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KERENG02406 www.travelandflavors.com

brahmaputra

Mighty river that decides a terrain’s destiny

Trailing the path of

French invasion

Puducherry, Mahe, Chandannagar

Mauritius

The island fascinates you with clear warm waters, white sandy beaches, undersea treasure hunt and much more

gangtok, sikkim A driving experience through the greenest and prettiest Indian city

el salvador

A walk down the streets of San Salvador to experience a new culture

queen mary 2 Feel a delicious mix of royalty and technical excellence


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Trailing the path of French invasion Trailing the path of French invasion of India, we arrived in Puducherry, Mahe, Chandannagar, Yanam and Karaikal which have indelible marks of the centuries-long French reign. By the time the French left the country decades ago, their art and culture, and custom found roots in the social life of the local people

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Travel events around the world

Events calendar

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festival of colours

46 contents

cover story

mighty river that decides a terrain’s destiny

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Gangtok A Postcard City

A driving experience through the greenest and prettiest Indian city

27

Businessmen’s haven

An ideal place to do business in the eastern part of the world, Singapore

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Top five luxury hotels Heavenly abodes on earth

49 14

World’s floating wonder

a walk down the streets of San Salvador


61 54

Kodagu- Mauritius Scotland of India a thrilling experience for undersea adventurers Kodagu remains postcard-perfect with its scattered villages giving a glimpse of old-world charm

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Mirroring the glorious past

Today, Konark is a deserted place. Apart from the annual festival of dance and music and occasional visitors, this coastal place remains quiet with no activities

Its blue sea, shining beaches and the warm ambience virtually captivate one and all. A travel enthusiast can never say no to a trip to this island-nation

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trip to Nepal

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World’s five most-sought-after foodS

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a common man’s gallery

The foregone Kochi-Muziris Biennale had brought art gallery to the streets in order to make them accessible to the common man. This was the beginning of a new era in the art and cultural scene of India.

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Dharamshala– Alluring abode of Dalai Lama

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a journey through the holy land

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Exceptional expeditions


EDITORIAL Volume 1 Issue 1 | April 2013 Editor Ravi Deecee Head-Operations M Kumar Assistant Editor Dipin Damodharan Chief Copy Editor K S Rajagopal Senior Reporters Lakshmi Narayanan Prashob K P Reporter Tony William Design & Layout Shyam P S Kailasnath Anil P John Web Manager S Sreenath

ADVT SALES Senior Managers Kainakari Shibu Rajasree Varma Anu P M Biju P Alex K S Syam Kumar M K Haridas Vinod Joseph Rohil Kumar A B Managers Febin K Francis Siju Thomas MARKETING Sr Manager Sabu Varghese Mathew

Business Office - India

DC MEDIA, DC Books Pvt Ltd No 387, Ist Cross, 4th Block, 80 Feet Road Koramangala, Bengaluru – 560034, India

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DC Books, Near Karama Metro Station Trade Centre Road, Dubai, UAE

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Contact

Ph: +91 484 3047 405, Fax: +91 484 4021 145 Mail: editorial@dcmediacorp.com, info@ dcmediacorp.com

www.traveandflavors.com

Published from DC Books Pvt Ltd, D C Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam – 686001, Kerala, India and printed at Five Star Offset Printers, Nettoor, Cochin – 40 for DC Press Pvt. Ltd., Industrial Development Area, Poovanthuruth, Kottayam – 686012, Kerala, India. Printed, published & owned by Ravi Deecee

DC Media Publication

W

elcome to the first issue of Travel and Flavors, the magazine dedicated to the travel-savvy people of the Asian subcontinent. The fast growing Asian countries are spending a major portion of their gross domestic products (GDP) for the promotion of travel and tourism within the country as this sector brings in a sizable proportion of foreign exchange reserves. The potential of this sector is immense given the pace of growth witnessed in the South Asian countries. In Travel and Flavors, our endeavor is to ignite the readers thirst for travel and thereby empower and enrich our economies from revenues generated through responsible travel and tourism. We set aside a major portion of the pages in the coming issues for ethnic cuisines from different destinations. James Michener once said: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” To many, tasting a variety of foods is the very essence of travel because the flavors reveal the culture of the land as well. Only a traveller can have the rare opportunities to taste unique flavors of different lands. Relentless interactions among cultures and increased business relations among nations have accentuated the significance of travel destination magazines in our country. There is still a lot to explore within India. Pilgrim tourism, adventure tourism…Today, people are on the move across the continents, meeting people with unique culture and customs, and different socio-economic backgrounds. These factors encouraged us to launch a travel magazine. DC Mediacorp promises that Travel and Flavors will live up to your expectations. You will read in these pages about the erstwhile French colonies in India, undersea adventures in Mauritius and Singapore, the most favored business centre in Asia and it gives you a profound insight into the life of people and their culture. You will also see destination of the month in the coming issues of Travel and Flavors. Other important subjects in the editorial mix of this magazine include important festivals, most popular cuisines and top luxury hotels in the world, and once each year we devote an entire issue to the most popular travel destinations of the world. We seek the same encouragement and support given to Education Insider, and Future Medicine to Travel and Flavors as well. Let’s go places.


TRAVEL NEWS

Travel events around the world

Goa Carnival

Goa Carnival marked for the fantastic food and magnificent music of the Goan people began on March 23. The three-day festival includes live performances, group dances, colourful parades, ample supply of drinks etc. The carnival bears the marks of Goa’s Portuguese heritage.

Moscow International Exhibition Travel & Tourism The 20th edition of the most priced international travel and tourism exhibition, Moscow International Exhibition Travel & Tourism (MITT), was held from March 20 to 23 at the Expo Centre Krasnaya Presnya in Moscow.

Best of Britain & Ireland Travel Trade Forum

Best of Britain and Ireland Travel Trade Forum, a platform for the travel industry and trade, was held from March 13 to 14 in the city of Birmingham, the Great Britain. It provided a wonderful opportunity to all visitors and exhibitors.

Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition One of the most perceiving events in the Middle East is the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM) which was held from March 25 to 27. GIBTM was a wonderful experience in the areas of business and travel.

Kalanidhi Fine Arts Festival in Canada

A real feast of Indian classical dance in Canada is the Kalanidhi Fine Arts Festival organised by renowned dancer Kalanidhi. It was held from March 14 to 17. Various Indian dance forms were staged and a symposium was also organised as part of the festival. Kalanidhi Fine Arts is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

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travel & flavors April 2013


Businessmen from the Netherlands, Kingdom of Bahrain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Fiji Islands, Australia, Canada, France, Greece, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK, US and South Africa will participate in the event

G u j a r at Travel Mart from March 31 G

ujarat Travel Mart (GTM), the biggest travel event of the country, will take place at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, from March 31 to April 2. Over 200 businessmen from around 30 countries and 200 exhibitors from various tourism segments in India are expected to attend the three-day Mart. Businessmen from the Netherlands, Kingdom of Bahrain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Fiji Islands, Australia, Canada, France, Greece, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK, US and South Africa will participate in the event. The Mart which expects almost 3,000 visitors will have stalls of the national and international tourism, state tourism boards, trade associations, travel agents, tour operators, airlines, car rentals, adventure sports accessories,

medical tourism services, cruise liners, online travel agents, destination management companies, hotels, resorts, luxury trains and cruise exhibitors. The Mart which provides abundant networking opportunities for manufacturers is supported by Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI), Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) and Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO). The exclusive Gujarat Pavilion will showcase its various festivals and the different subject-based destinations of the state such as the land of the Mahatma, heritage sites, Buddhist trails, wildlife resorts and national parks, religious tourism and cultural vistas. The latest information and updates from the travel and tourism sector will be highlighted during the event and topical trade publications will also be displayed at the Mart.

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events calender

onth m

ls va o

. festi

h ft e

April first two weeks

Tulip festival

Kashmir

April first weekend

Carnaval Des Soufflets

Nontron, France

April 3 to 5

American oldies show

US

April 7

Kanamara Masturi

Kawasaki, Japan

April 8

Story times at the Museum

US

April 11

GudiPadva

India

April 13-15

Bunpi Mia Lao

Thailand

April 13-15

ChaulChanm New year

Cambodia

April 14

Vishu

Kerala

April 14

Bengali New Year day

India

April 14

Arudu Throughout

Sri Lanka

April 15

Bohag Bihu

India

April 15

Kottakkal Pooram

Kerala

April 19

Ramnavami

India

April 21

Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur, Kerala

April 24

Mahavir Jayanthi

India

April 24

Artists Demonstration Machine Quilting

US

April 26

Koodal Manikkiam Temple festival

Thrissur, Kerala

April 27

Birding Blitz-Southernmost

US

April 30

Queens’ Day Amsterdam

The Netherlands

April 30

Baltain Fire Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland

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April 2013


festivals photo of colours shoot

A real

extravaganza

R

io Carnival is considered the festival of all festivals in the world. It will lift your mood and transport you into a world of hilarious joy and ecstasy. There is no shade of religions, castes or class for the annual event. All are welcome here. Surely, it is worth experiencing the ecstasy of the celebrationof Rio Carnival/ Samba Parade in Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, the land of legendary samba rhythms of football. This year, the carnival was held from February 9 to 12. All eyes and ears are on Rio during these days of the carnival. Thousands of people dance in ecstasy to the crazy drum beats in the streets of Rio. Attired in colourful costumes with exotic designs,the dancers in the parade would be in a hilarious mood. Their expressions and body movements display uncontrolled of delight. Rio Carnival is considered the biggest celebration of colour, costumes, dance, rhythm and music.Though the carnival starts with painted figures, music and dance in the streets,it later turns a gala when the samba schools are engaged in tough but tamed competitions. Around 5,000 members participate in each parade. The spectators are having an opportunity to mingle and mix up with the parade. Notwithstanding the festival being a street pageant, it is a controlled form of parade.Each participant has a definite role to perform according to the costume each person puts on. The parade and its artistic qualities are evaluated by the panels. Each section of the samba group has eight floats and the floats carry special guests or samba dancers. Preparations for the parade start months before the carnival.Uniqueness, colours and decorations displayed in the samba parade costumes are outstanding. Though nude figures are banned, painted and naked figures of men and women are common sights during the carnival. The samba song with a theme is selected for each school.The tempo should be balanced and maintained with divergent and varied usage of rhythm. A harmony in music and movements is conveyed at its best in Rio Carnival. The theme and its expression, choreography and artistic disposition together stand at its highest in the world. The theme of each samba school is selected from the historical incidents, glorifying events or great personalities, animals or anything that could provide a spirit to the mind. The judgments are announced on Ash Friday,the day after the carnival. The elation and ecstasy of RioCarnival have increased year after year. Those who like festivals and keep its spirits in the mind should witness Rio Carnival at least for once.

a participant in the Rio Carnival

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Cultural Feast

T

hrissur Pooram is one of the most popular temple festivals of the South Indian state of Kerala. It is held on the premises of Thrissur Vadakkumnathan Temple every year in April-May. Eight temples in and around the town participate in the festival which lasts 36 hours. The celebrated percussionists in the state will lead the percussion ensembles of the main two teams-Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady. The exchange of parasols and the spectacular fireworks

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April 2013

in the wee hours are the events no one can miss. If you are a ‘melam’ lover, this is the best opportunity to enjoy the wonderful performance of the ‘melam’ maestros. Elephant lovers need not be disappointed as different teams parade the most famous elephants during the fest. The caparisoned elephants with all accoutrements are an enchanting sight of the festival. A number of artistes, performers, firework experts, volunteers and more

than 50 elephants come together to make this festival a grand event every year. Vadakkumnathan Temple and Thekkinkaadu Maidan around it remain witnesses to the entire spectacle. UNESCO has adjudged Thrissur Pooram as “the most spectacular festival event on the planet”. In 1798, then Cochin king Shakthan Thampuran started the pooram with an intension to change some old traditions.


Fantastic festival of colours

H

oli, the festival of colours, is acclaimed the world over as an incredible Indian festival. The festival owes its origin to Gujarat, but it is celebrated across the country. Holi is celebrated with magnificent music, dance and delicious food in the Gujarati month of Phalguna. It is also the festival that welcomes the spring season. Holi is related to the mythical story of demon king Hiranyakashipu. After long penance, Hiranyakashipu won a boon from Lord Brahma that he would not be killed by any earthly or heavenly powers. The boon also made his death impossible in day or night, inside or outside the residence, not by man or animal, and not by any weapons. Brahma’s boon made the demon king arrogant. He attacked

earth and heaven, but Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. All attempts by Hiranyakashipu ‘to correct his recalcitrant’ son proved futile. Once, Hiranyakashipu challenged Prahlada, who believed that God exists everywhere, to show God in a pillar nearby. Then, the pillar broke and Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of half man, half lion. Hiranyakashipu was killed at the entrance space, at twilight, with the claws of the half-man-half-animal incarnation. So Holi is considered as the celebration of the victory of virtue over vice. People celebrate Holi by singing and dancing around bonfire. No one in the street could escape the day without getting wet in the body with coloured water or coloured powder.

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Trippin with Shweta

swetha ganesh kumar

San a walk down the streets of

Salvador H

e drives his car up a winding slope. Round and round. Up and up it climbs, making us dizzy. We reach the top of the building and he parks the car neatly. Our guide, a professor at a university in San Salvador, opens the door for us and asks us to feast our eyes on the sight that awaits us. We look down in awe at downtown San Salvador, the historic centre of the capital of a country that was once the wealthiest in Central America. When I decided to follow my husband to El Salvador in May 2012, many of my friends in the Philippines where I was based and in India where I am from were, to put it lightly, bewildered. Not many knew where the country was and most thought I was either brave or foolish to risk moving to a country known for gangs and violence with my then fivemonth-old baby. For me, however, it was a chance to experience a new culture, see a little bit more of this planet that we call home. El Salvador seemed both familiar and foreign right from the very beginning. With dark hair and pronounced features, a lot of Salvadorans looked so Indian. The greenery reminded me of my home state Kerala.

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An art deco building in downtown

Inside the National Palace

April 2013 travel & flavors 15


Sacks of herbs

San Salvador where we would be staying was a city that could be pretty much anywhere in the world with its McDonalds and malls. However, hardly anyone spoke English and it was the language, Spanish with a Salvadoran flavour that first reminded me that I was in a different continent altogether. We started travelling outside the city – beaches, hamlets on the mountains, lakes in volcanic craters and Mayan ruins. I loved heading out of the capital, but something inside me niggled. Even as I fell in love with the rest of the country, I had the intense need to feel the pulse of San Salvador. And that is how I found myself atop one of the tallest buildings in downtown San Salvador, looking down at what was a stunning skyline made up mostly of art deco architecture. We were told this was but a shadow of what it used to be before a devastating earthquake in 1986. For many years, downtown San Salvador or the Centro as it is locally known was nothing but a pile of rubble and also the nerve centre of the violent gangs that terrorised the city. But now in a dramatic overhaul, the government has turned the spotlight on the zero kilometre region,

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Today, a number of the buildings you see around you are condemned and slated for demolition. Evacuated, they sit bereft of people or things, presumably dreaming of their glory days. Yet, despite their forlorn air, there are buildings that still boast of a robust crowd and grandeur

making sure there are armed policemen in every corner to ensure that there are no untoward events. Ironically, this place, which tourists and even locals shy away from is one of the most policed and secure. Try and ignore the men in uniform and you will see a proud and sophisticated city, hiding behind the grim and peeling paint. No two facades are same in the streets. Mostly constructed in art deco style, the proud pillars and tall arches tell the story of a once wealthy commercial district. We walk down the streets, dodging the vehicles that come too close to the pavements and neatly stepping over the vendors hawking their wares, the mixed aroma of exotic herbs and freshly baked cream scones. We come to a halt in front of a tall, nine-storey building. This was where the fate of Salvadoran coffee was decided in the 1900’s. Even today, El Salvador exports most of the coffee that we drink in various avatars in expensive coffee chains across the world. A 10-second earthquake in 1986 was all it took for the edifice to come crashing down. An earthquake that changed the destiny of the then prosperous Centro.


A view of Centro

April 2013 travel & flavors 17


Today, a number of the buildings you see around you are condemned and slated for demolition. Evacuated, they sit bereft of people or things, presumably dreaming of their glory days. Yet, despite their forlorn air, there are buildings that still boast of a robust crowd and grandeur. Foremost amongst them is the National Cathedral. Crowded though it might be, the only sound here is of prayers murmured under supplicants’ breaths. We look intently at the church’s corners of magnificence. The altars gifted by Spain, the soaring high ceilings, the scenes from the gospel, the Angels looking on from every corner at those who come in gratitude or to pray for a miracle.

real life angel Monsenor Romero is laid to rest. This is where Salvadorans who have vivid memories of the war, come to pay their respects to the priest who dared to speak up and laid down his life like many of their family members had. On this bright and sunny day though, it seems like past horrors can be laid to rest as well. For the day at least. In Plaza Civica, the families lounge about as the pigeons flit around looking for a kind passer-by with rice to dole out. They also arrange themselves like musical notes on the electric wires that criss-cross above, and in front of the Palacio National or the National Palace. We spend sometime in the stately building admiring the various

The Santa Ana Volcano

A church so removed from the obvious signs of reality that are strewn outside in the congested streets and labyrinthine bazaars. Under the cathedral, however, is somebody who had once struggled for the poor that the cathedral’s splendour seems to ignore. This is where El Salvador’s own

{

staterooms where many decisions of significance were taken. From here, it is a short walk down to Plaza Libertad. The Angel of liberty looks down at the rather empty town square. Not many families here. I’m told that this is because there are lots of ‘working’ girls. I look at the women

dressed in nothing but innocuous-tshirts, tights and jeans, hands playing with hair, some playing with cell phones, far from the stereotypical hooker waiting to prey. We walk on from the supposed hookers in the plaza to Dominican monks right next door. A shabby grey building overlooks the plaza. We walk in through large gates to huge metal portals, peppered with tiny holes. These holes are not due to rust or erosion but stand testament to how cruel man can be. The diminutive holes are the places where bullets were embedded when the army opened fire at a peacefully protesting public gathering in the days before the civil war. This bullet scarred gateway opens into the Iglesia Rosario – the Dominican church that sheltered the terrified mob that ran in. A church so benevolent that its underbelly still carries the bodies of 22 people who were gunned down by the army, one of them a pregnant woman. The strains of a choir drift through as the door slowly opens. In a moment, the harmonies are free-flowing as you step in. A world far-removed from the one outside. As dreary and uninspiring the structure’s exterior is, the interiors are such that they inspire even the most unspiritual amongst us to feel as if we are in the presence of the divine. Fingers of light creep in through stain-glass windows. Orange and purple. Blue and green. Is that a painting? You wonder as your awed glance falls upon a huge eye installed on the soaring wall opposite the altar. And you are told that the eye is a stained glass installation and the colours that have you in a trance are actually natural light streaming in through the glass chips. The installation symbolises the all seeing eye of God. The colours of the rainbow make the great hall of a magical place where the human spirit can triumph. A place where miracles could happen.

Shweta Ganesh Kumar is the bestselling author of Coming Up On The Show and Between The Headlines, two novels on the Indian Broadcast news industry. Her new novella A Newlywed’s Adventures in Married Land releases in February 2013 as an eBook, brought out by South African publishers Indirom. Her columns have been featured in The New Indian Express, One Philippines and Geo. Her non-fiction pieces have appeared in multiple Indian editions of the Chicken Soup series. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies as well as online literary magazines in more than four continents. She currently lives in El Salvador with her husband and one-year-old daughter. You can read more about her life and work at www.shwetaganeshkumar.com

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my shot

praveen tharachandy

Send us your pictures and tell us the stories behind them. email: editorial@dcmediacorp.com

Madayipara, a hillock in Payangadi town of Kannur district in Kerala, on a sunny day. The hillock is home to more than 500 plant species. The area is also known for the presence of some of the rarest plants of the world such as ‘nymphoides krishankesara’, ‘rotala malabarica’ etc. A large pond on the premises of Vadukunda Shiva Temple and Jew’s Pond on the hilltop are the major attractions. Praveen, an enthusiastic photographer, now works with Asianet News as camera man, Delhi Bureau.

April 2013 travel & flavors 19


tHE NORTH EAST INDIA A DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Suresh Joseph

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April 2013


Gangtok

A Postcard City “Gangtok must be the greenest and the prettiest Indian city. It most definitely outshines the rest of the state capitals with its thick green cover and beautiful flowers everywhere. Gangtok has been modernised without compromising the bounty that Nature has showered on her”

I

travelled to Sikkim from New Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, where I was staying in the Railway Officers’ Rest House. There is a simple rule to be followed while travelling to the hills. Start early, drive slowly reach safely. I decided on that strategy and was ready to leave by 6 am. However, the heavy mist delayed the start to 6.45 am. One owns the roads at that time of the day and I could drive leisurely, stopping wherever I wanted to admire the great beauty of the land. While exiting Siliguri town, I saw the most glorious white sun that I have ever seen. Driving in the hills requires special skills and concentration; one cannot afford to let one’s guard down even for a moment. Those who drive regularly in the hills are disciplined and respect the traffic going uphill. The road to Sevoke is picturesque and enjoyable, to say the least - thick woods, clean air and sounds of nature all around. Unfortunately, the road beyond Sevoke does not permit one to travel with the windows rolled down for the roads are badly pitted in many places and the dust sometimes even blots out the view of the road in front. However, about 7 km before Teesta town I had a most wonderful view of snow capped mountains – part of the Khangchendzongarange.

Just past the Teesta town, I noticed some trucks going down a kutcharoad to the Teesta River. I parked the car and walked to the river bed and found sand and rocks being mined from the river bed for use in the construction industry. Flowing water is serious temptation for a dip, but it was chillingly cold and I confined myself to a refreshing face wash. The welcome arch of the Sikkim Government at Rangpo came upon me suddenly, but the sales tax outpost there seemed to be better controlled than others, for there was no hold up at the border. The one thing that struck me immediately on entering Sikkim was the availability of liquor. There were plenty of shops but no long queues outside them, like those in Kerala. Lower excise duty in Sikkim meant cheaper liquor. I understand that Bollywood actor Danny Denzongpa owns some of the largest distilleries in Sikkim. There is no taboo attached to drinking in that state - even girls visit the shops to buy what they want. I stopped at Rangpo for breakfast at a restaurant owned by a chap from Bihar. In Gangtok Mother Nature is amazing and the artist in her cannot be matched. No photographer, no painter, no story teller can ever fully capture the wondrous beauty of nature. What the eye and the April 2013 travel & flavors 21


1

The Khangchendzonga could be seen in three hues–blue, a reflection of the sky, golden orange, when the sun’s rays fall on the mountain and pure white, the colour of the snow. (Pictures 1,2 and 3)

2

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3

mind see and experience is unique – paper and canvas are unequal to the task of translating that. That morning, I was witness to a show that Nature put up exclusively for me, I would like to think. The previous evening the caretaker of the Government Guest House, where I was staying in Gangtok, had asked me if I would like to see the sun waking up the mountain range. Even though I was absolutely tired and desired a few extra hours in bed, I asked to be woken up in time for the grand show. For three hours, starting at 5.15 am, I had the opportunity to see the passage of the early morning sun over the Khangchendzonga and the other mountains in the range. The show was nothing short of spectacular. The Khangchendzonga could be seen in three hues –blue, a reflection of the sky, golden orange, when the sun’s rays fall on the mountain and pure white, the colour of the snow. The changeover of these hues is what the show is all about. With the slight blue tinge, the top of the mountain gets a small ‘red nose’. From then on, the golden orange fills the mountain rapidly and stays there for a while. Slowly the sun moves on, probably to cast its magic show on other mountains and ranges. By 8.30 am, the entire range was enveloped in thick clouds and it remained that way for the rest of the day. Whatever way one looked at it, the magnificence of the show can never be described in a manner that truly befits it. What was most appealing is the fact that the entire episode could be enjoyed from the guest house where I was staying.


What struck me first as I drove around Gangtok was the fact that the police mean business when it comes to traffic management. The streets were narrow and vehicle density has leapfrogged in the past few years. Hence, enforcing discipline and efficiently implementing the traffic rules are what the traffic policemen and women – with 33 per cent of government jobs being strictly reserved for women – go about doing. And they do it extremely well, without being rude or offensive. I could not find a single vehicle that was wrongly parked or obstructing the flow of traffic. Honking is an offence and sign boards at regular intervals remind you of that. In fact, at a busy road I found a policeman directing traffic holding a “Blow No Horn” sign. Kudos to the traffic police of Gangtok; they do a remarkable job! Gangtok must be the greenest and the prettiest Indian city. It most definitely outshines the rest of the state capitals with its thick green cover and beautiful flowers everywhere. Gangtok has been modernised without compromising the bounty that Nature has showered on her. A walk on the Bhanupath and MG Road will confirm that. You can actually hear the crickets and the birds in a melodious rhapsody, perhaps a jungle jugalbandhi. Not long ago, MG Road was a crowded and busy market place. A decision was taken by the administrators to improve the road. They gradually made it a noparking zone, then a no-drive zone and finally banned all modes of transport from it. It is not as if the implementation process had been smooth.There were protests by traders who feared that their businesses would be compromised. Their fears were, however, all overcome. MG Road, at the time of my visit, presented a picture postcard scene with a European setting, complete with shops, entertainment, pretty gardens within the median, paved walkways, benches to relax and garbage bins. And the traders have found their businesses flourishing, as tourists and locals began to frequent that area. That should, I feel, be the ‘model’ to implement in Broadway, the narrow and misnamed street in Kochi. The transformation of MG Road and Gangtok’s efficient administration prove that a combination of political and bureaucratic will is a sine qua non for improving the living conditions of the citizens. After all, Sikkim is a state within India and Indians rule and administer that part of our country, too. Why can’t we replicate that story in the rest of the country? A senior officer of the Sikkim government told me that when it came to

the law enforcement there are no favourites – MLA, officer’s son and taxi driver are all equal. Sometimes, the bigger the fish the more serious would be the case. That builds up confidence in the citizenry and they realise that being a law abiding member of society is neither a liability nor a joke. The third remarkable thing about Gangtok was its cleanliness. There was no garbage anywhere. Again warning boards were there everywhere reminding the citizen of severe penalties for violating the ‘no dumping garbage’ rule. The streets were clean and nobody threw even a piece of paper on the road. Plastic waste did not clog the drains and the use of paper bags was actively encouraged by the administration. There were garbage bins almost everywhere. The local administration made sure that the garbage removal and disposal was undertaken efficiently and deterrent action initiated against offenders. I did not see people relieving themselves in public places or spitting. It was clear that civic consciousness was very high and that the citizens pride themselves about it, too. The Lal Bazaar is a must visit in Gangtok. Clothes, shoes, fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, utensils-everything one needs for the kitchen and household is there. Name the brand and you will most likely lay your hands on a fantastic bargain. The market is crowded most of the time. It was more so that day with the last minute festival shopping in full swing and yet it did not give off the offensive stinks of the usual market place. It has ‘pay and use’ toilets on every floor. It was dark by 5.30 pm – Perhaps for this reason, government offices there work from 10am to 4 pm, six days a week. All in all, what I saw in Gangtok and Sikkim was the presence of good governance and a motivated citizenry. (To be concluded)

Darjeeling

Suresh Joseph is a triple post graduate in Economics, Management and Industrial Relations. He worked for 25 years in the Indian Railways. As General Manager of DP World in Kochi between 2005-10 he oversaw the development of the landmark ICTT in Vallarpadam, Kochi. He has authored two books and has been recognised by Limca Book of Records for motor driving feats in India. Presently, he is a Consultant and Mentor based in Kochi, Kerala.

April 2013 travel & flavors 23


pilgrimage

amarnath

a journey

through the

holyland

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Amarnath Yatra is the fulfillment of a lifetime wish of a pilgrim. Though the journey to the cave temple is hazardous, the experience is so profound that it will change the visitor’s view of life forever.

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here is something about the famed Amarnath Yatra that has always held a different appeal for all people irrespective of their religion. More than the mysteries surrounding the yatra, the mere prospect of trekking through some of the most beautiful regions of the world was enough for a travel lover to get his name registered for the yatra, at least for once. Apart from the religious aura, a sense of adventure is always there. It is also an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and escape into the seclusion of snow clad slopes of the Himalayan range. A pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave in the Himalayas is considered by Hindus as the culmination point of their life. Though Amarnath Yatra is essentially a Hindu pilgrimage, it signifies the co-existence of Hinduism and Islam in this part of the country. No doubt, it is the best example of how these two faiths can serve each other for their own existence. In a sense, Amarnath Yatra, resembles Kerala’s own Sabarimala pilgrimage where no caste or religion is a barrier for pilgrims to undertake trekking to the holy hill shrine. Registering for the Amarnath pilgrimage is fairly a simple process as it could be made online. The registration forms are also available with branches of the selected banks, including State Bank of India. There are travel guides and travelogues about the yatra giving you all details to get prepared for the journey. A pilgrim needs to be prepared well for the trip as extreme weather conditions and inhospitable terrains in the Himalayas are really challenging. How much advice and instructions you get from relatives and friends with regard to the yatra will not be enough because it is truly an experience and no narration could give you the whole picture of the yatra. One would say after the pilgrimage, “it is beyond description.” The journey officially begins from Jammu, the winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This beautiful town, dotted with shrines and enveloped in natural beauty, makes a perfect pitch to kick-start the journey to the ice cave. The traditional route to the Amarnath cave starts from Pahalgam, a small town on the banks of Lidder River, about 96 km from Srinagar. All essentials needed for the yatra like warm clothes, skin creams and raincoats could be bought from here. Amarnath is situated 46 km from Pahalgam. 16 km from Pahalgam is Chandanwari where, according to the myth, Shiva left behind the moon from his hair. The route to Chandanwari is quite good. The trail runs along the Lidder River. The second day’s trek covers 12 km from Pahalgam to Sheshang. There is a steep climb leading to Pissu top where the mythical war took place between Devas and Rakshasas in their attempt to gain darshan of Lord Shiva first. From Pissu top, the trek continues through a beautiful country side untouched by the modern civilisation to reach Sheshang Mountain, known for its seven mighty peaks which stand for the snakes that Lord Shiva had left behind. A dip in the chilly waters of Sheshang Lake will refresh you. Here, you halt for the night and you are treated to various stories behind the legend of the Amarnath cave by the guides sitting around the campfire. Do take yourself to a virtual tour of the dark mountain slopes that stands glistening all around in the nightscape and if you do not feel the charm of divine at that moment, then alas, it’s doubtful you will undertake the journey again. The next day, the journey continues with a steep climb across the Mahagunas Pass for 4.6 km and then descends into the meadow lands of Panchtarani. Here, Shiva had left behind the five elements- Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky. Panchtarani is the last base camp enroute to the holy cave. The cold winds April 2013 travel & flavors 25


could make your skin crack and hence it is advisable to have a cold cream or vasaline to prevent cracks on your skin. It is common for people to have breathing problems at higher altitudes under physical exertion. So it is better to acclimatise yourself for a day at the base camp before beginning the trek. The climate in the place is unpredictable as temperature could come down drastically in a very short time, so all pilgrims should carry adequate warm clothes, dry fruits, chocolates etc. Comfortable walking shoes, a walking stick, torch, raincoat, windcheater and medical kit are essential supplies on Amarnath Yatra. Also pay heed to warning signs about falling rocks or avalanches; travel only with an experienced guide and with a group of pilgrims. When finally you reach inside the cave, you will see what the entire journey has been made for – the huge ice stalagmite, the Linga, with two other smaller ones by its side- Parvati and Ganesha. However, the two pigeons which overheard the secret of immortality revealed by Lord Shiva to Parvati and became immortal weren’t found. While skeptics could always argue that it is all nothing but ice and rock, there is an intense feeling of being in the presence of

something truly supernatural, especially amid the continuous chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ that reverberates through the chilly air. Pilgrims can be found screaming and sometimes breaking into tears. The holy journey to the Amarnath cave is not about the mere witnessing of the ice Linga. It is a journey where every step you take, every sight you see and every sound you hear raise curiosity of the unknown. This journey is not just a learning process but a wonderful once in a life time experience. THE LEGEND It is believed that Lord Shiva disclosed the secrets of life and death to his wife Parvati in the cave of Amarnath. According to the legend, Shiva wanted a place so remote and inaccessible that no one could overhear the secret. He found the cave in Amarnath was ideal for the purpose. Although stories about the holy cave and the ice Lingam have been around for many centuries, the credit of discovering the Amarnath cave rests with a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik. The story goes that a saint once gave the shepherd a bag of coal. On reaching home, when the shepherd opened the sack he discovered

that the bag contained gold and not coal. Overjoyed, the shepherd ran back to see the saint to thank him. But the sage was not found instead Buta Malik discovered the Amarnath cave with the ice Lingam inside it. He returned to his village and announced his discovery to the people. Word spread and soon devotees from all over the land arrived to pray at the natural shrine, thus starting the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra.

Facts Helicopter services are available till Panchtarani, the last base camp enroute the Amarnath cave and costs around Rs 2,355 one-way Food cost involved is negligible as charity restaurants serve quality food all along the route Accommodation charges - Rs 100 to Rs 1000 (depending on the rush) Pony charge varies between Rs 3,200 up to Rs 5,000 per person for a round trip

Temporary settlements near holy cave

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buisiness destination

An ideal place to do business in the eastern part of the world, Singapore makes your stay most comfortable and pleasant as the city and its surroundings have all modern facilities. Setting up a business here is hasslefree because the procedures are simple as compared to that of the other places in the region and office spaces as well as other services are available as per your budget

Businessmen’s

haven April 2013 travel & flavors 27


Skyscrapers of Singapore

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ingapore is rated first for ease of doing business and ranked fourth in starting a business. It is the only country whose ranking comes under 12 in all major categories in conducting business such as dealing with construction permits, getting electricity and credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. The only thing you will find a little complicated is property registration. Manufacturing and financial business services account Singapore’s main gross domestic products. The electronics industry leads Singapore’s manufacturing sector, accounting for 48 per cent of total industrial output, but the government is also prioritising development of the chemical and biotechnology industries. But the last year recorded the highest growth in the construction sector. It grew by 5.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012. While the information and communications sector grew by 3.8 per cent, the finance and insurance sector recorded a growth of 3.3 per cent. The business services sector, the transportation and storage sector, the accommodation and food services sector

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and the wholesale and retail trade sector expanded by 3.3, 3.2, 2.2 and 1.5 per cent respectively in the fourth quarter of 2012. For 2012, Singapore’s GDP growth slowed to 1.3 per cent, from 5.2 per cent in 2011. Yet, Singapore still remains the best place to do business. Relatively, corruption free and transparent bureaucracy, most politically stable country and the best quality of life in Asia make it the best place to do business. Central Business District (CBD) CBD or the Central Area in Singapore is home for the core financial and commercial districts, including 11 urban planning areas. Downtown Core, Marina East, Marina South, Museum, Newton, Orchard, Outram, River Valley, Rochor, Singapore River and Straits View have the tallest buildings in Singapore. Orchard Road, a 2.2-km street, is the retail and entertainment hub of Singapore. It is also the site of the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore. Tanglin Mall, Orchard Central, Dean & Deluca Gourmet Store, 313@ somerset, Abercrombie & Fitch Outlet, DFS Galleria and Plaza Singapura are the main shopping malls. Downtown Core, a 266-hectare urban planning area in the south of the city-state of Singapore, forms the economic core of Singapore and key districts, including Raffles Place, the Parliament House, the Supreme Court, City Hall, numerous commercial buildings and cultural landmarks. Bugis Junction Singapore’s first glass-covered, air conditioned shopping street is a must visit for those who love shopping. Food enthusiastic can chill out at Twelve Cupcakes located at Bugis Junction and women’s exclusive store Miss Selfridge is also located there.


Singapore at midnight

Shenton Way Named after Sir Shenton Thomas, the Governor of Singapore (1934-1946), today Shenton Way is known as Singapore’s Wall Street. Many commercial buildings such as AXA Tower, SGX Centre, DBS Building, MAS Building, Shenton House and Eon Shenton are located there. Raffles Place This is the heart of Singapore city. It was planned by Sir Stamford Raffles, the father of modern Singapore. Major landmark buildings in the place include United Overseas Bank Plaza (UOB Plaza), Overseas Union Bank Centre and One Raffles Quay (ORQ) which houses international banks such as RBS, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank AG, Societe Generale Private Banking and UBS, besides renowned professional service firms Thomson Reuters and Ernst & Young. ORQ was awarded the 2008 Prix d’ Excellence in the ‘Office’ category by the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) for excellence in all aspects of development, including construction, brokerage, facilities management and marketing strategy. Harbour Front Centre Formerly World Trade Centre, it was the home for exhibitions and

international conventions until Singapore Expo and Suntec Singapore International and Exhibition Centre came into being. Now, the major attraction at Harbour Front Centre is the shopping mall which houses KFC, Body Shop, Pizza Hut, DMK, Hang Ten, DBS, OCBC, Sakae Sushi, Big Bookshop, BreadTalk, McDonald’s, Food Junction, Gymboree Play & Music, Kumon Learning, Harry’s Bar, Subway, Cold Storage, Esprit, The Ballet & Music Company, Guardian Pharmacy, Cheers, and Singapore Cruise Centre. It is also the gateway to Sentosa Islands and the ferry terminal that connects the city with the nearby Indonesian ports. Marine Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) MBFC is the recipient of the prestigious The International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) Prix d’ Excellence Awards 2012, which recognises the world’s outstanding real estate developments. Located along Marina Boulevard and Central Boulevard at Marina Bay, MBFC consists of three office towers, two residential towers and retail space at Marina Bay Link Mall in 3.55 hectares. Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Established in 1971, MAS is Singapore’s central bank and financial regulatory authority. Located in Shenton Way, Singapore’s Wall Street, it ensures that financial industry of Singapore remains vibrant, dynamic and competitive by working closely with other government agencies and financial institutions. Singapore Exchange (SGX) Singapore Exchange, the investment holding company of Singapore, provides different services related to securities and derivatives trading and others. A member of the World Federation of Exchanges and the Asian and Oceanian Stock Exchanges Federation, SGX was formed after the merger of Stock Exchange of Singapore (SES) with Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX). It is also located in Shenton Way.

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cover story

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railing the path of French invasion of India, we arrived in Puducherry, Mahe, Chandannagar, Yanam and Karaikal which have indelible marks of the centuries-long French reign. By the time the French left the country decades ago, their art and culture, and custom found roots in the social life of the local people. Remarkably, their architectural skills and lifestyle made great impacts on the local communities. However, after they left the country, French influence began to diminish. Mahe, Chandannagar, Puducherry and others have the same story to tell. A travel to these stretches discloses the fact that their French connection is almost forgotten and nowhere in the mainstream French influence is visible. Apart from some landmark buildings, churches and their names, there is nothing much about the French. Even the French language is hardly in use in these places. The people there seem to have gradually moved away from the French lifestyle, but the public places like museums still remind us of the French governance in some parts of India.

Trailing the path of

French invasion Tony William

World War I Memorial and Statue in Pondicherry

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Chandannagar

Yanam

Mahe

Puducherry Karaikal

The credit for making Puducherry a thriving port town largely goes to Francois Martin, the first Governor of Puducherry.

Notre Dam de Anges church. Pondicherry

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n a fine sunny Wednesday when I landed in Puducherry, The French Riviera of East, I, as a first-time visitor, did not have the slightest idea from where to start my mission. And I ended up in Mission Street, on the premises of Notre Dame de’ to begin my exploration of Puducherry’s French connection. The cathedral has a long history dating back to 1692. This is not the original structure of the cathedral. The church was demolished thrice following the Dutch and British invasions. Built in the Portuguese and French styles, the church has stained glass windows and large doors which showcase the French style of architecture. After spending some time in the church, praying and watching its decorative interior, I came out of the church to ‘give time a break’, as the Puducherry tourism slogan says. I knew the perfect way to explore Puducherry was to travel by bicycle. There are shops which rent out bicycles and motorbikes in the main city streets. I found such a shop close to the church in the Mission Street. Giving my driving licence as a guarantee, I took a bicycle for Rs 50 for a day. Thus, my expedition of The French Riviera of East began.

The credit for making Puducherry a thriving port town largely goes to Francois Martin, the first Governor of Puducherry. The streets now we pass and the buildings either side were designed by Governors Lenoir (1726-1735), Dumas (1735-1741) and Dupleix (1742-1754). That is why the streets and the buildings here are unique in design and that they all look exotic in a region which has an altogether different architectural style. Though India won Independence in 1947, the French left India only in 1954. The influence of the French culture is still vivid and clear in the town, especially in the streets close April 2013 travel & flavors 31


cover story

to Goubert Avenue or Beach Road. Streets, houses and shops are all French in style and names. French visitors are flocking to these streets in large numbers throughout the year. All these make the ambience of a French town in Puducherry. Aurobindo Ashram located on rue de la Marine Street was my next destination. Established in 1926 by Aurobindo Ghose, the ashram was full of devotees from different parts of the world. A blend of yoga and modern science, the ashram is now open to the public. There is a profound silence under the frangipani tree where the mortal remains of Aurobindo Ghose and the Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Aurobindo Ghose, Mirra Alfassa, have been kept. Devotees were seen meditating on the stone floor surrounding the tree. Auroville, the city of dawn or the ideal city, envisaged and established by the Mother, houses Matrimandir, the temple of the Mother. Auroville located 8 km from the town celebrates universal brotherhood. It is a must visit for all those who come to Puducherry. The beaches along the road to Auroville are active with small fishing boats. I dropped in two beaches where I watched the local women raising loud noise as the boats with fishes reach the shore. After a while, I saw these women selling fresh fishes under trees in highway junctions. I spent my evening at Goubert Avenue watching the splendid sun set. Early mornings and evenings are the best times to visit Goubert Avenue or Beach Road. You can experience spectacular sun rise and sun set from this place. I found myself at Beach Road enjoying the breeze and some snacks on the second day. Unlike Marine Drive in Mumbai, this beach is more or less calm and

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Temple elephant gives blessings to devotees at Manakula Vinayagar Temple

quiet. From 5.30 pm to 7.30 am the next morning, Beach Road remains closed for vehicles making it walkers’ and joggers’ paradise. Goubert Avenue houses many monuments. You can find Children’s Park & Dupleix Statue at the southern end, Le Café, which was a port office before it was destroyed by a cyclone, Gandhi Statue, French War Memorial and 19th Century Light House (now the office of Central Excise and Service Tax) adjacent to each other. You can also see the new light house at a distance from the southern end of the beach. I also visited the Notre Dame des Anges close to Beach Road. Known locally as Kaps Kovil, it has a history dating back to 1855. This is the only church in Puducherry which conducts Holy Mass in three languages: French, English and Tamil on Sundays. At the ground opposite to the church, I found some elderly people engaged in a strange game. Upon enquiry, I learned that it was ‘Pentanque’, a game which uses metal balls weighing around 500 gm. The game has its origin in Southern France. You can also find youngsters playing cricket in another part of the ground. I spent some more time in the busy streets of Puducherry in the night and returned the bicycle by around 8.30 pm. Next day began with a visit to Puducherry Museum in Saint Louis Street. The museum has a rich collection of antiques. From the excavated items to the things used by the French, each item

tells you the rich heritage of Puducherry. Even the building that houses the museum is a treat for the eyes with its French style architecture. Near the museum lies the Romain Rolland Library which is more than 100 years old. Now the reference section of the library is open to the public. At noon, I took refuge in the Bharathi Park. Lots of school children, foreigners, and local people took shelter under the giant trees in the park which is surrounded by Governor’s Palace, the Legislative Assembly, Government Hospital and Aurobindo Ashram Dining Hall. I paid a visit to the Alliance de France office too. It conducts French classes for the aspiring students. A course is also offered in French in hotel industry and tourism. It has also got a multimedia centre, an exhibition gallery and a café which serves French snacks. It organises monthly cultural programmes in French as concerts, cinema shows and exhibitions. I spent the evening at Beach Road again after clicking as many photos I could. This place was the location of several films, including Tamil movie Ayan and the Oscar winning movie Life of Pi. You can see the old harbour, Holy Rosary Church in Muthialpet and Botanical Garden here as depicted in the movie. It was my time to leave and I said goodbye to the picturesque locales of Puducherry with a promise to visit again.


LOST GLORY

Today, Mahe is just like any other place in the state. It’s ‘so-called’ French heritage remains in a few spots in the former Frech colony Mukesh Venu

St. Francis church, Mahe

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f you come to Mahe with the intention of watching a beautiful coastal town soaked in classic French flavour, you are wrong. You will be certainly disappointed because there is nothing French in Mahe nowadays. The French flavour in Mahe’s culture and the architecture has slowly vanished with the passage of time. Mahe, squeezed between the cities of Kannur and Kozhikode, hardly presents the beauty and ardor of French streets. Not many buildings in gothic style are sighted here, nor any hotels or public places that reflect the French splendour. If you talk to the people there to know more about the French influence in Mahe, they look cold having nothing to say about the virtue of this erstwhile French colony in the Malabar coast. Instead, what welcomes you are the narrow winding streets dangerously brimming with heavy traffic unending rows of liquor shops and a population ignorant about its past. It seems that the French culture among Maheans has vanished over the years and that the present day Mahe is no different from any other bustling town in Kerala. Heaps of waste in public places and untidy streets coupled with poor infrastructure are the common sights all over the former French colony.

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cover story

Mahe walkway

The French citizens of Mahe, including a few close relatives of Sadanandan, have formed an organisation, called Union Des Francasie de Mahe. Every year on July 14, 60 something members of this organisation get together at St Teresa’s Church and take out a procession 34 travel & flavors

Don’t lose hope. Still there are chances to find something that is French in the land. If you dig deeper, you will discover all is not lost. “Mahe still has a number of characteristics that make it unique,” says P UthamrajMahe, Principal of the EcoleCentraleetCoursComplementaire, the oldest French school in Mahe. “For example, while the rest of India celebrates Independence Day on August 15, Maheans celebrate an additional Independence Day - the Bastille Day of the French Day of Independence, on July 14,” he says. EcoleCentraleetCoursComplémentaire school imparts education from the First Grade to the 10th Grade in the French medium and presently has over 60 students. Prominence of this tiny strip of land began from the day it fell to the French on December 3, 1725. The French had arrived in Mahe in search of a suitable place to base their trade activities in Malabar. They lost it twice –first at the hands of the Marathas and then English - before gaining it back in 1816. The long stay of French at Mahe came to an end when Mahe was integrated into the Indian Union on June 16, 1954. Half a century later, Uthamraj asserts that the French culture is still very much alive in Mahe, but he agrees that urgent steps are required to preserve the culture for future generations. “There’s still a small section of people who carries remnants of the French culture in them. But after that, there is no guarantee that the culture will persist with the succeeding generations,” says Uthamraj. Arguably the most important contribution of the French to the people of Mahe is St Teresa’s Church, situated on the Main Road, which runs along the April 2013

length of Mahe town. This church built in 1736 shows marvels of the French architecture. The St Teresa’s fest which takes place in October is one of the major annual festivals of Maheans and attracts people from other parts of South India as well. The Government House where the Administrative Office of Mahe is functioning is another French building in Mahe. This historic building is situated on the banks of MaheRiver. The building, swords, guns and other utensils used by the French during their rule are some of the surviving memoirs of French Mahe. “At present, we have simply put together the swords, pistols and vases used by the French administrators along with other things. We have plans to open a museum showcasing the French culture in Mahe, but nothing definitive has been made regarding it,” says an official of the Administrative Office. The flag pole where the French used to hoist their national flag has been weathered away. Thayil Sadanandan, a retired employee of the MaheAdministrative Office, has done the English translation of the French book The Origins of Mahe of Malabar by Alfred Martineau. “There are about 3,000 people living in Mahe who speak and understand French language,” he says, adding “there are also people who still retain their French citizenship in Mahe”. The French citizens of Mahe, including a few close relatives of Sadanandan, have formed an organisation Union Des Francasie de Mahe. Every year on July 14, 60 something members of the organisation get together at St Teresa’s Church and take out a procession to the Statue of Marianne at Tagore Park where they pay their respects to the nation of France.


The Statue of Marianne established by the French in 1789 marking the 100th anniversary of the French revolution is another reminiscent of Mahe’s colonial past. Sadanandan says: “A major reason for retaining the French citizenship was the pension. But now, with the rise in the per capita income of the local population, it is hardly an attraction.” He belongs to the dwindling category of the people who still nourish fond memories of the French rule and love French language. But unfortunately, the same can’t be said the majority of the population whose attitude towards the signatures of the past has been callous. The French had built a fort at Cherukallai which is a small hill across Mahe River. But no traces of this fort could be seen today. The township of Mahe, in spite of its picturesque location and abundant spots of scenic beauty, is yet to tap its tourism

potential. At present, Mahe is a centre of commercial activities due to its strategic location and its status as a Union Territory exempted from state taxes. The narrow, winding NH-17, which forms the arterial road of Mahe town, is frequented by heavy trucks and private vehicles all through the day. Liquor shops, ceramic stores and other small time business ventures occupy most of the roadside space. However, good restaurants, lodging facilities and shopping prospects are still minimal in Mahe. But the scene is changing fast with tourism getting more importance in the new scheme of things. The opening of Tagore Park with its walkway along the banks of Mahe River has evoked interest among the local visitors. The prospect of tourism has also renewed interest in preserving and renovating places of historical significance in Mahe, which in turn has enlivened the hopes of a small section of people who still carry the French past of Mahe in them.

How to reach there Mahe is well connected by road with nearby townsKozhikode and Kannur Mahe has a small railway station where passenger trains and a few express trains halt Nearest major railway station is Kannur, of 32 km Nearest airport is the International Airport at Karipur- 85 km

Cherukallai fort

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cover story

Unknown

Karaikal never appeals you as a former French colony.The only thing reminiscent of the French rule is Our Lady Angel’s Church. The huge church bells made in the 18th century are still there.

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‘French territories’ A

n unknown place for most Indians, Chandannagar does not have tall claims on its significance in the long history of India, but as a former French colony in West Bengal, the place raises curiosity in travellers worldwide. As a small time traveller, I too was eager to know more about Chandannagar. Having explored erstwhile French colonies such as Yanam and Karaikal, Chandannagar was my new destination. Chandannagar near the West Bengal capital Kolkata was a key French commercial centre in India. French culture thrived, their lifestyle impacted the local community and art and music made inroads in Chandannagar. In every aspect, French. Then, no one could imagine Chandannagar would one day remain aloof without any importance. Today, Chandannagar gives exactly the same picture as that of Puducherry and Mahe in South India. It is sad to notice that the people of Chandannagar appear to be aliens to the French influence and also ignorant of the French past. They don’t have any idea of the French invasion

Chandannagar

and have no knowledge of the non-existent French trading centre in the land. Not to talk about the French language as there is not a single person who speaks French in Chandannagar. When enquired about the dress code and the lifestyle followed by the French, a Chandannagar resident said: “You could get details from the museum.’’ He added that he had never met a French man there all these years. “I did not find anybody who was following French lifestyle in Chandannagar,” he said. The visit to Chandannagar Museum was quite disappointing as it didn’t have a good collection of French relics. The cannons used in the IndoFrench war were the only residue on display of the French invasion. Some 18th century French furniture has also been stored in the museum. The French-built Sacred Church and St Louis Church were the other destinations. These two churches still remain testimonies of beautiful French architecture. The aesthetic beauty in the design of the churches and its engravings makes you wonder why such monumental buildings are not preserved properly for posterity.

Chandannagar, West Bengal, 44.3km from Kolkata Nearest Airport: Dumdum, Kolkata Nearest railway station: Howrah, 34 km

April 2013


Yanam

Nearest Airport: Vishakhapatnam (154km) Nearest railway station: Kakinada Town railway station (15.2km)

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anam has some good qualities inherited from the French rulers, such as religious harmony. The Catholic Church built by the French nestles adjacent to two temples that too were built by them. Besides, a mosque is also located there. The land for the mosque was given by the French rulers. Yanam is a good example of how religious harmony was maintained by the French rulers.

Karaikal

Nearest airport: Trichy Nearest international airport: Chennai (300km) Nearest railway station: Nagore (10km)

K

araikal has been connected by rail from major cities of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. I heard of Karaikal as a land of pristine beaches before going there. I found it is true and for a nature lover, the place is a heaven. But Karaikal never appeals you as a former French colony.The only thing reminiscent of the French rule is Our Lady Angel’s Church. The huge church bells made in the 18th century are still there. I also visited the huge statue of Karaikal Ammal, a god woman, in Karaikal.

Gandhi memorial is in Pondicherry

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Top five

luxury hotels

Heavenly abodes

F

or any passionate world traveller, the place of stay is as significant as the destination. Choosing hotels according the person’s budget and taste is crucial otherwise the travel may lose its charm. There are a variety of hotels in and around all tourist destinations across the world befitting a traveller’s purse. However, the top luxury hotels of the world which remain symbols of the

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custom and culture of the respective country are any traveller’s dream. Here, top five luxury hotels of the world are introduced for the knowledge of travellers. Raj Palace, Villa La Cupola Suite, Hotel Martinez,Hugh Hefner Sky Villa Palm Resorts and Royal Villa are famous for its heavenly indoors and outdoors. The culture, art, architecture, legacy, cuisine,


luxury hotels

on earth

mannerisms etc. of the nation have been absorbed in these hotels in totality. Wow! It is breathtakingly marvelous. The locales of these hotels are naturally beautiful and serene, and they are a rare blend of heritage and modern amenities. A stay in such abodes is a heavenly bliss indeed.

Raj Palace Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India Cost: One night stay- $45,000

T

he palatal grandeur of the ‘pink city’ Jaipur has been conceived in Raj Palace hotel which is a palace converted into a luxury hotel. The traditional charm of the hotel with all modern facilities welcomes a traveller to the interiors of the hotel. Like a king or a queen, a customer could step in to Raj Palace through the carpet spread out upon the vast greeneries. With its spacious rooms, halls, corridors, furniture, loans and pools, a visitor could experience the elegance in every part of the hotel. Built in 1727, Raj Palace was the first palace in Jaipur. In 1996,

the palace was converted into its present status of a top luxury hotel. The hotel provides service round the clock. The luggage storage, sound proof rooms, allergy free rooms, designated smoking rooms, chapel/shrine etc are the other facilities. Shops, tour desk and meeting rooms. The separate bridal suite, VIP suite, a business centre and a special babysitting are included in the hotel to satisfy the demands of all types of luxury customers. Raj Palace is recognised as the world’s best heritage hotel for six consecutive years. April 2013 travel & flavors 41


R

oyal Villa is a synonym of contemporary classic luxury hotel in the world with all facilities required for a modern traveller. Elegantly decked-up interiors equipped with ultramodern facilities, vast bedrooms with fireplaces and large bath rooms with marble floor are the specialties of Roayal Villa. The wooden terrace overlooking to the scenic nature is another specialty of

the hotel. A well-equipped gym where a costumer could utilise the service of personal gym trainer is Royal Villa’s characteristic. In Royal Villa, there are all the ultramodern amenities, including remote controlled mattresses and curtains, which could satisfy the demands of a luxury customer. A traveler can opt for Hotel Royal Villa with confidence.

The Royal Villa Location: Lagonissi, Athens, Greece Cost: One night stay-$34,356

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V

illa La Cupola Suite is the peak of hotel luxury. A visitor has to pay $31, 000 for one night stay in the Cupola Suite. Here, art, aristocracy and modernity have been blended for a marvelous experience. The spacious hotel with 6,100sqft is beyond all expectations of a visitor. Cupola Suite has been embellished with the paintings of the world’s great artists. A visitor would be dumb founded at the art works of Pablo Picasso, Anton Chekhov, Dali, Friedrich Nietzsche, Michael Creese and Leon Gerome. The elegant large glass windows in the living room allow a guest to have a view of Chalet Zermatt Peak. Hand crafted ceiling design, Italian walnut panels, Dolby digital theatre, Murano glass marked and archaic mosaic tiled dining room and a private wine cupboard are the specialties of Cupola Suite. A traveler with a heavy purse is welcomed by Villa La Cupola Suite to the exuberance of the Roman culture and art.

Villa La Cupola Suite Location: Westin Excelsior, Rome, Italy Cost: One night stay$31,000 April 2013 travel & flavors 43


Hugh Hefner Sky Villa Palm Resorts Location: LasVegas, US Cost: One night stay-$ 35,487

H

ugh Hefner Sky Villa Palm Resorts is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. The hotel surrounded by greeneries and the gardens with open restaurant welcomes customers who are having a heavy purse. The hotel is consisted of three towers. The first two towers have ultramodern facilities, top restaurants, and hottest night life while the third tower in the complex is Palms’ place. In the 34th and 35th floor of the Palms Fantasy Tower Suites you could accommodate up to 250 people. The fascinating open restaurant with lush green trees provides real bond with nature.

H

otel Martinez has combined the esthetics of technology and serenity. With seven floors covering 40,000 square metres, Martinez is one of the top spacious hotels in the world. Martinez has 409 guest rooms and suites as its outstanding offer. The reception with 2,500 square metres is the real asset of the hotel. Fifteen meeting rooms, a piano bar and a heating pool are the other features of the hotel.

Hotel Martinez Location: Cannes, Riviera, France Cost: One night stay- $37,500

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The varied shades of ash and grey of the walls and floors lead you to the upstairs. Eightfoot rotating bed, jetted tub connected to the curtain beeds are the facilities a traveler could enjoy here. The outdoor balcony is accessible from the bed rooms. The outdoor pool is identified with an emblem of a play boy. The pool has been covered with glasses up to the end of the hotel building so that the passing clouds are reflected in the water. Reputed butlers are ready for the customer service for 24 hours. A world traveler, especially a play boy bachelor, could find here a thrilling stay.


magic of brahmaputra-1

K A Beena

mighty river that decides a

terrain’s destiny

Traditional ferry boats dangerously overloaded with passengers cross the river Brahmaputra between Majuli island and Jorhat on August 23, 2011 in Jorhat, Assam, India

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O

n a summer dusk, this vast expanse of water acquires the serenity of an ascetic face – outwardly calm, hiding the multitudes of whirls and currents underneath. The placidity is occasionally interrupted by the fishermen in boats creating small ripples and waves as they row about looking for the daily catch. In the twilight, as you sit there watching the mammoth flow of water, you experience absolute harmony with nature. We (me and my family) are on the banks of the Brahmaputra, which is the soul of the Assamese people. They address this free-flowing great river as Baba Brahmaputra with immense respect as though it is their uncle. They also call him Borleuit and Burhaleuit with the attachment, authority and affection to a friend. The river is considered to be a boon given by the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, to the Assamese people. According to legends, the river is the son of Brahmadeva and Amogha, who was the wife of a saint. The existence and destiny as well as the course of the day-to-day life of all plants and animals on the banks of this river and the surrounding mountain ranges are eternally controlled by this huge river. We had lived for two years on the banks of the Brahmaputra. We include myself, my son Ritwik alias Appu, and my husband Baiju Chandran. Baiju was working at Dooradarshan’s Programme Production centre in Guwahati as a part of his North-Eastern service, which is compulsory for Central Government employees, especially for those who are with Doordarshan. Baiju was unaware of even the preliminaries of culinary skills, an essential factor of practical life. However, that wasn’t the only reason for me to join him. I was mostly ignorant about the North Indian regions beyond Delhi, especially North-Eastern India. My knowledge regarding these areas was limited. I only had a picture of North-Eastern India from some TV documentaries and the movies of Janu Barua and Santhwana Bardaloi, books by Indira Goswami, news about terrorism, floods of the Brahmaputra and memories about the Assam agitation, which I had read earlier. I took this as an opportunity to experience and familiarise myself

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with those regions and the people living there – an eagerness to rush to an entirely different world of experience. These were the reasons which inspired and instigated me to apply for a transfer to Guwahati. I was working as Assistant News Editor at Thiruvananthapuram Akashvani, and was transferred to Press Information Bureau of Guwahati in November 2002. The Brahmaputra is not feminine like the Ganga or the Godavari. According to Hindu mythology, the Brahmaputra is one of the rare male rivers in the universe. The Ganga is often addressed as Ganga Mayya (Mother Ganga), but people call the Brahmaputra ‘Baba’ with a tinge of fear, taking its fatherly aspect into consideration. Legends describe the Brahmaputra as an ocean. The river’s unusual size and majestic nature gives it an oceanic appearance. Such a big river is incomprehensive even in imagination. Other rivers are only rivulets compared to the Brahmaputra.

The river is considered to be a boon given by the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, to the Assamese people. According to legends, the river is the son of Brahmadeva and Amogha, who was the wife of a saint

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Its intrinsic aggressive nature makes it all the more masculine. The river is affected by even minute changes in nature, when the rhythm of the people’s lives on its basin is disrupted. During the torrential monsoon rains, the Brahmaputra attains a demonical form, greedy to swallow the whole populace and demolishing all obstacles in its way. After causing myriad calamities, finally, when the turmoil subsides, the river goes fast to its afternoon nap, having had a substantial meal. Lord Brahma had named his dear son Lohithya Gonga. The river, it seems, is mentioned in the legends by the name Lohithya. ‘Lohithya’ means ‘the river of blood.’ Parasurama attained salvation from the sin of matricide by bathing in the river Lohithya. However, Jamadagni, who gave re-birth to Renuka, failed to give salvation to the son. Even his meditative powers could not remove the axe, which got stuck to his son’s hands after killing his mother. The ascetic advised him to go on a pilgrimage as a means for solution to his sin. At that time, Lohithya was an ocean-like lake in the Brahmakund, amidst four mountains, namely, Kailasa, Gandhamadana, Jarudhi and Sambavarthaka. Even the gods and goddesses came to bathe in Lohithya to receive blessings. Legend has it that Parasurama drowned himself in Lohithya and the axe fell from his hands. He was so pleased that he blessed the river to be of use to the whole humanity. He created a furrow with his axe and made the river flow downwards. The stories about the origin of the river proclaim its flow through Hemasringa mountain, then filling the plains of Lohithya, Kamarupa, and later falling into the southern ocean. To be concluded... (Translated by Ayisha Sasidharan) April 2013


QUEEN MARY 2 cruises

World’s floating

wonder T

Black Watch inside

he wonders of the sea have always held a mystique of its own. But in the 21st century world, these wonders are not just relegated to natural ones. Modern day cruise ships -man-made wonders of the sea- have been luring more and more travel enthusiasts. These gigantic cruise ships offer the thrill being in the deep blue sea along with all luxury and comfort of a world class hotel. Queen Mary 2, of Cunard line, is the uncrowned king amongst cruise liners. This floating piece of wonder fitted with gadgets rivaling that of a top notch naval ship, has made headlines wherever it went during its near a decade of active service. The $800 million floating extravaganza, considered to be the most extraordinary cruise liner ever built, entered into service on January 12, 2004. It is the world’s only liner offering April 2013 travel & flavors 49


This floating piece of luxuriant extravaganza has been designed as a 5-star resort with state of the art environment alongside contemporary and luminous design that features in every room. The ship has a total 789 cabins in 10 decks, including 86 cabins with private balcony, 28 suites and 56 Samsara cabins. regular services between New York and Southampton. The ship also conducts tour operations in the Caribbean, Europe, Mediterranean, New England and Canada. So what makes this 1,132 feet long, 237 feet high, 150,000 ton ship so special? Its fascinating world, which is a delicious mix of royalty and technical excellence, is as close as you can get to heaven on the earth. The five two-storey high duplex apartments overlooking the ships stern are among the largest and most lavish ones afloat, each with its own exercise area, balcony, private library and two full marble bathrooms, all encompassed in an area of 9,000sq ft!

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There are 4 Forward suite rooms, 6 Penthouses, 81 Queen Suites and 76 Princess Suites all of which have hi-fidelity televisions featuring multi language film and music channels, walk-in closets, direct dial phones, individual thermostat control, selected collection of wines and eight foot balconies. The biggest pride of the cruise liner is the 20,000 sq ft Canyon Ranch Health Spa, expanding over two entire decks. There are 24-hour massage, body and skin care treatment rooms at your service. Fitness freaks can take advantage of the over 50 pieces of cardio and weight training equipment present in the spa. An exclusive offering of the Spa Club is the exotic Rasul Ceremony derived from an ancient Middle Eastern cleansing ritual. A session of the medicinal mud and steam therapy which takes place inside the ornately styled steam chamber will leave you rejuvenated on all aspects of existence. Speaking of menus, the culinary delight is something that’s a hard find even in the dry land, much less at sea. There are a total of 10 dining venues, of which the main highlight is the restaurant run by celebrity chef Todd English which happens to be the only Todd English Restaurant to function on board a ship. This 156-seat restaurant is set in a visually stunning atmosphere, where the foodies


Queen Mary inside

can revel on an expansive menu centered on the famed chef’s interpretive Mediterranean Cuisine. The main dining room of the ship is three deck high and 150m wide Britannia Restaurant, capable of accommodating 1,351 guests at a time. The intimately designed Princess Grill, Queens Grill, the traditional English pub styled Golden Lion Pub, Boardwalk Café, Sir Samuel’s and Kings Court are the other dining options that the guests can avail. And complimenting the culinary delight of Queen Mary 2 is its inspiring selection of bars and lounges, including the Queen’s Room which is the largest ballroom in the sea. Queen Mary 2 also boasts of the largest wine collection in any cruise liner. The Royal Court Theatre is the ship’s main showroom. It has a tiered seating arrangement for more than a thousand people and features concert hall acoustics, a hydraulic proscenium stage and highly sophisticated sound and lighting equipment. Entertainment experiences include 3D films, interactive song writing workshops, street theatre performances and writing April 2013 travel & flavors 51


workshops. If you are into gambling, use the Empire Casino, the 6000 sqft casino offering slot machines, blackjack, roulette, craps and poker. There are also enrichment programmes where instructors take classes ranging from wine appreciation and cooking to foreign languages, painting, design seamanship and navigation. The latest technology and engineering ensure that Queen Mary 2 has the smoothest ride of any ship. And graced with grand spaces, domed salons, sweeping staircases and majestic promenades, it is easy to forget that you are in a ship that’s pacing past the ruffling waves at a speed of 28 knots. All in all, getting aboard Queen Mary 2 and being part of one of her global round trips will definitely remain as a high point of your life.

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Queen Mary inside

The arriving of huge cruise liners in the Arabian shores of the subcontinent spells good news for the local economy of the region. Salient features The length of the ship is 1,132 ft (that of nearly four football fields) It has a height of 236 ft (comparable to that of a 23-storey building) It has a guest capacity of 2,592 The total number of personnel is 1,253 (Approx one personnel for every two guests) It has a total of 1,296 cabins (955 balcony rooms and 341 interior rooms) Facts & figures The annual tea consumption of Queen Mary 2 would fill an Olympic size pool The annual beef consumption would supply a city the size of Southampton each year It contains 2,500 km of electric cable, 80,000 lighting points, 3,000 telephones, 8,800 loudspeakers and 8,350 automatic extinguishers. The hull is made up of 94 steel blocks and involves 1,500 km of welding. A total of 1.5 million drinks are served annually in Queen Mary 2, not counting the wine sales.

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wonderland mauritius

Mauritius is a paradise for tourists, especially those who are adventurous. Its blue sea, shining beaches and the warm ambience virtually captivate one and all. A travel enthusiast can never say no to a trip to this island-nation 54 travel & flavors

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Mauritius

a thrilling experience for

undersea

adventurers Lakshmi Narayanan

W

hen I was a kid, my mother used to tell my cousins about my mischievous nature like jumping into river , cycling in rugged terrains of the nearby hill, swimming in the subterranean water. As I was from a south Indian village with the lush green forest and a river nearby, I had immense opportunities to make adventures in tandem with the nature. I love adventures and love to be a part of it. When I grew up, my passion for adventurous activities also grew. In course of time, I was compelled to adapt to a metropolitan lifestyle after my adolescent age giving priority to studies and job. But I could satisfy the adventurer in me through travel. Mauritius is such a charming destination that I have discovered to experience the courage in me.

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Scuba diving in Mauritius is certainly an enjoyable experience. It is the perfect way to discover the captivating loveliness of the marine life It was my luck to visit this charming island, which beckons the travelers with its bluish shallow water, sandy white soil and greenaries. Mauritius, the island nation in the Indian Ocean, is blessed with scenic beauty, cool atmosphere and abundant marine resources. The country will enchant you and will uplift your soul, making you feel that you belong to the chosen few. The speciality of this island nation is that every visitor enjoys a personal attention. Mauritius, a melting pot where past and present are smoothly

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blended, offers an essential beauty that will compel you to return to its shores again. The land of Mauritius I had reached the land of Mauritius in the month of February, one of the best months to visit this lovely land. Usually, Mauritius attracts tourists during NovemberApril when the water temperature in the lagoons is so pleasant that you could spend hours in the water. It’s sultrier at this time of year and showers are more common. What attracted me the most is the sea which is particularly blue and the lagoons shimmer in a variety of blues and greens. When I interacted with the natives of Mauritius, we found the populace composed of several ethnicities, mostly people of Indian, African, Chinese and European origin. The peak season is December -January when winter descends upon the northern hemisphere. These are the warmest months in Mauritius and the island is transformed into a sea of flowers. I landed at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport of Grand Port


district in a comparatively cold morning of February. As I was interested in the adventure tourism, the shallow sea waters of Mauritius, famous for adventure sports like undersea walk and tube riding, was my destination. With the help of Mauritius tourism desk, I listed out the best beaches of this marvelous land. The Grand Baie beach was my first focus. Grand-Baie is a coastal village located in Rivière du Rempart district. The western part of it lies in the

carrots. As an aggressive traveler, I had tasted almost all types of soups from different countries, but this one has made my taste buds waiting for yet another scoop. Grand Baie, the beach of wonders It was an awesome experience when I touched the Grand Baie saline water for the first time. The bluish water was quite transparent through which I could see my own legs. Another speciality of the oceanic water is that it is less saline in taste and having a slight heat on the surface and chill in the bottom. Fishes and other marine creatures could be seen from 5-8 metres away from the shore. Walking through the beach water accompanied by colourful fishes was a unique experience, which made me feel that I am swimming in an aquarium. The colours of the fishes might wonder you- yellow, pink, black, white and the oceanic blue. Some of them surrounded my feet.

Diving the wrack of Stella Maru, Mauritius

Pamplemousses district. The beach also has a hotel with all modern amenities. After reaching Grand Baie, I looked at the calm blue water extending miles before me. I could see a wide variety of fishes and other marine creatures in the light blue shallow sea water. Mauritius is also the world’s best honeymoon destination. I had a delicious Mauritius lunch with lentils soup. It is a traditional drink of Mauritius which is prepared with a mixture of black lentils thyme, crushed garlic and ginger oil, diced tomatoes and

These Mauritius fishes were much friendly to the sea walkers. A hot-cool bath in the company of yellowish fishes really made me more adventurous and I was back to the shore, preparing for the real adventure- undersea walk and tube riding. Undersea treasure hunt Undersea walk is one of the unique attractions that one must experience while visiting this marvelous lagoon. It is really once in a life time experience for all the non-divers out there! I was so curious when the Cost Guards offered me the specially designed clothes and a helmet in support to breathe under water. Experience the ultimate sensation where time stops, worries fade away and breathing underwater becomes possible, safe and easy. There we enjoy a safe and fascinating underwater walk on the ocean bed (about 3-4m depth). The undersea walk offers us a live view April 2013 travel & flavors 57


The fisherman at coast of ocean on a sunset

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White sailed pirogue on the ocean, Mauritius

Undersea walk is one of the unique attractions that one must experience while visiting this marvelous lagoon. It is really once in a life time experience for all the non-divers out there! of undersea organisms and marine recourses. Usually, the duration of underwater excursion is 25-30 minute because the oxygen cylinder we carry has very less capacity. If you want more, you can extend the walk with a frequent change of oxygen cylinder. At the bottom of Grand Baie, I witnessed magnificent marine life of Mauritius- the beautiful fauna, corals, and a wide variety of fishes, all in their natural habitat. If you are not that much adventurous and even want to experience this, no need to worry about the safety. Qualified and experienced guides will accompany you ensuring your safety. The undersea walk does not require any knowledge of swimming or diving and you dont want to remove your glasses. The excursion begins with a motorboat transfer from the centre of Grand Baie to a platform inside the lagoon in the north of Mauritius. Upon arrival to the platform, you will receive a pre-departure briefing on the gear, the local marine life, safety procedures and the underwater walking trail. Then with the help of the accompanying guide, you can start your underwater walk adventure. Going for the underwater sea walk is like going for an underwater tour inside the reef, walking between corals, seeing variety of fishes, and discovering the rich

sea life underwater in the crystal clear blue water of the lagoon. The undersea walk also includes three varieties of activities such as blue marine safari, riding on submarine scooters and scuba diving. I experienced each and will recommend you to enjoy all these at its extreme. Blue safari marine, is a rare experience at 35 metres depth. There your dreams come true as you discover the magic of the marine life as I did. We can enjoy a rare and unforgettable experience, travelling in total safety and comfort on board a very sophisticated air-conditioned submarine. The submarine scooters offered me a drive on sea water with a partner. If we want, we can also drive our own marine scooter, instead of taking a partner. I opted for a partner. The riders sit comfortably and breathe normally with their head cover with a transparent dome providing a panoramic view of the reef. There is no need of regulator, riders can communicate with each other and express their instant delight under water while discovering the fauna and flora. A dive lasts 30 minutes at 3 metres depth. Scuba diving in Mauritius is certainly an enjoyable experience. It is the perfect way to discover the captivating loveliness of the marine life. Several diving sites are available according to the depth of the

beach area. Self-protection The Coast Guards provided all undersea walkers a helmet with a transparent visor on the head. A special apparatus allows normal breathing under water. Life Guards assist in taking the travelers underwater and accompany them throughout the walk to guarantee maximum safety. Once there, you will experience the undersea world from close and will enjoy walking on the ocean floor. As we walk around and explore the charming environment, we can take photographs. There is absolutely no better way to go with nature! Tube riding My next expedition was tube riding, an absolutely mind-blowing 15-minute ride on the colourful tube. I was not aware about the activities included in the tube riding. I had a vague idea about it from the television visuals in my home town. After taking a short rest on the beach, I moved on to the awesome tube riding. I was more enthusiastic about this water sport as it included much more adventure than the undersea walk. The Coastal Guards were there to support me in my new adventure. There were two types of tubes in different colours. One was round shape and the

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Aerial view of Mauritius

other was of a banana shape. As I was a debutant in water sport, the Coastal Guard advised me to have the round tube. It has 15-20 inch high walls for protection. The tubes were made up of thin and fine rubber. Before entering into the tube, they provided me orange colour life jackets in order to ensure my safety. The tube can accommodate 1-4 persons. But the majority of my co-travelers had this exotic travel experience with 1-2 persons on a tube. There should be a distance of 10-12 metres between the two boats so that we don’t have the feeling of following the motorboat. But this water sport is not good for those who have breathing problems. I enjoyed the voyage for more than an hour. Penetrating the deep sea water, I could see a wall of blue waves surrounding me. I saw dolphins swimming with me. I enjoyed the company of dolphins while swimming. Besides this, Grand Baie hotel where I stayed offered me a pedal boat, kayaking, glass bottom boat trips, snorkeling, windsurfing and water-skis etc.

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Facts About Mauritius Top 10 beaches of Mauritius to International airports & airlines experience undersea walk 1.Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam 1. Grand Baie International Airport, Grand Port 2. Péreybère 2.Sir Gaëtan Duval Airport, Rodrigues 3. La Cuvette Air Mauritius, the official airlines of 4. Belle Mare Plage Mauritius, flies to Sydney, Zurich, Cape 5. Roche Noires Town, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Charles 6. Blue Bay de Gaulle, Reunion Island, Perth, Hong 7. Gris Gris Kong, Rodegues Island, Singapore, 8. Pomponnette Melbone, Milan, Geneva, Chennai, Delhi, 9. Flic en Flac Durban, Frankfurt, Rome, Moroni, London, 10.Tamarin Kualumpore and Johannasburg. Top luxury hotels 1.The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa, About Mauritius tourist visa Balaclava There are mainly four categories of 2.Four Seasons Resort Mauritius, Anahita, tourist visa. The ‘A’ Class provided a visa Beau Champ duration of 60 days, B Class having a 3.LUX Belle Mare, Belle Mare duration of two weeks, C Class offers a 4.Grand Baie, Grand Baie period of 16 days and D Class provides 5.Royal Palm Hotel, Grand Baie a holyday package of three months. The 6.One&Only Le Saint Geran, Belle Mare visa holders should have a valid passport 7. St. Regis Mauritius Resort, Le Morne (at least six months beyond the intended 8.Constance Le Prince Maurice, Poste De period of stay), a valid return passage Flacq ticket to the country of origin or residence, 9.Maradiva Villas Resort and Spa, Flic En adequate funds to meet cost of stay in Flac Mauritius and should be eligible to re-enter 10.Angsana Balaclava Mauritius, his/her country of origin or residence. Balaclava


key’s destinations

Kodagu-

Scotland of India

Karnika E Yashwant

C

ruising into the misty hills, lush teakwood and sandalwood forests, and acres of tea and coffee plantations of Kodagu, I was enthralled. Also known as Coorg and dubbed “The Scotland of India”, Kodagu remains postcard-perfect with its scattered villages and giving a glimpse of old-world charm. Now that I want to maintain my weight at 72 kg, I have put my travels on a higher level roller than my weight gaining food escapades. On our first visit to this region, we mapped out our schedule carefully to enjoy every site and not be pressured into fitting everything in. On the first day, we visited Abbey Falls. The sparkling waters made us pause and think of what we are missing so much in life – a pause that refreshes.

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Nandi, Nandin or Nendi is now supposed to be a universal name for the bull. Golden Temple is the place of peace, truth, worship, faith and definitely the place of God.

Kaveri Nisargadhama an island formed by river Kaveri is a picnic spot near Kushalnagar in the district of Kodagu in Karnataka. It is located approximately 3 km from Kushalanagara, off the State Highway and 30 km from Madikeri and 95 km from Mysore. Tala Cauvery is where the Cauvery (Kaveri) River begins. Nandi, Nandin or Nendi is now supposed to be a universal name for the bull. Golden Temple is a place of peace, truth, worship, faith and definitely the place of God. Next day is full of resort activities. Conveniently located in Coorg, Club Mahindra Kodagu Valley is a great base from which we explore this vibrant city.

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The Club Mahindra resort is fine if you enjoy resorts. They have a fairly good property and activities to keep your family busy. Activities abound in the resort for all people and all tastes: Jacuzzi, Svaastha Spa, Gymnasium, Rope Walk, Open Air Chess Board, Kids Game Zone, and Swimming Pool. One can just laze around the pool-side restaurant that serves authentic Indian food, enjoy a massage at Svaastha Spa, or be athletic enough doing the stunts and the thrills that abound. On the Third day, we are at Dubare Elephant Camp (70 km from the resort). Hobnobbing with the elephants at the camp is the first of such experiences. Feeding them with balls of hay is truly unforgettable and a source of delight for all.

Notwithstanding the heat and the dust, I took turns photographing them and having myself photographed with them. These gentle but powerful creatures remind me of what I have always strived to be in my work and human relationships. They are dusty but seemed unmindful as they permitted me to observe them closely. Baby elephants moved with the older ones and a friendly one even poked at me with its trunk. We also visited the Buddhist temple, which is some 40 km from the resort. The outside world is forgotten while listening to the chirping of birds that are completely different from those we normally see and hear in other parts of India. Hearing the birds early in the morning or as you retreat at night, you


feel transported into tranquillity away from the city. The atmosphere is totally pure and spiritual. In the complex, one place is named Langar Hall (Free kitchen). Here, People sit on the floor in queues and Langar (food) is served to all. It has a great significance as people from all castes, and religions sit together and have their food. Tapestries of intricate designs fill the walls. On our way back, we passed by Mysore Palace. The different views of the Palace show the magnificence of Indian architecture. Home-stay accommodations are known to help the tourists

relax, go for walks, meet the locals and enjoy local cuisine. You can decide depending on your priorities, or whether cost is of any concern. The downside to this trip is that it can be pricey in tourist season. I advise you to shop around for the best accommodation deals. Staying at hotels is twice more expensive but it affords greater safety and convenience. You have facilities for accessing business associates through the powerful Wi-Fi connection. Internet connection is of great importance for those who conduct business even during vacation trips. I think I will return to Coorg and try a home-stay or plantation-stay, just to discover the difference.

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exploring the past

konark

Mirroring

the glorious past

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Today, Konark is a deserted place. Apart from the annual festival of dance and music, and occasional visitors, this coastal place remains quiet with no activities.

A

stroll through a place that stands lost in the web of time is truly a spectacular experience. The world renowned Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha is not just the remnants of a monument, but a marvelous structure that provides glimpses of the glorious past of Konark. A bustling port town in the eastern coast of ancient India, Konark withstood vagaries of the weather and the attacks by the invading armies in the past. Situated 65 km from the state capital of Bhubaneswar and 35 km from the temple town of Puri, the Sun Temple at Konark is a must visit place. The temple is an architectural wonder. It took the combined effort of 1,200 artists and 12,000 labourers, and a period of 12 years to complete the construction. The temple is conceived as a huge chariot with 12 pairs of wheels being pulled by seven horses. Only one of the seven horses could be seen today. The huge deula tower, supposed to be 70m high which housed the deity, almost disappeared. It is the much smaller ‘Jagmohana’ or the audience hall which presents itself as the dominant structure of the temple at present. Even today, one can feel the magnificence in and around the temple. Today, Konark is a deserted place. Apart from the annual festival of dance and music, and occasional visitors, this coastal place remains quiet with no activities. There are no elaborate rituals worshipping the Sun God these days. The entire temple is placed in the east-west direction that indicates the journey of Sun through the heavens. The temple compound measures 260m length and 160m width. The main entrance to the temple is on the beach side to the east and is guarded by two elephants. What attract the visitors to the present day Sun Temple are the erotic sculptures on the temple walls which depict various descriptions of Kamasutra. According to the legend, Lord Krishna had a handsome son, Samba. A young prince, Samba was

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How to get there

Nearest airport is Bhubaneswar, 64 km away Puri, 37 km away, is the nearest railway station There are regular bus services to Konark from Puri and Bhubaneswar Autorickshaws are available for Rs 250-300 round trip, including waiting time Other facts The entire territory lies in the tropical zone and hence is subject to high temperature. People are hospitable and Hindi and Bengali are understood and sometimes spoken besides Oriya. Visitors are required to enter the temple barefoot and should cover their heads. Photography is allowed, however visitors need to pay extra for videography. Konark has accommodation facilities at a budget rate though Puri and Bhubaneswar provide better options for stay.

The whole temple compound measures 260m in length and 160m in width. The main entrance to the temple lies on the beach side to the east and is guarded by two elephants. The whole temple building is adorned with sculptures of gods, goddesses, man, woman, beast and other mythological creatures

fully aware of his charm and was arrogant about it. His arrogance eventually resulted in inviting his father’s wrath and Samba was cursed with leprosy. But Lord Krishna regretted it later. He instructed the boy to pray to the Sun God, the healer of all diseases. Samba heeded to the advice and spent the next 12 years worshipping Soorya. Finally, Soorya appeared before him and asked him to bathe in the sea at Konark to get rid of the terrible disease. Samba was cured of leprosy. In respect to the Sun God, Samba then decided to build a temple at the same spot. What King Narasimhadeva did was to rebuild the existing temple in a grand manner. You may wonder what the Sun Temple has got to do with number 12. It took ‘12’ hundred architects and ‘12’ thousand labourers and a total of ‘12’ years to build this temple which was conceived as a chariot with ‘12’ pairs of wheels. It is believed that King Narasimhadeva spent a fortune equivalent to the net revenue of his kingdom for ‘12’ years to build this temple. King Narasimhadev, who built this temple in the 13th century as a symbol signifying the superiority of his Hindu

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kingdom, certainly wanted the temple to stand indestructible. The methods and the materials used for building the Sun Temple were not only unique, but a part of which has remained a mystery till now. The walls of the temple are built by

joining black granite stones, after placing iron plates between them. The long lost deula tower supposedly had huge magnets fixed within it that not only held the temple walls together but also left the deity suspended in mid-air without any support. How? Well, this is one of the mysteries that still remains. The fall of this magnificent temple is synonymous with the fall of ancient India to the foreign invaders. According to one account, it was the Bengal Sultan Sulaiman Khan Karrani who invaded Odisha in the 16th century. He destroyed this temple along with numerous others that dotted the landscape. It is also said that the Portugese had deliberately misplaced the huge magnets that held the temple walls together because its power was causing their ships to run ashore. The architectural precision displayed in the layout of the temple has earned it the title of being one of the seven man-made wonders of India. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a collection of its sculptures are housed in the Sun Temple Museum of Archeaological Survey of India. The Sun Temple makes you realise the cultural wealth and creativity that ancient India had in its possession.


Flavours of the world

World’s five most-sought-after

foods

During my fantabulous journey covering two continents- Asia and Europe, I visited different countries and was lucky enough to experience a variety of flavours which made my taste buds dancing. Sweet, salty, spicy and sour delicacies very much pleased my palate. From India to Italy, I had tasted five different, most sought-after dishes. Here, I would like to share with you these flavours. Just have the taste of the world!

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Massaman Curry, Thailand It is the traditional taste of Thailand, specially made for non-vegetarians. The spicy and mirchi taste of this dish makes the taste buds dancing for yet another scoop. The zesty gravy of Massaman curry is prepared with different types of meat, coconut milk, roasted peanuts and all kinds of crazy, aromatic spices. For Thai people, it is the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Thus, it is an inevitable part of all tourist cuisines. One who tastes Massaman curry will not forget the wavy taste that it creates in one’s mouth. There are various tastes such as spicy, coconutty, and sweet savoury. Massaman curry is great when balanced out with a serving of the oh-so-spicy green papaya salad – just have the antacids. ‘Thailand, the Land of Smiles’ is not just a marketing catch-line; it is the result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold at nearly every street corner.

Neapolitan Pizza, Italy Italy is not only famous for the Leaning Tower and the Colosseum but also for the delicious pizza. The Neapolitan pizza is best known for its unusual tang. It is the best pizza in the world, and it has millions of fans across the world. Simple Neapolitan pizza was an earlier invention of the Italians, which is now protected by its own trade association that insists on sea-salt, high-grade wheat flour, and the use of only three types of fresh tomatoes, hand-rolled dough, and strict use of a wood-fired oven, among other quality stipulations. It might sound funny that, with a few ingredients like dough, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and basil (the Marinara pizza does not even contain cheese), the Neapolitans made a food. It is staple breakfast, inevitable in the fast-breaking cuisines of Italian restaurants. Neapolitans take their pizza so seriously that there are considered to be only two true pizzas – the Marinara and the Margherita.

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Peking Duck, China This royal food of China is a synonym of superior Chinese food of the non-takeaway variety. The roasted duck makes the dish stand out in the dine. The taste of Pecking Duck beckons the travellers with the tagline of ‘try before you die.’ The garlicky, sweet, crispy skin of the roasted duck makes the dish a special one among the specials of Chinese taste. Plating up the dish is an event in itself: order the whole duck, and the bird will be carved in front of one’s dining. There is China’s uniqueness in serving the dish. First, you will be served the famously crispy sweet skin. Next, the juicy slivers of meat will be carved and served with steamed pancakes, spring onions and a sweet hoisin sauce, so you can create your own Peking Duck pancakes. If you are still hungry, the remaining duck will be served as a stirfry or broth. The maltose-syrup glaze coating the skin is the secret of its taste.

Masala Dosa, India Masala Dosa, the nutritious diet of South India, is a must-try dish before you die. It has had its origin in South India, and has conquered the whole world with its spicy taste. The sub-continental meal could persuade a committed carnivore to order this vegetarian dish to have a splendid taste on the taste buds. Masala Dosa’s radius is around half a metre and it is cream in colour. It is cooked to perfection on a hot griddle. What creates the flavour is a spiced concoction of mashed, cooked potatoes and fried onions by adding other ingredients like mustard, curry leaf, and chilly – all of which are filled inside the dosa. It is served with a liberal dose of garlicky chutney. The way in which Masala Dosa is served in Indian restaurants makes the dine different as it is served on round-shaped plantain leaves. Varieties like Paper Masala Dosa and Mysore Masala Dosa add more flavours to the dish.

Egg Tart, Hong Kong The classic recipe of Hong Kong attracts food lovers with its appealing yellow colour and its special taste. Egg Tart and its fame had travelled across the globe through the tongues of tourists and travellers. Now, people from other countries also demand Egg Tart from their first day of arrival in Hong Kong. The flexibility of this food makes it more popular – you can have it for breakfast, for brunch, or as teatime snack. An Egg Tart is a baked egg custard in a pastry for its verity taste. There are mainly two types of egg tarts – one with a short crust pastry, and the other with a puff pastry. The first category is buttery with a hint of savoury, which is perfect with the smooth and lightly sweetened egg custard. The other is a little different in the way of baking, but both have almost equal number of fans across the world.

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Travel blog

Jose Jacob

Dharamshala–

Alluring abode of

Dalai Lama

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The mantra Om Mani Padme Hum (This mantra holds the essence of all Buddhist teachings) echoed on the walls. The Buddhist mantras fill you with peace and tranquility.

D

ehradun, Shimla, Manali … I had many options before me when I decided to travel for the two Diwali holidays. I knew I had not made a wrong choice as I reached Dharamshala after a long, 9-hour bus ride from Delhi. Located 1,400 metres above sea level, Dharamshala is amazingly beautiful. I hired a room at a guesthouse in Lower Dharamshala, which is a quiet economical way to stay. After a short nap, I set out for my adventure. Dharamshala is divided geographically into two parts – the lower and the upper parts. The Lower Dharamshala is commonly called Dharamshala and the upper part is famously known as the McLeodGanj. Major tourist attractions are found here.

McLeodGanj As my main intention was to get some good photographs of the tourist spots, I decided to cover McLeodGanj. A 10-minute ride through the treacherous mountain road in a packed taxi jeep took me to the upper part of Dharamshala. It was a vibrant town filled with Indian and Tibetan shops. The narrow lanes were filled with roadside vendors and tourists, both Indian and foreign. The town, which is situated about 1,750 metres above sea level, is named after the-then British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, David McLeod. The peculiarity of the town is its geographical position. All the tourist spots around McLeodGanj are at walking distance from one another. After a fulfilling Tibetan breakfast, I set out to Naddi View Point. The Naddi Point is a spectacular place, giving you a panoramic sight of Dharamshala. It offers you a great view of the Naddi villages, where the houses are built in the traditional way on steep valleys. Dalai Lama’s abode Dharamshala is known for being the headquarters of Dalai Lama, who is in exile after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. The Dalai Lama temple is the main attraction of McLeodGanj. Here I was welcomed by the slow yet magnetic Buddhist mantras. As the prayer service was going on, I could get some shots of the

large gathering of monks and other devotees. The mantra Om Mani Padme Hum (This mantra holds the essence of all Buddhist teachings) echoed on the walls. The Buddhist mantras fill you with peace and tranquility. Bhagsunag Falls My last spot for the night was Bhagsunag Waterfalls. This, I would say, is a must-visit place for photographers. The 6 km long trek from McLeodGanj will provide you with great scope for photography. The narrow trail, which leads to the waterfalls, and the small waterfalls along the way can give you beautiful shots. I returned to the guesthouse shortly after my visit to Bhagsunag Falls. The night sky was vibrant as the locals were celebrating Diwali. British-built church My second day began with a walk to St John’s Church, which was about 1 km from McLeodGanj. The-then viceroy of British-India had built the church. The most attractive feature of the church is the ancient cemetery of the British. The tombstones are beautifully laden along the slope, which overlooks the snow-covered mountains. By the time I returned from the church, I had time for just one more spot, so I choose to trek towards Dharamkhot. The place houses a number of meditation centres, and the forest cover on one side of the road is indeed picturesque. Variety of foods The streets of McLeodGanj are filled with the cute restaurants serving Tibetan, Indian and foreign cuisines. The Tibetan cuisine, which is locally famous, offers you a variety of breads to choose from. The most famous snack is Momos, which is actually dough-stuffed vegetarian or non-vegetarian fillings. One can choose from beef, mutton or pork fillings. Another dish to try is Thukpa, which is actually a kind of soupy noodles with meat chops and vegetables. I ended my small adventure on the second day as the sun was setting on McLeodGanj. As my bus descended, I was already missing my stay there.

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around the globe

MRK Menon

A

s an educationist with www.aero-sports. in for the past one year or so, I have been travelling to different parts of India and abroad visiting schools and conducting programmes in Aero-modelling, Model Rocketry, Robotics, Career Counselling and STEM Education. As part of it, I visited Mizoram, Dehradun, Mussorie and Nepal among the more interesting/scenic places. Here, I would like to focus on the air travel, culture, cuisine, hospitality and sight-seeing in Kathmandu. I have long wanted to visit Nepal mainly because of my obsession with the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna which was released in the early 70s. Being an ardent fan of Dev Anand, I remember with nostalgia the beautiful songs “Kanch Re Kanche Re, Dum Maro Dum, Phoolon Ka Taraon Ka� etc. The year was 1971

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and I was in Vizag when the film was released. Ever since, I had always wanted to visit Kathmandu. During the 80s, while I was stationed at Patna, Nepal was very much on the horizon. At that time, the attraction was foreign goods and casinos. Somehow, that trip did not materialise. It was in August 2012 that my friend Abhishek Thakur, a resident of Nepal, invited me. Without hesitation, I booked my flight from Delhi via Spice Jet Airlines which always provides good value for money. Thribhuvan Airport is too small and crowded. Nepal has a steady flow of visitors from all over the world to see the Himalayas. However, the warmth of the reception committee took away all my negative thoughts. Instead of a garland they placed a colourful silk cloth around our as their customary greeting.


After many hugs and namastes, we took a short cab ride to my hotel which was in a crowded part of the city, more like Old Delhi with its myriad of narrow lanes and shops. It was getting quite cold with the Himalayan Mountain Air making its strong presence felt. My host who is an ambassador’s son wanted me to stay at his residence but I had to decline because I like to step out and see the city at night. That means taking in a few good drinks at the local taverns, getting to know the people and ultimately blending into the multitude. As my mom said: “When in Rome behave like a Roman!” It was a decent hotel at Thamel but difficult to get hot water. The rates were reasonable, the hotel food was very good and the service outstanding. Sensing my importance they lent me a room heater in the first night. The next day I gave it to a damsel in distress and the hotel manager chided me for being chivalrous. In a dramatic fashion he told me what he would have done in my place. I liked him so much that I invested in a Nepali topee and jacket the next morning. My transformation was complete. Kishore Da’s immortal song “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani” literally oozed out of my lips as I stepped out into the brilliant, warm sunshine the next morning albeit at 11 am. The cold had disappeared. Abhishek took me to a host of places and restaurants that whetted my appetite as a tourist. PASUPATHI NATH TEMPLE: It is a Shiva Temple which was not crowded, but quite clean. My host gave me an amazing replica of the temple in a glass case to take home. It arrived safely after two flights and now blesses our office. SWAYAMBHUNATH HILL: After climbing a hundred odd steep steps, one can get a fantastic view of Kathmandu city. It’s a huge city and the hilltop complete with pagodas and curio shops are very crowded. Lots of foreigners and plenty of monkeys too were there. It was here the famous Panditji scene casting Jr Mehmood was shot. You can almost see him coming out of a dinghy, dark building with a mischievous smile. They have a security guard who can distinguish between a local Nepali and a foreigner in a twinkle. Reason being that a foreigner has to pay an entry fee to a public park. My Nepali jacket and topee could not pass muster. DURBAR SQUARE: There’s a beautiful, old world Nepal in the city full of palaces, temples, shops and tourists. Here, you will find a temple devoted to the living goddess who appears to greet the public a couple of times a day. I had to move on and so I was not fortunate to seek her blessings. In one of the smaller temples, there is a small area like a closed balcony where Zeenat Aman made Asha Bhonsle’s song “Dum Maro Dum” world famous. At April 2013 travel & flavors 73


this point, I would like to pause and salute Dev Anand Sab for having the vision and guts to put together a fabulous film that addresses the drug menace, escapism and hippie culture which somehow went hand in hand. Going in the same vein, I wanted to see the location where “Kanchi Re Kanchi Re” was shot almost 45 years back. Unfortunately, as per my guide the ever smiling Uncleji, the set had been dismantled a long time back. Very few in Nepal even know or remember the film.

from Patna, Bihar, where I launched my career way back in 1980. For lunch she made 10 odd vegetarian dishes which brought back memories of my great days in Patna. They showered so much love and blessings that it brought tears to my eye. The Ambassador also took keen interest in my business and introduced me to prominent people in the city. This will remain the most important part of my trip. Athithi Devo Bhava. “Treat your guests like the Lord himself!”.

THE MT EVEREST TRIP: For Indian Rupee 8,000 you can have a short 20-minute flight that takes you near the

RESTAURANTS: Abhishek and Uncleji took me to three amazing restaurants. They were expensive by local standards

Himalaya so that you can catch a glimpse of the Mt Everest. These small planes, I believe, carry up to 16 passengers. There are 2-3 such flights each day. I wanted to go for the trip but postponed it for a better occasion where I will have family or friends to experience the thrill with me. It also means that I will have to revisit Kathmandu and get to see a few more places.

but classy. The one located in a large garden was like having tea and cakes in a Viceroy’s palace. The service was impeccable. Just outside, a few steps away is the crowded market area, with poor kids begging for bread. The airport too has a great restaurant and bar. It is on the first floor. In smaller eateries, one can taste Dal Bhaat (Rice & Lentils) and Momo’s (Dumplings) which are typical Nepali dishes.

MY HOST: Abhishek’s father is Ambassador Thakur who has represented Nepal in 18 different foreign countries. His wife is Head of Department of Hindi Literature in a local university. She hails

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THE PEOPLE: Friendly and curious for what I represented. There were lots of Indians and people of Indian origin. Foreigners many of whom have been

staying there for weeks or returning for a second or third time are plenty. I guess Nepal is the perfect place for a trekking expedition. DISAPPOINTMENTS: It is illegal to use Indian currency for paying for goods and services. Power shortage and astronomical prices for scooters, motorcycles and cars are common. The rivers have dried up or become garbage disposal sites. The city does not seem to be expanding with modern roads and buildings leading to overcrowding. Political crisis still not resolved. Travelling takes time because of the poor roads and

mountain sides that you have to navigate. The casinos are small and quiet by world standards. HITS! A paradise for trekking. Mt Everest by itself is worth it. Very hospitable people and affordable prices. The cold and the sunshine later in the afternoon will make you feel younger and more energetic. Heartily recommend that you plan a three-day trip at least ASAP. Just 90 minutes flying time out of New Delhi. For contact, mrk.menon@yahoo.com


photo essay

KOCHI - muziris BIENNALE

a common man’s

T

he foregone Kochi-Muziris Biennale had brought art gallery to the streets in order to make them accessible to the common man. This was the beginning of a new era in the art and cultural scene of India. With the biennale, common people had a close encounter with the artistic presentations from around the world. Indian art and artists had, of course, drawn more inspiration through the exchange of ideas with world famous artists. The three-month long India’s debut biennale had paved the way for thousands of art lovers to understand the language

of art. The biennale had turned out to be an ideal platform for artists to share their experiences in the field. Vivan Sundaram, Subodh Gupta, Sheela Gowda, Atul Dodiya, Alfredo Jaar, ShahidulAlam Shreyas Karle and Rasheed Rana were among the Indian and international artists who had participated in the Kochi biennale. The recreation of 2000-year-old Muziris town by Vivan Sundaram in ‘Black gold’ installation, Alfredo Jaar’s illustration of Kalidasa’s Meghasanthesam with ‘Cloud for Kochi’ Sheela Gowda’s ‘Grinding stone’, Shreyas Karle’s ‘Filling’, Atul Dodiya’s celebration of artists in his superb laboratory, Subodh Gupta’s ‘Wood and found objects’ and Shahidul Alam’s ‘A quite metaphor for screaming truth’ were the outstanding pieces of works at the biennale. Their works were the true artistic depictions with no compromises on the quality and theme. In every sense, the Kochi biennale was a sincere attempt to promote art and culture of the country. April 2013 travel & flavors 75


Subodh Guptas’ ’‘wood and found objects” (glaring realistic collection of objects) His realistic collection of the things dumped in a ferry. The astounding variety is included dust covered wooden and plastic chairs, the old utensils being made of aluminum and bronze, old cloths and folded beds.

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Vivan Sundaram’s installation “Black gold”, (A realistic recapturing of old Muziris town) He recaptured the 2000 year back Muziris town with a vehement out pouring of realistic art. Here Vivan’s third world identity is displayed in depicting the minute details of archaic Muziriz town.


Alfredo Jaars’ installation “Cloud for Kochi”, (An artistic yarning for Kalidasa) The work is a yearning for the cloud messenger in Kalidas’ Meghasanthesam to inspire him. The unreadable cloud shaped letters on the walkway upon the wall could be read from water beneath and that is the greatest poetic lines from Meghasanthesham.

Any common man could walk in the corridors of art enjoying the prayers being depicted by artists from world across. They could make discussion with artists and art admirers to comprehend the language of complex artistic perceptions.

KOCHI-muzIris BIENNALE

Sheela Gowda’s “Grinding stone” (wretched static state never be thrown away) She tells the poignant state of being a place of one’s own but that is quite unnoticed by others. Sometimes this state is fixed for ever in some live like grinding stones in the old houses.

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strange traveller

Y

ears ago, a man in Germany, hit by the recession, planned to move to Cyprus in search of a job in the copper mines there. Oskar Speck undertook the journey in 1932 in a folding kayak. He travelled through Austria, Hungary, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey all the way to the Mediterranean and soon was enchanted with the idea of travelling around the world. He then covered Syria, Iran and Pakistan. By 1935, three years after leaving Germany, he had reached India and Sri Lanka.

In 1937, he arrived in Indonesia after covering Burma, Thailand and Malaysia. Upon his progress to Dutch New Guinea, while Germany was in war with Australia, he was arrested by Australia mistaking him for a spy. However, by the time, in three kayaks, Speck had covered almost 50,000 kms. That was in 1937. In 2011, a woman has had the courage to explore the same route in the same manner as Oskar Speck did. Sandy Robson, a sea kayaker from Western Australia, is on her journey to explore the world. Named Retracing Oskar Speck Expedition, she has already covered 4,000 kms in four months in the first stage. She is currently paddling the coast of India in the second stage. Robson who has been kayaking for 19 years, is an instructor and tour guide, back in Australia. She paddles on the expedition for six months and goes back home for the other six, to raise funds for the expedition. Funding is a real problem

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Exceptional

expeditions Tony William

for her expedition. “I am not afraid of pirates, but I am afraid of not having enough funds,” says Robson. Robson’s kayak, which is 5 metres long and 60 centimetres wide, weighs about 35 kg. She carries a sleeping bag, first-aid kit, clothes, food and a tent. On good weather conditions, she paddles around 40 kms a day, usually along the coast so as to enjoy the sights around such as local fishermen and their fishing. Pasta, noodles, some cheese or chapatti usually make her meal while paddling. However, Robson will not be able to retrace exactly the route followed by Oskar Speck. She will have to avoid Syria, as the war still goes on, Iraq, where mines at the mouth of the Euphrates river make it unsafe, and Iran, which did not give her permission to paddle through its territory. She will also avoid Pakistan as the Department of Foreign Trade and Affairs of the Australian Government has strongly advised its citizens either to avoid travel or to reconsider the need to travel in the light of serious security breach in the country. Sandy Robson, who loves long journeys, plans to write a book on her experiences and worldwide kayaking community after completing her expeditions. (Those who wish to fund Sandy Robson on her expedition can get directions on her website www.sandy-robson.com)

Robson who has been kayaking for 19 years is an instructor and tour guide in Australia. She paddles on the expedition for six months and goes back home for the other six to raise funds for the expedition.


Travel And Flavors  

Travel And Flavors

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