05 hand-picked vacation destinations that are worth a visit in Gujarat


  1. The north west desert ( rann of Kutch )

The white sands portrayed in the tourism of ‘Khushbu Gujarat Ki’ are well within travel reach. This place is an ideal for winter travel as daytimes are less hot while night are really entrancing.

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White Rann of Kuch

Special attraction: there is a place in the Banni Grasslands which is adjoining the Rann of Kutch where according to locals one can see floating lights move around the air. Locals call the phenomenon ‘cheer batti’ or ghost lights which can be seen 2 to 10 feet off ground. Scientists believe the lights are scientific photo emission by oxidation of Phosphine and Disphosphane gases however local legends can be fun to hear over a full moon for adrenaline seeking travelers.

  1. Gir Forest and Girnar
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Cubs been fed my Lioness at Gir Lion National Park, Sasan Gir 

This region between Junagadh and Amreli district are known for its diverse wildlife. It is home to the Asiatic Lion and the Girnar Mountain. This place can be of great adventure for people who find solace in the wild.

Special attraction: the place is the world’s second home to Lions outside Africa. One can also get a chance to mingle with the local ‘siddi’ population whose ancestry can be traced back to African tribes. The mountain Girnar is also a host to ‘Naga Babas’ or naked saints and witnessing them is considered a good omen. It is also a known fact that the formation of this mountain is older than the Himalayan Range.

  1. The deep forests of Dang
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Saputara, only Hill Station of Gujarat in Dang Forest Region

Popular among travelers as Saptuara forest; this place is a good winter retreat. The place has a lot to offer for tourists ranging from treks and hiking to a whole unexplored wildlife.

Special attractions: there are a lots of hotels that offer stay in three houses which can be of interest. There might also be a few waterfalls to visit in this area. Taking a good day’s hike in the forests can be of great adventure.

  1. Dwarka & Somnath
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Somnath Temple overlooking Somnath Beach 

These places are of high religious importance. Each of them has a unique spiritual experience to offer.

Special attraction: dwarka is home to ‘bet dwarka’ which is like the lost city of Atlantis and is submerged in water. Somnath is one of the ‘Jyotirlings’ which lord Shiva himself has established which makes it a very significant destination for religious and spiritual people alike. Somnath also has a beach.

  1. Diu & Daman
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Diu 

Contrary to popular befief, Diu & Daman are far away from each other. However both of them offer a good winter gateway with coastal climate and beaches.

Special Attraction: it wouldn’t be wrong to mention it is one of special attractions for anyone wanting to unwind a bit. Daman is soon to be host to onshore gaming complexes (casinos) and it has recently been host to Sunburn Music Festival. Diu is known for its Diu Fort and the Naida Caves.

When the travel bug bites all these places can be on the list for the various special attractions they have to offer. Tourists not wanting to travel far off lands can find proximity in all of these places. After all; all of them have ‘Khushboo Gujarat ni’ in common.

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Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Things not to miss out for !! )


For Packages write us on adler-tours@hotmail.com or visit us athttp://www.adler-tours.com

Getting There

Colombo, situated one hour’s drive south of the Bandaranaike International Airport, is the largest metropolis on the island, stretching about 12 km along the coast from its southern beach suburb of Mount Lavinia to the Fort and inland to Kelaniya.  The city’s main roadway, Galle Road, is the main road south to the city of Galle and beyond.  This makes Colombo a convenient resting point at the start or the end of your holiday.  The best way to reach the town from the airport remains a private taxi. Useful drive times include:  Colombo to Bentota (2 hours); Colombo to Galle (3.5 hours); Colombo to Kandy (3.5 hours); Colombo to Dambulla (4 hours).

Historical Background

Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and lies alongside the present administrative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte. Colombo’s port was influential as early as the 5th century when ships from Rome, Arabia, and China traded with Sinhalese kings for food supplies, spices and jewels. Colombo’s destiny changed over the centuries as many nations fought for dominance over the island’s valuable treasures including Arab settlers in the 8th century, followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch and, finally, the British who captured Colombo in 1796. This era of western domination ended peacefully with independence in 1948, followed by a separatist war fought by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) that lasted over two and a half decades, the affects of which were felt through out the country. Terrorism was eradicated from the Sri Lanka in May 2009 and peace continues to rain on the island once more. Through out it all, the city of Colombo has remained stable and comparatively safe and today’s two million population in the city represents a mix of cultures. Sinhalese, Moors, Tamils, Burghers (Dutch descendents), Chinese, and Malay populations all contribute towards the colourful fabric of Colombo society.

Sights

The city of Colombo is a blend of the old and the new.  Seventeenth century buildings – some restored as hotels, shops, and government offices – stand side-by-side with the rest of Colombo’s modern skyline and rudimentary small shops. Several ancient Buddhist temples, Hindu Kovils, churches, and mosques are found in the heart of the city as well as in the suburbs.  Museums, art galleries, golf courses and gyms, spas and salons, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, all add to Colombo’s appeal.

Accommodation

Colombo offers a wide range of accommodation options from the five-star city hotels expected in an Asian capital to a clutch of interesting boutique hotels. There are mid-range city hotels, too, although the great value of the top-end hotels makes it hard for them to compete. There is a shortage of quality guesthouse accommodation in the centre of town. On the outskirts of the centre a couple of villas make a welcome change from standard hotels. The best city hotel is arguably Cinnamon Grand, reinvigorated by the John Keells Group. Their selection of restaurants is unrivalled. Trans Asia and the Hilton trail only marginally behind. Ceylon Continental, a friendly if more limited five-star on the seafront, offers outstanding value. The Galle Face Hotel, which now has a boutique-wing called The Regency, is the favourite for those wanting some colonial charm and a seaside location. Consider Colombo City Hotel as a simple, modern budget choice. If you are after a beach, though, Mount Lavinia Hotel is the only option. The boutique selection includes the stylish Tintagel, opened in 2008, Park Street Hotel run by the acclaimed Taru Villas Group and the eclectic CASA Colombo. For those looking for a villa ambience on the edge of town, choose form Havelock Place Bungalow, Villa Talangama and Java Moon. Mount Lavinia also offers two appealing houses: Mount Lavinia House and Mount Lodge.

Food & Drink

Food is a highlight of Colombo, much more so than you might imagine. You won’t go hungry here with its wide selection of small restaurants serving local hawker-style favourites like meat patties, fish buns, egg rolls, string hoppers, lamprais, kothu roti and biryani. All the local restaurants are extremely cheap. There is also a wide variety of fast food outlets, including McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC. Colombo is the best place in the island for Indian cuisine and the following are recommended: Agra, Mango Tree and Navaratna. For those looking for fusion or European-style food, there are some very special treats. For the quality of its food, especially its meats, Chesa Suisse, a Swiss restaurant, is outstanding. The most popular dining-out experience is at the Paradise Road Gallery Cafe, the restaurant with the most seductive ambience in the island. The owner of the Gallery Cafe, Shan Fernando, has also now opened Tintagel, a private hotel and restaurant that offers a more refined menu. For a more informal open-air dining experience, the Barefoot Cafe, managed by colourful celebrity chef Kollu, is popular and often has live jazz. The best seafood restaurant in the town is Lagoon at the Cinnamon Grand. The best Thai restaurant is the Royal Thai at Trans Asia. There is a huge selection of Chinese restaurants but we recommend two: No. 168 off the Galle Road, which is an authentic no-frills restaurant popular with the local Chinese community, and the Emperors Wok at the Hilton. If you are searching for authentic Sri Lankan food then choose from the Palmyrah Restaurant at Renuka Hotel, the Peninsula in Rajaigiriya suburbs, Hilton’s Curry Leaf and the iconic Green Cabin Restaurant on Galle Road. Colombo by night can be fun with a scattering of pubs and nighclubs that come alive especially on Friday and Saturday nights and features live bands or DJ music.  H20, D’s, and Zetter are more popular with the younger lot.  Bistro Latino, Rhythm & Blues, The Library at Trans Asia and Sugar located on top of H2O appeal to a more mature crowd.  Characterful pubs include the Breeze Bar and Cheers Pub at Cinnamon Grand, Cricket Club Café,  and Inn on the Green nearby Galle Face in Colombo.

Shopping

From buzzing bazaars to stylish boutique outlets, Colombo is increasingly becoming a popular shopping destination within Asia. Odels is Sri Lanka’s most famous shop, a growing department store in the centre of town.  Western-label clothes are sold at a fraction of overseas prices. Other attractions include homewear stores like Paradise Road, Suriya and Gandhara. Saffron Villas is popular for antique furniture. Barefoot is famous for its handspun and vibrantly-coloured fabrics. There are several good quality jewellers. If you want to get a feel for the trading heart of the city, spend a hectic morning wandering the narrow streets of Pettah Bazaar where you will find anything from steel pots to the latest mobile phones. If you accept anybody’s offer to act as a guide, ensure you know the financial basis upon which this has been offered!

Events

Colombo’s streets come alive in January for the annual `Duruthu Perahara’ organised by the Kelaniya Temple and again in February for the `Navam Perehara’ organised by the Gangaramaya Temple.  These processions display traditional folklore, music and the rhythmic dance forms.  Dancers, drummers and flag bearers represent the different provinces. Chieftains in traditional attire and scores of elephants dressed in glittering cloaks are all a part of these colourful pageants.  Vel, a Hindu festival that pays homage to Lord Murakan, takes place in July or August where an ornately decorated Vel chariot, drawn by a pair of snow-white bulls carrying the statue of Lord Murukan, parades the streets of Colombo.  The chariot moves slowly while the drums throb, the bells tinkle, the Tanjore band plays and a “Bajan” gathering singing divine songs follow the chariot.  The arts, sadly, remain largely inactive. The most popular event in Colombo’s art calendar is the Kala Pola (art fair) held in February which sees the shady sidewalks along Green Path filled with the creative works of local artists. Activities

Colonial architecture of Fort & Pettah

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Colombo’s three-mile long rampart, cordoning off the area covered by today’s Fort and Pettah, was originally built in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese and then further developed by the Dutch and the British. Today, it is the commercial hub of the country, consisting of government offices, banks, five-star hotels and the country’s largest wholesale bazaar, which sells a huge range of items. In the Fort many of the old colonial buildings still stand alongside a slowly modernizing skyline.

Geoffrey Bawa Architecture

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The late Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most influential architect, was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. Sri Lanka’s Parliament, which Bawa was commissioned to design, was created in the centre of a vast man-made lake. The building incorporates traditional Sri Lankan and South Indian architectural features with a series of pavilions with copper roofs. We also recommend a visit to the Paradise Road Gallery Café, formerly the studio of Geoffrey Bawa. His imprint still remains strong here with courtyards, ponds, walkways and open pavilions – spaces that inspired a creative genius.

Art Galleries

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Permanent collections & temporary art exhibits of Sri Lankan artists are held regularly at the National Art Gallery, Sapumal Foundation, the Lionel Wendt, Barefoot Art Gallery and Paradise Road Gallery Café.

Music & theatre

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Classical to contemporary forms of music in Sinhala, Tamil and English by local as well as foreign artists is available on CD at various music outlets in Colombo including ODEL, Barefoot, and Torana at Majestic City. Live performances featuring local jazz, pop, and folkrock artists take place at Rhythm & Blues, Barefoot or on a Sunday at the SSC club in Colombo 7. English theatre is limited, but there are occasional local productions that are interesting and usually take place at the Bishop’s College and British School auditoriums or the Lionel Wendt.

The National Museum

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Colombo’s National Museum, established in 1877, is housed in an impressive colonial building in the heart of the city surrounded by extensive gardens. The museum comprises several galleries dedicated to Sri Lanka’s history and cultural heritage, literature, coins, rock sculptures from the ancient cities, period furniture, artistic theatre traditions, as well as a museum of Natural History. The National Museum is closed on Fridays.

Dutch Period Museum in Pettah

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The Dutch Period Museum is housed in the old Dutch House, built by Count August Carl Van Ranzow in the latter part of the 17th century. The museum provides an insight into the Dutch period in Sri Lanka and houses artifacts including furniture, ceramics, coins and photographs. The museum is closed on Fridays.

Kelaniya Temple

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The ancient Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, situated six miles from Colombo, stands alongside the Kelani River. According to the Mahavamsa, Lord Buddha stopped at this ancient temple during a visit to Sri Lanka in 523 BC where he was invited to preach at the invitation of the king. The Buddha sat and preached on a gem-studded throne on which the Buddha sat and preached. This temple is also famous for its image of the reclining Buddha and paintings, which depict important events in the life of the Buddha and history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Bellanwilla Temple

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Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya, located close to Mount Lavinia, has a long and hallowed history. The great sanctity attached to this temple is due to its sacred Bo Tree, which according to ancient texts is one of the thirty two saplings that sprang from the sacred Bo tree at Anuradhapura, planted in the 3rd century B.C. This ancient Buddhist temple houses elaborate statues of Buddha and frescoes depicting his life.

Hindu Kovils

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The city of Colombo has several Hindu Kovils with colourful and ornate statues and shrines dedicated to different gods and deities. A visit to a kovil, especially during the time of a pooja (ritual offering devotion to the gods), is a special experience with the clanging of bells, chanting of prayers and intoxicating smell of oil lamps and incense. The New and old Kathiresan Kovils dedicated to God Skanda, the god of war and victory, are located in Pettah. The oldest kovil in Colombo is the Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthanam.

Churches built during Colonial period

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St. Peter’s Church near the Grand Oriental Hotel in Fort was previously a Dutch Governor’s banquet Hall until first used as a church in 1804. St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk built in 1842 is located on Galle Road next to Cinnamon Grand. Wolvendaal Church (Colombo’s oldest Dutch Church) is in Fort.

Royal Colombo Golf Club

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Royal Colombo, built in 1879, is a welcome escape from the hectic city centre. Located in Borella, a short distance from central Colombo, the course is a green oasis accompanied by a clubhouse of colonial charm. Listen to your attentive caddie to avoid the numerous water hazards. Despite being in the centre of Colombo, the course maintains its tranquillity, although the occasional commuter train running along the 6th fairway can prove hazardous.

Cycling Colombo to Negombo

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If you are looking for a challenge, jump on a mountain bike and take the coastal route to Negombo. Leaving early in the morning from near Colombo docks, the route quickly takes you away from the busy roads and into the communities of the Colombo suburbs. It is a fascinating transition from the commercial hub of Colombo, exploring some of the cities poorer communities before cycling through the fishing villages of this untouristy coastline. A three-hour ride brings you to Negombo, a vibrant fishing port and holiday centre. Lunch well in Negombo before retracing your steps – or hiring a minivan from Red Dot to collect you.

Rock climbing & caving

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Hideaway, a small boutique villa in Wathuregama, offers abseiling and caving in the surrounding natural caves and rock faces. State of the art safety equipment including helmets, headlight torches, abseiling equipment and experienced guides are provided by the hotel. This activity is only for guests of Hideaway and prior notice is required.

Spa

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The Angsana City Club and Spa of the Cinnamon Grand is a luxurious facility providing a range of Ayurvedic and aromatherapy massages and treatments, a fully-equipped gym and roof terrace swimming pool. Crown Saloon, also centrally located, provides Aromatherapy spa treatments as well as beauty and salon facilities. The Water’s Edge Golf & Country Club’s Aryana Spa overlooks the magnificent vistas across the golfing green. This spa features a menu of Balinese, Thai and Ayurvedic relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. The Sanctuary Spa, opened in 2002, in the heart of Colombo city, is a day spa where clients can spend the entire day or just pop in at lunchtime. Red Dot clients get a small discount.

Ayurveda

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The Siddhalepa Ayurveda Centre offers holistic wellbeing based on the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda through their centres located in Dehiwala and Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7. The history of Siddhalepa on this island dates back to 200 years with generations of the owning Hettigoda family playing a vital role in promoting the philosophy of Ayurveda in the country.

Yoga

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Regular Yoga sessions are offered in some of the gyms in Colombo including the Hilton Residencies Sports Center, Global Fitness Gym in Colombo 5 and the Lifestyles Gym in Colombo 7.

Meditation

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Several Buddhist centres in Colombo conduct guided meditation sessions and Buddhist discussions. These include Vishva Niketan International Peace Centre, Sarvodaya, the International Vipassana Meditation center down Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7, Vajiraramaya temple in Bambalapitiya and the International Buddhist Research & Information center (IBRIC) located at the Naradha Centre in Colombo 7. Books, DVDs and recorded audio tapes on Buddhist teachings are also available in some of these Centres.

Colombo area wetlands

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The Diyawanna Oya and Talangama wetlands located in the Kotte suburbs offer opportunities for bird watching. These areas are a combination of tanks, canals and paddy fields which have recently been declared as protected natural areas and are supported by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. Further south, in the suburbs of Piliyandala, is the Bolgoda Lake, Sri Lankan largest natural fresh water basin. Many species of birds, butterflies, monitor lizards and monkeys can be spotted in this area.

Gampaha’s ancient rock temples and wilderness

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The ancient Maligathanne temple and the Pillikuttuwa temples dating back to over 2,000 years are situated in the suburbs in Gampaha about 45 minutes from the main city centre. The Pillikuttuwa temple and its surrounding wilderness covers an area of around 200 acres and consists of a natural forest reserve and several caves. The Maligathanne temple is perched on a two tiered rock that is considered the highest point in the Colombo district with panoramic views. King Valagamba built the rock temple to safeguard the sacred tooth relic which is now enshrined in Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth. Situated over an area of about 65 acres, Maligathanne has 20 caves to explore.

Sri Lanka’s traditional dance

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Traditional dance in Sri Lanka is associated with rituals and ceremonies intended to expel sickness and misfortune as well as evoke blessings during auspicious occasions. There are several dance forms including Kandyan (up country), Sabaragamuwa (central province), Ruhunu (low country). Each of these differs in dress, rhythm of the drums, dance movements, and folk songs. Sri Lanka’s Tourism ministry organises dance performances each Friday at 5:30 pm at the Hotel School Auditorium, 78 Galle Road, Colombo 3. This auditorium is situated right opposite the Cinnamon Grand hotel and nearby several other hotels in the Galle Fort area.

Colombo city walks

Take a stroll through the city of Colombo and experience this vibrant and yet laid back capital city with its mix of ethnic communities living; centuries old colonial period architecture to contemporary Bawa architecture; and road side eateries and restaurants serving a variety of local foods and beverage. Personalised Colombo city walks are now on offer and will take up to three to four hours. The walks are conducted in the evening-time when it’s less humid. The rate includes entry permits, hosting fee, food and beverages while on walk as well as a complimentary beer/wine at the end of the walk. Group of up to six guests are accommodated on this personalized experience. For those preferring to omit the walk and do only a drive through Colombo, there is also a `Colombo City night-drive’ on offer.

We do have packages for Sri Lanka, write us onadler-tours@hotmail.com or visit our sitehttp://www.adler-tours.com

A WALK IN THE CLOUDS


It is a dramatic opening act to an adventurous sojourn. There was a nail-biting and heart-in-the-mouth landing at Paro airport, after lurching through the serrated peaks of some of the highest mountains in the world and a brilliant blue sky. The immaculate airport looks more like an ornate tiered castle with carved windows and wooden roofs – an appropriate portal to this last Shangri-La.

bhutan-traditional outfitI arrive in this country with a blessing –with a sungkeye or a red thread tied on my wrist by a Buddhist priest, warding off evil spirits. Bhutan moves as its own rhythm –sequestered in self-imposed isolation over the years and today following a unique ‘low volume, high value tourism policy’. What is unique about this country is that it has never been conquered, never been occupied by any foreign power. Change came to this Utopia slowly; television and internet in 1999 and cell phones in 2003.

Bhutan is rigidly traditional in so many ways. Even today the Bhutanese life is governed by Driglam Namzhe – an official dress, behaviour and architecture code that traces its roots to Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Tibetan lama and military leader who sought to unify Bhutan.

The Bhutanese are required to wear traditional dress in schools, public offices and at official functions. The men wear the Kimono-like gho, cinched at the waist like a kilt, with incongruous knee length socks and shoes and the women wear the wrap-around skirts with three panels called kira with silk jackets. Many Bhutanese still walk miles on mountain paths to schools and fields and cook on wood stoves.

traditional architectureI love the traditional architecture which is prevalent throughout the country – exquisitely crafted wooden roofs, painted windows, columns and beams. Motifs of double dorjes or thunderbolts with colourful clouds, dragons and lotuses adorn the houses. Most of the agriculture is still done by traditional methods; crops are mostly harvested by hand.

Everywhere I see the unquestioning reverence for the monarch – a whiff of fresh air to my senses jaded by corrupt politicians. “We love our king” is the constant refrain that I hear when I notice locals sporting badges of the royal couple. The perfect counterpoint to all the tradition is the night clubs where young Bhutanese in jeans and spiky hairdos dance the night away.

Uma Paro

Our boutique Hotel Uma Paro looks like a rustic dzong, built in the traditional architectural style of Bhutan, with shingles held down by small stones, well crafted cornices, carved and hand-painted windows and minimalistic interiors.

Our spacious villa comes with a butler – gentle Sengay is our Man Friday, our guide and fountainhead of all things local. He offers archery lessons, lights a wood fire in the room and plans our itinerary. I am reminded of Linda Leaming in her book Married to Bhutan when i meet Sengay: “if I had to name the biggest difference between Bhutan and the rest of the world, I could do it in one world, civility”.

Paro’s main street is short, filled with stout two-storied buildings with rickety stairs draped with swathes of scarlet chillies, small cafes, prayer wheels and handicraft shops. The Rinpung Dzong looms ahead with its roofs and eaves, a striking contrast against the craggy mountains. Dzong were impregnable fortress meant to keep the Tibetan invaders out – today they house monks, temples and serve as the administrative headquarters. Traditionally they were built with no written plan and no nails.

Rinpung dzongAs I enter the dzong, saffron-robed monks scurry across the stone courtyard. I am entranced by the murals and carvings – a sensory overload with motifs drawn from local culture with gods and goddesses, demons and thunderbolts all women into a fascinating narrative. My favourite is the depiction of the legend of the Four Harmonious Friends, a favourite Buddhist tale. Four animals cooperate here to plant a seed, grow a fruit tree, and harvest its fruit to share with each other.

I visit the Dumsteg Lhakhang or the iron bridge temple and learn about the iron bridge builder Thangton Gyelpo, a Tibetan spritiual master who brought the knowledge of ironwork to Bhutan. He is said to have built more than 108 iron suspension bridges around Bhutan and Tibet. This iron bridge lama seems multi faceted – he used to compose folk songs and indulged in opera too!

Chelela PassWe drive through vertiginous forests of spruce, fir and juniper, with wispy lichen draped on silver fir trees, rejuvenated by the deep mountain silence, passing shaggy yaks at higher altitudes. We crunch our way on icy roads to the highest point on Bhutanese roads, the Chele La Pass with a panoramic view of the Himalayas and the second highest peak Jhomolhari. In typical Bhutanese style, the mountains cannot be climbed as they are revered and holy. Through the gossamer folds of multi-coloured prayer flags, weathered by wind and rain, I look down at the photogenic Haa Valley, only recently opened to tourism. Prayer flags flap in the wind all over the country,carrying prayers to heaven like invisible Morse code- for good luck, protection form an illness or help in achieving a goal.

All along the road, we pass crevices in rocks filled with tsa tsa – small triangular mud pies, painted white or gold, contained ashes of departed souls. We hike up to the Kila La Nunnery, clinging to a vertical cliff where more than sixty nuns live in self-imposed isolation, spending their time in meditation and social service. I get a glimpse of the maroon-robed nuns as they go about their daily routine, many of them teenagers. I understand that many families send at least one son or daughter to be a monk and serve humanity in order to earn “heavenly merit”.

Back at the hotel, I soak in traditional hot stone bath to relieve my tired traveller’s muscles. Heated river stones are used to warm the waters, treated with Himalayan salts and infused with camphor leaves. When you strike a Buddhist singing bowl, unseen hands in the next room send a stone rolling down the chute.

National sport of Bhutan ArcheryEven Bhutan’s entertainment is old-fashioned and quaint. Archery competitions can be witnessed throughout Paro and its outskirts, where women pack lunch and cheer the men on and teams celebrate their hits at targets 140 metres away with a victory twirl, a song and dance and trophies of brightly coloured scarves added to their waistbands. I get a glimpse of the influence of the outside world – the Bhutanese spend a lot of money on their hobby and do not use bamboo but expensive high tech carbon fibre bows and arrows!

We visit the National Museum high up on a hill, which used to be an old watchtower of the dzong and was renovated to become a museum. This peculiar circular building is filled with wooden carvings, coin collections, the biggest mask in Bhutan and a stamp gallery showcasing the culture and history of the country over the years. Bhutan is a heaven for stamp collectors – with a variety of stamps, some even with recordings in them.

Far away I see the iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery, clinging to a vertiginous granite cliff strung with colourful prayer flags, where Guru Rinpoche is said to have arrived in the 8th century, on the back of a flying tigress. I regretfully file it under my mental list of “things to do on my next trip”. I wish I was blessed with a capacious pair of lungs but I am not taking chances with the water thin air that has already made me heady.

The winds of change are blowing over this pristine kingdom. In 2006, the fourth king who was a visionary (he set up health care systems, hydroelectric schemes, and banned western-type buildings) not only voluntarily gave up the throne to his son but also ordered that the country hold its first democratic elections. The last Shangri-La may not be as insulated from the modern world as it has been for centuries. May be the best time to see Bhutan is now.

Courtesy by K.T.

20 Things to Do in Ayutthaya


1. Praise the “Maha Ut Chapel”: It has been believed that a visit to a windowless chapel with a single entrance or “Bot Maha Ut” protects us against lethal weapons and magic spells, enables us to avert danger, and makes us invulnerable. This “Maha Ut Chapel” can be seen at Wat Phutthaisawan and Wat Tuek.

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2. Worship the Buddha images and contemplate the murals: Wat Suwan Dararam, Wat Pradu Song Tham, Wat Phanun Choeng, Wat Na Pramen, Wat Kasattrathirat, Wat Sena Sanaram, and Wat Choeng Tha are all adorned with valuable murals that await your visit.

3. Worship the reclining Buddha image: In Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, there are Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Wat Lokayasutharam, Wat Sam Wihan, Wat Puttai Sawan, Wat Dharmikkarat, Wat Sena Sanaram, and Wat Phanom Yong. In Maha Rat District, there is Wat Suwannachedi as for Sena District, there is Wat Bang Pla Mo.

4. Worship the royal monuments: Visit the royal monuments of King U-thong, Queen Suriyothai, King Naresuan the Grea (at Thung Phukhao Thong and Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon) and King Taksin the Great at Wat Phichai Songkhram and Wat Phran Nok in Uthai District.

5. Discover the sumptuous palaces and the architectural masterpieces: Such monuments reflect the prodigious talent and craftsmanship of the Ayutthaya Period. Visit Bang Pa-in Palace, Ancient Palace or Grand Palace, and Chandra Kasem Palace.

6. Visit various museums: Get to know the glorious past of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and learn the history through your visit to its several museums such as Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, Chandra Kasem National Museum, Ayutthaya Study Institute, Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre, Local Museum in Ban Phraek District, Thai Boat Museum, and Million Toy Museum by Krirk Yoonpun.

7. Explore the history of foreign communities in the Ayutthaya Period: Pay a visit to Portuguese Village, Japanese Village and Dutch Village.

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8. Browse through 8 Ayutthaya‘s markets: that are still busy on land as well as in the water such as Wat Tha Ka Rong Floating Market, Hua Raw Market, Thung Khwan Market (Khlong Sa Bua) in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Kong Khong Market in Bang Pa-in District, and Lat Chado Market in Phak Hai District.

9. Have a terrific time discovering local wisdom areas: Admire arts and crafts such as knife-making village at Aranyik in Nakhon Luang District or folk doll-making in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District. Appreciate a diverse range of handicrafts at the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand and Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre in Bang Sai District.

10. Take a pleasure cruise around Muang Islet: To admire the surrounding scenery and way of life of residents along the Chao Phraya River and Pa Sak River. Moreover, food and drink with plenty of options on the menu are at your disposal on board.

11. Enjoy a ride on elephant’s back to see ancient monuments and get to know Thai Elephants at several places such as Ayutthaya Elephant Village and Kraal and Pang Chang Ayothaya & Snake Show in Phai Ling Sub-district.

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12. Enjoy riding a bicycle, which is regarded as environmentally friendly tourism. Bicycles are available for hire at bicycle rental stores, guest houses, in front of the railway station, and tourist police office

13. Join a short trip arranged for tourist groups on a tramcar and listen to guide’s explanation.

14. Go for a ride on Tuk Tuk for sightseeing: A symbolic mode of transport in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya that brings sightseers to discover the length and breadth of the city.

15. Take a leisurely ride in a three-wheel rickshaw “Samlor”: Local public vehicles whose cyclist enjoys telling stories as a member of the community while you appreciate soft breeze.

16. Eat out until dawn at the night market: Visit the market in front of Chandra Kasem Palace, the all-night market in front of Grand Market, Rung Charoen Market, and Bang Suk San Waree Dinner Cruise Ian Market.

17. Experience the delights of a homestay: Assimilate the host’s lifestyle, get a hospitable welcome, and make yourselves at home at OTOP Village in Koh Kerd Sub-district.

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18. Reserve chic sleeping accommodation in the style of boutique hotel: The different accommodation are Iudia on the River, Ayodhara Village, Bansuan Rimnam Resort, Pludhaya Resort & Spa, Ban Luang Chumni.

19. Riverside restaurants with splendid views: Tourists can sit down to tasty meals and take pleasure in looking at magnificent scenery at a wide variety of restaurants along the riverside.

20. Bring the shopping back to your family: It seems as if you have never reached Ayutthaya if you fail to get your family the following things: soup made of curdled blood of pig, noodle soup sold in rowing boat, pork or meat noodle soup, Phak Wan noodle soup, steamed stuffed bun, rice gruel, desserts wrapped in banana leaf, big freshwater prawns, fruit and vegetables. Other interesting souvenirs are Aranyik knives, fan palm leaf mobile woven in the form of fish and model ancient boats.

Malaysia’s riotious Festival


 

Location: Batu Caves, outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Date: Full moon day in the 10th Tamil month of Thai (mid-January to mid- February)

Level of Participation: 1 – watch the pain from the sidelines

The most spectacular Hindu festival in Malaysia is a wild orgy of seemingly hideous body piercings, marking the day when Lord Shiva’s son, Murugan, was given a lance to vanquish three demons. The greatest sight is the kavadi carriers, the devotees who subject themselves to seemingly masochistic acts as fulfilment for answered prayers. Many of the faithful carry offerings of milk in paal kudam (milk pots) often connected to their skin by hooks. Even more striking are the vel kavadi – great cages of spikes that pierce the skin of the carrier and are decorated with peacock feathers, pictures of deities, and flowers. Some penitents go as far as piercing their tongues and cheeks with hooks, skewers and tridents. While it looks excruciating, a trance-like state stops participants from feeling pain; later the wounds are treated with lemon juice and holy ash to prevent scarring.

Essentials: Only the truly faithful should attempt the ritual – insufficiently prepared devotees keep doctors especially busy over the festival period with skin lacerations.

Local Attractions: At the Batu Caves you’ll find monkeys scaling the towering limestone outcrop, and you can climb the 272 steps into Temple Cave, the vast main cavern, where there’s an enormous golden statue of Murugan.

Courtesy:- Lonely Planet.

Festivals Around the Globe in September


Till September 29, 2012

NYC & Company along with Rooftop Films is organizing a films festival in NYC that will allow visitors to watch more than 40 movies outdoors this summer, absolutely free! The venues include Bronx Terminal Market, Coney Island Boardwalk, Dekalb Market, Queens Museum of art, Socrates Sculpture Park, Pichmond Country Bank ballpark & Tompkins Square Park, all of which will host free outdoor screenings of classic movies, blockbuster hits, independent documentaries, shot films & more (nycgo.com/rooftopfilms).

 September 21-23, 2012

The countdown to the Singapore Grand Prix has begun & the city is going all out to make it one of the best this year. Packed with high-octane fun, visitor can book tickets in advance have the change to witness F1 action live.

 

 

September 21-24, 2012

 

The Fests de la Merce in Barcelona, Spain is weeklong festival that celebrates Our Lady of Mercy, the partron saint of the city. It opens with giants & dragons in the Placa Sant Jaume. This is followed by more than 600 events including sardanes [a circular dance typical of Catalonia] and correfocs, a tamper version for kids, a spectacular fireworks display, sporting events and lots of activities for children.

September 22-23, 2012

The people of Sydney love their food and this year, the city comes alive with the Crave Sydney International Food Festival. Food-lovers will have gala time trying to fit all the culinary experiences into their calendars. Iconic Crave events include Barbecue Madness and the night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park.

 

Till September 30, 2012

Goa in the rain is spectacular. Why not take advantage of the season & goo off on a monsoon Vacation? We are offering villas & hotels at discounted rates.

September 22-23, 2012

Ever wondered what was behind the doors of all those beautiful buildings in London? Open House London celebrates all that is beautiful about the capital’s building, areas neighborhoods, which are not ordinarily, open to public. Get under the skin of London’s brilliant architecture & explore over 700 buildings that throw their doors open during this time.

One of The most Beautiful Places – “Pokhara”



Pokhara is the third largest city in Nepal. It is the starting point for most of the treks in the Annapurna area. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful place in the whole wide world.



Getting There

You can travel to Pokhara from the capital Kathmandu using the tourist buses that are readily available or the local microbuses or buses which leave Kathmandu for Pokhara almost every 15 minutes. It takes about 8 hours.
Daily Flights operates from Kathmandu to Pokhara and cost roughly $100 each way and take only 30 minutes from capital. They have the bonus of giving you a bird’s eye view of the countryside and of the panoramic mountains themselves.

Must See


Sarangkot


The perfect pre-trek warm-up. Head up Sarankot in the late afternoon (be prepared, it’s steep and hard work) find yourselves a warm guest house before sunset, go up the top for sunset and again for sunrise… you won’t be disappointed. The road is rough, but traversable. Great views, spectacular images and a great way to get a taste of what it’s like to be trekking.



World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa)


Built about 16 years ago atop a hill overlooking Phewa Tal, the Stupa offers a great place to see the mountains and the sunset over Pokhara. It can be accessed by hiring a boat across the lake and following a pretty good track upward, climbing up through the forest (but watch out for leeches during the monsoon)or by foot from the road that passes Devi’s Fall, turning right at the end of Chhorepatan. Taxis can now drive up to within 15 minutes’ walk of the Stupa – ask them to use the Chhorepatan road, which is shorter and therefore should be a little cheaper than the Kalimati road.

Devi’s Falls


Devi’s Fall is a small waterfall that disappears underground at a depth of 100 feet for a distance of 500m and is named after a Swiss lady, Mrs Devis, who was washed away when strong water came from Phewa Lake in 1961. The falls are at their best in August and September but don’t get too close.





Barahi Temple


Located on an island in Nepal’s Phewa Lake, stands the Barahi Temple. A visit to the island near the center of Lake Phewa is often included on tour packages in the area, and is certainly a must for anyone touring Pokhara. Set in stunning surroundings, many find Barahi Temple a peaceful place to relax, especially after canoing across the glistening waters of Phewa Lake. Its i Must Visit in Pokhara



BindaBasini Temple




Gupteshwar Mahadev

There are two parts. First parts is about 40 meters long, there is a natural cave and temple of Load Shiva. In this first part you are not allowed to take photos. Next parts start after temple which way goes to the down side if Devis fall, the distance about 100 meters from second entrance, from there you can see the view of Davis Fall as well as natural rocks, Electric lights are managed for the convenience of the visitor. After the Lord Shiva temple on second parts of this Cave you are allowed to take photos. Second parts is closed during 4 month of Monsoon (June, July, August and September)





Must Do

Boating in Fewa Lake

Fewa is top destination for tourist as its in the center of the city and is surrounded with most of the city’s finest guest houses, pubs and restaurants. The lake itself is spread about little over 10 square kilometer. Most of the tourist go from the starting of the lake to the end of it. There are no electric boats available, you’ll have to hire wooden boats. You can take the boat yourself of hire the boatman for a little more money. There’s a hindu temple in the center of the lake which attract huge religious tourists every day that temple is Barahi Temple (as discussed earlier).

 



Paragliding

Paragliding in Pokhara is one of the things you should not miss. It is known world over for its convenience and the uniqueness. The tandem flights usually start from a small hill called Sarangkot 30 minutes from the city and lands in the bank of Fewa Lake. There are more than 10 companies that operate paragliding in the city. You can also go for solo flights if you have a license and insurance.



Cycling


There are a lot of bicycle and motorcycle rentals available in the city. You can rent motorbikes for 500 NRS i.e. 6 USD per hour and bicycles for less than half a dollar. The best route for cycling is west of the city along with the bank of the Fewa lake. The route leads you to one of the most beautiful villages of Nepal.

Skyzip

If you’re visiting Nepal after next month or so then you might just get a chance to do the fastest Skyline in the world. In their own words, you’ll be standing on the platform overlooking the majestic Himalayas and a mind-boggling 2000 feet vertical drop. As you jump it goes own in the speed of 160kmph. The zip line is 1.6 meter length and 56% inclined.As I said, its not open for public yet but the construction is complete and is expected to open by next month.


Trekking


You can do trekking in Pokhara itself but Pokhara is the main hub for the trekking in Annapurna region which is one of the most popular trekking destination in the world. The shortest trek from here can be completed within 4 days and the longest goes up to 2 months. A lot of tourist who come for trekking in Nepal start their trekking here and take rest in the city after completing their trekking. There are hundreds of trekking agencies in the city.


Where to Stay

Fish Tail Lodge


Fishtail Lodge is located on an island in Phewa Lake. A raft comes and goes between the island and the main land constantly. It is tied to both shores. A man pulls the rope and the raft moves between the piers. Also there are several boats to serve. When big groups with many luggage’s come, boats are used for recent customers. The reception and restaurant building can be reached by some steps from the pier on the island. The rooms are behind the plants covering whole area when reception is behind you. There is a pool and a souvenir shop here. Rooms are small cottages hidden in the garden, and the garden has hundreds of different flowers. All rooms have a small special garden in front. In short, a Luxury, Spa Resort.







Places Around

Lumbini


Lumbini was where the Buddha was Born & lived until the age of 29. Lumbini has a number of temples, including the Mayadevi temple, and others under construction. Also located here is the Puskarini or Holy Pond where the Buddha’s mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he, too, had his first bath, as well as the remains of Kapilvastu palace. At other sites near Lumbini, earlier Buddhas were, according to tradition, born, achieved ultimate awakening and finally relinquished earthly form.

It takes about 3~4 hours by bus.

Religious Attraction @ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


BATU CAVES

What: A definite must see is the limestone hills known as Batu Caves, which comprises of a series of caves and cave temples. Located 13 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur on the way to Genting Highlands, the caves are also home to a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Muruga.

 

Batu Caves is also a focal point for Hindu festival of Thaipusam, which attracts close to one million Hindu devotees and visitors in late January/ early February each Year.

 

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