A MEMORABLE PLACEOutside the city's shadowBy Tonmoy...



Outside the city's shadow

By Tonmoy Navare


Bharatpur National Bird Sanctuary is India's most visited bird sanctuary -- by tourists and by birds. It is located about 30 miles from Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal.

Because it's a pollution-free zone, we had to park our car near the entrance. One can get in only by rickshaws or horse carriages. The road was so straight that for about five miles it didn't turn at all. Inside the sanctuary, the forest is home to numerous migratory birds, including the Siberian crane, which flies all the way from Russia to India. There are also many other animals, including a tiger, monkeys and pythons.

I am not a bird-watcher, but the sight of a pond heron in the beautiful silhouette of grasslands awed me. It was a magnificent sight. Perhaps the bird that wowed me most was the pelican, which flew over the water like a water skier -- as if it were performing for our entertainment.

This was just the beginning. A stork made itself seen near the bank of the pond. There were also anhinga (snakebirds) and kingfishers, which seemed to be all over.

The sanctuary is a great place for bird photographers. I met a guy who had camped for two months to get just the right shots.

With an escort to guide us, it was fascinating to travel through the sanctuary. In some places, the quiet was broken only by the singing of birds. Even during a one-day jaunt visitors can be turned into bird-watchers.

We were also witness to hundreds of pranks by monkeys, some of which might have been a little too brave. The python that lay just 10 feet from us looked harmless until our guide told us about the whole deer it had swallowed a few days back. Being with a guide was comforting -- he knew the best places to go and the places to avoid.

Stags in multitude mixed well with the greenery around us, and some of them had horns as long and strong as small trees.

If I ever want to visit a place in the midst of nature, without the urban world's shadow, this is the place I would choose.

Tonmoy Navare lives in Baltimore.


Adding color to the landscape

By Rae Ellen Virgilio,


The quest for an exotic adventure for our 30th wedding anniversary led us to Thailand. After a 19-hour flight, we greeted friends in Bangkok, a bustling city of many contrasts. A bone-rattling ride in the back of a pickup truck took us to a village about an hour from the city of Chiang Mai, where some children agreed to pose for us against this beautiful backdrop.



Jenny and Albert Budacz, Towson

"Our family of three generations took a vacation to London and Barcelona that included a pilgrimage to the Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat. An hour's hike brought us to the shrine of St. Joan, overlooking the east valley expanse. We can't imagine a more serene place to contemplate one's blessings."

Utah and Arizona

Theresa Egan, Towson

"I was fortunate enough to spend a week at Monument Valley, enjoying the incredible scenery, learning about all the Westerns filmed there and the culture of the Navajo people. We went into Mystery Valley, where one can only go accompanied by a Navajo. You almost had a sense of the ancient people who once lived there."


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