Photo of the Day – Landing in Leh

Photo of the Day

Kushok Bakula Rimpochee AirportStarting today I’m starting a new series called ‘Photo of the Day’ from my travels. Hope you like it.

One of the most breathtaking airports that I have landed in is the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport of Leh. About fifteen minutes before landing you get to see the majestic barren landscape which cradles this tiny airport. The flight attended keeps announcing to deaf ears that photography is strictly prohibited during landing due to security reasons… but no one can help themselves.

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Inside Circle: Dudhwa National Park

Travel

 

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Most of the people I have come across have no idea about Dudhwa National Park and even fewer have ever visited it. Having heard good reviews from few of my adventurous friends, I was quite excited when I got an invitation from a friend of the Destination Knowledge Centre who plans to convert his farm estate into a luxury resort.

Located near the Indo-Nepal border, Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh is a major wildlife conservation site and an important reserve under the Project Tiger project for the conservation of Indian tigers.  We had driven down from Delhi. With Bareilly as the only halt we reached by afternoon. But the best thing to do is fly from Delhi to Lucknow and then drive for 4 hrs to reach the park.

The best fit for clients: After Delhi-Jaipur and Agra, continue to Chambal Safari Lodge ( 1hr/30 mins from Agra) to spend a couple of nights and then to Dudhwa (5-6 hrs from Chambal Safari Lodge) and finally Lucknow before taking the train/flight back to Delhi.

We had a quick lunch and were ready to head out for a game drive. After a long bumpy ride (the park gate is close to a 1 hr drive from the property) we reached the park.  The forest was beautiful. Even in peak summer the forest canopy was green. Dudhwa National Park has moist Sal forest unlike other parts of central India which are known for its dry Sal forest.  My time inside the forest was made extra special by the fact that I had an expert birder with me. The park boasts of more than 350 species of birds and we were able to spot many interesting ones like the Indian pitta, swamp partridge, plenty of painted storks, owls, woodpeckers and hornbills. Much of Dudhwa’s avian fauna is aquatic and found around lakes. Many a times when going to-and-fro we would stop at a bridge over the Sharda River to look at the huge turtles floating peacefully on the water surface and sometimes catch a glimpse of Gharials. The eco-system here which comprises of mesmerising mosaic of Sal and Teak Forest, lush green grasslands, steaming swamps and wetlands is what makes drives very interesting. I was also surprised to learn that this is probably the only National Park in the country where you can see tigers, swamp deer’s as well as rhinos. The 24 sq km enclosure inside the park, with swamps lands and tall grass is an ideal habitat for rhinos. We went on elephant backs to spot them. The tigers once again eluded me and Iam yet to see one in the wild.

Let me tell you a bit about my host’s property.  He is confident would be up and running by the coming season. The Haveli which was built in the 50’s has a colonial feel to it. The approach to the property is pleasant with litchi plantations and sugarcane fields flanking either side. Space is not a constraint here with acres of private cultivation land surrounding the property which is free to be explored by clients. Kamaljeet (the owner) plans to keep bikes and all-terrain vehicles at client’s disposal for them to explore their surroundings. At the moment there are seven rooms which would be decorated with British campaign furniture.  The food served here would be famous Awadhi Cuisine, including family recipes handed down through generations.  A wonderful sit out is an ideal place for evening get together after a tiring game drive. Apart from Kamaljeet’s property, stay wise there is nothing else noteworthy here. Ultimate Travelling Camp plans to open Suheli Camp, Dudhwa, to give clients the luxury tent experience sometime soon.

Before leaving Dudhwa I made a visit to ‘Billy’ Arjan Singh’s land, an Indian hunter turned conservationist who made Dudhwa famous by successfully hand-rearing and reintroducing zoo-born tigers and leopards in the wilds of Dudhwa. His house has a dreary, lost look to it as if forgotten by time, same as Dudhwa. It is hard to image that only fifteen years ago this park was once as famous as Corbett National Park.

Highs:

–          Located in near to Lucknow makes it easily accessible

–          Unique eco-system of Sal forest, swamps and tall grasslands

–          An opportunity to see rare avian species like the Bengal Florican, Swamp Partridge as well as tigers, rhinos and elephants.

–          No pollution of too many resorts putting a strain on the forest

Lows:

–          The distance from the property to the forest gate is a long 1 hr drive. There is a plan to reach the park through another gate  which if goes through would cut the drive time to 20mins.

–          Weekends attracts the local domestic tourist which sometimes leads to many vehicles in the park. There is at the moment no rule about number of vehicles to be allowed inside the park

 

Update : Recently Jaagir has come under the Tree of Life banner run by Himmat Anand. Expect only good stuff now 🙂

Website: http://www.treeofliferesorts.com/dudhwa/

Explore West Bengal

Travel

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Here is a sneak peak at the exciting possibilities including combining this itinerary with the river cruise on the Hugli

Day 1

Find yourself in a Weaver’s Village

Soumya recommends that we stop at Phulia, perhaps the most renowned sari weaving centre of West Bengal. It’s fascinating to see looms in almost every house and listen to the lulling sound of wooden shuttles catapulting between the threads. There are an amazing 70,000 looms in this village itself. Weavers here trace their lineage to the great Bengal handloom saree weaving centre of Tangail near Dhaka (Bangladesh). They have evolved their own weaving style called ‘Fulia Tangail’. The Fulia Tangail incorporates vibrant colours and large, intricate designs woven in double jacquard. These sarees are also being woven in mulberry and tassar silk apart from cotton.

Day 2

Silk Extraction  

Spend time watching silk being extracted from silkworm cocoons and spun into fine thread for weaving. The fields of yellow cocoons drying in the sun are a sight worth seeing. If you feel up to the challenge, try your hand at finding the end of the silk thread to be spun into threads.  Later we visit a palace of 1000 Doors of the Nawabs of Murshidabad; a treasure trove of valuable historical exhibits.

Day 3

Treat yourself to good food and learn about the Open-Air Education

As any Bengali would agree, they live for good food. Relish a delicious home cooked Bengali meal at Vanalakshmi – a small farm just outside Shantiniketan where they use traditional methods to grow their produce. Later visit Visva Bharati – Rabindranath Tagore’s experiment with the open-air system of education as opposed to being cloistered in the four walls of a classroom. Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, writer, musician and playwright and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. See the wonderful open air art installation around Kala Bhavan (Art Faculty) of Ramkinkar the pioneer of modern Indian sculpture, experimenting with abstract sculptural forms.

Day 4

Spend time with the ladies of Amar Kutir and at the Saturday fair

Amar Kutir an instance of self-sufficiency based on Tagore’s ideals.  Apart from visiting their retail outlet which sells pretty handicrafts and locally made goods, slip into their workshop of embossed leather goods. If you have time drop in the ladies of Amar Kutir busy stitching kanta. Kantha originally was a poor man’s wrap consisting of old clothes patched up and sewn into a single garment. The idea was to utilize torn cloths and rags by sewing them together with close stitches and embroidering them for household purpose, so that not a single piece of cloth in the house was wasted.  Come evening, every Saturday Shantineketan is host to weekly fair selling beautiful handmade products. The fair also attracts ‘Bauls’ a music unique to West Bengal where the songs are of joy, love, and longing for mystical union with the divine.

Day 5

Terracotta Temples- Stories in Stone

The sleepy little town of Bishnupur is dotted with stunning Terracotta Temples. Art in West Bengal was mainly religious in nature, and was expressed through the medium of temples. Local materials, bricks and terracotta, and features like the curved “Bangla” roof (which you can still see in the traditional sathal tribal houses) blended with the Muslim domes and Islamic multi-lobed arches. This distinctive architecture also assimilated styles from the neighbouring regions. Spot interesting carvings on bricks. The motifs vary from the epic battles of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, demons, and the life of Krishna. Secular themes included warriors, hunters, musicians, tradesman, birds and animals.

Day 6

Visit a Potter’s Village

Why not get your hands dirty playing with clay? Panchmura village, a half an hour drive from Bishnupur is a potters’ village. There are close to fifty families creating terracotta horses with its elongated neck.

Day 7

Put your fingers to work

Try your hand at Kantha embroidery and block printing in Kolkata. See how the traditional weaves of Phulia which you saw earlier are getting new avatars with the help of some young entrepreneurs. Print your own scarfs, shawls or stoles.

 

We can reverse this itinerary (Kolkata- Bishnupur- Bolpur- Baharampur) and after Baharampur drive to Farakka (2 hrs) to embark on a downstream river cruise (click here) on the Hugli which ends in Kolkata. (7-day itinerary)

 

Just so you are aware

* Kolkata – Baharmpur: 5hrs/30mins

* Baharmpur – Bolpur: 5hrs

* Bolpur – Bishnupur: 4hrs/30mins

* Bishnupur – Kolkata: 5hrs/30mins

Get in touch with me for more information.