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EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.



Monday, December 31, 2007

Paris : the top international tourist destination

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I searched the net for the top tourist destination in the world. The answer that came up is Paris, the capital city of France. It is followed by Spain and the US. Data published by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) on international tourist arrivals ratifies this. The tourism figures for year 2006 can also be viewed at this Info-please page. The figure of 79 million tourists for France in 2006 is way ahead of second place Spain (58.5 million).

Paris and its surrounding suburbs, known as the Ile-de-France, boast a population of roughly 10.5 million people. Just over two million of those live in Paris proper. The three most popular tourist attractions in France are the Disneyland Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre.

Looking to visit Paris in near future. Finding accommodation online is not tough these days. But here is a site - Paris Hotels, which you can use to find accommodation in Paris.

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 4:01 PM | 0 comments

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Taj revisited

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I have revisted the Taj this weekend after 21 years. The trip got extended to Bharatpur. The visit to Agra do not fill me with pleasant memories, because I found that Agra is a hopeless place to visit. The only saving grace for Agra is the Taj.
However, I had enjoyed the stay at Bharatpur, mainly because of the peacefulness of the place. A small town on the Agra - Jaipur Highway, it apperaed to me to be a perfect weekend gateway from Delhi. Despite the dried up lakes in the once famous Keoladeo Ghana National Park, the two forays we made into the park was nice experiences. The details of the trips will be up in next few days.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 12:48 PM | 0 comments

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fatal photography : Man mauled to death by tigers in zoo

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This is a true story about which many of which might have read in leading India dailies. One Jaiprakash Bezbaruah, aged 50, was killed by two tigers at the Guwahati zoo on 18th Dec, 2007. But I have collected some photos published in local dailies from Guwahati which will make you feel how horrific was the incident.


This is how it took place : Jaipraksh, who hails from another town, came for a visit of the zoo at Guwahati with his family on the fateful day. Not heeding to warnings, he tried to photograph two tigers in a cage by putting his hand inside the cage, may be in an attempt to get a good shot. That urge for good shot proved fatal for him. One of the tiger attacked so swiftly that he could not even pull his hand out. The tiger cuaght his arm and pulled him towards the cage. The other tiger in the cage also joined soon. They even punched on the face of the hepless victim, resting on the grills of the cage. Imagine all this took place in front of his wife and two young sons. The guards and other visitors tried to make the tigers leave his hand by using sticks. You can see the sticks on the photo at top.f you look closely, you can see both the tigers. But the tigers did not relent till they chopped his hand off at its root. Then they feasted on the hand. Jaipraksh fell down unconscious by the time the tigers left him. He probably have died by then because of excessive bleeding, and may be because the tigers pounced on his face as well. He was declared brought dead in hospital. Ironically, these tigers were ot man eaters. They were breeded in some place at Karnataka. This has perplexed the zoo authorities as well. One should know that most tigers in zoos are man eaters. If a tiger turns man eaters, attempt is made to catch it. They are killed only if repeated attempt to catch them fails. If cought successfully, they are sent to the zoos.

This is a big lesson for all of us. We often tend to get too close for a better view of animals in zoo thinking that caged animal can not do anything. But if your death is imminent, anything can happen.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 9:27 PM | 0 comments

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

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Sulatnpur is 65 km from Delhi and 15 km from Gurgaon. But we did not know its exact location. We had tried to find road directions from friends who had been there. The common answer was that they had reached there after asking here and there. Nobody could tell us exactly where we should leave NH8. All we could find was that it is on Gurgaon – Jhajjar road.

Thus our journey continued beyond Gurgaon and we had even crossed Manesar. Asking locals on the way was of not much help either. We found that locals call it Sultanpur Jheel. So you need to add Jheel to Sultanpur to ask for road direction. If you tell Sultanpur National park or Sanctuary, most will draw blank faces. Finally we got one old man who could tell us to leave NH8 at the crossing about 3km ahead and take the turn to Panchgawan and then reach Sulatnpur Jheel via Farukhnagar. This point on NH-8 had a road sign indicating 7 km to Bilaspur and 14 km to Dharuhera.

The old man was wise and correct. Yet we asked a family on the way and that man gave us exact direction. One should be careful while asking for roads direction in Haryana. One should avoid asking youths in groups. So we picked mostly old man or families. We had traveled through huge farmlands and villages for about 14 km and had even encountered a cavalcade going to the launch of a new party that day by Bhajan Lal. Finally we had reached Sultanpur. The tachometer clocked 87 km. To be honest, this unintentional detour was not that bad a road.

The exact location of Sultanpur is 15 km from Gurgaon on NH-15A. The road is also known as Gurgaon – Jhajjar road. I knew Sultanpur as a bird sanctuary. But it has been upgraded to a National Park, not sure when. Thus it probably is the second National Park for Birds in India. The other being Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur (Rajasthan). The place has a resort of Haryana Tourism , which is located in a different campus right next to the park.

We had breakfast at the restaurant, which is the only eating facility around. So you have to drink tea @Rs.15/- a cup. This place is not accessible by public transport. So people who come here will come in their private vehicles and are so expected to be rich enough pay that much. After the breakfast we headed for the park.

Entrance fee is Rs.5/- per head and an additional Rs.25/- for still camera. I hate paying for camera. Video camera charges is Rs.250/-. These exorbitant charge for handycams is outdated and should be scrapped. Govt. of India should certainly do something about it. I had stopped carrying handycams as there is no point paying such hefty fees.

The park is developed around a natural lake where many species of migratory birds nests. An elevated track of mud and bricks built around the lake, which is not very close, the lake. The track is about 3 ½ km. One is required to take this trip on foot. The biggest disappointment one will face is that all the birds are in the lake and one cannot go very close to the lake. The lake is surrounded by swamps. There are two or three approaches built to let tourist go close to the lake. But birds prefer to stay from those places.

Despite all these you will be able to see some birds. And if you are lucky, you will see some of them from close. As we did. Three large cranes came hurtling above form the distance making loud noises while flying. I was in perfect position to capture those moments in my camera. Those few shots made my day.

We decided to complete the lap. It was a good nature walk where we could see many Nilgais in the wild. At one point of the track, I got off it to find whether there was any access to get close the lake. Suddenly I could hear something making its way out of the bush in front of me. I also ran to get around the bush to find what it was. A large bull Nilgai was standing just few meters from me. I was sure that it would not charge at me. I stood there calmly and took some shots. Shots were not that good, but those were real wild life shots. After looking at me for me moments, the bull went further into the swamps. That completed the adventure.

We got out of the park by late noon. The kids were also complaining after being made to walk the 3+ km track. We had a late lunch at the restaurant of the resort. There were playing facilities for kids in the campus. By afternoon many people had gathered in the campus. They appeared to be picnic goers from Gurgoan. This may be a happy outing ground for people living around Gurgaon. Even though picnics were supposedly not allowed in the campus, there was nobody to enforce it. The other option is to stay at the resort for a night and enjoy a round of the park early next morning. The location is far away from the maddening crowd and hustle–bustle of NCR. In case you want to book accommodation at the resort then here are their phone nos. : 0124-2375242, 2015670

While returning, we took the NH-15A. We had reached the center of Gurgaon town from where we took the road to Rajiv Chowk on NH-8. So it became clear that we should have left NH-8 at Rajiv Chowk. Thus the return was exactly 65 km for us.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 7:58 PM | 6 comments

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Thinking of ANZ

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Winter has realy set in here. An enticing long holidays next weekend is also beckoning. Are you travelling to a snow clad hill station? I have something else in mind. I am looking for a warm holiday.
The Indian cricket team is heading for Australia to enjoy the beatiful summer there. We poor fellas will cheer them from home. But if you are going to that part of the word this winter (summer out there in southern hemisphere), more specifically to the beautiful New Zealand, here is a site that will help in finding accommodation : Hotels in New Zealand.
In fact this site appears to be a part of a group of sites under the heading ‘Cheaper than Hotels’ with country specific domain names. This New Zealand specific link can help you find a Hotels in Auckland or a Hotels in Wellington or most places out there. I like these groups of sites because they offer all sort of accommodation – from five stars to one star.

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 2:39 PM | 0 comments

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sultanpur National Park

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We had a drive out weekend break this Sunday to the Sultanpur bird sanctuary which has been upgraded to a National Park. Reaching there was a bit of nightmare as we could not found any road directions. All that we could found was that it is 15 km from Gurgaon. But which side, where do we leave NH8 ? Anyway after asking some villagers, we could make it. The onward journey took 87 km though it was suppose to take only 65 km. Traveling through villages and fields, we also had to encounter a cavalcade going to the launch of a new party by Bhajan Lal. Anyway, it was a good outing. Details will be posted when I find time.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 12:58 PM | 1 comments

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Winter Holidays

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Last night I saw a beautiful photo of a snow covered resort in Whistler, Canada. It made me long for a holiday again. Drying leaves and dipping temperatures has heralded onset of the winter. Going on a vacation this winter ? In fact the final days before the winter offer probably one of the best traveling windows. Think of a winter vacation and a snowy landscape with people skiing around probably conjures up your mind. That may be because I live in a area far away from those locations that receives snowfall every year. If you are planning a vacation in aboard then here is a site which you can explore : Holiday Whistler

My schedule for this traveling season has already drawn up. I had already applied for leave so that it coincides with winter break of my daughter’s school. But this time it may not be a snowy break for me.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 12:48 PM | 0 comments

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