Stunning mosques with cerulean domes, grand mausoleums, and buzzing chai-khanas are just some of the memories you will have from your Tashkent trip. If you’re looking to bring back a piece of this marvellous city with you, Amisha suggests nine unique souvenirs to buy from Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The eclectic vibe of Uzbekistan makes you feel like you’re entering a whole new world in Central Asia. And its capital Tashkent is one of the best places to know how true this is. With a melange of cultures and a heavy influence of its Soviet days, the city holds an exotic appeal. The shades of its cultural mix can easily be seen in the traditional food and handicrafts made by the local people. This also means, there are plenty of interesting souvenirs to take back home! Here are some that you must not miss:
#1 Papier-mâché Puppets
Believe it or not, Tashkent is home to many puppet theatres, even today. The puppets are mostly made with Khiva in Uzbekistan, using papier-mâché, but are easily found in the city’s popular city markets. Regional attire and distinct Uzbek features are what make these glove puppets the perfect souvenirs.
#2 The Nasreddin Statuette
If you go to the bazaars of Tashkent and don’t stop to ask about this funny-looking male figurine, you will miss out on the legend of Uzbekistan. It is based on the character ‘Nasreddin’ from a popular tale, which every Uzbek loves to narrate. You can also find figurines for other characters and animals from their ancient tales and folklore.
#3 Lacquer-Painted Chess Set
Papier-mâché chess sets are intricately painted using striking lacquer, and they’re eye-catching to say the least. You can find these sets in several vibrant colour combinations. Some sets even depict stories of medieval writers, such as Jami and Khayyam.
There are also lacquer-painted miniatures of tables and paintings, based on traditional themes. In fact, the paintings of some Uzbek artists are frequently found in international art exhibits. If such exclusive pieces of art interest you, do visit Tashkent’s art galleries or boutiques. Make sure you retain the purchase receipts of unique pieces, and if you’re lucky enough to find an antique, then you must insist on having all the required authentication certificates to export it.
#4 Ceramic Collectibles
Ceramic ware and artefacts by Uzbekistan’s master craftsmen are loved by art connoisseurs around the world. Turquoise-glazed pitchers, needle-painted ‘Lyagan’ dishes, dragon-shaped candle holders, and delicate tea bowls are great ceramic collectibles from your time in Tashkent. If you look carefully, you may find even some exquisite pieces that have been created by local master craftsmen.
#5 Jewellery & Talismans
Fond of silver and cornelian jewellery? Well, Tashkent is a great place to buy amulets, ‘Kashgar Boldak’ earrings and ‘Tumor’, a talisman with lines of prayer on it. Shades of turquoise dominate all Uzbek jewellery, which makes it unconventional and interesting. Ladies, with so much on offer, you might want to buy more jewellery boxes for these (you’ll get intricate jewellery boxes in Tashkent’s markets)!
#6 Hand-Woven Silk Rugs
Tashkent’s markets sell hand-woven rugs and carpets made from unique Uzbek fabrics like ‘Khan-atlas’, ‘Adras’ and ‘Samarkand Silk’. The carpets are made using different techniques but, if you want something native to the region, you must pick up a piece with ‘Ikat’ or ‘Suzani’ work. Rugs and carpets made here vary in purpose, some are even designed for decorating the walls.
#7 Musical Instruments
Uzbekistan has its own range of regional and some uncommon musical instruments, such as ‘Karnay’, ‘Doira’, ‘Rubab’ and ‘Tanbur’. Most of the strings, percussion and wind instruments found here still retain the original design from centuries ago, when they were first created. Known for their rich and deep sounds, these instruments have been the reason why the music of the region has always seemed distinct and has been loved through the ages. Tashkent’s markets are great places to buy any of these beautifully crafted musical instruments as collectibles.
#8 Carved Wooden Jewellery Boxes
These wooden jewellery boxes made in Tashkent are intricately carved in beautiful floral or geometric patterns. You can also find jewellery boxes that are painted using fancy Islimi-style floral patterns, which look as interesting as the carved ones. Women love jewellery boxes and will always want more than one, so here’s your chance to make them happy.
A ‘Tubeteika’ is a traditional Uzbek skullcap, worn by both men and women. Chust Tubeteika for men, is made from glossy black satin. However, the skullcaps for women are colourful and adorned with little ornaments or decorated with the famous Bukhara gold embroidery. These can definitely be great conversation starters!
Tashkent has an amusing range of items to take back home, wouldn’t you agree? There are many markets in Tashkent but your trip to ‘Chorsu Bazaar’ should be enough to fill you bags with all kinds of souvenirs.
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Amisha likes to explore lesser-known places and this she does by studying maps. Once at her destination, she digs out eateries serving local food and soaks in the culture through the region’s cuisine. Being a sea person, most of her trips are to beach destinations and she intends to cover destinations along India’s coastline.
Endless beaches, panoramic tea gardens, oodles of wildlife, delectable cuisines, iconic temples and ruins; Sri Lanka is a gem waiting to be discovered. Don’t be fooled by the size of this island country; rich in culture and bursting with diversity, Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Tarana Arora tells us all about Top 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each so unique and seeped with heritage, it’ll captivate the traveller in you.
Soaring high at 660 feet, the majestic Sigiriya or the Lion’s Rock is an architectural marvel. It was built as a sky palace by King Kasyapa in the 5th century. The essence of Sigiriya lies at its pinnacle with ruins that offer visitors a glimpse of ancient civilisation in addition to spell-binding views. With colourful frescoes along the way, a mirror wall and the imposing lion’s paws carved at the bedrock, the citadel of Sigiriya will truly amaze you.
#2 Sacred City Of Anuradhapura
To experience the richness of Sri Lankan culture, a visit to the ancient city of Anuradhapura is a must. The sacred city is said to have seen the genesis of Buddhism and the Sri Lankan civilisation. The many monasteries, colossal stupas, ancient temples here are some of the most well preserved architectural gems in South Asia.
#3 Ancient City Of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa was the capital of ancient Sri Lanka for more than 800 years and here, one can feel the grandeur of past eras through glorious archaeological treasures. So, hop on to a bicycle and explore the rare tombs, spectacular stupas, statues, and crumbling temples of Polonnaruwa. That’s the best way to do it!
#4 Golden Temple of Dambulla
The Golden Temple of Dambulla, also popularly known as ‘Dambulla Cave temple’, is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s best preserved temple complex. Sprawling across five caves, the holy complex dates back to the 1st century. It is the 157 Lord Buddha statues, ornate carvings and exquisite paintings that make the temple spectacular in every way.
#5 Old Town Of Galle & Its Fortifications
A painter’s muse, a photographer’s dream and a writer’s inspiration; the old town of Galle will charm you with all its vibrancy. Built by the Dutch in 1663, Galle is one of the most romantic tourist spots in Sri Lanka. The main attraction of the quaint little town is its scenic fort, which is surrounded by the ocean on three sides. Stylish hotels, quirky cafes and European architecture with South Asian flavours make Galle a postcard-perfect town.
#6 Sacred City Of Kandy
Surrounded by lush rain forests and infinite tea gardens, Kandy will seduce you with its beauty. The Temple of the Tooth Relic is one of the holiest shrines in Sri Lanka, because it holds the last surviving relic of Lord Buddha. Kandy is also known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka.
#7 Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve, which translates to the ‘Lion Kingdom’ was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1989. The only undisturbed rain forest of the island, it is home to the purple-faced Langur, birds like Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo, the noisy Orange-billed Babbler, Red-Faced Malkoha, Green-billed coucal and Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
#8 Central Highlands Of Sri Lanka
The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka captures the imagination of visitor with its sheer beauty. The highlands comprises the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, including Adam’s Peak, Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Range. Adam’s Peak is the centre of focus for Buddhist pilgrims as it is believed that one of the rocks here hold the imprint of Lord Buddha’s foot.
Did you know the small island nation of Sri Lanka boasts of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Its ancient culture can be discovered through intricate details on legendary temples, some of which are perched on peaks while others take shelter in ancient caves.
Location: Located in the Indian Ocean between India and Maldives.
How to Reach: There are three international airports in Sri Lanka, Bandaranaike
International Airport in Colombo, Ratmalana Airport in Colombo, and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota.
Official Language: Sinhalese, Tamil
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
Time Zone: SLST (UTC+05:30)
Climate: Tropical Climate
Food & Drink: Fish Curry Rice, Jackfruit Curry, Sri Lankan Dhal, Kottu.
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Tarana Arora is a producer and journalist by profession. A resident of Pune, she loves everything about the charming city. Nothing excites her more than food and exploring new places. She lives for thrillers, chocolates and Rafael Naḍal.
Grab your bags, passport and your girlfriends. Singapore is waiting. Diana Kotwal tells you why it’s the best holiday destination for BFFs.
Deadlines have been met. Projects have been aced. Your boss’ jokes have been laughed at. Repeatedly. (Even when they’re not funny.) And most importantly, your holiday leave is ripe and ready for the taking.
Now it’s time to blow off some steam, get some rest and relaxation, make new memories, and maybe hit a shopping mall or two. And who better to do all of the above with than your closest friends? So round up your gal pals and head out to the perfect all-girl destination – spectacular Singapore.
Prepare yourself, as you embark on a fun, goddess-worthy holiday filled with adventure, excitement, delicious food, heart-to-heart bonding and of course, shopping! But before we pop open that bottle of bubbly, here’s a little help on how to get the most out of your trip.
What To Pack For Singapore
Singapore is tropical by nature; most days are bright, so sunglasses and sunscreen are essential. There’s always a chance of rain, so an umbrella or wind cheater could prove useful. Pack light, comfortable clothes for the outdoors, but add a few sweaters too, as most indoor places set their air-conditioning to ‘freezing’. Don’t forget that party outfit you’ve been saving up for a special occasion. Singapore loves to dress up after hours, and a girls’ night on the town is exactly what the travel doctor prescribed. Don’t fill up that suitcase, though. You’ll find out why very soon.
What To See In Singapore
Grab your walking shoes, stock up on some organic energy snacks, and hand out water bottles to your fellow travellers. There’s so much to see, taste and love in Singapore, it’ll make your head spin. But with a little bit of planning, you can experience the best of what this gorgeous city has to offer. Whether it’s a unique nocturnal safari, where you meet some beautiful creatures of the night, or a glorious ride through the famous Gardens by the Bay, where you spot a ‘super tree’ or more, Singapore has it all.
You can also visit your favorite celebrities at Madame Tussauds, experience Hollywood up-close at the famous Universal Studios, or hang out with marine life at the S.E.A. Aquarium. There’s even a getaway cruise to Sentosa Island, filled with amazing on-board activities like swimming and karaoke (it’s not an ‘all-girls’ holiday’ unless there’s a bunch of girls singing Beyonce loudly, and off key!)
But don’t fret. You will be able to do it all. Soak in a signature nature spa treatment in Katong, and your gang will be ready for Singapore all over again.
Where To Shop In Singapore
Brace yourselves. Things are about to get crazy…at least for your credit cards. There’s nothing quite like a shopping binge with your girls, and Singapore serves as the perfect destination. This city may be a tiny little dot on the global map, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with shops as far as the eye can see. First up, Orchard Street; it’s 2.2 kilometers of pure shopping bliss. Looking for designer brands? Trendy high-street labels? Quirky souvenirs? You want it, they have it.
Craving a more authentic experience? Head on down to Haji Lane. A charming, rustic area with a vintage vibe and some highly unique shopping on offer. Whether it’s clothes, artefacts or home decor, every purchase is a rare and unique find. Now, aren’t you glad you left some space in your luggage?
Where To Eat In Singapore
Holiday calories don’t count. Or so you’ll keep telling yourselves as you roll up your sleeves, loosen your belts and dive into the local gastronomical delights on every street. Singaporean cuisine is a melting pot of different cultures, including Chinese, Malay, Indonesian and even Indian. You can enjoy a bowl of laksa on Sungei Road, or gorge on the famous chili crab at the Red House Seafood restaurant or gear up for the ultimate culinary sensory experience by dining in the dark at Nox. Group binge eating has never been more fun!
What You Must Know About Singapore
Singapore is a clean, safe city that is perfect for a women-only holiday. The crime rate is low, and the people are polite, friendly and honest. However, they take their rules seriously. Be careful to follow all the laws here, as the penalties are quite severe. But the beauty in that is, you could be out and about at all kinds of odd hours and it won’t matter. Your family and better halves can rest easy knowing that you are in one of the safest cities in the world.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what to see, do and expect in Singapore, it’s about time you grab your best friends, sisters, mothers or even grandmothers and set out to explore the very best of the Lion City. With something for people of all ages, you’re in for a true blue travel treat!
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Africa – the land of culture dressed in bright hues of the sun; where the swirly air smells of luscious grass, salty seawater and its heartbreaking history. There is so much left unexplored on this fascinating continent; so much that one can learn from – It’s exciting! If you are planning a trip to Africa, here are three countries that you must visit to make the most of your sojourn. Kavita Sarmah tells us why these three countries are the best way to start exploring Africa!
South Africa: Scenic Sunsets & A Melange Of Cultures
South Africa is also called the ‘Rainbow Nation’ because of its rich, cultural diversity. Its pastel beaches, lush mountains and starry desert sky combine to create an astounding melange of natural art. This country has a wide variety of cosmopolitan cultures that balance its ethnic cultures. South Africa also gives visitors a chance to explore its untouched wildlife, soak in its surreal landscapes and gain an insight into its tempestuous history.
The country has the continent’s best safari destinations, and an amazing network of roads. You can drive or rent a coach with a guide, and dive into the wilderness at Kruger or Kgalagardi Transfrontier Park. Watching the wildlife here amid swaying trees and ever-changing skies, you will notice the little things – the chirp of a distant bird, the low hum of crickets in the bushes or even the rustle of a wandering giraffe. You can enjoy rock climbing in the ragged Cederberg, abseil from Cape Town’s Table Mountains and bungee jump from the Garden Route Bridge! For mellower activities, you can opt for a day walk in the semi-desert Karoo, do an overnight hike into the peaks of the Drakensberg and also, check out the colourful heart of the country – Johannesburg. End the trip with a beach camp near Skilkop Nature Reserve in Namakwa, amid old wheat fields covered in endless flowers, before you set out on your next adventure.
English is widely spoken throughout the country, making it easy to communicate. Local public transport is not recommended in most areas, but you can surely make use of a taxi service recommended by the hotel you are staying at. Also, remember to always carry a bottle of water along!
Kenya: The Air Of Possibilities & Nature’s Best Artwork
Kenya conjures up images of jungles painted in green, thrilling safaris and majestic elephants. This country’s magnificent landscapes will give you a taste of the massive herds of wildlife scattered through the savannahs, with magical snow-capped mountains within sight of dry desserts and fresh forests. This is also where you will come across its warm, traditional people who add their vibrant beliefs and hope to a normal life. Kenya is home to Red Elephants among other wildlife and naturally is big on conservation. There are many private and community conservancies, like the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which blend tourism with community development and wildlife conservation.
National Parks are a must here! Make sure to spend time at Amboseli National Park, with views of big-tusked elephants against the backdrop of the majestic Mt Kilimanjaro. Overlooking Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya is a small town that stands in utter contrast to the sombre shades surrounding it – Loiyangalani. Spend an afternoon here and create the sweetest memories in one of the country’s most exotic corners. You could also take a day to wander in the Lamu Archipelago. These islands have rustic stone towns, endearing local shops and delightful architecture, with a blanket of stars that twinkle bright in the clear night sky. When you want to take a break from all the adventure and just laze around, Kenya also has a coastline laced with scenic beaches.
Don’t forget to sample the Ugali, one of the famous local cuisines here. The country offers all your foodies a hearty, homely meal to keep your stomach full and your soul happy. Bonus tip: “Jambo” is a common greeting in Kenya, which means “Hello! How are you?” It’s a nice conversation starter, while you pick up on other phrases!
Tanzania: Enriching Moments & Endless Magnificence
The land of the Kilimanjaro, where slow and serene meets robust and vibrant – Tanzania is as magical as it sounds. The cooling trees and tropical breeze set the tone for the country. Here, with its peaceful islands, sleepy coastal villages and mesmerising beaches, Tanzania will make you fall in love with life.
You’ll find many National Parks here but there is so much more to explore! Take a trip to Zanzibar Town and join a spice tour in Tangawizi Spice Farm or visit the Peace Memorial Museum of local artefacts. You can choose to bask in the sun, surrounded by turquoise seawater, on the green islands of the Mafia archipelago, and take in its beautiful history. Take a boat at sunrise to Kilwa Kisiwani, a quiet fishing village, and memorise how breathtaking the sky looks in the moment. Don’t forget to strike up a conversation or two with Tanzania’s friendly locals, who form the essence of the country, for a more enriching experience.
Your time in Africa will rejuvenate your soul and change you in wonderful ways. Every once in a while, take a break from adventure, look around and notice all the little details around you. Take hundreds of photographs of yourself as you soak in the unforgettable vibrancy of this endearing continent. We hope and believe your journey here will be nothing less than extraordinary!
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Kavita Sarmah is an artist, optimist and a tea person. Life to her is writing in empty cafés, mindlessly strumming the ukulele, and starry, cinematic skies. Follow her on Instagram: @kavitasarmah
Cox & Kings Reviews Hong Kong and tells you about destinations to visit, places to eat, where to stay and things to do!
Article Credit: Reshma Rohra
Population: 7,112,688 (established in July 2014)
People: Chinese 93.1%, Indonesian 1.9%, Filipino 1.9%, other 3% (established in 2011)
Religious Groups: Diverse mix of local religions (Buddhism, Maoism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc.) 90%, Christians 10%(established in 2011)
Languages: Cantonese (official) 89.5%, English (official) 3.5%, Putonghua (Mandarin) 1.4%, other Chinese dialects 4%, other 1.6% (established in 2011)
Government: Limited democracy
Capital: Hong Kong being a special administrative region of China, it has no capital city
Time difference: GMT+8 (2:30 hours ahead India)
Currency: Hong Kong Dollar
Voltage: 220V, 50Hz, three-pronged UK-style plugs are standard here
Telephone Country Code: +852
Internet Country Code: .hk
Geography & Location
Resting on the southern coast of China, Hong Kong is encompassed by South China Sea on three sides. To its North is Shenzhen city located in the province of Guangdong. Hong Kong lies on the passage between East and West Asia, therefore it enjoys a significant position in international trade.
The Weather In Hong Kong
Owing to its sub-tropical climate, Hong Kong has four seasons; hot and wet summer, humid spring, dry winter, and pleasant autumn.
The ideal time to visit here is in autumn, specifically between October and mid-December. September is the typhoon season, hence best avoided. During June to August, the weather is sweltering and rainy, therefore not very pleasing.
The History Of Hong Kong
Hong Kong was ruled by several Chinese dynasties until 1841, when the British Empire defeated China in the First Opium War, and took over Hong Kong. For several subsequent years, it belonged to the British. It was in 1984 that China and Great Britain signed a treaty, which said Hong Kong would be a special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China from 1st July 1997 onwards. The agreement mentioned adherence to the ‘One country, two systems’ policy in the following 50 years. This meant Hong Kong (SAR) would be given a high degree of autonomy in all aspects, with the exception of foreign and defense matters.
Hong Kong is one of those places, which are flooded with entertainment options and places to see. It offers everything that you expect from a holiday destination; lot of food options, flee markets, unforgettable experiences, temples, modern wonders, amusement and theme parks, natural vistas, etc. It possesses a unique blend of flamboyant skyscrapers and ancient traditional treasures.
Hong Kong’s Cuisine
Diverse Chinese cuisines, British methods of preparation, flavors of Japan, Southeast Asia and the West inspire the cuisine of Hong Kong. Owing to its history and geography, it offers an interesting platter of delicacies. Hong Kong is applauded worldwide for some of the best gourmet preparations.
The world’s best Dim Sum is made in Hong Kong, so you simply cannot miss it. It’s a favorite snack here. These delicious little dumplings are usually stuffed with meat, sea fish or veggies. Roasted goose and pork preparations here will certainly sweep your heart away. Also, don’t forget to treat your taste buds with a wide variety of noodles and sumptuous seafood.
Lastly, egg tart, pineapple bun and wife cake (a traditional Cantonese pastry) are some of the local sweet dishes you should definitely try.
The People Of Hong Kong
People of different ethnic origins reside here. However, the majority of Hong Kongers – as they are popularly called – are of Chinese descent. Despite having strong and different religious views, they all live in harmony. A great part of the population is highly influenced from the western culture. But, traditional Chinese holidays are all celebrated with pomp.
People here love food and enjoy experimenting with it. They maintain a high degree of hygiene, personally as well as in public. Use of tissues and sanitizer after pressing a lift button, along with usage of surgical masks in case of cough are very common here.
You can freely ask them for directions or any small help, as people here are pretty easy going.
Getting Around Hong Kong
Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is Hong Kong’s efficient rail system that includes subway, overland and light rail or tram facilities. It is the fastest, most affordable and convenient mode of transport within this region. Majority of inhabitants rely on MTR for their daily transit.
Hong Kong also has a systematic taxi system. Taxis run on meter, are decently priced and air conditioned. There are three types of taxis; Urban (red), New Territories (green), and Lantau (blue). They are available in plenty, except in some remote areas. You will see a ‘For Hire’ sign on taxis that are willing to carry passengers.
There are also ferries, buses and mini-buses available.
Octopus card is a rechargeable smart card that will be very helpful, as it can be used for most public transport modes, including MTR. If you are here on a long vacation, it is advisable to get one for yourself.
Where To Stay In Hong Kong
Being a hub for international trade, Hong Kong boasts of various 5-star and 7-star hotels. Apart from this, there are guesthouses and apartments as well. For those on a shoestring budget, you can choose to stay in hostels or bed & breakfast hotels.
This is undoubtedly the biggest tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Located at an altitude of 552 m, the Victoria Peak is Hong Kong Island’s tallest mountain, and offers breathtaking views of the city in the day, as well as night. Take the famous Peak Tram to reach here and enjoy the blissful ride. En-route, you can witness the brilliant architecture of the iconic Peak Tower. Dine at any of the restaurants, and take home a souvenir from the shops within the tower.
There’s a lot that can be done at Lantau Island. Plan a day’s trip to Hong Kong’s largest Island; and discover the marvels that reside here. Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car ride, is one of the most beautiful attractions here. It is Asia’s longest bi-cable ropeway with a length of 5.7 kms. Glide amidst the clouds and savour the spectacular views. You can also visit the magnificent Tian Tan Buddha or the Giant Buddha near Po Lin Monastry. It is a 111 feet tall outdoor statue of Buddha made with bronze, and the largest of its kind in the world. If you wish to experience tranquility at its best, do explore the Po Lin Monastery. Also, check out several attractions in Ngong Ping Village and Tai O Fishing Village.
Temple Street Night Market
Hong Kong’s most favorite bustling bazaar, that comes to life after lights out is an experience you cannot miss. It draws both, the tourists and the locals in large numbers. Affordable clothes, watches, footwear, artifacts, daily-use articles and a lot more can be found here. Haggling is pretty common. You will come across plenty of herbalists and fortune-tellers. Also, there is an open-air Cantonese opera show that is occasionally held here. Between 7pm and 10pm is the ideal time to visit this market.
Happy Valley Recourse
Every Wednesday, the stands of Happy Valley Recourse are flooded with people. It is the only legal gambling spot in Hong Kong. Even if you are not really into betting, you should pay a visit here just to witness the astounding energy of people and the ambience.
The very famous theme park offers around 80 avenues of joy and entertainment on a stretch of 91 hectares. If on a family vacation, do take your kids here, they will love it, and so will you. Lose yourself in the aura of fun and frolic.
Man Mo Temple
An old temple in Hong Kong and now a monument, Man Mo temple was built to please the God of Literature. This beautiful temple takes you back in time and gives you a glimpse of the Cantonese traditions.
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Travelling through Europe and have a stopover in Greece? Sarah Merchant tells you what to do if you only have 12 hours to visit Athens.
Stop-overs can sometimes be quite a boon, especially if they happen to be in a city as rich with culture and history as Athens. One of the oldest and largest cities in Greece, Athens is where all the fun lies. So ladies, if you have a stop over here, strap on your bag, carry your maps and step out of the airport for some gala time with your girl friends.
The transport system in Athens is very efficient and cheap consisting of metro, buses, trams and subways. But if exploration is on your mind, you will probably not need them as all the tourist places here are at a walkable distance from each other. Hello savings!
What To Do?
1) History Trail
Starting with the highest point in Greece, the Acropolis(45-60 mins away from the airport by cab) can be seen from anywhere in the city. The ticket to the Acropolis is a combo ticket, allowing visitors to enter other sites too! Here, visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus, dedicated to the God of Greek mythology, this monument stands proud in its colossal ruins.
To get an idea of what these temples actually looked like in the hey days, head to the Temple of Hephaestus, regarded as one of the best preserved ancient Greek Temples.
And if you’ve ever wondered what the Odeon movie cinema was named after, your answer lies in the Greek open air theater, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. To this day, concerts, beauty pageants and other shows are regularly held here. You can also visit the Mars Hill (Areopagus), where the apostle Paul preached in the first century.
But leaving all this aside, the highlight of your trip to the Acropolis has to be the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the daughter of Zeus. This temple serves as a crown to the great Acropolis and houses a number of sculptures and statues. However, the statue of Athena, once gracing the halls looking upon its visitors is missing but a replica can be see at the National Archaeology Museum.
2) Shopping, Culture & Food
By the time you come out of the Greek history induced daze, 4 hours would have passed. But luckily, everything is located at walkable distance. So head towards Plaka (10-15 mins walking distance from the Acropolis), and stroll through lanes filled with lovely traditional homes, and shops that sell everything from olive oil, to Greek artifacts and jewellery. Trust us girls, you will love this! And if you are a fan of local cuisine, the promenade takes you to Monastiriki Square, where you can indulge in some local favourites. For a more elaborate food affair, make your way towards Athens Central Market(10 mins walking distance from Plaka), before heading back to the airport.
PS: You can also visit the National Archaeology Museum after your visit to the central market for a glimpse at the replica of the now missing Athena’s statue.
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3) Local Life
If you wish to spend time watching Athenian life, visit Syntagma Square, that is 15 mins away from the Central Market (walking) and 30mins away from the airport(by cab). The square often has demonstrations, debates, and everything a traveller would need within a short radius: hotels, shops, a metro station, internet cafés and banks. Syntagma square is an agora, or marketplace, which once was, and still is, the center of all political, commercial, social and administrative activities. Walk around the square, which is surrounded by lush green trees and quite a few monuments. Here, you can watch the locals, drink a frappe, eat some mousakka and just watch the Athenians go about their with daily business.
Before You Go
Greece Visa for Indians
Greece operates as part of the Schengen group of countries, so Indian passport holders require a Schengen visa for Greece. It is processed in Delhi and can take up to 15 working days, so apply for your visa well in advance.
The official language here is Greek, and except for in the cities, not everyone speaks English. Other popular languages here are French, Spanish and Italian.
Best time To Visit Athens
High Season: April to October
Low Season: November to March
Some Tips For Women Travellers
Beware of strangers who ask you out for a drink or a lunch date. They may seem friendly but stay away. There are two types of taxis, public and private. At the airport, you will always encounter the public taxis but once in central Athens there will be a mix of both. The private taxis have a fixed fare and are expensive. When you hear the word “limousine”, expect a sedan. Mind your wallet and phone, as pick pocketing is common in crowded streets. Do now stretch your palm and open your 5 fingers (moutza), it’s considered offensive. And last, but not the least, Greeks are fast drivers, so watch where you walk. Enjoy!
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Sipping numbingly hot tom-yum soup off a road-side cart; manoeuvring through packed malls where classy imitations tempt at every glance; being entertained by gorgeous lady-boys in kinky clubs. This is the ultimate tourist-trap that Bangkok lays out. But there’s more to this city than hedonistic overload, finds Kiran Mehta
I’ve visited Bangkok more times than I can keep track of, but I still can’t get enough. Bangkok has had me preened and plucked at up-market spas. She’s had me addicted to tangy Thai dishes, names of which I cannot even begin to pronounce. She’s caught me coyly watching a cabaret performance. And she’s seen me shop till my suitcases were bursting at the seams. After all, one can’t expect any less of a city that celebrates self-indulgence. While this energy is what draws me in time and again, this time I wanted to scratch beneath the surface. And in the process I discovered a Bangkok that’s rarely written about in guide-books–a place still built on the pleasure principle, but leaning more towards the epicurean than the hedonistic. In other words, gratification without the guilt! Here’s more from my Bangkok adventure:
Amita Thai Cooking Class
The streets of Khao San and Sukumvit always lure me in with just a whiff from road-side food carts serving spicy Pad Thai, peppery massaman curry, sweet-and-sour mango on sticky rice, delicious coconut-milk drinks and more. I stuff myself silly but later the guilt of being a glutton weighs a tonne. So on this recent visit, I decided to remedy the situation by tossing things up a bit—I wasn’t going to simply let this city feed me, I was going to learn to cook Thai food (and then eat it, of course!). To put a somewhat altruistic twist on this, if you give a woman a meal, you feed her for a day; teach her to cook and you feed her for a lifetime! And that’s how I signed up for a half-day cooking class at Amita Thai cooking school.
Sign up for a half-day cooking class at Amita Thai Cooking School
Set by the banks of the Chao Phraya River in the district of Thonburi lies this charming little culinary school run by a husband-wife duo. I reached the cooking class by means of a speedy boat ride, arranged courtesy of the school. I stepped into the school and it was like walking into a fairy-tale with herb gardens, fragrant flowers in bloom and an open kitchen overlooking the calm waters. The expert chef first taught us about the different herbs and the medicinal properties of each. After picking out the herbs ourselves, we then cooked up a storm. And later in the shade of apple trees and mango trees, together with my class-mates, I sat down to enjoy my very own four-course meal.
Course fee: 3000 THB inclusive of pick-up and drop-off service (depending on your location).
Sky bar at Sirocco
Some scenes from Hangover (Part II) were shot at this bar located within the Lebua Hotel at State Tower, a swanky 5-star, all-suite hotel.
Given that the movie shot at this location revolves around the concept of being wasted, how does one put Epicureanism at work here? Ironically, the location does just that. Since this bar is situated on the 63rd floor, it is one of the world’s highest open air bars and offers a sweeping 360 degree view of the city. It’s a sanctuary, far removed from the city’s hustle and bustle; even the deafening horns of the tuk-tuk cannot disturb the peace here. The sights and sounds from up here are as close to heaven as one can get. A place to rejuvenate the tired spirit, even as you sip on some potent ones! And if the weather Gods decide to smile on you, then as you reach out your hand, it seems like you can touch the clouds.
Recommendation: The Hangovertini priced at 490 THB (plus taxes).
Arts of the Kingdom
When most visitors to Bangkok mention art, they usually refer to an electric dance routine by pretty lady-boys. But while such moves do loosely refer to ‘art’, they come nowhere close to authentic Thai arts and crafts. Just one look at the people and it’s clear that the Thai’s are a very creative lot – from the attention to detail that goes into folding paper-napkins into interesting shapes at road-side cafes, to the almost bizarre styles in which many locals wear their hair, to the intricately embroidered wares that sell at night-markets. It’s almost as if there’s a bit of a budding designer in most of them. Little wonder then that Queen Sirikit of Thailand would support local arts and crafts. The Queen herself went to many little villages and mingled with the artisans there, heard their problems and decided to promote their very source of livelihood. The result – her foundation aptly termed The Support Foundation of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand. And this foundation is the pillar behind the Arts of the Kingdom.
While the Arts of the Kingdom showcase many different masterpieces and put of many exhibitions, one thing remains the same – the intricate craftsmanship, the ornate form, and the sheer opulence of hand-made beauty. (artsofthekingdom.com)
At the end of my little self-guided tour of Bangkok, I realise that despite the fact that I know this city like the back of my hand, there is still a lot to discover. And that’s why visitors like me, need to get off the beaten Bangkok path.
* Images of food and Amita Thai Cooking Classes by Kiran Mehta
Holiday in Bangkok
Germany is not just the birthplace of Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Martin Luther King, and many other heavyweights. This popular European destination is where one can experience a roller coaster of visual treats, feasts and temptations! Join Cox & Kings, as we explore some of Germany’s soul-stirring landscapes, culturally rich hotspots, exquisite cuisine and more…
#1 Explore Berlin & The Third Reich Tale
Trademarked with vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food, happening parties and fascinating history, Berlin showcases an interesting blend of old and new. Walking around the lively streets of Berlin is like opening a 3D textbook! To uncover these tales, visit the renowned Zeughaus museum. Built is 1706 as an armoury, today this museum is used to display Germany’s rich history. En route, make your way towards Tempelhof Airport, the fifth largest building in the world. Every stone here narrates the tale of Germany’s Third Reich era.
#2 The World’s Longest Bar? It’s Here, At Düsseldorf!
Hidden behind the mask of sophistication, lies the true face of Düsseldorf, where locals shed their business coats and party till the wee hours of morning! The shimmering nightlife of this city also boasts of the ‘longest bar in the world’. Well, actually, the old city neighborhood of Düsseldorf is home to a string of bars that occupy an entire street. Here, customers can be seen spilling out and squeezing in together to grab their favourite drink. However, one look at it and you can barely tell where one bar ends and another begins, hence the title!
Note: If time permits, do head to Königsallee. This urban boulevard in Düsseldorf is a lively shopping paradise that must not be missed!
#3 It’s All About Food At Stuttgart!
Visiting Stuttgart is akin to entering food heaven! No matter which corner you turn, the streets are lined with classy restaurants, quaint pubs, stylish cafes and animated bars. Tourists can indulge in authentic German cuisine available at various restaurants like Délice, Olivo and Speisemeisterei. Good food is a criteria always met at Stuttgart.
Note: If you’re up for some dancing, this place also has some exclusive bars and clubs.
#4 Soak In Hamburg’s Undeniable Charm
Infused with an alluring spirit, Hamburg shines through the map of Germany. This port city welcomes its tourists with a scene right out of a postcard; swanky shopping arcades, unique landmarks, picturesque bridges, multicultural eateries and an exciting nightlife. The architecture, the menu, the environment of Hamburg is absolutely enticing. Here, make sure to explore the city’s numerous beautiful bridges and unique landmarks, such as the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
Note: Do not miss reveling in the vibrant nightlife of Hamburg after sundown.
#5 Rejuvenate At Baden-Baden
What’s a vacation without some pampering? The little spa town of Baden-Baden located on the edge of the Black Forest is renowned for its splendid setting, old-world luxury and curative waters. Adorned with classic buildings, timeless villas, open air cafes, chic boutiques and pristine gardens, this town has hosted the likes of Obama, Bismarck, Queen Victoria and Victoria Beckham. In addition to the hot mineral springs, Baden-Baden also houses an impressive casino.
Note: Mountain Merkur, the highest point in Baden Baden offers breathtaking views of the Rhine River Valley and the Black Forest.
#6 Oktoberfest & More At Bavaria!
A stroll around Bavaria is nothing less than stepping into a fairy tale, with its stunning castles, picturesque forests and flower-filled meadows. Featuring a backdrop of the majestic alpine mountains, it’s one of the most vibrant and culturally rich hotspots in Germany. In addition to its idyllic setting, Bavaria has a rich history, gorgeous wines, quirky attractions and, of course, the Oktoberfest which draws every type of traveller.
Note: This year, Oktoberfest will take place between September 19th to October 4th in Munich, Bavaria. Look forward to a fun carnival atmosphere, elaborate beer tents and about 80 rides!
#7 Visit Mountain Merkur For Picture Perfect Scenery
You need not worry about climbing this 2,191 foot mountain; the Merkur Funicular Railway will transport you to the top, in less than five minutes. As you reach the spot, soak in the breathtaking views of the Rhine River Valley and the Black Forest as you dine on the hilltop restaurant. Hiking enthusiasts also have an option of summiting the mountain by foot.
Note: On an excursion to Mt. Merkur, make sure to check out the game reserve, home to Fallow deer, Roe deer, and wild boars.
#8 Visit Friedrichsplatz For A Memorable Trip
Located in Mannheim and characterised with manicured lawns, lovely flower beds and Art Nouveau fountains; Friedrichsplatz is one of the largest and the most beautiful town squares of Europe. It is perfect for a stroll, to celebrate, relax and of course to be amazed too! If you find the town square mesmerizing in the day wait until the sun goes down. The 60m-high Wasserturm (Water Tower) comes alive with bright lights and colours, enchanting every passerby. Other than the water fountain, Mannheim is also home to high end fashion stores, along with exclusive pubs and bars.
Holiday In Europe
European countries of Switzerland and Italy have always been on the bucket list of Indian tourists. But in the last decade, we have been warming up to the idea of a Russian sojourn. A considerably cheaper option, Russia is as alluringly beautiful as its European counterparts.
Wondering where to start? Worry not!
Here’s a brief guide to things you must know before you actually set foot in Russia.
Article Credit: Alefiya Rashiq
Must Dos Before You Enter Russia – The Visa
All tourists must have a valid visa to travel to Russia. But before you apply for one, you need to possess an invitation (or a visa support letter) from a Russian tourist agency/hotel. This can be obtained online at a minimal fee. On procuring it, you must apply to the nearest Russian consulate for a visa, which generally takes between 14-20 days. Once you arrive in Russia, your visa has to be registered, which is generally managed by the hotel you are staying at.
Planning Your Stay – Hotel Accommodation
Flanked by historical architecture, creative brilliance and an old world charm, Moscow and St. Petersburg are Russia’s two prominent cities that you simply must visit. It is advisable to book your hotel well in advance (at least a month before), as you may not find availability once you reach there. Choosing a hotel that is centrally located is preferable over one which will require a lot of travelling to reach major attractions. For Indian tourists, food choice may be a possible concern. However, many hotels in Russia offer Indian cuisine, including vegetarian fare, so selecting your hotel wisely is the key to a smooth holiday.
What To Pack – Wardrobe
If you are travelling during winter, then woolens, mufflers and boots are mandatory requirements to help cope with the arctic chills. Summers, however, are quite warm. So along with your regular wear, throw in a light jacket to stay cosy.
PS: Don’t forget to pack a pair or two of your most comfortable footwear. There’s a lot of walking to be done is Russia, especially when you’re on a tour of the Kremlin, and other magnanimous museums and churches.
Other Things To Remember
- Ensure you do your homework, and have an itinerary laid out to avoid unnecessary wastage of time and energy.
- Russia is very safe, but it is advisable to be alert at all times.
- Language may be a problem, as Russian is widely spoken amongst the natives. Therefore, a Russian-English dictionary should be of good help.
- In case you want to travel on the Trans-Siberian railway, book your ticket in advance.
- While moving around Russia, carry your passport or at least a copy of it with you at all times.
- In Moscow, especially around the Red Square, tourist traps are common. So it is preferable to hire a guide.
- Transportation is easily available in the form of metro and taxis. However, the farther you step out of the city and move towards the countryside, the scarcer your travel options will become.
Want to holiday in Russia?