Traveler
  • A culinary journey through Chettinad and Kerala

    A story of two women who hate to travel, but journey 1300 kilometres over 8 days, holding strong only by a shared love of food.

    Yahoo Editor Anisha Oommen and photographer Saina Jayapal travel through Chettinad, Madurai, Thekkady and Cochin in South India, on a culinary tour hosted by Easy Tours of India, a travel company that designs custom tours of India. Follow the story of two women who hate to travel, but journey 1300 kilometres over 8 days together, holding strong only by a shared love of food.

    Traditional spice box from a Chettiar kitchenTraditional spice box from a Chettiar kitchen

    Auspicious Beginnings

    All travels must begin with prayer, like your grandmother insisted. We paid obeisance to the Food Gods with a bucket of button idlis soaked in pumpkin sambar. A steaming hot meal at 5 am, with a spicy portion of carbs and veggies (pumpkins count as veggies) has the added benefit of being healthy to boot. If you’re flying through the Bangalore airport, definitely make a pit stop at Malgudi for a dish that most of South India considers holy.


    Button idlis in a bucket at MalgudiButton idlis in a bucket at Malgudi

    In the home of the Chettiars
    Eight hours later, we were welcomed into an old Chettiyar mansion with a glass of restorative nannari sarbath. Made from the

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  • Feeling in love? Go hug a tree

    This Valentine's Day I'm going to say 'I love you' to a tree. Marry us off, Hindu Mahasabha. My wife won't mind

    The Hindu Mahasabha’s publicity stunts notwithstanding, we take the phrase ‘love is all around’ too lightly, Valentine's Day or no Valentine's Day. Look around, you’ll see that the greatest dispensers of unrequited love are trees. Their sagacious shade, their poetry-inspiring beauty, their bounty of fruit and, most of all, their silent catalysis of love. Where would that old Bollywood chestnut of running around trees be if not for… trees?

    A glimpse of the festivities from NERALU 2014. Photo: Bhargav ShandilyaA glimpse of the festivities from NERALU 2014. Photo: Bhargav Shandilya

    Last year the city of Bangalore, which has over the decades been making a mockery of its sobriquet of Garden City, revisited its sylvan heritage with a festival to celebrate trees. NERALU — Kannada for ‘shade’ or ’shadow’ — was held over a February weekend at Bal Bhavan in Bangalore’s Cubbon Park and other venues and drew an enthusiastic crowd of adults and children alike. This year, the festival has expanded its canvas to encompass a diverse array of subjects.

    ALSO READ

    Bound by a common love for trees, naturalists, ecologists,

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  • Looking beyond leopards in Bera

    Bera in Rajasthan is oversold by tour operators as one of the best places to observe leopards, but that is ignoring the wealth of wildlife otherwise found here

    By Swayamsiddha Mohapatra and Nihit S Mhatre

    Touted as one of the best places in India to see a leopard in the wild, Bera – a small village in Pali district of Rajasthan – has always been in the news for its not-so-elusive cats. However, the faunal diversity of Bera and the Jawai Bandh area far exceeds this marketing gimmick. Accompanied by two wildlife enthusiasts, I set upon planning a trip to the village to look for wildlife other than the leopard.

    Bera - a small hamlet in Pali district of RajasthanBera - a small hamlet in Pali district of Rajasthan
    A nightjar photographed before sunrise in Bera, RajasthanA nightjar photographed before sunrise in Bera, Rajasthan

    We booked a heritage resort at Bera in early February. We would get up before sunrise and spend a good two hours searching for nightjars. We succeeded in spotting many.

    Our joy wouldn’t end there. Even something as routine as a sunrise was nothing sort of spectacular at the village. The dust would scatter the morning light, bathing the land in a golden hue.

    The morning hours post sunrise was spent birding at the Jawai Bandh area or looking for mammals in the scrub forests nearby. Jawai Bandh area is home to a plethora of birds. The most

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  • A cat and mouse game

    'Don't play with your food' is not something this cat was taught. And just as well

    'Don't play with your food' is not something this cat's mother taught it. Discounting anomalies such as Tom & Jerry and Garfield, we know what happens when a cat meets a mouse.

    This beautifully shot photo-series captures the exciting sequence of events that unfolds. Nothing gory or graphic for the faint of heart, but let this much be said: it doesn't end happily for the mouse.

    Photos: JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE/ AFP PHOTO

    A cat chances upon a mouse on a farmyard in Sehnde near Hanover, central GermanyA cat chances upon a mouse on a farmyard in Sehnde near Hanover, central Germany
    Little playthingLittle plaything
    The mouse makes a leap... of faith?The mouse makes a leap... of faith?
    A giant leap for... mousekindA giant leap for... mousekind
    Catch me if you canCatch me if you can
    Gotcha! Almost!Gotcha! Almost!
    Enough of that. It's lunchtime!Enough of that. It's lunchtime!
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  • Rivers - the architects of Assam's landscapes

    Two rivers, and their contrasting personalities, shape the landscapes of Assam and the lives of the people and creatures that inhabit this land. RAJI SUNDERKRISHNAN explores their realm with her camera

    By Raji Sunderkrishnan

    This is about a river, as tempestuous as an artist. But who can deny his artistry? The swamps that cool the rhinos, the tall grass that screens the elephants, the waters that shield the dolphins, the soil that sustains the trees – they’re all his design.

    He gives life; he takes lives too. Winding his way through India’s eastern arm, the mighty Brahmaputra heaves each monsoon. And, they all move in ritualistic unison: the rhinos, the elephants, the deer and the humans. They know the drill. When most of your land is going to be submerged, you move to higher ground; it is a question of survival. After the survival, will be the time of plenty. Yet, minds fill with dread - will I survive until the next season or will I perish before the rains stop? Before the Brahmaputra stops? These worries are not unfounded.

    This story is also about another river. Not far from Kaziranga flows the Jia Bharali (pronounced Jia Bhorali), her name evoking a musical tinkle. Unlike the

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  • Bali: Eat, Drink, Repeat

    Explore Bali through its cuisine, eating at night markets, food carts and restaurants that only locals will know

    Bali is a food-lover’s dream. And, though I am not a traveller, I will brave all sorts of stomach-churning expeditions in the promise of a great meal and new culinary traditions.

    Balinese cuisine can be novel, yet familiar to Indians. Sambal, with its mix of chilli, shallots and galangal, ginger, lemongrass and garlic, is full of familiar elements. But the delicate flavour of galangal will catch you off-guard, and the crunch of fresh sambal repackages household ingredients with new textures.

    Bali is a great destination to sample new kinds of food, even try your hand at cooking some. We experimented with goose foot, pig’s ear and piles of scampi. It’s where we learned to steam chicken in a banana leaf and properly skewer fish on a satay stick. It’s also where we fell in love with mangosteen and tore at crispy duck with our fingers.

    The delicious mangosteen is native to the islands of IndonesiaThe delicious mangosteen is native to the islands of Indonesia
    Night markets are a great place to begin your culinary adventures. While Bali is tourist-friendly, with romantic restaurants and cafes that serve cuisines

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  • Is illegal ivory funding global terrorism? Kathryn Bigelow thinks so

    An elephant is killed for ivory every 15 minutes. At the present rate, they could be extinct in 11 years. Deriving income from the sale of illegal ivory are terrorist groups like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, claims a short film by Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow. Last Days urges you to act to end the illegal ivory trade

    Kathryn Bigelow, the filmmaker behind the acclaimed Hollywood blockbuster Zero Dark Thirty, has stood up for the cause of elephants with a riveting short film on the dark truth behind the global ivory trafficking racket, titled Last Days (watch it here).


    The film links the ivory racket to something else that the whole world is worried about: terrorism.

    Here are the chilling facts presented in the film:

    • An elephant is killed for ivory every 15 minutes
    • Over 30,000 elephants are killed by poaching every year
    • At the present rate, elephants could be extinct in 11 years
    • African terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab, The Lord’s Resistance Army, Boko Haram and Janjaweed derive income from the sale of illegal ivory to fund their operations and attacks
    • After drugs, weapons and humans, trafficking in endangered species is the fourth largest illegal business in the world

    Last Days aims to drive awareness, so that governments will act to put poachers, ivory traders and the terrorists out of business.

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  • Intimate with nature in intriguing Namdapha

    One of the richest biodiversity treasures of India lies on the border with Myanmar in Arunachal Pradesh. Namdapha is a nature-lover’s dream come true, says RAJNEESH SUVARNA

    Namdapha, the largest protected area in northeast India, is situated on the Myanmar border in Arunachal Pradesh. It sits on the edge of the Palearctic and Indo-Malayan regions covering an altitudinal range of nearly 4500 m. The sanctuary houses a range of habitats from tropical moist forests and montane forests to temperate forests, alpine meadows and perennial snow. This diverse and unique combination makes it a biodiversity hot-spot, the list of its residents is both long and awe-inspiring. 

    Home to four large cats (tiger, snow leopard, clouded leopard and common leopard) and three lesser cats (marbled cat, fishing cat and Asiatic golden cat) Namdapha is also famous for the only ape found in India, the endangered Hoolock Gibbon, Slow Loris, Flying Squirrel, civets, otters and other mammals. Namdapha has a very long bird list and is famous for specialties like White-bellied Heron, Snowy-throated babbler, Pied Falconet, White-winged Wood Duck, parrotbills, fulvettas, Scimitar Babblers,

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  • Three Thousand Steps to Paradise

    Hidden in the unspoiled forests of the East Khasi hills is a village that crafts Meghalaya's living root bridges.

    The long root bridge on the road to Nongriat. Image credit: FlickrThe long root bridge on the road to Nongriat. Image credit: Flickr
    Can you remember feeling small? Unselfconsciously overwhelmed? Dwarfed by the magnificence of beauty, so pristine, it left you entirely without words. Has it been a while? Does the noise of digital distraction leave you disoriented, blacking out the beautiful?

    In search of beauty, we made the long trek to Nongriat. Near the exquisite East Khasi hills of Meghalaya, deep in a valley, are unspoiled forests, home to an ancient, virgin beauty.  A village of five homes, steeped in the fragrance of bay leaves, lives under the dense cover of trees.

    We had been forewarned that the journey would not be easy. Few make the long trek down; the grueling walk truly a test of strength and dedication. But 3000 steps doesn’t sound nearly as intimidating when you say it out loud, and we began early one morning, excited and optimistic.

    Walking through vines, sunlight filters down to the forest bed.Walking through vines, sunlight filters down to the forest bed.Along the edge of the road, stepping over a small fence, we peer down: a steep drop with steps cut into stone, disappear under tree cover. It’s going to be a long walk. We

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  • Loo and behold, this is India

    All of India is one big lavatory, and now it’s become an electoral gimmick for our politicians. Can India be toilet-trained?

    A brief update is called for to this blog post that was written over a year ago. November 19 is World Toilet Day. On this occasion, it may come as no surprise that of the 1 billion people in the world who have no access to a toilet (the sobering thought is that most of us have access to two or more at a time, and often many more while we're at work), India accounts for 600 million. That's right - 60 per cent of the world's people without access to a toilet are in India. Makes you flush with embarrassment? Yeah, me too.

    HolidayIQ.com, India's largest travel community with over 20 lakh members from 80+ Indian cities conducted a survey to understand the current scenario and importance of clean restrooms, while travelling. This infographic summarises the findings:

    Infographic courtesy of HolidayIQ.comInfographic courtesy of HolidayIQ.com

    Many years ago, my wife and I were on a bus from Kozhikode to Bangalore. Delayed by rain and diversions, the driver came close to breaking Andy Green’s land speed record. This he did by sacrificing the customary toilet breaks. A

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