October 21, 2011

Stamps from SriLanka

During our recent visit to SriLanka, i was surprised to see that people use the postal system(snailmail) quiet often; atleast i could see quiet a bit of crowd in most post-offices that i could spot from the buses. I happened to see a pretty big Post Office in Kandy, and wanted to get some stamps and first day envelopes(if at all SriLanka had it) for my collection. We had a terrible time crunch, and i never stepped into any of the post-offices, Alas!

But what came as an even bigger surprise was the small outlet of the SriLankan Post Office in the airport which I stumbled upon by chance. They had a pretty good collection of stamps(both used and not-used) and were selling it at the same rate - i.e, 5LKR per stamp. I picked up a few, and the following is an honest attempt in publishing them in the public domain and sharing the knowledge with others.

When i was browsing through their collection, i saw a large quantity of stamps depicting birds; the person also was selling a set of 20-40 bird-stamps for around 400-500LKR; i preferred buying in the loose and 'form my own collection' than buying it as a set. I do not like the idea of buying a 'set' of stamps - it looks very 'pre-configured' to me.

From top -left to bottom(go along the reading direction) : Coucal, Arenga, Blue Flycatcher, Hill Mynah, Oriole, Rufous Babbler, Head Laughing Thrush, Blue Magpie, Layard's Parakeet, Yellow Fronted Barbet, Yellow Eared Bulbul, Lorikeet, Slender Loris, Leopard, Lyre Head Lizard

Two main tourist attractions in SriLanka are their nature and ruins; and this has been adequetly presented in their philatelic collections. The coins and statues unearthed from the ruins in Anuradhapura and Pollanurawa have been suitably captured and presented. Also, you can see the beautiful natural reserves of Hortan plains and Knuckles.

The rectangular photo in the third row in the following picture is probably the longest stamp that i have in my whole collection.

I was presently surprised to find the following 2 stamps : on Tsunami disaster in 2004 and the other on Corruption. I am not sure whether India has a stamp on Corruption, but this was a welcome surprise to me. Also, another trivia : Dec-9 is the International Anti-Corruption Day(nice!).

SriLanka also has some interesting stamps of different patterns; though i do have triangular and diamond shapes of a few countries, am stumbling on a trapezoidal shape(the middle one) for the first time. Sports and Cricket are the themes in many stamps.

In fact, the person in the booth wanted to sell a commemorative collection of stamps on Muthaiah Muralitharan's (collector's edition) for 220LKR, but i somehow, i did not buy it.

I hope to take pictures of my stamp collection and post some interesting stamps in here. I guess, i would learn lots of aspects of philately during the due course and also meet interesting people in this community and exchange , which is the most crucial aspect to this hobby.

October 19, 2011

3 GOOD Travel Books Worth A Read

Well, post our visit to SriLanka early this September, i have been quiet voraciously reading both on and off the Internet. Holding a 'book' in your hand and reading it, and if it happens to be an old book with yellow papers, then its an icing on a cake(in Hindi, we call it as 'sone pe suhaga'). Nevertheless, with the festive season in the air, and with not much travel around, it was a perfect time to deep dive into the amazing world of books(with papers :) ); and i was fortunate enough to stumble on some *really* good reads.

1. Danziger's travels : Beyond Forbidden Frontiers"
This was given to me by a colleague, and i must say that this probably is one single book which i will remember for quiet sometime. The book was a first edition print, and also the papers were a tad old. Danziger starts from London, and travels across Europe to reach the highly volatile Iran-Iraq border and then crosses it(with the heart still beating :) ) and then via Afghanistan reaches Western China province. Not many know that Western China is a religious minority - that of muslims, and is not very open to tourists/travellers; our protagonist travels some uncharted waters and narrates his experiences in amazing detail. It is an adventure ride all throughout, with every page filled with many details and amazing experiences.

And did i tell you that Danziger does this 30 years back, during the 70's. Aye.

I did not find this book in Landmark, and i think its pretty tough to get it; nevertheless, try it in any online store, and am sure that you will praise me for this recommendation. The English is very simple and the flow just keeps going on and on. I do not want to divulge much about this book, except for mentioning (again!) that this is a MUST read for any adventure travel enthusiast or a budget traveller.

2. Paul Theroux's - "The Ghost Train to Eastern Star"
I picked up this one at the ongoing Landmark sale. I have planning to read this book for quiet sometime, and this also happens to be my First book of Paul Theroux. The book is like a sequel to the Great Railway Bazaar(which I haven't read yet). Paul Theroux does a train journey from London to India and then onto SL, Thai etc(in 1970s); and in The Ghost Train to Eastern Star, he revisits the same route 30 years later(in the late 2000s). Paul Theroux starts off with some real world truth about travel and how travellers/tourists escape the 'real' world and talks a bit about it in the philosophical context; and then once he starts off in his ride, he intersperses his experience(s) in every country with what happened 30 years back. He manages to meet atleast one famous author in every country and narrates the rendezvous. I *really* liked his encounter with Haruki Murakami. I never knew so much about Murakami, except for having read a handful of his books.

Anyway, there is one minor crib about this book : Paul Theorux keeps on denigrating India almost everywhere, and I did not quiet like it. Lets face it(and ignore the fact that I am an Indian); but given that India is a true multi-cultural society with a billion odd people, you ought to find 'different' things. If you are crib about the population density, then visit Kazakhistan wherein you might find one family in a 11sq.km radius. There are so many good things about India, and the associated people and tourism, always cringing about 'tonnes of people everywhere' just makes it sound boring; probably, Paul Theroux had a Naipaul Syndrome!

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read, and it will remain in my library forever. I will also be reading his Great Railway Bazaar soon to understand/appreciate his experience when he was much younger :) By the way, i do not think that Paul Theroux is a budget traveller; and at many times during the book, it looked as if, he writing/creating stuff just to write a book and sell it!

3. M.J. Akbar's - "Have Pen, will Travel"
Firstly, you will *NOT* find such a travel book anywhere; what i mean is, the style in which M.J.Akbar narrates his experiences are AMAZING. I have always been fascinated by his writing style, and have always been an ardent reader of his editorials.  If you haven't read him earlier, you can read his blog to see his clarity in the thought process and how he presents nothing but the facts - a true characteristic of a journalist.

The book is divided into multiple chapters, each spanning a handful of pages, wherein the author narrates his experience in a particular country. Since, M.J.Akbar had to travel a lot in his work, i guess, bulk of the experiences are during his visit to various countries for the conferences or talks or some story. Nevertheless, he does not make the chapters as a newspaper story, but talks about the unique aspects of the region, along with its history(wherever applicable) along with some really interesting and intelligent quips. I just could not keep the book down once i started reading it.

Let me caution you that this book is 'intelligent'(again!), and you really need to read-between-lines to entertain yourselves with some witty remarks by the author. Enjoyable and highly recommended!

In addition to the above, i also ended up reading "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach and also, a part of Nicholas Fearn's "Philosophy:The Latest Answer To The Oldest Questions" .

Five books in a month is not bad :)