Category: Destination Tips

Interesting Facts on ‘Dev Diwali’, Varanasi’s Festival Of Lights

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First, let’s not mix Dev Deepawali up with Diwali, despite the fact that both have lights or Deepa as the central theme in their rituals. The holy city of Varanasi plays host to Dev Deepawali or Dev Diwali every year, celebrated after 15 days of Deepawali. It is observed as a mark of Lord Shiva’s triumph over the mystic demon Tripurasura. So, this festival also goes by the name of Tripurotsav and falls every year on Kartik Purnima (the auspicious full moon day according to the Hindu beliefs).

This auspicious day is swarmed by devotees turning up in large numbers to take a dip in the holy river of Ganga, also known as ‘kartik snan’. Prayers to Goddess Ganga are performed, flowers offered followed by the lightning of diyas or clay lamps known as ‘Deepdaan’ to the ‘Ganga Ma’ or ‘Mother Ganges’ in the shades of evening. As the sun descends at the Varanasi ghats glittering diyas galore in every single step on the stairs leading to the river’s edge. In fact, every time in the city of Varanasi is filled with brightly lit lamps, adding to the festive atmosphere of the city.

Glowing diyas and vivid colours in every corner of the ‘cultural capital of India’ manifest a sense of joy, divinity and awe. It is widely believed by the Hindus that Gods come down to Varanasi for bathing in the Ganga, something that makes this festival quite unique. Once you are in the Varanasi ghats in the evening, you shouldn’t miss out on the divine ‘Ganga aarti’ that takes place on the embankments of Ganga, amidst the sparkling waters and incessantly ringing bells – a truly breathtaking spectacle! Hindu pilgrims, tourists and travellers gather in large numbers to worship Ganga Ma, whilst also experience the spiritual bliss of the festival of lights.

Dev Diwali, religious festivities apart, is also an occasion when Varanasi goes into a patriotic mode and remembers all its martyrs by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the main ghat in the city. The event concludes with a closing ceremony conducted by the Indian armed forces followed by the conferring of the Bhagirath Shourya Samman. Also, patriotic songs, bhajans and hymns are performed on this occasion.

Must-Know facts on the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai, TamilNadu

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Just when the Muslim rulers were trying to impose control over the sovereignty of Madurai, the Nayaks of South India thwarted the advance of Muslim power in TamilNadu. Standing the test of times is the 17th century Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai, one of the most important touring destinations of Tamil Nadu, built by the Nayak rulers, who ruled from 1545 till 1740’s. This magnificent structure, erected in 1636 AD and continued till 1659, was the living palace of the Nayak Kings. The palace was constructed to mark the shift of capital from Trichy to Madurai for the administrative and strategic reason. The design of the palace was made by an Italian architect, and its construction was a confluence of several schools of architecture namely European, Dravidian as well as Islamic types, representing the Saracenic style of architecture.

It is unfortunate that most original possessions of the Thirumalai Nayak Palace have been either ruined or usurped by its own rulers and what remains today is mostly a mere quarter of its chattels. It was Lord Napier, the governor of Madras (now Chennai) between 1866 and 1872, who restored the entire structure. The Indian Government, post-independence, declared Thirumalai Nayak Palace as a national monument and, to date, continues to be an important historical landmark of Tamilnadu.

With richly ornate exterior as well as the interiors, the palace, which is just 2km away from the Madurai Meenakshi temple, is famous for its “Stuccowork” on its impressive domes and grand arches. There is a wide range of architectural wonders from the imposing pillars to the overall splendid structure. There are totally 248 pillars in this lofty palace each measuring 82 feet high and 19 feet wide. The two main divisions of the palace include Swargavilasa & Rangavilasa. You will be able to find a lot of attractions in these two parts viz. a shrine, royal residence, apartments, royal bandstand, armoury, dancing hall, garden and pond.

On stepping into the palace a large central courtyard, surrounded by a circular garden and circular pillars, welcomes you. The palace’s entire structure is made of foliated brickwork, whilst the glossy and smooth texture of the stucco used shell lime or chunnam. The finial topped and gold covered pavilions on both sides of the courtyard make a beautiful sight. The place has also caught the attention of several renowned filmmakers including Mani Ratnam, who shot several scenes of his film “Iruvar” (1997). You also get to enjoy the enthralling sound and light show, which lasts for about 50 minutes, here – a real treat for history and culture lovers.

Facts to Know About the Kruger National Park in North Eastern South Africa

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The Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in South Africa, is synonymous with ‘safari’. Located in the North eastern region of South Africa, the Kruger is the country’s flagship national park. The area and South Africa safari have a lot to offer you; all you need to do is find a suitable accommodation to make the best use of the trip to the region. Here are a few intriguing things you would like to know about the Kruger National Park:

1.The Kruger National Park stretches across two of South African provinces: Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Both these regions provide the opportunity to enjoy and experience South African Safari.
2.It stretches 350kms from the Limpopo River to the Sabie River in the north and south respectively.
3.The vast Kruger National Park covers about 2 million hectares of land.
4.The size of the park is estimated to be that of Wales.
5.The Kruger National Park was established in 1898, and is currently one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries/safari sanctuaries/game sanctuaries in the world.
6.There are three unique habitats within the expanse of the natural wildlife; the central savannah region, the deciduous trees and grassy southern region, and dry mopane scrub (Colophospermum mopane) land in the northern region.
7.You can find the famous Big Five in the Kruger park – leopard, lion, elephant, the rhino and buffalo.
8.There are speed limits for the visitors so as to not scare away the animals crossing the road and respect them in their natural surroundings. You will be instructed never to leave your vehicle for safety.
9.Things to see in the Kruger: The Big Five, Africa’s Small Five, The Big Six Birds, Big Five Trees, Africa’s Super Seven, Africa’s Elusive Eleven ,Jock of the Bushveld Route, Letaba Elephant Museum, Stevenson Hamilton Memorial Library and archaeological sites of Masorini, Thulamela and Albasini, Olifants camp, Nkumbe and Tshanga lookout points, Lake Panic bird hide and Sunset dam.
10.You can get to experience 5 wilderness trails, backpacking trails, night drives, mountain bike trails, 4×4 adventure trails, night drives, self-drive safaris, bush barbeques and busk walks. There are roughly nearly 3000 kms of game viewing roads, 14 picnic sites, 11 bird hides (such as are ‘sleep-over’ hides), restaurants, shops, swimming pools at all main camps. Skukuza, being the largest camp, encloses a bank, a library, a church, a doctor, a plant restaurant, an ATM machine, two swimming pools, golf course and a conference centre.
11.Usually, the best game viewing season is late winter as the vegetation turns out sparse and waster resides to water holes and river, though there is decent game viewing throughout all seasons of the year.

Five Best Shopping Malls in Bangalore

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Bangalore (now Bengaluru) is a shopper’s paradise with a number of shopping malls spread in and around the city. The beauty of shopping in Bengaluru is that you can find traditional as well as modern shopping malls the best of both worlds. The shopping malls draw increased footfalls during the weekends. Here are five of the best shopping malls for shop alcoholics in Bengaluru:
1.The Forum Shopping Mall:
It is one of the biggest shopping malls in Bengaluru. Some of the popular available retail outlets include KFC, McDonald, PVR Cinemas, Pizza Hut and more. The shopping mall, which covers a total area of 780,000 Sq.mtrs, is located at Hosur Road in Koramangala and is open from 10 AM to 10 PM.

2.Garuda Mall:
Spread at an area of 126,000 Sq.mtrs, the Garuda Mall, located at Magrath Road in Ashok Nagar, is a multi-level shopping mall. Some of the popular retail outlets here include Provogue, Sony, Adidas, Marks and Spencer, Fab India, etc.

3.Esteem Mall:
One of the most popular malls in Northern Bengaluru, located at Hebbal Kempapura, the Esteem Mall has a number of retail outlets such as Mc Donald’s, Peter England, Monte Carlo, eZone, Nike and much more! Built in area of 125,000 square feet, the Esteem mall has everything that it takes to give you an enjoyable shopping experience.

4.UB City Mall:
One of the most luxurious shopping malls in Bengaluru, situated at Vittal Mallya Road. You can find a number of expensive retail brand outlets such as Etro, Café Noir, Estee Lauder, Burberry and many more.
5.Mantri Square:
One of the largest shopping malls in the city and probably one of the largest malls in the country. Covering an area of 1.7 million square feet, you will be required to spend an entire day to explore the mall. It has everything in for you to hang out with your family and friends including entertainment zone, food courts, hypermarket, multiplex and many more.

All About the Kaziranga National Park in Assam

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Situated on the banks of the great Brahmaputra River in Assam, the far North Eastern part of India, the Kaziranga National Park that covers a total area of about 430-sq-km with its vast swamps and tall undergrowths of elephant grass makes it a perfect habitat for the Indian One-Horned Rhino, an endangered species. Once a place known for free poaching, the Kaziranga National Park was made a wildlife sanctuary in 1940.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, then Kaziranga is the place to be. The Kaziranga National park’s 430 square kilometer area abounds with swampy lagoons, elephant-grass meadows, thickly populated forests and is abode to over 2200 Indian one-horned rhinoceros, roughly 2/3rd of their total world population.
Besides the symbolic greater one-horned rhinoceros, this park is a natural habit for elephants, Hoolock Gibbon, Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear, swamp deer, wild water buffalo, Hog Badgers, Capped Langurs, Monitor Lizards, Leopard Cats, Jungle Cats, Otters, Jackal, Wild Boar, Capped Langurs, Hog Deer, Indian Bison, etc. Over the time, the popularity of tiger has also increased manifold in Kaziranga, and therefore Kaziranga, in 2006, was declared as Tiger Reserve. Furthermore, the park is given the status of ‘Important Bird Area’ by BirdLife International for the preservation of avifaunal species. Birds such as ferruginous duck, lesser white-fronted goose, greater adjutant, lesser adjutant, Baer’s Pochard duck, Asian Openbill stork and black-necked stork particularly migrate from Central Asia during the winter period.
Because of the differences in altitude between the western and eastern areas of the park, you can get to see four vegetation types: alluvial savanna woodlands, alluvial inundated grasslands, tropical semi-evergreen trees, and tropical moist mixed deciduous woods. Some of the popular trees that can be found in the park include Indian gooseberry, Kumbhi, elephant Apple and the cotton tree. There is also an excellent range of aquatic flora seen in ponds, lakes and along the river beds.
Some of the major tourist attractions in and around the park include Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary, Orang National Park, Kakochang fall, Addabarie Tea Estate, and Deopahar. An extended tour schedule must be useful to visit Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Manas National Park, Guwahati, Nameri National Park, and Shillong.
The park, undoubtedly, is renowned for its excellent wildlife conservations efforts and its vast expanse of marshlands, forests and elephant grass makes it all the more beautiful when the River Brahmaputra is in full flow. The month November to April is the recommended time to visit the Kaziranga National Park.

Facts About Sultan Bathery in Wayanad, Kerala

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Sultan Bathery, previously called Ganapativatom, is a historical town nestled in the Wayanad district of the state of Kerala. Situated on the KarnatakaKerala border, this can be the perfect spot for a oneday outing any time. It is separated by 4 km from the centre of Mangalore city. This calm and quaint town was, at one time, invaded by the famous ruler of Mysuru Tipu Sultan, who made use of the famous Jain Temple there like a bathery, and thus the name. Sultan Bathery, therefore, isn’t just a historical town but also ravishingly picturesque for it is surrounded by green hills with vast stretches of grasslands and meadows interlaced with the gentle terrain.

Sultan Bathery, today, is an important town and a centre of commercial activities in the region of Wayanad. The chief source of income is through agriculture and tourism. The invasion of Tipu Sultan gave Sultan Bathery a unique flavour as it embraced the selfimposed Muslim culture and retained the local flavour of the place as well. It is said that the ruler Tipu Sultan raised a magnificent fort here, the remnants of, which fails to exist today.

Tourist attractions in and around Sultan Bathery:
There are quite a number of places to explore in and around Sultan Bathery. However, the best-known places include the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the Edakkal Caves. Known for its aromatic hills and scenic splendour, Sultan Bathery is a lovely hamlet with a rural setting. You can find exquisite spice gardens scattered around the region. The rich flavour and aroma of spices stay in the air as you pass through this rustic historic town. The weather is calm and balmy all throughout the year owing to its high altitude, just like any other town in Wayanad.

Sultan Bathery has excellent connectivity by road from Mysore, Bengaluru, Kannur, Mangalore, Calicut and many other South Indian cities.  Its charming, calm and picturesque vibe makes make Sultan Bathery a must visit tourist destination once you are in Wayanad.

Facts About The Singapore Ducktour

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There is no better way to explore the city of Singapore than going on a ride on the Singapore Duck tour. An hour-long journey, the original Ducktours takes you an inch closer to some of Singapore’s historical landmarks, popular skyline and beautiful bay view. This award-winning tourist destination houses Asia’s very first amphibious themed attraction and has covered 1 million passengers to date with 14 years of complete safety and best in tour experience record. While you are in Singapore, you shouldn’t miss out on the one-of-its-kind Ducktour making harbour and city sightseeing a joyful experience.

The 60minute Singapore Ducktour, above all, is the link between the past and present and, perhaps, the future. You can easily capture some of Singapore major monuments around the Bay area and Central Business area while you are onboard the car. These ‘ducks’, in fact, are from the Vietnam war.

Popular Landmarks you will see:
The Singapore Ducktours lends you an amazing view of the famous Civic District where you’ll find important landmarks like the Padang, City Hall and the Civil War Memorial.

Upon getting down into the river, you’ll get a closer view of Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum, the Esplanade and the Merlion whilst cruising on the beautiful Marina Bay the point where the popular Singapore River converges with the open sea.

You can easily capture Singapore’s popular touring destinations including Singapore Flyer, Fountain of Wealth, Esplanade, the Singapore Cricket Club and Civic District. The Ducktours, which runs hourly, is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily while there are also Mandaringuided tours available on selected timings every day. The booking of the tours can be made online on their website. Alternatively, phone reservations and counter-purchase facilities are also available to purchase tickets.

To Enjoy a Singapore duck tour contact Emperor Traveline For Tour Packages

Nightlife In Coorg

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Nightlife in Coorg is not something we hear it often, but it does exist. We have presented in this rather short blog what nightlife is all about in Coorg and where you can find a few good bars in the hill station to spend the night out with your family and buddies that is when the sun is down and the lights flicker on. Though the bars and pubs don’t hoot in the wilderness of the night nor do they dance up to earsplitting music; they aren’t too unexciting either.

Hive Bar:
The Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa, Coorg brings you exotic drinks available at the Hive Bar which lends a beautiful and comfy seating with a variety of food to gently smack on. A sparsely crowded bar, it has decent live music and presents a stunning view of the gorgeous hills. Things to try: chilli infused vodka at the bar.

Planter’s Club – The Bar:
An amazing place to stare at the skies at night, The Planter’s Club Bar boasts of a classy decor and a great vibe embracing a myriad of cultures. You will be mighty pleased by the exceptional service at Planter’s Club Bar making it a toprated bar in the hill station.

The Lost Horizon:
Situated near St. Joseph’s Convent, The Lost Horizon is another great bar to chill out, when in Coorg, with a range of drinks and beverages including warm and sparkling wine. The warm interiors give a ‘Victorian’ pub feel to it. This bar is gaining popularity with foreign tourists who come here for a chilled beer and to experience the nightlife.

The Deck:
Nestled snugly on the lap of The Tamara Coorg resort, this is a peach of a place, one that can almost guarantee extraordinary comfort and luxury. The Deck can be best described as ‘tranquillity in the centre of wildernesses’. The lovely highend decor is slightly inconsistent but, maybe, that is its selling point. It has an assortment of drinks to offer, and you are assured of a decent nightlife experience here. Well, it’s time to hang out for the night in Coorg!

All About the Famous San Agustin Church at Intramurous in Manila

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The San Agustin Church, located on General Luna Drive at Intramuros in the capital city of Philippines, Manila, is one of the most beautiful places to ring your wedding bell. It is the country’s last surviving church, and UNESCO, rightly so, formally announced it as a World Heritage site in the year 1994. The design of the church is based on Spanish architecture and Baroque style of art. The San Agustin Church is usually open between 8:00am12:00 and 1:00pm6:00 pm daily for a congregation and public view. Next to the church is the San Agustin Museum. Though the entry to both the church as well as the museum is free, you are required to donate once you’re at the museum.

The oldest surviving church:
Originally called the Church of St Paul, the San Agustin was constructed in 1571 and is the oldest surviving church of the Augustinian Order. A series of disasters struck the church first, an invasion by Chinese pirates in 1574 and then when fire, unfortunately, broke out in 1583 and 1586. The safest bet back then was to reconstruct the church in stone, which happened between 1587 and 1604. Disasters followed one after another, this time in the form of earthquakes that rocked the church in 1645, 1754, 1863 and 1880, and a brutal ransacking of it in 1762 by the British. In 1945, the church was again battered in the battle of Manila following World War II. However, it stood the test of times in Intramuros, even when natural calamities brought about the destruction of the Manila Cathedral, another admired church in the Philippines.

You will be awed by the interior of the church with its ceiling and walls covered by splendid trompe l’oeil murals. If you climb upstairs through the museum, you can have a 360degree view of the interiors from the choir loft. Chandeliers dating to the early 14th century adorn the interiors of the church. The architectural style gives you the best of both worlds medieval charm and European modernity.

The 60odd benches or seats in the choir loft will remind you of the 17th-century furniture style, the hand carvings, in particular, crafted out of Molave, a tropical hardwood, which was in vogue. It is refreshing to see ethnic style from the bygone era managing to survive and pull through. The San Agustin Church also houses the remains of Spanish Conquistadors including Lavezares, Juan de Salcedo, Goiti and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The San Agustin Church and Museum, should, undoubtedly, be on your bucket list when you fly to Manila. You will be glad you did!

Why is Konya One Of The Culturally Rich Centres of Turkey? – Part 1

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This week we will see Turkey’s oldest and culturally rich cities Konya, known in the Roman times as Iconium. The city of Konya served as the capital city of the Seljuk Turks between the 12th and 13th centuries and emerged as the cultural destination of the country.

The period between the 12th and 13th centuries saw tremendous political, religious and political growth thanks to the Islamic mystic Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, the founder of a Sufi order known popularly as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’ in the West or ‘Mevlevi’ Order in the East. One of the most outstanding architectural buildings is the remarkably greenmausoleum that of Rumi. Also part of the mausoleum is an area that was once the dervish seminary which now is a museum containing manuscripts of Mawlana’s work and several artefacts of the teachings of the Mevlevi order.

There is an annual ceremony or ‘Urs’ held here, during the month of December, to commemorate Maulana Rumi and the Mevlevi order where mystics of the order, clad in a white robe, whirl around the hall in a trancelike state or ‘Sema’ to the traditional tune of the Sufi musicians, symbolizing their infinite love for the creator. The Sema is now a huge spectacle in Konya, attracting thousands of tourists every year.

The Alaeddin Mosque (also spelt as ‘Alaettin’) is the biggest and oldest mosque in Konya, built by the great Seljuk ruler Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in 1221, atop the Alaettin hills. You will find the remnants of the Seljuk Imperial Palace on one side of the Alaeddin Mosque. There is also a museum, the Karatay Madrasah, which exhibits the strikingly bold Seljuk ceramics. The İnce Minareli Madrasah, constructed in 1264, found on the other end of the mosque, is visited for its eyedazzling ornate Seljuk portal. Take a few steps on around the mosque to find the Sahip Ata Complex and the Sırçalı Madrasah. If archaeology fascinates you, then Konya’s Archaeological Museum is a must see. At the Koyunoğlu Museum, you can find an assortment of collection from old kilim rugs to natural history. Inside the museum complex, the İzzettin Koyunoğlu house that has been restored represents the stylish and opulent way of life of the Konya family of the bygone era.

There is more to come on the medieval city of Konya in the concluding part of the blog.