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M AY 2 0 1 7 ` 1 5 0 VO L . 5 I S S U E 1 1 N AT G E O T R AV E L L E R .

I N

MACAO COORG
A PROCESSION ZAC OYEAH
OF COLOUR ON DASARA

MUMBAI MADHYA
INSIDE PRADESH
INDIAS FIRST IN THE THICK
POD HOTEL OF A FOREST

Its always
FESTIVE SEASON
AUSTRALIA CONSERVING KOALAS AND KANGAROOS JAKARTA CAPITAL INVESTMENT
n a t i o n a l g e o g r a p h i c t r av e l l e r i n d i a

MAY 2017

CONTENTS Vol 5 Issue 11

FESTIVE SPIRIT JOURNEYS

62 70 74 80 104
FANTASTIC DANCING IN MOVE WITH LIGHT AT MY FAMILY
BEASTS AND THE DARK THE MOVING THE END OF OF OTHER
WHERE TO Mythology gets crazy, PICTURES THE FUNNEL ANIMALS
colourful, and trippy
FIND THEM at Madikeris Dasara
Shrines for cinephiles, Celebrating From shy bandicoots
Macaos vibrant film festivals also offer Loy Krathong in to adorable koalas,
float parade the rest of us a bit Sukhothai, Thailand Victoria brims with
Latin City parade is a Text by Zac OYeah of everything By Sugato Mukherjee stories of conservation
surreal introduction Illustrations by By Kalpana Nair and rehabilitation
to its history Charbak Dipta By Sonal Shah
By Diya Kohli

82 88 94 96 110
WHEN MAGIC LENS AND PLAY WITH REACHING A THE JUNGLE
BECOMES SENSIBILITY FIRE CRESCENDO BOOK
REALISM A masterclass on Follow the crowds From Kolkata to Coorg, Camping in Satpura
A summer festival in shooting festivals to these nocturnal jazz to Indian classical, Tiger Reserve reveals
Denmark brings Hans around the world in all fire festivals around these music festivals wondrous landscapes
Christian Andersens their vibrant glory the world around the country are and a new perspective
world of fantasy alive Text and photographs worth travelling for By Kareena Gianani
By Saumya Ancheri by Ashima Narain By Varun Desai

HIMANSHU ROHILLA

96
Alibaug, Maharashtra

6 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


40 118

VOICES
M AY 2 0 1 7 ` 1 5 0 VO L . 5 I S S U E 1 1 N AT G E O T R AV E L L E R . I N

46 Superstructures
Basaltic formations meet a minimal aesthetic in
Reykjavks Hallgrmskirkja church
14 Crew Cut
A traveller turns to art for fun and self-discovery 47 Heritage
Secrets on the ceiling of Thiruvananthapurams
16 Travellers Check
MACAO COORG
A PROCESSION ZAC OYEAH
OF COLOUR ON DASARA

MUMBAI
INSIDE
MADHYA
PRADESH
Napier Museum
Can pit stops become destinations too?
INDIAS FIRST IN THE THICK
POD HOTEL OF A FOREST

Its always
18 Wayfaring FESTIVE SEASON 50 Smart Cities
Futuristic libraries, open-air museums, and avant-
AUSTRALIA CONSERVING KOALAS AND KANGAROOS JAKARTA CAPITAL INVESTMENT

Exploring the foundations of faith at a cathedral


On The COver garde restaurants: the Danish city of Aarhus loves to
in Chennai
Every year in December, spring a surprise

N AV I G AT E
all of Macao hits the
streets for Desfile por
52 My City

RIDDHI MUKHERJEE (TIGER), PHOTO COURTESY: JAMTARA WILDERNESS CAMP (WOMAN)


Discovering traditional cuisine and hidden haunts
Macao, Cidade Latina
20 The Insider or Macaos Latin City
in Moscow
Calm meets clamour in Thailands vibrant capital paradea celebration of 54 Road Trip
its multicultural heritage.
28 The Quest Photographer Ashima
Coming around the bend in central Oregon, U.S.A.
On the trail of the Vikings from Newfoundland Narain captures a group
to Norway of dancers making S M A R T T R AV E L L E R
their way through an
32 The Concept
Europes first underwater museum throws us in
enthusiastic crowd that Checking In
the deep end, Museo Atlntico
has gathered at Tap Siac 56 Cosy up with tiger quolls at Australias Great
Square for the final leg of
Ocean Ecolodge
34 Off-Season Escape the vibrant parade.
Soaking in winter-time delights in Sydney 58 Spectacular lodges, romantic resorts, and
historic hotels that inspire us to travel
36 Urban Explorer
ASHIMA NARAIN (COVER)

Derided for being densely populated, Jakarta could SHORT BREAKS


well pull in a crowd REGULARS

40 National Park 12 Editors Note


Stay
A boat trip through the Sundarbans mangrove 122 Inspire 118 Camp in style at Jamtara Wilderness Camp
forests yields many secrets 128 Travel Quiz 120 Inside Indias first pod hotel in Mumbai

8 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Editor-in-Chief SHREEVATSA NEVATIA AD SALES
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NATIONAL GEOGRA PHI C SOCI ETY Unit No. 201 & 202, Sumer Plaza, 2nd Floor, Marol Maroshi Road, family travel, about travel experiences, about discoveries, and
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10 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Editors Note | S HR EEVATSA N EVATI A

OUT OF THE BOX


Y
ears ago, I heard a well-travelled itinerary will be as neatly packed as our design.
musician say that men are defined Thats a promise well always keep.
by the manner in which they pack Since airlines are usually more exacting about
their bags. I have since been weight than gym instructors, our endeavour
obsessive about my boxes. My will be to never carry any excess baggage, both
shirts are always neatly folded. as travellers and journalists. Before epiphanies
My several wireschargers for iPods and iPads, and self-realisation, we believe travel should first
phones and Kindleshave their dedicated make real our ideas of fun. Going to a concert or
pouch. Even my portable speakers have their own a film festival can be as rewarding as witnessing
compartment. When put through X-ray machines, Loy Krathong, a festival of light in Thailand, or
I hope their operators will be stunned by the travelling to Macao for its Latin City parade. In this
symmetry of my packing, but airport employees months issue, one we have devoted to festivals
Before unfortunately like keeping their wonderment and festivities, we try and blend the traditional with
to themselves. When journeying to lands and the contemporary. History fascinates us as much
epiphanies countries that are unfamiliar, travel can sometimes as culture and it is our eclecticism that gives us

and self- seem unnerving, so a precisely packed


bag or case is assuring. Youll
something to celebrate all year
round. More importantly, it
realisation, know where things are. helps us travel light.
Buying tickets and Hugh of St. Victor, a
we believe planning itineraries leaves 12th-century theologian,
me excited, but only when I knew how to stay
travel should empty my cupboard to make per tinent a thousand
first make its contents luggage do I
really start to inhabit two
years later. He had once
said, The man who finds
real our places at once. While travel his homeland sweet is still
helps disrupt the ever y- a tender beginner; he to
ideas of fun day, breaking monotony whom every soil is as his
and habit, it also native one is already
makes discovery strong; but he is
possible. Being per fect to whom
foreign can help the entire world is as
us learn who we are a foreign land. There
and being away often is more wisdom than
gives us a checklist of judgment in Hughs
what we miss and love assumption. It is, in
most about home. The the end, our capacity
transference of my belongings helps pre-empt this for wonder which makes travel replenishing and
transition. Departure makes imminent an arrival. joyful. We strive to continuously be surprised by
In the last month, we at National Geographic the world, but also by the several homes in which
Traveller India have found ourselves packing we live. Since souvenirs have regrettably gone out
our own little box. Members of a new team, we of fashion, we intend to bring back stories instead.
have chosen from the abundant experience of Stories that entertain and stories that make the
our predecessors their best and most proficient unknown a touch more accessible. For decades
editorial practices and intent. We have, however, now, National Geographic has delicately unpacked
left some room for the shopping we hope to do the world for us. Its yellow frame helps give the
once we dig in our heels. (Were young. We like stories we find at Traveller a perfect box. Our task
things that are new.) In the pages of this magazine, is cut out. Well pack it with care.
youll continue to find maps to places that urgently
demand exploration. As we try and make your trips
more frequent, well also ensure your experience
of reading us and our writers will be an escape
BILLION PHOTOS/SHUTTERSTOCK

in itself. You will get tips on where you can stay,


what you can eat, and what you should do. Your
MISSION

National Geographic Traveller India is about immersive travel and authentic storytelling, inspiring readers to create their own journeys and return with
OUR

amazing stories. Our distinctive yellow rectangle is a window into a world of unparalleled discovery.

12 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Voices | CR EW CU T

Down to a
Kareena Gianani
is Senior Associate Editor at
National Geographic Traveller

Fine Art
India. She loves stumbling upon
hole-in-the-wall bookshops, old
towns, and owl souvenirs in all
shapes and sizes.
ART ASTONISHES AND ENTERTAINS.
SO DOES TRAVEL. TOGETHER, THEY LEAD
TO SELF-DISCOVERY

I
n 2015, I walked into the glass building of Torontos Art painter Frans Hals can ward off the greyest of moods.
Gallery of Ontario only because it coolly curved 600 feet Pariss Muse dOrsay, on the other hand, is a map of what the
along a street I happened to pass. It was my first day in the city was like at various points in time. The nightlife and show
country, and entering some place that resembled a canoe or a business of Paris in the 19th century are brought to life by the works
silvery spaceship seemed like the wise thing to do. of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Edgar Degass The Ballet Class
Inside, I looked at the works of Emily Carr, a trailblazing is a window into the moods of Parisian ballerinas once theyre
Canadian artist Id never heard of. But her dramatic paintings off the stage. One scratches her back absentmindedly, others
of moist rainforests, brooding cedar trees, and old brave totem only half-listen to their ballet master. Here, centuries collide and
poles told me stories of a Canada we rarely see: a land of rich but Pariss many histories move about freely. In the evening, strains
fast disappearing indigenous cultures, way beyond its first-world of waltz filled this railway-station-turned-museum and at least
shininess. Carrs fierce art protested against European settlers 80 dancers filled the atrium for a spectacular surprise.
erasing her homelands cultures. Slowly, Canadas newness Isnt this what we travel for? To be astonished and entertained;
slipped away and I didnt feel as much of a stranger. tickled and thrilled, mostly by people we will never meet? Given
Until late last year, Id travel for unforgettable places and the range of discoveries it entails, art doesnt feel very different
people. I savoured the getting away, and the arriving at a place from travel itself. And while it is a great way to see the world,
where foreign tongues fill a bistro during breakfast. I travelled it is also a way to see myself. Being in Amsterdams Van Gogh
for boisterous cities, camped in wild forests, or followed a lover Museum, for instance, had the most cathartic effect on me. I went
to new lands. But things changed last October, when art began chasing a teenage favourite and found myself wrapped in the life
ruling my itineraries in Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. stories of the artists hope, tragedy, and great perseverance. In
From being quarter-day plans squished between long spells of the Rijksmuseum, watching a local art student sketch Johannes
roaming a city, museums became delightful dawn-to-night Vermeers The Milkmaid calmed me as much as the original
affairs in themselves. painting itself. I also discovered that artists who hang out in
I discovered, for instance, that being in the Louvre building museums make for great conversation: Louvre turned extra
is like being all over the world at once. One never knows what special after I met a Portland-based artist and we sat on a bench
one might find. My interactive Nintendo guide took me to a thumbing through his sketchbooks filled with Michelangelos, da
corner of a room where a marble Vincis, and other works Id never

PHOTO COURTESY: MAURIZIO CATTELAN, UNTITLED (MANHOLE), MUSEUM BOIJMANS VAN BEUNINGEN
sculpture of a woman stretched have checked out if I were alone.
out on a mattress, a lone flimsy If you, like me, ever feel slightly
sheet wrapped around her left leg. daunted by museums, step into
She was dreaming. The eroticism, Room 19 of Rotterdams Museum
her sinuous grace was palpable; Boijmans Van Beuningen. There is
until I walked over to the other a mans head poking from the floor.
side and realised that she wasnt The life-size wax sculpture rises
a woman. It was the androgynous from a gaping hole in the ground,
figure of Hermaphroditos, carved looking inquisitively at a roomful
as if to half-shock, half-tease a of Dutch Romantics around him.
viewer. It was made between the Fifty-six-year-old Italian artist
third and first centuries B.C., yet Maurizio Cattelan created this
there I was, abashed and amused installation because he still feels
by the effect it was having on me. like an outsider in the art world.
Someplace else was a painting Yet he breaks new ground, literally.
of a man dressed in a frilly red- Travelling for art, above all, is a
and-black costume. He smiles reminder of what is most important
mischievously at someone we to me: to seek beauty and joy, and
cannot see; his eyes are crinkled, to be playful while I can. There is
and face flushed. The merriment no such thing as being too happy,
exuded by the Buffoon Holding too emotional, or too moved by an
a Lute, by Dutch Golden Age artwork. They are safe places.

14 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Voices | TRAV EL L ERS C HEC K

Go Between
Debashree MajuMDar
is a freelance writer and editor.
She can often be found plotting
LEARNING TO SAVOUR HYPHENATED SPACES yet another escape.

DURING A TRYST WITH A MEDIEVAL ENGLISH TOWN

O
n my first and only visit to York a little more than a were evident. Parking lots lay submerged, a few abandoned
year ago, I managed a cursory glance at its quaint cars disappeared under water. It was November 2015, just
medieval magnificence. Ever since, Ive been devising about a month before the Ouse would breach its banks and
plans of going back. The charm of these in-between wash the whole city away. It would be months before tourists
placestiny towns, quiet citiesthat you meet on your way to returned to marvel at its cathedrals and castles. York that
longer, well-planned vacations, often linger long after youve night seemed like a threatening place, its streets deserted,
left. With York, the haunting has persisted. the wind howling, and its residents visible only through
More often than not a modern travellers itinerary is so warmly lit glass windows. Its unique reputation for being
packed with these numerous stops to a carefully picked the most haunted European city, which it was awarded
destination that a thought is rarely spared about traversing in 2002 by the Ghost Research Foundation International,
these sometimes prominent, sometimes nondescript worlds. seemed accurate.
They often teem with stories, experiences, and secrets of their Stormy weather and eerie warnings notwithstanding, we
own. In our case it was merely happenstance that led us to York. stepped out for a peek into the microcosm that York packs
We were headed to Scotland for a road trip after a brief stay in within itself. I hugged myself against the merciless, icy lashes
London. York, which falls almost halfway between London and as we walked through the dimly-lit alleyways that criss-
Edinburgh, sounded like the perfect place to meet a friend who crossed The Shambles, Yorks and one of Britains most iconic
was set to join us. streets. Lined with half-timbered 15th-century dwellings, The
These resting places or stopovers rarely get a fair chance. One Shambles derives its name from the Saxon shamel, meaning
checks out of the airport or train station, grabs dinner on the slaughterhouse. Before the chic boutiques, lace-lined tea
way to the hotel, and succumbs to exhaustion only to chase that rooms, chocolatiers, and trendy pubs took over, the street used
early exit the next morning. But given a chance, or a few waking to be home to butchers who hung their meat for display a couple
hours, these hyphenated spaces could be mined for insight and of hundred years ago.
wonder into a world unknown. Its surprising what an hours rambling can reveal about a
The unfamiliar in York unspooled as we made our way to town. If familiar, in an Indian town for instance, one could step
our address for the night through its residential quarters. A out for tea or samosa and return with a wealth of information
gust of cold wind and drizzle greeted us at the precincts of the about life in the neighbourhood following an exchange with the
time-worn walled city. That night the sounds of a heaving river local chaiwallah. If unfamiliar, and away from home, one could
feel overwhelmed by the revelations of a place that one had
hardly considered including in ones journey. I wandered along
York, U.K. the snickets around the imposing Gothic York Minster, whose
silhouette towered against the inky skies giving it a shadowy,
desolate air. I remember coming to sudden halts, my mouth
agape, staring at the crumbling Tudor dens that appeared to
close in over our heads, stirred with child-like curiosity. The
houses came closest to resembling the tattered lithograph
print-filled books from my girlhood.
On the wintry night we walked down its paths, York revealed
its essence in little burstsa couple of still open pubs providing
shelter to locals and travellers, and homeless musicians playing
to an invisible audience in the the bitter cold outside. Like all
cities with an enduring character, York is marked by layers
of history and stark contrasts. Its a place where it would
be right to want to stop all the clocks, much like how its native
W.H. Auden had once written. With its many ghosts of present
and past, it continues to haunt me for not staying, for having
G01XM/ISTOCK

resisted its singular charms. Im impatient to return to it


not to dash through it again as a halfway stop but to savour
it as a destination.

16 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Voices | WAY FAR I N G

Room for Doubt


Sudha Pillai
is an artist, photographer, and
writer. She writes about her
FAITH CAN GIVE A PLACE ITS FOUNDATION, BUT IT IS encounters with people, places,
art, and culture.
CURIOSITY THAT BRINGS ALIVE ITS HISTORY

T
he best moments in a journey are always unplanned. his disciples after his resurrection. Thomas refused to believe
Those are the moments that get calligraphed in that the Lord had risen; he would do so only after seeing the
travel memes. marks of the nails in Jesuss hands with his own eyes. During
After almost a decade I was back in Chennai on work. his next apparition, Jesus invited Thomas to check His wounds,
I had a few hours to spare before my flight back home. While which Thomas promptly did before falling to his knees and
bumming around in the hotel room, the leaflet on the night- crying, My Lord and My God.
stand caught my eye. It was a tract on sights to see in the city. Apostle Thomas came to India in A.D. 52. He was martyred
Santhome Cathedral was on the list. On a whim, I got into an in then Madras in A.D. 72. When the Portugese arrived in
auto and made my way to the Cathedral which stands on the Mylapore in 1521, the chapel which contained the tomb of St.
shores of Marina beach. Thomas was in ruins. The Portugese rebuilt the church in 1523,
The last time I visited the Cathedral, my hair was black which lasted until the end of the 19th century. The present-day
and waist willow. The significance of the Cathedral was Cathedral was built in 1853.
completely lost on a 15-year-old who spent a chimerical summer The Gothic Cathedral looms large and is almost pastoral in
reading Thorn Birds. This time around, when I found myself the middle of a raucous city. The wide teak doors are open to
standing in front of the Cathedral, I was 15 twice over. The hair people from all faiths and walks of life. Inside the 115-foot-
was now dyed and the hips wide. long nave, the harsh Chennai sun streams through 36 stained
Santhome Cathedral stands atop the tomb of St. Thomas. glass windows creating a psychedelic display of colours. Under
There are only three churches in the world that are built over the 155-foot-high steeple stands the statue of Christ with arms
the tomb of an apostle of Christ, the other two being St. Peters wide open. It tickles me to see that standing on a lotus with two
Basilica in Rome and the tomb of St. James in Spain. peacocks for company, the Lord was doing a when-in-Rome.
Amongst all the apostles, St. Thomas, also known as Doubting The underground tomb-chapel, which is built above the place
Thomas, is my favourite. He was intelligent enough to doubt where St. Thomas is believed to have been buried, is behind the
and Trojan enough to express those doubts. The search for main Cathedral. This chapel contains a precious relica bone
knowledge begins with a kernel of doubt. The latter Thomas had from the tip of St. Thomass little finger. A caretaker-nun brings
in abundance. Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to out the relic once every month for a special mass. Looking at the
red and gold box that holds the relic I wonder
what it must be like, for the nun to hold a piece
of a man who walked alongside the Messiah
himself. I get goose bumps just thinking about
it, says the nun rubbing her arms. I cannot
express the feeling in words, but it is something
something She gropes for words and fails. I
think I get what she means, though my agnostic
brain cannot shape that feeling into words. The
nun has no doubts in her mind.
Theres a pole inside the compound. Locals
call it the Santhome pole. Some believe it was
erected by St. Thomas. But nobody knows for
sure. Legend has it that the sea never crosses
the pole. Even during the Tsunami the sea did
not defy the pole, leaving the church intact
and annihilating the rest in its wake. The place
where Doubting Thomas rests is but a testimony
to the aphorism: Be not faithless, but believing.
Delicious irony!
SUDHA PILLAI

A few hours later, mid-flight, a teeny-tiny


Santhome Cathedral, Chennai doubt rears in me: Can faith flourish without
the faithless?

18 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


NAVIGATE
28 40 46
the quest national park superstructures
On the trail of the Vikings from A boat trip through the Basaltic formations meet a
Newfoundland to Norway Sundarbans yields many secrets minimal aesthetic in Reykjavk

The Wat Arun temple


sparkles on the
Chao Phraya River.

Bangkok Beckons
CALM MEETS CLAMOUR IN THAILANDS VIBRANT CAPITAL

B
angkok is two-faced. At once carries the peppery scents of fragrant and Bndictine line the back bar at
JACK KURTZ, ZUMA WIRE

serene and spicy, frenzied herbs, and down alleys the twisted cocktail joints. And when the faded teak
yet romantic, it is the best arms of aged banyan trees wrap the doors of the shophouses roll open in the
of both worlds. The golden gates of rickety wooden homes. At the morning, youll find tables stocked by
tiles of the temples wink eternal, the same time, baristas hand over lattes independent, young designers.
steam from Chinatown hawkers woks made with Thai coffee beans. Bitters Jenny Adams

20 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


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trip ($1,749/`1,12,504 per person
in double occupancy).

Hotel Chic: Thai


Classic
Trendy
New

Rooms With a View


T
he majority of the rooms in is Wat Arun, meaning Temple of Dawn,
Siamotif (), a 70-year-old even though its ironically best at sunset
wooden canal house turned when silhouetted against a bright pink
bohemian boutique hotel, were sky (www.snhotels.com; doubles from
hand-painted by a local artist. Amenities THB3,160/`5,950). To feel like youve FOR THE HISTORY BUFF
here include balconies overlooking the fallen into a James Bond flick, head to Listen to Buddhist monks chant
canal, bikes for exploring neighbouring Okura Prestige (). Each of the 240 at a traditional temple, visit World
FRANK HEUER/LAIF/VAULT ARCHIVES/REDUX

temples, and rotating Thai breakfast rooms features a Japanese bidet, rain War II spots, and dine in a UNESCO
offerings (siamotif.com; doubles from shower, and touchpad that controls the World Heritage city on National
THB2,800/`5,300). At the colonial- rooms lighting. But the infinity pool is Geographic Journeys with
chic Riva Arun (), opened in 2016, the what youll likely remember most. With G Adventures eight-day Thailand
Journey trip ($1,399/`89,990
view steals the show, whether youre views of the citys skyscrapers, its 82 feet
per person in double occupancy).
dining on larb ped salad (minced duck long and cantilevered off the 25th floor,
salad) with foie gras on the rooftop or hanging high above the busy streets of
parting the gauzy curtains of your suites Bangkok (www.okurabangkok.com;
floor-to-ceiling windows. The backdrop doubles from THB6,375/`12,000). NATGEOEXPEDITIONS.COM

22 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | THE I N S I D E R

SEE IT

Chatuchak market
is home to more
than 8,000 stalls.

Walk Bangkok Like a Local


CRUISE THROUGH THE CAPITAL BY BIKE, THEN TAKE A STROLL
THROUGH A VINTAGE NIGHT MARKET
SPAS ART GALLERIES BIKE TOURS MARKETS
For a quick recharge, head to The Bangkok Art and Culture Many hotels in the city provide Start with the sunrise at
Soi Rambuttri street in Old Centre is home to an array bikes for solo exploration, Pak Khlong Talad, the citys
Town, where kerbside chaise- of contemporary arts, from but guided bike tour options premier flower market, where
longue foot massages are design to music, film to theatre abound. Follow Me Bike locals purchase phuang
$5/`325 for half an hour. At (www.bacc.or.th; Tue-Sun Tours has a four-and-a-half- malai, or garlands made with
Ruen-Nuad Massage Studio, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.). At Dialogue hour tour of Old Town along frangrant flowers like jasmine
inside an 80-year-old house Coffee and Gallery (533 the Chao Phraya River, which or rose. These are a symbol
with gardens, and lemongrass- Phra Sumen Rd.; Tue-Sun threads through back streets of good luck and are offered
scented rooms, request its 11 a.m.-10 p.m.), the eclectic and includes temple stops and at shrines or even given to
herbal compress massage, coffeehouse and gallery on ferry rides. You also get a link special guests. During the day,
where tamarind, makrut lime, Phra Sumen Road, you can to photos of your day (www. the shops along the numerous
and salt are designed to relieve enjoy the attic exhibitions and followmebiketour.com; bike alleyways of Chatuchak
inflammation (42 Convent also snag an art map of Old tours from THB1,300/`2,430). market sell everything from
Road; www.facebook.com/ Town Bangkok. It lists nearby If you crave greenery, spa products to knockoff
ruennuadmassage; open gems like the Foto United Bangkok Bike Adventure will Ray-Bans. After 5 p.m. venture
10 a.m.-9 p.m.). A pampering Gallery (519 Phra Sumen take you to Bang Krachao, just outside the city to Talad
session at the Siam hotels Rd; Tue-Sun 11 a.m.-7p.m.), nicknamed Bangkoks Green Rot Fai, a sprawling, outdoor
Opium Spa is more of an with work for sale by local Lung. This thick swathe of night market that focuses on
expensive indulgence, but photographers, and the new jungle is filled with towering the nostalgic, such as antique
FRANCESCO LASTRUCCI

includes free transport to Pipit Banglamphu Museum palms, tropical birds, reptiles, lamps, vintage clothing, and
the spa via private boat (Phra Sumen Rd; Tue-Sun 10 and ancient canals (www. 57 Chevys. You can also get
(3/2 Thanon Khao; www. a.m.-6 p.m.), a former printing bangkokbikeadventure. a 10 p.m. shave in the garage
thesiamhotel.com; open facility now dedicated to the com; bike tours from barbershop or sip a beer in a
10 a.m.-10 p.m.). neighbourhoods history. THB1,300/`2,430). converted VW-bus bar.

24 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | THE I N S I D E R

E AT I T

IF YOU LIKE IF YOU LIKE IF YOU LIKE IF YOU LIKE

PAD THAI PAPAYA SALAD TOM YUM SOUP CHICKEN SATAY

THEN TRY THEN TRY THEN TRY THEN TRY


Pad Thai Omelette Pomelo Salad Kuay Teow Neau Pork Satay
At the Thipsamai restaurant, This salad hails from Nakhon Kuay teow neau is Thailands Even though chicken satay is
Thailands most recognisable Pathom Province, but to have rich beef noodle soup. Join common in restaurants across
dish is nearly unrecognisable Bangkoks best, head to Issaya the communal tables at Kuay India, the pork version is the
to visitors. A true pad thai Siamese Club. Its modern Teow Neau Nai Soi on Phra norm in Bangkok. Try the
in Bangkok is actually an adaptation has pomelo Athit Road, and dig into the skewers, served upside down
omelette with dried shrimp, wedges, hard-boiled eggs, and braised beef and gooey glass in a plastic sack with spicy
tamarind-dressed noodles, fried shrimp in a chilli-lime noodles in a lightly spiced dipping sauce splashed inside,
and soft tofu inside an egg dressing (www.issaya.com; broth with hints of vinegar, at the prime place for street
wrapper (313-315 Maha Chai lunch 11.30 a.m.-2.30 p.m., cinnamon, and star anise food: Chinatowns vibrant
Rd, Khwaeng Samran Rat; dinner 6-10.30 p.m.; bar (100/2-3 Phra Arthit Road; Yaowarat Road.
open 5 p.m.-2 a.m.). closes at 1 a.m.). open daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m.).

Skewers of satay (right) are a common sight on Bangkoks streets; One of the special dishes to

CHRISTOPHER WISE (SALAD, SKEWERS), TAMER KOSELI (ILLUSTRATIONS)


try in the city is the beef larb salad (left), that has sticky rice and a fragrant mix of spices.

Three Drinks to Sip in Bangkok


T
oast this colourful capital city shophouse Smalls, you may fall for Love 5.30 p.m.-2 a.m.). Quince is a warm and
at The Speakeasy, a rooftop bar Is In The Air, a frothy, hard-shaken blend casual space full of brick, dark wood,
at the Hotel Muse, where the of strawberry-infused vodka, sauvignon candlelight, and opportunities to try
Wasabi Martini (a mix of green blanc, lemon, elderflower, bitters, and the locally produced Iron Balls gin. Its
teainfused gin, wasabi, elderflower, an egg white. This three-storey spot has the perfect ingredient to the Spitcock
and lime juice) comes accompanied an around-the-world menu of boutique cocktail, which mixes gin with coconut
by a small plate of wasabi and grilled spirits, a penchant for absinthe, and a palm sugar, lime, celery leaves, and fresh
salmon (hotelmusebangkok.com; open menagerie of French antiques on display mint (www.quincebangkok.com; open
daily 5.30 p.m.-1 a.m.). At the Thai (186/3 Suan phlu Soi 1; open daily daily 11.30 a.m.-late ).

26 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | THE QU EST

Raiders of the Lost Arts


SAGAS, SWORDS, AND SURPRISES ON THE TRAIL OF ALL THINGS VIKING
FROM NEWFOUNDLAND TO NORWAY BY JUDITH FEIN

Flames consume a
Viking ship at the Up
Helly Aa festival in
Shetland, Scotland.

I
always believed that the Vikings on rune stones, and learned that its the only authenticated Viking site
were a bunch of raiders and pillagers Vikings practiced a form of democracy in North America. There I saw my
whose only redeeming quality was and that their women had personal first longhouse, built with thick sod
DAVID GUTTENFELDER

that they built sophisticated ships and political power. Thats when my walls and a sod-covered roof. Inside,
to carry out their murderous missions. fascination with the eighth-to-eleventh- historical interpreters recreated
But one day, at an exhibit in Los century culture began. quotidian Viking chores such as
Angeles, I saw elegant jewellery by I planned a trip to LAnse aux weaving, candle making, and cooking
Viking goldsmiths, encountered writing Meadows, in Newfoundland, Canada; over an open fire. But what made the

28 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


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deepest impression was learning that


Vikings suffered from lung disease,
caused by smoke from indoor fires. They
were no longer the Vikings but, rather,
humans who lived, loved, laughed,
worked, and had lung issues.
I wanted to know where the Vikings
hailed from, and if there were any left,
so I headed to Norway. And I developed
a sort of travellers tunnel vision. All I
wanted to see were places connected
to the Vikings. On the small island of
Vibrandsy, I met a couple who were
constructing a 115-foot-long Viking ship
by using the exact building methods
and materials the Norse did.
Inspired by their passion for Viking
vessels, I set off for the Viking Ship
Museum in Oslo, where I saw three
beautiful ships that had carried Vikings
and then carried their bodies. It made
me long to encounter living,
breathing Vikings.
I went on Facebook and connected
to Georg Olafr Reydarsson Hansen,
the director of the annual Viking Ribe Viking Center, in Denmark, recreates a Viking manor farm circa A.D. 980.
Market in Gudvangen. I jumped on a
bus in Voss and rode to an encounter of medieval literature aboutwhat dominated a large chunk of the globe a
that transformed my fascination into else?the Vikings. By night I read and thousand years ago. I recently learned
an obsession. At the edge of a fjord, by day I planned a trip to Iceland. that archaeologist and National
Viking re-enactors came together It was at the National Museum of Geographic Fellow Sarah Parcak has
as blacksmiths, bards, cooks, rune- Iceland, in Reykjavk, that I saw my first used satellite imagery to try to locate
makers, and weavers to live the real Viking sword. A confirmed pacifist, new Viking sites, which I long to see.
ancient lifestyle. I was nonetheless mesmerised by a Those fearless ancient mariners speak
My Facebook friend Georg, in a fur- culture as sensitive as it was violent. to the traveller and explorer in me, and
trimmed hat, sailed up to the site on At Viking World I boarded a replica of they have become my mentors, guides,
a Viking ship. He greeted a gaggle of a ninth-century ship and then planted and inspiration as I set off once again in
buff, bare-chested young men who were myself in front of videos that explained their wake.
flinging each other around in the Viking the secrets of Viking shipbuilding
sport of glima wrestling. He introduced and the navigational technology that MORE EVENTS ON
me to their coach, Lars Magnar allowed them to raid, conquer, and sail THE VIKING TRAIL
Enoksen, who gleefully said to me that by dead reckoning.
even eye gouging was permitted. I Then I raced to Thingvellir National THE ICELANDIC SAGAS
was relieved when Lars explained that Park, the epicentre of the Viking Who said Vikings didnt have a sense of
humour? Icelandic Sagas: The
gouging actually meant pressing on an legal system, where the worlds oldest
Greatest Hits is a 75-minute
opponents eyesmuch more civilised. existing parliament first assembled in uproarious theatrical show (in
I was gobsmacked when Lars invited A.D. 930. English) in Reykjavk that surprisingly
me to attend his evening sorcery class. Everyone back then was invited to sums up the ancient tales really well
Inside a wooden cabin I sat around attend the annual event, where the laws (icelandicsagas.com; ISK4,900/`2,840;
a crackling fire with Larss students, of the land were proclaimed aloud by a check website for dates).
learning the fine art of galdurs, or lawspeaker, who stood at the still extant
Viking incantations. Several hours later Law Rock. Alas, there was no system in UP HELLY AA
we were outside, swilling from a mead- place to enforce the Vikings subtle and Dating from the 1880s, this annual
filled horn, cajoling the powerful forces brilliant legal decisions, so they literally Viking-themed community event in
Shetland, Scotland, takes place on
of nature with our alliterative galdur. took matters into their own hands and
the last Tuesday in January. The
Once back home, when I would give used their deadly swords. highlights are a torch-lit procession
public talks, I ended them with an Murderers. Sorcerers. Storytellers. and the burning of a replica Viking
ROBERT CLARK

Old Norse galdur. And the nightstand Farmers. Traders. Adventurers. galley (uphellyaa.org; next event on
next to my bed became a repository for Inventors. Artists. Lawyers. I am January 30, 2018).
Icelandic sagas, which are masterworks haunted by this complex culture that

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Navigate | THE CO N C EPT

Under Troubled Waters


EUROPES FIRST UNDERWATER MUSEUM THROWS US IN THE DEEP END BY RUMELA BASU

XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXX

Since the installation of sculptures at Museo Atlntico in February 2016, there has been a 200 per cent increase in aquatic biomass in the
steadily growing artificial reef.

D
eep in the Atlantic Ocean, on in bringing to life the artificial reef. circular pile of 200 life-size figures,
the southern coast of Canary The Portal is an installation of a half- known as The Human Gyre. It is a
Islands Lanzarote island, lies human, half-animal figure looking into dramatic piece of work that evolves
an artists creation amid the a mirror-like surface that the artist from the idea that all life, including
waters aquatic inhabitants. The Museo imagines to be an entry to a different humans, originated in the ocean. It
Atlntico is British sculptor Jason world. Holding up the mirror is a also embodies the vulnerability of the
deCaires Taylors brainchild, one that platform created by supports that have human race when faced with the full
took three years to complete. Its exhibits little nooks which can be home to sea force and power of the ocean. To some, it
made with pH-neutral cement are not urchins, octopus, and small fish. It sits could also mean that in the conservation
only a comment on worldly affairs in the middle of what is known as the of oceans they see life coming to a full
but in due time will also create an Hybrid Garden, a collection of cacti- circleyou protect what gave you life.
artificial reef. shaped sculptures. The pyre of sticks in Museo Atlntico leaves lasting images
Visitors to this Baha de Las Immortal, also creates little pockets in the mind of a visitor swimming away PHOTO COURTESY: JASON DECAIRES TAYLOR/CACT LANZAROTE
Coloradas (Colorados Bay) attraction making it suitable habitat for marine from this underwater world to the one
have the choice of snorkelling or diving biomass. The man lying atop the pyre is above the waves.
40 feet to view this underwater world. made from the cast of a local fisherman.
Spread over 2,500 square feet, the The local community has been THE VITALS
museum has 12 exhibits comprising closely involved in the making of Museo Atlntico is located off the
about 300 figures. Every installation, Museo Atlntico. Many volunteered to coast of Baha de Las Coloradas
from Los Jolateros, which shows small have themselves used as casts for the (Colorados Bay) in the Spanish
boys on flimsy brass boatsa comment figures used in the artwork. In fact, territory of Lanzarote in the Canary
Islands. To visit the underwater
on the fragile future of the worlds the centrepiece of the museum, an
museum, one must sign up with
childrento Disconnected, a portrayal installation of 35 figures, is made using a certified diving company (www.
of our unhealthy connection with casts of locals. Named Crossing the cactlanzarote.com; diving hours
gadgets, makes a strong statement. Rubicn, it shows this group of people Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-6 p.m; snorkellers
Hidden within the poignant walking towards a wall in the middle 8/`550, divers 12/`825).
works are little details that will aid of the ocean. Another sculpture is a

32 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | OFF- S E ASO N ESCA PE

Sunny Sydney Up
DISCOVERING WINTER-TIME DELIGHTS IN THE AUSTRALIAN METROPOLIS BY ERIC ROSEN

850F 130
While many of the sights in Australias Harbour City are mm
outdoors, the countrys winter (May to September) can still
be a fabulous time to visit, thanks to generally mild weather 60 0
J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D
and that always-warm Aussie hospitality.
Average high temperature Average rainfall

Sydneys emblematic
Harbour Bridge, as
seen from the water.

ACTIVITY DINING LODGING FRANK HEUER/LAIF/REDUX (BRIDGE), TAMER KOSELI (ILLUSTRATION)


See Sydney in a New Light Theatrical Treats Starry Nights
Part outdoor art exhibit, part music festival, and Inside the Sydney Opera House, At the Langham Sydney, which
part symposium, Vivid Sydney is an annual 23-day seasonal, local ingredients have the reopened in 2015 following a
event held in May and June that draws innovators leading role at Bennelong. Seafood $30-million makeover, each of the
from all over the globe. During that time designers and is best during winter because its 98 rooms blends antique touches,
artists transform Sydneys urban landscapes into plump and sweet from the cold such as original wooden doors,
massive light installations. An extensive programme water, says executive chef Peter with contemporary amenities like
of musical performances takes place in venues Gilmore. Frequently changing winter ultra-luxe Dux beds. Be sure to take
across the city, ranging from the Opera House to tasting menus can include dishes a dip in the hotels subterranean
electric neighbourhood bars. Visitors can also like roasted John Dory fish with poolits famous ceiling depicts
purchase tickets to public discussions among some of orache, turnips, native greens, and the Southern Hemispheres night
the worlds top creative thinkers (previous speakers umami butter; or quail with plum sky with twinkling fibre-optic
include Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan jam and macadamia rubble.(www. lights for constellations. (www.
and Monocle founder Tyler Brl). bennelong.com.au; three-course langhamhotels.com; doubles from
(www.vividsydney.com.) meals from AUD130/`5,130.) AUD375/`18,300.)

34 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | UR BA N E XPLO R E R

Invest in this Capital


DERIDED FOR BEING DENSELY POPULATED, JAKARTA COULD WELL PULL IN A CROWD BY BHAVYA DORE

The citys many rooftop bars offer the best


vantage points for a view of Jakarta shimmering
by night; A bronze statue of Barack Obama as a
child (bottom) stands in the yard of the school he
attended during his six-year stay in the city.

U
nder a bridge outside Glodok, around. Clutching feverishly to the back colours, cutting-edge patterns and often
Jakartas Chinatown, I of the bike and snaking through waiting embossed with movie characters.) The
spiritedly tried to bargain cars, over bridges and through side reason I had needed one in the first
with a taxi driver a little after laneshere was a bespoke adrenaline place was because I was just coming
sundown. Two hundred thousand rush in a sprawling East Asian from the citys old townBataviathe
Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), he said, megapolis. former Dutch centre. The hulking ships
opening the proceedings. I pulled out Jakarta is panned as an over- lurk near the waters edge, and a whiff of
my notebook and began scribbling crowded, hopelessly jam-packed colonial hangover still pervades the area.
on the last page. Fifty thousand city, but its still possible to eke out To get to Sunda Kelapa, the old port,
rupiah, I wrote. This went on for some good bits from Indonesias I had to take a cycle taxi from the old
five minutes as we parried using capital. The beaches are in Bali and square, perched precariously as the old
HANAFICHI/ISTOCK (CITY), BHAVYA DORE (STATUE)

fingers, ink, and notes of Indonesias the culture is in Jogjakarta, but if cyclist pulled my weight. I deboarded
hyper-inflated currency to youre passing through Jakarta, and took a little ride around the harbour.
express ourselves. Eventually we some fun can yet be had. Fifty-thousand rupiah, began the
settled on IDR70,000/`345. The bike is of course a means whiskery boatman, as he tried to lure me
The driver was a rider, and the of transport rather than a into his little wooden vessel. The port
taxi a bike. In Jakarta they are tourist attraction, yet the ojek has none of the grandeur from times
slender Bajaj-like bikes known for the ojeks sake certainly has past, but it has a certain gravitas and
as ojeks. In the citys famously its moments. (If you really want character. Its Jakartas faint nod to its
congested highways, where traffic to go native, you should buy Dutch past. The boatman ultimately
stalls for vast swathes of time, an anti-pollution face mask prevailed, though I only parted with
the ojek is the best way to get now available in dazzling IDR20,000/`100 for a quick tour of the

36 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


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very dark grey swampy waters.


The Fatahillah square in Batavia is
somewhat more appealingit represents
the old settlement established by the
colonisers. The area was once the centre
of the Dutch East Indies and a lively
site of the bustling spice trade that
dominated the 17th and 18th centuries.
The 1.3 square kilometres of the heritage
quarter has a clutch of museums and
places to eat; though even simply
walking around is its own pleasure.
That apart, the city has a few
monuments, many are concentrated
in the centre. Monumen Nasional
(Monas), Jakartas national monument,
at the spiritual heart is a monument
commemorating the Indonesian
independence struggle, and is
determinedly minimalist. Visitors can
take an elevator to the observation
deck that offers grand views of the
city. Nearby is the impressive National
Museum of Indonesia; covering various
periods of history and showcasing
multiple cultural artefacts. (Monas,
daily 8.30 a.m.- 5 p.m.; closed last
Mon of the month; National Museum,
www.museumnasional.or.id; open
Tue-Fri 8.30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat-Sun
8.30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
However, one of the things the city is
proudest of is its association with the

KZENON/SHUTTERSTOCK (BOAT), FIGHTBEGIN/ISTOCK (MEN), DIDIONA.SHUTTERSTOCK (MONEY)


former first citizen of the United States.
At a school in the posh Menteng area is
The Indonesian rupiah (top left) has been revalued several times due to periods of economic
a statue erected in honour of its most inflation; The 500-year-old Sunda Kelapa harbour (top) was an important port for the
famous student; Barry to schoolmates, 15th-century Pajajaran kingdom as well as the Portuguese; The best way to navigate Jakartas
President Obama to everyone else. bustling roads is on a motorcycle taxi or ojek (bottom).
A young boy named Barry, says the
commemorative plaque, played with his from a suitably high vantage point. Its off from the capital than with a beer in
mother Ann in Menteng area. He grew on the 56th floor, and sits atop a mall. hand, from a vertiginously high rooftop?
up to be the 44th president of the United At night, as the bright lights in the big (www.ismaya.com; daily 4 p.m.-1 a.m.;
States and Nobel peace prize winner city come on, what better way to sign beer from IDR60,000/`290.)
Barack Obama. He spent four years
of his childhood in the country after THE VITALS
his mother married Lolo Sotero, her
Orientation Jakarta is a sprawling reasonable, air-conditioned, ply by meter,
Indonesian second husband. megapolis in northwest Java, with a and can be hailed on the spot. Ojeks, the
By the time I had arrived at the Barry population of 9.6 million. motorcycle taxis, are a speedy delight,
pilgrimage halt, I had spent my third day Getting There Singapore Airlines, and can be hailed on the spot as well.
in the capital, and was ready to hit the Malindo, Air India, all fly to Jakarta Bargaining might get you a better price.
smaller towns outside. But not before from Mumbai and Delhi with a stop at a Visa For Indian tourists, visas can be
one last stop that evening: the Skye bar Southeast Asian gateway. obtained on arrival. A 30-day single-
and restaurant. This is one among other Getting Around Blue Bird Taxis are entry visa costs $35/`2,260.
bars in the city lording over everything

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In the Eye of the Tiger


A BOAT TRIP THROUGH THE SUNDARBANS MANGROVES YIELDS MANY SECRETS
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY RIDDHI MUKHERJEE

The lush mangroves of the Sundarbans


teem with creatures big and small,
like the rhesus macaques and the
brown-winged kingfisher (bottom).

E
ver since I read Amitav Ghoshs especially my guide Mrityunjay Mondal. forward. Suddenly, about 30 feet away
The Hungry Tide as a boy, On the second day, Mrityunjay from us, behind the scraggy trees, was
Ive been fascinated with the was scanning the forest from the an immense male Bengal tiger. He let us
Sundarbans. I first visited the Sudhanyakhali watchtower with his photograph him for a leisurely 10 to 15
national park in 2015, and have been binoculars, when he spotted a rare and minutes before ambling into the forest.
back many times since. On Google elusive leopard cat. We watched the Sticking to the middle of the river, we
Maps, the mangrove forest appears as graceful feline for a few seconds before soon spotted a large female with a tawny
a small patch of green along the coast, it vanished into the forest. I also coat, who prowled along the banks
crisscrossed by veins of blue. But once managed to photograph the seldom before disappearing into the thicket.
you get to Godkhali Ghat ferry point and seen green-bellied malkoha from the Their intermittent roars continued, and
set off in a boat, the Sundarbans emerge same spot. later in the day we heard them chasing a
as an immense, mysterious jungle, Another day, we heard a tiger group of chital.
a birthplace of myths that is growling near the Panchamukhani Another evening, just as we left
ruled by tigers. Zone while sitting down to lunch. the protected area around teatime,
The boat trip I took Ignoring our food, we scanned Mrityunjay spotted two huge saltwater
on my last visit to the every inch of the mangrove crocodiles swimming towards us at an
Sundarbans yielded thicket. Suddenly, another incredible pace. Soon, they were right
some amazing tigers call pierced the air. My guide beside our boat, swimming behind each
wildlife encounters, guessed it might be a mating pair. The other or side by side. Then, amazingly,
thanks to my crew, tension grew as our boat cruised slowly the trailing crocodile gained speed,

40 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


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catching the other one by surprise. All


hell broke loose and the river turned
turbulent as the titans engaged in a
dramatic fight. I teared up in gratitude
for having witnessed this when it came
time to say my goodbyes to the crew.

EXPLORE
Because of the muddy terrain, the only
way to explore the park is by boat. Due
to safety reasons walking in the forest
is prohibited, except for around the
watchtowers, with a guide as escort.
The forest department issues dawn-
to-dusk permits for the forests various
zones: Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali,
Pirkhali, Lebu Khali, Bonbibi Varani,
Panchamukhani, Netidhopani, Dobanki,
Sarakkhali, and Choragaji. It is common
to see many other boats as well in these
open parts of the forest.
The landscapea blue sky reflected
on dark green watersdoes not vary
much between these zones, but each
has its own charm. The Sudhanyakhali
Watchtower is a well-known vantage
point, located about 25 kilometres from
Canning and accessible by boat. Visitors
can catch the sunrise and then pray for
a tiger sighting to the forest goddess
Bonbibi at a shrine located at the towers
base. At the Dobanki Watchtower, a
canopy walk allows visitors a closer
look at the mangrove vegetation and
habitat. Guided village walks are also
recommended. At sunset, visitors must
return to their resorts or specified
spots where boats can drop anchor for
the night.

WILDLIFE
Though the Bengal tiger is king of the
Sundarbans, there are many other
species of beasts and birds in this rich
habitat. Others felines include the
leopard cat, fishing cat, and jungle cat.
Chital deer, rhesus macaques, and wild
boar hide among the trees, and water
animals include otters, water monitor
lizards, Irrawaddy dolphins, Gangetic
dolphins, and saltwater crocodiles.
There are also elusive snakes and
colourful birds of all sorts.
A dedicated naturalist and wildlife
photographer can make spotting animals
much more rewarding. Way2Wild
organises nature study and photography
tours with experienced trackers and A boat safari (top and middle right) in the Sundarbans gets you a front seat to all the action,
naturalists (www.way2wild.in; `13,500 be it spotting a red-tailed bamboo pit viper (middle left) at the Sudhanyakhali watchtower, or
per person for a 2-night/3-day photo watching a vicious fight between saltwater crocodiles (bottom).

42 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | NATI O N A L PA R K

Tigers are the main draw at the Sundarbans,


a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since a large
area of the mangroves is often underwater,
these big cats are expert swimmers and can
survive on fish, crab, and other crustaceans.

tour; includes all meals, jungle cruises, boat. Boat charges range from `3,000- resort with rooms decorated with locally
and transfers to and from Kolkata). 10,000 per day depending on the craft sourced materials (www.waxpolhotel.
and the season (Nov-Jan are peak com; doubles from `4,810). West Bengal
SAFARI TIMINGS AND COSTS months). Most resorts can arrange a Governments Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge
The park is open throughout the year. boat safari; I recommend Shuvarthi in Pakhiralaya village is a good budget
August to mid-February are the more Guha (98367 11148), Gouranga Mondal option (www.wbtdc.gov.in/Static_
pleasant months to visit, and October (80177 38940), and Nitai Mondal Pages/sajnekhali_lodge.html; doubles
to January the most popular, with (97329 09545, 90910 36626) who have from `2,500).
perfect tidal conditions. The weather travelled with many photographers and
SUNDARBANS TRIVIA
gets temperamental from mid-March understand their pace.
to July. Permits can be obtained from Sundarbans has been significant
the Sajnekhali forest office. The safaris STAY ever since the Mughal era. It was first
surveyed under Akbars reign and has
usually take place from dawn to dusk. Boats The best way to enjoy the
since been an important place for
Boat permit is `400 per person for Sundarbans is to sit on a boat in the sourcing timber, honey, paraffin, salt
all other zones except the interior middle of the river with a hot cup of tea, and fish. It was under the governance of
Netidhopani zone, which is near the core listening to the stories of the naturalists the East India Company since 1756 and
area and costs `800. Visitors pay `60- and boatmen. Boats can be hired from was declared a national park in 1984.
120 depending on the season. All forest Godkhali Ghat, and most have kitchens, Around 14 per cent of its population
permits can be obtained from Sajnekhali beds, and bathrooms. of four million subsists on agriculture.
forest office which is an hour and a half Resorts Besides boat stays, resorts, The others live off the forest and
from Godkhali. too, provide packages that include river and collect honey and fish for
their livelihood.
accommodation, food, boat safaris,
In the Sundarbans, the Hindus and
GETTING THERE AND AROUND and village walks. Tora Camp situated
Muslims worship the same gods. The
The nearest airport is Kolkata, which on Bali Island provides an authentic cult of Bonbibi (the goddess of forests)
is about 100 km/3 hr north of the village experience (www.toraresort.in; and Dakshin Rai, the tiger god, are
Godkhali Ghat ferry point. From doubles from `5,883). Sundarban Tiger widely followed here.
Godkhali, the rest of the journey is by Camp, also in Dayapur, is an eco-friendly

44 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | SU PERSTRUCTU R ES

Volcanic Passion
BASALTIC DESIGN FORMATIONS MEET A MINIMALIST AESTHETIC IN REYKJAVK BY RUMELA BASU

A
rchitect Gujn Samuel However, after 40 years in the making minimalist interiors are all a reflec-
never saw the completion from 1945-1986, it is one of the citys tion of the Lutheran roots of the
of his iconic creation which landmark symbols. The church is visible church and give it a distinctly Gothic
now adorns every postcard, from almost every corner of Reykjavk design aesthetic.
poster, and magnet in Reykjavk, and hardly any visitor returns without The Hallgrmskirkja offers an
Iceland. The Hallgrmskirkja church, having visited it. unparalleled view of the city. And
at Hallgrmstorg 1, was built in honour For its imposing grand exterior, elevator through its bell tower leads to
of the saint and poet Hallgrmur the interior is rather simple. Tall grey an open-air observation deck. From
Ptursson, well-known for his work columns flank the aisle leading to the that vantage point the Hallgrmskirkja
Hymns of the Passion, a collection that altar and seem to curve into pointed feels like a sentinel quietly watching
is still played on the radio for Lent every arches creating a canopy punctuated over Reykjavk.
year. The building is not only the citys by large glass windows. In the long A statue of Leifur Eiriksson, said to be
most recognisable structure but also the rows of seats, wood and basalt-coloured the first European to discover America,
tallest church in the country. upholstery complement each other. The looks out to rooftops of waterfront
Samuel was fascinated with the most eye-catching feature inside is a homes in the distance. The houses and
shapes that formed when lava cooled pipe organ added in December 1992, lanes stretch out to meet the azure
down to basalt and envisioned a design about 50 feet tall and with 5,275 pipes. waters of an inlet of the Norwegian
for the city inspired by basalt rocks. The 25-tonne organ made by German Sea and to the viewer atop the tower,
Hallgrmskirkjas facade embodies organ builder Johannes Klaishas Reykjavk spreads out below like a
this vision. Its long, dark central tower featured in pieces by international colourful carpet.
and sloping sides resemble a gigantic concert organist Christopher Herrick. (www.hallgrimskirkja.is; Oct-May
stalagmite of cooled lava residue, one Visitors enter through stained glass- 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Jun-Sep 9 a.m.-9p.m.;
that is 245 feet tall. fitted doors to stand right below it and Sunday service 11 a.m.; tower entry
When it was first proposed, the then walk towards a small stage adults ISK900/`520, children 7-14
unconventional design raised eyebrows. beside which is the altar. The ISK100/`60.)

FOTOVOYAGER/ISTOCK

Every night, lights illuminate


the Hallgrmskirkja church and
the statue of Leifur Eiriksson,
credited for discovering
America almost 500 years
before Columbus.

46 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Navigate | HER I TAGE

Culture is Looking Up
MORE THAN ITS ARTEFACTS, THE NAPIER MUSEUM IN THIRUVANANTHAPURAM IS
WORTH VISITING FOR ITS MESMERISING CEILING BY SUDHA PILLAI

The 19th-century design of Thiruvananthapurams Napier Museum is an amalgam of Kerala, Chinese, Italian, and Mughal architecture.

S
ummers can be hot as Hades At Napier, I find myself with my mouth was designed by the English architect
in Thiruvananthapuram in agape at hand-painted frescoes on the Robert Chisholm who was sent to
Gods Own Country, except coffered ceiling of one of the oldest Trevendrum by Lord Napier,
in one place in the citythe museums in the country. the Governor General of the then
Napier Museum with its natural air Situated inside a garden spread Madras Presidency.
conditioning. Right then, though, over 55 acres, the Napier Museum Chisholm conceived a museum
standing in the middle of this landmark was established in 1857, and in 1880 based on the local architectural style.
building in the city, I could hear my the old building was demolished and However, Keralas native architecture
friends voice in my head: Dont forget a new structure built by Ayilyam has for long been influenced by the
to look up at the ceiling, he had said. Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore. It cultures of its trading partners
When you think of overwhelming Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Europeans
ceilings, you think of the Sistine Chapel I walked around the museum and so on. Hence Chisholms native
TSCREATIONZ/SHUTTERSTOCK

or the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or the and discovered art and history design was, in fact, a combination of
Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. Museums Kerala, Chinese, Italian, and Mughal
usually do not feature on the list. The in nooks and corners, roofs, architecture. It can be seen in the
only deviation is the National Gallery balconies, and ceilings. It was Gothic roof, minarets, hand-painted
of Victoria in Melbourne: its 200-foot- frescoes and extensive ornamentation
long ceiling is made of 10,000 pieces of
like finding forgotten ancestral of the museum. This dreamy, romantic,
hand-cut glass in 50 different colours. treasures in the attic and fusionistic style is known as

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 47


Navigate | HER I TAGE

Napier museums facade features many interesting minute details like oriel windows that are supported by carved wooden horse corbels (left).
Inside, the historical artefacts (bottom right) battle for attention with the vaulted ceiling adorned with handpainted frescoes (top right).

Indo-Saracenic (Saracenic is derived elegant object dart and should be viewed a cornucopia of colours; as exciting
from the word Saracen, an archaic singularly without any distractions. I and eye-popping as a chilled glass of
name for Muslims given by the British). concur. For the next couple of hours, falooda on a hot summer afternoon.
Also known as Indo-Gothic, it was the the rare artefacts, idols, carvings, coins, Wide balconies flank the central hall
style of architecture used by British and paintings in the museum became at both ends, and they are supported
architects in late 19th century India. invisible to me. Craning my neck by wooden corbels that have intricately
It drew elements from native Indian upwards, I walk around the museum to carved yalis or dragons. Stained-glass
architecture and combined it with discover art and history in nooks and windows stipple the walls throwing
the Gothic revival style favoured in corners, arches, balconies, and ceilings. up magnificent play of light. The ledge
Victorian Britain. But even with so It was like finding forgotten ancestral above the doors carries the statues and
many styles and influences in play, treasures in the attic. Riches wrapped carved figurines of goddesses. Floral
Napier Museum did not end up a in fables and fantasies, waiting to reveal motifs embellish the friezes on the
mish-mash of a museum. Only to the themselves to those who come looking. walls. These are interspersed with the
destitute of vision, the museum might The museum has three massive halls design of Valmpuri shankhu or the
be a garish amalgamation. connected by long corridors. The walls conch shell of Lord Vishnuthe deity
Aeons ago, a visitor told a curator are stripedin pink, blue, yellow, and of the royal family of Travancore and
SUDHA PILLAI

of the Napier Museum: I suggest cherry red. They augment the scalloped also the royal insignia.
you remove all the artefacts from this arches in banana yellow colour with By now, there should be a crick in
building. Because the building itself is an red, white and pink latticework. It is my neck. But I dont feel it as I get

48 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


caught up in all the action above. The decorated railing or cresting along during the summer season, I am told.
museums vaulted ceiling has hand- the ridge of the roof where it is bound The Napier Museum with its Gothic
painted panels, beams, and cross-beams to go unnoticed and unappreciated? structure, high arches, intricately carved
in teakwood with muted gold-coloured From this vantage point, I could see the balustrades, hand-painted frescos and
inlays that sparkle in the light. Oriental extensively decorated pediments of the stone ornamentations stands testimony
frescoes of flowers and leaves in yellow, gable roof. There are also bargeboards to a cultural sharing from aeons ago. I
red, green and earthy colours contrast or decorative woodwork on the rafters have always wondered why some of the
the wooden braggers of dragons projecting from the roof. The soffits most famous artworks in the world were
supporting the painted beams. The are in terracotta, stone, and wood. The high up on the ceilings of monumental
colours on the frescoes seem to change building is dotted with oriel windows, structures. What was the purpose? I
with the light of the day. The frescoes, supported by richly carved corbels discovered that the act of looking up
which have been painted using natural and tassels in the form of mythical could lead to an uplifting experience.
vegetable dyes have withstood the test horses. This is a characteristic feature I am glad I listened to my friend and
of time and remain, one of the chief often seen in Victorian and Arab looked up.
attractions of the museum. (mashrabiyya) architecture.
I wind my way up the dusty, neglected It is blazing hot outside, but I am THE VITALS
narrow stairway to the top of one of yet to break a sweat while walking up Getting There The Napier Museum
the four watchtowers. At the end of and down inside the museum. The is on L.M.S Vellayambalam Road
it is a breathtaking aerial view of the famed natural air cooling of Napier in Thiruvananthapurams Kanaka
museum and the city beyond. The roof Museum is at work. The museum has Nagar. It is 3 km away from the
resembles a well-constructed abstract double walls with ventilators, which Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway
work or an exciting board game. A trap the hot air, tempering it before Station and 9 km from the airport.
closer look reveals the ornamental allowing it to flow into the museum, Open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday,
Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
stone projections of the gable roof. It providing a cooling effect without any
Wednesdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; closed
is truly an artisans labour of love. modern air conditioners. Understan- on Mondays.
Otherwise, how does one explain the dably, footfalls to the museum increase

SUDHA PILLAI

Despite soaring temperatures outside, the natural air-conditioning system of the museum ensures the interiors are always cool.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 49


Navigate | S M A RT C I TI ES

Maximum City
FUTURISTIC LIBRARIES, OPEN-AIR MUSEUMS, AND AVANT-GARDE RESTAURANTS: THE DANISH CITY
OF AARHUS LOVES TO SPRING A SURPRISE BY ADAM H. GRAHAM

S
ituated about 160 kilometres
northwest of Copenhagen,
Aarhus has been designated
a 2017 European Capital
of Culture, and both the city and the
central Denmark region received the
title of the 2017 European Region of
Gastronomy. To see it now is to witness
a city undergoing a transformation,
as new food markets, light-rail links,
futuristic libraries, refurbed hotels,
and value-centric restaurantsan
alterna-tive to Copenhagens exorbi-
tant priceshave reinvigorated this
Danish city.
But Aarhuss makeover has been in
the works for the past several years. In
2009 it announced plans to go carbon
neutral by 2030, and it has stayed on
track since. The city has evaluated
70-plus new technologies to determine
which will have the biggest impact on
carbon reduction.
Most of all, its presenting a variety of
ways to experience its charms, both new
and old.

EAT!
Food Fit for Vikings and Visitors
Last August, Aarhus Street Food
market opened in a former bus garage
with around 20 vendors offering options
such as grilled cheese with truffled
vesterhavsost (a Danish Gouda), bao buns
stuffed with beef and kimchi, and spicy
Nigerian stews (aarhusstreetfood.com;
open daily, check website for timings).
Bryggeriet Sct. Clemens restaurant and
brewery, located on the site of a Viking-
age combmakers workshop, serves
turbot with apple butter and fennel,
dry-aged steaks, and hoppy pilsners
(bryggeriet.dk; turbot DKK295/`2,710;
open daily; check website for timings).
Aarhus has three Michelin-starred spots,
but eco-bistro Pondus was one of two
to receive the Bib Gourmand, awarded
to restaurants serving quality food at
The 150-metre-long rainbow-coloured
reasonable costs. Daily specials include glass walkway known as Your rainbow
goat cheese with lemon and walnut and panorama is not only an architectural
JULIAN BROAD

silky cod soups (restaurantpondus.dk; feature but also a permanent art


set menu from DKK295/`2,710; open installation at the ARoS art museum.
daily 5.30-11 p.m.).

50 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


STAY!
Coastal Views, Modern Comforts
Rest up on a quiet beach along a stretch of
sandy Jutland coast at Marselis Hotel, a
mid-century Aarhus respite that faces the
calm Kattegat Sea (www.helnan.dk/en;
doubles from DKK1,250/`11,500). For
those whod rather be downtown, try the
Hotel Oasia, near Rdhusparken (City Hall
Park), where 65 design-forward rooms are
fitted with custom furniture from Danish
makers like Montana and Kjrholm
(www.hoteloasia.com; doubles from
DKK895/`8,235). The newly revamped
First Hotel Atlantic overlooks the citys
bustling harbour and the walled Aarhus
River (www.firsthotels.com; doubles from
DKK1,004/`9,235).

PLAY!
Architectural Amusement Park
Mounted atop a dock at the edge of the
harbour, Dokk1 is a heptagonal library
that opened in 2015. The mixed-use
facility is the largest public library in
Scandinavia and hosts cultural events
ranging from 3-D printing demos to table
tennis meet-ups (dokk1.dk; library open
Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-
4 p.m.). The wedge-shaped exterior of
Moesgaard, an archaeology museum,

JULIAN BROAD (WOMAN), QUINTIN LAKE (TOWER), JULIAN BROAD (RESTAURANT), CHRISTIAN GOUPI/AGE FOTOSTOCK/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (CARRIAGE).
protrudes from the ground like an
excavated relic. Its galleries house the
2,000-year-old Grauballe Man, a famed
bog body discovered in Denmark in 1952,
and interpretive displays on the Vikings
and the Bronze and Iron Ages (www.
moesgaardmuseum.dk; Monday closed;
check website for timings; entry 23 Oct-
7 Apr adults DKK120/`1,100, 8 Apr-
22 Oct adults DKK140/`1,290; visitors
under 17 free). And in 2017, ARoS,
Aarhuss massive art museum, will receive
an open dome extension designed by
American artist James Turrell (en.aros.dk;
Monday closed; check website for timings;
entry adults over 28 DKK130/`1,195,
adults under 28 DKK100/`920, visitors
under 18 free).

SHOP!
Cultural and Creative Souvenirs
Den Gamle By is a living recreation of an
old town, playing up several of Denmarks
historical periods. The 1864 Merchants
House still hawks timber and porcelain,
while 1920s chain store Schous Sbehus
sells perfumes and washing flakes
(www.dengamleby.dk; open daily; check
website for timings; entry adults from
DKK110/`1,000, children under 17 free).
For one-off designs of divider screens,
The stairs of the Moesgaard Museum (top left) have seven hominin sculptures depicting the tea cozies, and pillows, head to 1+1 Textil,
origin of humans; Hotel Royal (top right), opened in 1838, is one Aarhuss iconic landmarks; The which sells avant-garde Danish craftwork
Salling Tower (middle) offers a 360 view of the harbour and city; At Den Gamle By or The Old (www.1x1textil.dk; Sunday closed; check
Town, you can ride a horse-drawn carriage (bottom) and see buildings from the 16th century. website for timings).

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 51


Navigate | M Y C I TY

Like Russian Dolls


DISCOVERING TRADITIONAL CUISINE AND HIDDEN HAUNTS IN MOSCOW BY JEFFREY TAYLER

S
eeing the Kremlin at night
Built in the mid-1500s, always enthralls me, even
St. Basils Cathedral in after my 23 years in Moscow.
Red Square is one of
Moscows most iconic
The vista of brick towers and
structures; Delicatessen crenellated ramparts, so magnificent
(bottom right) is a cocktail as to appear unreal, calls to mind an
bar and restaurant popular illuminated print from an old book of
with young Muscovites.
fairy tales.
My sighting of Russias most famous
(or infamous) fortress comes as my cab
trundles over the Bolshoy Kamenny
Bridge, through air shimmering with a
fierce frost. Gusts of wind stir snowdrifts
along the banks of the Moskva River
below us. No less the seat of power
now, during the era of Vladimir Putin,
than it was in Ivan the Terribles day
(or Stalins), the Kremlin evokes, for
me, a mix of dread and majestythe
emotions I experienced as a child of the
Cold War when I both feared Russia (I
lived in Washington, D.C., aka ground
zero) and marvelled at it. My fascination
led to graduate studies in Russian and
East European history, to my first visit
in 1985, and to a move here for good in
the summer of 1993. In 1999 I married a
Russian. Moscow is the city I call home.
The Kremlin, a walled citadel with five
palaces and five churches, looms on my
right as we shoot past vast Red Square,
presided over by St. Basils Cathedral,

NADIA ISAKOVA/AWL IMAGES (CATHEDRAL), CEDRIC ANGELES/INTERSECTION PHOTOS (WOMEN)

52 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


with its candy cane cupolas. We drive by
the State Duma (parliament), faceless
and modern (and totally subservient
to President Putin). Then comes
Lubyanka Square and another bunker
of a building, today housing the KGBs
successor, the FSB. Here one August
night in 1991, crowds of Russians
cheered as cranes dismantled the statue
of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the blood-soaked
founder of the Soviet secret police.
Those were promising days, when
real democratic change in Russia
seemed possible. These days, Western
sanctions threaten the highest living
standard Russians have ever known.
For all but dollar- and euro-bearing
travellers (feeling blessed by the roubles
devaluation), now should be a cheerless
time in Moscow. But its not.
My cab leaves me at a restaurant near
Lubyanka, Ekspeditsiya (expedition).
Its crowded, loud with folk songs sung
by a group of musicians and customers
clinking glasses and toasting. I have
come for lively conversation and
traditional Russian cuisine; since the
fall of the Soviet Union more than
two decades ago, Russian cooking has
become something of a rarity in Moscow,
at least outside peoples homes. (Most
top restaurants are international.)
Im joined by Irina, a Muscovite
friend who staunchly defends Putin.
The evening promises to be interesting.
Over drinks and cedar nuts, Irina
enlightens me.
Russians, she says, have always
been conquering wild country. We
are always ready to light out for the
wilderness, even in subzero frosts. We

JEREMY NICHOLL PHOTOGRAPHY (GIANT DOLLS), FRANK HEUER/LAIF/REDUX (STORE)


need difficulties to thrive. That is just
who we are.
Settling wildernesses also meant eating
unpalatable things, including some
delicacies on our menusmarinated
moose with cabbage, grilled reindeer
Supersize matryoshka dolls (top) at Afimall shopping centre are an example of the role art and
tongue with cowberry sauce. I choose design play in this historic city; A temple to gourmet foods since 1901 (and renovated in 2004),
a safe favourite, pelmeni (dumplings), the neo-baroque Eliseevsky emporium (bottom) specializes in caviar and other delicacies.
specifically Siberian pelmeni stuffed with
deer meat and smothered in delicious Club Mayak now serves as a low-key official ban on such goods, I ask Irina
smetana, or sour cream. We wash the gathering place for some of Moscows what the future holds.
meal down with a half litre of vodka, best known actors, writers, and We went through World War II and
which we drink straight, the Russian way. journalists. With a red-walled interior, we won, she replies. I am not worried.
The next time we meet, it is at Club careworn furniture, and sepia-tinted Im feeling a bit less sanguine. But
Mayak, a restaurant in the middle of lighting, there are no pretensions here I do know this: Whatever happens in
Old Moscow, a web of lanes winding (www.clubmayak.ru; glass of wine Russia, its fate will be decided, one
between low stucco houses dating from a from RUB200/`230) way or another, here in Moscowa
century or two ago. Once the dining area Over some wine and a plate of fact that continues to fuel this citys
of the Mayakovsky theatre next door, European cheeses, served despite an indomitable spirit.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 53


Navigate | ROAD TR I P

The Painted Hills of John


Day Fossil Beds National
Monument illuminate the
central Oregon landscape.

When High and Dry


COMING AROUND THE BEND IN CENTRAL OREGON, U.S.A BY JULIAN SMITH

O
regon in northwest U.S.A. and sparsely populated. This three-day Bend, as one of the birthplaces of
has more than its fair share itinerary out of the city of Bend explores modern sport climbing in the United
of craggy coastline and Oregons sublime high desert country, States. Even if youre a climbing novice,
dense, mossy forest. So its where the vistas are broad and the skies its hard not to be impressed with
MARC ADAMUS

easy to forget that once you get east tell stories all their own. the cliffs of volcanic tuff and basalt
of the snow-capped Cascades Range, Rock climbers know Smith Rock soaring above the aptly named Crooked
a good chunk of the state is high, dry, State Park, 42 kilometres north of River. Theres a walk-in campsite

54 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Oregons fiery origins are
etched in its jagged Cascades
skylineand also in an active
Newberry shield volcano
thats a little smaller
than Delhi
Its a longer drive to the Painted Hills,
137 kilometres northeast of Bend, but
the sight of late-afternoon light on the
kaleidoscopically coloured slopes is
something youll never forget. Theyre
one of three scattered units of the John
Day Fossil Beds National Monument,
where 40 million years of plant and
animal evolution have been preserved
in stone and soil. The nearby Thomas
Condon Paleontology Center houses
exhibits and a working lab where
researchers pore over one of the most
complete fossil records on Earth.
10 Barrel Brewing Company in Bend, Oregon, serves six kinds of microbrews on tap. A cold brew may seem like a mirage
after the desert, but luckily Bend has
and an extensive trail network, the south of Bend, where you can drive to more craft breweries per capita than
12.3-kilometre Summit Trail Loop, the top of the perfect cinder cone of anywhere else in this beer-crazy state
open to hikers and bikers, that winds Lava Butte for views of a 7,000-year-old which is about one for every 4,500
along the river before climbing almost lava flow. From there its a five-minute residents at last count, and thats not
a thousand feet. For a closer look drive to Lava River Cave, where a 1.6 including distilleries or cideries. The
at climbers in action, take the 1.6- kilometre-long trail leads down into the Bend Ale Trail connects ten breweries
kilometre-long trail up and over Misery darkness. (Bring warm clothes for the within about a kilometre of downtown,
Ridge. Keep an eye out for river otters at underground chill; you can rent lamps at including two by Deschutes Brewery,
the bottom and golden eagles up high. the trailhead.) Another 45 minutes drive the granddaddy of them all. Most offer
In the piny forest 13 kilometres south south is the 44-square-kilometre caldera food on site, like the Crux Fermentation
of Bend, the High Desert Museum itself, now filled with two large lakes Project, with a wide lawn, picnic tables,
offers a concise but in-depth overview instead of molten lava. Here youll find and a taco stand out back. (Their
of central Oregons natural and human trailheads to 7,984-foot Paulina Peak Doublecross Strong Dark Belgian Ale
history. Resident critters include and the Big Obsidian Flow, an under packs a tasty punch.) If you would rather
porcupines, a bobcat, a Gila monster, two-kilometres-long hike sprinkled with not drive, take a guided tour by bus
and two river otters. Check the daily black volcanic glass. or cycle pub, a 14-passenger, pedal-
schedule for raptor flight powered rolling bar.
demonstrations and With a full day of volcano
activities at the Miller hiking and an evening of

THOMAS PATTERSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX (BAR), NG MAPS (MAP)


Thomas
Family Ranch, where Painted Hills Condon sipping local suds, youll
re-enactors explain life on Paleontology need to unwind in the hot
Center
the frontier at a model of tub at the Oxford Hotel, a
Deschutes

a 1904 homestead and an JOHN DAY 26 boutique eco-hotel in the


authentic sawmill. Smith Rock FOSSIL BEDS heart of historic downtown
26
State Park NATIONAL
Oregons fiery origins MONUMENT Bend. All 59 rooms face
are etched in its jagged south for maximum
Cascades skylineand 97 Cr sunlight, with French press
o oke
d
also in an active Newberry Bend
coffeemakers and cruiser
shield volcano thats bikes available to guests
a little smaller than Lava High Desert Museum they even have loaner
Lands Portland
Delhi. Start your visit Visitor AREA
guitars, if youre feeling
NEWBERRY NATIONAL
to Newberry National Center VOLCANIC MONUMENT ENLARGED so inclined. Some suites
Volcanic Monument at OREGON have kitchenettes, steam
Paulina Peak 10 mi
the Lava Lands Visitor 97 7,984 ft showers, and balconies with
2,434 m 10 km
Center, 13 kilometres views of the Cascades.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 55


SMART TRAVELLER
56 58
checking in checking in
Exploring an Australian guest Spectacular lodges, romantic resorts,
house with a wild, green heart and historic hotels around the world

Built using mud brick and timber,


the Great Ocean Ecolodge is off the
grid, drawing energy from the sun,
and harvesting water from the rain.

Conserve Their Energy


COSY UP WITH TIGER QUOLLS AT THE GREAT OCEAN ECOLODGE IN AUSTRALIA | BY SONAL SHAH

I
woke up to sunlight streaming into Each room is named for an animal habitat restoration programmes.
my room through large French home, and the ethos of the guest house However, nothing about it felt like an
windows. Within minutes, a strong is that it should sit as lightly on its afterthought as I stepped into the cosy
wind buffeted the leaves of a gum 165-acre surroundings as any burrow main area full of books and birds nests.
tree outside, bringing with it clouds or nest. In fact, for owners Lizzie Corke A wood-stove heated the sitting room,
rolling in from the coast of Cape and Shayne Neal, the rustic lodge is with a chimney that carried warmth
PHOTO COURTESY: MARK CHEW

Otway in southern Victoria, towards secondary to the Conservation Ecology to other parts of the house. Resisting
the Otway mountains. Moments later, Centre they founded here in 2000, as the temptation to sit next to the fire, I
the sky was overcast, then pouring. recent graduates. followed Shayne outside instead.
I huddled into my blankets, feeling The lodge, which is solar-powered The sun shone briefly over a field
as snug as a possum in a hollow and runs on rainwater, opened in behind the lodge, where a mob of
appropriately the name of my room 2004 to fund the conservation centres eastern grey kangaroos grazed,
at the Great Ocean Ecolodge. research, wildlife rehabilitation, and bounding silently towards the cover

56 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


of a stand of trees as we neared. At the trained dog-owners to gather data well as their herbaceous food sources.
entrance to a forested area, a koala related to sightings. If you deal with the apex predator,
slept, hugging a manna gum tree This also has the effect of spreading Shayne said, there are follow-on effects
branch. As I followed Shayne into information about tiger quolls, which for other species.
the forest, it began drizzling again, helps fundraising efforts. It is human Leaving the animals to sleep in
the rain dripping off musty brown nature, Shayne said, people need peace, we turned towards the warmth
stringy bark and messmate trees, to be able to see them. At the top of of the lodge. The fire was roaring, and
onto the lush undergrowth. Shayne the native food chain, the tiger quoll breakfast had been laid out, with flaky
described the burn cycle of this was once an important stabilising croissants, home-made cereals, and
ecosystem, and about the erstwhile force in the local ecosystem, and jams. If the tiger quolls feel even half
Aboriginal fire regime, which created could be key to understanding the as well provided for, theyll hopefully
mosaics of new and old forest, population dynamics of its prey, as stick around a long time yet.
attracting different species.
The species at the heart of the
centres recent conservation work is
the tiger quoll, or spotted quoll. The
largest marsupial predator on main-
land Australia, it is a bit smaller than
its island cousin, the Tasmanian devil.
We circled back to an enclosure, which
houses two tiger quolls, both sheltering
from the rain when we arrived. Lifting
up a hollow log, Shayne revealed a large
brown marsupial, with its distinctive
white spots.
Once thought to be to locally extinct
in the Otways, this top apex predator
has been sighted a few times in the
region over the past couple of years.
Well camouflaged, solitary, and mostly
nocturnal, quolls are difficult to study
in the wild. Catching them requires
sedation, as their jaws, second in
strength only to the Tasmanian devil,
could take your fingers off. Instead,
the centre has trained local dogs to
scent quoll scat, using them to find
the animals communal pit-stops, and

THE VITALS
Accommodation The two-storey
Great Ocean Ecolodge has five country Conservation Ecology Centre - Conservation and Research Assistant
chic rooms, some of which have feeding orphaned Swamp Wallaby - credit Mark Watson.
sundecks. The en-suite bathrooms

PHOTO COURTESY: LUCIA GRIGGI (TIGER QUOLL), SONAL SHAH (BOOKS & JAM)
are simple but luxurious, and the
rooms have basic amenities like coffee
and tea, and desks (no televisions).
Meals incorporate produce from the
lodges kitchen gardens. Continental
breakfast is included and other meals
can be booked along with rooms
(greatoceanecolodge.com; doubles
from AUD380/`18,550, minimum
two-night stay; includes breakfast and a
guide walk at dusk).

Getting There The Great Ocean


Ecolodge is located just over 200 km
southwest of Melbourne, a 3.5-hr trip
via the scenic Great Ocean Road, along The endangered tiger quoll (top) is distinguished by his spotted tail; Little jars of homemade
the route to the iconic 12 Apostles. jams (bottom right) accompany breakfast at the Great Ocean Ecolodge; The guest house is full
of illustrated nature books and curios (bottom left).

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 57


Smart Traveller | C HEC KI N G I N

Making Room
THESE SPECTACULARLY SITUATED LODGES, ROMANTIC RESORTS, REVIVED HISTORIC HOTELS,
AND NEIGHBOURHOOD HUBS NOW INSPIRE US TO TRAVEL | BY ELAINE GLUSAC
EPIC VIEWS a perfect base for game drives to spot saturate the sea-to-sky views from
PANORAMIC WINDOWS ONTO elephants, buffalo, zebras, and leopards Le Barthlemy Hotel, on St. Barths
THE WORLD (www.asiliaafrica.com; doubles from Grand Cul-de-Sac beach (www.
The canvas domed tents at Asilias The $430/`27,730; rates vary according lebarthelemyhotel.com; doubles from
Highlands perch on the forested slopes to season; includes all meals, selected 576/`39,450; includes breakfast, water
of a volcano in Tanzanias Ngorongoro hikes, game drives, and transfers to/ sports, and transfers to/from airport or
Crater area. The sustainable lodge is from Manyara airstrip). Shades of blue harbour). At Amanemu, private terraces

Geodesic tents at Asilias


The Highlands, in Tanzania offer
ASILIA

the wildest views.

58 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


Guests in the Great Room in
Timber Cove, California, can
kick back beside the fireplace
and enjoy their extensive vinyl
record collection.

and onsen hot baths overlook forested (www.timbercoveresort.com; doubles with the indie Marfa Book Company
islets and oyster rafts in Japans Bay from $255/`16,450). The Beekman in Texas (doubles from $215/`13,900).
of Pearls (www.aman.com; doubles transformed a 19th-century building Local acts perform at the music club
from JPY1,10,000/`65,116; suites into Lower Manhattans destination at the Ace Hotel New Orleans, a
have private onsen baths). Explora hotel, thanks partly to the soaring nine- community magnet in the Warehouse
Valle Sagrado, in Peru, looks upand story atrium lobby (www.thebeekman. District (www.acehotel.com; doubles
aroundto a ring of serrated Andean com; doubles from $399/`25,730). from $112/`7,200). The Williamsburg
peaks (www.explora.com; doubles from The reopened Hotel Royal Savoy, in Hotel loans bikes for exploring
$3,244/`2,10,000 for 3 nights; includes Lausanne, restored its art nouveau Brooklyn (www.thewilliamsburghotel.
meals, transfers to/from airport and exterior and appended a state-of-the- com; doubles from $18,830 ), while
railway station, all exploration tours). art Swiss spa (www.royalsavoy.ch; Chicagos The Robey opens doors to
On the urban flip side, majestic Table doubles from CHF350/`22,450). The the arty Wicker Park neighbourhood
Mountain fills the floor-to-ceiling historic Pulitzer Hotel, in Amsterdam, (www.therobey.com; doubles from
windows at The Silo, in Cape Town, added a courtyard sculpture garden, $195/`12,500). FOUND:RE Phoenix,
South Africa (www.theroyalportfolio. giant swings, and themed suites (www. which doubles as a gallery for area
com; doubles from ZAR12,000/`57,500; pulitzeramsterdam.com; doubles from artists, embodies the Arizona citys
includes breakfast and entry to Zeitz 314/`21,500). downtown revival (www.foundrehotels.
Museum of Contemporary Art Africa com; doubles from $101/`6,500).
opening September 2017). WHEN IN AMERICA
TRENDY SPOTS WHERE TRAVELLERS LOVERS CORNERS
REVIVED ROYALTY AND LOCALS HANG OUT HIDEAWAYS FOR ROMANCE
GRAND HOTELS WITH The Tilden Hotel, in San Franciscos The barrel-vaulted, 16th-century chapel
FRESH MAKEOVERS Tenderloin district, brings in local poets at Masseria Trapan, in southern Italy,
Timber Cove, a 1963 Frank Lloyd and artists for rotating residencies provides a cosy setting for making
STACI MARENGO

Wrightinspired lodge, features (www.tildenhotel.com; doubles or renewingvows (www.trapana.


new redwood-decked suites from$279/`18,000). Hotel Saint George com; doubles from). Sandals Royal
overlooking Californias Sonoma coast shares an addressand a clever vibe Caribbean, in Jamaica, introduces

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 59


Smart Traveller | C HEC KI N G I N

OLIVIER LEROI/LE BARTHLEMY HOTEL & SPA (POOL), NICOLAS SCHUYBROEK ARCHITECTS & MARC MERCKS INTERIORS/COURTESY OF GRUPO HABITA (CITY)
luxury South Pacificstyle over-the-
water villaswith outdoor showers
and glass floors for viewing marine
lifeto the region (www.sandals.
com;doubles from $1025/`66,100).
Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa, in
Californias Laguna Beach, offers
colourful, intimate rooms at a 1920s
former artist colony dotted with
palm trees (www.casalaguna.com;
doubles from $229/`14,750; the
Garden rooms have a private curated
library). On an island located in
the Maldives Noonu Atoll, Soneva
Jani features over-the-water villas
with retractable roofs for stargazing
(www.soneva.com; villas from
$2,088/`1,35,000). In Mexico,
Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera
Maya fronts white sands ideal for
beachcombing, with sleek rooms
that look onto tropical gardens,
a clear lagoon, or the Caribbean
Sea (mayakoba.andaz.hyatt.com;
Stay cool at The Robeys rooftop (bottom) in Chicago; Le Barthlemys pool in St. Barths (top) doubles from $350/`22,550).

60 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


IN FOCUS
62 70 82
macao karnataka denmark
The citys Latin parade is a Mythology gets colourful and trippy The Hans Christian Andersen
surreal introduction to its history at Coorgs Dasara float show festival brings fantasies to life

HIMANSHU ROHILLA

96
Alibaug, Maharashtra

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 61


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

FANTASTIC

Beasts
AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Macaos vibrant Latin City parade is
a surreal introduction to its history

By Diya Kohli
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62 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


M ACAO

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Macaos annual parade sees


VAKIL

over 50 crews from Macao,


mainland China, Latin America,
AMIT

as well as Europe.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 63


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

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The Ruins of St. Paul includes a


Jesuit complex as well as the facade
of the 17th-century Mater Dei church,
one of the most iconic structures of
Macao. This forms an apt backdrop
for the theatrics of the parade.

64 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


A
M ACAO

Native American
chief complete with his feathered war
bonnet was standing two feet from
me posing for a selfie with a Chinese
grandma, beaming in spite of two missing
front teeth. Across him, two beautiful
boisterous ladies in their big hooped
skirts were bantering with a petite fellow
who had a giant Venezuelan flag draped
over his shoulders. I pinched my arm to
make sure that I was really wide awake
and standing in a hotel lobby in Macao. It
seemed like the perfect surreal beginning
to the day of Macaos Latin City parade.
Macao is a Janus-faced city, with one face turned towards its
past and the other towards a glittering future. Since my arrival I
had done the regulation sightseeing tours, museum visits, even
an obligatory Cotai Strip casino tour. However, it was the parade
that brought it all together for me. The mixed crews with their
vibrant costumes and multitude of languages seemed to be in
sync with the citys multifaceted identity. As the day unspooled
through colour and music, what amazed me the most was the
gusto with which the event celebrated the regions cosmopoli-
tanism and its Portuguese, Chinese, and Macanese heritage.
A view from the top made the parade look like the sparkly
trail of a giant comet. And as I followed a train of strange and
beautiful creatures, from the ruins of St. Pauls to Tap Siac
Square, I ended up collecting bits of Macaos past like pieces of
confetti saved after the last wedding hurrah.

The Countdown
The Portuguese arrived on Macaos shores in the 1550s and over
the centuries, they left an indelible impression on the regions
cultural identity right up until they finally left in 1999. The
first Desfile Por Macao, Cidade Latina (Latin City parade), was
ASHIMA NARAIN

held in 2011, and has since continued as an annual event that


commemorates the citys handover from Portugal to China.
Interestingly, what the parade celebrates is the melding of the

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 65


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

two cultures. Performers from Latin American countries as well rade. They were the brainchild of local artist Un Chi Wai, and
as Mainland China and Macao showcase an array of dances, included the Mottled Flying Fish, the Torch Dragon, and the
traditions, costumes, and art forms ranging from the traditional towering Hairy People.
to the wildly inventive. A post-dinner walk just the night before the parade turned
I had landed in Macao three days before the event and the disastrous as my phone sputtered and died taking with it a
place was already thrumming with impending festivities. map back to my hotel. After an hour and a half of following my
Distant drumbeats and clashing cymbals interrupted my single- instinct and limping from a bloody shoe bite, I realised that I
minded focus on food as I queued up for a pork chop bun at a was irrevocably lost. After many wrong turns, it was another
street kiosk. Exploring the narrow streets around the imposing parade icon, the daunting three-headed Qiyu Bird at the corner
Ruins of St. Paul, I spotted girls in spangly costumes and boys of a public square, which helped me finally reorient and return
cradling traditional lion head masks like warrior helmets of to my hotel room. And thereafter in my walks around Macao, it
yore. There were men at work around Senado Square, setting was this motley crew from Shan Hai Jings universe that helped
up a stage and decorations. This beautiful square with its iconic guide my way.
Portuguese pavements, skin care boutiques with candy-coloured
displays, pastelarias selling traditional snacks, and fast food Crossing the Time Gate
kiosks is a vibrant pinwheel. It is part of the Historic Centre of There are many marvellous places and all manner of imaginary
Macao which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. beasts listed in Shan Hai Jing and I join the thronging crowds at
Here, ancient Chinese temples lie cheek by jowl with churches the foot of the Ruins of St. Pauls, waiting for them to appear. It is
and western custard-filled tarts get a local eggy spin. In this part one of those days where the sky is the shade of cornflowers, and
of downtown Macao, East and West do meet, and all around me the light is dappled with sunrays streaming through the many
there are signs of this synergy between the cultures, right down arched windows of the Madre de Deus churchs massive stone
to the Portuguese-style mosaic pavement under my feet. facade. This is one of the most notable structures of Macao,
In the run up to the parade, there was a little bit of magic part of the 17th-century St. Pauls Jesuit college complex which
thrown into the mix. Vividly coloured life-sized models of odd was an important centre of western education and arts in this
little creatures graced street corners. These fantastical charac- part of the world. Although the complex was destroyed in a fire
ters were drawn from the Chinese fantasy epic Shan Hai Jing in 1835, the baroque facade of the church and the stone steps
(Classic of Mountains and Seas)the theme for this years pa- remained intact and continue to endure as Macaos most iconic

There are numerous tableaux on


parade day and they reference
traditional as well as modern pop
culture. There is a whole gamut of
performances featuring everything
from a herd of zombies to this group
of characters from a Chinese opera.

RAJKUMAR MATHIALAGAN

66 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


M ACAO

And the quiet afternoon bursts around us like a


thousand piatas as crew after crew in dazzling
costumes, dance their way down the steps to a
frenetic soundtrack of drums and cheers
tourist spot. This complex is flanked by the Mount Fortress the magnificent dance of the lions begins. They are green, black,
which houses the Macao Museum, an excellent repository of the and white, tall, sinuous, and fierce. Each lion comprises two
life and culture of the diverse communities of the city. dancers, the body and the head, who move as a single organism
The clock strikes four and VIVA, the mascot of the Macao to the beat of a gong and drums. These energetic band of
parade emerges at the top of the church steps. As he starts multicoloured cats lead the way down from Senado Square
descending, he literally crosses over a time gatea portal from through Rua de Sao Domingos past the cheery yellow baroque
21st century Macao to the magical world of Shan Hai Jin. In church of St. Dominic, dating back to the late 16th century.
his wake, come the paraders from far corners of the world. They The parade snakes past a lovely little bookshop, the Livraria
are the dragons, the goddesses, beasts from Africas savannah, Portuguesa, which has a wonderfully curated collection of books
giant serpents, puppets, acrobats, clowns, robots, and more. on Macanese history, culture, food, and customs along with
Thousands of onlookers including me are gathered at the head some nifty maps, graphic novels, and souvenirs. I cross at least
of the citys Rua de Sao Paulo to witness this moment. And the ten outlets of the Koi Kei pastelaria and each one is milling with
quiet afternoon bursts around us like a thousand piatas as crew crowds. This bakery specialises in traditional snacks, and beef
after crew in dazzling costumes, dance their way down the steps and pork jerky in myriad flavours. Enthusiastic attendants tempt
to a frenetic soundtrack of drums and cheers. passers-by with generous samplers of their delicious products.

The Lions of Senado Square Case of the Drunken Dragons


Meanwhile, there is another prong of the parade that starts at Back near the ruins, the drama continues as characters from
Senado Square and joins up with St. Pauls brigade. Not wanting a Chinese opera descend the stairs. Young girls dressed as
to miss a single moment, I tail a couple of intrepid photographers matadors twirling their red capes with panache follow a train of
who take it upon themselves to weave through the sea of heads adolescent boys carrying a giant serpent. Suddenly the air grows
to make their way back to this point. I find myself behind a dank with the sharp smell of rice wine. Old men stumble down
line of whistle-tooting girl scouts who have been roped in for the stairs dancing, or rather reenacting an ancient myth where a
crowd control. The majestic 18th-century Leal Senado building village is saved from the plague by a magical dragon. The group
towers above the stage that has been constructed for the event. comprises old men and young boys carrying wooden heads and
Originally the seat of the Portuguese government, today the tails of dragons, and pots of wine. They drink and spit into the
sprawling two-storey neoclassical structure houses a public air to ward off evil spirits and propitiate Lord Buddha. A lot of
library specialising in foreign languages and Portuguese history, the wine clearly makes its way into the gullet of the dancers and
and offices for the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau of Macao. as the parade progresses, their inebriation seems to increase
This seems like a good vantage point. Just as I position myself proportionally. Their dance is clumsy, but completely uninhibited.
behind a very accommodating little girl with a smart blue beret, I follow them, maintaining a safe distance from the alcohol

EPIC TALES
Meet the magical characters from the Chinese epic Shan Hai Jing that formed the theme of the 2017 parade

MOTTLED FLYING FISH QIYU BIRD THE HAIRY PEOPLE THE TINY PEOPLE TORCH DRAGON
It can fly as well as This bird with its three heads The hairy people have thick These people come from Half human, half snake, this
swim and represents an and six tails has a booming fur covering every inch of a land where everyone god controls weather and
abundant harvest. laugh and can chase away them and come from is very short. the cycle of day and night.
nightmares and evil. a distant land.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 67


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

themselves the Robots. Dressed in the motley garb of clowns,


they look straight out of a steampunk sci-fi film with Tin Man
hats, armour plates, and stilts and blades on which they walk,
hop, and jump. They are crowd pleasers and their silver painted
faces crinkle into broad grins as they oblige young uns with
selfies, and make little tots laugh with their antics. The moving
is sometimes pretty slow but I enjoy walking with the robots
as they come up with games to keep the crowds entertained.
Occasionally I take a pause from their antics and stop to take
in the neighbourhood. This very European part of Macao with
tree-lined streets has hidden courtyards, art galleries, graffiti
on the walls, a cemetery with marble angels, and a grand old
church presiding over it all. The parade also passes by the
Albergue da Santa Casa da Misericrdia, a set of beautifully
restored 400-year-old buildings set around a courtyard with
two massive camphor trees. Originally a charity and home for
old women, today this is an eclectic arts and entertainment
space: It has art galleries, a Portuguese restaurant, and a lovely
little boutique selling Portuguese crafts and food supplies.

The Great Gig in the Sky


From St. Lazarus, the parade crews take different routes,
finally converging at Tap Siac Square for one last blowout. This
is a fitting place for a finale. Paved with Portuguese tiles, this
erstwhile training ground for soldiers has been transformed into
a central public space in Macao where people gather to relax
and celebrate different cultural events through the year. Tap
Siac Square is where parade mascot VIVA has his love, peace,
Men intersperse their drunken dragon dance with large mouthfuls
of rice wine, which they then spit out creating a haze of alcohol and cultural integration party and where all the crews present
around them. one last performance. It is a magnificent celebration and one
which all of Macao takes part in as giant inflatable puppets
sprays, past St. Anthonys church. The current baroque-style float above the stage like strange and benevolent gods. Below,
building is on the site of the original wooden structure which under the strobe lights, fantastic beasts, and creatures big,
was built in 1558, and subsequently destroyed in a fire. Since small, and weird come together and make merry. On this night in
St. Anthonys was a popular venue for Portuguese weddings, it Macao, history truly feels like a sum of its glorious differences.
is also known as the Church of Flowers.
Diya Kohli was until recently part of National Geograpic Traveller
I trail the parade, sometimes on the sidelines, sometimes Indias editorial team. She loves the many stories of big old cities.
joining its raggedy tail, and sometimes using my media access For her, the best kind of travel experience involves long walks
pass to walk alongside performing groups that I love at first through labyrinthine lanes with plenty of food stops along the way.
sight. However, I have to be nimble so that I am not in the way

FACING PAGE: ASHIMA NARAIN (MAN & DANCERS), RAJKUMAR MATHIALAGAN (LION COSTUME)
of photographers or security staff. I have to dodge projectile
props and save myself from being stampeded by energetic
troupes. Sandwiched between graceful Balinese dancers and a
nattily dressed jazz troupe, I make my way down narrow cobbled
lanes, flanked by elegant Portuguese-style manors, old Catholic
churches, and traditional Chinese apothecaries. I take a pause
from the parade to look around this charming historic quarter.
I notice that we pass manicured public squares lined with
heritage lamps, and brightly coloured shop fronts with intricate The Vitals
Chinese motifs and lettering. Roads are signposted on beautiful Macao is a peninsular region in southern
Portuguese azulejo tiles and these blue and white tiles help me China and was the last European colony in Asia,
orient myself on the parade route. governed by the Portuguese until the late 1990s.
The most convenient way to reach there is to fly
We Are the Robots to Hong Kong, and get to Macao by ferry. Indian
RAJKUMAR MATHIALAGAN

One such sign informs me that I am in Calada da Igreja de So travellers are eligible for a visa on arrival
Lzaro. This is the area around the 16th-century St. Lazarus in Macao, and must fill a pre-arrival
Church. Among the oldest in Macao, this church was a beacon registration form on www.immd.gov.
hk/eng for a visa-free entry
of hope, built on the site of a hermitage providing care and
to Hong Kong.
shelter to lepers. As the parade snakes up cobbled streets, I fall
in line with an eccentric looking group from Spain who call

68 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


M ACAO

Macaos parade is an unforgettable spectacle. The Spanish crew


called Robots perform at Tap Siac Square during the parades final
performance (top left); Two crew members make up each of the giant
multicoloured lions that perform their dance to drums and gongs
(top right); A group of young dancers form a riveting sight as they
gracefully swirl in their costumes down the streets of Macao (bottom).

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MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 69


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

MYTHOLOGY GETS CRAZY, COLOURFUL, AND TRIPPY AT


MADIKERIS DASARA FLOAT PARADE

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K ARN ATAK A

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 71


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

air and there are ample chilled drinks


and snacks in the stalls around. Ive had some
delicious roadside chicken biriyani, spicy gobi
manchurian, and of course Coorgi coffee. That is what
keeps everyone going, because this all-night rave isnt fuelled
by intoxicantsthe police have shut down bars and liquor shops
for the day so theres no public drunkenness or misbehaviour.
Instead theres jolly energy in the air. He-hunks do their
ballyhoo ballet before all the young girls sitting on tiered
t is late in the night. The hill town of Madikeri bops and benches along the street. Even families with kids step out after
hops wildly around huge carnival floats that pump out dinner and partake in merriment till well into the wee hours.
megawatts of eardrum-blasting disco from onboard sound The main amusement is the grand floats. On one theres a green
systems. Elaborately crafted polychrome superheroes and monster in yellow shorts, like a fiendish character from some
heroinessome up to 15 feet talltry to outdo each other. Xbox game, with guts spilling out of his tummy. On another,
This curious sight feels like a mixture of high heaven and the Ganapati with four arms is busy juggling weapons of potential
worlds biggest non-alcoholic outdoor religious nightclub. mass destruction, while on the third Shiva meditates on his
Im totally into it. Im mesmerised by the frenzied dancers and throne, and on the next float Vishnu flies on his Garuda. A tiger
start shaking my hairy legs to an enticing mix of Kannada pop with Viking horns bares his fangs. Another elephant god swings
and Hindi rap. This must be what it feels like to do the carnival a swordbut this one has ten arms and rides a peacockand a
rumba in Rio de Janeiro. But Im not in Brazil. Im in Madikeri, Mother Goddess looks on calmly in the middle of the madness.
in the serene and a tad conservative hill station of Coorg Somewhere in the throng theres even a King Kong.
(Kodagu). Not on vijayadashmi night though, when all citizens The figures are built on mechanical frames that make the
head towards the hotspot of the festivitiesnear the old fort at arms flex and heads turn. Pulled by tractors, the gods enact their
the centre of Madikeri. This is the culmination of Dasara, when dramas based on various ancient plotlines involving gods and
good wins over evil, and the gods succeed in their annual battle goddesses, demons and goblins, while semi-epileptic lightshows
against demons. and bass-boosted sound effects accompanied by pyrotechnics
It is always the same story: morality cancels out immorality. make the ground virtually tremble under the audiences feet. A
From a forensic point of view the mythical heroes exterminate total of ten floats participate each year, all very elaborately done
the netherworld baddies, like in the Clint Eastwood or up, making the mythology come alive for one boisterous display
Amitabh Bachchan movies of yore. It also feels great to of heroic histrionics.
jive all night, as it doesnt get sweaty in the cool October Each float costs between `10,00,000-20,00,000, so put toge-

72 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


K ARN ATAK A

ther their budget equals a Sandalwood action movie and yet affair like the annual Dasara in Mysuru, this Dasara turned into a
they feature only in a one-night, fully-free, sold-out show. The peoples party or a janutsava. Local legend has it that one Bheem
float teams, all of whom are attached to various temples in town, Singh came from Rajasthan in 1958 to tweak the festivities with
consist mainly of localites with creative ambitions, but for certain exotic colour and change it all from a purely religious ritual into
hi-tech expertise like sound they bring in audio engineers from a folksy do. Bheem Singh started using tractors and building
Bengaluru. For fireworks there are pyrotechnical professionals bigger floats with wood instead of bamboo. So today there are ten
from Tamil Nadu. In some cases special effects men come from motorised hi-tech floats.
as far away the U.S.A. to provide the onlookers with an earth- And while the majestic Mysuru Dasara is a tourist attraction
shattering spectacle combining Amar Chitra Katha aesthetics with the main events held in the daytime, the Madikeri Dasara
blended seamlessly with Harry Potter and Hollywood. remains a homely all-night affair with no king in the picture and
***** is therefore perhaps much more fun. The people want innovative
adikeri used to be the capital of the erstwhile displays every year, which challenges the temple committees to
princely state of Coorg ruled over by Mudduraja come up with fresh spectacles.
of the Haleri dynasty, who had come down south After a long final Navaratri evening of joyous dancing and a
from northern Karnataka to carve out a kingdom slow build-up of excitement, when midnight comes each float
for himself. According to one sign that I find in will make what is called a demonstration. This means they will
the hilltop fort, he named it Muddurajanakeri which was later crank the music up to full blast and ignite the fuses for whatever
abbreviated to Madikeri, misspelled as Mercara by the Britishers. bombs have been built into the carriages. This show continues till
Circa 1680, Mudduraja built the citys fort from mud. His around 4 a.m. while judges compare scores and announce prizes
descendants ruled for a hundred years until Tipu Sultan came for the most amazing creations.
to conquer briefly. In 1790, Doddaveer Rajendra took over and The winner gets 24 grams of gold and the runners-up are also
his family was in charge until 1834 when the somewhat loony awarded. And as the sun begins to colour the eastern horizon,
Chikkaveer Rajendra was exiled (and interestingly enough buried the floatsor whatever remains of themreel around dizzily in
in Londons Highgate cemetery not so far from Karl Marx). From the city while the more zealous devotees shimmy in a climactic
then on Coorg was developed by the East India Company into a delirium. By 10 a.m. or so the energy levels dip and the heat of the
production centre for the best coffee in the world. sun hits with force and fells the last revellers.
Before the British takeover, the rajas started a tradition of The morning after the Dasara float parade, I walk about
celebrating Dasara in the early 1800s to purge the city from looking at the residue. Most floats have ground to a halt. Disco
plague. The practice of taking the shakthi devathasor female still blasts from a few speakers, but generators low on diesel are
goddesses of the towns four Mariamma templesout for a hiccupping. People are sleeping by the roadside, napping on the
procession has continued to this day in order to protect the pavements and in ditches. They have, with their enthusiasm,
people against illnesses. In those days, menfolk apparently once again helped the gods save the worldand they deserve
carried deities in palanquins through the streets accompanied by quiet quality time now until next years Dasara.
traditional Kodava music and dance. The spectacle ended in the
Zac Oyeah is the author of crime novel Mr Majestic: The Tout of
market area on the tenth day of Navaratri at the Banni Mantap
Bengaluru (Hachette India, 2012). His latest novel is Hari, a Hero
with puja and worshipping of the banni (or Indian Mesquite)a for Hire (Pan Macmillan India, 2015).
ritually important tree for warriors and particularly significant to charbak Dipta is a Delhi-based graphic storyteller. Reading about
the people of Coorg with their strong military traditions. about Faxian and Xuanzang in school fuelled his desire to see the
When it lost its royal patronage, rather than remaining a regal world. He now travels widely for his art exhibitions.

Getting There KSTDC Mayura Valley View (www.kstdc. Town Hall, in front of the fort, and near
The nearest airport to Madikeri is co; doubles from `3,900) has the best the Kodava Samaja Shopping Complex.
Bengaluru Kempegowda International hilltop views and is near Gandhi Maidan The event is free and includes a week-
Airport (280 km/6 hr by road; taxis where the Dasara cultural programme long programme of dance performances,
charge `6,450). The closest rail junction take place. Coorg International (www. musical recitals, magic shows, and
is Mysuru (120 km/3hr). Regular buses indoasia-hotels.com; doubles from martial art displays at a stage in Gandhi
go from Mysuru to Madikeri (state `5,000) located away from the main Maidan. Reach early to grab good seats.
transport buses from `112). town is one of the regions oldest hotels. This is a family-friendly festival and
It is possible to plan a trip from Mysuru The luxurious Vivanta (www.vivanta. also includes a separate Makkala Dasara
to spend the night at the festival and then tajhotels.com; doubles from `14,000) which has a range of activities and
return by an early morning bus. Buses run offers cooking classes, pottery work- competitions especially for kids.
frequently throughout the night as well. shops, as well as a traditional gudda Many shops stay open later than usual,
bath experience. so tourists can pick up spices, coffee
Stay powder, honey, and other local produce.
Thousands of people gather to Festival Fast food stalls stay open until the wee
experience the event and Madikeri is a Madikeris float parade is on 30 Sept- hours as well. The fare on offer includes
very small town, so book accommodation ember from 10-11 p.m. Floats pass the usual churmuri, gobi manchurian,
sufficiently in advance if you wish to stay through the towns Main Street around bhajjis, and delicacies like the local style
conveniently near the city centre. midnight and are best viewed from the non-veg biriyani.

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Move with the Moving Pictures

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SHRINES FOR CINEPHILES, FILM FESTIVALS ALSO OFFER THE REST OF US A BIT OF EVERYTHING

By Kalpana Nair
74 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017
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This month, I am off to Cannes. I like


throwing that phrase around casually.
For a second, it sounds oh-so-glamorous. Right now you are
probably thinking of a montage of scenes centred around yachts,
beaches, and champagne. Please allow me to derail that train of
thought. I am a programmer who attends the Cannes International
Film Festival to scout for films and meet the people who are in the
business of making and selling them. I have never come within
hugging distance of any major Hollywood star there (although last
year I did see the back of Ryan Goslings head, walking a mere 400
metres from me). The one time I got onto a yacht, I got seasick and
I may have had to get into a staring match with some doormen to
enter the many luxury brand stores that line the Croisette. So when
I say Cannes, the picture in my brain is nothing like the one in yours.
Film festivals are like that. Poised right at the intersection of
cinema, glamour, travel, and food, they are connected to the cities
they inhabit, yet they have their own energy, vibe, and ideology.
I highly recommend trekking to the ones listed here to experience
why thousands of people migrate to them every year, almost like
devotees who find themselves on a pilgrimage.
DENIS MAKARENKO/SHUTTERSTOCK

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Cannes Film Festival Festival de Cannes

Cannes is the mother of all film festivals. Every usually perfect with just enough nip in the air to save
May, over thirty thousand directors, producers, one from being broiled. The beach is only 10 minutes
writers, journalists, sales agents, and assorted film away. But to experience Cannes in all its glory, one
professionals descend upon the eponymous town must set aside hours to stargaze and people-watch.
in French Riviera. They network, walk the red carpet, The best places to do this is right outside the Palais
Year of Inception pitch films, and try and watch some of the over 180 des Festivals where all the red carpets take place or
1946 films that are screened here as part of the official in the lobbies of hotels like the JW Marriott, Carlton,
selection. As a festival, Cannes is so exclusivesome or the Grand Martinez where all the A-listers stay. Its
Month would say haughtythat you can attend it only if quite normal to see people dressed from head to toe
May youre connected to cinema professionally or are a in couture, walking casually down the road as they
member of the press. But not to despair, the festival make their way from the red carpet to the first of many
Festival Hub also has some fantastic sidebars like the Directors parties of the night. You might also spot your favourite
Palais du Festivals Fortnight (which Anurag Kashyap regularly features art-house filmmaker in one of the many restaurants
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on) and Critics Week for which the general public can opposite the two-kilometre long Croisette. Do try
Average no. of
buy tickets. out some authentic Provenal cuisine and pack your
films screened
If you do manage to swing yourself an accreditation walking shoes. Cannes is best covered on foot and
180+
or place your faith in swinging some last minute film cars are prohibitively expensive. Although the Uber
Average no. of tickets, Cannes is a town that has much to offer. in Cannes does have a helicopter option, so thats
people attending During the ten days of the festival, the sleepy town always there. If youre a racing enthusiast, Monaco is
30,000+ transforms itself and films take over. The weather is only an hour away. (www.festival-cannes.com/fr.)

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Mumbai Film Festival Mami


The Mumbai Film Festival, or MAMI as its popularly
known, is the youngest on this list. Three years ago,
it was about to be discontinued due to lack of funds
when a team led by journalist Anupama Chopra and
filmmaker Kiran Rao stepped in to galvanise support
and money to keep it going. It has since grown by leaps
and bounds. MAMI starts the film festival calendar in
India and only screens India premieres. This means Year of Inception
that every cinephile, writer, actor, assistant director 1997
and filmmaker worth his or her salt in Mumbai takes
a few days off work and braves Mumbai traffic to cram Month
as many films as possible in one day. Regardless of October
what kind of cinema you veer towards, MAMI will have
a section for you. Indie, genre, world cinema, restored Festival Hub
classics, childrens films; its all there. For the more PVR Icon
populist palette there is the Movie Mela. You can also
Average no. of
catch masterclasses with stalwarts like Jia Jhangke,
films screened
Cary Fukanaga, and Catherine Deneuve. MAMI has
200+
venues all over the city. Theres nothing quite like
watching the latest Asghar Farhadi film with fellow Average no. of
movie fans in an art-deco theatre like the Regal in people attending
Colaba. (www.mumbaifilmfestival.com.) 10,000+

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF


Unanimously crowned the happiest film festival

PHOTO COURTESY: MAMI (MAMI), DOMINIC CHAN/WENN LTD/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (TIFF)
Toronto International Film Festivals unpretentious
personality is first made obvious by its friendly
acronymTIFF. Over the years, the festival has
become a hub for premiering American and Canadian
Year of Inception cinema. It is also one to reckon with come Oscar
1986 season. Its attended by all leading Hollywood studios
and talent. Beyond the movies (which are excellent)
Month and the glitz (there is a lot of that), TIFF is a festival
September that genuinely wants to embrace everyone. That spirit
shines through in the hundreds of festival volunteers.
Festival Hub TIFF also has the coolest festival merchandise that
TIFF Bell Lightbox ranges from brooches to coffee cups to cameras.
While the festival is going on, TIFF converts a section
Average no. of
of Kings Street in Toronto to a pedestrian-only zone
films screened
called Festival Street, which is choc-a-bloc with
400+
buskers, pop up shops, and food trucks, and free
Average no. of concerts. Also recommended is a trip to the Toronto
people attending Islands, which is only a 15-minute ferry ride from
5,00,000+ downtown Toronto. (www.tiff.net.)

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale


The Berlinale is another leading film festival in Europe Its not all grim though. Berlin is an affordable city
that becomes a global agent for cinema each year. with a thriving cultural scene. One could spend a
Drawing on the legacy and baggage that comes whole day just viewing the incredible graffiti that is
with Germany, its carved an identity for itself by everywhere. The food is cheap and comes from all
consistently curating cinema that is political and over the world. Once youve had the currywurst which
Year of Inception addresses critical issues like migration, race, refugees is almost the national dish, check out Johnnys Bar
1951 and climate change. In 2015, Ai Weiwei festooned the in Zimmerstrae for the Jamaican fare and Linh Linh
pillars of the Konserthauswith with 14,000 refugee near MGB (Martin Gropius Bau) for some sumptuous
Month life vests. Last year, German politician Claudia Roth Vietnamese food.
February walked the red carpet wearing a gown that said The large Turkish community in Berlin also means
Unpresidented. the falafel and the doner kebabs are delectable across
Festival Hub Berlin is a city that remembers history. So pieces of the board. If youre in the mood for some pub hopping,
Berlinale Palast the Berlin Wall which came down in 1989 are framed Berlin has an astounding selection of beer. Hop over
all over the city. You can also visit Checkpoint Charlie to the hip Kreuzberg district to drink the night away.
Average no. of
which was the most famous crossing point from East Also recommended is the flea market at Mauerpark
films screened
to West Berlin and is still patrolled by actors dressed that takes place every Sunday. Independent German
400+
as border guards (1/`70 for a selfie with them). Also artists set up stalls and sell everything from handmade
Average no. of spend some time visiting the Topography of Terror, a posters to jewellery at prices. The only downside to all
people attending museum that is built on the site that used to be the this is that it is freezing during the festival, so pack
20,000+ headquarters of the Gestapo. your woollies. (www.berlinale.de.)

DENIS MAKARENKO/SHUTTERSTOCK

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South by South West SXSW

The state of Texas does not immediately seem like a U.S. cultural fixture and former U.S. President Barack
an ideal setting for a film festival. But over the last Obama even gave a keynote interview here in 2016.
30 years, its capital Austin has been countering that The festival is also the backdrop for Terrence Malicks Year of Inception
notion successfully with SXSW (South By South West). latest film Song to Song. SXSW features sidebars like 1984
It has a unique format with three bifurcations that the Southwest Invasion which is a three-day concert
Month
focus on film, technology, and music. Led by the spirit series that takes place on the rooftop of a Whole Foods
March
of discovery, SXSW is a great place to see upcoming Store. If you feel like partaking in some local flavour,
films, bands, and technology. The 2007 SXSW was a try the Tex Mex at Tamale House East and visit the
STOCK_PHOTO_WORLD/SHUTTERSTOCK (SXSW)

Festival Hub
turning point for Twitter which got a lot of traction and Rodeo Austin which comes to town during the festival Austin Convention
came into public awareness there. SXSW has become in March. (www.sxsw.com.) Centre

Average no. of
films screened
Kalpana nair coordinates the film programme at the Mumbai Film Festival. 150+
Her work takes her to film festivals all over the world and she moonlights
as a freelance writer when the urge strikes. Her travels are always
Average no. of
sprinkled with generous doses of cinema.
people attending
85,000

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

In parts of Sukhothai,
it is an age-old tradition to
release paper lanterns, known
as the khomloi, into the sky
during Loy Krathong.

LIGHT AT THE END OF

THE FUNNEL
CELEBRATING LOY KRATHONG IN SUKHOTHAI, THAILAND
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUGATO MUKHERJEE

L ast year, I visited Sukhothai, in north-central


Thailand, timing my trip to coincide with
the annual Loy Krathong festival in November,
in Sukhothai with his Thai wife, I travelled to Wat Si Chum,
the temple where Buddhist monks worship the speaking
Buddha from the legend. Few people witness the ceremony
here, which takes place before the larger public procession.
The nondescript temple is located on the northern fringes of
a festival of light which celebrates the Buddha. the manicured gardens and old stone Buddhas of Sukhothai
It is celebrated throughout the country, though it originated in Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 10 kilometres
Sukhothai. Here it is associated with the commemoration of a from the city.
13th-century battle, during which a Buddha statue allegedly I followed a group of orange-robed monks, who entered
spoke to the Siamese army, boosting their morale as they fended through a narrow slit in the temples wall. Inside was one of the
off Burmese invaders. largest and finest Buddha statues I had ever seen. As the chants
On the advice of my Italian host Paulo, who runs a guesthouse of the monks reverberated in the conical temple, sunrays filtered

80 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


THAILAN D

Traditional Thai clothing and headgear (top left) are sported during the festival parades; The buoyant, decorated baskets called krathongs are
released into water (bottom left) as an offering to Pra Mae Khongkha, the goddess of water. They are believed to carry away ones hatred, anger,
and defilements; According to a Thai legend, the stuccoed Buddha statue (right) inside Wat Si Chum spoke to the Siamese army during a
13th-century battle against Burmese invaders.

through to light up the 13th-century statues golden fingers. sky lanterns filled the night sky, illuminating the majestic head
It was the fifth and climactic day of Loy Krathong. Festivities of the Buddha of Wat Mahathat, before gradually fading into
had so far involved beauty pageants, basket-making competitions, inky oblivion.
food stalls, and musical soires. In the evening, the citys main
boulevard brimmed with colour and music. A long parade inched
towards the historical park. Women in flowing costumes froze in THE VITALS
elegant poses atop elephants and on palanquins carried by other
revellers. Children darted in and out of the procession to grab Loy Krathong is on 4 November, 2017.
deep-fried delicacies from roadside food stalls. Getting There Sukhothai is 440 km/6.5 hr north of Bangkok.
At the parks main gate, vendors sold incense sticks, candles, Buses leave every 30 minutes from Bangkoks Mo Chit Northern
and an array of ornate krathongs, floating baskets made of banana Bus Station (www.sawadee.com/thailand/transfer/bus-north.html;
stalks and meticulously-folded banana leaves and decorated with tickets THB324/`620). Another option is to take a short one-hour
flowers and candles. I purchased one, and lighting the candle, flight (roundtrip from about `6,000).
floated the dainty vessel into a small moat along with the crowd.
Getting Around Renting a bicycle (THB50-60 per day) is a good
Then it was time for the laser show, the high point of way to explore Sukhothai. Take a broad-brimmed hat, as it can be
Sukhothais Loy Krathong celebration. The full moon soared atop uncomfortably hot even in the middle of November.
Wat Mahathat, a 700-hundred-year-old shrine and the parks
largest temple. The performance began with laser rays piercing Sugato Mukherjee is a Kolkata-based writer and photographer
the darkness. The history of Sukhothai unfolded through who loves travelling off the beaten path and experimenting
superbly choreographed performances by about 200 dancers and with local cuisines. His first coffee-table book An Antique Land:
actors. At the end of the extravaganza, thousands of khomloi or A Visual Memoir of Ladakh was published in 2013.

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

When
Magic
Becomes Realism

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82 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


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A festival in Denmark brings


Hans Christian Andersens
world of fantasy alive
By Saumya Ancheri

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Growing
up in the
Bombay
of the 1980s
and 90s,

my make-believe world included characters from Hans Christian


Andersens fairy tales: a girl so tiny that one of her suitors was
a frog, another girl who proved she was a princess because she
could sense a pea lodged beneath her bed of 20 mattresses.
Andersens world was ruled by whimsy and magic. I didnt
realise how much of his stories had coloured my imagination
until I walked the streets where he lived in Odense, Denmark.
The first sign that our group of five journalists and our host
were in the 19th-century authors hometown, was the traffic
signal outside the railway station of Odense. The traffic lights
little green and red men resembled Andersen in profile, complete
with coat, top hat, and cane. On the pavement, footprints in the
authors giant size 46 created a trail to Andersen attractions
across the city.
Around a corner marched golden-haired princesses with
wands and crowned princes with sceptres, all singing. Their
invisible pied piper was none other than Andersen, who is
celebrated for a week every August in his hometown. The
Hans Christian Andersen Festival, started in 2013 by a group
of local businesspeople, hosts parades, street performances,
ballet, theatre, and 3D light shows, all inspired by Andersens
magical world. In keeping with the festival theme of anything
can happen, drummers banging on trash cans would suddenly
fill up a square, or wed turn down a street to find a canopy of
umbrellas swaying overhead.
Odense may be Denmarks third-largest city, and just a two-
hour train ride from Copenhagen, but it exudes an air of the last
century. As we wandered lanes away from the festival bustle,
we passed pretty half-timbered houses, restaurants serving
traditional Danish food like fried pork belly with potatoes, and
quaint cottages with windowsills displaying porcelain figurines.
We paused by the museum to Odenses other celebrated resident,
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Carl Nielsen, and peered down a narrow cobblestoned street


that looked the same 500 years ago. And yet for all its old world
charms, Odense was a hub for robotics, with the national test
centre for drone technology inside the Hans Christian Andersen
Airport. It was mind-boggling.
At 14, Andersen caught a bus to Copenhagen where he

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PRIVIOUS SPREAD: PHOTO COURTESY: VISIT ODENSE (PERFORMER, STATUE, AUDIENCE & FOOD), PHOTO COURTESY: ODENSE BYS MUSEER (KIDS, MUSEUM, BUILDING)
JORDI SALAS/AGE FOTOSTOCK/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY

Every July, visitors to the Hans Christian Andersen


Museum can sprawl on its lawns and watch a free
performance of 24 Fairy Tales in 24 Minutes.
Previous spread: With its lush parks, heritage
buildings, museums, and traditional cuisine,
Odense makes for a wonderful family day trip
from Copenhagen.

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In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Andersens fairy tales come alive all over Odense as grown-ups enact them for children (top) across the city; The island of Funen (bottom),
on which Odense is located, is called Denmarks Garden Island for its rolling hills, apple orchards, and fresh farm produce.

PAOLO BONA/SHUTTERSTOCK (PERFORMES), PHOTO COURTESY: VISIT ODENSE (INSTALLATION)

86 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


DE N MARK

spent most of his adult life, but he never really leftwe saw whose premises were 450 years old, I sampled traditional tart
his portrait drawn on a building facade, and his metal likeness rhubarb candies. Outside, a wheelbarrow marked the spot where
seated outside a hotel. I couldnt imagine what it was like to be the teenaged Andersen caught a bus to Copenhagen, a ride that
a kid in Odense, reading his stories in school and then walking would change his life forever.
by sculptures from his tales on the street. At one street corner The authors spirit was still alive in Copenhagen, I found
was a larger-than-life statue of Andersens tin soldier toy, who the next day, on a whirlwind Andersen tour with our guide
literally burned with love for a paper ballerina. As a child, the Richard Karpen. Dressed in a top hat and coat, with a cane in
melancholic tale made me pull faces, but looking at the soldier, I hand, Karpen was quickly recognised as Andersen and warmly
couldnt escape its grimness. Andersens life was far from easy, as greeted by locals and tourists. After all, Andersen had helped
I was about to find out at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum put Denmark on the world mapand he was everywhere in
and Childhood Home. the city. Tivoli Gardens had an amusement park ride named
Large-nosed and taller than average at around 6 feet, after him, his statue graced the royal gardens and the City
Andersen was considered ungainly; in a way, his life paralleled Hall square, his Little Mermaid character was the citys most
his story about an ugly duckling that turned into a swan. But photographed statue.
he loved having his portrait made. Little details like these were I had arrived in Denmark looking for a long-forgotten child-
turning a legendary author into a real human being for me. In hood companion. I had stood outside Andersens homes, shuf-
Copenhagen, he tried to be a ballet dancer, an actor, a singer, fled by his leafy grave in Assistens Cemetery, gazed up the
but had made his mark as a writer. He was a prolific writer of Round Tower where he wrote stories. Behind those timeless
plays, stories, poetry, and travelogues, and became one of the tales, I found an intriguing person. At the airport the next day, I
most translated authors of all time. But he was also terrified of couldnt resist buying a beautifully illustrated copy of his work.
dentists, and was so scared of dying in a building firea real fear Andersen wrote his fairy tales as much for children as for adults,
in the 19th centurythat he used to carry a rope with him on his I remembered Karpen say. I couldnt wait to re-read them.
travels for a speedy escape.
And boy, did he love to travelto Italy, Germany, the Czech Saumya ancheri was until recently Assistant Web Editor at
National Geographic Traveller India. She loves places by the
Republic, Scotland. On my first walk around Copenhagen, Id
sea, and travels to shift her own boundaries.
spied the last line of a favourite Andersen quote To travel is to
live on a signboard near our hotel in Nyhavn, now a gentrified
waterfront district. During Andersens time, Nyhavns charm
was its cheap rent; it used to be frequented by pub-goers, sail-
ors and women of pleasure. He lived in three different houses
on that waterfront, writing stories like The Tinderbox, about The Vitals
a soldier with questionable morals and a bit of magic. Andersen Orientation Odense is on Funen Island,
was so broke that he used to stroll with a dinner napkin in his Denmarks second largest island. The birthplace
pocket, ready to be invited for a meal. At the Odense museum, of Hans Christian Andersen, it hosts a week-
we saw his beautiful paper cut-outs of ballerinas, pirates, and long festival every August in his honour. The
angels. Andersen was known to entertain friends by spinning Hans Christian Andersen Festival will run
a story around his paper art as he worked, finally revealing an from August 20-27 2017. Details and tickets
intricate chain of paper figures that he would gift to his host. on www.hcafestivals.com.
Andersen was famous by 30, so much of the details of his life For details on Richard Karpens Hans
remain. Even his birthplace is reconstructed at the museum; I Christian Andersen tour of the old city, see
www.copenhagenwalks.com.
was quite struck by a short bed made for people to sit up and
sleep as a precaution against tuberculosis. A troubled man
Getting There & Visa Flights from India
emerged from Andersens correspondence and journals. He fell
to Copenhagen require a short layover in a
for unattainable women, expressed unrequited love to men and
European city such as Munich, or a Middle
women, and was lonely though he was so well known. It is a side Eastern hub like Dubai. Travellers to Odense can
that most of Andersens biographers ignore, but it made me bet- take a train, bus, or car for the roughly two-hour
ter understand the often unhappy endings of his stories. journey from Copenhagen.
It was at The Tinderbox, the childrens cultural centre next Indian travellers to Denmark require a
door, that the fantasy of Andersens fairy tales came alive. A Schengen visa. A 90-day, multiple-entry visa
huggable life-size soldier puppet waited by the entrance, while costs `5,641 including service charge. Applicants
enormous geese soared against the ceiling, and a tree curled must have a return ticket, a confirmed itinerary,
above us with paper leaves for kids to scrawl wishes on. There and travel medical insurance with a minimum
was a large castle where kids could play dress-up, and a costume coverage of 30,000/`21,00,000 valid for
room with racks of spangled mermaid tails, fluffy octopus the duration of the visit across EU states. For
puppets, and royal costumes. We were tempted to join the kids. application forms and documentation details,
The Andersen trail continued as we headed for lunch by the visit dk.vfsglobal.co.in. It is best to apply for
River Odense, sipping on store-bought cans of potent Hans a visa at least 15 days before departure.
Christian Andersen beer. Close to the museum, we passed the
spot where Andersens mother, a washerwoman, did laundry;
his shoemaker father died early. At Kramboden, a quaint shop

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 87


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

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IMAGE PARTNER

CANON EOS 5D MARK II


APERTURE: F/5.0 SHUTTER SPEED: 1/200 SEC ISO: 200
In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

CANON EOS 5D MARK II


APERTURE: F/5.6 SHUTTER SPEED: 1/1000 SEC ISO: 400

90 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


WO RLD

CANON EOS 5D MARK II


APERTURE: 6.3 SHUTTER SPEED: 1/320 SEC ISO: 100

The shamanistic Lai-Haroba Festival is Hola Mohalla is an annual Sikh festival Previous spread: The Latin City parade
led by a procession of Manipuri ponies. that marks the establishment of the was started in 2011 to promote Macaos
The riders bathe the ponies to prepare Khalsa Panth (the communitys martial multicultural heritage. The parade
for the ritual. I find that these cultural wing) by Guru Gobind Singh. During moved faster than I expected, and I had
practices are important but often the event, pilgrims from the world to run ahead to try to get my settings
neglected in visual documentation of over come to pay their respects at the done before the performers went by.
the festival. many gurdwaras of Anandpur Sahib. The AI SERVO auto focus mode on my
When shooting in bright light and The festival culminates in a martial arts Canon EOS 5D Mark II ensured I could
with water, I like to use a fast shutter display by the Nihangs (Sikh warriors) track my subjects, as they moved. The
speed, and shallow depth of field at a crowded stadium. While the per- parade went through many narrow
as it helps to eliminate some of the formances are perilous, it is almost as lanes lined with high buildings, creating
chaos prevalent when working in a risky to be a spectator.I wanted to show gorge like lighting conditions, where
tight space. My Canon EOS 5D Mark II the crowds lining the makeshift track it is hard to balance exposure. Because
shoots almost four frames a second, as the young boy gallops down on two of the full-frame CMOS sensor, by
so while throwing buckets of water, the horses, holding the reins in his mouth. slightly underexposing the RAW
patterns were constantly changing, and It was important to have the sky as the images, I was able to retain enough
I needed to shoot a lot to get the most background for his arms as it highlights information to create clean images
interesting shape. how exposed he is. during post processing.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 91


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

The Maha Kumbh Mela happens


every 144 years, so it is safe to say
that you will only get one chance to
shoot it. At my first Kumbh Mela, I
was keen to shoot the famous sadhus.
Unfortunately before I reached, there
was raina signal for the Sadhus to
move. I was disappointed, but realised
I had an opportunity to create images
that reflected the faith of the people
I had shared space and time with.
The arrangements were thoughtful,
and the mela grounds remained
illuminated through the night, with
policemen on patrol on horses,
boats, and on foot to ensure safe
passage for everyone. As the sun set,
I shot on a tripod with long exposure
and a small aperture to get the star
effect of the lights.

Ashima Narains photography and


filmmaking has covered a diverse range
of topics that have allowed her to wade
through Mumbais mudflats in search
of flamingos, hide out in bear caves,
and document sari weavers in Varanasi.
As a former photo editor of National
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Geographic Traveller India, she covered


the Portuguese influence on the island
of Diu and an ex-reconnaissance pilots
solo circumnavigation of the earth by
sea, among other stories. Ashima is
part of National Geographic Creative.

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KAUSHAL PARIKH (AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH)

CANON EOS 5D MARK II


APERTURE: 32 SHUTTER SPEED: 4 SEC ISO: 100

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 93


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Fire-breathing dragons
come to life with fireworks
during Chinas annual
Shangyuan festival.

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Play With Fire


Follow the crowds to these
nocturnal fire festivals
around the world

SHANGYUAN FESTIVAL, China


The Shangyuan festival, or the Spring Lantern
Festival, is celebrated on the 15th night of the
first month of the Chinese new year (February or
March). On this day, towns and villages across the
country bathe in the glow of lanterns. Red paper
globes fly among illuminated butterflies, dragons,
and birds, each written with a riddlethose who
solve them win a prize.

SUMMER SOLSTICE, Glastonbury,


England
Glastonbury Tor (or hill) has been sacred for
millennia, and on Midsummer Eve hundreds
gather on it. Children throw petals, holy water is
sprinkled, and the hill is blessed with fire. It marks
the important celebration of the beginning of
summer, the season of warmth and plenty.

FEAST OF SAN JUAN, Spain


At this June festival, revellers build bonfires that
blaze through the night to welcome summer.
According to tradition, jumping over a fire three
times on San Juan night burns your troubles away.

QUEMA DEL DIABLO, Guatemala


In early December, just before Christmas,
Guatemalans rid their homes and lives of the
devil. Garbage is cleared and homes cleaned, with
special attention paid to nooks and corners and
the area below the bed. All rubbish is then burnt
to celebrate Quema del Diablo or The Burning of
the Devil, and Christmas is welcomed with a clean
heart and home.

DAIZENJI TAMATAREGU SHRINES


ONIYO, Fukuoka, Japan
On the seventh day of the new year, after being
guarded at the temple for a week, the Oniyo or
fire devil is brought out to ward off evil spirits in
a ceremony at the Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine. As
part of a 1,600-year-old Shinto ritual, the flame is
CHI HUNG CHEUNG

transferred to six 45-foot-tall and three-foot-wide


torches, which are carried by men in loincloths.
Onlookers who have embers or ash fall on them
from the torches are believed to be blessed.
In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

ching a
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e
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im
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d r ed s of p e n t e x per e v e the
hu n c e n d c h i
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i s o n . v a l s h l l a o r
un
n d ia n festi n d C o a che
e. I nd a
your lif T o mo r r o w l a
r o f
grandeu
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96 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


IN DIA

scendo
Cre G l a s t o n b u r y a n d th eM
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U N D E S
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HIMANSHU (XXXXXXXXX)
ROHILLA

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 97


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

SOUTH

Go:Madras
Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

S
ince the mid-1990s, Chennai has had a strong connec- abroad, which are usually in warehouses and industrial spaces,
tion to techno music so it was inevitable that their biggest this fest is held within the confines of a five-star hotel property.
festival would showcase this genre. Go:Madras began in If youre an energetic dancer Go:Madras promises you many
2008 on the beaches outside the city. But now it has moved to new friends, as the tempo picks up dramatically through the
the seaside town of Mahabalipuram. The clubbing culture of evening. Some Chennai punters pride themselves on being on
the city has been amplified to create an outdoor music experi- the floor from start to finish. If you dance with them through the
ence that unfolds through the day and moves indoors by night night, you are promised good company, beautiful seaside spots,
into a giant reverberating room. Unlike the techno experiences and some of the best seafood in the world.

C
Dates September 2017; Final dates to be announced
BHUVNESH MUTHA

Festival tip Be prepared for both rain and shine as the weather in Mahabalipuram is notoriously unpredictable. Remember to
pack your swimming gear in case you want to take a few laps in the sea.
Website www.gomadras.in

98 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


IN DIA

EAST

Jazzfest
Kolkata, West Bengal

K
olkata welcomes the onset of winters with Jazzfest. international bands. Over the last few years, this event has also
During its historic 40-year-old existence, the iconic become a platform for Indian jazz bands to headline shows.
festival has moved around the city from venue to ven- During the Jazzfest, Dalhousies grounds are packed with
ue and has played host to jazz legends like Herbie Hancock, serious music aficionados, often the most ardent ones taking
Wayne Shorter, Jonas Hellborg, Kenny Garret, and Shawn Lane. up seats in the front as families and groups enjoy the ongoings
Currently, the event is held at the Dalhousie Insitute, a from farther behind. Since the programme starts in the evening,
downtown country club. The three days of evening outdoor visitors can spend the day exploring the citys cultural offer-
shows at the fest usually feature a line-up of six to eight ings, taking in its bookstores, coffee houses, and restaurants.

C
Dates 8-10 December 2017
Festival tip The seating is open, so reach the venue early to grab a good spot. Also pick up your food and
drink coupons in one go to avoid long queues later.
SAYAN DUTTA

Website jazzfest.in

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 99


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

NORTH

Magnetic Fields Alsisar, Rajasthan

S
tarted in 2013, Magnetic Fields has achieved a cult-like crossover music line-up. European acts rub shoulders with some
status among festival die-hards. The 17th-century Alsisar established and promising local electronic musicians and bands.
Mahal, a historical Indo-Islamic monument about four In its initial days, the roster was heavy on house and techno.
hours north of Jaipur, serves as the backdrop for some far-out Those are still the big-ticket draws, but the festival slate has
futuristic music. Each day moves from sun scorched reggae become more diverse.
parties on the sands to laser and light-filled live concerts in the Last year saw the addition of a reggae/dub stage and a
evening, climaxing with sunrise sets on the roof of the palace. dedicated jazz programme. Expect more musical diffractions
The standout feature of Magnetic Fields is its well-curated this year along with dazzling visual and light shows.

C
Dates 15-17 December 2017
Festival tip Plan a group trip and opt for a comfortable stay in the palace rooms. Rooms go on sale months in advance and sell out in a
REBECCA CONWAY

matter of hours leaving only tented accommodation for latecomers.


Website www.magneticfields.in

100 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


IN DIA

WEST

Nariyal Paani Alibaug, Maharashtra

T
his festival is all about sunshine and music by the seashore. them having to actually rough it out. The drinks and food
Exuding a bohemian vibe, it is held at a secluded beach- include both a coastal menu with thaalis and coconut water,
front, built to look like a bamboo and teepee village. The and snackier options like gourmet pizzas and craft beer. Its a
playlist includes live musicians from all over the world, who start welcome change from the assembly-line fast food and bottled
the day with a drum circle under coconut trees, which is followed beer served at more commercially-oriented bigger festivals.
by high energy ska and electro-jazz acts in the evening. This is the smallest festival of the four, but the prospect of
For urbanites looking for some respite from their daily grind, watching spectacular sunsets while listening to good music
Nariyal Paani offers a vision of community beach living without usually brings its fair share of loyal visitors every January.

C
Dates January 2018; Final dates to be announced
HIMANSHU ROHILLA

Festival tip Taking the boat to and from the festival and staying at the campsite is the easiest way of experiencing the event. If you do plan
to drive in and stay at a hotel be aware that its peak season so make bookings months in advance.
Website nariyal-paani.com

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 101


In Focus | FESTI VE S PI R I T

Get Ear Plugged


Other highlights worth making the journey for

The Big Gig Dover Lane


MUSSOORIE, OCTOBER/NOVEMBER KOLKATA, JANUARY
The Himalayan music festival is A prestigious three-night
a blend of live shows (includ- cultural do, it features lead-
ing blues and jazz), trekking, ing classical exponents such
nature trail walks (organised as Pandit Jasraj, Ayaan Ali Varun Desai is a director
in Jabharkhet Nature Reserve Bangash, Shivkumar Sharma, of a Kolkata-based event
every year), heritage walks, and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, management company and
open-air film screenings. and Ajoy Chakraborty. a music aficianado, who
www.facebook.com/ www.doverlanemusicconfer- loves touring the world as a
biggigfestival ence.org/ music producer and a DJ.

PHOTO COURTESY: BIG GIG (THE BIG GIG), IP-BLACK/INDIAPICTURES (DOVER LANE), PHOTO COURTESY: RUHANIYAT FESTIVAL (RUHANIYAT),

RAKESH DHARESHWAR/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURES (SUNBURN), VIKRAMJITK/SHUTTERSTOCK (HORNBILL),SULA FEST (SULA FEST),


SURUCHI MAIRA (ZIRO FESTIVAL ), IMAGES MART/INDIAPICTURES (RIFF), PHOTO COURTESY: STORM FESTIVAL (STORM FESTIVAL),
Ruhaniyat Ziro Festival RIFF Storm Festival
ALL INDIA, NOVEMBER-MARCH ZIRO, SEPTEMBER JODHPUR, OCTOBER COORG, FEBRUARY
Spiritualists and artists Featuring indie, rock and folk Timed to coincide with 'Sharad A diverse range of artists,
from all over the country get acts, this festival immerses you Purnima', the brightest full domestic and international,
together for a slice of serenity in the native Apatani culture. moon of the year in north India, set the stage on fire at this
at this sufi and mystic music The experience is enriched by RIFF is a folk music extravagan- event. Along with the music,
festival. Its next edition will be the breathtaking scenery of za held in Jodhpurs Maharaja visitors can also enjoy a
held in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, the Ziro Valley. Fort. In the past, Mick Jagger laidback camping experience
Bengaluru, and Chennai. www.facebook.com/ has made an appearance here. in picturesque Coorg.
ruhaniyat.com zirofestival www.jodhpurriff.org www.stormfestivalindia.com

REDDEES/SHUTTERSTOCK (SANKAT MOCHAN)

Sunburn Hornbill Sula Fest Sankat Mochan Sangeet


GOA/PUNE, DECEMBER KISAMA HERITAGE VILLAGE, NASHIK, FEBRUARY Samaroh
Indias pre-eminent EDM DECEMBER Indias wine capital throws VARANASI, APRIL/MAY
festival is the hottest musical This event is a prominent an elaborate party every The classical music festival
ticket of the year-end calendar, fixture on the North East year, complete with indie has been celebrated for over
often attracting international cultural circuit, showcasing and electronic music acts, 70 years on Hanuman Jayanti.
superstars like Armin Van Nagalands inimitable heritage delectable food (and lots of Past performers include
Buuren, David Guetta, Afrojack, through songs, food, art, vino), and an unforgettable Birju Maharaj and Pandit
and Axwell. and dance. camping experience. Hariprasad Chaurasia.
sunburn.in hornbillfestival.com www.sulafest.net www.smssvaranasi.com

102 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


JOURNEYS
104
australia madhya pradesh
From shy bandicoots to adorable koalas,
Victoria brims with stories of conservation 110 Camping in Satpura Tiger Reserve reveals
wondrous landscapes and a new perspective

PHOTO COURTESY: PUGDUNDEE SAFARIS

110
Satpura Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 103


Journeys | INTO THE WI L D

The Penguin Parade at Phillip Island


gathers a group of enthusiastic viewers
who wait at sunset for a glimpse of little
penguins returning to their burrows.

104 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


AUSTRALIA

MY FAMILY OF OTHER

From shy bandicoots to adorable koalas,


Victoria brims with heartwarming stories of
conservation and rehabilitation
BY SONAL SHAH

PHOTO COURTESY: PHILLIP ISLAND NATURE PARK/VISIT VICTORIA

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 105


Journeys | I N TO THE WI L D

The seals at Melbourne Zoo have


become the symbol of its campaign,
Seal the Loop, that works towards
cleaning Victorias coastal areas.

FACING PAGE: PHOTO COURTESY: MARK WATSON/VISIT VICTORIA (PEOPLE), PHOTO COURTESY: ECHIDNA WALKABOUT NATURE TOURS/VISIT VICTORIA (KANGAROO)
As the plane descended, the moon rose, inching across
the sky like the bioluminescent tail of a giant glow-worm.
The land glistened with its light, reflecting off lakes, waterholes, factor, but so are invasive species, such as feral cats and foxes,
and muddy riverine slivers. The illuminated, striated hillocks introduced by Europeans.
below, pocked with bush plants, echoed an observation in Now, as the descendants of the settlers who irrevocably altered
the book on my lapBruce Chatwins classic travelogue, the landscape work to preserve its particularity, some of their
The Songlinesthat Australias dotted landscape inspired the approaches involve bringing in touriststypically an invasive
Aboriginal style of painting. lot themselvesto help fund conservation efforts and raise
But as we turned towards Melbourne, the moonlight splashed awareness. Over the week I spent in and around Melbourne,
across the ocean, revealing the crenellated coastline of Victoria, discovering a range of these approaches and their effects, the
and the dots gave way to straight lines and squares. Here, unlike weirdness of Oz and its unique animal life slowly sunk in.
the distant part of the continent Chatwin wrote about, the
scrub had been transformed into pasture and farmland by its The Special Ks
European settlers over the last 180-odd years. Wowie Kazowie! yelled Janine Duffy, swerving and slamming
This transformation appeared, complete, by the light of the the van to a halt. That was an eastern blue-tongued lizard! By
next morning, in the staid urban landscape of Melbourne. the time I was out of the vehicle and peering into the long grass
PHOTO COURTESY: PAUL PHILIPSON/VISIT VICTORIA

Except for an abundance of eucalyptus trees, everything looked that lined the road leading into You Yangs Regional Park, the
startlingly familiar to me, like the eastern coast of America skink had slithered away. But Duffys Level Ten enthusiasmand
transplanted, with elms and oaks, and precise road markers. Of the tenet of animal avoidance she had so forcefully just put into
all the supposed strangeness of the land down under, there was practiceturned out to be hallmarks of my group day trip with
no obvious sign. her company, Echidna Walkabout (www.echidnawalkabout.
Yet Australia is still one of the strangest places on the planet, com.au).
particularly in terms of the biodiversity of its wildlife. One of Founded in 1993, Duffys company was one of the first to offer
a handful of megadiverse countries, the continent has a high minimally invasive wildlife experiences in Australia. She and
percentage of endemic species. But it also has one of the worlds her co-founder also set up a research foundation, specifically to
highest rates of extinction; some scientists estimate a rate of study koalas. Echidnas guides and researchers are intimately
one or two land animals lost per decade. Climate change is a big familiar with each koala around the granite You Yangs range,

106 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


AUSTRALIA

an hour southwest of Melbourne. In 1998, they discovered a new


way to tell koalas apart from the underside of their nostrilsa
testament to how much time theyve spent staring up at them.
Once in the woods, Duffy led us to Winberry, a dominant
male, who she called the king of the forest. Despite the crunch of
our feet on the dry undergrowth, he slept peacefully, his cushion
of cartilage keeping him moored to his high perch. Duffy told us
that koalas prefer the moisture-rich new leaves from the tops of
trees, and that climate change, which causes dryer eucalyptus,
has affected their population.
Duffy explained that because Australias climate is already so
extreme, its flora and fauna are superheroes, uniquely adapted
to living on the edge. Kangaroos, for example, can survive
10 years of drought, even reproducing for the first six. But
because animals are so precisely calibrated to certain extremes,
their populations decline catastrophically when a larger change,
such as global warming, is introduced, making Australia a
bellwether of climatic disaster.
Duffys insistence on maintaining a strict distance from
Winberry was in stark contrast to the koala conservation
centre I visited on Phillip Island, about two hours southeast
of Melbourne, where the trees surrounding a boardwalk were
festooned with fresh eucalyptus boughs to draw the animals
to them. However, Echidna does encourage some hands-
on engagement, and Duffy soon had us hard at work, pulling
up boneseed, an invasive weed that was planted here about a
century ago to pack the soil after a forest fire.
This weeding project began when Echidnas researchers
noticed that koalas avoided the trees that were surrounded by
boneseed, probably because they like a clear view of predators
when ambling from one trunk to another at dawn or dusk.
Partly through the weeding efforts of Echidnas tour groups,
which resonate with traditional Aboriginal land management
practices, the koala population in the park has increased
fourfold in two years.
As the afternoon grew hotter, we ventured out of the shade
of the You Yangs eucalyptus groves to a field of dry long grass
in the nearby Serendip Sanctuary, which the state purchased
from farmers in the 1950s to breed endangered birds. Serendips Trails sheltered by Great Otway National Parks rainforest canopy (top)
grazing ground for mobs of wild eastern grey kangaroos became are a popular option for hikers; The eastern grey kangaroo (bottom),
a stalking ground for us, as Duffy all but belly-crawled between Australias poster child for wildlife, reaches a speed of over 56 kmph.
sparse rows of trees, attempting to sneak up on the skittish
megapods.
Feeling a little foolish, and very sweaty, I was still thrilled
when a kangaroo bounded by, then melted ghost-like into the
grass. The experience surpassed the more up-close and personal
encounter I had with eastern greys at the Melbourne Zoo, where
one can pet the creatures while they feed. But as Duffy said,
some people need zoos to form the connection.

Hit Parade
If Australias animals are superheroes, nowhere are these
champions pressed into greater service than at Australias
oldest zoo. The Melbourne Zoo (www.zoo.org.au/melbourne),
though cosy and colonial, has come a long way from its mid-
19th-century origins. Besides areas like the kangaroo enclosure,
where humans are taught to respect animals within their
spaces, the zoo also runs several campaigns to change peoples
habits. One of these is Seal the Loop, an initiative to recycle
the zoos plastic into bins for collecting fishing line, which is

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 107


Journeys | I N TO THE WI L D

harmful to marine animals. At the fur seal tank, these graceful,


intelligent animals, whose ancestors drew the earliest European
hunters to Victorias shores, now perform acrobatics while their
keepers talk about Seal the Loop: the grand finale involves a seal
dunking items into a bin.
The zoos star ambassador is a little penguin named
Miss Wing, who was abandoned by her parents and adopted
by the keepers. During a special backstage interview with the
diminutive bird, she allowed me to touch her iridescent teal
feathers, gargled out a few notes, pecked at my toes, and then
wandered off, wings straining, behind a shimmering dragonfly
her aspirations towards humanity momentarily abandoned for
an attempt at flight.
Miss Wings relatives at the nature reserve on Phillip Island
(www.penguins.org.au) were far less tame, though just as
sociable amongst themselves. Since the 1920s, the islands
Summerland Peninsula has hosted viewings of the Penguin
Parade at dusk, when little penguins return to their burrows
after a day of fishing. What began as a couple of guys with
flashlights is now a huge viewing area that can accommodate up
to 3,000 people per night.
In a process that involved the states purchase of a large
housing colony, the peninsula became a conservation and
tourism destination, and its penguin population has grown
steadily, from 6,000 birds in the late 1970s, to 35,000. The
viewing areas are designed to get you very close to the penguins
without disturbing them, and a great deal of work goes into
conditioning human behaviour hereno cameras are allowed,
for example. When a new section opened a year ago, only three
burrows were shifted, and the penguins, who follow the same
path home every night, were carefully taught their new routes.
Though the visitor centre has a regurgitated mass of penguin
merchandise in its gift shop, its informative displays show how
little penguins powers extend beyond cuteness. Among their
superhero skills is the ability to dive into the water up to

PHOTO COURTESY: MARK CHEW/GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK/VISIT VICTORIA (LAKE), PHOTO COURTESY: ECHIDNA
1,300 times a day, sometimes to depths of 130 feet.
But as the sun went down, and the foot-high penguins
emerged from the ocean, cuteness was most definitely their
predominant feature. Appearing in small flocks, the penguins
waddled cautiously out of the water, scurried across the exposed
The elusive platypus can be spotted on a boating trip on Lake stretch of beach, then ambled slowlystopping often to socialise
Elizabeth (top) in Great Otway National Park; The 74-odd-acres of on the rocky shoretowards their burrows.
You Yangs National Park are an ideal habitat for koalas (bottom).
Unsexy Beasts
Penguins, koalas, and kangaroos are among Australias most
popular and recognisable animals, but they are not its most
threatened. A priority list of about 20 highly endangered
species includes such timorous beasties as the southern brown
bandicoot and long-nosed potoroo, and marsupial mice such
as dunnarts and antechinuses. The eastern barred bandicoot,
already extinct in the wild, is foremost on the list.
This small marsupial is the focus of conservation efforts on
WALKABOUT NATURE TOURS (KOALA)

Churchill Island (www.penguins.org.au/attractions/churchill-


island), a smaller island just next to Phillip Island. Churchill
has a preserved early settler heritage farm, complete with
livestock, but conservationists are trying to return the underlying
ecosystem of this island to its pre-European state, starting with
the eastern barred bandicoot. I visited Churchill during the
daythe wrong time to commune with this elusive, speedy,
and nocturnal marsupial, but I did meet Donald Sutherland,

108 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


AUSTRALIA

The Open Vehicle Adventure at the


Werribee Open Range area in Melbourne
Zoo lets visitors witness the wildlife of the
African savannah up close.

a researcher involved in its rehabilitation. Sutherland talked It was here that I sawor did I?the platypus.
about how a small population of bandicoots was introduced to Though the hidden lake looks ancient, it is actually only
Churchill, which has no foxes or cats. With Churchills bandicoots about 50 years old. The trunks of dead trees stuck up from
now rapidly multiplying, Sutherland hopes the species can one its muddy green surface, casualties of its formation when the
day be delisted as extinct in the wild. valley flooded. As we paddled across the water in rowboats, the
Getting people to care about such reticent and visually lake seemed so devoid of life that we might as well have been
understated animals as bandicoots is a challenge, but searching for the Loch Ness monster. Indeed, the platypus, a
Sutherland explained that such efforts are key to broader mammal with a bizarre duck bill and habit of laying eggs, was
ecosystem restoration. And the myriad people and institutions originally considered to be a hoax in Europe.
involved in bandicoot recoveryfrom citizen scientists, to zoos, Each time Jackson murmured, 12 oclock, 3 oclock, to our
to a special fox management teamspells greater collaboration left, we whipped our heads around, looking for the fascinating
in conservation efforts across the board. creature, which not only uses electrolocution to hunt, but also
Sutherland spoke of geographically isolated places like Phillip produces venom from an ankle spur. Was that the glimmer of
and Churchill Islands as conservation hubs. Thanks to the a fur-slicked back, or a wet log? The ripple of a swimming fish,
trapping, baiting, and hunting initiatives of the fox management or a diving platypus? After several such ambiguous sightings,
team, no foxes have been spotted on Phillip Island for almost Jackson, presumably deeming the outing a success, brought out
two years. This is good for the penguins therea single fox can biscuits and a flask of coffee.
kill up to 40 birds in a nightbut also means that bandicoots I sipped the warm drink, bemused at the capriciousness of
could be reintroduced on a larger scale. People could go this sort of wildlife encounter. But even if the platypuses were
PHOTO COURTESY: ZOOS VICTORIA/VISIT VICTORIA

to Philip Island to see what life could have been like, not forthcoming, it was enough to know that they were there,
Sutherland said. and to drift a while longer, listening to the rustling trees, the
occasional splash of an oar, and the unfamiliar evening birdcalls.
Hide-and-Seek As we rowed towards the shore, the soft, basso grunting of a
In the Great Otway National Park, along a southern tip of koala calling for its mate floated across the water. Its rumbling
Victorias coast, the landscape looked not only pre-European, gently receded behind me as I walked back through the dark
but primeval. A rainforest of tall tree ferns and hang-ing mosses forest, along a path glittering with glow-worms. Everything was
loomed over an enchanting trail at dusk. I followed guide strange and wonderful.
Bruce Jackson (www.platypustours.net.au), a man as quiet as
the animal he was taking a small group of us to see, down to Sonal Shah is a freelance editor and writer. She formerly edited
Lake Elizabeth for the subtlest wildlife experience of my trip. Time Out Delhi, and was an associate editor at The Caravan.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 109


Journeys | THE ESS E N C E

THE
JUNGLE
BOOK
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CAMPING IN SATPURA TIGER RESERVE REVEALS WONDROUS


LANDSCAPES AND A NEW PERSPECTIVE
BY KAREENA GIANANI
110 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017
MA DHYA PRADES H

Hiking in the territory of tigers


in Satpura is full of small joys,
like savouring silence amid dry
brown grasslands and making
pit stops by gurgling streams.

VERMA(XXXXXXXXX)
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PRABHAT

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 111


Journeys | THE ESS EN C E

Baked by the summer


sun, the leaves of sal
trees crunch like potato chips under my feet. Beyond me are armies
of these tall sentinels the Satpura Tiger Reserve is well known for.
Some trunks lean tipsily towards others. I have left my group behind
for a moment, but Im far from alone: red ants scuttle up and down
tree trunks, the twitter of drongos and orioles blends with the happy
babble of brooks. Perhaps, I tell myself, I am being tracked by a
stealthy leopard and dont even know it.
This is the core area of the tiger reserve and walking through of green, yellow, and brown. I relish the quiet, tuning in and
it plunges me into the wildest heart of a jungleany jungle out of conversations. Sometimes my mind rolls to mundane
Ive seen yet. None of that zipping across designated tracks in worries I have outside of this forest. I tell them to wait; perhaps
the safety of a jeep or returning to a guest house after safaris. I the wisdom of these trees is rubbing off on me. Inspired by
am here for a two-and-a-half-day camping trip across Satpura this centuries-old land that shapeshifts so much, I mentally
reserve in the Satpura range. The jungle falls in the hill station compose aphorisms about change (none to be shared publicly).
of Pachmarhi, which is a five-hour drive southeast of Bhopal. I watch a sambar in the distance coolly going about its day.
Pachmarhi is a UNESCO biosphere reserve that boasts of a A few metres away, I spot a rhesus macaque peering at me
variety of medicinal plants and stunning rocky landscapes. Day through leaves before whizzing from one branch to another as if
1 of my hike begins with the Forsyth Trail, a 15-kilometre walk they were trapezes. In a jungle, spotting animals isnt just about
that retraces the route British explorer James Forsyth took on looking at them in the eye. Ever so often, it is about joining the
one of his explorations of Central India in the mid-1860s. dots with the traces they leave behind. Fresh scat of a sloth bear
tells me how it feasted on termites for lunch. Recent gashes
on trees mean that a tiger or leopard could have stood here
WILD SIDE minutes ago.
About 30 minutes into the walk, Chinmay, our tireless A nest of weaver ants! They make yummy chutney of them in
naturalist, points to a large mound. It is unmistakably man- Chhatisgarh, announces Chinmay, pointing to a football-sized
made; the smoothest of pebbles, stones, and twigs are arranged cluster of leaves hanging from a mahua tree. They are sewn
and placed on it is a rock dressed in red cloth fringed together with a white substance. This nest is just one of a few or
with silver tinsel. The local Gond tribe has erected this even a hundred other such homes which are part of one mega
shrine for their goddess Banjari mata. They believe she will construction, a seething city built by a weaver ant colony in this
protect them from predators while they collect firewood, part of the jungle.
explains Chinmay. I feel a strange comfort in knowing that I share Chinmays sense of astonishment when he points
these woods, which for me are an escape, a distraction from a out a tree dying a slow death after being attacked by relentless
personal predicament, are somebodys home. The Gonds have termites; or picks up a beautiful beige-and-brown porcupine
long been relocated from the tiger reserve but still consider it quill and tells me how the boys of the local Baiga tribe gift it to
their spiritual abode. girls they fancy. To him, Satpura is a wild wonderland and his
Satpuras landscape changes like a fast cutting montage. own open-air botanical laboratory. It dawns on me that my time
The forest closes in thickly before suddenly opening up into in this jungle isnt about keeping eyes peeled for the tiger, but
a yawning ravine. Rocky stretches lead to swathes of tawny being attentive to every sigh and secret of this wilderness. And
grassland, which then give way to startlingly clear streams. In hiking is also a good way to patrol the area so poachers remain
minutes, I feel like Ive thumbed through Pantones swatches at bay, says Chinmay.

112 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


MA DHYA PRADES H

A typical day in Satpura Tiger Reserve is spent manoeuvring miles of boulders (top), but nights are reserved
for swapping stories under the star-spangled skies (bottom).

DHARMENDRA (TREKKERS), PHOTO COURTESY: PUGDUNDEE SAFARIS (TENTS)

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 113


Journeys | THE ESS E N C E

SATPURAS LANDSCAPE
CHANGES LIKE A FAST CUTTING
MONTAGE. THE FOREST CLOSES
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IN THICKLY

114 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


MA DHYA PRADES H

Come dusk, campsites are set


up in the most picturesque parts
of the forests buffer zone, like
grasslands or clearings by brooks.

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DHARMENDRA

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 115


Journeys | THE ESS E N C E

The canopy of trees in the


tiger reserve brims with
birds of every imaginable
hue, like the green Jerdons
leafbird and sun-coloured
oriole (bottom right); It
is never too silly to grab
hanging roots and imitate
another Satpura resident,
the Rhesus macaque
(middle); A walk through
Satpuras core area means
rare proximity to its grand-
est resident, the leopard (top
left). But the experience also
kindles an appreciation for
other creatures, such as the
swift and shy Malabar giant
squirrel (bottom left), and the
hard-working weaver ants
who build complex nests
(top right).

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MA DHYA PRADES H

instead of mating calls, so he came to Satpura. What didnt kill


A M OV E A B L E F E A S T me made me surer of how I wanted to spend the rest of my life,
In the distance, I see a long wooden table and cushy chairs ar- smiled Chinmay.
ranged at a clearing under a tree. It is lunchtime, and a small This day is full of startling discoveries. Or perhaps it is just me
team of staff from our lodge, Denwa Backwater Escape, meets who is more present, tasting every detail. I coo over the delicate
us near a cool shallow pool. We gratefully accept small luxuries: red sundews whose surface is covered in what look like dewdrops.
hand sanitizer is slathered liberally, cold towels are pressed on to But these are badass carnivorous plants and the dewdrops are
grimy faces, chilled cola cans are popped right and left. I heap dal deadly globules that lure insects. I spend some quality time mak-
and some rice flecked with coconut and raisins on to my plate, ing faces at a Malabar giant squirrel perched on a tree branch. All
feeling full only after my third helping of crispy bhindi tossed in this while, the smallest of rustle tells me that a leviathan of the
spices and aamchur. Satpura range might be looming large.
The feast has no soporific effect on Chinmay. He tells us that And suddenly they are all around: boulders. Fifteen kilometres
next up is a steep descent. Im terrible at them, I want to beseech of rocks that will put up a fight as we cross them. I am not daunted,
shrilly. Yet I tell no one that the last time I trekked down a steep and attribute this cheeriness to the terrain; miles of stunning
descent, I rolled down like tumbleweed. I emerged covered in pink and purple sedimentary rock that looks like swirling waves
muck, weeds in my hair, and my pants torn in strategic places. frozen in stone. True, I cross some boulders in the most unladylike
Dont think. Dont teeter between rocks. Keep going, says ways: clambering over them on all fours, clutching at plants for
Manav, a fellow trekker who grew up scaling snowy mountains support, even spraining my ankle. But I learn that all that matters
in Uttarakhand. I peer at the path below: its not a trail but a right now is putting one foot after another; not the craggy cliffs I
once-trodden path at best, amid rambling weeds and rocks slick leave behind, nor the emerald streams that lie ahead.
with wet mud. This, I think dramatically, is Planet Earth. And my Our pace isnt adequate, and we cross the jungle in semi-
current spirit animal is the Nubian ibex getting down dizzyingly darkness for a full 45 minutes. My mind turns trickster. Shadows
steep slopes of the Arabian Peninsulas mountains. I have none of seem like lurking beasts and the quiet feels like a precursor to
its soft cloven hoofs; one misstep and Ill fall right into the belly doom. For the first time, I see the forest as a brutal place.
of the valley. Later that night, we huddle around the bonfire for one last
I start gingerly, but slowly I push at the limits of my nature and time. We arent just co-travellers; we trust each other. We hauled
try not to think; really not think. I keep my eyes open but dont each other up every time someone froze among massive boulders
linger looking for the best footholds. I wouldnt say I descend with and steep cliffs. We speak of our childhoods, lost loves, and heal-
ease, but I do develop a rhythm. The proof that theres always a ing hearts until we run out of wood for the fire. We are vastly dif-
way out is all around me. This jungle may be at the mercy of the ferent people, but tonight in this forest we explored together, we
elements, but it puts up a hell of a fight and survives. So, up or have the same stories.
down, theres a path. Always. Kareena Gianani is Senior Associate Editor at National

CHINMAY DESHPANDE (LEOPARD & SQUIRREL), DHARMENDRA (LEAVES & PEOPLE), PRABHAT VERMA (BIRD)
That evening, our home pops up at the foot of a hulking moun- Geographic Traveller India. She loves stumbling upon hole-in-
tain like a magic trick. Khaki tents are kitted out with soft beds. the-wall bookshops, old towns, and collecting owl souvenirs in
Makeshift bathrooms are fitted with open-air showershot all shapes and sizes.
showers!for a bath under the skies.
Laltains are placed along this buffer zone campsite like fairy
lights. A bonfire sputters to life. Frogs croak throatily over the THE VITALS
concert of cicadas, and the aromas of seekh kebab and peppery The best time to camp in Satpura Tiger Reserve is November
potato eddy in the air. My legs smart from all the hiking, and the to March. The Denwa Backwater Escape lodge organizes
horror stories we exchange are spookier than the plot of Stranger 1-3-night luxury camping trips to Satpura. The trek traverses
Things. But I cant stop grinning every time I look up at the stars through its core area, and camps are set up in the buffer
blinking in the night sky like glittered confetti. zone. Expect twin beds in roomy tents, hot showers and dry
pit toilets, and delicious meals made from local produce.
Stay The lodge lies in the Madhai area in south Madhya
C LO S E C O N N E C T I O N S Pradesh, 60 km/1.5 hr northwest from the entry point of the
Forsyth Trail. Overlooking the backwaters of the River Denwa,
Theres an unmistakable closeness among us when we set out the lodges 8 cottages and 2 treehouses offer memorable
the next morning. D.K., a Delhi-based businessman, thought- views of grasslands. All accommodations have large sit-out
fully clears prickly bushes for the person walking behind areas perfect for curling up with a book and watching the
him; Manav offers to carry backpacks when he notices some- sunset. (www.denwabackwaterescape.com; doubles from
ones tired. And Chinmay reveals why he became a natural- `18,000; luxury camping from `20,000 per person per night).
ist instead of an engineer. He fervently loves snakes, and Getting There The closest airport to Denwa is in Bhopal
grew up spotting them in his hometown of Nashik. But a (170 km/ 4 hr northwest). Itarsi railway station (70 km/
few years ago, while rescuing a cobra, its bite almost killed 2 hr west) is well connected to major cities.
him. He decided life was too short to crack computer codes

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 117


SHORT BREAKS
118 120
stay stay
Glamping and other perks near Inside Indias first pod hotel
Pench National Park in Mumbai

Jamtara Wilderness
Camps Star Beds are a
glamorous twist on the
machans farmers sleep
on in the middle of their
fields at night.

GROOVY GRASSLAND
ROUGH IT OUT IN STYLE AT JAMTARA WILDERNESS CAMP | BY NEHA DARA

S
ince I was a child, Ive considered the two nights. Ignoring the grass brushing against
grasslands a sinister place. Its probably my sides, I focused instead on that tree in the
the result of dozens of trips to Jim Corbett distance from which I could hear a bird whistling,
wildlife
National Park, during which my mother told and gurgle of the stream that ran just beside
stories of tigers and other dangers lurking the tent.
among the tall grasses. Unlike trees, This was my first experience of
which very obviously have hiding spots, glamping, and I must confess I was
grasslands are beguiling spaces. They surprised by the number of comforts ``
PHOTO COURTESY: JAMTARA WILDERNESS CAMP

can usher an animal in with their soft that can be crammed inside a
undulating movements in the breeze, structure that, come monsoon, can be luxury
only to spring a nasty surprise. disassembled and packed away. In one
So, I was a little taken aback when corner was a wooden desk, stocked with
my luxury tent at Jamtara Wilderness writing paper and a stack of postcards
Camp, near Pench National Parks Jamtara with colourful tiger motifs. Besides the bed,
gate, turned out to be surrounded by a sea of beige the tent also has a sofa in a corner with an inviting
grasses as high as my waist. I swallowed back the pile of soft cushions, an antique-style oval mirror, relaxation
sudden uneasiness I felt, and followed my husband and bright rugs covering the wooden floor. The
down the snaking path that led to our home for only permanent part of the set-up is the bathroom,

118 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


MA DHYA PRADES H

MADHYA
Jabalpur
PRADESH
Jamtara Wilderness
Camp

THE VITALS
Getting There Jamtara
Wilderness Camp is
located near Pench
National Parks Jamtara
gate, a 1.5-hour drive
in which everything is stored during the monsoon. the jungle in the cover of the night, and prowl on from the parks better
In the lethargy that crept up on us in the heat of rooftops and back alleys in search of easy prey like known Seoni entrance.
It is 208 km/4.5 hr
the afternoon, we flopped on the beds, not asleep poultry and cattle.
southwest of Jabalpur
but not quite awake. Small details flitted in and Back at the camp, we settled into chairs
and 150 km/3 hr
out of focus. The gleaming slimy underside of a around a bonfire thats organised most winter north of Nagpur, the
snail creeping up the tent flap. The loud buzzing of evenings. Snacks and drinks made the rounds as nearest airport.
a bee somewhere beyond it, just out of sight. The we exchanged stories of animal sightings in the
tiny purple flower atop a nodding frond of grass. park with other guests in the light of the dancing Accommodation
A warm wind blew in, rustling through the grass flames. When we went in for dinner, the dining Jamtara Wilderness
and carrying indecipherable whispers to our ears. rooms rustic dcor caught my eye. The floor is Camp has 10 tents
When I woke up in the early evening, the grassland made from scrap wood, the walls have a rough, on a 10-acre property
seemed like a less intimidating space. bumpy finish, and the dining table is fashioned bookended by two
Besides embarking on jeep safaris into from a long cross-section of a tree trunk, with all streams. The landscape
Pench, visitors to Jamtara can stroll through the its natural twists. is a mix of grassland
village the camp is named after. Plump gourds For a special experience, guests can opt for and trees. Theres
no television, Wi-Fi,
grew on vines that climbed up whitewashed walls a night on the Star Bed, and sleep on a raised
and limited phone
and onto tiled roofs of the single-storey cottages. platform under the stars. But honestly, it is not
signal, giving visitors
Their courtyards overflowed with corn cobs necessary to opt for anything extra to feel special. an opportunity to
turning into a shade of orange as they dried in the The camps staff made us feel that way all the time disconnect from their
sun. Our guide from the camp waved out to several with thoughtful little flourishes. Like the hot water routines. Tents are
people we passed; many of the men from the bottle tucked into the blankets that awaited us in bright and airy, with
village work as guides and drivers in the national the safari jeep, and the candlelit tea they surprised forest-facing porches.
park. They told us tales of tigers that creep out of us with when we returned from an evening walk. (91906 18805; www.
jamtarawilderness.com;
doubles from `39,501;
including all meals, two
safaris, buffer zone and
village walks; lodge
open mid-October to
mid-May).

Jamtaras luxury tents


(bottom) are a great base
for safari excusions into
Pench National Park
(top left) and strolls into
the neighbouring village
PHOTO COURTESY: JAMTARA WILDERNESS CAMP

of Jamtara (top right),


after which the camp
is named.

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 119


Short Breaks | STAY

I,POD
IN A COMFORTABLE SPACE-AGE COCOON AT INDIAS FIRST POD HOTEL | BY RUMELA BASU

The 124 Classic Pods at Mumbais


Urbanpod are cosy, compact,
and equipped with everything a
traveller might need for a night
in. The fact that they resemble
the props of a sci-fi film is only
an added advantage.

I
am an astronaut. Not really, but I feel for the headphones that are hanging on the far
like one as I look into the circular mirror left corner near my head, a digital clock, and
inside my little pod-room in Mumbais touch-operated controls for all the lights. Tucked URBAN
Urbanpod. I left my shoes in the shoe locker as right under this edgy techie display is a small
soon as I entered the hotel and now Im crawling Godrej locker.
into my bed inside a capsule-like pod. I sit there The inner astronaut in me sighs wearily as I
taking in my cosy surroundings. There is a lot settle back on the pillow and pick up my laptop.
of white, from the sheets and the pillow to the Little blue LEDs along the panel indicate the `
interiors of the pod. The lights are a bluish- brightness of the lights around the mirror and on
white, unlike the amber ones usually found in the ceiling. I fiddle with it to let my pod be bathed POCKET-FRIENDLY
hotel rooms. It gives an illusion of more space in a mellow bluish-white glow.
and makes the pod look a little clinical. I touch The little world created inside is in sharp con-
PHOTO COURTESY: URBANPOD

the tiny icon on the console-like set-up to my left trast with the one outside the hotel. Urbanpods
and the ceiling light flickers on. This console is locationthe busy area of SEEPZ Andheri, right
right below my mirror that looks like the peaceful beside a bus depotis as nondescript as can be.
cousin of HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odysseys Offices and shops line the bustling road in front
electronic antagonist. There are two USB ports, of the building where the hotel is housed. Only
a socket for plugging in my devices, another after stepping off the elevator on the first floor

120 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


MAHARAS HTRA

and entering through the double glass doors does


the sense of being in a hotel kick in. And one floor
MAHARASHTRA
of a building is all that it occupies. The pods are
located in clusters of 12 to 18, most of them in a Urbanpod,
large room with one main door and some along Mumbai

the hallway. Travellers flitting in and out of the


city for work would probably find a comfortable
space here.
At around 7 p.m., I am asked to give my
THE VITALS
preference for dinner. The caf outside serves
Getting There
packed meals that come from a kitchen located
Urbanpod is located
a few kilometres away. Simple Indian, Asian,
in SEEPZ in Andheri,
and European meals with vegetarian and non- Mumbai. The inter-
vegetarian options make up the menu. I am national airport is about
informed that my dinner will arrive in the next 15 min/5 km south of
hour and a half or so and I decide to make my way the hotel. The closest
to the shower. The bathrooms, separated from the railway stations are
pods, are located in one section at the end of a long Bandra railway station
corridor. Since I am put in a ladies special pod (30 min/35 km south)
one in a cluster of 18my bathroom is within the and Chhatrapati Shivaji
same room as my pod. Terminus (1.5 hr/35 km
While I have a lot of privacy, because the south).
ladies pod is relatively empty, a shared space
Accommodation
like the Urbanpod may not be the best fit for
Urbanpod has 140
every traveller. However, if you are a backpacker
pods and rooms.
and would return to your room only to find some The Classic Pod is a
peace and shut-eye, then the pod may be a good single-occupancy pod
idea. It also helps that this little cocoon looks located within a room
snazzy. Mulling over my next backpacking trip, with 12-18 other pods.
I head out to the caf for dinner. My Asian meal Showers are separate.
of rice and chicken comes in a take-away box, There are 124 Classic
along with cutlery in a transparent pouch. If I Pods. Of these, 18 are
was airborne, this would feel like a lavish meal only for women and
on a flight. housed in one room.
As I crawl into my pod at the end of the day, I The bathrooms are also
accommodated within
think about whether Id like to return to Urbanpod.
the same space. The
I live in Mumbai and often feel like getting away
second kind, the Private
from the din. Most times there is an urge to be
Pod, is not located in
closer to nature and get a room with a view that a shared space and
soothes the eyes, but once in a while I wouldnt has some extra space
mind being left on my own. outside. There are six
However, this might not be an experience of these in all. The 10
suitable for everyone. If you are expecting suites are regular rooms
24-hour room service, or are over about 63, then with a queen-size bed,
you might want to reconsider staying here. One television and locker.
of my main concerns when checking into Meals are served at
Urbanpod was claustrophobia but I didnt need the caf and guests
to worry as I have almost a foot of headspace are advised not to eat
inside the pods. (www.
and a lot more leg-space inside. In the beginning
theurbanpod.com;
I did consider checking into a private pod, which
pods from `1,800; suite
is located away from the clustera solitary pod in doubles `3,200.)
one room that also has some space outside its
sliding door. I was also given the option of a suite,
Urbanpods pods (top),
with a queen-size bed and a large window. It,
PHOTO COURTESY: URBANPOD

housed in clusters of
however, seemed only fitting that I give the pod 12-18 within a large
a shot. room, and 10 pod-suites
Turning in for the night, I find myself planning a (middle) are located
on one floor; Meals
getaway, or podation as I call it. I think about an packaged like take-aways
upgraded business-class flight experience. It looks are served in the hotels
a lot like my pod. sunny caf (bottom).

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 121


d-maps
600 mi

Inspire | TUR KEY

UKRAINE

RUSSIA

Konya
TURKEY

SYRIA

IRAQ

RUMI FESTIVAL
KONYA, TURKEY

Every year more than a


million people from all around
the world, descend on the
Anatolian city of Konya in
Turkey, for the annual Rumi
festival held in December.
It was here that Mevlana
Celaleddin-i Rumi, a well
known 13th-century Sufi
poet and writer, breathed his
last. Despite the passage of
time, Rumis writings have
mesmerised people from all
walks of life. His philosophy
and thought which show no
bias towards any religion or
race has successfully mana-
ged to win the hearts of many,
including the likes of pop
icon, Madonna.
During the festival, the
brotherhood called Mevlevi,
or whirling dervishes formed
by his followers, dance to
connect with their philosopher
and to their inner selves. The
dervishes dance for several
days but put up the most
spectacular show at the grand
finale on 17 Decemberthe
day that Rumi united with God,
considered to be his wedding
night. Wearing white long robes
meant to resemble shrouds,
black cloaks symbolising their
worldly tombs, and traditional
conical caps their tombstones;
the dervishes dance
themselves into a trancelike
state while onlookers soak in
the mystic atmosphere.
Chaitali Patel

122 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


OLEKSANDR RUPETA/ ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 123


Inspire | IR ELA ND

124 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


IRELAND
Dublin
UNITED
KINGDOM

CELTIC SEA

BLOOMSDAY
DUBLIN, IRELAND

It was Russian literary


great, Vladimir Nabokov,
who remarked after reading
James Joyces Ulysses, How
beautifully the man writes!
Dubliners certainly echo that
sentiment during a month-long
celebration of Joyces seminal
work every year.
The festival, which kicks off
on 16 June, is called Bloomsday
after the protagonist of the
novel, Leopold Bloom. What
began as a small event in 1954
has grown into a nationwide
affair with the day now being
observed as a national holiday.
Ulysses follows advertising
professional Blooms life as it
played out on 16 June, 1904,
from 8 a. m. to the wee hours
the next morning. On the
day, Joyce devotees follow
the journey of Bloom in full
costume complete with straw
boater hats. Fans of the book
go through the streets of
Dublin and visit the places
referenced in the book, from
visiting Swenys Pharmacy for
lemon soap, to having a lunch
ZOONAR/P.CREAN/ ZOONAR GMBH RM/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE

of gorgonzola sandwich with


burgundy just as Bloom did.
The streets come alive with
performances and readings
from the book. Such is the
popularity of the tome and its
characters, that Bloomsday is
celebrated around the world
from San Francisco to Tokyo.
Chaitali Patel

MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA 125


Inspire | IND IA

AN
ST
KI
PA

Jaipur
RAJASTHAN

INDIA

JAIPUR
LITERATURE
FESTIVAL
JAIPUR, INDIA

If you want to catch some of


the biggest names in literature
congregate for an exhilarating
exchange of ideas, then
the place to be is Jaipur in
January. Despite its modest
beginnings, the five-day Jaipur
Literature Festival (JLF) is
now the premier destination
for authors, managing to snag
some elusive invitees like
J.M. Coetzee, Jonathan
Franzen, and Margaret Atwood.
As the sun beats down on the
green lawns and grounds, fans
pack different tents across the
majestic venues throughout
the city in the hope of catching
their favourite speakers. The
settings elegance and luxury
also attracts trendy socialites
and celebrities, who mingle
with the other guests in the
evenings over cocktails and
dinners. There is plenty to do
outside literature, too, with
music concerts, food stalls
that hawk both haute and local
cuisine and art installations on
offer. In the last few years,
JLFs popularity has soared so
much that the festival has now
gone beyond Indian shores
with an annual event held in
London in May, and another
one held in Boulder, Colorado
every September.
Chaitali Patel

126 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017


MAY 2017 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA
127
ZOONAR/P.CREAN /ZOONAR GMBH RM/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY
TRAVEL QUIZ T E S T Y O U R T R AV E L I Q

NAME THE COUNTRY WHERE


HKARL, A DISH OF SHARK MEAT,
IS CONSIDERED A DELICACY.
IN WHICH COUNTRIES WAS ROGUE ONE A
STAR WARS STORY FILMED?
3 HOW LONG IS THE GREAT BARRIER REEF?

1 2 3

ANDYKRAKOVSKI/ISTOCK (HKARL), DIN_EUGENIO/ISTOCK (FANS), GONZALO AZUMENDI/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (GREAT BARRIER REEF), MONTGOMERYGILCHRIST/
ISTOCK (LLAMAS), TOUCHINGPIXEL/SHUTTERSTOCK (BOATS), STEVEGEER/ISTOCK (DINOSAUR), DIRSCHERL REINHARD/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (PYRAMID), FUMIO
THIS CITY SITTING BETWEEN THE
SANTA YNEZ MOUNTAINS AND THE WHERE IS THE LARGEST DINOSAUR
PACIFIC OCEAN IS ALSO KNOWN AS FOSSIL SITE IN INDIA?
THE AMERICAN RIVIERA.

4
WHERE CAN YOU MEET WILD

OKADA/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (CHURCH), RAFAEL BEN-ARI/CHAMEL/DINODIA PHOTO LIBRARY (CAMEL)


LLAMAS AND ALPACAS
WHILE TREKKING UP TO

6
RAINBOW MOUNTAIN?

5
8
HOW MANY OF THE SEVEN WONDERS WHICH ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE, ALSO KNOWN
AS ROSE CITY OR ROSE-RED CITY, IS
OF THE ANCIENT WORLD STILL EXIST CARVED INTO SANDSTONE CLIFFS?
AND WHERE CAN WE SEE THEM?
WHICH IS THE WORLDS
OLDEST CHINATOWN?

7 9
GIZA, EGYPT 8. BINONDO IN MANILA, PHILIPPINES. IT WAS ESTABLISHED IN THE 16TH CENTURY 9. PETRA, JORDAN
ANSWERS 1. ICELAND 2. U.K., U.A.E., JORDAN, MALDIVES, AND ICELAND 3. 2,300 KILOMETRES 4. PERU 5. SANTA BARBARA 6. GUJARAT 7. ONE. THE PYRAMIDS OF

128 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MAY 2017