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.