MOST EXTRAORDINARY HOTELS


Indian fort named ‘most extraordinary hotel’

New building in Rajasthan desert heads lonely planet list while Liwa resort in UAE is voted fourth best in the world

MIHIR GARH

There are dozens of converted historic forts  and palaces offering   luxury accommodation in India, but a fort, built from scratch in the Rajasthan desert just five years ago, has been named the most  extraordinary hotel in the world by Lonely Planet.

Perched on a sand dune, overlooking the parched earth and shrubs of the Thar desert,  Mihir Garh or the fort of the sun was a labour of love for owner Sidharth Singh, who says he was driven by intuition rather than reason; hiring more than 100 local craftsmen and carpenters who worked for  two years to create nine 1,700 square foot suites, each with  its own plunge pool, fireplace  (made in the local style, from cow dung) and decorated in furnishings from Jodhpur.  “Few hotels are created without compromise, Mihir Garh is a rare example,” says Lonely Planet writer James Kay. “This is not just a unique place to stay, it’s a shrine to the artistic and architectural traditions of Rajasthan in general and Jodhpur in particular.”

The top 10 most extraordinary hotels is one of three inaugural lists naming the guidebook publisher’s favourite places to stay in the world. The other two are best-value hotels in the world and the 10 most outstanding eco-hotels.

In second place on the most extraordinary list was Planet Baobab, a collection of grass and huts with an onsite ‘shebeen’ (bar) in the Makgadikgadi salt pans of Botswana, where the lunar-like landscape is dotted with 4,000 year old baobab trees. No UK hotels, and only a few hotels in Europe, made it on to the three lists. One exception was Prendiparte BB in Bologna, a single suite in a 900—year old tower, one of the few left in the city, with a rooftop terrace “offering breathtaking views over Bologna’s historic skyline”.  Other extraordinary places to stay include a collection of spherical treehouses suspended in the forest on Vancouver Island, an 1869 lighthouse on the Hudson River in New York State and a cave hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey, famed for its troglodyte architecture. Two of the top three best- value hotels in the world are in South Africa. The No 1 best- value place to stay is The Backpack in Cape Town, a hostel with a pool, which supports local community projects, is accredited by Fair Trade Tourism and was recently voted Best Hostel in Africa 2014 by hostelworld.com. lnkosana Lodge, which offers dorms, camping and private rooms in the Drakensberg  mountains, is in third place, while Sydney harbour YHA, famed for its harbour views,  came in second.

South Africa also made an appearance on the eco-list, with Bulungula Backpackers coming second. A collection of huts overlooking a remote beach on the Wild coast, jointly owned by the local Xhosa community, it warns potential guests it is “not an old—style, white South African beach resort”.

lt also promises night skies so clear it guarantees “your  money back if you don’t see a shooting star for half an hour at night”. In first place was Lapa Rios in the Costa Rica rainforest, where guests staying at its 16 bungalows fall asleep to the sound of the Pacific Ocean and are woken by the calls of howler monkeys.

List of winners

HOT SPOTS

  1. Mihir Gahr, Rajashtan, India
  2. Planet Baobab, Gweta, Botswana
  3. Prendiparte BB, Italy
  4. Qasr Al Sarab, UAE
  5. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, TAS, Australia
  6. Free Spirit Sphere, British Columbia, Canada
  7. Taskonak Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
  8. Thonga Beach Lodge, Isimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
  9. Saugerties Lighthouse, New York State, USA
  10. The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos

Healthy Holidays


Whether you want to fire up your fitness, maximise your health or simply feel better, a break at one of these destinations will help you meet your goals this year.

koh samuiSleep Better in Koh Samui: A good forty winks can make the world of difference to your well—being and the seven-night Sleep Enhancement Programme at Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary on the stunning island of Koh Samui in Thailand is an insomniac’s idyll. While the can’t believe-your-eyes coastline and signature Thai hospitality will do wonders to help you unwind on their own, the intensive programme summons a squadron of soporific soothing methods to address your slumber issues, aiming to help you re-establish good sleep health for the long term. Following a full-body analysis, you get a combination of tailor-made treatments and therapies such as acupuncture, ayurvedic massage, personal meditation, herbal remedies and shirodhara. www.kamalaya.com

detox in turkeyDetox in Turkey: Give a healthy new meaning to the term Turkish Delight with a seven-night detox programme at the Gardens of Babylon Wellness Resort in Bodrum,Turkey, which promises to give you smoother skin, a slimmer silhouette, a healthier body and a happier outlook. Surrounded by fragrant tangerine orchards and shady olive groves in its location on the ruggedly beautiful Aegean coastline, you’ll get a personalised plan combining yoga, Pilates, massage and colonic treatments, alongside sessions in the sauna, hammam and thalasso pool, while the menu includes Detox soups, juices, superfoods and supplements. There are also various slimming programmes. www.gardenbabylon.com

 

 

stop smoking in alacanteStop smoking in Alicante: Every smoker knows they should quit, but hanging up the nicotine habit is much easier said than done. Sweeten the deal and improve your chances of sticking to a new smoke-free you by booking a place at the seven-day Stop Smoking Programme at the award-winning luxury SHA Wellness Clinic in the Valencia region of Spain. This mountainside medical hotel boasts glorious views  of the glittering Mediterranean and  provides a personalised package of  treatments and techniques — from  macrobiotics, meditation and  hypnotherapy to acupuncture, oxygen  therapy and advanced relaxation techniques — to help you quit for good. You also get a personalised post-treatment health plan. www.shawellnessclinic.com

 

de-stress in omanDe-stress in Oman: If being too highly strung is your bugbear, you will want a getaway that’s still relatively dose to home to help you relax, so you can feel a million miles away from your worries without the counterproductive stress of a long-distance flight. Set in its own secluded bay – think majestic mountains and sparkling zaches — Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman offers a three-, five- or seven-day Sense of de-stress programme, to calm your qualms and recharge your batteries. In addition to the spectacular, soul-nourishing scenery, there’s massage, reiki, Indian head massage, foot acupressure, private meditation, as well as power yoga, sunrise stretching and even boot-camp training for those who need to get hot under the collar before they can chill out. The resort also offers functional fitness, detox and slow life programmes. www.sixsenses.com.

heal yourself in peruHeal yourself in Peru: Are you sick of the rat race? Do you feel you have lost your way? A two- or three-week stay at Ayahuasca Healing Retreat in the Amazon rainforests of Peru could set you on the right path. In a remote jungle, you receive treatments from authentic indigenous healers, such as a Peruvian shaman, as well as treatments including massage, vapour baths and plant-based therapies, which they say will both assist in healing your illnesses and help you understand your purpose in life. www.ayahuascaassocation.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

lose weight in portugalLose weight in Portugal: Few of us would pass up the opportunity to blitz the blubber if it wasn’t too painful, and one sure-fire way to soften the blow of a fat-fighting plan is by placing it against the dazzling azure backdrop of the Portuguese Algarve. Nestled among lush green mountains, Longevity Wellness Resort offers a seven-night structured weight-management programme to help you achieve and maintain your ideal weight. You get a personalised schedule of wellness workshops (with the focus on treatments such as oxygen therapy, detox baths, massage, skin brushing) and activities (yoga, boxing, nature hiking) alongside a meal plan and gym sessions. There are also program for stress reduction available. www.longevitywellnessresort.com

change your life path in spainChange your life path in Spain: Bored of your job? Stuck in a negative relationship? Dissatisfied with life but don’t know why? A life coaching holiday could be the answer, kick-starting confident change in your life. The Big Stretch one-week mountain retreat in Spain uses creative problem-solving, lateral thinking and brainstorming exercises, alongside role-play and classic life-coaching tools, to take you out of your comfort zone and help you rediscover what you feel passionate about. Expect to stretch both body and mind; to meet intelligent, self-aware people; to see spectacular scenery; to dine on local deli-style picnics in the mountains; and to participate in lots of workshops and walking. www.thebigstretch.com.

 

 

de-age in keralaDe-age in Kerala: What better way to turn back the clock — both literally and metaphorically — than in a former Maharaja’s palace in the historic foothills of Kerala? The grand Kalari Kovilakom’s 28-day Anti-Ageing Programme is based on Ayurveda, aiming to keep you disease free by arresting the degeneration of the body cells and increasing your immunity. The tailor-made package includes cleansing treatments for detoxing (think medicated ghee to absorb your toxins), followed by rejuvenation treatments — massages, daily yoga, medicine and a nourishing diet. http://www.kalarikovilakom.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy by G.N

FLOATS, LIGHTS AND MAGIC


The festival of Loy Krathong in Thailand gives an insight into the cultural quotient of the Land Of Smiles.

lon kathrongLoy Krathong, which loosely translates to ‘floating decorations’, is celebrated in various parts of Thailand in November every year. Earlier, empty coconut shells were decorated with leaves and flowers and floated in the river, and now Krathongs are made with a base of banana tree barks decorated with leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. There is an award for the most beautiful Krathong, which is given by the king. This festival, celebrated on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, originated in Sukhothai, which was the capital of Thailand 700 years ago. Sukhothai translates to ‘happiness of the dawn’; and this was where the king invented the Thai alphabet. Today, the museum in this town is a mine of information if you want to learn more about the country’s history.

Sukhothai, 45 minutes away from Bangkok by air, is also home to a beautiful green – but miniscule – airport, with a tiny zoo right next door. We landed in a tiny Bangkok airways plane, and were transferred from the runway to the airport in what I can only call an open mini bus. Sukhothai is also a four-hour drive away from Tak, which was our first destination – located on the border between Burma and Thailand.

This sleepy little town transforms into a mini carnival during the Loy Krathong festival. Decked-up dancers making their way through the streets to the main venue for performance, a night bazaar and street food, the whole town comes out to celebrate the first night of the festival, which is celebrated for a week.

A stage is set on a special platform on the river, which fireworks going off in the background; the festivities start with a speech by the Mayor, and continue with dance and drama performances (the speech and the narratives are in Thai, and it is recommended you get someone who can translate them for you), while Krathongs are set out into the river. Some of the Krathongs sent out on the river are large, elaborate, set on their own platforms, and are offerings from the members from the Royal family of Thailand. There are also smaller krathongs made from banana tree barks that are set into the river.  Next morning, after a satisfying breakfast, we began our four-hour journey to Chiang Mai – where the festival of floating lanterns takes place – Yi Peng is how this town celebrates Loy Krathong. We made a pit stop at Lampang, where we visited the Wat Phra That Lampang Luang Temple, one of the most revered temples in the country.

thai girlsWe visited the cafe and store at Hug You Sheep Farm in Lampang where I made some quirky beauty purchases, and savoured my first taste of green tea ice cream. All the ice-creams, and milk-based products are made from sheep milk here, and there is also an area where you can feed the sheep. The store here has a variety of souvenirs that can be picked up at a decent price, and if you’re a beauty junkie, you will enjoy going through their little section, which has creams made from snail slime, and masks and lotions made out of sheep placenta, among other things.

Chiang Mai, which means “new city”, is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. In the evening, we headed to the Yi Peng festival at Chiang Mai, to check out the khom lois (floating lanterns). The festival, which takes place behind the Mae Jo University, is attended by thousands of people, and to beat traffic, we set off four hours before scheduled time. Even from miles away, the khom lois are visible floating up in the sunset sky; it’s an experience that must not be missed.  Avoid taking a car/taxi as all roads to the venue are blocked for miles. It is best to hire a two-wheeler, or just walk it.

Luang templeThe lanterns are made with rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached.  When lit, the hot air trapped in the lantern creates enough lift for it to rise up in the sky. There are vendors selling lanterns en route to the venue, but refrain from any purchases as they are not allowed inside the vicinity. Once you enter the premises, there are a number of sellers you can buy the Khom Lois from. Here too, there is a carnival-like feel, as people of all ages come together, taking pictures, setting off fireworks, and enjoying a variety of Thai street food — from fresh fruit plates and grilled skewers of chicken to various types of seafood and spiced raw mango. Coming closer to the ground, where the synchronised lighting of the lanterns takes place, I realised just how many people were present. But despite the crowds, no one lost their cool — there was no pushing, no screaming and no jostling for space — instead, the people around you make an effort to make space, help you up on benches so you can witness this breathtaking event. An announcement is made for people to light their lanterns together, wait a while, and as thousands of lanterns are let go together, there is a collective sigh.

The fun part of celebrating the moment with a number of people that can be equalled to the population of a small city ends there. Since there is one main way out, and everyone attempts to leave at the same time, it can be slightly overwhelming, but on an upside, you don’t really have to walk much because you are pushed through with the crowd. The process of leaving may take a long time, so ensure you are hydrated, and are wearing comfortable footwear.

sukhothai airportThe show goes on all over the city, as the sky is dotted with these beautiful lanterns that carry someone’s wish with them. The festival, which is celebrated over two to three days, continues throughout the city, with fireworks in the sky, krathongs lit in the water, and festivity all around. This festival takes place in the month of November, and it is highly recommended you make your bookings a few months in advance, as people from all over the world come to Chiang Mai to witness this event.

I do not know if it was the hospitality, the scenic beauty or the lively spirit of the Thai people I fell in love with, but I do know I am going back for more.

HOT SPOTS: While Tak does not have much to do, there are few attractions at Chiang Mai and Bangkok you can check out.

CHIANG MAI: Take a cooking class: An activity popular with a lot of tourists who come to town, a  professional chef can teach you how to  make a few traditional Thai dishes, tell  you more about the flavours that various ingredients lend to the dish, and alternatives – in case you have any dietary restrictions, or specific preferences.

talented suda Mae Taeng Elephant Camp: A great destination for adults and children, the gentle giants live with their mahouts at this camp and training centre. You can feed the elephants bananas and sugarcanes available in baskets at the camp, watch them bathe in the river, and watch their show. They play instruments, play football, perform tricks with their mahouts, and also dance. The entry fee to the camp includes a raft ride, an elephant trek, lunch and a trip in an ox cart. The raft ride on the river lasts approximately 2O-25 minutes, and is a very calming and soothing experience — with nothing but the sounds of the forest and flowing water. The elephant trek is a little bumpy, as the elephant takes you on a 30-minute ride around the forest. The final leg is an ox cart ride, which transports you back to the entrance of the camp, and the ox cart drivers often let the passengers take their seat and click pictures.

Dinner at Samsen Villa: This restaurant is a must-visit if you are in the city. Located by the river where you can witness floating Krathongs, fireworks and floating lanterns, this restaurant serves seriously delicious Thai food, and is often booked to full. Make reservations before you head there.  Located at: 201, Charoenrati Road, T Wad Ket A Muang, Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar: A great place to pick up souvenirs, bags, scarves, and regular bazaar stuff at very good prices! You can test your bargain prowess here, but head there on a weekday, as weekends can get crazy crowded. Open from 7 pm to midnight, head there early so you can cover the entire one-km long stretch located along the footpath of Th Chang Khlan from Th Tha Phae to Th Lol Kroh.

Bangkok: The name of the city translates to ‘city of the angles’ in English, but that is only the popular name of the city. It holds the world record for the longest name for a capital city in the world, and the real name of Bangkok is – Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit!

Known as a popular hub for food lovers and shopaholics, there are a multitude of malls and bazaars that you can check out. Also, make sure you make the trip to the floating market, which is an experience in itself. One of the oldest markets in the city, there are vendors who sell a variety of items – from fruits and vegetables to clothes and souvenirs – on their boats that float along the lake. The market wares here are expensive, as it is a major tourist attraction; ensure you bargain well before paying for something.

 

fruit vendor

 

Courtesy by K.T.

 

New Mumbai Airport Terminal 2 Guide


1)       MUMBAI AIRPORT (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport)

 

 

Level 1

  • Pick-up Area
  • Lost & Found Baggage
  • Ground Transportation Lobby
  • Direct access to Multi-Level Carpark (MLCP) level 4 & Bus Gates

 

 

Level 2

  • Arrivals & Transit
  • Immigration, Baggage Claim & Customs
  • Duty Free & Meet/Greet Area
  • Direct access to MLCP level 6

 

Level 3

  • Boarding Gates
  • Connectivity to MLCP level 7
  • Retail, Duty Free, F&B

Level 4

  • Departure Concourse & Check-in Islands
  • Departure Immigration, Customs & Security Screening
  • Retail, Duty Free, F&B and Departure Lounges
  • Direct access to MLCP terrace level 10

 

Transportation

  • Elevated Road direct from/to Western Express Highway (WEH).
  • Access from Andheri-Kurla Road.
  • Access by Car, Taxi, Coach, BEST Buses & Autos.
  • Taxi/Car Rentals: Prepaid taxis available at Ground Transportation Lobby at PTB Level 1.

mumbai t2 map

2)       DEPARTURE FORMALITIES

  • After check-in, proceed to Security Screening, Immigration & Customs on PTB Level 4.
  • Beyond the Departure control area:
    –        Lounge guests proceed to Lounge Entrance near Gate 86, on Level 4.
    –        Proceed to boarding gates on Levels 3 or 4.
  • Approximate Distance/ Walking Time:
    –        Check-In counter to Departure Concourse – 150m (5 mins’ walk).
    –        Departure Concourse to furthest Gate 75  – 450m (15 mins’ walk).

3)       AIRPORT LOUNGES (LEVEL 3)

  • Guests can access the lounge on Level 3 (near Gate 86) of the Departure Hall by taking the elevator from Level 4 Departure Hall.

4)       ARRIVING INTO MUMBAI & TRANSFERS TO ONWARD FLIGHTS

  • Passengers arriving into Mumbai proceed to Arrival Immigration & Baggage Claim (Level 2).

For Transfer Passengers:

  • Connecting Domestic-to-International Flights – Arriving passengers on domestic flights proceed to collect their checked baggage at Mumbai Domestic Airport, and board the Inter-Terminal Coach to Mumbai International Terminal 2, Level 4. Check-in at Level 4. 
  • Connecting International-to-International Flights – International Transit passengers proceed to International Transfer counter on Arrival Level, PTB Level 2 to check-in. Please remember to present checked baggage receipts (if any) to counter staff.
  • Connecting International-to-domestic Flights Upon collection of checked baggage, arrival passengers proceed to re-check area on Level 2 (if airlines have the facility). Otherwise, passengers must check-in for onward flights at Domestic Terminal. Proceed to the Inter-Terminal Coach area on Level 2 for onwards transfer to Domestic Terminal.

5)       LAND TRANSPORTATION FOR ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES

 

  Departure Arrival

Private Vehicles

Using the elevated road, drop off at PTB Departure Level 4 Kerb side.

Park at the MLCP in front of PTB. The Carpark is linked to PTB Level 4 via walkway.

Pick up at PTB Arrival Kerb side on Level 2 or through MLCP Level 5.

 

Taxis#

Using the elevated road, drop off at PTB Departure Level 4 Kerb side. Ground Transportation Lobby located at PTB Level 1. Fleet Taxis pick-up is through MLCP Level 4.

Private Coaches/ Buses

Using the elevated road, drop off at PTB Departure Level 4 Kerb side. Pick up at PTB Level 1 west side of terminal.

Auto Rickshaws

Drop off through grade level road. Pick-up through grade level road.

# TAB Cab (+91-22-63636363), City Cool Cabs (+91-22-22164466) and MERU (+91-22-44224422)

6)       AIRPORT INFORMATION

  • Airport Information desks are located at PTB Departure Level 4 Kerb side and PTB Arrival Level 1/2.
  • CSIA Airport Information Call Centre at Tel:  91-22-66851010 & http://www.csia.in

**Above all is just for information and are indicative, for further assistance contact on Airport Numbers mentioned above. 

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