5 Famous Animals You Should Meet!

We bring to you a tale of five animals from those bred in captivity to those in the wild, who are celebrities of their own world. They have inspired movies, millions of fans on social networks and video games. They have single handedly taken the tourism graph of their region to the next level. They have made a name for themselves due to their extraordinary skills, bravery and in some cases, plain cuteness.  

 

A lot of us can’t stop smiling, seeing silly video of pets on YouTube or animal shaped breakfast cereals, but for some of us, that isn’t enough. It’s time you pay visit to these animals, before it’s too late.  These 5 animals have built up quite a reputation for themselves and it’s only fair to want to see for oneself.

 

Do let us know, if you know of any legendary tale of any living animal, which is yet to be told!

 

Rajan, The Elephant 
Where: Andaman And Nicobar Islands, India.

Rajan is a 63 year old Asian Elephant, and among the last at Andamans that can swim in oceans. He’s even featured in a Hollywood movie “The Fall”.  His skills in the water can easily put sharks and natural swimmers to shame, thousands of travelers make the journey to Emerald Isles to see what it’d be like to swim with an elephant! He’s pretty popular among photographers too.
Rajan is known to be moody and may not necessarily dive but he’ll still swim a long way.  When not in water, he’s munching on leaves or rubbing himself against trees. To dive with this marvelous creature you need to book well in advance and in a small group only, the tusker is not a circus animal and is taken on such commercial activities with far flung gaps.

Image: Sumer Verma (divephotoguide.com)

Rajan is a great swimmer, as you can see!

Bao Bao, The Giant Panda
Where: Washington, D.C, The United States.

Out of the 2,000 odd Pandas in the world today, Bao Bao is among the most well known, this female cub lives in captivity at the National Zoo.
Bao Bao was born on August 23rd, 2013, and recently celebrated her first birthday!
Bao Bao was born to Mei Xiang (another Panda) by the process of artificial insemination. As a part of China’s “Panda Diplomacy”, Bao Bao is officially Chinese and will be returning to China when she turns 4 years old.

This Panda is still learning, she can’t eat bamboo yet but loves sweet potatoes, apple juice and fruitsicles. She’s an outdoor animal for sure, spending more time outside than in her enclosure meant for sleeping. Her favorite activity is climbing trees and at times, falling from them in a rather funny way. Bao Bao was named a 100 days after her birth, after taking a poll, even First Lady Michelle Obama voted to have her named Bao Bao.

Image: Washington Post

Bao Bao’s 1st Birthday!

Shamu, The Orca Whale
Where: Orlando, Florida, The United States.

The Original Shamu existed between 1960s and 70s, but this is the name that’s carried on and has been given to The Star Killer Whales at Sea-World. Shamu, the name has been trademarked by Sea-World and so the legacy of Shamu has lived on. There’s many Orcas at Sea-World, and one of them is pregnant, expected to deliver in December 2014. Shamu’s shows are a work of art, involving heavy choreography involving the big fish and the people, Shamu dives and splashes it’s tail to create ripples and splashes that can easily reach the end of the audience!

A few daring and willing individuals from the crowd get the opportunity to swim with her too! You can witness the Orca’s greatness at San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando Sea-Worlds.
The whales are pretty moody and are known to get aggressive with their trainers, but such incidents rarely end up being fatal or dangerous.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Shamu at Sea World, Orlando

Machali, The Tigress
Where: Ranthambore, Rajasthan, India.

Machali or T16 is the most photographed feline in the world and has ruled (for more than a decade), the Ranthambore National Park, the most spectacular tiger territory in India.  The dominant creature of the region has been in the spotlight ever since she has been filmed, fighting and killing a 14 feet tall Crocodile. She has annihilated many predators (sometimes, twice her size) to save her cubs.  ‘Machali‘ got her name because of the 2 fish like markings on the left side of her face. She’s mated with 3 different males and has given birth to around 8 cubs in total. Half the population in Ranthambhore and Sariska parks are of her lineage and she is solely responsible for reviving the fortunes of Ranthambhore.

 

As unfortunate as it may be, she’s now in her devolving phase, being a toothless tiger that needs to be fed, and even though she moves with all her grace and might, she is no more the fierce feline she once was. As a tribute to the tiger, she will be immortalised upon death, her skin will be used to create a life size trophy, that’ll remind people of her existence. This 18 year old (equivalent to a 120 year old human) is a celebrity. Her facebook page has more than 150K fans.

Image: Shardul Amit

The most photographed Tigress of the world, Machli

 Winter, The Dolphin
Where: Clearwater, Florida, The United States.

Winter is not your average bottlenose, she’s a special creature, a symbol of survival. When she was caught trapped in Crab trap lines at Cape Canaveral, she lost her tail. Usually, animals with such injuries die real quick, but Winter lived on and has been healthy since she got her prosthetic tail, engineered to perfection and made countless times because of her ever growing size. Winter wears a prosthetic tail with a special gel designed to keep her skin safe.

Winter’s movements are also very different, she swims side to side like sharks, but the prosthetic helps her move more like a dolphin. She recently starred in the movie Dolphin Tale 2, that premiered in the US in September 2014. She’s popular among kids because of a Nintendo DS video game based on her and because of the screen time she gets in the Dolphin Tale movie series.

Image: Sheratonsandkey.com

Winter’s Tale: A prosthetic tail.

 


 

Amazing national parks around the world – I

National parks are for those who love everything about nature- verdant mountains, lush forests, pristine lakes, wild prairies, sand dunes, meandering rivers, untamed countryside- list is endless. It basically means stepping out under the sun (or moon) in an area, which is preserved by the state for habitats of the planet with minimal man made infrastructure. Idea is simple, to keep the beauty of nature eternal, for the benefit of future generations under the watchful eyes of government authorities.

 

Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, created in 1972. Since then, more than 7000 national parks have been formed around the world.  We have compiled a list of our favorite national parks around the world, 3 parks for each continent. They are famous for their water bodies, wildlife, mountain ranges, plains and natural beauty. We have compiled a list of our favorite national parks around the world, 3 parks for each continent. We will publish in two parts.

  

North America

1.) Yosemite National Park         Where :-   Califronia State, USA            

Best time to go :-   March, April, May

Famous for  :- Waterfalls, meadows, cliffs, unusual rock formation

 

Yosemite National Park is a place of extremes. It has high mountains. It has valleys formed by ancient ice that cut deep into the Earth millions of years ago. There are thirteen beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. One of these waterfalls, Yosemite Falls, is the fifth highest on Earth. Up in the mountains are clear lakes, quick-moving small rivers, and huge formations of rock. One huge rock is called Half Dome. It rises more than two thousand seven hundred meters into the air. Yosemite has a beautiful slow-moving river and large grassy areas where you can see wild animals.

Yosemite

Image Source :- Senthil Balakrishnan


 

2.) Grand Canyon National Park     Where :-   Arizona State, USA          

Best time to go :-   March- May and Sep-Nov

Famous for  :-  Its plunging depths; temple-like buttes; and vast, multihued, labyrinthine topography

 

Probably the world’s most famous national park, if not the most photographed, Arizona’s Grand Canyon did not achieve national park status until 1919, three years after the National Park Service was created. Some five million people visit it annually, to see its glorious canyon one-mile deep and ten miles across, carved by the Colorado River over millions of years. Visitors can take in both the South Rim, which offers the park’s renowned panoramic views, and the North Rim, which is 1,000 feet higher and features wildflower meadows, aspen and spruce. It is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the past 2 billion years. 

Grand Canyon

Image Source :- 


 

3.) Banff National Park     Where :-   Alberta, Canada        

Best time to go :-   Jun- Aug and  Dec-March 

Famous for  :-  Glacial lakes, towering mountain crags, a quaint town 

 

Banff—the birthplace of the world’s first national park service—is part of UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain World Heritage site. Banff offers amazing wildlife viewing and sightseeing, plus plentiful shopping and dining options, any time of the year. Summer is popular for hiking, paddling, mountain biking and cycling, photography, and climbing. The best time for viewing seasonal color is fall, when the larch trees—the only coniferous trees to lose their needles in winter—turn yellow. In winter, the mountain landscape makes for incredible downhill and cross-country skiing. In fact, three major downhill ski resorts operate within the park.

Banf National Park
Banf National Park

 

 Image Source :- 


 

South America

1.) Parque Nacional Torres del Paine     Where :-  Chile  and Argentina      

Best time to go :-   October – April  

Famous for  :-  Birdlife, Scenic lakes, Hikes, Dense native forests

 

Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire, lies at the southern tip of the South American continent. A triangular archipelago surrounded by the stormy South Atlantic and the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego offers plenty of natural beauty: scenic glaciers, lush forests, astounding mountains, clear waterways and a dramatic sea coast. The very name evokes feelings of distance, fear of the elements, isolation, and loneliness.  Unlike other Andean Patagonian parks, the forests contained in this reserve lie close to the sea coast. 

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego

Image Source : Rafael Muffato


 

2.) Iguazu Falls National Park     Where :-  Argentina      

Best time to go :-   October – April  

Famous for  :-  Splendid Waterfalls

 

Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984, Iguazu Falls is often revered as the world’s most spectacular waterfall. Situated on the border of the Brazilian state, Parana, and the Argentine province of Misiones, Iguazu Falls spans 1.7 miles (2.7km) in width, and features 275 individual waterfalls, with heights ranging from 60-82m (196-270ft). The name ‘Iguazu’ is loosely translated from the indigenous Guarani language as “big water”. Unsurprisingly, former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara” upon seeing Iguazu Falls for the first time. Iguazu Falls is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular treasures of our natural world.  The falls form part of both the Iguacu National Park (Argentina) and the Iguazu National Park (Brazil), which have both been declared World Heritage sites. Approximately, 80% of the falls are located in Argentina and 20% in Brazil.

Iguazu falls

Image Source :- Joaquin hernandez


 

3.) Galapagos National Park      Where :-  Ecuador        

Best time to go :-   Dec- Jan  

Famous for  :-  Beaches and unique wildlife.

 

This UNESCO world heritage site It is 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.  This beautiful isolated archipelago is composed of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. It houses astonishing endemic creatures such as the blue footed booby, giant sea tortoises, lava lizards and the sea iguana. When you see the Galapagos Islands you’ll easily understand why Charles Darwin ( British Scientist, Theory of Evolution) why  he defined the Galapagos as: ‘A little world within itself’. It is a heaven for ecotourists, who come here to catch a glimpse of the Galapagos Islands’ unspoiled natural habitats.  There are many thrilling activities you can do too, such as swimming with dolphins, snorkelling among sharks, diving with manta-rays and exploring timeless landscapes.

Galapagos Island

Image Source : Francis Capilitan


 

 

Europe 

 

1.) Cairngorms National Park      Where :-  Scotland        

Best time to go :-   October – April  

Famous for :- Mountain Wilderness and Outdoor activities

 

The Cairngorms National Park officially opened on the 1st of September 2003. It is Scotland’s second national park, and the U.K’s largest at 3800 square kilometres (1400 square miles). It is almost three times the size of London and more than twice the size of Scotland’s original national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. It’s a living, working landscape with wild land at its heart, and umpteen number of outdoor attractions and activities to enjoy in a compact and accessible area. The park contains some of the best wildlife habitats in the UK and its ancient pine forests, arctic mountain tops, lochs, rivers and moorlands are home to a quarter of the nation’s threatened species.  Regardless of age or interest the park and its communities offer something for everybody, from castles, distilleries and gentle strolls to fun parks, quad bikes and extreme sports.

Cairngorms National Park

Image Source :- Andrew Downie


 

2.) Plitvice National park      Where :-  Croatia        

Best time to go :-   July – September  

Famous for :- Turquoise lakes and trekking

 

It is arguably the most beautiful national park in the world. It’s comprised of 16 cascading lakes, separated by natural (travertine) dams and connected by a succession of waterfalls, giving it a beautiful terraced appearance. Surrounding it all to form a gentle pocket are mountains covered in dense woods. The lakes float crystal water, which changes colours from crystal clear to azure, to turquoise. This along with crisp clean air, truly is a feast for your senses. It  is crisscrossed by wooden boardwalks and can be covered only on foot, they do have boats and bus to ferry you from one point to another, when you want to jump the route. Clicking an awe inspiring shot is easy when the place brims with beauty.

Plitvice National Park

Image Source : Shobhit Agarwal


 

3.) Lake District National Park       Where :-  England          

Best time to go :-   July – September  

Famous for :- Lakes, Mountains and Woodland.

 

The Lake District, in England’s Northwest, is its largest park, carved out by glaciers about 15,000 years ago. It has:

  • four mountains over 3,000 feet including England’s highest
  • about 50 lakes and tarns, including England’s biggest and deepest
  • rich cultural heritage that spans the centuries from prehistoric times to the present day
  • connections with leading literary figures, including Wordsworth, Coleridge and de Quincey

Go for Britain’s finest scenery, greenest countryside and grandest views. Covering a total area of just over 885 square miles, the Lake District National Park has been protected since 1951, and its picturesque patchwork of lakes, valleys, woodlands and fells make it one of the best places in Britain to get out and experience the great outdoors, whether it’s on a leisurely bike ride down country lanes or a day-long hike across the hills.

Lake District

Image Source :- Mario Rodgers

Travel by night and explore places during day!

Isn’t this the dream plan for a compulsive traveller, who wants maximum bang for his time. What if you can sleep peacefully with a sense of security, add a dash of luxury to it (actually dollops of it !) and have a dedicated concierge desk to take care of your travel plans.  Yes, I am talking about the most awesome travel experience you can imagine, while touring the beautiful landscapes of India and marvel at the wonders, this country has to offer.

 

India runs maximum number of luxury trains in the world and it is a big draw for foreign as well as domestic tourists, who want to experience culture, history and royalty all rolled in one. It is particularly a big hit amongst foreigners, primarily because of following reasons :-

–       Avoiding airport chaos and maddening traffic. Imagine no checkins, no potholes to negotiate with !

–       Sample Indian cuisine, prepared in most hygienic conditions. It changes dramatically with each state or may I cay district!

–       Travelling with private guides and avoid all ques.  Pre-booked excursion tickets, no haggling anywhere.

–       Experiencing service, which is reminiscent of royalty era.

–       Connecting  with kindred travellers. Always fun to swap stories.

 

Here is everything you need to know about some of the luxury trains operating in India, routes, cost, best time to go and much more !  Functioning like any hotel, these trains take various routes across India and make stops at popular tourist sites where the traveler can soak in the luxury of a hotel and the history of a nation all at once.

 

Palace On Wheels

Live life king size, quite literally in these personal carriages inspired by the former Maharajas, Nizams and viceroys. It is one of the most authentic way to experience the royal hues and vibrant culture of Rajasthan along with a visit to World Heritage Taj Mahal in Agra. 

Route: The tour covers all the major destinations in Rajasthan that exhibit the best of architectural and cultural. Delhi – Jaipur – Sawai Madhopur – Chittorgarh- Udaipur – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur -Bharatpur – Agra – Delhi

 

Experience: Resplendent fortresses, spectacular palaces and havelis, rich cultural heritage, national park and wildlife sanctuary. 

 

Best Time to Go:  It is a 7 night tour that operates weekly from Delhi between the months of September to April every year.

 

Cost: USD 3010- USD 4025, depending on the season. Cost is per person on double occupancy basis and includes all meals, tours and transfers. 

Palace on the Wheels-1


 

The Golden Chariot 

A sojourn through well known & off beat destinations of South India in luxurious fashion, the journey can be described as an adventure in comfort as you discover through the cradle of timeless Historical Heritage Sites, Resplendent Palaces, Wildlife and Golden Beaches. Aboard your very own kingdom in the golden chariot.

Route: There are two routes 

1.) Splendor of the South :- Journey begins at Bangalore and takes you to the historical Temple cities, pristine beaches with sandy shores and finally to the backwaters of India. Bangalore – Chennai – Mamallapuram – Pondicherry – Tiruchirapalli & Thanjavur – Madurai – Kanyakumari – Thiruvananthapuram – Backwaters & Kochi / Allepey – Bangalore

2.) Pride of the South :- Journey begins at Bangalore and takes you to the wildlife sanctuary, heritage sites and creamy beaches of Goa. Bangalore – Kabini – Srirangapatnam – Mysore Sravanabelagola – Belur – Halebid – Hampi – Badami – Pattadkal – Goa

 

Experience: Golden Chariot travels to an array of World Heritage Sites, wildlife sanctuary, spectacular palaces and cultural sites in South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Pride of the South takes you to Goa as well. 

 

Best Time to Go: Ideal time to visit is during the winter months(October- January) , even though the train runs until April. It is a 7 night – 8 day tour.

 

Cost: Starting from 3000 USD per person. 

Golden Chariot


 

Royal Rajasthan On Wheels

Oozing with luxury in every bit, Royal Rajasthan On Wheels takes you to witness the complete breadth of tourist attractions, from Rajasthan to Varanasi. It shows you amazing architecture of Rajathan, scintillating game view at Ranthambor,  holy city of hindus in Varanasi and seventh wonder of world in Agra. That’s the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels luxury train journey: a torrid romance with the Indian rail.

Route: The tour starts from Jodhpur and come back to the city after going through in order: Delhi-Jodhpur- Udaipur-Chittorgarh-Sawai Madhopur-Jaipur-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Agra-Delhi

 

Experience: Forts, Palaces, National Parks, Temples, Holy Ghats and of course Taj Mahal in the most luxurious fashion possible. 

 

Best Time to Go: Between the month of October-March

 

Cost: Starting from USD 4375 per person

maharajas_express


 

Deccan Odyssey

A sheer luxury sight to behold, Deccan Odyssey offers a glimpse of the erstwhile Maratha rulers in India. Get transported to a remarkable  land shining in legions grandeur – serene beaches, magnificent forts – palaces and experience divine tales etched in colossal rocks with the perfect mix of the bygone era to the present – all reflected in this mesmerising magnificence on wheels.

Route: Maharashtra Splendor, a journey of 8 days and 7 nights on-board the luxury Deccan Odyssey Train, offers you a chance to visit the prime destinations of the Maharashtra state along with the very popular beach state of Goa. Mumbai- Aurangabad,- Tadoba- Ajanta Caves- Nashik- Kolhapur- Goa- Mumbai

 

Experience : the wondrous cave temples of Ajanta & Ellora (UNESCO world heritage site), two game drives through Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Visit the New Palace, witness the “Mardani Kehl” martial art of the Marathas, a Wine Tour of Nashik, Taste spicy Goan cuisine and visit a 400 year old Portuguese villa, a slice of living history.

Best Time to Go: It operates between the months of October to January each year.

 

Cost: Starting from 5075 USD

Deccan Odyssey

 

 So sit back and enjoy this regal ride !

Planning a holiday in Dec, South Africa is the way to go !

South Africa is no longer a secret. It is fast displacing many countries and regions as a preferable destination for honeymoon, wildlife enthusiasts, history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, beach bums, outdoor suckers, adrenaline junkies and the list goes on and on. Renewed emphasis on tourism coupled with excellent infrastructure, weak exchange rate, direct air links/ bus networks, and favourable climate is only helping the cause. 

 

South Africa is a large, diverse and incredibly beautiful country. It varies from the picturesque Garden Route towns of the Western Cape to the raw subtropical coast of northern KwaZulu-Natal, with the vast Karoo semi-desert across its heart and one of Africa’s premier safari destinations, Kruger National Park, in the northeast. To top it all off, South Africa also has the continent’s best food, best wine, and best service.

 

To put my case forward, why South Africa is “the Destination for you” in the coming December holidays, I will divide my argument in two parts.

 

A.)   Basic Hygiene Issues :-

 

South Africa is more affordable than ever before :-  Currency Exchange rate of South Africa (ZAR) into INR is at five year low. This means that people travelling from India will find it cheaper to travel now than ever before and will have more spending power per INR.  Currently 1 ZAR is equal to 5.58 INR, which has for a large period remained above 6.  Your overall trip expense will be 10% lower, on account of currency difference only. With such a conducive rate for currency conversion, you get more bang for your buck compared to Euro or Dollar.

 

Left side Drive:- There is no better way to explore this country, then pick up a self drive car. Garden Route is one of the most scenic drives in the world and it features in almost every itinerary to South Africa. Driving is similar to Indian side of driving, as is the case with most of the former British colonies. Therefore, you will feel at home while driving here, while you may miss the honking on road. Roads are absolutely world class with proper signage. You may not even need GPS.

 

Excellent Homestays and Lodges:- South Africa boasts of self reliant and beautifully located homestays and guesthouses which offer full service, meals on demand and unparalleled vantage points. They rival the infrastructure or facilities available in Europe or Australia in every aspect of it and at half the price. I have stayed in a fully serviced Lodge with infinity pool, own wine cellar and well maintained stable at a patlry sum of USD 125 per day.

 

Gourmet Food :- Food is celebrated here and you would find all cuisines here, easily. Choices will not be limited to European food or non vegetarian food.  Frankschooek, gourmet capital of South Africa boasts of highest density of Michelin Star Restaurants. South Africa is also a major wine-growing region and you will find excellent quality of wine at a very reasonable price. It is often cheaper than water.

 

Great Climate:  In general South Africa is a very sunny country, with many areas experiencing over 300 sunny days per year.  It has balmy weather, even during the winter months. Also, because South Africa is located in the southern hemisphere, its seasons are opposite to what they are in India. This means that our autumn and winter months are the perfect time for basking in South Africa’s warm, summer sun.

 

English is widely spoken and understood :- There are no language barriers in South Africa since nearly everybody speaks English. This country has eleven official languages, one of which is English. It is easy to do anything in this country from talking to a local, to ordering food in a restaurant, to asking somebody for directions. If you speak English, you will have no communication problems at all which makes for a pleasant experience, while touring the country.


 

B.)   Compelling Reasons:-

Captown, a world class city :- It is one of the most iconic sea side cities in world. You can exhaust your repertoire of adjectives in describing this city. It is bustling, eclectic, chic, cool, entertaining, exciting, picturesque and windy.  It is set against a backdrop of awe inspiring, Table Mountain, which is often covered by a fluffy blanket of clouds. Its waterfront area is a busy harbour of Table Bay and the mighty Atlantic, great place to explore on foot, eat, drink and shop.  Surrounding beach and surf towns are charming (similar layout to Sydney). Cheery on the top is its proximity to the Cape Peninsula, where you can see one of only two land based penguin colonies on earth, along with the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, where you can walk out to the lighthouse, seemingly perched at the end of the world.

South-Africa-Cape-Town-Sunset-Moon

 

Winelands are breathtaking :-  It is a super easy day trip from Capetown but spending less than two days here would not do justice to the longstanding cultural heritage and world class wine producing wine estates. These estates are characterised by classic Dutch – style buildings and massive vineyards with picturesque mountains as a backdrop. It’s 18 ‘official’ wine routes, and 2 brandy routes, are among the most scenic in the world. This includes the Route 62 wine route, said to be the world’s longest wine route. The town of Robertson, two hours’ drive east of Cape Town, is home to the acclaimed Robertson Winery, winner of numerous international awards for its Shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay varietals. Paarl, the third-oldest town in South Africa, is home to the internationally renowned Nederburg Wine Estate, as well as numerous other premier brands.The Franschhoek Wine Valley is also famous for its food and is acknowledged as the ‘gourmet capital of South Africa’.

The-Winelands

 

Scenic Garden Route :- Long considered as one of the greatest coastal drives on earth. It stretches from Mossel Bay in the west to just beyond Plettenberg Bay in the east, yet the range of topography, vegetation, wildlife and outdoor activity in this short space is mind boggling. The Garden Route is renowned for vast stretches of beach, enclosed by mountains, lakes, valleys, nature reserves and the sea – an eco-destination par excellence,  catering for the nature lover. The region has a well-developed tourist infrastructure with magnificent towns dotted all along the coast. There are plethora of activities to be done as you traverse the coastline like whale watching, shark cage diving, para gliding, sky diving etc.. The area also boasts two national parks – Tsitsikamma and Wilderness – as well as numerous other provincial and private nature reserves.

Garden Route

 

Abundant Wildlife :- Warning! Watching wildlife is addictive. First you start with the Big Five, then whales, penguins, meerkats, wild dogs, birds, dung beetles…Kruger National Park, located in northeast South Africa, is one of the oldest established game reserve in Africa and provides you with the rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the wildlife, for which Africa is famous. Kruger covers nearly 8,000 square miles and boasts an incredible array of species (147 types of mammals, 507 types of birds, 114 different reptiles, 336 species of trees, 34 kinds of amphibians, and 49 types of fish) that are sure to leave you in awe.

If you’re looking for really authentic safari experience in South Africa, there’s no place like Kruger National Park. Here, you can watch the sun sink over the bush while you watch giraffes and elephants graze peacefully and take adrenaline-fuelled off-road safaris to track lion prides through the long grass at dawn. If you’re after some on foot adventure, you can even try taking intrepid walking safaris through the park

kruger-national-park-south-afrika-4

 

Luxury Trains :- South Africa is home to two of the most famous luxury trains in the world, the Blue Train and Rovos Rail, both evoking the Golden Age of rail travel while rolling across the nation’s heart, from Cape Town to Pretoria/Johannesburg. By travelling this route, you not only cover three quaeter of the length of the country but you get to see the rich and diverse side that so many visitors to South Africa miss out on by flying this leg.

Rovos Rail Scenic

 

I hope, arguments are compelling and you are thinking. But don’t forget, there are no free lunches. You need to be careful about couple of things  :-

–        Crime isn’t the indiscriminate phenomenon that press reports suggest, but it is an issue. Statistically, the odds of becoming a victim are highest in downtown Johannesburg, where violent crime is a daily reality. Other cities present a reduced risk – similar to, say, in most of the cities. Taking precaution is important.

–        Peak Season. Make your travel bookings as soon as possible as summer is a peak season, also avoid Christmas eve and new york surcharge, if you can, by travelling before 22nd December. Rates go up by 20-40%

Check out this trip, posted on Happy-Tripping, in photo essay format, which has a detailed itinerary of South Africa

 

 

Ignore these travel tips at your peril!

YOU are in luck, we have scanned infinite number of blog posts and travel advisories to bring you the most comprehensive list of tips to manage your travel better. They are categorised under five headings. Travel booking, Saving money, Managing airport blues, Travel Packing and Other travel tips. Ignore these travel tips at your peril!

 

Travel Booking

1. Use a private or incognito window when booking flights and hotels online :-  All airline and hotel search engine have a very sophisticated algorithmn, which jacks up the price, on the basis of multiple queries received from the same IP address for a particular route

 

2. Wait to buy airline tickets until 3 p.m. on Tuesdays:- Typically this is when the big Airlines reduce their fares in order to compete with the discount airlines like Southwest and JetBlue. If you’re looking to save some money, this is the time to buy.

 

3. Check out airbnb.com :- Easily the next big thing when it comes to accomodation! Breathtaking views from a variety of properties, central locations, fully equipped kitchen, comfortable beds at ridiculously low prices when compared to full service hotel in the same location. They have listings from every corner of the world. Ever wanted to rent an island? At airbnb, you can.

 

4. Don’t prebook local/short distance transfers :- This may not sound right to those who like to plan everything. But believe me, when I say that on spot transfers are way cheaper than pre-booked ones. Also you discover interesting ways to commute and expose yourself to real joys of travelling. As we always say, “Having a ride back home is security, not having a ride back home is an adventure”

 

5. Take multiple travel quotes :- If you like, take assistance of a travel agent to take care of your bookings. First finalise your itinerary, including preferred places of stay and then take quotes from multiple agencies. This will make sure that you are not taken for a ride. Paying commission for agency services is okay but it has to be reasonable. You are spending with them to save yourself the hassle, not increase it!

 

6. Rent an automatic car :- If you have to drive on a different side of the road while you are travelling, it is better to take an automatic car. It may be little expensive but it will save the horror of striking same hand and foot coordination, which you have been practising but with the other side of your body.

 

 

1. Never use airport currency exchanges:- Use ATMs instead or credit card depending on the exchange rate given by your bank.

 

2. While renting a car, avoid taking GPS:- In place of it, take a local data plan for your tablet or mobile and use google maps to navigate.

 

3. At no cost, use international roaming for data plans:- There is nothing that burns money faster than this. Use free wifi, wherever possible. Get free WiFi at airports, some hotels, you also get the WiFi passwords for many establishments by checking the comments section of FourSquare.

 

4. Get a free cell phone charger:- Don’t fret, if you have forgotten your charger at home. Often, hotel front desks will have a box full of chargers left by previous guests. All you have to do is ask.

 

5. Check out airbnb.com again:- It jus takes five minutes to list your house on rent, while you are holidaying. Depending on the demand, you can be selective of who do you want to rent it to and at what price.

 

6. Carry some snacks at all times:-  They go a long way in satisfying those hunger pangs, which can prove fatal to your pocket, in an untimely event where you have limited options.

 

7. Travel with friends:-  Don’t do it only to save money. Its also fun to travel with group of friends or another couple, especially if you are going on a safari or an adventure trip. Transfer costs, food costs all get optimised to great extent!

 

8. Travel in shoulder season:-  Plan your trip, just after the peak season. You would be shocked to see discounts ranging from 15% to 40% and the weather is not going to change in one day. Be smart and save money. Many people think off season starts with a particular date, you should be wise enough to make it work in your favor!

 

9. Look for corporate discounts:- It is high time that you call your friend working in a bank or a large corporate and ask him to check for corporate negotiated rates at your next destination. These rates are generally 30-40% lower than rack rates and employees are allowed to avail them for their personal usage. Works out well for everyone! The benefits of networking are obvious.

 

 

Travel Packing

1. Keep loose chargers and cables organized with a glasses case.

2. Use straws to carry travel-size amounts of skin care products.

Use%20straws%20to%20carry%20travel-size%20amounts%20of%20skin%20care%20products.

3. Put a dryer sheet at the bottom of a suitcase to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

 

 

 

 

1. Scan important documents like passport, flight tickets, hotel bookings etc before leaving for your trip. In the event of theft or misplacement, it comes in really handy to access them on your smartphone or tablet.

3. On your last day in a foreign country, collect all your loose money and give it to the homeless.

4. When reserving airline seats for 2 people, get the aisle and window. You may get lucky to have full row to yourself, if the flight is not full.

5. If you forget your wall plug, charge devices through the USB slot on a TV.

If%20you%20forget%20your%20wall%20plug%2C%20charge%20devices%20through%20the%20USB%20slot%20on%20a%20TV.

 
Do let us know of your experiences and other hacks you have that can help people on their travels!

 

Things Tourists Should ‘Not Do’ in India!

India is on the bucket list of many travellers and for a variety of reasons. It caters to everyone, literally, from luxe travellers to backpackers, from spiritual seekers to the outdoor sucker. A trip to India will expose you to socio-economic issues like poverty, population explosion, homelessness on one hand but on the other side you will also experience vibrancy of colours, diversity of culture, exotic food, rich history, beautiful landscapes, warm people and much more. The diversity in Indian culture, language, food, climate, and religion is truly fascinating and at times can be overwhelming for those who are alien to the place. But no matter where in India you travel, it is advised that you follow these few rules so that your stay is enjoyable and altogether comfortable.

Note that when you travel here, every place and person you meet will be different from the last, this list is just a generalization of what things are like.

 

1. DO NOT be offended by intrusive questions: It isn’t the most comforting situation when someone randomly pops up a question about impending marriage with your travel partner. In India, asking people about their jobs, income or even family matters is considered a “bonding” exercise. You my find it probing and intrusive back home but consider it to be a ice-breaker here and play along. You may choose to be discreet or silent about the question, but do not get offended as it is not the intention.


2. DO NOT use your feet much: Other than for walking, kicking soccer balls and the like, the feet are considered an inferior part of  one’s body. When in India, it is advised that you don’t push things from your feet, don’t point to anyone or anything with your feet, don’t touch books with your feet and most importantly, don’t sit with your legs up on the table. It is considered extremely rude and impolite to do so, even though you intended to stretch your legs 🙂 Also do not use footwear at homes of others and religious places.


3. DO NOT wear skimpy clothing: Indians are conservative by nature and customs are still given priority over comfort. It doesn’t matter, if it’s sweltering hot outside, if women or men (for that matter) have not much to cover them, they will be stared at. Bikinis have found their way to the beaches of Goa and metro cities are gradually opening up to the right to dress, however these are only a handful of places and it is always better to take precautionary measures . If you are “dressed up” in short or tight clothes, make sure you are travelling in a group of trusted people at all times, better safe than sorry right?


4. DO NOT strike up religious/political conversations: Do not be fooled by the countless Indians you encounter indulging in the same, India may seem united and secular but there are many cracks and crevices and it is best you avoid discussing sensitive topics like Kashmir, religious divide and political affiliation while in India, chances are you’ll either enrage someone, or get a propaganda like response in an attempt to sway your opinion.


5. DO NOT provide negative opinions on cricket: Chances are you like the sport, chances are you don’t. There’s also a chance of you confusing the sport with baseball since cricket is popular in mostly commonwealth states and involves a bat and ball too. But do not disrespect the sport and don’t ever ask in public who is ‘Sachin Tendulkar’. We all know what twitter trolls did to Maria Sharapova. You will find that you are better accepted among people if you know and talk about the sport a little, do your research.


6. DO NOT address those elder to you by name: This is changing in metro cities, but again, very slowly. If you meet someone much older to you, touch their feet and take their blessings, do not call them by their first or last name only. Adding a sir/ma’am or saying “Ji” after their last name will help.


7. DO NOT give or take things with your left hand: In India, the left hand is considered “not clean” because people use it to clean up after doing their business. In religious places, when you are offered prasad (a food item towards the end of your temple itinerary) or are offering alms, do so with your right hand. Be extra conscious about this when in religiously influenced places.


8. DO NOT display affection publicly: India is again, slowly opening up to this, but take your risk and indulge in PDA, and as a result you would have made people around you angry to the point that they blame your culture, upbringing and what not. In India, some things are best done behind closed doors, remember that. There are a few places where even holding your partner’s hand is unacceptable.


9. DO NOT assume 2 men are gay if they are holding hands: India still is a somewhat homophobic society and yet you will find men holding hands, this is very evident but it isn’t a sign of their sexual orientation, it is a sign of their friendship. While belonging to the LGBT community is okay and a personal choice, in India, it is a taboo that is slowly being uprooted. Assuming someone is gay if they held another person’s hand is like offending them.


10. DO NOT think of beef when you see a cow. (You will see many): Cows are sacred to Hindus, and Muslims don’t like pigs. You are not going to be seen positively if you say you eat beef, typical reactions range from shock, to disgust, to anger. Also note that many restaurants in India are vegetarian, pescetarian or may offer chicken. A few offer steak and the like, but it is almost always buffalo meat and not cow meat.


11. DO NOT trust people easily: Like anywhere else in the world, India has it’s fair share of trustworthy people and those who can’t be trusted. Unfortunately, foreigners with open minds and hearts have had a bad time because they trusted the wrong person. Embrace the inner cynic in you when you come here, people will overcharge you for pretty much everything, you may be duped into something like calling a redstone college the Red Fort or even be tricked into going to unsafe places. You are going to be better off if you do your research, travel in a group or at least think twice when you are approached by the overly friendly person. They may be genuine and you will come to know in time, but con men are wandering about everywhere and foreign skin is bait.


12. DO NOT be racist, or feel like you have been a victim of racism: People travel to India thinking of snake charmers and beggars and yes they do exist, but generalising a country of 1.2 billion people that way is rather harsh, don’t you think? You will find the ultra modern, the super rich, the middle class, the poor and the homeless, sharing India and everything it stands for. Don’t refer to yourself as a “white” person they will assume you are trying to establish a position of superiority.   Also be careful that you are not victimised of the same, people will treat you differently, at times, foreigners are supposed to pay more. Remember when things seem “different”, you can say no. Indians, whether genuine or those who exploit you, will be assertive. Don’t give in and don’t sympathise, when it gets too much, say no.


13. DO NOT give in to the plight of beggars: Poverty is a serious issue in India, but it is advisable that you don’t give money to the poor, there is a possibility of them being involved in an underground network of sorts where beggars change locations regularly and ask for money. The money is taken from them by a kingpin, rumors suggest. If looking at them evokes sympathy, they are either brilliant actors, or in genuine peril. At this point in time it is best to share a packet of cookies or bottle of water with them, if you are carrying any with you. Money is a no-no.


14. DO NOT drink tap water: Where tap water is safe, like 5-star hotels and the like, it will be explicitly stated. Otherwise, you are safest sticking to bottled water. Be careful though, buy bottled water only from a stall or an established store and not from a hawker on the street. Brands trusted here are Aquafina, Kinley, Bisleri, Himalayan and Oxyrich.


15. DO NOT Reject food at a host’s place: We are not saying accept every edible item anyone offers you, but when you visit a host, they are wired with the phrase that “Guest is like God”. They will come to you with food that never seems to end. While it is understandable that your appetite is limited, accept food at a host’s place, or you would have hurt their feelings. Better yet, look at it this way, you get to sample authentic Indian food!


16. DO NOT forget a trusted guide book: There will be a time when you are lost and don’t know what to do, what to see, where to go. Asking locals is helpful, but if you are homesick or just desperately need an environment similar to where you are from, refer to a popular guide book like Fodor’s or a Lonely Planet. Even the most extensive traveler doesn’t want to feel alien everytime.


17. DO NOT give “new-age” gifts: In India, a vast society of so many different cultures, you never know when you offend someone. Alcohol as a gift should be used only when you know the person consumes it, similarly, white flowers are not to be gifted because they are used at funerals in India. Here, your best bet is taking a box of sweets or something related to your culture!


While here is a list of things tourists should not do in India, the country offers a wholesome and dynamic experience. It is loud, unapologetic, at times dirty, but all in all, vibrant. When you leave, you’ll take a little bit of insanity with you.

Forty Reasons, big and small, to Visit China!

Visit China, the country is all around us in more ways than one, Mandarin is a dominant business language, the gadget you’re reading this on was probably manufactured there, if not, you still have something with the “Made in China” tag, we’re all fans of Jackie Chan, and of course, there’s Chinese food (altogether customized to meet local taste) which we all love! We strongly recommend you visit China, soon!

When it comes to visiting China, travelers usually show a mixed bag of reactions, the first group are excited, it’s a big country, the experience is new, the culture and history is vastly different, and there’s more to experience without burning a hole in your pocket. The second group are apprehensive, more or less for the same reasons, there’s a communication barrier, China is polluted, overpopulated, they may get a culture shock and so on. Most of these people are unaware of the beauty China has to offer to the world, we are here to change the perceptions of those very people. Honestly, your next stop should be China. In no particular order, here is our list of 40 reasons to visit China.

 

1. Panda Bears: The cutest creatures to walk the planet are also the “National Animals” of China. The Giant Panda bear can make anyone jealous, who wouldn’t love to eat and sleep all day? Image: Franz Till

Furballs of Happiness

2. Chinglish: We all have to agree, China’s language is way different from English, but the amalgamation of those two is what makes “Chinglish” (Chinese and English) a language that’s amusing and easy to understand, look beyond the grammatical errors, and you may find a useful message. Image: gracetaiwan.blogspot.com

No Ouching, get it?

3. The Great Wall of China: The iconic landmark of China, visible from space, measuring 6,259 KM is reason enough to visit China. National Geographic suggests it is among the best hikes of the world too. On your way, you find walled paths, trenches, and your occasional hill and waterfall. Image: Anthony Rae

The Great Wall.

4. The Great Wall Music Festival: If just seeing the longest boundary wall used for defense purposes in the ancient world wasn’t enough, there’s also a Music festival that happens here, and legendary DJs like Armin Van Buuren and Afrojack are known to play there. Image: GreatWallMusicFestival.com

Ravers in China

5. Terracotta Army: The terracotta army of Xi’an has a sense of mystery and awe around it, the historic and well maintained statues of soldiers are a sight to behold, no more will you be limited to seeing them in movies and Asian themed restaurants. Image: Minh Tran Vu

The Terracotta Army of Xi’an

6. The Warm Welcome: People who don’t “Look Chinese” are often stared at, but smile back at them and you will be treated like a celebrity, to the point that they ask you for a group picture. This isn’t unheard of, and is true mostly because a lot of Chinese people haven’t travelled overseas, and know only of their provincial differences. See it to believe it, no pictures for this one!


7. Beijing: The political, cultural and educational capital of China is where you’ll find tradition meeting modernity.  The Olympic games of 2008 were held here, and if you can see beyond the smog, there’s something for everyone here. Image: Ray An

The Galaxy SOHO in Beijing

8. The Forbidden City: The ancient city, within a city, has 9000 rooms and spans 250 acres, it was built in the 1400s, but was destroyed and ransacked, thus the things to see today are actually reconstructions from the 18th century. Image: Jun Palomo

The Forbidden City of China

9. Tiananmen Square: In 1949, Chairman Mao announced and introduced “People’s Republic of China” to the world from Tiananmen Square, there was also a very popular incident of a man facing a tank, that happened here. All in all, it is a must see for visitors to China. Image: 

The Legendary Tiananmen Square

10. Temple of Heaven: This is a temple in Southern Beijing that served as a sacrificial complex for Emperors of the Qing Dynasty, what is special here is the Kung Fu and Taiji practice that happens early in the morning, other than that, there are temples built to honor the various forces of nature making it a very holy site for the Chinese. Image: Jeff Krause

The temple of Heaven, seems heavenly!

11. Ming Tombs: 50 Kilometres outside Beijing is the site where 13 of the 17 Ming Emperors are buried, this is easily combined with a day trip to the great wall so you can see both within a day! You can actually go and see an underground burial chamber here. Image: danielseidel.com

Ming Tombs

12. Summer Palace: 10 square miles of Imperial manicured and perfect garden space in suburban Beijing, this is among the oldest gardens of China. It has ancient buildings one can walk around, admire or just go there to have a picnic. Image: Mossadeque Rahman

A befitting name, Summer Palace

13. The Bird’s Nest: Beijing’s Olympic Stadium goes by the name of bird’s nest, it was made for the 2008 Olympic Games in China, and has since, become a part of Beijing’s modern side. After the olympics, there were several changes which converted it to a Water themed park called the “Water Cube”. Image: John Chandler

The Big Red Chinese Nest

14. Peking Duck: You have read about it in your food menu at that fancy Asian Restaurant you last visited, it was really expensive, and you were apprehensive of eating duck, so you let go. But a visit to Beijing, or China in general would be incomplete without trying the Peking Duck, it is much cheaper here too! And in case you didn’t know, Peking and Beijing are the same thing. Image: Qishan Han

Beijing Roast Duck.

15. Niujie Mosque: This is the oldest mosque of Beijing, having been built over a 1000 years ago, this is the place to see if you want to see how Chinese art and architecture merged with Islamic influences. Image: Sayid Barsanov

Niujie Mosque

16. Space 798: This is where the artsy crowd of Beijing is holed up, the “SoHo” of Beijing, it is called factory 798, or space 798 and is actually an old military factory no more in use. Image: Abdullah Tahir

China’s art district is worth seeing.

17. Tang Paradise: This is the commemorative monument built in Xi’an to honor the Tang dynasty, which existed way before the Qing and Ming Dynasties, if you are a history buff, you should check these places out. Image: Halleeinchina.blogpsot.com

Peek into the rich history of the Tang dynasty

18. Qiandaohu The Thousand Island Lake as it is known in English is in the Zhejiang region of China, This man made lake holds lots of islands scattered here and there, and the water is mostly potable. Image: itoptrip.com

Hop, skip and jump onto different islands!

19. Big Wild Goose Pagoda: Located in Xi’an in China, this building is of prime importance to the Chinese, one can even climb up and into the pagoda, it’s meaning to the Chinese is similar to what the Statue of Liberty is to America. For a reference in popular culture, the villainous goose in Kung Fu Panda 2 was housed here. Image: Lucian Lee

The BIG wild Goose Pagoda

20. Military themed amusement park: Minsk World in Shenzhen is a military themed amusement park where a Soviet ship by the name of Minsk is the main attraction. They have military based exhibits for those who are fascinated by such things.  Image: Wikimedia Commons

Minsk At the Misnk World

21. Window to the World: If you’ve seen China, and seen the Window to the World in Shenzhen, there’s hardly anything left to see, with replicas of the Taj, Eiffel Tower, Mt. Rushmore, and local Chinese events and cultural exhibits taking place, this is the microcosm of globalization. Image: WestChinatours.com

A little bit of the world

22. M1NT: If you like partying, and living on the edge (literally and figuratively), M1NT in Shanghai is the place for you, it is a club that is perched on the 24th floor of a building and it screams chic, and if that’s not enough, they have a shark tank too. Image. Chinaprim.ru

M1NT

23. Super cheap counterfeit goods: Admit it, if there’s a bargain, it’s bait and you’re the shark. China is the place for you, try the Science and Technology Subway station in Shanghai if you want fake goods: from tech accessories to shirts to women’s apparel. If you aren’t in Shanghai, don’t worry there’s plenty of places where you’ll find a bargain. Image: Nithibhan.com

China’s got the “Super”

24. Xiao Long Bao: The second food item we suggest you should try, this is a steamed dumpling soup which is Shanghainese specialty. Image: Dave Alcan

Not your average dumpling.

25. Xintiandi: The traditional narrow streets and a car-free zone with options for entertainment and food, Xintiandi is a hot tourist spot for visitors of Shanghai. It’s also an easy escape from the vehicle noise and city hustle and bustle that Shanghai is known for. Image: David Lieu

The Expat hub with narrow streets. Xintiandi.

26. Chen Clan Academy: The structure is a spiritual and academic complex that was finished in 1894 thanks to the generous aid from the Chen Family. Go here to see well preserved Chinese architecture. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Art at the Chen Clan Academy

27. Yuyuan Garden: This garden in Shanghai is now a huge hit with tourists because one can escape the noisy and polluted China and find some peace here, YuYuan translates to peace for the body and the person responsible for making it, is rumored to have sacrificed his life savings to build a garden that would please his aging parents. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Yu Yuan Garden

28. Chinese Theater: Chinese theater is expressive and has meaning, characters are female or male or animals, there is also a high possibility of having a clown in the play, most importantly, Chinese theater focuses on the interpretation and depiction of pretty and ugly, big and small, and good and bad. Image: Peter Stewart

Happy Ever After.

29. Karakul Lake: Ride the Karakoram Highway, one of the most dangerous routes in the world to be rewarded by stunning views of Karakul lake, the snowcapped mountains are reflected through the mirror-like clarity of the lake. Image: Ken Koh

Unbelievable.

30. Canola Flower Fields: Vincent Van Gogh’s Happiness color was yellow, and if yours is too, head to Luoping in China where they have endless seas of Canola Flowers, it’s yellow till as far as the eye can see! Image: popsugar.com

Hello Yellow!

31. Tianzi Mountains: If you have seen the mountains that float in the air, in the movie Avatar, they were inspired by the Tianzi mountains, literally like pillars that rise up to touch the sky, you should check these out if you are an altitude seeker. Image: Julian Au

The Mountains from Avatar, were actually Chinese

32. Danxia landform: You would have never imagined mountains which aren’t green, or amber, but here you have mountains with the colors of the rainbow, no the images aren’t photoshopped, yes, this place exists. The mountains are a natural formation which became so when minerals of different nature were pressed together millions of years ago. Image: Deluxebattery.com

Maybe that’s life in color

33. Leshan Giant Buddha: The largest Buddha statue is in Leishan, overlooking the Emeishan Mountain range. It is 71 meters tall and has been around since the Tang dynasty. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Huge!

34. Panjin Red Beach: Home to more than 290 different types of birds and animals, even though the beach is called “Red beach” the water is not red, the grass growing in the wetland is capable of growing in alkaline soil, so it takes a red shade that becomes more vivid with age. Image: ctc.com

Red Beach, Panjin

35. Yungang Grottoes: These are Chinese Buddhist Stone carvings from the 5th and 6th century, there are more than 51,000 Buddha figures here. The Yungang grottoes are in the Datong region of China, it is also among the 3 most popular Chinese Buddhist sites. Image: Jacky CW

Buddha figures everywhere

36. Benxi Water Caves: What is so special about a 5 million years old network of stalagmite and stalactite caves you ask? Add some water and lights along the way and let magic unfurl. Image: Livelaughlovetravel.org

Cave of Color

37. Moon Hill: This hill near Yangshuo has a natural arch going through it, which is the remnant of a limestone cave. There are also rock climbing routes other than a cemented path, should you choose to awaken your adventurous spirit. Image: Terrafirmatourist.com

A beautiful and rare sight

38. Yalong Bay: Not to be confused with Ha Long Bay of Vietnam, Yalong Bay is a 7.5 kilometre long beach and is often considered the best beach in Hainan Province of China. It also has luxury hotels studded on the coastline, so it is a perfect spot for luxury seeking holidayers. Image: Jiabin Li

China’s bluest waters

39. Wuyi Mountains: Wuyi mountains are popular for those who seek scenic beauty, but other than just that, thrill seekers can take a rafting trip and also check out out the “Thread of sky” cave, this is because the sky is visible only as a mere line since the walkway is sometimes as short as 30cm! Image: Yikai Li

Wuyi will make you say Woah!

40. Huangguoshu Waterfalls: Thiss 220 feet tall waterfall is the tallest in East Asia, but if that doesn’t interest you and you have seen way too many waterfalls to be interested, there’s one thing that’ll blow you away. Like hollywood movies often show caves hidden behind waterfalls, there’s one just like that here. Image: Dark Sun

Huangguoshu Waterfalls

Visit China, it has so much to offer, for each and everyone.

Turning up the heat: Burning Man Festival

There is a gathering that happens every year in a little part of Nevada, United States. As the name suggests, the highlight is the event of burning an effigy of a man, but it is much more than just that, a week long festival that takes place from the last Monday of August to the first Monday of September, this festival is off the charts, quite literally. It leaves no trace behind once it is done. Since it is happening this week, we decided to enlighten you with what it is, where it happens, how it happens, and why there’s so much hype around the burning of an effigy in the middle of the desert.

 

Fire Breathing Octopus? Thats New

 

THE BURNING MAN FESTIVAL
Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Images: Mike Orso, Joshua Bamhill, Trey Ratcliffe

Burning man festival started out as a small arts festival at San Francisco’s Baker beach, a person by the name of Larry Harvey along with a few of his friends burned an 8 foot effigy of a man and a smaller dog, this was in 1986. The consequent year, the figure doubled in size, and so did the number of people that attended it. Over the years, due to issue with the authorities, the Baker beach site had to be abandoned, and with a little inspiration, research and lots of followers, the Burning man found his home in Black Rock City, Nevada, just 110 miles off Reno.

 

Black Rock City is an artificially created metropolis, of around 60,000 followers, who create the city and dismantle it all within a week, and leave literally no trace behind.  Fun Fact: When the event goes on, Black Rock City becomes Nevada’s 4th most populous city, given the sheer number of attendees.

To attend the festival, other than flight tickets and other travel arrangements to get there, one has to dish out around $400, be self sufficient and abide by the 10 principles which are:

  • Radical Inclusion
  • Gifting
  • Decommodification
  • Radical Self Reliance
  • Radical Self Expression
  • Communal Effort
  • Civic Responsibility
  • Leaving No trace Behind
  • Participation
  • And Immediacy

These are the 10 important rules to follow to enjoy BMF.

Art, made by the people of Burning Man Festival

Weather is unpredictable in the middle of the Mojave, ranging from 40 F to 100 F night and day, but that doesn’t stop the people from coming here and making unique works of art, from absurd cars to costumes, Burning Man’s radical self expression is taken seriously here.

Art, for the believer

To explain what BMF is like to someone who hasn’t been there, is like trying to explain colors to a blind man, or that’s how they say it is supposed to be. The Festival has also been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, for encouraging nudity, free love and the excessive desire of sex and drugs has often been highlighted as a part and parcel of Burning Man festival. It seems evident, because there’s hardly a place where adults would behave like toddlers. There’s cases of having spotted children here, which is definitely not the right environment for them. The people who come here are mostly tripping on substances it is rumored. Yet, it is remarkable that people come together every year to  build and remove traces of a city, and a city is a proper city with streets and road signs, a temporary airport among other things.

The most famous people to have visited it include rapper Diddy, and DJ Carl Cox, who even played here.

Let there be light!

The )'( symbol stands for the burning man himself, and what matters most here is having a good time, at the end of the week, the effigy is burnt to the ground, along with everything else, and the land is abandoned, black rock won’t surface for another year.

 

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Pyrotechnics, Beautiful Art, Radical People who want to have a good time, Unique Experiences and the opportunity to live in a world of fantasy, where money doesn’t matter, way too much on offer for a $400 fee .

 

WHY YOU SHOULD NOT GO: Harsh Weather, Excessive Nudity, Culture Shock, Drugs, and Excessive risk of fire.

 

Airports Where You’d Want to Arrive Way Before 3 Hours!

You read that right, there’s hardly a time, when  you enjoy long airport queues, breathing treated air, eating stale airport food and buying outdated books and substandard souvenirs. These 5 airports however, are going to change that perception of airports.  They are tourist highlights among themselves, and most importantly, they have things and experiences that will make you arrive way before 3 hours, so that you can experience them, and claim that your adventure started as soon as you landed, and didn’t end till you took off again.

 

Incheon International Airport
Where: Incheon, Korea

This Korean airport, like all things Korean, is futuristic and fancy.
What makes it unique? Other than the extensive duty free options, they have a brilliant sculpture of “Flying to the future” that greets you, it is an energy efficient sculpture and runs on wind and sunlight; then they have 8 gardens (yes, flower gardens) within the airport each having different species of flowers, and an observation deck to catch a full view of the airport.
However, what caught our eye was their event calendar, Incheon airport has concerts scheduled every now and then and they have a year round “Korean Culture Experience” program so  that you can experience Korean music, art, food and culture as soon as you arrive.   Image: Myungsu Jang

Incheon Airport, Korea

Munich Airport
Where: Munich, Germany

Winner of The Best Airport in Europe (2014) title from Skytrax, the reason behind this is probably the plethora of services this airport has on offer, ranging from entertainment for kids to direct connections to ski in the alps. They have a visitor’s park where you can even play minigolf, probably the best way to pass time waiting for a delayed flight. The visitor’s terrace on the other hand gives a panoramic view of the runways!

For travelers on round trips, they can even “Shop and Store” what they buy, which means they can purchase something on departure, and pick it up, on arrival.  Image: Lothar Heller 

Munchen Airport

Changi Airport
Where: Singapore

Singapore’s airport is without a doubt, the best! The moment you see it, you know there’s something inside, waiting for you.

It caters to people of all ages, and is full of things to do, here’s a brief list of the few things you can do to pass time: There’s a playground, an arcade gaming center so that kids never get bored, and while they’re busy exhausting themselves, you can recoup. There’s a forest themed indoor playground, and indoor slide, gardens, a studio for musicians and even a movie theater! All this, in addition to a selection of gourmet eateries and a big range of brands to shop from! It’s not just meant for people to depart and arrive, it is a prime hangout spot in Singapore!  Image: Toeshe

Changi International, Singapore

Tokyo Haneda Airport
Where: Tokyo, Japan

The airport is among the most frequented in Asia, it has a hotel and  while this one might seem like any other hotel, it isn’t, this one is special for those who love to travel with their pets, because Tokyo Haneda has a pet hotel! Among many things you can do to pass time, there’s an observation deck, 30 normal and 22 duty free shops. Tokyo may lack space, but it knows how to make the best of what they have, like the Japanese prefer, the airport is simplistic, but meets any need one may have at any given time. Image: Alienizer Photography

Tokyo Haneda, futuristic, simple, wrapped in one.

Heathrow Airport
Where: London, The UK

This is the world’s third busiest airport, when it comes to the number of passengers that fly in and out of here on a yearly basis. And it won’t be for no reason that Heathrow has managed to cement its place as an iconic airport, the services on offer here are a sign of true British standards of service. If splurging was the one thing you missed out on, fret not, the airport has more luxury brands than coffee shops ranging from Alexander McQueen, Bvlgari to Ferragamo and Zara, they literally took shopping from A to Z here! If you schedule 48 hours before your departure, and arrive well before time, you can be shuttled from one terminal to the other with your very own personal shopping assistant.
They even have live performances from musicians at Café Nero. Other than that, get a massage or just watch the world take off from here, this place is literally the one where you will begin and end your Great British shopping adventure. Image: Hector Yep Lona

British Airways everywhere!

 

Dum Spiro Spero – While I breathe I hope

Humans have always been fascinated by the notion of wishing. Blowing out birthday candles or breaking the wishbone of a cooked turkey, tossing out a coin in the fountain or finding a four leaf clover, we all believe in something. We have culled out some interesting destinations, which have their own interesting wishing traditions to make your travel even more alluring.  Explore the unique ways of symbolising hope and participate in these traditions that gets you  a wee bit closer to achieving your dream.

 

Throwing Coins in the Trevi Fountain         Where :  Rome, Italy

Fontana di Trevi, better known to most of us as Trevi Fountain, is  Rome’s most spectacular and popular fountain. There are more than one variation on the coin throwing story, most popular being that throwing a coin from your right hand backwards over your left shoulder will ensure a  definite return to Rome. A newer story also routinely makes the rounds that says throwing one coin means a return to Rome, a second coin leads to a new romance, and a third coin leads to marriage.

Source : Wikipedia

Put a Love lock in the city of love     Where : Paris, France

Among the must-dos for visitors to the French capital: ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, pay homage at the Louvre and seal your love with a Master Lock. In Paris, lovers attach padlocks to the bridges overlooking the Seine and throw the keys into the water to symbolize their commitment to each other. The belief is that your relationship will last until the lock is opened, so be sure that’s what you wish for before you send that key to the bottom of the river!

Source : Huffington Post
Source : Huffington Post

 


Hammering a coin in Wish Tree      Where :  Scottish Highlands 

A coin tree is exactly what it sounds like: a tree which has had coins pushed into the bark. This tradition dates back to the 1700s and even Queen Victoria wrote in her diary about visiting an oak tree with coins stuck in it. But be sure to hammer a pence in some seldom visited areas because it’s said that if someone removes your coin, your fortunes will change for the worse.

wishing-tree-money-bark
Image source : Amusing Planet

Writing on Wishing Wall      Where : Israel,  Jerusalem

It is a Jewish belief that the Holy Presence has never left the Western Wall, hence the visitors  will notice thousands of tiny pieces of paper stuck deep within the crevices between the large stones. People  place a note with a personal message to God like prayers. For believers of all religions, it serves as a direct link to God and way of paying thanks, saying grace, confessing sins or making atonement and making special requests for the health and well being of loved ones.

800px-Western_Wall,_Jerusalem,_Shavuot
Image Source : Wikimedia

Throwing coin in wishing Cave       Where : Lebanon

In this Lebanon’s underground jewel, visitors make a wish  by throwing coins in different pools and it is believed that different pools will lead to different fortunes. While well-known in Lebanon and the Middle East, Jeita Grotto is currently competing for a place on the world stage as one of 28 finalists in the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest. Well, a genie sure exists in this epitome of beauty!

lebanon cave
Image Source : Booms Beat

Flying Paper Cranes     Where : Japan

In traditional Japanese couture, it’s believed that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some legends say that you are granted eternal good luck, not just one wish. This makes the act of giving one thousand cranes to a sick friend or family member common in Japanese history. It’s not difficult to make origami so bring out the artist in you as you learn Japanese art while being granted a wish.

cranes-for-japan-007
Source : Kisco Files

Wishing Well      Where: Upwey, Australia 

Wishing Well at Upwey is a natural spring and source of the River Wey. Visitors would often participate in the ritual by taking a few sips of well water from a glass. And throwing the rest of the water backwards over their left shoulder while wishing. The Wishing Well waters are thought to also have healing properties especially for the sore eyes. For all those who do not believe, there’s no harm trying.

upwey
Source : Dream Cottages

Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree

Legend has it that if someone gets a bundle of bright red papers caught in its branches, they will be granted a wish. Owing to its magic, this tree has earned a nickname — the Wishing Tree. Towering at the entrance of Fong Ma Po in Hong Kong, the Wishing Tree is covered in a deep crimson colour all year round. Wish-makers write their wishes on red paper “josses”, which are offerings dedicated to Chinese deities.

Source: vivreenasie.com

 

 

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