Nov 22, 2013

Gujarat Diaries: Jamnagar Jatra

After my adventures and misadventures, next on my schedule was to do birding in and around Jamnagar city. Here again, with the help of Falguna, I was in contact with Chiku (Chirag Joshi) who had arranged everything including cab, tickets, accommodation and had chosen the birding spots to visit and would be guiding me during my stay.

The first thing I liked in Jamnagar was the weather, brilliant for a coastal city (can be as its just located near the Gulf of Kutch). Tea was another delight delighting my taste buds every time I sipped tea. I loved the Gujju food I had all through my stay and Chiku handpicked locations that served the best of the varieties on offer. Also, the number of 'paan' shops outnumbered any other shops in Jamnagar and the couple I tasted were too good to say the least.

The people I encountered, met and saw right from Ahmedabad to Kutch are addicted to either paan or tobacco and one such auto driver I met said he could stay without food or water but not without paan!

Back to the birding part, I was bowled over completely by the variety in offer I could see in Jamnagar. Being my first coastal birding, I was at my wits end trying to figure out what is what. From a distance, all of these look alike unless you observe them carefully for the differentiating features. Not only that, I saw them in hundreds all over the birding spots and on the roads too and the Rosy Starlings show at Lakhota lake was just pure bliss.

The tide timings went a little haywire for me but still with just about 2 days, I added 41 new species to my list (excluding about 60 odd I had seen over the last few days) making it a very productive trip to say the least. Contrarily, I would have missed out easily about 20-30 species but nevertheless that would be covered on my next trip here right :)

I birded along Charakla, Dhinchda, Narara-Marine National Park, Khijadiya bird sanctuary, Balachadi and Lakhota lake over the two days I stayed in Jamnagar. I stayed at the recommended President Hotel for a hassle free comfortable stay.

The posts of Jamnagar will be more of photo-logs than write-ups and hope you enjoy each of them... Stay tuned!

Gujarat Diaries so far...

Nov 21, 2013

Kuala Lumpur dream birding

Other than India that has a rich biodiversity, South East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia are other regions that boast of rich forests and enviable bio-diversity. So when it comes to choosing between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, I would invariably prefer KL for its proximity to the gregarious wild side of Malaysia.

For starters, majority of Malaysia is covered in rainforest and has approximately 210 mammal species, 600+ bird species, 250 reptile species and 150 frog species…whoa…that’s something to visit for!

Specifically, Kuala Lumpur has some great birding in it and given a choice I would be spending my time roaming around the forest patches in the city and its periphery.

Some birding places would be:-

/\ Toll gate at Kampung

/\ Bukit Rengit village

/\ Krau Forest area

/\ Frasers Hil

/\ Taman Rimba

/\ FRIM, Sg Buloh and many other distinct places to visit.

Everything would be a new sight for me in KL, but I would die to see the Banded Kingfisher, Black and Red Broadbill, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Golden-throated Barbet, Abbot Babbler, Moustached Babbler, Banded Pitta, Malkoha’s, Pigeons, Flycatchers and many more.

Other places that I would not mind visiting in KL would be:-
Ø Petronas Twin Towers, the jewel of Kuala Lumpur.

Ø Little India Brickfields, a place rich of Indian culture.

Ø Aquaria KLCC, housing over 5000 different creatures.

Ø KL Bird Park, the largest aviary housing more than 3000 birds.

Ø Perdana Botanical Gardens, one of the most popular parks in KL.

Also how would I miss a good vegetarian meal in one of the numerous Indian restaurants and spend some time shopping at the Pavilion KL or at the Lot 10.

Wondering, how would this be possible? The "World’s Best Online Travel Fair" is happening right now offering affordable fares to Kuala Lumpur from the major cities in India, go grab it right away!

See you there :-)

This post is the part of Dream Asian Destination Blogger Contest, sponsored by AirAsia in association with Ripple Links.

Nov 5, 2013

Gujarat Diaries - The case of the missing wallet!

Gujarat diaries so far...

With my travels all being planned through local transport in Gujarat, I was dropped at Viramgam junction from Bhavna resorts to board my next train to Jamnagar that would reach there at odd hours in the morning; departing by 10pm and reaching Jamnagar by 3am. I had booked myself a First Class (FC – non AC) ticket, a decision I’m bound to praise myself for the rest of my life).

3 days in the Rann, jeep rides, sore back, blistering heat and less sleep was slowly having its effect but a new destination, new people, new sightings kept me going well. I boarded the train and was guided to my berth by the smiling TC who reminded me to set an alarm as not to miss my station being wee hours.

I was in a kind of inebriated state wanting to just sleep for those 3-4 hours of the journey to be fighting fit ahead of my rigorous schedule at Jamnagar that awaited me. Soon, I was joined by a companion who was traveling all the way to Porbandar.

Greetings exchanged and as just the thought of dozing off came to my mind, the person who looked eager, started off a conversation. Being polite, I answered most of his questions about various things and that’s when the conversation changed its direction. More than an hour passed by and the conversation (now being mostly one sided) seemed not ending and it was just going on and know what, the person was trying to influence me on a ‘religion’ and its benefits…

God! This was now getting too much on me! Firstly, I was sleeping sick. Secondly, I have my own beliefs and faith in my religion. In spite of communicating the same, the person was in no mood to let me go also apologizing for keeping me awake! Time-out! I had enough of it and by now my strained eyes was gleaming red and I just woke up from my berth and looking at the person with reddish eyes said, I want to sleep now! That was it..; I got my rightful berth within the next minutes. The clock showed 12am by now, darn, just about 2 hours sleep left before I alight!

Just as I thought I had slept, the alarm went off and it was time to wake up, pack up and leave. With weary eyes, I woke up, rested for a while till the station arrived and got off at Jamnagar station at 3am on time. Chiku aka Chirag was yet to arrive and the next 10 minutes were spent at the station waiting.

Soon, Chiku arrived and we went to the car, and once in, he inquired 'how’s it going so far…?' I replied… 'so far so good' simultaneously checking my pockets for all the things I had kept and soon touched the buttock pocket for my wallet…!

Gosh! Wallet missing!!!

I ran back to the station to see if I had dropped it around only not to find it there. Stuck in the middle of nowhere with just a few rupees in the pocket, I felt all lost and dingy. Luckily, I had kept less cash in the wallet but had the all important cards in it! My mind was all junked up at the moment and couldn’t think of what next! I was humbled by our driver’s statement that he would drop me home and not to get worried, the statement came out in a flash and Chirag to reassured not to worry about money.

The savior there, Chirag then accompanied me to the station to the TC’s office and luckily we found him there (just as if waiting for us at 3am). Soon, I told the happenings and my lost wallet and promptly he swung into action and called the TC who was onboard the train. I was all impatient and tense to hear the result of his conversation with the TC on train.

As a silver lining in the sky, the news came out that the TC has secured my wallet from my FC berth compartment. The grief that had enveloped me minutes ago was now replaced with a wide grin and countless thanks to the TC both at the station and on the train. The TC on board the train informed us that he would return it back to us at Jamnagar station the same night when the train would resume its return journey from Porbandar.

After the reassurance that all would end well, I was dropped to the hotel to catch a few hours sleep as we had to leave by 6am. As I sat in the room, thinking of where and how it had slipped, it soon flashed that I had kept the wallet on the berth while fast asleep and had forgotten to take it while leaving the train. Incidentally, I had also not switched on the main lamp in the compartment (just used the bed lamp) so as not to disturb the other passenger for which I had to pay this price!

Much reassured now, the day went in a flash with me being busy in birding all day long and we were back in the station by midnight awaiting the arrival of the train. Chirag, even after the hectic day took me to the station on his bike to collect my wallet. Soon, the train arrived and as we were searching for the FC coach, the TC who was standing near the door waved to me taking me by surprise.

The wallet was back in my hand and pleasantries exchanged with the TC and I was much overjoyed and relieved. We wanted to appreciate the TC’s help monetarily, but he blatantly refused stating it was just his duty. Jai ho sirjee!

The saga that started at 3am ended by 1am after some nerve wracking moments that probably I may not forget sooner. But, what till date hurts me is that I forgot to take the TC’s name so that at least I could have sent an appreciation letter to him for his good deed.

I’m happy that good deeds do happen and good people do exist! Thank you Lord!

Note: This is a real incident that happened to me during my Gujarat trip last year.

countless thanks to Chirag, our driver, the TC guards and to Indian Railways.

coming up next: Jamnagar Jatra...stay tuned!