Love and longing in Indonesia


jakartataman mini mosque

From the airport to the Ciputra Hotel, on the fringes of the city, is a half-an-hour drive at night. Jakarta, or rather the build-up to the Indonesian capital, is somewhat underwhelming –a feeling that stays with me through the next morning. Jakarta, by day, is crowded (Indonesia is world’s fourth most populated country, and the capital is obviously more than just the tip of the iceberg) and crazy (the traffic jams are in a league of their own); the muggy weather plays its climatic version of spoilsport.

indonesia-love and longingnational monumentulu danu beratan temple

But there are parts of the city – especially the older side – that are beautiful. Cutting through the crowded clutter, you spy colonial (read Dutch) architecture, tree-fringed avenues and interesting eateries. You can grab the lunch at a seafood restaurant called Raja Kuring, a typical Indonesian cuisine is far more unfettered than sya mainland Chinese or Korean (the mix in plate comes from the varied historical and cultural influences – including Indian – the country has absorbed).

Pressed for time, so alongside a traffic-deadened tour of Jakarta – with a mandatory stop at the 137-metre-tall National Monument – a visit to the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. This is supposed to be like a thoughtfully-dressed-up window display of the diversity of Indonesia’s 27 provinces.

dragon springs

The Jakarta fling over, and headed to the airport to catch a flight to the hidden gem: the island of Lombok. Lombok has the potential to be another Bali and locals regard it to be an unspoilt avatar of the eastern world’s Great Tourism Factory. It is easy to say why. Crystal clear waters – one can see the coral formation through and through – and white sands frame the tropical paradise. The drive through Lombok is wondrously rural: there are lush green pastures and rolling hills.

The hotel room overhangs the sea. The waters were lapping gently through the day, but, as the night gets darker, it gets choppier. Sitting out on the porch outside ground-floor room, one can hear the crashing of the waves reverberating in the surrounding stillness. It is magical.

The next day, head off to a gili – that is island in local parlance. There are many gilis lying a short distance away from the main island of Lombok, and it is an exhilarating 10-minute journey on a bumpy, open-air speed-boat. The tropical sun beats down mercilessly, and the humidity continues to soak it.

gunung kawi

The gili whose shores are washed up on is called Trawangan. The villa at the gili hotel has an open-air bathroom and, because all the water on the island is from the sea, there is an urn of treated water left on the side of the shower area. Adventurous people can head for snorkelling and deep-sea diving. There are bonsai stagecoaches that would take you on an island trot. At night, you can hit an alley that looks straight out of a western European small town (there is a reason why it looks like this – tourism from the Occident): bistros, live-cooking cafes, lounge bars…..and music.

Even the weather seems to be behaving itself. In the morning, it is back to being hot and grimy and you would board the speedboat back to Lombok. You will be taken to this consortium of local houses, like a quick-fix hemlet: locals live here, make a living selling their ethnic wares. It is a labyrinth of levels, little huts magically appearing at every nook and corner. One can buy sarongs from them. Next you will fall in line with the rest of the group to catch a flight to Bali.

Bali turns out to be a somewhat of a downer. That is probably because of a displacement theory. The hotel – Discovery Kartika Plaza – is utterly gorgeous. Cottage comes with a plunge pool, there is Balinese piped music playing, the bedroom has a four-poster bed, complete with a flimsy, diaphanous curtain all around it. The downtown area is quaint and touristy with a certain faded old-world charm. The younger and wilder lot of visitors hang out near the beaches.

The next day, last in Indonesia, the group happily passes up the chance to watch a Balinese dance recital in favour of retail therapy. Consumerism always aces culture.

ulu danu beratan temple

There is a shopping mart called Krishna (most of the Balinese population is Hindu, and Krishna appears to be the most popular god: the main square has a wonderful depiction of Krishna and Arjun from the Mahabharat), a slice of shopping heaven: from Balinese souvenirs to Indonesia artifacts to silver jewellery to spa treatment lines to clothes and shoes and what-have-you.

One last meal at a lovely mom-and-pop dinner and you are off the airport. A new airport is allegedly in the works. Which is good news – the present airport, that greets huge traffic, is in a bit of mess.

Indonesia is the archipelago of 17000-odd islands. One dollar is equals 9600-odd Indonesian rupiahs. With just over 100 dollars, one can feel monetarily and momentarily empowered.

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

ACTIVE BALI


active bali

Forget Eat Pray Love, this Indonesian getaway is real appeal lies in its action adventure offerings.

Its lush green rice paddies, pretty white sand beaches, plethora of spas and retreats and frequent colourful festivals make Bali the obvious choice for a relaxing getaway. But not all of us love spending ten days sprawled out on a beach towel soaking up rays. Thankfully, the island’s incredible landscape makes it ideal for numerous activities to inject a little excitement into your trip, too.  Despite its tiny size, each area of the island is quite distinctive, so it’s worth hopping around every few days to experience the best Bali has to offer.

Ubud is perhaps the best known spot, due to its starring role in the ‘Love’ section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s  book (and subsequent film) Eat Pray Love, and the town certainly has a lot  to offer those looking for the same spiritual awakening (some may say midlife crisis) she experienced. The activities available are somewhat serene and, as such, draw those attracted to its slow pace, vegan cafés and the possibility of meeting their very own hunky Javier Bardem.

If you spend any time in the town’s cafés munching on raw cakes and spirulina and berry smoothies (and you absolutely should), you can’t fail to notice leaflets and posters promoting Yoga Barn. The studio offers the usual power yoga and Iyengar to help you destress and lengthen those limbs as well as some more, ahem, unusual activities such as ecstatic dance (dancing like a loony), crystal bowl meditation and sound healing. It’s easy to get swept up in this way of life in a town that wafts with the smell of incense from every temple and seems to encourage clean living and a slower lifestyle with its café culture and pretty surrounds.

To complement your yoga, most of  the town’s guesthouses rent out cheap  bicycles which can be used to explore  the jaw-droppingly beautiful (and  sometimes surprisingly steep) lanes  and roads that wind through the temples and the green rice paddies which  are stacked up on hillsides surrounding  the village. Make sure you remember to pack a camera and plenty of water!

But if Ubud is a little too laid-back to satisfy the adrenaline junkie in you, Kuta is the best spot for some of Bali’s best known activities. People flock to Kuta for its long beaches and great surf.  Whether you’re a beginner or you could  show the Balinese beach boys a thing  or two, the whole town is set up to ensure you have access to everything you need to hit the waves and show off your skills. Unfortunately, that comes at a price. The town is far from beautiful, except the beach, which remains relatively unspoilt. It is no doubt the ugliest part of Bali, and is lined with western style pubs and restaurants and was the site of the tragic Bali bombing in 2002. By day, everyone hits the beach for surf school and to show off their toned abs while at night the town comes alive with thumping music pumping out of a whole street full of clubs.

sanur beachBut to base yourself in Kuta would mean missing out on some of Bali’s most dramatic and beautiful sights so ensure that, if you want to surf, you also allow time to pack up your belongings and stay in a hotel elsewhere for at least a few nights. It is also worth nothing that Kuta is not the be all and end all of water sports on the island. While it is the best spot for surfing and kite surfing thanks to its impressive waves, stand up paddle boarding can be done almost anywhere. Schools tend to be based around the Sanur area which is free from surfers and allows beginners to learn on flat waters before progressing to catching waves on their very first lesson.

If you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, one of the best ways to take in Bali’s coast, temples, mountains and rice paddies is to take an organised bike trip through the very best the island has to offer. There are a clutch of companies offering tours ranging from simple loops around Ubud (which are easy enough to navigate alone) or more advanced trips, such as the popular Mt

lake batur

Batur Crater Rim to Batur Lake route, which involves a hair-raising descent from 1,700m above sea level with the sea on one side and the crater on the other for a lengthy 35.9km. There are a mind-boggling number of companies offering guided tours of most parts of the island, ranging from easy loops of Ubud to challenging mountain descents.

If you’re not very confident on two wheels, you can also scale the island’s volcanoes by foot. In fact, hiking in Bali is big business and there are a number of hikes you can arrange with a guide or for smaller trips, set off on alone. One of the most popular is the sunrise hike to Bali’s tallest mountain, Gunung Agung, which involves a mostly dark trek up the mountain, rewarded with a spectacular sunrise when you reach the top. Many people consider this one of Bali’s most rewarding experiences. There are also numerous hikes through paddy fields, thick forest and waterfalls and hidden temples. If you decide to  hike, do your research in advance to  find out if a guide is needed (sometimes  scammers will tell you a guide is necessary when it isn’t, but in other spots an experienced guide is essential), find out  what you should wear for the journey  and if there are any permits you need  for the walk. A good concierge or tourist information centre will be able to discuss this with you.

A trip to Bali isn’t complete without a little diving or snorkelling. Nearby islands of Lombok and the Gili’s are great for exploring the ocean, but you can find plenty of spots on Bali that are teeming with marine life too. The most popular spot for snorkelers and divers alike on the island is Pulau Menjangan, where you’ll find a reef alive with parrotfish, clownfish

snorkeller

and corals as well as exciting caves and drops in which to explore the local flora and fauna. Tulamben is another option, offering a sunken freighter just metres from the shore, making it perfect for easy snorkelling. Ten days is a good amount of time to spend hopping around the island by taxi or bus and take in its best activities and sights. Travel from one side of the island to the other can take just a few hours if you go directly (significantly more if you take a bus).

The best news is that however active you are, you can rejuvenate your aching body for pocket change. In Bali, you are never far from a great Balinese massage, the island’s traditional and well known techniques of acupressure, skin rolling, and stroking using essential oils to stimulate the lymphatic system. Those who are really interested in the technique can take a short course to master the massage – which is both a brilliantly selfish present and the best souvenir you can take back to friends and family! Everyone is a winner.

Courtesy by K.T.

Paradise by the Sea: Bintan (Indonesia)


 

bintanBintan Island or Negeri Segantang, the largest of 3,200 islands in Riau Archipelago and the third largest of the 27 provinces in Indonesia, is an idyllic retreat offering a wide range of activities. The Island, with an area of approximately 1,140 sq kms and a 105-km-long coastline, is a popular beach destination. The charm and aura of Bintan, primarily a resort island, leaves a lasting impression on the minds of high-end travellers wanting to have a good time with family. The island also attracts Conference and Incentive groups.

A short-haul destination for Indian travellers, Bintan can be accessed from Singapore. Indian visitors can combine their city holidays in Singapore with Bintan as a two to three nights  extension. There is a regular ferry service operated by Bintan Resorts Ferries (BRF) that plies between Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Singapore and Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal, Bintan Resorts. The duration of travel is 55 minutes.

A niche destination as far as the Indian leisure traveller is concerned, Bintan offers a wide range of activities. While the Indian traffic to Bintan has been dominated by the FIT, honeymooners and family segments, there has been a marked increase in Incentive travel groups, corporate meetings and special interest Indian visitors (weddings and religious groups). Bintan has fantastic facilities to lure MICE and Wedding segments.

Bintan_Water_Sports_Bintan_IndonesiaThe Northern Coast of the island is often referred to as Bintan Resorts, a consortium of five independently-owned and operated beach resorts, four designer golf courses, as well as a range of recreational facilities and attractions like spa, golf, water sports, shopping etc. The resorts include Angasana Bintan, Banyan Tree Bintan, Bintan Lagoon Resort, Bintan Lodge, Club Med Bintan Island, Nirwana Gardens and Ria Golf Lodge. These are among the big resorts on the island. For those who like to spike up the holiday with a bit of adrenalin rush, Bintan Resorts offers all-terrain vehicle rides through the challenging forest terrain.

Located within minutes of Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal, and within easy reach of the resorts, are four magnificent championship courses designed by golf luminaries, Ian Baker-Finch, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Gary Player. Beautifully-crafted ornaments and display pieces, beach and swimwear, fashion apparel and accessories, and a host of other items are also available at the resort shops. Tourists can go resort-shop hopping, or explore Pasar Oleh Oleh and Kampoeng Lagoi Leisure Village. For a touch of authentic village life and shopping experience, one can take a day trip to the capital city of Riau Islands—Tanjung Pinang.

Kerala, India- Home of Ayurveda


Of all the places in earth there is just one that is literally shaped by a thousand year old unbroken tradition of Ayurveda. Home to the world’s largest number of qualified and certified Ayurveda physicians, here this ancient system of medicine is practiced to perfection. Here, the humid air, fertile soil and tropical rain forests nurture over 500 species of rare medicinal herbs. Here, centuries old Ayurveda regimens come alive every day. Welcome to the home to Ayurveda. Welcome to Kerala, India

Have some dessert then detox !


Legend of India

What

Legend of India is a fine dining restaurant with a bar, flat-screen TV showing Bollywood movies and a desert takeout counter.

Why

There are not many Indian restaurant in the Philippines but this one along Jupiter Street in the Makati business area has become popular among food critics who gush at its authentic and tasty Indian food prepared by chefs who are, of course, Indian nationals.

Contact

Tel: (632) 836-4232

E-mail: kegendofindia@ymail.com

Remington Hotel

What

Remington Hotel is the newest addition to Resorts World   Manila’s lodging options. Catering to the budget conscious traveler, it offers 623 standard hotel rooms and 89 serviced apartments.

Why

Guests get access to the same gaming and entertainment complex for less. Published rates are 3,900 pesos (US$93) for a standard room and 4900 pesos for a serviced apartment. Both have a maximum occupancy of two adults and two children.

Indian travelers with dietary concerns can also bring their own food to cook in the serviced apartments, which have microwave ovens, refrigerators and electric kettles.

Contact

Tel: (632) 908-8000

Website: http://www.rwmanila.com

The Farm at San Benito

What

Shroff International Travel care is offering a Health and Wellness package with 20 percent discount for 2D/1N weekday or 3D/2N weekend accommodation at The Farm at San Benito in Batangas, a few hours’ drive from Manila.

Why

Those seeking a rejuvenating experience will find it at the upscale wellness centre, which includes an orientation on holistic health services, daily movement and fitness activities such as yoga, meditation, circuit training and aqua aerobics, daily gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea, healthy snacks and more.

Contact

Tel: (632) 524-2222/3636

Email: msrketing@shrofftravel.com

 

Philippine Airlines’ Swing around

What

The national carrier’s Swingaround package airfare and hotel accommodation until March 31, 2013.

Why

included are the Philippine destination o Manila, Cebu, Boracay and Legazpi City in Albay. An optional in Manila is the Jeepney Tours, which includes airport arrivals and hotel transfers. Sale of packages through ravel consultants is restricted to the country where the tour originates.

Contact

Website: http://www.philippineairlines.com

 

Some Tips For Taiwan Travellers’


Fullon Hotel Yamay
What:

Taiwan’s largest domestic hotel chain Fullon has chosen Yamay Recreation World, a popular theme park in Taichung, as the location for its newest hotel. Positioned as a themed resort for family getaways, the 272 room hotel offers both Western and Japanese-style rooms, with facilities such as an indoor pool, spas and VIP services.

Why

The resort offers easy access to Yamay Recreation World. the 25-hectare theme park has a large wave pool that is popular with children, water rides, restaurant, gift shops and performances by local celebrities.

Contact:

Tel: (866-4) 2559-2888

Website: http://fullon-yamay.hotel.com.tw

 

Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival

What

This year’s edition, held from June 29 to September 2 in Taitung’s Luye Township, eastern Taiwan, has drawn balloonists from 13 countries. Visitors are invited to take hot air balloon rides to view Taitung’s beauty from above. Other events include concerts, kite flying, paragliding and trips to local scenic attractions.

Why

Taitung is best known for its rugged, unspoiled scenery and its large aboriginal population, and now wants to promote outdoor recreation. Among local contestants this year is Taiwan’s first female pilot and Taitung native, Wu Chin yeh.

Contact

Tel: (866-89) 3346-119

E-mail: tang_christina@hotmail.com

 

Teng-Feng Fish Ball Museum

What

Teng-Feng Fish Ball Museum in Taipei’s neighboring seaport, Danshui, offers a nostalgic experience with a hands on twist a crash course in making its famed namesake products. A session costs NT$150 (US$5) per person. Exhibits at the museum introduce visitors to local dietary traditions and fishery customs.

Why

Danshui, home to Taiwan’s many seafood delicacies, is also one of the most relaxed places to sample them. within walking distance are Hongmao Cheng, an old Dutch fort, and many of northern Taiwan’s oldest historical sites.

Contact

Tel: (886-3) 2629-9912

E-mail: kflin@tff.com.tw

Could this be the Scariest Hotel Swimming ever ?


Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao’s swimming pool has an exceptional view, as the image above shows.

Part of the indoor pool, which perches atop the 24-story hotel, protrudes from the main building and is suspended mid-air. Its bottom is constructed with toughened glass.

This gives guests a delirious sense of swimming in the sky — they can see the street clearly down below while passers-by on Xiuyan Lu Street can see the swimmers way up above.

“I felt as if I was flying in the sky — I could also enjoy the beautiful scenery of Pudong from here … it’s so cool and wonderful,” a swimmer told CCTV.

“We wanted to provide our guests a unique swimming experience, and let them feel they’re vacationing even in a bustling city,” said a spokesperson from InterContinental Hotels Group, parent company of Holiday Inn.

While not splashing in the water, guests can enjoy Pudong urban views stretching as far as the Lujiazui skyline at the poolside lounge.

First of its kind in China

Exactly 30 meters long (about 98 feet), six meters wide (20 feet) and 1.5 meters deep (5 feet), the swimming pool is the first of its kind in China. It was designed by Singaporean firm Chan Sau Yan Associates, which helmed the interior design of the four-star hotel.

The Holiday Inn Shanghai branch said it gathered input from various architects and even aerospace experts while constructing this sky-high glass-bottomed water container to ensure its safety.

The hotel did not reveal the pool’s construction cost.

The 390-room, four-star hotel — which opened in May 2011, is located in the booming suburb of Kangqiao, which is some 22 kilometers southeast from Shanghai downtown and 30 kilometers west of Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

According to the staff working at the hotel’s gym, the swimming pool is open to hotel guests and a limited number of health club members.

Annual membership for the gym starts from about $2,400 per person.

Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao, 1088 Xiuyan Lu, near Henghe Zhong Lu, Shanghai.  Nightly rate: from $125, www.holidayinn.com

Do you know any cooler hotel swimming pools? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

 

Riding on New Attractions, Hotels


Trans Studio Bandung, Indonesia

What

 

One of the world’s biggest indoor theme parks has added four new attractions. There are some 20 major rides and attractions in total.

 

Marvel Superheroes 4D is a simulator featuring Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Spider-man, while Special Effects Action goes behind the scenes of action films- guests can even take part in a robbery scene. the interactive Science Center has more than 70 exhibits on display, while Kids World offers six rides such as a mini train and bumper boat.

Why

A great family attraction providing a wide range of attractions for different age groups, this indoor park allows for visits any time of the year. Musical performances and shows are also staged periodically.

Contact Tel: (62-22) 9109-9999
http://www.transtudiobandung.com

Pulomas X’Venture, Indonesia

What

Built on 34 hectares, this new Jakarta mall puts the highlight on equestrian activities. Apart from diverse retail and entertainment options, the mall offers open air F&B outlets enclosed by horse racing tracks that allows guests to enjoy live horse show. Other facilities include jogging and cycling tracks, a trampoline, a flying fox and a park with labyrinth tunnels.

Why

The mall’s unique concept allows travelers to shop and enjoy outdoor and indoor activities at the same time.

Contact Tel: (62-61) 2553-9388
http://www.pulomas-xcenture.com

Simply Valore Baros

What

Newly opened in Bandung, the 50-room budget hotel caters to travelers with families. Hotel facilities include 30m2 deluxe rooms with triple beds, Wi-Fi Internet and meeting rooms seating up to 120 pax.

Why

Part of The Edge superblock project, the hotel has outdoor activity areas ideal for family gatherings or tram building activities. It is located near Jakarta-Bandung toll road’s Baros exit, a 20 minutes drive from Bandung’s city centre.

Contact Tel: (62-22)
http://www.simplyvalorebaros.com

Harris Sentul City

What

Opened in February, Harris Hotel Sentul City offers 160 rooms, a swimming pool, a kid’s club, a spa and seven meeting rooms – including a 500 pax ballroom. Situated between Bogor and Jakarta, it is close to several golf courses, the Sentul International Convention Center and the Sentul International Circuit.

Why

With its countryside atmosphere and being just 30 minutes from Jakarta, it is ideal for both leisure and MICE travelers.

Contact Tel: (62-21) 2868 – 9999
http://www.tauzia.com

The Wow Experience Vancouver – Victoria – Whistler


Vancouver

About the City –

Vancouver is a tourist delight. Few cities in the world offer Vancouver’s combination of a big city lifestyle and outdoor fun in such close proximity. Dining, shopping and visits to local places of interest all within walking distances make Vancouver a traveling paradise.


Getting There !
Vancouver Int’l airport – YVR   

Places of Interest

  • Stanley park
  • Granville Island
  • Gastown
  • North Shore Mountains
  • Yaletown
  • Vancouver Aquarium
  • Chinatown


Victoria

Victoria is Capital of British Columbia. weather you wish to stroll along the causeway in the Inner Harbor, enjoy whale watching, indulging in the west coast cuisine or partake in the English tradition of Afternoon tea and pasties at the Bengal Lounge in the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel… Victoria is simply breathtaking.


Getting There !

  1. 30 minutes by Float Plane from Vancouver
  2. 3 hours by BC Ferries from Vancouver


Places of Interest

  • Zipline Adventures
  • Butchat Gardens
  • Atique Row
  • Market Square
  • Whale Watching


Whistler

Whistler is a place of Scenic wonder. Outdoor adventure and quaint mountain village atmosphere. Both a winter and summer destination, Whistler offers breath taking sights and great activities like Ziplining and Quad – Biking while staying at a world class resort at the foot of the mountains.

Getting There !

  1. 3 hours by road from Vancouver
  2. 2 hours Rocky Mountaineer (Whistler Sea to Sky Climb)


Places of Interest

  • PEAK2PEAK Gondola
  • Whistler Village
  • Squamish- Lil’wat Cultural Center

  • Whistler Olympic Park

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