Saturday, July 30, 2011

A day with the elephants - Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Pahang, Malaysia

Into the river for a bath
Malaysia Department of Wildlife and National Parks set up the Elephant Relocation Team in 1974 and Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary was officially established in 1989. For the last 25 years, more than 300 elephants have been relocated due to human-elephant conflict. The center aims to promote public awareness of the elephant’s plight in Malaysia and support research in the conservation of elephants. Hence, this center would be an ideal place to help maintain healthy elephant population in Malaysia and prevent its extinction. Currently, it is estimated that the jungle of Peninsular Malaysia has about 1,500 -1,800 elephants.

Riding the elephant
This is a place where the kids love it very much and during school holidays or weekends, buses of school children from all over the country will visit this site to have hands on feeding the elephant, riding the elephants and bathing the elephants. Currently, there are 40 elephants in the center and ten (Mahouts and Khoonkie) are trained to help in the operation of capturing wild elephants. 

As much as the kids enjoy the place so are the foreign tourists and locals. Located about 170km from Kuala Lumpur, it takes about one and half hour driving on the expressway and after exiting Lanchang, you have another 15km to get to the Sanctuary. Though the center opens from 9.00am to 5.00pm, the best time to be there is at 2pm as most activities will take place at that time. If you are coming in a big group, it would be better to call the center for reservation since only 150 visitors are allowed to ride and bathe the elephant each day. We came in the morning and had to wait until 2pm for the main activities to happen.

The skin of an elephant's trunk
Having the experience of interacting with human, these elephants are very friendly, playful and they listen to their skillful master very well. Some of these elephants are star and celebrities as they are used in the movie, Anna and the King, featuring Jodie Foster. However, security needs to be observed at all times since after all they are wild animals. Their bodies are rough and their hairs are stiff. You may want to wear pants when riding them.

There is no admission fee but you are encouraged to donate in the cause of the elephants. The center operates on government grants but maintaining the place and animals are not cheap. This place is a great place for kids!

The 16 years old Abott
She prefers the nuts in the package
The elephant gets a real scrub
The elephant man working hard
Naughty elephants splashing their masters
The elephants took a bath before taking the visitors for a ride
She is playful!
Clean and ready for next activities
Visitors queuing for a ride in the afternoon
Observing the elephants bathing from the platform
Skin of a young elephant

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Half the World - Isfahan, Iran

Nash-e-Jahan Square
The flight from Shiraz to Isfahan took about 50 minutes. Here we are in the city that retains much of its past glory and was once the capital city of Iran during the Safavid dynasty (16th century). It has a population of about 1.5 million and the third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad. Our schedule in Isfahan was rather tight but with Maryam (Islamic Azad University student) around throughout our stay everything comes pretty easy.

Isfahan is famous for its Islamic architecture, with many beautiful and huge boulevards, covered bridges, monuments, palaces, mosques, and minarets. We visited the famous Si-o-se-Pol Bridge with 33 arches twice in the day and at night and spend hours roaming around the huge Bazaar-E-Borzog in Imam Square. The bazaar stretched kilometers away and it is impossible to see everything in a day. The grandeur scale of monuments and buildings with intricate, dazzling tiles work and designs reflects the richness of the history and culture of the Persian civilization.

The city is described in the famous Persian adage "'Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast" which means Isfahan is half of the world. Indeed, the grand Nagsh-e-Jahan Square (also know as Imam Square and Shah Square) is one of the biggest city squares in the world. It has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In the late afternoon, the square will be flooded with locals having a picnic and perhaps the biggest picnic I have ever seen all my life!

A section of the Bazaar-e-Borzog
A view from Ali Qapu
Another view from Ali Qapu Palace
Intricate tiles work
From the window of the palace

East entrance of the bazaar