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D e c e m b e r 2 0 1 8 • ` 1 5 0 • VO L . 7 I S S U E 6 • N AT G E O T R AV E L L ER . I N

LUXURY special

The Grand Tour

Swish Set Go

High Society

Exclusive experiences around the world

Maiden cruise from Mumbai to Goa

A slice of the English upper crust

The

Good Life s w e e t I sland Es c a p e U b e r i n d u l g e n c e i n T h e M a l d i v e s


N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C T R AV E L L E R I N D I A

December2018 VOL. 7 ISSUE 6

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The Itinerary 26 SHANGHAI RISING Speakeasies, speed trains, and soup dumplings in China’s largest city 34 THE GOOD OL’ DAYS OF GUJARAT A greener, ancient Gujarat lives on in Saputara and Champaner,

38 UTTARAKHAND ON MY PLATE Super grains, sweet treats and stinging nettle made savoury 44 THE BEAR TRUTH ATV rides in the wild and gondolas connecting snowy peaks uplift a trip to the Canadian ski resort of Whistler

50 HIGHLAND HIGHS Arunachal Pradesh’s annual Nyokum Yullo festival is full of surprises 54 TIME STOPS IN TRINIDAD Live music spilling on to streets and piazzas that have seen the rush of revolution—the Cuban town is a book of many stories 62 A CHANGE OF PACE There is no need to chase sights in Pahalgam. Here, beauty finds you

IGOR USTYNSKYY/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

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hiding millennia-old sites and local festivals in its fold


Regulars 16 Editorial | 24 Voices | 136 Travel Quiz 66

66 FINDING ALI BABA’S TURKISH TREASURE

A 4,000-year-old craft in Cappadocia preserves the legacy of an ancient empire 70 ADVENTURES OF AN INK HUNTER

A tattoo collector tours from Bali to Bogotá and picks five cities to get affordable body art in 76 WALKING WITH DINOSAURS A palaeontologist maps the course where dinosaurs once roamed in North America and Mongolia’s Gobi Desert 78 HEAVEN SCENT In southern France, fields of jasmine inspire the world’s most intoxicating perfume

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Destination 80 THE NEW GRAND TOUR From cooking in Tuscan countryside to cruising in Antarctica, here is a treasury of 12 spectacular places and experiences 92 MID-SEA SPLENDOUR The maiden voyage of India’s first cruise liner between Mumbai and Goa captures the ineffable romance of the ocean 96 BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR Two resorts in the Maldives offer the ultimate island experience, complete with soul-nourishing food and expansive sea views 100 A ROYAL RECLUSE Ghost tales and Mughal-style pavilions minus the touts and tourists of Jaipur 103 IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS

Be it a candlelit restaurant with glasswork or meals with a whiff of tradition, JW Marriott Jaipur Resort and Spa hits all the high notes

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116 BOTSWANA: PRIMAL PLEASURES

A month spent hopping across some of the most exclusive lodges in the country yields sights to last a lifetime 122 BEFORE YOU NEW YORK, MANHATTAN

A preliminary prowl through Manhattan’s theatre district is the perfect way to warm up to the mad verve of New York City

ON THE COVER In a rushed world, to knife out a slice of the clock for leisure travel is a luxury. The cherishment The only thickens Good with the promise Life of a decadent setting—of infinity pools and meals worthy of a king. This photograph plays on the plurality of the word, where luxury is both the creature comfort of villas hugging the South Pacific Ocean, and the joy of suspending time by floating in water. D e c e m b e r 2 0 1 8 • ` 1 5 0 • VO L . 7 I S S U e 6 • N AT G e O T r AVe L L e r . I N

luxurY spEcial

The GrAND TOUr

SwISh SeT GO

hIGh SOcIeTy

ExclusivE ExpEriEncEs around thE world

MaidEn cruisE froM MuMbai to Goa

a slicE of thE EnGlish uppEr crust

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Journey 126 THE VALLEY’S SECRET GARDEN Amidst the Pir Panjal, close to the LOC, Poonch is arguably Kashmir’s hidden gem

SweeT ISLAND eScApe Uber indUlgence in The Maldives

130 CHHATTISGARH’S MANY FACES For a photographer, finding himself in the middle of a red-dust-kicking trail in Chhattisgarh was quite a rush

BEN QUEENBOROUGH/PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES (MEN) M SWIET PRODUCTIONS/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES (COVER)

106 BACK TO THE GILDED AGE An insider’s guide to eat, drink and live like the Lords in England. Plus: Stay at a 16th-century manor house in the Cotswolds


EDITORIAL LAKSHMI SANKARAN

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME

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don’t have to be gauche. Living like royalty might have its privileges but it also spurs a temperament for beauty, grace and sensuality, which is why travellers will always fork out top penny for a night in Rajasthan’s many palace stays. Wealth facilitates the kind of understated exclusivity seen in the English countryside’s several castles or manors, once a venue for elegant ballroom dances. Luxury could also simply mean time well spent—or doing nothing—floating atop a sundeck in an unending stretch of the ocean. Professional travel writers are lucky to be granted access to these private paradises and, in December’s magazine, a handful of them have returned with colourful dispatches. One writer enjoys a happy recreational bubble in the Maldives, another is privy to up close views of big game in Botswana. There is also a roundup of New York’s elite food and drinking haunts, and coverage of the maiden cruise between Mumbai and Goa. All these retreats promise a hedonistic binge: grand feasts of fine wine and champagne, and views hidden from the typical trails. Some of them will stretch your pursestrings but think of Holly Golightly. She couldn’t lay claim to real Tiffany’s jewels but that never stopped her from getting her heart’s fill, standing outside the window.

VINCENZO LOMBARDO/STRINGER/GETTY IMAGES ENTERTAINMENT/GETTY IMAGES

LUXURY COULD MEAN TIME WELL SPENT—OR DOING NOTHING— FLOATING ATOP A SUNDECK IN THE UNENDING OCEAN

ur year-end edition toasts ultraindulgence while travelling, featuring itineraries that many will know to be out of their financial reach. In producing these narratives, I was struck by a contrast. Travel today is dominated by minimalists or downsizers, those who preach the gospel of “hard-knock wanderlust.” And they almost always reap universal admiration. They are characters to aspire to, examples of madefor-Instagram sayings such as, “All you need is a backpack” or “#MotorcycleDiaries.” Unable to join these gallivanting philosophers, others marvel at their brave rebellion—oh, to give up the predictability of overpriced tourist traps someday, they sigh. In this context, luxury travel evokes a Molotov cocktail of feelings. A billionaire on a sailboat hosting Jazz Age-style revelries in the French Riviera is inevitably setting himself up for mockery. The heiress, who flits off to shopping holidays in Milan and Dubai, might as well buy an extra pair of sunglasses for the shade directed her way. Extravagance passes muster if it panders to affordability. In the last few years, it has become intertwined with entitlement, a radioactive pejorative today. Upper-class travel doesn’t deserve this slight. As more astute aesthetes have reminded us in the past, refined tastes

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

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​Write to me at natgeoeditor@ack-media.com or Editor, National Geographic Traveller India, 7th Floor, AFL House, Lok Bharti Complex, Marol Maroshi Road, Andheri East, Mumbai- 400059.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | DECEMBER 2018


THE ITINERARY GUJARAT

THE GOOD OL’ DAYS OF GUJARAT A GREENER, ANCIENT GUJARAT LIVES ON IN SAPUTARA AND CHAMPANER, WITH MILLENNIA-OLD SITES AND LOCAL FESTIVALS IN ITS FOLD BY POOJA NAIK

While Vadodara gets the lion’s share of art and history lovers, Champaner, located just 50 kilometres northeast, is blissfully free of tourists. A visit to the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a walk back in time—the UNESCO site includes remains from the Chalcolithic period (fourth and third millennia B.C.), a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remnants of the 16th century capital of the state of Gujarat.

JAMI MASJID

Built in the 16th century, the 100-foottall minarets of Jami Masjid atop the volcanic Pavagadh hill command all attention. Also known as the Great Mosque, the structure was a blueprint for later mosque architecture in India. Built by Sultan Mahmud Begada, Jami Masjid is a charmer with lofty doorways, lush lawns, stone engravings and gorgeous trelliswork windows.

MAHA KALIKA TEMPLE

Perched at 2,500 feet on Pavagadh hill, a cable car takes visitors to the Maha Kalika temple, dedicated to goddess Kali and believed to be at least a thousand years old. Alternatively, those who want to earn their blessings can hike five kilometres up to the temple along a paved path through the surrounding jungle. While soaring in the cable car, roads and trees shrink and eventually resemble a Lego set. The temple premises thrum with sweet stalls and souvenir shops. Evening is the best time to visit, when the air rings with the aarti and the sun melts behind the hills.

SAAT KAMAN

En route a downhill climb from Jami Masjid on Pavagadh hill, a humble engraved stone plaque was the only sign that I was on the right track to Saat Kaman. The site consists of seven arches of yellow sandstone. A stroll under the archways leads to a small open space which affords expansive views of the region, including the Vada Talao or the big lake in the distance.

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SEEKING SAPUTARA Clouds loomed over the verdant Sahyadri hills in Saputara, and the roads were awash with August showers. Nippy breeze teased my hair; from my car I watched as a six-hour drive from Mumbai was taking me far away from cityscapes to swathes of green pastures and fog-veiled terrain. Nestled in the lap of the Western Ghats, Saputara is south Gujarat’s answer to those who seek lakes, lush gardens, waterfalls and tribal villages. When in the hill station, all roads lead to walks on the green side.

SAPUTARA LAKE

At any time of the year, large groups queue up at this man-made lake to steer brightly coloured paddle and sail boats. The real treat however emerges at dusk, when you could witness rainbow-crowned sunsets in the monsoon. Entry to the premises is between 8.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m., so do squeeze in a cable car ride over the waters to soak in panoramic views. If you happen to visit the town during the month-long Saputara Monsoon Festival beginning in August, the light-anddance show adjacent to the lake is a spectacle in itself as neon rays bounce off the waters. Located in the ChampanerPavagadh Archaeological Park, the 100-foot-tall twin minarets of the 16thcentury Jami Masjid frame the skyline of the area.

ASPI PATEL/DINODIA PHOTO/DINODIA PHOTO/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY

CHAMPANER CHARMS


THE ITINERARY UTTARAKHAND

UTTARAKHAND ON MY PLATE SUPER GRAINS, SWEET TREATS AND STINGING NETTLE MADE SAVOURY—A CULINARY TRAIL WITH HIMALAYAN VISTAS ON THE SIDE BY AMBIKA VISHWANATH | PHOTOGRAPHS BY HOSHNER REPORTER

A food trail across Uttarakhand also serves up sweeping visions of the Himalayas at The Goat Village farmstay in Raithal; Vegetarian fare in the mountains is replete with wild greens (bottom).

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on’t touch,” said Hem, guide and human encyclopaedia, as I attempted to move past a thorny shrub. “It will sting.” The stinging nettle, a flowering plant that runs wild in these hills, looks innocuous enough but delivers a sharp sting upon touch. And itches for hours. I’d been stung as a kid and remembered the aftermath vividly enough to steer clear. My husband and I were on our way back to Tree Leaf Grand Oak Manor, our haunt for the next four days at Uttarakhand’s Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. The crisp mountain air and the walk through the forest—a maze of rhododendrons and oaks—ensured that I was looking forward to my lunch of Kumaoni thali. We had been in Uttarakhand for about a week, early April of 2018, but 38

hadn’t had the opportunity to sample much local cuisine. We had, however, gorged on the famous baal mithai (a fudge-like sweet coated with sugar balls) and singodi (khoya, served in a betel leaf cone) in Almora, fresh from the famous Khem Singh sweet shop. We had also loaded up on buransh (rhododendron) juice, a refreshing experience. When we reached our homestay, a beautifully restored British-era mansion, the table was already laid. The pahadi grub that awaited us was a three-course meal, starting with—fried nettles!

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | DECEMBER 2018

Not ignoring the irony, I took a bite of the versatile bichchu ghaas, also known to have medicinal properties, and sure enough, it was crunchy and delicious! Served on old traditional silver thalis that belong to the Gangola family (who run the homestay), the meal consisted of lamb in a spicy gravy, horse gram lentils, lightly sautéed local greens, mixed grain roti, yogurt with mustard, and a chutney made with marijuana plant seeds. It was one of those sublime meals, during which quiet descends upon the feasters and conversation is minimal. The


THE ITINERARY CANADA

THE BEAR TRUTH ATV RIDES IN THE WILD AND GONDOLAS CONNECTING SNOWY PEAKS UPLIFT JOURNEYS TO THE CANADIAN SKI RESORT OF WHISTLER BY ISHANI CHATTERJI

T

he two-hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler affords generous views of cerulean skies and wide roads. The Sea-to-Sky Highway begins along the coastline of Howe Sound and continues through the Coast Mountains until Whistler, a village that looks straight out of a Christmas postcard: its wooden houses twinkle with fairy lights and in the backdrop, Whistler and Blackcomb mountains gleam with puffs of snow in June. Four others and I were on our way to one of North America’s foremost ski resorts, to discover its magic through a series of adventures.

ZIP CODE Soon after our guides, Anna and Theo, met us at the village and fitted us into 44

harnesses and helmets, we took a bus to the base of Blackcomb Mountain, to Whistler’s east. This is the site of Ziptrek Ecotours’ Bear Tour, and I was about to ride five zip lines over the valley between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. “If you see a grizzly, don’t pretend to play dead,” joked Theo. Recently, a mamma bear had given birth to three cubs and they resided under the Whistler Village Gondola nearby—the not-playing-dead piece of information was crucial for survival. The first zip line is a 10-minute walk from the mountain base. We crossed woodland on a paved path, and walked over a treetop bridge. When we got to our destination,

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | DECEMBER 2018

Theo attached his harness to the rope and was gone in a jiffy. Anna stayed with us and one by one we “took flight.” The ride was over before I knew it—30 seconds tops—and left me with slightly wobbly legs. The second zip line was similar to the first, maybe about 10 seconds longer. I whipped out my phone and tried to record the flight, one hand clutching the harness. I thought I was brave—or foolhardy— when I looked at the recording later, zooming along treetops in a thick forest. The third and fourth zip lines, my favourites, were longer and I dangled about 1,000 feet above Fitzsimmons Creek, which cuts

PHOTO COURTESY: TOURISM WHISTLER/MIKE CRANE I_ATV_2014_3 (ATV RIDE), BOB C/SHUTTERSTOCK (INSTALLATION)

The ATV tour at Whistler tackles zigzag roads and muddy puddles; The Olympic Lightning Figure at the Whistler Olympic Plaza (bottom) was built ahead of the 2010 Winter Games.


THE ITINERARY CUBA

In Trinidad, music is a force of life, drawing tourists to locals who make merry with spontaneous jams; Old, peppy-hued cars (bottom) are a common sight on the streets.

TIME STOPS IN TRINIDAD

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t feels a bit like Legoland, all these squat buildings on narrow lanes, with their brightly painted walls—only, these are real homes with real people in them. The rains have washed the streets of Trinidad squeaky clean, and there is still a welcome nip in the air. Once in a while, squeals of kids playing football or the tinkle of an ice cream van breaks the soothing silence. There is almost no traffic on the streets, only the occasional clip-clop of a horse led by its owner, showing curious tourists around. In 1514, Spanish explorers founded this small town in central Cuba close to the southern coast in the Sancti Spíritus province. Over five centuries later, this part of Cuba, with its uneven cobblestoned lanes and red-tiled pop54

coloured homes, still feels like a slice of colonial Spain. Throw in magnificent churches and bustling piazzas to the mix, and it is easy to see why UNESCO ascribed the town and the surrounding valley with World Heritage status way back in 1988. I am staying at the Iberostar Grand, one of Trinidad’s few luxury hotels, a perfect throwback to the times of colonial splendour. The facade is a muted mint green, with the architecture perfectly blending into the environs. Inside the hotel, marble

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | DECEMBER 2018

columns and the gurgling fountain in the central courtyard are impressive without being imperious. When I step out on to the balcony, I can see the small Plaza Carrillo. Locals have congregated here to celebrate the cool evening, lovelier after the sudden spell of rain. Not that they need an excuse, according to my local guide Alian Rojas, who is taking me on a walking tour. This plaza, though small, has been a hub for both administration and entertainment since the 1840s; the former is

ARTMARIE/VETTA/GETTY IMAGES (MUSICIAN), SWIFT MEDIA/SHUTTERSTOCK (CAR)

LIVE MUSIC SPILLING ON TO COBBLED STREETS AND PIAZZAS THAT HAVE SEEN THE RUSH OF REVOLUTION—THE CUBAN TOWN IS A BOOK OF MANY STORIES BY CHARUKESI RAMADURAI


THE DESTINATION

THE NEW GRAND TOUR A TREASURY OF

AND EXPERIENCES

BY ANDREW NELSON

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1 2 S P E C TAC U L A R P L AC E S


WORLD

MLENNY

The Basilica Cathedral and main square of Arequipa in Peru.

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THE DESTINATION

1 Douro Valley, Portugal BESPOKE BARRELS AND BIKING

Oysters served in the Six Senses Douro Valley’s Vale de Abraão restaurant.

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ROBBIE LAWRENCE

Touch down on the Iberian Peninsula for a week of what DuVine Cycling and Adventure Co. founder Andy Levine calls “couture bicycling.” Roll through the ancient city of Porto, the Douro Valley famed for its casks of port, and little-known backcountry regions like Trás-os-Montes (“Behind the Mountains”) on your private biking tour. Pick grapes with a local family in their vineyard. Taste 100-year-old tawny ports from the barrel and sample local cheeses. Stay at Six Senses Douro Valley, a 19th-century manor house transformed into a hotel (don’t miss the luxurious spa). Ask the staff for their unique tree-climbing adventure program that sees you perched in the branches to enjoy the vistas of the countryside. Saúde!


WORLD

Park Hotel Vitznau, overlooking Lake Lucerne.

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Lake Lucerne, Switzerland SWISS SERENITY

The hotel’s pool.

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KLAUS LORKE

Health and wellness are to 21st-century seekers what hope and glory were to Edwardians—a call to action. Switzerland, with its bracing Alpine air, is the place to start when you need to restore the body and refresh the soul. Stay at Park Hotel Vitznau, a castle-like Lake Lucerne property with an ice grotto spa, two Michelin-starred restaurants, and six cellars boasting 32,000 bottles of wine. Play on 6,995foot Mount Pilatus, where a special safari could lead to an encounter with the curved-horn mountain ibex, or catch the world’s steepest cogwheel train to Mount Rigi and get schvitz-y in heated mineral baths. Switzerland’s divine. And you’re soaking in it.


THE DESTINATION

MID-SEA SPLENDOUR THE MAIDEN VOYAGE OF INDIA’S FIRST CRUISE LINER BETWEEN MUMBAI AND GOA CAPTURES THE INEFFABLE ROMANCE OF THE OCEAN

The Angriya is reviving a route that was in use until the Konkan railways arrived in 1993. It’s double rooms (inset) are cosy and well-appointed.

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BY BHAVYA DORE


MAHARASHTRA/GOA

nice thing about getting on board a cruise for the first time, is that everything smacks of novelty. Doors open on to unseen decks, a foghorn blast augurs good times and the expanse of ocean unwraps itself like a quiet mystery. The real magic though, transpires in the navigation room—and I don’t just mean the mundane act of steering the ship—I mean the bewitching movement of vessels on screens, the crackle of radio interceptions and the drama of knobs and dials at work. On this particular day I am in the navigation room of the M.V. Angriya, a vessel charting the route from Mumbai to Goa, the Arabian Sea spreading out in front of us like in a 17th-century Flemish painting. Captain Nitin Dhond, a bearded, avuncular man is at the ship’s helm and is telling me how he got seduced by the sea as a child. It was in fact traversing this very route on transport vessels like the Konkan Shakti and Konkan Seva that plied through the seventies and eighties before the advent of the Konkan Railways. “Many of us have the memories and the nostalgia of those trips,” he says. “A group of us thought, one day we must start this again.” That is how we are aboard the Angriya, cutting through the shimmering surfaces of the sea at 17 knots per hour on a hot October day, about 10 kilometres off the coastline. On its first official journey, its 104 rooms filled to capacity, its corridors populated by revellers, its kitchens briskly sending out food, Dhond hopes this will be the start of many journeys for the country’s only domestic cruise ship owned by an Indian company. “We had been thinking about this for a long time,” he says. “Cruising has not been an Indian way but it has been picking up recently.” Half the charm is self-evident—14 to 16 hours bobbing about at sea, marinating in the special pleasure of doing nothing at all apart from inhaling and imbibing. With its infinity pool, six bars, two restaurants and dance floor, the Angriya has Gatsbyesque ambitions. Dhond pitches it thus: begin the party even before you reach Goa or continue partying even after you DECEMBER 2018 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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PHOTOS COURTESY: ANGRIYA

THE


Dusk cloaks Amanbagh’s colonnaded walkways and pool in gentle hues. Blushing Mughal-style domes and pavilions are lit up, and the air rings with notes of the tabla and harmonium.

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A Royal Recluse

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THE DESTINATION


RA JASTHAN

Dusk

creeps up on the Aravalli hills like a secret, chiding the skies to go from orange to mauve, casting shadows on the foothills. I sit up straighter in the recliner by the pool; Amanbagh is stirring from the afternoon lull to stretch its arms. Pinpricks of yellow light up the courtyard’s colonnaded

walkways, langurs cackle and chase one another on the onion-domed Mughal roofs of the pool pavilion; lush baritones of the singers invoke Mohammad Rafi and Jagjit Singh on a tabla and harmonium in the lawns. Amanbagh sits in Ajabgarh village, near the buffer zone of Sariska National Park, with no trace or memory of the touts and tourists of Jaipur which is

M INU S

95 kilometres away. The Mughals and the hunting parties they’re believed to have brought here might long be gone, but the resort’s villas and cupolas, built in blushing sandstone, carry the memories. I reckon that it is the tricks of the safeda, date palm and bougainvillea trees that make me feel like the only one living here, cooling feet on green lawns. My suite is the size of a home I dream

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PHOTO COURTESY: AMAN RESORTS

GHOS T TA L E S A N D M UG H A L- S T Y LE PAV ILIO NS T H E TO U TS A N D TO U R IS T S O F JA IPUR B Y KA R E EN A G I A N A N I


THE DESTINATION

The Long Walk, a straight path through Windsor Great Park leading to the Windsor Castle, is the most iconic image associated with the 11th-century palace, which serves as the official residences of the British royal family.

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U.K.

ENGLAND’S MANY PATRICIAN CHARMS WERE NOT LOST ON TWO AUTHORS, WHOSE SENSES WERE GREATLY REGALED BY GREAT BRITAIN

ASIF R NAQVI PHOTOGRAPHY/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

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THE DESTINATION

The Slad Valley Manor (left) sits amidst a landscaped garden, surrounded by a stone-flagged terrace; The manor’s master bedroom boasts a king-size fourposter bed (top right); Vintage chairs (bottom left), chaise longues, and cheval mirrors deck the interiors.

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Mistress of the


Manor THE 16TH-CENTURY SLAD VALLEY MANOR HOUSE IS IDEAL FOR A LUXURY RETREAT IN THE COTSWOLDS TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY PRACHI JOSHI

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grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse novels, where everything exciting— romantic interludes to gruesome murders—took place at grand houses scattered around the English countryside. Naturally, I jump at the chance to spend a few days at a manor house in the Cotswolds, possibly the prettiest nook of England. DECEMBER 2018 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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THE DESTINATION

A MONTH SPENT HOPPING ACROSS SOME OF THE MOST EXCLUSIVE LODGES IN THE COUNTRY YIELDS SIGHTS TO LAST A LIFETIME BY DEVANSHI MODY 116

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BOTSWANA

BOTSWANA: PRIMAL PLEASURES

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on’t dangle your arm from your jeep,”—this is standard advice on safaris anywhere. In Botswana, it may as well be divine decree. Here, wildlife can get as close as arm’s length. There’s a shoot-to-kill poaching policy. Wildlife is sacred, and abounds on the vast plains, tinkling with rills and rivers, of the lush Okavango Delta, that beauty spot on the Kalahari’s parched visage in the country’s northwest. If perchance you don’t see animals it’s because they aren’t hemmed in fenced reserves but roam freely across the almost 22,870 square kilometres of the delta’s marshlands and seasonal floodplains. Animals that are being tracked can suddenly vanish into the wilderness, or leap over channels severing you off. When you see them, the intensity of action is unprecedented. In Botswana’s camps, safarigoers can live out those wildlife documentaries as they consecrate days to the wild.

At Delta Camp, which overlooks smaller channels of the Okavango River, a variety of game can be spotted from the lodges.

Chef Herman was refining a six-course, winepaired supper. It was unusual refinement in the wilderness, even if this was Botswana’s poshest camp, Great Plains Conservations’ Duba Plains, and even someone as finical as I could not complain. But animals are more pernickety than myself, I noted. During a signally interesting sighting earlier that day, we spotted a bataleur eagle lunching blithely, until a hefty tawny eagle swooped down and hijacked its meal, which was cursorily inspected and dismissed with disdain. Bat-eared foxes weren’t to its taste. As I camp-hopped over a month in Botswana, I learnt that Botswana’s people are pretty DECEMBER 2018 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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PHOTO COURTESY: DELTA CAMP

TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN


THE JOURNEY

SECRET GARDEN

AMIDST THE PIR PANJAL, CLOSE TO THE LOC, POONCH IS ARGUABLY KASHMIR’S HIDDEN GEM. ITS HISTORY DATES BACK TO THE MAHABHARATA AND THE 6TH-CENTURY ACCOUNTS OF CHINESE TRAVELLER XUAN ZANG WHO WROTE THAT POONCH WAS FAMOUS FOR FINE TEA AND HORSES. THE REGION’S STUNNING LANDSCAPES, CHARACTERISED BY DHOK OR PASTURAL LAND—SHEPHERDING IS A WAY OF LIFE HERE—ARE SAID TO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A MYSTIC OF A TRAVELLER.

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TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADNAN KOHLI

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A day bunking school is often spent out on the dhoks. Sometimes homework is brought along and completed while the cattle graze. DECEMBER 2018 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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JAMMU AND KASHMIR

National Geographic Traveller India December 2018  

Preview of the December 2018 issue of the Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller.

National Geographic Traveller India December 2018  

Preview of the December 2018 issue of the Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller.

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