre, the tandoori chicken dry as cardboard, the chewy modak I wish I hadn’t bitten into. But just for those moments when the prawn masala fry at Alibaug’s Sanman restaurant or the chikoo ice cream in Gholvad satiates my taste buds, I think it’s worth listening to all the food tips that come my way.

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National Geographic Traveller India is about immersive travel and authentic storytelling, inspiring readers to create their own journeys and return with amazing stories. Our distinctive yellow rectangle is a window into a world of unparalleled discovery.

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BEST OF WEB

Museum Mayhem There are two types of museum-goers in the world. Those who enjoy the history lessons they bring, and those who make you consider gentle manslaughter. Guess which one Sidin Vadukut’s piece is about. See Travel Talk > Columns

where to go in india in 2017 Where to travel in India during the new year, from lesserknown beach destinations in Tamil Nadu to a newly certified UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sikkim. See Getaways > Inspire Me urban safari We joined Khaki Tours on their new jeep safari through the old Bombay neighbourhood of Fort, and returned even more in love with the metropolis. See Trip Ideas > Cities

GO TO NATGEOTRAVELLER.IN FOR MORE WEB EXCLUSIVE STORIES AND TRAVEL IDEAS

NGT INDIA@WORK

Wishing Well This tree of wishes immediately caught my eye as I walked through the incense-heavy A-Ma Temple in Macao. Little red baubles with prayers scrawled on them were tied to poles encircling the tree. They ranged from “I hope I find my Mr. Right soon” to wishes for a long and happy wedded life, good health, and good fortune. A particularly cute one written in a child’s spidery scrawl asked for a little puppy for Christmas. Unable to resist, I got myself a little trinket, wrote out my note, and tied it with the others. Now as I sit at my desk, over four thousand kilometres away from Macao, it is strangely comforting to think about my little wish fluttering in the wind and being watched over by an ancient goddess of the sea. —Senior Associate Editor, Diya Kohli

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

Happy Places At the December NGT Meetup in Mumbai, radiologist and cyclist Aditya Daftary, travel blogger Kaushal Karkhanis, and actor and aviator Gul Panag chatted with NGT India’s Deputy Editor Neha Dara about places that bring joy. ■ Goa oozes happiness. It is great for many activities including windsurfing, kayaking, and stand up paddling. Despite being famous for seafood, it offers numerous vegetarian and vegan options. ■ Places that foster women’s safety inspire great journeys, be it Shillong in Meghalaya, or the mountains of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. ■ Sometimes, returning to destinations and sharing them with your loved ones makes for the best memories. ■ Travelling in groups can boost bliss. You end up sharing passions and picking up new skills in the process. ■ Look for offbeat experiences in touristy places. You’ll be surprised at what you can uncover.

NEXT MEETUP: 13 January 2017, 7.30-9 p.m. Venue: Title Waves bookshop, Bandra (West), Mumbai.

COMPANY SCHOOL TERM DETAILS TRICHINOPOLY STYLE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (HTTP://BIT.LY/1JXQJMA) (ILLUSTRATION)

bengaluru for booklovers Church Street is sacred ground for bibliophiles. Our guide tells you how to score the best discounts. and where to grab a bite when you get the munchies. See Trip Ideas > Cities


Notebook |

CONNECT

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Bite of History

Today, they are baked for Anzac Day on April 25, which commemorates the army corps who died fighting at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915. It doesn’t matter what the true origins of these biscuits are; the fact is they are delicious. And I fully understand why Aussies love them. —Online Features Writer, Fabiola Monteiro

THE FIND

Mad About Gaudi INSTAGRAM OF THE MONTH

High on the Himalayas I’ve been fortunate to fly over some beautiful landscapes on my travels, but none have compared to the staggering beauty of the Himalayas. Earlier this year, I visited Ladakh as part of a team that comprised NASA scientists and researchers out to compare the region’s geological features to Mars. As we got closer to Leh, the landscape changed from plains to cloud-piercing mountains, some a deep brown, others covered in snow. Small settlements poked out of hillsides, their solar panels glinting in the sun. And occasionally, we would pass these large greywhite ribbons (in picture) that I thought were rivers, until I was told that they were actually glaciers! I spent the next ten days getting close to these mountains and valleys, and came away completely in love with the Himalayas. —Online Features Writer, Kamakshi Ayyar

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

Barcelona gripped me with its chimneys that resemble Darth Vader, buildings that look like swirling seas, and skeleton-like balconies hanging from homes. This September, I planned my trip to the Spanish city as an Antoni Gaudi pilgrimage. I wanted to walk along its streets and get inside the mind of the whimsical, controversial artist who changed the cityscape forever. One morning, I visited Park Güell. At its entrance stood two buildings resembling gingerbread houses. As I walked further in, the world was but one large canvas of trencadís, the traditional Catalan mosaic of colourful ceramic tile shards that Gaudi used extensively in his work. A salamander-shaped fountain was covered in this mosaic, as were curvy roofs, park benches, even the ceiling of the park’s hall with its grand Doric columns. I bought this trencadís pendant at the gift shop. Wearing it makes me feel close to Gaudi’s favoured design style. And to his unshakeable belief even in his most outlandish ideas. —Associate Editor, Kareena Gianani

MILLEFLOREIMAGES/ISTOCK (BISCUITS), KAMAKSHI AYYAR (CLOUDS), KAREENA GIANANI (PENDANT)

Last September, my colleague and I spent two days roadtripping across Kangaroo Island in South Australia to spot the wildlife it offers. There are no cafés or restaurants in the interiors of the island. Fortunately, our guide Scott had a basket full of boxed salads, ready-to-grill chicken, cans of Coke, and a flask of coffee. My favourite from his magic basket was a small tin of home-made Anzac biscuits, prepared with oats and desiccated coconut. Each morning, he’d pick us up with a full box, and by evening, they were polished off. They were the perfect on-thego snack to satisfy hunger pangs. Not only were they yummy—I learnt that I was biting into a piece of history as well. The biscuits share their name with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) because it is rumoured that they were eaten by soldiers during the First World War. The story goes that soldiers’ wives packed them for their husbands because they were nutritious and long-lasting.


INS ID E OU T

Without Frills LESSONS IN GENEROSITY AND CONTENTMENT AT A MOUNTAIN RETREAT

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came upon Paro Devi as she was praying, hands clasped together under her chin, her face turned towards the setting sun. She wore a long black skirt and a red shirt, thick silver bangles around her wrist and a bemused smile on her wrinkled face. She did not seem ruffled by 14 strangers descending on her cottage, petting her dog, feeding her goats, and asking questions about the glorious pink and yellow plants that grew outside her house. We peeped through the mud door into the simple room where she lived with her husband and daughter. She grew millets and amaranth in the plot of land surrounding her house and some vegetables during the season: cabbages, spinach, carrots, and cauliflowers. Sometimes, she went to nearby temples, but most of her life was spent in that little house in that little village. She pulled out a steel plate and placed two puris stuffed with potatoes on it and passed it on to us. “Eat,” she insisted. This was probably her family’s dinner and we demurred. “You must eat,” Paro Devi commanded, and we tore small pieces of the delicious puri and passed around the plate feeling humbled and abashed. In that moment, I felt that I was in the presence of a simple joy that passed from the giver to the receiver and enveloped us all in a gentle glow that filled our stomachs and hearts. I was on a retreat in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal region with a group of yoga and adventure enthusiasts, all longing for a peaceful getaway from the bustle of the city. The Goat Village, where I was staying, was a cluster of rustic cottages with mud walls and stone roofs, not very different from Paro Devi’s dwelling. It was rather different from the kind of places I’m used to staying at during my holidays. I consider electricity and hot water bare essentials. An excellent Wi-Fi connection has become mandatory along with a power socket to charge my phone. Room service is welcome. These amenities, I’ve come to believe, are essential to my well-being. At the Goat Village, the only source of light at the cottage where I was staying, was a small solar torch that was charged during the day and gave off a dull white light, just enough to illuminate a few metres around it.

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

Nirupama Subramanian is a columnist and author of two novels, Keep The Change and Intermission. She has also won the Commonwealth Short Story Competition prize in 2006 for her short fiction.

Except for a single bed and a small side table, my room was bare. The icy water froze my fingers as I brushed my teeth. I started the morning with yoga practice under the pale blue umbrella of the sky, flanked by purple mountains on either side. Later, I got my hands dirty clearing a patch of land to plant onion seeds, and pulling out plump radishes from another section. It was hard labour for a city slicker whose idea of work was putting fingers to a keyboard. Yet in the evening when we set out for a walk in the nearby village I felt content about a day well spent. That night, we sat around a bonfire under a sky liberally sprinkled with stars and spoke about happiness. The village girls who helped out in the kitchen, the grizzled gardener who had survived an attack by a bear, and the pretty young things who liked partying, were all unanimous in their testimony that money did not bring them happiness. Family, friends, a quiet moment with a loved one, doing something we liked, helping others, these were the things that brought us joy. Yet, I realized, that we city dwellers spend most of our time chasing material comforts, the badges of success that seem so important to our survival. Access to an alternative lifestyle, so different from the rat race of the city, made me conclude that we give too much importance to the external trappings of our lives. A new dress, the latest phone, an extra helping of chocolate cake, these give us moments of pleasure that flit off like fireflies into the night. We know this, we know too that we want something deeper and more meaningful, yet we cannot get off the treadmill, we keep running. Sometimes, we pause. We take a trip not to gaze at the wonders of the world but to reflect within. We use this pause to learn not just about the world but also ourselves. I realized that it was possible to survive for three days without looking at my phone. I learnt that a cold water bath does not lead to instant pneumonia. I learnt from Paro Devi that scarcity and abundance have more to do with a feeling in our hearts than the actual possession of goods. As I gazed up at the vast night sky, I simultaneously felt like a tiny insignificant speck in the cosmos and deeply connected to the fabric of the universe. I recognized too that the only thing I needed to fear was an impoverishment of the spirit.

PARUL KHANDELWAL

Voices |


Voices |

BOOK OF HOU RS

Amruta patil

ANAËL SEGHEZZI (AMRUTA PATIL)

is the author of graphic novels Kari, Adi Parva, and Sauptik. Book of Hours chronicles an hour spent here, there, elsewhere.

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017


Navigate |

34

THE I N S I D E R

NAVIGATE 42

detour Birdwatching and dolphinspotting in Narora, Uttar Pradesh

go now Aurora borealis casts its magic over Norway’s Lofoten Islands

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adventure Cold feet and raging fear: rafting the Nile in Uganda

London Calling

B

rexit may have been controversial for the Brits, but travellers eager to visit London have reason to celebrate. Politics aside, the aftermath of Brexit brings tourism benefits to Indians because of a favourable exchange rate and more affordable airfares. Anglophiles drawn to the English capital will find that the city is still an eclectic mix of royal, modern, and indie. Even native Londoners would need more than a lifetime to uncover everything that their city offers. Venturing beyond the historic centre and popular must-see spots can feel as though you’ve wandered past a series of connected villages that sport football

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scarves as flags. Sometimes, it can seem like you’ve even, in the tradition of British television treasure Doctor Who, traversed through time and space itself. In spite of the current legislative upheaval, visitors will discover a welcoming city. Diversity is diffused throughout London’s 60,000 winding streets, from the experimental artist spaces to neighbourhood ethnic eateries to the stocked stalls that line Saturday markets. In London, hipsters, global finance leaders, and expats convene as equals with a pint in hand at the local pub. And that, Brexit or not, is a pretty great deal. —Kaley Sweeney

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

DESIGN PICS INC/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

PALACES, SCONES, AND LITERATURE IN THE ENGLISH CAPITAL


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THE I N S I D E R

BOOK I T

LONDON IN THREE NOVELS

BRICK LANE Monica Ali In 1980s London, an arranged marriage brings a young Bangladeshi woman to the immigrant enclave of Brick Lane, now known for its curry houses, vintage shops, and street art.

The citizenM Tower of London hotel is both proper and plush.

S

ituate your stay along the Thames, the aquatic artery that threads through the heart of London. Just steps from both the river and Trafalgar Square, the Corinthia () boasts Victorian architecture, a planet-size crystal chandelier, a florist, and a swanky spa featuring an ice fountain and sleeping pods (www.corinthia.com; doubles from £438/`37,370). Across the street from the Tower of London and a few minutes’ stroll from the river is citizenM Tower of London hotel. () The 370room hotel includes a lobby outfitted with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and Union Jack accent pieces. Plus, there are Instagram-ready workspaces with

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Classic

● Trendy ●

New

complimentary espresso, a library saturated with style books, and a selection of iMacs in case you left your laptop at home (www.citizenm. com; doubles from £104/`8,915). For an alternative stay, try the Good Hotel London (), a floating former detention centre for illegal immigrants. This new not-for-profit hotel will spend five years in the Royal Victoria Docks, serving up local craft beers in what was once the mess hall, and waterfront views on its rooftop garden. Better yet: All the Good Hotel’s profits go into an education and entrepreneurship program for its staff (www.goodhotellondon.com; doubles from £135/`11,500). —Kaley Sweeney

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

MIDNIGHT RIOT Ben Aaronovitch This twist on the typical police procedural is set in contemporary, albeit magical London, where a constable gets help from a Victorian ghost in solving a Covent Garden murder. —Nancy Pearl

RICHARD POWERS/CITIZENM TOWER OF LONDON (HOTEL)

Rest Stops on the River Thames

LONDON Edward Rutherfurd An epic cast of fictional characters interacts with historical figures such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens in this compelling read spanning some two millennia of history.


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THE I N S I D E R SEE IT

IF YOU LIKED: London Eye THEN TRY: Sky Garden

IF YOU LIKED: Buckingham Palace THEN TRY: Eltham Palace

The recently opened, and free, Sky Garden in the 20 Fenchurch Street tower hosts evening live jazz amid a garden of palm trees, lavender, and rosemary. Early birds can test their balance during the garden’s morning yoga (skygarden.london; Mon-Fri 10 a.m.6 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-9 p.m.).

The childhood home of Henry VIII, Eltham Palace served as one of England’s largest and most frequented residences for royals from the 14th to 16th centuries. Today, walk over its moat on London’s oldest working drawbridge (www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/ places/eltham-palace-and-gardens; check website for timings; adults £13.60/`1,164, children below 15 years £8.10/`693).

IF YOU LIKED: Natural History Museum THEN TRY: Museum of Zoology

IF YOU LIKED: Westminster Abbey THEN TRY: Neasden Temple

Tucked away in University College London, the Grant Museum of Zoology specializes in natural history and animal anatomy. The site provides a home to about 68,000 preserved specimens, many of which are extremely rare (www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology; open MonSat 1-5 p.m.; entry free).

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London, or Neasden Temple, is a Hindu temple in North London where the Indian-style marble meditation room may make you believe you’ve gotten off the Tube and landed back in your own country (londonmandir.baps.org; Mon-Sun 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; entry free). —Kaley Sweeney

Famished from a day of trying to spot Will and Kate? Take a break for clotted cream and jam

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For cuppa conservatives, Candella is everything you could ask for in a traditional tea shop. Order the cream tea, which features two warm, fluffy scones filled with raisins and dusted with powdered sugar (34, Kensington Church St; open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.). At the Milestone Hotel, settle into one of the leather armchairs in the Conservatory, a black-and-white lounge with windows for walls, and savour a maple-cured-bacon scone paired with a pint (www.milestonehotel.com; open daily 8 a.m.-11 p.m.). Finally, follow the fanfare to Kensington Palace’s The Orangery for an orange-and-currant scone and sips of the aptly named Afternoon at the Palace tea blend (www.orangerykensingtonpalace.co.uk; open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). — Hannah Sheinberg

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | JANUARY 2017

AMER KOSELI

A Very Crumbly Scone Crawl


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THE I N S I D E R

NE A R I T

GO WITH NAT GEO

BY LAND When it’s time to burn off those scones, lace up your hiking boots and head for the moors on National Geographic Expeditions’ “Hiking England Coast to Coast,” a 13-day adventure trip. You’ll trek through the mountainous Lake District, into villages dotted along the Yorkshire Dales, and past prehistoric ruins.

Scotland’s Islay Woollen Mill

Button Up for a British Tailor Tour

T BY SEA View the United Kingdom from a new perspective, aboard the National Geographic Orion on the English Channel and Celtic Sea. National Geographic’s “Exploring the Coasts of England and Wales” eight-day trip visits limestone cliffs, islands populated by puffins, and charming port towns. Natgeoexpeditions.com

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weeds or worsteds, flannels or mohairs, prized wool cloth is still woven in Britain’s historic mills. In Scotland and Yorkshire, wool-weaving’s historic heartland, a number of these factories receive visitors, allowing a fascinating glimpse at an honoured custom—and maybe even a spot of shopping. Rare looms from the early 20th century—the peak era for British production—still create tweeds and tartans at the Islay Woollen Mill (www. islaywoollenmill.co.uk), a small Scottish factory founded in 1883 on a streamside site where cloth has been made since the 1500s. Word of the mill’s expertise with mainly British raw wool has spread as far as Hollywood, where costumers used the fabrics in films like Braveheart and Forrest Gump. On the edge of England’s Yorkshire

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moors, Taylor & Lodge (www. taylorandlodge.com) has woven worsteds at the same factory since 1883. You’ll need to make an appointment to visit, but it’s worth it to watch skilled workers run the state-of-theart machines that have fabricated cloth for top garmentmakers like couturier Tom Ford. Established in 1947, Lochcarron of Scotland is the world’s largest producer of tartan. During tours of its Selkirk mill (www.lochcarron.co.uk), visitors clamp on headphones against the metallic roar of machinery as a guide explains the complex process of dyeing, winding, warping, and weaving scarves, stoles, and throws. Some of its 700-plus tartan patterns show up in the shop’s jackets, ties, and traditional eight-yard kilts, so named for the amount of fabric required to make one. —Christopher Hall

GABI VOGT (PHOTO), TAMER KOSELI (ILLUSTRATIONS)

MILL ABOUT THE UNITED KINGDOM COUNTRYSIDE, WEAVING THROUGH THE TWEED TRAILBLAZERS AND BESPOKE BENCHMARKERS


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D ETOU R

Indian skimmers are social birds that are usually spotted flying and foraging in flocks that number over 70.

River Run

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uffeted by random sprays of water, I sat on the edge of the speedboat, trying to focus my binoculars on a pair of pied kingfishers on the riverbank. Behind the birds, tall grasses swayed gently in the breeze. A pair of ruddy shelducks flew past. Locally called surkhab, these migratory ducks are believed to pair for life, with an attachment so strong that if one dies, the other succumbs in grief. Shelducks are just one among hundreds of migratory birds that visit the floodplains of the River Ganga every winter. We were in Narora, about 170 kilometres southeast of Delhi. It is much like any other small town on the banks of the Ganga—except for a few important differences. First, Narora is home to one of India’s nuclear power stations. Then, it is also one of the best places to see two of the country’s endangered animals: the Indian skimmer, and the Ganges river dolphin. The first was what had brought

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our group of 16 birdwatchers here so early in the morning. But I was keen on seeing the second too. Completely blind, this amazing species of dolphin has evolved over millennia in the murky waters of this river to use ultrasound waves to echolocate, navigating and hunting prey by this method. The elusiveness and endangered status of India’s national aquatic animal had only made me more eager to see it. On reaching Narora after a fourhour bumpy ride from Delhi, we were welcomed by Jitendra Pandey, who works for the conservation of the dolphin and other river animals as part of the Narora Power Plant’s CSR initiative. Pandeyji told us he had seen a big flock of skimmers a few days ago, which was good news, because it was a confirmed recent sighting on that stretch. We made our way to Narwar Ghat to catch our speedboats. People were taking dips as bells tolled from a temple nearby. Kids sold flowers and plastic

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toys. A Pallas’s gull hovered overhead. I contemplated the muddy river, with the occasional plastic bag and empty packet of chips floating on it, wondering how it could sustain any form of life at all. As we boarded the two boats, I had few expectations of the 40-kilometre ride. A light haze persisted despite our late departure to avoid the morning fog, but visibility was good. A small flock of common pochards swam by us; then a couple of Eurasian spoonbills flew past, their feathers dazzling white in the sun, as they landed on one of the many riverine islands. Formed of high silt deposits, the islands range from small sandbars to ones that are hundreds of metres long. The spoonbills joined some grey herons and Pallas’s gulls foraging in the shallows. Two river turtles lazing on the island noticed our presence and crawled hastily into the water. A black-bellied tern flew past, and as we adjusted our binoculars to follow its path to a nearby island, we spotted a

MORALES/AGE PHOTOSTOCK/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY

BIRDWATCHING AND DOLPHIN-SPOTTING IN NARORA BY SUTIRTHA LAHIRI


D ETOU R

group of eight Indian skimmers. With the boat engines off, we observed the beautiful birds, with their stunning, downward curving orange bills. The lower bill is much longer than the upper, and they graze it over the water to feed as they fly close to the surface. The birds seemed unperturbed by our presence: some slept peacefully with their heads tucked into their mantles, while others sat watching us from a small sandy stretch. Celebrating the sighting with parathas and chaach or buttermilk inside the boat, we resumed our vigil as the day became hotter. The water further upstream had both treacherous eddies and shallow patches with floating sand that could jam a boat’s engine. Our speedboat swayed dangerously. I sat stiff as a log,

reconsidering my decision to not wear a life jacket like the others. The boatman gingerly manoeuvred us to deeper waters. As we heaved a sigh of relief, five great thick-knees, their grey plumage blending into their sandy perch, watched us with round, inquisitive eyes. “I have often seen dolphins here,” said Pandeyji, as we came upon a particular stretch. We looked around, somewhat sceptically, since dredging of the riverbed for sand, dams, poaching and overfishing have taken a huge toll on the dolphin population. But then, someone saw something. I put my camera away and focussed on the water. Suddenly, to my left, a huge blue-grey body emerged for a millisecond before vanishing, leaving only ripples behind. It took my brain a while to register that

1 Several irrigation canals around the Narora Atomic Power Station drain into the Ganga. 2 Degradation of sandbanks by dams and barrages is a huge threat to the Indian skimmers that breed in such spots. 3 The Eurasian spoonbill’s broad beak helps it hunt for fish. 4 The black-necked stork is one of the resident bird species of this wetland.

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my eyes had just seen a river dolphin. One of the best things about being in the wild is the strange contentment in the uncertainty it holds. It was amazing how such a fleeting glimpse of something rare could leave such a lasting impression. THE VITALS Orientation Narora is in Bulandshahr district of western Uttar Pradesh, 170 km/4 hr southeast of New Delhi. State buses from Anand Vihar ISBT to Badaun pass through Narora. Taxis charge `3,500 for a return journey. Birding Since Narora is not on the tourist circuit, a trip can only be organised through local contacts. A 6-hour boat ride costs `12,000 for up to 12 people (Nitin Tomer 98183 50799; Jitendra Pandey 94100 15237). When to Go Early or late winter is best for birding visits, as visibility from late December-January is poor due to fog. Summer can be very hot.

PALLAVE BAGLA/CONTRIBUTOR/GETTY IMAGES (CANAL), MANJEET & YOGRAJ JADEJA/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE (INDIAN SKIMMER), FLPA/BILL COSTER/FLPA/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (EURASIAN SPOONBILL), JITENDRA PANDEY (BLACK-NECKED STORK)

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THE CO N N ECTI O N

Vietnam's Cham people embraced elements of Hinduism and built a sanctuary of magnificent temples dedicated to Shiva at My Son, adopting India's ancient script as their own; An 11th-century carving of Gajasimha, half elephant, half lion (bottom).

Written in Stone A FAMILIAR SCRIPT IN THE RUINS OF ANCIENT VIETNAM TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY TRUPTI DEVDAS NAYAK

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s we drove from the seaside town of Hoi An to My Son (pronounced mee-shon) in central Vietnam, the cars and trucks gave way to bicycles and cattle. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, Hoi An has always been a popular tourist destination, conveniently close to resort cities like Danang. But few visitors make the one-hour drive from Hoi An to the Champa ruins at My Son. Set amidst a lush jungle, the ruins are said to evoke the same kind of awe that visitors feel when they see the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or Bagan in Myanmar. I was headed to My Son at an unearthly hour, to see the temples at sunrise. With me was my guide, Mr. Van, who looked a decade younger than his

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70 years. He shared a wealth of information about the ruins, which were built by the Cham people, who ruled Central Vietnam between the second and 17th centuries. Hoi An was their commercial centre, My Son the spiritual centre. As their kingdom flourished due to the gem, spice, and gold trade, the Cham kings added to the magnificent temples here. We arrived at My Son just as the site was opening. The sun peeked above the horizon, and the skies brightened. Mist hung in the air like the breath of a giant, and dew glistened on the ground. Looking at the map at the entrance, I realized the site’s

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sheer scale: 71 monuments, divided into 11 groups, and spread over 350 acres. We hopped onto a shuttle to the main group of temples. Everything seemed too mysterious and grand to fathom. Solid stone pillars carved to look like flower petals unfurled at the entrance. The facades were exposed, with visible inner layers of fired red brick. Despite extreme wear and tear, the walls of the monuments were studded with sandstone statues standing with arms folded in greeting, beatific smiles still visible on their eroded faces. The exceptional craftsmanship of the Cham people defied time and the elements.


The Cham rulers were highly influenced by the culture and Hindu traditions of India, most likely through close trade with seafarers from Southeast Asia The first temple at My Son was built by King Bhadravarman, who named it Bhadreshvara: a compound of his own name and the Hindi word for god, Ishvara (Shiva in this case). Following Mr. Van, I stepped into the cool dampness inside, letting my eyes adjust to the cloying shadows. Sensing something in front of me, I peered through the inky blackness, glimpsing a vast yoni, carved from a single block of solid granite. Covered in green moss, the yoni was missing the lingam representing Shiva. Mr. Van explained that several of My Son’s magnificent temples had been destroyed during Vietnam’s wars and restoration was an ongoing challenge. I found the Cham people, their daily rituals and lifestyle, and their connection to Shiva fascinating. Walking past an impressive set of monuments, I stopped short in front of a toppled stone stela, which seemed to have been left where it fell. Its entire surface was carved with neatly arranged lines of the script the Cham used. It was a script that I recognized; a script I had studied in school as a THE VITALS Orientation My Son is 38 km/1 hr southwest of Hoi An. Hours and Entry Open 6.30 a.m.-4.30 p.m. daily; entry VND1,50,000/`450, includes transportation to archaeological groups inside the site. The museum near the entrance is a great introduction to Champa history and the significance of My Son. The monuments are designated into alphabetical groups, A-K, and visitors can ride a jeep or walk (5-10 min) from one group to another. A smaller museum near Group A houses several carvings and sculptures. The most impressive structures are at B, C, and D. Tours Guided sunrise tours to My Son from Hoi An are popular (tommydaotours.com; private trip for two $37/`2,500; includes round-trip transportation from Hoi An, guide, and tickets).

Built in the mid-12th century by Cham king Jaya Harivarman, the Harivarmeshvara temple (top) in Group G is covered with 52 terracotta kirtimukha masks; A museum (bottom) near Group A exhibits stunning statues of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma alongside sculptures and carvings reminiscent of ancient Indian temples.

child, and could read. “This looks like Sanskrit,” I called out to Mr. Van. He grinned. “The Cham people came from Southeast Asia and India. Some of them, they look like you.” The stela was inscribed with stories about a particular king. I learnt from Mr. Van that the Cham rulers were highly influenced by the culture and Hindu traditions of India, most likely through close trade with seafarers from Southeast Asia. They incorporated

aspects of Hinduism into their own beliefs and culture, even adopting the Sanskrit script. Though still other-worldly, My Son ceased to be so mysterious. The motifs of lotus flowers, dancing girls, trumpeting elephants, and Nandi bulls reminded me of Indian temples. Stepping inside another structure, a familiar, comforting dimness engulfed me. There were no lamps or lights like in the temples I am used to, but I felt at home.

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GO NOW

Light on Lofoten A COLD, FISHY, AURORA-VIEWING ADVENTURE BY YAMUNA DILIP PHAL

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had been working in Sweden for a few months before I decided to plan a trip to see the Northern Lights. Of course I had been dreaming about aurora borealis ever since I’d arrived in Scandinavia; after all this is where people from around the world come specially to witness this phenomenon. I wanted to see it, but I was also obsessed with capturing my own stunning images of this natural marvel, ones that would wow my friends and family back home. When I started planning my trip, I realized things were a lot more complicated than driving north and looking up. The northern lights are unpredictable, and it’s hard to predict with any scientific certainty when they will occur. Even if they do appear, there is no guarantee visitors will see them— the show might very well be going on behind a curtain of clouds. It seemed to me there was something celestial at play in this game of chance, and that only added to the aurora's allure.

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My new friends and I finally picked Norway’s Lofoten Islands in magical Lapland as our spot. Here the sun never sets in the summer and a mystical glow lights up the winter skies. The islands are a chain of gorgeous peaks jutting straight out of the Arctic Ocean. The archipelago they form is a three-hour drive from Harstad/Narvik Airport in Evenes, the nearest international airport. From Evenes we drove to Svolvær, a small town on the Lofoten island of Austvågøya, through long subsea tunnels and amidst jagged snowcapped peaks. The evening sky was a stunning orange that turned pitch black

The lights were like a swirling dancer floating high up in the air, the green, red, and purple of her flowing chiffon dress shifting as she snaked across the sky

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in moments, as night crept in suddenly. Upon reaching Svolvær we opened the car doors and were assaulted by an overpowering smell. Fish! It instantly reminded me of Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks or the Mahim fish market. Fishing is the main occupation on the Lofoten Islands, and nearly every resident is in the business. Every house has a shack in its backyard to dry out fish, and almost every nook and cranny of the town has drying fish in it too. You can see thousands of them sunning on wooden racks called hjell. The air-dried fish are exported mostly to Nigeria, where they are the main ingredient in soups. The self-catering cottage we’d booked was nestled, cosy and warm, on a small hilltop with a view of the mountains. It was a two-storey hut with two bedrooms and an attic, and included a wellequipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. After settling in, we spent the day driving through small fishing villages and taking

LT PHOTO/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

Aurora borealis casts its magic over Hamnøy, the oldest and most picturesque of the fishing villages in Lofoten, Norway.


hundreds of pictures of the clear blue sea; the majestic mountains, bays, and virgin islands bathed in white snow; the waves crashing against the surf-swept shore; soaring eagles and squawking seabirds dotting the skies; the whales resting in the inner shallow fjords; and traditional rorbu fishermen’s huts. As the sun began to set, just before four in the afternoon, we were glad to see the sky was still clear. Rushing back to our cottage for a quick dinner, we kept our eyes peeled towards the sky the entire time, looking for the slightest hint of a green glow. As soon as we were convinced that the show was truly going to be on, we drove to a spot by a lake, away from the lights of the city, with mountain peaks providing a dramatic backdrop. I set up my tripod, and ensured I had the frame right. It wasn’t easy—I needed to take my gloves

off repeatedly to adjust the camera in the bitter cold wind. I wished that while describing the romance of seeing the Northern Lights, somebody had warned me about the cold and that all-pervasive fishy smell. Then suddenly, the skies lit up. The lights were like a swirling dancer floating high up in the air, the green, red and purple of her flowing chiffon dress shifting as she snaked across the sky. The lights twirled, whirled, and swayed until we were utterly spellbound. I had to run to the car every few minutes to warm my freezing fingers between taking time-lapse and multiple shutter speed shots of the lights; the overpowering smell didn’t go away either. But these minor inconveniences simply became part of the adventure. The show lasted for less than an hour, and the clouds started rolling in. But

the experience, and my photographs of it, will last me a lifetime. USEFUL TIPS The best viewing season is from September to March. Based on data from NASA’s ACE spacecraft, which monitors the solar and galactic energetic particles bombarding the earth, the website www. aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast provides an hourly aurora forecast. Norway’s weather forecast website is very accurate (www.yr.no/ place/Norway). Avoid the full moon and get as far away as you can from the electric lights. Make sure you have a car, or shelter, where you can warm up very close by. Rent a car with a seat heating system. Take snacks like dark chocolate and dry fruit with you.

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SOUTHERN LIGHTSCAPES-AUSTRALIA/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES (SHIP), YAMUNA DILIP PHAL (MAILBOXES), CODY DUCCAN/AGE FOTOSTOCK/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (FISH)

Aurora borealis casts its magic over Hamnøy (left), the oldest and most picturesque of the fishing villages in Lofoten; A series of posten (mailboxes) clustered together under a snow shade is a common sight in Norwegian fishing villages (top right); The pungent smell that pervades the Lofoten Islands is due to the scores of codfish drying on wooden racks (bottom right).


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TA KE F I VE

Artistic Origins INSPIRED SPACES WHERE ARTISTS AND WRITERS ONCE LIVED BY KAREENA GIANANI Six decades after her death, a cobalt blue building in Mexico City’s Coyoacán neighbourhood still channels the fiery spirit of Frida Kahlo. The iconic painter spent a significant part of her life in Casa Azul (Blue House), which is now a museum brimming with her personal belongings and artworks like “Vida La Vida.” For Frida, art was poultice to the life-long agony she endured due to polio and a debilitating road accident at 18. Her wheelchair sits facing an easel, with her paints beside it. The plaster cast corset she wore after the accident is a poignant reminder of how pain shaped her painting. Her deep love for indigenous Mexican art shines through her collections of folk art, in particular of Judases made of papier mâché, which are usually burnt in Mexico during Easter. Visitors can see her signature wardrobe—loose blouses, long skirts, and flowery headpieces—inspired

by traditional Tehuana folk attire. Casa Azul also has objects that evoke Frida’s passionate but turbulent marriage with painter Diego Rivera: Miniature cups on the kitchen wall are arranged to spell out the couple’s names, while neatly arranged files in another room hold their letters. (www.museofridakahlo.org.mx; Tue and Thurs-Sun 10 a.m.-5.30 p.m., Wed 11 a.m.-5.30 p.m.; entry MXN120/`400 on weekdays, MXN140/`470 on weekends.) SALVADOR DALÍ HOUSE-MUSEUM Spain

A penis-shaped swimming pool, a stuffed polar bear gleefully holding a lamp, and giant eggs on roofs would be out of place anywhere except in Salvador Dalí’s home. The seafront house at Port Lligat in the Spanish town of Cadaqués, where Dalí lived from 1930 and 1982, is a window to the artist’s mind. Visitors can walk through the home, converted from seven fishermen’s huts.

Dalí described it as “…a real biological structure… Each new pulse in our life had its own new cell, its room.” Visitors can see two of his unfinished works, while in other spaces two projectors play Dalí-themed films on loop. Outside, in the olive grove, is a round structure known as the Pots Tower which was used by the artist as a secondary workshop for his sculptures. Dalí stuck clay pots with holes on the tower’s facade so that they whistled when the wind blew over them. (www.salvador-dali.org; entry adults €11/`815, children under 8 free; prior booking required; check website for opening timings.) CLAUDE MONET’S HOUSE AND GARDENS France

Walking through Claude Monet’s home garden in the village of Giverny is like plunging into the reds, yellows, blushing pinks, and dreamy lilacs of his paintings. It was here, 75 kilometres northwest

From water lilies to portraits, Claude Monet’s cosy studio-turned-living room maps different stages of his career.

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PHOTO COURTESY: FONDATION CLAUDE MONET, GIVERNY/DROITS RÉSERVÉS

MUSEO FRIDA KAHLO Mexico


of Paris, that the passionate artist and gardener found ceaseless inspiration for his evocative works. Monet lived in this house in northern France for 43 years, from 1883 to 1926. Visitors can walk in the garden Monet lovingly tended, arranging beds of oriental poppies, peonies, tulips, and irises in ways that accentuated their shades, just like on his palette. Inside the house, Monet’s favourite sets of crockery adorn his dining room, while another room displays his collection of Japanese prints. The studio holds a selection of his paintings, including some from his Water Lilies series. Loved for his surreal renditions of light and reflections on water, Monet also constructed a water garden near his home. A quaint green Japanese bridge arches above the pond, framed by white lilies, maple trees, and weeping willows. It is a scene Monet depicted very often with his brush for his Japanese Footbridge series. ( fondation-monet.com/en; open daily between 24 Mar-1 Nov, closed for winter; 9.30 a.m.-6 p.m; entry adults €9.50/`705, 7-18 years €5.50/`410, under 7 free.) R.K. NARAYAN’S HOUSE Mysuru

Writer R.K. Narayan’s home in Mysuru is without grand embellishments and surprise twists: much like his stories in Malgudi Days. Instead, the two-storey

bungalow is chock-full of glimpses of his private life. Some walls of the home are lined with Narayan’s quotes and sepia-tinted family photographs. Visitors can walk through rooms that hold his personal effects like books, spectacles, woollen coats, and shawls, and even spy the laundryman’s initials still visible on the collar of one of Narayan’s shirts. Light floods the study through bay windows overlooking a frangipani tree. In My Days, his autobiography, he writes about how the windows afforded him views in every direction, “…the Chamundi Hill temple on the south, a variety of spires, turrets, and domes on the east, sheep and cows grazing in the meadows on all sides.” (D 14, Vivekananda Road, Yadavagiri, Mysuru; open daily 10.30 a.m.-5 p.m.; entry free.)

week before his death, drawings by his brother and children, the chair he read in, and the books he referred to while working on War and Peace. Tolstoy’s personal library, which has over 22,000 books and periodicals in 40 languages, is part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Visitors can pay homage to the writer at his grave, which is an unassuming mound at the edge of a ravine on the estate. (ypmuseum.ru/en; opening hours vary with season; estate entry adults RUB50/`53, free for visitors under 16; guided tours of estate and the Tolstoy House in English must be booked a month in advance and are priced from RUB4,000/`4,200 for a group of less than 15 people.)

LEO TOLSTOY’S ESTATE Russia

About 200 kilometres south of Moscow is Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate of Leo Tolstoy. It was amid the parks and fruit orchards of the 1,018-acre haven that the Russian writer wrote his classics Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Tolstoy’s home, the servant’s quarters, and the building he turned into a school for peasant children, now form a museum. The objects on display evoke touching details of his life: A label for a medicine prescribed to him a JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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MIGUEL TOVAR/STF/CONTRIBUTOR/LATINCONTENT WO/GETTY IMAGES (KITCHEN), RAPHAEL GAILLARDE/CONTRIBUTOR/GAMMA-RAPHO/GETTY IMAGES (EGG), VYACHESLAV ERDNEEV/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE (BUILDING)

Traditional Mexican crockery adorns the kitchen at Casa Azul (left), where Frida Kahlo loved cooking meals over firewood; Seats shaped like lips and eggs atop roofs (right) at Salvador Dalí’s home in Port Lligat seem right out of a surrealist painting; In addition to visiting Leo Tolstoy’s home (bottom), visitors to the Yasnaya Polyana museum-estate can catch temporary art and literature exhibitions.


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LOCA L F L AVOU R

A Toast to Singapore THE CITY’S SWEETEST START BEGINS WITH A BOLT OF KOPI AND A SPREAD OF KAYA JAM BY GEORGE W. STONE eyes. Alongside, a small cup of coffee with an oleaginous blackness that rejected the advances of condensed milk. It was not love at first sight. And yet, in a way that only travellers can appreciate, a passion was born. The basis of a classic Singaporean breakfast, kaya is a custard of coconut milk,

Fragrant, earthy, and sugary, kaya jam is the star of a stack of toast.

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eggs, and sugar, flavoured with pandan leaf, which gives the jam the perfume of freshly cut grass and the flavour of the underside of a lawn mower. In the Malay language, kaya means “rich.” But the richness doesn’t end with the jam. It’s served with barely boiled eggs, cracked into a shallow dish and seasoned

VIJAYNATHAN KATHANATHAN AND CHANG PICK YIN

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ere’s what my first breakfast in my new home of Singapore looked like: sticky, slimecoloured coconut custard jam slathered over a thin crisp of toasted brown bread, served with a side of two eggs so undercooked that their whites retained the clarity of newly dead fish


A beloved Singaporean kopitiam, Heap Seng Leong serves a classic breakfast of coffee and kaya toast.

overhead. This was the real deal: men squatting down to toast bread over a charcoal fire inside steel oil drums. A dozen plastic tables crammed into the alley, and the aroma of kaya hovered like a genie over the bustling scene. Here the toast was sliced into dunking strips and the runny eggs served in cups. The jam was so fresh I ate three helpings and ordered another tapow (to go). After more than three years of obsessing over breakfast, I reached the apotheosis of my kaya quest. A search for the oldest kopitiam in Singapore led me to Heap Seng Leong, a flashback to a world of “uncles” in pyjama pants, milkcan ashtrays, and old men lingering over newspapers as the day turns from balmy to incendiary. Decades of dietary fads have gone unnoticed at this kopitiam, which specializes in kopi gu you—coffee with an oil slick of butter on top. The taste is just what you’d expect: black coffee plus butter. There’s a reason you don’t do this at home. The most amazing thing I saw here was the ancient proprietor hand-slicing a loaf of bread the size of a cocker spaniel. It was not the best kaya toast, but the improbable fact that this mid-century holdover is in business at all is astonishing. When friends visited me, the first thing I would do is whisk them off to Tong Ah. I told myself I was showing them a Singaporean secret. But I was also revealing a bit about myself, and that’s the point of obsessions.

My passion for kaya—a food item my father found so inscrutable he put it on ice cream—really has nothing to do with jam. And everything to do with my love for and fascination with Singapore and Singaporeans. Along the way I discovered how to disappear into a faraway place and come away with a rich experience. BREAKFAST SPOTS IN SINGAPORE Heap Seng Leong Entering this kopitiam is “like stepping into a time portal,” writes Leslie Tay, the Singaporean behind food blog ieatishootipost.sg. “We need places like this so that our kids know where we came from and what it was like in the past.” (Block 10 North Bridge Rd.; +6562922368; open daily 5 a.m.-7 p.m.) Tong Ah Eating House Local kayaphiles love the extra-crispy toast served at this iconic kopitiam located on a street lined with old shophouses. Breakfast is not the only specialty; dinner features home-style dishes. (35 Keong Saik Rd.; +65-62235083; open 7 a.m.-9.30 p.m., alternate Wednesdays 7 a.m.-2 p.m.) Chin Mee Chin Confectionery For deliciously messy breakfasts served on weathered marble tables, try this oldschool kopitiam in the Joo Chiat neighbourhood, which specializes in toasted buns topped with custardy kaya jam. (204 East Coast Rd.; +65-63450419; open Tue-Sun 8 a.m.-4.30 p.m.)

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NICHOLAS YEO

with soy sauce and white pepper. Hypercaffeinated coffee, made from beans sautéed in margarine and sugar, is sweetened to an unseemly viscosity. You can add iced Milo, a chocolate malt drink, for extra sugar. The whole meal— order it as “kaya toast”—is a staple in kopitiams (kopi is Malay for “coffee”; tiam means “shop” in Hokkien) and will set you back about SGD3/`145. I came to see that kaya toast was the perfect vehicle for exploring my unfamiliar surroundings. While the snack is served at almost every hawker centre, I had the epiphany that the experience of eating it is as much about the atmosphere as about the food. Singaporeans are proud of local success stories, so the Ya Kun Kaya Toast chain was an obvious place to start. Named for an industrious Hainanese immigrant who landed here in 1926, worked in a coffee stall, and eventually founded his own, it’s now an institution known for thin-sliced toast, fragrant jam, and a warm-spirited connection to its heritage. Old kopitiams in Singapore are becoming scarce; rarer still is the communal feeling they nourish. Tong Ah Eating House is situated in the middle of a row of shophouses on a street that was formerly a red-light district. The space feels like a bingo parlour, with stackable plastic chairs and ceiling fans. Eggs bobble in a tepid bath next to the entrance. But the offerings here are a revelation: extra-thin and crispy slices, double-toasted, scraped to remove bitter char, with home-made kaya jam less sweet—and slabs of butter more abundant—than at any other coffee shop. You can even order French toast kaya, if healthy living is of no concern to you. Regulars consider it damn shiok, lah (an extreme pleasure to eat). Kaya toast began to influence my travels. One weekend I visited George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage city on the Malaysian island of Penang. Chinese temples, Peranakan mansions, colonial structures, and trompe l’oeil street murals are the big draw for most visitors. I came for the kaya, and it did not disappoint. My friend Antoinette Chia Yen Yen, who is from Sarawak but is always up for an adventure, joined me on the visit and guided me into the labyrinths of the old city to Toh Soon Cafe, an open-air kaya kitchen operating in an alleyway, shaded by tarps hanging


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A DV E N TU R E

A raft plunges through white water at Superhole, the third rapid on the rafting route from Jinja.

A Scaredy Cat Rafts the Nile

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had never rafted before and I don’t swim well. When the raft flipped, I went into panic mode. The lifejacket seemed irrelevant because psychologically the Nile had gotten the better of me. I was choking when Isaac, our Ugandan guide, grabbed my lifejacket’s shoulders and pulled me back onto the yellow raft. “This is how you must rescue one another. If you lift by the arm instead of the lifejacket you can dislocate the shoulder. Don’t do that!” I coughed water out of my lungs in complete horror as I heard those closing words of the safety drill. Suddenly, coming to lush yet dusty Jinja to whitewater raft on the world’s longest river seemed like a terrible idea. There were going to be eight rapids,

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some of them “Class V” that beginners like me can only attempt with an experienced guide like Isaac at the helm. The chances of the raft flipping are very real which is why all drills on the Nile include the flip and rescue. We were surrounded by rescue kayaks and a safety raft that carried essential supplies and would accommodate anyone too afraid to attempt the rapids. Helmets on, paddles in position—it was time to go. Still clearing my throat, I complied reluctantly. We had barely begun paddling when the rhythm of the river changed. The calm water turned into a raging stream, crashing mercilessly on rocks. “Paddle,” came the instruction from Isaac. Following the command

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required suspending all instincts of self-preservation. We saw the first rapids and I was immediately convinced I had picked the wrong river. “Can we take the safety raft all the way to the end?” one of my five fellow rafters joked. I was tempted to take her suggestion seriously. “Don’t worry. If you fall in the river, stay calm. Someone will come and get you. Remember, it’s just water!” Just as the swirling water was about to engulf us, I stopped paddling, grabbed the black perimeter rope of the raft, leaned in, and closed my eyes. I was surrounded by so much white water that I couldn’t tell if the raft had flipped. Slowly but surely, the water receded. I felt the raft again. Beneath me. We

PHOTO COURTESY: NALUBALE RAFTING, UGANDA

COLD FEET AND RAGING FEAR ON A WHITE-WATER TRIP IN UGANDA BY AANCHAL ANAND


hadn’t flipped! All of us cheered as Isaac brought his paddle up in the air. “High five guys!” I was certainly more at ease on the Nile now. But it wasn’t till the third rapid that I mustered enough courage to leave my eyes open and take it all in. It was only then that the raft meeting the rapid felt less like imminent death and more like a bouncy water coaster ride at an amusement park. That was about to change with the ominously-named Class V rapid called “Bad Place.” Isaac was more careful with this one and went over all the safety instructions again like a friendly teacher before exam day. “If the raft flips, swim to the left,” he said. I had no idea how I would tell left from right under water, but my life depended on it. “Hard paddle!” He told us to go full speed ahead, and paddle towards the rapid. The river got louder and louder and Isaac’s voice drowned under its furious din. Seconds before impact, I tucked the paddle under my arm and clung to

the perimeter rope for safety (perhaps a little sooner than I should have!). The water burst onto the raft in what seemed like a scene from Titanic. Caught up in this wave, I gasped for air. Just when it felt impossible, the water retreated and the Nile, once again, transformed into a gentle interlude. In a calm section then, we jumped out to swim and soak in the pristine scenery dotted by majestic crested cranes, the Ugandan national bird. There were four more rapids to overcome, including one called “Vengeance” which didn’t live up to its name. Not after what we had experienced at Bad Place. After each conquest, our paddles kept going up in celebratory high fives and we ended up giving ourselves the nickname, “The Unflippables.” Just before we had embarked on this crazy ride, I’d considered abandoning the entire adventure or seeking refuge in the safety raft. I’m glad I didn’t. As I learnt, white-water rafting the Nile wasn’t as

much about conquering rapids as it was about overcoming the fear inside. THE VITALS Orientation Jinja on Lake Victoria is famous as the source of the Nile and offers white-water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, and quad biking. Jinja is accessible from the capital Kampala and Entebbe city by taxi or local bus (www.entebbejinjashuttle.com; Kampala-Jinja $12/`810; Entebbe-Jinja $22/`1,490). As it is on the equator, you can go rafting any time of the year. The high season is Dec-Feb and June-Sep. Rafting Trips are typically half-day ($125/`8,375), one-day ($140/`9,380) or two days ($255/`17,085). Prices are per person, and include pick-up, drop-off, meals, accommodation (for two-day trips), trip photos, and safety equipment (lifejackets and helmets). The writer went with Nalubale Rafting (nalubalerafting.com). You must be at least 14 years of age to attempt rapids that are class 3 and easier, and at least 16 for tougher rapids.

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PETER STUCKINGS/LONELY PLANET IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (CRANE), MARK DAFFEY/LONELY PLANET IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (RAFT)

A crested crane (left) shows off its wings. Rafting the Nile, visitors may spot over 30 bird species, including cranes, cormorants, herons, and hornbills; After a stretch of calm water, rafters get ready for Itanda Falls and Bad Place, the fourth and most difficult of the eight rapids on the trip.


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THE E XPER I E N C E

Message in a Bottle HOPS AND THRILLS AT THE OLDEST HEINEKEN BREWERY IN AMSTERDAM BY KAREENA GIANANI

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he emerald green bottle of Heineken beer is ubiquitous in Amsterdam. I see it on restaurant tabletops, in the refrigerator on the canal tour boat, and eventually it’s in my hands while sitting at a canal-side pub. Curious to trace the Dutch beer’s roots, I visit the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighbourhood, where the beer was first produced from 1864 to 1988. I sign up for a guided tour that ends with a tasting of five beers paired with Dutch cheeses. My guide, Loubna el Bouazzati, is a Ph.D.

student who says talking about beer fizzes up long days of thesis writing. We walk along a corridor lined with retro Heineken posters, into rooms that tell the story of how entrepreneur Gerard Adriaan Heineken launched the brand. In one room, I crane my neck up to see a gargantuan silo built in 1926: it is a vertical tunnel-like space in the roof where barley was stored. I smell the grain and hops used in beer making and learn about A-yeast, the key ingredient that gives Heineken beer its flavour. In the erstwhile Brew House are massive copper vessels in which beer was once brewed. Now they contain exhibits: visitors pop their heads in through little windows to watch videos describing the brewing process,

on screens inside the vats. Loubna ushers me into a dark room with railings, and asks me to hold on tight. A screen flickers to life, and the ground rumbles. A video says that we’re in a 4D room that will simulate the motions beer goes through during production. Over the next five minutes, amidst flashing red and green lights, the room fills with the sounds of rattling and sloshing. The floor shakes and

The floor shakes and tilts treacherously as both the beer on-screen and audience in the room is swirled, splashed, and brewed

PHOTO COURTESY: HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE

During the interactive Heineken Experience tour (top) visitors learn about A-Yeast, the secret ingredient introduced in 1886, that lends a distinctive fruity flavour to the beer (bottom).


tilts treacherously as both the beer onscreen and audience is swirled, splashed, and brewed. The tour’s finale unfolds in the Brewers’ Room, where master brewers once discussed their prized liquid over cigars. I thumb through old leatherbound account books, their yellowed pages filled with meticulous writing.

Loubna lines up five beers, each accompanied by a different cheese. The original Heineken lager is paired with goat cheese; the slightly sweet Bavarian-style Amstel lager gels well with a mild two-year-old cheese; and Brand UP, a hoppy Pilsner, is accompanied by herbed goat cheese. I love the hint of sweet and spice in

H41, the fourth beer I sip between bites of fenugreek-flavoured cheese. The last is Affligem, a beer first brewed by Belgian monks in 1074 and later acquired by Heineken. It is slightly sweet at first, then fruity, and ends on a light bitter note. The last bite of the accompanying truffle cheese makes for a piquant but perfect ending. THE VITALS

In 1913, immense copper vessels (bottom) replaced traditional wood kettles for brewing Heineken beer; Beer tasting is held in the Brewer's Room (top), which displays the brewery's foundation stone and handwritten 19th-century accounts books. JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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PHOTO COURTESY: HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE

Orientation The Heineken brewery is located in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighbourhood (Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE; www.heineken.com; open Mon-Thurs 10.30 a.m.-7.30 p.m., last admission 5.30 p.m., Fri-Sun 10.30 a.m.-9 p.m., last admission 7 p.m.). Tours Regular tours are selfguided, 1.5 hours long, and include 2 beers or soft drinks (€16/`1,185). VIP tours are 2.5 hours long, guided, and include 5 beers paired with Dutch cheeses (€49/`3,630). Children under 18 can visit the brewery with an adult on the regular tours, but no alcohol is served to them (12-17 years €12.50/`925; under 11 free).


IN FOCUS 63

world Twenty exciting destinations for the year ahead

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jammu and kashmir Decoding Ladakh’s jaw-dropping landscapes

ANDREA PISTOLESI/PHOTOLIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES

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madhya pradesh Go see the tiger and help save the jungle

63 Marrakech, Morocco

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A dream destination

Tel: 011-26236525 | Email: mauritius@omtourism.com www.tourism-mauritius.mu


In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017

Wild

Thanks to relentless conservation efforts, the tiger population in India is up significantly. Visiting Madhya Pradesh’s stunning national parks is one way to keep that number growing By Neha Dara 54

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SARAN VAID PHOTOGRAPHY/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

During summer, tiger sightings are more frequent. The predators are usually found relaxing in the shallows of watering holes like this one in Kanha National Park.

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In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017

I had presciently plotted an escape. A short flight later, my husband and I were in Jabalpur on our way to Kanha National Park. As we drove out of the city, brick houses were replaced by mud homes with sloping tiled roofs. Grassy hillsides, still green after the monsoon, were peppered with rocks. Black-brown basalt rocks bent and curved in enchanting shapes. We drove over the grey Narmada that flowed in a wide sluggish arc. The taxi driver referred to the river as “Narmadaji,” his respect a nod to the river’s status. It is revered as a mother: one who nourishes and occasionally unleashes her wrath in monsoonal floods. Nature occupies an important place here. Madhya Pradesh is India’s most forested state, with about a fourth of its land covered by jungle. The southern half of its map is marked by large, mostly contiguous swathes of green, spreading from Indore and Bhopal in the west to the border with Chhattisgarh in the east. These

Morning strolls from Kipling Camp, near Kanha, wind through woods and past tiny streams.

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jungles are prime tiger territory. More than half the world’s tiger population is found in India, and a substantial chunk of this is in Madhya Pradesh. This is great news for my husband, who’s hoping to spot his first tiger in the wild. I’ve been lucky enough to have had many sightings, and I’m more keen on enjoying the jungle and learning more about it. Madhya Pradesh is a good place to do that. In recent years it has seen a surge in boutique, ecoconscious properties geared towards making visitors fall in love with the jungle. Over the week, we will be visiting three of MP’s six tiger reserves: Kanha, Pench, and Satpura, each a 4-5 hour drive from the next. Contrary to popular perception, the network of roads connecting these forests is in pretty good condition. As soon as we reached Kipling Camp, our stay near Kanha’s Kisli Gate, we quickly dumped our bags and headed into the park for an afternoon safari. Seven hours after we left our home in Delhi, jostling down a dirt path with tall sal trees rising up on each side, I realise I am breathing freely. It’s a relief to start the next day without the usual rash of early morning sneezes induced by a smog-smothered city. On our dawn safari, when we scour Kanha’s landscape for signs of wildlife, I’m the first to smell the odour of a kill, but the predator responsible seems long gone. A mist frames the odd tree that still stands in the open grassland, where a thriving village, now relocated outside the park, once existed. The lone tree is a mahua, considered too valuable to cut down. Its fruit is cooked as a vegetable, seeds crushed for oil, leaves woven into plates, and flowers fermented to make country liquor. In the absence of humans, monkeys have first dibs on the fruit, while deer and other smaller animals keep a sharp eye for any they let drop. As our guide and driver Rahim tells us this, the mist lifts, revealing a herd of spotted deer around the tree. Among the chital are a few sambar, their darker coats glistening with a tinge of red. They are several heads taller than the chital, their funnel-shaped ears constantly twitching. When one of us shifts and the jeep creaks, the ears turn in our direction and stop, trying to determine if there is a threat. A few seconds later, the twitching resumes. Kanha’s landscape is dominated by sal trees that rise up straight and tall, looking like stern sentinels. Dew drops from their branches with the pattering sound of soft rain. There are thick bamboo groves with sinuous paths where, any minute it seems, a tiger will softly glide by. There’s a mysteriousness to this forest. Driving on its trails in the ghostly dawn light, through clouds of dust that catch the sun, it seems magic is about to unfold. There are no signs of the tiger on our first two safaris though we spot large herds of deer, gigantic bison, vultures and hornbills, kingfishers and babblers. We’re happy simply to be in

SUKHWANT BASRA

It was October in Delhi, and the days were getting cooler. The city’s air was bad and getting worse by the minute. I struggled to breathe comfortably, plagued by sinus headaches for the first time in my life.


A leopard looks askance at an unsuspecting spotted deer. Leopards love to sunbathe on the large rocks that dot parts of Pench National Park.

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In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017 agrees with me. In just two days, the tiny knot that usually sits between my shoulder blades, the result of hours spent in front of a computer, is gone. My husband seems happier too. He’s been grappling with a tough decision about his work. Caught in an endless loop of long days, calls that start early in the morning and continue till midnight, he’s been unable to gain perspective. I’ve been pointing out that he is a harsher, angrier version of himself. But here, in the absence of work and cell phone signal, much of that seems to slough off him like a snake’s discarded skin. The path to Jamtara Wilderness Camp goes over one of two little streams that bookend this property near Pench. Here we stay in luxury tents set among tall grass that sway in the afternoon breeze. Close by is Jamtara village. Cobs of corn, which grow abundantly in the area, dry in courtyards. Bottle gourd vines climb wooden trellises and tiled roofs where the vegetables sit like overgrown slugs. The sculpture of a spotted black snake sprawls on the dome of a temple. Taking a shortcut through fields, we cross a raised shelter where someone sleeps at night to guard the fields from wild animals. I wonder who guards the watchman. Next morning, on the first of our two safaris in Pench, I notice that it is quite unlike Kanha. In this dryer, warmer region trees don’t grow very tall. Unlike the sal that dominates Kanha, here teak is king. But the trees are under attack from caterpillars that consume all the chlorophyll in the leaves, only leaving behind brown skeletons of stems and capillaries. One section of the forest is thick with the webs of giant spiders that remind me of a scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Unlike the denizens of the Forbidden Forest, these spiders and their For the visitor, the Indian scops owl (left) can be hard to spot, camouflaging well with the tree trunk until pointed out by a more experienced eye; Marsh crocodiles (right) thrive in the many waterbodies that dot Satpura National Park.

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AVIJIT DUTTA

the forest, grateful for the clean air, birdsong, and all the green. Kipling Camp’s cottages look like the ones in the villages we crossed en route to Kanha. Inside is a whole other story. Cool stone floors are covered in colourful rugs; high ceilings lined with wooden beams. The back door overlooks a watering hole, where brown and white ducks swim and quack merrily. At the water’s edge, among their webbed prints I see those of deer as well. Belinda Wright, who owns Kipling Camp, is a prominent wildlife conservationist. Her love for Kanha, and strong desire to protect its fauna and preserve its landscape, informs the space. There are no boundary walls, so wildlife can walk through the camp. Deer are frequent visitors and night camera traps have captured tigers and leopards as well. Walking to my room after dinner, I sweep the torch around to find several pairs of eyes reflecting in its light. It inspires me to wake up at 4 a.m. to keep vigil at the sit-out with a cup of hot tea to wrap my cold hands around. I see deer under a clump of trees. A mist dances on the water. As the sky grows brighter, the deer leave and the ducks come out. A racket-tailed drongo calls out, its forked tail framed in the light. I feel I am in a charmed land. Reluctantly, we leave this paradise and drive to Pench National Park. I nod off, waking occasionally to the reassuring sight of green fields, with patches of forest behind them, and the silhouette of the Satpura hills further back. Whenever I travel to the jungle, I find my routine changes; I wake early for safaris or walks, return to linger over coffee with a book, and nap in the afternoon after a sumptuous lunch. Evenings are a time to explore and learn more about the trees and birds that I never have time for in the city. Bedtime comes early. It is a routine that


■ MA DHYA PRADES H

beautiful intricate webs aren’t scary. Instead they indicate the forest’s good health. Three days into our trip into the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, my husband and I are in high spirits. Being outdoors in the sun makes us happy. We spot a pack of eight dholes or wild dogs with angular frames that are full of energy. There is something about their quick movements, the way they cock their heads, that is utterly beautiful. We observe how members of the pack behave with one another, respond to each other. Though called dogs, little about them resembles the domestic animal. Unfortunately, hardly any attention is paid to their conservation. Farmers often kill them, considering them a nuisance. We’re accompanied on our safari by Ajay, a naturalist who grew up in a village near Seoni close to Pench’s main entry gate. He shares tales of the forest that are an intriguing mix of scientific facts gleaned from his training and the books he is forever reading, and local lore from his childhood. When we return to the forest for the afternoon safari, Ajay is a man on a mission. He leads us straight to the bank of the Pench River that splits the national park into two. A tiger was spotted making a kill there earlier in the day and he’s hoping we will see it too. My husband spots it almost immediately, far away from us across the river. The young female is on her haunches, eyeballing a herd of deer. She’s full from the morning’s kill though, and not interested. After the deer edge away, she saunters to the water’s edge for a drink, her sinuous muscles and feline movements on glorious display. Over dinner that day, my husband and I chat about our priorities. It is a subject we normally tiptoe our way around, because priorities, despite their all-important status, have a

strange tendency to get muddled. I confess my desire to live in a city where I don’t have to think twice before stepping out, because the air is too bad, or it is unsafe to go alone to the few open spaces available. He tentatively voices his conclusion that it might be time to quit his high-profile, taxing job. The troubling, terrifying question is: What next? The next part of our journey takes us to Satpura National Park, reaching just in time for an afternoon safari. We meet our naturalist Erwin at the park’s Madhai entrance, on the bank of the Denwa River. The river cuts a wide arc around the park’s northern edge, creating a buffer that effectively omits most mananimal conflicts in the area. During summer, the water level is low enough for jeeps to drive across, but right now that seems difficult to believe. Erwin is from Reni Pani Jungle Lodge where we’re staying for the last two nights of our trip. He asks if we have a wildlife sighting wishlist, and for once I do. I want to see a sloth bear, a giant Malabar squirrel, and a leopard, all three considered easy to spot here. Just inside the park’s entrance is a grassland, which we’ve come to recognise as a sign of a relocated village. In the early 2000s, when India refined its tiger census methods, it was discovered that the celebrated tiger population numbers were quite inflated. Madhya Pradesh lost its status as India’s tiger state, and Karnataka took lead. There followed a decade of crackdown on poaching. Many villages were translocated out of parks, reclaiming forest land and animal corridors for wildlife. There is better management of tourism, and according to Nitin Desai, Director, Central India for the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the presence of tourists has also helped to reduce poaching. Poachers are loath to enter JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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SUKHWANT BASRA (GAUR), AVIJIT DUTTA (SLOTH BEAR)

Herds of gaur (left), the world’s largest bovine species, roam the jungles of Madhya Pradesh; Satpura National Park is known for its frequent sloth bear (right) sightings.


In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017 kulu. Tigers are partial to it, leaving claw marks in the soft bark to mark their territory. My eyes seek the tree everywhere; its pale branches stand out among the other darker trees. The kulu trunk is covered with a pink skin that peels off in papery layers. It reveals the whitish bark that has a ghostly glow on a starlit night, giving the tree its name. In one section of the forest, amongst the treetops, Erwin points out a number of nests. Giant Malabar squirrels make many homes, staying in a different one each night to flummox predators. We spot a pair in the trees, jumping agilely from one branch to another. They are large creatures, and their long bushy tails glow a deep burgundy as they leap with the lightness and grace of ballet dancers. Back at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, we discover the opulence of an old-world royal outpost, in a setting where the jungle is at our doorstep. To me this is the greatest attraction of the three properties I stay at: Even after leaving the national parks, the jungle stays with me. On our second safari into Satpura, we have no luck spotting a leopard, the last animal on my list. Still, it is four hours well spent. The entry into the park is perhaps the most dramatic of any national park in India that I have visited. Riding up to it in the boat, with the sun coming up behind the Satpura hills and spreading a red glow in the sky, is a memorable experience. Our breakfast stop that day is also the most beautiful one of the week. We tuck into aloo parathas and brownies sitting on rocks overlooking a reservoir surrounded by forest. A swarm of wandering glider dragonflies that Erwin says come all the way from Africa, swirl in the air around us. That evening at dinner we meet naturalist Aly Rashid whose

Morning safaris are punctuated by a breakfast stop, usually in a stunning spot under a canopy of trees or by a waterbody populated with birds.

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NEHA DARA

a forest where a safari jeep may chance upon them. Tourism has also created alternative livelihoods. A large herd of chital and sambar graze in the grassland. Suddenly, a sambar gives an alarm call. Immediately, the entire herd gathers in a tight circle. Ears twitch, feet shift uneasily. The younger ones are protected in the centre. The deer look in one direction, where they detect a threat invisible to us. Erwin suspects there is a predator hidden in the gully beyond. Something spooks the herd and the deer dash out suddenly, stop, and the circle tightens again. Invigorated by the drama, we head deeper into the park, Erwin leading us directly to a spot favoured by sloth bears. We see one almost immediately, however the arrival of another jeep scares it. That’s when we see the difference between a government guide and a professional naturalist. The other jeep gives up and drives off. Erwin listens to the jungle for a moment, and asks the driver to head to a certain spot and wait. Sure enough, the sloth bear emerges out of the trees right in front of our jeep. It checks us out, decides we can be ignored, and waddles off to explore the base of a tree. It has a shiny black coat, and looks adorable and cuddly, but also very large. Satpura is unlike both Kanha and Pench. It amazes me how different each forest is, though they are only a few hours’ drive from each other. Satpura has a moist deciduous jungle with trees that are greener and taller than Pench, though not as forbidding as Kanha. A prominent tree here is the saaj, which has multiple uses. Its wood is turned into furniture, its leaves feed silkworms that produce tussar silk. It has a distinctive bark with a rough pattern, which gives it another name—crocodile bark tree. However, my favourite is the ghost tree, locally called


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ARCHIE (COUPLE), NEHA DARA (ELEPHANT), AVIJIT DUTTA (DOG)

The writer and her husband sip on chai at sunset (top left), as herds of cattle return to the village from grazing in Kanha National Park’s buffer zone; Tara, the elephant (top right) at Kipling Camp, loves to be scratched on the top of her head; Spotting Asiatic wild dogs (bottom) is an amazing wildlife encounter though the creatures are overshadowed by better known predators like tigers and leopards.

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At the various wilderness camps where the writer stayed, the jungle comes right to the door step. Jamtara’s luxury tents are surrounded by tall grasses.

THE VITALS KIPLING CAMP Morcha Village, Kisli, Kanha National Park The tiled roofs of the 12 cottages make them look like local homes. But there the similarities end. Inside, they exude comfort with four-poster beds and rugs. Meals are a mix of local and continental. Guests can get a drink at “BARasingha” (www. kiplingcamp.com; doubles from `26,000, includes all meals). JAMTARA WILDERNESS CAMP Jamtara Village, Chindwara, Pench National Park These luxury tents set among tall grass are tents only in that everything can be disassembled in the monsoon. The interiors are luxurious with wood furniture and bright rugs. Evenings begin with snacks around a bonfire (www.jamtarawilderness. com, doubles from `22,000, includes all meals). RENI PANI JUNGLE LODGE Reni Pani Village, Sohagpur, Satpura National Park Set amongst 30 acres of trees and a seasonal spring, the 12 cottages exude old-world opulence. The meals, featuring Bhopali cuisine, are exemplary. Owners live on-site, lending the experience a personal touch (www.renipanijunglelodge.com; doubles from `18,000, includes all meals).

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In the wonder and curiosity evoked by the jungle, we’d forgotten about the concerns that dogged us in Delhi. Now, knowing that in 24 hours we will be back in the city, they occupy centre stage again. The conclusion is evident to both of us: Serious action is called for. We take a decision to work towards moving out of Delhi. Perhaps we will not be able to move to the mountains as we’d like or to the jungle as the people around us have, but we can find middle ground: a place that permits us to have the quality of life we desire. In the jungle, perspective is easier to find. The next morning, I make a video of our river crossing into the park. It is a moment I want to preserve. After the decision of the previous night, I feel a glorious lightness of being. The colours are brighter, a fragrance rides in the air. On our safari we hear alarm calls and drive in their direction, only to be told by a jeep we encounter that we just missed a leopard. Skilfully predicting the animal’s route, Aly heads off, but the leopard seems to be moving fast and we miss it again. The direction of the gaze of a sambar still on alert gives us the next cue. This time, we drive to a spot and wait in expectant silence. And then it happens. The leopard walks onto the dirt track; a lithe creature moving with menacing grace. We see it mark its territory by scraping a tree with its claws. Then it continues down the path, and into the trees, with a parting look at us. One that seems to bear approval. Neha Dara is the Deputy Editor of National Geographic Traveller India. She is happiest trotting off the beaten path, hiking in forests, scuba diving, or exploring local markets.

NEHA DARA

family owns the property. He lives at the lodge with his wife Shefali Alvares, a Bollywood playback singer, and their daughter. Surrounded by people like Erwin, Aly, and Shefali, who have found ways to live the lives they desire, away from the city, my husband and I begin to feel the weight of an impending decision.


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20 Must-See Places for 2017

Best for Culture: 1 Papua New Guinea 2 Chengdu, China 3 Guadeloupe 4 Georgia 5 Canton Uri, Switzerland 6 Cradle of Humankind, South Africa 7 Malta Best for Nature: 8 Baja California National Marine Parks, Mexico 9 Via Dinarica, Western Balkans 10 Ecuador’s Cloud Forests 11 Kauai 12 Finland 13 Banff, Canada Best for City Life: 14 Moscow 15 Madrid 16 Anchorage 17 Cartagena 18 Hamburg 19 Marrakech 20 Seoul

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY MUTI

Our editors and explorers picked the world’s most exciting destinations for the year ahead. Follow the numbered illustrations on this page to launch your journey.

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Culture GLO BAL E N COU N T E RS ON A LOCA L LEV EL

1 Papua New Guinea Why Go Now: Unprecedented access to remote villages

new sea kayaking expeditions allow visitors to paddle between out-ofthe-way villages and stay overnight in local guest houses (www. tufidive.com). And Walindi Resort will offer liveaboard dive trips in 2017 to the outlying Witu Islands and Father Reef, both packed with whirling schools of big colourful fish (www.febrina. com; 7-night stay on liveaboard $3,130/`2,14,470 per person double occupancy). —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett

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Time ignored much of Papua New Guinea, or P.N.G., an isolated and rugged Garden of Eden. Located in the South Pacific north of Australia, P.N.G. includes the eastern half of the world’s second biggest island, New

Guinea, and about 600 small islands. For indigenous cultures in secluded villages, life goes on pretty much as it has for centuries. Recent grass-roots tourism initiatives, such as lodging and travel website VillageHuts.com, make it a bit easier for adventurers to visit P.N.G.’s untamed rainforests—home to threatened tree kangaroos and Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world—volcanic fjords, and vibrant coral reefs. At Tufi Resort,

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Tribesmen in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, take part in a sing-sing, a tribal gathering full of chants and dancing. JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017 Best for Culture

Chengdu, China

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Why Go Now: Savour a UNESCO City of Gastronomy

Chengdu is hardly a fabled destination in Asia—even though this fogbound river town of ten million is the only city in China known by the same name for more than two millennia. But if you’ve been to a Sichuan restaurant anywhere on Earth, you can attest to the region’s legendary culinary specialties: kung pao chicken, twice-cooked pork, tea-smoked duck, ma po tofu, hot pot, and more. It’s no wonder that UNESCO designated Chengdu its first Asian “City of Gastronomy,” citing it as “the cradle and centre of Sichuan cuisine.” At street stalls, markets, and food courts, a panoply of dishes—from dumplings to duck tongues—is bathed in generous helpings of bright red heat, provided by the famed Sichuan peppercorns. Temper the surfeit of spice at one of Chengdu’s numerous teahouses, among China’s most authentic. As the hub of booming western China, more than three hours’ flight from coastal Shanghai, Chengdu has seen its white-painted back streets largely overtaken by glass-walled office towers. Yet there are plenty of picturesque between-meals stops, and five World Heritage Sites nearby. The thatched cottage of acclaimed Tang dynasty poet Du Fu exudes tranquillity, while the Wide and Narrow Alley district brims with restaurants, bars, and shops selling handicrafts. And Chengdu’s other leading claim to fame is that it is the gateway to panda country—just 160 kilometres from the Wolong Nature Reserve, a panda breeding and research centre that is also home to the rare red panda. In Chengdu, antidote to an increasingly bland China, everything seems cast in a passionate crimson. —John Krich

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3 Guadeloupe Why Go Now: Be moved by Caribbean heritage Guadeloupe, or “Gwada,” has one foot in France, one in the Caribbean, and a rich culture all its own. Located between Dominica and Antigua, the five-island archipelago moves to the beat of Gwoka, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage art form combining Guadeloupean Creole lyrics, African call-

and-response singing, traditional Ka drum rhythms, and dancing. The sounds (along with the food, art, and most things Gwada) braid the islands’ Afro-Indian, Afro-French, and AfroCaribbean traditions. Learn how the African slave trade shaped Guadeloupe’s culture at Mémorial ACTe. This museum and research centre uses location-based beacon technology to track your movements and trigger powerful audiovisual displays, such as actor portrayals of slaves, slave owners, and abolitionists (fr. memorial-acte.fr; closed Mondays; entry €15/`1,090). —MKD

Georgia, U.S.A.

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Cooks in downtown Chengdu keep busy preparing some of Sichuan’s famed specialties: hot-and-sour rice noodles and steamed dumplings.

Old sweet songs aren’t the only tunes keeping Georgia on music lovers’ minds. Current homegrown performers—including Young Jeezy and Luke Bryan—are building on the lyrical legacy of legends such as James Brown and Ray Charles. Hear live music or join a jam session at the Historic Holly Theater in Dahlonega or Atlanta’s Apache Café. Discover the roots of the Georgia sound in Macon, where Jessica Walden and her husband, Jamie Weatherford, operate Rock Candy Tours. “It’s no coincidence that Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers all tapped into the city’s soul, found their voice, and created a sound from it,” says Walden (rockcandytours.com; walking tours from $10/`685). Rock on at one of Georgia’s 75 music festivals, such as June’s AthFest in Athens, home of the B-52s and R.E.M. —MKD

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Why Go Now: Listen up for great American music


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Canton Uri, Switzerland Why Go Now: Zoom through the world’s longest rail tunnel

Cradle of Humankind, South Africa Why Go Now: Pay a visit to your ancestors’ cave It turns out you can go home again. Rewind any family story way, way back some two to three million years and you’ll arrive at the Cradle of Humankind. Located under the rolling Highveld grassland

Canton Uri is the Swiss army knife of Alpine travel experiences. Craving clanking cowbells and traditional cheesemaker huts? Check and check. How about snow-capped peaks and wild flower meadows? Uri’s got you covered. Dream of soaring over glacial lakes in a gondola or peering into the abyss on a gravity-defying train ride? Yep. That’s Uri too. Then there’s Gotthard Pass (elevation 6,909 feet), a magnet for James Bond wannabes itching to drive ridiculous hairpin turns. Their route of choice—an old cobbled road over the Alps—is the adrenaline-pumping way to travel from German-speaking Uri to Italian-speaking Canton Ticino. But it’s the slow lane compared with the new Gotthard Base Tunnel. The 56-kilometre-long rail tunnel (longest of its kind in the world) took 17 years to build yet takes only 17 minutes to zip through via high-speed train. —MKD

an hour northwest of Johannesburg, the sprawling subterranean boneyard provides a window into human evolutionary history. Within the Cradle’s limestone caves and dolomite sinkholes, scientists have discovered one of the world’s greatest sources of hominin fossils. Get an overview of the discoveries at Maropeng (Setswana for “returning to the place of origin”), the Cradle of Humankind’s

burial mound–shaped visitors centre. Then dig deeper on a guided tour of Sterkfontein Caves, site of the longest running (five days a week since 1966) archaeological excavation (www. maropeng.co.za; open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; entry Maropeng adults ZAR120/`580, children 4-14 ZAR65/`315, under 4 free; entry Sterkfontein Caves adults ZAR165/`800, children 4-14 ZAR97/`470, under 4 free). —MKD

In Switzerland’s Canton Uri, the Désalpe festival marks the cattle’s annual autumn descent from summer mountain pastures.

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MALTA IN MOTION A LAND OF HERITAGE TAKES A MODERN TURN BY L I SA A B EN D • PHOTOGRA PHS BY A LEX WEBB

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An angler tries his luck in one of Valletta’s many inlets fronted by honeyhued stone buildings. JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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I’M SURROUNDED BY

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T-SHIRTS.

Thirty or so English-speaking visitors have gathered for a tour of Thrones sites in Malta’s ancient fortified town of Mdina, and right now we’re standing on Pjazza Mesquita. Before us hang the balconies where scheming Lord Baelish displayed his prostitutes and Ned Stark, lord paramount of the North, is horrified to find his wife. Everything around us—walls, arches, paving stones—is golden limestone, interrupted only by green shutters and black iron curving over windows. Malcolm Ellul, a 41-year-old Maltese businessman and actor, points to a very un-Westeros mailbox. “That’s practically the only thing they had to change,” he says— “they” referring to the film crew for the hit TV series. “Otherwise, you see? Malta doesn’t need anything done to it.” This isn’t the sentiment I had hoped to hear. On my first trip to Malta, several years ago, I’d been struck by how out-of-date the place seemed, not just old but old-fashioned. Its history as home to the Knights of Malta and, subsequently, a British protectorate (English remains an official language), was fascinating. But there was something about this Mediterranean island nation perched between Sicily and North Africa that seemed stuck, its food and arts scenes undeveloped, its fashions several years behind, its tourism aimed largely at northern Europeans hellbent on sunburns and hangovers. Even Malta’s politics seemed retrograde: Divorce was illegal until 2011. But in the intervening years I had heard rumours of change. The European Commission chose Malta’s capital, Valletta, as one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2018. Malta’s government finally legalized divorce. New boutique hotels were opening, major cultural initiatives were being launched, and, yes, Game of Thrones began filming here. Together, all of these changes had me wondering: After so much time being known

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primarily for sunshine and knights, was Malta finally entering the modern world? I ARRIVE IN VALLETTA as the sun is setting and head straight out to retrace a walk I made on my last visit inside the city’s fortified walls. Narrow streets are lined with baroque buildings, all ornate porticoes and wrought-iron balconies. Various doorways bear plaques commemorating some long-ago event or person. Vintage hand-painted signs mark shops—Paul’s Store, Smiling Prince Bar—long departed. When I reach the Grand Harbour, the cobalt expanse of the Mediterranean Sea gives way to an astonishing panorama of tightly packed houses, church domes, and fortresses. It looks either medieval or Meereen—a city from the show—I’m not sure which. Even for the Old Continent, Malta is dense with history. A republic centred on three inhabited islands at a key crossroads location in the Mediterranean, it has been a strategic prize about as long as there has been strategy. Archaeological remains place its original inhabitants in the Neolithic period; a progression of Phoenicians, Romans, and Arabs subsequently populated it. Malta really came into its own in the 16th century, when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V granted its two main islands, Malta and Gozo, to the order of the Knights with the hope that it would help protect Rome. Several sieges and 150 years of British colonialism later you have a place that bears hallmarks—an Arabic-inflected vocabulary, a taste for fish-and-chips—of the many cultures that have passed through it. I learn this at The Malta Experience, an “audio-visual spectacular” that recounts the invasions (Roman, Arab, Napoleonic) and repulsions (Ottoman, Fascist, Nazi) that make up the better part of the country’s history; and at Malta 5D, a shorter film that


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compensates for what it lacks in historical detail with lurching seats and wafts of Maltese bread scents piped into the auditorium as a bakery appears on-screen (motion and smell being, apparently, the fourth and fifth dimensions). “There is a claustrophobia that is born of being so small, so packed in, and so old,” says Kenneth Scicluna, a veteran Maltese filmmaker whose work is deeply informed by his homeland. A sign outside the café where we meet up advertises craft beers, but instead of bearded bartenders pouring hoppy brews to an adult clientele, all I see around me is a nondescript interior filled with rambunctious children. “I always have this sense of being watched,” Scicluna adds. “And not only by other people, but by the place itself. It’s so old. It knows things.” Steeped in history yet full of lighthearted moments—such as lofting orange balls branded with the name of local beverage Kinnie—Valletta, Malta’s capital, looks forward to its turn on the world stage as a 2018 European Capital of Culture.

I love the image of a place that watches over its residents, but for Scicluna, so much history can impede cultural change. “We are a country that wants so desperately to be modern but doesn’t always know how. There is always the weight of the past getting in the way.” WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO LESSEN that weight in this island nation? I think back to my first visit to Bilbao, Spain, in the 1990s, when its Guggenheim museum was just going up. Few could imagine that architect Frank Gehry’s undulating titanium walls and Richard Serra’s curving sculptures would transform a city that had been defined by its industrial history. Yet many now consider the Basque metropolis a cultural hub, with exciting restaurants, a lively market, and a number of new construction projects, all jump-started by a museum that draws more than a million arts-minded visitors a year. So significant has the impact been that the city inspired a phenomenon: the “Bilbao effect,” when a place remakes itself by attracting a world-class cultural institution, preferably designed by a high-powered architect.

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Valletta recently got its own piece of starchitecture when powerhouse architect Renzo Piano reimagined the 16th-century city gate as a dramatic, clean-lined breach in the old walls. He flanked it with twin staircases that rise like austere wings and designed a new parliament building just inside, fronted with a perforated facade that some critics have compared to a cheese grater but that strikes me as both imposing and elegant. I’m marvelling at the coherence of Piano’s complex when I spy a young man eating a sandwich nearby. Ramon Vella is no fan of the new construction. “I know the experts say it’s art,” he says, “but it doesn’t fit the culture of the city.” He’s not alone in feeling that way; the Maltese president who initiated the project lost an election in part because of it. Piano anticipated some resistance. In an interview with the local Times of Malta newspaper he noted, “I like the idea of joining past and future, history and modernity. We don’t want a monumental parliament; that’s not the spirit. It’s more about welcoming people, about having spaces that are accessible.” “I wouldn’t call it conservatism per se,” says Toni Attard, director of strategy for Arts Council Malta. “But there is a strong bias in favour of heritage and tradition here. People will get more outraged over a bastion that comes crumbling down than over an artist packing his bags and leaving.” So what would change that mindset? Injecting more diverse ideas and voices into the country’s insular culture would help. Arts Council Malta, Attard explains, is trying both, increasing public funding for the arts from €100,000 to 1.6 million and training artists internationally so they may return home to invigorate the local culture. “This may not be the most artistically refined cultural scene yet,” says Attard. “But it’s changing. There’s been quite a buzz building in the past few years.” Contributing to that buzz is Valletta’s selection as a European Capital of Culture. For a tiny nation like Malta, this designation offers an opportunity to show the world what it’s up to. “I think the selection panel was struck by the novelty we represent,” says Karsten Xuereb, executive director of the Valletta 2018 Foundation. “Malta is known for its heritage and history; the panellists were curious to see how we’d spin it in a contemporary sense. Because you know what? The past is past. This gives us a chance to articulate what it means to us today to be Maltese.” Among other things, Xuereb told me, the designation will bring fresh cultural programming, a new contemporary art museum in what centuries ago was lodging for Italian knights, and a design centre fashioned from an old slaughterhouse. Valletta 2018 also has inspired a reworking of the 19th-century covered market into a modern food hall that will combine produce stalls and trendy places to eat. I can hear hammers and drills busy at work as I walk past it on Merchants Street. All this change prompts me to look for more in Gozo, Malta’s second largest island. Not as populated as Malta proper, it has a higher percentage of agricultural land, which confers a notably rural feel. Not surprisingly, the past remains decidedly present. In fact, my first stop takes me as far into the past as I can go.

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Pairing wood and stone, curves and planes, Malta’s new parliament and city gate complex, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, announces a contemporary sensibility while honouring this island nation’s heritage.

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In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017 Bathers cool off in one of the many natural sea pools that scallop Malta’s coast, known also for its underwater grottoes.

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The Neolithic temples at Ggantija date back more than 5,500 years, making them older than Egypt’s pyramids. Many temple altars still stand, perhaps once decorated with the rotund figurines I’d seen at the National Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta. Pausing before one temple altar under the baking sun, I feel a chill run through me—all the millennia, all the ancient people who once stood, awed, in this very same spot. In its own way Gozo is looking to the future. Instead of the nightclubs and bustling beaches that draw so many vacationers to resort areas on the larger island, Gozo is developing ecotourism and other forms of experiential travel. Chief among these is diving; the British magazine Diver recently named Gozo the world’s second best diving destination (after the Red Sea), thanks to crystalline waters and many underwater caves and tunnels. Yet even here, says David Hayler-Montague, a Brit who moved to Gozo six years ago and opened the Bubbles Dive Centre, the real appeal is the past. “What I love about this place is how it seems like it could be 30 years ago. Things aren’t built up as they are on the other island, and people here are so laid-back, so decent, and so honest. The days on Gozo just seem to happen.”

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PAUSING BEFORE ONE TEMPLE ALTAR UNDER A BAKING SUN, I FEEL A CHILL RUN THROUGH ME—ALL THE MILLENNIA, ALL THE ANCIENT PEOPLE WHO ONCE STOOD, AWED, IN THIS VERY SAME SPOT


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A lifeguard station on Sliema beach flaunts bold colours—and a peekaboo window. Malta sunseekers can choose between sand and stone beaches; Tuned up, a marching band (facing page) accompanies locals as they celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel near a church in the town of Zurrieq.

Though I’m not a diver, Hayler-Montague invites me to accompany a group he is escorting to the Blue Hole, Gozo’s top dive site. We drive to a large parking lot bordered on one side by the sea and on the other by a sere landscape. Scrambling down rocks to the water’s edge, we find a pool that marks the entrance to the Blue Hole. We also find the Azure Window, a massive arch carved from the limestone by centuries of wind and water. The divers sink beneath the water (later one will tell me it’s the best dive he’s ever made, with its grottoes), but I’m transfixed by that rock formation. Around me, kids jump into the turquoise sea. It is the most beautiful swimming hole I have ever seen. And also, it turns out, the most famous. Two days later I’m back on the main island, Malta, in its ancient capital, Mdina,

listening to Malcolm Ellul point out sites where Game of Thrones had filmed during its first season. When a girl asks why the show hadn’t returned to film in Malta, Ellul looks momentarily pained. The scene in which Princess Daenerys marries the warlord Drogo was shot in front of the Azure Window, he explains. To make it look like a Dothraki desert, the producers laid down tons of sand, which damaged an environmentally sensitive area and resulted in fines against the local production company. Yet Ellul thinks there will be other opportunities. After all, Assassin’s Creed, the new movie based on the insanely popular video game, was filmed partly in Valletta. ON MY FINAL NIGHT I RETURN TO VALLETTA. Renzo Piano, in addition to redesigning the old city gate and the parliament building, recast the once ornate Royal Opera House, which was largely destroyed in World War II by German bombs. Piano’s design kept the structure roofless, a choice that, dismayingly to some Maltese, makes it appear unfinished—but leaves it open to the oranges of a dawn sky and the pinks and purples of dusk. Piano said that he wanted to create “a place of virtual

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sound and virtual setting, including all the possible techniques that are absolutely new … a way to push Malta into the future.” I stand outside this reinvention as strains from Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” fill the night. To be honest, I have not found the degree of innovation I came looking for. There are no daring art galleries or hip neighbourhoods, at least not equivalent to those in Brooklyn or London. No café spends 15 minutes on proper “pour-over” coffee, and few do truly new things with food. My most memorable moments connected with Malta’s past, not its future—especially a night-time walk in Victoria, the largest city on Gozo, where, from the medieval citadel I took in a 360-degree view of the entire island. In the near distance, every few miles, I could make out the glowing dome of a church; beyond, I spied the sea’s edge. It was a sublime moment that came from an unmediated communion, I thought, with history. Later I learned the citadel had undergone extensive renovation and reopened to the public only two days before my visit. What had so moved me was not the unadulterated past but the past lightly reimagined for the present. Then I remembered something Toni Attard had told me: that along with trying to build new cultural institutions, his Arts Council Malta was investing in a reinvigoration of the old. “The last purpose-built theatre in Malta was under British rule,” he’d said. “We could spend the next ten years waiting to build a new one, or we could do what we did—maximize what is available.” So Malta may not experience the Bilbao effect. But perhaps I’d been wrong to think of the creation of some brand-new, clearly contemporary work as the only possible sign of modernization. The past and the future are not opposites, after all, but points along a continuum. Change doesn’t have to come only in the form of rupture. It can come gently, in small and slow reinventions of what has been. Leaving the Azure Window in Gozo, I’d hopped in a taxi. The driver, Florian, asked what I thought of the formation. I went on about its beauty. He said geologists had just tested it and found that the top of the arch is so worn, it could collapse within months. I’d expressed my dismay; Florian agreed. “But,” he’d added, “you know what we Maltese are like. We are used to making things from the past. So it’s not the Azure Window anymore? We’ll call it the Azure Door.” Copenhagen-based journalist Lisa abend writes often about Europe for such publications as Bon Appétit, Newsweek, and The New York Times. aLex Webb’s photography has appeared in National Geographic and Geo. GO WITH NAT GEO Discover Valletta’s old town and the Neolithic temples of Ggantija, both World Heritage Sites, with National Geographic Expeditions’ “Voyage to Antiquity: Exploring Malta and Sicily Aboard the Sea Cloud,” a 15-day cruise on a 1930s square-rigger. Highlights in Sicily include Syracuse’s ancient ruins and the volcanic isle of Stromboli. (natgeoexpeditions.com/explore; from $19,400/`13,29,320 per person double occupancy.)

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Sundown casts playful shadows at Cockney’s, a restaurant tucked into Valletta’s historic district.


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Blue Hole & Azure Window Victoria

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Malta Nights

Malta Bites

ART DECO DIGS Hotel Phoenicia Malta The grande dame of Malta lodgings, this 1930s deco gem near Valletta’s City Gate completes a renovation early in 2017. Notable feature: more than seven acres of gardens. Past guests have included Queen Elizabeth II and actor Joaquin Phoenix (campbellgrayhotels.com/ phoenicia; doubles from €147/`10,705).

PASTA BY HAND Capistrano Malta has no shortage of Italian restaurants—Sicily, after all, is the closest large land body—but this pretty spot in the heart of the capital, with its beautifully prepared fish and handmade pastas (the rabbit tortelloni is especially luscious), stands out from the rest (capistranorestaurant.com).

OLD WORLD RETREAT Tano’s Boutique Guesthouse Its location near Valletta’s new parliament building makes this lodging in an 18th-century palazzo an ideal base in Malta’s capital. Guests choose from six rooms; a roof terrace offers views of Grand Harbour (bedspro.com; doubles from €135/`9,600). GOING COUNTRY Razzett Abela You’ll go local at this cosy B&B, also known as Lisa’s Farmhouse, on Malta’s second island, Gozo. Its two guest rooms look out on trees—the B&B sits across from public gardens—and a pool (www.visitgozo.com; doubles from `4,965).

CHEESE AND “OLIVES” Legligin The tasting menu in this snug basement wine bar on Saint Lucia Street offers the perfect introduction to Maltese cuisine, from the salty sheep’s milk cheese called gbejna to wine-braised beef rolls known as “beef olives.” (117/119 St. Lucia Street) EAT AND LEARN Nenu the Artisan Baker With its life-size re-creation of a traditional Maltese bakery (complete with mannequins), a “discovery room,” a kid’s corner, and cooking classes, Nenu serves up both culinary education and an evocative venue in which to try Malta’s classic stuffed bread (nenuthebaker.com).

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Nature W I L D EXPE R I E N C ES I N T H E G R E AT OU T DO O RS

8 Baja California National Marine Parks, Mexico Why Go Now: Applaud a conservation success story

Guadalupe Island, Revillagigedo Archipelago, and San Ignacio Lagoon marine reserves. Today, San Ignacio Lagoon is the primary calving ground for eastern Pacific gray whales. And Cabo Pulmo—widely considered one of the world’s greatest ecological comeback stories—teems with marine life, its total fish biomass rebounding more than 400 percent since fishing was banned in 2000. —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett

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Close encounters of the ginormous marine kind are common in the waters off Mexico’s fingerlike Baja California peninsula. Baja is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the

east by the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California), where behemoths of the sea—whales, great white sharks, and manta rays with wingspans up to 20 feet—and a variety of fish congregate. Twenty years ago many of these species were on the brink of extinction due to overfishing and pollution. Partnerships between local communities and the government helped turn the tide with the creation of Cabo Pulmo,

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In Focus | WHER E TO GO I N 2017 Best for Nature

Via Dinarica, Western Balkans

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Why Go Now: Set off on the world’s newest long-distance trail

The Balkan Peninsula’s beautifully rugged wilderness areas just became more accessible. In 2017, for the first time after years of expansion, the 1,931-kilometre Via Dinarica trail will be completely mapped with stage information compiled from a growing community of hikers. The trek—which stitches together ancient trading and military routes—traverses the Dinaric Alps, linking the countries of the Balkan Peninsula from Slovenia, then south through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Trekkers sleep in mountain shelters along the Adriatic Sea, or atop the region’s highest peaks, or above one of the deepest gorges on the continent. But the path is also a cultural corridor, where thru-hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, paddlers, and day-trippers encounter old world traditions unchanged after five decades of communism. During homestay layovers—along the popular three-day stretch from Albania’s Theth National Park to the Kosovo border, for instance—you might find yourself drinking coffee cooked in a copper pot, with a work-worn but hospitable farmer. What was a contentious region has become the planet’s most eye-opening cross-border destination. “The Via Dinarica has replaced politics with nature,” says Thierry Joubert, of Green Visions, a Bosnia and Herzegovina–based tour operator. “What could be more beautiful?” —Alex Crevar

10 Ecuador’s Cloud Forests Why Go Now: Spot wildlife in a hotbed of biodiversity Birders flock to the primeval cloud forests of Ecuador’s Chocó region, considered some of the richest depositories of plant and animal life on Earth. Located north of Quito on the fog-shrouded Andean slopes, the biodiversity hotspot is home to hundreds of bird species, including the flashy Andean cockof-the-rock and dazzling hummingbirds. Other

wonders include a profusion of epiphytes and rare orchids. The teddy bear-faced olinguito was identified here in 2013 as the newest mammal species in the Americas. At Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge go on a guided night walk to spot handsize moths and flickering fireflies (www.bellavistacloudforest.com; day trip from $92/`6,240 per person depending on group size). At Mashpi, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, soar through the mist on a zip-line sky bike or an open-air gondola for heady views of the forest canopy (www. nationalgeographic lodges.com; doubles $1,098/`75,235). —MKD

Kauai, Hawaii Why Go Now: Hike authentic Hawaii

A hiker stands on the peak of Matorac in the Dinaric Alps of central Bosnia and Herzegovina, along a section of the Balkans’ 1,931-kilometre Via Dinarica trail.

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Kauai needed no computer-generated special effects to steal the show in the Jurassic movies and more than 60 other feature films. The island’s aerial tours deliver cinematic views of the Na Pali coast sea cliffs. But plunging deep into the Garden Island’s wild side requires hitting a trail. Marked hiking paths lead into Waimea Canyon, through the shallow bogs of Alakai Swamp, and across lush landscapes. The eight-kilometre Wai Koa Loop Trail, passes through the U.S.’s largest mahogany forest. For the most meaningful treks, go with a local, says Hike Kauai With Me owner Eric Rohlffs (www.hikekauaiwithme.com; from $119/`8,075 per person depending on group size). “A guide can take you to less travelled spots while keeping you safe and educating you on all things Hawaii.” —MKD


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Holidays become even more special with a reindeer sled ride at the Torassieppi Reindeer Farm, which has been has been welcoming visitors for about 100 years.

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Why Go Now: Unplug in the Finnish countryside

wilderness areas, and eight national hiking areas are sanctuaries for silence seekers. In 2017, Finns celebrate a hundred years of independence from Russia with four (winter, spring, summer, and fall) nationwide Finnish Nature Days, featuring pop-up events that might include mushroom picking or family-friendly hikes. Finland also designated

Hossa National Park as the country’s 40th national park. Join the unplugged party at Torassieppi, a rustic and remote reindeer farm. It offers a programme where guests voluntarily turn over their electronic devices, freeing them to focus on more self-restorative pursuits, such as reindeer sledding or snowshoeing through Lapland forests. —MKD

GO WITH NAT GEO National Geographic Expeditions offers “Circumnavigating the Baltic Sea,” a 14-day small-ship cruise that includes Poland, Sweden, and Finland. (natgeoexpeditions. com/explore; from $14,840/`10,16,860 per person, double occupancy.)

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If silence is golden, you’ll discover the mother lode in Finland’s state-owned protected areas. From near the Arctic Circle in Lapland (where the northern lights often brighten the 200 days of winter), through the 20,000-island Finnish archipelago, and along the rocky beaches on the mainland’s southernmost tip, Finland’s 40 national parks, 12


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BANFF RETREAT AS CANADA MARKS A MILESTONE, WE TRACK DOWN BEAUTY AND BLISS IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

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THE MAPLE LEAVES ARE EVERYWHERE: red ones on white T-shirts, white ones on red T-shirts. They’re screen printed on bunting, chalked onto sidewalks, painted on faces, emblazoned on dog collars. It is July 1 in Banff, Alberta, and residents are celebrating Canada Day as the country readies for the big bash in 2017, when Canada marks its 150th anniversary as a nation. The food stalls sell bison jerky and fruit juices and vegetable samosas. Performers are attired in costumes from many lands. Singers

belt out a universal message of love and harmony in various tongues. A stranger hands me a paper Canadian flag, and we make our way to the parade route along Banff Avenue. Many of us are from the U.S. or China or India, and we know only two words in the lyrics of the national anthem. But we all gamely chime in with “O Canada” at the right spots. From the red and the white all around me I look up and see blue and green. Banff is no ordinary small town. It sits in the middle of Canada’s first and arguably best national park, 6,475 square kilometres of Rocky Mountain splendour carpeted with pine and spruce trees and riddled with glaciers bleeding blue into clear lakes—a space big and bold enough to support huge numbers of wildlife, including wolves, elk, moose, cougars, lynxes, black bears, and grizzlies. A thought strikes me: People are puny; nature is the grand marshal of this parade. A FEW MONTHS AGO I HAD AN ANXIETY ATTACK. Racing heart, tight chest, cold hands. My doctor told me my cortisol levels were elevated. He prescribed vitamins and supplements to counteract the effects of a limbic hijacking and urged me to “meditate and eat dark chocolate.” So, besides popping chill pills, I’m biting into a Godiva daily and listening to a playlist of nouveau spiritualism by pop sages of the modern age. Had somebody close to me died? Was I experiencing some newly surfaced childhood trauma? Did my husband leave me for his secretary? No, no, and well, yes, but that was 20 years ago. So what was going on? Something embarrassingly trivial: I’m a recent empty nester trying to write her next chapter. If that diagnosis is clear, the remedy is not. Our bodies have minds of their own. I felt as if I’d pushed off from one shore and hadn’t quite reached the other. So I escaped to Canada, like a late-in-life runaway. I’m not unhappy. In fact, I had long anticipated this period after the kids went to college. But I live with a nagging question: What on Earth do I want? Right now I want to be in Banff. To be outdoors, hike, make new friends, and try to lose the thoughts that cobweb my brain in my suburban home office outside of Washington, D.C. This corner of the Rockies seems to me exactly what my meditation podcasts were telling me to visualize, but here I don’t have to close my eyes. I can open them. I JOIN MY NEW BANFF FRIENDS Sally and Alison one morning for their daily stroll with their dogs up 5,500-foothigh Tunnel Mountain, just east of downtown. We’re three 50-somethings in cropped yoga pants talking about nothing and everything. From an overlook we can see the turrets and dormers of the area’s oldest and most famous lodging, the castleon-a-hill Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Near the summit, Sally and Alison touch the trunk of a fir tree, its gnarled bark worn smooth by other hands. They touch for sick friends, for dogs Banff’s tea shops and cafés line the sunny side of the street; Two pooches (facing page) are on the job by Lake Louise, a star attraction famed for its glacier-fed turquoise water.

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bona fides. His great uncle Bill Peyto was one of the first warlong gone, for the fallen. I touch too, “for sisterhood,” I say. dens of Banff National Park, which was established in the late I had a short unhappy marriage and a long unhappy divorce. 1800s. For his contributions, his name was attached to a lake, a It was a slog, marked by custody battles for our two sons, tears, glacier, a mountain, a creek, and a café. and trips to the therapist. I marvel at those who do it without At camp the next morning, Peyto motions me over to his family and friends—I had both. Looking back on those turbulent “weather station,” really a gap in the trees with a clear view of the years, I realize I had an enviable clarity of purpose. My goal was creek below and Molar Mountain in the distance (which looks the well-being of my sons; everything else was secondary. Now I just like its name). If a storm develops, he can see it coming. We miss the focus that gave me such direction. sip coffee, boiled with the grounds. No latte foam art here. Peyto After the hike I meet up with Alexia McKinnon at the Banff doesn’t have children, but he knows what ails today’s youth. “We Centre, an “arts and creativity incubator” at the base of Tunnel were always outside, always doing something—fishing, hiking, Mountain. McKinnon manages leadership programmes for riding, skiing in wintertime. These kids now, they don’t want to indigenous people. Hailing from the First Nations tribe of do anything; that’s why they’re all four axe-handles wide. And all Champagne and Aishihik, up in Yukon Province, she tells me the rivets and lock washers and stuff hanging off them, all them that Tunnel Mountain is also called Sleeping Buffalo Mountain. tattoos, I just shake my head.” And, she adds, “according to the elders, it is a place of healing, The guy could give his own TED Talk: Head outside, do especially for women.” Really? The mountain I just climbed with chores. It’s a simple version of the “forest bathing” and digital the gals and touched wood—that mountain? “No doubt you felt detox that today’s parenting experts advocate for nature deficit its energy,” she says. disorder and our culture of consumerism. The town of Banff, at the convergence of three After the horse-packing trip I check into the valleys and two rivers, was a place of gathering log-and-stone Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, on the blue and trade for native nations, including those 1 Fun is a toss-up for lip of Bow Lake. Built in the 1940s by another of the Stoney Nakoda, the Blackfoot, and the a young member of the Harper family, on a Banff pioneer and mountain man, Jimmy Tsuut‘ina. Their influence continues to resocamping trip to Banff Simpson, the lodge is now in the hands of Tim nate. When I ask McKinnon what wisdom toNational Park’s Two Jack Whyte, who despite initial drops of rain, takes day’s elders offer, she smiles. Lake. 2 The Fairmont Banff me on a hike to Bow Glacier Falls, across the “They ask us to be mindful every day, to listen Springs hotel, known as lake. Raindrops soon turn into horizontal precito our ancestors, to the trees that give us air, to “the Castle in the Rockies,” echoes its mountain pitation, and thunderclaps follow lightning. the rocks that clean the water, to the animals setting. 3 A common “I love this,” Whyte says. “I just don’t do it that give us food. They remind us that we are park sight, bighorn sheep enough.” Twenty years ago he gave up the execuhere as part of the continuum. We are here to graze the shores of Lake tive suite for an innkeeper’s life following a bout honour those who came before and represent Minnewanka. 4 Newlyweds Doug and Nat Macgregor of thyroid cancer. The work was more difficult, those who come after.” This mountain has a take in a Banff view from but he relishes it. song, she tells me, “and I was called to the the Lake Agnes Tea House, “Every now and then everyone needs to do a mountain by that song.” built by the Canadian head check. Ask ourselves: Am I doing what I Canada is calling me. Twice this summer Pacific Railway in 1901. should be doing?” I’ve found myself north of the circle of latitude Hiking wilderness in a tempest—is this what 48th parallel, first in Quebec and now in Banff. I should be doing? In a word, yes. This land clears my head. From the mountains here in the Rockies to the prairies of Manitoba to the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, the country feels more spacious, more I’M ITCHING TO SEE A BEAR. Preferably in the company of accepting. To this American, Canada is what we might be if we Amar Athwal, a ranger at the Cave and Basin National Historic got outside more. Site, centred around a series of hot springs on the outskirts of downtown. The popular area, bounded on one side by Sulphur Mountain, abuts a wildlife corridor, so it’s a good place to spot MY IPHONE IS DEAD. My Fitbit too. The camera still works, one of the world’s largest omnivores. Athwal, however, takes but it’s buried in the saddlebag and out of reach. I’m not even me to see snails. Barely the size of a pea, Banff spring snails are halfway into a two-day horse-packing excursion through the endangered, found nowhere else in the world but in the site’s dense backcountry of Lake Louise, following the trails of early sulfurous spring waters. pioneers and their First Nations guides, and my fingers already “See, there’s one,” he says, pointing to a dark, slimy corner of seek something to tap, press, or swipe. Everywhere I turn I see one pool. “My job is to protect both the bears and the snails. Instagrammable moments, as piney woods, glacier-fed lakes, We’ve come a long way as humans that this park is here to do snow-covered passes, and pointed peaks assemble themselves in both.” I get it. You can’t just save the good-looking creatures. But countless permutations of perfect. I must not be as highly evolved because I can’t muster much zest The cowboy leading our group of four is Paul Peyto. Born in for the green blobs. Banff, he and his wife, Sue, run Timberline Tours. Peyto has the

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The high life comes naturally at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, where poolgoers are treated to their own private overlook of peak-flanked Bow Valley.

During the construction of the transcontinental railway in the 1880s, workers found these hot springs, long known to First Nations people. To protect them, a reserve was established in 1885. Next came a marketer’s idea to build some fancy lodges and encourage travellers to board the train west. This marked the birth both of tourism and the national parks system in Canada. At that time protected lands were dedicated more to the interests of tourism than to the ideals of conservation. First Nations peoples were evicted, big-game trophy hunting was promoted, lakes were stocked with nonnative fish species for anglers, and the hot springs were “enhanced” with swimming pools and bathhouses. Today Banff National Park is placing a priority on environmental protection and redressing wrongs done to the original inhabitants. Wildlife overpasses and underpasses cross both the Trans-Canada Highway and the Icefields Parkway, allowing safe passage to fauna, from gangly moose to elusive wolverines. Footage from hidden cameras on YouTube shows plenty of traffic on these animal highways.

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BANFF IS NO ORDINARY TOWN. IT SITS IN THE MIDDLE OF CANADA’S FIRST NATIONAL PARK, 6,475 SQUARE KILOMETRES OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPLENDOUR CARPETED WITH PINE AND SPRUCE TREES AND RIDDLED WITH GLACIERS BLEEDING BLUE INTO CLEAR LAKES


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Banff Bests EASY RIDING Banff Legacy Trail This 22.5-km paved route for cyclists, walkers, and in-line skaters runs from the town of Banff to the town of Canmore. Created for the 125th anniversary of Banff National Park, in 2010, it passes peaks, lakes, and forests (www.pc.gc.ca). PRIDE OF PLACE Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Learn about the area’s culture and history at this museum founded by a Banff family descendant and his Boston-born wife. Exhibits include snow goggles made by Bill Peyto and beaded Stoney Nakoda moccasins (www.whyte.org; open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; entry CAD10/ `505, children under 12 free). GLIDE UP, HIKE DOWN Banff Gondola An eight-minute gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain yields panoramic views of six mountain ranges. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife.

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HOOFING IT Timberline Tours Timberline is one of three outfitters specializing in Banff horseback tours; trips range from 1.5-hour excursions to 10-day expeditions (timberlinetours.ca; excursions from CAD80/`4,075; overnight trips CAD510/`26,000 per person). CRUISE CONTROL Bow Valley Parkway A scenic alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway, Bow Valley Parkway engages drive-through visitors with its viewpoints, informational signs, and picnic spots. Adapted from the National Geographic Traveler Guide to the National Parks of Canada. GO WITH NAT GEO Explore Banff National Park on National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures’ 12-day “Discover the Canadian Rockies” trip. Stops include Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, and Jasper National Park (natgeojourneys.com; from $3,899/`2,64,630 per person).

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BACK TO WHERE I STARTED. I am standing along the Canada Day parade route in the town of Banff with Hernan Argana, his wife, and their two daughters, some of the 2,000 immigrants from countries such as the Philippines (where the Arganas—and my parents—hail from) who make up the bedrock of this resort town’s economy. “I love Canada,” says Hernan. “The people here have been so good to us. The teacher saw my children walking to school in the cold and organized a visit to the thrift shop where we could have anything we needed for free.” The family’s immigrant journey was difficult. He worked in Banff alone for seven long years to get his permanent residency, wiring most of his income to pay for his youngest daughter’s heart surgery in the Philippines. The Banff Western Union staff witnessed his weekly visits and took up a secret collection for his daughter’s medical costs. His family reunited with him in Canada four years ago. We watch the parade. The mayor, civic groups, and marching bands file past, followed by floats celebrating the ethnic groups that form the tapestry of Banff, and Canada—Filipinos, Japanese, Poles, Indians, Chinese, Scottish, Irish. About 20 per cent of Canada’s population is foreign-born (compared with 13.2 per cent in the U.S. in 2014). I think of my own family’s immigrant story. In the 1960s my parents travelled to the U.S. to study and later raised their three children in Washington, D.C. My sisters and I, their husbands, and our blended-race offspring represent a thoroughly American melting pot. This land around me isn’t my land, but it is a product of the same ideals. In its large tracts of wilderness and small acts of kindness, Canada turns out to be the perfect place to escape to without losing myself. To ask questions that I discover I already know the answers to. To give my better self room to grow. And to wait for the bear.

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The bison too are returning: Parks Canada has plans to reintroduce a herd of about 30 next year. More significantly, First Nations peoples have been active participants in the process. According to Karsten Heuer, the park’s bison-reintroduction project manager, “Bison are to the plains and foothills culture what salmon are to coastal cultures and caribou are to northern ones. Daily life revolved around the bison’s movements and rhythms, and from that, entire spiritual practices were born. Bringing bison back to Banff will help provide strength to those cultures. It’s a renewal.” Nice, but where’s my bear? “Be patient and present.” Athwal sounds just like one of my meditation podcasts. “The most difficult thing we need to give nature is time. Nature will not show you everything at once. But she will give you enough.”

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Cities W HAT ’S H OT I N T H E WOR L D’S COO LEST PLAC ES

14 Moscow, Russia Why Go Now: Unpeel history 100 years from the Bolshevik Revolution

“Soviet Versailles.” In Gorky Park, view the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art’s first triennial (March 10-May 14), featuring works from Russia’s vast and diverse artistic landscape. And even though life back in the U.S.S.R. isn’t something modern Muscovites are likely to celebrate, the Communist propaganda poster collection is reason enough to visit the Russian Contemporary History Museum. —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett

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Like a matryoshka nesting doll, Russia’s splendid capital city reveals itself in layers. At Moscow’s core, Red Square, the imposing Kremlin complex (with previously offlimits areas set to open to the public in 2017),

and the candystriped domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral remain popular attractions. To explore the city’s less touristed outer rings, ride the Metro (famous for lavish architectural details such as stained-glass panels and intricate mosaics). Browse galleries at Winzavod, a former wine-bottling factory turned contemporary art centre. Meander around the newly redeveloped VDNKh, a nearly 600-acre Stalinist exhibition centre once dubbed the

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Brightened by the State Historical Museum and Kazan Cathedral, Moscow’s Red Square is far from monochrome.

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Best for City Life

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Why Go Now: Get an eyeful of urban art

Spain’s cosmopolitan capital city— which hosts World Pride Madrid 2017 (June 23 to July 2)—lays claim to three of the world’s greatest art museums (the Prado, Reina Sofía, and ThyssenBornemisza), nightlife that runs into day, and manicured parks and gardens. Contemporary Madrileño street artists make their mark in neighbourhoods such as bohemian Malasaña and multicultural Lavapiés. “The local urban art scene is emerging as a new landmark where both national and international artists, many from Latin America, have seized a real opportunity to express themselves,” says Chris Cung, founder of Madrid Urban Art Tours (madridurbanarttours. com; walking tours free). Hit the streets with Cung to see walls, alleys, and other hardscape canvases of creativity. —MKD

16 Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A. Why Go Now: Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase With Cook Inlet as a front porch, the Chugach Mountains out back, and five national parks nearby, Anchorage offers access to Alaskasize adventures. Add nearly round-the-clock daylight in summer, and it’s possible to pack a week’s worth of activities into a weekend. Try angling in the world’s largest urban

fishery. Then hike to a glacier, surf the bore tide along Turnagain Arm, spot grizzlies from a floatplane, and land back at Bear Tooth Grill for a Polar Pale Ale. At the time of the Alaska Purchase (mocked then as Secretary of State William Seward’s “Folly”), the region was considered a frozen wasteland. “Today, Alaska is at the centre of a number of issues of global importance,” says Thomas Gokey, PR manager at the Anchorage Museum. In fall 2017, the museum opens an expanded wing and a redesigned Alaska exhibit, with multimedia elements that give visitors a taste of life in the largest U.S. state. —MKD

Cartagena, Colombia Why Go Now: Give peace a chance in Colombia

Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía exhibits the work of contemporary artists such as Japanese art star Yayoi Kusama.

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently earned the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end 52 years of war in the country. Untouched by the conflict, Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has long inspired visitors and writers—in particular, novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who set his luminous Love in the Time of Cholera here. See what stirred him on a stroll through the walled Old City, with its brightly painted colonial mansions, bougainvillea-draped balconies, and open-air courtyard cafés filled with the infectious rhythms of cumbia. Márquez told the Paris Review in 1981 that while he garners credit for his fiction, his work is entirely drawn from real life: “The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.” —MKD


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Hamburg, Germany Why Go Now: Dip into a waterfront world of reinvigorated architecture

Berlin may rock, but Hamburg floats. Water, water is everywhere in this former Hanseatic League city, Germany’s “gateway to the world” for centuries. Located on the Elbe River near the North Sea, Hamburg is Europe’s second busiest containerport (after Rotterdam) and is laced with canals. When the tide cooperates, you can cruise the canals crisscrossing Speicherstadt, one of the world’s largest historic port warehouse districts. This revitalized area is part of 388-acre HafenCity, Europe’s biggest inner-city development project, rising on the banks of the Elbe. HafenCity preserves elements of Hamburg’s maritime past while reinventing its once grungy Old Port with stunners such as the newly opened Elbphilharmonie. The concert hall complex was built atop a brick warehouse and now features state-of-the-art acoustics and sweeping views of the city from an 11th-story plaza. —MKD

Historic warehouses in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt district are best viewed on a canal cruise.

Marrakech, Morocco Why Go Now: A new look at Yves Saint Laurent

couple first bought a home here in 1966, and the city’s kaleidoscope of colours permeated Saint Laurent’s collections for much of his 40-year career. Following the designer’s death in 2008, his ashes were scattered in Jardin Majorelle, the Marrakech garden compound cultivated by landscape painter Jacques Majorelle in

the 1920s and given to the public by Bergé and Saint Laurent in 1980. Next door is the couple’s most recent Marrakech home, the cobalt blue Villa Oasis. Nearby, the newly built Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech is one of two YSL museums (the other is in Paris) set to debut in fall 2017 with a trove of garments, sketches, and photos. —MKD

GO WITH NAT GEO National Geographic Expeditions offers several itineraries that visit Marrakech, including the 14-day “Morocco Camel Trek and Hiking Adventure.” (natgeoexpeditions. com/explore; $6,095/`4,16,685 per person, double occupancy.)

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French fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent plucked some of his most audacious colour combinations—think saffron orange with violet purple—from the gardens, skies, and maze-like souks of Marrakech. As Saint Laurent’s partner, Pierre Bergé, told the BBC in April, “He [Saint Laurent] said, before Marrakech he saw only in black and white.” The


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KINETIC, BUZZED, AND UP ALL NIGHT, SOUTH KOREA’S CAPITAL IS A RED-HOT CENTRE OF COOL BY J. M A A RT E N TROOST

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â– WO RLD An art installation in Yeouido Hangang Park promotes a new city logo.

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DO YOU KNOW THE KOREAN WAVE? ARE YOU AMONG THE MORE THAN ONE BILLION PEOPLE WHO TUNE IN TO WATCH THE KOREAN DRAMA DESCENDANTS OF THE SUN? Do you swoon whenever Lee Byung-hun appears on the big screen? Do you follow, with perhaps a slightly unhealthy interest, the tangled love lives of K-pop’s megastars? Are you aware that LeBron James really does drive a Kia? Have you ever found yourself, late at night, on YouTube, watching PSY’s 2012 totally bonkers live performance of “Gangnam Style”—the one in Seoul, outdoors, with 80,000 delirious fans singing and dancing in unison? Did you experience the shivers? If you answered no to these questions, well, I’m afraid you are behind the times, my friend. Your attachment to Cadillac, The Walking Dead, and Taylor Swift is, sad to say, a little parochial. The world has moved on. But it’s not hopeless. You too can ride the zeitgeist. You just need to turn your gaze to Seoul. Today, South Korea is cool. How cool? Well, the day I arrived at Incheon International Airport—a sleek new Asian hub where you can find a golf course, a skating rink, a casino, a spa and sauna, a museum, a movie theatre, an arts and crafts studio, and the kind of dining options that will make you weep in despair

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â– WO RLD Bukchon Hanok Village is a slice of tradition in hightech Seoul.

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the next time you encounter an airport Cinnabon—North Korea was busy playing with its nukes. My phone was aflame with news of hydrogen bombs, ICBMs, and American F-22 Raptors patrolling the DMZ while North Korea stood ready to launch 5,00,000 artillery shells into the heart of Seoul, just 56 kilometres from the border. This, I thought, is not good. I had flown in from my home in Washington, D.C. I tried to imagine what it might be like if some heavily armed, psychotic dictator with provocative hair threatened our nation’s capital with Armageddon from his sanctum in Baltimore. I think I can state with some certainty that there would be pandemonium. We do not do sangfroid in Washington. We are, as many have long suspected, mostly weenies. Not so the people of Seoul. “I don’t think about North Korea when I’m stirring my pasta,” said my friend, who wanted to remain anonymous because she works in PR for a large Korean firm. She said this a little wistfully, not because she was especially moved by the current troubles but because she had recently given up carbs. “It’s just another foreign country. And so we ignore it and get on with our lives.” I had met her in a coffee shop in Gangnam, the flashy section

of Seoul south of the Han River, which acts as a kind of border of its own, neatly bisecting the city, dividing the old Seoul of palaces, markets, and government ministries from the new Seoul of cloud-scraping high-rises, cutting-edge restaurants, and tottering fashionistas. Gangnam is where many of Seoul’s movers and shakers live, work, and play. They are fuelled by caffeine, as evidenced by the approximately 30 coffee shops that seem to inhabit each and every block of downtown Seoul. Not a single one offers decaf. I checked. “The energy is addictive here,” she noted, as we mainlined a couple of espressos. “Koreans have a continuous need for change. We have a saying here: Change everything except your wife and kids.” This was the exhortation Lee Kun-hee, the son of the founder of Samsung, gave to his employees back in 1993 (before his own recent sex scandal), urging his company to forgo conformity and embrace risk and innovation. It worked, of course. Today, despite some embarrassing setbacks, Samsung is a tech behemoth and a major reason that South Korea leapfrogged dozens of nations to become the world’s sixth largest exporter. China may be the world’s factory, but increasingly it is South Korea that determines what people consume, from pop music

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to television dramas to smartphones to biopharmaceuticals. And yet, it sometimes seems as if South Koreans haven’t quite internalized just how revolutionary their recent history has been. One great curiosity of Seoul is the locals’ insistence that they are the Italians of Asia. It’s something I would hear often, and, frankly, I found it inexplicable. Yes, Koreans are expressive, emotional, impulsive—all attributes typically associated with Italians, as well as Brazilians, Lebanese, Nigerians, Tahitians, and my kids. But are the office lights still on at 11 p.m. in downtown Naples? Do little boys and girls in Milan spend their weekends at cram schools? Does anyone tune in to Italian television shows? No. I think what Koreans mean—and they are quite proud of it—is that they no longer feel tethered to the old Confucian ideals of duty, fealty, and hierarchy. And this has led to the thrum of energy one can feel crackling through modern Seoul. The first-time visitor might find it a little intimidating. I consider myself a city boy, but greater Seoul, with its population of 25 million people, can make even the most hardened urbanite feel like a country bumpkin. I was familiar with the long workday (well, not personally, but I know people), but I didn’t realize that in South Korea this extends to infants. Korean

Tending bar at Manpyong Vinyl Music in the artsy Hongdae neighbourhood (left); The swirling shapes of Dongdaemun Design Plaza (centre), by architect Zaha Hadid and Korean design firm Samoo; chicken skewers grilling at a sidewalk stall in Yeouido Park (right).

babies are the most sleep deprived little people in the world. And, having spent some time in the megacities of China, I thought I understood the kind of scale that boggles the mind. But did you know that, after Tokyo, Seoul has the highest concentration of restaurants per capita in the world? The South Korean capital is full of such brain-melting factoids. Somehow, without anyone noticing—and by anyone, I mean me—Seoul has become one of the great cities of the world, a giant pulsating star, radiating its energy to the farthest corners, too busy with the here and now to worry about the apocalyptic shenanigans of its northern neighbour. Where, I wondered, does one even begin to explore a city like Seoul? “You should begin in the very centre of Seoul,” my friend said. AS IT TURNS OUT, the centre is found on Mount Namsan, an idyllic 860-foot promontory capped by the N Seoul Tower, which looms over the city like a watchful sentry. I like to begin the day

KOREANS HAVE A CONTINUOUS NEED FOR THING EXCEPT YOUR WIFE AND KIDS”

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CHINA MAY BE THE WORLD’S FACTORY, BUT INCREASINGLY IT IS SOUTH KOREA THAT DETERMINES WHAT PEOPLE CONSUME, FROM POP MUSIC TO SMARTPHONES

Jebi Dabang Café, in the Hongdae district, transforms from daytime coffee shop to late-night live music venue; The Cheonggyecheon stream (facing page) refreshes downtown Seoul. JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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Fans show some love for Korean pop star Kim Junsu in a Gangnam district concert hall.

with a little serenity, and the undulating six-kilometre footpath that encircles the hill is about the only place you’ll find it in this dense urban wonderland. It was late winter when I strolled up its slopes—the streams that tumbled down the hillside remained frozen and the trees barren—but the ever present clamour of birdsong suggested that spring was imminent. Here and there I came across remnants of the old city walls, constructed during the early Joseon dynasty, when Mount Namsan marked the southern border of Seoul. Interspersed throughout were the exercise yards typical of East Asia, which seemed to be the exclusive domain of elderly gentlemen, each with an old-timey transistor radio emitting the warbling love songs of a bygone Korea. There is a cable car to the peak, but I chose to follow an enchanting stone stairway, and after 45 minutes of clambering I emerged at the top, where I was greeted by the sight of tens of thousands of “love locks” hung on fences, gates, railings, and even officially sanctioned, specially designed metal “trees of love” that line the paths like Christmas trees. Love is a serious business in Seoul. One of the first things that come up in a budding relationship is determining whether or not a couple is blood compatible. Many Koreans believe that blood type determines personality. Type A’s, for instance, are understood to be kind though prone to being introverted and perfectionists. I, as a Type O, am apparently a confident, expressive, egotistical risk-taker, which does not sound good but does help explain some questionable life decisions.

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SEOUL'S IMMENSITY IS STAGGERING. TOWER AFTER TOWER STRETCHING OFF AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE, FILLING EVERY NOOK AND VALLEY OF THE RUGGED LANDSCAPE


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J. Maarten troost is the author of several travel memoirs. His latest, I Was Told There’d Be Sexbots: Travels Through the Future, will be out in 2017. Photographer adaM dean is based between Bangkok and Beijing.

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Seoul Stays BOUTIQUE BEDS Imperial Palace Boutique Hotel This playful, high-design spot is located in Itaewon district, with its trendy restaurant and bar scene (imperialpalaceboutiquehotel. com; doubles from KRW1,00,000/`5,690). MOUNTAIN EYRIE Grand Hyatt Seoul Perched on Mount Namsan, this luxe hotel offers grand views, indoor and outdoor pools, and possibly the best health club in the city (seoul. grand.hyatt.com; doubles from KRW2,20,000/`12,900). CENTRAL CONVENIENCE Lotte Hotel Seoul Business travellers love this centrally located hotel across the street from the popular Myeongdong shopping district (lottehotelseoul.com; doubles from KRW2,10,000/`12,315). TRADITIONAL GUEST HOUSES Hanok Homestays Travel back in time at a traditional Korean house (hanok), with its paperscreened windows and interior courtyard. Home-cooked meals are often included. The Hanok Homestay Information

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Center, in Bukchon Hanok Village, can book reservations (20-27, Bukchon-ro, Jongno-gu; +82-2-742-9987; doubles from KRW60,000/`3,405).

Seoul Food and Drink MARKET MEALS Gwangjang Market Over a hundred years old, Gwangjang Market, near Dongdaemun, sells everything from bedding and classic Korean dresses to an endless variety of street foods. Try the bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) and the bibimbap (a mixed rice bowl) (88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongnogu; restaurants and vintage clothing shops open daily, other stores closed on Sunday). TEMPLE CUISINE Balwoo Gongyang Buddhist nuns serve multicourse vegan dishes (pickled lotus root, miso soup) in Jongno-gu. The menus, based on Buddhist principles, change seasonally (balwoo.or.kr). LOCAL SPIRITS Makgeolli Sample Korea’s unfiltered rice wine, called makgeolli, at any number of bars around town, including Neurin Maeul and Moon Jar, both in Gangnam.

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But I had not come here for romance. I bought a ticket to the observatory deck of N Seoul Tower and rocketed up in a swift elevator. At the top, the first thing one encounters is a Weeny Beeny candy shop, and while tempted, I had not come to the mountain for sugar either. No, I had come to behold Seoul. Its immensity is staggering. Tower after tower stretching off as far as the eye can see, filling every nook and valley of the rugged landscape, from the Lotte World Tower, which ascends to 1,821 feet, to the hundreds of apartment blocks. And for the visitor, there is everything here, as I would discover in the days ahead. Do you desire some old-school imperial Korea? Well then, head on down—via cable car, regally—to Changdeokgung, the Palace of Illustrious Virtue, the home of Korea’s last emperor, and wander the grounds, making sure to visit the secret garden, and accept your insignificance. Restore your humanity with a walk through the alleyways of Bukchon Hanok Village, where more than 900 traditional Korean homes and guest houses have been carefully preserved. Absorb the lilting, angular roofs, the heavy wooden doors, and the decorative brick walls, and remember that once upon a time Seoul was but a small town. Then make your way to nearby Hyoja-dong, long a home for craftsmen but increasingly recognized for its avant-garde art galleries. Not as well known as Samcheong-dong, Seoul’s venerable art mecca, Hyoja-dong is notable for its commitment to preserving the historic ambience of this district of hanoks and maze-like passageways while welcoming the hot glare of the contemporary art world. And now you’re hungry, of course. And because you’re a first-time visitor to Seoul, you have no idea where to go. That’s okay! Because what Seoul does really well is street food. There are dozens of markets spread throughout the city. Some, like Dongdaemun, are known for fashion. Others, like Namdaemun, are known for, well, everything. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in Namdaemun, it’s probably not available anywhere on Earth. Spicy rice cakes and Korean fried chicken are ubiquitous, but keep your eyes open for silkworms (beondegi) and poo bread. Trust me. Nearly every Korean, it seems, is passionate about food. And you soon understand why. Korean cuisine is not subtle. Every bite is a carnival of tastes, from the fiery chicken feet (dakbal) to the bitter dandelion salad (mindeulle muchim) and sweet Korean pancakes (hotteok). Me? I like the traditional galbi restaurants, where you grill marinated beef short ribs at your table while your dining companions get marinated on soju, the local firewater. And perhaps no place does it better than Mapo Sutbul Galbi in trendy Apgujeong-dong, where the stars of K-pop and film come to dine. People are beautiful here, but now so are you. You have arrived. You are in the centre of the universe. You are in Seoul.

ASIA

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In Focus | WHERE TO GO I N 2017

EVERY ROCK TELLS A STORY Located close to the confluence of the Nubra and Shyok Rivers, the Hunder sand dunes seem out of place in Ladakh’s cold, mountainous Nubra Valley. Bactrian camels, native to this area, glide across the sands with snowy peaks looming in the distance.

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Decoding landscapes in the geological goldmine that is Ladakh: new perspectives on an old favourite By Kamakshi Ayyar

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on’t cry,” I told myself as the setting sun bathed the snow-capped Himalayan peaks in front of me in shades of dull gold. Puffy grey clouds punctuated the darkening blue sky, whilst Tso Moriri Lake shimmered like a diamond-covered blanket in the mountain’s shadow. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed in that moment. It wasn’t the first time I’d teared up on encountering such raw, audacious natural beauty on this trip through Ladakh. Towering mountains, roaring rivers, impossibly vast valleys— it’s like this place was made with magic. Dumbstruck as the landscape left me, I was also in awe of what the unique geographical features revealed about the region. I was exploring Ladakh as a member of the NASA Spaceward Bound India (SBI) team—a motley crew of scientists, researchers, and educators from around the world who were in the region to study terrains and environments that could resemble Mars. While the team looked for locations and formations that were analogous to the Red Planet, I was keen to understand the region differently, to learn about Ladakh through its rivers, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and valleys. ***** “I calculated that when we were at Khardung La, half of the planet’s atmosphere was below us,” Sanjoy Som said the evening after we’d driven along the “world’s highest motorable road” to get from Leh to the Nubra Valley. Sanjoy is a California-based research scientist.

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The glacier was described as a massive bulldozing machine that ruthlessly cut through mountains thousands of years ago: It is actually a lethal, roiling mix of ice and stone that steamrolls over whatever stands in its path

@ DIDIER MARTI/MOMENT OPEN/GETTY IMAGES

The perilous road up to Khardung La is a very popular route with bikers from across the world.


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ALEX TREADWAY/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE (SHEPHERD), KIYOSHI HIJIKI/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES (LAKE)

My mind went back to our journey up to Khardung La earlier that day. Our vehicl es had followed a barely-there road that clung to the side of a mountain as it rose above the valley. Leather-clad bikers vroomed past us like a swarm of purposeful drones, their bikes festooned with colourful Buddhist prayer flags. There was even the occasional bicyclist who huffed and puffed his way up to the top. As we climbed steadily from Leh’s comfortable altitude of 11,000-odd feet to Khardung La’s dizzying 18,380 feet, I saw the Leh valley unfurl below me. In the distance, green clumps of elegant, swaying poplar trees pinpointed settlements at Stok. The imposing mountain peaks that had once made us squint as we looked up at them were now at eye level, disappearing into the distance in varying shades of brown, blue, and deep purple. Nose pressed against the window, I was so enamoured by the landscape that I almost missed Sanjoy’s explanation of how the Khardung Glacier had carved out the valley we were driving through. We had just turned a treacherously tight corner when a large sheet of greyish-white ice came into view. Like ice cream dripping off a cone, it seemed to flow from a mountaintop, and didn’t look very formidable. But my perception changed when the glacier was described as a massive bulldozing machine that ruthlessly cut through mountains thousands of years ago: It is actually a lethal, roiling mix of ice and stone that steamrolls over whatever stands in its path. Sanjoy showed me how to spot clues about the valley’s origins. The valley’s U-shape is the first indicator that it is a glacier’s work, as opposed to V-shaped valleys formed by rivers. Then


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Nubra Valley’s rugged beauty is punctuated by two massive rivers: the Nubra and the Shyok. In summer, some sections gleam aquamarine, others resemble muddy brown streams, heavy with silt and deposits.

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there are the large, angular rocks that anybody who travels to Khardung La sees by the road. They’re called erratics and were left behind by the retreating glacier. They’re unlike river rocks, which are smaller, rounder, and smoother. The last clue is in the road’s winding route up to Khardung La. It follows a semi-circular ridge that encloses a pocket of emerald trees and a small village. This ridge, called terminal moraine, marks the point where the glacier finally stopped pushing forward. Imagine running a finger through wet sand. As you drag it forward, you carry sand with you, while displacing some on the sides. The mounds on the side are lateral moraine; and the one that forms where you stop dragging your finger is the terminal moraine. Khardung Glacier’s terminal moraine becomes more distinct the higher the road goes. We continued to decode the landscape after we crossed Khardung La and descended into the Nubra Valley. As we began following the Shyok River, I noticed small channels of water intertwining together to form the river. They gleamed brightly in the afternoon sun, like thick silver ropes. However, what I saw as a beautifully braided river was to Sanjoy a sign that there isn’t enough vegetation along the banks to anchor the soil. This could be a result of Ladakh’s dry climate, he said, and the high sediment load of the river that washes away or buries plants before they have a chance to get a foothold. Later that evening, as we sipped chai at our hotel in Nubra, I learned that many parts of Ladakh were once underwater. The Tethys Sea was a waterbody that, in the past, separated the Indian and Eurasian continental plates. But about 50 million years ago, those two plates crashed into each other, pushing sediment and debris up from the seabed towards the planet’s surface. A byproduct of that occurrence was the rise of the Himalayas. Ancient marine fossils like ammonites found all along the slopes of these mountains in Ladakh, even near some summits, further prove that this land was once underwater. I began to realize what a geological goldmine this region is. As Sanjoy put it: Rocks are the history books of the planet, and if you can read them, it’s the greatest story ever told. ***** Our minivan trundled alongside the muddy Shyok River and the yawning Nubra Valley opened up ahead. Mountains loomed around us like ancient sentinels, stretching to the horizon with their snowy peaks. Clouds resembled giant helium-filled balloons that changed shape from elephants to castles in a matter of minutes. The deeper we drove into the valley, the wider it got. Monasteries and villages on the other side resembled the tiny Polly Pocket doll’s houses I played with as a child. At its widest the Nubra Valley is about ten kilometres across. Like the Khardung Valley, Nubra also has glacial origins—the Siachen Glacier sits at the valley’s northern end. The massive ice sheet, infamous after the 1999 Kargil War as the world’s highest battlefield, thrust through the mountains to create the valley. Today, the glacier is about 76 kilometres in length, but in the past it stretched approximately 90 kilometres southeast to reach the confluence of the Nubra and Shyok Rivers (the two main rivers of the valley). As it pushed its way down, it sheared mountainsides and scooped out chunks of rocks, leaving behind what we see today. Nubra is filled with fascinating natural wonders, but what I was most excited about were the Panamik hot springs and the two-humped camels that roam the Hunder sand dunes.


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Millions of years ago, Ladakh was part of a submarine landscape called the Tethys Sea, traces of which can be found across the region. Ammonite fossils (top), representing mollusc-like creatures that once swam the oceans, are a prime example of that; Kiangs, a variety of wild ass (bottom), roam the Tso Kar basin. They are often spotted munching on grass, and some even run alongside vehicles driving through the basin.

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TAYLOR WEIDMAN/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES (FOSSILS), DISCOVER THE NATURAL BEAUTY. NATURE CREATES MAGIC./MOMENT OPEN/GETTY IMAGES (WILD ASSES)

Like the Himalayas around us, the hot springs are another sign of the continental plate clash that started millions of years ago. There continues to be a lot of underground tectonic activity in this region, and all that rumbling and shaking heats up subterranean water sources, increasing pressure and forcing the liquid up to the surface, like at Panamik. Tourists can visit these springs, and even bathe in the waters. I’d imagined the Panamik hot springs to be large pools of boiling water rising up from the earth’s depths. Instead, I saw a narrow stream of water running down a hillside, with a few small pools at the top where the springs emerged. It didn’t look impressive, but I could feel the steam rising as I placed my hand just above the water—the average temperature was in the low 70s°C. Another bit of geographical Sherlocking with Sanjoy livened the place up. Parts of the stream bed were covered in a green film created by microbes living in those patches. The green indicated photosynthesis, and the patches were a clue that the water’s temperature is no higher than about 75°C; anything warmer would be too hot for photosynthesis to take place. Unlike the hot springs, the two-humped camels I spotted were just like the pictures I’d seen. Gliding along the Hunder dunes they looked like something out of a Lewis Carroll story and completely out of place in a region of ice-covered mountains. Hunder’s crescent-shaped dunes are located near the confluence of the Nubra and Shyok Rivers, and are surrounded by skyscraping mountains. The sand is brought here by winds that pick up the fine particles from across the valley. As the winds change, so do the dunes. Jon Clarke, a geologist from Australia, believes this could shed light on how Martian dunes are


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formed, since similar formations are seen on the Red Planet. While I was scouring the sands for camels, Jon was on his own quest. Soon he called out to a couple of us, pointing at canoeshaped outcrops of sedimentary deposits that he had found in between the dunes. These deposits, made of layers of mud and sand, had a hard, cracked surface, like a dried pond, and some even had impressions of hoofprints. Jon wasn’t sure how old the hoofprints were, and said nothing about dinosaurs, but that didn’t stop the theme song of Jurassic Park from playing in my head. What he did know was that these depressions in the sand once held water. The layers of deposits in the formation meant that the process of accumulation was cyclical and the prints indicate that animals once came here for something, most likely to quench their thirst. It took me a few moments to process the information. As I played back Jon’s words in my mind I looked around me, at the biscuit-coloured dunes and the snowy peaks in the distance. It felt like all my geography lessons were coming to life here. And as grateful as I was for seeing these stunning landscapes in person, I was equally thankful to the SBI team who helped me decode the past of these places. ***** Ladakh’s lakes are famous for their vivid blue waters and the perfect backdrop they form to guarantee memorable Facebook pictures. And like the region’s mountains and valleys, its lakes are great indicators of its past. Tso Kar is one of Ladakh’s lesser-visited lakes, about 150 kilometres south of Leh. A small bumpy road leads to a vast basin

Wild ass or kiang roam freely, leisurely grazing and stopping to stare at cars driving by. A strong wind blows most of the day and night, carrying fine sand with it. Maybe this is what Mars could be like. Minus the kiang, of course

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Thiksey Gompa is one of Ladakh’s premier monasteries and an important centre for learning. The roads leading up to Thiksey are scattered with rocks carved with Buddhist prayers.


In Focus | WHERE TO GO I N 2017 mean that a storm or a flood brought the sediments in one go, while repetitive ones, like Jon’s find at Hunder, highlight repetitive cycles. There’s also an interesting non-geological way to think about changing water levels—by the locations of monasteries. Today, it might seem like these buildings were built at a height, but that may not have been the case hundreds of years ago. Given how much the waterbodies of Ladakh have changed, it’s possible that when built, these monasteries were along riverbanks and lakeshores. Some of them even have murals depicting monks crossing waterbodies in boats. ***** On my last night in Leh, I was looking up at the sky, hoping for a clear view of the Milky Way. I wanted to see our galaxy while in Ladakh and this was my last chance. I’ve grown up staring slack-jawed at the stars, wondering what lay beyond. The cosmos’s vastness makes me feel small, and puts my silly whining into perspective. After all, what is the temporary angst of an unreplied text message compared to the sustained fury of a storm that has been raging on Jupiter for centuries? As I scanned the heavens, my eyes fell on the silhouettes of the silent mountains around that have watched the planet change over millions of years. I realized that the mountains made me feel just like the universe does: humbled. My time in Ladakh helped me see that Earth has enough wonders to silence any crises, existential or otherwise, that I might have. All I have to do is open my eyes just a little bit wider. KamaKshi ayyar is Features Writer at National Geographic Traveller India online. She is partial to places by the sea, and enjoys desserts in all forms. When she isn’t raving about food, she rambles on about the latest cosmic mysteries.

The writer was part of the NASA Spaceward Bound India team which had scientists from around the world. In Ladakh’s arid environment European scientists (left) test the scientific instrument they intend to send to Mars; The NASA SBI team taught local schoolchildren (right) how to launch handmade rockets with the help of plastic pipes and a bicycle pump.

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RAKESH RAO

once filled with water. It is surrounded by chocolate-coloured mountains. Today it is largely dry, with patches of scrub and grass covering parts of the basin. Wild ass or kiang roam freely, leisurely grazing and stopping to stare at cars driving by. A strong wind blows most of the day and night, carrying fine sand with it. Maybe this is what parts of Mars could be like. Minus the kiang, of course. When I visited, the eastern end of the Tso Kar basin had some water, while the western edge near our camp was dry. Jon pointed out vague horizontal lines on the surrounding mountain slopes, like bathtub rings that told us how high the lake used to be. One way to spot these lines, especially near water bodies, is to look out for slight colour variations on hills or mountains. Often the parts below the line, that were more recently submerged, might be a lighter shade than the areas above the line which could be darker due to longer exposure to the elements. These impressions of lines and sediments can be seen in many parts of Ladakh. Near the Spituk monastery in Leh, remnants of a massive lake are seen as pale yellow-brown patches. Binita Phartiyal, a geologist working in Lucknow, analysed the sedimentary layers in these patches and dated the base to about 10,000 years ago, and the uppermost section as 1,500 years old. Which means that 15 centuries or so ago, parts of Leh Valley were submerged by a waterbody. Varying lake levels also indicate how the area’s climate has changed. Glacial streams and rivers feed many of these lakes. But due to global warming, glaciers haven’t been getting enough snow, thus shrinking in size and leading to less water being pumped into the lakes. Exposed sedimentary deposits, like the ones at Spituk, also highlight climatic events. Thick layers of deposits could


■ JA M MU A N D

K AS HMIR

BEERPIXS/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

Ladakh’s clear skies are a stargazer’s dream. On most nights the sky resembles a diamond-studded canopy with the Milky Way making an occasional appearance.

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SHORT BREAKS 118

from bengaluru Beach views, seafood, and ancient dances in Kannur

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stay A lush green oasis in Gujarat’s Little Rann of Kutch

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stay Head to Karaikudi for heavenly spreads and heritage excursions

Theyyam dancers are said to be possessed by the spirit of the gods they represent. They return to normalcy only when their headgear is taken off.

MUSSELS AND MYSTICISM IN COASTAL KANNUR | BY AYSHA TANYA

L

ocated in Kerala’s Malabar region, Kannur is just coming into its own as a tourist destination. With an international airport scheduled to open in mid-2017, rapid change is around the corner. For now however, it remains a sleepy town, the kind where you sometimes have to get out of your vehicle to coax a calf off the middle of the road. To the tourist in search of an action-packed holiday Kannur has little to offer, but it welcomes with open arms those who want to slow down. The best thing for a traveller to bring to Kannur is the

willingness to embrace relaxation as a way of life: the townsfolk take midday naps and the streets are completely empty by 9 p.m. While it may sound like a place straight out of an Enid Blyton novel, note that that it is also a Marxist stronghold and known for political violence. When I tell fellow Malayalis I’m from Kannur, I often see them shudder just a little bit. Bandhs are frequent. If you encounter one, make like a local: put your feet up and enjoy a quiet day indoors, it is the quintessential Kannur way.

THE VITALS The nearest airport is in Kozhikode (previously Calicut), 115 km/2.5 hr south of Kannur, along the coast (taxis `2,600-3,200 one-way).

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CHRISTOPHE BOISVIEUX/AGE FOTOSTOCK/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY

Take it Easy


RELAXING HOLIDAY

2+

Bengaluru

315 km

Kannur

D AY S

five ways to explore HISTORY LESSON Built in 1505 by the first Portuguese viceroy, Don Francesco de Almeida, St. Angelo’s Fort is one of Kerala’s better-maintained historical sites. The fort, complete with a moat and secret tunnel, is a popular haunt with newlyweds looking for a scenic spot to take a few romantic photographs. Come here in the evening for a quick history lesson, and stay for views of the colourful boats docked at Mapila Bay (Burnacherry; open 8 a.m.-6 p.m.).

SPA TIME A trip to Kannur is incomplete without an Ayurvedic massage. Asokam Beach Resort has several treatment packages for longer stays. For a few hours of relaxation, there’s a day spa package that offers a full day of treatments tailored to specific needs, after consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor (Payyambalam Beach Road; ayurvedaresort.co.in; 94460 70373)

In a town with strong opinions and divisions, there’s one thing everyone agrees upon hands down: Odhen’s serves the best naadan or local set lunch. Located on a narrow street, the restaurant is just a handful of no-nonsense tables with uncomfortable stools. This is a place for serious eating: the next person in line is always standing and watching over you, ensuring you finish and leave without wasting time. Seafood lovers in particular are in for a treat. It is the fried fish that makes this place the town’s most popular lunch destination. The secret is in a special masala which the elderly couple who own the place grind early in the morning before the rest of the staff arrive. Be sure to also try the mussels, squid, shark, and shrimp. (Onden Road; near St. Michael’s school; fish meal for two around `250; open 12-4 p.m.; no reservations, so go early to get a table.) If you prefer to linger over your food, head to Sahib’s Grill Kitchen, Kannur’s neighbourhood hangout where everyone knows everyone. The relaxed setting is perfect for conversations savoured over the wholesome bistro-style fare. The exposed brick walls, high ceiling, French windows, and retro music give the place character and warmth (www.sahibsgrillkitchen.com; open 12 p.m.-12 a.m.; meal for two `750). Kannur has a bakery on every street corner. Sheen bakery sells excellent puffs, or “pups” as they are called. The egg puff is exceptional—flaky pastry that crumbles at first bite, with an eye-wateringly spicy filling (sheenbakery.com; egg puff `20).

ROOM WITH A VIEW Kanaka Resort—across the road from the beach—is quite possibly one of the most picturesque places to stay in Kannur. It’s like a homestay, with only a handful of airy, spacious rooms with beautiful views. Deluxe rooms

Payyambalam beach (top) is popular with families for its camel rides and vendors selling ice cream; St. Angelo’s Fort changed hands from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the Arakkal royalty, and finally to the British who controlled it until 1947. Odhen’s seafood lunches (bottom) are popular for their fresh catch marinated in a special masala.

come with a desk and chair, perfect for penning a letter to a loved one. Sample some of Kannur’s must-tries for breakfast: puttu (steamed rice flour) and kadala (black chana curry). The best part about the resort is the sprawling terrace that overlooks the ocean. Be sure to catch a sunset here (Payyambalam Beach Road; www. kanakabeachhouse.com; doubles from `2,750).

DANCE WITH THE GODS Located 16 kilometres from town, Parassinikadavu Muthappan is one of the most important temples in the north Malabar region. Sitting on the bank of the Valapattanam River, it is dedicated to the deity Sree Muthappan. This is a good place to see Theyyam, the ritual dance performance that the Kannur and Kasargod districts are famous for. Some believe this fascinating tradition goes back to an ancient Dravidian era. Dancers narrate stories that range from local myths to tales about village ancestors and folk gods. This form of ritualistic music and dance is set to the beat of a chenda or drum, and performed at the temple every day (Parassinikadavu; 30 min from Kannur; ritual dance at sunrise and sunset daily). JANUARY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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ANDERS BLOMQVIST/LONELY PLANET IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (BEACH), YOGESH S. MORE/AGE FOTOSTOCK/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (FORT), SZEFEI/ISTOCK (FOOD)

EAT LOCAL


Short Breaks | STAY

THE WILD WEST AN OASIS IN THE LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH BY KAVITA KANAN CHANDRA

wildlife

eco-friendly

GUJARAT ì

Desert Coursers resort

Ahmedabad

I

n the 1980s, wildlife enthusiasts began flocking to the area around Zainabad, at the periphery of the Little Rann of Kutch, particularly to see the Indian wild ass, or ghudkhur, an endangered species found nowhere else. Environmentalist Bittu Sahgal persuaded Mohammed Shabbir Malik, Zainabad’s erstwhile ruler, to start a resort specialising in wildlife tourism to capitalise on the growing interest in the area. It was also an attempt to preserve the area for the wild ass and the migratory birds that flock here from October to March. The Desert Coursers resort, named for the nimble-footed wild ass, opened in northern Gujarat’s Surendranagar district in 1984. Guests are greeted by Malik’s son Dhanraj, who now owns and manages the property. He wears his love for wildlife on his person. His hat has badges of birds and a silver wild ass in the centre: a great conversation starter. We reached the resort after a half-kilometre drive down a thorn bush lined turn-off from Zainabad’s main road. Desert Coursers turned out to be a lush green oasis near a lake. It exudes a rural charm, with its focus on indigenous design and building materials. Each cottage or kooba, has mud-plastered walls and a tiled roof. Sand art decorates the interior walls and the beds are woven khatiyas. The eco-friendly aesthetic is combined with modern amenities. The common area with its thatched roof is a favourite place for travellers to mingle. The seating area is made of mud and decorated with mirror

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patterns. Bright cushions add a dash of colour. Meals are served here: Generous buffets of local, seasonal delicacies. I gorged on bajra rotlas, which came with garlic chutney, dollops of ghee, and gur (jaggery). Glasses of buttermilk helped wash everything down. Strolling around the premises, I spotted birds like the green bee-eater and an Indian roller. I also met women from the Mir community who live nearby and come to the resort to sell beaded jewellery and ornaments. In the evening I visited the Indian Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary, where in addition to the ghudkhur I saw flamingoes, pelicans, spoonbills, shelducks, and the well-camouflaged desert wheatear. At night, bundled in a shawl against the sharply plummeting temperature, I looked up to admire a twinkling star-spangled sky, and felt my heart give a wild leap.

Desert Coursers resort is open from 1 Oct-1 Apr. Accommodation It has 17 koobas and a building with 7 spacious private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The resort can make arrangements for non-vegetarian fare on prior notice (www. desertcoursers.net; 94263 72113; doubles from `4,400, including meals and a safari in the Little Rann of Kutch) Getting There Desert Coursers is in Zainabad, 105 km/2 hr southeast of Ahmedabad, which is also the closest airport (approx `1,200 one-way). The nearest railway station is Viramgam, (42 km/51 min southeast, taxis `700 one-way). Buses ply up to Dasada, from where you can take another bus or an autorickshaw. The resort also has a free pick-up service from Dasada.

KAVITA KANAN CHANDRA (RESTAURANT), THEO ALLOFS/MINDEN PICTURES/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (WILD ASSES)

THE VITALS


Short Breaks | STAY

A MATTER OF TASTE HEAVENLY SPREADS AND HERITAGE EXCURSIONS IN KARAIKUDI BY NEHA SUMITRAN

heritage

food Chennai

TAMIL NADU Madurai

ì

The Bangala

T

he Bangala introduces guests to the illustrious Chettiar community of Tamil Nadu, one meal at a time. Erstwhile traders and bankers, the Chettiars were known for their wealth, generosity, and appreciation of the finer things in life, especially food. At breakfast, sweet pongal is served, made from black rice that was first brought to Tamil Nadu from Malaysia over a century ago by a Chettiar trader. Crab rasam is a lunch favourite, a melange of Tamil and Southeast Asian flavours inspired by the community’s trade ties with Malacca and Java. And at dinner, guests at The Bangala’s heavy, wooden dining tables can be heard exalting the quail pepper fry, or the almond tart with filter coffee ice cream. Food takes centre stage at the elegant heritage boutique hotel, but The Bangala has many other charms as well. Nestled in a leafy corner of dusty Karaikudi, it is run by the hawk-eyed Mrs. Meyappan, author of the Chettinad cookbook, The Bangala Table, and a member of the Chettiar family that owns the property. Accommodations are both traditional and refined, designed to highlight the Chettinad region’s rich heritage. The floors of my room were inlaid with turquoise Athangudi tiles, made by hand in a village 30 minutes away. The fourposter bed was an antique, similar to those in the

crumbling Chettinad mansions of Kanadukathan, also a short drive away. On the walls were framed sepia photos of Mrs. Meyappan’s family, lending my room an intimate feel. For me, one of the highlights of The Bangala was its open kitchen, where cooking classes are conducted. It is a pantry nut’s dream, lined with lacquerware from Burma, enamel-coated pots from Europe, and my personal favourite, the kal chattis: heavy stoneware used in traditional Tamil kitchens. These vessels were once an essential part of a Chettiar bride’s trousseau, proof that the family was wealthy and well travelled. I spent my mornings feasting on pongal, gheesoaked dosas, and fluffy idlis, and the rest of the day exploring the heritage and crafts of the Chettinad region. Kanadukathan, for instance, remains hauntingly beautiful, lined with mansions with high ceilings, teak pillars, and immense Belgian glass chandeliers. Accompanied by a guide from The Bangala, I also visited Athangudi to see how the tiles in my room were made, a metalwork school where students were learning to make brass figurines, and a handloom weaver from whom I purchased classic Chettinad cotton saris at throwaway prices. But I always made it back by evening, so I could cool off with a dip in the hotel’s pool and get into my loosest pants before dinner.

Accommodation The Bangala has 30 air-conditioned rooms, each tastefully furnished with antique wooden furniture and brass fittings. It’s restaurant is open to non-residents for lunch, but prior reservations are necessary (www. thebangala.com; doubles `8,600, including breakfast. Lunch and dinner are `800 per head). The Bangala does not serve alcohol, though beer and wine can be organized. Getting There The Bangala is in the town of Karaikudi, 420 km/ 7 hr southwest of Chennai and 90 km/ 2 hr northeast of Madurai, which has the closest airport. Taxis charge about `1,500 one-way from Madurai. The Bangala can organize a taxi pick-up from Madurai airport.

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PHOTO COURTESY: THE BANGALA

THE VITALS


Inspire |

AUSTRA L I A

INDONESIA AUSTRALIA

Coober Pedy INDIAN OCEAN

COOBER PEDY SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA

At first glance, most parts of Coober Pedy in South Australia are arid and desolate. But below the ground this mining town cradles a very different world. The first opal was found here in 1915 and, soon after, construction workers and WWI soldiers thronged the town. Due to the harsh weather, they built their homes underground in “dugouts,” and that way of life has endured. Very soon, this became regarded as the opal capital of the world and grew into a full-fledged mining town. Today, about 3,500 residents of over 45 nationalities live in Coober Pedy, and a visit to this largely underground settlement is an insight into their daily life. Rock carvings and stained-glass windows adorn the underground Serbian Orthodox Church (in picture). The Old Timers Mine and Museum provides a glimpse into the workings of a 1916 mine, which was accidentally discovered during a home extension. Another popular local attraction is Faye’s Underground Home, built by three women circa 1960, complete with swimming pool and cosy kitchen. A lively underground bar, bookstore, and cave hotels brighten up Coober Pedy’s subterranean recesses (www.cooberpedy. sa.gov.au). —Kareena Gianani

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MOMATIUK - EASTCOTT/GETTY IMAGES

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Inspire |

U.S.A .

CANADA

U.S.A

Cumberland Caverns MEXICO

CUMBERLAND CAVERNS TENNESSEE, U.S.A.

Every month, music lovers converge on McMinnville in Tennessee, U.S.A., and follow paths that take them 333 feet underground. Their destination is Cumberland Caverns, a spectacular labyrinth of caves and passageways that hosts the Bluegrass Underground concert. Neon lights and a chandelier hanging from a cragged roof illuminate the sprawling “Volcano Room,” while blues, soul, rock n roll, gospel, and bluegrass echo off its walls. American bands such as The Cox Family, Steve Earle & The Dukes, and Riders in the Sky have performed at the venue. Throughout the year, the caverns’ jaw-dropping limestone formations, pools, and underground waterfalls draw thrill seekers of all kinds. One of the tours on offer is called Higgenbotham’s Revenge after a surveyor called Aaron Higgenbotham who discovered these caves in 1810. The four-hour hike follows his historic route through narrow paths and up 20-foot-tall ladders. Caving or spelunking at Cumberland often requires squeezing through muddy passageways which open into beautiful hidden chambers (cumberlandcaverns.com; open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; daily tours start from $20.50/`1,391, concert tickets from $35/`2,360). —Kareena Gianani

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PHOTO COURTESY: MICHAEL WEINTROB

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Inspire |

FRA NCE

Iceland

Finland

Russia

Estonia

Latvia Lithuania

UNITED KINGDOM

Belarus

Kazakhstan

GERMANY Ukraine

Les Catacombes

Moldova

FRANCE Georgia

SPAIN

Azerbaijan Armenia

Bulgaria

Iran Turkey

TRNC

LES CATACOMBES

Cyprus

Syria

Iraq

Lebanon

PARIS, FRANCE

Buried deep beneath the streets of Paris’s 14th arrondissement is a darker side to the City of Light. Twenty metres below 1, Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy lies Les Catacombes, an ossuary buried amid rock layers formed over 45 million years. The catacombs are located in the same limestone quarries that provided the stone used to build this city. Visitors descend 130 steps and pass through an entrance marked with the words: “Stop, this is death’s empire!” Bones of millions of Parisians line the walls of the maze-like passageways and form installations like a barrelshaped pillar of skulls and tibia bones. These skeletal remains were transferred here from around the city between the 18th and 19th centuries after Paris’s congested cemeteries were deemed a health hazard. Despite its rather macabre history, long queues outside Les Catacombes are not unusual. In fact, it has been the site of several cultural events over the years, including a night concert in 1897 when over a hundred people gathered underground to listen to Chopin’s “Danse Macabre.” Today, it often hosts cinema screenings, concerts, and parties (www.catacombes. paris.fr/en; Tue-Sun 10 a.m.8.30 p.m.; last entry 7.30 p.m.; entry adults €12/`870, children between 4-17 €5/`360). —Kareena Gianani

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DIRK94025/ISTOCK

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TRAVEL QUIZ T E S T Y O U R T R AV E L I Q

1

WHICH IS THE ONLY RESERVE FOREST IN INDIA WHERE THE ENDANGERED ASIATIC LION LIVES IN THE WILD?

WHERE IN ASIA CAN YOU SEE VICTORIA PARK, VICTORIA PEAK, VICTORIA HARBOUR, AND VICTORIA PRISON?

2 IDENTIFY THIS INTRICATELY CARVED 17TH-CENTURY BRIDGE IN VENICE.

5

WHICH SPANISH CITY IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE FAMOUS RICE DISH PAELLA?

6

IN WHICH CITY DID REVOLUTIONARY LEADER CHE GUEVARA BEGIN HIS LEGENDARY JOURNEY THAT WAS CAPTURED IN THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES?

7

WHERE DOES THE TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY BEGIN AND END?

9

THE FIRST MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS IS IN THE CAPITAL CITY OF WHICH COUNTRY?

8

NAME THE MAYAN RUINS FEATURED IN THE VERY FIRST STAR WARS FILM IN 1977.

ANSWERS 1. BRIDGE OF SIGHS 2. GIR NATIONAL PARK 3. HONG KONG 4. NALANDA MAHAVIHARA, NALANDA 5. BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA 6. VALENCIA 7. MOSCOW AND VLADIVOSTOK 8. CROATIA 9. TIKAL IN GUATEMALA

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MIRALEX/ISTOCK (BRIDGE), MARIOLA ANNA S/SHUTTERSTOCK (LION), LAVENDERTIME/ISTOCK (WOMAN), PEOGEO/ISTOCK (RUINS), ALEKSANDRA H. KOSSOWSKA/SHUTTERSTOCK (MURAL), VALLEYBOL63/ISTOCK (BUILDING), HOLGS/ISTOCK (TRAIN), PHOTO COURTESY: MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS (AXE), CNICBC/ISTOCK (MAYAN SITE)

4

WHICH ANCIENT SITE IN BIHAR WAS ADDED TO THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST IN 2016?

3

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