Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dive into Thailand

Tuk-tuks zipping around, the heady smell of rambutans and lemon grass, many watering holes, handbags, lingerie, sarongs ... simply a minuscule of what one will do, if you have got many days in Thailand!

Covering 0.5 1,000,000 sq. kilometres, Thailand is that the fastest moving destination these days. A 100-odd quality golf courses, 1000-odd restaurants, many kilometres of pristine coastline, and new-fangled resorts. The land of the Thais currently notches 9 million visitor arrivals per year. At the centre of this bustling spectacle is Bangkok.

Chatuchak - an open-air market very comes alive on weekends. Another smart choice is that the Tokyo Deparmental Store and also the adjacent Mah Boon Krong market. The Thais have turned massage into the way of life and there are parlours each few steps within the town. Prawns, crabs, oysters, snails, baby octopus - additionally as fried grasshoppers - are on the market at each street corner. If searching isn't your vogue, head for Northern Thailand. Visit the kingdom's capital of Sukho Thai, Chiang Mai, Thailand's second largest town and Rose of the North.

Phuket could not be away from the chaotic, noisy, traffic-choked Bangkok. attempt the South Thailand SeaCanoe journey, that departs from Phuket on Sunday mornings. The trip involves kayaking. Krabi has become an excellent rock climbers' delight. Phang Nga Bay, within the south-west has galvanized several movie manufacturers. except for these you discover diving, boat cruises, rafting, jungle treks, cycling and kayaking in Phuket, Kao Lak, Krabi, Kho Samui and Kho Lanta.

it's a requirement to go to the cabaret when one could be a tourist in Pattaya, Thailand. Tiffany's could be a spectacle that can't be seen any where else. Pattaya Beer Bars, Go-Girl-Clubs and Pattaya massages also are very famous. Pattaya is merely 147 kilometers faraway from Bangkok!

Gold digging in Australias Sovereign Hill

At Sovereign Hill in Australia, travel back in time to an occasion that sparked pandemonium within the 1850s - the gold rush.

I stepped out beyond the automated glass doors and felt instantly dislocated in time. It's wasn't nearly as dramatic as a falling sensation, or coming back to a skidding halt smack within the middle of the civil war. however it absolutely was time-travel nonetheless. this is often Sovereign Hill. An open air museum designed on the location of 1 of the richest gold rushes within the world - Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. And it is often the 1850s here as a result of on these sprawling twenty five hectares is where the drama and excitement of the Gold Rush is recreated day in and outing for guests to expertise.

Dress the half
One minute i used to be holding on to an entrance price ticket to Sovereign Hill, complete with a barcode, freshly machine-minted in 2012, and also the next, I found myself on gravel roads lined with ornate horsedrawn carriages. i used to be surrounded by ladies wearing voluminous taffeta robes, complete with corsets and hats to match; men greeting me with a small tilt of the hat and a 'howdy'. I looked down at my sceptically jeans and flashy Ed Hardy tee. virtually on cue, I noticed the Red Hill photo space. The photographer standing at the doorway browse my mind and asked, "Want to decorate the part?" He then lead me to an area where many outfits were on supply - I may dress sort of a gypsy, a girl or maybe the other-lady'. I opted for the Bohemian gypsy look, holding a tambourine in my hand. Standing against a painted background, I had a sepia-toned image clicked with an archaic camera.

asking for simply many seconds in a very Victorian avatar created me marvel how the lives of the ladies played out then, given the historic backdrop - did ladies play a locality within the gold rush? Or was it solely the boys who panned for gold?

Gold(en) women
Turns out, one girl did play a really necessary role within the Australian Gold Rush -Margaret Kennedy who discovered the Bendigo gold fields in Victoria in 1851. She and an exponent panned the primary items of gold from the creek employing a bread-making pan. Word unfold and at intervals months thousands of individuals showed up, hoping to induce their hands on the glistening metal.

Gold in Ballarat, on the opposite hand, was discovered by 2 men - John Dunlop and James Regan. however despite the actual fact that girls did not discover the metal here, they still gained fame (and notoriety) in Sovereign Hill.

for example, the miners, mostly men, came from distant lands, and that they required one thing to stay them entertained. that is when the raunchy Lola Montes stepped in, a legend on these goldfields who won and trampled over several hearts together with her erotic numbers within the Victoria Theatre, a reproduction of that still stands at Sovereign Hill.

whereas not many ladies were miners previously, because the city grew, many ladies worked successful businesses - the confectionery factory where ancient boiled sweets lured me in; the sweet search with its attractive horse-head lollipops; the jewelry store where Victorian designs clocks sound the hour; the grocery with its native jams and honey. Having sampled the native delicacies from another era, i used to be prepared for a few action at the underground mining tours.

Going beneath
i made a decision to be brave and opted for a self-guided tour of the recreated Red Hill Mine. I did not expect it to be abundant of a physical challenge. however as I went down flight upon flight of steps, the lights got dimmer. Suddenly I found myself in a very winding, slender tunnel. The dampness within the air, the almostunlit corridors, as well as prerecorded sounds of axe hitting against added to the authenticity of the expertise. The gravelled, uneven ground had me watching my step, within the darkness, and also the low roof had me stooping. As I reached the tip of the mine, a hologram of a mine-worker suddenly cropped up, and {in a|during a|in an exceedingly|in a terribly} very melodramatic fashion played out the scene of the invention of the Welcome Nugget - the second largest gold nugget within the world, weighing a whooping seventy one.3 kilograms.

Greed is nice
whereas it's going to not be doable to induce your hands on the Welcome Nugget at Sovereign Hill, you'll still hold on to solid gold value eighty,000 AUD at the Gold Pour.

Here, I watched as molten gold was poured piping hot and moulded into an ingot. Later, I held the outsized and overprized biscuit in my hand and that i knew in an immediate precisely what lured thousands of individuals to the present very little city within the nineteenth century - pure greed.

Be a gold digger
This was my favorite half - finding gold! Armed with a gold-pan, I sat by the sting of the Red Hill Gully creek and sifted through sandy waters. 0.5 an hour later, I noticed many glistening specks. And since finders are keepers at Sovereign Hill, I headed home with many small bits of the valuable metal, the proper memento from my trip to the land Down beneath.

Fact file

Getting there: Sovereign Hill is simply a 90-minute road-trip from Melbourne town. you may fly Mumbai to Melbourne on Qantas, with a stop-over in Singapore

Best time to visit: Melbourne will expertise all four seasons in a very day. That said, your best bet is autumn, from March to might.

Irkutsk gateway to Siberia

Irkutsk was a reputation I've solely seen before on RISK. Yes, the board game. and that i had to trawl the net to search out out how it's pronounced (for the record, it's err-KOOT-sk).

therefore how did I find yourself during this Siberian town of simply over 0.5 1,000,000 inhabitants? to chop an extended story short, it absolutely was my fascination with the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway - the longest railway within the world.

The Paris of Siberia
Irkutsk is one among the biggest cities along the route. My companions and that i failed to have enough time to traverse the complete length of the Trans-Siberian, therefore we tend to determined to solely cowl the Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar leg, that takes up a mere thirty five hours. Mere solely as a result of the complete journey along the Trans-Siberian needs seven days.

Irkutsk was conjointly chosen owing to its proximity to Lake Baikal, the world's recentest and deepest lake at thirty million years old and with a mean depth of over 744 metres. Once lauded because the Paris of Siberia, Irkutsk's recent quarter is lined with atmospheric, though decaying picket design. several of the homes during this "rustic" vogue were designed by wealthy merchants who once populated the town, and these buildings return adorned with ornate, handcarved decorations. In several alternative components of the globe, such areas would either are torn down, or spruced up for tourists. Neither was worn out Irkutsk, adding to its charm. However, the business district was a lot of trendy than I expected, with the standard brandname stores like Adidas and Benetton. however it appeared that the town was hiding a darker secret. we tend to had been warned by our hostel employees to remain indoors when dark. And this warning took on a a lot of ominous tone throughout our temporary chat with a neighborhood at a store. She had expressed surprise that we tend to had not been harassed or experienced the other kind of discrimination. Her parting shot was, "Stay safe!"

With that in mind, we tend to determined to remain in when dusk, however only if the sun sets solely when ten pm, there was enough time to seem around. Besides, {there we tend tore|there have been} solely one or two of places left in Irkutsk we tend to needed to explore before we headed out to Lake Baikal. one among that was the Epiphany Cathedral, that lies within the historical heart of Irkutsk. the first 18th-century church is one among Irkutsk's oldest, most beautiful structures with its vibrant frescoes and brightly painted facade.

Lake Baikal
All roads result in Lake Baikal. Despite Irkutsk's gritty charm, Lake Baikal remains undoubtedly the most draw for guests to the present region. very little was known regarding this lake for an extended time partly as a result of the remoteness of its location, and since the lake was hidden behind mountains. individuals outside the world knew regarding the lake solely when the development of the Trans-Siberian railway between the years 1896 and 1902. Besides being the deepest and oldest, Lake Baikal was conjointly found to contain a lot of water than all the water in North America's nice Lakes combined. that's equal to twenty per cent of the world's contemporary surface water. additionally, the lake is home to over a pair of,000 plant and animal species not found anywhere else on the world, as well as the Baikal freshwater seal. It over met our expectations, albeit we tend to failed to have the time to go to Olkhon Island, that is claimed to be the foremost scenic a part of the lake. Instead, we tend to headed to Listvyanka, a brief one-and-a-half hour drive from Irkutsk.

Listvyanka itself, could be a one-street city, with a population of but a pair of,000. With the exception of a contemporary hotel, the remainder of the buildings looked precisely one would expect Siberian design to seem like - log homes with brightly painted shutters. we tend to managed to rent one and despite the ramshackled look, it absolutely was snug.

Lake Baikal could be a crystal clear body of very blue water, with the backdrop of distant snow-capped mountains. in step with native superstition, swimming in it adds twenty five years to your life. however albeit it absolutely was early summer, the water was icy cold. i made a decision to dip my feet in which was enough. However, dipping my feet in added 2 years to my life apparently.

Walking along, we tend to came upon a restaurant that was selling the omul fish; a form of whitefish that is one among the foremost famous merchandise of the lake. The fish is sold smoked and also the style is delicate and sweet. very little marvel that some travellers rate it as a of the highlight of the region. With our tummies totally satiated, we tend to determined to explore any. Listvyanka could be a tourist city, however beyond its one and solely street, the scene is decidedly rural, with recent Siberian picket cottages and staff fetching water from a close-by stream. Somehow the complete setting had a really calming impact.

The romance of rail travel
Later that evening, long when the sun went down, we tend to sat chatting with one or two who were travelling with their two-year-old toddler from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian. it absolutely was the husband's initial trip across Asia on the Trans-Siberian, however the wife's second. She told us that her initial trip had been unforgettable and he or she needed her family to share an equivalent expertise. She added that there was one thing romantic regarding the notion of travelling across Asia on train, passing through the agricultural Chinese countryside, across the cruel Gobi Desert, to the endless Mongolian steppes before coming into Russian territory and also the vast tundra. Days later, as i used to be on the train sure for Mongolia, I mirrored upon what she had said. Aircrafts can be able to transport you efficiently and quickly however generally, the journey is a lot of necessary than the destination.

Cuba Travel Guide

Suspended in time and content with its vibrant Cadillacs and smoked cigars, Cuba's musical charm and idle, meandering ways in which can have you ever question your house within the rat race

Not terribly back then, I bought a duplicate of Tony Wheeler's unhealthy Lands. it's meant to be a witty first-hand account of his travels through a number of the foremost repressed and dangerous regimes within the world, starting from Afghanistan to North Korea, Libya to Iraq. Taking into consideration every country's angle to human rights, terrorism and foreign policy, he asks 'what makes a rustic really evil', all the whereas describing the native lives in these closed-off countries. At the tip of the book, he describes one thing he came up with, the Evil Meter, that he uses to rate each country based mostly on 3 queries - how it treats its voters, whether or not it's concerned in terrorism and whether or not it's a threat to the other country.

I browse the chapter on Cuba terribly rigorously and though he did not have too several positive things to mention regarding the travel expertise, his account on the lives of the Cuban individuals, the residue of revolution and also the digs at Fidel or USA was infotainment enough to induce me thinking.

It conjointly created me marvel why Cuba even featured within the book considering it had all-time low score on the Evil Meter. I wasn't planning to write a thesis on the state of the globe these days. I merely needed to travel on a vacation, to a rustic that I knew may not keep an equivalent for long. I needed to go to Cuba before North Americans started arriving on an on the spot flight, while not the detour via Mexico or the Bahamas.

A Cuban dilemma

The trip had a really heartwarming begin, an opportunity meeting with this young Cuban flight attendant (currently a Spanish citizen) who was traveling to Havana to satisfy his boyfriend (a Cuban citizen). With the complete restriction around Cubans travelling and with same-sex unions not legal however, they meet once a month to pay time with one another in Havana. generally only for twenty four hours. He shared their plans to adopt a toddler with Down syndrome. i used to be glued to his touching stories throughout the flight and was slightly overwhelmed, even before we tend to landed in Havana.

The recent town

when obtaining some native tips from him as well as places to go to for salsa, we tend to kissed our initial Cuban friend goodbye within the Jose Marti International Airport. Taking a taxi into Habana Vieja (old city), we tend to reached a reasonably dilapidated house, the Casa specific we tend to had booked. Inside, it absolutely was a good looking colonial house with recent rocking chairs and ornate tiled floors. Casa Particulares are the Cuban versions of bed & breakfasts, run by Cuban families. Every day, thousands of Cubans open their homes to travelers and share their lives with them. Their trust and hospitality simply gave me goose bumps. From the minute we tend to walked in, Roberto and his mother Juanita created us feel like an extension of their family.

Tourism is unquestionably a lot of lucrative in Cuba and clearly locals who are concerned in tourism are a lot of rich. you would not be stunned to satisfy qualified engineers and lawyers, who gave up their government jobs for tourism opportunities. With the twin currency system in Cuba (Cuban convertible pesos for the tourists and Moneda Nacional for the locals), the divide is obvious. As we tend to stepped out the primary morning to steer through the streets of Habana Vieja, we tend to noticed a street vendor selling fruits to the tourists at ten times the worth he would sell to a neighborhood. And, that is when it hits you, the economy could be a mess. Where else does one see a fruit vendor on the road creating extra money in a very day than a doctor in a whole month? you may argue that an equivalent street vendor was educated and browse Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whereas this might be not possible in another country.

A great automotive museum

For many minutes, we tend to forgot economics and currencies as we tend to set our eyes on the National Capitol building, that sounded like somewhat of DC within the middle of Cuba. Add colourful recent yankee cars to the setting, we tend to may have simply been in Nineteen Fifties USA, except for the lycra-clad Cuban ladies, the distant sound of Cuban music and socialism or death painted walls within the vicinity. As we tend to saw the brilliant coloured Cadillacs and Chevrolets, it hits you that Cuba is that the greatest living automotive museum within the world. There are said to be over four hundred,000 cars in Cuba, dating back to the Nineteen Twenties, all in running condition because of their ingenuity. For a traditional Cuban family, the automotive is their supply of pride and joy, since they ply tourists at quite a hefty value. A ride in a very convertible Cadillac through Malecon, the Marine drive of Havana can value you around ten to fifteen CUC. However, an equivalent cars are used to ply locals as a shared taxi for a ridiculously low value. therefore if you do not utter a word, the driving force might even mistake you for a neighborhood (since Indians will simply pass for Cubans). we tend to then tried our hand at the little Coco-taxis (coconut taxi), that appear as if an open auto rickshaw, designed specifically to require tourists round the town. we tend to took one solely to search out out that the driving force owned a huge duplex apartment in Malecon. Wow!

Revisting the revolution

Over ensuing number of days, we tend to wandered around Havana, entering into and out of museums, book stores, galleries, theatres and cafes. For the must-see revolution landmarks, we tend to visited the Museo de la Revolucion to raised understand the Nineteen Fifties revolutionary war and also the stories of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and lots of others, thought-about heroes. we tend to followed it up with the Plaza de la Revolucion, that has the massive memorial of Jose Marti, the national hero of Cuba and also the mural of Che with the famous quote Hasta la Victoria Siempre (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always). whereas one will pay plenty of your time within the museums (there are museums for chocolate, cigars and rum), the important museum is within the streets, in conversation with Cubans.

Refreshing while not the presence of any reasonably business advertising or signage, you'll really appreciate the architectural fantastic thing about Havana in its glory. it is a huge collage of varied designs, coexisting to form one thing eclectic, interspersed with wall paintings of political and social sentiments. whereas the buildings and also the alleys are a photographer's delight, you may truly be afraid to step within, lest they fall. The monumental squares in Habana, Plaza de la Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja and Plaza San Fransico de Asis, connected by cobblestoned streets, is nothing wanting music set in stone.

Cuban cuisine

Between all the walking, we tend to stopped to drink sugar cane juice to refresh ourselves and eat typical Cuban food (rice, beans, chicken and potatoes) at atiny low Paladar (family run restaurant). In broken Spanish, we tend to conversed with the individuals we tend to met and slowly started producing the items of the Cuban jigsaw puzzle. the simplest place to speak with individuals is outside the state-run ice cream parlor Coppelia, where individuals queue up for hours to eat the straightforward fruity flavors. it's really symbolic of the Socialist charm with everybody coming back along for an ice cream. Cubans like to queue up for everything as you may notice this close to public phones and banks and a lot of therefore close to the cinema, as they're huge movie buffs. The screenprinted Cuban film posters you will find everywhere are a lot of fascinating than any art museum.

we tend to had simply spent the primary few days in Havana and it absolutely was already clear to me that this was planning to be less of a vacation and a lot of of an immersion. a posh one, where you're faced with societal ambiguities, one that you simply will perceive solely by living long run in a very country. simply after you suppose you have got figured one thing out, one thing else can hit you. each story features a flipside, similar to the clever moves the recent men create within the game of dominos. you'll notice kids sporting the newest fashion and wanting a brand new bike, whereas the recent girl you met does not worry regarding eating sweet potatoes a day. you'll have individuals approach you and raise you to marry them for a price ticket out of Cuba. whereas at an equivalent time, you may hear stories regarding Cubans sneaking back to the country when facing the important world outside. you will be whisked away to shop for cigars the maximum amount as you will be sucked into a conversation regarding Ernest Hemingway.

Cubans can introduce you to their friends, friends of friends across completely different cities which could be a network they need designed while not Facebook or the net. you may hear music and laughter, the maximum amount as you'll hear No es facil (it ain't easy). And, as you are attempting to know their lives and marvel how they survive in a very place frozen in time, you may realise a lot of typically than not that Cuba causes you to question your own, and marvel how you manage with the constant modification.

Fact file

How to get there:

There are flights to Havana, Cuba via Paris (Air France) or Madrid (Iberia). Economy come back tickets value Rs one,25,000 approx.


Casa Particulares or licensed bed & breakfasts are economical and also the most suitable choice whereas traveling in Cuba. A double space with air-conditioning will value thirty CUC per night in Havana. For a lot of details, search Since web is scarce in Cuba, homeowners might take slightly longer to reply to your request. So, set up and create your bookings earlier.


1 CUC = Rs. 52 approx. it's preferable to hold Euros or British Pounds for currency exchange.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Brazilian city with mighty waterfalls

Think Brazil and the majority would be instantly transported to a land of pristine beaches, tormented by gorgeous figures, the hedonistic carnival, samba drums, the magnificent Christ The Redeemer and maybe the notorious favelas. 

It's what we've all imagined Brazil to be like, courtesy Hollywood and lately, a bunch of reality TV shows. once spending a large quantity of your time in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, I might vouch for all of the on top of. however beneath the glitz and funk, i used to be determined to search out a lot of soul, a lot of journey, a lot of of the important Brazil that we do not get to visualize back home. And with that firm belief in place, variety of road journeys ensured. 

First among them was Foz Do Iguacu, alittle city South of Brazil that shares its borders with each Argentina and Paraguay. I spent future ten days within the company of a childhood friend of mine that created the full expertise all the a lot of exciting. 

Without a lot of ado, we have a tendency to launched on our journey from Sao Paulo, stopping in Rio for a handful of days, moving to Curitiba for an additional 2 days before hopping on to future out there bus to Foz do Iguacu. the maximum amount as we have a tendency to each loved speed, we have a tendency to did not need to rush our journey. Buses in Brazil are very snug and overnight buses even have a rest room onboard. you may got to ignore the actual fact that it prices the maximum amount as an air price tag. 

After concerning fourteen hours, we have a tendency to were at Foz do Iguacu - a quaint very little city that thrives mainly on tourism because of the favored 'cataratas' (waterfalls). we have a tendency to selected a hostel near the falls and wasted no time in heading out to them. With a complete day before us, we have a tendency to were excited to explore the national park where they were all located. 

From the hostel, we have a tendency to took a bus that took us right up to the gate of the Parque Nacional do Iguacu. we have a tendency to paid the entry fees to the national park and were immediately ushered into yet one more open roof double decker bus with daring animated characters painted on it. The 15-minute journey zigzagged through lush vegetation and was accompanied with ambient sounds and an earthy smell, it had been a pleasant ride. At one purpose we have a tendency to zipped through a colossal array of presumably a thousand butterflies. Where the bus stopped, a lot of wildlife awaited - iguanas, monkeys and plenty of grasshoppers. From now on, we have a tendency to had the falls in sight. 

Interestingly, the Foz Do Iguacu waterfalls don't seem to be solely taller than Niagara - they're conjointly twice as wide! As we have a tendency to walked past the 'trilha' - the trekking path, the sheer expanse of the falls was captivating and images simply could not do justice to what we have a tendency to had in sight. nearer to the middle of the falls lies an extended viewing gallery that permits you to soak within the expertise (and yourself) within the screaming roar and brilliance of the majestic falls. 

We noticed some vultures circling nearby and took it as a symbol to continue our journey towards lunch. remember to wave to the nice people in Argentina waving at you from the opposite aspect of the border though. 

After a hearty full course buffet, we have a tendency to were raring to travel. As soon as we have a tendency to got out of the national park we have a tendency to headed straight to the Itaipu Hydroelectric Power plant. I've forever marveled at Brazil's superb industrial may and this was an excellent chance to induce a better check out it. Run as a joint venture between Brazil and Paraguay, the dam at this location - because of the may of the Iguacu falls, powers ninetieth of Paraguay and 2 hundredth of Brazil. currently those are some spectacular facts. The structure's price conjointly makes it one amongst the foremost expensive manmade structures ever designed. the complete tour and museum was well worthwhile and that we stood in awe of each nature and man. On our resolution, we have a tendency to lucked out by recognizing the Parque Das Aves, a bird sanctuary that housed a number of the world's most exotic birds. 

Some of these winged people were thus friendly that you just might usually spot a random toucan prodding, pecking and jumping around with guests. they appear like they need a wacky sense of humour however i am unable to make certain. 

All in all, it had been an ideal day spent exploring one amongst nature's most gorgeous wonders. to not mention the man-made mega structure that manages to power up an oversized chunk of 2 nations.

Getting there - native 
From Rio de Janeiro, buses ply often to the town of Foz do Iguacu. it's common information that a significant a part of the falls are on the Argentinian aspect whereas Brazil enjoys a much better read. If doable, attempt to expertise it from each side. Border crossings are nearby and simply accessible. don't settle for to hold any bags or material for co-passengers. I nearly fell for this, had it not been for the alert bus driver who warned me that it can be counterfeit or smuggled product being moved across borders! 

From India 
There aren't any direct flights to Brazil from India. you will fly via Dubai/ Johannesburg/ London, etc. Reach Rio de Janeiro town and fly/ take the bus to Foz do Iguacu. 

Pint of beer (cerveja): R$2.50 (Rs 40) Budget Hostel: R$40 (Rs 800) - R$50 (Rs.1,000) Hotel: R$100 (Rs a pair of,000) onwards 

Worlds Top 10 Airports

Kashgar the opposite face of China

The lady sitting next to me gripped the perimeters of her seat, shut her eyes and began mumbling some prayers because the plane rocked from aspect to aspect. Elsewhere within the cabin, folks started screaming. Not precisely the prospect I had in mind once I booked my flight from Urumqi to Kashgar in China's remote western province of Xinjiang. 

A turbulent journey 
The day had started promisingly enough. contemporary snow had simply fallen on Urumqi, giving the industrial-looking town a fairytale sheen. however the primary hint of hassle came once I fell upon the airport at seven am. The flight to Kashgar had been postponed to an indefinite time owing to robust winds. as long as the choice was a twenty five hour train journey, I had very little alternative however to attend. it had been a relief when the bottom crew finally announced that the primary flight to Kashgar would embark at a pair of pm. Somehow, amidst the mad scramble, I managed to induce a coveted seat. 

But I had rejoiced too early. once an aborted commit to land, since the plane started swaying and plunging on its descent to Kashgar, the pilot announced that he was returning to Urumqi - a 2 hour flight away. By the time I finally arrived in Kashgar once the pilot created yet one more commit to fly there once he arrived in Urumqi, it had been already nine pm. 

I was exhausted, bedraggled and grouchy. Not the proper mood to start out a vacation. however as I caught the primary glimpse of the legendary oasis town of Kashgar and elements of its 500-year-old town wall, my excitement came. 

Are we have a tendency to still in China? 
Kashgar, whose terribly name evokes exoticism and journey, was a very important trading town throughout the times of the Silk Road and continues to be one even nowadays. Being nearer to Bishkek and Almaty than Beijing, the town is seen as China's gateway to Central Asia, and this proximity provides the town a particular Central Asian flavour. 

In fact, if not for the Chinese characters on signboards and road signs, it does not even feel like China. Uyghur bazaars, tea homes and faces dominate the streets. and lots of of the ladies are veiled. 

However, since the deadly ethnic clashes in many areas of Xinjiang in 2009, Kashgar has been place below serious police surveillance. it's finally the Uyghur's heartland. however whereas some residents told me that there was still some animosity between the Uyghurs and also the Han Chinese, it will not hinder you from exploring the town. Nor can it stop you from interacting with the city's hospitable folks - one amongst whom even volunteered to send a Uyghur song to my mobile via Bluetooth once I asked him concerning the song he was being attentive to. 

A changing landscape 
However, Kashgar won't stay the manner it's for for much longer. Though its previous city has been hailed because the bestpreserved example of a standard Islamic town to be found anywhere in Central Asia, the Chinese authorities have started tearing down huge chunks of it. By some estimates, some eighty five per cent of the structures at intervals the previous city are razed eventually. and also the reasons cited for doing thus are that several of the buildings are at risk of collapse in a very seismic event. Some question, however, if different motives could also be at play because the space is at the guts of the Uyghur culture. 

Regardless of the explanations, the move is lamentable because the demolition works, once completed, can't be reversed. For now, most of the remaining elements of the previous city, with its labyrinthine alleys and mud-and-straw homes are on each side of Jiefang (Liberation) Road. Here, one will still catch a glimpse of how Kashgar used to be. On one street corner, there will be coppersmiths hammering away on their bowls, pans and jugs, whereas on another, ladies in their headscarves are haggling over the cuts of mutton hanging on meat hooks. and each once in a very whereas, donkey cart drivers may be heard shouting the warning Posh! Posh! as they navigate the slim streets. 

The friendly locals 
It was in one amongst the aspect streets of the previous city that I came upon an amicable middle-aged Uyghur girl who invited me into her house for tea. She had seen me snapping footage of the ochre-coloured alleys and archways outside her house within the biting winter chill. it had been a pity we have a tendency to couldn't communicate as there have been several queries I would've asked her. What are her thoughts on the destruction of the previous Town? How will she feel concerning the ethnic clashes? 

From her house, I headed to the magnificent yellow-tiled Id Kah Mosque that lies at the guts of the present previous city. in-built the fifteenth century, the mosque is one amongst the most important in Central Asia. each Friday, it homes nearly ten,000 worshippers, and on special occasions, it will accommodate up to twenty,000 people. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter outside of prayer times, giving a peek into its distinctive Islamic design infused with Uyghur components. The serenity of its inner courtyard with its majestic poplar trees and ponds provides a refuge from the bustle outside. 

The inimitable sunday market 
I later plunged headlong into the madness that's Kashgar's Sunday Market. it's said that Kashgar's population swells by fifty,000 each Sunday as folks everywhere Central Asia stream in to the market, that sells nearly everything below the sun - from exquisite carpets to ancient Uyghur daggers to fashionable appliances. I could've spent hours exploring this fascinating market that is at its peak on Sundays. 

Equally attention-grabbing is that the Livestock Market that lies southeast of the town. it had been abuzz with patrons and sellers from all across Central Asia. raise that, a mixture of thousands of bleating sheep, dozens of cattle and camels, the aroma of cooked meat wafting across from the nearby makeshift food stalls and also the swirling clouds of ochre-colored mud. It's as if i used to be transported back to the times of yore. 

But for how long can this previous World charm endure? For the longest time, its remoteness has sealed it from the massive changes sweeping across China. maybe its time is up. maybe the wave of modernity can render it unrecognisable 5 years from currently. I hope i am being overly pessimistic.

The cost of living in Kashgar is far below within the wealthier jap provinces of China. you ought to be able to live comfortably on US$50 each day. Take note, however, that costs are usually negotiable thus be ready to cut price arduous, though in a very good-natured manner. 

Best time to go to 
With a comparatively short winter and a protracted cool summer, temperatures in Kashgar are pleasant most of the year. The coldest month is January (average temperature of -6 °C), whereas the most popular month is in July (average temperature of twenty seven °C). the most effective time to travel is between could and October, however do time your visit to coincide with the livestock market on Sundays. 

Easter Island myth and reality of a culture

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Travel lightweight and right

We offer you tips about a way to keep your baggage lightweight. 

 opt for a giant bag: 
 the primary issue you must continuously keep in mind is to hold no more than 2 suitcases. Ideally, you must inspect for one giant suitcase to accommodate everything. certify the suitcase isn't too serious and is simple to cart along, wherever you go. 

 don't overload the toiletries: 
 you'll be able to simply purchase some a lot of whereas you are out there or borrow from your co-travellers. So, don't complicate things by packing unnecessary things. assume simple; carry an everyday toothbrush and not a giant electrical one and conjointly a smaller towel. 

 Where to draw the line? 
 lots of individuals do not know when to draw the road when it involves packing clothing and shoes. the primary issue to recollect is that you are not immigrating to the place and hence you do not have to be compelled to empty out your entire closet into your suitcase. List the amount of days you're visiting an area and pack your garments accordingly. do not be afraid to repeat your garments, finally it's simply a visit. do not be cautious concerning doing the laundry by yourself. 

 Keep It Simple: 
 you will be tempted to pile your luggage with a lot of books. Don't. the simplest possibility is to photocopy the pages you would like thus you do not ought to carry around serious books all day. Carry along maps and necessary addresses. 

 produce Space: 
 Roll clothes up into tight tubes to avoid wasting packing area. 

 strive talking to different travellers who have visited a similar locations within the past. This way, you'll be told concerning what you must ideally carry along.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Top Visited Sacred Sites in the World

Pilgrimage has always been one of the greatest reasons for travel. Be it the Hajj or the Kumbh Mela, religion and travel have gone hand in hand for longer than we can imagine. The travel magazine Travel+Leisure recently drew up a list of the most visited travel sites in the world.

While the good folks at Travel Leisure did not attempt to differentiate between the devout and secular -- largely because most of these sites are open to public and it is therefore impossible to put an accurate figure on the reasons for people travelling there – they also restricted their search to holy places associated with only the major religions that are being practiced in the world. This struck temples of Greek Gods, Mayan pyramids and Stonehenge.

Also struck off the list were gatherings like the Kumbh that is said to draw more than 60 million visitors every 12 years as well as the Shroud of Turin that is shown only every few years since they 'focused on actual, physical structures'.

While two Indian sites found their way into the top ten, Amritsar's Golden Temple couldn't because they 'couldn't get a reliable confirmation for India's Sikh Golden Temple of Amritsar, suggested to receive 10,000 visitors daily' also missing from the list is the 'Temple Square in Salt Lake City because 'because the site's representative wasn't able to give (them) a official number of annual visitors -- just the statement that 'millions' pass through annually'. They did acknowledge however that 'the Mormon site purports to be the No 1 tourist attraction in Utah'.

Here are some of the sites that topped the list:

Dazaifu Tenmangu, Japan
Built over the grave of Sugawara no Michizane, a poet, scholar and a man who has been called the god of calligraphy and literature, the shrine has over 6,000 Asian plum trees of 167 varieties as well as 1,500 year-old camphor trees and fields of iris.

To the right of the honden or the main shrine stands a tree known as Tobiume which according to a legend, Michizane yearned for so muchm it was uprooted and brought here after he left Koyoto in exile!

Annual Visitors: 6.6 million

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
One of the holiest Catholic site that features some of the most beautiful paintings, marble columns, statues and works of some of the greatest Renaissance artists including Raphael,  Bernini and Michelangelo among others, St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City is ranked number 11 in the list of the most visited sacred sites in the world.

Annual Visitors: 7 million

Ise Jingu, Ise, Japan
A Shinto shrine dedicated to goddess Amaterasu-ōmikami the Ise Grand Shrine is located in the city of Ise in Mie prefecture, Japan. Ise Jingu is a shrine complex that has a number of shrines that surround the two main shrines -- Naikū and Gekū.

Said to be one of holiest and most important sites, the shrine is also said to be home to the Sacred Mirror (that is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan). Access to the shrine however is limited with visitors being permitted to see little beyond the thatched roofs.

According to the rule, the high priest or priestess must come from the Japanese imperial family and must watch over the shrine.

Annual Visitors: 8.5 million

Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji Temples, Kyoto
Offering panoramic views of Koyoto's city centre, the Kiyomizu-dera or 'Pure Water Temple' ranks number seven in Travel+Leisure's list of the most visited sacred sites. 

Dating back to 778, the present buildings of the Kiyomizu-dera were constructed in 1633, during a restoration. It takes its name from a waterfall within its temple complex.

Most fascinatingly, there isn't a single nail used in the construction of Kiyomizu-dera.

Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan that has been designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape. Attracting millions of visitors annually, the Kinkaku-ji is known amongst Apple users as 'Golden Palace' as it appears in a photograph in the desktop picture art of Apple's OS X computer operating system.

Tied at number seven are Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in the Chiba Prefecture and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan.

Annual Visitors: 10 million and 6 million

Sacre Coeur Basilica, Paris
Located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. Designed by Paul Abadie, its construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. After the end of World War I in 1919, it was consecrated and attracts millions of visitors, in part we suspect fro the stunning views it offers of Paris.

Annual Visitors: 10.5 million

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Known as the Notre Dame Cathedral or quite simply Notre Dame is one of the most prominent landmarks of Paris. Considered to be one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture the cathedral was vandalised during the French Revolution when most of the religious imagery was destroyed.

The Notre Dame is one of the most-visited tourist site in France and has several statues of saints, angles and stained-glass windows depicting biblical stories.

Annual Visitors: 13.65 million

Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams Temple, Andhra Pradesh, India
Said to be one of the richest religious shrines in the world the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams Temple recently crossed a record-breaking collection of Rs 5.73 crore after a devotee from New Delhi contributed Rs 2 crore to the temple.

The temple is located in the hill town of Tirumala in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh with Lord Venkateswara, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu being its presiding deity. 

Annual Visitors: 18.25 million.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City
A pilgrimage site since 1531-32, The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic church and the National Shrine of Mexico.

Built at the place where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, the Basilica is an important site for Catholics with over 20 million people visiting it each year.

December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the day when it sees the most number of visitors.

Annual Visitors: 20 million

Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi, India
Dedicated to Lord Shiva and located in the ancient city of Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is said to be one of the holiest temples for the Hindus that every Hindu is expected to visit at least once in his/her lifetime. The temple is worth visiting as is the city that is known to be one of the oldest living city in the world with at least 3500 years of documented history.

Varanasi is also known as Kashi and the presiding deity of the temple is known as Vishwanath or the Ruler of the Universe -- hence the name Kashi Vishwanath.

Annual Visitors: 21.9 million

Meiji Shrine and Sensoji-Temple, Tokyo
The thing with Japan is you really won't ever run out of temples and shrines to visit. The Meiji Shinto shrine is built to honour the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken built in 628 while Sensoji has been dedicated to Bodhisattva Kannon.

Located in Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine is surrounded by a heavily wooded forest that houses a traditional teahouse, two museums, a self-pumping well and a lot more.

The Sensoji Temple and its surroundings perhaps represent best the architecture and charm of old Tokyo so much so they have become emblematic of Japanese culture for the world outside. Besides hosting a temple, the block has a market, a large pagoda and numerous shrines.

Annual Visitors: 30 million each

Summer Vacations Destinations 2012

If you're planning a trip for the summer holidays, here is our list of top destinations to choose from with some emphasis on health. 

We believe that the way to enjoy a holiday is to infuse it with healthy activity and food, and these destinations provide you all the activity required to keep you on the move this summer. You may take a break from your health routine but on these healthy vacations it won't hinder your health and weight goals much. So here are the top 5 summer vacation destinations:  

Healthy Destination - Bhutan or Nepal 
Enjoy the crisp mountain air if you decide to go for a trekking holiday in one of these fabulous mountain destinations. Not only will you get unpolluted air to breathe for a few days, but also since you are going trekking, your holiday will be filled with activity and movement. No sitting around and eating here. Not only is this great for your body, but the solitude that trekking provides you with, even if you go with friends or your better half, is great for your mental health too as you won't be bombarded with the constant sounds and incessant chattering of people, colleagues, and pressures back home. You can go trekking to Ladakh, Sikkim, and many other Himalayan destinations. 

 Scuba diving in Thailand 
Thailand has a lot of great diving sites like Phuket, Ko Tao, Similian islands and the Surin islands. Infact you can learn scuba diving nearly anywhere in this country and it's a perfect destination for scuba diving experts and learners alike, with a lot of courses for beginners and for those who want to get certified. Another reason to visit Thailand is the food. The method of cooking seafood ensures that the seafood is fresh, and you will end up eating a lot of real food, and green vegetables instead of junk food.  

Andaman and Nicobar islands 
Not only are they close by, but these nearby islands are packed with activities. Do water sports, swim, snorkel, dive, and eat the abundant fresh seafood and lets not forget, basking in the vitamin D that we get so little off at home. A perfect way to spend a healthy family holiday. 

Coconut being the chief ingredient in most Kerelite food, God's own country already has an advantage. Not to mention coastal food, greenery, which will take you away from polluted city air, opportunities galore to escape from the din and the hustle bustle of modern life, and the world famous spas and Ayurveda treatments. If it's rest and relaxation you're looking for, then look no further. 

The Mediterranean 
Take your pick from Southern Italy, Spain, or Greece. If you love eating, then this is the place to go, as for the most part you can want all you want and still eat healthy (provided you don't overdo the pizza). The history and the culture accompanied with this visit will ensure that your brain gets as much exercise as your body as you will be walking, walking, and walking, without even feeling it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

In the birthplace of Cervantes

In the mid-way between Madrid and Guadalajara, people today due to continued growth, the old Alcala de Henares is a must. Not for nothing is storied and cultured city, seat of a diocese and a former University recovered again after centuries, the birthplace of famous people, beginning with Cervantes and followed by Cardinal Cisneros, two of the most influential men of the Golden Age Spanish Solar-and nine National Monuments, which has earned the title of the privileged world heritage, their neighbors look with great pride, especially as Madrid, the neighboring city that stole the capital for several years ecclesiastical university and the province could not even dream of achieving it.

The cathedral, the University or the High Street are more than enough attractions to visit Alcala.

The Cathedral of the Holy Children (those Justo y Pastor martyred in Roman times and on which rests the noble relics building), the University of Cardinal Cisneros, the Chapel of the Magistrate and the Tower of Santa Maria, the Comedy Corral (the year 1600 no less), the main street arcades to the alleged Casa de Cervantes and his old bakery, the Hospital of Antezana (the year 1483, but still active), the neo-Gothic Mansion Hotel-Laredo or the famous House of Hippolytus, survivor of the Roman city of Complutus, the predecessor of the current Alcalá de Henares, are most attractive enough to visit the birthplace of Cervantes, who also was once the Archpriest of Hita or of President Manuel Azana, to give just two examples.

This Parador modern avant-garde despite being housed in a former Dominican convent offers its new facilities including a fabulous spa and gastronomic journey possible at the time of Don Quixote with his grief and losses, their galianos, his magnificent potpourri, their crumbs or minced meat. And all this at twenty kilometers from Barajas, the largest airport in the peninsula, and Twenty-six of Madrid.