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March 2014

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Havana Budapest Legacies

Madurai The great Meenakshi Amman Temple beckons all


Historic forts and bustling markets, that’s the pink city

Kufri A small hill station with oodles of snow and solitude

Cover photo: Vintage cars regarded as symbols of Havana’s pop culture parked in a street in the city


cover story

Grand Old Havana Bored of the same old destinations in Europe and Asia? Then step into the Americas. The Latin American nations may seem unappealing to those who’re enchanted by the regal splendour of Europe, but Cuba is a Caribbean beauty and its capital Havana is even more beautiful. A trip all the way to this city wouldn’t be in vain and it’s sure that the city and its people would have won you over

Unreeling the legacy of Budapest Hungary has always been a tempting place for tourists. Its capital Budapest has a long lost heritage and legacy rich enough to leave you glassyeyed and wonderstruck. Budapest is not just a fascinating city; it’s a place where history peeks at you from every street


60 The Crowning Glory of Madurai The Tamil epic Silapathikaram extolled the glory of the city of Madurai and the virtue of the legendary Kannagi who burned it down in her fury. Today, Madurai is more than just that, it’s one of the most sought-after pilgrimage centres of South India owing to the great Meenakshi Amman Temple located in the heart of the city

Into the Wild by Rathika Ramasamy 10 Travel News 12 Events Calendar 14 Unique Festivals 15 My Shot 19 

Theme cruises in vogue 28

Discover the charm aboard Theme Cruises, a rising trend in the cruise industry

Myriad hues at the Dubai Shopping Festival 30

Catch the spectacular shades of the Dubai Shopping Festival

Daisy spectacle in Adelaide 38

Stunning daisy fields across Adelaide welcomes all

Stories told in stone 40

Lepakshi gains its fame from the three shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabhadra and is not to be missed if you’re into archaeology

Thus Spake the Shots: Lakshadeepam 44 The best of Mughlai cuisine at Karim’s 46

Tuck into the best of Mughlai cuisine at Karim’s, the ever popular non-vegetarian food joint in Delhi

Style & opulence aplenty 66

Stylish and classy, The Leela Palace, Chennai welcomes all those who love to indulge in the best stay possible

Of silk and everything Thai 70

Thailand’s fine quality silk attracts fashion buffs who want nothing but the best

24 The Hundred Shades of the Pink City Jaipur is a bustling city which attracts plenty of tourists all year round. With ancient forts, remnants of the erstwhile kingdoms, crowded markets and a culture that seems untouched by time, Jaipur is most likely to attract you and it’s one trip that you would not forget in a hurry

73 Travel Apps for you

This time ‘Travel Kit’, brings you handy apps to help make your journey hassle-free

74 Musings on Manali

Manali’s charm is nothing short of magical and once you come here, you’d be reluctant to leave

78 Back to nature in Dhampus

Dhampus, a village far removed from the turbulences of the city exudes an old-world charm that attracts one and all

81 An ideal place for massage and treatments

Ayurmana Spa offers the best spa treatment to relax you

84 A snowy holiday at Kufri

Shimla’s own Kufri assures you a snowed in holiday with your family and friends

88 Exploring the untouched Paniyeli Poru

At a time when most of the well known destinations are blemished by man-made wonders, Paniyeli Poru is a rarity.

91 From the Tourism Director’s Desk 92 Revival of the past

The Heritage Museum in Tripunithura offers you a rare insight into the beauty of erstwhile Cochin through its palm leaf manuscripts and rare photographs

96 Photo of the Month 98 Hazardous handcycle ride

Seth McBride and Kelly Schwan are travellers like no other and one would be forced to applaud their resilience to survive against all odds

Volume 2 Issue 3 | March 2014 Founder & editor Ravi Deecee Executive Editor Ratheema Ravi DC MEDIA - OPERATIONS

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contributors Rathika Ramasamy is India’s first woman wildlife photographer and one of the world’s top 10 wildlife photgraphers

Suresh Joseph is a driving enthusiast who holds 8 solo driving records in India. He has authored two books and is a Consultant and Mentor based in Cochin, Kerala

Shweta Ganesh Kumar is a travel columnist and the bestselling author of Coming Up On the Show and Between The Headlines, two novels on the Indian broadcast news industry

Richi Mohanty works as a User Interface Designer in Bangalore. She is an avid traveller who loves meeting new people and experiencing various cultures

Renuka C Sekhar is a Bangalore based fashion designer and travel writer. Being a travel maniac she loves to explore new places and meet new people

Jenny Thingshung is a food writer and journalist based in Nagaland. She is also an ardent travel buff, who specialises mainly on the diverse cuisines of the North East


travel & flavors March 2014

letter from the editor


ed up with trips to European and Asian destinations? Then plan a tour of Latin America or the Caribbean which will enlighten the traveller in you. The weather, geography, culture and lifestyle of the region will, of course, refresh your experience as a traveller. The Caribbean and Latin American countries are probably the best destinations for travellers seeking a difference. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic on the other, the Latin American countries have ever enchanted travellers. The region rich with diverse culture and tradition besides geographical peculiarities offers a wonderful experience for tourists. Warm weather and its evergreen tropical forests are unique and tourists would love to enjoy its climate and also to explore at least a section of the rain forests. Watching wildlife, especially a variety birds found only on the continent, could be a real pleasure for all tourists. The Caribbean consists of a number of Island nations, including West Indies and Cuba. Cuba is famous for several beautiful beaches and resorts with a laid-back life, and the capital Havana is one of the largest cities in the region, which boasts of its pulsating nightlife, proud culture and beautiful architecture. Old Havana is the city centre that houses numerous restaurants, both colonial and modern, and private homes with rooms for rent. The city’s well laid cobble stone streets are a pleasure for a stroll. The architecture in Old Havana is mind-boggling. Buildings in Victorian and Gothic styles line up either side of the streets to welcome visitors. Some of the buildings are with intricate balconies and lattices, some with elaborate frontispieces and others are plain but in vibrant colours. While in Old Havana, you will certainly recall writer Earnest Hemingway and the revolutionary leader Che Guevara as memorabilia relating to their life are very much present in the town. The cover story ‘Grand Old Havana’ takes you on a journey through the old town. You can be familiar with Casa Hemingway, now a museum, and La Bodeguita, Hemingway’s favourite bar, during the trip. Besides, meet some Cubans who still believe in hard work. The story ‘The pink city’ sheds light on the bustling capital of Rajasthan. Jaipur can grip any visitor with its stunning background of ancient forts which stand as the testimony of romance and chivalry in the bygone era. If you are in Delhi and have the palate for Mughlai cuisine, visit hotel Karim’s which serves most delicious non-vegetarian dishes. Unique Festivals, Travel for Flowers and photo features in addition to columns and regular features make this issue a showpiece.

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Cool Cover story

Colourful magazine

The February issue of T&F had a different cover story. I’m guessing it was part of the Valentine’s Day special. Your featured destinations were interesting although I must say that India does have a number of serene hill stations that could have been featured. But all in all the story did make a good read. Rita Shaikh, Dubai

I picked up a copy of your magazine T&F from the newsstands and I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation style. You do know how to surprise a reader with your innovative stories and appealing pictures. I look forward to reading more of such interesting articles in your magazine in the future. Sandhya Ramdas, Hyderabad

Adventures in Antarctica My eyes popped out of their sockets on reading your ‘Wonderland’ segment. Antarctica does seem to be a true wonderland and your story made it seem appealing, being an adventure buff myself. Thanks for planting the idea of Antarctica in my head!. David Lawson, Dublin

Inspiring article

The tuktuk journey of Richard Sears and Nick Gough in the ‘Strange Travellers’ column is truly inspiring. I was quite impressed with the article. Hope to see more such inspiring artices in later issues Nitha Krishna, Delhi

into the wild Pangot

Rathika Ramasamy is India’s first woman wildlife photographer and one of the top ten wildlife photographers of the world

Best time to visit October-March

How to reach Pangot is an 8 hour journey from New Delhi by road and is an hour’s drive from Nainital. Many trains connect Nainital with New Delhi either through Kathgodam or Ramnagar. Corbett National Park is situated 80 kilometres from Pangot and one could also make it a combined visit.

An avian delight


angot is a remote Himalayan village, 15km from Nainital and is an ideal place for capturing the beauty of Himalayan birds and is a birdwatcher’s paradise with more than 250 species of birds. On sunny days one can enjoy the view of snowpeaked Himalayas. Mixed forests dominated by thick ban-oak, pine and rhododendron cover most of the area and surrounding hills. Numerous creeks and streams crisscross the area. The place is good to photograph beautiful birds like Himalayan griffon, blue-winged minla, spotted & slaty-backed forktail, rufous-bellied woodpecker, rufous-bellied niltava, khalij pheasant to name a few.

March 2014 travel & flavors


Travel News

News World Travel

ITB Berlin from Mar 5

Berlin (Germany): Gear up for the world’s leading travel trade show- ITB Berlin- which will take place from March 5 to 9 at the Messe Berlin fair grounds, Germany. The 48th edition of the event will have more than 170,000 visitors, 113,000 trade representatives and 11,000 companies from 180 countries. In addition, the ITB Berlin provides a unique opportunity to learn from the leading think tank of the global tourism industry.

Cruise Shipping Miami from Mar 10 Miami (US): The cruise industry’s premier global event, Cruise Shipping Miami, will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Centre, Miami, the US, from March 10 to 13. The three-day event brings together cruise liners, suppliers, travel agents and partners to share their experiences and expand their networks.

SAIB World Luxury Expo from Mar 14 Jeddah (Saudi Arabia): SAIB World Luxury Expo is an opportunity for the world’s leading luxury brands to exhibit their products to an ultraaffluent and highly discerning target audience. The expo will be held from March 14 to 16 at Park Hyatt, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Moscow International Travel & Tourism Fair from Mar 19 Moscow (Russia): The 21st edition of Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition, Russia’s leading travel and tourism event, to be held from March 19 to 22, will have more than 3,000 exhibitors and 73,765 participants from 198 countries. The venue, Moscow Expo Centre, has 55,000 m2 dedicated exhibition space with nine

halls. The four-day event will bring together the leading travel and tourism brands from across the country.

GIBTM Expo from Mar 24 Abu Dhabi: The Gulf Incentives Business Travel Meeting (GIBTM) will conduct its annual expo from March 24 to 26 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. The three-day event will bring together nearly 3,000 industry professionals from the Middle East and across the globe.

Gujarat Travel Mart from Mar 27 Gujarat (India): The latest edition n of Gujarat Travel Mart (GTM) will take place at Mahatma Mandir Convention and Exhibition Centre, Gandhinagar, from March 27 to 29. Open to travel industry professionals, the event which saw the participation of more than 1100 trade visitors from 42 countries last year, is expected to draw more visitors this year.

San Diego Travel and Adventure Show from Mar 29 San Diego (US): The San Diego Traven and Adventure Show will be held at the San Diego Convention Centre, San Diego, US from March 29 to March 30. The two day event is an adventure tourism enthusiast’s ticket to discover authentic travel experiences, snap appealing travel deals and also to win trips and giveaways and to be entertained to the fullest at the extravaganza. Experts like Samantha Brown, Pauline Frommer are at hand to lend advice to amateurs in the world of adventure tourism. The event will witness the participation of plenty of adventure tourism lovers from across the US

March 2014 travel & flavors


Travel Events

March Events Calendar DATE



March 2-4 Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges) Turin, Italy March 3-4 Trinidad Carnival Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago March 4 Mardi Gras New Orleans, Louisiana, USA March 7 Noche de Brujas Cerro Mono Blanco, Catemaco, Mexico March 7-11 Grape Harvest Festival Mendoza, Argentina March 7-16 SXSW (Film and Music Fest) Austin, Texas, USA March 9 Calle Ocho Miami, USA March 17 Holi India March 19 Starkbierzeit Munich, Germany March 19 Las Fallas Valencia, Spain March 19-23 Bali Spirit Festival Ubud, Bali, Indonesia March 20-21 Spring Equinox Chichén Itzá, Mexico As per lunar calendar Maulid Lamu, Kenya As per lunar calendar Ben Aïssa Moussem Meknès, Morocco

Unique Festivals

T Festival of

uprising You may be familiar with the Spanish La Tomatina where tomatoes are thrown at each other. Take a walk down the streets in Ivrea on the day of the Battle of Oranges, you can find that Italy is not far behind in the wacky festivals

Battle of Oranges

When: March 2-4 Where: Turin, Italy

he streets of Ivrea in Italy turn into a battleground in early March when the people realise the need to revolt against their oppressive rulers. The revolutionary songs are sung by the red caped commoners who take to the streets. They wait for the ruler’s horse-driven carriages to emerge and the only difference here is the weapon they use against their enemy. Guns, spears and swords which were used in the medieval ages have been replaced with fresh, ripe oranges. The mock battle goes on for three days between so-called revolutionaries and the ruler’s men and consumes more than 400, 000 kg of oranges. The Battle of Oranges or Battagliadelle Arance is considered as the people’s festival. They celebrate an old tale of people’s protest against tyranny and the streets of Ivrea recreate this story. The horse

carts represent the ruler’s men who receive serious pelting. The oranges are considered to be the head of the count. As the whole street is presumed to be a battlefield, being anywhere in the street you are targeted with serious orange shots. The festival ends on Mardi Gras when prizes are distributed to the best teams. Legend has it that between the 12th and 13th centuries, a count in Ivrea had the evil right to have the virginity of all the women who were going to get married. And once, when he came and claimed his right over the commoner, Miller’s daughter Violetta, she revolted. The girl was so brave that she beheaded the count. With this, people began to revolt against the count’s people by pelting stones at the troops. The Battle of Oranges is considered as one of the most nonsensical festivals but it is the most prolific expression of the rich local culture.

March 2014 travel & flavors


Unique Festivals


street party

Little Havana happens to be the cultural centre for most of the Cuban people in Miami. Every year, they host a carnival which is regarded as one of the largest street parties in the world with the participation of more than one million people from around the world

Calle Ocho

16 travel & flavors

When: March 9 Where: Miami, US

March 2014


vigorous street life, great food, amazing music and a variety of cultural activities make Little Havana stand apart from other towns in Miami. The place still gracefully nurtures the vivacious Cuban culture. It is undoubtedly regarded as one of the best neighbourhoods which preserve the Cuban vibe. Calle Ocho, the grand finale of the Miami Carnival which takes place in the early March, is one of the best expressions of this vibrant culture. Started in 1978, the carnival has now become one of the largest street parties. Along the streets you will find a large number of food stalls which serve delicious Caribbean cuisines. There is also a special kids’ zone which serves a variety of sweets. Separate areas are also provided for the wandering musicians and the

dancers which complete your wholesome carnival experience. The carnival began with the sole aim to bring various ethnic groups together following tensions between these ethnic groups in Miami in 1977. A group of eight Cuban-Americans found a solution to ease the tense situation. And thus the carnival was born. Southwest 8th street in Little Havana is where the carnival usually happens. More than 30 stages are set up with hundreds of street vendors participating in the event that holds the Guinness Book of World Record for the longest Congo line formed by a dance party. A Congo line is a typical Cuban carnival march where the dancers form a long line. Calle Ocho is unique due to the rare mixture of a variety of ethnic groups, each trying to promote its own culture.

Unique Festivals

E A Spanish gala to

welcome spring A noisy festival with street parties, paella-cooking, competitions, open air concerts and bull fights, Las Fallas has become more popular in Spain with its thunderous fireworks that go on for around a week in March

Las Fallas

When: March 19 Where: Spain

urope has got really interesting ways of welcoming the spring season. Las Fallas celebrated in Valencia, Spain, is one among the most colourful festivals during this period. Numerous fireworks with loud noise and huge puppets (fallas) most artistically made are the two major components which make up a rich Las Fallas celebration. Huge sculptures are placed in various locations of the city and each of them is sponsored by a neighborhood. Teams of local artists, sculptors and painters work for months to prepare fallas, some reaching up to a height of 15 metres. The fallas are placed on the night of March 12 marking the beginning of the celebrations. In the days up to St. Joseph’s Feast which falls on 19th, people go around and see the sculptures which are mostly themed on social satire and comic characters. By 16th, the festival is in full swing with

street parties, paella-cooking, competitions, open air concerts and bull fights. Valencians are truly proud of their skills in fireworks and at 2 pm on all these days, numerous of gunpowder blasts occur in the city. It is actually a competition between the neighbourhoods. During the festival, local people dress offer their prayers to Virgen de los Desamparados (Mother Mary). On the midnight of the final day, these sculptures stuffed with crackers are set on fire. The city turns out to be a huge ball of fire with numerous explosions around. The celebrations date back to the middle Ages when Valencian carpenters used to burn their wick holders as part of welcoming the spring season. The wick holders were known as parots. When Christianity became popular, this celebration merged with St. Joseph Feast. The parots are now fallas, and the whole celebration has evolved into a sheer expression of rich Spanish culture.

Unique Festivals

Let the

good times roll Mardi Gras is all about your escape from inhibitions. With French roots, this carnival nurtures a uniqueness of being open to a myriad of cultures. Originally a Christian tradition of consuming fatty foods just before the Lent, the carnival has now grown as an expression of sensuality, music and dance

Mardi Gras

18 travel & flavors

When: March 4 Where: Louisiana, US

March 2014


aissez les bons temps rouler or ‘let the good times roll’ is the motto of the Mardi Gras carnival held every year in New Orleans, the US. The carnival entertains visitors with a variety of entertainments. With over half a dozen cultural groups involved in the festival, it becomes a cultural extravaganza. Purple, green and gold are the official colours of Mardi Gras representing justice, faith and power. Most peculiar about the festival is the mask worn by the participants as part of their tradition of secrecy. Over the years, the mask has however turned out to be the identity of the carnival. The main attraction of the carnival is the participation of various Krewes or carnival congregations which represent local communities who present huge floats based on chosen themes. The krewe members also

wear pompous outfits and masks complimenting the theme they have chosen. Some communities have strict membership regulations while others popularly known as Bacchus are for the common people. Another major attraction of the carnival is the ‘throw’ from the floats. Beaded necklaces, toys and curiosities are thrown out to the spectators. Mardi Gras actually has a French origin; the word literally means Fat Tuesday, the day before the Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lent for Catholics. Fat Tuesday allows people to indulge in debauchery as it is the last day before the selfsacrifice. Mardi Gras was first celebrated by Krewes in 1857 and then it began to spread to other communities such as the blacks and the native Indians. Since they used masks to disguise themselves, the tradition of masks evolved.


Anu Prasanth

The Blue Lagoon: The Tilapia Lake , located in the midst of a desert

March 2014 travel & flavors



Govind Vishwanath

living on the Edge: A small child is given a bath in the scorching sun amidst piles of things

Lal Nallath

between heaven and earth: The waterfall with a blue shade in the background at Athirapilly, in Thrissur, Kerala.

20 travel & flavors

March 2014

Sreeranj Sreedhar

Sunbath: The beautiful Jal Mahal(Lake Palace) basking in the golden light of the rising sun at Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Vineeth Suthan

Distorted: The splendid architecture of a hotel building at Dubai.

March 2014 travel & flavors


MY SHOT Harishankar KD

Dawn Spectacle: A beautiful sunrise at Kanyakumari where the confluence of Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal occurs.

Send us your pictures and tell us the stories behind them Please note that the entries for the My Shot’ segment must stick to the following guidelines if the pictures are to be published Profile photo along with personal details to be sent along with the entries Photos being featured have to be alteast 2 MB in size A clean description of the photo must be sent along with the entries


22 travel & flavors

March 2014

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cityScape Jaipur

The bustling city of Jaipur is a heavenly destination. The enthralling sight of this pink city can grip any visitor with admiration. With stunning forts which stands as a testimonial of the bygone era it is a reminder of lingering romance and chivalry

24 travel & flavors

The hundred shades of Chitra Priyadarshini


aipur is a city old like a grandma who tells you countless stories about the battles fought there, the evergreen romances she witnessed, about the unique customs they follow and about how they have survived the test of time. To feel the pulse of Jaipur one should go to its bazars or

March 2014

markets where people unite exhibiting the tiny portion of the pink city and its heritage. Markets are the reflection of whole city because it shows the economic status and lifestyle in which people of that city are engaged in. The entire market itself is a historical Mall to shop around, it is a unique adventure well known by

tourists all around the world and they feel and understand it. It’s a result of far thinking of whole team with Emperor Jai Singh, so that markets of Parkota remain the base of prosperity of this city forever. The kolapuri juthas, the colourful chudis and their elegant dupattas splashes colour to our souls. Hawa Mahal is the center point of

pink city this city, or it is the entrance to the heart of this pink city .Hawa Mahal is a five storied building situated two km from Jaipur railway station. This Mahal has nearly thousand tiny windows that open up to the city

Markets of Jaipur

The most beautiful and busy market in town is Johri Bazaar. Located between Sanganeri gate to BadiChaupar there is numbers of shops of jewelry. This is the reason the market known as Johri Bazaar. Besides of Gold and Silver ornaments precious gems and luxury gems are sold in this market. Its note worthy that Jaipur is also known as City of Gems. The typical thing of this market

Amber Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan

cityScape Jaipur Jaipur is widely considered to be one of the first planned cities in India and was planned out by a Bengali architect called Vidhyadhar Bhattacharya. The city architecture follows the principles of the science of Indian architecture or ShilpaShastra

A mahout riding a decorated elephant at Amber Fort

26 travel & flavors

March 2014

is Necklaces, Pendants, Ear rings, Rings, Bangles and also diamonds. Tripolia Market is spread out from Badi Chaupar to Chhoti Chaupar. The southern entrance Spread like cobweb small streets in this katla where goods useful for festivals, daily needs goods, toys, plastic goods, cosmetics and stationary bulk shops are there. Shopkeepers of rural areas come here for shopping. Tripolia Market is famous for the pottery shops of Brass, copper, aluminum and steel. These three are the most prominent & prosperous markets in Jaipur. Baapu bazaar attracts mainly women due to the fact that almost all accessories and cosmetics that women die for is easily available here. It includes Begru and Sanganeri print garments, handbag, bangles and sandals. Saraogi Mansion, located in the corner of the complex is popular for takeaway snacks and fruits.Located between the new gate and Ajmeri gate, Nehru Bazaar mainly has electrical appliance shops. Indira Bazaar is spread out from Ajmeri gate to Topkhana. In this market there are a huge number of shops of readymade garments for kids and adults. Strolling along the markets of Jaipur is a different enjoyment. The city palace and the Albert hall museum preserve the glory of this historic place. The jewelry and clothing of the kings and queens, the musical instruments they used, swords they fought their battles with are preserved with such care. The painting done on the walls with natural colours, art in marbles shows the richness of the place and the craftsmanship of the artist who

If you got burned in the blazing sun the best way to cool yourself here in Jaipur would be trying a kulfi, a sweet made with milk and is served cold

Snake charmer in Jaipur

lived here. The principle tourist attraction of Jaipur is Amber fort which is located high up on a hill. Its location, its architecture, and the comfort it offers, makes us envy the prince and princesses who once lived here. Reaching the entrance of this fort on a private jeep we may stand there stuck for one minute thinking about the hard work which went up on building such a wonder. Sheesh Mahal or the glass palace inside the fort displays how perfectly art can blend with quality. If you got burned in the blazing sun the best way to cool yourself here in Jaipur would be trying a kulfi, a sweet made with milk and is served cold. Puppets and puppet shows are another unique aspect of Jaipur. It is said that keeping a pair of these puppets at home can bring you luck in your love life. So while travelling through the streets of this city hold your heart firm as you may fall in love with it. Console your heart by promising that you will visit again and we bet the next time you come to Jaipur you will experience a brand new face of it.

Wooden puppets for sale at a local market

Getting there: Bus: Rajastan State Road Transport Corporation has got an extensive network connecting all the cities in Rajasthan and major cities of the neighboring states. There is also a wide network of private Volvo bus services. Train: Jaipur connects all major cities in the country through the railways. Air: there are a number of domestic air services that connects to Jaipur from other major cities.

People selling flowers near the City Palace

Cruise Journey Theme cruises

Theme cruises in vogue

Ever fancied a cruise journey based on themes that you like the most? Theme cruises are becoming a rage with those who love to revel in the luxury of cruise ships. From fashion to Star Wars themes and spirituality, you get your pick and you will love every moment of your journey T&F Team


elcome to the world of theme cruises which have found a large fan following. It provides a perfect platform of common interests from fashion cruises to topic cruises for geeks, band cruises, spiritual cruises, chocolate cruises, wine cruises and much more. Celebrity Cruises, one of the leaders in providing theme cruises, calls it the combination of passions or interests with a cruise.

Wine theme cruises

In many cultures, wine has had a long history of being an accompaniment at the dinner table with food. Wine theme cruises would satisfy your quest to know

more about wine while vacationing. Experts will teach you everything that you need to know about it. Besides this, the onshore activities are designed in a way that you are taken to vineyards to learn more about this craft.

Celebrity Cruises

Enjoy and love the beauty and culture of the classic wine regions around the globe by travelling aboard Celebrity Cruises. An immersive wine cruise to Europe during harvest is what Celebrity Infinity offers. Celebrity Century and Celebrity Millennium set sail from California to British Columbia. Travel to France, Spain and Portugal aboard Constellation and Celebrity Infinity

to celebrate and explore the world of wine. The wine-related immersion continues onboard. You can choose from around 500 selections of wine on board, enjoy Champagne brunches, Bordeaux samplings, Port and food pairings.

Culinary theme cruises

Inspired by the Celebrity lifestyle book, Celebrity Cruises has introduced culinary theme cruises. The ‘excite the senses’ cruise vacation offers foodies a sensory experience that includes in-depth culinary demonstrations, robust tastings, food and beverage pairing dinners and behindthe-scenes experiences.

Wait till August for the seven-night Alaska cruise on Celebrity Millennium hosted by Celebrity Chefs Thierry Houlbert, Dominique Gamba and RufinoRengifo. In mid-October, a 12-night cruise on Celebrity Equinox hosted by Celebrity chefs Thomas Szymanski, John Suley, Dominique Gamba and Ronald Sioson along with GilianHandleman of Jackson Family Wines and Junior Merino.

‘Guest Glass Artist’ theme cruises

In collaboration with The Corning Museum of Glass, an authority on glass and glassmaking history, Celebrity Cruises introduced ‘Guest Glass Artist’ theme cruises. You’ll have a chance to attend a meet-and-greet

cocktail reception with the guest artist, lectures and presentations about various glassblowing topics, live hot glass show glassblowing demonstrations, exclusive trunk shows and book signings featuring the guest

artist’s works on Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Solstice. At the hot glass show demonstrations, you’ll have the unique opportunity to interact with the featured artists as their creative process unfolds, transforming molten

glass into stunning glass objects. Moreover, the guests of Celebrity Cruises can also get free entry to the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York as part of a partnership with the museum. March 2014 travel & flavors


tales from emirates Dubai shopping festival

Myriad hues at the

Dubai Shopping Festival

The Egyptian themed entrance to the Global Village

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Blended with art, tradition, shopping and tourism the dynamic atmosphere of Global Village, Dubai gives you a cross section of the globe. It’s a hamlet where world comes together under one roof to show case their multicultural entertainment along with variety of retail options. The village was the centre of attraction for this edition of DSF 2014. Visitor from all walks of life experienced cultures from all over the world. From Syria to Thailand, India to Egypt, Global Village is truly the place where the world comes together. The dynamic atmosphere was filled with colorful of cultural programmes along with fun filled game activities Photos: Firoze Edassery

Dry fruits on display

Iranian Handicrafts

tales from emirates Dubai shopping festival

A view of the Global Village

Sights and sounds at the colourful Dubai Shopping Festival. People from all walks of life were enthralled by the event

Henna decoration at the Indian Pavilion

Live painting at the African Exhibition

A view inside the Indian Pavilion

Cultural Show at the Indian Pavilion

The fireworks at the Global Village March 2014 travel & flavors


Heritage cities Budapest

Unreeling the legacy of


ith the idea of exploring the heritage city, I set off for Budapest in Hungary along with a team of photographers. A scenic destination with plenty of historical treasures, and listed among the world’s heritage sites by UNESCO, Budapest draws people from far and wide. My first impression of the city was that it was something like a magic box that leaves visitors stunned. But my perception of the grand city has changed of late and now I promise you that your journey won’t be wasted if you’re into the historical and heritage sites.

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The city lies on the banks of the Danube which not only carries with it a fertile soil, but also a rich civilization. Budapest has the remains of monuments such as the Roman City of Aquincum and the Gothic Castle of Buda which has had a considerable influence on the architecture of various eras. According to my photographer, it is one of the world’s exceptional urban landscapes and illustrates the great periods in the history of the capital city and the heritage walk through the city gave us an excellent photo opportunity. Budapest is a combination of three cities, Buda, Obuda

and Pest and by the time it was listed as one of the world’s largest heritage sites, these three cities came as one entity. The World Heritage Site here has three parts such as Buda Castle Quarter, Banks of the Danube, and Andrássy Avenue. While focusing on the heritage walk, our destination was Buda Castle Quarter which holds the city’s medieval sites- Buda Castle and the remains of the original Roman town Aquincum. The Banks of the Danube and Andrássy Avenue consist of the Parliament and the suspension bridge, and Opera House, Millennium Park and the

The monuments and historical buildings in the lovely city of Budapest speak volumes about its rich civilization and heritage, and most of these are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites Lakshmi Narayanan

The city park ice rink in Budapest, Hungary

Heritage cities Budapest

Buda Castle by the Danube River

• The Great Synagogue in Budapest is considered to be the largest in Europe • Budapest has the largest thermal water cave system in the world • The first underground railway line in Europe built in Budapest is known as the Millennium Underground Railway

The city lies on the banks of the Danube which not only carries with it a fertile soil, but also a rich civilization

A historic street in Budapest

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

Budapest Opera house

Underground Railway respectively. The Castle Quarter in Buda is quite crowded and has a long chain of restaurants and cafeterias which are a little expensive like any European cafe. The friendly shopkeeper shared a little bit of trivia on this beautiful city. Thus I came to know that at the end of 17th century, there was a wall around the city of Pest and for the most part, Germans once lived along the banks of the Danube. The areas outside the city was an arable land with fruit orchards at that time but by 1699, craftsmen had begun to establish suburban communities. The shopkeeper also insisted that we visit Castle Hill, the Royal Palace, Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion, Aquincum, Chain Bridge and the Parliament which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We selected some of the destinations suggested by the shopkeeper and visited six major tourist attractions such as Buda Castle Hill, Budapest Opera House, Chain Bridge, Budapest Parliament, Matthias Church and Royal Palace. The architectural style of these buildings had really made us wonder.

Sites to explore

Buda Castle was built after the Mongolian invasion of the city many centuries ago. The castle has many must-see features- Gothic arches, 18th century Baroque houses and cobblestone streets. You can have a walk along the cobblestone streets and discover Castle Hill. Budapest Opera

House is one of the most beautiful Neo-Renaissance buildings in Europe, which was built in the late 19th century. It is considered to be one of the best opera houses in the world in terms of acoustics. It has a seating capacity of approximately 1,200. Even today, there are stunning performances here that definitely wouldn’t leave you cold. Chain Bridge over the Danube connects the cities of Clark Ádám tér (Buda side) and Széchenyi István tér. During winter, the river freezes making it possible to cross the river. The view from the bridge is nice and charming, and you would really start loving Budapest. Visitors are at a peak in the evenings. Summer festivals are also held at Chain Bridge. Budapest Parliament is one of the oldest buildings in the country built in the Neo-Gothic style. The 100-yearold building exhibits the Renaissance and Baroque characters. The square where Hungarian Parliament stands was named after Hungarian lawyer Lajos Kossuth. The shape of the building is very impressive. Matthias Church is a 700-year-old synonym of Budapest’s religious views. The roof is covered with the famous Zsolnay ceramic tiles, making the building even more beautiful. It is considered as the city’s most prominent building. Budapest is charming, exquisite and is perhaps a place with history in every street. The rich legacy left by its rulers who shaped this great city is there for the world to see. The city surprises you with its rich heritage.

Budapest Parliament is one of the oldest buildings in the country, which is an example of Neo-Gothic architecture. The 100-yearold building exhibits the Renaissance and Baroque characters

Matthias Church

Budapest Parliament

March 2014 travel & flavors


Floral Fantasy Daisy fields, Australia


spectacle in Adelaide Lakshmi Narayanan

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Adelaide in Australia is quite known for its beautiful daisies which in myriads of red, violet, beige, yellow and orange take your breath away


ou may think that Australia is all about the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroos and other quaint wildlife specimen native to this part of the world. If I tell you that you will be stunned by the daisy carpets of Australia, you would think I’m joking. But when you travel to Adelaide, you are in for the most stunning visual of daisies you’ve ever seen. Adelaide in Australia has the world’s largest and finest concentration of daisies which are multicoloured and can be found in myriads of red, violet, beige, yellow and orange. Each shade of the flowers is cultivated separately near the semi-desert lands near the lakeside. But the most interesting fact is that they are wild flowers common in the country and are also known as paper daisies. One can see a sudden growth in daisies after the first rainfall following days of scorching summer. Besides Adelaide, daisies can be seen in Western Australia. These flowers can be seen during spring when many shades of daisy carpets would render you speechless.

Best time to visit May-November is the best time to visit. The annual Spring Wildflower Festival held at Perth’s famous Kings Park Botanic Gardens generally brings an end to the season

Travel blog Lepakshi

Stories told in


Stone pillars at the Veerbhadra temple

Lepkashi is a small village in an insignificant part of Andhra Pradesh but it gains its fame from the three shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabhadra respectively and is truly a historic place. If you’re into archaeology and history this is one destination that you wouldn’t want to miss out on

Richi Mohanty


he regulated life we follow throughout the week often leaves us gasping for a breath of fresh inspiration. That is why we cherish the weekends, planning and jotting down endless things to do in just two days. But when we really arrive at the end of the weekly ordeal, all we have is long list of groceries and a visit to the mall awaiting us. That is no inspiration. So when we got a holiday in the middle of the week, we thought of exploiting it to the fullest. Enter Lepakshi, about 120 km from Bangalore, an easy to visit place perfect for one day. Lepakshi is a small village

The temple of Veerbhadra is what attracts the tourists and pilgrims here. It was constructed in the 14th century and has an interesting story that is often narrated by the guides situated 15 km east of Hindupur, in the Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh. We chose to take the route by road and drove our way through the beautiful Bangalore-Hyderabad highway which will come as pleasure to all those who love driving. You also have the option of taking KSRTC buses from Bangalore city from various bus stations, the most frequent being from Kempagowda Bus Stand (popularly known as Majestic). Since we decided to drive, we left early morning to avoid the afternoon sun and reach as early as possible. So at 5 in the morning, five of us left from our home on the 3-hour long drive towards our destination. Just out March 2014 travel & flavors


Travel blog Lepakshi

Intricate carvings on the pillars at the Veerabhadra Temple of bed, freshened and into the car meant we were hungry just after an hour on the road. We stopped at a petrol bunk which had Kamath Upachar for a typical South Indian breakfast of idlis and vada. Soon we arrived in Lepakshi, along with the scorching sun. The temple of Veerbhadra is what attracts the tourists and pilgrims here. It was constructed in the 14th century and has an interesting story that is often narrated by the guides. The tales relating to the origins of the temple are not quite detailed but according to inscriptions and the stories given by the guides, the most popular one is that of Virupanna, the treasurer of the Vijayanagar kingdom. The enemies of the kingdom informed the king that the

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The Natyamandapa, the most ornate part of the temple complex is supported by 70 beautifully carved columns while the ceiling is painted with scenes from the Mahabharata

royal Treasurer, Virupanna, had been misusing the funds for the temple. Upon hearing this, the king demanded that Virupanna pluck his eye which was deemed as the punishment for cheaters in the ancient times. Being a loyal servant of the king, Viurpnana did as he was ordered to do and threw his eyes on the west wall of the temple (two dark stains on the wall are still visible). Thus the name “Lepa Akshi� which means plucked eyes was given to the temple. There is also a mythological story related to the Ramayana which is associated with the village. According to legend, Rama and his followers in their frantic search for his kidnapped wife Sita came across the bird Jatayu who was wounded in his confrontation with Ravana

The seven headed serpent which protects the Shivalinga

here. Rama is believed to have uttered the words ‘le pakshi’ which means ‘rise bird’ and thus Jatayu rose The temple is not just a sacred destination but a feast to the eyes of those in love with architecture. It has been constructed in the ‘trikuta’ fashion (comprising of three shrines). The Natyamandapa, the most ornate part of the temple complex is supported by 70 beautifully carved columns while the ceiling is painted with scenes from the Mahabharata. It is this mandapa that has the ‘Hanging Pillar’ which is rumoured to have been built in reverse order. This pillar does not touch the ground and you can pass a sheet of paper underneath. The Shivalinga protected by the seven-headed serpent is another piece of art within the complex. Another marvel which

you encounter on the way to main temple complex half a kilometre away is the statue of Nandi which the legend says was carved in the leisure time of a worker. The statue is 15 feet high is one of the biggest statues of Nandi. The marriage hall is the unfinished part of the temple complex which depicts the marriage of Parvati and Shiva with prominent guests carved in the pillars. In all, Lepakshi is a day well spent especially if you need inspiration in life. It is an architectural wonder and a structure to learn from. Impressed, inspired, tired, we drove back to only stop at the same petrol bunk and had typical Andhra food at Nandhini. Travel Tip: It gets really hot in the daytime so my suggestion is leave early so that you reach much before noon and are back soon.

Another marvel which you encounter on the way to main temple complex half a kilometre away is the statue of Nandi which the legend says was carved in the leisure time of a worker

The Natyamandapa hall

Thus spake the shots Lakshadeepam

The festival of

one hundred

thousand lamps

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Photos & Text Rajesh Rajan


he Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, is a Vedic temple which is run by a trust headed by the royal family of Travancore. The temple is considered to be one of the 108 holy abodes of Lord Vishnu and is a principal centre of worship of Vaishnavism in South India. The temple comes into the spotlight more than it already is once every six years during the Lakshadeepam or the festival one hundred thousand lights conducted on the last day f Murajapam a famous ritual carried out in the temple wherein priests from across the state recite the Vedas in 56 days. On the last day, idols of Lord Padmanabha, Lord Narasimha and Lord Krishna are taken out on the Garudavahana or the mythical eagle, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu in a grand procession. The king ritualistically offers a baby elephant to the temple and the entire temple is adorned with one lakh oil lamps thus giving it the name ‘Lakshadeepam’

culinary tales Karim’s

The best of Mughlai Cuisine

at Karim’s Ever had the uncontrollable urge to gorge on the spiciest of non-vegetarian food fit for a king? If you’re in Delhi, then don’t look beyond Karim’s, the last word in the world of Mughlai Cuisine in the country Jenny Thingshung

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t’s always a great feeling to be back in Delhi. Despite the chaos, pollution and overcrowded markets, Delhi’s enigmatic charm is undeniably magnetic. After travelling around the countryside eating the blandest food but healthy altogether, I am glad to be back eating more spicy and sophisticated North Indian cuisine. While in the flight, my eye caught a sight of Mughlai food in a magazine. I had not really felt such a strong urge to consume Mughlai delights like I did

Mutton Qorma

Chicken Tandoori

Mutton Stew

then. My mouth was watering shamelessly. The next few days I pondered over the perfect place to gorge on Mughlai food. There are tons of Mughlai restaurants in Delhi. I finally decided upon the restaurant that is widely regarded as the best when it comes to Mughlai Cuisine-Karim’s. Karim’s has been here since 1913 when it was founded by Haji Karimuddin behind Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. The restaurant is in sync with the location’s old-world charm and it has since time immemorial been Delhi’s most visited culinary destination. Over a century old,


culinary tales Karim’s

One of the delicacies at Karims

Mutton Burrah

Tangy Mint Chutney

Karim’s continues to enrich the gastronomical experience with its choicest Mughlai delicacies. A cycle-rickshaw ride from the Chandni Chowk metro station may be quite heady and troublesome but it’s all worth it, for at the end of the road a lip-smacking food awaits you to take you for that mouthwatering ride. As the perfect non-vegetarian restaurant, it serves some of the most appetising tandoori, mutton curries, thick oily gravies and other specialties that you won’t find elsewhere like sheep-brain curry and foot of goat soup, paaye etc. The food with heavy and overflowing oil, brings the rich world of royal cuisine to my mind. When you are here don’t be shy of getting yourself dirty with the thick gravies along with the ancient air of the place. When I set foot in this centuryold restaurant, I dig-in to the rich oil-loaded Mutton Qorma, Mutton Stew and Mutton Burrah. Chicken Tandoori, Mutton Biryani, Seekh Kabab, Tandoori Roti, steaming hot naans and sheermal are food you might not want to give a miss here. Sheermal tastes wonderfully rich and heavy. Karim’s can end up landing you in seventh heaven just with their Mutton Stew because they are just so mouth-watering, I can’t get enough of its gravy. Mutton Qorma is just as good. The succulent grilled chicken from the tandoor and sumptuous curries, variety of flavorful biryanis garnished with dollops of dried nuts, steaming hot naans and rotis are regal delight Karim’s offer. I would certainly come back for more naans and stews. You may want to spoil your gastronomic craving whenever you are in Delhi with some lip-smacking ancient culinary connoisseur in Karim’s and for that chaotic charm of Old Delhi.

Cover Story Old Havana


Old Havana

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Gone are the days when Old Havana was among the top five cities in the world and no wonder it was called Paris of the Caribbean. For visitors, it is not hard to imagine Old Havana in its heyday as the old town is still beautiful and mind-boggling. Memories of iconic writer Ernest Hemingway and revolutionary leader Che Guevara are alive in Old Havana where people have a strong spirit of camaraderie and hard work


leaned struggling to look over the burly shoulder of my co-passenger who had the window seat. Slivers of green winked at me through the gaps between his frame and the window. My first impression of Cuba was that it was anything but red as it has been painted in popular literature, both fiction and non-fiction. A cool breeze washes over us as we disembark and stroll across to the airport through walkway flanked by

Shweta Ganesh Kumar leafy, lush plants and trees. This terminal with its bright yellow walls is for domestic flights and other flights within the Caribbean and Central American region. There are other terminals that we will drive by later, swanky and all glass and cement and as futuristic as it can be. But this one is firmly set in the eighties, reminiscent of airports in my home state of Kerala, with its red tiled roof and mosaic tiled floors. Security checks and

Cover Story Old Havana

A vintage car in Havana immigration later, we collect our baggage and head out to be greeted by Rudolpho who holds a placard with both my husband’s and my name emblazoned on it. Rudolpho, unlike his famous namesake does not drive Santa’s sleigh, but his ride is certainly no less. It is one of those things Cuba has been known for, for a while now, a vintage American Car. His car is a red and yellow, 1955 model Chevrolet Bel-Air. It is gloriously massive and

spacious black faux-leather seats. My two-year old daughter cautiously prods a loose spring protruding from the seat and then points at the handles on the car door. ‘What’s that?’ She asks. I gently touch them, reminded of my grandfather’s Ambassador and explain to her how they are used for opening and closing the door and for raising the windows. Amazed, she settles down on my lap and stares at them for a bit till she is

Cuban hand crafted cigars are considered the best in the world. The quality of the tobacco cultivated here and the unique way of fermentation makes it a high demand product in the international market

I feel like I’ve fallen through a wormhole to a land where time has stopped. Adding to the illusion is my phone that has no network and with the knowledge that we will not be online for the four days that we are here, I’ve fallen back quite several decades. We settle back into the

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lulled to sleep by the car’s deepthroated rumbling. There are a few cars on the road. Most are classic cars that are probably 50 to 60 years old. The odd Japanese or European car whizzes past these thespians on the road. But in general, the pace is unhurried. As we get closer to Havana, we see groups of happy school

A street in Old Havana

As we get closer to Havana, we see groups of happy school and college kids and men and women walking on the sidewalks. Havana is like a beehive but based on first impressions, a happy one

and college kids and men and women walking on the sidewalks. Havana is like a beehive but based on first impressions, a happy one. At the Casa Particulares, or the home stay we are staying at, Maria, proprietor of Villa Maria and Rudolph’s mother, envelops us in a bear hug. She leads us through a narrow, but open corridor to our room with a big wooden cupboard, a chest of drawers and two bedssimple, neat and very homely. After unpacking, we head to the family dining room where the table is set with blue lined crockery and shining forks and spoons. We tuck into delicious Cuban fare- rice and beans and pork simmered in its own juices. Thanks to the beguiling blue sky, we head out for a walk. Just a few blocks down is Cuba’s famed Malecon, an eight-kilometre long sea wall, keeping the gorgeous turquoise sea waters at bay, from our neighbourhood all the way down to Old Havana. We could hear the crashing waves from a block away. As we

A lady smoking traditional Havana cigar

walk closer, chillingly refreshing sea spray catches us full in the face. The waves are playing Jack in the box with passing cars. We watch as cars of all ages and colours try to dodge the sneaky waves that rise up from the watery side of the sea wall with force. Some get away with just a little brush of water on their mudguards, some others are not as fortunate. Our evening ended at Café Madrigal, a café and bar where we sipped the first of our Cuban signature drinks- Daiquiris, while our daughter amused herself by looking at the cars that passed on the road below. Through the bamboo screens, a nippy waft flitted in as a group of Americans at the neighbouring table discussed universities and travel restrictions. The next morning, we stood at a traffic intersection, hands outstretched politely on to the road. Within minutes, a majestic 1950’s Green Buick had rumbled to a halt in front of us. We got into

Cover Story Old Havana

A group of local Cuban guitarists playing for tourists

The official nickname of the city is ‘Ciudad de las Columnas’ or the city of Columns due to the grand architecture of the city

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Photo: Sagar Rajgopal

Owing to his strong ties to Havana, there is a museum for the author Ernest Hemingway in the city. The museum interestingly is the house, he lived in for many years. Just outside the house one can see his boat, pillar and perhaps the strangest artifact ever, four gravestones marking the writer’s dogs and a number of mounds for his cats!

the shared cab, as a couple of passengers got in. Passing on the coins to the driver, we sat back. He took us to the heart of Old Havana or Habana Viejo as it is called. Havana was abuzz with the morning rush of its people getting ready for work and school. There were lines at bus stops

Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bar in Havana

There is a strong spirit of camaraderie here. An aftermath perhaps of the communist philosophies they follow

and almost everyone, whether cab or not was stopping for strangers who were going the same way they were. There is a strong spirit of camaraderie here. An aftermath perhaps of the communist philosophies they follow. Or maybe the lack of smart phones and limited access to

the internet makes them a lot more interested in good old, old-fashioned interpersonal relationships. Nothing prepares you for the glamour of Old Havana. We get down in front of the Capitolio or the National Capital Building of Havana. White domed and columned, this

The Prado

Photo: Sagar Rajgopal

Cover Story Old Havana


We could hear the crashing waves from a block away. As we walk closer, chillingly refreshing sea spray catches us full in the face. The waves are playing Jack in the box with passing cars

Capitolio building in Havana

building from the 1920s sets the tone for what is to follow. The architecture of Old Havana is mind-bogglingly. An Art deco building neighbours a Goth one. A Victorian style building is next to a modern one. Some with intricate balconies and lattices, some with elaborate frontispieces and lions and eagles, yet others plain but painted in vibrant colours. No two buildings are the same, but all of them, even the ones on their last legs have character in plenty. We clamber on a horse carriage ride through the old city. As the horse tranquilly clops on, on a route he has trotted through many times before, our guide Gilberto starts to hold forth. He tells us that Havana was once amongst the top five cities in the world- the others being New York, London, Paris and Buenos Aires. Looking around this old town in gentle decline, it is not too hard to imagine it in its heyday. Old Havana is still beautiful. No wonder it was called the Paris of the Caribbean. A classic car rattles past, dissipating my romantic illusion of yesteryear Havana. Gilberto raises an eyebrow and mutters, ‘Frankensteins.’ An apt name for these cars, long dead but kept alive with parts from here and there, manically inserted to extend their life just a bit longer. Cubans certainly do have a way with words. No wonder that iconic writer Ernest Hemingway chose the island nation to be his home and inspiration for so many years. It was at his house on a plantation 20km from Havana that he wrote the famous Old Man and the Sea. We drove down to Casa Hemingway, now a museum, to get a glimpse of how this master writer lived. Right in the

March 2014 travel & flavors


Cover Story Old Havana

Beautiful as the plantation is, the spirit of Hemingway seems to be back in Old Havana. Most of the places he frequented there are choc-a-bloc with tourists and fans of his work

We gave it a miss, as I assume Hemingway would have too, were he alive today. Old Havana has too many places that are real and genuine to choose from, to fall for crass commercialism. Case in point being the cheap Churros sold at many a street corner. This Latin American version of donuts is nothing but bread, milk and sugar, deep fried in oil and wrapped into a paper cone for serving. Warm and filling, it hits the spot on a chilly day. Munching slowly and savouring every bite, we walked through the Plazas of Old Havana as street-dogs with municipality issued photoidentification cards around their necks, snoozed in the patches warmed by the sun. Cobblestoned open spaces usually have a fountain or a statue of some sort in the centre and impressive buildings on all four sides of it. We wandered through Plaza De Armas where street musicians and performers converged on tourists from all sides. Vendors of second-hand books and posters of classic Cuban cinema stood by their stalls prompting visitors to come and take a closer look. We browsed to our heart’s content and picked a poster of a documentary on the ubiquitous Che Guevara- comrade in

Photo: Sagar Rajgopal

middle of a quiet fishing village, the plantation has been well taken care of by the Cubans to whom Hemingway bequeathed his estate. A local team of young boys were being coached on the lush green grass by the entrance and a group of tourists had been offloaded from buses by the parking on a slightly higher ground. Yet, the estate had an air of reverent silence around it. We peered through the open windows and doors, at the stacks and stacks of books and rows upon rows of stuffed animals. Hemingway was a man of words and action. Up a spiral staircase, we climbed to his study where a kindly guard took us a picture of his Corona typewriter and his telescope. Through his window, we feasted our eyes on one of his famous protagonists, the sea. Beautiful as the plantation is, the spirit of Hemingway seems to be back in Old Havana. Most of the places he frequented there are choc-a-bloc with tourists and fans of his work. As we walked through the alleys of Old Havana, we stumbled across a swarm of tourists in front of La Bodeguitaa bar that lets you sit in Hemingway’s favourite spot and have Mojitos, just like the ones he had, if you could look past the excessively increased price.

The rooms of Ernest Hemingway’s villa

Urban cityscape, old architecture and cars on the streets of Havana

The island of Cuba resembles the shape of an alligator when seen from the air. It is often referred in Spanish as “El Cocodrilo”

arms to Fidel Castro and former Cuban Minister of Industries. A poster is not enough of this revolutionary whose face is as popular in Cuba as that of its founder, Fidel Castro. Down the crowded commercial street of Obispo, we walked bobbing into artisans stores and souvenir stores till we finally chanced upon a small establishment run by a busy woman who had a smile and greeting for everyone who entered her

shop. Three Che Guevara T-shirts later, we were about to leave when she patted my daughter on the head and said her granddaughter was about her age. When I remarked at how young she looked, she smiled and said, “Well, let me tell you my secret. It’s nothing but work. I’m a single mother who brought up two kids with absolutely no support. I’ve never had the time for salons or money for lotions, but I’ve always been on

my toes. And that is what keeps me young.” And that is what I guess makes Cuba tick. The willingness to work and work till things turn in their favour. Despite the trade restrictions and the misconceptions about them in the worldwide media, they continue to strive and live and live well with whatever life has given them. May they live long and prosper.

March 2014 travel & flavors


Exploring the pAST Madurai

Crowning glory of

Madurai Madurai is synonymous with the legend of Kannagi, the fiery woman who burned it down with her anger, and is also well known for spectacular temples which boast of a rich culture and tradition in this part of the country T&F Team

Madurai Meenakshi Temple


pirituality etched in history and heritage- that’s what Madurai offers travellers from all over the world. Perhaps, its richest contribution to the history of India could be the title attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Seeing the farmers in Madurai with only dhoti, Gandhiji later discarded his traditional clothes and switched over to dhoti which earned him the title ‘the half-naked fakir’ from the then British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Madurai, situated on the banks of River Vaigai, was also blessed with the presence of the great Indian visionary and Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda. He visited Madurai in 1893 and 1897 after his much acclaimed speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago and his lecture tours in America, England and the rest of Europe. You can see pictures and brass plaques commemorating his visit at the Madurai railway station. An inscription regarding Mahatma’s visit to Madurai and black-and-white photographs of Gandhiji’s arrival and

March 2014 travel & flavors


Exploring the pAST Madurai

The streets leading to the temple are always jam packed with visitors who come from all over just to have a glimpse of the Goddess Parvati worshipped here as Meenakshi

stay in the city can also be seen at the railway station. Madurai is a city with history and spiritual bliss peeking at you from every nook and cranny. You would be left speechless at how well the citizens preserve their culture and heritage. Despite its fame and glory, the city is often messy and the streets are littered with garbage. Historical records state that the city was a popular trade centre from the 4th century and was ruled by the Pandyas. Later, the Cholas took control of Madurai and left its marks on the city before being regained by the Pandyas but soon it became a part of the Delhi Sultanate. The rulers of Vijayanagar and Nayaks controlled Madurai until it came under the control of British rulers. In the 1940s, the civil disobedience movement gripped the place and it remained an important seat of political leadership. Perhaps, no other site in the city is as famous as the great Meenakashi Temple that stands as a crowning glory of the city.

The Meenakshi Amman Temple

Sculptures on the walls and pillars of the temple

The great Meenakshi Amman Temple attracts thousands of pilgrims and history enthusiasts every year. The streets leading

to the temple are always jam packed with visitors who come from all over just to have a glimpse of the Goddess Parvati worshipped here as Meenakshi. Because of its fame as a historical and religious centre, Madurai is often dubbed as the Athens of the East. The temple is dedicated to Parvati and Shiva. It is one of the very few Shiva temples that have Parvati as the main deity. It has got numerous sculptures which depict tales from the Indian mythology and the Tamil epic Silapathikaram. There are 14 gopurams, each has a height of 45-52m. The temple attracts 15,000 visitors a day and during the 10-day Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival- the divine marriage of Meenakshi, it is literally flooded with pilgrims and visitors. The smell of jasmine, ghee, burning camphor and the inevitable devotional songs fill the whole temple complex. You can’t help notice the elephants giving blessings in return for bananas and alms to devotees with tilakas and kumkum smeared on their foreheads. According to legends, Meenakshi, the daughter of King Malayadwaja Pandyan, was born with three breasts. A voice from the heavens assured that she would lose her extra

breast when she met her consort. Before her coronation, Meenakashi took on a war defeating many gods and conquered the three worlds. When she came across Shiva, she was unable to fight and bowed her head before him. She lost her extra breast and she recognized him as her consort. They married soon after returning to Madurai. A single day is not sufficient if you are serious with the masterpiece sculptures you find there. The Hall of Thousand Pillars which has 985 carved pillars is a true marvel. The temple art museum in the hall will help you in understanding the history of the temple with its collection of icons, photographs, drawings and other exhibits. The musical pillars which produce different musical notes are also a major attraction there. The Pottramarai Kulam or golden lotus tank is a rectangle of moss-green water eight inches deep. It was the meeting place of poets during the Sangam period to judge and evaluate the works of their peers.

Gandhi Memorial Museum

Established in 1959, the museum which was earlier the palace of Rani Mangammal, exhibits a part of the blood-stained cloth worn by

The Gandhi Memorial Museum, Madurai

Established in 1959, the museum which was earlier the palace of Rani Mangammal, exhibits a part of the blood-stained cloth worn by Gandhiji at the time of his assassination in 1948

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam Temple, Madurai

March 2014 travel & flavors


Exploring the pAST Madurai

What to eat In Madurai, the food is not complete without hot idli and dosa served with coconut, tomato, coriander and pudina chutneys. You can find many places selling good food near the temple.

Where to eat Murugan Idli Shop, West Masi Street, for dosa and idli New College House, Town Hall Road Anna Meenakshi, Town Hall Road, for idli, dosa, vada, pongal, coffee and veg meals New Visalam Coffee, Goripalayam and Sree Sabarees Memorable Coffee, Town Hall Road, are top picks for the best brew of South Indian coffee.

Gandhiji at the time of his assassination in 1948. The collection of some of the original letters written by Gandhiji to other freedom fighters and world leaders, illustrations depicting the history of the freedom movement in India, some rare photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and some of the artifacts personally used by him make it a true tribute to the Father of the Nation. The entry to the museum is free and it is open from 10am to 5pm.

Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank

The Mariamman Teppakkulam pond is connected to Vaigai River by an ingenious system of underground channels. Built by Tirumalai Nayak in 1646, the tank has Maiya Mandapam in the centre with a Vinayakar temple and a garden. It is the site of the Teppam

(floating) festival. The celebrations take place on the full moon night in the Tamil month of Thai when the idols of Meenakshi Temple are taken on a tour of the town and later floated in the huge tank.

Tirumalai Nayak Palace

The most illustrious of the Madurai Nayak dynasty is Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, a place for the curious historians as well as the cosmopolitan travellers. The influence of three major cultures can be seen on the architecture of the palace- Indo-Saracenic architecture, Gothic style and the Italian architectural designs. However, only one-fourth of its original structure remains intact now. Light and sound shows depicting the story of Silappathikaram both in Tamil and English languages are also there.

Where to stay Madurai Residency promises comfortable rooms within your budget. It is located at 1415, West Marret Street. Heritage Madurai is the best option if you are looking for a 5-star experience in Madurai.

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Thirumalai Nayak Palace

Luxury Hotels The leela palace chennai

Style & opulence aplenty Chennai’s first and only sea face city hotel, The Leela Palace joins the league of the best in the world. The hotel is conspicuous with its opulent architecture which seems influenced by the splendour of Chettinad Dynasty T&F Team

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esigned by John Gerondelis of Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart and Associates Inc known for developing many iconic international projects like the Ritz Carlton Jakarta in Indonesia, Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay in the Bahamas and Burj Palace in Dubai, The Leela Palace Chennai promises the most luxurious stay. Utmost care has been given to each and every design and we learn that the public areas, guestrooms and suites,restaurants and lounge have been designed by

March 2014

Jeffrey A Wilkes, the principal designer of Design Wilkes and the art and embellishment done by Madhu Nair, Director, Operations and Design of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. Built on 4.8 acres of land near the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and Adayar River, The Leela features 326 rooms and suites with worldclass amenities.The hotel also features the award-winning ESPA London, a market leader known for products developed only with the finest plant extracts and oils from around the world, providing

The dining area at Spectra

The hotel also features the awardwinning ESPA London, a market leader known for products developed only with the finest plant extracts and oils from around the world, providing the ultimate spa experience

The Deluxe Guest suite

The Long Stay suite

Luxury Hotels The leela palace chennai

the ultimate spa experience in a space of over 14,000 sqft. There are 12 private treatment rooms, three of them with spectacular sea views. The guests can continue with their fitness journey at the 2,500 sqft, state-of-the-art fitness centre complete with the latest Techno Gym equipment, a 25-metre lap swimming pool and an ideal indoors or opento-sky workout venue. The Warren Tricomi Salon at The Leela Palace Chennai provides an exclusive luxury grooming experience. For excellence in sustainable design and integrating world class green best practices, The Leela received the LEED Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by Indian Green Building Council.

it is open only for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Jamavar: The signature restaurant, Jamavar provides North and South Indian cuisines. It serves the finest dishes from the royal kitchens. Something unique in Jamavar is the Maharaja Table providing you the royal experience of dining. Library Blu: Unwind and enjoy the finer things in life at Library Blu with some of world’s finest and rare collection of spirits, wine, cognacs and innovative martinis. Enjoy your drink in afternoons withrich golden hues, evenings with shades of blue and nights with dark blue. Cake Shop: A wide range of gourmet delights await you at The Cake Shop,

Ultimate luxury

To experience the ultimate luxury offered by The Leela Palace, stay in the Luxury Suite in 1614 sq ft. Located on the seventh and eighth floors of the hotel, the suite with traditional and contemporary Indian architectural designs, overlooking the sea has a bedroom, a living room, a dining table for four and other luxuries.A nice view of the city, the sea and the pool is an added advantage. ExecutiveSuites offer 807 sqft of space in sheer luxury, the Premiere rooms with an uninterrupted view of the sea and the Deluxe rooms with views of sea, city and pool.

Dining experience at The Leela

Spectra: The all-day dining multispecialty restaurant at The Leela, Spectra offers a variety of cuisines from around the globe such as Indian, Asian, Japanese, Western and Mediterranean. The hotel has a salad bar and a dessert counter overlooking the Bay of Bengal and Adayar River. China XO: Enjoy exquisite Chinese cuisine with the charming view of the sea. At China XO designed by Studio Spin of Japan,you can enjoy authentic Chinese dishes like spicy Szechuan beef, Cantonese chicken, Beijing style noodles, Peking duck and innovative dim sums. Located at the lower lobby,

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The luxurious swimming pool

from hand-crafted chocolates to the tantalizing candy and lollipop stations and a variety of healthy breads. French macaroons, pastries, freshly baked breads, baguettes, German breads, Italian breads, hot chocolates and much more are there to try your hands at The Cake Shop in the lobby. Lobby Lounge: For a refreshing cup of hand-picked single estate tea or single origin coffee, visit the Lobby Lounge. In a short time, The Leela Palace Chennai has become an ideal spot to host weddings. The Royal Ballroom has got several venue options and decor themes for that perfect dream wedding. For more information, log on to www. Or call +91 (44) 3366 1234

The Royal Ballroom

Rare antiques at The Leela Palace

The all-day dining multi-specialty restaurant at The Leela, Spectra offers a variety of cuisines from around the globe such as Indian, Asian, Japanese, Western and Mediterranean

The lobby

The entrance

Renuka’s travels Thai Silk

Of silk and everything


A local woman spools silk in Thailand

This isn’t my first trip to Thailand and certainly it won’t be the last. But this time I came here for a different reason altogether. Choosing to ignore the delights of the rich culture and heritage of Thailand, I chose to explore the world of Thai Silk


You walk through the Thailand restaurant scene, it’s like taking a walk through the zoo. You can see everything from maggots to giant squids on the platter

s a designer, I travel a lot, and most of them for excavating new materials and designs. Only one city on Earth makes me feel like a country cousin- Bangkok, I’m still awed by its bright lights. There’s something about the atmosphere here that makes you come back. I’m overwhelmed by first impressions, as though I had never been here before. I must be caught in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’, where everything happens over and over, for the first time, because I forget. When I got here to feel the essence of Thai silk, what enticed me most was this legend I once heard which has haunted me ever since. It was the legend of Jim Thompson. Oh yeah, he was a legend and his life was another. There is this museum dedicated to Jim Thompson which I missed during my previous visits – Jim Thompsons Museum at Thanon Rama. I’m not accustomed to being yelled at. Not by someone trying to sell me a service. “Hey, you!” hollers a loud voice. “You need a guide?”I don’t think so. I inch away. I’ve read the guidebooks, I know what to see. He becomes agitated. I walked forward more quickly, my brain is more engaged, and I can fit twice as much into a single day. It’s not because there

Renuka C Sekhar is so much more to do, but in Bangkok, my sense of purpose and drive are stronger than anywhere else, that adrenaline pumping, proof that I’m going places. But this time an investigators curiosity guided my way, I headed towards Jim Thompson‘s Museum. I took a ‘tuk-tuk’ to the museum. Tuk-tuks are much like our auto rickshaws but faster. Tuk tuks are named after the sound they make with their hopelessly out-oftune moped engines, and the noise they churn out is simply amazing. If you want to see what a tuk-tuk can do, you should watch the first of the ‘Ong Bak” movies starring the legendary Thai superstar Tony Jaa. They are fast and not very suitable for Thailand’s hot streets but if you ever get a chance don’t miss a ride. When I got there, more than a museum I felt as if I am entering yet another Thai temple, my English speaking guide Phailin directed my way. Jim Thomson’s story is like any other story. A self- made American entrepreneur who was the founder of the world renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Besides inventing the bright jewel tones and dramatic colour combinations nowadays associated with Thai silk, he raised thousands of Thailand’s poorest people out of poverty. He entered

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Renuka’s travels Thai Silk

Jim Thompson’s bedroom the scene changed it with a boom, shook the world and disappeared into the unknown just like that. He was a legend even during his time. By the time of his disappearance, there were over 100 companies competing for a share of the Thai Silk business. Today, the Thai Silk Industry provides employment for approximately 20,000 families. On my way back I decided to stroll for a while. It was evening and the street side restaurants were just warming up. When you walk through the Thailand restaurant scene, it’s like taking a walk through the zoo. You can see everything from maggots to giant squids on the platter. And I have to tell you it’s not my scene and it is confusing when it comes to Thai cuisine, Try saying phat phak bung fai daeng (wine in fried garlic and bean sauce) or plaa dak phat phet

(catfish fried in fresh chilli paste and basil), and when the menu’s in Thai script and your pronunciation is liable to bring you lightly grilled cricket braised in a sauce of lizard’s eyeballs. It’s all part of the fun though, and if you like food, and that’s hot enough to burn a hole in the back of your throat, you’re unlikely to end up with anything inedible. Curiosity for Thai silk story is what brought me here, and the last words of my guide echoed in my ears, “And Jim disappeared into the forests of Malaysia”. But that couldn’t help explain the emotional roller –coaster ride I have had over, and I am not going to let it stop checking out the mystery behind his disappearance. I’m extremely glad I came but not satisfied, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back one day to complete the story of this mystery man.

A Thai man spools silk

Silkworm munching mulberry leaves

s p p A l

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u o Y for

Technology has really revolutionised the way we travel. With various applications in your smart phones, tablets and I-pads, it’s almost impossible for you to remain untraceable. But with the market boasting of new applications every day, travelers are quite confused. Here we have selected a few worthy applications which you can use T&F team

Travel Kit Travel Apps

Expedia Expedia is your complete travel solution app beginning with your ticket reservations and hotel bookings. It is a one-stop solution for all your major travel queries. Expedia’s mobile applications, both ios and android, can assist you with a last-minute hotel booking. Expedia also gives user ratings which make it easier to choose a hotel.

XE Currency This is a simple application which comes in handy if you are travelling abroad. It gives you the latest conversion rates of the currency in foreign countries.

Google Translator Although there are many translator apps around, the Google Translator is one of the most common and easy to use mobile applications. It gives you both written and spoken translations in more than 64 languages.

Google Maps One of the most used travel apps around the world, it comes in handy even if you are in a crowded China town. It helps you to locate places and also find the easiest routes.

Hosteworld Backpackers would love this application. It has got a registered directory of more than 25,000 cheap hostels around the world. It is a pretty handy tool if you are looking for easy accommodation with a small budget.

Foodspotting This is a dedicated foodie application. Wherever you are, Foodspotting helps you find the best option for your favourite dish. It automatically recognises the restaurants nearby which serve the dishes you have typed in.

Around Me Going to a completely alien country can sometimes really throw off balance. Around Me application helps you find whatever you need and wherever you are. It also helps you find anything like restaurants, hospitals, pharmacies, super markets etc.

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A driving experience Manali

Musings on Manali The mysticism that one experiences in Manali is such that you are drawn to the hill station like a moth to a flame. The quiet beauty of the place is certainly worth spending a holiday in and you most likely would want to come back here again

Suresh Joseph


A stone throw away from the temple is a museum, which gives a snapshot of the life of the people of Kullu area as it has developed over time, the art, culture and their simple lifestyles

he legend of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati abound in Manikaran. It is located in the Parvati Valley between the rivers Parvati and Beas in Kullu district and is about 85 km from Manali. It is said that the Lord and his consort chanced upon the Valley and were taken in by the beauty of the place surrounded by lush green mountains. They are believed to have spent 11,000 years in the place. During the stay Parvati lost one of her jewels in the stream and was unable to retrieve it. Angry about the event, Lord Shiva performed the cosmic dance, Tandava, which led to disturbances in the equilibrium of the universe. The serpent God, Sheshnag, in a bid to pacify the Lord hissed thereby giving rise to a flow of boiling water, which spread over the entire area. This led to the re-emergence of the precious jewel. It is said that jewels used to be thrown regularly into the waters till the earthquake of 1905. The water continues to be hot and the entire food for the community kitchen at the Gurudwara is prepared in pots immersed in the hot water. There are temples dedicated to Vishnu, Rama and Krishna. The bathing ponds of hot water springs are supposed to possess curative powers. As I stepped off the vehicle at Manikaran I got a beautiful view of the temple and the gurudwara. The hot springs gush forth from the rocks and flow into the river. Pilgrims visit Manikaran round the year. Despite this the basic necessities for such a large influx has not been taken care. The condition of the road as one turns off from NH 21, short of Bhuntar, up to Manikaran – a distance of nearly 40 km is bad. The filth and waste around Manikaran is astounding. The Hadimba temple is set in sylvan surroundings in a deodar forest. In close proximity to the temple is an ‘entertainment’ area where photographers offer their services with goats, rabbits

March 2014 travel & flavors


A driving experience Manali

and yaks and in the traditional Kullu dress, local art is showcased for sale and games of skill and fun are organized. The legend attached to the temple itself is fascinating. Hadimba had married Bhim through the union of which was born the warrior Gatotchaka, who played a decisive role in the war with the Kauravas. After the war Hadimba did not relocate Bhim and stayed here, in whose memory and sacrifice the temple is dedicated. Inside the temple is the form of a huge foot, which is worshipped along with other idols. There is also another temple for Gatotchaka; it is merely a tree adorned with various religious artifacts. A stone throw away from the temple is a museum, which gives a snapshot of the life of the people of Kullu area as it has developed over time, the art, culture and their simple lifestyles. The Manu Temple is in Old Manali and the last mile was approached by walk as the road was under repair. It is on the ManaliSolang Valley trek route. The display at the temple clearly states that the exact place where Manu’s ark landed after the great deluge is not a matter authenticated by indisputable evidence. The idols of the temple are ancient; they were reputed to have been discovered in “Deo Ka Ghar�

The Vashisht Temple is about 4 km from the Manali bus stand. The ancient temple has in its vicinity temples dedicated to Vishnu and Ram

Lahaul Valley, Manali

A truck on the Manali-Leh Road

Jugni Falls, Manali

from where it was removed and installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the present temple. The interesting stories of Manu in the guise of a sadhu getting a calf to yield milk and getting rid of ‘Tundi’, the rakshas add ‘mystic value’ to the temple and “Deo Ka Ghar”. The Clubhouse is meant to be another local ‘must visit’. It is a vast entertainment area, primarily for kids, and eateries. Avoidable if are not with kids or are short of time. The Vashisht Temple is about 4 km from the Manali bus stand. The ancient temple has in its vicinity temples dedicated to Vishnu and Ram. There is also a bathing tank with hot water sulphur springs with curative properties. The surroundings and the temples are infinitely cleaner than those in Manikaran. There is plenty to do in Manali for four days, including a visit to the Roerich Heritage Museum in Naggar. The Russian and his wife had made it their home in 1928, enchanted by the Himalayas and the mysticism of its culture and civilization. Perhaps, one of the greatest contributions of Nicholas Roerich is the International ‘Roerich Pact’ which prohibits warring nations from attacking churches, museums and hospitals; a pact of universal humanity.

March 2014 travel & flavors


Roof of the world Nepal

Back to nature in

Dhampus Villages have a mysterious magnetic pull upon me. Whenever I get the chance to spend a night in a village I don’t miss it. Although villagers don’t possess money or property like city-dwellers, they have fresh air to breathe, and the solitude of the Himalayas to meditate. That’s why they are far more blissful, aesthetic and honest

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Machapuchare mountain, Dhampus , Nepal


hampus, a blessed village just 25 km north of Pokhra has been listed as one the best places in Nepal for a short trek. The 30 minute bus rides took us to Fedi from where our trek starts. Most of the trekkers conquer steep high hills of Dhampus in two hours but we knew it was going to be more than three hours. The route was well managed and constructed with stone stairs. As soon as one enters the forest, they feels the difference in the air, the pureness and solicitude of the place is crystal clear for all to see and experience. After crossing the forest in about half an hour, we met a few villagers, gossiped with them, and asked

Amit Kishor Subedi about their whereabouts. It’s really pleasant to listen to their stories of experience and experiment. They often complained about their bad luck in opportunities. One old man in his 60s took a long breathe, wiped away sweat and directly looked at us and told about the trend of going to Middle East and Europe for employment. Whatever the problem, in the end, they always find a way out and face adversities with a smile. The story of the old people deepens my insight of various dimension of life. There are a few cafés which welcomed us with flavored tea and steaming coffee. The impressive view of Naudada, Pokhra-Baglung

Highy, sparsely located houses of the village and the twirling crops were delights to our journey. The darkness has already wrapped as we stepped in our majestic destination. It’s a sort of daily routine in the life of the village youth of Nepal to gather chautaris at dusk. There are enough option of hotels, home stays and cafes according to the size of your pocket at Dhampus. We chose the one atop the village so that we could have a spectacular view of the Himalayas. The village which has the reputation of being cool even in summer is really cold during nights. The dinner consisting of local lentil, rice, pickle, green leafy vegetables and chicken, was quite sumptuous. As far as my

Roof of the world Nepal

Children playing in their house in Dhampus

The impressive view of Naudada, Pokhra-Baglung Highy, sparsely located houses of the village the twirling crops were delights to our journey. The darkness has already wrapped as we stepped in our majestic destination

A woman cultivates onions

experience, foods we get in colder regions seem to taste better than anywhere else. At night, we arranged fire wood for camping which is available for all tourists at a minimum cost. The fire eliminated the chilling cold. We also sang songs around the bonfire and somehow we ended up becoming quite nostalgic, and recalled memories of forgotten beloved ones. Darkness was at its peak, stars were the only remaining witness, and it was already 1:00 am when we switched off lights before going to bed. Early in the morning, when I pulled the curtain from my bed, I became silent when I got a glimpse of the majestic Mt. Machhapuchhre, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I & II ,Mt.Lamjung and Mt.Manaslu in front of me. The mountains were golden, not white as the sun was emerging from the other side. While sipping coffee, we got quite a rare view of the sun rising and the transformation of the Himalayas from golden to its original color, white. We spent our whole morning walking through the

alleys in front of the locals houses which has specially crafted windows and doors, and stone roofs. Gurungs who were once part of an ancient Mongolian tribe in Nepal, are the owners of these houses and the major inhabitants of the place. They are quite popular, culturally and traditionally. During our travels, we found that many houses are empty, as the house owners had migrated to Pokhra and Kathmandu. However, all those who are still there follow the traditional way of life. Dhampus is also popular as it is the starting point of the famous Annapurna circuit. If one wishes for one more day of trekking, then they can go to Pothana, Australian Base Camp,Hario Kharka, Deurali, and Lwang – Ghalel. Returning back with the memory of such exquisite place was not something I really wanted to do but I had no choice. Still the promise of tomorrow was always there and I could return anytime I wanted

A view of Machapuchare Mountain from Dhampus

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Travel Musings Kufri

t a di ay

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Kufri is the kind of hill station where you would love to revel in the solitude of the snow-capped mountains and the austere beauty of nature. A holiday here is unforgettable and serene in its own way Elvy Alias


ne January night as I sat with friends, an idea cropped up in our minds; why not go to Shimla over the weekend? A much needed getaway for all of us from the monotony of work. Weather forecast predicted a sunny weekend ahead in Shimla but there was no

looking back for us. We changed our destination to Kufri, just about 25km ahead of Shimla where, we were told, it was snowing. With weekend only three days away, we had very little time and a decent lot to plan for the trip. After going through a handful of reviews, we zeroed in on Galleu Hill

Cruise travelJourney Musings Starkufri Cruises

Resort as our abode during the trip. Being a girl, I have an appetite for shopping, but this time, it was more of a delight because never in my life had I got an opportunity to prepare myself for the snow. My best buy before the trip was a pair of Dr Marten style rubber boots perfect for the snow! We hit the road on Friday morning with an exceptional vigor that’s rare to find in us on a regular morning. With never-ending conversations and good music to keep us charged, we hardly noticed how time flew. The bright yellow mustard fields of Punjab appeared almost as though they were greeting us with a namaste as they bent and swayed in the wind. A few hours into the scenic drives and we had

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traversed through Punjab into Himachal. As we crossed the crowded city of Shimla, I was happy at the change in our decision to head to the capital of Himachal. The idea of leaving behind Delhi’s hustle bustle was to find calm in the hills.And to see snow of course! The concrete jungle adorning the mountainside gave way to lush green forests. As we drove uphill, the roads gracefully embraced the hills, winding around them. But I somehow failed to find calm even in the soothing greenery around me. My eyes longed to see snow, at least a trace of it. About 8 kms short of Kufri, we were stopped by cops who were doing their routine checking. After producing all our documents, we asked

them if it had been snowing ahead. Their response gave a new lease of life to me! “Yes”, they said, we would find snow. The suspense was terrible, I hoped it wouldn’t last for long! And it didn’t. I saw the first trace of snow on either sides of the road. Quite honestly, the sight wasn’t breathtaking and I wasn’t jumping with excitement from my seat. The snow was melting and had mixed with the mud making it look nothing like I had seen in pictures and videos. We slowly neared the outskirts of Kufri and pulled over when we saw some more patches of snow. I befriended a handsome ‘young’ yak who was more than happy to allow me to take a ride on his back. It had already become dark when we

reached our destination, Galleu Hill Resort in Kufri. We checked into our respective rooms, freshened up and all of us gathered in my room. After a while, I got a call from the resort reception. I was told it had started snowing. My excitement knew no bounds! I disconnected the call and shouted out to my friends that we must go out into the balcony. I ran outside to see thermocol balls falling from the sky and slowly covering the balcony with a thin white quilt. I reveled in the incredible feel of snow falling on me. A little baby girl, Janiya, from next door started playing with us in the snow. Janiya and I got together to make a little snow princess for her. Oh, the joy of experiencing something you have

A snowy morning at Kufri

As we crossed the crowded city of Shimla, I was happy at the change in our decision to head to the capital of Himachal. The idea of leaving behind Delhi’s hustle bustle was to find calm in the hills

A view of the mountains

ardently awaited all your life is just priceless. That Friday night, my dream came true, I finally felt snow! The next morning standing in my balcony, I admired the beauty of the majestic Himalayas capped with snow. I looked around me and saw the previous night’s thermocol balls had blanketed the small hill station of Kufri giving it a heavenly feel. Saturday was a day at the amusement park adjoining our resort. The one thing we definitely had to do while in Kufri was ski. One of my friends chose to be our official photographer capturing our falls and bombers on her candid camera. After a tiring day out we returned to the resort and took to some indoor games. Sunday morning we packed our bags and proceeded to the reception for check out and we were told it was the ideal time to leave as it hadn’t snowed the previous night and roads were clear. We thanked the cordial resort staff and left the picturesque hill station of Kufri on a high note. We traced our way back to Delhi reminiscing about the trip and me secretly hoping I could bring home a handful of snow as a souvenir from the hills.

Tourists on a hill at Kufri, Himachal Pradesh

Luxury Spa Ayurmana

An ideal place for

massages & treatments

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Photos: Jose Jacob

Cherai Beach Resort near Kochi is one of the finest spots to enjoy a perfect holiday and Ayurmana Spa could be the best place in the world to have Ayurvedic treatments and massages Tony William


ith the beach in front and the serene backwaters behind, Cherai Beach Resort on Vypin Island near Kochi has been exquisitely landscaped. The resort with numerous canals, lagoons and arch bridges around 66 villas has been designed in style and is a great place for a blissful holiday. A walk through the arch bridges over these canals and lagoons is very rewarding. Be it the Pool villa or the Fishermen villa, both designed for the honeymooners or the Sunrise villas with a garden and backwaters or the Doctors’ premium villa or the Garden villa- everything is designed aesthetically. The round bed, the indoor swimming pool and the small balcony upstairs make the Pool villa a perfect romantic place.

Treatment room at Ayurmana Spa

Ayurmana Spa

Ayurmana Spa at the resort has the setting of a traditional tharavadu (ancestral house). In the front, you have a yoga hall where the cool winds from the adjacent backwaters will soothe your body and mind. The spa approaches wellness essentially through Ayurveda. Here, the ancient medical science is not just a treatment method but also the complete way of life. It doesn’t offer western spa or massages. Cherai Beach Resort is owned by a group of medical professionals. Qualified doctors and experienced staff are there to take care of the patients at the spa. Five types of body massage are provided here. The Ayurvedic rejuvenation massage goes about 60 minutes accompanied with a 10-minute steam bath. You would feel much younger after this massage as it relieves pain and swelling in the joints and strengthens the muscles. The Ayurvedic relaxation massage is meant for people who have travelled a lot, especially for those with a jet lag. A 50-minute therapy and a 10-minute steam bath give you fresh energy and are the best way to escape fatigue. Uzhichil is the whole body massage consisting of a 40-minute therapy and a

A guest getting a massage at the Spa

Luxury Spa Ayurmana

10-minute steam bath. Feel rejuvenated as it improves blood circulation and vitalises organs. Ayurvedic head and shoulder massage help you to get rid of shoulder and neck pain. Gift your feet the Ayurvedic leg massage which covers knees to feet. “All organs have a specialised function reaching to leg. So the leg massage is equivalent to the whole body treatment. It is often said that our legs are the second heart,” says Dr Arunan Rama Warrier, Chief Physician, Ayurmana Spa, about the importance of leg massage.

The medicines used for treatments here are adhering to the good manufacturing practices. The herbs for the treatment like Ayurvedic kizhi are grown in the garden adjacent to the spa. “To cope with the heat and humid weather in the state, most foreigners prefer body massage,” says Dr Arunan. “Patients come here as part of a threeweek medical-tourism package. US nationals were here last month and we are expecting a group from Germany, including doctors, next month. They have also asked for the

The corridor leading to the treatment room

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Panchakarma treatment,” he adds. Ayurmana Spa also provides various massages like udvarthanam, mukha kanthi lepam (Ayurvedic face pack), abhyangam for children, elakkizhi, njavarakizhi, nasyam, medicated steam bath, rejuvenation therapy, stress management therapy and treatments like sirodhara, pizhichil and ksheeradhara. “As you know, many people nowadays prefer open air massage provided in a natural setting with complete privacy,” says Dr Arunan. Rich greenery, the traditional kalvilakku

(stone lamp) next to a tree and many other things here recalling the past create the right ambience for a massage which is sure to rejuvenate the body and the mind. It has been noticed that people come to Ayurmana Spa for treatments and massages on their own and the spa does not have partnerships with outside agencies. It is a proof that the quality of treatments and other amenities provided by Ayurmana Spa is excellent.

enchanting Kerala Paniyeli Poru

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Travel and Flavors uncovers Paniyeli Poru known for its beautiful waterfall and rich flora and fauna, near Perumbavoor in Kerala, which is so quiet that it would give the Kuruva Island a run for its money

Photos: Jose Jacob

One of the greatest attractions at Paniyeli Poru is that there are many places where you can take a refreshing bath. Unlike the Kuruva Island in Wayanad, it has fewer crowds Tony William


aniyeli Poru comes under the Malayatoor forest division’s Kodanad forest range. A direct bus to Paniyeli will leave you right in front of the forest office.One has to collect a pass from the forest office to go further. The forest is blessed with rich flora and fauna. Wild animals like elephants, deer, pig, wolf and various kinds of snakes, including python,can be seen in the 1,700-hectare forest. A number of trees have been planted by the Forest Department to preserve the flora and fauna of the region. The stories of how the place has got its strange name are quite interesting

and debatable. One story is about a raftman who had to struggle a lot to sail through this part of the Periyar River owing to the deep vortex and strata of rocks in the area. Hence, the place got the name ‘Poru’ which means fight in the local language. The forest guide,George, however, put forth a story that was more convincing. He pointedat the small uninhabited islands in the middle of the river that cause strong whirlpools. The locals called the place ‘Poru’ following the ‘fight’ of currents from different sides at the juncture. From the entry point, you have to walk around one kilometre to reach the waterfall Poru under

numerous trees. Under the eco-tourism project, tiles have been laid on the ground at some places for the convenience of visitors to relax and enjoy the calmly flowing Periyar while walking to Poru. You can buy commodities like wild honey, aromatic turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon and lemongrass oil from the shops beside tea stalls. Forest guides under the Forest Protection Committee are always at hand to guide you on your journey. Get ready to soak your feet in the cold water as you have to cross small tributaries of the river to reach Poru. George also informs us that since the dams are closed, water flow

is not that powerful. One of the greatest attractions at Paniyeli Poru is that there are many places where you can take a refreshing bath. Unlike the Kuruva Island in Wayanad, it has fewer crowds. An island known as Mundupallamthuruthu can also be seen in the middle of the river.The remains of an old temple on the island indicate that it was once inhabited by people, says Sashi, a forest guide on duty at Poru.

Death trap at Poru

Though the river may look calm on the surface, there are strong whirlpools under the river and it is literally a death trap.After the Forest Department extended its eco-tourism activities to Poru in 2005

March 2014 travel & flavors


enchanting Kerala Paniyeli Poru

How to reach Paniyeli Poru is situated around 20 km from Perumbavoor on the KuruppampadyPanamkuzhy-Vengoor road. There are buses from Perumbavoor to Vengoor, Paniyeli. The nearest railway station is Aluva (35km from Paniyeli).

Other attractions around Kodanad Elephant Training Centre, one of the largest elephant training centres in Kerala, is around 6km away. Bhoothanthankettu Dam, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and Thattekkad Sanctuary are the important places near PaniyeliPoru.

Water from different sides converge to make the waterfall

Though the river may look calm on the surface, there are strong whirlpools under the river and it is literally a death trap. Ignoring the warnings by forest guides at Poru can be fatal

The Periyar flowing down the river near the waterfall

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and appointed forest guards and guides, only two deaths have been reported until now. Ignoring the warnings by forest guides at Poru can be fatal. The rock ponds found on the way to the Poru waterfall are nearly 20-22ft deep, points out Sashi. There is an area beneath the fall called the Pond of Poru which is around 70 ft deep. The Poru fall is very beautiful during monsoon, he adds. He is keen to show us the traces of the last monsoon water that rose to a height of 12 ft.

The rock ponds with low water lever

enchanting Kerala the tourism director‘s desk

Kerala Tourism S Harikishore, IAS


to extend RTP to 50 more destinations

t’s a great pleasure to inform all that Kerala Tourism has been conferred with the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Ulysses award for the responsible tourism initiatives taken by the department in Kumarakom. The award is given for innovations in the public policy and governance and this is the first time the award is coming to India. Responsible Tourism Project The Responsible Tourism Project (RTP) was launched at Kumarakom, Kerala, in 2008. The idea was to ensure that local people benefit from tourism and also to ensure social, environmental and economic responsibility in the region as a result of tourism operations. It took about three years and hundreds of local meetings and consultations to develop Kumarakom as the first responsible tourism destination in the country. The programmes that benefit local communities Local labour directory and local resource directory were formed for the destination and this information was provided to all hoteliers so that they can hire local talents and can promote local destinations. Capacity building and skill development programmes were launched. Micro enterprises, cultivation groups and self-help groups were formed, resulting in greater income generating opportunities and these units were linked to hotels for supply of produce. At present, there are 18 different units/micro enterprises like papad-making unit, curry powdermaking unit, candle-making unit etc.

An ethnic restaurant was started by the Kudumbasree which is selling traditional local food to tourists. A responsible tourism classification scheme has been introduced and all the hoteliers in the place are motivated to register and to get themselves evaluated on various responsible practices in the hotel. As of now, 13 out of 18 hotels in Kumarakom have registered in the responsible classification scheme. Vegetable and fruit cultivation and farming got a big boost. In all, 600 homestead farming units were set up and more than 80 farmer groups were formed, which have been linked to hotels. The produce from these units are purchased by the hotels. Village Life Experience (VLE) tours which aim to preserve local art, culture, tradition and livelihood were introduced, and are operated by the local community. In 2013, 220 groups visited Kumarakom village life experience package.

Environmental protection activities like plastic free zone and mangrove protection were initiated. A sewage treatment plant was set up to treat the sewage from houseboats. The achievement of Kumarakom is a result of joint efforts by Kumarakom Village Panchayath, Kudumbashree, tourism stakeholders, local selfhelp groups and the department of tourism. Motivated by its success, the department is planning to extend responsible tourism initiatives to 50 more destinations in the state.

(The writer is the Director, Department of Tourism, Kerala Government)

Enchanting Kerala Heritage museum

Revival of the

past Have you ever wondered how the railway line from Shoranur to Cochin was made? Or how the famous erstwhile Tripunithura Athachamayam looked like a century ago? Visit the Heritage Museum in Tripunithura to get the knowledge of the important events in the past


he Heritage Museum located on the premises of Government Sanskrit College Tripunithura is the best place to get a glimpse of the Old Cochin Kingdom. Set in a fire-proof building, the museum has got more than 2,000 rare palmleaf manuscripts, 500 paper manuscripts and more than 100 rare photographs of the rulers of Cochin and various celebrations. The rare photographs include the inauguration of the Old Ernakulam railway station, Tripunithura Athachamayam

Tony William (the traditional beginning of the 10-day Onam celebrations), inauguration of the Peringalkuthu dam in Chalakudy, India’s first Independence Day flag-hoisting ceremony at Durbar Hall ground by Parishith Rama Varma Thampuran and other historic events. Providing a pictorial record of the rich past of Cochin, the Heritage Museum serves as a source for research scholars. Manuscripts of various versions of Mahabharata and Ramayana and the famous works of Kulasekhara, Kalidasa, Bhasa and Adisankaracharya are there

The rare palm-leaf manuscripts and photographs on display at the Heritage Museum

Photos: Jose Jacob

A rare photograph from the collection

One of the rare palm- leaf manuscripts found at the museum is Chithrapreshnam’ (astrology through sketches)

Providing a pictorial record of the rich past of Cochin, the Heritage Museum serves as a source for research scholars

March 2014 travel & flavors


Enchanting Kerala Heritage museum

The manuscripts are now digitally documented and catalogued using modern technology by the Regional Centre of C-DIT in Ernakulam

The collection of photographs

in the museum. “The manuscript library was established in 1927 by Raja Rama Varma. For extending the railway line from Shoranur to Ernakulam, the king sold 14 gold caparisons of the elephants of the Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple at Tripunithura,” says KP Prasanna, Principal, Govt Sanskrit College Tripunithura. She also praised the efforts of KG Paulose, former Principal of the college, and Dr PN Sudarsanan, Asst Professor, in making this heritage museum a reality and recovering the treasures which were in oblivion until 2009. The Heritage Museum is well designed with an entrance, the walls of which have notes on the importance of Sanskrit language. The notes give a brief sketch of the science texts written in Sanskrit. There is also a note that says National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) has identified Sanskrit as the perfect language for computer artificial intelligence. On the other side of the wall, you can find the stamps brought out by various nations with Sanskrit inscriptions. Photographs have been carefully classified. “It took almost three years for classification of pictures,” says Dr Sudarsanan. “Since there weren’t any captions for the photograph, it was very difficult to identity persons and occasions in the picture,” he adds. Original texts of Kumarasambhavam, Raghuvamsham and Rithusamhaaram with interpretations given by ancient Sanskrit scholars are also there. Another rare palm-leaf manuscript which raises curiosity is the Chithrapreshnam or astrology through sketches. These are classified as per different birth stars and detailed analysis of birth stars has been inscribed behind each palm leaf to predict the past and the future. Along with the sketches and Sanskrit text, there are descriptions in Malayalam. The manuscripts are now digitally documented and catalogued using modern technology by the Regional Centre of C-DIT in Ernakulam.

Future plans

Palm-leaf manuscripts of varied size

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“An audio-visual presentation explaining the importance of the rare manuscripts is what we plan in the next phase of development of the Heritage Museum. The museum authorities have plans to associate it with the tourism department. We are also planning to enhance the collections such as ezhuthani (the instrument used to write on palm-leaf), materials used for the preservation of these manuscripts and other related things,” says Dr Sudarsanan.

photo of the month

An imperial beauty: Gulmarg is a hill station located 56 kms from Srinagar, India and is located within miles from the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. The place was a favoured summer holiday destination for the rulers of the British rulers during their regime. The surrounding areas unlike today were politically quite peaceful and serene. The town nestled within the imposing Himalayan ranges receives heavy snowfall during winter and is also a popular ski resort. by K S Praveen Kumar

March 2014 travel & flavors


Strange Travellers

Pan American

handcycle Seth and Kelly posing with a kid during their journey

It’s courage and perseverance that take people to their goals in life. No matter what the obstacles are on the way, such minds reach their destinations. The story of Seth McBride is not different as it shows the true human spirit Tony William

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t is unlike any other expeditions ever attempted. Meet Seth McBride and Kelly Schwan who are on an expedition from Portland, Oregon, to Patagonia in Argentina to help raise awareness on the importance of daily physical activity for all, regardless of situation and ability. Seth, a freelance writer and a student, is living with Kelly who is an occupational therapist at a level one trauma hospital in Portland. When the expedition ends, Seth will be the first person with quadriplegia to complete a pan-American cycle tour and it will be the first trans-continental cycle tour involving a disabled athlete who is self-supported. After his accident,

March 2014


Seth graduated from the University of Oregon, spent the last seven years playing wheelchair rugby for Team USA, travelled to 16 countries on four continents, and teaching English in El Salvador, and a two-month trip through Southeast Asia. The success of the Long Road South expedition depends on the adaptability of the human body, notes Seth. For the first 2,500 miles, their body responded well. Seth’s arms slowly adapted to churning up multi-mile climbs. Riding in the open sky with an additional weight of 55kg on her bike wasn’t that easy for Kelly. Harsh weather- blazing sun in the morning and below-freezing nights, raking winds- toasted muscles, varying blood pressure and a punctured

tire, all made difficulties in their journey. Sometimes, the duo had to take occasional lifts to the nearest town from friends and other truck drivers as they needed rest. Seth himself notes that he felt like a cheater when he had to do so. However, both are determined to finish their journey. The duo estimates an expense of $20,000 on the road. They could manage to raise $11,292 as they covered 5,646 miles (almost halfway). Nearly 4,354 miles lie ahead of them in South America before they can get to Patagonia, their final stop. They will tie the knot once they finish their journey and return to Portland. Log on to to lend a helping hand to their mission.


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