Free Fall into New Zealand




Free Fall into New Zealand

Last issue it was White America, this issue he talks danger down under. Raymond Lee continues his quest around the globe. There’s nothing like the smell of fear.

Tears in Heaven (Part I)
"Look straight ahead. Imagine there's a big apple juicy apple out there you're trying to grab." That's easy for him to say, I thought. "GO ON RAY. DO IT FOR WALES!" roared the now expectant crowd. They've all done it already.

Looking down, there are in excess of 174 metres between my good self and the valley below. To put it in to perspective, the vertical distance between me and those rocks down there is the same height as Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was bricking it. Having already stood motionless on the ledge for an eternity, the only thoughts in my head were not: "Where's the apple?" or, "Do it for Wales!" or indeed, "Can I do it?". It was more like: "What the fuck am I doing here?".

My instructor was unmoved throughout by my prissy state. He had even refused my plea to shift his weight ever so slightly in my direction to force me over the edge. I had to fend for myself. Fend for the people back home.

This was my introduction to adventure sports in the adventure capital of the world. Kia Ora to Queenstown. Kia Ora to New Zealand. Should I die, I…well, my next of kin won’t even get a penny as I had already put pen to death waiver. My travel insurance won’t cover it either. Would that even matter? The jump pod could be my last resting place.

Yellow Submarine (Part I)
"Hard right now!" I barked. Our arms pumped in unison. They’re not going to beat The General Lee (the aptly-named water “Waka-Maori”, which is Kiwi for a vehicle of any sort I chose) was the only thing on my mind. The ice cool waves crashed into our protected bodies. Stroke after stroke, we moved in perfect motion. Fluid. The first time we had done so all day. The first time I had took the driver seat, controlling our rhythm, controlling our direction with the pedals welded to my feet.

Fly Away (Part I)
“Almost there”. My strap-on bereted above the harsh engine noise. He nodded to his wrist. The dial swept to 4. A moment later, 5. Then, 6, 7… This was absolutely the one single thing I had wanted to do from the very beginning of my exploration. Just once. Ever. The world beneath marginalised with every passing moment. I had only arrived less than 2 hours ago! Lake Taupo had gone from a vast lake to a mere puddle. Rolling into the sunset, the sky was easing into a beautiful reddish orange hue. Nothing specific was on my mind as we climbed upwards. Not even fear.

Tears in Heaven (Part II)
As they wrenched me back up the jump pod, I was in absolute hysteria. I had just thrown myself off the 2nd highest bungee jump in the world, The Nevis Highwire Bungee, purpose built for the pleasure of thrill seekers with a death wish. My now new-found fans were patting my back, giving me high 5s, saluting my endeavour.

For that night, I told tales of legendary proportions. The small leap for man, but the giant step for mankind. How I told of the way the world changed as I quantum leaped to earth at over 128kph. How those 8 precious seconds of freefall stretched to gut wrenching hours. My dinner companions that night sat in adoration of my bravery. They quizzed me on the physical exertion on the body and on how the ground looked at that speed. In fact, my eyes were shut all the way down. Open my eyes, are they mad? Travelling at that speed, you won’t be able to keep you eyes open even if you had matchsticks on their stalks!

My initiation to all things extreme had begun in this magnificent city in the south of New Zealand. What next? Speed. Danger. Adrenaline. All were on the menu. Be it sky, solid ground or water.

Yellow Submarine (Part II)
Our kayak flowed into the waves as I squeezed the pedals leftwards. Along the coast of Kaiteriteri, in the northern tip of the South Island, near port Nelson. This beach has often been voted as one of the top-10 water spots in the world. The water was an amazing bluish green. Fine silica sand. The kind of picture perfect images you see on the cover of travel brochures. Despite moving into the winter season, the sun was still out watching over us.

I called for my front man to ease up as The General Lee was now so far ahead of the competition; there was no point in steaming further ahead at full speed. We bobbed on the water and smiled at each other. We exchanged no words at all. A distance of about a 100 metres was a long way for the others to play catch-up in the conditions we were in. Loved it.

Fly Away (Part II)
“Ready?” The strap-on quizzed. “Bonsai.” We were out. He didn’t wait for my response. “Motherfuckerrrrrrrrrrrr.” The rush of air was immediate as we fell out backwards at 12,000 feet above Lake Taupo, North Island of New Zealand. The hurricane force-like winds flowed through our not very aerodynamically bounded bodies.

It was pure exhilaration. I yelled. Throughout. The world began to loom larger and larger again. The colour of the sky was nothing but brilliant. I flew, or rather dropped at a jaw breaking velocity of 200kph. The 45 seconds of freefall passed in an instant. As the parachute opened, I was in overdrive. Appreciative of the spectacular snow-capped volcanoes in the backdrop.

On approaching the runway, I remembered the one thing I had to do as part of the dive. Straighten my legs into a sitting position as we hit the gravel. Precarious position to land in I thought but it was the one thing I won’t forget. Or else, my balls would have been dragged at a very painful speed as we made contact with the gravel.

Perfect landing. Relieved. Everything still in place.

The Crossing
From the moment I arrived in New Zealand, my aim was…actually I didn’t have one. Despite my Lonely Planet being filled with every conceivable fact there was on this country, I didn’t read it. That was the luxury travelling afforded me. Freedom. Real freedom. The freedom to be anywhere, anytime. Do anything I so desired. Spontaneity. I was only going to spend 2 weeks in this country. I actually spent 4.

Four weeks of boundless beauty. Four weeks of pure action and jet fuelled moments. From the bungee jump to the skydive. From the glacier walk to the challenges of the Tongariro Crossing. The amazing beauty and variety of landscape of the world famous 17-kilometre terrain. At points, I was amongst the clouds, climbing ice-craters, walking on multicoloured rocks, strolling under forestation. Majestic.

New Zealand to me will always be a place of unspoilt bounty coupled with the sole occasion, on the ledge of the jump pod, where I had surprised myself.

 

Malaysia – From a Peninsular Point of View


From a Peninsular Point of View

Primary rainforests, exotic wildlife and empty beaches – what more could you want from a holiday destination? Jim Stewart ventures out of town to areas with more spice than a Malaysian laksa

The joys of travelling the east coast of Malaysia is hardly a secret, but compared to the congested beaches of Langkawi and Penang on the other side of the Peninsular, this area is a positive paradise. With so much variety of landscape (tropical bush, plantations, towns and stunning coastlines) and the relative ease with which you can negotiate the terrain, you don’t have to book too much annual leave to be able to sample some of the best that Malaysia has to offer.

Known to backpackers for years, the states of Pahang and Terengganu have had a steady stream of low-budget travellers for several decades. Fortunately, unlike similarly beautiful retreats like Samui and Phuket, the stampede of developers hasn’t materialised. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of options of where you can stay once you arrive. If you’re a backpacker yourself, then make your way to Cherating where there is healthy rivalry between guesthouses. The atmosphere is such that unlike some parts of the country, you won’t feel out of place guzzling down a beer or two or showing off your new bikini.

At the other end of the beach, next to the Giant turtle sanctuary and hatchery (these sea reptiles still frequently make there way up onto the sand to lay there eggs, despite the culls over the years) is the more family-orientated and newly-renovated Club Med Resort. A stalwart of hospitality in the area, the hotel and entertainment complex has been in operation for more than two decades. Its facilities such as trapeze, bungee bounce, sailing and great new restaurants make it as good as any resort in the region. Soon to open a new spa centre, the hotel is sandwiched between the golden beach and thick monkey-inhabited jungle. The heady concoction of the sea breeze and the heavy jungle atmosphere results in a strange mixture of sounds and smells without compare.

If you fancy taking a break from the mainland, you can’t get a more stunning location than Palau Tioman. The island that was the set for the 1950s movie-musical hit South Pacific and has always received nothing but good press. Unlike other beaches in Pahang state, Tioman’s can seem busy if you’re unlucky enough to arrive during holiday season but it’s still worth a trip to this turtle-shaped paradise.

Away from the sea, further inland, is Taman Negara National Park. Negara is seriously big at 4,300 square kilometres and spreads across three states. Wildlife is prolific but to be honest, as is many travellers’ experience in Asia, “wildlife” normally takes the form of a stick insect or sparrow. But you never know, you may get lucky and spot a tapir, an articulated python (as my guide put it!) or some bizarre looking birds. Don’t miss out on a boat trip down one of the many rivers which will give you a real sense of how vast and preserved this land truly is.

ACTION-PACKED PAHANG

If the cool mountain air coupled with peace and tranquillity is your cup of tea, make your way to our rich hill stations that offer wholesome family activities.

Genting Highlands is popularly known as Malaysia’s City of Entertainment and offers adults a fun carefree time at its casinos and children a memorable time at the theme park.?Be mesmerised by the abundant fruit, vegetable, flower and tea plantations in Cameron Highlands. For peaceful serenity and unpolluted fresh air and lush vegetation, Fraser’s Hill is the place to be.

For a French experience, Bukit Tinggi is a must. Colmar French Village, a beautiful replica of its namesake, offers a hotel, sidewalk cafes as well as night shows.

Extend your stay and make the trip to Kenong Rimba Park. Enjoy the natural surroundings of cascading waterfalls and abundant flora and fauna. There are several caves to be explored as well.

Tasik Bera, one of two major natural bodies of freshwater in Malaysia, houses an estimated 300 species of flora, 200 species of birds and more than 95 species of fish.?Delve into the mystery behind the awesome Lake Chini. Empangan Jaleh, a recreational lake promises total relaxation. Challenge yourself and scale Gunung Tahan, the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia.

Rough it and camp at Gunung Tapis Park that offers a number of activities. No visit to Pahang is complete without a trip to Endau-Rompin National Park. Hailed as one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests, it has remained undisturbed in its natural state.?Encounter some of the most magnificent cave chambers in the region, with strangely formed stalagmites and stalactites at Kota Gelanggi Cave.
If white-water rafting gives you an adrenalin rush, then make a note of Jeram Besu Rapid and see if it lives up to its reputation as one of the most challenging in the country.

Balok Beach is the hotspot for wind surfers while Teluk Chempedak Beach is excellent for water sport activities like sailing, surfing, skiing and sunbathing.

And no holiday is complete without a shopping spree. In Kuantan you have a choice of major malls; Teruntum Complex, Kuantan Parade, Berjaya Megamall and Kuantan Plaza as well as night markets within the town’s various districts.
 

Fuji Rock Festival 2010


Naeba, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, July 29-August 1

Fuji Forever

This month Japan will set out to prove that it can stage Asia’s best music event

Despite its isolated position on the world map, Japan has always had a remarkable ability to attract the finer things in life. There isn’t a French wine you can’t try, a designer label you can’t try on or a band you can’t rock out to.

Fuji Rock Festival (no longer located at Mount Fuji for typhoon reasons) has provided expectant masses from around the region with more rock over the years that you can shake your thumb and little finger at.

Orderly queues, edible food, litter-free, smiley beer attendants and clean toilets are standard practice – living up to its reputation as the “Glastonbury of Asia”.

A few hours’ schlep from Tokyo lands you at Naeba Ski Resort – home for a weekend for scores of the best live acts in the world.

Its remoteness is part of the attraction and the Alpine setting is a stunning backdrop for a musical showcase on a grand scale. That bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pixies, Coldplay and Oasis have graced its main stage is not bad for a place on the other side of the world.

Event pointman Johnnie Fingers (of Boomtown Rats fame), knows all about Fuji’s seclusion. He once had to cover a taxi fare from a band that had racked up tens of thousands of yen from Niigata airport. Rock bands, eh?

While the focus of the music is unmistakably guitar, vocals and drum-driven, there is also All Night Fuji that targets electronic-noise lovers. This year, AIR, LCD Soundsystem and Massive Attack are some of the more mainstream names to excite audiences interested in different sounds.

Here is a selection of other acts expected to rock Fuji this year…

Atoms for Peace
For years, Fuji revellers have been desperate to secure the services of Radiohead. This year, Thom Yorke does make it but with a new band that didn’t even have an official name until February.

Comprising the Chili Peppers’ Flea on bass, Radiohead’s producer Nigel Godrich (guitar and keyboards) and Joey Waronker on drums, this could be the start of a new supergroup. Without an album in the shops, check them out at Coachella on Youtube. I’m getting giddy just thinking about the prospect.

Them Crooked Vultures
Speaking of supergroups, how does a collaboration between John Paul Jones, Josh Homme and Dave Grohl grab you? The heady combination of Led Zepplin, Queen’s of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters/Nirvana hit the circuit for the first time last year on the back of their debut eponymous album.

As their name suggests, the musical overtones are fairly dark and there is more than a suggestion of that distinctive Stone Age sound. But I for one can’t wait to see them light up the Green Stage.

Old Fogies Collection
It wouldn’t be a rock festival without a few tried-and-tested wrinkly-rockers. This year there’s Roxy Music and John Fogerty. Although Frank Zappa’s been dead for quite some time, his son Dweezil pays tribute to his Dad on Friday at the Orange Court. And of course, there’s Ian Brown – is he old enough to qualify yet?

Best of the Rest
Returning to Fuji this year are Ash, Muse, Kula Shaker, John Butler Trio, !!!, The Cribs and Belle & Sebastian. There’ also MGMT and Scissor Sisters if they tickle your fancy. See you there I hope!

Text by James Moore, Photography by Kevin Utting
 

Away in Her Style

Dear John,

The world is small, but its wonders are endless.  Just turned 21 in last November, I’m young –time to go see the world now. Bye Bye.

Yours Truly.

Life as a Fedex parcel. There are many different ways to travel and the opportunity I have, is tagging along as a ‘plus one’ to my business dad. If you ever wondered how it would be like to travel as a daughter on business trips, this is more or less what you’d expect. Sometimes I think ‘ this is ‘’spoilt by travel’ in a very slapstick text-book definition sort of way…….but here it is: life as your parent’s parcel.

Since the day I developed a memory- I think I’ve spent my life counting the stamps on my passports, waiting in airports, and sitting on planes. My parents are both travellers- business travellers. So I ‘d like to think that our Hong Kong City family are actually living the life of modern day gypsies – those required to make the world their home, due to the nature of their work. So instead of moving across the seven seas, I dot around big cities and metropolises- wherever my parents are called to. But I’ve just been given a camera, so I thought  maybe it would  be worthwhile capture how it’s like travelling as a ‘plus one’ of my business dad. The magic of a lens is that it allows you to share what your eyes see, with the world. So what the travel style I observe, is the one of the archetypical Busy Businessman -city-bees who are buzzed out of country to different ends of the world by a letter of invitation, or just a speed dial button on the phone- or those blackberry things.

New York

I’m currently at university in England, and one day while I was trying very hard to actually read, all the words of that 250 page verdict, I got a call from my dad- ‘sweetie I’m going to drop by London for a day, then going to be going to New York’.

‘New York! I’ve never been to the big apple before. Can I come too? :D’

‘………………………………..’

I actually was just dreaming, day dreaming to be more exact. Daydreaming inevitably seeds as a pastime when you are trying to memorise a subject such as Tax Law or whatever is in front of you in black and white squiggles (and if the memory of good hard studying is still fresh in you– you should know exactly what I’m talking about by experience) So I really was not expecting an answer, but was just being a bit playful.

After seeing my dad off his pit-stop in London, I received a text – ‘Priscilla you are ON. Flying to New York this Friday after class- Returning on Tuesday’

My sheer reaction was shock and palpitations of the heart paired with excitement and a loss for words which normally doesn’t happen very often as you can probably tell by now.

So there I landed, and here it is, what the big apple looked like to me in a nutshell:

First impressions – This city is an explosion of colours.

If you look up ‘Big City’ in a dictionary, most people expect to find NYC. I think it is quite safe to say that most people find New York City synonymous to ‘City-with-Big-Money’. And when you get there you understand why. The minute you step on the streets, you’re towered by this jungle of commercial billboards. These very images that try to lure the cash out of your wallet, are actually the very things that give the city its colour. To me it seemed like commercialism defines this city, it’s what gives the city its light, its lustre, its edge, and its personality. Everyone knows NYC is a ‘concrete jungle’. But when you’re actually there, you feel every bit of it. The city doesn’t seem to care too much for detail; it’s the big things that matter – the Rockefeller tower, Statue of Liberty, Trump Tower, Empire State Building, and the 'stuff like that there.

Anyhow, to cut to right to the chase – New Yorker style, here is a photo diary of my weekend in New York.

Must see – View from the Top (as in ‘from the skies’ on top) this is as the buildings in New York are just too tall. I know we all probably already have sore necks from living off laptops, and trying to look up at the never-ending from the streets, is actually a real strain for your back.

To me, New York seems like what I would describe as a top-down city- as in you have to be on top (in the literal sense, as in the top 100th floor) in order to truly see and feel the city’s power. The sheer scale of things just will leave you feeling more than small if you see it from floor no.10. To get that ‘Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z’ feel, it is best to go on a helicopter tour over the city.

Food in New York is not for the faint hearted- as in literarily, not for the faint hearted. You can feel the cholesterol content by just looking at the massive size of their steaks at times. So if you are a small Chinese girl like me, who prefers lighter food, I would advise sticking to its Japanese restaurants. New York has some the best Japanese dinning to offer. Amongst those names, are Megu, and Nobu. Since both are internationally acclaimed, you cannot go too wrong with anything on the menu – I would just personally advise against their ‘taco sushi’s’ (???) But if I had to choose one out of the two, I would say Megu is my choice. Though the location is not as convenient, the service in Megu was top notch, along with the food- it was just a bit heavy, which I have come to gathered, is probably, the ‘New York flavour’.

New York has is very lively. So lively, that people live fast, and walk at a pace which is more akin to a light jog. But its art scene is also very avid. I did not have much time there, but the little I did see, impressed me very much. This is the city where the legend of Broadway and modern art (arguably), was born, amongst other things. Also, if you are a Ben Stiller fan, please not leave before going to see the National History Museum- after all; it is where Ben Stiller’s ‘A Night at the Museum’ was filmed. But of course, that is only a small fraction to the many interesting stories the museum has to show you.

Things to do continued – After you’ve done all the typical bright-lighted city must do’s, such as the wining and dining, the sightseeing, statue of liberty, Times Square, Empire State Building – I like to get a feel of the streets. The thing I like to do most is to just walk around town aimlessly, with a camera or a sketch book. When you look back at the images that had just passed your eyes, you can really see the city’s own personal character, and how different it is, to say, the streets of Hong Kong. One other thing that is quite original to New York, is its elevator rides. The sheer scale of the buildings make the elevator rides to the 100 plus floor of a building, quite a bit different from your ordinary ride up the 12th floor. For one, there are normally the buttons are normally on the outside of the lift, least an immature person like me, would find it amusing to press every single floor before they exit the doors.

Left to right: Fifth Avenue, Lift at the Marriot Marquise, along the pier of NYC.

Last but not least- take a taxi ride to downtown New York. From that simple experience, you will understand 1. Why the movie and video game ‘Taxi’ (you know the one featuring taxi’s gone wild?) was created, and
2. How Gotham City inspired the superhero character Batman, to keep that sin city at bay.

             And I leave you with some New York hustling words of wisdom. Hope you enjoyed what I saw!
 
Blogging with Priscilla Lee

 

Chintao Gardens


Where the Heavens meet Earth

Chintao Gardens is a new historical development in Yunnan, South West China, and one of the most interesting investment properties in the China market at the moment. The property is a traditional Chinese house located in an ecologically balanced setting in Tengchong, Yunnan Province. Considered the top healthcare treatment district in China, the area boasts zero pollution levels, pure rivers with drinkable water, and a fantastic geography of 97 volcanoes around small villages.

Formerly serving as the headquarters for the Tenchong Anti-Japanese Army, the property housed the Chief of Staff of the Chinese-American forces during WW1. Managed by Arne Langaskens, a Belgium citizen, the land was bought directly through the Chinese government, meaning buyers are able to easily transfer the property under Chinese law. The land has been approved for personal residences, hotels, restaurants, and other commercial businesses- developers around the area are quickly investing in all of these options. This beautiful property is located on 3,735 square metres of land, approximately 740 kilometres away from the provincial capital of Kunming being additionally situated at an altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level means the property is surrounded by some of the world’s most pure and healthy supply of fresh air.

In addition to the proliferation of boutique hotels, the 5th biggest real estate developer in China just bought 55 acres of land which they will be developing with legendary golf designer Roger Packard, indicating a promising level of luxury for visitors and investors. Having worked alongside legends such as Tiger Woods, Packard is working closely with the developers on a 1200 villa resort, with 5 star hotel and golf course. “From my garden you can see the whole project, everyone who goes to these places have to pass my property” says Arne, “the area is made for Golden Business- the people who visit here are people who pay- these are the people with real money to spend”.

Chintao Gardens is located in Tengchong County, and is of great historical importance as it has been part of the Southwestern Silk Road since the Western Han Dynasty, serving as an important trade channel to both South and West Asia. Located in the West of Yunnan, and neighbouring Myanmar, it is known as one of China’s most famous scenic spots, and an important site for historical and cultural towns. Eight minutes from the property is the village of Heshun which was nominated in 2005 as the most beautiful historical village in Yunnan province. The village houses many unique cultural assets, including what once was the biggest village library in China with countless extremely valuable books and historical manuscripts.

Tengchong County is almost entirely surrounded by volcanoes, and located at the base of a mountain range on land built up by piles of ancient volcanic magma.??More than 80 steam springs, hot springs and heat springs have been found in Tengchong, making it the second largest natural heat field in China. Whilst visiting the district you can also visit Yuanlong and Kui Pavilions. The county is also the hoetown of the famous Chinese philosopher Ai Sipi, and houses the threefold cloud laffer and Taoist temple that hands half way up the neighbouring Yunfeng mountain. Rich in minerals such as jade and other precious stones, the area is also world famous for the purchase of Jade and tea, with over 500 shops that sell natural jade and tea. “Everything natural and beautiful is found here” says Arne, and it is all right opposite my property- at my door.”

Located 20 minutes away from Hump International Airport, direct flights connect the city to Shanghai. Beijing and Kunming, with future plans to connect with more international destinations, including Hong Kong. The area is fast becoming a “Number One Tourist Destination”, says Arne. It is also creating quite a stir within  Chinese circles, Arne explains that most of his clients are from Beijing and Shanghai, so the Asian market is the one he is for http://www.798district.com/chintao cusing on.

All this talk of indescribable beauty, a pristine environment and luxury living, Arne makes me wonder what is keeping me in my seat. I will soon be visiting: www.798district.com/chintao

Written by Rebecca Gabbai

Cruise to Taiwan


I have read numerous reviews on the good, subtle and bad aspects of cruising but I can only speak for myself and my family that we enjoyed every minute of it. This is our 3rd cruise and it only gets better especially on the 70,000 tonnage Legend of the Seas. Dock in Tsim Sha Tsui cruise terminal with the backdrop of the magnificent Hong Kong skyline sits this gorgeous legendary ocean liner by Royal Caribbean International that accommodates up to 2076 guests.

We stayed in a balcony cabin. Surprisingly it is very spacious. Enough to fit 3 passengers. Rooms are tidy and our room attendant is simply awesome. He is extremely helpful and friendly. There are so many different nationalities of employees catering to the many different countries of guests onboard.  It is a fabulous mix and Legend of the Seas has it all.

Gone are the days when our perceptions that cruising is boring  and for the older generations.  Activities on board raging from a 9 hole mini golf course, rock climbing, mind boggling shows and total relaxation from the ships's spas ensure you are never dull. Shore excursions to various parts of the region captivates your travel senses and what about the food? There are four restaurants onboard this magnificent cruiser. What it lacks in numbers, it makes up for a constant arrays of good food flowing throughout the day and night. Your tummy will never rumble and what is better then munching whilst you away.

Our trip was a 5 Night Gem Of Asia Cruise to Taiwan. Shores excursions starts on the 2nd day from Hualien to Kaohsiung. 

Full Day Hualien Taroko Tour

Hualien County, facing the immense Pacific Ocean in the east and leaning against the grand Central Mountain Range in the west, is famous for its beautiful scenery. The natural resources in Taroko National Park, East Coast National Scenic Area, East Rift Valley Scenic Area and Yushan National Park make Hualien the most beautiful county in Taiwan.

Situated near the rocky east coast of Taiwan, Taroko Gorge rates as one of the island's biggest tourist attractions. A fantastic 19-kilometer-long canyon, the gorge is a breathtaking spectacle of craggy rocks and cascading water. The Gorge offers tourists a fabulous opportunity to see nature at its best. The rugged landscape and isolation have meant that the east coast has mostly escaped the industrialization and urbanization of other parts of the island. The area is largely unspoiled and offers visitors the chance to see an astonishing array of geological wonders, an abundance of flora and fauna indigenous to Taiwan, and fascinating aborigine culture.

Eternal Spring Shrine was built to commemorate the 212 personnel (military veterans) who died during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway, which runs right over the mountains connecting the east and west coasts of Taiwan. The highway was carved out of the sheer cliffs at a cost of some US$11 million and was completed in 1960. Today, it remains one of the greatest feats of engineering in Taiwan's history. Instead of lighting incense to commemorate those who died, worshippers light cigarettes for them.

Swallow's Grotto offers fantastic views of the gorge and the impressive cliffs opposite. Typical limestone formations, such as swallow holes, can be seen in the cliffs. The famous "Indian Head" rock is said to resemble the profile of an American Indian chief, his face being craggy rock, and his head dress the vegetation growing on the cliff edge.

Tunnels of nine turn also offers breathtaking views of the gorge. This winding tunnel is the longest tunnel on the Central Cross-Island Highway. Sections of the tunnel are open, revealing heart-stopping sheer drops and craggy rocks. Totally man-made, the tunnel is a tribute to the obstinate perseverance of the men who devoted their lives to creating this spectacular road. The tunnel is at one of the steepest sections of the gorge, at certain places the gorge is so narrow that the sky becomes invisible.

Half Day Kaohsiung City Tour

Start your journey at the Lotus Pond Scenic Zone and visit the Confucius Temple built in 1976. It was modeled after a temple at Qufu in Shangdong Province, the homeland of Confucius. Next, head to the spring and Autumn Pavilions were completed in 1951. A photo stop & tour to the Chiming Tang (Temple), Taiwanese Taoism believes in multiple gods. Finally spend some time for walk along the Chijin old street before drive back to ship.

The Spring and Autumn Pavilions – Two massive pavilions dedicated to Kuan Kung, the God of War, the Spring and Autumn Pavilions were completed in 1951. In front of the Pavilions is a statue of Kuanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, riding a dragon. According to legend, Kuanyin appeared above the clouds riding on a dragon, signifying that believers must erect an image depicting this event between "pavilions of summer and autumn". The present-day structures are a result of this vision.

Chiming Tang (Temple) – was built in the 1970s, instructed by the Yuankuang God himself and the Jade Emperor to their devotees. The Temple was originally a two-storied palace, decorated with color drawing, sculpture and molding the gilded images of all saints and immortals. Taiwanese Taoism believes in multiple gods, and the humanized god (of either great figure of the history or of the legends), both Confucius and General Kuan Yu, and General Yuch Fci and Cheng Cheng Kung are all among the figures worshipped in the Temple. After the completion of the Southeast Palace, the Wu-li pavilion was constructed as the station of welcoming all the saints. The octagon golden roof is especially appealing. The main hall of the Temple-Lingshiau Holy Palace and Sankuan Palace were only completed in 1995-as part of the devotees' donation to thank to all the gods & goddesses.

Chijin Old Street – is the earliest developed area in Kaohsiung. Its excellent location (cold and warm flows intersect) brings in an abundant fishes. It was once occupied by the Dutch in early 1642, you can still see vaguely the Dutch influence. You can find the oldest Temple of Kaohsiung located on the this area – the Tien Ho Temple of over 300 years built in Ching Dynasty, with southern-style architecture). Other remains include the Chiho Light House (the second light house of Taiwan, also built in Ching Dynasty), Christian Kirk Church (the earliest established Christian Church in Taiwan built in 1865) etc. On the street, there are also small shops and stands selling Taiwanese tradition souvenir and goodies. There is section for seafood where vendors gather to sell fish, shrimp, crab and octopus and dried food as well.

Legend Of The Seas eases through the waters. A sense of tranquility on the South China Sea. You are spoilt rotten because you get treated so well when you are on this ship. In a sector that is becoming more competitive in Asia. Royal Caribbean International has got it all right and I can’t wait to be on my next voyage with them again.
     

For more information, please visit: http://www.royalcaribbean.com

Written by AK

Trekking Across Nepal




A Himalayan Pilgrimage With One World Trekking

Adventure Travelers Can Combine Treks To Cross The Tibetan Regions Of Nepal

Indeed the western regions, even today, remain Nepal’s wildest. The Tibetan word for pilgrimage means literally ‘going around places’ and such journeys are undertaken for not only religious merit but the pursuit of knowledge.” -excerpts by David Snellgrove from his book ‘Himalayan Pilgrimage’

It has been said that at least once in a lifetime everyone should experience Nepal on foot and we at One World Trekking Adventure Travel (http://www.oneworldtrekking.com) agree! Starting in Fall 2010, we’re offering a series of treks that not only allow travelers to experience Nepal on foot, but to actually walk across Nepal on foot!

In 1956—a few years after Nepal opened its borders to foreign visitors – adventurer David Snellgrove embarked on an epic trek across the Tibetan-speaking regions of Nepal. Traveling more than 1,000 miles over a span of seven months, he journeyed from the plains of India to cross the high mountain passes of Dolpo, Mustang, NarPhu, Annapurna and Manaslu. Snellgrove's book, titled 'Himalayan Pilgrimage,' is an insightful and valuable resource for adventurers planning a visit to these secluded regions of Nepal that even today remain relatively little-traveled.

Snellgrove's groundbreaking journey has inspired us to create our new Himalayan Pilgrimage Series. Starting with the Dolpo & Snow Leopard Trek this September 7 to October 5, 2010 (Outside Magazine Trip of the Year 2010, http://oneworldtrekking.com/dolpo-trek.htm), we will offer you a selection of epic trekking trips that can be undertaken individually, or combined, to complete a traverse of the remote, Tibetan-inhabited lands of northern Nepal.

In 2011 the trekking series continues with two unique and exciting itineraries. East of Dolpo lies the Buddhist regions of Mustang, the Annapurna Circuit and the lost valleys of NarPhu. From September 2 to 28, 2011 our new NarPhu Valleys to Mustang Traverse (http://oneworldtrekking.com/narphu-mustang-trek.htm) will lead us first along the famous Annapurna Circuit and then north into the Lost Valley of NarPhu. Hidden by swirls of mountain mist, the magnificent panoramic view of the Annapurna massif appears remote and forbidding as we journey farther into the land around it. From this seemingly ancient Tibetan region we then make a high and wild traverse over the recently opened Teri La Pass (18,200 feet) and into the Kingdom of Mustang.

The 8,000 meter peak of Manaslu is certainly the focal point of our October 2 to November 3, 2011 unique and seldom-traveled itinerary that links the extraordinary circuit around Manaslu with a traverse of the northern Annapurna Range (http://oneworldtrekking.com/manaslu-trek.htm). The trek culminates with a high and challenging cross over the Thorong La Pass at 17,765 feet.

Each trip in One World Trekking’s Himalayan Pilgrimage Series will be led by an experienced Western trekking guide and fully-supported by a team of Sherpa guides, cooks and support crew. Sign up for one or sign up for them all and secure your spot to experience Nepal the way it is best experienced: on foot.

For more information on how you can join one of these extraordinary walking journeys, please visit the website at http://www.OneWorldTrekking.com.

Destinations – Hunston


The style-savvy residents of the country’s fourth largest city know that there’s no place like Houston.

With more than 2.2 million residents, the city attracts visitors and transplants with a wonderful mix of world-class arts, booming business, pro sports and award-winning cuisine.

As the rest of the country discovers what locals have known all along, Houston is finally enjoying the recognition it deserves. Just last year, the city landed on several “best of” lists, including the Travel + Leisure roundup of America’s Favorite Cities and the Hotwire.com index of most affordable U.S. vacation destinations.

See for yourself, here in Houston, where much of daily life happens outdoors, thanks to mild, year-round temperatures. Take time to explore the eclectic, culture-filled neighborhoods, gallery spaces and attractions, which offer diverse flavors that can only be found here.

Take the food, for example. Countless cutting-edge chefs have made a home in Houston, where diners eat out more than residents of any other city. Here, you’ll find James Beard Award winners and internationally renowned chefs serving up innovative cuisine that frequently catches the attention of foodies in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Saveur.

But the stylish dining scene is only a slice of Houston’s epicurean offerings—a fact that the city’s culinary masterminds intend to prove with the recently launched Houston Culinary Tours. Each of the intimate, 16-person, chef-led tours aim at showing the underbelly of the city’s food scene—one taco truck and ethnic market at a time.

Venture downtown during your stay and discover a thriving professional arts scene, with professional resident companies in ballet, opera, symphony and theater; only four other U.S. cities can say the same. And the nearby Museum District stakes its claim as the country’s fourth largest, with 18 cultural powerhouses set within blocks of one another.

We have our own version of Central Park, too, offering nearly 1,500 acres of green space in the heart of the city. Just inside the loop, Memorial Park is home to a public golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, trails and more. Downtown, Discovery Green park is outfitted with WiFi, a farmers market, dog runs, fine dining and ice-skating during the winter—just one more of the 650-plus urban green spaces filling the city.

Not surprisingly, businesses also recognize the allure of Houston’s offerings. Twenty-nine companies on the Fortune 500 list call the Energy Capital of the World home. Aeronautic research is unsurpassed at NASA headquarters—the facility responsible for putting the first man on the moon—and Texas Medical Center remains the largest in the world with 47 highly lauded research and treatment institutions.

Come. Live like a local for a few days and discover why Houston’s mix of international appeal and Southern charm have captured the imagination of tastemakers the world over.
 

Cuban Charm



This Caribbean island with a controversial political situation is an amazing destination for those who look for lively nights, good music, friendly people, wonderful natural environment and history

Cuba is often known as The Pearl of the Caribbean, there are hundreds of reasons to consider this island a jewel, it might be its enchanting and friendly people, its history, the beautiful scenery or the ancient cities and towns.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean (110,860 sq km) and it enjoys a subtropical climate that provides it with sun and enough water to maintain an exuberant vegetation and a constant green shade combined with pure turquoise clear waters. Its many attractive locations make it always hard to decide which places to visit, so after exhaustive research we opted for two areas: Holguín and Santiago de Cuba on the southern coast and then the legendary Havana (La Habana in Spanish) and the touristy town of Varadero in the Hicaco Peninsula, both on the northern side.

Entrada Barrio Chino La Habana

The south
Our first destination was the province of Holguín. The appealing beaches of Guardalavaca, Caletica and Esmeralda attract many visitors and once you step on them the reasons become obvious. Crystal clear warm waters, white sand and a rich flora adorn the area. Hotels and resorts in that area often offer all inclusive packages, a real treat in a country famous not only for its delicious fruit and juices, its lobster and seafood, but also for the world renown mojito, daiquiris and cuba libre made with the best rhum in the world. Daiquiris are made with rhum, lime juice, ice. Add fresh mint leaves and you’ll have a mojito. For a cola flavour refreshing drink combine rhum with cola (remember, coca-cola is not available in Cuba) and you will have a cuba libre.
Those looking for sun, warm water and relax, the south of Cuba is the ideal destination. Comfortable hotels in tranquil beautiful natural surroundings adorned by palm trees and the constant noise of the waves and birds flying around. If this is too calm for you and you want action you can choose water sports such as windsurfing, kayaking, water-skiing and sailing. The coral reef on Esmeralda beach invites visitors to discover the sub-aquatic world, be it more serious scuba-diving or simple snorkelling. There is a wide array of day trips that can be easily arranged. We opted for swimming with dolphins. Not without hesitation – considering these beautiful animals are kept in captivity- our temptation to be close to them was too strong and we decided to enjoy that incredible experience. We swam with them, caressed them and even managed simple tricks such as being pushed at full speed by these intelligent mammals, absolutely unforgettable.

Our hotel was comfortable, and the staff were very helpful. But as they found out we were from Argentina, they constantly followed us trying to sell coins, notes, books and other memorabilia of the iconic Che Guevara. The world famous revolutionary (impossible to miss his famous portrait printed on posters, t-shirts, bags, etc, in any market) was an Argentine youngster who took part with Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution which toppled pro-US dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Holguín

The visit to Holguín is highly recommended. Not from the typical touristy point of view, but we wanted to talk to people, find out how they live, how they see their country. We rented motorbikes and rode for 50km to the town. As soon as we reached our destination, we were surrounded by locals who wanted to become our guides or to sell us different products, from rhum to Cuban cigars to more photos of Che. A guy called Pedro convinced us to choose him as guide and we marched together on foot towards the town centre. He took us to the Plaza de la Revolución (all towns and villages have a square with that name), the church and the music school. We were amazed by the enthusiasm and skills of the children, despite the limited conditions offered by the school. It is possible to see that, as everyone knows, in Cuba music and rhythm are carried in the blood. Education –together with a public health system- has always been one of the objectives of the Cuban revolution; this poor country has, indeed, one of the highest literacy rates in the world, including developed nations. We had lunch at a local eatery where foreigners can only enter if accompanied by a local. We enjoyed a proper Cuban meal, including thinly sliced fried banana and what they call ‘moors and christians’ a tasty plate of boiled white rice with dark beans. During lunch, Pedro explained to us that the police usually try to avoid any contact between locals and foreigners to avoid any trouble that might jeopardize the booming tourist industry in the island. Although there are other important industries such as sugar production, tourism still provides the highest income in Cuba and creates an enormous amount of jobs. When the time came to say goodbye to our guide, he gave us some salted peanuts and a flower as farewell gifts and we gave him a tip which seemed to content him. The following day we headed towards Santiago de Cuba. It was in this city where Castro made his first failed attempt to initiate the revolution in 1953. On the way there we drove across a completely green landscape where we could observe the huge sugar cane plantations. The taxi was a state owned one, the driver had a salary and the petrol and maintenance of the car are paid for by the state. We chatted along while we enjoyed the striking fields while we realised that there are no publicity boards at all, the only ones you can see are huge ones dedicated to the revolution, Che and some other leaders –but never Castro , or against the US. In places like that one becomes aware of the continuous brainwash we suffer in our own countries with adverts and publicity popping out around every corner.


CUBA National Theatre, Havana

Santiago de Cuba
This currently quiet city has witnessed many battles in the past, particularly in the early 50’s. The Moncada military headquarters saw the first attempt to revolutionise Cuba. Nowadays, the building is a museum about the events of that historical day. We were surprised by the fact that the version of the story differed from other ones we had heard, but then we realised that happens continuously in History, the events are lived by its protagonists and written by historians. As most Cuban towns, this city has its main square and the Revolution Square. In the main plaza we started talking to an elderly gentleman and we could not help to be absolutely seduced by him. He was sitting down, impeccably dressed in a white shirt and taking notes about the people he talked to. The sun was shinning, we were not in a hurry and he obviously enjoyed telling us about Cuban history. After almost one hour he went to get five books from the time of the revolution and offered them to us, we got them for five US$ and he said that that money was worth his pension for three months. True or not that gave us a rough idea of the income people have there. That afternoon we wandered around the town, we walked along different neighbourhoods, schools and we ended up in the baseball stadium of the local team, one of the best in the island.

The north
After a few days in the south we were ready to visit the north coast, we were looking forward to visiting Havana, but first we spent a couple of days relaxing in Varadero. Varadero is a small town crowded with international luxury hotels, apart from that and a few scatered shops there is not much to see there, but it’s perfect to relax. It is a good location from where to explore the many cayos (the keys) if you are keen on sailing and underwater exploration , as these small atolls are surrounded by shallow waters with an amazingly rich and colourful marine flora and fauna. With the friendly character of the locals it is really easy to start a conversation. A young student told us her opinion about Castro’s regime. She explained to us that the only means to leave the island –the dream of many youngsters- was to become friends with a foreigner or to marry one. Our conclusion after listening to many Cubans was that, generally speaking, those who had lived either under the Batista dictatorship or the revolution were thankful to Fidel Castro, whereas younger generations, aware of lifestyles in overseas countries (thanks to their contact with tourists and visitors) were, at least partially, opposed to the socialist regime.


Moncada

Museo de La Revolución La Habana

La Habana
The capital was our next stop. A very special city with plenty of history, hidden architectural gems, beautiful songs, people and legends awaiting us. We stayed at the Hotel Sevilla an old hotel opened in 1908 located in a privileged area of the old town, Habana Vieja,. Its Spanish colonial style, with patios and bars tempted us to take a break, and its restaurant on the top floor reminded us of the dining room in the film Titanic. There is no doubt that, despite its decay, the most beautiful area of the capital is the old quarter. People playing music in the streets, men wearing Panama hats and smoking cigars, a pharmacy selling medicinal plants or a traditional bar, invite visitors to enjoy every moment. Having selected a few places to visit, we put on comfortable shoes and headed towards the castle of San Salvador de la Punta. From there it is possible to see the bay bordering the city, the Fuerte de San Carlos and the Castillo del Morro, forts on the coast built by the Spaniards in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively. A lengthy stroll along the Paseo de Martí -also known as the Paseo del Prado- gave us an idea about the old charm of the colonial period: beautiful run down buildings, trees, old street lights and statues decorate this pleasant promenade. At the end of the boulevard is the old Centro Gallego, nowadays National Theatre, the Capitolio (the parliament until 1959) and other interesting buildings such as the neoclassic Hotel de Inglaterra and the old Partagás cigar factory. Our next stop was the Museum of the Revolution (the former residence of the presidents built in 1909) were we learnt about the guerrilleros who fought against Batista in the late 50’s through photos, films, weapons and other memorabilia (including the box where the remains of Che Guevara were brought to Cuba for Bolivia, where he had been killed together with other revolutionaries). We decided to take a break and we went to the legendary Bodeguita del Medio, the most famous bar in Havana (together with Floridita) as it is home to the best mojito in the world according to Ernest Hemingway… and we agreed.

The Cuba-loving writer used to say “My daiquiri in Floridita and my mojito in La Bodeguita”. Right next to the temple of the mojito is the cathedral, one of the finest-looking ones in Latin America. The big plaza in front of it is surrounded by aristocratic 18th century mansions such as the Casa de Lombillo, the Palace of the Marques de Arcos, the Casa del Conde de Bayona and the old house of the Marques de Aguas Claras. Other interesting places to visit are the Plaza de la Revolución, where Fidel Castro gives his lengthy speeches (he probably holds the world record among leaders, as sometimes he talked for over five hours), the Ministries, the National Library or the monument to José Martí. As days went by our affection for Havana and its inhabitants grew stronger. Full of memories, mental images and photos we went back home to Argentina. There was still plenty to see and discover but time was over and we thought of a famous song ‘Cuando salí de Cuba/ dejé mi vida/ dejé mi amor/ Cuando salí de Cuba/ dejé enterrado mi corazón’ (When I left Cuba/I left my life/ I left my love/ When I left Cuba/ I left buried my heart there).

Written by Aldana Chiodi
Photography Aldana Chiodi and Dino Feldman

Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan

Ranthambhore National Park, Rrajasthan

Captivated by the world of lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), away in style despatched travel writer Gunjan Prasad, resplendent in her oh-so-chic safari suit, to report back from India’s Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan. 
 

Chasing the wild – Having been in the business of travel writing for some time now, I understand that the best way to enjoy a trip is to set yourself free of any expectations you may have and simply cherish and relish whichever blessings the journey bestows upon you. It particularly helps to keep this dictate in mind when planning a holiday to a national park, with an agenda to see a tiger! All trips have a mind of their own and those involving “wild cats” are no exception; something my family and I figured out on our recent trip to Rajasthan’s Ranthambhore National Park. Bookings were made at Aman-i-Khás; an exclusive wilderness camp set in the rugged hills of Rajasthan on the outskirts of Ranthambhore National Park. The luxury tents are set in a quiet rural area that borders one of the finest tiger reserves in the world. It is set up for only seven months of the year and is packed away in the hot summer as well as the rainy season when the National Park also closes for the tourists. 
Gathering around a fire at dusk was a joy.
Gathering around a fire at dusk was a joy
 

Though driving is an option, it is not usually recommended so we took the concierge’s advice and opted for a four hour train journey to Sawai Madhopur, the township closest to the park. Journey by train in India is an event in itself. Every station comes with a local sight and smell, delicacy and dialect that it’s best to savour from the relaxed environs of a train compartment – it becomes even better when travelling first-class with an entire compartment to oneself. The holiday began for my kids as soon as we boarded August Kranti Express train; they made a fantasy world for themselves with hidden nooks that revealed reading lights, tucked away foot-rests and crisp white linen.

“Ranthambhore forest was for centuries controlled by its own chiefs. Until the British arrived, the people lived freely in the forests; revering the sun, the moon and the tiger.”

Travel time to Sawai Madhopur is three and a half hours and between nibbling on refreshments provided in the train and admiring the passing countryside, time simply flew. We were whisked away in the waiting Qualis (local SUVs) within minutes of arrival. As it was so very dark we couldn’t make out much of the town around us but our initiation into the world of tigers had certainly begun! Informed as well as any guide, our driver took us through a brief history of the town and the local sight-seeing options, besides giving us a complete run through of the flora and fauna of the forest, the count of the tigers, the last sighting and other dos and don’ts of the National Park. Ranthambhore forest was for centuries controlled by its own chiefs. Until the British arrived, the people lived freely in the forests; revering the sun, the moon and the tiger. They believed in a world of ghosts and spirits and wore a variety of charms and amulets to ward off an evil eye. Even today some vestiges of the past culture can be seen in villages around Ranthambhore: farmers can be seen offering prayers to the tiger before taking the cattle to graze and of course there’s the odd medicine man, working his magic to keep evil away. 

Ranthambhore National Park, also once the hunting ground of the King of Jaipur and his guests, was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955. Following the launch of Project Tiger and concerted conservation efforts to save the big cats, the tiger population is thankfully now more visible and stable.  In an admirable bid to deflect attention away from themselves and give due respect to the National Park, most hotels, and there are plenty to suit all pockets, have refrained from unnecessary ostentation; there are no grand entrances or pavilions or gardens in this region, unlike the flashier accommodations to be found in other touristy parts of Rajasthan. Aman-i-Khás, the property at which we were to lay our heads, is designed to blend unobtrusively with the native vegetation of tall grasses, scrubs and trees. The entrance is nondescript via a pathway that leads through high walls, opening onto the views of the rocky Aravali hills that undulate through Ranthambore National Park.

The tents at Aman-i-Khás were nothing like the ones we were used to huddling in! Built on a concrete plinth over 108 sq m of space, the tents come with a sleeping room, bathing tub and a dressing room separated by cotton screens. Furniture is minimal and unobtrusive, mimicking the travelling camps of an earlier time. Each tent is airconditioned and there is also a ceiling fan and a cooler chest for drinks.

Private dining in the tent felt very indulgent

The experience at Aman-i-Khás is focused on viewing wildlife, in particular, the tiger. Jonathan Blitz, the general manager of Amani-Khás is a South African and thus, a born-into-the-wild, self-styled naturalist. On his advice, we decided to hit the forest in the evening and kept the morning free to sleep in late and visit the Ranthambhore Fort. Nearly one thousand years old and several kilometres in circumference, the Ranthambhore Fort offers sweeping views of the National Park,which provide one with a feel for its vast scale. It is a 20-minute walk up to it and the area around the Ganesha temple situated on top of the Fort is dotted with old water tanks, chattris (covered pavillions), palaces and mosques. The views were astounding and the breakfast spread organized by Aman difficult to resist. It was between mouthfuls of hot steaming khichdi (a local ice and lentils preparation), that we heard the first thunder. Passing it off as a seasonal anomaly, we continued looking out for leopards and tigers from the old walls of the fort, by now contentedly sipping on our second cup of masala tea. An anomaly it was not and within minutes it started to drizzle. By the time we scrambled back in to our vehicle we were soaking wet. At the back of everyone’s mind was also a nagging worry about the safari planned for the evening. We stopped at Dastkar, a non-profit co-operative centre with an array of products for sale, made out of block printed cotton: saris, fabric, tea-cosies, shoe covers et al. The rain didn’t stop…it just kept coming as if the skies had burst. There was no question of going into the park that afternoon in an open-topped four wheel drive. Though a fabulous foot treatment at Aman’s Spa did much for the feet, it could not stop the mind from thinking about the next morning; the only other time we could go for the safari.

Journey by train
in India is an event
in itself. Every
station comes with

a local sight and
smell, delicacy and
dialect.”

From the way the downpour pounded on our tent through the night, a 6.30 a.m start for the park seemed impossible. But we were not going away without at least once getting a peek inside this world-renowned reserve. Armed with hot-water bottles, blankets, umbrellas and flasks of hot tea and egged on by Aman-i-Khás staff members, we drove into the park along with a guide and a naturalist. Gleaming from the incessant rain, the usually dry and dusty deciduo

us forest looked fresh and lush. The fauna was already mid-way into its morning routine and we spotted many animals; caracal, hyenas and sloth bears. Chital and sambar deer, antelopes and gazelles could be seen in hordes roaming the savannah whilst the marsh around the lakes and waterholes held the Indian marsh crocodile. Bird life, both resident and migratory, is prolific and over 350 species have been sighted within the park. We saw tree pies, bayblers and kingfishers. No, we didn’t see any tigers – not this time. It was ‘impossible’ in such weather conditions, they said. It would have been fulfilling to lay eyes on one; but for us it was not the last of the wonders to see in this remarkable territory – there was after all the train ride home!

 

Written by Gunjan Prasad