Outlook Traveller https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ Outlook Traveller en 2018-04-21 19:09:03 Head To Oman For Five Unmissable Experiences https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Jabal-Akhdar-Oman-Rose-picker.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/head-oman-five-unmissable-experiences/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/head-oman-five-unmissable-experiences/ 2018-04-21T10:22:02+05:30 article Spring is an exceptional time to visit Oman. With pink roses blooming in Jabal Akhdar, the beauty of natural wonders, and architectural marvels, Oman must Few places exude a blend of modernity and traditional charm like Oman does. It is a tapestry of ever evolving terrains that offer breathtaking views for as far as the eye can see. The countless castles, forts and towers that Oman boasts of, are a testament to a glorious past, while the relatively new and modern towns promise a bright future.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Opened in 2001, this is the main mosque of the Sultanate of Oman, and the only one in the country open to non-Muslims. It houses the worlds second largest hand woven carpet and one of the largest chandeliers in the world, both of which are a visual delight. The mosques architecture incorporates Egyptian elements, a nod to the African influence on Omans Bedouin culture. Visitors are asked to dress modestly, and women are expected to cover their heads.

The mosque is open to the public from Saturday to Thursday, between 8am and 11am.

Mutrah Souq

Mutrahs seafront, lined with old merchants houses and dotted with minarets along the way, is one of Omans oldest commercial hubs. Most people go here just to visit the Souq, which is a traditional Arab market, chaotic and colourful, but now housed under more modern roofs. Artefacts and antiquities can be spotted among more traditional wares of textiles, perfumes and jewellery. Navigating the Souq can be tricky, but they say getting lost inside is part of the experience.

Nizwa Fort

It is a stunning reflection of the ingenuity and architectural prowess of ancient Omanis. The 17th century structure is famed for its 40m-tall round tower, and the view from the top reveals the scale of the surrounding date plantations and a stunning sight of the Hajar mountains dominating the towns landscape. Also worth visiting is the castle inside the fort, connected through intricate, winding corridors.

Jabal Akhdar

At about 10,000 feet above sea level, Jabal Akhdar is one of the highest points of the Omani Sultanate, and a favourite of adventurers and thrill-seekers. In the spring, the rugged terrain oozes sweet perfume and turns a spectacular shade of dusty pink Damask roses that envelope the mountain range, and attracts visitors who walk around, explore the blooming rose terraces along the range, or observe local factory workers manufacturing rose water. Those seeking adventure can trek the mountains and relax with special rose petal baths available at nearby resorts.

Cruises

Omans rich maritime history, renowned for dhow building and trading across the seas, established a special bond between Omanis and the sea. The country is surrounded by the sea and cruises are an inseparable piece of the history of the azure waters around it. Marina Bandar Al Rawda in Muscat Governorate, Musandam and the city of Sur in Ash-Sharqiyah are all famous for their marine trips. The many beaches and natural harbours provide endless opportunities for other water sports like sailing, kayaking and jet-skiing.

Getting there:Jet Airways operates daily flights to Muscat from Delhi and Mumbai. Oman Air also services the Delhi-Muscat route. Carriers like SpiceJet and Indigo have also started providing flights to Muscat from cities like Ahmedabad, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram. Major international carriers like Etihad and Emirates operate flights to many cities in Oman, via Abu Dhabi and Dubai

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Responsible Tourism: Relais & Chteaux Charity Day in India https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Wild-Coast-Tented-Lodge_Resplendent-Ceylon_Sri-Lanka_Aerial-5.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/responsible-tourism-relais-chateaux-charity-day-india/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/responsible-tourism-relais-chateaux-charity-day-india/ 2018-04-21T10:00:31+05:30 article 15 members of Relais & Chteaux dedicated towards upholding their commitment to responsible tourism celebrated their first Charity Day in the Indian Subcontinent Relais & Chteaux, an association of the world's finest hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs with more than 572 members across 66 countries, introduced the first Charity Day for the Indian Subcontinent recently. From this year onwards, the regional delegation shall come together each year to commemorate 10th April as the day dedicated towards upholding the commitment to responsible tourism and giving back to the local community.

Each member already, in their own way, has been helping the communities they are located in. Most of them are in remote locations and have been able to provide employment, sustain the local community and even help in infrastructure development, education and healthcare for the villages around them. Their initiatives are continuous and year-round for the local communities, and this particular day was chosen to put a spotlight on noteworthy causes, gather awareness and spread the spirit of giving and goodwill. There are about15 properties that are participating in the first Charity day.

As a testament of our unwavering pledge towards preserving local culture and diversity, we are happy to announce the first Charity Day of the Indian Subcontinent. United by a passion for excellence in hospitality and a desire to share, each member of Relais & Chteaux is connected with the common goal to protect the local heritage and environment. The delegation shall commemorate this day each year going forward, said, Jaisal Singh, Vice President Asia & Member of the Executive Committee, Board of Directors, Relais & Chateaux.

The Charity Day is a momentous occasion that brings together the Relais & Chteaux delegation and members in the region for a greater cause. As we strengthen our commitment towards the local community preservation and honour our values of giving back to the society, this is a tradition we shall cherish for the Indian Subcontinent and hope to one day mark 10th April as International Charity Day for all the delegations around the world, said, Joerg Drechsel, Delegate of the Asian delegation, Member of the Board of Directors, Relais & Chateaux.

With their desire to protect and showcase the richness and diversity of the worlds cuisine and traditions of hospitality,Relais & Chteaux members claim to becommitted to preserving local heritage and the environment, as encompassed in the charter presented to UNESCO in November 2014.

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A Tropical Paradise: Rolling in the Green at Dewalokam https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Dewalokam1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/a-tropical-paradise-rolling-in-the-green-at-dewalokam/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/a-tropical-paradise-rolling-in-the-green-at-dewalokam/ 2018-04-20T15:46:58+05:30 article Dewalokam is a very special place, a farm with luxuriant vegetation on the banks of a small river. The word Dewalokam may be translated into When you leave Kochi behind and head up into the midlands of Kerala, the distinct shift in energy is almost palpable. For those who love the countryside, myself included, this is like a refreshing drink on a hot summers day. Time seems to move at a slower pace here. Houses arent stacked close together, instead stand separated by acres of verdure. Rubber plantations dominate the landscape providing plenty of shade yet allowing sunlight to filter through, casting a peridot green hue over everything. Gently rolling hills and winding roads flanked by more greenery lends a fairytale characteristic to the region. I almost expect to see little woodland creatures and fairies to pop out from behind trees and bushes, said a friend when she saw photos of my trip.

The midlands of Kerala are renowned for spices. And Dewalokam, the organic farm and homestay, which was my home for two nights, is also a spice plantation. This tropical paradise belongs to the Alilakuzhys, a Syrian Christian family, who have lived here for generations. Jose and Sinta Alilakuzhy manage Dewalokam with a determined slant towards sustainability. Although they are both teachers by profession, they still farm the land like their ancestors before them. Their children Tara and Paul also interact with guests on a daily basis, often times conducting the activities on offer.

Guests receive a traditional aarti usually done by Sinta or Tara before theyre shown to their rooms. Youll notice how you can see your reflection in floors here guests are asked to leave their own shoes in a rack at the entrance and don a pair of cloth house slippers while indoors. This keeps the interiors free of mud and dirt. The rooms are located on the first floor and open out onto a common verandah, which overlooks the courtyard. Although each room has an air-conditioner, I didnt feel the need to use it during my stay. The cool breeze from the windows and ceiling fan were more than enough to keep me comfortable. Nestled amongst dense foliage with a river running past the property, the temperature is lower here than it would be in city areas. Dont expect to find aTV in your room since theres plenty to do outdoors. Running hot water in the bathroom comes from a solar water heater so be a patient if it takes a little time to come through. I looked out of my window and noticed an old-fashioned house built entirely from dark wood and made a mental note to ask Jose about it later.

Every afternoon Jose takes his guests on a walking tour of his property. The sky was overcast my first afternoon there but that didnt dampen our spirits as we set off happily with umbrellas, Jose leading the way like the Pied Piper. First off were the pepper vines that creep up the trunks of tall trees. Tell me which one you find the sweetest, he said innocently while handing us black, green, red and white peppercorns. Not suspecting a thing, some of us dutifully popped them into our mouths one by one, thinking wed eventually get the sweet one; instead we ended up with watery eyes and stinging tongues, and an amused Jose, barely able to control his laughter.

As we walked along we chewed on sweet cinnamon leaves, learnt that a banana tree isnt actually a tree at all but a herbaceous flowering plant, with a pseudo-stem. Jose even cut a small banana plant to show us the separate layers of the pseudostem, which is really the stalk of the plant. The lovely pineapple salad we ate during lunch was made from the pineapples grown on the property. Up until this trip I had never realised that mace and nutmeg come from the same plant. This spice comes from the nutmeg fruit, which is cut open to reveal the shiny red aril that covers the nutmeg seed. Mace is the red aril and its the second-most expensive spice in the world. A few rubber trees also grow on the property and Jose showed us how channels are cut into the bark to allow the sap to drip down into a cup. The sap is collected every couple of days and smells a lot like fermented cheese. He also stopped by a patch of turmeric plants, pulling one up by the stem to reveal the bright orange roots, which have been used for cooking and medicinal purposes in India for centuries. As an amateur baker, I often use vanilla extract or the scrapings from dried vanilla beans in my cakes, so I was delighted to finally see what fresh vanilla beans looked like. In case youre wondering, they look somewhat like French beans that that have been completely flattened. Jose also grows bitter gourd (karela) here. Unlike the dark green ones in north India, these were pale green and fairly long the length of an adults size 7 shoe to give you an idea! We were treated to crispy bitter gourd chips sprinkled with chaat masala later that evening. What a delicious snack!

One section of the farm is home to fat chickens, goats and a few buffaloes and cows. I was very tempted to scoop one of the chickens up in my arms but they werent interested in being friends and clucked loudly and hid under bushes whenever I approached. I had better luck with the goats, who smelt my hand very much like a dog would. One of the buffaloes got very excited as Jose approached and he laughingly explained that hes her boyfriend and unless he visits her every day she gets upset with him. The dung collected from the bovines is treated in the biogas plant and the resulting gas is sent to the kitchen via pipes and used in place of LPG cylinders for cooking. There are also two large ponds filled with tilapia fish, which are fed food waste from the kitchen. Everything is connected in Dewalokam the overgrown grass and weeds cut from around the property are fed to the goats; the free-range chickens provide eggs; milk comes from the cows and buffalo; and honey is extracted from the apiary. A composting unit provides manure that is used as fertiliser on the farm. All the fruit and vegetables grown at Dewalokam are used for in-house consumption only.

After the tour we headed back to the main building for masala chai. The tea maker put on quite a show for the guests, dropping the tea from one tumbler into another ensuring that he worked up enough froth on top before distributing glasses amongst us. Very pleased with the display, we sat around afterwards chit chatting with our hosts till it was time for the cooking demonstration to showcase traditional Kerala dishes, which wed get to eat at dinner.

The aromas of freshly ground spices, chopped garlic, coriander and green chillies wafted through the air in the spacious kitchen. My mouth began watering even before anything had been cooked. Our chef was a smiling, jovial young man who had been with Dewalokam for over five years. After passing a box of spices around, asking us to identify each one, he commenced with the demo. Soon enough curry leaves and onions were spluttering in coconut oil with chef stirring the pot on occasion and slowly adding the ingredients such as dried fenugreek and coconut milk to end up with a lip-smacking chicken curry.

The heavens opened up that night, the steady pound of the rain on the roof lulled me into a deep sleep. While mornings can be lazy here, I was up at first light staring out the window at the delicate mist that had descended across the property. Birdsong filled the air along with the calls of the rooster from the chicken coop. If you really want to do something productive before breakfast, head down to the open-sided yoga hall near the swimming pool for a free asana class followed by meditation. The teacher had us bending forward, encouraging us to touch our toes, and stretching our limbs out to either side, which had us grinning since most of us were wound tight while he was as flexible as a rubber band and looked to be in his seventies.

Unfortunately for me, the monsoon carried on till quite late in the year in 2017. It rained every day that I was there so I couldnt swim in the river, which usually runs clear by November and has a gentler current. Guests can also cross the river in a raft and go for a guided walk through the forest that lies on the opposite bank. This two-hour walk is a great chance to see thousands of fruit bats roosting.

During your stay, a trip to Thommankuthu Waterfall is a must. A 30-minute drive away from Dewalokam, this eco-tourism spot has been well-developed and maintained. Trees reach great heights here and solid old creepers twist and turn their way up thick trunks while gnarly roots appear here and there along the path, so watch your step. While you dont need to be in peak physical condition for this walk, its not for those who tire easily or cant scramble over a few boulders every now and then. Along the way youll see gentle cascades as well as gushing waterfalls. It can get quite humid and sweaty, so I would advise you to wear comfortable clothes and shoes with a good grip. This outing definitely worked up my appetite and I was looking forward to a very filling lunch back at the homestay.

A traditional sadya lunch is served to guests at least once during their stay. Mealtimes are a communal affair here, giving you a chance to interact with people from around the world. I was really looking forward to this meal because Id last eaten sadya at my best friends wedding six years earlier. I clearly remember devouring everything that had been put on my plate including two or three portions of dessert. Served on a fresh banana leaf, fluffy grains of Keralan rice are accompanied by at least 10 different vegetarian dishes made from beetroot, banana, pumpkin, yam, drumsticks and lentils as well as chutney, pickle and papadam. You may want to skimp on breakfast the day sadya is being served for lunch.

After a hearty lunch, Jose showed me the last section of the original house that I could see from my rooms window. Built entirely from teak wood, there are three rooms in this single-storey building, each with a bathroom cum open-aired shower area. While maintaining it requires a lot of work, it does give guests a chance to experience living in a traditional house.

On my last day I went for a guided village walk along with a few other guests. We were accompanied by Prince, a friendly young man who has been working at Dewalokam for the past few years. Incidentally, all the members of staff are from the surrounding villages. At Dewalokam they get a chance to improve their spoken English by interacting with travellers from around the globe as well as learn other skills. Along the way he pointed out a stream he used to fish and swim in as a boy and told us that wild boars occasionally roam the woods, which made us glance around. Thankfully, we didnt encounter one. We stopped to say hello to a couple of rubber plantation workers who were winding up their day, which began at 3.00am! Yet they were kind enough to show us how they collected the rubber sap and also cut channels into one trees trunk so we could see the sticky white sap flow down into a bowl. A tuk-tuk ride into the neighbouring town gave us the chance to stop by a coconut oil processing unit. Huge vats are filled with chopped up pieces of dried coconut, which are then crushed by grinders to extract the oil. The oil flows into buckets and then cleaned and bottled.

We hopped onto a local bus next to head back to the farm. It was definitely the cleanest public bus Id ever been on and it was a fun ride back with the wind blowing our hair about and catchy tunes blaring from the front of the bus.

All too soon my stay at Dewalokam came to an end. I was truly envious of Jose and Sinta and their kids, who never have to say goodbye to this tropical haven. Nature lovers will feel completely at ease here. I could have admired the beautifully manicured lawns, trees and plants all day. I often found myself wandering down to say hello to the goats or standing by the river to watch it rush by silently. Theres a certain calm that descends on you in such places, a calm that we all look for in cities but fail to find. So head here if you need to recharge your batteries and youll find yourself wanting to retire to this verdant countryside and never venture into the chaos of a city again.

HIGHLIGHTS

Solar powerBiogas plantCompost unitOrganic farmEmploys locals

FAST FACTS

When to go November to February is the best time to visit; the homestay is shut from May to June; July to October is still monsoon season so many activities may be hampered by rain

Dewalokam

Koduveli

PO Karimannoor

Kodikulam - 685582

Kerala

Tel: 4862-264071

Cell: 09387535321

Email: dewalokam@gmail.com

W dewalokam.in

Tariff ?10,000 for two with all meals, taxes extra

Activities

Walk around the farmVillage walkCooking demonstrationWalk in the forest (NovApr)Visit Thommankuthu Waterfall (JunDec)School visit (JunFeb)BirdingCyclingYoga

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Kochi International Airport (65km/ 2hrs). Taxi costs around ?2,0002,500. Dewalokam arranges pick-ups and drops for around the same price

Rail Nearest rail head: Kochi (75km/ 2.5hrs). Taxi is about ?2,750. Dewalokam arranges pick-ups and drops for around the same price

Road State buses from anywhere in Kerala connect to Thodupuzha, 15kms from Dewalokam. From Thodupuzha take any bus going through Kaliyar and get down at Chalackamukku. A tuk tuk from here to Dewalokam costs ?60. Pick up and drop at a reasonable rate also arranged by Dewalokam

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller Getaways Responsible Escapes

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Overlanding in India With Voyages Overland https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Overlanding.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/overlanding-india-voyages-overland/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/overlanding-india-voyages-overland/ 2018-04-20T15:41:19+05:30 article Join Voyages Overland, which makes no promises of marshmallows, but gives you an opportunity to go overlanding in India You must have seen this on television: people driving campers around the American wilderness for months, and stopping every night to camp and roast marshmallows around bonfires. Now you can turn off that TV and join Voyages Overland, which makes no promises of marshmallows, but gives you an opportunity to go overlanding (travelling long distances over land) in India. They have luxury trucks, equipped with amenities such as washing machines and self-help kitchens, to drive you around plenty of different circuits, and have you camp out at stops and access offbeat places in difficult terrain. Their fixed itineraries vary from seven to 43 days, and include the hills, royal trails and the Indian heartlands.

Voyages Overland presently covers three different circuits in India, namely Rajasthan, The Himalayas and Central India. The Rajasthan circuit is recommended for the lovers of culture, art, architecture and those interested to see the vibrant colors of everyday desert lives, the circuit in Central India is perfect for Overlanders with an interest in spirituality, art, and wildlife. The circuit covering the Himalayan range up north provides for a good mix of adventure and tranquil nothingness along with tremendous stargazing and nature walk opportunities. Voyages Overland currently is gearing up for their upcoming trails in the Himalayas for the months of May to August.

Voyages Overland is a team of seasoned overlanders passionate about places, experiences, and the wide, open road. Their cumulative travel experience spans over 50 countries, having overlanded through states, countries and continents. The central idea of the itineraries is to experience the outdoors like very few have, while never losing sight of the tenets of responsible tourism. They are all about bringing back groovy fun into community travel, gathering stories, memories, and travel mates that last a lifetime.

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5 More Easy Treks in India https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/bramhatal-1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-easy-treks-india/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-easy-treks-india/ 2018-04-20T10:00:38+05:30 article Surreal lakes, snow-covered peaks, verdant meadowsthese treks around Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have everything you could ask for and more There is no better way to gauge the beauty of a hill than to climb it. We told you of five easy treks you can attempt to go yesterday which you can read here. Today, we bring you five more simple treks you can choose from.Surreal lakes, snow-covered peaks, verdant meadowsthese treks around Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have everything you could ask for and more:

THE HAMPTA CIRCUIT TREK IN KULLU, HIMACHAL PRADESH

USP Comfortable trekking, dynamic landscapes and beautiful views of the surrounding snow-covered ranges

ROUTE Jagatsukh to Buggi to Tilgan to Jogi Dug to Kharimindiyari to Chikka to Pandu Ropa
DURATION Six days
Do not confuse this trek with the popular Hampta Pass one. Not only does the Circuit trek ditch the trail to the challenging Hampta Pass, it follows a shorter route and has a much gentler gradient (you gain approximately 4,000 feet overall). Yet the shift in terrain is spectacularfrom orchards, meadows and forests to snowfields. The views comprise the panoramic Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges.At the Kharimindiyari campsite, you can spot the breathtaking Bara Bhangal range. Flower-embellished valleys (such as at Chikka) dominate the latter part of the trek. The best time to do this trek is late May.

NAG TIBBA TREK IN TEHRI GARHWAL, UTTARAKHAND

USP Easy access from Delhi and majestic views of the striking Bandarpunch range
ROUTE Pantwari to Khatian to Nag Tibba to Pantwari
DURATION Three days
From Delhi, you can drive to Pantwari, trek eight kilometres to Nag Tibba, descend and go backall without missing a single day of work. You can even bring your kids as this is an easy trek. The initial ascent is through rocky terrain, but soon you are surrounded by oak and rhododendron forests. As you gain altitude, powder snow greets you in the winter; in the summer, it is yellowing hillsides with deep green groves. Eventually, you arrive at the Nag Tibba base, where the nag devta (serpent god) temple is popular among locals. In fact, the peak itself is considered its home. Brace yourself for the last kilometreit is steep but rewarding. From the summit, called Jhandi, peaks of the Bandarpunch range, such as Srikanta and Kalanag, are visible.

DODITAL TREK IN UTTARKASHI, UTTARAKHAND

USP An ethereal lake with linkages to Ganesha
ROUTE Sangam Chatti to Bebra to Manjhi to Dodital to Manjhi to Bebra to Sangam Chatti
DURATION Up to six days
Legends say that Dodital is the abode of the Hindu god Ganesha. Whether that is true or not, one glance at the emerald blue lake and you understand why it could inspire divine connotations. The trek becomes difficult if you go till Darwa Top beyond the lake, so that is best avoided. People usually go directly to Dodital from Bebra, and then, during the descent, trek straight down to Sangam Chatti. However, feel free to do it at your own pace. Do stop at Manjhi, where you will find a pretty campsite with a number of Gujjar shepherd huts. At Dodital, which is surrounded by snow peaks in winter, you can spot the freshwater golden mahseer, one of the most charismatic Himalayan trouts.

BRAHMATAL TREK IN CHAMOLI, UTTARAKHAND

USP A winter trek par excellence
ROUTE Lohajung to Bekaltal to Brahmatal to Lohajung
DURATION Three days
Those fond of winters will inevitably enjoy this trek. It is only a comfort trek till the frozen glacial lake, Brahmatal, though, and advanced trekkers can go further on to Tilbudi. This trek is unique: it is a peak winter trek, which means you can go for it even in January. The heavy snow could pose a challenge, so remember to be well-equipped. Most of the trail is in snow-covered surroundings, including forests. A highlight includes views of peaks such as Nanda Ghunti and Trisul. Lakeside camping at Bekaltal is an exciting experience.

DEORIATAL TO CHOPTA/CHANDRASHILA TREK IN RUDRAPRAYAG, UTTARAKHAND

USP Perfect for birding, views of many high-altitude peaks and springtime trekking
ROUTE Sari to Deoriatal to Chopta to Chandrashila to Chopta
DURATION Three days
They say Garhwals most magnificent peaks are visible on this trail. Everything about it is appealingthe flora, Deoriatal (a startlingly attractive lake), the Tungnath temple (the highest Shiva shrine in the world at approximately 12,000 feet) and the Chandrashila peak (with a gorgeous trail to the summit), which offers views of many 22,000-ft-plus peaks and dozens of rare and interesting varieties of birds. The trek is more or less comfortable till Chopta, but Chandrashila (via Tungnath) is a bit steep and certainly requires some skill. Nevertheless, we recommended you give it a try.

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Montana To Arizona, Drive Around America On A Beer Trail https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Great-Northern-Brewing.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/montana-to-arizona-drive-around-america-on-a-beer-trail/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/montana-to-arizona-drive-around-america-on-a-beer-trail/ 2018-04-20T09:33:20+05:30 article From Montana to Arizona, go on a delicious beer trail combining the love for long drives. With every passing landscape, the taste of beer changes Americans love their beers.If you head to the US, you will always find there's a search for the perfect brew. While each region can boast of local flavours and brewing companies, the best way to go on a craft beer trail is via the open road. Yes, you heard that right! Pack your bags for two weeks, head to America and get in a car. From Montana to Arizona, with every passing landscape, the taste of beer changes and a road trip will help you decide which you like the best!Start at Great Falls in Montana, then head to Polson, in the same state. Head to Wyoming next for some award-winning brews before reaching Utah in Salt Lake City. Stop by Denver,Albuquerqu and Santa Fe before reaching Arizona!

Montana

Start in the rugged west at Great Falls. Located at the meeting of rivers Missouri and Sun, ithas perfect to hiking trails to get you thirsty. Local breweries like Mighty Mo and Front are extremely popular with the locals so begin your craft beer trail. Then, drive four hours or 381 kms to reach Polson where the real adventure starts. Filled with breweries, first work up an appetite walking at the Kerr Dam to see gorgeous scenery. Then sit by the charming lake and indulge. Home to theGlacier Brewing Company, try the sampler tray or pints from their beer garden. Moscow Brewing's taproom is another option.

Wyoming

Seven hours or 733 kms from Polson, Jackson in Wyoming is at thesouthern tip of the Jackson Hole Valley. Famousforwestern boutiques,art galleries and restaurants, head to Snake River Brewing Company and Roadhouse Brewery. They are both award winning breweries where you can sample gourmet eats along with craft beers! Walk off all the beer as you spend a day at the one of the national parks nearby -National Elk Refuge,Grand Teton National Parkand the world-famousYellowstone National Park.

Utah

It's time to make your way to Utah. Salt Lake City is five hours or 447 kms away from Jackson. The city has something for every kind of traveller. From scenic parks to mountain views, great food to shopping, breweries are also high on the list. The city's most famous brew at Uinta Brewing started in 1993 before heading toSquatters Pub, which poured its first local beer in 1989 and is now known throughout the American West. Just an hour away, Park City is the state's most beloved ski town and home to the Sundance Film Festival. Don't forget to stop byWasatch Brewery, whichwas the first one in the state. If you want a break and enjoy whiskey, don't forget a tour and tasting at High West's award-winning distillery.

Colorado

Denver lies 805 kms away from Park City. The eight-hour drive will definitely make you thirsty. If youplan your trip accordingly, don't miss out on the Great American Beer Festival and the Denver Beer Fest. But, if not, never mind. The Mile High City deserves multi-day beer explorations. Check out breweries in between the art museum, LoDo and Union Station.Do go to Wynknoop Brewing Company, theGreat Divide Brewing Company, andDenver Beer Company.

New Mexico

Make your way from Colorado to New Mexico. It takes about seven hours from Denver to Alburquerque. The picturesque town has a rich history amidst natural beauty. Sip onLa Cumbre Brewings finely crafted beers at their tap room.Then, head to industrial microbreweryBosque Brewing to finish a great day. Don't forget to drive an hour away to Santa Fe. The city wasfounded in 1610 as a Spanish colony. With beautiful art galleries and museums, and opera in the evening, end on a high note withhandcrafted beer fromSecond Street Brewery.

Arizona

The last state on the long beer trail route, Sedona is 663 kms away from Santa Fe. Not only is the drive outstanding with jaw-dropping natural landscapes, at the city, enjoy sometime in the sun at the Slide Rock State Park. Then, taste a variety of brews at the OakCreek BreweryandHistoric Barrel+Bottle House to round off a great day. Last but not the least, end your beer trail inPhoenix and Scottsdale. After a day of channeling your inner cowboy in Old Town and hiking up Camelback mountain, reward yourself with pints fromPhoenix BreworFour PeaksBrewery!

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ITC Grand Chola: Where Luxury Meets Responsibility https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ITC-Grand-Chola1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/itc-grand-chola-where-luxury-meets-responsibility/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/itc-grand-chola-where-luxury-meets-responsibility/ 2018-04-19T11:23:08+05:30 article ITC Grand Chola expresses the glory of the Chola Dynasty. Inspired by the architectural splendour and rich culture of the imperial Cholas, the ITC Grand Luxury hotels seem to be cut from the same cloth. You are assigned a room by an employee at the main desk, who smiles fervently and wishes you a great stay. The ding of the elevator announces your floor. After walking down a carpeted hallway, you use your key card on a thick, wooden door emblazoned with your room number in brass letters. You enter a spacious room, tastefully decorated, equipped with everything youd ever need. So what is that sets ITC Grand Chola apart? While the hotel honours its guests, there is an important entity they honour far more the environment.

This palatial property, built as a tribute to one of the greatest empires of south India, is set in the beating heart of Chennai. If believers of the ITC brand are to be...well, believed, the hotel embodies the principles of responsible luxury with panache. To many of us, the term may seem like a massive contrast, however luxury without compromising the earth and sustainability without comprising luxury is an apparent cornerstone of the ethos of this hotel chain. I arrived at the hotel, with my tiny blue suitcase in tow, and made it my mission to find out exactly what this seeming juxtaposition entailed and whether a hotel could really have it all in todays hyper competitive environment.

Once I was escorted to my room by my valet, I took my time to enjoy the sheer opulence. The room was elegant, and the pride of place was taken up by a very comfy-looking bed. The view from my window was spectacular the stately faade of the hotel stood underneath the stark blue sky with a smattering of fluffy clouds. A small table at the foot of the bed had been decorated with so many chocolates, amongst other delicious treats, that my inner child rejoiced! On the same table lay a small placard with my name and picture welcoming me home. When my inner narcissist nudged me to pick it up for closer inspection, it turned out to be made of white chocolate! A glass full of chilled coconut water sat invitingly on the writing desk, along with a plate of delectable-looking cheeses. I found no sign of packaged water bottles; instead, there were at least four glass bottles with crystal clear water in them. Considering how polluting plastic is, this was an excellent start. Right next to them were some local treats banana chips, murukku, almonds and cashews. As the stickers on the jars indicated, this was part of ITCs Local Love initiative, an effort to highlight the wonderful cuisine of the city.

Though I was relishing those banana chips, my hunger was far from being satiated. Mercifully, it was lunch time. In hindsight, I shouldnt have gorged on those chips and left them for later. I was seated at the private dining area of Madras Pavilion, and boy did I feel like royalty. On the menu was a delicious sadya preparation from Kerala served on a banana leaf. The meal started with a glass of steaming rasam and papadam, and was followed by a variety of rice dishes served with thoran, avial, sambar and a delicious mango pickle that I couldnt get enough of. My stomach was so full by the end of it that I couldnt move. But theres always room for dessert! And Im so glad my stomach was able to accommodate that delicious dose of sweetness payasam made with coconut milk served to me in a shot glass! While sitting at the table, I learned that a significant amount of edible ingredients at the kitchens in all of ITC properties are sourced locally, helping the environment and boosting the local economy. So, you can eat like a king, guilt-free!

What I really wanted after this luxuriously heavy meal was to take a nap, but something more informative was the order of the day. I was about to go on a tour of the property, with Chief Engineer Mr Narayanaswamy Ramamoorthy, where I would get all the answers about this mysterious term responsible luxury. I was told that ITCs environmentally sustainable measures began even before the construction of the present building started rather than cutting trees within property limits, the team transplanted them around the premises; a sustainability measure that seems so simple, but one that many large companies overlook. Our first stop was the sewage treatment plant of the Grand Chola, which was a two-minute walk from the main entrance. Hundred per cent of the waste water of the hotel is treated through the plant and recycled for a multitude of uses such as horticulture, flushing and campus cleaning. The hotel also has areas for water harvesting, which help retain all the storm water catchment on-site. Along with these measures, even the fixtures inside the hotel were put in place to reduce water usage, which lowers the hotels water usage by as much as 35 per cent when compared to other buildings just like it! The vegetation around the hotel, which is grown vertically so that more plants can be potted in less space, is also low-maintenance to help minimise water usage. Water wastage is a big concern for the people at ITC Grand Chola and it was a privilege to see persistent effort to combat it at every step. I also visited their facility for in-house drinking water purification. Deemed SunyaAqua (pronounced shunya aqua), a path-breaking initiative of what they call zero-mile water. A mineral water bottle pollutes not just because its plastic. The process of shipping and delivering such bottles to hotels by fuel-guzzling trucks leaves a huge impact on the environment.Since this water is purified in- house, SunyaAqua travels exactly zero miles, thereby creating no carbon footprint whatsoever. This is the water inside every glass bottle in ITC Grand Chola. Their process does not just remove contaminants, but also infuses the water with the goodness of tulsi, fennel and cinnamon.

The hotel also uses solar energy and 20 per cent of their domestic hot water requirement is met through this. Considering the sheer size of this property ITC Grand Chola has 600 rooms this is no small feat! The electricity inside the hotel comes from their self-owned wind farm at Kundadam, near Coimbatore, the excess of which is contributed to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board. The efficiency of this building has not gone unnoticed ITC Grand Chola is the worlds largest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum-rated hotel in the new constructions category, and they display this plaque proudly in the lobby. LEED certifies buildings based on reduced stress on the environment.

During the tour, I also visited the hotels boilers. Before you scoff and wonder how a boiler could be efficient, the hotel uses bio diesel, which is made from vegetable oil rather than more polluting fuel such as wood or coal. Even their heat pump is operated with the help of bio diesel, drastically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere while its being used.

The last stop of this extremely educational tour was their fully automatic organic waste converter, which converts organic waste into compost. So well-known is this machine that people from around the area come to the hotel for this compost, which Grand Chola gives away free of cost.

Tip If you wish to take an eco tour of the property to learn about all of ITC Grand Cholas green initiatives, contact the duty manager.

As we went around the building, Mr Ramamoorthy explained that it wasnt just its name that was inspired by the imperial Cholas, but its architecture as well. One of the longest ruling dynasties of south India, the Cholas were great patrons of the art and were responsible for sculpting some of the most incredible temples that are still extant. Just like south Indian temples built in the Dravidian architectural style, the hotel has four entrances named Vallavan (north), Sembiyan (east), Killi (south) and Chola (west). The central structure of the complex is domed. Though the interiors are modern, there are soft flower motifs sculpted on the walls, ceilings and pillars. These are inspired by the Brihadeeswara Temple of Thanjavur and were meticulously etched out by 4,000 artisans who came from nearby Mamallapuram. One of the most remarkable features of the building is the grand, sweeping staircase near the main lobby of the hotel, which boasts an elaborate wooden sculpture of two horse-drawn carriages on the wall. And it becomes even more remarkable at 6.00pm in the evenings every day when a short Bharatnatyam performance takes place here. Dont miss it; all guests are welcome to attend!

I bid adieu to Mr Ramamoorthy and walked back to my room, truly amazed and inspired by all that this ITC property was doing for the sake of the environment. After a quick, energising nap, it was time for me to head to Avartana, which serves contemporary south Indian. How, you may ask, can south Indian cuisine be contemporary? I was about to find out just that. My stomach had still not recovered from my heavy lunch, and here I was, sitting at a restaurant where the spectacular lighting was making every dish in the hands of passing servers look so deliciously tempting. I was treated to course after course of modern takes on traditional south Indian dishes. There was the interesting asparagus, French beans and coconut stew; a truly palate cleansing sorbet; and sago and yoghurt, amongst other fascinating culinary offerings. Thank the gourmand gods that the portions were small! Last came the dessert, which was a show unto itself mango and ginger jelly encased in white pudding surrounded by sugar threads. Yes, if the image that sentence is conjuring is that of an egg inside a nest, you are absolutely right! That sumptuous meal had me feeling pleasantly drowsy. So I made my way to my room to give in to the tempting call for sweet, sweet slumber.

I awoke well-rested the next morning and headed straight for the gym. If you have some time free, I recommend heading here since they have top-notch equipment and trainers to give you an amazing work out. You can also go for a dip in any one of their three swimming pools (there is also a pool for children and a Jacuzzi).

My itinerary had a spa-day in store for me and I couldnt have been more excited. ITCs Kaya Kalp spas are rooted in traditional Indian wellness philosophies and offer visitors exotic beauty treatments, relaxing massages and Ayurvedic rituals. The treatment that I was being offered was their 60-minute signature Kaya Kalp Massage. I entered the calming environment of the spa, ready to be pampered. My masseuse gave me three options for the blend of essential oils she would be using: Mysore sandalwood, to de-stress; lime and ginger, to detoxify; and eucalyptus and black pepper, to soothe tired muscles. Since I had been staying in a cocoon of luxury for two days and there were no aching and tired muscles to soothe, I chose to detoxify with the lime and ginger blend. With the adeptness of a practised hand, she massaged my body with the delicious-smelling oils and I didnt even realise when the hour was up. She had to nudge me out of my peaceful conscious slumber and escort me back to the changing room. Though I was a little disappointed that the experience had flown by so fast, I was invigorated and ready to tackle the day ahead of me.

I decided to explore a little of the beautiful city of Chennai that day. I visited the Marina Beach, the longest urban beach in the country. I sat awhile on the sand, admiring the crashing waves on the shore and enjoying the pleasant breeze. Once the noisy crowd started distracting my senses, I decided to head to the next attraction on my agenda the Government Museum. Established in 1851, this is the second oldest museum in India. The collection here, which included archaeological and numismatic exhibits, was vast and varied and I wish I had more time on my hands to explore the museum properly. Alas, that was not to be, but I made a mental note to make this lovely city a part of my travel plans again.

By late evening, I was back in the hotel. Rather than going back to my room, I decided to spend some time at ITC Grand Cholas Tranquebar, a restaurant that derives its name from the famous Danish colony in Tamil Nadu now called Tharangambadi. I savoured a cocktail called Femme Fatale, a fruity blend of litchi, peach and pisco, along with some yummy chips and dip while I got some reading done. While youre at ITC Grand Chola, you also have the option of visiting The Cheroot Malt and Cigar Lounge, perfect for an evening of conversation. The delicious cocktails had only served to give me a voracious appetite. Little did I know that I was about to embark on the most splendid culinary journey yet. Gourmands, be warned. Before you head to the luxurious Royal Vega restaurant, make sure that your stomach has lots of room!

As soon as I entered through the doorway, I was swept away by the magnificence of this restau-rant. It looked nothing less than the dining room of a palace somewhere in Rajasthan during its heydays. Ill be honest, I felt a tad under-dressed for a place like this; even the servers were wearing smart sherwanis! I was welcomed inside with an aarti and garlanded with a string of jasmine. As soon as I was seated on a chair that could easily pass for a small throne, I met up with Chef Varun Mohan who explained that the interiors of the restaurant are indeed inspired by the dining areas of ancient royalty, just as I had suspected. They call it an honestly vegetarian restaurant and for good reason. None of the utensils here have ever been used for meat-based dishes. The staff here is also pure vegetarian. The menu, which changes every two months, is according to the prevailing rithu or season and is based on Ayurvedic principles (the items are listed by their traditional names, for instance dalika is lentils, so you might need a servers help to translate). What was in store for me, instead, was the Ranjit Khasa, a three course meal served in silver thalis with a variety of dals and sabzis accompanied by an assortment of Indian breads. This allowed me to sample a little bit of everything, and my taste buds could not have been happier! I particularly relished the palak mungori karhi, a dish made up of fine-cut spinach, mung lentils and buttermilk karhi. Despite having eaten more than my small stature could handle, I just had to taste dessert. The Chandragupta malpua was just the right note to end the meal on lighter-than-air barley pancakes sweetened with jaggery and honey, a recipe that apparently dates back to 300 BCE!

Back in my room after the much-too-hearty meal, I proceeded to check ITCs sleeep menu, carefully selected food and beverage offerings that evidently enable a good nights sleep. You can choose between buttermilk pancakes, soya tofu, oatmeal, and even a preparation of salmon. I picked the camomile herbal tea, and before I knew it, I was off to dreamland, just as the menu foretold! To my dismay, it was already time for me to head back to my home city.

In a jet-setting metropolis like Chennai, life is passing people by so quickly that they dont often stop to smell the roses, much less worry about the state of their surroundings. So for ITC Grand Chola, located in the heart of this very environment, to take such strident and all-encompassing measures to protect the eco-system is admirable indeed. The thoughtful, long-term approach they have taken to protect the environment and bolster the local economy goes above and beyond what you would expect from a luxury hospitality firm. And with the rising threat of global warming and the very real need for all of us to do our bit in order to stave off its rapid advance, it is heartening to see places like the ITC Grand Chola stand up and lead the way.

The Responsible Ethos of the ITC Chain

Every ITC hotel in India embodies the principle of responsible luxury with lan. More than 58 per cent of electricity requirements at all ITC hotels are met through renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The properties have reduced water consumption thanks to in-house waste water treatment plants. All excess recycled water is shared with local municipal authorities. Fourty per cent of all kitchen produce is sourced locally. ITC Maurya (New Delhi) was the first hotel in the world to install a solar paraboloid concentrator on its roof. ITC Sonar (Kolkata) is the only hotel in the world to have earned carbon credits. ITC Green Centre, the ITC headquarters, has been certified with the highest LEED platinum green points accorded to any green building in the world by the US Green Building Council. ITC hotels were also amongst the top three at the National Geographic World Legacy Awards in 2017 in the earth changers category.

However, ITC is more than just its green initiatives; the hotels beautifully mirror the culture of the region they are located in. The Namaste Ambassadors at every hotel are donned in local saris. At sundown, each hotel hosts a local ritual that guests can participate in. Shopping trails highlight local weaves. The Food Sherpa programme and Kitchens of India food festivals aim to showcase regional culinary favourites. Heritage walks cover the cities landmarks, and art walks bring attention to local artists.

Another note-worthy initiative is Welcom-Jawan that provides gainful employment to retired armed forces personnel. The hotels also have ease of access for differently-abled individuals.

HIGHLIGHTS

Solar powerWind powerWaste water recycling and reusingRainwater harvestingIn-house water purificationUse of local produceLocal Love initiativeWorlds largest LEED platinum-rated hotel

FAST FACTS

When to go September to February

ITC Grand Chola

63, Mount Rd, Guindy Institutional Area

Little Mount, Guindy

Chennai - 600032

Tamil Nadu

Tel: 044-2200000

W itchotels.in

Tariff Service residence from ?10,000 (approx); Suite from ?20,000 (approx)

Activities

Eco tourKaya Kalp SpaGym/ pool/ JacuzziFood Sherpa trails (local cuisine)Exploring Chennai

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Chennai airport is well-connected by domestic as well as international flights. A taxi to the hotel will cost between ?700 and ?800 for a drop

Rail Chennais three railway stations, Central, Egmore and Tambaram are well-connected to all major metros and cities in and outside the state. Autos, taxis and radio cabs are readily available outside the stations

Road Chennai is an excellent road hub for destinations within Tamil Nadu Bus Both private and state bus services are available from Chennai to other parts of the state.

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller Getaways Responsible Escapes

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5 Easy Trek Routes in India https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/featured1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-easy-trek-routes-india/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-easy-trek-routes-india/ 2018-04-19T10:30:48+05:30 article From hills covered with rhododendron blossoms to gorgeous views of the world's highest peaks, here are some of the most rewarding treks in India for There is no better way to gauge the beauty of a hill than to climb it. Here are a few simple trek routes to get you started.

SHAM TREK IN LADAKH

USP Treks do not get easier than this, and there are homestays at every stop

ROUTE Likir to Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachan to Ang to Temisgam and Nurla

DURATION Four days

Each day of this trek has an eight- to 10-kilometre walk, but because the total elevation change is never more than a few hundred feet, it does not take longer than five hours. A stream flows along Yangthang, though Hemis Shukpachan is the prettier village abundant with willow trees, barley fields and dainty brooks. From Yangthang, it is an hour-long detour to the Rizong Monastery. The trek includes a few tough mountain passes, and Ladakhs dry summer heat may be bothersome, but the occasional orchard, pastureland or dramatic view of a rugged rock face more than makes up for that. From Ang, it is entirely downhill. You can take a taxi back to Leh from either Temisgam or from Nurla, just a little ahead.

SANDAKPHU/TUMLING TREK IN WEST BENGAL AND NEPAL

USP Vistas of some of the worlds highest peaks, the opportunity to straddle the porous IndiaNepal border, as well as stay in a homely tea house

ROUTE Dhotrey to Tumling to Tonglu to Dhotrey / Dhotrey to Tumling to Kalipokhri to Sandakphu to Srikhola

DURATION Two days (to reach Tumling) and four days (to reach Sandakphu)

From Dhotrey, you take a scenic walk that goes through Singalila National Park (known for its red panda) to arrive at Tumling, which lies just inside the Ilam district of Nepal. Its accessible because the IndoNepal border around tourist destinations is legally porous. From here, it is a two-day trek to Sandakphu, West Bengals highest peak. It boasts of views of Lhotse (27,940 ft), Kanchenjunga (28,169 ft), Makalu (27,838 ft) and Mount Everest (29,029 ft). Alternatively, to keep the trek easy, you could walk for an hour from Tumling to Tonglu, where you can dine by a vantage point of Kanchenjunga. Later, come back to Tumling and stay at one of the comfortable tea houses (a quaint Nepali lodging or bhatti). Next morning, head back to Dhotrey.

HILLEY TO VARSEY TREK IN SIKKIM
USP The superabundant blossoms at the Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in March and April
ROUTE Hilley to Varsey to Hilley
DURATION Two days
A three-hour trek with a low gradient is easily doable in a day. However, do spend a night in the lodging the Sikkim Government provides at Varsey, since the tiny 104 sq km sanctuary is really worth the time. In springtime, the trail and the sanctuary are interspersed with rhododendrons blooming not just in shades of red and pink, but also yellow and white. Trees such as magnolia, silver fir and hemlock also add to the lush environs. Since Hilley is sandwiched between Singalila National Park and Kanchenjunga National Park, the views are unbelievable.

KARERI LAKE TREK IN KANGRA, HIMACHAL PRADESH

USP Splendid views of the Dhauladhar peaks

ROUTE Ghera to Harnala to Kareri Lake to Ghera

DURATION Three days

A lot changes from when you begin at Ghera to when you arrive at the glacial Kareri Lake. Verdant pine forests become alpine grasslands. The snowline appears to be at kissing distance. The initial thick undergrowth fades away. Finally, the stream becomes more boisterous.

The walk may be a bit challenging from Harnala, but there are many campsites and food options en route. You trek for three hours on the first day and six on the second, on a gradient suitable for beginners. Kareri is formed by snow melting off the Dhauladhar mountains. Bonus: on a clear sunrise, you may catch a glimpse of the alpenglow.

THE KASOLKHEERGANGA TREK IN PARVATI VALLEY, HIMACHAL PRADESH

USP The natural hot springs at Kheerganga

ROUTE Barsheni to Kheerganga to Barsheni

DURATION Two days

They say nature is bountiful in Parvati Valley, and especially at Kheerganga. The trek is not at all shortyou need to cover about 14 kilometres in a day. The main route (via Nakthan village) lies adjacent to the sparkling Parvati river, while another (via Kalga village) is a charming but densely forested path that is difficult to navigate. You walk amid traditional Himalayan houses, picturesque waterfalls and Shiva temples. At Kheerganga, popular among foreigners, there are some hippie-themed cafs. However, the hot springs are the main attraction here. The meadow has an infectious spiritual vibe stemming from its mythological connection to Shiva. Spend a night at one of the reasonably priced accommodations before trekking back to Kasol.

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Top Five Places To Visit In Bhubaneswar https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-five-places-visit-bhubaneswar/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-five-places-visit-bhubaneswar/ 2018-04-19T10:00:06+05:30 article Take a spiritual walk through the old Bhubaneswar to enjoy the quintessential temple town that the city was once and return to the new town Part of Odishas Golden Triangle, Bhubaneswar, the state capital, deftly straddles two time zones, the old and the new. Take a spiritual walk through the old part to enjoy the quintessential temple town that the city was once. Then return to the new town for more earthly delights. Cave temples, an animal safari park, etc, are some of places that can be seen on an excursion tour. Puri and Konark are the other two arms of the Golden Triangle, which can be easily visited from Bhubaneswar.

Lingaraja Temple

The richly carved 11th century Lingaraja temple, dedicated to Shiva, sits in the middle of a huge landscaped area, surrounded by many smaller temples and shrines. The curvilinear tower (deul) rises nearly 180 feet. The architectural embellishments speak of the great heights attained by Odishas craftspeople. One of the most revered temples, it is crowded through the day, the number swelling up on festive days. Unfortunately, entry barred for non-Hindus. But anyone can catch a view of the sprawling temple complex from the viewing platform (originally built for Lord Curzons benefit) outside the temple. To the north of the temple is the Bindu Sagar, associated with the legends of Shiva and Parvati.

Other temples

There are several other temples in Bhubaneswar that are worth seeing for their sculptural and historical importance. The Kedar-Gouri Temple dates back to the sixth century. The seventh century Parasuramesvara temple is one of the earliest examples of Kalinga (a former name of Odisha) style of architecture. The mid-10th century Mukteswar Temple is said to bridge the old and new architectural styles prevalent in Kalinga. Another 11th century temple, the Rajarani, apparently takes its name from the red and gold sandstone used in building it; this temple is open to all. The 13th century Ananta Vasudeva Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu but shares many architectural similarities with the Lingaraja Temple. The ninth century Vaital Deul exhibits a deviation from the popular Kalinga style of architecture, and is an example of the Khakara style of temple design followed by the Tantric cult.

Odisha State Museum

Sculptural exhibits ranging from third century BC to the late medieval period, coins from pre-Mauryan days to the royal families of Odisha, illustrated palm leaf manuscripts and many other artefacts that highlight the rich historical and cultural legacy of Odisha are the key attractions of Odisha State Museum (http://odishamuseum.nic.in/), open on all days except Mondays and government holidays. Galleries include archaeology, art and craft, anthropology, armoury, manuscripts, coins, etc. Ticketed entry.

Tribal Museum

The Tribal Museum, located in Nayapalli, has been developed as a Museum of Man. Open 10 am to 5pm on all days, except Mondays and government holidays, it throws light on the various tribes of Odisha and their lifestyle, art and culture. Free entry.

Dhauli

It was the sight of Daya River turning red with the blood of slain soldiers that changed Emperor Ashoka of Magadha from a war-mongering ruler to a devout Buddhist. An eight-km drive from Bhubaneswar will take you to the river bank, the Ashokan rock edicts and the hill-top Shanti Stupa or the Peace Pagoda. If you are interested in watching the Light and Sound show, then it is better to visit in the late afternoon. There are usually two 35-minute shows, at 6pm and 6.45 pm, each. Entry charges apply.

Sishupalgarh

If you interested in ancient history and architecture, pay a visit to Sishupalgarh, about five km away from Bhubaneswar. According to eminent historian B.B. Lal, this fort city flourished between 3rd century BC and 4th century AD. Walls of the fortified city, pillars and other ruins are spread over a large area.

64 Yogini Temple

Located about 15km away by road from Bhubaneswar, the 64 Yogini Temple dates back to the early ninth century. The architecture of this temple is rather different from the popular Kalinga school of architecture. Carved into the inner wall of the circular temple are 64 niches; all except one contain a richly sculpted image of a Yogini (goddess) each. It is believed that the cult of Yogini worship was popular between the ninth and 13th centuries.

Udaygiri and Khandagiri

About 30km from Bhubaneswar are Udaygiri and Khandagiri (giri meaning hills), twin hills that stand almost facing each other. Proceeding from the bus stand, Khandagiri with its 15 caves stand on the left. Udaygiri is on the right. One has to trek uphill to see the caves. Also, beware of the pesky monkey brigade. While the caves of Khandagiri were probably residence of Jain monks, Udaygiri is believed to be the residence of Buddhist monks. The caves and temples of the latter are relatively more ornamental. Two of the most popular caves of Udaygiri are the Haati Gumpha and the Rani Gumpha. From Haati Gumpha, there is a trail that leads to Khandagiri.

Nandankanan

About 20 km away from Bhubaneswar by road, the Nandankanan Zoological Park (https://www.nandankanan.org/) is a popular attraction, especially for families with kids in tow. So to avoid long queues at the ticket counters during winter and school holidays, book online (https://www.nandankanan.org/tickets/). The Park, also home to the State Botanical Garden, is open on all days except Mondays; April to September, it is open between 7.30 am 5.30 pm while October to March, it is open from 8am to 5pm. Carved out of the Chandaka forest, the Park also includes the Kanjia Lake. Apart from animal enclosures, the Park also has vehicle safaris (white tiger, lion, bear, etc.). There is also an aquarium, a nocturnal animal house, a water-bird aviary, etc. There is boating and a toy train for exploring the Park. Check with the ticket counter for perambulators and wheel chairs.

Ekamra Haat

Odisha is one of the few states of India that is home to an immense variety of handloom and handicraft. Bhubaneswar, being the capital city, is one of the best places to go shopping for ethnic products. Head to Ekamra Haat located in the heart of the city. Browse and buy from kiosks selling traditional handicrafts and handlooms from different corners of the state. And if you are feeling peckish, try the Odisha special dishes available here. The Utkalika and Boyanika emporiums also offer a wide range of saris and other handloom material, both in terms of choice and price.

Information: One of the best ways to see and know about the temples of Bhubaneswar is to take a guided heritage walk. Ekamra Walks (https://www.ekamrawalks.com/) holds a heritage walk through the old town every Sunday. The walk, starting from the Mukteswar Temple, covers roughly two km stretch in 2-2.5 hours. There is no entry fee but prior registration is necessary. The walk usually concludes with an Odissi dance recital at the Art Vision School of Padma-Shri Ileana Citaristi. Kalinga Diaries (https://kalingadiaries.com/) too organises walks and tours in Odisha, including in and around Bhubaneswar. Odisha Tourism (https://visitodisha.org/tour/) too conducts day-long Bhubaneswar sightseeing tour.

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Dear Rafael Nadal Fans, You Can Now Stay At His Namesake Suite https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Rafael-Nadal-hotel-suite-Monaco.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/dear-rafael-nadal-fans-can-now-stay-namesake-suite/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/dear-rafael-nadal-fans-can-now-stay-namesake-suite/ 2018-04-18T15:04:16+05:30 article After an asteroid and street named after him, Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal can now add a hotel suite in Monaco to the list Rafael Nadal is one of the most popular tennis stars in the history of the game. Some would even argue he's the greatest ever! Now, Rafa fans will have a chance to stay at his namesake suite in Monaco which the Spanish tennis star opened this week at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort!

Suite 1029 is adorned by Nadal's personal memorabilia he's collected over the course of his career such as his tennis racquet, shirt and shoes, and of course photographs of his 10 titles in Monte Carlo, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. For the statistically minded, the current world No 1 has a 63-4 match record at the tournament since his debut in 2003, including a 46-match win streak between 2005-2013.

Not many know but Nadal has a host of things named after him. He is the only tennis player to have an asteroid named after him! In 2003, scientists at the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca named a newly identified asteroid 128036 Rafaelnadal in his honour. It was discovered around the same time, the Spaniard burst into prominence on the ATP Tour but the naming was done in 2008 after he won Wimbledon.

Not just the asteroid, but Nadal also has a street named after him in Valladolid, Spain.The Valladolid City Council voted to rename a Rector Luis Suarez Street as Rafael Nadal Street to honour the tennis star, who also among his long list of accomplishments, has starred in a music video with singer Shakira!

So Rafa fan, the next time you find yourself in Monaco, you know where you have to put up!

Getting there: It is easiest to book a flight from one of the major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai etc via carriers such as Air France and Jet Airways to Nice. There are no direct flights, however. Or take a non stop flight to Paris from New Delhi and then take a connecting flight to Nice. While Monaco does not have an international airport, Nice is the closest, about 22 kms away. Then go by road to reach Monaco.

 

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Amrapali Museum Pays Tribute to its Heritage https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/amrapali-museum-interior.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/amrapali-museum-pays-tribute-heritage/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/amrapali-museum-pays-tribute-heritage/ 2018-04-18T11:30:52+05:30 article Amrapali Museum in Jaipur pays tribute to the centuries-old art form that is the intricate design and workmanship of Indian jewellery Wandering through the hushed confines of the newly-opened Amrapali Museum in Jaipur, I find myself transfixed at how Indian jewellery has so deeply imbibed the cultural complexities of each region. This geographic diversity lends itself to a rich tradition of ornamentation. At once a celebration of the human form and its timeless linkages with cosmic forces, the glorious pieces on display here are a vivid reminder of how the art of ornamentation is an integral part of ordinary life.

Oppi Untracht, the Finnish author of Traditional Jewelry of India, in his long years of research in the Indian subcontinent, observed that as social hierarchies evolved, particular forms of jewellery, especially those made of valuable metals, became a means of differentiating social status. Design vocabulary varies from state to state, community to community, though the most extensive use of symbols in jewellery is evident in rural and tribal societies. Across the country, artisans have inventively used raw materials at hand and fashioned them with ancient processes, thus reflecting the evolution of society right from prehistoric times.

On display at the museum is a stunning variety of chains, pendants, amulets, head and hair ornaments, earpieces, torso and shoulder ornaments, belts and buckles, armlets, wristlets and cuff bracelets, bangles and bracelets, rings and toe rings, and anklets, sourced from the far reaches of the Indian subcontinent by Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera, founders of the luxury brand Amrapali Jewels, over 50-odd years.

My wanderings here remind me of the depth and range of Indias abiding love affair with the art and craft of jewellery design and ornamentation, a love that appears to blur borders. Stopping by at a particularly stunning piece from Gujarat, I notice how the physical boundaries between Rajasthan and Gujarat vanish as one encounters numerous similarities between the jewellery of the two regions. Yet, the crafters have dipped into their respective indigenous traditions and resources to create a sumptuous repertoire of jewels.

Guided personally around the showpieces by Rajiv and Rajesh, novices have much to learn here. For example, though we have few samples from ancient times today, there is enough evidence of the superb design quality and technical skill prevalent in the humble karkhanas and royal ateliers of the past. Various regions are recognised for the birth and development of Indias jewellery. Jaipur, for example, along with Varanasi and Lucknow, was the centre of the finest minakari (enamel) work. I encounter delectable mina work on silver and gold pieces on display. The kundan items are a reminder of the exquisite work of artisans in the karkhanas of Bikaner, Punjab and Delhi. The embellishment of kundan reached its zenith under the Mughals, who adorned the reverse side of kundan pieces with mina work, giving the wearer a more luxurious ornament. Showcased in a set of beautiful vases and ittradan from Pratapgarh is the cameo-like beauty of thewa (pierced gold work over transparent glass). In preponderance are elaborate pieces from the south, featuring the Mesopotamian-style granulation technique.

Silver holds a special place in the saga of Indian jewellery, depicted wonderfully in tribal regions. The range of traditional tribal and rural jewellery, with their indigenous symbolism, design and craftsmanship, has been a dynamic feature of Indias tradition. For centuries, it has been the mainstay of ornamentation of rural women, as an indicator of their wealth and social status, and a safe and easily disposable currency to tide over rainy days.

Though its inspirations have been limitless, often shaped by cross-cultural interpretations, it isnt surprising that Indian jewellery craft has remained rooted in tradition.

Amrapali Museum, K-14/B, Ashok Marg, C-Scheme, Jaipur, 0141-5191100, info@amrapalimuseum.com amrapalimuseum.com, amrapalijewels.com

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Top Tips For Planning An All Girls' Holiday https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/all-girls-holiday.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-tips-planning-girls-holiday/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-tips-planning-girls-holiday/ 2018-04-18T11:00:06+05:30 article We bring you top tips to prepare you for a soul-enriching experience with your girlfriends, as you head out to see the world on an With warm spring sunshine now giving way to warmer temperatures, it is that time of the year when you slip into your floral summer dress; slather copious amounts of sunscreen; and put on your sunglasses to beat the heat. The days are longer, lazier, and you find yourself craving a vacation to get away from the grind be it the pesky project deadlines or the relentless monthly targets at work. There couldnt be a better time than this to plan a holiday with your girls because what could possibly beat the joy of bonding with your girlfriends while backpacking or lounging at a beach? Whether it is hiking in the hills; exploring the cultural treasures of a town; or even hitting the sands for the sun and surf, a girls holiday needs meticulous planning and plenty of patience to ensure you dont end up with a grumpy gang. We bring top tips from our travel diaries to prepare you for a soul-enriching experience with your girl pals, as you head out to see the world.

Setting the course

When travelling in a group, it is common to lock horns over not just the holiday destination, but also the mode of travel. While you might want to rough it out on a camping trip, your girl friends might prefer to fly down to a glamping resort. And it is worth noting that your mode of transport (by air, rail or road) will play a key role in deciding your destination of choice. Fix a date with your girls, and hold a healthy discussion to get started with your holiday planning.

Budgeting

The last thing you want to ruin your holiday is that awkward moment when your gang is squabbling over who owed how much to whom. Situations such as these can get messy and unnecessarily complicate relationships. The trick is to create a shared money resource or a kitty at the start of the vacation, and fix a per person contribution to it on a daily basis. Then whether it is taking that unplanned boat cruise or ordering an extra bottle of wine, you and your girls are covered.

Splitting duties

Although it is a good idea to appoint one person in-charge of all travel arrangements to avoid confusion, it can also weigh the person down mentally with managing all the hotel reservations and travel bookings. Avoid meltdowns and frayed nerves by sharing responsibilities amongst yourselves, with one of you taking on the hotel booking, another the air/rail/road travel arrangements, and so on. With great travel comes great responsibility!

Sharing is caring

This cannot be emphasized more on a girls holiday. Whether it is a bottle of sunscreen, or a pair of earrings, or even that hair dryer, it pays to share your stash of things with your friends. Not only do you get to travel light and make sufficient room for your shopping excesses, but you also get to wear a new look every day. However, exercise discretion when packing anything expensive you wouldnt want to lose or get damaged.

Being flexible

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a holiday. There will be times when some of you will want to binge-drink the evening away, and others will want to lounge at the hotel pool with a pack of crisps. Remember you and your gang are on a holiday to let your hair down, and not to cause disappointment by scoffing at each others activity suggestions. Let everyone in the group do what theyd prefer to do, rather than pushing your own agenda. By the same token, it can sometimes be fun to try something youd otherwise not. Indulge in your friends wishes every now and then be it signing up for a culinary workshop, or taking beginner lessons in a water sport of their choice.

How much is too much

While it maybe tempting to reach out for yet another pint of your favourite spirit, keep in mind that you dont want to attract unwanted attention in unfamiliar surroundings. Be mindful of your friends safety as well as your own stumbling and fumbling the way back to the hotel is not the best idea.

Handling tense moments

A group holiday will almost always bring disagreements and arguments, when your gang wont see eye-to-eye on various aspects. Take a deep breath; identify the points of conflict; and have a patient, level-headed discussion to resolve your issues. It doesnt help anyone to get all riled up and bring up something that might make the situation worse.

Me time

If youre mostly an introvert or even otherwise it is vital to make some time for yourself, away from the hubbub of the rest of the group. Find yourself a cosy nook at the hotel property to catch up on some me-time: carry a book, go for a swim, write your travel journal, or simply listen to music. You are sure to join your people back feeling happier, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the day!

So what are you waiting for? Head for the holiday already!

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6 Best Places to Eat in Guwahati https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/The-Bean-Journal-1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/6-best-places-to-eat-in-guwahati/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/6-best-places-to-eat-in-guwahati/ 2018-04-18T10:30:57+05:30 article Here are best six cafs in Guwahati where you can hangout with friends and also try some real good food. Also, did we mention 'easy Guwahati, one of the fastest growing cities in India, is also the largest city of Assam. One thing is for sure, when in Guwahati, a traveller will never feel bored or be in want for good food. Like everywhere these days, peopleyoung and oldare always looking for good places to eat and have fun. Listed here are best six cafes in Guwahati where you can hangout with friends and also try some real good food. Also, did I mention 'easy on the pocket'? Bon Apptit.

Game N' Grill, Khanapara
Writings on one of the walls says "Gamers Don't Die, They Respawn". Yes, that is the attitude at the Game N' Grill. Here dining and fun go hand in hand. For no-fuss food, fun at the indoor gaming zone and pool table, and for a price that is easy on the pockets as well. Cost for two ?400, closed on Fridays.

BrewBakes, Six Mile
This one has songs written all overliterally. Framed song lyrics are a big part of the decor, so is the uncluttered seating arrangement. Last thing you'd want while eating is getting jabbed by a fellow diner. From the humble dish of fries to flamboyant sizzlers, BrewBakes does it all. Cost for two ?500.

11th Avenue Cafe Bistro, Uzan Bazaar
This one's for book lovers and for those in need of serious caffeine fix. From cafe bites like chicken nuggets to comfort food like pizzas and pasta, the cafe's got it covered. Serves great breakfast as well. Cost for two ?650.

The Bean Journal, Uzan Bazaar
For a quiet evening with friends and some unpretentious food, hang out at The Bean Journal. Here good food and promp service go hand in hand. There's nothing more off-putting than having to wait for the food to come. Not the case at The Bean Journal. Cost for two ?600.

The Corner Cafe, Uzan Bazaar
From India to Chinese to Italian, grab some of the best bites in town here at The Corner Cafe. Adding street food to cafe bites was a good choice it seems because their pakoras sell like hot cakes. Good food and quick service is what's pulling crowd to this place. Cost for two ?850.

Mocha, Christian Basti
Bright coloured decor, large portions, and a quirky mix of traditional and Italian, cafe Mocha is a cool place to hang out. Their dessert and shakes deserves a mention. Cost for two ?800.

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Fine Dining Weekend at Banyan Tree Phuket https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Peter-Kuruvita.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/fine-dining-weekend-banyan-tree-phuket/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/fine-dining-weekend-banyan-tree-phuket/ 2018-04-17T14:37:26+05:30 article The renowned chef of the Flying Fish fame will host a delicious weekend of fine dining complete with music concerts at Banyan Tree Phuket Award-winning Australian chef and restaurateur Peter Kuruvita will host a weekend of fine cuisine at Banyan Tree Phuket from April 27-29. With his remarkable 3-decade culinary career featuring world-renowned restaurants in Australia and Fiji, Mr. Kuruvita represents the latest highlight at the renowned luxury pool villa resorts ongoing Guest Chef Series.

Best known for his popular Flying Fish restaurant brand, Mr. Kuruvita has delighted diners for decades with his inventive modern seafood dishes and fresh takes on local cuisine. His two cookbooks, Serendip My Sri Lankan Kitchen and My Feast with Peter Kuruvita, won audiences over by blending culinary insight together with charming personal stories and a rich exploration of several stunning island countries.

Mr. Kuruvita has recently been active as a host for acclaimed TV series My Sri Lanka with Peter Kuruvita, Island Feast with Peter Kuruvita Mexican Fiesta and latest series Peter Kuruvitas Coastal Kitchen, covering culinary destinations in Asia, Australia and Mexico. He also frequently headlines food festivals worldwide, inspiring audiences with his skill and winning personality. Currently he acts an ambassador for Dilmah Tea, developing the concept of tea gastronomy and crafting new recipes from around the globe.

This much-anticipated weekend event at Banyan Tree Phuket luxury hotel offers food enthusiasts an opportunity to savour the style of tropical cuisine that made him famous, before Mr. Kuruvita embraced his new roles as TV presenter, author, industry speaker and restaurant consultant. His appearance at the Phuket resort comes right on the heels of the previous Guest chef series event starring Thailands first Lady Michelin-star chef, Khun Pom, from her acclaimed restaurant, Saneh Jaan in Bangkok. Future Banyan Tree Phuket culinary Stars in 2018 will see the arrival of a talented Japanese guest chef, as well as a 2-Michelin-star chef from Barcelona.

The three-day weekend extravaganza begins with a private lunch hosted for members of the media on Friday, April 27, followed by festivities in the afternoon and a magnificent dinner at Tre. A highlight this weekend for our regulars will be by Chef Kuruvita at our popular family Sunday Brunch on the 29th. Guests who enjoy the Sunday Brunch will receive an additional afternoon tea pairing experience, courtesy of Dilmah.

The weekends highlight also includes, the Laguna Phuket Food & Music Festival which is another one of Lagunas community events for children and adults, tourists and locals. All visitors will be treated to a wide selection of gourmet food booths from local restaurants and a picnic area for listening to the concert performances. The event will also bring together live cooking performances as well as evening acts from prominent Thai rock bands Bodyslam and Sweet Mullet, drawing thousands of spectators on Friday evening to raise money for the Phuket Panyanukul School for children with special needs.

The Festivals live acts will continue on Saturday from 4pm onwards, featuring famous Russian pianist and opera singer Ivan Sharapov, followed by the Phuket-based Black n Blue band. Sundays performances will be headlined by the popular Thai duo Joe & Kong, with Black n Blue returning to close the festivities at Phukets best resort.

For reservations and pricing information: +66 (0) 76 372400/fb-phuket@banyantree.com.

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Uttar Pradesh Is A Birder's Paradise https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/up-bird-sanctuaries-featured.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/uttar-pradesh-birders-paradise/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/uttar-pradesh-birders-paradise/ 2018-04-17T10:00:53+05:30 article Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, is blessed with unique natural resources beneficial for both resident and migratory birds. Read on to know more What makes Uttar Pradesh a birder's paradise? Is it the fact that the state has the advantage of being the largest in the country? Or the fact that rivers like the Ganges, Yamuna, Tapti and Gandak covers the longest distance in the state which also means numerous wetlands and ox bow lakes? It's both of these. Uttar Pradesh enjoys one of the best suited geographical features in the country making it a perfect host to 500 species of birds, migratory and resident. Here listed are 10 of the state's 27 bird sanctuaries:

Lakh Bahosi Bird Sanctuary

The 80sq km bird sanctuary comprises of two ox-bow lakes--Lakh and Bahosi, along with other neighbouring wetlands. The waterbodies are an important breeding and nesting habitat for water fowls. Water fowls like greylag goose, black-headed gull, white storm, bar-headed goose, Northern pintail, and residents like open-billed storm, painted stork, woolly-necked storm and black-necked stork make this place an 'Important Bird Area' (IBA). Chances of spotting the vulnerable greater-spotted eagle is also very good here.

Samaspur Bird Sanctuary

Located in Rae-Bareilly, the sanctuary had give lakes, home to around 200 species of migratory birds. Some of the migratory birds that visit this sanctuary are--greylag goose, bar-headed goose, white-eyed pochard, wigeon, breaking duck, great-crested grebe, among many others.

Shaheed Chandra Sekhar Azad Bird Sanctuary

The perfect combination of permanent freshwater lake and marshland makes this sanctuary a home to birds flying in from northern Europe, Tibet, China and Siberia.

Sandi Bird Sanctuary

Though very small in size (3sq km), this sanctuary is important because among other avian visitors, it is also home to over 200 sarus cranes. Apart from birds, the sanctuary also include fox, jackal, Indian porcupine, the Indian soft shelled turtle, Indian roof turtle, Indian flap shelled turtle and spotted pond turtle. Also, a great habitat for reptiles like red sand boa, wolf snake, rat snake, common krait and Russell viper.

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Bird Sanctuary

This region has a very large tract of the Gangetic plains. Birds like rosy pelican, garganey teal, surkhab, glossy ibis reside among other reptiles, fishes, amphibians and invertebrates.

Patna Bird Sanctuary

Located in Jalesar, this sanctuary is the smallest one in Uttar Pradesh, covering an area of just 1sq km. But size doesn't matter here as more than 180 species of birds make this their home. Best time to visit is during winter as it is then that most migratory birds arrive. The sight and sound of so many birds in an area as small as that is an experience no border will want to miss.

Saman Bird Sanctuary

Spread over just 5.25sq km, this sanctuary is one of the best places to spot the graceful sarus crane.

Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

Located conveniently on the Delhi-Agra highway, Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is home to over 126 species of migratory and resident waterfowls. Also popularly known as Keetham Lake, the sanctuary has good walking paths where one has good chances of encountering hog deer, spotted deer, nilgai and monitor lizard.

Vijay Sagar Bird Sanctuary

Best time to visit is November-December-January. Over 200 species of birds make this their home. Look for pintail, common teal, crested pochard, to name a few.

Okhla Bird Sanctuary

One of the most visited bird sanctuaries in North India, if not in the whole country, Okhla Bird Sanctuary is a blissful location for birding for both experts and novice. There is a narrow walking trail inside the sanctuary; watchword strategically placed for great view of the sanctuary.

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Europe On The Ganga https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/europe-on-the-ganga/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/europe-on-the-ganga/ 2018-04-17T10:00:37+05:30 article Did you know that not only the British but the Dutch, the Danes, the French and the Portuguese also set up their own colonies along The Ganga, as it enters West Bengal, on its final journey to the sea, is known as the Bhagirathi-Hooghly. While the upper reaches around Murshidabad is known as the Bhagirathi, it becomes the Hooghly as it flows south. An important trade route since time immemorial, the riparian corridor is also replete with historical landmarks, now mostly hidden among the ubiquitous villages, towns and cities that have grown along the banks.

Tucked along the rivers bends you will find pockets of architectural legacy that reveals not only the British but also the Portuguese, Dutch, Danes and the French arrived as traders and then carved out a kingdom for themselves. Travelling northwards from Kolkata (British), there is Serampore (Danes), Chandannagar (French), Bandel (Portuguese) and Chinsurah (Dutch), and Murshidabad, now euphemistically clubbed as Europe on the Ganga.

While little remains of the colonial settlements, you may catch glimpses of the past in bits and pieces through buildings, churches and other monuments.

The former kingdom of Murshidabad (now a town and district of West Bengal) on the Bhagirathi was a key trading post and saw the Armenians, the Dutch, and of course the British, settle here at different times. In Baharampur town, the Krishnanath College (founded in 1853) is a classic example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, a favourite with the European architects for designing public buildings in India. The 18th and 19th century graves in the Babulbona Residency Cemetery have lost most of their decorative headstones and the writings on the plaques barely visible. The Dutch and the British cemeteries in neighbouring Cossimbazar are no better though they are protected monuments. The Armenians had settled in Saidabad near Murshidabad town. Khoja Petros Arathoon built the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Saidabad in 1758. However, the church closed down in 1860. In 2006, the church was re-consecrated after a major renovation initiated in 2005. But walk-in tourists are not allowed inside.

It is said that the Portuguese were the first among the Europeans to arrive in Bengal. However, little remains of the settlement they built in and around the Hugli (or Hooghly, now a district and town in West Bengal) except for the famous Basilica of the Holy Rosary in Bandel, about 60km from Kolkata by road. Originally built in 1599, it was destroyed by the invading army of Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, and rebuilt in 1640 when the Portuguese were allowed to return to Bengal. Popularly known as the Bandel Church, it is part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kolkata. Tucked in a niche at the top of the faade is the statue of Our Lady of Happy Voyage. The sanctum inside contains three altars, that of Our Lady of Holy Rosary flanked by Jesus and St John Bosco (Don Bosco). In front of the Basilica is a ships mast, a gift from a passing Portuguese vessel as a token of gratitude after escaping a terrible storm at sea. The balcony at the top offers a panoramic view of the countryside. Apart from Christmas, some of the popular festivals include Feast of the Holy Rosary held usually on second Sunday of November, Feast of Our Lady of Happy voyage held usually on first Sunday of May, Fatima Pilgrimage on second Sunday in February and the Annual Walking Pilgrimage in January.

Interestingly, it is believed that it was the Portuguese who introduced the chhana (made from curdled milk) to Bengal. However, the famous Bandel Cheese (unripened cheese in plain and smoked versions) is now found only in a few shops in Kolkata.

The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Ostindische Companie, VOC) arrived in Bengal around 1615, for trading in salt, muslin, spices, etc. It was 1635 onwards that a settlement developed in Chinsurah, based on Fort Gustavus. At war several times with the British, the Dutch finally exchanged Chinsurah for Java Island (Indonesia). The Dutch legacy got virtually wiped out during the British period. Today, a ubiquitous Indian town, Chinsurah, is about 5 km away by road from Bandel. A couple of cannons with VOC etched on them, displayed in the Divisional Commissioners bungalow, are probably the only reminders of Fort Gustavus. The Dutch Cemetery is now an ASI protected monument. Seen from the main road between Chinsurah and Chandannagar is a lone but singularly beautiful structure, the tomb of Susanna Anna Maria Verkerk, whose life is said to be the source of the Hindi movie 7 Khoon Maaf, with her role essayed by Priyanka Chopra.

Chandannagar, about five km by road from Chinsurah, about 10km from Bandel, and nearly 53km from Kolkata, was a French colony until 1950. The French arrived here in the second half of the 17th century. The Strand on the Hooghly River, marked by an Indo-French edifice, is the most touristy corner of the town. The Sacred Heart Church is known for its stained glass painting. The residence of French governor Dupleix, now the Institute De Chandennagor, runs a museum full of colonial and other memorabilia. The local people may be able to guide you to any remaining bakery that still makes breads in the old-fashioned French way.

The Danes, who arrived here in the early 17th century, named their settlement as Frederiksnagore, otherwise known as Serampore. However, in 1845, the then Danish governor sold it to the English East India Company. Start with the Serampore College (established in 1818), said to the first missionary college in India. The grand colonnaded faade is an example of the classical Ionic architecture. The Carey Library and Research Centre located inside the College is a repository of the early print and publishing history of India as well as many rare books. Recently, two of the iconic structures of Danish Serampore, the 210-year old Olav Church and the even older Denmark Tavern, have been painstakingly restored. The church still sports the royal monogram of Christian VII, King of Denmark, during whose reign the church was consecrated, among other things. The tavern will soon have a cafeteria and lodgings for visitors. If you have time, do pay a visit to the cemetery where rests English missionaries Carey, Ward and Marshman, who were responsible for the establishment of the college and made other contributions towards the spread of education and printing in Bengal. Serampore is about 20km by road from Chandannagar and about 30 km from Kolkata.

Although there are private luxury boat cruises covering some of the above destinations, these are seasonal ventures. By road, it is possible to cover Bandel, Chinsurah, Chandannagar and Serampore, in a day, if you start early from Kolkata. Together, they lie within a road distance of 65 km from Kolkata. The places are also connected by the suburban railway network. Winter is the best time to travel on this circuit. Local restaurants serve typical Bengali fare, with a handful of North Indian dishes. Washroom facilities are scarce; gas stations and local restaurants are the best bet. Carry drinking water, mosquito repellents and sun-protective gear. The cemeteries mostly remain deserted and so visiting in groups or with a local guide is advisable.

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Catch the Aurora Borealis in Finland This Year https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/FINLAND.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/catch-aurora-borealis-finland-year/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/catch-aurora-borealis-finland-year/ 2018-04-17T09:34:13+05:30 article This slightly bizarre, slightly fascinating accommodation offered by Off the Map Travel will make sure you see the aurora borealis from the best vantage points Aurora borealis. The dance of these vivid red and green lights in the northern sky, their reflection on sparkling white snowfieldsthe experience has no parallel. Alas, that cumbersome chase at an ungodly hour once they have been spotted, only to have them disappear by the time you reach, isnt fair! Which is what makes the new Aurora Wilderness Camp a great idea. It is a slightly bizarre, slightly fascinating accommodation offered by an Englandbased tour operator, Off the Map Travel, where two mobile log chalets, placed on top of sleds, are dragged to the best vantage points at the beginning of each aurora season. They have glass roofs for an uninterrupted view of the sky, and are parked in isolated places, great for privacy. You could spot the Northern Lights while snuggling in your bed, relaxing in the outdoor hot tub, grilling sausages on the campfire or even riding on a snowmobile along the tundra. The double-sharing cabin is offered along with a four-day full-board itinerary (from 3,198 doubles, including transfers, activities and a guide). This season, Aurora Wilderness Camp is positioned six kilometres from Kilpisjrvi in Finland.
Bookings open till April. Visit offthemap.travel/aurora-wilderness-camp

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The Foodhall Cookbook: For the Love of Food https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/THE-FOODHALL-COOKBOOK.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/foodhall-cookbook-love-food/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/foodhall-cookbook-love-food/ 2018-04-16T16:41:24+05:30 article 5 star chefs share their recipes in this the first cookbook from India's food superstore Foodhall, a premium lifestyle food superstore for people who enjoy The world of cooking has undergone massive transformation in India. With television shows and celebrity chefs, right from Masterchef to Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, showcasing new techniques and flavour combinations, home cooks and amateur chefs have been enthused with the desire to craft beautiful and exotic dishes, and to wow with their creations. This is where The Foodhall Cookbook comes in, a collaboration between five renowned chefs. Each of the authors picks a theme that is their forte and curates gorgeous yet simple recipes for home cooks to try in the confines of their own kitchens.

The pantry essentials for the recipes come from Foodhall stores, which has been providing consumers with world-class ingredients spanning various cuisines since 2011. The volumes modern European recipes come from Gresham Fernandes (Salt Water Cafe and Smoke House Deli), Asian from Kelvin Chueng (Bastian), contemporary Indian from Zorawar Kalra (Masala Library), Mediterranean from Sabyasachi Gorai (winner of the Best Chef award at the National Tourism Awards in 2012), and desserts from macaroon queen Pooja Dhingra (Le 15).

The pictures that accompany the recipes are warm and beautifully shot, enough to make one salivate even before one looks at the listed ingredients. The best part is that each recipe included in this collection is easy to reproduce. There are no fussy, complicated steps that are likely to trip you up and make you lose interest halfway through cooking.

Start with the warm mushroom salad garnished with peppery scallions and watercress from Fernandes, then head to Chuengs Kung Pao shrimps, a spicy dish from northern China laden with peanuts for some extra crunch. Discover avocado papdi chaat or baingan bharta ratatouille in Kalras section, and then move towards more Mediterranean flavours such as vine leaf dolmas, chicken and sausage paella from Gorais recipes. End a fabulous meal with Dhingras falooda-inspired rose chia pudding or kesar pista cupcakes!

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The Cafe Trail In Kochi You Need To Go On https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/the-cafe-trail-in-kochi-you-need-to-go-on/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/the-cafe-trail-in-kochi-you-need-to-go-on/ 2018-04-16T10:45:47+05:30 article The cobbled streets, churches and colonial buildings in Fort Kochi remind you of this port city's rich past. Here are some cafes that will take The cobbled streets, churches and colonial buildings in Fort Kochi remind you of this port city's rich past. Fromthe Portuguese to the English, everybody wanted a slice of this ancient city for themselves. Here are some cafes thatcan give you a taste of the past

Teapot Caf

If youre walking past Peter Celli Street, the ivy-covered faade of this quaint little caf will definitely catch your eye. The interiors are reminiscent of an old tea garden bungalow with faded ochre walls and high ceilings. Tea paraphernalia takes up every corner here; tables made out of old tea chests and the antique teapot collection deserves a special mention. The caf offers a vast range of teas from Nilgiri to Darjeeling and Assam apart from the usual caf fare including some lovely cakes. If you have time by your side then you can browse through old editions of The New Yorker while sipping on a hot cup of Darjeeling.

Farmers Caf

Operating out of a 150-year-old building at Ridsdale Streetwhich used to house The Imperial Bank of India in the 1950sFarmers Caf exudes a laid-back ambience coupled with delicious recipes. Prepared with unadulterated vegetables sourced from Lunar Garden and city-based Farming Colours, crunchy green salads are one of the highlights here. The Garden Green Farmers signature salad featuring dill, parsley, chive and lettuce, dressed with lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil is a must-try with tropical pineapple shake made with cold-pressed coconut milk to go with it. The caf focuses on simple yet wholesome recipes. The 120-cover art caf is also an exhibition space which holds regular events curated by Shihab,an art enthusiast.

Alices Delices French Bakery

Located on Rose StreetAlice Delices is a French caf that serves a variety of freshly made French breads and Wayanad coffee. The entrance room with casual bench seating opens into a delicious garden courtyard with beautiful plants and. Alice is as much the baker as she is the artist who got attracted to India. Interestingly decorated, the caf has colourful Indian print cushions, stitched by her, strewn on chairs. Rice trays made of coir are used artistically. French impressions come from graffiti, made by a French artist whose old fish man are large figures on the walls. The menu too sticks out on paper placards stuck into potted plants. Haunting instrumental music from the clarinet suffuses the senses, along with aroma of French loaf and coffee. Apart from regular croissants, which Indians love, Alices innovations in bread are with Indian spices. She makes a special bread with cinnamon, her brioche (a bun) is sweeter for the Indian palate and conserve is made from pineapples with ginger. Baguette, lemon cake using pungent sharp Indian lemons and Cajou cake, made with local cashew nuts are on the menu. A breakfast of breads, fruit salad, butter, jam and coffee is served dramatically in a steel thali, a plate of two cultures.

The Old Courtyard

Housed in another old building on the streets of Kochi is the Old Courtyard. Previously known as Lily Koder's house, this mansion belonged to a Jew family. Now it functions as a hotel but their cafe allows non-resident guests. Named after the lovely white-washed courtyard with flowering bougainvilleas and orchids at the centre of the buildng, this cafe serves some delicious bakes and coffee. The gelato here is worth trying as well.

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Celebrate Snowfall the Kashmiri Way https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Kashmir-village.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/celebrate-snowfall-kashmiri-way/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/celebrate-snowfall-kashmiri-way/ 2018-04-16T10:30:57+05:30 article Kashmir's yellowing autumn leaves and vales abundant with flowers are replaced by cotton-candy snow and the laughter of children in the winter Kashmir in wintertime is not everyones cup of nun chai (salted tea). The verdant springtime mountainscape, as seen in Yash Chopras Jab Tak Hai Jaan, is substituted by a murky, mist-covered setting akin to that of Vishal Bhardwajs Haider. It is not sunrise but the fajr (the first azan) that marks the beginning of each day; lotuses no longer bloom at Manasbal Lake; the chinars, willows and apple trees are stark naked. The palette is pastel.

But all you need to set things right is a snowfall.

But will I get one? I asked Ghulam Hassan Rah, over the phone. Maybe, responded the veteran adventurer, trekker and co-owner of The Villa Himalaya boutique hotel just outside Sonamarg. His response left me concernedthe snow was to be my protagonist.

Visiting in late January, I was going to spend my first day in Srinagar, where it was not expected to snow, and then continue to the hotel in Kullan village, which is 700m higher and eight degrees colder.

Upon arrival, my first stop was the Dal gate area, the beginning of Srinagars iconic downtown or Shehr-e-Khaas. Snowfall or not, this oldest, most politically active and, perhaps, most culturally rich part of town is quite spectacular. My companion, Shabir Ahmed, a relative of Rah, said, Every season brings a different character to these streets. Just look around.

Pigeons pecked at corn at the Shah-e-Hamdan mosques courtyard. When the birdfeeder came, they flew away to momentarily perch on the roofs of the old towering houses. There were feathers everywhere, the birds seeming like daunting silhouettes against the grey sky from my worms-eye perspective. I left them alone and ambled along the main road. All around me were locals dressed in full-body woollen phirans. Some had mysteriously ballooned stomachs, as they held beneath their phirans baskets filled with burning coal, known as kangris, for warmth. Seasonal vendors sold dried vegetables and dried fish (hokhegad). These are made using centuries-old techniques that allow locals to preserve food even during the worst of Kashmirs snowfalls, when supplies are scarce.

At the Shah-e-Hamdan graveyard, I saw a crow roost on a gravestone and then fly away into the horizon, as if delivering the soul of the departed to its maker. Next stop, Jamia Masjid, Kashmirs biggest mosque. We strolled along the narrow downtown streets, among houses that looked, oddly, northern European. Behind them flowed the Jhelum, muddy and low-lying, but with mynas and sparrows milling around. Back in downtown Srinagar, busy Kashmiri bakeries or kaandurs were running out of czot and chochwar breads. In contrast, Jamia Masjid, with its high-ceilinged halls and leafless chinars, was almost empty.

In an ideal world, I would have found patches of snow ginger on the bareback hillside on my way to Kullan. But as I drove along roads sandwiched between corridors of wiry poplar, I realised this was no ideal world. Kullan arrived, with scattered powder visible atop tin-roofed homes among thorny shrubbery and sickly brown earth below. Regardless, the Sind flowed prettily and The Villa Himalaya was a pleasant sighta luxurious alpine home with a cosy, modern European vibe, yet blending well with the bucolic setting.

I sat with Rah in my room, sipping Kashmirs favourite green tea, kahwah, admiring the French windows beyond which lay a balcony with traditional Kashmiri stools and an alluring view of the adjoining river and the mountains. All that was great, but what about the snow?

I turned to my host, So

Yes, I know, he cut me off, as if reading my mind.

Let us hope for the best.

Hope was all we had. We could theorise and postulate as much as we wanted, but the odds were against us. Perhaps that was what made the difference, for that night, at an hour unknown to me, it began to snow. My protagonist had arrived.

They say powder snow is the sweetest kind there is. That morning, the soft, cottony snowflakes made no sound as they fell. The compound to the right of The Villa Himalaya became an even, white field, with at least a foot of snow. The trees finally wore outfits; in the forest, they even formed tree wells. The Sind still gushed mightily, but the rocks by its banks looked like cotton candy. Around noon, when the snowfall stopped, I saw for the first time since landing in Srinagar, the sun and a blue sky.

Kullan village turned into a winter wonderland. About 300 homes skirt the river on both sides, all the way up the valley till the tree line. Once I stepped out, accompanied by the hotels operations manager, Khursheed Ahmed, I realised that the children had beaten me to it. A group of boys had found a flat piece of land and fashioned two lumps of snow into cricket stumps. A game ensued; most bowled balls rolled away, but when they bounced and the bat connected, they soared into the sky like the many ravens. A little ahead, the girls had gathered to play garam ball, a game beyond my comprehension. When it came to sledding, however, everyone was willing to play together. The snowfields, crisscrossed with a network of small footprints, had short slopes. Phiran-clad children rode their sleds in fours, and let gravity do the rest.

Mules, used to transport luggage in the summer, became playthings for children that day. The kids also ran around the ducks, and let the hens out of their coops. Just before the Kullan forest block, I even spotted a child attempting to ski using just sticks and a sliced pipe.

The Villa Himalaya, along with a local family, hosted a lunch for me at the latters house. Bashir, the patriarch, sat in a corner enjoying his shisha pipe, while his wife was by the bukhari, a wooden furnace, savouring the heat. As I awaited the meal, a helper came with a tasht-nari or a jug for washing hands. One by one, we were served dishes cooked with dried vegetableswangan hachi (aubergine) chicken, al-hachi (bottle gourd) mutton and haak (saag) paneer. The rich flavours instantly reinvigorated my cold-numbed taste buds.

Khursheed and I decided to go on a snow forest trail. While the vir (willow), fraesst (poplar) and kikkar kul (mesquite) down at the village were skeletal versions of their summer selves, the forest block lay lush with kail (Himalayan blue pine) and divdhor (deodar). Our trail began at the end of the path that ran beside the ridge.

Soon I learnt an important lesson: always wear proper snowshoes. At first, things were fine; then, we were shovelling through three feet of snow. Once it became too steep for me, I chose to give up. I was paralysed with fear, and Khursheed had to hold me all the way down till the ridge.

That evening, we celebrated the snowfall the Kashmiri wayby relishing wazwan, a multi-course, mostly non-vegetarian meal. Afterwards, we stepped out into the hotels courtyard, where the powder snow had turned into crunchy crud, and the starlight glittered upon its surface.

The next morning, Rah and I headed back to Srinagar. On the way, my host insisted that we take a detour and stop by Aslams Weaving Centre at the remote Narayan Bagh in Ganderbal district. Equipped with about two dozen handlooms that weave 100 per cent pashmina garments, it is run by four brothers, of whom the youngest, Zahoor, seemed the most passionate.

They say, the best things are left for last. Despite the cold, a delicacy known as the harissa, only available in the winter, has Kashmiris leave their homes at 6am for one of the many harissa shops lining downtown Srinagar. Among them, the best one is only known by the name of the cookMohammad Ashraf Khaksar. He takes 50kg of mutton every day, mixes it with spices, and beats it for hours on end in a massive pot, till it has a fine, paste-like texture. Then he scoops out the cooked meat, tempers it with desi ghee, lays a kebab on top, and serves it with czot.

In that shop that day, accompanying my sumptuous meal, I had many pleasant conversations with the locals. Their geniality towards an outsider made me wonder about how the region is perceived elsewhere. Though I am in no way entitled to comment upon that, there is at least one thing I can say for surewhen it comes to the Kashmiris, the best thing that tackles the cold is their infectious warmth.

The Information

Getting There
Major carriers fly daily to Srinagar from all metros. The airport is 86km (2.5hr) from Kullan village, and from here you can take a taxi (approx. ?3,000 one way). Note: the road to Sonamarg, 17km from Kullan, remains shut after the first December snowfall and reopens in March.

Where to Stay
The Villa Himalaya (+0124-4378037, +91-9266679310, thevillahimalaya.com) has some of the best service and facilities you will find in the area. It has15 rooms, including deluxe balcony rooms and attic rooms (?7,250 doubles, taxes extra) and deluxe rooms (?6,500 doubles, taxes extra). The hotel has a lovely log-house look, and the rooms include elements such as wooden Kashmiri artifacts, 100 per cent wool carpets, crewel embroidery bed covers and papier mch boxes containing fruit and biscuits. Tariff includes breakfast. In Srinagar, go for RK Sarovar Portico. Key facilities include: over 50 centrally-heated, comfortable rooms split across three categories, spa salon with a Turkish hamam, plenty of meeting and conference rooms, and a restaurant. From ?5,900, taxes extra, sarovarhotels.com

What to Eat & Drink
At The Villa Himalaya, the head chef Harun Sheik, tandoori chef Naushad Khan and waza chef Mohammad Lateef together present some great food. I had their trout wazwan platter, which included gushtaba (meatballs in a yoghurt gravy), rista (meatballs in a red chilli gravy), kebabs, grilled chicken, salad and, of course, river trout (?1,000, taxes extra). Lunch and dinner buffets cost ?650 per person. The rogan josh (a lamb dish) is outstanding. For breakfasts, I enjoyed nun chai and czot bread, along with sandwiches and omelette.

RK Sarovar Portico also does a fine wazwan. The nadru ki yakni (lotus stem in a yoghurt gravy) was delectable.

What to See & Do
Khursheed Ahmed (Ph: +91-9906736588) is in charge of all outdoor activities at The Villa Himalaya. Winter activities:
?Village home meal: ?3,000 for two, including lunch and a guide.
?The snow forest trail: ?1,000 for two, including a guide. It is about 1.5km long and takes a total of three hours. Check with Khursheed about appropriate winter gear. Note: you have to sign a disclaimer.
?Heritage walk in Srinagar: ?5,000 for two, including a wazwan lunch. It is conducted by Shabir Ahmed and takes about two hours.
?Harissa at Mohammad Ashraf Khaksars shop in downtown Srinagar: ?150 per plate, including czot.
?A visit to Aslams Weaving Centre: ?3,500 for two, including a guide and vehicle charges.
?Shikara ride at the Dal Lake: ?500 for four. The Villa Himalaya will provide you with blankets and kangris.
?Kullans inhabitants offer sledding. There is no fixed rate, but ?100 a ride is reasonable.

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Uncompromising Authentic Chinese at China Kitchen https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/China-Kitchen-Featured.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/uncompromising-authentic-chinese-at-china-kitchen/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/uncompromising-authentic-chinese-at-china-kitchen/ 2018-04-16T10:00:04+05:30 article Watch how they prepare your food, taste fares from almost every region in China and experience the traditional Chinese foodthe way it should be had On paper and in person, China Kitchen takes history seriously. The aim is uncompromising authenticity hereand they clearly have it right, after a decade in the business. There are no behind the-scene stationsthe entire cooking process, from the prep of peeling cucumbers to crafting bao is on show: spectacular! They were doing the drama before dinner theatre even began to trend. The ground-floor ambience is rich with layers of texture and colourdark wood grain, latticed screens, highly glazed crockery in brilliant scallion green and Han blue, an installation of mooncake moulds, traditional crockery and kitchenware, including the famous duck oven. There is a suggestion of the Chinatown shophouse, borne out by the new photo-filled menua nod to the faux dishes advertising the wares of Chinese chophouses and hawkers, and also the old-fashioned elegance of a noble home. The team refuses to substitute spicesif you cannot get Chinese chillies, a whole host of dishes comes off the menu, because Indian chillies make you cry and Chinese ones just warm and soften you upand there never is such a thing as chilli chicken in China, I am informed firmly. There are even hand-pulled noodles. At the same time, they ensure fresh produce that can be locally grown is just thatfresh, from their own private farm over by Chattarpur. Even the duck is hand-reared at home, fed per special recipes. The menu is comprehensive, with seasoned chefs from all across China representing almost every region. It is not starchy stiff about tradition, though, with playful touches like miso mayonnaise, tobiko and truffle. Theres fanfare enough to please the choosiest customers: fried whole sea bass, Japanese quails, Chairman Maos favoured braised spicy pork. At the same time, many of the dim sum are relatively unadornedclassic in presentation, with the chefs dexterity and a balance of flavours and textures doing the speaking. Spring rolls, puffs, bao, wonton, guo tie, all are executed with exactitude.

The private dining rooms, incidentally, match their chefs originsSichuan, Hubei, Guangzhou, Anhui, Hunanand offer a music menu as well as gustatory signatures. Its not just good for business and grown-ups pleasures, but family-friendly too: children under five dine free from the kids menu, and there is a Sunday brunch.

You cannot go wrong if you let the waitstaff guide you here. The red chilli dim sum with shrimp mousse tells you what real Chinese chillies are like. Also winning points are the prawn shao mai with flying fish roe and miso mayo; the crystal dumplings with peas, sweet corn, woodear fungi and celery. An excellent appetizer is the warm mushrooms with spring onion and aged vinegar, matched with the cold poached chicken with sesame sauce and peanuts. The Peking duck is legendary here, but the twice-cooked crispy duck with five spice, zest and Chinese wine is an excellent way to ring in the changes. The chilli and pepper crabs are also specialities of the house, and the sizzling tenderloin is great too, and the sea bass a winner for restraint. Add some sweet-sour eggplant, and the Chinese greens: asparagus, pok choy, snow peas with water chestnut. The spicy udon noodle with Taiwan sate sauce is another way to stretch your culinary horizons, perhaps with the northern-style fried rice for puriststhis is one place where waitstaff seem to keep the starches as a last (re)course, as tradition recommends, instead of bringing it to table pronto la indienne. There are alcoholic chocolate cigars for afters (they also have serious tobacconists offerings in the lounge), but we recommend the homemade sorbets and ice-creams (champagne peach, sesame chocolate, lychee lime, two teasthe flavours delight), and the tea truffles (jasmine blossom, chrysanthemum, oolong). They also do a Chinese egg tart, though it has lost top billing for us after the last menu update!

Occasion: Entertaining business associates from the mainland and the homelandat one table; the Grand Dame of Delhis Chinese eateries.

Ambience: Double-level lounge-and-dine where all kitchens are show kitchens with warm, experienced staff; dress semi-formal, ideally.

Contact: Hyatt Regency Delhi, Bhikaji Cama Place,+91-11-6677 1334, delhi.regency.hyatt.com

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Romancing Rural India On A Responsible Escape https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Culture-Aangan1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/romancing-rural-india-on-a-responsible-escape/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/romancing-rural-india-on-a-responsible-escape/ 2018-04-15T15:48:59+05:30 article Culture Aangan is an organisation dedicated to development projects at the grass root level, in the sectors of agri-community tourism, revival of traditional art and My trip to the Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra had quite the rocky start. Not only was my flight delayed, it was also diverted to Bengaluru as Goa the closest airport to the homestay I was headed to had very low visibility, which was unsafe for landing. After finally reaching Goa, a two-hour drive to a remote village near the town of Sawantwadi was in order. I was feeling a mix of trepidation and excitement at the prospect of staying at the homestay. Although I had spent several summer holidays in my grandfathers village in Himachal Pradesh as a child, I had never quite had a rural experience as a grown-up. The lovely drive, passing fields of emerald and trees rejuvenated by the recent rains, lulled me into a peaceful slumber, and I began forgetting my terrible flight experience.

I awoke just as we were about to reach the homestay, and the scene outside my window was as idyllic as rural areas are usually described in works of fiction. I was so grateful that for the next two days, this would be my reality. Surrounded by lush greenery, Dhuri Homestay in Math village, set up with the assistance of Culture Aangan, made a delightfully quaint picture that I couldnt wait to immerse myself in.

Founded in 2005, Culture Aangan is an organisation dedicated to developing projects at a grass-root level. They are pioneers in the sector of agro-rural tourism and assist villagers in setting up sustainable homestays. This also helps in the revival of local traditional art forms. When travellers visit these homestays that are tucked away in the lap of nature far from bustling urban centres, they are also encouraged to think about the preservation of these small villages and their cultural ethos along with conservation of the bio-diversity that these places exhibit. With homestays in Sindhudurg and Alibaug in Maharashtra, and Pali in Rajasthan, Culture Aangan plays an important role in bringing attention to the natural beauty and artistic wealth of rural India. During my stay, I was privy to these efforts and took home many fond memories that I will cherish for a long time.

I was welcomed by Prashant Ganpat Dhuri, a native of Math, who has been running this homestay for the past five years. He showed me to my room, which was minimalist, adorable and incredibly homely. The bed looked very inviting, so I knew that a nap was going to be the first thing on my agenda. My host saw me looking longingly at it, and thankfully, suggested that I rest awhile. After a short snooze, it was lunch time and boy had I built an appetite. It was my first tryst with Malvani food, and my mouth waters as I recall my meal. The thali comprised of cashew curry, dal and beans served with two hot chapatis and a bowl of delicious kokum curry this simple and wholesome meal made with locally-sourced ingredients (some from Prashants own farm a few kilometres away and some from the courtyard in front of me!) was more delicious than any Michelin-star preparation could have ever been. After savouring the food and showering Prashants wife, Prachi, with a gazillion compliments, it was time for me to head out of the homestay.

The first thing on my itinerary was a visit to a local cashew factory, which mostly employed women. The Narmada Cashew Industry run by Mandakini Dilip Samant produces over 500kg of cashews every day and they have over 26 grades of cashews for sale! Through the efforts of this company, the humble yet delicious cashew has become a symbol of womens empowerment and independence. It was very interesting for me to find out how the raw cashew you find growing on trees becomes the dry fruit that we find in our kitchens.

Next up on my list was a visit to the Regional Fruit Research Station in Vengurla, which was established in 1957. Their work involves exactly what their name suggests the researchers study fruits which are grown in the region such as cashew, mango, coconut, sapota, jackfruit and kokum amongst others. The researchers took me on a tour of their 68-ha facility and it was quite a fascinating journey. They work closely with villagers, as growing these crops is their main source of income, and provide them with saplings, fertilisers and even insects that aid in killing pests that destroy these crops and hamper yields. I was particularly fascinated (and a little repulsed) by one section of the facility a room full of actual fungi and mushrooms. Those with morbid curiosity and an affinity for the weird will love this section. All in all, this would be an extremely captivating stopover for those who are interested in agricultural sciences. You can even pick up bottles of kokum and mango pulp from the station, at ridiculously affordable prices.

After a few hours at the centre, we headed to Sagareshwar Beach, also in Vengurla. I was used to the crowds that you encounter at popular beaches such as the ones in Goa, but a visit to this beach was a happy surprise. With very few people in sight, it was almost like I had this pristine stretch of sand to myself. I walked around, digging my feet into the sand, wading a little into the water and enjoying the nippy breeze. Remember that it is not advisable to swim in these waters as they can be dangerous during high tides. Besides, locals say that the sea has unexpectedly strong undercurrents and sudden drops in the sea bed. Dressing somewhat conservatively is advised to avoid offending the locals sensibilities or drawing unwanted attention. Those who are religiously-inclined have the option of visiting the Sagareshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, nearby.

I was loath to leave the beach, but I had delicious Malvani food to look forward to, so I headed back to the homestay. The dinner on my first night was more heavenly and hearty than the lunch. At the recommendation of my hosts, I tied a mosquito net tightly to my bed, making sure that those pesky bugs had no way of disturbing my slumber. I slathered on some mosquito repellent as an extra precaution and slept so peacefully that my eyes only opened at the crack of dawn to the lovely sound of chirping birds.

After a delicious breakfast (poha never tasted better), it was time for me to visit another homestay, which is also run in association with Culture Aangan. The Padgaonkar Homestay at Nandan Farms, located a little outside Sawantwadi, has been open to visitors since 2007. It has two large suites and the owner, Amruta Padgaonkar, is constructing four more, along with a small natural pool, to accommodate tourists travelling in large groups.

We then drove to the Sawantwadi Palace and met the resident queen, Satwashiladevi Bhonsle, who the locals fondly call Rajmata. I walked up to her and was tempted to curtsy, but stopped myself just in time. The town of Sawantwadi was formerly the capital of the kingdom of Sawantwadi, which was ruled by the Sawant Bhonsle clan. The palace was built in the late 18th century, and I was lucky enough to hear about it from a member of the royal family! She told me that the family has patronised the art of ganjifa for centuries and continues to do so. Ganjifa is an ancient card playing game, which originated in Persia and became incredibly popular in the sub-continent during the Mughal era when the courts boasted card sets made with ivory and precious stones. The cards, which can be rectangular or circular, are hand-made and exceptionally intricate. The royal family first heard about these cards in the late 1800s through scholars who had visited Telangana. They adopted this art form and began teaching it to the people. For years, people have been coming to the Sawantwadi Palace to learn how to make these unique cards. It was during the 1940s that the royal family realised that the art form was dying, with only a few people from the Chitrakar community practising it. This prompted them to set up a school to revive the art form. I had the wonderful opportunity to see these ganjifa artists at work in the school. Watching them paint the small cards with adeptness and flourish was an enchanting experience. Though India has many variants of ganjifa cards (Mysore Ganjifa being the most famous), the artists at Sawantwadi Palace practise dashavtara ganjifa, where they paint the ten avatars of Vishnu on the cards. If youre thinking of picking up a souvenir in the form of one deck of these cards, get ready to burn a considerably large hole in your pocket a deck of 150 cards costs ?13,000 and a deck of 50 costs ?3,000. The price isnt too exorbitant considering that the larger deck takes upwards of three months for the artists to make.

Soon after, I was shooed out of the hall because my camera and my oohs and aahs were disturbing the artists. I was shown around the palace and taken to the museum housed inside one of the buildings. Ancient ganjifa cards, art work, old photographs, sculptures and furniture that the royal family has meticulously collected over the years is on display here for the world to see. It was an extraordinary experience and any visit to Sawantwadi would be incomplete without stopping by this gem of a museum. I then proceeded to visit the market that produces Sawantwadis most famous export wooden toys and artefacts. Being an honorary resident of Shimla, I have made many a trek to Lakkar Bazaar (literally wood market) there. What an eye-opening experience it was to realise that Lakkar Bazaar had nothing on the sheer variety of objects that were on offer in this little Maharashtrian town everything from toys, decorative items and baskets to spoons, ladles and back scratchers! An interesting factoid Sawantwadi is considered the largest market for wooden toys and models of fruits! Crafted by people from the Chittari community, the process of making these wooden toys is considered an art form, so dont forget to buy yourself a few knick-knacks from here. Every purchase supports the local community, so dont hesitate to buy that wooden watermelon that you never knew you wanted.

On my way back to the homestead, we stopped by the artificial Moti Lake, around which the whole town is constructed. It is believed that the royal family gifted pearls to the workers who constructed the lake, which is how it got its name! Standing on the lakes promenade, I couldnt help but marvel at the cleanliness and picturesqueness of this tiny town. Its no wonder that a town as beautiful as this, bursting with history and culture, is slowly becoming popular with tourists.

My rumbling tummy reminded me it was time for lunch, and after polishing off another Malvani thali, I took a short nap. I awoke to the sound of a resounding downpour! Watching the rain from my window, with a warm cup of chai clasped tightly in my hands, I couldnt help but smile when I spied the familys cat curled up near their huts doorway. It was one of the most peaceful experiences Ive had in a while, and Ill never forget how truly light and free I felt. A soft knock on my door forced me out of my reverie. It was Prashant, there to inform me that it was time for me to head to a tribal museum.

Housed in a small space that was previously a cow shed, the Thakar Adivasi Kala Aangan in Pinguli village has artefacts that belong to the Thakars, an indigenous tribe of artists and puppeteers. Run by Parshuram Gangavane, who won an award from the state government of Maharashtra for the preservation of folk art. The pride of the museum is a large collection of Chitrakathi paintings, an art form that dates back to the 17th century, some of which are 200-300 years old. The paintings here depict scenes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and were painted in sets. When viewed together, they narrate an entire story. Their unique and fascinating collection also includes wooden puppets, very distinct from the Rajasthani puppets that we are so used to seeing. They resemble different deities from Hindu mythology and a performance always teaches viewers an important moral lesson. Culture Aangan has been closely involved in the revival of the traditions of the Thakar community. My visit to the museum was made all the more special by a breath-taking musical demonstration performed by the owners son, Chetan. The tribal instrument was one I hadnt even heard of before and is played during shadow puppetry performances. Called the dona vadya, the instrument is simply an upturned metal thali and a wooden stick! This museum isnt just a collection of artefacts, it is a labour of love, borne by the Gangavane family in an effort to preserve their heritage.

After a delectable dinner (as always!) at the homestay, my hosts told me that they wanted to teach me how to make modaks dumplings made of shredded coconut and gur wrapped in rice dough. Being the kind of person who is only adept at making Maggi, this was a lovely experience that made me want to experiment in the kitchen more often. What my sad-looking modak lacked in appearance, it more than made up for in taste, and that was all thanks to Prachis yummy filling.

I sat down for one last time outside my room taking in the surroundings and how truly quiet rural areas get at night. I disrupted this silence only once with a screech when I found a huge praying mantis stroking (yes, stroking) my arm! After that I hunkered down for the night as I had to leave the beautiful home-stay early the next day.

My brief visit to this enchanting little homestead managed to capture my heart and fill me with a longing that I never had before to take a sojourn into the rustic hinterlands that make up the majority of our country, and meet a humble people who live in harmony with nature. Remember that when you venture off the beaten track, you are truly rewarded with memories that you will cherish for a lifetime!

FAST FACTS

When to go September to March

Culture Aangan Tourism Pvt Ltd

B-16, Osman Chambers

Juhu Tara Road, Santacruz West

Mumbai - 400049

Maharashtra

Cell: 09821483765

Email: info@cultureaangan.com

W cultureaangan.com

Dhuri Homestay

Village Math, Bowlekar Wadi

Vengurla - 416516, Maharashtra

Cell: 0904165641, 09420740901

Email: dhurihomestay@gmail.com

W dhurihomestay.com

Tariff ?5,500 per night per room for two adults (with meals)

Activities

Tour of local cashew factoryVisit to Regional Fruit Research StationVengurla BeachSawantwadi PalaceShopping for wooden toysVisit to a tribal museum

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Dabolim, Goa (70km/ 2hrs). Call ahead if you want the homestay to arrange a pick-up (?2,000)

Rail Sawantwadi Railway Station is served by the Mandovi Express. Auto to the homestay (5km) ?150 approx

Road From Mumbai its best to take the expressway; take the diversion to Goa at Kohlapur, and drive down to Sawantwadi

The Regional Fruit Research Station provides useful information on a variety of fruit

HIGHLIGHTS

Homestay in a villageUse of fresh, local produceWorking directly with villagers to bolster local economyPreserving tribal heritage

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller Getaways Responsible Escapes

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Unravelling Argentina one feature at a time https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Ushuaia.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/unravelling-argentina-one-feature-at-a-time/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/unravelling-argentina-one-feature-at-a-time/ 2018-04-14T10:00:16+05:30 article Argentine penchant to go for the maximum is evident everywhere in the beloved capital city of Buenos Aires It has taken me many months to be able to write about Argentina after an unprecedented and epic writers block on the subject descended over my consciousness like the black velvet polar nights of Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city on Earth. Immediately after returning from Buenos Aires to Goa, I was seriously enthused to describe my life-changing experiences of the manifold wonders of that incredibly vast country (it is more than twice the size of India). Instead, I found words abandoning me at the speed of runaway guanacos, the wild llamas of Patagonia described by Charles Darwin as maddeningly elusive, wild and wary. My brain was simply unable to craft those crucial first sentences that inevitably lead to an essays completion.

Then the dreams began. Slow-motion reveries of those unforgettable pampas and infinite ice fields, laid out before distant dun horizons, with eagles wheeling miles above. Something very much like this also happened to Darwin long after he returned home. Writing at the very end of his life about what he found most unforgettable, he noted, I find the plains of Patagonia frequently pass before my eyes... they are characterised only by negative possessions; without habitations, without water, without trees, without mountains, they support merely a few dwarf plants. Why then... have these arid wastes taken such firm possession of the memory?

That nebulous formlessness is part of the national ethos. If its neighbouring giant Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be, Argentina arrives, again and again, and then generally collapses, only to rise anew. Amply blessed with every natural resource and millions of hectares of arable land, the country is home to just 44 million citizens (only slightly more than Odisha). Almost all Argentines trace their roots back to 19th- and early 20th century Europe, when millions of eager migrants crossed the ocean to participate in the countrys booming Belle Epoque. Before World War I, GDP grew by at least 6 per cent annually for nearly 50 years, the greatest bull run in recorded history. Back then, Argentina was amongst the 10 richest countries in the world, much better off than France or Germany. Even more than the USA, it was justifiably known as the land of opportunity.

A full century of rollercoaster history after that heyday, Argentina is steadily inching into the global spotlight again. It has been just 35 years since democracy was restored following a series of military coups, and there is a new generation of adults charged with aspirations, who have brought palpable vigour and sustained growth in the national economy. There have been positive side-effects for culture and society. Other Latin Americans once commonly derided Argentines as Italians who speak Spanish, but think theyre British, but these old slurs are giving way to widespread admiration for a highly developed country with a well-educated, self-confident populacethink Messi or the Popethat is flourishing in the 21st century global arena.

This irresistible liveliness sparks from the moment of touchdown in Buenos Aires, as sardine-packed Argentinos burst into sustained applause, whoops and celebration. We have been travelling excruciatingly cramped for 15 hours non-stop from Paris, but now everyone is wide awake with excitement. Even while disembarking at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport, it is striking how different the atmosphere is from other South American countries. There is considerable truth to Marlene Dietrichs famous quip, In Brazil they throw flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves. From the moment of arrival, until the final goodbye at the airport departure lounge, there is only the fullest bore warmth and a remarkably intimate hospitality, where it feels like nothing is being held back.

This characteristically Argentine penchant to go for the maximum is evident everywhere in their beloved capital city. Even by South American standards, the three million population of Buenos Aires isnt particularly significant. Nonetheless, Porteos (as local inhabitants are called, in acknowledgement of the central historical role of the city wharves) inhabit an urban environment bursting with superlatives, where the highest density of bookstores in the world is balanced by the largest number of football stadia per capita. It is the most visited city in the continent, a spectacularly diverse melting pot for migrants from around the world, and an education magnet that draws in students from across the Spanish-speaking world. Far grander than Madrid, with much more swagger than Paris, this city should have long outgrown its longstanding (and annoyingly lingering) obsession with comparing itself to far distant points on the map.

For literature-minded pilgrims like myself, Buenos Aires is something like the centre of the world. This is because of the towering genius Jorge Luis Borges (undoubtedly the most deserving Nobel Prize for Literature candidate who never won), for whom the city was both palimpsest and inexhaustible creative wellspring. It is hard to think of a comparable example anywhere else in the world, where a great writer and his home city are so inextricably interlinked. Walking through the stately canyons of grand sicle architecture in the old neighbourhoods this masterful magic realist wrote about so often, it was impossible to keep his words out of my head, Hard to believe Buenos Aires had any beginning, I feel it to be eternal as air and water.

Most of his iconic works were written in the first half of the 20th century, but even now it doesnt take much effort to become immersed deep in the emotional landscape of Borgess writings. Perhaps the easiest route is to venture into the Cemetariode la Recoleta (Recoleta Cemetery) just after sunrise, where you will find yourself shivering only partly from the pre-dawn chill. I thought about these things in the Recoleta/in the place of my ashes, wrote the poet, only life exists/Its forms are space and time/they are magical instruments of the soul/and when it is extinguished/space, time, and death will be extinguished with it/as the mirrors images wither/when evening covers them over/and the light dims. This stunning museum of mausoleums is the nerve centre of Argentine identity, with one highlight being the tomb of Eva Pern.

Everyone has heard of Evitaactually Mara Eva Duarte de Pernespecially after the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that was made into a movie in which Madonna portrayed the wildly beloved Spiritual Leader of the Nation (a title she was awarded by the National Congress) and wife of the leftist general and populist president Juan Pern. But you have to visit her gravesite in Recoleta after work hours in the evening to realise the extent of her contemporary cult, as crowds of Argentines press towards it like theyre approaching a deity, leave petitionary notes all around, and light innumerable candles to defy the fast-falling dusk. I was riveted on my first visit, watching a war veteran, who tossed aside his crutches to kneel before the tomb. Just then, two visibly moved old ladies burst into sobs, consoling each other in wordless embrace.

This is another unusual trait of the Argentines: the conspicuous lack of the gene for irony. There is nothing rote or cynical about their flag-waving. These people love their country incandescently, which includes holding formidable grudges about perceived slights. In this regard, nothing rankles their undiluted patriotism more than the affront of ongoing British rule over the Malvinas Islands (a.k.a. the Falklands) and the unforgivable treachery of the Chileans who gave tacit and material support to the Europeans in the brief, humiliating Guerra del Atlntico Sur (Falklands War) that ended in abject surrender in 1982. Every populated corner of this country has a memorial to the martyrs of that conflict (where 649 Argentine military personnel were killed), and the most permanent smiles on the friendliest of faces will disappear instantaneously at its memory.

Even I, visiting from India so many years after the conflict, felt the edge of this seething national sentiment when I went out to watch the finals of the Copa Amrica football tournament where Argentina faced its most hated rival, the same Chileans who had beaten them the year before in an identical matchup. I was wearing a fleece bearing the minuscule insignia of the British Antarctic Survey. We queued up for a long time to enter the local sports bar, but then the bouncer spotted the (almost invisibly tiny) Union Jack on my shoulder and shook his head. No entry! It was only after I packed the offending item away in my bag that his light turned green.

Dealing with the cold in my shirtsleeves was worth it because there is no better way to get to know a country than from the sidelines of its favourite sporting events. Football players are famously said to reveal the national character on the pitch, but the same is true of the way their passionate followers behave. The room that night in Buenos Aires literally shook to the rafters. But as the game neared its end without a goal scored, fatalism set in. The match wasnt yet lost, yet the crowd radiated defeat. By the time Chile finally won, via penalty kicks, they had already begun to cheer up again. And now these young Argentines set about another national pastime as they hotly pursued each other to pair off and head home together.

But even if coming in second to their abhorred neighbours seems almost accepted, no one forgets or forgives anything. Soon after arriving at the airport at Ushuaia, a long flight south from the national capital, we were treated to an exhilarating helicopter ride high above the Beagle Channel (so named because Darwins famous ship visited here in the 1820s) that forms part of the border between Chile and Argentina. The pilot kept circling to show us the good side, while contemptuous about that area which has nothing interesting. Meanwhile our eyes were popping out of our heads at the jagged mountains, magnificent grey-blue waters studded with ice floes, and on one side, this improbable city at the very end of the known road.

Ushuaia is bitingly cold proof that Indians have not, in fact, penetrated to settle at the ends of the world. Of this remote but bustling citys 60,000 residents, not a single one is from our part of the world, as I found after searching for three days. I discovered a Taiwanese adventure sports enthusiast and several separate families with roots in the Levant (the former Argentine president Carlos Menems parents were from Syria). But even in this hub of nascent technology and industrial enterprises, no dice for Indians. This is rather surprising, and also an excellent opportunity. For anyone who can deal with 17 hours of daylight in summer and just seven in winter, the trade-off is mightily worth it, because this is the most beautiful and pristine environment imaginable, with air so clean it is like you are breathing for the first time.

Bruce Chatwins In Patagonia is one of the most celebrated travel books of all time, full of lyrical description and penetrating insight. But Chatwin did not like Ushuaia, which he reports leaving like an unwanted tomb. The town has a bleak history, he recounts, which began with a prefabricated mission house put up in 1869 by the Rev. W.H. Stirling alongside the shacks of the Yaghan Indians. For 16 years, Anglicanism, vegetable gardens, and the Indians flourished. Then the Argentine Navy came and the Indians died of measles and pneumonia. The settlement graduated from navy base to convict station. Now this masterpiece of cut stone and concrete more secure than the jails of Siberia is an unusual museum, complete with an art gallery. But the single wing that has been left as a cellblock is what sears the imagination with a bitter chill.

With a pipeline of subsidies and incentives pumped in by the state, Ushuaia is far removed from its prison past. But there is still a decidedly melancholic hum to the city that lingers in your ears even as you get on the flight to Calafate, almost 1,000 kilometres north but still within Patagonia. This distinctly cheerful little city bunches down to the southern bank of Lago Argentina, a massive freshwater lake that sprawls across nearly 1,500 square kilometres. A pleasant place with a laid-back hippie vibe, its main street is lined with restaurants, ice cream shops and tiny stores selling homemade souvenirs to cater to large numbers of tourists who wheel in and out of town, using it as the entry point to the Los Glaciares National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is also the largest national park in Argentina.

Los Glaciares comprises over 7,000 square kilometres of the Andes ice cap and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the biggest outside Antarctica and Greenland, which includes 48 glaciers. Just 78 kilometres from Calafate is Perito Moreno Glacier, a formation that spreads over 250 square kilometres before meeting Lago Argentina, where travellers can approach it via boats. As you speed along the water to the glacier, an impeccably thin line of blue steadily reveals itself as a massive shelf of ice several storeys high. Up close, you are inevitably driven to silence as you watch giant slivers and slices of ice calve off and smash into the water below.

The other great natural wonder of Argentina is the Iguaz Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world, located far away from Patagonia in the corner of the country that meets both, Paraguay and Brazil. Here, the Iguaz River tumbles far down the Paran Plateau, creating a breathtaking array of over 150 cataracts, including the stunning U-shaped Devils Throat which sends out a plume of spray that can be seen for miles around. Walking all the way down to the waterline to take a boat under the falls is another bucket list item, with the expert crew lingering until everyone is both drenched and exhilarated, before speeding upriver in the heat of the sun to dry you off again.

From Ushuaia to Iguaz is 4,359 kilometres (by contrast, Kanyakumari to Kashmir is just 2,856 km), and the difference between Patagonia and Misiones is comparable to that between Norway and Haiti. But Argentina makes it work, which is but one function of all that oversized patriotism. There are always tell-tale signs for a country on the rise and about to experience its moment in the global spotlight. This is demonstrably the case with Buenos Aires, but also penetrates right to the remote reaches of Patagonia. Everyone talks about this being the Asian century, but keep an eye out for Argentina too.

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Must See Museums In Port Blair https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/must-see-museums-port-blair/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/must-see-museums-port-blair/ 2018-04-13T13:40:38+05:30 article For history buffs, here are a bunch of museums that you should add to your of places to visit in Andamans Port Blair is a beautiful city and offers so much more than just gorgeous pristine beaches. One only has to only take a walk down the capital city of the Andaman & Nicobar islands to see and understand the history. Port Blair boasts of wonderful museums which should be a must visit on your next visit there. Here we list out five must-see museums in Port Blair during your visit to that part of the country.

Cellular Jail

A National Monument of India, the Cellular Jail in Port Blair is a must on every visitors list of places to visit in Andaman. It was here that Indian prisoners, mostly freedom fighters, were kept in solitary confinement and made to face barbaric tortures. The entrance block of the National Memorial contains photo galleries, an art gallery, a Netaji Gallery and a library on the Indian Freedom Movement. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited the islands on a three-day trip as Head of the Provisional Government of India on December 29, 1943, when he also visited the Cellular Jail. The Swatantrya Jyot flame burns in memory of the freedom fighters and martyrs. The Jail Museum (entry and camera charges apply) remains open on all days except national holidays, from 9.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.45pm. Catch the tales associated with the Jail in the Son-et-Lumiere (entry charges apply; online booking available - http://www.and.nic.in/etourist/).

Samudrika

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are known for their unique flora and fauna, both over land and under water. Samudrika (Naval Marine Museum) in the Delanipur area of Port Blair contains collections of shells, corals and colourful fishes found in the area. The skeleton of a blue whale is a huge draw. It is open from 9am to 12 noon and from 2pm to 5pm on all days except Mondays and holidays. There is a small gift shop.

Anthropological Museum

This ethnographic museum throws light on the four Negrito tribes of the Andaman (Jarawas, Sentinelese, Great Andamanese and the Onges) and two Mongoloid tribes of the Nicobar (Nicobarese and Shompens). The Anthropological Museum is open from 9am to 1pm and 1.30pm to 4.30pm on all days except Mondays and government holidays.

Fisheries Museum

Located adjacent to Port Blairs Rajiv Gandhi Water Sport Complex, the Fisheries Museum offers an insight into the marine life endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Most of these species are found in the Indo-Pacific and the Bay of Bengal. The Fisheries Museum is open from 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.45pm on all days except Mondays, second Saturdays and public holidays.

Kalapani Museum

Located at Garacharma II, ATR, (before Susan's Roses) in Port Blair, this private museum (tel: 9933293061/9933278058) showcases the history of Andaman and Nicobar Islands through dioramas, photographs, films, etc. There are also archival material covering the Japanese occupation of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during World War II (March 23, 1942 to October 7, 1945). Open seven days a week, from 9am to 7pm. Ticketed entry (includes guide and photography charges, a cup of tea/coffee, and a DVD).

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Top 7 Indian Destinations For Spending Summer Holidays With Children https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-7-indian-destinations-spending-summer-holidays-children/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-7-indian-destinations-spending-summer-holidays-children/ 2018-04-13T10:11:55+05:30 article From the north to the south, east to the west, here are 7 Indian destinations you can take your children to for their summer holidays Remember the school summer break? Didnt you just love going for road trips with your parents? Well, I used to love it! It used to be so much fun -fighting with the siblings for the front seat, constant banter about the music we wanted to listen to, the highway-side restaurant we wanted to eat at or arguing about the room selection. The summer break was the best time of the year because we got to travel to a new destinationevery time. Childrenlook forward to spending quality time travelling and exploring a new place during summer holidays. Well, sometimes, it can be difficult to identify the places. So, here is a curated list of 7 child-friendly destinations. Take your pick this summer!

Dharamshala

Nestled in the cradle of the Himalayan paradise, Dharamshala has long been a popular tourist retreat, an
escape from the hustle and bustle of our city lives. The year-long pleasant climate and the natural
splendour of the hill town make it perfect for a trip with kids. Dharamshala is also home to a quaint little
cricket stadium that often serves as a practice ground for the Indian National Team as well as well as the
IPL team Kings XI Punjab. It is also home to the 14th Dalai Lama as well as other attractions like Bhagasu,
Dharamkot, Bhagsunag Falls and Indrahar Pass. With plenty of monasteries and a holistic Buddhist vibe,
Dharamshala is an excellent place for the family to experience a different culture.

Mahabaleshwar

Mahabaleshwars proximity to the Arabian Sea, along with its high altitude, makes sure that the climate
there is always cool and pleasant. However, the real charm of this hill station lies in the abundance of its
scenic greenery, besides the forts and the 25 sunset and sunrise points that tourists flock to. In addition
to enjoying a number of delicious regional delicacies, spoil your kids with multiple options: horse-riding,
boating at Lake Venna, and picking strawberry at countless farms dotting the town.

Chikmagalur

Located at the foothills of the Mullayanagiri range in Karnataka, Chikmagalur is renowned for its enchanting coffee plantations, the rich aroma instantly welcoming all who step foot into the city.
Replete with picturesque waterfalls, historical temples and lush forests, Chikmagalur offers plenty to
kick-start a childs imagination. The Bababudan Giri ranges, Kalhatti Falls, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, and
the Kodanda Ramaswamy Temple are some of the many must visit attractions of this magical city.

Gangtok

Ditch the cities and head to the Land of Monasteries- Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Located in the
Shivalik Hills, the Buddhist Pilgrimage Centre in the city is a top favourite of travellers from all over the
country. However, the rich history of the place, along with the plethora of monasteries, cable car rides,
and mouth-watering Sikkimese cuisine make it a lovely place for a trip with the family. You can also experience the mesmerising views of the Himalayan ranges by planning a day trip to Darjeeling in the
famous Toy Train that runs from New Jalpaiguri station.

Manali

Manali is one of the most sought-after hill-stations for people looking for things to do! It is one the most
picturesque and awe-inspiring hill stations in India, boasting of adventurous snow-covered roads,
beautiful flowering apple orchards and more. Rohtang Pass and Solang Valley, the popular tourist
attractions, offer a multitude of options for your kids and you to enjoy. Skiing, horse-riding, hot air
ballooning, paragliding, white water rafting and many more activities promise a fun time in Manali. If
your kids arent into adventure sports, you can head to the famous Club House. Situated by the river and
inspired by British-architecture, it is an entertainment zone popular for a variety of indoor and outdoor
children friendly activities.

Goa

A list of tourist destinations in India would be incomplete without the mention of Goa, Indias world-
renowned beach paradise. Its known far and wide for its Portuguese inspired architecture, imposing
churches, and gorgeous spice gardens. However, despite being popular as a social destination, Goa is
excellent for family trips with kids as well, owing to the plethora of scenic villages, beautiful beaches,
shacks, activities, museums, art galleries, and libraries. The city is also home to several wild life
sanctuaries, full of majestic elephants, sambar (deer), gaur (bison), and wild boar among others.

Vagamon

This quiet and offbeat hill station, located in Kerala, is a slice of untouched land. Vagamon is renowned
for its deep valleys, widely-stretching green meadows, dense pine forests, tea estates, and waterfalls. It
is also home to a plethora of pine forests and lush green hills, besides offering many adventure activities
like trekking, paragliding, mountaineering, and rock climbing. The Kurisumala Ashram, Thangal Para, and
the beautiful Vagamon Falls, are amongst many of its charming attractions.

Travelling offers immense amount of learnings- getting to know a new city and culture and inculcating
social skills. Trust me, its the best holiday gift ever to give to your kids.

The author is co-founder,Treebo Hotels

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Baoshuan's Ship May Have Sailed https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Baoshuan-Chinese-Restaurant-The-Oberoi-New-Delhi.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/baoshuans-ship-may-have-sailed/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/baoshuans-ship-may-have-sailed/ 2018-04-13T10:00:02+05:30 article At Oberoi's Baoshuan, the dining defers to the unashamedly Indian diner, with trendy, hot food and pretty, bland decor Hai-hai, Oberoiyour aim is so much lower than your grasp. Chinese junk, my companions translation of the name, turns out to be curiously apt. The window dressing is exquisite, as befits the outrageous expenditure of the hotels refurbishmentliterally (white-embroidered chinoiserie-inflected blinds) and figuratively. Michelin starred London chef Andrew Wong is advertised on the menu as mentor, though said menu feels awfully slapdash in hand. The upholstery is red and dragon-splashed. Urns and lacquer red accents add layers ofclich.Dishes seemingly aim to surprise, while obscuring their true shape, flavour, ingredients and origins on the page. Once you strip away the dramatic presentation and garnishes, you are left with mostly Chinjabi comfort food, masala maar ke, in odd juxtaposition to a few supposed British Chinese classics from Wongs own stable (this one he merely lends a name and not secrets to, we suspect). Seriously, the spice levels are mouth puckeringeven in the mild dishes like the sesame-dressed chicken, with the Thousand Chilli Chicken living up to its sole promise: red heat. Portion sizes are small sharing plates, mostly threesomes, because lucky. Its the stuff family-friendly ribbings are made of, and you can tease one another for every posh-sounding choice that turns up a neighbourhood familiar in masquerade. The meal begins, alarmingly, with papad. The vaunted cumin lamb skewers are entirely serviceable kebabs. The all-show snow mushrooms and the Dai tomato soup are very hot, the latter painfully rasam-ish. The banana dessert turned out to be a chocolate egg devoid of fruit for all its on-table drama. Service is all over the place, rather than five-star attentive. The wait staff try to steer us away from the dish we ultimately liked best, because most guests do not fancy it, which says something of the clientele. Clearly, Delhi is lapping this circus up, either because they are steadfast Oberoi aficionados or because its that new place to be seen at. However, we advise moderationto you and the wielders of the chilli oil.

Note, there is no fish on the lunch menu (come for dinner if you wish kingfish), though other seafood is present, and dim sum hold court, minimising mains to a mere trio; there are no dim sum in the evening. For drama, choose clear shrimp dumpling with citrus foam, XL seared scallop cheung fun, 63 degree tea egg and Xian city lamb bun DIY deconstructed burger. In better taste are the cute carrot puffs (though there are far better across town), the pork and prawn dumpling with crackling, the gailan and poached egg yolk roll, Xinjiang barbecued lamb, sesame buttered chicken, wasabi prawn, and Wongs tableside rendition of tired Peking duck, la London of the 1960s. Bow out of the dessert. Contact: The Oberoi, Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg, +91-11-24363030, oberoihotels.com

Occasion: For the out-of-town cousins who want the latest, and prize style more than substance, with money to flourish

Ambience: Streaming cheerful light by day, Orientalist fantasy by night; smokers and sun worshippers will like the terrace overlooking the golf course; single small private dining room.

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All You Need To Know If You're Going For Coachella https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/young-people-at-coachella.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/need-know-youre-going-coachella/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/need-know-youre-going-coachella/ 2018-04-13T08:16:08+05:30 article Coachella 2018 kicks off today and here's a guide to all Indian travellers heading to one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Whatever Indians are taking over the world with their travel adventures. From Antarctica to Russia, Patagonia to Galapagos, Indians are searching for new places and checking off items from their bucket lists. Among the major music festivals held all over the world, Coachella is often on top of the lists to go experience. With the 2018 edition kicking off on April 13, here's all you need to know if you're heading there:

Where and when will it be held?

Coachellais held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio and the dates are April 13-22, 2018

How to get there?

Consider flying in to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) instead of Palm Springs International. Not
only is it cheaper, Coachella also offers shuttles from LAX to the festival. LAX is the fourth-busiest airport
in the world and for good reason! From expedited customs entry kiosks and exclusive lounges to
complimentary makeovers and express massages, there are plenty of ways for travelers to live it up like
a celebrity at LAX. With a valid boarding pass for same-day departure, travelers can go into any LAX
terminals and explore a wide range of dining, retail and lounge options. From India,there are umpteen daily flights from major cities but none non-stop yet. However, Air India plans to launch anon-stop from Delhi to Los Angeles soon!

Who are the headliners?

Just some of the biggest names in the music industry -Beyonc, Eminem and The Weeknd just to name a few.

What else to do at the festival?

Apart from the headlines, top-billing artists include ODESZA, Portugal the Man, St. Vincent, Cardi B, Miguel, HAIM, Tyler the Creator, alt-J, Fleet Foxes, Post Malone, Migos, David Byrne, Kygo, The War on Drugs, SZA, A Perfect Circle, Jamiroquai and Vince Staples.
Don't worry, you won't go hungry. With well over 100 food vendors present, Coachella doesnt disappoint when it comes to eating options. From tacos to burgers, Thai to dumplings, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options are available.

Important things to remember
Carry water and use plenty of sunscreen! Labelall belongings, including your phones and wallets. Also, pre-decide on a meeting point with your friends/family. That way nobody gets lost even ifphones die!

After enjoying Coachella, sightsee in Los Angeles before heading home. There's so much to! Right from paying homage at the Grammy Museum to catching a rooftop film in Hollywood, shop and discover eating places at one of the most eclectic cities in the world!

So what are you waiting for? Head to Coachella now!

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Bringing Back Pichvai Art, One Exhibition At A Time https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Pichvai-Tradition-Beyond-Lotus-Asana.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/bringing-back-pichvai-art-one-exhibition-time/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/bringing-back-pichvai-art-one-exhibition-time/ 2018-04-12T12:00:52+05:30 article Pooja Singhal the founder of Pichvai: Tradition & Beyond, is on a mission to revive Pichvai art and her latest exhibition in Mumbai showcases 400 Some artists in Nathdwara near Udaipur would take large cloths, perhaps eight feet in length, and paint them with scenes depicting Shrinathji (Krishna in the form of a child). These wouldnt be ordinary depictions, but, among other things, intricately detailed and colourful scenes of the gods worship. The paintings would be hung behind the idols in the 17th century Shrinathji temple of Nathdwara. Over the centuries, these became known as pichvai (literally, something at the back).
Pooja Singhal, an art enthusiast, designer and revivalist who started the Pichvai: Tradition & Beyond initiative for the sustenance and revival of this endangered art form, perfectly understands its nuancesit has both depth and width. Depth is in the historical layers and references; width comes from just the sheer number of things you can paint. Indeed, no two pichvai works are the same.

Pooja has always been fascinated with the art form. Her family is from Udaipur and has been its patrons for decades. Growing up, she would see many artists come home to display their collections to her mother. Her visiting family friends and relatives would yearn to buy a painting or two as well. And, yet, there wasnt enough awarenessMany had seen pichvai art. But most hadnt heard of it, she says.

She also realised that the newer art pieces were not like the older ones, which were known for their brilliant craftsmanship and usage of the finest natural materials and tools. These days, its the bastardised versions. Even the form or expression of Krishna has been distorted, she says. There were many factors that led to its declineinability to adapt, lack of skill among newer artists, poor patronage and expensive natural materials.
Thankfully, Pooja chose to do something about it. She set up Pichvai: Tradition & beyond, as well as the Saraswati Singhal Foundation to support it. Over the years, shes formed an atelier of 40 to 50 artists and commissioned hundreds of new paintings. These efforts, she says, are to bring back the original. But then, if you revive something just as it was, it may not sustain because it wouldnt be relevant today.
Revival and sustenance go hand-in- hand. So, for instance, she chose to present the newer pieces with straightened borders (in place of the garish floral borders used earlier).

Poojas efforts have led to multiple exhibitions including one each at the Kochi-MuzirisBiennale and the India Art Fair in Delhi. However, it is her latest, currently on-going exhibition however, that stands out the most400 works are exhibited in Mumbai, divided across many thematic sections such as shringars (or adornment/decoration), utsavs (or festivals) including chappan bhog (where 56 different food items are offered to Shrinathji) and Deccan pichvais (which have a dominant gold-and- black colour scheme.
Among the works on display, some highlights includea pichvai that showcases a map of the Nathdwara temple, but with both 3D and 2D elements. A collection of work that fuses Pichvais with Mughal design elements is added too. Another collection includes the sketches artists made prior to the final cloth paintings. Finally, Pooja has brought miniature art and pichvai traditions together to create a unique body of work. This way, its safe to say her intervention has given a dying tradition a new lease of life.

All it took was some smart business decisions, and, most importantly, an allurement towards the art form. She does not wish to stop therethe idea is to take this to more metro cities and spread awareness across the country. To take it international. We hope to do more of permanent exhibitions. Later on, we should also have some interesting collaborations. Indeed, the possibilities are endless.

Pichvai: Tradition & Beyond at a glance
When: April 7 to April 15, 2018
Time: 11am to 8pm
Where: Famous Studios, Studio 1 & 9, 20 Dr. E. Moses Road, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai
More information:pichvaitraditionandbeyond.in

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How To Combat Social Anxiety While Travelling https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Travelling-with-social-anxiety-Nina-Uhlikova-pexels.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/how-to-combat-social-anxiety-while-travelling/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/how-to-combat-social-anxiety-while-travelling/ 2018-04-12T11:02:12+05:30 article Living with social anxiety isnt easy and travelling with it can be absolutely dreadful, but there are a few things you can do to ensure While most vacationers may thrive in new, uncharted environments, there are some of us who dont quite know what to do with ourselves when put in similar situations. If the thought of travelling all by yourself unnerves you, if you have a slight fear of public spaces or if you dread meeting new people, then theres a high possibility that you are socially anxious. Social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition where social interactions or even the mere thought of them can make the individual tremendously uneasy. In general, these people are viewed as awkward or weird, which is harsh judgement considering the condition can be accompanied by very real symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, sweating, nausea and panic attacks.

Living with social anxiety isnt easy and travelling with it can be absolutely dreadful, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that you have a good time nonetheless.

Plan your trip

Its important that you plan your journey before setting out. For social anxiety sufferers, mental preparedness along with real planning is important before any trip. Most people take vacations to experience new things, meet new people and discover new cultures. While its the unknown that makes trips to far-flung destinations exciting for these people, its the fear of it that makes anxious people tick. Chart out an itinerary that you think youll be able to tackle before you head out for your holiday. Things will be easier for you if you know whats coming. The socially anxious tend to thrive in quiet, contemplative environments such as museums, libraries or art galleries. Make sure you have everything that you could possibly need for the trip (medicines, a few extra pairs of socks, maybe even a compass!) and keep emergency numbers handy, even if youre not travelling very far. Its the thought of being prepared for anything that will keep your mind at ease.

 

Travel with friends

It is erroneous to assume that people suffering from social anxiety cannot make friends. Yes, it is true that they have difficulty approaching people at first, but once a socially anxious person is comfortable around you, rest assured that you have a friend for life. If you have anxiety, travelling by your lonesome can be incredibly unnerving. However, taking a friend along who is sensitive to your needs might just be the tonic the doctor ordered! With a companion by your side, new situations will not seem so uncomfortable and you wont have to worry about making new friends on the trip. However, it is of the utmost importance that you choose your travel partner wisely. For instance, if youre travelling with an extrovert, they might want to take part in group activities because they flourish in such environments. So, before heading out, decide the boundaries of your comfort zone, how far youre willing to step out of them and discuss this with your travel buddy.

 

If youre going solo, keep in touch

Its so great that youre stepping out of your shell and planning to travel by yourself! However, remember that a solo vacation can take a real toll on you. Little things such as eating at a restaurant alone or asking someone for directions will require you to extend beyond your bubble and tackle your anxiety head on, which can be incredibly taxing. Once youre done with the itinerary for the day, itll help if you call your friends or family and talk to them about your experience. Speaking to them will give you the reassurance that though youre experiencing something new and scary, you arent all alone and that you have the love and support of people back home. Sometimes self-affirmation isnt enough, and thats okay.

 

Distract yourself

When someone is suffering from social anxiety, they feel that they will be negatively evaluated or rejected in social situations. In effect, they start believing that people around them are constantly looking at them and judging them, even if logically they know that isnt true. For times like these, when your head is getting in the way of you having fun, its best if you give your mind something to do. Occupy yourself whether its with music, crossword puzzles, knitting, journaling, reading, you are free to choose your poison. Another thing you can do is keep your hands busy fidget spinners might seem like the new hipster trend of the year, but they can actually be really helpful in unfamiliar situations to help keep that pesky old anxiety at bay.

 

Take a day off after your vacation

If you suffer from severe anxiety, you will understand the need to recharge your batteries once you are out of a social situation. Navigating new environments and being out of ones comfort zone takes a heavy toll on such individuals. Its okay to feel overwhelmed and tired after a vacation, especially if youve put yourself out there and done things that you wouldnt normally. It might not be easy for you to jump back into work mode once your holiday is over. Plan in such a way that you have a day off to unpack and de-stress in the comfort of your own home.

These are just some things you can do to ease your mind and enjoy your vacation. Social anxiety is a heavy burden to bear. However, remember that it shouldnt stop you from living life and having fun. The old adage that you can only conquer your fears once you face them may be a clich, but that doesnt make it any less true. While you may not be able to experience new things in the same effortless way that some people seem to, that doesnt mean that you cant have your own novel, exciting and meaningful adventures.

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An Evening at The Hong Kong Club https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Andaz-Delhi-HKC-Crispy-Noodles.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/an-evening-at-the-hong-kong-club/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/an-evening-at-the-hong-kong-club/ 2018-04-12T10:00:57+05:30 article With excellent food and classy ambience, The Hong Kong Club at Andaz Delhi brings out the fine in fine dining This two-level detached F&B venue at the characterful Andaz boasts a kerb-side entry, without running the gauntlet of the hotel lobby. On your way in, you get to marvel at the wine... well, cave, really. Upstairs is where you have the option to look down on the pretty bar or watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen. Downstairs, you can perch at the island bar or enjoy the more lounge-y seating for dinner. Artwork bows to chinoiserie but is a more contemporary interpretation. Prettily veined stone tops the tables, cut-glass barware, uniforms that make us feel a shade dowdyno expense is spared to spell exclusivity, but minus the stiff upper lip, or any lip (service is almost casual, and waitstaff could stand to speak up a tad more). The private dining rooms are just thatprivate, carefully tucked away, with their own bar (and bartender). The Club promises creativity in spadesa fictional backstory of a lovelorn traveller who recreates the setting of a lost love (look for her face) backs up the name of an actual bona fide institution that is, in fact, a gentlemens club, but the ladies seem to love this version. The cooking is based in Cantonese traditions, with six expat chefs to support Chef Alex Mosers vision of a modern Chinese table, dished up with local Indian produce ( la sister eatery Annamaya, Andazs main diner, which grows its own microgreens right on the 2018shelves). Why cart Pommery mustard from France, when you have kasundi right here, he asksand we cannot but agree it is excellent with our pork belly (admittedly imported for the perfect crackle and ooze). Instead of the crowd-pleasing Peking duck, HKC does its Cantonese cousin, sandwiched in pretty scalloped steamed buns. And the seafood dishes, cleverly, do not name their fishthe freshest off Keralas coast feature, the recipes carefully chosen to go with red snapper or bass, whatevers the catch of the day. The same goes for the greens, switched around seasonally. Theres adventure aplenty for those who favour the unfamiliar, thoughever tried chicken feet, or cuttlefish?

A zodiac in ceramic is the axis around which the bar revolves, literally and figuratively. There are signature cocktails for whatever animal you might beor any you preferwith lucite coasters to match. The Sleeping Dragon is smoking, quite seriously, orange-liqueur indulgent as the dragon-born purport to be, with chocolate bitters grounding all the Scotch and martini fumes up top. Chariot has smoke-smudged straw pegged on a champagne flute with a faux sugar cube dissolving, apple and clove liqueur fizzing forth.

At the bar, definitely beg for a taste of sister Junipers very own Delhi Sapphirethat cheeky bottle is a favourite prop for selfies, but the infusion of gin with orange, cumin, cardamom, coriander and vanilla is perfection alone, and sublime in a Qilin (with watermelon and gold leaf). Also delightful is Sun Wukong: the monkeys concoction adds yuzu and banana liqueur, yet isnt candy sweetthe banana chip, leaf and charred cinnamon stick garnish is a pretty decent clue of its balance (partner with the spiced nuts on the bar, naturally). You definitely want the fried rice (bamboo plus red) with preserved olive leaves, all the way from China, and the duck salad with pomelo, bean sprouts and peanuts, but those are mere sides. Trust us: get the crushed cucumbers with black vinegar and the asparagus with mustard oil first, as well as the pickled vegetables wrapped in more vegetable with peanut mustard to dip; also the veggies with onion seed. Dim sum: cauliflower, red and Chinese cabbage, yes, and also the lobster, crab and spinach. Definitely the pork belly and the Hong Kong duck, also the duck salad with pomelo. You cant go wrong with any of the desserts, even the ridiculous-sounding tipsy brownie with Old Monk and hazelnut gelato in a chocolate bowl.

Occasion: For the evening to impress (on Friday and Saturday nights there is a couples charge of ?3,000 past 10pm, and it is mainly couples entry).

Ambience: One-stop night-on-the-town destination; dress classy smart casual; lively mood music and lighting deepens with the night; though spacious with a distinctly no-dance floor (so you can keep your heels on); dinner-only, open till the wee hours (entry closes at 1am but open till 4am); no sports shoes or open footwear.

Contact: Andaz Delhi, 1 Aerocity, +91-8588842919, thehongkongclub.in

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Sitla Estate Where You Enjoy The High Life In A Responsible Way https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Sitla-Estate2_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/sitla-estate-enjoy-high-life-responsible-way/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/sitla-estate-enjoy-high-life-responsible-way/ 2018-04-12T09:54:15+05:30 article Sitla Estate is a charming 150-year-old house with a warm kitchen, cosy library, sprawling dining hall and delightful rooms overlooking a breathtaking vista of mountains The winding drive up from Kathgodam railway station to Sitla village took two hours but we hardly noticed. We were distracted by the low-lying wispy clouds that looked like delicate veils draped across verdant hillsides. The mountains are always fascinating, but they take on an almost magical air during the monsoon. Try driving through a cloud bank like we did and youll know what I mean you almost expect to see fairytale creatures emerge from the mist and whisk you off on an adventure.

A sprawling homestead, which includes apple, peach, plum and apricot orchards, Sitla Estate sits at the edge of a reserve forest in the beautiful Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. I felt as though I had stepped back in time the moment we set foot on the property. A British-era bungalow with ivy covered walls was the first thing I noticed. This dignified old lady is over 165-years old but has been beautifully maintained by Vikram Maira, the proud owner of this wonderful property. Vikram left behind Mumbais rat race 20 years ago and returned to Sitla village. He settled down as a gentleman farmer and opened his home out to those seeking quiet and solitude. He built 11 rooms six contemporary style and five colonial employing traditional Kumaoni architectural techniques.

The material used for the roofs is wood wool, which is wood shavings bound together with an adhesive; terrific for insulation. When it gets cold, the compact fireplace in each room can be fired up. Vikram swears that the combination of the insulated roof and the fireplace keeps you toasty in even the harshest winter. As a result theres been no need for electrical heating devices in the cold season, which in turn keeps the estates power usuage low. The contemporary block is situated further down the hill from the private residence, with sweeping views of the orchards and valley beyond. We got the biggest surprise on our first evening, as we stood on our balcony. The clouds parted and revealed snow-covered Himalayan peaks in the distance, amongst them Nanda Devi, Trisul, and Api, which lies in Nepal.

As we discovered at dinner, Vikram is a man of many hats. He spoilt us with a four-course meal of mushroom soup, deconstructed shepherds pie, chicken roulade and apple crumble. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I polished off everything on my plate. I couldnt help but think of the bears and leopards that occasionally visit the property under the cover of darkness as we made our way back to our room after dinner. Just talk loudly so you dont take them unawares, was Vikrams advice. I sang loudly on our walk downhill knowing fully well I wouldnt be able to run very fast after the dinner wed polished off. If youre lucky youll get to eat a perfectly made thin-crust pizza while youre here. It was definitely better than a few Ive eaten at fancy restaurants.

A birding tour the next morning with Raju, the resident naturalist, was just what the doctor ordered for our case of overeating. We were joined by friendly desi dog Tiger during the 90-minute walk around the hills that comprise Sitla village. We soon realised learning how to focus binoculars is as important as identifying the birds. The hills were alive with birdsong and we were lucky to spot drongos, warblers, doves, woodpeckers, and parakeets, to name a few. We also came across swathes of cannabis growing wild. Raju mentioned that the parakeets love eating cannabis leaves. This makes them clumsy, which means that catching them is childs play.

During the tour Id noticed that Sitlas hillsides were remarkably free of garbage. Having been to other villages and towns in Uttarakhand, I sadly, always noticed trash marring the landscape. Luckily for this village,

Sitla Estate set an example for all the other households and commercial establishments by collecting non-biodegrable waste and having it sent down to a recycling plant in Haldwani. The others soon stopped burning their trash and followed suit.

Sitla Estate is not a hotel and nor will it ever be run like one. Dont come here expecting room service. Neither do the rooms have TVs. However, if you love nature, peace and quiet and are looking for a getaway then this is the place for you. Catch up on your reading or go for a leisurely stroll. Theres also the option of a guided hike through the reserve though Vikram prefers not to offer this activity during the monsoon since leeches are out in full force. He is very focussed when it comes to his vision for Sitla, Im creating as tiny a footprint as possible. Ive got 40 acres of land. Ive got captive water, land thats not very steep, so constructing a resort would be the obvious thing to do since Id earn a heck of a lot more money from that than selling organic apples. But Id rather enjoy the farming and let the forest encroach upon my land. If you consider this from an environmental standpoint then this attitude comes as a breath of fresh air since most businesses would look to increase their revenue by any means necessary. Vikram is content with what hes offering and has no plans to change his slice of Kumaoni paradise. While youre here, do visit the shop on the estate. It sells local produce such as jams, chutneys, handmade soaps and all-natural scrubs as well as shawls, stoles and scarves.

A rainstorm lashed the area one night. We burrowed under the quilts trying to ignore the wind, which made the doors creak and blew rain in through an open window. Lightning zig-zagged across the sky and the dark valley below looked ominous. But I awoke the following morning to a gorgeous sight. A thick fog was drifting slowly towards us, covering the hillsides in a white blanket. It was perfect weather for a hot cup of chai and the kitchen staff indulged us with a big flask of masala tea at breakfast. Incidentally, the staff at Sitla Estate are either locals or from neighbouring villages, all trained by Vikram. He is also happy to share the farming practices hes been using with local farmers and encourages them to try the same. For instance, he began growing broccoli on his farm. It is similar to cauliflower in terms of rearing but fetches a much better price in the market. After seeing Vikrams success in growing and selling it over two years, the rest followed and now they all earn a higher profit from its sales.

Sitla Estate is involved in a number of welfare programs in the area. The local Gram Sahab, which consists of three villages including Sitla, has 11 families that are currently living below the poverty line. In order to reduce some of their financial burdens, Vikram has pledged that the cost of their childrens education will be borne by him. An NGO called Aarohi based around 6km from Sitla organises medical camps with a whole team of doctors from various specialisations four times every month. In the early days of these camps, only the people who lived nearby could benefit from the medical treatment offered. So it had a limited reach. This is where Sitla Estate stepped in. Now a part of the funds generated from the estate goes towards printing a large batch of posters, which are then distributed around several villages, informing residents about every camp. Additionally a fleet of vehicles ferries people between their villages and the camps, thereby giving more individuals access to medical facilities.

Another interesting practice on Sitla Estate is the collection of waste water be it from the farm, kitchen, roofs or toilets and its release back into the soil. According to Vikram, Mother Earth is the most effective water-recycling machine. They merely have to be mindful of where they discharge the water thats collected. While water that runs off from the farm and roofs is harmless and can be released near the source of the spring on the property, they have to ensure kitchen and bathwater run offs are released at a safe distance allowing nature time to work its filtration magic on the water before it reaches the groundwater table.

When youre visiting Sitla you could take advantage of its proximity to other interesting places. I was content to gaze at the delicate branches of the willow trees blowing in the breeze for hours, while listening to music, or reading, never tiring of the natural beauty around me. If you prefer a bit more activity, you could easily plan a day trip to Jageshwar, Nainital or Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. Jageshwar, in Almora district, is known for its ancient temple complex. Believed to have been built between the 9th and 13th centuries CE, these stone temples bear inscriptions from various periods in Sanskrit and Brahmi. If your interests lie more towards the natural than historical, then Binsar WLS would be your best bet. Set up in 1988 to preserve Central Himalayan broad leaf oak forests, the sanctuary spans 46sq km. It is home to over 200 species of birds incuding the tit, magpie, wood-pecker, eagle, etc. Amongst the larger animals that can be spotted are the leopard, black bear, wild boar, chital, musk deer, red fox and red giant flying squirrel.

If you love reading, then youre going to spend a good portion of your stay in Vikrams well-stocked library. There is also an old Scrabble board, which we made full use of every evening. We also walked through the orchards with Raju early one evening. I have to admit, as someone with no green thumb whatsoever, the sight of fat red apples and juicy peaches hanging from branches gave me a real appreciation for the hardwork organic farming involves. While it might be tempting to pluck the fruit, please respect the produce and admire it from a distance. You will probably hear a lot of yelling from the farm during daylight hours. We were amused and confused by this strange phenomenon until Vikram informed us of the logic behind it. Apparently parakeets also love to feast on peaches. Flocks of them descend every day trying their luck but theyre usually driven away by the professional yellers whose loud screams scare the flying thieves away.

Needless to say, we did not want to leave on our last day. Vikram had been right when he told me three days werent enough to soak in all the beauty his home had to offer. Initially, I had wondered what Id do without a proper internet connection. It took just a few hours to forget about Instagram and Facebook and the constant need to be connected. Whether you visit with family, or with a group of friends or for a romantic getaway, Sitla Estate has something for everyone, as long as youre open to really letting go of the city life. I guarantee you will come away from this beautiful place with a little piece of it forever in your heart.

Highlights

Organic farmingGroundwater rechargeEmploys localsWelfare initiatives

FAST FACTS

When to go Anytime of the year though winter offers the best chances of clear views of well-known Himalayan peaks

Sitla Estate

PO Mukteshwar

Nainital district - 263138

Uttarakhand

Cell: 09756560677, 09917506183

Email: vikram@sitlaestate.com

W sitlaestate.com

Tariff ?5,80010,300

Activities

Birdwatching tourGuided hikeIndoor games

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Pantnagar (3hrs) served by flights from Delhi. Sitla Estate arranges pick-ups and drops

Rail Nearest railhead: Kathgodam (70km/ 2hrs). Taxi fare is ?1,5002,500 to Sitla Estate

Road From Kathgodam drive on for 5km to Ranibagh where you turn right near the HMT factory for Bhimtal. Skirting the lake turn left for Bhowali (4km) from where you take the Ramgarh Road to Tala Ramgarh then to Sitla via Nathuakhan. Its a good road and shorter so you dont have to go all the way to Mukteshwar

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Head to Shang Palace for some Oriental goodness https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/From-Left-to-right-Ye-Haijun-Dim-sum-Chef-Luo-Jiangtao-Wok-Chef-Kong-Fanyi-BBQ-Chef.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/head-to-shang-palace-for-some-oriental-goodness/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/head-to-shang-palace-for-some-oriental-goodness/ 2018-04-11T10:13:28+05:30 article At Shang Palace, Eros Hotel, each and every ingredients are selected for that perfect Oriental flavours. Now that is a classic Shangri-La for you! A Shangri-La classic marquee, this restaurant has location and value to its advantage, alongside skill.For all that, this place is exceptionally funthe music is decidedly poptastic, not Orientalist in the least. The Shangtastic Dim Sum Lunch cannot be surpassed at about ?1,500, with 14 types of dim sum baskets (steamed, fried and baked), plus a choice of mains and some very interesting homemade ice creams. Just be aware the swift service for such a huge panoply means some dishes arrive steaming hot, literally. A lot of on-the-table drama is designed into the menu. The Yunnan-style skewers arrives till smoking over a charcoal brazier (unfortunately, the venting is wanting, so the brazier is quickly repossessed by the waitstaff ); even a rice dish (one of the best weve had) is mixed tableside; hot-stone cooking and on-order carving of a Beijing roast duck feature too. There are expat chefs representing not only different regions but techniques: dim sum, wok, barbecue. While the mainstay for the brand has been Cantonese and Yunnan cooking, some Sichuan features because we are in India, and some Dai surprises. Ingredients are selected for perfect flavours, with no compromise led by pecuniary motives, like using the Thai Sichuan pepper instead of the real thing. Also imported: pickled Chinese mustard, fermented bean and chilli pastes.

Presentation marches in lockstep with skillthe crockery makes one come over all touchy-feely, an alcove filled with pretty jars of Chinese teas is lined with their names in Mandarin carved on the wooden panel. A jasmine green samovar is on the go, right next to the Dragon Welland smoky Lapsang Souchong, blooming flower teas and tight pearls. The dim sum are decidedly decorative, with spectacular colour and garnish supplementing their elegance of shape. The private dining roomsone has a wall full of Chinese coins for kitty luck, another a contemporary wallpaper inspired by Ming china and the largest Lazy Susan in town (serves 10). The main room has lights inspired by warriors shields shingled overhead, with Art Deco flourishes at floor level.Surprisingly for a Chinese restaurant, they have astartlingly extensive sake collection, featuring even inthe signature cocktail list, and Japanese whiskeys too. And the dessert menu here features Oriental flavours in technically European recipes.

If ordering la carte, we recommend the soupy xiao long bao, the pan-fried water chestnut and mushroom dumpling, the spicy edamame and pickled mustard leaves cheung fun roll (hot yet balanced), the sublime eggplant puff (baked, not fried, to perfection, gently sweet yetumami), Delhis best char siu bao, a delightful crackling prawn ball and delicious tenderloin dumpling. On the fancier end, you have scallops har gao with black truffle, and a crispy Iberico pork bun. Then try a couple of skewers to sharecrispy pork belly or cumin lamb, eggplant or leek and wild mushrooms. The cold appetisers deserve special mention, even the marinated cucumber being moreish, and also the cold chicken. Hot favourites include the sauna prawns grilled on a lava stone (but why not push the boat out with lobster?), and the Yunnan mushroom and tofu wantons with spicy tomato salsa. The pork belly is super crisp. The spicy-sour Dai tomato soup is a revelation, but the Yunnan-style Crossing the Bridge has more drama if you have a bottomless stomach. The cumin-scented Chengdu lamb is worth making room for, amid the impressive variety of seafood and pork and tenderloin dishes. The fresh cornice cream with popcorn is especially fun for dessert if you went the Shangtastic way; we loved the table-torched jasmine tea brle and the citrus-freshened sticky toffee pudding, each of which comes with a side of ice cream (almond and mango respectively) and are each so good you wont glance at the ices twice. Contact: Shangri-Las Eros Hotel, 19, Ashoka Road, Janpath, +91-11-4119 1040, shangri-la.com

Tip
Occasion: With the ladies (or lads/ladettes) you lunch with
Ambience: Lively and naturally well lit at lunchtime, more dramatic for dinner, the dcor here is evocative without straying into clich; four private dining rooms, of which two can be combined for a private party with live music; there is also some al fresco space; smart dressing recommended

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Getting to know the Baigas and Gonds of Kanha https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Tribal-Museum-featured-image.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/getting-to-know-the-baigas-and-gonds-of-kanha/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/getting-to-know-the-baigas-and-gonds-of-kanha/ 2018-04-11T09:32:55+05:30 article The Tribal Museum is run by The Corbett Foundation, Kanha, and it showcases the culture and traditions of the Bhumia Baiga and Gond tribes My host at Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Kanha, sounded very excited when he told me that a museum visit was next in my itinerary. The prospect of visiting museums seldom excite me, yet I thought I'd give it a try. Little did I know that my visit to the museum was going to change the way I, as a tourist, viewed communities and destinations in general. I was at the Tribal Museum, located in Baherakhar village of Balaghat district, MP (also in close proximity to Kanha National Park's Mukki Zone). The Tribal Museum is one of the initiatives run by The Corbett Foundation in Kanha that showcases the culture and traditions of the Bhumia Baiga and Gond tribes of Kanha.
In Kanha the Baigas and the Gonds used to live together with the wildlife. But this dependency on the forests often led to conflicts with the wild which later led to rehabilitation and relocation of these tribes, away from the forest. The change in the lifestyle posed a threat to the survival of old traditions. And that's when the Tribal Museum stepped in.
At the entrance, a little Baiga hut gave me the first idea of what to expect from this trip. Recreated in the same traditional way, there was a display of things from their daily life like chakiya (used to grind flour), hal etc. The museum facade was covered in tribal artworks. As I walked in, I saw little people sitting on the floor. A better look few seconds later made me realise that they weren't real! The interior of the museum showed different aspects of the two tribes' daily lives. Bamboo plays a vital role in these two tribal communities. Majority of the displays at the museum were bamboo-based products--from baskets to fishing equipment to even jeweleries. From tribal art to tools to musical instruments, the museum helped preserve the important aspects of these tribes that are now a rarity.
This initiative is just another feather in The Corbett Foundation's cap. You think of wildlife conservation and TCF comes to mind. By helping the tribal communities to stay away from conflicts with the wildlife and create a self-sufficient economy by training the tribal youth in various vocations, TCF is definitely doing way more than just wildlife conservation. For a traveller, these are the little things that makes a destination so much more than just a place.
And yes, the locally made souvenirs on sale at the museum shop are great takeaways.
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Azaya Beach Resort Opens In Goa https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Azaya-Beach-Resort-Goa.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/azaya-beach-resort-opens-goa/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/azaya-beach-resort-opens-goa/ 2018-04-10T14:26:49+05:30 article The Azaya Beach Resort, the new ultra-luxe resort right on the pristine white sands of Benaulim beach, opened its doors this month Your Goa holidays have just gotten better. There's a new ultra-luxe resortright on the pristine white sands of Benaulim beach with an unparalleled view of the Goa shoreline you must experience on your next visit. The Azaya Beach Resort opened its doors this month and we couldn't be more excited!

South Asias premier hotel group - Saraf Hotel Enterprises, has openedtheluxurious five star property inSouth Goa. The upscale and premium resort maintains a fine balance with nature. Conceptualised and designed by Eco-id, Azaya Beach Resort offers 114 impeccably designed rooms and suites, out of which 38 rooms feature private plunge pools and a sea facing suite. Azaya is exclusively designed to provide a luxurious yet a fuss-free and contemporary experience. Free WiFi, concierge service, TV, air conditioning and private parking are always welcome!

Azaya also celebrates her Portuguese past with a beautiful Portuguese Garden and other design influences. With uninterrupted soul-stirring sea views and powder-soft white sands right up to the doorsteps, Azaya is the place for celebrations.

The in-house restaurants have been designed to give its guests an unparalleled gastronomic experience. One can enjoy drinks atThe Lynx Bar & Lounge- an upscale New York style high-octane bar and lounge serving up some of the most innovative cocktails. Then follow it up atLa Concha the world cuisine restaurant featuring live kitchens that embrace the idea of eating out of the pan, off the grill and out of the wok. There is also theBlue Iris Beach Restaurant (Seasonal)- A quintessentially Goa beachfront restaurant with private cabana seating, serving up the best of local produce.

If exploring South Goa is on your mind, theSe Cathedral is 600 metres away from Azaya Beach Resort Goa, while Church of St Francis of Assisi is 700 metres from the property. The nearest airport is Goa International Airport, 16 kmaway.

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Travel Responsibly, Delve Into The Hinterlands At Desia https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Desia-Koraput1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/travel-responsibly-delve-into-the-hinterlands-at-desia/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/travel-responsibly-delve-into-the-hinterlands-at-desia/ 2018-04-10T12:17:47+05:30 article Amazing landscape, tribal culture, ethnic villages with unique settlement pattern, vibrant weekly markets, farm fresh food and traditional tunes, and the ever-smiling locals awaits your Welcome to another India, said the owner of Desia Koraput, Mr Bubu Yugabrata, when I reached Lamtaput in the Koraput district of southern Odisha, the last leg of my journey to Desia Koraput. Having never been to this part of the country before, I was excited to see what experiences this other India had in store for me. Before starting my journey, I was filled with trepidation at the mere thought of travelling here a flight to Visakhapatnam, then boarding a train that cuts through the picturesque Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh, followed by two shared taxi rides from the Bheja Railway Station. However, just a couple of hours into my stay at Desia, it dawned on me that the only way you can truly explore the wonderful gems hidden in the hinterlands of this country was by taking such arduous and, more often than not, exhausting journeys.

Bubu Yugabrata, a Puri-based tour operator, constructed Desia Koraput a little over four years ago to promote a socially sustainable, eco-friendly tourism module one where local communities benefit directly from tourism revenue. He also wanted to encourage local youth to preserve their dying cultural heritage. Koraput Valley was the perfect destination as it is home to lesser-known tribal communities whose unique lifestyles may soon be lost to the advent of urbanisation.

Set amongst towering eucalyptus trees, the verdant property exudes rustic charm the cottages and the dining area are painted a white and earthy brown. While the two cottages here (each has three rooms) may look simple on the outside, their interiors are adorned with interesting tribal paintings and bell metal art. The colour of the walls and the upholstery inside beautifully complement each other. Each room comes equipped with a large, tastefully designed bathroom, the walls of which are decorated with shells in stunning patterns. The shower area is filled with pebbles, giving it a bucolic but luxurious appearance. Instead of using shower curtains, the management had hung blue cotton saris, the kind that are donned by local women, which was a lovely touch!

During my tour of the property, I learned that Desia Koraput hired an architect from Santiniketan, West Bengal, who coupled his own ideas with elements from local tribal houses to design the cottages. Odishas traditional arts and crafts were used to decorate the rooms and sit out areas. Next to the kitchen is a machan, which is traditionally used as a watchtower to spot wildlife; the purpose of the one at Desia Koraput is entirely different. This machan is the only place where you have connectivity there is a landline here and, if you have a BSNL network, you might get a phone signal. If youve ever felt like leaving your city woes behind, now you know where to head!

After I explored the property, Rasmiranjan, an employee of Desia, introduced me to the rest of the staff; most of them belonged to the nearby Bantalabiri village. Although itll be a challenge to converse with them, since youll most likely be lost in translation, they will strive to make sure you feel at home. Their radiant smiles and warm, friendly dispositions would win anyone over!

Pano, one of the staff members, showed me to my room. While I unpacked, she waited on me to make sure that I was comfortable and had everything that I needed, just like a family member would. This is when the true meaning of that other India dawned on me where you feel at home even though you are miles away from your own; a place where the people, who may be very different from you, become your family for the short duration of your stay. While you are cut off from civilisation, you have a chance to get to know this new family each of them has wonderful and eccentric stories to tell about their ancestors, farmlands, and families, and you could learn a lot from these humble, hard-working people.

That evening, Samar Pradhan, another staff member, narrated tales about the Koraput Valley, the tribes that inhabit the region, the problems that people face here and the urgent need to preserve their cultures. Most of the activities at Desai, he told me, are aimed at increasing the interaction between its guests and the local community. One of the main challenges in bringing tourist revenue or more modern amenities to the Koraput Valley is the common misconception people have about the region being heavily influenced by Naxalites. He assured us that, while Naxalism is prevalent in the neighbouring states, the valley itself is completely safe. However, tourists still avoid visiting this unique area, which leads to lesser development in the valley. There is a silver lining though with little outside influence, the customs and traditions of the people here have been preserved. Desia Koraput is working towards striking a balance between the economic independence of the people and the preservation of their heritage. They help villagers with micro-financing, provide primary education to local children and create awareness about conservation. The guests are taken on excursions to villages in the valley so that they can interact with tribals and learn about their culture.

At the property, you also have the opportunity to witness a performance of the local Dhemsa dance, go camping, get a taste of the local salap (sal alcohol) or even spend a night at a homestay in the village. You can also take cooking classes and learn to prepare local delicacies, learn local crafts such as pottery, try your hand at archery, go cycling, hiking, or help the locals with farming. Dont forget to take a look at their unique activity book. Sketched and written by a Puri-based artist, the book contains interesting drawings to represent the activities that are on offer at the property.

The otherwise sleepy Koraput Valley bursts into life on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays when people from across the region and even the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh make their way (most of them on foot) to the weekly tribal markets that are organised in certain areas of the region. I was lucky that the second day of my stay was a Thursday. We first headed to the Duduma Waterfall, one of the prime tourist attractions in the district. Formed by the Machkund River in the Eastern Ghats, the waterfall cascades into a narrow gorge, which demarcates the boundary between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The sight is absolutely spectacular! As we stood there enjoying the stunning view, we saw a group of people crossing the river from the Andhra side, to head to the tribal market at Onkadeli, which is 6km from the waterfall. Upon realising that the market had already begun, we quickly headed in that direction.

Some of the most isolated tribes of Odisha, namely the Bondas, Gadabas, Malis and Didayis, visit the market to sell their forest produce. Interestingly, the sellers here mostly hawk different types of liquor! These brews are made of rice, mahua, sal, jackfruit and sugar, amongst other unusual ingredients. The amount of alcohol consumed increases as the day progresses. Several Bonda and Gadaba women also sell hand-made tribal jewellery here. The market is an ideal place to understand the culture of these tribes. I was also told that the tribal markets work as a cultural institution of sorts where young men and women of different communities are introduced to each other in the hope that a courtship would lead to marriage. You also learn interesting things about the tribals that you wouldnt normally know from reading about them. An absolutely fascinating example; I learnt that all the women of the Bonda tribe are only named after the different days of the week; to be precise, the day that they were born on Somvari, Mangalvari, Budhvari, Gurvari, Sukravari and Sanivari. Oddly enough, the same rule doesnt apply to men.

When you visit the Onkadeli Market or any other tribal market in the region, remember that you need to strictly follow the instructions of your guides so that you dont do anything, even accidentally, to offend the tribals. note The tribals can get annoyed if you click their pictures without permission.

Other items on sale at the market are cows, goats, red ants (which are used to make a chutney) and vegetables. The Kunduli area, located 1.5 hours from Desia, plays host to a cattle market on Fridays, and on Saturdays, the Dhuruva tribe sell their pots and forest products such as bamboo mats and wooden combs at the Gupteswar market (near the Gupteswar caves), 85km from Desia.

Later in the evening, we visited the Bantalabiri village, where Pano resides, and she was gracious enough to take us to her lovely house. Here, we learned a little more about the villagers and their way of life.

The next day was unfortunately the last day of my stay at Desia. On my itinerary was a visit to Sailapada, a village that is famous for its pottery. Most families here are engaged in this activity and take their creations to neighbouring villages and weekly markets. Although my visit to this wonderful village coincided with a harvest festival and most people were busy celebrating, we found a good-natured old man who agreed to show us how to spin the wheel and make terracotta items. I tried my hand at the wheel and failed to make anything worth keeping in comparison to the pots that were being made by these talented artisans.

The food at Desia Koraput needs special mention. Chef Kusho a local man who was sent to a hotel management institution in Puri for training takes time out to interact with the guests and modifies his menu based on their preferences. Amongst the most notable things Ive had the opportunity to savour during my short stay at the property are the desi pancakes (made out of wheat flour, saunf and bananas), dalma (an Oriya dish made with lentils and vegetables), kangu millet upma and puda mamsam (grilled chicken). However, my favourite was the baunsa chicken (chicken cooked in a bamboo tube), which was my last meal at Desia Koraput, This may have been more than a happy coincidence; I believe that guests are served the most delectable dish on the last day of their stay to make sure they return. Just as the Koraput Valley is unique, the baunsa chicken is a distinctive dish that packs a punch of flavour.

I went back to my room that night, with a heavy stomach and an even heavier heart. Even before leaving Desia Koraput, I was homesick, which strengthened my decision to come back here, however arduous the journey might seem.

Inputs by Priyam Bagga

HIGHLIGHTS

Tribal tourismMicro-financing local communitiesPrimary education to local childrenSupports organic farms

FAST FACTS

When to go All year round; winter is ideal

Desia Koraput

Near Bantalabiri village

Lamtaput

Koraput district - 764081Odisha

Cell: 09437023656, 09437677188

Email: info@desiakoraput.com, bubu@heritagetoursorissa.comW desiakoraput.com

Tariff ?3,5005,500, with meals

Activities

Village toursVisit local marketsInteracting with tribalsVisit Duduma WaterfallCooking classesPottery classes

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest Airport: Visakhapatnam (220km/ 5hrs). Desia Koraput can arrange a taxi for you, which will cost you approximately ?4,500 for a one way transfer

Rail Nearest Railhead: Bheja (32km/ 1hr). The Kirandool Passenger, which leaves Visakhapatnam Junction at 7.05am reaches Bheja around 12.10pm and is the only train that stops at Bheja. Alternately, Koraput is a convenient railhead that connects the region to the rest of Odisha

Road From Visakhapatnam, take the Andhra Highway to Araku Valley and then the state highway to Lamtaput, which is 13km from Desia Bus There are APSRTC buses that operate from Visakhapatnam and Odisha State Transport buses from Jeypore

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Good old Sichuan and Cantonese fares at Spicy Duck https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/spicy-duck.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/good-old-sichuan-and-cantonese-fares-at-spicy-duck/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/good-old-sichuan-and-cantonese-fares-at-spicy-duck/ 2018-04-10T10:13:25+05:30 article The old-fashioned ways and overstuffed comfort of Spicy Duck along with excellent Sichuan and Cantonese fares make for a memorable fine dining experience You will find lots of authenticity, with recipes reminiscent of the 1970s and '80sthink prawns fu yung, kung po chicken (but no, sorry, they do not do chilli chicken, really they dont, not even on request), a deep-fried sweet and sour fish with pineapple, dan dan noodles, as well as Sichuan and Cantonese recipes from former head chef Leongs mother-in-laws kitchen, continued in homemade sauces concocted from imported raw ingredients, such as infused oils, chilli and others. Indian palate preferences are honoured, but the condiments on the table are the real thing. The dim sum category is also extensive, instituted originally by Leongs nephew (both expats have since headed home) and marrying authentic flavours with novel colours and shapes. Vegetarians will find excellent eating here, despite the gamey namethere is a surprising array of mock meats and mushrooms (many also imported, like the shimeji from Tokyo, complementing the local portobello). There is also a rather intriguing bunch of cocktails, reminiscent of the erstwhile Blue Gingers flairSmoke of Dragons, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Rose, and my favourite, the delightfully soused-sounding Qing Ceremony. The desserts are innovative, some taking a cue from flavours people relish in contemporary Chinalike the sharing-sized chocolate fondue warmed up with ginger and served with fresh fruit and banana spring rolls, a chilli and chocolate mousse, as well as a kueh-like snow rainbow cake that seems to upgrade childhood jellies into something rather posh, almost adult. This too, the Duck claims as authenticbecause, of course, like the winging fowl, food travels through geography and time alike. Whos to say how far back one must go to be traditional?

We hear there is a bloodless revolution imminent, though, with a new chef coming in from China even as we go to press, said to be a particularly dab hand at pulling his own noodles, and talk of a more interactive menu, cooking classes, and more seasonally inflected offerings. However, the grounding in Sichuan and Cantonese terroirs stands steadfast.

Black and white yin-yang har gao to set the tone, then the more-modern steamed edamame dumpling with truffle oil, the exquisite spring roll with mushroom milk, and thousand-layer radish puff with mock ham. The wok-fried shimeji mushroom with dry chilli and green beans is superlative; and the champagne pork-chop is based on a modern classic of China (where they use pork belly). Duck owns the marquee here, and the Peking duck is popular (add on the deep-fried duck-bone), but you might change it up with the signature black bean duck with celery. The deep-fried, then steamed Chilean sea bass is spiced right, the Sichuan-style bean paste warming rather than searing. For vegetarians, the mildly spicy Ma Po tofu with pickled veg would not be settling, alongside the clean, subtle flavours and textures of asparagus with broccoli, bamboo pith and wolf-berries. Contact: Taj Diplomatic Enclave, 2, Sardar Patel Marg, +91-11-26110202, tajhotels.com

Tip
Occasion: For the parents golden anniversary, with nostalgia getting an update, by way of contemporary China, for the August Moon regulars

Ambience: Old-fashioned, overstuffed comfort signalling the luxury of consistency and constancy, this is the old Blue Ginger warming up to the Far East, with spicy accents

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A Dummys Guide To The Mumbai Locals https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/A-Mumbai-local-train-A-Savin.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/a-dummys-guide-to-the-mumbai-locals/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/a-dummys-guide-to-the-mumbai-locals/ 2018-04-10T09:36:05+05:30 article Mumbai locals are a lifeline for the people of the city. No matter which part you want to visit, board a local and you'll be Lying on Indias Konkan Coast, Mumbai is the most populous city in the country. For those who live there, its the city that never sleeps, brimming with hope and opportunity. For those of us who dont, its an urban jungle of buildings, noise and unbridled chaos that seems to only make sense to its inhabitants. And at the centre of it all is its lifeline, the Mumbai locals or the local trains. Spanning over 465km and ferrying more than 7.5 million commuters every day, Mumbais Suburban Railway System is one of the busiest commuter railway systems in the world. For an outsider or a newcomer to the city, the train system can be confusing and sometimes positively overwhelming. So, heres a handy little guide that may help you hack the system:

The Routes

The train system in Mumbai is divided into three main lines Western (terminates at Churchgate), Central (runs from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) and Harbour (from CSMT to the neighbourhoods along the eastern dock area). For the sake of convenience, we will be focussing on the Western line since most tourists and newbies use this service.

A handy tip: Do a little research on the closest local station and your end point before heading out.

Rush Hour

Considering that the rail system is mostly used by the working people of the city, 8.0010.30am and 6.008.30pm usually see the most traffic. If youre a tourist, its best if you avoid these timings. The rule of thumb is that you should avoid going to the south (Churchgate) in the mornings, since many Mumbaikars work there, and avoid going to the north in the evening (Borivali), when people are going back home.

How to buy tickets

The ticket counters at the station are fairly easy to spot look for a snaking line of people. Each ticket window is supposed to have two queues one for first class tickets and the other for second class tickets. As you can imagine, the former are more expensive and, usually, there isnt a queue for them at all. This ostensibly means that you can push yourself all the way to the front and ask for a first class ticket, and people wont mind. You can buy a one-way ticket or one for a return journey you will have to specify this at the counter.

For those planning to stay put in Bombay, there are annual passes or season tickets that you can buy. Concessions are available for students as well. Just ask at the ticket booth.

You will also find Automatic Ticket Vending Machines, which you can use to print your ticket. If you have a reliable Internet connection, you can also book tickets using an app available on Play Store called UTS.

First class or second class

We wont just recommend a first class ticket because you wont find a queue at the counter. First class carriages are also relatively less crowded and you may not need to jostle for space. However, if you mind the price and not the crowd, the second class ticket is almost as good and far cheaper. There is also a separate compartment for differently-abled people.

An interesting factoid: There is a ladies special train that runs on the Western line between Virar and Churchgate, which completed 25 years in operation last year. Otherwise, the ladies coaches, which have both first class and second class options, are a good bet.

Wheres the platform

You might find yourself in quite the Hogwarts Express situation. The platforms are a bit difficult to find, and the electronic signboards above them arent helpful to tourists.Here is an example of one: 12C 08:48 S00

For a tourist, this is utter gibberish, but for a hardened local user, this is all the information they need. Here, 12C means a train with 12 coaches heading towards Churchgate, which is the end station; 08:48 is the time of arrival; S is a slow train and 00 is the wait time. Not that hard now, is it?

Usually, trains heading north will stop at Platform 1. If you are still confused and unable to figure your way around, you can always ask a passer-by for help. Despite their hurried pace, most Mumbaikars will point you in the right direction with a smile.

Slow or Fast

Deciding between a slow and fast train is easy, and no, it does not depend on the actual speed of the train. Slow locals halt at every station, while the fast ones only halt at the important stations. If you are travelling a long distance, it would be wise to take the fast local, however, make sure that your destination station falls under its purview. If not, you will have to change trains.

Get on the train

Trains halt at every station only for a few seconds. No, that was not a typo. It would be wise for you to stand near a coach door before the train arrives. Usually, there are signs overhead that tell you where your coach will be. However, if you are still unsure, do as Mumbaikars do and just follow their lead. If you are travelling in the ladies coach, for instance, just stand where most of the women have congregated. Better yet, ask someone for assistance. The pillars on the platform are also colour-coded: first class coaches halt at pillars marked red with yellow or white stripes; ladies coaches halt by the pillars marked green with yellow or white stripes.

Now, its important that you rush into the coach, lest the train starts moving when youve only managed to get one leg in. However, also remember to not push and shove your way in aggressively. Let people disembark first. If you do miss your train because you couldnt get on, dont worry, there will be another one coming, usually within five minutes time.

The journey

It is most likely that you will find no place to sit and you might have to spend the entire journey on your feet. There is also a chance that passengers will be packed into the coach like sardines, especially if youre travelling during rush hour. There is usually no concept of personal space, so you should leave your prim and proper sensibilities at the door.

There are no ticket collectors inside the train, and travelling is based more on the honour code. However, remember that if you get caught without a ticket, you will have to pay a penalty, which is obviously much steeper if youre travelling in the first class compartment.

Get off the train

Usually, there is a route map inside every coach and there are announcements over the speaker. However, you can get extremely unlucky and land up inside a coach with a map only in Marathi and one that has no announcements. In that case, you should keep an eye out for the platforms you are crossing or stopping at. The signs are hard to miss. You could always Google the station that comes just before yours so you are well-prepared to disembark.

Its important that you reach the coach door before the train is set to arrive at your station. Its also important to know which side the platform will be (there are no announcements for this). In general, you will not have the time to gauge which side of the train to get off from when you have reached the station. As we mentioned before, the train only stops at the station for a few seconds and it can get very very crowded. Simply ask a fellow passenger.

Now, you must be in the queue thats disembarking. Its not necessary that you will be able to disembark if youre simply standing at the door. Its important that you ask the person ahead of you if he/she is disembarking as well. If they arent, you can move ahead of them. If you are not prepared to disembark with the other passengers, chances are that you will not be able to get off the train at all as there is a rush of people boarding the train! If you do not want to be swept out of the train with the crowd at a random station, avoid standing near the door.

Out of the station

Its important that you choose the correct exit gate. For instance, if you need to go to Andheri East and you have reached the station, make your way to the east gate.

Some other important tips and tricks:

Avoid standing near the train door. There have been several instances where people have been accidentally pushed out.Its a good idea to wear your backpack around the front if the train is crowded. Also keep your wallet in the front pocket. Pickpocketing is very common.If youre going to any station before Borivali, do not board a Virar local.

Phew! You are now (probably) ready to tackle Mumbai local trains.Do you have other tips and tricks that helped you travel on the local trains?

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Indias Culinary Heritage: Gujarati Cuisine https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Gujarati12_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/indias-culinary-heritage-gujarati-cuisine/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/indias-culinary-heritage-gujarati-cuisine/ 2018-04-09T15:56:39+05:30 article Food in Gujarat can be an explosion of flavours. Not just vibrant and distinct, but Gujarati cuisine is equally colourful Mainstream Indian pop culture, primarily Bollywood, has given our countrys populace a relatively skewed representation of Gujarati cuisine. Through the medium of these kitschy tropes and oh-so-clich gags, it would seem that the food of Gujarat is limited to dhokla, khakhra, khichdi, and thepla. Unfortunately, an accusation of misrepresentation could be levelled towards all of Indian culture when viewed through the glamour-tinted glasses of Bollywood. While theres no denying that all four food items are an integral part of Gujarati food culture, theres definitely more to the cuisine than that. Im here to try and set the record straight, and take you on a delectable culinary journey of the food of Gujarat the jewel of western India.

Before I go into the nitty-gritties of the Gujarati palate with some of the most popular dishes we serve up, I think it is imperative to first take a look at the bigger picture. A states cuisine is heavily influenced by the geography, history, and culture of the region. These factors play a crucial role in deciding the states choice of food and, as such, are the perfect starting point from which to deep-dive in to Gujarats singular food offerings.

Located on the west coast of India and opening up to the Arabian Sea, Gujarat is a deeply historic region whose roots can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Over the many centuries of its history, Gujarat has had a multitude of different rulers including the Marathas, Rajputs, Mughals, other invading Islamic dynasties and the Mauryans. Being a significant port state, there have also been myriad interactions with various global cultures that have influenced the Gujarati way of life. In recent times though, the rise of Jain culture has rendered a vegetarian bent of mind within the majority of Gujarats people. You also need to factor in the weather conditions permeating through a majority of Gujarat, because Gujarat is a dry state in more ways than one! The temperature ranges from a maximum of late 40 degrees Celsius in the summer to early 30s at nights. It gets very humid during the monsoon, and mildly pleasant in the winter. Hot and dry are the prominent attributes that dont just shape our climate, but our cuisine too!

A state that spans close to a whopping 200,000sq km, you cant really pigeonhole Gujarats cuisine into one complete entity. Instead, there are the distinct flavours of Kathiyawad, Kutch, Surat and Amdavad (colloquial for Ahmedabad) with the latter comprising of north and central Gujarat cooking styles and dishes.

As I mentioned earlier, vegetarianism is rampant in Gujarat, with only the states Gujarati Muslim and Catholic population, along with a small pocket of Parsis and the coastal Kharwa, Koli and Macchiayara communities indulging in non-vegetarian cuisine. With these communities all having a limited presence in the grand scheme of things, there isnt much in terms of non-vegetarian food that the state of Gujarat can claim as indigenous, as recipes are typically borrowed from other states where non-vegetarian food is common, and include everything from biryani to steaks. In the aforementioned coastal communities, a variety of delicious seafood offerings are prominent, but again, they are not typically included in what is popularly known as Gujarati cuisine.

The Four Pillars of Gujarati Food Culture

Kathiyawadi Cuisine

Forming part of the region known as Saurashtra, major cities such as Porbandar, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Junagad all comprise the Kathiyawad region. Since it shares a border with the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, it is fair to say that Kathiyawadi cuisine is heavily influenced by Rajasthani cooking. In general, the food is quite spicy as opposed to the majority of Gujarat, where sweet flavours are an overriding influence. Highlights of Kathiyawadi cooking include the sev tameta nu shaak, which is a curry primarily made from tomatoes and chilli powder topped off with generous additions of sev, a noodle-like savoury snack made of gram flour (besan). Another prominent Kathiyawadi dish is ringna no oroh or roasted eggplant. Similar to the baingan ka bhartha seen in other parts of India, ringna no oroh is made with roasted eggplants that are then peeled, mashed and tempered in spices. An amalgamation of flavours from a few cities and influences from across the border, Kathiyawadi cuisine is deliciously diverse.

Surti Cuisine

The city of Surat, which is located in the southern region of Gujarat, is recognised for its love of food, be it fine-dining or cheap street food. The most popular dish to emerge out of Surat is undoubtedly the undhiyu. Whats basically a mixed vegetable dish, describing the undhiyu in those simple terms would belie the delight that it brings to the Gujarati people. It is named undhiyu (which loosely translates to upside down) because, traditionally, the salient ingredients such as papdi or Indian flat beans, tuver dana (pigeon peas), potatoes, eggplant, kand (purple yam), bananas and more are tossed together in an earthen pot with essential spices. This pot is then covered and buried in the hot muddy ground upside down and surrounded by coal, allowing it to slow cook, giving the dish an earthy, smoky and delectable flavour. Undhiyu is a seasonal dish, made only in winter due to the availability of Indian flat beans and purple yam at that time of the year.

Then theres Surti locho, a popular street food where a steamed gram flour-based cake of sorts is mixed with chilli, ginger and garlic, and served with a smattering of chutneys.

Ghaari is a famous sweet dish from Surat made on the day of Chandi Padvo (the last full moon day of the Hindu calendar). The dish is made of all-purpose flour stuffed with dry fruits, mawa or thickened milk, and sugar. It is bound using gram flour and deep-fried in pure ghee. The dish is then allowed to cool and again submerged fully in ghee so that a thick layer of the butter forms around it.

All in all, Surti cuisine is elaborate, clever and gives you massive hits of flavour every time you take a bite of the dishes in its repertoire!

Amdavadi Cuisine

The biggest city in Gujarat and former capital, Ahmedabad is definitely one of the states foodie hotspots. Street food culture is rampant here, and you can find some delightful snacks and quick bites along with a plethora of mouth-watering sweets in every nook and cranny of this city. The menu includes golas or snow cones dipped in a colourful and lip-smacking variety of syrups, especially popular in the summer.

Another crowd favourite is the jalebi all-purpose flour deep-fried in a spiralling, almost pretzel-like style and dipped in sugar syrup.

In terms of savoury dishes, there is the dhokla, a light airy snack made of either rice or gram flour, which is steamed, then sprinkled with coriander leaves, coconut shavings and served with a mint-based chutney. There is a similar dish called khandvi, also made of gram flour batter, which is cooked to a thick paste and then spread out and rolled. It is also served with chutney.

There is also a rice-based dish called Amdavadi pulao, which is made by mixing cooked vegetables with rice, but unlike everywhere else in India, this dish has a sweet aftertaste.

The clich of all Gujarati food being sweet can most certainly be blamed on Amdavadi cuisine, and the people of the city wouldnt have it any other way!

Kutchi Cuisine

The dry, arid region of Kutch plays host to some individual dishes as well. A lack of leafy green vege-tables dictates the food choices in the region. You cant talk about famous Kutchi dishes without mentioning the dabeli. The dabeli is essentially street food where pao or bread roll is stuffed with a filling made with potato, a paste made with tamarind, jaggery and date, and masala. This bread is pan-roasted and then topped with sev, onion, spicy peanuts, and pomegranate seeds. Traditionally dabeli bread is also swathed with a garlic-based chutney before roasting.

Other popular Kutchi dishes include bajra na rotla or Indian flat bread made of pearl millet, traditionally served with either the aforementioned ringna no oroh, or curd and garlic chutney. Khaja, a dessert reminiscent of baklava is also made here. It is prepared using refined flour, mawa, and oil, deep-fried and then dipped in sugar syrup.

When you are working with limited ingredients, it takes a particular brand of culinary genius to extract interesting and absorbing flavours out of them. The cooking of Kutch pays testimony to this trait with the adaptability and innovation showcased in its portfolio of dishes.

Vaghar Tempering the Cuisines Flavour

One word you will most likely hear bandied about every Gujarati kitchen is vaghar. Known as tempering in English and tadka in Hindi, using this cooking technique under-scores the flavour of the dish that is being cooked and brings out its distinct taste. Gujarati vaghar is unique and quite dissimilar to the north Indian tadka, thanks to its minimalist approach in terms of ingredients and the pronounced use of mustard seeds. To prepare vaghar, heat oil, add mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds, and asafetida and allow it to simmer. When the seeds splutter, pour the vaghar on top of the dish you are cooking, and mix it in to add a zing of flavour, and instantly transform it from bland and generic to mouth-watering and quintessentially Gujarati. Vaghar is used during the preparation of staples such as dal and vegetable-based dishes, which are cooked on a day-to-day basis. It is even used as garnish for snacks such as dhokla and khandvi, amongst others.

Other Popular Dishes

Apart from the flavourful regional delicacies, there is also a long list of dishes that are made and consumed up and down the state. A running theme amongst these dishes though is the additional function they provide of controlling core body temperatures. Chaas, shrikhand and other sweet or milk-based preparations are popular because they help cool you down during the dreadful summer months that this region experiences. Aam panna, a yummy unripe mango-based drink, is also immensely popular as a means of keeping the body hydrated.

Another common theme running through Gujarati cuisine is the habit of snacking. Called farshan, Gujarati snacks are popular in every household. In fact, snacking is such an integral part of the Gujarati life-style that we even have a specific term for it halta-chalta khavanu which literally translates to snacking while walking around your home! In no other culture in India is such a practice so fervently executed. So what are some of these snacks that are so popular in Gujarat, and other dishes that are consumed en masse in the state? Here is a comprehensive list

Thepla A popular flat bread made of wheat flour with masala and can include other ingredients such as methi (fenugreek leaves) or doodhi (bottle gourd), roasted on a pan.

Shrikhand Made of hung curd and sugar, this dairy-based dessert is soft and light, and served cold. It may also contain dry fruits, saffron or cardamom powder for added flavour.

Dal dhokli First, tempered pigeon pea dal is prepared. Then a wheat flour-based flat bread is rolled, cut into diamond-shaped pieces and immersed within the dal itself. This delectable, yet simple, dish is served with pure ghee to make it even more indulgent.

Kadhi Gujarati for curry, it is typically made with buttermilk, gram flour and sugar, which is tempered and flavoured with ginger and chilli. A slightly sweet curry, Gujaratis are known to add radish and even bananas to make this dish more flavourful.Khichdi A traditional rice-based dish. Khichdi is rice mixed with a dal either made from pigeon peas or moong bean. A relatively bland dish seasoned only with salt, this is a common one and consumed with great regularity and typically served with kadhi.Muthiya This dish is a combination of wheat flour and pearl millet or gram flour, which is mixed with cooked rice, rolled and then steamed. It can be made with methi leaves and doodhi as well.Gathiya A type of savoury snack made of gram flour and masalas, gathiya is also a type of sev and comes in various shapes and sizes. Gathiya is either eaten on its own or taken with tea.Fafda A type of gathiya that is long, flat and has a salty taste topped with asafoetida. It makes for a great combination with the sweet jalebi.Khakhra Wheat flour flat breads are dry roasted until crispy and then topped with ghee and a spicy masala.Basundi Thick boiled milk mixed with sugar and saffron. Served cold.Chakri Made with rice flour, which is mixed with ginger, chilli and sesame seeds. The chakri is shaped in a spiral and deep-fried. Another dish that is commonly consumed as a snack.Patra Arbi patta (colocasia leaves) are lathered with a paste made of gram flour, jaggery, garam masala, sesame seeds, and tamarind. These leaves are then rolled and steamed. Patra is typically served as an appetiser.Chaas This drink is extremely popular, especially during the summer months. Its basically buttermilk, which is served chilled and topped with roasted cumin (jeera) powder.

Pickles (Athanu)

As with any Indian cuisine, pickles are an integral part of Gujarati food culture as well. The most popular pickle in Gujarat is undoubtedly goonda-keri (cordia and unripe mango). It is a piquant pickle made with a mix of spices known as methiya masala.

Another favoured athanu is the chundo, which is a yummy sweet and sour pickle. It is also prepared with unripe grated mangoes. Sugar is an important element in chundo as well.

Lastly, there is god-keri, which involves the use of unripe mangoes with jaggery to form a sweet and sour pickle.

The Gujarati Platter

It would be remiss for me to end this article without a mention of the traditional Gujarati thali. Literally translated, thali means plate and serves all the elements of a meal including the appetizers, main course, breads and even dessert on one steel platter. The disparate elements of a thali include kachumbar, papad, rotli (roti), khichdi or bhaat, dal or kadhi, shaak (assorted vegetables), athanu, chaas, and a sweet element like basundi or shrikhand.

With a cuisine so diverse yet appealing to every gourmands palate, it is no wonder that Gujarati fare cuts across geo-graphical borders and enjoys a prominent place in the culinary map of India. Gujarati cuisine is the perfect representation of her people a potent mixture that is a little spicy, a little salty, and more than anything else, carries strong undertones of sweetness.

Read more in the Outlook Traveller GetawaysIndia's Culinary Heritage

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The Konyaks: Last of The Tattooed Headhunters https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Konyaks-1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/konyaks-last-tattooed-headhunters/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/konyaks-last-tattooed-headhunters/ 2018-04-09T15:48:15+05:30 article The Konyaks are literally the last of their kind, which makes this book an indispensable record of history When a book seeks to document a Nagaland tribe with a controversial history of headhunting, you immediately fear judgement in the subtext. The best part of The Konyaks then is that it is narrated by a descendant of the tribe. Phejin Konyak grew up observing the mesmerising facial and body tattoos on her grandfather and his friends in Mon district, and learning of their origins the hard way.

Phejin starts the book precariously with an introduction to the tribe, its history, festivals and feasts. She does not shy away from recounting the ostracism she and her siblings faced at boarding school due to their family background. But a pressing need to preserve her ancestors unique tattooing tradition leads her to an inevitable confrontation with their headhunting history. The Konyaks believe that the soul force of a living being lies in its skull. Hence, their practice of head-taking was inextricably linked to power struggles between warring villages. It was also a rite of passage for boys, the number of heads determining an individuals tattoo designs and, consequently, social status. Once Phejin confronts her demons, she delves deep into disturbing details of ritualistic ceremonies. The book is a gold mine for anyone wanting to study the tribe through an objective lens.

The volume chalks out the different tattoo groups, shen-tu (face tattoo), tangta-tu (body tattoo) and kong-tu (nose tattoo), and their folktales and songs. A tattoo, or tu, was drawn by pricking the skin with a rattan thorn; the pigment used was tree sap known as ying tee collected from the kong tree (red cedar). While Phejin dissects the designs and the beliefs behind them in meticulous detail, Peter Bos does a spectacular job of photographing the fading ink under diffused light in the natives traditional houses. The haunting pictures alone are worth the cost of the book. The designs are further demystified with illustrations.

Anecdotes add life to the book. A particularly amusing one is that of the powerful Angh Chakwang of Longzang, whose headhunting prowess was such that his whole body had been covered with tattoos. Thus, this angh became the first warrior to get a penis tattoo, a task entrusted to 11 of his 30 wives.

The book ends, aptly, with a monologue by 70-year-old Honngo Wangshu, who calls himself the last of the tattooed headhunters. Drifting away from rural surroundings, Wangshu is photographed speaking to a congregation in a church, where he works as a deacon. He converted to Christianity and was baptised in 1978. It was the religions growing influence in the region, coupled with modern education and a resolution passed by the Konyak Students Union, that finally ended the rituals. Since the last tattoos were etched in the late 1970s, all the subjects are elderly. Quite literally, these individuals are the last of their kind, which makes this book an indispensable record of history

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Kolkata: Summer Coolers at Paramount https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/featured-3.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/kolkata-summer-coolers-paramount/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/kolkata-summer-coolers-paramount/ 2018-04-09T10:00:59+05:30 article Paramount, in central Kolkata, completes a century selling summer coolers and other fruit-based syrups made from their in-house recipes When advertising, marketing and diversifying are the order of the day for a business to succeed, Paramount in Kolkata has resisted all the established rules of the game.

But can you be too critical of the policy when you are told that Paramount -- tucked within a warren of shops on Bankim Chatterjee Street in central Kolkata has completed a century selling only sharbat and syrup made from their own recipes? As you enter, the signage at the entrance reminds you that the shop was founded in 1918.

My father had ingrained in us the mantra of using quality ingredients, and that is what has stood us in good stead all these years, said the late founders 70-something son, Mrigendra Majumdar, with a hint of pride in his voice. The younger members of the family, who also take an active part in running the shop, nodded in agreement.

Probably, the seed of courage to go beyond established norms was planted when a young man from Barishal (then part of undivided Bengal and now in Bangladesh), Nihar Ranjan Majumdar, opened a shop in Kolkata (or Calcutta as the city was then known as) called Paradise. Selling sharbat was a front. It was actually a covert meeting ground for those plotting to overthrow the British. Nihar Ranjan belonged to the then well-known revolutionary outfit Anushilan Samity.

He changed the name of the shop to Paramount when the cover was blown.

The shop itself has changed very little over the years it seemed, except for some functional changes like a modern fridge replacing the old Germany-made wooden one, added Majumdar. Animal trophies (apparently bought from an auction by the Nizam of Hyderabad) shared wall space with yellowed portraits of famous Bengalis, flower bedecked gods looked upon the crowd around the Italian marble topped tables from yore.

Inside, the shop is so narrow that visitors have to slip in sideways, occasionally twisting and turning to allow the waiters, juggling full tumblers, to pass.

But nothing seemed to deter the crowd who streamed in to the shop. Most visitors appeared to be repeat customers, ordering their favourite drink without a glance at the menu card. Even the uninitiated seemed to know that the dub sharbat (green or tender coconut is called daab or dub in Bengali), was the signature drink here.

and yet the drink would have nutritive value. The green coconut used to make this sharbat is specially sourced from Basirhat (a town to the east of Kolkata).

Stirred into the green coconut water are ice shavings, a flavoured syrup and a liberal quantity of the white pulp found inside the green coconut. It is customary to sip the drink, occasionally stopping to scoop out and munch on the slivers of pulp; they do provide a spoon with the drink.

The water-based Tamarind syrup is also a refreshing summer cooler.

Keeping the changing taste of customers in mind, Majumdar is always experimenting, innovating.

For example, if you are feeling peckish and looking for a fulfilling sharbat, then try the specially concocted Passion Fruit (made with the fruit added to raabri the north Indian favourite made from milk and topped with cashew, raisins and almond) or the Kesar Malai (made with raabri, milk kheer, cashew, etc.).

Apart from the milk-based range of Malai sharbat, there is also a curd-based Cream range of sharbat; both available in an assorted fruit range, including banana, orange, green mango, strawberry, etc. If you go through our menu, you will find most are fruit-based because we always want the sharbat to contain some food value, said Majumdar.

Or, you may try the Cream Lassi or the Cream Kesar Lassi, for a change from the fruit flavoured drinks.

Usually, the Cream range and the syrups are priced at Rs 50 a glass while others are pegged between Rs 60 and Rs 130. But do remember, prices are dependent on availability of the ingredients. A note at the bottom says, that products without ice have an additional charge of rupees five.

We have been asked many times to open branches or offer franchises, said Majumdar, but we have not agreed because we will not be able to personally supervise the making of the sharbat. But they have signed up with popular delivery apps and also offer carry-home packs.

As I finished my dub sharbat and got ready to leave, a smiling Majumdar pointed to an almost century-old writing on the wall, If you are satisfied tell others/If you are not tell us. A motto that has seen the business through a hundred years. The only flicker of publicity being the later addition of two display cases showing copies of articles written on Paramount and another one high up on the wall listing the names of luminaries who visited the shop.

The information
Paramount is located in central Kolkata. Just behind the College Square park, on the same pavement as the Mahabodhi Society. The shop front is so narrow that you may miss it unless you are looking closely for it. The shop is open Mon to Sat -- from 12pm to 10pm, and on Sunday from 4pm to 10pm. Contact: (033)22192433, 9674215355.

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Tips To Experience the Northern Lights With Children https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Northern-Lights-in-Norway.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/tips-experience-northern-lights-children/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/tips-experience-northern-lights-children/ 2018-04-08T10:43:50+05:30 article Travelling with children to see the Northern Lights can be difficult. But fret not, here's a comprehensive guide with kid-friendly activities, so you and your Located over 200 miles from the Arctic circle, Tromso is a surprisingly vibrant city for such a remote location. The tiny city is known for its food, festivals, buzzing nightlife and spectacular scenic location. This is arguably the most comfortable place to see the Northern lights or Aurora Borealis. It is also a popular starting point for most polar expeditions. We spent five days in Tromso during Thanksgiving, chasing Northern lights and soaking in the arctic splendour.

For two months, between November and January, the sun remains below the horizon and the daylight is well... little. This time is also called morkitiden, "the dark time". The idea of travelling with two smallchildren to a place with darkness and sub-zero weather may seem unexciting initially but it worked well for us. There is, however, something magical about a place where the sun never rises and the lights dance in the sky! All houses and shops are lit up with tons of candles and it feels like a forever sunset time. It is not as cold as you may think.

The mild waters of the Gulf Stream give northern Norway the mildest climate on earth at this latitude. There are multiple activities to engage thechildren and even though mine are very young, agedsix and three, they would love to go back. November also marks the beginning of the party season in Tromso. Most places are alive and bustling after 10 pm in the night. The main street is called Storgata and is lined with quaint shops and many salons.

Tromso is famous for Northern Lights and since they can be elusive, we decided to start our trip with it. Northern Lights occur throughout the year and at all times of the day. However, they are visible only when it is really dark and clear. So, you have to plan a visit in the darkest time of the year. One has to think of the Aurora Borealis as a bashful child. She may show up with all her energy or may decide to hide. We decided to sign up for multiple activities and plan for at least two Northern lights chases. The tours can be booked through the hotel or Tromso Villmarkssenter. The decision served us well as on our first chase, the wind was so strong that it was pushing buses off the road, and the tour had to be cancelled.

Most tour operators have an English speaking guide on board the bus that takes you on the Northern Lights chase. The tours typically begin around 8pm and last for 2-3 hours, so be sure to sleep in that day and be ready for the night. The tours take you to the outskirts where there are vast open areas and unrestricted views of the sky. On our second chase, we got lucky and saw a spectacular show that lasted 30-35 minutes where the whole sky lit up. It felt like a symphony at the hands of the master. At most times, clear dark green streaks were easily visible. The lights can pick up colours from green to pink or purple depending on the atmospheric gases. While the whole world around you seems to be scrambling to take pictures of this wondrous phenomenon, my suggestion would be to soak in the magic for a bit and then take snaps.

The lights are also visible at Fjellheisen. It is a short 10-minute ride away on the local bus and takes you to the Tromso Gondola point. Apart from offering the best views of the city, the summit also offers an occasional view of the Northern Lights. We were concerned thechildren may not hold up well at night so we ensured they got enough rest. Surprisingly, they were quite happy and active! The natural phenomenon was quite wondrous for the little minds. My daughter recalled seeing them in the film Frozen! The key was to remember warm kids are happy kids . We layered up heavily and even carried hand and foot warmers.

Another popular and unique activity in Tromso is the Husky Dog Sled ride . It is debatable who enjoys the ride more-the musher, passengers or the dogs. Each sled has 5-7 huskies pulling it andtwo people riding. One can sense the palpable excitement in the air when you arrive at the sled. Once the huskies start running, the air goes silent.I could see how much the dogs were enjoying the run. Thechildren loved it. The snowsuits and the blankets for the ride are provided by the operator. The husky ride centers are generally outside the town; so the Aurora could be visible during the ride if onetakesthem late in the evening.You could also choose to drive the sled. The dogs know the route and follow each other, so driving the sled is really quite simple. Most of the mushers are young college grads having moved in from different parts of the world to experience Norway and its beauty.

After almost an hour of dog-sledding, we got a chance to meet the husky puppies. My children were absolutely thrilled to be able to play with and hold the puppies. We gathered around the fire in the Gamme - a traditional Sami hut - and were served warm drinks, hot chocolate and a traditional Sami meal. The meal had Bacalao (local stock fish prepared in red sauce), reindeer meat and delicious brownies for dessert. Yes, there were vegetarian options available too!

The next activity on our list was our visit to The Polar Park. It is three hours away from Tromso, in Bardu. They even have parking dedicated to campers and caravans. The moment you head inland, it gets really cold as there is no gulf stream to lend the warmth. We got lucky because it was snowing when we went and not freezing. This park has animals in their natural habitat. We saw Norways large predators - wolves, brown bears, lynx and their preys. The park has 12 enclosures over 112 hectares. The most memorable part for me was meeting the wolves inside their enclosure. Bear in mind that even though the wolves are socialised they are still predators. This experience isn't for the fainthearted! When the wolf comes up and puts its paws on your outstretched hands and its amber eyes make contact with yours - your breath stops!While children aren't allowed inside the wolf enclosure, if you want to visit it, make sure to book in advance. My children really enjoyed themselves at the park.They loved seeing the animals and even though it was snowing, they ran around, built a gazillion snowmen and frolicked in the snow.

On a rest day, we took the two young ones toPolaria. The exhibits are designed to be educative and informational. There is a panoramic five-screen cinema that shows documentaries on Northern Lights as well as Svalbard. The most sought-after attraction is the bearded seal show. The bearded seal is an arctic species and is found in Svalbard. Thetwowere enthralled by the show and got to interact with the seals up close.

The Information
Where to Stay
The centrally located Clarion Hotel The Edge is the largest conference hotel in Tromso. The hotel has a combination of rooms and suites but they tend to go fast so one must book well in advance (NOK 2270 per room onwards; nordicchoicehotels.com/tromso). The breakfast buffet spread is huge and is part of the stay. Do not miss out on the Vitamin D booster shot. The Radisson Blu (NOK 1700 onwards per room;radissonblu.com/hotel/tromso) and Thon Hotel Polar (NOK 974 per room onwards; thonhotels.com) arealso popular.

Where and What to eat
Tromso is a Salmon lovers delight. For an outstanding gourmet meal with excellent pre-set vegetarian and non-vegetarian options as well as a la-carte; head to Mathallen (+47 77 680100). If you are staying at Clarion Hotel The Edge, you will love Masterchef Marcus Samuelssons Kitchen & Table restaurant. To get the pizza, pasta fix for the kids, head over to Yonas Pizzeria . The cafes and coffee houses are plentiful should you want to huddle in.

Arctic Clothing
As one of my Nordic friends says "There is nothing called bad weather, there is just bad clothing" .The key to being warm and having fun is to wear layers. It will make all the difference between a good experience and a bad one. Tromso in winters can get windy too. We used merino base layers, ski jackets, ski pants and gloves whenever we stepped out. Snow boots and woollen socks seal the deal. Balaclava, pashmina stoles comes in handy during snow play and windy times. There are also shops that rent out Thermal Suits and other snow gear should one need them. Most activities like whale watching, husky sledding provide snowsuits and boots as a part of the trip/package. But it is always better to be prepared for weather changes in the Arctic. For thermal suit rentals (book in advance), look up Tromso Outdoor (tromsooutdoor.no). They do delivery as well.

Northern Lights photography
The Northern Lights need professional cameras to be captured properly. I am told that there are multiple iOS and Android apps too that help you capture this, but DSLR is really the king here. Be sure to carry a tripod so that you can set it up well else the pictures may be hazy. Our guide was also the tour's professional photographer and was able to click one photo per family. He advised us to use wide angle lens, manual mode, ISO CA 800-1600 and exposure time of 8-30 seconds for the best results.

The writer is aformerGoogler and is currently enjoying her time tending to her flock and basking in the Californian sun. She loves to travel, dance and cook though not always in that order.

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100 Years of World War I https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/featured-4.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/100-years-world-war/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/100-years-world-war/ 2018-04-07T10:40:37+05:30 article Closing in on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the time is rife for a visit to some of its most It was as dramatic as it could get. When the clock struck 11 on the 11th day of November in 1918, representatives from Germany, Great Britain and France, who had gathered in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compigne near Paris, signed an armistice that ended World War I (WWI). That day, millions of people across the world had as much reason to rejoice as they did to mournmore than 8.5 million soldiers and an even larger number of civilians had perished over four years.

November 11, 2018 will be a hundred years since. WWI left plenty of cemeteries and battlefields in its wake, and many war memorials have come up since. With the centennial around the corner, history buffs have been heading to these venues in droves. Done properly, war tourism is a great opportunity for an in-depth understanding of the times, even to sensitise the post-Cold War generation of the horrors of a war of such proportions. The idea is to focus on the history and the tragedy, without making an exhibition of the horrors or disrespecting the deceased.

The most prominent WWI battles took place in France and Belgium. At the latter, Ypres was home to the Battle of Passchendaele, where estimates claim at least half a million deaths. Here, the Tyne Cot Cemetery, with 11,900 graves, and the In Flanders Fields Museum, with its display of the futility of the war, are must-visits. In France, the Battle of the Somme was equally devastating. Among the presumed casualties, 72,246 British and South African soldiers went missing in action. They are commemorated at the nearby Thiepval Memorial. Trenches and tunnels were an important but tragic part of WWIthe sites of many bloodbaths. Vimy Ridge in France and the Trench of Death near Ypres are two such sites.

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Many Indian soldiers, as part of the British forces, fought valiantly in the Great War. The Indian Forces Memorial near Menin Gate in Ypres honours the over 1,30,000 Indians who served in the region. Heroes such as Khudadad Khan, the first Indian recipient of the Victoria Cross, and Mir Dast, who rescued eight officers amid heavy fire, are remembered here.

War tourism extends beyond WWI, of course. It is important to countries such as Cambodia, with its Khmer Rouge killing fields where Pol Pot claimed an estimated one-million-plus lives between 1975 and 1979. These sites sensitise visitors to tragedies beyond the World Wars, but which were just as brutal.

War tourism is a way of ensuring the world neither forgets nor repeats some of its worst mistakes. Reminders such as these are good things.

Visit these places on your own, or take the the help of an operator. For instance, Yatra Journeys, a recently launched experiential travel programme, is offering a WW IIndia on the Western Front 6N/7D itinerary through Belgium and France. See yatra.com for more.

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Explore Hong Kong like a local with Mandarin Oriental https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/mandarin-oriental-featured-image.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/explore-hong-kong-like-local/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/explore-hong-kong-like-local/ 2018-04-06T15:18:25+05:30 article Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, launches a series of curated experiences for the discerning travellers to help explore the city Planning a visit to Hong Kong any time soon? If yes, then you may want to stay at Mandarin Oriental. Located right in the centre of the city, Mandarin Oriental has got the advantage of a great location. With Mandarin Oriental as your base, you can experience the best of the urban locale, food and art. Here are the four curated tours with Mandarin Oriental that will help you explore the glitzy Hong Kong like a local.

Urban Photography Experience
A photo tour where you can actually take part. Accommodating up to two guests, this photo tour led by one of Hong Kong's top travel photographers will help you capture the spirit of the city through your camera lens. In depth session with the expert about photography and ways to explore the city's architecture, unique street life, are just some of the things you can expect to gain from this curated tour. The half-day tour (four hours) is priced at HKD 3000 and the full-day tour (seven hours) at HKD 5000.

Enlightened Walks
Look at the city from a filmmaker's point of view. Yes, that is exactly what this package offers. The minimun four-hour long tour is led by a resident filmmaker who will help you take a walk around the city, observing the daily-life activities of the locals. Not only that, during this tour, expect to learn plenty of enlightening facts about the city. Minimum four-hour booking is required to avail this; HKD 850 per hour for two guests, HKD 1, 050 per hour for three guests and HKD 1,200 per hour for four guests.

Hong Kong Food Walks
You don't really experience a place if you don't try the local cuisine. Don't let that happen to you. Though the hotel is not without some of the best restaurants and bars of Hong Kong, they also believe in experiencing local dining. And in Hong Kong, local dining is as exciting as they come. Join a renowned local food writer on a culinary tour to unravel the many aspects of Hong Kong's amazing food culture. this package is for guests above 15 years of age, at HKD 890 per hour for upto two guests and HKD 970 per hour for three guests.

Bespoke Art Walks
Mandarin Oriental is synonymous with great art. Hence, there are carefully curated art walks led by a local art expert, aimed at taking you around the city's creative corners. The package includes Chinese art gallery visits, guaranteed to take you deep into the world of Chinese art and antiques. Or you can also go unconventional and explore the city's cutting-edge art found mostly in not-for-profit establishments of the city. The minimum four-hour package is priced at HKD 2000 per hour for maximum of six guests.

Getting there: There are direct flights from 5 Indian cities to Hong Kong. Jet Airways, Air India and Cathay Pacific are some such carriers.

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Top 5 Places To Visit in South Andamans https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Neil-Island-featured.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-5-places-visit-south-andamans/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-5-places-visit-south-andamans/ 2018-04-06T13:47:42+05:30 article Most popular tourist destinations lie in the South Andamans, including capital Port Blair The major tourist attractions of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are clustered in the South Andamans. Since Port Blair which is the entry and exit point also happens to be located here, it is easy to chalk up a five to six day itinerary to get an overview of the place, including some of the best beaches and diving centers.

Port Blair

The capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Port Blair, is the entry point to this group of islands located in the Bay of Bengal. Keep two to three days to see Port Blair and its nearby attractions. Cellular Jail, now a National Monument of India, has been converted into a museum and there is a light and sound show (avail online booking at http://www.and.nic.in/etourist/) held in the evening. In between, you can squeeze in the Samudrika Museum, Corbys Cove beach, Chatham Saw Mill, etc. On the second day, head for Wandoor beach (do pay attention to the warnings about crocodiles in the area) and Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (closed on Mondays). Limited boat rides from the Park jetty take visitors to the Jolly Buoy and Redskin islands (permits required); the glass-bottom boats allow you to catch a glimpse of the underwater flora and fauna. Time permitting, you may stop at the Sippighat Farm lying between Port Blair and Wandoor. If you are keen to see the corals, head for North Bay Beach on the third day. Besides, snorkelling, you may try the Sea Walk (even non-swimmers can avail this facility). Head for the Sagarika Emporium in Port Blair for a spot of souvenir shopping.

Ross Island

This tiny island appears to float like a ship in the middle of blue sea. Ross Island was the capital of the islands between 1858 and 1941. Explore the ruins from the colonial period scattered here and end the trip with the light and sound show in the evening. Except Wednesday, ferries run between Aberdeen Bazar in Port Blair and Ross Island. Tickets available on first come first serve basis from Directorate of Tourism reception from 8.30 am to 3.00 pm on the same day; ticket covers entry to Ross Island, boat charges and light and sound entry. There can be a rush for tickets during the peak tourist season. However, you may book tickets online (http://www.and.nic.in/etourist/).

Baratang Island

Located about 100km from Port Blair in South Andamans, Baratang Island can be visited on a day trip, by starting in the wee hours, and travelling a part of the way on a vehicle ferry at Middle Strait. The island is known for its beaches, mangrove creeks, mud-volcanoes and limestone caves. With permission, you may visit the limestone caves, a short boat ride away.

Havelock Island

Government and private ferry services as well as a helicopter service connect this beach special island with Port Blair. Sandwiched between the turquoise sea and the green forests, the golden beaches of Havelock and its wealth of corals are a huge attraction in South Andamans. You will also find a variety of water sports, snorkelling and diving opportunities, etc. Some of the popular beaches here are Radhanagar, Vijaynagar, Elephant Beach, Kalapathar, etc.

Neil Island

Government and private ferries from Port Blairs Phoenix Bay jetty plies to Neil Island. Ferries also connect Havelock with Neil. Called the vegetable bowl of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Neil is known for its white sand beaches (named after the various characters of the Ramayana), corals and tropical forests. Dont miss the natural rock formation in Lakshmanpur Beach during low tide. With permission, you may also pay a visit the wildlife sanctuary and turtle nesting ground of Chhota Neil.

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Being Responsible In Goa: Take A Peek Into Portugal https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Arco-Iris1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/being-responsible-in-goa-take-a-peek-into-portugal/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/being-responsible-in-goa-take-a-peek-into-portugal/ 2018-04-06T11:23:51+05:30 article Welcome to Arco Iris which is Portuguese for rainbow. Located in south Curtorim, the large, spacious and well-remodelled building retains an old-world charm The hand of fate seems to have played a role in Bennita Ganesh stumbling across a 200-year-old Portuguese manor, now named as Arco Iris. Tiring of the corporate rat race in Bengaluru, Bennita decided to return to South Goa where she grew up and buy an old home. If youve visited this part of Indias favourite holiday state, then you would have seen a number of mansions, most in various stages of decay. The families have either moved abroad or to other parts of India. A few are still inhabited by the descendants of the original owners. If you think buying a house thats been unlived in for ages might be an easy task think again! It took Bennita a couple of years, a narrow escape from a double-crossing real estate agent and plenty of trips from Bengaluru to finally find what she was looking for in the village of Curtorim. Luckily, for her, the house had just one owner, an old lady, who was happy to sell the property to Bennita.

A vision in yellow, Arco Iris is set in a rambling 1.5 acre property with emerald green lawns, fruit trees and flowering bushes. But what you see today as you set foot on the property wasnt so appealing when Bennita chanced upon it 10 years ago. Having been abandoned for over 40 years, it was in dire need of restoration. Ask Bennita about the bats they encountered when they first tried entering the premises! There were no bathrooms within the house, plumbing was non-existent and the concept of electricity seemed to have bypassed the manor. With next to no experience with anything related to housing be it interior dcor to architecture it seemed like an uphill task, but one which Bennita and her husband took on with full gusto and a positive approach. To cut a long story short after a disastrous association with a local contractor, whod initially promised to restore the manor in a years time and then left them high and dry with even more work than when they found it; and them realising theyd need to be more hands-on, consult with professionals experienced in restoration and hunt for furniture that would complement the interiors Arco Iris was finally ready to be lived in. Initially intended to be a family holiday home, the Ganeshs soon realised the manor had much to offer, especially with all the work theyd done on it and visiting every now and then would be a complete waste. So they moved to Goa and opened up their home as a boutique homestay.

Today the red-roofed manor has five spacious rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Each has a specific colour theme Indigo, Orange, Violet, Yellow and Blue. Does that remind you of anything? Yes, its the colours of the rainbow. The name Arco Iris means rainbow city in Portuguese. I couldnt decide which one was the prettiest. Each of these rooms has something to offer the indigo room, situated on the first floor, is the perfect point from which to spot birds while the yellow room has lovely views of the lake and beautifully maintained grounds.

Later, Trusha, Bennitas elder daughter, took me on a tour of her home. As you approach the front door, youll spot a large floor mosaic just before the threshold. The solid wooden front door is actually the original. It was of such superior quality wood that all it required was some spit and polish and it looked as good as new. Upon entering the foyer youll notice the altar, which is only other original piece preserved from the old house. The dining room, which can accommodate eight people at the table, is airy and filled with light thanks to doors that open out onto the portico. A high ceiling is one of the key features of this particular room. A TV, a well-stacked bookcase and several photos on the walls add a homely and comfortable touch to the living room. If you want to soak up some sun, then head to the courtyard at the back of the house. Breakfast is served here at times. Bennita and her family, including their Labrador retriever Fenny, live in a cottage a stones throw from the main house, well within the property. Fenny is usually around to greet guests with a wagging tail and a bump from his wet snout. The warm and cordial staff is from Curtorim, adding a local flavor to life at Arco Iris.

You may be tempted to simply lie in the hammock under the trees or walk around the lush premises during your stay, but that would be a waste. Goa is a tourist hotspot, but this part of the state (South Goa) still retains its quiet charm. You can enjoy the sites without the hustle and bustle that mars its northern counterpart. A mere 4kms away, in the village of Chandor, is the splendid Braganza Mansion, which has the distinction of being the oldest Portuguese house in Goa. The 450-year-old heritage building was constructed in three parts and the descendants of the original owners still live at the mansion. A section of it is open to visitors till 5.00pm. Here, I met Mrs Pereira, the 14th generation member of the family, who gave me a tour of some of the rooms. In case you dont fancy the idea of walking all the way from Arco Iris to Chandor, there is the option of hiring a scooty. I was more than happy to jump on one and zip around exploring sleepy villages and towns.

Tip Ask Bennita to help you hire a scooty to explore places further afield.

I also stopped at Margao, the headquarters of South Goa district. Bennita had recommended visiting the Confidant Bookstore and Library, home to several old maps of Goa. I spent a couple of hours here poring over books on Goan food, the churches of Old Goa, Portuguese rule, postcards and, of course, Mario Mirandas illustrations and artwork. I also visited the Rachol Seminary and a lovely home-run bakery in Loutolim called Jila Bakery. I can vouch for their plum cake it was by far the best Ive ever tasted. If hunger pangs hit you during your explorations then definitely head to Chef Fernandos Nostalgia restaurant in neighbouring Raia village. Its not on the tourist map but its a local favourite, Bennita assured me. I ate dinner there one evening and thoroughly enjoyed the live music along with the dcor murals depicting Maria Mirandas cartoons adorn the walls as well as the mouthwateringly good food. I stuck to the basics and ordered the Nostalgia cocktail made of cashew feni, and chicken xacuti and sanna bread. The first bite sent me to food heaven, while the second had me promising myself to return soon.

Closer to Arco Iris, guests have the opportunity to go fishing and birdwatching. The Corjim community lake attracts several migratory species during winter, and an early morning walk along its shore during the season will delight any birder. The lake is also a place of economic interest as paddy is grown here in its early stages (government funded), before it is given away to local farmers to implant and grow in their own fields. The village of Curtorim is known as the granary of Goa, and most households have their own paddy fields as I discovered during a pleasant walk one evening. The only time you really see people in Curtorim is at the town centre during sunset the rest of the time theyre busy working in the fields. While Margao has more or less lost its old-world charm, Curtorim has managed to retain it, thanks to the village panchayat that made sure a slice of old Goa is still perfectly preserved here by prohibiting the construction of modern buildings. The St Alex Church, located near Curtorim town centre, was built in 1597. It is one of the oldest churches and the first chapel church in Goa. This striking white building lies on the banks of the Tollem lake; at night, the town lights help form a beautiful reflection of the church in the lake waters.

You could opt for a boat ride and fishing trip on the Zuari River which is conveniently close to the property. Small chapels and churches, as well as bakeries and markets are other places to visit. If youre the outdoorsy sorts then a short trek or hike can be organised in the nearby hills of the Western Ghats.

This trip made me view Goa in a whole new light. While I was no stranger to the more conventional and well-known tourist-packed attractions of North Goa, which I had definitely enjoyed during my college days, the architecture, the slower-pace of life and quiet beaches of the South are now my favourite aspects of this sunshine state. For it is here that the heart of Goa lies.

HIGHLIGHTS

Heritage propertyLocally-sourced ingredients used in the kitchenEmploys locals

FAST FACTS

When to go Anytime of the year, but October to March is the best weather wise

Arco Iris

House No 1384, Sinai Bagh

Near Carmel Chapel and High School Curtorim

Goa - 403709

Tel: 0832-2786800

Cell: 09604964482

W arcoiris.in

Tariff ?5,0008,500, with breakfast; exclusive of taxes; lunch and dinner ?700 per person per meal

Activities

Boat rideFishingBirdwatchingHeritage walks

GETTING THERE

Air Goas Dabolim airport is 32km/ 40min away. Taxi fares range from ?1,2001,800 depending on the vehicle

Rail Nearest railhead: Madgaon (10km/ 15min). Pre-paid taxi is about ?500. Pick-up can also be arranged by the resort for around the same fare

Road If you are driving down from Madgaon, head out for Village Raia at the Big Foot circle. After crossing the Sonsodo Garbage Disposal Yard, go right immediately before the Bosh showroom and keep driving toward Curtorims St Alex Church. Having crossed the church, stay on Macazana Road for about 1.5km all the way to Carmel High Scholl and Chapel. Take the left directly opposite the school and drive about 0.7km alongside Corjim Lake to the homestay which falls on the left.

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller Getaways Responsible Escapes

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Top 5 Museums in Kerala https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/napier-museum-featured.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-5-museums-kerala/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-5-museums-kerala/ 2018-04-05T17:44:16+05:30 article Your holiday to Kerala would be incomplete without a visit to these museums If you are a traveller and not a tourist, your trip to Kerala would be incomplete without a visit to at least a some of these museums. They provide insight into the region's rich culture and history like no place else.Here is a list of five hand-picked museums across all major cities of Kerala so you can visit at least a few.

INDO-PORTUGUESE MUSEUM, KOCHI

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From Vasco da Gamas arrival in 1503 to 1663, the Portuguese ruled Cochin and inevitably left behind a lasting impression on the regions history and culture. Located in Fort Kochi, The Indo-Portuguese Museum seeks to highlight this cultural relationship. The Portuguese influence on the art and architecture of the region can be seen here. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Joseph Kureethra, Bishop of Kochi the museum was set up inside the compounds of the Bishops House so that future generations could understand the Indo-Portuguese Christian Art heritage. The museum is divided into five main sections - Altar, Treasure, Procession, Civil Life and Cathedral. One can see a piece of the altar made in teak wood (16th century) from the Church of Our Lady of Hope, Vypeen, a chasuble (19th century) from Bishop's House, Fort Kochi, Processional cross, which is a combination of silver and wood (17th century) from Santa Cruz Cathedral, Fort Kochi, Indo-Portuguese Monstrance (18-19th century), from The Church of Our Lady of Hope, Vypeen. You will also see sculptures, precious metal objects and vestments, among others from the Cathedral of Santa Cruz and other churches of the Kochi diocese.
Visiting Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 hrs. Closed on Mondays and all Public Holidays

MUSEUM OF KERALA ARTS AND HISTORY, KOCHI

museum_of_kerala_history

The Museum of Kerala History portrays the history of Kerala from its early inhabitants to the modern era. There are 38 life-size tableaux, each accompanied by a variety of visuals, reflecting the cultural and social history of Kerala. There is also a gallery that has on display paintings and sculptures, more than 200 in number by some of India's leading modern masters, including Raja Ravi Varma, M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Jamini Roy, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinker Baij, Ram Kumar and K.G. Subramanyan, among others. Both English and Malayalam, the sound and light shows will tell you all you need to know about Keralas history.
Visiting Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 hours on all days except Mondays.

NAPIER MUSEUM, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

napier-museum

Named after the former Governor General of Madras, John Napier, this museum is one of the finest examples of architecture that blends Indian, Chinese, Kerala and Mughal styles. From gothic roof to minarets, all elements combine seamlessly to form this unique masterpiece. A landmark in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, it was designed by Robert Chisholm and the construction of the building was completed in 1880. The Indo-Saracenic structure also boasts of a unique natural air conditioning system. The museum is home to a rare collection of archaeological and historic artefacts, a temple chariot, bronze idols, ancient ornaments and ivory carvings. It also has the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, which contains paintings by the modern master Raja Ravi Varma and the landscape painter, Nicholas Roerich apart from Mughal and Tanjore art. The Museum shares its grounds with one of the oldest zoological gardens in India, the Trivandrum Zoowhich was established in 1857,
Visiting Hours: Open 10:00 - 16:45 hrs. Closed on Mondays, Wednesday forenoons, January 26th, August 15th, Thiruvonam and Mahanavami.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, THRISSUR

archaeological_museum_thrissur

Among the more picturesque and historically-relevant sites in all of Thrissur is its famous Archaeological Museum. Originally in the Kollengode Palace building, it has now been moved to the Shakthan Thampuran Palace. This beautiful building once was the seat of the Perumpadappu Swaroopam, the former ruling dynasty of Kochi, and now houses some of the finest murals from across Gods Own Country. Step inside and one is immediately made aware of the unique treasures this place holds, including Veerakallu, temple models, olagrandhangal (manuscripts on dry palm leaves) and megaliths. Veerkallu (herostones), especially, catch the intrigue of all new visitors. These stone engravings and sculptures of figures and weapons belong to a bygone era, and were found in the forests of Thrissur and Wayanad. Other important exhibits include earthen pots, urns and special temple models that are some of the best representations of holy sites across all of Kerala.
Visiting Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 hrs.on all days except Mondays and National Holidays.

KUTHIRAMALIKA PALACE MUSEUM, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

kuthiramalika_palace_museum

122 smiling wooden horses await all who visit Kuthiramalika, which means palace of horses. Formally known as Kuthiramalika Palace Museum or Puthenmalika Palace Museum, it is a pristine two-storied palace near the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Built by Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma, who was Maharaja of the Kingdom of Travancore in British India, it takes one back to the 1840s when it was first constructed. It is a great example of the Kerala school of architecture and is made from teakwood, rosewood, marble, and granite. The museum houses idols and sculptures made from white marble, Kathakali figures, Belgian mirrors and paintings. The flourishing spice trade between Kerala and the world made it possible to obtain those items. Barefoot walks are extremely famous here as well. It is a trip to another era hidden inside the capital of the State. The local guides give you a detailed idea of the many wonders hidden in the palace which will surely leave you enthralled.
Visiting hours: 08:30 - 13:00 hrs & 15:00 - 17:30 hrs. Closed on Mondays

 

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Cruising Down the Hooghly aboard Ganges Voyager https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Ganges-Voyager-featured-image.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/cruising-down-the-hooghly-onboard-ganges-voyager/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/cruising-down-the-hooghly-onboard-ganges-voyager/ 2018-04-05T15:55:36+05:30 article Board the Ganges Voyager cruise ship, the boutique vessel to revisit Bengal's rich and diverse heritage along the Hooghly As I stood on the sun deck, the Ganges Voyager gliding past the ghat steps leading down to the Hooghly, the ghosts of jute mills, the smoke stacks of brick kilns, the endless greenery, the spires and domes of temples and mosques, and the multi-storeyed apartment blocks that were created for the sole purpose of exterminating beauty, I could swear I heard the silky smooth notes of Louis Armstrongs trumpet playing Up a Lazy River in my ear.

The Ganges Voyager is a big ship, 56.5 metres long and 12.5 metres wide. On the topmost deck, I was 13 metres above the water level. Below me lay 28 suites spread between the main deck at the lowest level and the upper deck. It was a perfect morning to start our cruise, without a hint of the fog that usually obscures the sun around mid-February. The brightness was infectious, and even the South Korean guests could not resist its charm. The countless bathersmen, women and childrenwaved and called out to us, and the guests waved back enthusiastically.

Seven days later, when the ice had broken between us and we were waiting patiently for the ship to return to the jetty in Howrah, I chatted with Se Joon Park, who retired as CEO of Amway Korea. A much-travelled man and an enthusiastic photographer, he admitted that the ship had been like a time machine that had transported him back to when his country was still poor. Sixty years ago, we would not see any foreigners, except Americans, and we would wave to them. I feel nostalgic about the good old days, he said, smiling.

The ship is a floating boutique hotel. The smorgasbord of cuisine on offer in the dining hall, the Ayurvedic unguents and cleansers in every spacious bathroom that could make rhino hide feel like satin, and the warm smiles of the staff made it feel like one. My suite, like all the others, had a floor-to-ceiling picture window commanding an excellent view of the river. It was the kind of luxury that zamindars of yore would have enjoyed on their barges.

On the evening before our journey started, the ship remained anchored at Shibpur, opposite the neglected Hooghly dockyard. The sun deck glowed with lights. Padding about barefoot was a tall, big-boned, moustachioed man, who turned out to be Raj Singh, managing director of the Exotic Heritage Group.

60 to 70 per cent otherwise. We have bookings till 2019, he said. In March they have plans to extend the trip to Dhaka.

The distinguishing feature of the cruise is that it dares to stray from the well-trodden paths. We reached Bandel after crossing Jubilee Bridge late in the afternoon. The ship was anchored in the middle of the river and a smaller boat took us to the ghat of the Hooghly Imambara. Its high walls and elegant minarets are visible from afar. The grand gateway soars beyond the magnificent hall and the even larger courtyard around which galleries are constructed several storeys above the busy road in front of it. The structure is intricately ornamented with geometric designs, though time has extinguished its polychrome opulence. The imambara is the biggest in West Bengal, constructed with the enormous fortune bequeathed by the illustrious Haji Muhammad Mohsin to charity. Starting in August 1845, it took 20 years to be completed. It is embellished with gem-hued glass in the lunettes above the doors of the hall, and hundreds of lamps hanging in the galleries, and chandeliers. Verses of the Quran are inscribed on the wall, so is the will of Haji Mohsin in English.

Even though conservation work was undertaken by the trustees seven years ago to prevent the imambara from falling to pieces, I doubt it will be able to restore it to its former splendour. Not even with skilled masons from Murshidabad.

Dinner was at 6.30 pm; the Koreans preferred to dine early, plus we had a crack-of-dawn visit to Kalna scheduled. This small town is crowded with temples, some of the most beautiful in Bengal. Rickshaws took us to the Naba Kailash complex that boasts 108 Shiva temples, corresponding to the number of beads in a rosary. Built in 1809, they are arranged in two perfect concentric circles, 34 inside and 74 outside.

The Rajbari complex is just across the street, and both are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). All of the temples were constructed by the various maharajas of Burdwan and their wives at different periods. The Pratapeswar temple built in 1849; the remnants of the ancient Rasmancha, where the Krishna images were displayed during festivals; the oldest Lalji temple with 25 pinnacles dating back to 1739; the Giri Gobardhan temple with a roof resembling a hillock; and the tall Krishnachandra temple of 1751 vintageall testify to the aesthetic sensibility of Bengal in those times. Thousands of delicate terracotta panels on the temple faades bring alive episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, scriptures, various avatars of gods and goddesses, exploits of Krishna, and battles of Durga and Kali against the forces of evil. Processions of soldiers with horses, elephants and camels too find a place in this inclusive representation of life.

As the vessel breasted the Hooghly on its upstream journey past Nabadwip, the humongous, ungainly domes of the new Mayapur temples heaved into sight. This journey was a rare opportunity to appreciate the abstraction of Islamic art and the diversity of Hindu artistic expression. In Mayapur we experience a travesty of both and a glorification of the grotesque. I wonder why it was included in an otherwise well-thought-out itinerary.

Early next morning, we gathered on the banks of the river for our trip to the bell metal, brass and copper foundries of sleepy Matiari, where artisans make utensils for rituals and everyday use. Fashioning utensils of various alloys is a major source of employment here, irrespective of caste and religion. Some artisan families displayed their wares on their porchplates and tumblers, buckets and spoons and ladles, and tiny knick-knacks.

We left the battlefield of Palashi behind. Biplab Majumdar, who helmed the vessel, said it was several kilometres away from the river. Our next stop was at Khoshbag where Siraj-ud-Daulah is buried amid a pretty garden. His grave is approached by a smooth metalled path leading directly from the river through mango groves and paddy fields. Tranquillity prevailed in the villagequite a novelty for the South Korean guests.

As evening fell, the horizon turned dark, wiping out natures colours. The lights inside the wheelhouse and around the ship were switched off. In the darkness, the river turned into a dull grey mirror. Navigating entirely by the charts provided by the Inland Waters Authority of India, the ship hardly made any ripples as it glided forward and the phantoms of Hazarduari Palace and the grand Nizamat Imambara floated into view.

Baranagar in the Azimganj area of Murshidabad district lay right across the river. The Hooghly, which turns into the turbulent Bhagirathi beyond Nabadwip, eats into the embankment in this region, threatening the temples located a few yards away. Illegal brick kilns along the river have done serious damage to the banks, and entire villages having been swallowed by the waters.

The Char Bangla Shiva temples of Azimganj, with gable-shaped roofs modelled on thatched huts, are rare specimens of Bengal temple art. They were constructed in the mid-18th century by Rani Bhabani of Natore. The surfaces of these brick structures are animated by exquisite terracotta panels depicting deities like Durga and Kali vanquishing demons. Each temple is like a perfectly made jewel box, and the ruins of a large arched brick structure stand next to them. Though supposedly protected by the ASI, there is little evidence of care.

Baranagar is a quiet village. The huts have granaries made of bamboo strips. In the midst of a field stands the superb Bhabanisvara temple with an inverted lotus on top. Rani Bhabanis derelict palace is also located here.

Next, we stopped at the jetty in front of Hazardurai Palace, where tongas were waiting to take us to the grand but stark Katra Mosque, once a great seminary of learning. I opted for an electric rickshaw, locally known as a toto. Nawab Murshid Quli Khan constructed this brick mosque in his old age, and is buried under the entrance staircase. Its most striking features are its two tall corner towers with loopholes along the top.

The sprawling Hazarduari Palace on the riverfront was constructed between 1829 and 1837 during the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah when he was under the thumb of the East India Company. No wonder it was designed by a European, Duncan McLeod, and was modelled on Raj Bhavan in Kolkata. It is called Hazarduari because of its thousand doors, of which only 100 are real, the rest being architectural illusions. The only objects of interest inside are the oil paintings of various rulers of Murshidabad. They are poorly restored, though, with overlays of paint. Siraj-ud-Daulahs portrait hangs in one obscure corner. Ten years after the palace was built, the nawab himself constructed the enormous imambara to its north.

So what is the luxury quotient of the trip? Haim Shuster, CEO of the upmarket Geographical Tours based in Tel-Aviv, got it right when he said: You dont sell the boat out of the context of India. Within the context of India, it is a luxury experience.

Exotic Heritage Groups 7N Ganges Voyager heritage cruises run from September to March, while the Life of the Ganges cruises are available from March to May; $2,258, twin sharing; info@gangesvoyager.com, gangesvoyager.net.in

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Top five National Parks in Assam for an unforgettable wildlife experience https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Asiatic_wild_elephants_are_seen_at_the_Kaziranga.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-five-national-parks-assam-unforgettable-wildlife-experience/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-five-national-parks-assam-unforgettable-wildlife-experience/ 2018-04-04T17:58:25+05:30 article From dense forest to rare and endemic flora and fauna, these national parks in Assam give the Indian wildlife scene a touch of unique and There are the big and popular stars of the Indian wild, like the tiger and one-horned rhinoceros, and then there are rare and endemic ones like the pygmy hog, clouded leopard and golden langur, to name a few. Assam, one of the eight northeastern states of India, with its dense forest, is a wildlife wonderland one needs to go explore. The state has many wildlife parks, some popular, some not so much. Nevertheless, the unique thing about Assams wildlife is that, be it the very popular Kaziranga National Park or lesser-known Orang National Park, none will fall short of what you expect. From well-managed parks to rare wildlife treasures, these parks have a lot to offer. Here are top five national parks in Assam for an unforgettable wildlife experience.

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park, located in Assams Golaghat and Nagaon districts, is home to two-thirds of the worlds great one-horned rhinoceros population which also gave the park the status of a World Heritage Site. Among all protected areas, Kaziranga also has the highest density of tigers; good number of swamp deer (barasingha), wild water buffalo and wild elephants breed here; the park is also recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife Internationalall these and more makes Kaziranga National Park one of the best wildlife parks in India.

Manas National Park

Wildlife enthusiasts, dont give this park a miss. Home to the largest population (in the world) of the endangered Bengal Florican, and also the rare and endangered hispid hare, pygmy hog, golden langur and Assam roofed turtle, the park has made quite a name for itself. Apart from these species, the park has a healthy population of wild elephants, one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, Bengal tiger, wild water buffaloes, clouded leopard, to name a few. Manas river system and dense forest cover make for a suitable home to 450 species of birds, thus also making the park one great birding destination to look out for. Go to Manas to see great hornbill, pied hornbill, brahminy duck, khalij pheasant, pelicans, among others.

Nameri National Park

Also a tiger reserve, Nameri National Park is located in the Sonitpur district in Assam. The park has a very large population of wild elephants along with tiger, leopard, pygmy hog, clouded leopard, sloth bear and Himalayan black bear, to name a few. Nameri is perfect for birding enthusiasts as it also plays host to 300 species of birdsmigratory and well as resident. Birds like ibisbill, rufous necked hornbill, black stork, white-winged wood duck make Nameri their home. The semi evergreen and moist deciduous forest is excellent but also have fallen prey to logging. The park, as beautiful as it is, has a great threat of poaching and human/animal conflict due to elephants.

Orang National Park

A natural replica of Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park is located in Assams Darrang and Sonitpur districts. Because of the similarities in the landscape, Orang National Park also play host to the great one-horned rhinoceros, critically endangered pygmy hog and wild elephants. The park is the only one-horned rhinoceros habitat in the north bank of Brahmaputra river. Gangetic dolphin, Indian pangolin, hog deer, royal Bengal tiger and several special of reptiles thrive in this park. Nearest town is Tezpur (32km).

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is also a designated Biosphere Reserve. Flanked by Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers in the north and Dibru river in the south, the park is an excellent mix of moist mixed semi-evergreen forest, moist mixed deciduous forests, grasslands and swamp forest. Animals like Bengal tiger, slow loris, sloth bear, clouded leopard, Malayan giant squirrel, Gangetic dolphin, Hoolock gibbon and feral horse among many, are the parks residents. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park also has interesting species of reptilessnakes, turtles and monitor lizard. It is also a birders paradise as some of the birds recorded are Bengal florican, greater adjutant, lesser adjutant, fulvous whistling duck, northern pintail, spot-billed pelican, Baers pochard to name a few.

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Delhi: Shahrukh Khan at Madame Tussauds https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Shah-Rukh-Khans-figure-at-Madame-Tussauds-Delhi..jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/delhi-shahrukh-khan-madame-tussauds/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/delhi-shahrukh-khan-madame-tussauds/ 2018-04-04T17:34:18+05:30 article Shahrukh fans, take all the selfies you want with his new wax figure at Madame Tussauds Madame Tussauds has been making wax figures for over 150 years. Each masterpiece takes four months, and a team of 20 dedicated artists, to create. Over 500 precise body measurements are referenced, real head hairs are inserted one by one, and countless layers of paints and tints are applied to build up skin tones - all to achieve the kind of astonishing realism that has kept Madame Tussauds world renowned for over two centuries.

Shahrukh Khans new figure was unveiled today at Madame Tussauds Delhi. This is the second figure of Shahrukh. The new figure is in his signature pose will be showcased beside other iconic celebrities in a special interactive and entertaining themed zone.

I invite you to meet SRK from5th Aprilonwards at our Delhi attraction. We are extremely pleased to create and Shahrukhs second figure and bring it to his fans. Given Shahrukhs immense popularity and stature, the figure called for a special unveiling. We will introduce more such additions in the future. Keep visiting us, says Anshul Jain, General Manager and Director of Merlin Entertainments India Pvt. Ltd.

The figure was also toured around parts of central and old Delhi for the fans, creating an overwhelming response from fans which only reinforces how loved Shahrukh is by his supporters.

Madame Tussauds Delhi is an attraction known for bringing the fascinating world of glamour, sports, history, politics and history all under one roof. Visitors are encouraged to interact with their favourite celebrities, which marks the uniqueness of this attraction. The tickets to the attraction are available atwww.madametussauds.com/delhi/en.

Madame Tussauds also has attractions in London, Hollywood, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Wuhan, Blackpool UK, Sydney, Nashville apart from Delhi, with experiences built around fame and celebrity.

 

 

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Luxury Holiday in Sri Lanka https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/featured-2.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/luxury-holiday-sri-lanka/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/luxury-holiday-sri-lanka/ 2018-04-04T15:37:14+05:30 article From wild elephants and dancing peacocks to sprawling golf resorts and infinity pools overlooking the ocean, a luxe vacation in Sri Lanka has something for There are some holidays I remember for the sheer indulgence they allowed my otherwise frugal soul. Then there are those that remain etched in the mind for their bounty of natural sights and sounds. And then there is Sri Lanka, a potent mix of both.

To be entirely honest, despite its regular appearances in lists of cool tropical destinations to visit, I had never given this tiny island nation near the southern tip of India much thought. In my head, Sri Lanka registered as the navy blue jersey-clad cricket team that played against India all too frequently (and, to my delight, lost most of the big matches).

I was forced to reconsider my opinion, of both country and cricket team, on a recent visit. The 40-minute drive from Bandaranaike International Airport to the recently opened Shangri-La in the heart of Colombo took us through verdant fields on both sides of a smooth highway. The hotel is a towering 32-storey presence on the coastline, overlooking the Indian Ocean and the Galle Face greens. Spread over 10 acres, the Shangri-La complex is set to feature an office tower, two residential buildings and a high-end shopping mallall in the makingapart from the hotel.

We were greeted by a spectacular dinner spread, replete with local and international flavours, at Table One, the hotels all-day dining restaurant. It featured live counters for kottu (local street food) and egg hoppers to extensive salad spreads, Japanese delicacies and Indian curries. The daily breakfast buffet here was equally overwhelming.

In typical tropical fashion, I spent the afternoon lounging by a shimmering pool on the sun terrace with a book and a wine cocktail. Swaying palm trees, panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and a persistent sea breeze made this spot ideal for some quiet time alone. Between soothing dips in the water, I happened to make acquaintance with the hotels guest singers, Oana from Romania and Kathryn Farmer from NYC. Later in the day, Oana would swoon us all with her piano rendition of Sam Smiths Im Not The Only Onethe perfect accompaniment to Ceylon tea and towering platters of finger food in the Sapphyr Lounge. The view of the ocean from the floor-to-ceiling windows here could send anyone into an introspective spiral. But there was no time for brooding that sunlit evening, as we were swept away to the Old Colombo Fort for a two-hour city walk.

The area around the fort, a 10-minute walk from the hotel, is peppered with colonial architecture, the centrepiece being the Dutch Hospital Precinct. The space originally hosted military barracks for the Portuguese before they surrendered to a Dutch siege in the mid-17th century. The hospital, purportedly the oldest standing structure in the fort area, was built by the Dutch East India Company, hence the name. The British later transformed it into a commercial hub for tea traders. The post-colonial years saw it house apothecaries and local police departments at different times, and suffer many body blows in the civil war. In 2011, the erstwhile hospital was restored to its colonial-era glory and opened to the public. Today, the colonnade structure with its tiled roof, teak beams, five wings and two courtyards is a popular dining and shopping destination among the citys youth and tourists alike, but its original name has persisted. Among its many restaurants is the Ministry of Crab, a world-famous venture by celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa and Sri Lankan cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, which ranked 29 in the top 50 Asian restaurants of the world.

Other attractions on the walk included a unique clock tower that once doubled as a lighthouse for ships arriving at Ceylon (old name for Sri Lanka), a currency museum (Central Point) with a 72-foot-high brass chandelier, a post office dating back to 1895, the former presidential residence, the Senate of Ceylon partly consumed by an invasive banyan tree, and an HSBC building that sported a historical logo featuring floating wooden chests of opium, the British coat of arms and chained unicorns (you cant make this stuff up). Thanks to its narcotic provenance, this logo was relegated to oblivion and is not found anywhere else in the world. The delightful walk ended, aptly, with pints of Lion beer in a harbour-facing balcony of the 180-year-old Grand Oriental Hotel.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan lions had mauled the Indian tigers on a cricket pitch in Dharamsala in the first match of a three-ODI series. Ego bruised and appetite lost, I sat down for dinner at Shang Palace. One of Shangri-Las signature restaurants, it offers authentic regional Chinese cuisine, something Ive come to dread since a week-long visit to China in 2015 introduced me to their (mis)interpretations of vegetarian food. But the chef had some decadent surprises up his sleeve. While the meat lovers on the table enjoyed king prawns, wok-fried crab, kung pao chicken and Peking duck cooked in a guest-facing oven and carved by the table, I hogged on the veggies marinated cucumber with garlic and sesame dressing, vegetarian dumplings, mapo tofu and more. Named after a Chinese dynasty, Shang Palace serves regional cuisine from the provinces of Sichuan, Dongbei and Canton. Its architecture is inspired by traditional siheyuan houses and features old wooden beams merged with modern furnishings.

Lunch the next day, however, was not as sympathetic to the vegetarian cause. The Ministry of Crab in the Dutch Hospital Precinct has precious little to offer those who dont eat seafood. As I munched on chunks of garlic bread and endured a serving of garlic rice with kankung (water spinach) and mushrooms, I admired the painstaking details of the restaurants dcor. The tablemats are orange in keeping with the Dutch history of the premises; crab-claw plants dot the tables; oysters are served in sets of six on a bat-shaped platter, in honour of the co-founding cricketers; the walls declare Not all crabs are made the same, with X-rays of the shellfish to prove the point; and the customer aprons urge you to Keep Calm And Crab On. The crabs themselves come in 10 sizes from small to crabzilla (over 2kg) and in a variety of recipes. Though the restaurants no refrigerator policy limits its capacity, it goes through nearly 200 crabs a day. Chef Dharshan, who heads Shangri-Las contemporary Kaema Sutra restaurant as well, sneered at the Indian invention of the term non-vegetarian as much as at my suggestion of including more vegetarian options at the Ministry. To be fair, a vegetarian shouldnt have ventured into an eatery named after crustaceans in the first place. In a stroke of irony, though, the chefs daughter Shanaia, a marine biologist in training, told me she is allergic to all shellfish, and gave me company in ordering every dessert and beverage on the menu.

The first leg of our Lanka journey concluded at Capital Bar and Grill in the hotel, where we downed whiskey cocktails, while Kathryn doled out jazz songs in a shimmering gold dress and Jimmy Sax blew us away with his saxophone singles.

The next day, a five-hour drive along the coast took us to Hambantota, a small fishing town that has been in international headlines over the last few years. Its port has been leased out to China for a 99-year period to settle debts with Beijing, which has obviously caused security concerns in India. Consequently, India has reportedly made a bid to buy out some of the said debt in exchange for a 40-year lease of the Hambantota airport, frequently called the worlds emptiest airport.

While the Colombo hotel was draped in an urban sophistication with its pillar-less ballroom and sparkling chandeliers inspired by water lilies (the national flower), Shangri-Las Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa is soaked in an earthly sentiment, reflected in its bamboo-mat wall hangings and omnipresent elephant sculptures made of recycled material. But the resort does not cut down on luxury. Its three sprawling pools, kids recreation zones, lavish spa and 18-hole golf course are redolent of the mythical paradise the hotel chain is named after. I spent my first morning there taking putting lessons from the director of golf, Romain Pourveer. The Frenchman was generous enough to lose a putting duel against me as a sly means of encouragement.

It doesnt hurt that the resort is close to wildlife sanctuaries. My most vivid memory of a wild elephant is that of a mother charging at my jeep in Corbett. So, during our early morning safari of the Udawalawe National Park, when big herds with multiple calves strolled past our vehicle within touching distance without raising so much of a trunk, I tossed all my tusker presumptions out of the proverbial window. There were so many peacocks performing the mating dance, their iridescent feathers unfurled, that you would be forgiven to think it was their national bird. Such was the idyllic mood of the day that water buffaloes shared lake waters with crocodiles that refused to move an inch. I wondered if a water truce had been pronounced, like in Kiplings Seonee.

More elephant sightings followed, albeit in captivity, at a nearby camp where orphaned baby elephants and injured adults are sheltered before they can be released into the wild. Their delirious feeding sessions provide tourism fodder thrice a day. A chorus of Awws filled the air as the babies made a beeline for the giant funnels that poured milk into feeding tubes. Dusk held another treasure of wild sightings as I hopped on a rickety boat in Ambalantota for a safari on Walawe River. From various types of herons, hundreds of dormant bats and five species of eagles to a dozing fish owl and flocks of egrets blanketing whole trees in white, the river safari was an open-air exhibition of wings. The route ended at the mouth of the river, separated from the ocean by a thin sandbank in Godawaya. From atop adjoining rocky cliffs, I witnessed the blazing sun set behind a coastal forest and the roaring ocean swallow the mouth of the river in a wild embrace. Maybe Milton was right: the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. It often does. But paradise is never entirely lost. Not in Sri Lanka.

The information

Getting There
Multiple airlines fly to Colombo. A direct flight takes just over 3.5 hrs. A Cinnamon Air flight from Colombo to Hambantota- Weerawila Domestic Airport costs upwards of $230. Another option is to take the road, and explore Galle Fort on the way (hotel taxi from LKR 57,000).

Visa
Formalities for a 30-day tourist ETA ($20 for Indians) can be done at eta.gov.lk/slvisa.

Where To Stay
>Shangri-La Colombo offers 500 guestrooms and suites, and 41 serviced apartments, all with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean, Beira Lake and the citys skyline. A Horizon Club Room grants you access to the Horizon Club Lounge on the top floor and other privileges (from approx. $280 per night; shangri-la.com/ colombo/shangrila).

>Shangri-Las Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa offers 300 spacious rooms, including 21 suites, surrounded by tropical gardens and in close proximity to the beach (from $129 per night for a 4N stay; shangri-la.com/hambantota/ shangrila).

What To See & Do

>COLOMBO: Take a stroll through the citys colonial history with a guide from the Colombo City Walks team. Or take a colourful tuk tuk around the main sites, including the bustling outdoor bazaar of Pettah. Other urban safaris on offer include a tour of the Art Street of Colombo, a visit to gemstone shops, and a trail covering four Buddhist temples around the city. A Discover Colombo stay package starts from $245 per room per night and includes any one of the tours.

>HAMBANTOTA: Tee off at the 18-hole golf course spread across a coconut palm plantation, a sapphire quarry, small lakes and sand dunes (from LKR 12,300).

The resort facilitates visits to nearby nature and wildlife sanctuaries, including Yala, Udawalawe, Lunugamvehera and Bundala National Parks. A river safari on Walawe can be taken from Ambalantota.

Shangri-Las signature spa, CHI, offers a range of treatments in both properties. The Hambantota resort also has a 7m-high trapeze, and a water park. An artisan village within the resort lets you interact with local craftspeopl

 

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