Monday, August 18, 2008

Costa Rica

HighLights: Pura Vida

Pura Vida (POO-rah VEE-dah), a very popular expression used by Costa Ricans literally translated means "Pure Life." Contextually, it means "Full of Life" "Purified life", "This is living!", "Going great!" It is used as a greeting, a farewell, and to express satisfaction.

Pura Vida is the most significant expression, I learned in Costa Rica ! Costa Rica furnished tons of tourist trivias, tracks and Tushar’s tidbits about tuanis topics. This includes the traveling from Tortuguero( First Day) to Tamarindo(Last day), Tarnatula(Spider like insect) , Tucan (exotic bird), Tortuga(turtle), Tequilas, all about Ticos (Costa Ricans) was truly Tuanis( Cool). What Ticons call Pura Vida ! (.). These all "T"s in the land of Coffee Richa ! Turtles and Toad gave me extra introduction to the world of Herpatology, lava and magma to the world of Volcanology.

Costa Rica is Pura Vida ! “ Costa Rica is paradise according to National Geographic, July 11 2008” – per the official web site of Costa Rica.


The land with size smaller than West Virginia in the USA, it encompasses one of the one of the world’s most diverse natural landsacpes . Nowhere else in the world are so many types of habitats squeezed in to such tiny area. The unique geography, creates rich diversity of flaura and fauna. Costa Rica is home to roughly 5% of the world’s biodiversity and is credited with having the 615 of species per 10,000 sq km in the world. Hundreds of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians can be found here, along with a staggering 10,000 plant and tree species! Compare this statistics to the wildlife rich country Rawanda that has 596 ( and USA has 104) . This makes Costa Rica a premier destination for the nature lovers in the word. We were not that fortunate enough to many of the well-promoted birds and animals, part due to the season, weather .

Niral, Amit, Madhu and myself has a wonderful trip. We landed to San Jose (Day zero) and departed from Liberia (Day11). On both weekend, Daniel ( CostaRican, who stayed with Madhu and family as exchanged student and Amit’s friend), I grouped the travel log and the picture album in five sections .

You may see the overall summay highlights ( I call Pura Vida Gallery)for a quick overview. For more details , click each one of the following links, Click the "slideshow" and hit F11 key for the full screen view. Here are the five photo albums.

1) Tortugero National Park ( Day 1-2) ; Land with canals, Turtles on Carribean ocean

2) Mount Arenal ( Day 2-5) Volcano, Hot springs, water falls, Lake Arenal

3) MonteVerde Gallery (Day 5-8); Rain Forest

4) Guanacaste : Northwest (Day 8-11) Pacific coast next to mountain. Stay at Hilton Resort

5) Miscellaneous: Art, people, more flaura and fauna

1 Tortuguero National Park ;

Witness the timeless, primordial act of Nature

It’s the Caribbean version of the Amazon in Brazil. One may compare it with the backwaters in Kerala as well. The Tortuguero Canals are an extensive system of natural and man-made waterways used both for simple transportation and jungle exploration. Traveling through the canals is a fascinating experience rich in wildlife that includes monkeys, iguanas, and colorful tropical birds. Picture on the left shows the topology of the place with tiny strips of land between canals, rivers and the ocean.

Getting there is part of the fun. The road goes through the verdant coffee plantations outside of San José and pass through the massive Braulio Carrillo National Park, before heading down to the lowlands of Limón, on the Caribbean coast. Here, the jungle finally gives way to small towns and huge banana plantations, offering a unique glimpse of Costa Rica’s rural life. The unpaved road goes through the banana plantations for atleast 1.5 hours with huge plantations equipped with planes for spreading fertilizers. The loom of Banana is covered with the blue plastic for the protection. Each Banana tree may have enough bananas to feed a village ! Once you arrive at the Canals, the real fun begins. We’ took a scenic boat ride along the canals for another hour and half to a charming jungle lodge.

One of the most important nesting sites in the world for four species of marine turtles, Tortuguero National ParkThe Green Turtle, one of the park’s most famous visitors, has existed for over 200 million years and can weigh over 400 pounds. It nests in Tortuguero from July to October.The egg laying occurs at night, when the females pull themselves out of the pounding surf and up the sand, digging holes with their flippers. After carefully covering their nests with sand, they return once again to the sea. Guided tours are available at night to have us a chance to witness this timeless, primordial act. Like Salmons in Alaska, the Turtles cone back for the nesting at the same place where they born. Costa Rica is one of only a handful of countries that protect turtle nesting sites, and even then, chances of survival are slim, as only one of every 10,000 baby turtles reaches adulthood per ranger. Photography is strictly prohibited and enforced as any light (except for special red light) inhibits the turtle from nesting. We walked there at dark night,with intermittent pouring rain. However the experience was worth the trip.

US Naturalist and Herpetolgist Archi Carr gets lots of credit for saving the Turtles, His name and work creates deep reverence the way one feels for another US scholar in America like Hiram Bingham when one visits Machu Pichu

The second day began with boat tour through the canals. The boat employs nearly silent electric trolling motors, helping the skipper maneuver close to wildlife without disturbing or scaring it. I got a chance to take some photographs of the wildlife that inhabits this immense ecosystem with my tele-zoom lens but it could have been better ! I learned the necessity of Image Stabilization in the lense I concluded that 200 MM zoom is not enough for the close up of the wild-life far away in trees !

2 Mount Arenal

We had a great view of Mount Arenal from the room with river Arenal flowing 100 ft away from the room. We hiked to La Fortuna water fall, soaked in hot springs, did white water rafting at the Sarappiqui river. We took taxi few times into town and ate at a cool restaurant called "the Lava Lounge" complete with lava lamps in the bathrooms. There credit card machine was down but they trusted us to pay for the bill next day. The town of La Fortuna is typical tico because in its center is the park and the catholic church.

The Arenal volcano is ACTIVE!!! So you can actually see and hear (the noise coming from) the volcanic activity: fumaroles and rocks rolling down. Here, a picture of the lava river from the 1992 eruptiion. Unfortunately ( rather fortunately) we were not around to see the grand view of the lava river but we were fortunate enough to see the lava at night on our third night at Arenal. Watching the live Volcano was another unique experience. We could actually see fire coming out of the volcano and the smoke blowing to the west, which was really cool.

3.MonteVerde Cloud Forest

Situated along the Continental Divide in western Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve stretches down both the Pacific and

Caribbean slopes. As the elevation increases from under 2,000 feet above sea level to over 6,000 feet, the temperature and humidity also change, markedly transforming the scenery. The Monteverde region is known around the world for its conservation efforts and lifestyle centered around respect for nature. Santa Elena is the area’s main service center with various shops and tourism companies and beautiful art shops.

One of the coolest things was the view from the room. It was great ti watch the clouds passing by you , opening the view of the bay from the height of 6,600 ft, seeing rich wildlife and the lush greenery. .

4 GuanaCaste

We lived in all- inclusive resort of Hilton at Papagayo. The hotel in Costa Rica is located in a private bay heading the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Papagayo. Mainly we relaxed at the resort. Had fun with the wave runners, beach volleyball, taking lessions in Spanish and try different drinks. Last day we rented a car and I actually drove in Costa Rica for the first time. That was indeed exciting. Visited many towns near by. To Be added ..

5 Miscellaneous

People, art ; To Be added .

Visting art shops and art galleries of the local artists was new track added to the fine pleasures in travelling. I specially enjoyed the work of local artists with the depiction of inanimate objects theme of merging still life, plant life and animal life with human life on wood, jewlery or on canvas. The right term in Gujarati is સજીવારૉપણ્ ( Sa jiva ropan- planting life implying human life to non-human entities )

The artist may intend to convey a more subtle, moral message.


Under Construction

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

अंगकोर वत; Angkor wat ; Mother of all temples in the world

Angkor temples, which spread for 40 miles around Cambodia's northern city of Siem Reap, are all that remain of a 'lost' people. It is also rightly called “Mother of all Temples in the world” The first thing that strikes you about them is the overwhelming sense of mystery: elaborate, multi-storied stone temples pop out of the jungle, each one with its own unique architectural style and history something more fascinating in reality than Indian Jones movie or the Tomb Raider video game (that Niral mastered once upon a time ). The most striking and best preserved is Angkor Wat, with its carved reliefs (bas-relief) and jagged towers.

I have been fascinated to with all the reminiscence of the lost civilization I have seen places like
Chichen Itza, Machu Pichu. However Angkor wat has been the place, I found myself most qualified to learn. The place has full of galleries, carvings based on epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Hindu and Buddhist mythology. I have also found a vast amount of data about the bas-relelief ( carvings) in books and on-line reference. The 300+ paged picture book for free download at is also one of the very valuable resources for a serious tourist।

There were so many amazing temples to visit. What a huge archeology park ? The three most magnificent temples are Bayon, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. To begin to a get a feel for Angkor you will need at least three days. This will give you time to properly view the major temples as well as an array of some of the more ornate smaller complexes further out such as Banteay Srei.

Angkor Wat is considered by many to be one of the greatest monuments ever constructed। Like the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids, with its soaring five towers and beautiful bas reliefs, few people fail to be in awe of the sheer grandeur of these ancient temples.

We visited Angkor Thom and many places today. In comparison, Bayon is far more intimate, built around 1200 by Jayavarman VII, the most illustrious of the Angkor leaders, from a distance it looks more like a mess of decrepit ancient rock, yet, as you near, Bayon takes shape to reveal 54 huge faces of Avalokitesvara staring down at you from all areas. 54 faces symbolizes 54 stats of th empir at that tim. There is definitely an other-worldly feel to Bayon, every turn revealing yet another gigantic disdainful stare from the ancient god with slightly curving lips, eyes placed in shadow by the lowered lids (they) utter not a word and yet force you to guess much.

Finally, of the big three is Ta Promh. Located close to Bayon, here the ancient ruins have deliberately (and questionably) had little restoration, and the awesome effect of the jungle can be seen, as thick powerful roots thrust from the earth and rip huge sections of the temple walls apart. Massive stones lie scattered like building blocks to leave narrow passage ways and corridors which act as light relief from the searing heat. There is definitely a feeling of discovery at Ta Promh unlike any of the other central Angkor temples, as we climbed through the rubble and roots to unearth another secret passageway or statue. Ta Promh brings you closest to replicating the atmosphere that the first French explorers must have experienced 140 yrs ago.

Finally we show pricing show of Apsara dancing. Do NOT MISS to click the link below to get the perception. (see the last pictures at )

You may see the pictures of Angkor wat temple and th show at:

Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Phrom at:

Each picture deserves at least a paragraph of annotation. However I am sending them even with out the captions! the It is almost blastphamous to send such pictures with proper annotation. I am rushing du to lack of relaible , fast internet her and lack of tim .

I will update the picturs with captions or prferablly at a different site where I can dscribe better.

Tushar ; Jan 15th 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Doc, Lock and Peacock

One of the very unique and special experiences in this trip to Ahmadabad, India was meeting a truly renaissance couple named Dr. Hiren shah and his wife Dr. Namita shah.

Dr. Hiren Shah is a practicing successful pediatrician running his own hospital. He has many rare and demanding hobbies. One of them is to collect the locks ( along with , clocks and peacocks). Dr Hiren Shah was the first Indian Guest ever invited to International Puzzlers Party in Australia last year. He has been attending several international conferences for the mechanical locks and puzzle solvers symposiums such as one at Velbert, Germany 2003. He is amazingly passionate about his hobby. His wife Dr. Namita Shah is also a practicing physician ( OBG-GYN) and full time mother of the couple’s three kids. Her support and dedication to her husband’s hobby is even more impressive !

Together the couple has made their house a live-in Museum. The house is built with old-styled wooden tick doors with the carvings, Zarokhas (balcony), pillars, verandah, chowk, with unique and antique artifacts, Indian decorative vessels, decorative collectibles, souvenirs collected from their trips around the world along with the masterpieces of extensive lock collection. Dr. Hiren shah has several other serious hobbies like traveling, photography, presentations, creative word-plays. These additional hobbies impressively supplement their principal hobby of collecting the locks, puzzles, clocks. Being busy professional, parents the time management is a challenge as well. The couple stretches the day and manages to find the time in the “25th hour” Heat and dust of Ahmedabad also introduces extra challenge in the maintenance of the House + Museuem = “housem”

I was originally introduced to the couple by an e-mail from my sister who visited the couple's house and I heard their radio talk at Sydney, Australlia in Gujarati. The strong fascination after hearing this made me write a small rhyme out of my excitement. (below). Meeting this renaissance couple in person, I found myself even more stunned and spell bound.

Many bright individuals lock a part of themselves away. It's a bit sacred. Here is the couple for whom the locked up part is the lock it self. ! In their busy lives they have tuned their clock to generate the precious 25th hour . This 25th hour is dedicated for their cultivated passions for the locks .

More amazing thing is the fact as precious is this passion nurtured in the 25th hour, they have not locked up their passion for the locks in hiding that no one can find it . They shared their passion with us with full enthusiasm and energy. Their passion and dedication for their hobby, reiterated the fact that combination of attitude, dedication, perseverance can make the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart and lead to higher pleasures of success.

You may take a partial virtual tour of the “Houseum” at

Here is my early response after hearing about the “houseum” on Sept 30 2007.

Doc, Lock and Peacock

Fascinated by the enchanting radio talk

the unique story of Doc, Lock and Peacock

twist and torque, poke and provoke

solves any puzzle by the keystroke

this is not a game for ordinary folk

It takes one with the "25 hour" clock

The "housem' with a chock

has no match on the block

is bound to invite a tourist flock

but dealing with the dust is no joke

The trickiest lock is the wedlock

secrets are locked in this padlock

like movie mystery of Hitchcok

ask the key who found his lock

the solvers is the real 'Sherlock'