Friday, November 18, 2005

A Review: The Great Hill Stations of Asia

A good bit of background filler. Barbara Crossette sallies around southeast Asian hill stations moaning on and about the great social and cultural relevance of these places to dead imperialists and their modern local Asian economic equivalents. Who cares? There are still plenty of interesting facts.

There are not a great number of these hill stations that I have visited, just Nuwaralia in Sri Lanka and Ooty in Tamil Nadu, but I was astounded by the rates of growth of unleashed development along the roads of former jungles on the way from Mysore alone, saddened equally that the grand result of development in India resulted in such a devastating loss of flora and fauna. Even the rock pickers could use a frond to sit under. Crossette nearly describes my own bus ride to Ooty except for how my British nurse nearly drowned in the rainstorm as the bus roof patches gave way. Trapped wet and shivering in such conditions in a Tonka bus sounds like heaven compared to what days in a soggy wet hanging bundle would be like.

Bandipur Park appeared as a real nightmare, nothing from the main roads but the muddy asses of elephants running out of the way in the distances of trampled undergrowth and great fire scourged sections just trying to get the hell away from the masses of gawkers and hawkers. I doubt any tigers remain there under such circumstances. I thought Sri Lanka in the mountains was a fairly denuded landscape but considering the financial options available to so few and required by so many, it is hard to blame the locals for the issues of preservation which will haunt these hills forever. However I would return to Ooty, it still has a breath of quiet and peaceful languid paces. You can walk around without fearing being run down by beggars or thieves. Same for Nuwaralia. I stayed initially in the new wing of the former Governor General's residence, but I recommend anyone to stay closer to the kitchen, especially in off season. The new wing smells fully of ghosts and is mouldering away in the humid earth.

I was fully amazed at Peredinia Gardens and I concur with Crossette they are by far the most beautiful and majestic gardens I have ever seen. I guess I read the book to find out more about places I have been and others I might like to visit. Certainly Dalat figures on my future travel plans because of this book. I think if I returned to South India Ooty would be my direct destination.

Indirectly in India, it always the journey that seems to matter. Crossette captured some of that journey in her book.

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