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  • When I traveled to India it was as part of a longer round-the-world trip over three months.  I’d already been to New Zealand, Australia and Thailand so India was the last leg of my journey.  I’d booked my flight into Mumbai and out of New Delhi three weeks later, but other than that, I’d made no plans. 

    After a few days in Mumbai, I went to Ahmedabad in Gujarat and then on to Udaipur in Rajasthan.  It was monsoon season, so hot and steamy and often very wet, but this didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of India.  I found the vibrancy and chaos a vivid reminder of what it is to be alive, despite the constant confrontations with the darker side of life in India.

    My hotel in Udaipur was itself a lovely old Haveli (a private mansion, usually with historical significance) in the past and I was given a beautiful room overlooking the lake with its famous island hotel.  Meals were served on the roof top terrace and I fell in love with this idyllic situation.  I was exhausted from the constant travel and a little under the weather so decided to stay here for a few days longer than I’d originally intended – the joy of not pre-booking everything.

    The hotel recommended an evening performance in another old Haveli in the town and while it’s easy to shun this kind of thing as being too touristy, sometimes it’s also fun to indulge.  On this occasion, I’m very glad I did.

     

    The setting was perfect and the entertainment enchanting.  Reclining on cushions on a carpeted floor, I was particularly taken by the puppeteer whose performance was both skilled and amusing.  The dancers awed with their various talents and it was easy to be whisked back in time to another era, imaging oneself a guest of a wealthy merchant in times gone by.

    After a few days, I somewhat reluctantly decided it was time to move on and made my way to Jaipur, but I’ll always have fond memories of feeling a little poorly in Udaipur for the wonderful experiences it gave me.

     

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    Being an Australian who lives in London, South East Asia is a frequent stopover on my trips back home to Adelaide. It was on a trip several years ago that I first stopped in Kuala Lumpur - these days I always try to take a few days break somewhere I haven’t been before, to ease my way through that long journey.

    I stayed in a hotel that overlooked the vibrant Jalan Petaling night market and loved it, but what I really wanted to do was see wildlife of a non-human variety. As this was only a brief visit, I didn’t have time to get out to the rainforest, but not to worry – there’s a fantastic bird park with a butterfly park very close by.

    It was hot and steamy in the city, so it was lovely to find some green space and tranquillity away from the hubbub of the city centre and market. And there’s something magical about the beauty of butterflies. The way their wings shine, the gorgeous colours, their flitting movement, their delicacy… it was wonderful to watch them dance around and hope they’d rest for a moment with their wings outstretched for a closer look.

    But the one that really caught my eye wasn’t a brightly coloured flitty specimen. It was the large Paper Kite, whose wings are so big they billow when it wafts passed, the black and white pattern standing out against the verdant green and vibrant flowers of the ‘rainforest’. While big and billowy it may be, its wings are like delicate organza with a hand-painted pattern in black, sometimes with a hint of yellow towards the base. Always in awe of nature, I was transfixed.

    I have subsequently returned to Malaysia where I visited the jungles of Borneo seeing as many as 20 different varieties of butterfly in less than an hour, but I’ll always remember this gentle giant that in its understated way said ‘look at me’.

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