Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm Chiang Mai, Thailand

We made an unscheduled stop at the Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm Chiang Mai in Thailand and I am glad we did. When I went in there were a lot of orchids in bloom. There were quite a few butterflies in the enclosure too. I would any given day see the butterflies in the wild but it was a large enclosure full of flowers, so I think the butterflies were not at risk. However, I may be wrong in assuming this and I am willing to be educated.

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Butterflies like Salt

As soon as we entered the butterfly enclosure we saw this bunch sitting on the ground. I have seen this once before and people who are in the know told me it is because of the salt content. Apparently butterflies like salt.

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Hanging on to the Net

The top enclosure was made of net and butterflies were hanging for it. This beauty made only a brief appearance on the net and then hid itself effectively in the flowers and bushes.

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A Bunch of Butterflies

By now you might want to ask me, where are the orchids. Well they are there but I am going to do another post on them as I have way too many butterflies to show!

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A Bronze Beauty

How I wish I knew the names of the butterflies but I do not know even a single name. What a pity! I guess it is about time I tried to change it, after all I can identify about a hundred birds, so why not butterflies too!

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Green and Black

When I was at the Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm, it was not too crowded. The tourist who were there in the enclosure were super quiet and mindful of not scaring the butterflies.

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Lantana and a Butterfly

While we were admiring the butterflies a friend from our group was visiting a place where they had King Cobras! He asked if I would like to join, but the chicken that I am, I shuddered at the mere idea!

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A Black Beauty

I have to admit it was much more easy to click pictures in the enclosure than it has been to click out in the open. For one there were a lot of butterflies and they seemed to be used to human presence.

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Bug Me Not!

You could use any lens to shoot them, even your cell phone, as they were quite close at hand. They were quite fond of lantana flowers.

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A Blue and Brown Butterfly

This butterfly at the first glance would look of a dull brown color, till it flapped its delicate wings and gave you a flash of blue!

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A Blue Butterfly

And then there was this one, of pale blue shade, happily going about its business. The Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm Chiang Mai is a small place but it is well kept. There is an entrance fee at the gate.

In the next part I will show you the orchids from the place!

Sky Watch Friday- Countries Traveled, The Last Part

A while ago, I started country counting. My tally stands at just sixteen, or maybe I should say sweet sixteen. So I round up the tally with some of the beautiful skies I captured in the last six of them. You can see the first ten countries here and here. So this completes the list of countries traveled so far by me, at least for time being.

Cambodia (With Tourism Authority of Thailand and Cambodia Tourism Board)

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Cambodia has been my shortest stay at any international location. I had only only night in the Angkor region. I crammed the night market and the sunrise at Angkor Wat in that. I got very little sleep but the memories that I made are priceless.

Finland (With Nokia, Now Microsoft)

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Beautiful lapland, Finland

Finland was such an amazing winterland. I have never seen so much snow in my life. The highest temperature that I encountered during my entire stay was 2 degree celsius. The coldest was minus 22 degrees. Lapland was colder than Helsinki. With such cold weather it was very easy to appreciate both central heating and sauna.

Maldives (Personal Trip)

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Maafushi, Maldives

My younger nephew Sunil and I went to Maldives last year. Maldives is incredibly beautiful and then some more. And contrary to the perceptions it can be done on a budget.

Jordan (with Jordan Tourism Board)

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The Grand Hyatt at Amman, Jordan

Like South Africa, Jordan was not on my list, at least not in the near future, because eventually everything is on my list. It was also special because I got to attend a mass by Pope Francis! Now even in my wildest dreams I never imagined getting an opportunity like that! Dead Sea was incredible fun and I discovered delicious vegetarian food in Jordan!

Bhutan (with Make My Trip)

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Thimphu, Bhutan

Visiting Bhutan was like stepping back in time, say by 20 years! I was about to say 50 years but then I realized that it is more than my age! I simply fell in love with Bhutan. And if you are into trekking, you have to trek to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Even you are not, you still have to hike up to the monastery!

Hong Kong (Personal Trip)

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Double Trouble in Hong Kong

Hong Kong was a truly memorable trip because I took double trouble (my daughter and niece) to Hong Kong on their first trip abroad. Of course Disneyland was the agenda! All I can say is that I took out two kids with me alone and I have lived to tell the tale!

PS. This post is part of Skywatch Friday, the fabulous community of people who love gazing at the skies.

Travel during Summer Vacations

It is that time of the year again when a lot of people will plan to travel. After all it would be summer vacation time soon! Destinations would be discussed and debated, mountain vs sea debates will flare up.

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Flying High, Well That is the Only Way to Fly I Guess?

Plans for finding cheap flights and lowend tickets would be afoot in many households. For many travel during summer vacations is a must as everyone can take leave at the same time!

However I stand aloof and do not join in the excitement. For one even though my daughter goes to school, she is still quite small. So, traveling on extended weekends is not a problem. Two, everyone and their relatives will be planning to travel during the school holidays. That leads to trains getting booked within minutes of becoming available for reservation, increased airfares, costlier hotels and food and what not.

I often stay away from traveling during summer vacations, at least to the popular spots. But I met my nemesis once, in Hong Kong. My daughter, niece and I traveled to Hong Kong in 2014. My daughter’s passport has just arrived and I decided to take her and my niece on their first trip abroad. So far so good.

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Us at Hong Kong

We landed in Hong Kong safe and sound. As the trip was with the kids the main thing on the list was the Disneyland. However we did not know that August was the school holiday time in Hong Kong. On top of that we went to the Disneyland on a Sunday. It was a hot day too. As soon as I got down from the bus, I noted the location of the taxi stand. I had a suspicion that the girls might wish to go back early, much before the 9.00 pm fireworks!

I have grant it to them, the kids were good sport. They did not complain much for waiting in the lines that formed in front of various rides. For almost every ride the wait time was 40 to 60 minutes! By four in the evening the kids told me they wanted to go back home! Off we went to the taxi counter and to our hotel! That is what summer vacations can do to your travel! So while you plan to travel in the school holidays, I think I am going to take it easy!

Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Even my sleep deprived eyes could see that I was in the middle of grand splendor at the Wat Phra That Temple Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I can’t fall asleep on planes and I can’t feel fresh without sleep, hence the first day of a trip is usually tough for me. I visited the temple on the very first day, walking like a zombie and yet I came back completely awed.

Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai is a spectacular Buddhist Temple. Doi means a mountain so Wat Phra That is the temple on Suthep Mountain. But the temple is popularly known as Doi Suthep after the name of the mountain, I suspect because it is easier to pronounce?

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Wat Phra That, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Legend: The construction of the temple started in 1383 or thereabout. The temple is considered to be holy as it treasures a relic of the Buddha. There is a legend associated with the temple. It is said that the King of the Lanna Kingdom kept the relic on a white elephant, so that it would lead the way. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep, sat down there and then died. It was considered a sign to construct the temple there.

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The Nagas and the Steps to the Wat Phra That Temple, Chiang Mai

The Climb: The nagas mark the way up to the temple. There are about 300 steps to climb to reach the main temple. However, if due to any reason you do not feel like climbing the steps, there is a cable car available to go to the top for a fee of 30 Baht. As we had landed the same day in Thailand and were feeling quite sleep deprived, we took the cable car to go up but we came down by the steps.

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The Ashes within the Temple Premise

The Periphery: The temple has two parts the main pagoda and the periphery. Our guide Aroon explained a holy practice at the periphery of the temple. The pictures of the people you see are vaults where their loved ones have stored their ashes. People from all religion can use the temple to honor their loved ones in this way. After a while it is possible to remove the ashes and move it to another temple or to set it free in a river. To enter the main temple it is compulsory to remove the shoes. The periphery provides a sweeping panorama of the city but unfortunately for us, the weather was hazy.

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A Tourist with the Locals at the Temple, Chiang Mai

The Dress Code: The temples in Thailand have a dress code. You are supposed to cover your knee and shoulders. So a t-shirt with sleeves and trousers would work well. Technically capris that cover the knee are fine, but I prefer to wear a jeans or a full length trousers.

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The Beautiful Temple

Time: Even though the temple complex is not huge, it is so full of beauty that I would recommend more than an hour to explore it in any detail. You would stop at almost every step to peer about something or the other. If you like to click pictures I would say double that time.

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Lord Buddha at Wat Phra That, Chiang Mai

The Inner Temple: Peace reigns within the inner complex. There is no restriction on photography in the area. People offer flowers, light candles and lamps and generally pay their respect. The place is popular both with the locals and the tourists.

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The Colors at the Temple

The Small Wonders: I found the small things at the temple so very beautiful. I do not understand the meaning of the symbols clearly, say for this red vessel. But it is a thing of beauty and joy to see the colors in all quarters.

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The Nagas at the Temple

The Vivid Nagas: I was also mesmerized by the details of the idols. As an Indian I am no stranger to the nagas but the next time I end up in Thailand (I hope I will go back) I am going to explore their significance in Buddhism as well.

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One of the Main Halls at the Temple

The Main Halls: I could see two large halls within the inner circle of the temple. This was the only place where they had put a notice saying ‘please sit down while taking pictures’. Such places usually make me feel at rest. But on that day I was too tired and restless to sit quietly and contemplate for a while.

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Lighting the Lamps

Lighting the Lamps: There is something about burning lamps that draws me like a magnet, be it any place of worship. You can take in all these visual delights if you walk slowly around the inner circle.

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Evening Prayers at Wat Phra That, Chiang Mai

Evening Prayers: We were lucky to sit through (should I say photograph?) the evening prayers. Once again there is no restriction on photography. There are only two expectations, that you would also sit down and that you would keep quiet.

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Writing our Names on the Holy Cloth

Writing our Names: There is a cloth in the temple where you can write your name or wishes and it is eventually wrapped around the structures in the temple. Most of us were content to write our names, maybe add the name of a dear one too. But one of your team members, Gaurav, would write a story! May God grant him whatever he was seeking!

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The Evening Light

The Warm Evening Light: If you are particular about photography I would say go in the evening as the fading sun turns the temple into gold! I accidently discovered that the sun rays were falling on my face! I mean who would not click a selfie in such a scenario?

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Shops at Wat Phra That Doi Suhtep, Chiang Mai

Food and Souvenirs: We walked down the steps straight to food and souvenir shops! Walking all around is bound to make you hungry. I so love Thai street food. Munching on rice cakes we walked off from the area! It was a perfect end to a lovely visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

An Epic Adventure with Flying Squirrels, Chiang Mai, Thailand

When I heard that we taking a 45 minute drive out of Chiang Mai (Thailand) to experience a zipline, I was not too sure what we were up to. I have done ziplines before. I agree they are a lot of fun while they last, which is often less than a minute. I was not sure I wanted to travel for 45 minutes to do this. But then it was before I encountered Flying Squirrels beyond Chiang Mai.

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Vaishali, Arpit, Me, June, Gaurav and Manjulika

Flying Squirrels is a two and a half hours adventurous course made of 32 stations. It has 17 ziplines, 1 abseil, 6 walking steps, 2 climbing nets, 2 sky bridges, 1 Tarzan Jump, 1 skateboard, 1 bicycle zipline and 1 slider. Their website gives a very good map of the various activities on offer. June was the manager for Flying Squirrels who joined us for the group photograph.

It was quite an experience to zip through 17 times over a canopy of green. It was fun to glide over the giant tree tops. The rest of 15 courses kept me completely engrossed as well. In fact I was so into doing the activity that I hardly noticed the lush green surroundings. I have enjoyed them more through the pictures I clicked.

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That is How a Pro Comes on a Zipline!

To carry a cell phone or a camera on the lines you need a way to secure them. The camera can’t be held in hand because one is bound to drop it while zipping through. The folks at the Flying Squirrels gave me a pouch to carry my cell phone. I am really thankful for their suggestion or else I would have missed out on so many fun pictures!

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The Fun Moments

The longest zipline is 600 meters. It is so long that if you are light weight you might not reach the end of the line! It happened to our lightest colleague. One of the flight instructors had to go and fetch him from the line where he had stopped on his own!

Every group has two instructors; the first one would send you on the line securely. The other instructor would receive us at the end of the line and help us in landing. At the landing they often asked us to raise our legs. The help was needed also to avoid collision with the trees that stand firm at the landing stations.

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The Walking Steps at the Flying Squirrels- Manjulika, Arpit and Me

The platforms for the ziplines are quite high and sometimes narrow. As soon as I would land on such platforms the instructor would secure me to a line firmly. It is imperative that we do not unfasten the line while waiting for others to land. It was drilled into us to leave the lines well alone, only instructors would touch them.

As Thai names are quite difficult the nicknames of our instructors were Pong and Kishan. Actually Kishan was not the nick name but it was easy for me to remember. So, for the entire course we were in good hands.

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On the Bicycle- Manjulika and Me

We were a group of five people plus two instructors. One of us left the course after maybe 5 stations! Amongst the rest I was declared to be the most fearless. About half way through the course I started wondering why was I not scared when everyone else was. It was only later in the evening I realized that I too was quite scared till I was securely clipped to the line. Most of the platforms are high and I would not step up till Pong snapped all the three security lines in place. But once I was secure, letting go was easy and fun for me.

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I can do that!

At one platform Pong asked me if I would like to get my picture clicked hanging in the air. I was game for it. If you look at the picture closely, you can see that I am still clipped to the line. But there is another picture of mine, taken by their professional photographer where I actually left my hands while on the zipline! They give that photograph to you as a souvenir.

Our instructors were fun. For them it was not enough that we were doing the 32 courses. They would tug the line while we were hanging on it. They sometimes shook the walking steps too. For me that was good fun as well but I am not sure everyone would agree with it.

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The End of the Trip at the Flying Squirrels, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The last obstacle is a steep slide where they put you inside a sack and let you zoom through. We were all smiles after doing the entire course successfully.

I had gone in wondering why someone would drive for 45 minutes to do a zipline! After two and a half hours I knew exactly why. The day ends with lunch being served at the Flying Squirrels headquarters if you are doing the morning course. After experiencing the Flying Squirrels I would never think of a zipline as simply a zipline! Who knew ziplines could be so much fun!

How to Photograph Songkran?

When I was invited by TAT New Delhi to attend the Thai New year celebrations my first concern was how to photograph to Songkran? I mean it is a water festival and my camera doesn’t mix well with it. It was totally not acceptable to me that I would attend the festival without clicking pictures.

So, I turned to the internet to figure out how others did it. Other people’s experiences quickly told me that using my SLR was out of question. I am very fond of it. I knew if I took it out, it would meet a watery grave. I am glad I came to this conclusion without even leaving home.

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A Girl Enjoying Songkran in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Now that I have attended the festival and photographed it here are some tips on how to photograph Songkran.

You Will Need Something Waterproof to Photograph Songkran

My personal experience says that people throw water with abandon and gusto during Songkran. So, having something waterproof is the only way to do photography during the festival. I had a waterproof cell phone, a Sony XperiaZ3. It stood me good throughout the festival.

I can now vouch personally that some people will actually aim for your gadget. I would usually laughed after someone aimed their water gun at my cell phone. They would be mystified for a while and then conclude correctly that it was indeed a waterproof cell phone. I would then ask my tormentors to pose for me which they would readily do.

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Cell Phone Pouches can be Bought Locally

However having a waterproof cell phone is not the only option. A cheap way to achieve the same effect is to put your cell phone in a waterproof pouch and click pictures. The experience might be a little limited but hey you will still have some pictures!

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Wrapping Plastic- Making the Camera Songkran Proof

If you have a waterproof casing for your camera then nothing like it. I saw someone using polythene to wrap their video camera. Be creative, think of ways to secure your camera from water and you can click pictures during Songkran.

Climb a Bridge/Elevated Point!

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Silom Road- Clicked from the Skytrain Bridge

One of the most popular spot for Songkran in Bangkok is the Silom Road. There is a skytrain bridge in the middle of the Silom Road. It is a good idea to climb it. Not only it gives a beautiful vantage point for photography, it keeps your camera relatively safe. Do note I say relatively. People do not splash water on the train premises but an odd spray could still come your way. So on a bridge, it is possible to take out a camera that is not waterproof out of the plastic pouch and quickly click a few pictures. But you still need to be careful, as we cannot rule out the possibility of an odd spray coming your way.

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Songkran- Clicked from the Car of the Ferris Wheel at Asiatique

Another vantage point that I found was the highest ferris wheel in Thailand at Asiatique called Asiatique Sky. A water festival was going on right next to it. I could safely photograph the festival sitting inside the car of the ferris wheel! So if you can’t find a way to waterproof your camera, finding a safe elevation point is your next bet. I cannot stress enough that in public spaces like a bridge you still have to be careful.

Find a Secluded Spot a Little Away from the Main Action

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Songkran- Away from the Main Action

For taking a few quick pictures you could stand in a spot away from the main path of the festival. Eventually you would be discovered but this strategy would be good enough for a few minutes. Before attention turns to you it would be prudent to stash away your camera safely.

In conclusion the only safe way to photograph Songkran is to have a waterproof device. Climbing a skytrain bridge or finding a secluded spot would give you a few shots but your equipment is still at risk. So it is prudent not to take out your expensive stuff out to experiment. If you have to take a chance, take it with cheap stuff.

Songkran in Amazing Thailand

People of Thailand celebrate Songkran to usher in the Thai New year.  It falls in the month of April. The traditional celebration is a family affair where the entire family gathers together to pay the respect to the elders. In doing so they would put a fragrant paste on their hands and sprinkle water. The symbolism was to ask for forgiveness from the elders at the start of the new year.

But there is a modern version of the festival now! And that is amazing fun. Entire streets in Thailand turn into fighting zones, only the fight is a water fight. The paste is now smeared over the faces. I was lucky to witness the festival at two places- Chiang Mai and Bangkok. The fun goes on for three days!

Songkran at Chiang Mai

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Songkran Selfie at Chiang Mai

The dress code for Songkran is colorful flower pattern shirts and shorts or anythign else that you would like to get drenched in! I was once again traveling with TAT New Delhi and this was our group- Gaurav from Times of India, Vaishali from TAT, Manjulika Promod a fellow blogger and Arpit from Hindustan Times. We were a fun group which got along fabulously!

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Foreigners Playing Songkran in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Alternatively men decide not to wear a shirt at all, after all everyone gets drenched, there is no exception to it, unless you are driving in a vehicle with windows rolled up. It is very easy to join in the fun, you just need to get out in the street and people will drench you! You can drench them too! Foreigners join in the fun as easily as the locals! I saw only one group of foreign women in Chiang Mai wo were on the road and yet didn;t wish to get drenched. Everyone else knew the score!

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Tuk Tuks are not Songkran Proof, Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you get out on streets during Songkran you are a fair game. A tuk tuk, the common mode of transport, offers no protection against getting drenched. People stand on the side of the roads with water tubs and throw it by the bucket too. Some use ice water which truly gives a jolt but for a second only!

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Pick Up Trucks are Common Songkran Vehicles, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Pick up trucks are used to store water and indulge in Songkran while on the move! There are a few main roads in every city where the festival is played. The traffic becomes very slow on these roads. We were in Chiang Mai a day before Songkran so, these pictures are of pre-songkran celebrations!

Songkran at Bangkok

The we moved to Bangkok and it was the time for the main festival! I was once again staying at Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside and that street itself was witness to the water fights. But the next day we went to Silom Road and what a fantastic celebration it was!

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Songkran at Silom Road, Bangkok

After walking on the Silom Road for a while we went to the Sky Station bridge as it was a better vantage point for taking pictures. We were totally soaked from our small walk itself. The covered tunnel had sprinklers on it, so you would automatically get drenched while walking under it!

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Water Hose for Songkran, Silom Road, Bangkok

And that was not all, there was an official with a water hose taking care that everyone got drenched properly! The sheer energy and the number of people who turned out to celebrate Songkran was amazing, quite like Thailand.

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The Crowd at Silom Road

I have to grant it to Thai people, they know how to behave in a crowd. Here we were, 4 women (including our tour guide) and two men walking in a jam packed area and there was no incident of inappropriate touching or any other harassment. It was such a joy to witness a public celebration at such a large scale where men and women participated equally. I went in to a water festival all alone at Asiatique and I felt entirely safe. I stayed there to click a few pictures and no one bothered me at all!

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Ice Ice baby

I caught this man on the camera as he was happily mixing ice in the bucket. I was clicking the picture of ice when his friends tilted his head for my camera! I happily obliged.

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Aiming at My Cell phone

I had given some thought to the issue of photography during Songkran. With water everywhere I knew I could not take out my SLR. Luckily I had my Sony XperiaZ3 to the rescue as it is water proof. I used it to click pictures throughout Songkran and it is Songkran proof as well. I have pictures and I have my camera intact too. If people see a camera/cell phone in your hand, some of them go straight for it! My phone did get some attention for being waterproof.

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Making the Cell Phone Songkran Proof

Otherwise you can buy these pouches and keep your cell phone inside it. They were sold for 50 Baht this season. People use it for keeping their money as well.

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Songkran Fun, Silom Road, bangkok

I would ask the people who drenched me to pose for me as well, they would happily obliged! After Silom Road we headed to the Khao San Road to join in the celebrations. But it was so jam packed that we gave up after 10 meters or so.

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Bus Driver Having Songkran Fun

But the funniest incident I witnessed was on the road. We were at a traffic light when the bus driver opened his window and poured water from a bottle over the two people sitting in the tuk tuk. By the time the people in the tuk tuk recovered he had closed the bus window. The boy in the tuk tuk kept pointing his water gun at the window now firmly shut! The bus driver would make funny faces at the couple and I died laughing at the scene! That is the spirit of Songkran in Amazing Thailand!

PS. I was invited by TAT New Delhi to visit Thailand during Songkran.

Thai Skies for Skywatch Friday

I present to you the Thai skies for this Skywatch Friday. I am writing this post in a hurry because later tonight I fly out to my favorite country again. I am going to Thailand to attend Songkran, the water festival associated with the Thai New Year. I am super excited. This is my 5th trip to Thailand and I am really grateful to TAT New Delhi for taking me out to Thailand so many times. So, in this post I present you the skies from my previous trips. Now my tally of highest visits to a country is a tie- 5 each for both UK and Thailand! And I hope Thailand soon becomes my most visited country.

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Sunet at Krabi, Thailand

As Songkran is a water festival I was wondering how to photograph it. I checked out the net for tips on photographing Songkran. I quickly realized that taking out my SLR was out of question. There is a very high probability that it would meet a watery grave. I so like clicking pictures that I could not dream of doing posts without pictures or using pictures from press release for Songkran. I was in a fix.

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Khao Yai, Thailand

And that is when I remembered my XperiaZ3. It is waterproof! So, it is time to check out whether it is Songkran proof or not. I had actually given the camera to my sister so it was easy to pinch it back from her. We swapped the sims. She struggles with a windows phone but the sweet person she is, she has assured me that if I ever need to swap phone again she would be game for it.

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Bangkok Skies

I am now armed with a waterproof phone, I am so looking forward to getting drenched this Songkran and get back some stories and pictures for my blog.

I should be getting up now and get ready to leave. See you all from Thailand tomorrow.

Women in Leadership- The Indian Travel Industry

I have met many outstanding women through my travels but two of them really stand out. They are Amrit Matharu and Sangita S. Mani. Amrit is an adventure instructor with the Camp Peach Valley, Rajgarh and Sangita is a naturalist with Taj Safari. Both hold jobs where not too many women have even ventured. I had the pleasure of interacting with them. They are so much fun. So when I think of women in leadership, particularly in the travel context, I think of their stellar work!

Amrit Matharu, Adventure Camp Instructor 

I met Amrit Matharu at an adventure camp in Himachal Pradesh. We started talking because we were the only women at the camp! She was so easy to talk to, we initially went into a chit chat about a small trek I did during the day. It was only after a while she told me that she was an adventure camp instructor.

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Amrith Matharu- An Adventure Camp Instructor

 

I asked her what prompted her to choose a career like that? It was only then she told me that she was a trained mountaineer. She had successfully completed basic and advance mountaineering courses! About climbing as a career she mentioned that the knack to raise sponsorships was crucial. She is so soft spoken that if she would have not told me, I would never have guessed that in reality she was a tough climber who could walk for miles carrying another person on her back! And I can take a bet that while looking at her picture neither can you guess about her toughness and her profession! I can only imagine how difficult it would be for her to live at a remote location for her job but then she is truly passionate about it.

Sangita S. Mani, Naturalist with Taj Safari

When you went on a jungle safari in India how many times your vehicle was driven by a woman? For me the number stands at zero. I have never had a woman guide as well. But I had the luck to meet Sangita S. Mani who is a naturalist with Taj Safari. I met her at Baghvan, Pench. She was not the one who took me to the jungle but I got to have a dinner with her one night. I asked her how she got into this profession to which she said she actually worked in the corporate sector for a long time. But she gradually grew dissatisfied with it and wanted to go to the jungle!

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Sangita S. Mani, A Naturalist with Taj Safari

She applied to Taj Safari but initially she did not hear back from them. In the meanwhile she connected with Ratna Singh another woman naturalist at Taj (whom I did not meet as she was at another camp) on Linkedin and that opened the door for her as well. She obviously loves her job and has no regrets leaving her corporate career. I saw her driving the jeep in Pench and she was so comfortable in her role!

As I said I have met many inspiring woman through my travels, some of them head hotels, some of them run their own PR agencies and do many other wonderful things but these two women choose careers that were so off the beaten track that I truly consider them leaders!

If you wish to write about women in leadership or #EveryWomanIsALeader Shethepeople.tv is holding a blogging contest where the winner gets an all expense trip paid to an exciting destination. Do check it out. You can find them on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram too.

The Story of Tublu by Jahid Akhtar

My love for books is older than my love for travel. But with Chhavi around reading has gone down. So when I got The Story of Tublu from Jahid Akhtar I was not sure how long I would take to finish it. I took it on my trip to Shivpuri and I could actually finish it pretty fast. So, The Story of Tublu is actually a quick read.

story-of-tublu

The Story of Tublu by Jahid Akhtar

I have read Jahid’s blog quite regularly so I feel very happy for him that he has come out with a book. The Story of Tublu as the name suggests is the story of Tublu, but it is equally the story of Maina as well.

The Plot

Bipin and his small boy move to a bigger city because their village is devastated by floods. They find shelter at the house of the Sharmas. Bipin finds employment and Tublu starts school. Reminiscent of earlier days and small towns, the Sharma family sort of adopts the father and son from the village. Growing up, Tublu falls in love with Maina, the daughter of the household, but he remains silent about it. Will he ever be able to find his love? Read the book and find out.

The Narration

The narration is straightforward. The language of the book is easy to understand, you would not be running for a dictionary time and again! It is an easy to read book. The book deals with three phases- when the main characters are in school, when they go to college and when they start working. I think I enjoyed the college phase the most!

The Characters

Tublu comes across as a sweet, mature boy. I do not see any shades of grey in his nature. Maina is more complex. For her life was not so straightforward. She goes through serious ups and downs in her life. There is a long list of supporting cast in the book, Tublu’s friend’s, Maina’s family and Maina’s boyfriend. A lot of characters in the book are nice, sweet and straightforward.

Who Will Like It?

If you are looking for a romantic book which is not simply a love story, you would enjoy reading the book.

PS. I was given the review copy of the book by Jhaid Akhtar.