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Ayubowan!

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Ayubowan! ( A form of greeting, much closer to ‘Hello’ or ‘Namastey’).

There’s a land blessed with aquamarine beaches, excellent ancient history, centuries old architectural marvels, immense natural beauty of the hills, amazing hospitality, culture and sumptuous food. On the first look this land looks puny, located in the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. But it give us more as we dive in! Yes, I am talking about Sri Lanka; the special land where ancient history blends so well with modernity without a crease!

The day began with a walk into the largest fish market in Lanka; the Negombo fish market. As the day dawned, shop owners were prepping up their little shops, displaying their catch from the early morning, cats waking up from their slumbers and a tub of live crabs being cranky, cackling to get out!

Eeek! live crabs

Eeek! live crabs

 

A bunch of big fishes are transfected to be sold

A bunch of big fishes are transferred to be sold

 

Fishing it out!

Some customers have come earlier bargaining a good price for the fishes displayed. A fisherman chops up the large tuna and packs it up into black polythene bags. Just behind him, the sea is calm, occasionally waves roaring big.

 

A find vendor sits in front of his catch

A find vendor sits in front of his catch

Moving into the town of Negombo, I stop for a light breakfast; fish dumpings, onion buns, aaloo stuff buns and fish+ egg bun downed over a pack of Milo drink, from Perera and Sons, a snackery that has a number of branches all over Sri Lanka.

light breakfast – Fish dumping and fish+egg rolls

From Negombo, we move towards one of the prime attractions of this country, that always shows up in tourism blogs and photos of Lanka; The Pinnawala Elephant orphanage. This orphanage caters to elephants who have been mistreated, injured and aims at the wellbeing of these gentle giants as they show up generously in the cultural fabric of Lanka. Spread over a vast land, this centre offers elephants a lovely loving home, with proper food, medication, the Oya river for bathing and fun, and enormous funds from well-wishers. As I look on, smaller elephants play with onlookers, seeking attention with trunks and their gimmicks! Some smaller elephants roll over in the muddy river, and defecate directly on. A few chew on palm leaves as baby elephants attract attention of every animal lover around! Just being cute as they are!

The Oya River and the elephants

 

Attention seeker

Attention seeker

Elephant galore

Elephant galore

A tiny fellow

A tiny fellow

A tourist gets up close with a tusker

 

A good one and half hours spent with these beautiful creatures gave me an opportunity to understand why Srilankan culture has such high values of this animals. And yet, we see them being rides to the tourists, being paraded for the fancy of the foreigners on many occasions. However, I hope that the condition of these animals improve everywhere in the world.

Off Pinnawala, the ancient Rock temple of Dambulla was not so far away. The rock temple is very interesting as it is said to have been built in the first century BC. With beautiful architecture, statues and paintings inside, the cave temple is a place of worship, pilgrimage, and tourist interest. A huge golden Buddha statue sits high just at the entrance. Owing to the extreme ancient art inside, photography is not allowed inside the temple.

The Golden stupa of Dambulla

The Golden stupa of Dambulla

From in front of the Dambulla Temple

From in front of the Dambulla Temple

However, the cave temple is beautifully lit with lamps, surrounded by a number of ancient paintings on the walls, apart from centuries old statues of Buddha and his disciples.

Off Dambulla, as we move towards Sigriya town, the sun lends its last few rays of the day; leaving back the twilight. Sigriya comes in, as a smaller town, with winding roads between lush green landscape and a fortress in the far, my destination for tomorrow.

Sigriya fort is a rock fort and a finest example of ancient art and architecture. This is a UNESCO heritage site as of now and the maintenance of this art is well done! The fort is built on a huge rock with grooves and cuts that serve as steps, and a treasure of ancient paintings on the inside walls. A flight of over 300 steps serve to take one to the top of the fort. Young kids to senior citizens, everyone shows equal enthusiasm to climb up the fort. The fort is surrounded by shrines amidst lust green trees and shrubs. Macaque monkeys jump on the trees and shrines, with little ones tightly hugging their bellies.

DSC_0323

Climbing atop Sigriya

Climbing atop Sigriya

Paintings in Sigriya fort – dating back to 1st BC

 

 

Paintings in Sigriya fort – dating back to 1st BC

 

Ancient fountains and great baths just like the Harappan ones are constructed on the front garden of Sigriya fortress. From atop the fortress, at a height of 660 feet from the ground, a major part of Sigriya town and Dambulla statue can be seen.  It’s a beautiful view and that’s the highlight of this enormous climb.

During the fortress climb

During the fortress climb

After Sigriya being hungry was beyond doubt. So, I head over to a cozy lunch shack for an authentic Srilankan lunch. For a meagre amount of 250/- Srilankan rupee, I get a good mount of white rice, sided by fresh vegetable curries including dal, spinach, bottle gourd and a fine slice of fish. It’s sumptuous and so nutritious, all made on a coconut base.  The food so has similar flavours as that of Malayali food, that I just feel right at home!

The yummy lunch of rice, fresh dal, bottle gourd curry, spicy fish! Mmm

The yummy lunch of rice, fresh dal, bottle gourd curry, spicy fish! Mmm

Polonnurawa ancient city was my destination after the fabulous meal as the city of the Polunnaru kingdom is much talked about for its art and architectural beauty. As a world heritage site, this city is constituted by architectural relics over an area of 10 kilometres in periphery. Stupas, minarets, palaces, halls, temples, statues and mini-fortresses make this site as impressive as it claims. Neatly manicured shrubs adorn the gardens in front of these buildings.  Monkeys thrive alongside komodo dragons who bask in the sun on the lawns.

Palace - Polonnaruwa

Palace – Polonnaruwa

Ruins- polonnaruwa

Ruins- polonnaruwa

Ancient Polonnaruwa city and its ruins

 

 

Stupa ruins- Polonnaruwa

Stupa ruins- Polonnaruwa

Ancient Polonnaruwa city and its ruins

Ancient Polonnaruwa city and its ruins

Some tourists can access cycles to roam around the ancient city, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. Hawkers and shop keepers sell SriLankan masks, stone statues and fresh king coconuts. I bargain for an exquisite art piece made of clay, make my purchase and carefully toss it into my bag.

Curios on display

Curios on display

Kandy is located amidst the hills of the Kandy plateu located in the central region of SriLanka. As the second largest town, this city boasts of lakes and gardens topped with a great hill view. Slightly cold the city is, during mornings, but by the evenings, its charm just doubles. Neat roads and shopping malls, hemmed by tradition, temples and restaurants are the main attractions of this city for a foreigner.

Kandy Lake  in the evenings

Kandy Lake in the evenings

 

City of Kandy

City of Kandy

 

 

The Temple of the Tooth Relic

The Temple of the Tooth Relic

 

Kandy City

Kandy City

 

The sumptuous meal at Kandy Muslim Hotel

The sumptuous meal at Kandy Muslim Hotel

From Kandy, Nuwara eliya is a couple of miles away. Called the tea-garden and Little England of SriLanka, this hill town was a much coveted town for the British rulers, after they were tired of the hot climate, throughout the rest of the country. With a picturesque landscape and chilly climate, Nuwara Eliya is a sought after destination for the honeymooners in Lanka.

The hills of Nuwara Eliya

The hills of Nuwara Eliya

Lake Gregory Park with Swan Boats for a short ride in the waters

Lake Gregory Park with Swan Boats for a short ride in the waters

The well kept Nuwara Eliya Gregory Park

The well kept Nuwara Eliya Gregory Park

A dad takes the photo of his princess on a horse

A dad takes the photo of his princess on a horse

 

Lake Gregory park is a great place to sip up the essence and beauty of the place during evenings. Small restaurants serve the tourists on the sides of this park. Horses trot around with customers on its back, through the green lawns. A bunch of people play golf not so far away. As the sun sets, the weather becomes cooler, the lake less bustling with swan boats and Nuwara Eliya’s mountains go to sleep.

Nuwara Eliya’s famous tea plantations have been making tea ever since the British set foot on this town. The tea from Nuwara Eliya is branded as Ceylon tea, to be exported and consumed all over the world. The very expensive white tea is also cultivated on these hills. I have a cuppa fresh brew from the Blue field tea factory with a wedge of squeezed lemon, to indulge myself in some shopping of exquisite tea produce.

The Blue Field Tea factory

The Blue Field Tea factory

Hot Cuppa!

Hot Cuppa!

White water rafting at Kitugala is a not to miss adventure at Srilanka. The Kelani river is a fast moving river with frequent gush of water through wedges of huge rocks here there on the fast riverbed. A trivial fact learnt here: the movie, ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai’ was shot from over this river, the highlight being the wooden bridge over this river, Kelani!

 

After the extremely engaging and fun White water rafting

After the extremely engaging and fun White water rafting

Winding down the hairpin curves of Nuwara Eliya, moving down to the plains of Tissamaharama which hosts the huge lake of Tissa was a pleasant change. After the Tissa river comes the towns of Akuressa and the seaport of Galle. Galle calls itself the Dutch town after the colonization by the Dutch.  The famous fort of Galle is situated here from atop which one could see the panorama of the town of Galle.

Galle - Fort

Galle – Fort

The Tissa Lake

The Tissa Lake

At Hummanaya

At Hummanaya

Drying the fish

Drying the fish

... and it's fried!

… and it’s fried!

From the town of Galle, the beach town of Hikkaduwa is not so far away. Hikkaduwa is one of the most famous beaches of the world, for its surf scene, after Arugam Bay. Hikkaduwa is a clean, blue beach, much like any other beach in SriLanka. Hemmed with coconut trees, the shallow beach is a great place for enthusiasts to surf. Little kids play in the gushing waves. A few youngsters play volleyball on the beach sand.

Bentota Beach

Bentota Beach

 

The calm beach front of Hikkaduwa

The calm beach front of Hikkaduwa

 

A kid runs to fetch his treasure

A kid runs to fetch his treasure

 

Boats wades lazily as the evening closes

Boats wades lazily as the evening closes

 

The Orange of the skies

The Orange of the skies

Boats are latched to the beach by anchors. As the sun sets, the rays lend an orange color to the sky, the water, the sands silhouetting the people and boats. The aquamarine water turns into a steady red, and the wind blows harder. The beach tide rises, as though to close the day.

The boats are waiting…

During nights the same wind rushes into the beach street, lightly swaying the colourful beach- clothes on sale in the shops dotted along the beach road. Music rises with flavorful aromas of great food in the making.

Yummy tasty date lunch

Windchimes cling and drums play, welcoming the night. I swoon, looking at the moon, rising over the dark cold beach. The waves are welcoming me, I know.

The beachside shacks of Hikkaduwa

 

Oh, SriLanka! What Magic you have in your hands!

 

highly expressive, roaring appetite for books, food and design; have occasional bouts of flippancy to all things needed. Always hungry for Biryani. Nomad. Binger. Lover.

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Enjoy a VIP Night in World’s Best Cities

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VIP night in London Barcelone MArbella ibiza

Go partying can become a routine if you don’t attend to special and outstanding clubs in world’s best cities recognized for their nightlife. So now we are going to talk about the best clubs where you can book and enjoy VIP areas and tables to avoid the crowds on the dance floors but, at the same time, be able to enjoy the music of the best DJs, the company of your friends and the exclusive drink service without waiting at the bar. Let’s take a look at the best cities to going out and their best nightclubs.

London

The United Kingdom’s capital has a large selection of the best and most exclusive and luxury nightclubs in the world. We are talking about Cirque Le Soir, Tape, Drama, The Box, Libertine, Cuckoo, Toy Room, Scandal, Reign, Charlie, Maddox and Mahiki Kensington. In addition, there is the possibility to book London Vip Tables in these clubs and enjoy the best night of your lives. Prices are around £1000 for 10 guests, and the service includes VIP access, bottle spend included in the minimum, designated hostess service for the duration of the party and a personal concierge, so we encourage you to treat yourselves one night.

Barcelona

What can we say about Barcelona? Without any doubt, one of the best cities in the world, if not the best, to go out at night and people are very cheerful. There are hundreds of clubs, but if we have made an exclusive selection, we choose Opium, Bling Bling, Pacha, Eclipse Hotel W, Otto Zutz, Catwalk, Shoko, CDLC, Café del Mar and Hyde. Of course, all of them have a Barcelona Vip Tables booking service where you can enjoy a special area for you and your friends and make that night something unique. Prices range between €250 and €1200 for 5 guests, depending on whether the table is (first, second or third row). The service include fast track entry, bar spend as per minimum spend included, designated hostess service and a personal concierge, so, it’s worth it!

Marbella

Marbella! The jewel of La Costa del Sol, near Malaga, one of the most beautiful areas in southern Spain. We can only imagine a fantastic night strolling through its beaches, marinas and, of course, dancing in its most exclusive nightclubs where the jet set meets every season of the year, not only in summer. If you are looking for the best clubs in Marbella, here you have them: Olivia Varele, Starlite, Aqwa Mist, Tibu, Mirage, News Cafe, Funky Buddha, Nikki Beach, Opium Beach, Nao, Plaza Beach and Sisu. The Marbella Vip Tables cost about €850 and €2500 for 10 guests depending on the club you choose and the services included, which can vary a lot. This is real luxury!

Ibiza

We leave the jackpot to the end: Ibiza! No matter which club you choose: Pacha, Ushuaïa, Amnesia, Hï Ibiza, Privilege, Ocean Beach, Es Paradis, Lío Ibiza, Destino Ibiza or Blue Marlin. You can book Ibiza Vip Tables from € 250 per person and you will live an unforgettable night in the best party island in the Mediterranean.

Have we convinced you to spend a VIP night in London, Barcelona, Marbella or Ibiza? Think of your birthday party, a bachelor or bachelorette party or a special anniversary and we are sure that the answer will be an emphatic YES!

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Visiting Peru: all you need to know before traveling to this beautiful country

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Peru things to know

Peru is one of the most popular trips in South America, where you will find the Inca ruins, the historic cities, the wild nature of the Amazon, incredible landscapes of valleys, deserts and beaches, along with one of the best cuisines in the world, with the ceviche as a star dish, which make this trip exceed all your expectations.

What to see in Peru?

There are many interesting and beautiful places to visit in Peru such as Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Arequipas or Valle de Colca.  The impressive Andes mountains are cut by footpaths left by ancient civilizations shape dramatic landscapes that can only be explored on foot. This is why Peru is a dream destination for trekking through its staggering arrray of trails winding through Inca ruins and lost cities.

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is the country’s most recognized trail. In just 26 miles it manages to combine beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The final destination of the trail just cannot be beaten: Machu Picchu, the mysterious “Lost City of the Incas”. You can make this inca trail in 4 days or in 2 days.

Salkatany trail

Salkantay trek is a high altitude 46 mile in Cusco region considered to be a less touristy alternative to the famous Inca Trail. It takes you through some incredible nature areas of the Andes with breathtaking scenery and amazing wild life. Salkatany trekking includes a visit to Inca sites: Llacpata, Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.

Required documents

Depending on the country of origin, more or less documents are requested to enter Peru, and some ports of entry, including land borders, require you to fill out an Andean Migration Card.

Passport

To enter Peru, it is an essential requirement to present a valid passport. Make sure your passport has been stamped on arrival, or you may not be able to enter Peru again. Foreigners must always carry photo identification with them while in Peru. A passport photocopy is acceptable.

Visa

Most of the countries of America –including the US- and Western Europe do not require a tourist visa to enter Peru. Tourists can stay for 183 non-extendable days. For longer business, study or work stays it is necessary to previously request the corresponding visa to the Peruvian consulates.

Currency

The “Nuevo Sol” is the official currency of Peru. U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Peru, but you will always get a better rate paying in soles than in dollars, and soles may be necessary for low-cost purchases. Credit cards are accepted in most of the cities in the country, and bank machines are plentiful there. When visiting other parts of the country, be sure to carry enough cash. Most prices are negotiable in Peru. Learn the going rate and negotiate fairly: Americans have a reputation abroad for overtipping and overpaying.

Health advice

The sanitary conditions in Peru are good, especially in the cities. In recent years, the supply of health services has been modernized and increased, both hospitals and clinics provide adequate care, but it is always advisable to have health insurance for your trip.

Vaccines

There are no mandatory vaccines for entering Peru, although routine vaccinations are wise for Peru, including vaccines for Hepatitis A and B, flu, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and polio. If you wish to visit the Amazon region of the country, the Ministry of Health recommends vaccination against yellow fever – at least 10 days before the trip to be effective.

Watch out the sun, the altitude and the weather

Visitors to Peru need to take precautions with the altitude. Walk slowly, keep very well hydrated, get as much sleep as possible, and eat lightly to minimize negative effects. Oxygen is available free of charge at most hotels to help. Drinking coca tea and, especially, chewing fresh coca leaves can help deal with the effects of altitude. Also, UV rays are very strong above sea level, so wear sunscreen and a hat, even if the day is cloudy

The best season to visit the country is between September and December. In Peru it is usually very cold in the morning and then very hot at noon. Try to wear many layers of clothing so that you can take off as you need. And carry a backpack to carry the jacket, the scarf just in case.

Safety tips

Standard precautions apply for most of these destinations, including the need to be wary of pickpockets in crowded tourist. There are some neighborhoods in Lima that are best not visited by tourists, especially at night areas –check the Peruvian Government Website for further advice… When traveling to and from the airport, it’s wise to keep valuables out of sight, for example, underneath your legs instead of on an empty seat.

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A Historical exploration of Khajuraho

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khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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