Summer In Perspective

It has been about three weeks since I left Kerala but my joyful and peaceful memories are still very fresh.  Living in the midst of skyscrapers of Seoul, I occasionally try to break free from all the busy, noisy, and exhausting life of the city and reminisce about the warm and welcoming smiles of Cardamom County staff, endless green of the Periyar Reserve, and the fresh and cool air blowing in from the Western Ghats.

After I arrived in Korea, I could not post here until now, and I want to give a sum up of my experience in Kerala, India as soon as possible.  The photo above, randomly selected from those I took over the summer, is a visual reference point for what I can say now. Continue reading

Onam Festival at Cardamom County

As Amie and other contributors mentioned in their posts, the Harvest Festival and the time of giving thanks has come to Kerala and to Cardamom County.  I had the great opportunity to be on property and experience the colorful festival of Onam.  Being part of both guest and staff, I could see all aspects of the event: from preparation to the final event.  Onam is a ten day festival as Amie’s post explains, but the most important day of Onam is the 9th day, which is oddly called “First Onam” because that is the day that King Mahabali actually descends to Kerala.  But any day of Onam seems like the Keralites’ spirits were soaring.  All the staff at Cardamom County have great warm and happy smiles but during this festival season it felt like their warmth was doubled.

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Tamil Nadu: Know Your Neighbor

Cardamom County is located in Kumily, a small town adjacent to Thekaddy.  Kumily is not as well known as Thekaddy as a tourist destination, which is one of the reasons why the resort’s official address is Thekaddy Road, Kumily.  For many people one of the most interesting things about Thekaddy is its location: proximity to the Periyar Tiger Reserve.  I found that the most interesting fact about Kumily’s location is that it is on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

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Trip to Gavi

Last Tuesday I had a chance to go to Gavi, a village in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala and part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It’s only a 45 minute trip from Cardamom County, but it’s a full day program that could go from 6 am to 6 pm –when the park gates open and close. Guests also have a choice of staying overnight. All programs are organized by the KFDC (Kerala Forest Development Corporation).

In the morning, we met in front of the reception area around 5:15  in order to spend as much time as possible in the reserve.  Including myself and the driver, we had a total of eight people for this trip. Our driver was Shahul, a usual driver who comes to pick guests up at Cardamom County.  About 30 minutes later, we arrived at the Vallakkadavu entrance to Gavi.

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Banner Images: Where, What, Who?

Hopefully the new images in the banner catch the eye. I hope they are aesthetically to the point. In fact, all of these photos are taken by two of our contributors, Milo and me.  Since the pictures are shown randomly with no sequence, I wanted to show all the un-cropped version pictures at once with some background information.

First 12 pictures are taken by Milo.

Pheonix Oysters (Pleurotus pulmonarius) grown on paddy straw in Milo’s apartment in Cochin

One of thousands of frogs on the road to the boat landing in Thekkady on Border Hike Continue reading

(Un)expected Visitors, Redux

Normally I would apologize.  Writing again about monkeys, considering the abundance of posts we already have on the topic, may seem repetitive.  However, after debating it with myself, and looking over my photos, I decided I just have to share these amazing, close-up shots of the Nilgiri langur.  Nilgiri langurs, compared to the macaques, are a rare species, and not often sighted outside the official boundaries of the forest. Michael provided a bit more information about them in his earlier post, Unexpected Visitors.

In his post, Michael predicted that we would not see this species again at Cardamom County. Surprisingly, they have returned twice since that post. Their visit during which I took these photos was not so different from the prior one, except that  in contrast to their previous avoidance of a scene, this time they cried loudly, and jumped and ran around unusually. One of them even ran right through a gathering group of human admirers! This is remarkable because they are usually very shy and markedly wary of human interaction. But within a few moments, we found out why they were acting so out of character. Continue reading

When Foxes Fly

Cardamom County faces onto the Periyar Reserve. From much of the property, including most guest rooms, the view is clear onto a huge stand of bamboo.  In the upper reaches you can always see dark bundles dangling during the day time.  By late afternoon, the bundles start moving.  When will they transform into something recognizable?

When foxes fly.  That’s when.   And it is best when it happens before sundown because with a wingspan of up to three feet, it looks like a prehistoric raptor at first glance.  It is difficult to take good quality photos of these creatures in flight because lighting is not usually right.  Around 2:30 p.m. recently, on an extremely windy day the motion woke them and they took flight. Annoying to them, probably, but very fortunate for me.  Continue reading

What They Do Not Teach You At Cornell Hotel School

A couple of days ago, Michael wrote the post “Monkey Business…”.  The post illustrated my surprise seeing 20-ish monkeys, which to Michael was not an unusual event. Over the last week I too realized that a sudden appearance of the Macaque was just a part of daily life here.  However, I definitely enjoyed my first encounter of a Macaque family outing. I hope you enjoyed as well.

As I was enjoying the post by Michael, something in the second picture caught my attention after a while. In case like me you did not notice it in Michael’s post, it seems like the Macaques are observing something on the lower right.  If you click the picture you will see a larger view.

Did you see the dark ribbon (or it may look to you like a leather belt, if you read Seth’s post on a similar topic)?   Continue reading

Official Friend

I spend much of my non-operations time at Cinnabar, an open-air café at Cardamom County with a perfect view of the Periyar Reserve, to use wifi.  There are a few locations at the resort with a strong signal, but my preference is here. I feel welcome. The open air and scenery set the scene; Vishnu emanates a sense of welcome the way a friend would.

Ever since I started my internship here, I have been greeted by Vishnu at  Cinnabar the same way most days.  He has a great smile that could only be described as genuinely friendly. He also follows local custom and always greets with “Namaskaram sir.”  The “sir” part of that felt kind of official and formal at first, but I get it now.

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Why Am I here?

Before I start posting for this blog I thought a self-introduction would help.  My name is Sung Ho Paik and some of you might know that a name divided into three parts like that indicates that I am an Asian.  I am in fact a Korean.  Until I went to the U.S.A. for my high school education, I lived in Korea with my family.  I am currently a rising senior at Cornell University studying Hotel management–specifically a Managerial Leadership concentration and Real Estate minor.

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You might wonder why someone like me would spend his precious summer time working in an internship (that is, not a regular paid summer job) in Kumily, India.  The answer is simple.  Because I CARE. Because my education has taught me that the world that I am living in is not just about me.  The whole world is somehow all inter-connected.  Yes I do believe in the butterfly effect.  Not to the extreme but I believe that the amount of land–specifically natural forests–that we preserve reduces the relative amount of pollution in the world.   Continue reading