Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary : A gem yet to be polished

Honestly, I had high hopes when I went to Kadalundi. It was one of the places which I had planned to visit during a very small leisure window on my visit to Kozhikode (erstwhile Calicut). It was late November and I could not have missed watching and photographing a few migratory birds. But, it was a disappointing outing.

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Spread over a cluster of islands, this sanctuary is said to be the abode for more than a hundred species of native birds and 60 species of migratory birds. The area where Kadalundi river flows into the Arabian sea  is surrounded by hillocks. These hillocks besides creating a scenic environment also give a splendid view of the sanctuary, river mouth and the sea. Even the  main railway line to Trivandrum passes through the sanctuary.

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Kadalundi also has a mangrove vegetation which is said to shelter otters and jackals. It is also known for a wide variety of fish, mussels and crabs.

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Among the migratory birds which are supposed to abode here are seagulls, terns, sandpipers, sandplovers, red and greenshanks, turnstones etc. But when I reached the sanctuary, I was the only tourist to have come there. The office there was closed. There was nobody to give any information. After a while a person supposedly from the office came and I was barely able to communicate with him because of his poor English and my poor (??) Malayalam. He told me that there were no birds at that time because they have not yet arrived because of ‘climate change’.

I was able to get  boat for ride inside the water, but it would take me only to the mangrove side as the other side with presumable some birds had very shallow water and boat couldn’t have transversed that. So, what could I manage to see were some Ibis-

Some herons- white and grey, some common egrets and few other birds-

It was also pleasing to capture some of them in their flight-

 

More pleasing for me was to capture the Brahminy Kite in its full glory-

Where: Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary is around 20 kms from Kozhikode town. You can either take buses from Kozhkode to Kadalundi (near railway station) and then walk to sanctuary near by. Otherwise you can take auto rickshaw or a taxi as well from Kozhikode to Kadalundi. Kadalundi also has a railway station where only passenger trains halt. On normal days boats should be available to take you inside the sanctuary for closer bird and mangrove watching. One might have to bargain for boat rates. It can be some 500 INR for half  hour to 45 minutes.

Nice place to be but need to check pre-hand if migratory birds are there. Best time to visit is from November to April.

No nearby places to stay and accommodation has to be managed in Kozhikode itself. There are few other things to be seen on the way from Kozhikode to Kadalundi including famous Beypore port.

Indian Accent continues to be the best!

Indian Accent continues to be on top of the list of most popular restaurants in India for another year in running. Well, nothing official about it but this list is based on user reviews on popular reviewing site TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor compiles list based on user reviews and updates them annually according to user ratings.

indian-accent-at-the-manorIt seems that Indian Accent at Friends Colony in New Delhi has continued to maintain its love affair with foodies. But besides this top position this list has seen a lot of upheaval in past one year. Four from the last list have lost their place and consequently there are four new entrants this year. New in this list but already known names. Goa lost one place but than there was another one from Goa to get entry. NCR continues to have its hold in the list with four entrants.

Villa Maya at Trivandrum has moved up a notch from 3rd position last year to number 2 this year. Peshawri at ITC Maratha in Mumbai has actually switched its place with Villa Maya this year. From number two last year, it has now come down to number three. Bukhara at ITC Maurya in New Delhi has also dropped one position from number four last year to number five this year. Karavalli in tech city Bengaluru enters the top 10 list at number four this year. Thalassa at Vagator in Goa is also a new entrant in the list at number six. Malaka Spice at Pune continues to be at the same position as last year at number seven.  But Khyber at Mumbai has dropped two positions from number six last year to number eighth in this year’s list. Lodi, The Garden Restaurant in New Delhi also enters the list at number nine. Gurgaon’s (now Gurugram) Farzi Cafe also makes its way in the list at number ten.

Those restaurants who are out of the list include Agashiye at Ahmedabad (number five last year), Gulati at New Delhi (number eight last year), Pinch of Spice at Agra (number nine last year) and Tuscany Gardens at Candolim in Goa (number ten last year).

Let’s have a look at the four new entrants this year.

karavalli_bangaloreLocated at The Gateway Hotel in Bangalore, Karavalli is to south Indian food what Bukhara is to kebabs. Not only is the food terrific but Karavalli’s influence has transformed the way south Indian food is perceived and served. Having embarked on a journey in 1990 to offer guests traditional cuisine of the South Western Coastal region, Karavalli has reinvented itself to give connoisseurs and gourmands a rejuvenated epicurean experience. At the iconic Karavalli, authenticity is the hallmark, where well-researched home-food recipes come together to ensure an experience that reiterates the greatness of Karavalli with a refreshed blend of novel additions to the menu, innovative desserts and unique dining experiences. The restored Karavalli captures the essence of 22 years of extensive research by the restaurant’s expert Chefs, reflecting the culinary legacy of the coastal regions of south west India. The Chefs have put together a distinctive compilation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies with extensive culinary journeys ranging from the best of the Mangalorean Bunts and Konkanis, Kodavas from Coorg, Malayalees, Calicut Muslims and Syrian Christians of Travancore, Havyaka Brahmins of Vitla and the Portuguese of Goa. New experiences like Tiffin carrier, South west coast Grills in the garden, Seasonal Curries and Wood fired dishes await our discerning guests. Karavalli the recipient of many awards both National and International and is featured in the best food guides across the world, like the one-of-its-kind Miele Food Guide (excerpts from the restaurant page).

thalassa-vagator“Thalassa” is an acronym for the “sea” in Greek, and this Greek taverna offers stunning views of Goa’s thalassa. Perched on the edge of a high cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea in Small Vagator village, this open-air restaurant offers one of the most breath-taking sunset views in Goa and a fabulous evening ambiance.  Conceived, owned and managed by Mariketty, diners are invited to share the ‘Greek culture’ that infuses this enchanting taverna, from its authentic and delectable Greek food, to the music and the warm hospitality. Set upon a high cliff that offers a stunning ocean-view, and styled completely in white, replete with with cane furnishings, white plastered walls and billowy white muslins-drapes, this elegant open-air Greek restaurant is reminiscent of any classic chic eat in Mykonos. With the azure waters of the Arabian Sea serving as the backdrop, soft lounge music wafting through the speakers and the attentive (and knowledgeable) staff  who magically appear whenever you need them , it is easy to see why this Little Vagator taverna is one of North Goa’s most adored restaurants. The food is Greek and the plates are bountiful. From classic Greek appetizers, dips and salads, to melt-in-your-mouth meats from the grill and Greek main courses, the food here is simply delicious! (excerpts from whatsupgoa.com)

lodi-the-garden-restaurantLodi, The Garden Restaurant is loved by Delhi. Known for its romantic setting & natural surroundings, Lodi is touted as the city’s favorite alfresco restaurant. The elegant & earthy interiors complimenting the natural landscape create an unobtrusive vibe, setting the tone for an unhurried meal with family or a day out with friends. From popular Sunday brunches to hi teas in the evenings, experiences at The Lodi are customized based on guest preferences.  While the wine bar boasts of an extensive wine list and a 16 tap wine machine, the garden bar is popular for its innovative cocktails. Lodi is well known as a non-institutional cultural hub. We work with well known & upcoming artists to organize a wide variety of events & gatherings ranging from live music and stand up comedy to travel talks and book readings. Highlighted by its lush botanical surroundings, pebbled walkways and bamboo railings, the restaurant is an extension of Lodhi Garden itself. The menu is an eclectic mix of flavors from around the world, though the emphasis remains on the much favored European influenced cuisine. Restaurant borrows serenity from the adjacent Lodhi Gardens. The Lodi has seating that is split between the Atrium, the Bar Floor, the Terrace, the Garden Area and the Ground Floor. The Garden area houses a variety of trees including the Jamun & Peepal, some over 100 years old. Comforting colors like orange have been used to ensure the seamless blending-in of the serene natural environment with that of the restaurant. The restaurant is not only known for its signature dishes like Moroccan Lamb Shoulder, Mezze platters, and The Lodi Chocolate Mousse, but also for its specialized organic farm to fork dishes, catering services and a live outdoor grill that serves authentic Rajasthani food. (excerpts from sewara.com)

farzi-cafe-gurgaonFarzi Cafe in Gurgaon will seem to be as quirky as the name suggests. The cafe is located in the hot spot of NCR ie DLF Cyber Hub. If you are a sucker for Indian cuisine but are bored with the sameness or wary of the overwhelming spices, then Farzi is the place for you. This place serves all the popular Indian dishes with quirky plating and presentation. If you want to have Indian food with a twist, look no further because Farzi Cafe is dedicated to providing the customers with innovative variations of Indian foods. A lively ambience and a polite staff. Have a small menu so really easy to choose stuff. A very large place with a long bar running on the left side. For large groups, there are round tables with black leather couches that kinda gives you a private space. A small platform on the right hosts live music on a few select days. Everything is wood and as soon as you enter its brown up and down. Even the ceiling has a wooden finish. A formal dining place with a twist. Focusing on the gourmet diner as well as the youth of India, Farzi Café aims to bring Indian cuisine back “in-Vogue”. “Farzi” can have many connotations, but at Farzi Café, it has just one, “creating an illusion” with its cuisine. Best described as a gourmet experience, it amalgamates traditional global and Indian classics, with Indian influences, contemporary presentations, culinary styles and ambiance. It is a quirky, chic, modern Indian café, where guests enjoy a sensory experience through the finest modern Indian cuisine, with a high energy ambiance. Infusing a generous dose of Indian flavours, Farzi Café presents Indian cuisine where culinary art meets the alchemy of modern presentations and cooking techniques like molecular gastronomy to absorb the guest into the ultimate gastronomic illusion (excerpts from restaurant site).

A month for the ‘magnetic sunburn’

Hope demonetisation has not affected your travel plans for the year end because coming months are full of lots of events and festivals. My post has already got a few days late due to many reasons. This month brings most of the enjoyment. Colourful winter and much awaited Christmas and New Year holiday. Perhaps the most traveled time of the year. Many things to plan and enjoy.  Travel for snowfalls in high mountains to a beach dive in faraway south. Many things happening such as change in venue of Sunburn festival this year. Being already into month Konark festival in Odisha and Hornbill festival in Nagaland have already started but still lot many happenings to catch up. Still we have much lined up here:

The Hornbill of Nagaland

hornbill-festivalThe Hornbill festival held in the first week of December shows that with its stunning natural beauty and great cultural traditions, Nagaland can offer a rich fare to tourists. Nagaland, with its diverse tribal culture, is a land of festivals. A narrow strip of mountainous territory with rugged hills, emerald valleys, sparkling streams and a rich variety of flora and fauna, the 16th State of the Indian Union has salubrious climate throughout the year. It is bounded by Assam in the west, Myanmar in the east, Arunachal Pradesh in the north and Manipur in the south. Sometimes referred to as the `Switzerland of the East’, Nagaland represents unimaginable beauty, moulded perfectly for a breathtaking experience. For the adventurous, the State is an ideal place for trekking and jungle camping and offers limitless possibilities for exploring its lush sub-tropical rainforests, which are a treasure trove of medicinal plants. The 20-lakh-strong Naga people, by nature, are fun lovers, and life in Nagaland is one long festival.

When:  1st to 10th December 2016

Getting there: By Air, the state has its airport in Dimapur, which is regularly serviced by major airlines. The city is linked to Kolkata by air. Indian Airlines operate regular flights to Dimapur. Tourists then have to travel to Kohima by road after reaching Dimapur. It takes 2 and a half hours to reach Dimapur by road. A good road network covers the state. The state capital Kohima is linked to Shillong and Guwahati, which are important cities in North Eastern India. First proceed to Dimapur and then travel to Kohima. For travelling by rail, the major railhead in the state is Dimapur, which is linked to Guwahati. Guwahati is in turn connected to the rest of the country by important trains.

A festival for legend Tansen

tansen-samarohThis is 92nd year of one of the oldest and most reputed music festivals in India. This cultural festival is dedicated to the pillar of Indian classical music, the great Tansen. The place where this great musician lies buries, Tansen Tomb, in Gwalior is the venue of a music festival held annually. Gwalior is the place that has retained the rich classical music tradition and Tansen devotion to music laid to the foundation of what is known as the Gwalior gharana style with its unique dhrupad classical form. Khayal was also refined from the Gwalior gharana only. This festival is noted for its unique compositions in Indian classical style and forceful performances. Organized by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, the Tansen festival of music, the event is a unique show for the music lovers of the country to experience the superb melody rendered by the great exponents of Indian classical music. The most prestigious Tansen honour (samman) for the long time devotion and contribution to Hindustani classic music is also awarded on this occasion.The history of the Samaroh shows that this used to be the most significant music festival of the Gwalior State. Later on it used to be organised by the Government of MP through its department of Public Information and now in continuation, it is being organised by the Academy of the department of culture in MP. The great and well-known musicians and music lovers of the country and abroad participate in the Samaroh to offer their musical tribute to the all-time great music Maestro Tansen. Since it is the only one and the oldest day night music festival, the Academy honours the senior celebrities and junior artists of the music on this occasion by including them in the Samaroh through their music of performance. This year there will be total nine music sessions. Seven of them will be held inside the complex holding Tansen’s tomb and tomb of Mohammad Ghaus. Eighth will be at birth place of Tansen in Behat at the banks of Jhilmil river. Ninth will be Goojari Mahal in the forth complex. This year musicians from Norway, Iraq, Israel, Belgium and Switzerland will also perform in the event. There will also be an exhibition of paintings and photographs.

When:  16th to 20th December 2016

Getting there: Gwalior is well connected to all parts of country. Gwalior airport has got daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Gwalior is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Gwalior is situated on the North-South corridor of National Express Highway. The festival venue Tansen Tomb is right in the heart of the city.

Festival of lights at Karthigai Deepam

karthigai_deepamThis is festival of lights of Tamilnadu. It is combination of two north Indian festivals- Deepawali and Raksha Bandhan or Bhai Dooj. Many festivals are celebrated at Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai throughout the year. Among them Karthigai Deepam is the most significant festival that is celebrated with pomp and gaiety at Arunachaleswarar temple.This Karthigai Deepam is celebrated as a ten day festival and it widely known as Karthigai Brahmotsavam. Karthika Deepam festival begins with the hosting of the flag signifying the commencement of the festival also known as Dwajaroghanam. In the morning and night Lord Arunachaleswarar will be taken out on the silver vahana for procession. The Panchamurthis (Panchamurthigal) are also taken out in the procession. The Panchamurthigal are Lord Ganapathi, Lord Murugan, Lord Sandeswarar, Lord Arunachaleswarar and Goddess Parvathi.These processions are carried out on different vahanas after the Deeparadhana is done at the kalyana mandapam. A festival celebrated by Hindus in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Karthigai Deepam takes place in a particularly spectacular way. On the evening of Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit high up on Mount Arunachala. Pilgrims come from far and wide to walk around the mountain, and to pray to Lord Shiva. It’s believed that Lord Shiva appeared as an endless flame of light before Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. Hence, oil lamps are lit in homes as well. Women try to make their homes look welcoming and fresh during this time. They wear new clothes and tidy up their homes to invite their brothers. The ideology of the festival is that “the sisters pray for their brothers’ well being and the brothers in turn, promise to safeguard the sisters in times of trouble. This festival also involves the lighting of lamps in the homes, temples and the workplace. The home looks heavenly with oil lit lamps everywhere. Children blow crackers and make merry with friends and family. This is like a family get-together. Indians want to be preset in their homes during this wonderful festival. They try to return to India from anywhere in the world to meet their parents, sisters and relatives. Many Vaishnavites in Tamil Nadu make sure to light the fire using the fruit of Maruda trees, a stick named Kavattaik kambu with cloth, rope made of cloth, saw dust and Konkani resin. Presenting elephant shaped lamps(Yanai vilakku) to their daughters for their prosperity and well being is a custom in most of the south Indian families. Such lamps symbolize their blessing towards the family. Karthigai Deepam is a fantastic festival of Tamil Nadu which the Tamils never want to miss out.

When:  13th December 2016

Getting there: Thiruvannamalai the world renowned abode of Lord Shiva is ideally located with ample access options by air, train and road. The nearest access via air travel to Thiruvannamalai can be through Chennai. Chennai is the nearest airport and it lies around 185 kilometres away by road. People coming from top metros in India namely Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore and Hyderabad can take the air travel via Chennai.By road from Chennai the travel time is around 3.5 hours.

141 years of enchanting classical music

harivallabh-sammelanShree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan” is the oldest festival of Indian Classical Music in the world. The vibrant voices of the vocalists, The soul stirring strains of Sitar, Santoor and Sarangi; the thundering sounds of Tabla and Pakhawaj; the cascading notes of Flute & Shehnai; the magic of Mohan Veena; the enchanting notes of Veena & Violin and the harmonious notes of Harmonium- all have touched the souls of enlightened audiences at Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, year after year for the last 140 years. This magnificent achievement has been made possible by the great musicians, the generous donors, the devoted audience and the dedicated ‘Harivallabh’ team. For some it is a matter of sheer devotion, for some it is a pilgrimage and for some it is a mission to preserve the best in Indian Classical Music, that attracts them to this Sangeet Sammelan and to receive the blessings from the great seat of music. Harivallabh shall complete 141 Years this year. The Government of India has recognized this festival as one of the  National Festivals of Music. Drawing inspiration from Saint-musician – Baba Harivallabh, who started this Sangeet Sammelan in the memory of his Guru Swami Tulja Giri Ji, the Sangeet Sammelan has provided a platform where distinguished musicians could perform and give the best of their art and where anyone interested – initiated and uninitiated alike, could listen to them, free.

When:  23rd to 25th December 2016

Getting there: Festival happens at Devi Talab in city of Jalandhar in Punjab. Jalandhar is well connected to all parts of country through road and rail network. Amritsar is the closest airport.

Sabrimala Pilgrimage in Kerala

sabrimalaSabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) named Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, which is unique in many respects. The uniqueness gathers its voice, as the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. There is a place near the temple; east to Sannidhanam, dedicated to the Vavar (a sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa) which is called ‘Vavarunada’, an epitome of religious harmony. Another interesting fact is that it is not open throughout the year. It is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku and Chitra Vishu. It is said that the pilgrims have to follow fasting for 41 days to cleanse their minds before going to Sabarimala. The journey to the temple is to be taken through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to Pampa. Mandala pooja and Makaravilakku are the two main events of the pilgrim season. The temple stays closed during the rest of the year except for the first five days of every Malayalam month and during Vishu. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala begins from the 1st of Vrichikam, a Malayalam month coming in the middle of November (probably between 14 and 17). The most important day for Ayyappan is Makarasankranti Day, which is the 1st of Makara (a month of the Malayalam calendar). This day will fall between January 14 and 16.

When:  (Mandala Poja)15th November to 26th December 2016

Getting there: By Rail pilgrims can reach Kottayam & Chengannur by Rail and from there by road to Pampa. By air the pilgrims can reach Thiruvananthapuram or Nedumbassery by Air and from there by rail/road to Pampa. To reach by road KSRTC has started operating buses to Coimbatore, Palani and Thenkasi from Pampa for the convenience of the Sabarimala pilgrims. Besides, the Government of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka has been given the permission to operate buses to Pampa. A chain service exists between Pampa and Nilackal base camps.

Carnival time in Cochin

cochin-carnivalIf there is one festival the whole of Kochi impatiently awaits every year, then it’s the Cochin Carnival held in the last week of December. Fort Kochi is decked up like a bride and tourists, not only from within the country, but also outside, flock to this lovely port city to participate in the revelry. The inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days. Gradually, it evolved to take the form of what is today popularly called the Cochin Carnival of Kerala. Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the unique games, fairs and partying during the Carnival of Cochin. Dressed up in fancy dresses, everyone, children in particular, is seen bursting with enthusiasm. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year’s Day. Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums and music, the carnival is a moment to behold. There is also staging of different South and North Indian folk dances during the festivity. Colour white simply dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the Kochi Carnival. All establishments in the city don white paper buntings. The available space on the streets host impromptu competitions and multi-faceted celebrations. Kalam Vara (floor drawing), tug-of-war, bicycle race, swimming in the sea, beach volleyball are some of the programs that take place during the Cochin Carnival at Fort Kochi. The festivities and revelries continue till midnight of December 31st with fireworks marking the grand finale.

When:  11th December 2016 to 1st January 2017

Getting there: Cochin (Kochi), being an important centre for both trade and tourism in Kerala, is well connected by air, rail and road. A number of domestic and international flights operate from the Cochin / Kochi International Airport located at Nedumbassery. Trains running from the 3 railway stations in Kochi, namely Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town and Cochin Harbor Terminus, connect it to all small and big towns and cities of Kerala and other parts of India.

Winter fun at Aravali’s only hill station

winter-festival-abuThe Winter Festival is held every year during the last week of December. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of this quaint hill station, who welcome the tourist from the depth of their hearts. This three-day colourful festival is organised by the Rajasthan Tourism and Municipal Board of Mt. Abu. The hospitality of the people, their colourful culture and exotic location make this festival a never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar. The procession gathers at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana’s folk artistes. The grand finale of the festival is made brighter by a display of dazzling fireworks on three days.

During the period of the Maharaja’s, Mount Abu was used as a place of leisure by the royalties and semi-royalties. The place presents an interesting contrast of British style bungalows and holiday lodges of the royals (Thikhana) with various tribal communities residing amidst the thick lush forest on the hills surrounding the region. The flora and fauna enjoys the adulation of the tourist to the fullest. The highest point of the Aravali is the ‘Guru Shikhar’ with a vast sanctuary that shelters a number of species like langur, wild boars, Sambar, leopards and many more along with a number of flowering plants and trees, which enhance the beauty of the whole scenery.

When:  29th to 31st December 2016

Getting there: Nearest airport is Udaipur. Mount Abu is located on the broad gauge line between Delhi and Mumbai via Ahmedabad. Direct trains run to various destinations including Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Convenient bus services are from Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Baroda, Jaipur,Jodhpur, Mumbai, Udaipur.

Sunburn at Pune this time

sunburn-festivalSaid to be the biggest outdoor dance party to hit India’s beaches, the Sunburn Festival is into its tenth year this year. But its getting away from beaches and we are getting a new venue this time. Sunburn, one of the world’s biggest music festivals, has just announced the new venue ‘Sunburn Hills’. India’s premier and the only leading electronic music brand is all set to move to a new venue in Maharashtra. On its 10th anniversary, Sunburn is looking at creating an array of experiences that would not only give dance music enthusiasts memories that last a lifetime but also redefine the way entertainment and live music is consumed in the country. Sunburn Hills, a privately owned 90 acre land at Kesnand on the Pune-Ahmedabad highway provides a perfect setting to celebrate the decade long dominance of brand Sunburn. Not only is it nestled amidst nature and has a breathtaking view of the city of Pune but is also well-connected to the main city with a drive time of 30 minutes to the venue. The strategically located venue will also provide a greener and pollution free climate that is fit for the Sunburn experience. The new venue is complete with excellent infrastructure along with health and safety amenities. The festival experience will be curated and programmed by various industry experts. Sunburn Hills will have one of India’s biggest campsites that will give every camper a true festival feel complete with after parties, marketplaces, workshops, flea markets, movie screenings, karaoke sessions, bowling among a host of other activities. Campout packages will be live on partner website www.cleartrip.com.

As a part of the 10th year celebration, Sunburn will provide added incentives including a cashless experience with the tech-equipped Sunburn Smart Band which will allow them to avail entry into the festival zone, purchase F&B and merchandise at the festival without the hassles of credit cards or cash. In addition fans can expect a world class experience with on-site camping options, the fan village, an extensive array of food courts, 40+ experience zones, flea markets, chopper rides, after parties among others. On the music side festival includes some of the biggest names from the dance music scene including dance music powerhouse Armin Van Buuren, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Afrojack, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and the recently voted best LIVE act KSHMR, The power packed also line includes supporting artists like AJJA, Angerfist, Dannic, Mattn, Nucleya, Tom Swoon among others.

When:  28th to 31st December 2016

Getting there: Event will be held at Sunburn hills, Kesnand near Pune on Pune-Ahmedabad highway. Kesnand is located 20 KM towards East from District head quarters Pune. 26 KM from Haveli. 155 KM from State capital Mumbai. SO once you reach Pune, you can easily reach Kesnand.

Folk and craft at Shilpgram

shilpgram-festivalThe Shilpgram Festival organised every year from 21st December to December 31st, attracts massive crowd creating a scene of rural market fair and festival with live performance of folk artist from different parts of the country. There are several huts constructed in the traditional architectural style using mud and local building material to reflect the geographical and ethnic diversity of the different states of west zone of India. Situated 3 kms west of Udaipur near the Havala village is the Centre’s Shilpgram – the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex. Spread over an undulating terrain of 130 bighas (70 Acres) of land and surrounded by the Aravallies, the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex is conceived as a living enthnographic museum to depict the lifestyles of the folk and tribal people of the West Zone. Within this complex, huts of the member states are constructed incorporating traditional architectural features of different geographical and ethnic groups residing within the West Zone of India comprising of five Federal States. One of the important objectives of Shilpgram is in the sphere of increasing awareness and knowledge of rural life and crafts, specifically, for the younger generation. Special emphasis is laid on workshops for children on arts, crafts, theatre and music. Anyone who loves shopping should make it a point to try and catch this impressive arts and crafts fair. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India come to set up stalls at the fair, which takes place in a sprawling artisans’ village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival. It’s a great way to experience rural India culture.

When:  21st to 31st December 2016

Getting there: Shilpgram is on outskirts of Udaipur. Udaipur is connected to all major cities with air, rail and road connectivity. Udaipur airport has daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Jodhpur and Jaipur.

Get Magnetic at Alsisar

magnetic-fieldsNewest addition to Rajasthan’s vastly growing music scene is Magnetic Fields Festival. Although it is largely a closed affair limited to only 500 guests. This is held at two stages in the restored 17th century Alsisar Mahal, in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This palace is now a heritage hotel. Lots of heavy metal music both from bands and DJs, traditional fashion, art and food will be on platter. Its a sort of fantasy carnival. Set in the pristine heritage village of Alsisar in Rajasthan, Alsisar Mahal is a battle hardened palace that has recently been renovated and refurbished into a luxurious hotel. Magnetic Fields is more than just a music festival, it’s a visual dream, a unique marriage of contemporary culture with Rajasthani heritage and hospitality. You will be transported through the looking glass into an intimate world with adventures, new experiences and memories waiting to be made. You can expect the freshest Indian sounds accompanied by some of the most exciting underground international stars alongside a cultural programme of local legends. Stretch in the morning and watch the new day come alive with yoga sessions; immerse yourself in treasure hunt, get better acquainted with the night sky in star gazing workshops, find your own little pocket of paradise and lose yourself in Bedouin dens; secret areas and feast on local delicacies given an alternative twist.

Earlier Alsisar Mahal was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar. Alsisar Mahal is the most recent addition to Alsisar Group of Hotels which has now become an ideal base to explore not only the old historic capital of Jhunjhunu but also the whole painted region of Shekhawati. This majestic palace, spread over a lush 10 acre plot, is situated in village Alsisar which is 23 Km’s from district head quarter ‘JhunJhunu’ in Rajasthan. The regal magnificence of the Alsisar Mahal’s architecture and the splendour of its beautifully decorated interiors are just mesmerising; antique furniture, intricately carved poster beds and medieval delicate Rajasthani motifs on fabric recreates a flavour of luxury living for our guests.

When:  9th to 11th December 2016

Getting there: Delhi or Jaipur are the closest options. Daily from Sarai Rohilla, New Delhi to Sadulpur Junction – just under 4 hours followed by 45 min taxi from Sadulpur to Alsisar. This is the recommended travel option! By road its 6 hours from Delhi via Gurgaon > Rewari > Narnol > Singhana > Chirawa > Jhunjhunu and 4 hours from Jaipur via Chomu > Sikar (take a bypass) > Nawalgarh > Jhunjhunu.

Brussels gets brighter this winter!

As soon as darkness fell yesterday evening i.e., 2 December, the European capital became a lot brighter and perhaps more beautiful. Until 5 February 2017, Bright Brussels Winter will illuminate the environs of Brussels’ small inner circle. Unusual and playful light works are installed for a sparkling outdoor exhibition across 12 emblematic places, such as Place Stéphanie, Place Poelaert, Place Rogier, Place du Luxembourg or Porte de Flandre. These giant installations illuminate the magical atmosphere of Brussels during this winter period.

edan6276While the sun becomes more and more distant in the final weeks of the year, Brussels allows a fairy-like and unusual atmosphere to envelop parts of the city. At the initiative of the Brussels Ministry of Mobility and Public Works, visit.brussels, with the support of the Brussels-Capital Region and Atrium, coordinates the installation of these large-scale works in the heart of the capital of Europe. A multi-faceted ball, 12-metre tall flowers, giant pocket torches are to be found, among many others… In addition to these works of art placed around the small inner circle, several imposing edifices are taking part in this enlightenment of the Region: the Belfius tower, the P&V tower and the ING Marnix building offer scintillating and colourful projections of light. Whether on foot, by bicycle, public transport or by car, passers by will be able to admire these illuminations.

edan6423“The Brussels Region is doing its bit to add some magic to the festive season with a number of stunning light installations all around Brussels. These temporary displays will be lighting up the capital thanks to the support of the government, which is always keen to promote the Region’s image. This beautiful sight will be a real treat for lots of tourists, young and old alike,” enthused Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region.

edan6627“The events of the last year have put Brussels in the news. Today, as we work to enhance the quality of our public spaces, we are investing in improving our Region’s image. The lights around the Small Ring and along the canal provide a great opportunity for locals and visitors to meet. During the darkest days of the year, we will be lighting up our city, and this year, we have decided to put Molenbeek under some welcome spotlights. We wanted to change the atmosphere after a year in which attention has been focused on this particular neighbourhood after the terrorist attacks,” explains Brussels Minister for Mobility and Public Works, Pascal Smet.

edan2307Didier Gosuin, Minister of Economy and Employment: “I am thrilled with the installation of these illuminations. They make the business centre of Brussels even more attractive for shoppers and tourists. From now on, visit.brussels is the only operator in charge of this work. Note also that an overall, regional “lighting” plan is being prepared for installation in several phases. It includes year-end lights, a lights festival and the illumination of works of art and edifices. The objective? Boost the image of Brussels and the business of our commercial centre.”

Here is a list of illuminated works and edifices to admire all along the Brussels inner circle.

Place StéphanieTree of Light is a majestic Christmas tree ten metres tall made entirely of LED lights, bringing festivity to the magic of holiday lights.

Place Poelaert: Disco-Light is a giant mirror ball over 5 metres in diameter will take centre stage at the heart of the square, while a light show will cast shimmering light over the neighbouring buildings.

Porte de Namur: Pocket pays tribute to the old French torches (called “pocket lamps” in French). Reimagined on a massive scale, this giant torch plays with proportion, scale and size. Its modern touch can be seen when it lights up, revealing not only the traditional warm white light of torches, but also a kaleidoscope of joyful colours. It lights up the surrounding area with a beam that varies in intensity.

Place du Luxembourg et Square de Meeus: Pix-Light are 12 giant desk lamps bring a hint of fun to these everyday objects from the world of work. Located on the Place du Luxembourg and the Square du Meeus, these multicoloured objects will warm up the Brussels winter.

Rue Royale, Sapin P&V made up of 351 neon lights, an impressive Christmas tree 40 metres wide and 51 metres high lights up the facade of this tower, located along Rue Royale and the Botanical Garden, each and every day.

Boulevard du Jardin Botanique: Botasalon. The Boulevard du Jardin Botanique, an urban highway that can sometimes be a bit austere, was likely in need of warm lighting. This is where Bright Brussels Winter takes centre stage, transforming the boulevard into one long living-room with its warm lamp shades. More than two metres in diameter, these lamp shades exhibit tropical hues and exotic patterns – all that is needed to bring warmth to your heart during the cold winter months.

Place RogierSynergie is a lighting concept between the vertical and horizontal, between buildings and streets. It symbolises the crossing of lives that come together in the city. The project resolutely aims to be dynamic, graphical, and contemporary, in order to highlight the architectural aspects of what is being illuminated. It is an interaction of light between three places: the Belfius tower, an altogether imposing edifice that attracts the eyes of passers-by on the Place Rogier, and the strips on the edge of the boulevard. This new layout of the Place Rogier breathes life back into the Belfius tower, an emblem that casts red, purple, and white light, giving new purpose to the public spaces while opening up the passage toward the economic heart of Brussels via Rue Neuve and its shopping centres.

Place Sainctelette: L’Astera is a wild flower, a distant cousin of the thistle found in our countries and that easily reaches over twelve metres in height. An intriguing silvery plant with a bright glimmer during the day, at sunset it transforms into a mesmerizing creature, its heart erupting into a storm of coloured beams of light that illuminate its bristling structure. A night-flower with a curious form of photosynthesis, the Aster blooms at sunset, revealing its splendour as it flares up in a kaleidoscope of dazzling colours.

Quai des charbonnages: Fleur à Souffler is a creation, like a new plant species, that gets its inspiration from the grace and airiness of what some call the “fleur à souffler” (literally, “blow-flower”): the dandelion. The lights are 10 metres high and the flower is 5 metres in diameter. From its luminous calyx, fine, exquisite petals flow outward. The stem that bears the elegant corolla is gently inclined, as though trying to reach out with its flower toward the luminous eyes. Brought together in number, these lights make up a starry bouquet with a soft and warm glow. With two wooden benches just below, as though waiting for an audience, this luminous sculpture also transforms itself into street furniture, bringing a bit of poetry and the sensuality of nature to the urban landscape.

Porte de Flandre: The bridge of the Porte de Flandre is the physical tie between the affluent Rue Antoine Dansaert and the multicultural Chaussée de Gand. As such, it was important to celebrate this crossroads between two populations and the Brussels canal. First, the “Light Canal” is an installation made of four lines of LED lights crossing the water and spawning waves of light 15 metres in the air. In all, 360 coloured tubes bring cheer and festiveness to this liquid link between the city centre and Molenbeek. Then, the Chaussée de Gand also boasts festive lighting to mark the start of this shopping street. Finally, an artistic installation, overlooking the Porte de Flandre, will undoubtedly get spoken about. In order to reinvigorate the pride of the inhabitants and shopkeepers for their municipality, the letters of the name of Molenbeek are created in the same font as the famous Hollywood landmark. Topping a building at the corner of the Chaussée de Gand and the Canal, they will light up by night on certain occasions. This work was realized in collaboration with Frédéric Nicolay.

Place de la Bourse: Impulsion, playground lumineux! Giant see-saws, brimming with light and sound, is installed just at the foot of the Brussels Stock Exchange (La Bourse). Equipped with lights and speakers, the see-saws are activated by sitting down on either side, which triggers melodies that are accompanied by oscillating waves of light.  This means that passers-by can produce fleeting, constantly changing original creations. Thanks to the use of architectural lines, their hypnotic sound will create an astonishing impression of depth that will light up the central boulevard. Playing with the notions of balance and imbalance, symmetry and asymmetry, tension and harmony, video projections will represent a visual experience. “Impulsion” is an urban feature that will constantly change with those who visit it. In the time it takes to ride a see-saw, visitors will become musicians playing a novel kind of instrument.

Trône: ING Marnix. An unusual “aurora brusselalis” electrifies the Marnix façade. A rare phenomenon, day and night in Brussels’ small loop “constellation”: bizarre magnetic, electric, and luminous. Finally, in collaboration with Atrium, the regional agency for commerce, the commercial neighbourhoods in the upper part of the city also share the spirit of Christmas with illuminated decorations of all types. They will brighten year-end shopping on the Boulevard de Waterloo, Avenue de la Toison d’Or, Avenue Louise, Chaussée de Charleroi, Place Stéphanie, Goulet Louise, rue Stas and rue Jourdan, as well as at the top of the Chaussée de Gand in Molenbeek.

edan2720Finally, in collaboration with Atrium, the regional agency for commerce, the commercial neighbourhoods in the upper part of the city also share the spirit of Christmas with illuminated decorations of all types. They will brighten year-end shopping on the Boulevard de Waterloo, Avenue de la Toison d’Or, Avenue Louise, Chaussée de Charleroi, Place Stéphanie, Goulet Louise, rue Stas and rue Jourdan, as well as at the top of the Chaussée de Gand in Molenbeek.

(For all photos in this post : Copyright Eric Danhier – visit.brussels)

Scratch to Ship at Beypore

This a place which most of the tourists travelling to Kerala will overlook. But I was told that foreign tourists are more inclined to go there than Indian tourists. But I was anxious to be there, as soon as I came to know about this place. Still, when I ultimately reached here, I was the lone traveler. I am talking about ship building yards of Beypore in Kozhikode or erstwhile Calicut in Kerala.

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Its the traditional way of ship building both in wooden and metallic frames for bigger fishing boats and smaller passenger boats (and not for bigger passenger ships). This traditional art of ship-building is called as uru. Actually this art came to Kerala centuries ago from the Arab world. The Arabs used to call them dhows. They were used as traditional Arabian trading vessels. Arabs used to come to Kerala for trade in spices. They came to know about availability of timber in forests of north Kerala and also about the quality craftsmen here. Hence they started getting there dhows made here in Malabar region. Tradition of ship building in Beypore is said to be more than 1500 years old. Now ship building has become modern, but the tradition still continues albeit at smaller scale.

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Being a major harbour of the Malabar region Beypore has been major centre for making urus in Kerala.  Beypore several centuries ago was itself a prominent port and an important centre for trade via sea, attracting Arab and Chinese travelers and later the Europeans. A typical uru in appearance is a large vessel. It demands hard labour and the dexterous hands of craftsmen to build one. This seagoing vessel earlier was completely made of wood and built by joining planks of good quality timber.  Urus were traditionally built totally machine free. Even nails were not used. Unlike their ancestors, modern day Uru makers use simple machines as well as nails. Most of the work is done by basic carpentry tools.

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But now metal is also used in frames and support structure of fishing vessels. We can see some other fishing vessels being constructed here.

Here you can see a metallic frame:

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Another ship is in final stage of construction:

This one is almost ready to go into water within few days-

Modern fishing vessels go through a complicated process with integration of different works at various levels. They also need a proper communication system-

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The time taken and cost involved depends on the size of the vessel. The vessel above is almost 80-90 feet and it takes almost six months to build this. The cost for this is estimated to be around 90 lakhs rupees. Bigger ones with around 100 feet length have a cost tag of more than one crore rupees.

Few other ships getting ready-

Rails to finally push the vessel into the water-

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Uru building yards are near river Chaliyar, about 1 km off from where it drains into the sea. Beypore is easily accessed from Kozhikode (Calicut) city, by half an hour car drive. You can even take city buses or auto rickshaws to reach Beypore from Calicut. Kozhikode has an airport, rail head, and several bus terminals.

One can also purchase small souvenir Urus from handicraft shops of Beypore and Calicut. The changed scenario in the ship building industry at Beypore has in turn made the local craftsmen to switch to crafting little wooden models of their gigantic masterpieces. The miniature of urus made out of teak wood also come enclosed in bottles. There are many centres in Kozhikode, where one can buy the models of urus and also get them made-to-order in Kozhikode.

Bali from the sky – few captures!

Its fun to be on window seat of a plane, provided you are interested in capturing images. And if images are from a beautiful beach resort like Bali, then you just can’t stop clicking. How different it is to see a place from the top, then being there! A lot perhaps. Lot changes with the change of the angle and perspective. Eye angle is more wide than  ever. The view and the perspective, both become more holistic. Hence the idea of beauty also changes!

So here starts the fun-

Plane looks like walking right into the sea!

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… or along it! Is it quite close for comfort or just thrilling!!

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It looks more normal now-

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Games of the window seat!

Quite different to see a beach resort from up in the sky!

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… but it still looks amazing with all those boats and yachts lined up!

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The three shots of the sea link from Denpasar towards Nusa Dua. The view is equally fascinating as was to actually travel on that bridge-

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….its big. We don’t have anything like this in India, I presume (not undermining Worli sea link in Mumbai).

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…. right on the top. Want to get airdropped here!

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You can also see the difference in the colours of the sea in different patches..

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On to the other side of island…

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Now getting farther and higher… seeing more of the land-sea divide.

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Leaving behind the land but with lots of memories stacked up in baggage!

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A Supermoon on a night so revered!

It is one of the most awaited celestial phenomenon of the year- the Supermoon. This year it was special as moon was closest to earth  since 1948. It was just 356, 509 kilometres away. For us Indians, the supermoon night was one of the most auspicious full moon night of the year- Kartik Purnima or the full moon day of the Kartik month of the hindu calendar.

Skygazers took to high-rise buildings, tourist landmarks and beaches worldwide on Monday to catch a glimpse of the closest supermoon in almost seven decades. Many of enthusiastic Indians enjoyed the sight of the moon while taking dip in waters of many holy rivers. Actually, on the occasion of Kartik Purnima people take dip in the rivers considered to be holy. This bath is taken mostly in the early hours of the full moon day. It is considered to be the one of the most auspicious days of the year. Incidentally, this is the day when founder of the Sikh religion- Guru Nanakdev was born.

So, like the enthusiasts around the world, I too was waiting for the grand day to capture some precious moments. I even tried to test my photography skills a day before and this was the result post correction-

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Prelude to the supermoon, the night before!

On the eventual day, I traveled a bit to look for a clear view of the moon. I was finally able to manage at a place. It was fascinating to see, how the colours and brightness of the moon kept changing as it moved on to journey upward from horizon to sky.

You can see for yourself-

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Reddish orange at the time of moonrise

It turned from red to yellow-

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… and also bit brighter-

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There is a lot of difference between what is seen through a naked eye and what is seen through a telephoto lens.  It is said that this supermoon was 14 percent larger and over 30 percent brighter. But that is not enough difference to notice by a common viewer through naked eye. See for yourself-

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Well, and finally it shed all its colours to become full bright, still equally charming, first this-

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…. and this-

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Supermoons are quite common and appear on our sky once every 14 months on a average. This year (2016) itself had six super moons and  months of October, November and December are going to have three consecutive super moons, this year.

Will end the post with another post-correction view of the Supermoon-

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You missed it? Don’t worry, we are going to have another supermoon on 14th December, slightly smaller than yesterday’s one. But talking of closer than yesterday? That will now be only in 2034 when moon will be another 64 kms closer than yesterday’s supermoon. Not a big deal. Isn’t it!

World through my eyes