kunzum We travel. What do you do?
September 1, 2013 Fortnightly Issue 12
MUSIC FOR THE ROAD Paradise Valley, The Civil Wars
TECH FOR TRAVELLERS NOKIA LUMIA 925, SONY XPERIA Z ULTRA
THE WILD ELEPHANTS of India & Nepal
APP CORNER Pixlr-o-Matic, Instaplace TRAVEL BOOKS
The Top Gear Years, Scott and Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth
TIME TO GO WILD Thank you everyone for an overwhelming response to the previous issue of the Kunzum Magazine – relaunched after a gap of more than a year with a new look and feel. We are loving putting the fortnightly together, more so when our readers give such a positive thumbs up! And it is now time to go wild. Only because National Parks in India are due to open soon. Some will open by October 1, while most others would open by 16th of the same month. Post monsoons, these forests are a paradise in themselves. As if fresh from a long slumber and a reinvigorating shower, the hues of green are at their brightest and thickest. Lakes, rivers and waterfalls are full of water from the rains – and this year we have had more than a normal dose of precipitation. The landscape looks nothing short of stunning at this time of the year. Of course, when the forest cover is heavy, it also means animals and birds get a better camouflage and sightings can sometimes be difficult. But don’t let that deter you. Well planned safaris mean you will spot enough birds and animals. And there will always be sights and sounds you may not get at other times of the year. Where should you go? My personal favourites (in rough order of preference) are Kaziranga in Assam, Satpura in Madhya Pradesh, Ranthambhore in Rajasthan, Gir in Gujarat, Bandhavgarh, Panna and Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, and Bandipur and Bhadra in Karnataka. Of course, there are many more I have not visited personally, and these have not been included here. We travel. Join us in our journeys. What would you rather do?
AJAY JAIN SUBSCRIBE to the Kunzum Magazine and access earlier issues at http://kunzum.com/mag
The Wild Elephants of India & Nepal Tech for Travellers Sony Xperia Z Ultra Nokia Lumia 925
Music for the Road The Civil Wars Paradise Valley
Neena is an ardent historian and archaeologist who, after a successful career in financial services including banking and private equity, is now following her dream with the recent launch of her travel venture Diva Odysseys (http://www.divaodysseys.com) which offers experiential, luxury travel for women.
Nimish has been writing on technology, music, sport and books for more than a decade now. He has been published in a number of leading magazines and newspapers, and has also written two books for young adults.
Book Review Scott and Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth The Top Gear Years
App Corner Instaplace Pixlr-o-matic
Diva Travel Ms. Business Diva on Travel
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THE WILD ELEPHANTS OF INDIA & NEPAL AJAY JAIN
Personally, elephants are one of my favourite animals. They always have been, but they truly won my heart when they put on an unbelievable show in the Manas National Park in the north-eastern state of Assam of India. More about it later. Elephants have always been a part of the lives of Indians going back to the time of mythologies. They have been domesticated, and deployed in battlefields. They have entertained in circuses and fairs, used for joy rides, and served as vehicles for transporting people and goods alike. They roam in the wild, and are employed by temples for ceremonies. They are shot for their ivory tusks, and revered as manifestations of Elephant God Ganesha. Elephants make for great friends but you need to be wary of their anger and mood swings; but it sure takes a lot to provoke an elephant. They may be big, but are vegetarians and mostly gentle. Except the male tuskers - especially when they are on heat! An elephant at the Bandipur National Park, Karnataka 04
Join me on this elephant ride. COVER STORY
The Games Elephants Play This will go down as probably the best moment of all my travels. Setting out early to spot wildlife and birds at the Manas National Park in north-eastern state of Assam in India, I came across a herd of elephants on a dirt track about 50 metres away from me. Initially they seemed just like a couple till I realized they were a full herd – and hidden in the trees and foliage around the track. And what do I see? They kept coming in and out of the greenery, from babies to giant male members. And all seemed in a jovial mood. They were playing together, pushing each other into the bushes, climbing on top of the other and engaging in friendly duels. I could have watched them for hours – you rarely see such sights. A bit of feel good? I showed these images to one of the best known conservationists in the world – and he admitted he has never seen such sights himself in 30 years. Come, join the elephants in their games.
Travel Tips: Manas National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best wildlife reserves in India. Best visited from September to March.
A herd of elephants of all ages and sizes playing in Manas National Park in Assam in India 06
A herd of elephants of all ages and sizes playing in Manas National Park in Assam in India 07
A herd of elephants of all ages and sizes playing in Manas National Park in Assam in India 08
A herd of elephants of all ages and sizes playing in Manas National Park in Assam in India 09
A herd of elephants of all ages and sizes playing in Manas National Park in Assam in India 10
When Elephants Bathe in Manas National Park
Elephants love water - their bodies can do with any amount of bathing. You can imagine the size of bathtubs required! It is fascinating to watch them being scrubbed. Here are a few shots of a pair of elephants out for a bath in the Manas National Park. They are not wild - they belong to the forest department. And hence spoiled too - they need someone to scrub them. 11
Elephants heading for a bath in Manas National Park 12
When a Wild Male Tusker on heat creates havoc in Nepal If there is one elephant you have to beware of in the forest, it is the wild male tusker. He is feared by all - including other elephants. There is no one to beat this beast - he is the true king of the jungle. He is at his moody worst during the mating season. I saw it for myself on, believe it or not, on Valentine’s Day in the Chitwan National Park in Nepal. I was staying at the famed Tiger Tops when I noticed a lot of animated excitement amongst the staff. A wild male tusker had sauntered in through the driveway, hung around the lawns for a bit and then proceeded to the elephant stables. The staff was worried: it was mating season, and this tusker had a reputation for bad behavior. And he seemed lonely on this day of romantics – he was out looking for a ‘female friend’ said one of the mahouts. Looks like the wild females did not fancy him and he had to settle for a domesticated one. I was excitedly clicking pictures, but was repeatedly warned to be careful. All attempts to ‘shoo’ him away came to naught – the fellow was teasing everyone by walking around. And then, as if drunk and without warning, he proceeded to smash a few staff quarters. This may have been ‘orgasmic’ enough for him – he eventually walked away without a date. For his own reasons. Had he chosen to, he could have made an even bigger mess – and a dozen tame elephants would have been no match.
The Wild Male Tusker saunters into Tiger Tops resort in Chitwan National Park in Nepal 14
Tiger Topsâ€™ mahouts look apprehensively, not sure what the wild tusker would do. 15
Tiger Tops has its own tusker â€“ larger with even bigger tusks â€“ but he was too gentle to be a match for the wild one had they come to blows 16
Joining Elephants in their Bathrooms in Dubare Elephant Camp This may be a pet elephant facility but a visit to the Dubare Elephant Camp in Coorg in the southern Indian state of Karnataka is a must. The camp is home to elephants of all ages, from babies to grand-daddies. At around 9, they come out of their quarters and head for the water pool for their daily bath. Be careful when they come down: some amble, but some run. You donâ€™t want to be in the way. You can watch them from the sides, or step into the water and give them a scrub yourself. A good idea is to be wearing shorts; take off the shoes too when in the water. Mind the stones below - and tread carefully lest you slip. Once in, you will feel you are in a bathroom for elephants. What is disappointing are the chains on the elephants guess these are important for safety reasons. After the bath, you can go feed the elephants or take a short ride on one. But these are not as much fun as the bath.
Travel Tips: You can go there as a day visitor or as a guest at the accommodation run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts. To have real fun, be at the camp by 9:00 a.m. - else donâ€™t bother going. The best part is watching and giving elephants a bath. 17
Stay clear, this is the fire brigade. Some elephants take a leisurely bath, some play pranks. A big one decided to spray water on all onlookers - mind your cameras. 18
One guy’s bathtub is another one’s toilet seat. Elephants don’t know the difference between a bathtub and a toilet seat - they allow their poop to drop where they are. You can be sure you are stepping on some. Hehe! Wash your feet with soap later. 19
And a little one gave a chase to some kids but ran back to momma when the shrieking of the children startled him (or her). Wonder if the animals are trained to perform antics? 20
I had been told to watch out for elephants on the highways around Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. And I did see some small groups. The most fascinating was one caught in my headlights. I stopped and watched as she got closer, crossed the front of my car and then pressed her forehead against the front passenger seat - curious what this thing was. I am told elephants have poor night vision. She stayed like that for a bit, and went on her way again. Awesome meeting! Wonder if a more aggressive specimen would have behaved differently? Unlikely.
An elephant walks in Shuklaphanta National Park in Nepal with fires in the background â€“ these have been lit by the forest department to check the growth of tall grasses in the reserve. 22
Tech for Travellers
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Size DOES Matter! NIMISH DUBEY
What makes it special?
Its size. And design. Yes, the Xperia Z Ultra does pack in some very good specs- including a 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2 GB RAM, and 16 GB onboard storage (expandable by 64 GB using a microSD card) - but what hits you (and ‘hits’ is the word) is its sheer size. It sports a massive 6.4 inch full HD display, which makes it over half a foot long. And yet at 6.5mm, it is also one of the thinnest phones we have and at just over 200 grammes, light for its size. No, it won’t fit your hand at all. But you will feel like touching it.
How well does it work?
As an ultraportable Android tablet, very well. As a phone, not quite as well. The Ultra’s size is its asset and liability - yes, the large screen is awesome for videos and Web browsing and is great for gaming too (that processor ensures zippy performance), but it simply is too big for one handed use.
What’s not so great about it?
The size factor apart (it does not fit easily in trouser pockets), we were a bit let down by the 8.0-megapixel camera on the device. It does not handle colours as well as we expected and even details tended to be washed out.
Should you buy it?
If budget is not an issue and you want a large display device for browsing the Web, mail and entertainment purposes, then the Ultra is a very good option. In our book, it was an excellent tablet. But as a large display phone? Ah well, it honestly is too big.
Traveller’s Quotient It has a great display. Is very portable for a tablet. Is dust proof and water resistant. And camera apart, it works a treat as a tablet. What more could a traveller ask for? Also consider If you are looking for a tablet alternative, we would suggest considering the iPad with Retina Display, which has a better display and more apps. But if you want to stick with Android, try out Sony’s own Xperia Z Tablet, which comes with a larger display and similar design. Want a large screen phone with similar resistance to water and dust? Try Sony’s own Xperia Z, which has a slightly better camera and is available for Rs 37,500. Price: Rs. 44,599 23
Tech for Travellers What makes it special?
Remember the Nokia Lumia 920 that was launched last year and was hailed as the most innovative phone of them all, but took flak for its slightly bulky design? The 925 fixes that flaw with an uber sleek and slim design with metallic sides, and throws an AMOLED display into the mix, while largely sticking to the very solid hardware that made the 920 rock.
How well does it work?
Quite brilliantly. The Lumia 920 was one of our favourite Windows Phone devices and the 925 is a very worthy successor, adding a classy appearance to what was already very good hardware, and decent software. Sound quality is very good and onboard apps include MS Office and Internet Explorer. And yes, it takes amazing low light images.
What’s not so great about it?
Well, if you are the type that likes to download and try out stacks of apps, then the Lumia 925 is not for you - Windows Phone 8 just does not have the kind of apps that iOS and Android do. Some might also not be too pleased at the absence of expandable storage - you are pretty much limited to the 16GB onboard.
Should you buy it?
If what you are looking for is a very good high-end smartphone that looks sleek as well and have a budget of under Rs 35,000, then this is perhaps your best option, especially given the quality of the display and the camera.
Nokia Lumia 925 SLIM SLEEK LUMIA NIMISH DUBEY
The Lumia 925 is an excellent option for travellers. It looks classy, and although it is slippery thanks to the smooth metallic sides, it is solid enough to take a few falls. A decent camera, free music for a year and free maps for a lifetime (as with all Nokia Lumia devices) - and maps that can work without a cellular connection at that - round off what is a very good device indeed for those on the move.
If you prefer Windows Phone, then the Lumia 925’s predecessor, the Lumia 920, is a good option, with largely similar specs and greater onboard storage. It is retailing for Rs 30,990, when we last checked. It is a bit bulkier, but brings most of all that is good on the 925. If you are looking for Android in and around the same budget, try the Lenovo K900, which has a much bigger display but an excellent camera and rock solid build as well. Price: Rs. 33,499
Music for the Road by NIMISH DUBEY
THE CIVIL WARS The Civil Wars Rs. 150 (from iTunes) Think ‘folk’ and the mind conjures up images of people sitting around a fire and conjuring up gentle tunes. Well, Joy Williams and John Paul White have different notions of the word. The duo, better known as The Civil Wars, surprised the world by getting nominated for a Grammy for the Best Country Duo/Group Performance last year, and won accolades for their ability to mix rage with what’s basically a gentle genre of music, generating a sound that some brand ‘alternative.’ And they certainly have not got lost their touch in their second album - although they are not supposed to be on talking terms with each other. Yes, ‘Same Old Same Old,’ ‘Dust to Dust’ and ‘Eavesdrop’ do seem classic folk/country with melody blending with melancholy in a gentle mix. But then you also have numbers like ‘Devil’s Backbone’ which begins with Joy Williams singing a mournful chant that seems right out Led Zeppelin territory, ‘The One That Got Away’ that has an edge to it that rock acts would kill for, and the dramatic ‘I Had Me a Girl’ that borders on rock. Yes, the duo stick to gentler sounds more often than not, but what marks this album as special is the incredibly good instrumentation, marked by some superb guitaring, notably in tracks like ‘Disarm’ and ‘Secret Heart,’ backed up by singing that borders on the magnificent. All of which makes The Civil Wars well worth a listen. Truth be told, we like them when they get a bit angst-y, but even when in more traditional mode, their voices and music strike chords in one’s ears and heart. We sure hope they start talking to each other again. Meanwhile, thankfully, we have the option of listening to them.
Traveller’s Quotient Those who have not heard this brand of folk/country music might take some time to get used to it, especially on numbers like ‘I Had Me a Girl.’ Give it time, however, and it will grow on you. Just don’t expect it to set your feet tapping. Lady Antebellum they ain’t! 25
Music for the Road by NIMISH DUBEY
PARADISE VALLEY John Mayer Rs. 150 (from iTunes) He started out with a soft rock sound with elements of blues and pop seeping in from time to time. But of late, John Mayer seems to have gone folk and country with a vengeance. ‘Born and Raised’ last year showed him more at home with gently twanging guitars and mournful harmonicas, eschewing ‘edgy’ sound, and ‘Paradise Valley’ carries that tradition forward. Not that we are complaining, for the man does sing a soft song well. We found ourselves smiling gently at the opening ‘Wildfire,’ just loved his mellow take on the late JJ Cale’s legendary ‘Call Me the Breeze,’ and well, all those who live melody with a gentle peppy sound will love the typically gentle pace of ‘You’re No One ‘til Someone Lets You Down.’ Not that it always works ‘Dear Marie’ and ‘Waitin on the Day’ tended to grate a bit with their element of slow self-pity, and ‘Paper Doll’ peters out after after a sharp start. The piece de resistance of the set however is the duet between Mayer and his ex Katy Perry, who cast a magical spell in the steady yet slow Who You Love. Mayer’s still in country territory. And while the purist in us would wish for a few chords struck in anger from time to time, the music lovin’ part of us does not mind him in mellow mode either.
Traveller’s Quotient If you like your music to play quietly and unobtrusively while you focus on your road, then Paradise Valley is a very good option for you. It won’t jolt your senses, but will hum away pleasantly in your eyes.
Scott and Amundsen: The Last Place on Earth Roland Huntford 622 pages Rs. 499 (on Amazon Kindle at http://www.amazon.in/Scott-And-Amundsen-Place-ebook/dp/B008Q0DK4O/) NIMISH DUBEY In 1911-12, two teams participated in what was perhaps one of the most tragic races in human history. The target was to be the first to reach the South Pole. On one side was a team led by Robert Scott of the British Royal Naxy and on the other, one lead by Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer. They took different routes, used different methods, but had the same idea â€“ to be the first to plant their flag on the Pole. For weeks, they trudged through the snow across the barren continent of Antarctica. Both teams would reach the pole, but Scott and his teammates would not make it back, trapped as they were by bad weather and perhaps, poor planning. And it is this race that is captured in telling detail in Roland Huntford in The Last Place of Earth. Huntford delves deep into the lives of both Scott and Amundsen, and unlike many biographers, refuses to be dazzled by their heroism. Which is what makes this book such compelling reading. As the two men battle to the Pole, Huntford describes their journeys with great narrative skill. You can feel the cold wind howling in the air, and taste the despair that Scott must have felt when he realized that he and his men would not make it back. The book has attracted a fair deal of controversy for its criticism of Scott and his methods, but we would still put it right there among the greatest books we have ever read.
Travellerâ€™s Quotient An excellent companion for travellers, we think, as it captures the excitement of one of the most spectacular and tragic events in human history. Yes, it is thick, but you will be feverishly turning pages to find out what happens next. 27
The Top Gear Years Jeremy Clarkson 524 pages Rs. 347 (on Amazon Kindle at http://www.amazon.in/The-Top-Gear-Years-ebook/dp/B0097JYUH4/ ) NIMISH DUBEY Although he is best known as the slightly eccentric and extremely outspoken host of arguably the most popular TV show on cars, Top Gear, not too many people know that Jeremy Clarkson can wield a pretty wicked pen too. His writing is every bit as cynical and hilarious as his TV show hosting, and he has written a number of books (eleven when we last counted), including the hilarious ‘The World According to Clarkson’ series. That apart, he has also been a regular contributor to Top Gear magazine for almost two decades now. The Top Gear Years is a collection of Clarkson’s best for Top Gear magazine, right from 1993 to 2011 (why not 2012/13, we wonder, as the book’s paperback edition hit India in 2013, but then publishers can be odd!) and well, it is a laugh riot, even if you do not like cars particularly. For this is Clarkson at his venomous, hilarious and politically incorrect best. “Would I rather be governed by a bunch of German bankers? What? Instead of Tony Bloody Blair? Too damn right I would,” he declares while writing about the Rover in 2006. Yes, most of the writing is about cars but it is also about what Clarkson feels, and that for us, is what makes the book special. Read it, and you will find yourself laughing a fair bit and shaking your head in wonder at how Clarkson manages to say what he does. And of course, bless him for saying so.
Traveller’s Quotient Very high. Yes, even if you do not like cars. The book is a collection of relatively small, independent pieces, so you can open it at any place, read a bit and laugh a lot. There are not too many books about which we can say that!
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FOR PICTURES THAT SAY
‘HERE I AM’! NIMISH DUBEY
At one level, there seems to be nothing special about InstaPlace, an app available for Android and iOS phones. Some might say it only adds the name of a place to your photographs, and a few words from you. Fair enough. But it is HOW it does that that makes the app so irresistible. In simple terms, all you need to do is take a picture - you can shoot one from within the app, or just select an existing one from your gallery. The app will try to guess your current location and place it on the picture. If you are happy enough with that, go right ahead. You can also change the location using the select place option - the app uses data from FourSquare and Facebook. That done, the app then displays the location on your picture, not as a small caption, but in large letters, creating a pretty stunning effect, we think. There are a number of preset captions based on food and drink, travel, holidays, etc., and you can also add some words of your own, if necessary. As if that were not enough you can even take a picture and slap how far you are from your destination on top of it. And of course, you can share you pictures with the locations emblazoned on them on social networks, over mail and so on. “Only” adds location to your pictures, eh? Well, we still think it is a must have for travellers who take snaps with their handsets. You can get it for Rs 110 from Google Play or the iTunes App Store or put up with some ads and go for a free version.
App: InstaPlace Works with: iPhone, Android phones Available from: Google Play, iTunes App Store Price: $1.99 (Rs 110 approx.) or free (ad supported) 30
BEAT THIS, INSTAGRAM! NIMISH DUBEY
When it comes to editing using ‘filters’ - those layers that are placed over photographs to change their appearance totally - Instagram is considered to be the best option by many users. We would beg to differ. Yes, it certainly is very good and simple to use and its huge community of users add a social element to it which perhaps even Flickr cannot match. But if all you are looking for are filters that can put a spin on your photographs, then we would ask you to give Autodesk’s Pixlr-o-matic a try. It has many more filters than Instagram - Instagram has slightly over a dozen, this one has dozens, and what’s more throws a number of frames and effects into the mix as well. And all this, without - please note - compromising the resolution of the image itself. The result: you have literally hundreds of permutations and combinations to play around with. And all of very good quality - hey, the app comes from the legendary Autodesk, known for its engineering and 3D design software. Yes, it has no community around it like Instagram does, and might seem more complicated to some. But for us, what really counts is the fact that it lets us tweak images spectacularly without too much fuss. Definitely worth trying out, not least because well, it costs nothing.
App: Pixlr-o-matic Works with: iPhone, Android phones Available from: Google Play, iTunes App Store Price: Free
MS. BUSINESS DIVA ON TRAVEL
How to maintain your sanity, clinch the deal AND look good doing it! NEENA JHANJEE
Zipping around the world on business sounds glamorous, but can be quite taxing. Dealing with red-eye flights, airline food, jetlag and negotiations when you may not necessarily be at your optimal self is not easy - especially so with males who expect that a CEO should be a man! Preparing yourself for the business trip is thus very important. A few tips: * Understand the business protocol and customs of the country you’re headed to. * Learn to greet your business host in his or her language and never be late to a meeting. * Print your business cards in English on one side and in the language of the host country on the other. * Dress appropriately; dress down, not up. Wear light make-up; you want business contacts to concentrate on your message - not on how attractive you are. * Be gracious and not offended if you’re seated separately with women at meals, it’s just the culture in some countries. * Get enough sleep, hydrate, avoid alcohol; if you want to clinch the deal, you’d better be sharp not fuzzy-headed. * Try to find hotels that are women friendly or have women-only floors. * Even the lightest laptop bag gets heavy when you’re zipping through airports. So buy one on wheels that can hold your laptop with one set of clothes, makeup and important meeting files. * Finally, I always take a bathing suit and shorts along. One never knows when you get a few hours to relax and explore.
Neena Jhanjee has recently launched her travel venture Diva Odysseys (http://www.divaodysseys.com) which offers experiential, luxury travel for women. 32
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Published on Sep 1, 2013
Published on Sep 1, 2013
Check out the September 1, 2013 edition of the Kunzum Magazine - and join us in our travels through images and stories. We also cover music,...