Oman – The Queen of Arabian Peninsula


Getting Around –

Arriving and Leaving Oman

By Air

Oman’s National airline is not as bad as you might think.  Its clean, efficient and much cheaper than its European & GCC counterparts.  It doesn’t operate in many countries so check with your local travel agent.  If Oman Air doesn’t fly from your country, consider flights with Emirates Airlines, Gulf Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines, fly dubai and Etihad, These are all GCC run air lines and while they may involve stopovers somewhere in the region, they offer lower rates to Muscat than most European airlines. Oman has several airports, but the two largest are Muscat International Airport and Salalah International Airport.  Both are a little outside their cities, so expect to pay a bit extra to reach your hotel.

Muscat International Airport

View from the plane window

By Car –

Unless you are in the UAE, Yemen or Saudi Arabia, you’re best travelling to Muscat by Plane. Getting paperworks done across several GCC countries could drive you mad and frankly it isn’t worth the headache.  If  you happen to be a resident of either the UAE or Saudi Arabia, reaching muscat is fairly straight forward   Both countries have large highways leading straight to Oman’s borders so you’re unlikely to get lost.Before you head off, check if your insurance is also covered in Oman, otherwise you may not be allowed into the Sultanate or asked to pay heavy insurance charges at a few insurance post’s located near the border plus the hassles of driving to n fro.

Visa Requirements –

Reflecting the efforts to promote and encourage tourism, citizens from most GCC, EU and US countries can obtain a two-week visa on arrival at Muscat International Airport or at the border.  There are new visa requirements for GCC residents who hold what the Omani government categorises as second tier professions, so its best to check before travelling.  Its worth keeping in mind that queues for visas at the airports can take quite a while.

Places of Interest –

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Grand Mosque Muscat

View of the Grand mosque in Muscat

Located at Al Sultan Qaboos Street, Al khuwair.  Tours are on Sat – Wed 8 am to 11 am Children under 10 are not permitted.  Similar to other GCC states, Oman has a fascination for breaking world records. It has the worlds 2nd largest carpet ( the 1st being at Abu Dhabi) it can accomodate 20,000 worshipers in its compound.  It is one of the few mosques which is open to Non Muslims, its interior decorated with white and grey marble panelling, and the dome comprises stained glass triangles.  Remember to wear appropriate clothing ( no shorts for men, while women should be well covered, including a head scarf)

Jebel Akhdar –

Jebel Akhdar Mountain range

Beautiful Mountain

Towards Nizwa, Jebel Akhdar, or the green Mountain in english is 2800 m above sea level and a precarious 4×4 trip will get you there.  After a stunning riverbed drive through villages and farms, you’ll proceed to the top of the green mountain peak, from where you can take in breathtaking views.

Ras Al Jinz –

Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve

Home to one of the world’s largest natural nesting sites for the green turtle.  Every year, around 30,000 of these weathered old creatures emerge from the sea to lay their eggs, especially during the breeding season (Jun-Sep) when between 50-100 turtles crawl onto the sand each night to dig their nests.  The Ministry of Environment has declared a 120 sq km portion of the land and 45 kms of coastline a protected reserve, forbidding camping and even walking here.  but tourists can visit the Ras Al Jinz Scientific & Research Centre joining a tour to observe the turtles in the morning or at night.  You can even stay in the eco-style hotel.

10 cool things for kids to do

1) Become a sailor – Oman Sail offers great sailing programmes, tailored to teach children how to set sail whilst educating them on Oman’s great marine heritage.  These Sessions also teach leadership skills and more in a fun environment on the water. ( Oman Sail, Ruwi – http://www.omansail.com)

2) Play like an arsenal footballer – Arsenal Soccer Schools is offering a series of engineered professional packages to develop youngsters into better football players.  Young footie enthusiasts in Muscat can now learn to kick the ball like a true Arsenal player, and stand a chance of becoming the next big thing. ( Muscat Club, Wadi Kabir – 00968 84483344)

3) Get Adventurous – The new adventure zone at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah resort & Spa is the first entertainment zone of its kind in Muscat.  Designed for children aged from four – 17, it promises a fun, action packed day for all.  Firefighters can perfect the art of sliding down a fireman’s  pole, or the more daring can brave the 6.5 metre Demon drop slide.  Other fun features include the Tumble Tower and Swing Over net. Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah ( 00986-24776666 Open daily 10 am to 10 pm)

4) Have fun at the fair – Marah Land, which literally translates to City of joy, is Muscat’s oldest amusement park.  it has a large boating lake that is surrounded by 30 different rides, including a big wheel and a roller coaster amongst others.  Go-karts are also on offer, with games such as pin the donkey, located in a complex, it also features food courts and restaurants. Qurum National Park ( 00968-24562215)

5) Play paintball without paint or pain – Muscat Paintball has revolutionised the game of paintball by offering a no paint, no pain experience.  New laser tag guns are equipped with an electronic device that is programmed to give a reading of shot count, game scenario and more.  Players still have the excitement of regular paintball without the war wounds. Shatti Al Qurum ( 00968- 24697768)

6) Discover science – Children of all ages can enjoy scientific experiment through hands on experience at the children’s museum.  It contains many innovative ideas to explore science and fill their inquisitive minds.  The museum also recently opened a new computer workshop for its visitors to discover technology in an interactive way.  Qurum National park ( 00986 24605368)

7) See the Stars – Astronomers of all ages can gaze up at the twinkly dome of the PDO Planetarium and see the Milky Way along with planets and stars. Seven different shows are on offer, three of which have been locally produced.  Oil & Gas Exhibition centre ( 00968-24675542)

8) Go Bowling – Bowling at the Al Masa Bowling Alley is great fun for the whole family.  The bowling alley has been entertaining children and their parents for years.  Al Massa Mall – Shatti Al Qurum – 00968-24562215

9) Hit the ice rink – Beat the heat and head to the Al Khuwair ice skating rink for some cool indoor fun.  It’s the one occasion to dress up as snug as a bug in your winter woolies as the temperatures soar outside.  Ice rink times vary. – Near Zuwawi Mosque, Al Khuwair – 00968-24489492

10) Feel fishy feet – Dr. Fish spa therapy in Bareeq Al Shatti Complex is not only frequented by the older crowds, for a manicure on the run, but the younger generation as well.  Young ones can sit back and enjoy the ticklish sensation of water fish nibbling their feet and hands as they remove dead skin. Bareeq Al Shatti complex – 00968 – 97617116

RW68EJXVAPDT

Enjoy Singapore Our Way!


Must go

Robertson Quay

If you enjoy soaking up the downtown vibe but appreciate a more laid back night out, I highly recommend this entertainment precinct. The quietest of Singapore’s three quays, you’ll find riverside restaurants and watering holes offering a range of quality cuisine from Australia to Japanese. The former specializes in the iconic Belgian dish of mussels with fires alongside a comprehensive list of beers, while the latter serves up a wicked selection of pizzas in an open kitchen concept such as one layered with mascarpone, mushrooms and black truffle oil

In recent times, the area has also become the haunt of coffee aficionados, who flock to Toby’s Estate and Kith. On the weekends, Robertson Quay transforms into a vibrant brunch spot some of Singapore’s best ones can be found here.


Club Street

Once dotted with Chinese clubs probably why it’s called Club Street where wealthy Chinese men in Singapore met and talked business, this pedestrian’s street with its rows of restored shop houses is now a favorite haunt of trend business executives to relax after office hours. Each restaurant, bar, club, hotel or gallery that lines the street has its own character, theme and décor, while the overall atmosphere is abuzz with chatter and laughter. Unlike Mohd Sultan or Boat Quay, Club Street has a tinge of 19th century colonial Singapore. Located in the Chinatown area.


Bollywood Veggies

Set on a four-hectare plot of agricultural land in the rural north-western suburb of Kranji, Bollywood Veggies  provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s urban jungle, Run by former president of Netball Singapore, Ivy Singh-Lim, the organic farm specializes in local produce cultivated without the aid of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or growth hormones.

Open Wednesday to Sunday from 09.00 till 18.30, this delightful oasis is best explored during he first half of the day when the weather is cooler. Take a leisurely strollor20-minute guided tour around the farm to survey the vast assortment of flora and fauna.

If you are hungry, home cooked meals are available at Poison Ivy Bistro, which uses ingredient plunked straight from the farm. Ivy Singh Lim often makes an appearance at the eatery to reminisce with customers about Singapore’s ‘good ol’ days’.


Night Safari

As the sun sets and darkness blankets the sky, get up close and personal with nocturnal creatures in their natural habitat at the Night Safari. Stretching over 35 hectare of tropical foliage, the safari is now home to 137 animals, 38 percent of which are endangered.

Visitors can choose to explore the safari on foot or by tram, though I would highly recommend venturing on the tram as well as the Leopard Trail, where felines including the elusive clouded leopard and the Malayam civet rest and play

The creatures of the Night Show, where one can catch the cheeky antics of animals are another not to be missed highlight.


Marina Barrage

Located at the mouth of the Singapore River, this urban reservoir opened too much fanfare in 2008 but interest has waned with bigger names like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay popping up in the vicinity. This destination showcases Singapore’s technological prowess in water storage, and tours to the visitor centre can be arranged for groups. It is open round the clock, but head to the rooftop garden after sunset for panoramic views of Singapore’s ever changing skyline. Pack a camera and a picnic basket too.


The Esplanade

The grand dame of Singapore, the Esplanade hosts plays, dance recitals, concerts every day of the week and is home to the Mosaic Music Festival, Huayi Festival and Bay bests.

Known affectionately as the “the Durian” for its spiky exterior, the Esplanade also provides free performances by local artists in the lobby and the outdoor heater on most evenings, and a spectacular view of the lights of the Marina Bay area from its rooftop garden.

The Singapore River, the Merlion and the Singapore Flyer are within walking distance, which is a pleasure to do in the evening, with the breeze blowing in from the sea.


Marina Bay Sands Theatres

This venue, which houses two theatres, is current favourite haunt for musicals, and it is no surprise considering how some of the world’s best performances have been held here. I laughed and cried during Wicked, the Broadway Musical in March, had my breath taken away by Drum Tao The Art of Drum in August, and at the point of writing this i am looking forward to Avenue Q the Musical on September 29.

The two plush theatres share a spacious, well designed foyer with a magnificent wall made of mirrors. In fact, the beauty of this foyer makes me wish for longer intervals, which i usually spend enjoying a beer while browsing musical collectibles.

Spectacular performances coming up include the Bootleg Beatles (November 8-11) and Jersey Boys (November 20 to February 17, 2012)


Must See

National Museum of Singapore

Having been to some museums in other Asian cities, I have come to appreciate the educational and entertainment value offered by the exhibitors in the National Museum of Singapore. The Living Galleries make for quick and fun excursions through Singapore’s past, and I find the Food showcase particularly interesting. Learn how Singapore’s favorite dishes come to be, while listening to the sounds of street hawkers whipping up their fare.

If you have several hours on your hand, do visit the Singapore History Gallery. It offers visitors two ways to ‘see’ Singapore’s progress from the 14th century to modern times; the events path highlights major events in the city state’s past, while the personal path tells stories through the eyes of the man on the street. I am a fan of this gallery and have gone down both paths twice.


Gardens by the Bay

Singapore’s latest mega attraction is definitely with a ramble in, especially for tourists who prefer the city-state’s more natural offerings. The sprawling development has ‘super trees’ rising from the ground, which are unmissable when traveling from the airport into town. These 16- story high vertical gardens are captured by over 160,000 plants and also serve Eco friendly functions such as harvesting solar energy through their embedded photovoltaic cells. Don’t miss a visit to the two undulating glass conservatories. The Cloud Forest features a 35m tall waterfall cascading down into lush vegetation in a cool moist environment, while the flower Dome is home to a collection of colorful blooms from Mediterranean regions.

For those who want to kick the adventure up a notch, ascend the OCBC Sky-way for a panoramic view of the gardens and the surrounding city skyline.

I find the gardens more captivating at night, when the ‘trees’ glow in different hues as part of a light and sound show. The park is accessible via a pedestrian bridge from Marina Bay sands or by MRT (Bay front Station).


National Orchid Garden

While we now have a new mega garden, Gardens by the Bay, don’t ever forget the evergreen favorite, National Orchid Garden, located within the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The orchid is Singapore’s national flower and this orchid garden will make you feel you’re seeing the world’s largest orchid show unfold. The variety of orchids on display is just incredible, while the detailed information on each orchid variety is highly educational and interesting. The grounds are lovely and there are also thousands of tropical plants don’t forget the camera!


Little India

This is the second year in the row that I’m recommending visiting Little India, but if you’ve got time to spare on Sunday afternoon or evening, then there’s really no other place better to sample a slice of Singapore’s multicultural mishmash of a society.

Situated to the east of the Singapore River across from Chinatown and north of the Malay district, Kampong Glam, this Tamil ethnic enclave is absolutely swarming with foreign workers from the Indian subcontinent on Sundays. The hordes of workers, eager to meet up with comrades in familiar surroundings in their day off, literally turn the area into you guessed it a veritable semblance of being right smack in India.

That’s not all Little India has to offer though, Mustafa Center, a humongous 24 hours department store, sells everything under the sun at rock bottom process, while Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, built in 1881 and dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, attracts a steady stream of devotees.

Litter India also harbors the best Indian cuisine Singapore has to offer, including vegetarian favorites at Komalas Villas, and the very popular fish head curry at Banana Leaf Apollo.


Haji Lane

Tucked in a nondescript, narrow street in a Muslim enclave on the edge of the city centre, Haji Lance is a Mecca for fashionistas. Lined with hip, eclectic boutiques stocking indie, quirky and vintage collections, Haji Lane is reminiscent of Le Marais in Paris or Carnaby Street in London.

After a hectic day of sashaying though shops, pecking shoppers can stop by Café le Carre for an authentic Middle Eastern meal or Turkish coffee.


Kampong Glam

Singapore’s Malay Arab Quarter since the early 19th century, this historic enclave remains the heart of the country’s Muslim life despite taking on a hip, bohemian air in recent years. Myriad experiences can be had in this atmospheric neighborhood one can shop for scarves, custom a special perfume, smoke sheesha (water pipe), sip an artisan cup of coffee or savor a diverse array of Middle Eastern cuisines ranging from Lebanon to Turkish. Photographers are sure to have a field day in this vibrant district, with iconic architecture such as gold dome Sultan Mosque and rows and rows of giant heritage shop houses.


Haw Par Villa

More an eccentric genius garden than a theme park, and the subject of urban legends, Haw Par Villa was set up by two millionaire brothers in the 1930’s and features over 1,000 status depicting stories and scenes from Chinese folklore, including the famous Journey to the West.

A popular attraction in the 1980s when the park boasted live performances and a water ride, Haw Par Villa barely draws tourists now, despite the free admission. A real shame because the signature exhibit, a stroll through the 10 courts of hell, remains as gruesome and terrifying as ever. Visit for an offbeat, quirky break in pragmatic Singapore.


Must Eat

Ponggol Choon Seng Seafood Restaurant

Despite having dished out fresh seafood dishes to a loyal following of customers since 1956, this restaurant remains humble in its pricing and service is friendly and attentive. It sits in a lovely black and white colonial house on Turnhouse Road, a serene enclave in the Changi area. It is air-conditioned too, so you can dig into its signature seafood dishes such as chili crabs, crabs with salted eggs, black pepper crayfish and crispy baby squids in comfort. The restaurant also whips up an addictive dish of crispy shreds of duck meat wrapped in paper thin popiah skin.


Old Airport Road Food Centre

For a more authentic local dining experience, look slightly outside the city centre. The variety on offer is hard to beat; rows and rows of almost every Singaporean favorite imaginable can be found in this non air conditioned space, from noodles in prawn and pork rib broth to rojak, a traditional salad of turnip, pineapple, dough sticks and fried bean curd smothered in sweet sauce. It is debatable which stall offers the best wonton noodles (minced meat dumplings), but there are two famous ones that sit just a few spaces apart near the main road. To end off your meal, try one of the many soy-based deserts or crispy banana fritters.

With the recent opening of the circle line (Dakota is the nearest MRT station), the food centre has become a lot more convenient to get to. It is also a stone’s throw away from the indoor stadium, which plays host to many international concerts.


Jumbo seafood

There are two types of crab dishes that are indigenous to Singapore chili crab and black pepper crab. We are proud of them! If possible, order both (but choose a small crab to begin please), one at a time. But if you have appetite for only one, then I’d say (reluctantly), chili crabs.

Go to Jumbo Seafood branch in Dempsey Hill, as by doing this, you will combine a must eat with a must see. Dempsey Hill was formerly an army barrack; it has been rejuvenated with all sorts of F&B outlets and antique shops. Reservations for Jumbo Seafood are recommended.


2am: Dessert bar

If you’re looking for a unique dessert and wine venue to while away till the wee hours of the mornings, then look no further than 2am: Dessertbar, tucked away in a corner of Holland Village.

Open Mondays to Saturdays from 18.00 till 02.00 (hence the branding), the place is helmed by chef – owner Janice Wong, whose groundbreaking dessert creations have been earning rave reviews from some of the world’s most celebrated culinary aficionados.

The place is a haven for trying innovative desserts. Favorites include Basil White Chocolate with Textures of Passion fruit, Purple Potato Puree with Blackberry Parfait and Kayambe H20 (concocted from 72 per cent Michel Cluizel dark chocolate and Evian mineral water). If you’re game enough, go for the 4×4 desserts & Wine Degustation.


Salt Grill & Sky Bar

Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan’s sixth homage to Pacific Rim Cuisine, Salt Grill & sky Bar, is perched on the 55th to 56th floor of the iconic Ion Orchard.

Salt exudes laid back sophistication, tinged with a hint of glamour. Housed in a vast atrium, the restaurant’s minimalistic interior is decked in white, complemented by a fusion of neutral and deep shades of red. Illuminated blocks of glass, concrete and steel, framed by cathedral like windows, provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner for two. By day, the restaurant is a hub for power lunches.

Dishes are wholesome, unpretentious and suitably sublime, deftly made from the best seasonal Australian produce on offer and accented by bold Asian flavors. Menus are seasonal in nature, and diners have a tantalizing choice of prix fixe, degustation and a la carte selection.

The sky Bar is tiny compared to the immense expanse of restaurant, but it does not disappoint. As with the main dining area, it is invitingly warm, and its cocktails are prepared with flair and taste absolutely divine.


Thasevi Food

A culinary institution synonymous with the ultimate Singaporean comfort food, Thasevi draws Singaporeans of all stripes to its no frills shop in Jalan Kayu for their roti prata, fried discs of dough often eaten drenched in curry. Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper (they open late), the versatile roti prata can be ordered kosong if you want it plain, with egg it you’re a little hungrier, or with banana, for a sweet twist to a savory dish. For the kid in you order a Milo Dinosaur – the chocolate malt drink come topped with a generous heap of Milo powder for a midnight sugar rush.

Elephants Rehabilitation centre (ERC) Kappuka


Elephants have been an integral part of India’s history, tradition, myth and culture. They have been captured, tamed, domesticated and bred in captivity. They have been used in battle, hunting, religious and ceremonial occasions and to manage other elephants. Captive elephants are reverted, kept in temples and passed on as family heirlooms. The giant beasts enjoy a very special place in the minds of the people and cultural life of Kerela. Real-life anecdotes that capture a thousand moods of these whimsical animals too are part of the lore of a multitude of elephant lovers. Despite the rich heritage and experience, the quality of life of the captive elephants has been deteriorating in recent years. Considering the present scenario and the need to take care of them, the Kerala forest department has established an Elephant Rehabilitation Centre(ERC) at Kappukkad, near Kottoor, in Thiruvananthapuram district to provide spacious and near natural habitat. The objective of the centre is to take care of the rescues, sick, aged and baby elephants. ERC also function as a centre for training elephants as well as their managers and mahouts with facilities for research on management and rehabilitation.

LOCATION

The rehabilitation Centre is located 3 kms from Kottoor and 30 kms from Trivandrum City. From Kovalam the access is through Balaramapuram Kattakkada. The site is flanked by waters of Neyyar reservoir and moist deciduous forests and grass lands.

JOIN ELEPHANT BATH

Bathing of elephants in the reserboir is intresting to watch. Visitors can also lend a helping hand to the Mahout in scrubbing the elephant to clean them.

EXPERIENCE ELEPHANT RIDE

Visitors can experience the thrill of an elephant ride in the centre.

ENJOY FEEDING ELEPHANTS

Elephants are fed after bath. Cooked rice and jaggery are made into the shape of balls and fed into their mouth. Visitors are permitted to g near the elephants to witness this lovely scene.

WATCH ELEPHANT BEHAVIOR

Observing different moods of elephants is very interesting; one can spend hours watching this.

STAY IN FOREST HOSTELS

Nature enthusiasts, elephant lovers, nature study tour group etc. can stay in the forests hostels available at the centre. Essential catering facilities are attached to the hostels.

DOS AND DONTs in ERC

  • Observe total silence and discipline in the centre

  • Do not smoke and consume alcoholic drinks in the centre

  • Do not disturb or tease the elephants

  • Do not harm the eco system of the locality

  • Do not attempt to swim in the reservoir

  • Do not pollute reservoir

  • Do not litter surroundings of the centre

  • Keep the centre a plastic free zone

  • Avoid feeding the elephants

  • Trekkers are advised to use jungle boots and leach proofs socks

  • Avoid perfumes when approaching elephants; it may irritate them

  • Keep a watch on children accompanying you

  • Do not collect plant materials from the locality (it is an offence). Let them grow in its natural environment

  • Respect local culture and heritage

  • Do not attempt to snap photographs of the local folk and fellow visitors

  • Obey the instructions of the guides and officials accompanying the trekkers

  • Carry drinking water and snacks on trekking

Entry fees

India Rs. 10

Foreigner Rs. 100

Elephant Ride

India Rs. 100

Foreigner Rs. 200

%d bloggers like this: