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Issue 04 | October 2011

T R A V E L

M A G

Gujarat Postcards from


Things are stirring at Kunzum Sometimes you can just feel it in the air. The journey of Kunzum started in 2007 on the Kunzum La (pass) in the high altitude region of Lahaul Spiti in the Indian Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. It has been one awesome ride since then. Things have been progressing at a steady pace since, with many a milestone crossed during the period. But all activity has largely been low decibel. However, we can feel a certain stirring within. It has little to do with the changing season around us. Something tells us the fifth year of Kunzum could be a wee bit explosive. How? Our traffic to the site is growing at a rapid pace. So are the fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Footfalls at the Kunzum Travel Café ensure we are mostly busy. Sponsors and advertisers are biting. We have been in the news too. But these are just two swallows, and they do not always make a summer. The signs are there though. In the coming months, we have a series of new books coming out. Finally, we have a business model in place to roll out more Kunzum Travel Cafes - we have had only one since 2010. Quality hotels and travel service providers are ready for partnerships that should put us on a stronger financial footing. Apps under development will see our content being packaged in new ways; new features on our website should make the reading experience easier and provide better utility. Photography workshops at the Kunzum Media Lab have opened to an overwhelming response. We are adding team members, and are proud of those we already have on board. They are the ones who will enable us to leap forward. When we go road tripping, we only go with a fuzzy itinerary in mind. We allow the journey to take its own course. This is how we run our business too. We can feel good things are going to happen soon, but we don’t make business plans. It may confound investors and analysts, but this is how we are wired. After all, we are Kunzum.

contents

06 Postcards from Gujarat 18 Himachal Pradesh

Thanedar: The birthplace of apples in India

21 Rajasthan

Mount Abu: A quiet oasis in a desert state

26 Delhi Chor Minar: Making an example of thieves Khooni Darwaza: The gate with a bloody history Kinari Bazaar: Where colours change with seasons 32 Jordan

Wadi Rum: A vast, echoing and God-like desert

41 Hotel Reviews > Wild Grass Lodge, Kaziranga, Assam > Soulitude, Ramgarh, Uttarakhand 45 Stuff > The Wanderer’s Palate: Elai Adai > Travel Bites > Sketch Feature - Kanha National Park > Book Review: Being a Scot > The Handwritten Travelogue

team kunzum

CTO (Chief Travelling Officer): Ajay Jain - He also hogs the driver’s seat

CEO (Chief Editorial Officer): Anubhuti Rana - Prefers being on the passenger seat on the highways

CSO (Chief Social Officer): Shruti Sharma

- Found on Facebook, Twitter, Kunzum Travel Café or trekking in the wild

CDO (Chief Design Officer): Faizan Patel

- Also Chief Desk Officer, that’s where he is stuck when others travel

Samridhi Minocha - A big welcome to our new team member

*Unless mentioned, all articles and photographs in this issue are by Ajay Jain

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Missed the earlier issues of the Kunzum Travel Mag? No problem. Download the same at http://kunzum.com/mag. This is what we have covered:

Issue 1, July 2011 RAJASTHAN / RANTHAMBHORE: > Looking the tiger in the eye NAGALAND: Misty Mountain Top The re-discovery of NEPAL LADAKH: At the top of the world HIMACHAL PRADESH / LAHAUL SPITI > Kaza: Paradise is Here > Tabo, the Village of Cavemen and Lamas DELHI > Mehrauli Archaeological Park: Bet no one tells you this one > Hazrat Nizamuddin’s Dargah: Qawwalis, Fairs, Prayers, Shopping – It all happens here BOOKS: > 5 books to read about the 1996 Everest disaster

GUJARAT > Rani ki Vav in Patan: A Stepwell or a Work of Art? > The Sun Temple at Modhera JORDAN > Dead Sea: Try sinking in it, you cannot! HOTEL REVIEWS > Swaswara in Gokarna, Karnataka - Perfect to uplift your body, mind and soul > Banasura Island Retreat, Wayanad Kerala What a perfect setting for a resort > Banjara Camps and Retreat, Sangla, Himachal Pradesh Cannot Admire it Enough > Gir Birding Lodge, Sasan Gir, Gujarat - They know the jungle!

Issue 2, aUGUST 2011 Assam: > Manas National Park: The Games Elephants Play Arunachal Pradesh: > Hello Ladies…of Arunachal Pradesh Himachal Pradesh Maharashtra: > The Matheran Light Railway: Go for a Joyride Uttarakhand > Kunzum Route K14 Delhi > If it’s Ramadan, you must be in Matia Mahal > Walk on the Northern Ridge: History in One Sweep

Rajasthan > Kuldhara, Jaisalmer: When the Paliwals Vanished into the Night > Bera: Welcome to Leopard Country - It is Wild and Free HOTEL REVIEWS > Banjara Retreat, Shoja > The Almond Villa, Srinagar > Rann Riders, Dasada, Rann of Kutch > Devra Homestay, Udaipur Stuff > Sketch Feature - Singapore > Photography: Don’t let the Camera go Dead on you > Book Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Issue 3, SEPTEMBER 2011 A Journey to Kashmir, on Kunzum Route K11 Delhi > Join the annual Dussehra Procession Safdarjung’s Tomb Tamil Nadu: The Niligiri Mountain Railway A Toy Train you must Ride Rajasthan Jodhpur: Food, Bazaars, History - It all Happens Here

Hotel Reviews > Castle Bera, Bera, Rajasthan Rain Country Resorts > Wayanad, Kerala >The Blackbuck Lodge, Velavadar, Gujarat > Banjara Orchard Retreat, Thanedar, Himachal Pradesh Stuff > Travel Bites: Don’t be Jet-Lagged this Holiday Season > Sketch Feature - Malaysia > Book Review: River Dog


Feel the wind. Explore. Ride away. On a 500 cc motorbike. There may be no better way to see India. Decide your own route, or take one of our recommendations.

Bike rentals | Tour Advisories | Guided Tours.

www.royalindiabikes.com | +91.99100 12597 | +91.9871697719 | rajiv@royalindiabikes.com North India – rajiv@royalindiabikes.com ; saiba@royalindiabikes.com | South India – malvikaa@gmail.com


Post Cards from

Gujarat

A lioness atop a hill

I

f you like surprises, go to Gujarat. The state does not come up for discussion too often when friends and family make travel plans - but a treasure trove awaits the traveller in this state.

Gujarat has everything you can ask for. Wild animals, migratory birds, festivals, culture, landscapes, history, architecture, food, beaches, mountains - all this, and more. One cannot cover enough ground in one visit, nor can one catch all the flavours and colours till one travels during different seasons. I drove through the state sometime back, and here are select postcards I would have sent you had I known you at the time. 06


The famed Patola saree of Patan

Spent a night in Udaipur, and stopped at Patan first after crossing into Gujarat. To meet Rohit Salve, who claims his is the only family in the world who makes the famed original Patola saree the way it should be. Back in the 11th century, 700 families were engaged in Patola art under the patronage of Solanki kings who ruled from Patan. They were invited to migrate from Jalna in south Maharashtra and settle here. Over time, artisans migrated or sought alternate professions, and the art has since then become near extinct.

Rohit Salvi (L) and his brother at work

Patola was always coveted – a folk song sung by women for their traveling husbands in Gujarat: “O my dear! Do bring the precious Patola from Patan for me.” The same song in Gujarati: “Chhelaji re, mare hatu Patan thi Patola mongha lavjo.” Traveller Ibn Batuta presented kings with Patolas to gain their friendship. These also found their way to Malaysia, Indonesia and other South-East Asian countries. One saree takes 4-6 months to make. And costs Rs. 1,50,000 - 4,00,000 (US$ 30008000). The Salvis are booked for six years. Two Salvis manage to progress only 8-9 inches a day on a cloth 48 inches wide. It is woven on a slanting hand operated harness loom made of teakwood and bamboo strips. If you got a Patola saree that is cheaper than that, it may not be the real thing. Sorry folks, your treasure of Patola may not be as ‘treasured.’ Rohit Salvi says anyone who claims to make Patola is not doing it the true and original way. Their technique is called ‘Double Ikat,’ others follow ‘Single Ikat.’ Patola art lies is colouring silk threads by ‘tie and dye’ or Bandhani method by making the desired pattern at weaving stage. You have got to see it to understand this. And there is no reverse side – both sides have the same intensity of colour and design. Natural vegetable dyes are used. Some raw materials include turmeric, marigold flowers, onion skin, pomegranate bark, madder, lac, catechu, cochineal and indigo.

The ‘tie and dye’ or Bandhani process

07


A design is repeated only once in many years. The design for the wall piece that was work in progress when I visited was being repeated after 150 years. True Patola comes with the promise of natural colours to last hundreds of years even if the fabric tears. A framed piece on the wall was 300 years old. Will Patola art die after Rohit Salvi’s generation? He is confident the baton will continue to be passed for many more generations. We certainly hope so.

I also visited the Rani Ki Vav, a beautiful stepwell in Patan and the Sun Temple in nearby Modhera. Read about both of these in the July edition of the Kunzum Travel Mag.

Chasing the Wild Ass in the Rann of Kutch The Little Rann of Kutch is best known for the Indian Wild Ass, or the Ghudkhar as called locally. Thousands roam the desert but they are still tagged ‘endangered.’ First look: They are not bad looking at all. Quite fair, much smarter turned out than the common donkeys. Sharper facial features and they could pass for ponies for children. But they can match up to the strength and speeds of horses, weighing up to 230 kgs and managing speeds of upto 70 kmph (45 miles per hour). Wonder if they are as

intelligent as horses? They once roamed across NorthWest India, West Pakistan and Iran but are now found in the Rann only. The Ghudkhars are a sturdy lot, withstanding extremes of weather, a terrain without shade that gets droughts and floods in equal measure. Meals include fodder, scrubby grass and sweet water. Their life span is 2025 years. Breeding season is August to October – away from the prying eyes of tourists when the region is mostly closed. Gestation period is 11 months,

and kids are ready to join the herd in a short time. I managed to spot a few herds, getting as close as possible without scaring them away. But they sense an approaching UFO on wheels and make a run for it. Keep your cameras ready with shutter speeds set at 1/500 or faster. You have to be very unlucky not to spot them. But abuse them and their habitat, and the last remaining ones could disappear too.


Dholavira: People lived here 5,000 years ago And here I was: on the site where people once lived in the 3rd Millennium B.C. Imagine the remains still exist. Don’t let your imagination wander, it can cause vertigo. The site was discovered only in 196768 by Jagatpati Joshi with excavations starting only in 1990 under Dr. R.S. Bisht. The site is known as Kotada in Gujarat. Spread over 100 hectares, it is one of the five biggest from the Harappan period in the Indo-Pak region. The entrance to the city had a signboard of 10 Harappan characters; it still exists and is the oldest signboard in the world. Strangely enough it is locked away from

the public eye. The citadel in the south comprised two fortified sections: the castle in the east and the bailey in the west. Royalty stayed in the former and their servants in the latter. Beyond the bailey lay the burial ground – graves dug up reveal personal belongings that were buried along with the deceased. The middle town lies to the north, separated from the citadel by a large ceremonial ground or stadium with a capacity of over 10,000. Dholavira stands out for its unique water management system, with 10 reservoirs feeding one into the next. These stored fresh water for the bustling city and are partly bedrock

and partly made of masonry. Steps lead to the water level. Water came by constructing dams on the Manher and Mansar rivers – the city lay between the banks of these cities. Another source was a well in the citadel area. Some of the excavations from the site included beads and ornaments made of stones, shells, terracotta, gold, silver etc. Seals, weights and measures and terracotta animal figurines have also been found here. According to my guide said excavation had stopped since 2005 due to lack of funds. This problem can be taken care of if Dholavira gets the UNESCO World Heritage Status. It certainly deserves it.


The white and watery Rann around Dholavira The Rann region makes for great sightings – the landscapes are unlike any you will see – vast expanses of white salt, brown sand or just water. I stopped with a start when I noticed what looked like a sheet of ice half-way between Rapar and Dholavira. Only these were crystals of salt stretching far into the horizon. The white Rann is best seen on full moon night; I happened to be there on a moonless one. But saw many other hues in the evening and morning sun. The landscape of the Rann in Dholavira

itself is very beautiful. It is white and watery with a rough path for cars going through it. To enter the area, you need permission from the Border Security Force (BSF) who form a protective shield against neighbouring Pakistan. The path goes to their last post 13 miles away. And then it is 25 miles of water till the border – no one can cross it says BSF.

venture on to the salt beds gingerly to take pictures – with no one to hear my calls for help if it came to that. Got some stunning sunsets. I was all alone, and there was not a sound. Or any life form as far as I could see. Could have sat around contemplating for hours – where do you get to be with yourself like this? The photographs speak for themselves.

My first reaction as I drive in: more beautiful than the Dead Sea. But not advisable to step in. In the Dead Sea, you cannot sink. Here, you can only sink and no one can help you. Did

BSF advised me to return before it got dark. The headlights of my car could be seen as unwanted territorial intruders setting off army gunfire in my direction. Ouch, that would have hurt.


Lakhpat, the original trading port The Lakhpat fort stands on the NorthWest corner of the Great Rann, and faces the Pakistan border to the north. It also serves as a symbolic fortification against enemy intrusion.

The first sight of the fort was IMPRESSIVE! I could see it from over three miles away – it sure has one hell of a span for any wide angle to capture in one go. Lakhpat was a bustling trading town on the banks of a tributary of Indus river before the latter changed course. There is still a village settled inside. The NorthSouth walls were built by Rao Lakhpatji in the mid-18th century; some of the buildings inside pre-date that. Fateh Muhammed expanded these to what we see today in 1801. I drove into the Lakhpat fort – there are no restrictions.

This is the gate where caravans laden with goods for trading entered in the past; a toll window levied fee and customs on visitors and goods entering the city. It was called Bhuj Varo Nako and Toll Gate. An interesting building is the Pir Kamalshah Dargah with a legend around it. In the mid-19th century, Kamalshah, a holy man respected by both Hindus and Muslims, was brought from Kokliya, neat the port city of Mandvi to Lakhpat to be buried. Upon arrival, the gatekeeper refused entry to the funeral party. No problem. Kamalshah came back to life, entered as a ‘live’ person, lived for a month and then passed away again to be finally buried here. Believe it or not. I was invited up a watch tower by two

BSF soldiers – one from Haryana, the other from Andhra Pradesh. They just stay here all the time – I don’t want their job. They pointed out to the Great Rann spread below – and generally in the direction of their posts five miles out and one at pillar number 1145. About 10 miles further is the Pakistan border – the Great Rann and Harami Nala separate the two countries. The latter is a river that flows from Pak into India and back. The soldiers proudly said the BSF has a few RTVs from Italy – the only vehicles suited to drive across the Rann desert. Broad tyre marks were clearly visible on salt beds. The desert looked a mix of water, clay and salt. It’s all white when dry – and I have seen stunning images of it being lit up under a full moon night! I had my timing wrong.

The main entrance to the Lakhpat fort

Pir Kamalshah Dargah

A view of the Great Rann from the fort

A BSF soldier posted at the fort; standing on a tower with the remains of an old cannon


A Division of AsiAn ADventures T: +91-11-44128785, M: +91-9811704651, E: wildindiatours@vsnl.com, W: www.asianadventures.net


The big cats of Gir

And here I am in the Gir National Park - home to the last of the Asiatic lions on this planet. Will I meet any?

The elusive leopard

Before I met the lions, I encountered a leopard. The latter are very rare to spot - especially in the daytime. But my guide pointed to something blurry in the shadows of some trees. It was a leopard! It was just sitting there – on the lookout for a hunt said the guide. Not sensing any prey, it walked off after a few minutes. And then I struck gold - four lions in a single safari. The first was a big lioness sitting atop a hill. Royally. It could not be bothered with sudden vehicular activity a few metres away. She looked around, yawned, and lay down for an afternoon siesta. Just when I thought the safari had paid for itself, I was in for a bonus: a lioness with two cubs, a male almost two years old and another six months. The gender of the younger one was not clear yet. The guide managed to bend the rules and take the car off track, close to where the lions were resting. Allowing me to click away up close and with some time at hand. Usually lionesses give birth once in three years according to the guide. They mate only when the offspring is almost an adult. A lioness must also protect her cubs from male lions. A male can kill the cub if only to evoke a desire in the woman to have another kid and thus be available for mating.

The elder of the lion cubs

The younger cub lets out a long yawn

The mother lion


Meeting Blackbucks, the sweetest ones, in Velavadar As far as sanctuaries go, Velavadar is the sweetest one. It is home to Blackbucks, beautiful members of the deer family. But don’t let the gentle beauty of Blackbucks fool you. One moment they will be standing quietly, gazing peacefully, and the next moment they take home the silver medal in running events clocking speeds of 80 kmph (50 miles per hour). Only the Cheetah pips them to the post. Velavadar has the highest concentration of the endangered Blackbucks anywhere. I happened to call upon the Blackbucks during their peak fawning period

of March – April (the other being September – October). When the males are not mating, they are locking horns to get the women for themselves. More than a pair were spotted fighting by me. Each male has its territories, but we know how politics works. But do they really need to spar? It seemed there were more than enough females going around for all. But then again, men will be men. The male blackbucks sport horns; the younger ones have a brown coat that get blacker as they mature. No racist talks here. Females are brown. And they all like to live as large herds. Any

room in the harem? The open grasslands of Velavadar suits the blackbucks just fine. They have a life span of up to 15 years, can be 120 cm long with shoulder heights of 73-83 cm and weigh between 32-42 kilos. I could have looked at Blackbucks for hours. Even they would not stop looking at me – curious about the Martian in their land. But a single step in their direction, and they would flee. Distance to Velavadar: Ahmedabad (200 kms), Bhavanagar (52 kms), Palitana (110 kms), Lothal (125 kms), Alang (107 kms)


Lothal, the ancient Harappan Civilization site After Dholavira a few days ago, I was advised to visit Lothal, another major Harappan town of the ancient Indus River Valley civilization. Lothal was discovered in 1954, with excavations being carried out from 1955-62 to reveal most of what can be seen today. Strangely, Lothal means ‘mound of the dead.’ Shudder, sounds very ominous! Not the best of ideas to camp here for the night. Folks buried here are old, very old. You never know

how they may behave. Lothal dates to circa 2500-1900 B.C. Trick question: How many centuries ago is that? The town’s chief lived in the Acropolis, with houses built on 3 metre high platforms and provided with all civic amenities like paved baths, underground drains and a well for potable water. The lower town was divided into the commercial district where craftsmen worked, the other being the residential sector.

Excavations have revealed, - among other things - beads; seals and sealings; shell, copper, ivory and bronze objects; tools; animal and human figurines; weights; ritual objects etc. Lothal was an important overseas trading port, and its prosperity was based on business in semi precious stone beads, copper, ivory, shell and cotton goods with West Asia. Discovery of objects of Persian Gulf origin and terracotta figures of gorillas and mummies indicate strong international connections.

Explore Gujarat on a Chakkra If you are a traveler with a sense of adventure, hire a Chakkra to explore Gujarat. You just need to be a very patient traveler. These are like auto rickshaws, powered by one of those World War styled motorcycles. In some ways they are like the Tuk-Tuks of Thailand; they also

move in a kind of front-back oscillating movement going chak-chak-chak-chak or tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk. They rattle, they shake, they can be smoking from any or all sides, they are noisy - but seem to boast a stable centre of gravity.

be room for more. It never topples. You will find Chakkras everywhere: on country roads, on the state’s new super highways, in villages and in cities. Coming at you from all sides including the wrong one.

How many do they seat? I have counted 20 at most. But there always seems to

Are you picking one for yourself and going on a ride soon?


HIMACHAL PRADESH

Thanedar The birthplace of apples in India

T

he next time you bite into a juicy apple from Himachal Pradesh, thank American Samuel Evan Stokes for it. He came to India on a leprosy mission in 1904, and was advised to recuperate in Kotgarh near Thanedar in Himachal when the heat of the plains got to him. With time to kill, he experimented with planting the apples we know today; the success of his efforts transformed the economy of the state, flooding the Indian market with apples in the following decades. Many a doctor has since been kept away. The Barobagh estate still bears fruit - it is the site of Stokes’ first plantations. Located a few miles from Narkanda

beyond state capital Shimla, Thanedar is the original apple country. And an all year destination for travellers. Spring is the time when the area is resplendent with apple blossoms. Summers are for respite from the heat in the plains. And soon enough, it is time for apple plucking in August and September. No one will mind if you volunteer to pick the fruit and pack it in crates - or help make chutneys and juices. Remuneration will be a few bites of the fruit. A crisp but enjoyable cold sets in from late-October onwards with some snow in peak winters. Roads and services stay open, ensuring you have a great time. While in Thanedar, just being in the fruit

bearing orchards is joyful enough. You can also take walks in the forests, go up to the nearby Hatu peak at 11,000 feet (3353 metres) to admire the panoramic views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks or just picnic in the plentiful meadows. You may drop in at the St. Mary’s Church, built in 1843, where Stokes first stayed or at the Parmjyotir Temple built by him. Consider a day hike to the Tani Jubbar Lake, 6 kms (4 miles) away with a Nag Devta (Serpent King) temple around it. Indulge in all of these and your cup of joyful experiences shall spilleth over! Thanedar is a hidden gem, tucked away from any noise and pollution, but easily accessible. Looks like you can visit Thanedar in any season.

The little bird says: We recommend you stay at the Banjara Orchard Retreat (http://www.banjaracamps. com) in Thanedar; it is a gorgeous property set amidst orchards. The owner Prakash Thakur makes for a wonderful host and will delight you with stories and history of the place. 18


Travel Tips • Weather: Pleasant summers with rain from June - August. Spring and autumn can be cold in the evenings. Temperature can drop to freezing in winters alongwith some snow. • Best time to go: All year round. You may need to watch out for days of heavy rain or snow. • How to reach: Drive up or catch a flight to Shimla and go by road from there. Or take the Toy Train from Kalka to Shimla. • Distances: Shimla: 64 kms (40 miles); Delhi: 466 kms (291 miles). Refer to Kunzum Route K13 (http:// kunzum.com/2010/11/03/driving-guide-delhi-to-lahaul-spiti-kaza-and-tabo-nako-sangla-thanedar-andback) for driving directions. • Accommodation: Your best option by far is Banjara Camps (http://www.banjaracamps.com). There are a few other hotels and guest houses for all budgets. • Recommended Stay: At least 2 days. • Nearby Attractions: Visit Narkanda, Kufri, Chail, Shimla and Mashobra - all a half / full day excursion away. Or head further to Shoja, Sangla or even Lahaul Spiti for an extended trip. 19


Camp Pinewood Trails is set in the heart of Himachal Pradesh and 30 minutes drive from a small town Kandaghat on the Chail Road, Camp Pinewood Trails is surrounded by lush cedar forests. It offers unlimited options for hikes along meandering hilly trek routes. A short trek above the camp is yet another rejuvenating experience with magnificent views to greet you. Softer options are a quiet relaxing stroll around the campsite and cosy naps under the sun. Whatever you choose its bound to be memorable and invigorating. Location: Situated in the valley at Sadhupul, 12 kms away from Kandaghat on the KandaghatChail road, 17 kms before Chail in Himachal Pradesh. Its well laid-out, safe, healthy and easily accessible.

15

06

• Accommodation and facilities: We have a Cluster of Fifteen 12’ x 12’ size, sturdy tents with ground bedding and sleeping bags, Bathing/washing and toilet facilities (Western), and an open dining space. Activities: • Adventure Activities: Rappelling, Commando Net, Burma Bridge, Flying Fox, Tyrolean Traverse, Bridge slithering, Double rope bridge. • Games: Volleyball, Badminton, Carom, and Chess. • Trekking • Bird watching • Bonfire with loads of games, singing and interactive fun.

Address: 110, Aamrpali Apartments, Plot no-56, I.P. Extension, Patpar Ganj, Delhi -110092 Mobile: 9811213026/9873411989 Email: jeffrey@pinewoodtrails.com, alex@pinewoodtrails.com Website: http://pinewoodtrails.com/contactus.html


Mount abu

rajasthan

A quiet oasis in a desert state

M

ount Abu in Rajasthan may not qualify as a cool hill station for those used to the imposing Himalayas or the diverse Western Ghats, but it merits a place in the honours list nonetheless. Mount Abu may be a little infamous for attracting weekend tourists looking for a drink from nearby Gujarat, the only state where prohibition continues till date. Overlook that, and you have forests, moderate weather, religion and adventure all thrown into one. A roll call of its attractions reads as:

Dilwara Temples

Design and sculpture rarely get finer than at these Jain temples - every nook and corner seems like a labour of love and skill. The temples are so called because one’s heart, or Dil, has gone into making these says the guide. The oldest structure is the Vimal Vasahi temple built by Vimal Shah, a minister to the Bhima Dev I, the Solanki ruler of Gujarat. Work started in 1031 AD and took 14 years to complete at a cost of Rs. 18.53 crores at that time; 1500 artisans and 1200 labourers were employed for the purpose. Walk around to marvel at other creations including the Haathishala (Elephant Cell), Luna Vasahi Temple, Pittalhar Temple and Parshwanath Temple all built over a 500 year period.

Guru Shikhar

The highest point in Rajasthan at 5,653 feet, Guru Shikhar is located 15 kilometers from Mount Abu. With a temple and ancient cave for Lord Dattatreya, believed to be the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, this location is never short of devotees. Or picnickers. Offering 360 degrees picturesque views, you can also shop for tourist souvenirs here while munching on cheese or butter flavoured special ‘American Sweetcorn’ as advertised by vendors. For miracle seekers, go to the ‘miracle’ cave of Santoshi Maa. Buy Mal Kangni oil or Salamushi, a vegetable grown locally. Selling at fifty rupees a pack, it promises to rid you of all trouble within fifteen days. Try at your own risk though. 21


Achalgarh

‘Chai mein patti nahin to pine ka kya maza, Saath mein Ravi guide nahin to ghoomne ka kya mazaa’ (Just like tea is no fun without tea leaves, it is no fun to roam around without Ravi guide) is how the 12 year old guide Ravi sells his services the moment you reach Achalgarh. With a promise to narrate more poetry at the end of the tour of the fort and temples which can take half a day or more exploring. The fort, now more of a ruin, was built by Raja Kumbha in the fifteenth century. The place is visited more for its religious spots though. You have the Achaleswar Temple where the toe of Lord Shiva is worshipped. And the 500 year old Jain temples of Lord Adeshwar with 14 imposing statues made of gold and five other metals. As you explore the area, possible only on foot on inclined terrain, you can visit the temples of Chamunda Devi, Mahakali and Meerabai as well as the Gopichand Raja cave and the Shravan Bhado pond. Each with their own legend to tell.

Clockwise from left: Sign at a ‘novelty’ gift store at Guru Shikhar; A sign at Guru Shikhar; Sign for the miracle cave of Santoshi Maa at Guru Shikhar

Guru Shikhar near Mount Abu


Nakki Lake

Mount Abu is one of those towns whose identity is linked to their lakes. Legend says the Nakki Lake was dug out by the Gods using their nails, or Nakh, and hence its name and religious significance. It is another matter that the lake is used more for boating than a holy dip; the attached food kiosks and lawns ensure you have a good picnic here. The clean and pristine lake make boating a pleasure. If you come early morning you can even spot many species of birds.

Forests and Green Cover If you are seeking a date with a hyena, leopard, bear or a chinkara, head out to Mount Abu’s wildlife sanctuary. Even if you don’t spot any of these animals, you are sure to see one of the hundreds of langoor monkeys or over 250 species of birds. Mount Abu is surrounded by forests, and these seem to be on a recovery path after stringent laws put a check on rampant deforestation. The green cover is a pleasure to the eye and the soul, and also allow one to chart their own hiking course. The trails are

not very well defined though and you may want to take a guide along to avoid losing your way.

Rock Formations

Some act of nature seems to have given Mount Abu and the surrounding hills an abundance of strange looking rock formations. The most prominent one is the Toad Rock looking like a toad ready to plunge into the Nakki Lake. You have others in various shapes resembling some life forms like a skull or even versions of modern art. It is almost as if these were hand made; perhaps the Gods decided to get creative after they made Mount Abu as the legends go. A traveller can make a game out of spotting and clicking pictures of these rocks to come up with the best collection of all. At the end of a day of sightseeing, go to one of the sunset points and enjoy the views of the skies changing colours even as the valleys below come under a shadow for the night. This would make for a good ending to a day’s sightseeing.

Salamushi being sold at Guru Shikhar

Statues of bulls with the ruined fort in the background in Achalgarh One of the rock formations


A golden statue of the Nandi Bull at Achaleshwar temple in Achalgarh

The Jain temples in Achalgarh


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Chor Minar Making an example out of thieves. Ouch!

Delhi

I

f you were a thief during the reign of Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316), good luck to you.

Things would be fine as long as you were not caught and convicted. Else, chances are you would be sent off to the Chor Minar (Tower of Thieves) and hanged. If that was not bad enough, beheading followed (of course, by this time you will not know what is happening to you) and your head put on a spear – and then put up for public display through one of the 225 holes on the Chor Minar. Ouch! But if you want to know what real agony is, ask the Mongols. They were a pain in the you-know-what for Khilji, attacking him in waves all through his reign. Eventually, the emperor got disgusted, defeated them comprehensively, beheaded 8,000 of them and spiked them in Chor Minar. Or at least that’s how the legend goes. Another version: There was already a settlement of Mongols in Delhi (in the present day area of Mongolpuri) when another wave of Mongols came – but this time in peace to join their brothers. But Khilji saw them as a threat for the future and marched them all to Chor Minar. Some guys never win! While you are there, count the holes on the tower. But don’t let the creeps get to you!

Metro: Hauz Khas or Green Park Guide: It is in Hauz Khas Enclave in south Delhi. When on Aurobindo Marg and going from Yusuf Sarai in the direction of Qutab Minar, you have to take a left turn a little before IIT crossing. The security guards sometimes act queasy, but tell them you want to visit the Chor Minar. They have no right to stop you. 26


Delhi

Khooni Darwaza The gate with a bloody history

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o single archway in India has so much blood on its hands as the Khooni Darwaza (literally meaning the Bloody Gate). It is actually not a gate, but just an arch outside the Firoz Shah Kotla, and built by Sher Shah (1540-45).

Going back in time, Jahangir executed the sons of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana after assuming power; the latter was a favoured noble of his late father, Akbar, and was supposedly opposed to Jahangir being appointed Emperor. The bodies were left to rot to be preyed

upon by birds. His grandson Aurangzeb, who forcibly seized the throne from his father Shahjahan, killed his own elder brother Dara Shikoh and put his head here on public display.

to the waist and shot them point blank. The bodies were subsequently left to rot for days in the sun in front of the kotwali (police station) in Chandni Chowk.

During the Great Revolt of 1857, the British secured the surrender of the then Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar. On September 22, Captain Hodson was taking the Emperor’s sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan and grandson Mirza Abu Bekar from Humayun’s Tomb when a huge crowd gathered around Khooni Darwaza as they were crossing it. Fearing they would attack and free the princes, the captain stripped them

The gate also saw mayhem during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947; many refugees were murdered here by rioting crowds while on the way to the safety of Purana Qila (Old Fort) where the Government had set up a camp for them. The gate may look docile, but it sure has gory stories to tell. Carry some smelling salts if they are too much for you.

Guide: The Khooni Darwaza is located between the entrances to the Maulana Azad Medical College and Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi’s main cricket stadium named after an adjoining fort by the same name. The gate stands on the central divider of the Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, the Fleet Street of Delhi where major newspapers are headquartered. The area is commonly referred to as ITO, after the Income Tax Office building. 27


A picture may be worth a thousand words But the Kunzum PhotoTalkies are a journey in themselves

What are PhotoTalkies? Simply put, these are photo essays - only packing a bigger punch. With more images and supporting text than an essay you would see in a newspaper or a magazine. Current versions have been designed as a PDF - to be viewed on any device supporting this format. But it is best seen on an iPad. And these are all FREE! Looks like it is the season of freebies from Kunzum. http://kunzum.com/phototalkies 26


Old Delhi

Kinari Bazar Where colours change with seasons

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ost of what glitters is not gold here, but this is where you go to jazz up for any occasion. Royally. Shopkeepers trace Kinari Bazaar back to the mid-17th century when Mughal Emperor Shahjahan built the Red Fort and the city of Shahajahanabad around it – the area referred to as Chandni Chowk or Old Delhi now. Called the Anarkali Bazaar at the time, royal ladies would come here in their palanquins to shop, especially for fabrics embroidered with zari (traditionally threads of gold and silver; you also have them with cheaper metals now). Locals call it the Rang Badalta Hua Bazaar or the market that keeps changing its colours. And it sure does. The wares on offer vary with the festivals

of Raksha Bandhan, Janmashtami, Dusshera and Diwali – and for the great Indian wedding season. Grooms and brides can hire or buy their traditional wedding dresses here including sarees, lehngas, bridal veils, sherwani suits (long coats buttoned up to the neck for grooms) or the sehra (headgear for groom) as well as jewelry, churas (bangles worn by bride), garlands made of silver and gold confetti (some with crisp, real currency notes for creating an impression) – it is vital to go to Kinari Bazaar for the most important day of one’s life. And there is more. If you want to hide behind a mask, you can pick up a costume here. You can get one for different animals, deities and mythological figures – in demand 29


during festive seasons, for theatre and by Bollywood (the Monkey Man suit was in high demand after one was used in the flick, Delhi 6). Other pickings include decorative streamers, artificial flowers, gift wrappings of all kinds, fancy lights – the list goes on to suit all tastes.

This is also a place to bump into a lot of Page 3 designers and foreign tourists; we met some Argentinians who buy beads, make them into fancy necklaces and sell them on the streets of Europe during the summer. And then they are back to India to backpack around with the money.

It’s even more fun during the festive season. Rakhees (bands tied by sisters on brothers’ wrists on Raksha Bandhan as a promise of protection by the latter) of every conceivable design can be bought here. During Dusshera and Diwali, you can pick up costumes, mock weapons used by the warriors of the time and decorative candles and diyas (wax and oil lamps). These festivals mark the victory of good over evil and the homecoming of Hindu God Rama. During Janmashtami, you can celebrate the birthday of Lord Krishna with things to make Jhankis – decorative altars depicting His birth and life.

Shopping Tip: Browse patiently before you get what you want, and bargain hard.

Walk past the shops selling the above and you will reach the beads market – of all shapes, sizes, colours and designs. Pick these up and make your own jewelry or add some zing to your wardrobe.

Metro: Chawri Bazaar or Chandni Chowk Guide: Kinari Bazaar is located off Dariba Kalan (the jewelers’ and silver market) – the latter can be accessed both from the road leading to Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk (the main thoroughfare). You can come in from the opposite end from Paranthewali Gali. 30


We travel. And come back with stories and images. And we put all these great holiday ideas as the

travel list

1-25 1-25 1-25 1-25 1-25

ttrra v isssttt l eeee vvv le llllllll ttrraaaa ii i v i sstt t r ajaajajay yay jain jain yjain jain jain ay ja aj a

The Kunzum Travel List is a compilation of great holiday ideas for you to choose from. From all across India, Nepal and the rest of the subcontinent. Holidays you will cherish, and remember for a lifetime. Something you will share with others and evoke envy - prompting friends to ask you more so they too can head out on the same path. All put together in the form of books for you.

Want to have a great time travelling? Visit http://kunzum.com/travellist The Kunzum Travel List is currently available as an e-book in PDF format and for the iPad and Kindle. 27


Jordan

Wadi Rum A Vast, Echoing and God-Like Desert

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adi Rum in Jordan offers one of the most magnificent desert landscapes in the world, and was described by the Lawrence of Arabia as ‘vast, echoing and God-like.’ Mountains of sandstone and granite rise from open valleys, reaching heights of 1,700 metres. Sand and wind have made these rock features fascinating to watch. An evening desert safari

You cannot be in Jordan and not do a safari across this desert. I went for an evening one lasting a couple of hours, but you really need a few days to explore all attractions. The tour starts at the visitor centre where you are first shown a short film, and given an opportunity to buy local handicrafts. And then you are off in open jeeps that look like 4×4 though I doubt they have the power. But they work. In my case, a Mickey Mouse blanket had been spread on 32

the top as sun protection. Cute! As we drove around, so did the landscape with us! Each rock feature was unique and looking different as every passing minute gradually changed the evening colours. We stopped when a photo opportunity came along – this meant every few minutes. The area of 720 square kms is virtually untouched by humans, and is still home to many nomadic Bedouin tribes; their goat hair tents and goat herds are still a feature of the landscape. Wadi Rum

also has a fragile eco-system, and is home to small populations of Syrian Wolf, Striped Hyena, Nubian Ibex and many species of insects, small mammals, reptiles and migratory birds of prey. An attempt is also being made to reinstate the Arabian Oryx, nearly extinct now with excessive hunting. They are currently being bred in captivity to be eventually released in the wild. Not so long back, these animals could be seen roaming freely in the desert. Unfortunately, I did not see any animal life while I was there.


27


Camel safaris with cheerful Bedouins

I went exploring Wadi Rum in a jeep safari but would recommend you try a camel safari too. I would have too if I had the time. You can do so for any period of time – an hour to many days. They are conducted by the local Bedouins – a cheerful lot! They allowed me to click them, and not one of them pestered me for money or for booking a ride. They just kept grinning and smiling. And I did push my luck to get good angles with the camels – getting close to their backsides (thank God no vapours, explosions or gooey stuff came my way) and trying to get their dentures up close in the image foreground (none spat or bit me – but someone needs to present them with Colgate!).

Bedouins offering camel safaris across the Wadi Rum

The mesmerizing sunsets Wadi Rum is famous for its sunsets but you need to be positioned at a good vantage point in time. Find yourself a big rock, and clamber over it carefully for a view of the horizons around you. Already running late, our SUV refused to go over a sand dune just short of our chosen rock. It did not have enough power to go over the hump. We reversed, and raced in from a longer distance than before. Though we managed to cover a few more inches this time but apparently not enough. And then we really hit it – and voila, we made it even if all the bones got realigned in the resulting flying ship act. We parked below what seemed like a rock hundreds of metres high, and had to run / trudge our way to the top on a soft sand dune again. Trust me, it is no easy task walking on these dunes especially when laden with heavy camera equipment making your centre of gravity all wobbly. But once on top, there was no looking back. In front of me lay an endless desert, accentuated with a rising rock monoliths standing all by themselves. And behind one range the sun was setting – as the colours changed around me and the air 34

Sunset at Wadi Rum


got cooler, I could only go click click. Nature was at work, painting a canvas that is best preserved in one’s memory. Photographs are only a poor copy. I wish the travel plan included spending the night sleeping on the rock – and waking with the sunrise. Another time!

Useful Info •Website: www.wadirum.jo •Local Tel: 009623 2090600, Fax: 009623 2032586 •Getting There: Wadi Rum lies in the south western corner of Jordan 58 kilometers north of the coastal town of Aqaba. It can be reached easily by main roads from Amman (3.5 hrs), Aqaba (1 hr) and Petra (1.5 hrs). Daily internal air-flights operate between Amman and Aqaba. Public transport is very limited.

The setting sun at Wadi Rum

While in Wadi Rum, you can plan the following activities: • Climb high on one of the many mountains, including Jebel Rum, one of the highest for stunning views. You need to be fit, and book in advance as only limited permits are granted. • Camp – pitch your own tent or stay in one of the Bedouin style camps with toilets, showers, meals, entertainment and housekeeping. Star gaze while you are at it – the night sky is lighted with celebrations. • Take a Safari on a camel, horseback or on foot – these can last a few hours to a few days to your choosing. Be prepared for the heat and sand storms, and take a guide along. Don’t forget ample water, hats and other supplies. • Shop for traditional handicrafts made by the Bedouins.

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HOTEL REVIEW

Wild Grass Lodge

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

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he Kaziranga National Park is one of the best forest reserves in the world – and you have to stay at the Wild Grass Lodge for a truly satisfying and wholesome experience. The architecture and landscaping of the property makes you feel a part of the forest even though you are in the villages surrounding the reserve. There is an old world charm about the place, rare to find nowadays. And their pricing will be a pleasant surprise. Book direct as agents tend to overcharge under the guise of a complete package.

Contact tel: +91.361.2630465, +91. 88767747357 mail: wildgrasskaziranga@gmail.com 38

• Service: Terrific. I asked for the best guides as I wanted to do some serious photography, and they made sure I got someone who knew his job. They even got me a vehicle to myself. For those who have been to such places in the past, there is nothing worse than being guided by someone who does not know his job. The other staff does a commendable job of keeping the place clean. • Rooms: With their wooden décor, it is nothing short of charming and romantic. Even if it is not plush. You have comfortable beds, lounge chairs and electric points for charging appliances. Lighting is deliberately kept dim. Bathrooms have running hot and cold water. All the sheets and towels are very clean too. • Location: Does not get better unless they allow them inside the

forest – but that is out of bounds. • Amenities: Very good guides and jeep / elephant safaris. An all day restaurant serving local and Chinese cuisines. • Liked Best: The location, architecture, interiors and landscaping. • Liked Least: You cannot grudge such locations. • Food Quality: Very good. But order well in time; they need an hour to prepare meals. And still be willing to be patient. • Tariffs: Rs. 2,300 for a double room + Rs. 65 tax including breakfast. Meals are very reasonably priced. Do check rates at the time of booking. (Beware when you book through agents – they somehow charge many times over)


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fo r jo ’s tr a v e ll e rs y a d to g n o s ir e a m g u la ri ty a g ro w in g d e to g in d w a y fr o m re n a o k p a s re Re b a d e e enever you n th e m a p , w h

u rn e y s b e y o

nd

Short and intense, our breakaways get you under the skin of experiences, because travel today is no longer about transporting people to someplace else. Need a breakaway ? Experiences which you can leisurely unpack over a lifetime ? Embark, from wherever you are.

http://www.break-away.in/ www.facebook.com/breakaway.in Call us today at +91 9818845999 or email us at : yourbreakaway@break-away.in 26


HOTEL REVIEW

Soulitude

Ramgarh, Uttarakhand

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panoramic views of snow clad mountain peaks above. You can actually hear silence all around, accentuated by lack of televisions in the rooms.

Perched on a mountainside off the highway leading to Mukteshwar, the landscape from Soulitude dips into valleys below before rising to offer

The air is clean and crisp all year round - but monsoons can be very wet while snow in late winters can be refreshing. When there is no cloud cover, the skies are literally lit bright by stars. There are multiple trails - on road and off road leading away from Soulitude. Take your

here is such a thing as a perfect getaway. It is called Soulitude. True to its name, you can enjoy the Himalayas in solitude - and feel a certain stirring in your soul that may have gone dormant in the hustle and bustle of existence.

pick and visit the Ramgarh market, or go down to the old bungalows maintained by Neemrana Hotels. Push yourself and climb up to the Devi Mandir (temple) reward awaits in the form of 360 degree views of the Himalayas. A hike through forests and fields gets you to some old and broken stone structures at Tagore Top; Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore is said to have spent time here for his writings. And wherever you go, you can be sure to spot exotic and beautiful birds. 41


View from Soulitude

The retreat itself is a work of art and a labour of love by owner Manish Chandra. He started this project as a home away from home in Delhi, and ended up creating a gift for the traveller. Large windows and decks allow you to soak in the surrounding beauty without a break. The furniture and interiors are themselves soothing to the body, mind and soul, with perfectly designed fireplaces adding to the warmth of the place.

One of the bathrooms

A bedroom overlooking the ‘Secret Garden’

A sit-out overlooking the mountains

The lounge


One of the many decks

Soulitude by the Riverside: A Bonus

One of the bedrooms The bridge to Soulitude by the Riverside

Go for a 45 minute drive followed by a 30 minute hike over streams and a 1910 quaint suspension bridge built by the British - and you will literally come across an oasis in a forest. Soulitude by the Riverside stands adjacent to a water pool and a waterfall, visible only on Google Earth otherwise. Two bedrooms are available here to stay, which you will only reluctantly check out of. Even if you don’t spend any nights here, you must visit for a day picnic. Meals are all home cooked, and Soulitude sure has great cooks. And their staff takes care of all your needs in the most courteous manner. Soulitude is where you go to clean the pores of your senses, to unleash your creativity, to feel rejuvenated - and wishing you had a home like this of your own.

The path to the water pool at Soulitude by the Riverside

The water pool at Soulitude by the Riverside


A bedroom at Soulitude by the Riverside

Useful Info Accommodation: 12 bedrooms Distance from Delhi: 325 kms (200 miles) How to get there: By road or train to Kathgodam followed by a cab ride of 75 minutes

The bath in one of the rooms at Soulitude by the Riverside - this rock and the flowing water on it have been left untouched from before the construction

Website: www.soulitude.in | Email: contact@soulitude.in | Tel: +91.99993 30379 26 Address: Gagar, Ramgarh, Uttarakhand


The Wanderer’s Palate

Elai Adai By Meena Vaidyanathan

I

t was during a random net search that I chanced upon a really interesting article about a “Sattvik Traditional Food Festival” held in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) campus, organised by the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions. The objective was to introduce to the largely urban populace some very-prevalent-in-the-past but now forgotten cereals and food items. And I couldn’t help thinking, “There are some amazing food items and delicacies that I have come across in people’s homes that are no longer available in restaurants or other popular food areas, and over time they might actually become extinct!” This column is a small endeavour to share some of those culinary experiences I have had with the readers so you might remember to look out for these specialty dishes when you are travelling to that particular region of India.

T

he first time I heard of Elai Adai (literally translated as ‘Leaf Pancake’) was when my favourite uncle came visiting from the US a few years ago. Living in Delhi all my life and visiting Kerala only for annual holidays ensured that our time to really experience specialty foods was always limited; as a child, I wasn’t very choosy or appreciative of what I was eating. But my uncle’s stories around how some of his nicer childhood memories were entwined around this delicious

sweet got me excited about trying this out, especially when I was acquiring a more discerning taste for food! But living in army cantonments in remote places isn’t often the best place to start experimenting with ancient foods of India! But not one to be discouraged by such trivialities, and with some help from the internet, I set about learning more about Elai Adai and with time, acquired skills to turn out a mean one as well! So let me share with

you the traditional recipe for Elai Adai and my ‘quickie’ version for those who don’t want to miss out tasting these yummy foods only because it’s tough to organise traditional ingredients. Elai Adai is one of the popular sweets in Kerala. It is a stuffed pancake steamed in a banana leaf. The sweetness comes from the stuffing which is essentially a jack fruit jam called ‘Chakka Varatti.’

45


The traditional recipe Ingredients

The banana leaves need to be cut in convenient squares of 4 inch sides and should be mildly heated by holding them over a low flame. The point of this is to make the leaf pliable.

preferred, but there was this one time that I prepared the Elai Adai stuffing using dried coconut shavings as well. It isn’t the same, but well, it can make you feel good too!

Procedure Soak the rice for 5 hours and grind to a thick smooth paste. Add the salt while grinding. It should be of spreading consistency. Add the oil to this paste and mix well.

Now take each leaf, spread a ladle full of rice flour as a thin layer. After this, spread 2 tbsp of prepared filling on top of this layer, but covering only about ¾th of the layer. Fold the banana leaf into half, fold the edges once again to seal the edges and place it in a steamer. Repeat for all the leaves, and steam for 25-30 minutes. When done, the Elai Adai comes off the leaf rather easily without sticking to the sides.

To make the filling, melt the jaggery with 1 cup of water, boil and add the jackfruit jam. When the jackfruit jam is of spreading consistency, add the grated coconut, mix well and remove from the stove. This filling can be refrigerated for up to one month.

Getting the Chakka Varatti (Jackfruit jam) isn’t the easiest thing in the world. If it’s tough to find, simply ignore it and prepare a stuffing with just the jaggery and coconut. Fresh coconut is

The banana leaves are a must though. I have tried this recipe using many other substitutes but it never quite fits the bill. One can also steam the Adais in a microwave using appropriate contraptions, though I have to admit there is something special about the traditional steaming methods. The microwave somehow just sucks away all the moisture which gives the dish a rubbery taste! But the best way to eat it is when you can get someone to make it lovingly for you and have it overlooking the backwaters in Kerala. So the next time you are visiting God’s own country, don’t forget to sample this traditional and fast-disappearingfrom-restaurant-menus and utterly yummy Elai Adai!

Jackfruit jam: 250g Jaggery: ¾ cup Grated fresh coconut: 2 cups Raw rice: ¾ cup Boiled rice: ¾ cup Oil (preferably coconut): 1 tbsp Banana leaves: 1 per elai adai size of 8”x8” Salt: a pinch

My version of the Elai Adai

Got more queries? Send them across to Meena at meena.vaidyanathan@gmail.com. You may also follow Meena’s blog, www.lifeintwohours.com.


A personal invitation from the

Andamans Umang Sonthalia

Photo by AB Miller


Photo by Aveek Mukherjee

Photo by Matt Burns

A

re you one of those who have heard of but not been to the Andamans? Then high time you did so this winter. And I give my reasons for the same:

The Beaches

The 572 islands comprising the Andamans boast of hundreds of deserted palmfringed beaches where you can bathe in warm tropical waters. Tourists end up crowding only a few of these. The ones not be missed: Radhanagar on Havelock Island (voted the No. 1 beach in Asia), Beach No. 5 on Havelock, Lalaji Bay on Long Island, Merk Bay on North Passage Island near Long Island, Ross and Smith Islands joined by a sandbar near Diglipur and Butler Bay on Little Andaman.

Diving and Snorkeling

For all those adrenaline junkies, this is THE perfect place. A divers’ paradise, where beautiful opaque emerald waters and the rich marine and coral life that reside in them make it an unforgettable experience. Though the main diving season is roughly between November to April, it is still possible to jump in during the monsoons as long as the boats can

go out. The islands also offer superb opportunities for snorkeling, with many resorts offering equipment for hire. Some recommended diving operators include Dive India based in Havelock and Neil Island, Andaman Bubbles at Wild Orchid in Havelock, Barefoot Scuba in Havelock, Blue Planet Scuba in Long Island and Planet Scuba based in Port Blair.

Geography and Wildlife

The islands form the peaks of the Arakan Yuma, a mountain range that extends from Myanmar (Burma) all the way to Sumatra in Indonesia. So you have an ancient landscape where forests rise steeply from the sea and which is home to many endemic plant and animal species which have evolved in isolation. Animals unique to the islands include the Andaman Wild Pig, Crab-eating Macaque, Masked Palm Civet and species of Tree Shrews and Bats. The islands are also home to over 100 endemic species including the Emerald Nicobar Pigeon, Megapodes and Hawabills or Swiftlets which you can see roosting beneath boat

jetties. Oliver Ridley Turtles have created many nesting places for themselves, rivers and mangrove creeks are inhabited by saltwater Crocodiles and Dolphins can be seen in the seas around Long Island. Sadly, Dugongs are only a rare sight nowadays. The forests have some wonderful native tree species, including Padauk, a very valuable hardwood and Garjun, a graceful tree with a wide base to the trunk. Come, relax in the Andamans. You will not want to go back.

Recommended Places to Stay Eco Villas in Havelock Aashiaanaa Rest Home in Port Blair Pristine Beach Resort in Diglipur Blue View in Little Andaman Blue Planet in Long Island Megapode Nest in Port Blair Fortune Resort in Port Blair Barefoot Resort in Havelock

Umang Sonthalia is a student, entrepreneur, and a marketing and networking junkie. He has lived in the Andamans for over eight years, and his parents run a small restaurant there. He publishes a great online resource, www.go2andaman.com.


From the Horse’s (Biker’s) Mouth!

B

eing an avid biker for over 10 years, I struggled to collate equipment and gear from various places for my own rides. It all seemed such a waste of time and effort. This is when I decided to take the bull by the horns and open my own store for biking gear in Vasant Kunj in New Delhi. The idea was to provide a one-stopshop for riders, and provide them all the gear and equipment they needed. This includes jackets, helmets, gloves, biking luggage and also smaller but important things like medicine kit, tool kit bungee cords/nets etc. Meandering India, as we call ourselves, stocks reputed Indian and international

Rajiv Pradhan

brands including Cramster, DSG, Scoyco, Alpine Stars, AXO, Nuvo Daijy and more. We also organize motorcycling tours across North India and have gradually also added trekking items like sleeping mats, tents, sleeping bag, bottles etc. from brands such as Quechua, Tribord, Solognac, b’Twin, Kalenji, Geologic and more. We also want to run an honest business. I personally test 99 per cent of the gear before recommending it to my customers. We can thus communicate the shortcomings as well as the strong points of the same. We recently rode to Spiti to test out some gear like the Cramster Eclipse, DSG Nero Jackets, Alpine Stars GORE-TEX touring boots and

Cramster and Scoyco riding pants - they all passed the litmus test! The Alpine stars GORE-TEX boots didn’t let any water through even when we had to cross some of the infamous flooded ‘nallahs’ where the water was upto our knees. As for the jackets and pants, we were quite pleased with the water proofing. The incessant rain from Swarghat to Karnal made the testing even more reliable. Water flowed out smoothly from the Quechua Poncho – it’s a steal for Rs. 399. This is a musthave for all bikers out in the rain. And my ‘ever-faithful’ Cramster Stallion Saddle Bag and Tank Bag served the whole ride really well!

BREEZER 4.0

AXO Primato II Black

Alpinestars Web Gore

Alpinestars Jet Gloves

T2 tent


Kunzum La (pass)

Poncho (Small)

Indicative Price Range

Jackets: Rs. 3,800 – 16,999 Pants: Rs. 4,950 – 7,499 Boots: Rs. 7,499 – 14,990 Gloves: Rs. 1,100 – 6,000 Helmets: Rs. 4,750 – 14,000 Saddle Bags: Rs. 2,100 – 2,200 Tank Bags: Rs. 1,750 – 2,800 Mail: enquiry@meanderingindia.com Mobile: +91.9810168402 Website: http://meanderingindia.com


A backpack for Cyclists H

eaded out for a cycling expedition or a trek/hike? Try the Camelbak Hydration bag USP (model: Blowfish).

It provides you hands-free hydration without the hassle of carrying water bottles. The Blowfish model has a capacity of three litres of water, enough to keep you going for 3-4 hours of strenuous cycling or hiking. The ease of drinking with the pipe / valve also encourages the user to drink more water, thus minimizing the risk of dehydration.

Recommended by Mohit of Adventure 18, who also retails the backpack at his store. Contact: sales@adventure18.com; +91.11.26878888 / 8890; http://www.adventure18.com; 18, Satya Niketan, New Delhi, India 110021.

Say

V Cheese & make it!

enture into enchanting beauty and uncover one of the most serene countrysides at this cheese making farmstay in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. It will take all of two days for you to learn to make the cheese.

Listen to the birds, spot bisons around the farm if lucky, explore the poetic beauty around with a guide, experience a holistic and self-sustaining lifestyle when there. Familiarise yourself with the pond ecosystems, make abode bricks and rear farm animals.

The two-day cheese making course costs Rs. 5,000. The daily accommodation charge ranges from Rs. 2,000 4,000. For more, visit http://highontravel.com/farmstay or write to info@highontravel.com.


A Plateful of Pranpur

T

he village of Pranpur is about 110 kms from Jhansi, located on a hill, southwest of Betwa river in Madhya Pradesh. Though the village is primarily known for the famous Chanderi silk, there are many other crafts being practiced here. The nearby town of Chanderi (3 km) has loads of history on offer. The only accommodation is a beautiful stone guesthouse set in a mango orchard just outside the village. Explore Central India’s Bundelkhand region and experience “another” India which is yet unexplored.

• Take a crash course in weaving from stringing the loom, to working it, to adding designs - it’s an intricate art! • Stay at the Amraee Rural Resort set in a mango orchard in Pranpur • Explore 8th century monasteries, prehistoric caves • Go on a forest trek, spot some rock paintings • Join in the Bundelkhandi folk dance, Raee • Take a bullock cart ride around the village. Book a weekend package that typically

includes: • Pick up and drop at Lalitpur station • Guided walking tour of Pranpur where you also meet craftspersons • Raee / Sehra (folk dance) performance on the first evening • Drive down to Rajghat Dam to see the sunrise, and back • One day guided tour around Chanderi • All meals, coffee and tea. Weekend Tariff: Rs. 2,950 per person for 2 persons (double occupancy); Rs. 1,990 per person for 4 persons or more (double occupancy)

For more visit http://www.travelanotherindia.com/pranpur.html or contact piyush@travelanotherindia.com

Trekking ideas for the wandering mind

Photo by Kabir Pradhan

A

rchit Raheja of Geck & Co does not need an excuse or provocation to go roughing it out - here are a few treks he recommends, and is willing to take you along on: Almora District Almora district blows you away with views of snow-capped mountains and valleys, beautiful temples and fruits grown in the region. The beautifully laid out tarmac makes for adrenalin pumping cycling tracks. But be careful - this is leopard country, and avoid venturing out into the night. Deo Tibba Deo Tibba is a beautiful 6001 metre high peak situated in the Pir Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh. It consists of an extensive ice cap, with the actual climb being a snow hump accessible once the edge of the ice plateau is reached. For climbers, it is literally a high to be able to overcome the 6,000 metre mark. But it is also a technical peak, and best attempted with a guide if you are not an experienced climber.

Contact Geck & Co Adventurers at archit@geck-co.com / +91.9818834004 or online at http://facebook.com/Geckco


Viswaprasad Raju is a Hyderabad-based advertising professional, and is also a random sketchcrawler, a weekly cartoonist and an occasional travel writer. He collects cheap souvenirs like coasters and dreams of expensive holiday breaks to a National Park (any state) or anywhere in Europe (any country). Presently he is working on a screenplay for a feature film.

Connect with him at viswaprasadraju@gmail.com or find him at http://facebook.com/viswaprasadraju and http://hyderabadadvtg.blogspot.com.


Being a Scot

BOOK REVIEW

Scotland, as seen by Bond, James Bond By Nimish Dubey

W

hatever you associate Sir Sean Connery with, it is certainly not writing about a country, even his own. The man, who many (us at Kunzum.com included) consider to have been not just the first but the best Bond of them all, however, does have a writing streak in him. And it has come to the fore in Being a Scot, a book which he has been written in collaboration with Murray Grigor.

We need to get one thing clear at the very outset – this is NOT a Sean Connery autobiography. So if you are looking for juicy bits of Hollywood gossip and filmy talk, give this book a thorough miss. Nay, while Being a Scot does have autobiographical passages – especially in the beginning when Connery describes his childhood – this is basically a book about Scotland, written by a Scot. The tone of the book varies between the simple and the scholarly. There are Connery’s personal anecdotes about places and people (why he supports Rangers, for instance, and why he still speaks in a Scottish accent) to details of Scottish history and tradition, right from the formation of the country. One strongly suspects that the historical research bits have been dug up by Connery’s coauthor (who is a writer in his own right) to which the former Bond man has added garnishes of his personal experience. And yes, there is a chapter on movies too! But the strongest point of the entire book are its photographs. There are dozens of them, in black and white and

colour, and even some reproductions of famous paintings. And what makes them really special is the fact that Connery is in so many of them – you actually

see him progress from the raw callow youth that he once was to the almost elderly statesman of cinema that he is today. Yes, there are pictures of famous Scottish landmarks and people, and very good pictures they are too, but really, it is Connery’s pictures whether it is acting in a Shakespearean play or teeing off at Augusta or just modelling when he was really young that take the cake! But does this mix of research, reminiscence and pictures work? Well, much to our surprise, it does. Being a Scot manages to hit the perfectly delightful

middle ground between serious history and affectionate travelogue. The book is very well-written and an easy read. Of course, what makes it even more special is the fact that one knows that this is Sean Connery talking of his country. Although you can sense Connery’s pride in his nation, there is very little jingoism here. And of course, he never lets you forget his humble roots – “Leaving school at thirteen, I got to know the divided selves of Edinburgh almost building by building on my morning milk rounds.” - he writes while talking about Scotland’s most famous city. And in case you did not know, yes, Connery did deliver milk before he got into acting mode. Yes, the initial chapters can get a bit tedious – obviously Connery cannot comment too much on early Scottish history – but this is more than compensated by the latter half of the book, which is eminently readable, even if you are not interested in Scotland. This is not a story of a land written by a celebrity, but a book about a country written by a genuine patriot who happens to be well-known. Yes, we did read it because Connery wrote it, rather than because it was about Scotland. But in the end, we ended up knowing and liking the country and wanting to visit it because of our decision. One really wishes some Indian “celebrities” would do the same for their country. In the meantime, read Being a Scot. Whether you are a Connery fan or not. For Rs 550, it is a steal. 55


PHEW!

Finally a place for travellers to meet. In the real world - not on social media. To simply bum around. Exchange travel stories. Make travel plans. Read up & buy travel books. Post travelogues, images & videos. pick up photographic art. Even write books.

Over coffee and cookies. And free Wi-Fi. Only at the

Travel Cafe

address: T-49, GF, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi 110 016, India telephone: +91.11.2651 3949 | +91.9650 702 777 | website: http://kunzum.com/travelcafe | mail@kunzum.com Open Tuesday - Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. (Mondays Closed)


Travel Cafe

When travellers come calling at the Kunzum Travel Cafe, they often leave a note behind for us. Here are some from the wall. Come over for coffee, and write one too.


The Handwritten Travelogue We love to hear travel stories from our guests when they visit the Kunzum Travel Cafe in New Delhi. Better still, we like them to write the same in our scrapbook for others to read - like what you see here. Do you have one to share too? We are waiting...


PEEP PEEP DON’T SLEEP A book on funny road signs and advertisements with captions and commentary by Ajay Jain If you thought road signs are only meant to guide and inform, think again. The ones on Indian highways are in a zone of their own. They shower you with words of wisdom, keep your mind sharp as you unravel their cryptic messages, tickle your imagination, amuse you and entertain you. In public interest, they lend a hand to Alcoholics Anonymous. Since journeys are meant to be a pleasure, they remind you to ‘Smile Please.’ The entertainment for the traveler does not stop at this. There are the limitless public notices, outdoor advertisements and storefront signs with their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. Who needs comic strips in this country? Ajay Jain drove thousands of miles to put together this collection of signs. With a bit of witty commentary thrown in, this book will be a journey unlike any other you may have undertaken. Resulting in you letting out a ‘Peep Peep’ of delight.

For more on the book, sample chapters and to order visit www.peeppeepdontsleep.com Available as a Paperback, as a PDF and for the iPad and Kindle 36


Postcards from Ladakh A Pictorial Travelogue by Ajay Jain

Postcards from Ladakh is a collection of frames - picture postcards, if you will - frozen circa 2009, when the author drove for over 10,000 kms (6,000 miles) across the remote and fascinating region of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas. Neither guidebook nor encyclopedia, it is intended to give you a flavour of this high altitude cold desert. You will also meet a few Ladakhis in these pages. And see the land they live in, the faith they live by, the hope they live on‌Each of them will spontaneously greet you with a cheerful Julley and invite you to be part of their culture and society. No Ladakhi is a stranger. We just haven’t had the time to meet them all...

For more on the book, sample chapters and to order visit www.kunzum.com/postcardsfromladakh Available as a Paperback, as a PDF and for the iPad and Kindle


S i n c e 2007, Kunzum has served as an i m p o r t a n t g u i d e f o r t r a v e l l e r s p l a n n i n g j o u r n e y s i n I n dia and the subcontinent - and so m e i n t e r n a t i o n a l d e s t i n a t i o n s t o o . I NTRODUCT IONS FI RST … K u n zum is a high altitude pass in the L a h a u l S p i t i r e g i o n o f H i m a c h a l P r a d e s h i n I n d i a . A n d the inspiration behind the brand t h a t i s a l l a b o u t m e m o r a b l e t r a v e l e x p e r i e n c e s . O u r journey started in 2007 as a trave l b l o g b y w r i t e r a n d p h o t o g r a p h e r, A j a y J a i n . A n d w e h ave crossed many milestones - li t e r a l l y a n d f i g u r a t i v e l y - s i n c e t h e n . KUNZ UM .COM An independent, objective and one of the most trusted online travel information websites in India. A unique style of writing, peppered with anecdotes and illustrated with high quality photographs and videos, have won the site a fan following of tens of thousands of travellers. More at http://kunzum.com. THE KUNZUM TRAVEL MAG A u n i q u e p r o d u c t , i t i s a m o n t h l y e - m a g a v a i l a b l e a s a P D F, f o r t h e i P a d a n d Kindle, and for online reading with flipping pages on Issuu.com. Subscription is FREE at http://kunzum.com/mag. PUBLISHIN G We publish engaging and quality travel books and guides in both traditional formats as well as e-books (for the iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, other mobile readers and all computers). More at http://kunzum.com/books. CURATOR OF COLLECT IBLE P HOTO G RAP H IC ART Available for your walls at home, office or resort and also as stock imagery for publishing and promotional materials. All printed on archival paper to last g e n e r a t i o n s . The prints are also on d i s p l a y a t t h e K u n z u m Tr a v e l C a f é . C h e c k t h e c o l l e ction at htt p://kunzumgallery.com . K UNZUM TRAVEL CAF É A nother unique offering from Kunzum - a bricks and mortar place for the travel-minded to come together as a community, a sort of Face-to-Facebook network. Located in Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, guests can hang around, read travel books, use free Wi-Fi, participate in events, exchange stories, enjoy music, buy photographic art, post travelogues and make travel plans. They can even order tea, coffee and cookies - and pay what they like. More at http://kunzum.com/travelcafe.

CONTACT US A jay Jain | ajay@ajayjain.com | +91.99100 44476 Shruti S harma | shruti@kunzum.com | +91.98119 84545 LINK S Online http://kunzum.com

Facebook http://facebook.com/kunzum Twitter http://twitter.com/kunzum Yo u T u b e http://youtube.com/kunzum Vimeo http://vimeo.com/kunzum


A BOUT AJAY JAIN Ajay Jain is a full time writer, journalist and photographer based in New Delhi in India. He is not limited in his medium of expression, equally comfortable writing for newspapers and magazines, as well as his own books and blogs. Starting his writing career in 2001, he has been covering business, technology and youth affairs before deciding to focus wholly on travel writing. He pursues his passion by being on the road as much as he can. He has written three books, the latest being Postcards from Ladakh (http:// www.kunzum.com/postcardsfromladakh), a pictorial travelogue on Ladakh. His first, Let’s Connect: Using LinkedIn to Get Ahead at Work, is a management book on professional networking using the world’s most popular professional networking site LinkedIn.com. It was published in early 2008. His other book, and his first travel book, Peep Peep Don’t Sleep (http://www. peeppeepdontsleep.com), is a collection of funny road signs and advertisements.

C o n tac t

Email: ajay@ajayjain.com M o b i l e : + 91. 9 910 0 4 4 4 76

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H e h a s w o r ke d fo r a n d w r i t t e n c o l u m n s fo r n a t i o n a l p u b l i c a t i o n s i n I n d i a including The Hindustan Times, Mint, F i n a n c i a l E x p re s s , I n d i a n M a n a g e m e n t ( B u s i n e s s S t a n d a rd ) , O u t l o o k B u s i n e s s , D e c c a n H e ra l d , M u m b a i M i r ro r ( T i m e s o f India), Discover India, Swagat, Asian Age and Rediff.com. He has also edited a yo u t h n e w s p a p e r, T h e C a m p u s Pa p e r. P r i o r t o t a k i n g u p w r i t i n g , h e h a s w o r ke d i n t h e I n fo r m a t i o n Te c h n o l o g y a n d S p o r t s M a n a g e m e n t s e c t o r s . H e h o l d s d e g re e s Mechanical Engineering (Delhi College o f E n g i n e e r i n g , 19 9 2 ) , M a n a g e m e n t ( F o re S c h o o l o f M a n a g e m e n t , 19 9 4 ) a n d J o u r n a l i s m ( C a rd i f f U n i v e r s i t y, U K , 2002). His schooling was at St. Columba’s School in New Delhi.

Kunzum Travel Mag - October 2011  

This is the 3rd edition of the monthly Kunzum Travel Mag dated September 2011. Full of stories illustrated with images from India and neighb...