Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Quest for the TIGER


Husband and I started this year with a trip to Bandipur Tiger Reserve, another one added in our never ending quest to see the mighty Tiger in its natural habitat. Before this trip we had done around 8-9 safaris (together and individually), and with our cumulative bad luck so far we decided not to rely on it. Considering Mommy and Daddy in law were successful in past in spotting a tiger and Mom-Dad would bring their beginners luck with them, we decided to tag along with them. So on the 1st of January the six of us hopped into an Innova and took a fun filled road trip to Bandipur, of course with a pit stop to family favorite breakfast place – Kamath Lokaruchi.

Before I move on to other details, a special shout out to the folks at Jungle Lodges and Resorts. A great and an extremely hospitable place to stay during your wildlife quests. Helpful staff who are ever eager to make your stay comfortable. And what else, they had been supporting digital transactions long before our government started advocating it. There is a quaint little sign placed at the entrance – “No cash accepted. Only credit/debit card transactions allowed.”

So we started our evening safari with vigor, excited to spot the wildlife in the reserve, learn some new names and click some great shots. However, it seemed like even the jungle citizens were having a bad new year eve hangover. We hardly spotted anything. By the end of those uneventful 3 hours, we just reeked of dust and the jungle commoners – spotted deers and jungle fowls – felt like next door neighbors. You keep on seeing them everywhere you looked! The king of the jungle had ditched us once again. There wasn’t even an alarm call heard. To add to the dismay, a group of lucky wildlife enthusiasts had spotted two leopards during their evening safari. The disappointment however was washed down over a cup of warm tea and plateful of freshly fried pakoras and much family love. And a dinner and a night time stroll later, we were happily saying good night and looking forward to a new day, new safari.

 The eagerness woke us up even before the 5:30 AM wakeup call. And this time around there was loads to ogle at. A baby elephant, barking deer, peacocks, eagles, kingfishers, woodpeckers, storks, flycatchers, bee-eaters and plenty of other birds we couldn’t even catch the name of. BUT the captain of the jungle team had evaded us yet again. The rush we had felt when we heard a Sambar deer alarm call was let down by no sightings.

Why-o-why oh mighty King,
Like birds of the jungle, we sing.
Why-o-why we can’t see,
The fabulously striped thee.

Thus we ended our journey to the dreamland with a lovely spread of breakfast and the giddiness of knowing that nobody else spotted a tiger either . We started back for Bangalore. The absence of the predators was felt but not so deeply because of the awesome company. The 24-hour long outstation trip with parents is something you all should try. Its fun! TVF could probably think of a sequel to Tripling. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Vietnam Diaries

They say your travels make you smarter, more experienced. And I think they are pretty much on the mark. One can have a variety of experiences when travelling, and when one sits down to write a travelogue, it is always hard to decide what to start with. Setting aside this confusion, I decided to start with when I felt the most at peace.  Standing right there at the serene Cua Dai beach, gazing at the South China Sea, letting the waves wash away the sand from beneath my feet. It was all so quiet and beautiful. The feeling that there is nobody else in this world, nothing else that you have to do and nowhere else you have to be. You can forget anything and everything and just live in that moment. Stand there and just look around and observe your surroundings – the surfer fighting the waves, the kids building a sand castle, the lady vendor trying to sell goodies.

Vietnam has a lot to offer when it comes to visuals. It had us engaged right from the moment we landed in Hanoi. Closely built narrow houses, good roads, several two wheelers driving haphazardly, funny helmets, small stools at the street food outlets, locals trying to sell you souvenirs, extremely cheap ice cream ( I am serious it costs only 30 US cents). Our two days in the capital were hectic and tiring. With so much to cover, old French quarters, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, ancient house, temples, pagodas, museum of ethnology, Hoa Lo prison, Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake and much more, we got a taste of how it used to be in old times with no internet and no GPS to assist you. Our first day mostly went in consulting a paper map and trying to find our way to places. A big wake up call on how much we rely on the technology these days. Kudos to us that despite our shortcomings we managed to visit all that was on our list along with finding out great places to eat. Well, some self praise doesn’t hurt! ;)

Post Hanoi, our plans to cruise along in the Halong Bay was washed out by a serious storm in the area. We were looking forward to it, dreaming about the great photo opportunities that we would get. What followed was something I never imagined us doing on a vacation, Trekking! But Mother Nature did not disappoint us at all. Walking along the trail with some breathtaking views of the rice fields of Sapa was a fun filled adventure in itself. However, our interactions with the locals here kind of dampened the high that we got from the beauty of the place. People are helpful but all for a price. Children are well versed in English and proficient in 101 of how to get friendly with the tourists. The continuous pestering is a deal breaker.

After the highs and lows of Sapa, we moved on to Hoi An, the quaint little town. The best stop of the vacation. Our two days here went by in a breeze and we wanted to stay and explore more. The good times started with us checking into Rock Villa. If you are visiting Hoi An, this is the peaceful and hospitable stay that you are looking for. And what more, it is easy on the pocket as well. Hoi An can be very conveniently explored on bikes. One would fall in love with the evenings of the town, with luminescent lanterns, floating candles, hustle bustle all around. The foodie within, gave us a shout out to set out on a gastronomical journey and we readily signed up for a cooking class. Working our way through four delicious courses accompanied with the chilled passion fruit juice was the adventure we would so fondly reminisce. If you are a fruit lover, Vietnam is definitely the place for you. The sheer abundance of the variety of tropical fruits can leave you wanting for more.

Ho Chi Minh City, our last leg of the vacation was a bundle of mixed experiences. The old city of Saigon, one of the most populous ones of Vietnam, left me pensive – wondering out loud about what the atrocity called war actually means. Looking at those heartbreaking pictures of Agent Orange victims in the War Remnants Museum I could only think of how the war affects the innocents the most. It scares me when the probability of a worldwide one keeps knocking the doors every now and then. I am sure what we see in the museum is just one side of the story and the other side would be equally gut-wrenching. The tales of the tough times told at the Reunification Palace, the reality of the Cu Chi tunnels just kept calling out to me. Why is that we fight? What good comes out of it? Are the winners happy for sure? Thankfully we decided to give the gloominess a break and went for an experience of a lifetime. Our dinner at The Noir was unforgettable. The realization of no sight makes one aware of all other senses and the possibilities of life. Our tryst with dining in the dark made us wiser and hopeful.

There is so much more to explore in Vietnam. We could only fit in so much in 10 days, but these 10 days were a great learning experience. It was like going to a school of a different culture of the world. It is commendable how the persistent hard work, clean habits, the ideology to renew of the Vietnamese people have brought the country out of the hell hole in which the civil war had left it. They are a brilliant example of the society that is evolving with the changing times and is still maintaining a balance with its age old culture. Uncle Ho’s country has something in its kitty for every soul. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015


ये रास्ते बुलाते मुझे,
सुनाते कोई नई दास्तान।
हर मोड़ नया, हर सड़क नई,
बंजारा दिल ले जाए जहाँ।

कहीं खेत खड़े खलिहान बने,
कहीं रेत पड़ी रेगिस्तान में।
बूँद बूँद मिलकर सागर फैला,
दुनिया कुछ नहीं बस एक मेला।

गुनगुनी धूप से सजी इमारतें,
बर्फ़ीली सफ़ेद चादर ओढ़े मकान।
छतों से गिरती टिप टिप बूँदें,
वो पतझड़ से ढकी बनिये की दुकान ।

चलता चलूँ, फिरता रहूँ दर-बदर,
कर रहा हूँ इन नज़ारों की खोज। 
बस एक होश, बस एक सोच,
जी लूँ मैं बन ख़ानाबदोश।