BALI-MY FAVIOURITE DESTINATION-BEIJING,COLOUR OF SUZHOU CITY,LAMA THE DIVINE TEMPLE,FACT FILE-Malaysia,CAMERON HIGHLANDS-Srilanka,DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE-ISLANDS IN THE SUN-MALDIVES- THAILAND,a holiday that has something for everyone,surely makes u feel welcome! ,MALAYSIA RAINFORESTS-GENTING CITY Of Entertainment-CHENGDU,Ancient yet new- Picturesque PHILIPPINES - Boracay in the Philippines is the perfect haven for the beach lover--
BASK IN BALI
Last month, we took a trip to the beautiful island of Bali in Indonesia. Instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a villa, with a spacious living/dining area, a tropical garden, a private swimming pool, a cook who prepared delicious breakfasts that were served in bed, trained spa therapists at your beck-and-call and attentive staff to take care of every single need. It was an amazing experience.
Bali has come lovely beaches in Kuta, Sanur, Jimbaran and Nusa Dua. Water sports like surfing, snorkeling and whitewater rafting are common.AnooX banner here
Even children can raft along the Ayung River through rainforests and rice terraces. We went on the two-hour journey along the river, which was refreshing. The Kuta beach was one of my favourites; stretching out tills the very horizon. At night, the water shimmered as it reflected the surrounding lights. There are hotels right on the beach front, which offer a spectacular view of the unending waters. The beach also offers the adrenaline-driven option of bungee jumping, conducted by AJ Hackett, the New Zealand-based pioneers of the sport.
We tried quad biking, where a four-wheeled tractor-like bike is driven through marshes, swamps and other bumpy terrain. Bali also offers jungle treks, volcano trips and kayaking journeys.
Balinese culture and its numerous temples speak of its rich past and heritage. The locals with their friendly demeanour made us feel completely at home.
Picturesque beaches with picture-postcard sunsets, the people and fun-filled activities made Bali a holiday destination that will stay etched forever in my mind.
has redefined itself as a major economic centre and a popular tourist destination
The spectacular forbidden city occupies a primary place in the Chinese psyche,but there are other landmarks that are equally remarkable. There are two summer places in the suburbs of Beijing.The older complex was destroyed by foreign troops in 1860.The new palace built by Dowager Empress Cixi at the end of the 19th century was also ransacked but survived.
COLOUR OF SUZHOU CITY:
Suzhou street today has shops selling anything from colourful qipaos(gowns) to jade artefacts.
you can walk towards Kunming Lake which covers two-thirds of the area of the complex.Tourists can boat in the lake.A superb ,two tiered marble boat built by Cixi occupies pride of place.The most notable structures are near the east gates.The main building is the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity,which houses a throne and is fronted by a courtyard decorated with bronze animals.The Buddhist Fragrance Pavilion ,Longevity hill,Cloud Dispelling Hall and The Buddhist Temple of the Sea of Wisdom are the other other crowd pullers.The Beihai Park is largely a lake.This site is associated with Kublai Khan's PalaceThe Jade Island & White Dagoba ,an onion -shaped shrine in the Tibetan style is the main attractions of Beihai Park
Start twidding chopsticks,some of your most memorable moments could be the ones spent in restaurants.Budget dinners can polishoff spicy MalaTang (noodle soup)and steaming ,plump dumplings on Wangfujing Snack Street .
DID U KNOW?
Hutong (street,lane or alley) life is characterised by shopkeepers selling their wares,vendors selling traditional food and men assembled in groups to play cards or mahjong.
MUST SEE & DO:
walk along the Great Wall,the dividing line between China & the Barbarian Hordes
savour Beijing roast duck,served with pancakes and hoisin sauce.
shop for bargains at premier antique street Liulichang.
be dazzled by Beijing Opera
see the Forbidden City.
THE DIVINE TEMPLE
The Lama Temple is reportedly Beijing's largest & most impressive temple.Tourists entering through he southern gate pass through a courtyard with Bell & Drum towers and two pavilions with steles in them.Hall of the Wheel of Dhrma and the pavilion of Ten Thousand happiness are some of the main attractions of the temple complex.
Take a flight to Beijing.
where to stay:Home Inn at 61,Liangshidian Jie,Dashilar,is within easy reach of TiananmenSquare .Room rates range from y178-218(1yuan=Rs.5.45approx.)
Oriental Garden hotel at 6,Dongzhimen Nandajie.single & double room range from $120 &$186 respectively
Lusongyuan hotel at 22,Bunchang Hutong.
Bike rental y15/30 half/full day
Haoyuan hotel is near Wangfujing street & just ten minutes from Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City.Double standard /deluxe room range from y585/715.
MALAYSIAN hill resort,CAMERON HIGHLANDS,hidden in the land of of the tribe Orang Asli,located about 20km east of Ipoh and about 150km north of Kualalampur,in Pahang,Malaysia.Named after William Cameron,a British surveyor who discovered the plateau during a mapping expedition in 1985,the fame of Cameron Highlands grew during colonial era when British planters realised the potential of its fertile mountain slopes for growing tea.It is Malaysia's largest tea-producing region.Here Tudor cottages dotting the landscape.The main town is Tanah Rata,which is a small town that one can cover on foot as it stretches for a few kilometers,with shops and restaurants.It is best to set up a base here and then,hitchhike to the various places located on the highlands.U can hire a taxi from the hotel or from the town.Accommodation in Cameron Highlands is not a problem,with several hotels located in and around the area.The Heritage Hotel,and the Smokehouse Hotel ,the best of the lot.The Heritage Hotel offers a bird's eye-view of the panoramic town of Tanah Rata.Two nights in the sleepy town is all that u need for a relaxing vacation.U can hire a cab or take a bus to go to the tea plantations and the strawberry farms.U can drive back to the Rose Gardens and the Vegetable Gardens.
If u are not rally interested in glambling or water-sports in Malaysia,do visit Cameron Highlands,a remarkable atmosphere.
DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE
About 148km from Colombo there is the Dambulla Cave Temple with statues,paintings and 2000-year old murals depicting Buddha's life.Check out the 14-m colossal recumbent Buddha carved out of rock here.U can explore the Aluvihara monastic caves on the Kandy-Dambulla road.This was where Buddha's teachings were put into writing-the Tipitaka-in the 3rd century AD.And of course,the peaceful lakeside city of Kandy is famous for the Temple of the Tooth,enshrining the tooth relic of the Buddha.
Responsible Travel has a 15-day package that takes u to these places at Rs.56,094/- per person starting at Bandaranaike International Airport.It includes B&B accommodation on twin-sharing basis in luxurious hotels such as the Tissawewa Grand Rest House and Spa at Dambulla,local transfers and entrance fees.Airfares to Srilanka excluded.For more details mail to:amelia@responsible-travel.
Compare cheap flights online at Just flights. Cheapest flight deals and flight offers on the internet. Cheap flights from gatwick, heathrow and all UK Airports from just flights.org.uk.
ISLANDS IN THE SUN-MALDIVES
KURUMBA VILLAGE RESORT
From the aeroplane window the MALDIVES look like a breathtakingly beautiful mirage.MALE airport is on an island by itself so u have to get on a boat and it will take 10minute ride to the beautiful Kurumba Village Resort.The resort island in a north Male atoll has talcum white beaches and is surrounded by bluey-green water and has lush green palm trees.It has spread over 48 acres and,in short,it is the perfect island getaway.
The red roofs of the Kurumba cottages peep out from between the palms.It has 180 suites-some with their own pools.Located to the south of India's Lakshadweep islands and about 700km south-west of SrilankaMaldives consists of 1,190 islands that are scattered over an area of 90,000 sq.km.It is place of sun,sand and sea,a perfect holiday destination.Just opposite the small park adjoining the Hukuru Miskiiy,is The Medhuziyaaraiy which is the tomb of Abu-alBarakat,who brought islam to this previously Buddhist nation in 1153.
Getting There:The distance between Male & Kochi is 1074km,taking 80 minutes on flight.Airport is Male international.
Currency:The local currency is the Rufiyya.All resorts,hotels,most major shops and restaurants are aythorised money changers for the benefit of the tourists.
Transport:Taxis charge between Rf 15-20 per stop,with an extra charge of Rf 5 for luggage.Ferries to airport charge Rf 10 per person before and Rf 20 after midnight.Ferry hire is Rf 250 before and Rf 350 after sunset.
It means 'welcome ' in Thai.And the country with its warm hospitality and helpful natives-not to mention a holiday that has something for everyone-surely makes u feel welcome!
Life is a beach:
Hua Hin ,Thailand's royal beach resort,a three-hour drive from Bangkok.In 1928,king Rama VII chose Hua Hin to build his residence ,aptly named Klai Kangwon meaning 'far fro worries'.
Walk the talk:
The warm,friendly Thailanders are always ready to guide u.U can opt to travel by train to Surat Thani and then by bus to Krabi in south Thailand.Located on Tup Kaek beach in a quiet corner of Krabi,our next resort was a perfect escape from tourist hordes.Ao Nang Beach,Krabi's major tourist hot spot,is a scenic drive away.A mouth watering corn on the cob,a playful dip in the sea,a relaxing Thai massage and a spicy roadside meal punctured your blissful moments of togetherness.
Next,u can shift the action to Railay,a scheduled peninsula sorrounded by towering limestone cliffs,its beaches accessible only by long tail boat.After a day of sea kayaking,rock climbing and cave exploring ,crashed out with chilled beers at a beach pub,amazing.Next day u can sign up for a flunky motorboat cruise and visit several islands of the Phi Phi archipelago.Snorkelling in the open sea,clicked snaps of shoals of fish and coral.U can stay there almost a week.
Back in Bangkok:
In Bangkok,u can have enough time to shop for gifts for everyone back home,cheer lustily at a Muay Thai Match at the Lumpini Boxing Stadium and enjoy a leisurely canal cruise,during which u can pick up the obligatory tuk tuk souvenirs in the floating market.As soon as u say la gon(goodbye) to the Land of Smiles,u whole-heartedly promise 'laew phob gan mai'-'see u again'-really soon!
MUAY THAI:Literally'Thai Boxing,also called Art of Eight Limbs;a muay thai master can strike with eight points of contact(hands,shins,elbows,knees)unlike two points(fists)in western boxing and four(fists,feet)in most martial arts.
Getting there:all major airlines operate daily flights to Bangkok.
Best time to go:february-march is ideal;july-november gets rainy.
Money talks:avoid bringing too much money or carrying it on u.U can get Thai baht from ATM machines,which are all over the place.
Shopping:Bangkok is a shopper's paradise,for clothes and electronics in particular.Most tourists shops are reasonably priced.So,shop till u drop but do bargain a bit!
Street Eats:Feasting on pork,shrimp,sprouts,water chestnut dumplings.....
WAYFARER MALAYSIA RAINFORESTS
Labuan International Sea Challenge with its colourful kayaks
Watching the exotic wildlife in the Malaysian rainforests make for an experience of a lifetime.
More about the Orang Utans later because the Borneo and Labuan islands in Malaysia have a host of other exotic adventures as well.Firstly there is the panoramic Labuan International Sea Challenge with an avalanche of brightly coloured kayaks and scores of other water sports events.The sparkling ocean hugging the Labuan coastline is a stunning visual in itself and the nattily dressed kayakers dotting the golden beaches offer eye-candy as well.Then there are turtle-watching islands in Sandakan and the proboscis monkey trail along river Kinabatangan too.Your first pit stop could be the orang utan feeding programme at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation centre,located 25km west of Sandakan ,in Malaysia's Borneo Islands,is currently home to approximately 60-80 orang utans,one of the world's most endangered species that is found only in Indonesia and Borneo.The centre is actually a forested area spread over 43 sq.km,started 44 years ago when captive orang utans,abandoned by their parents or confined by villagers,were rescued and made to learn survival skills befor being released into the wild.Orang Utan Appeal,a UK based charity that works with the rehabilitation centre here also offered orang utans for adoption to tourists,allowing them to sponsor the upkeep of the creature at the centre.The adopters get regular newsletters and pictures updating them on their adoptee's progress.
A oung Orang Utan feeds on sugarcane
The fact is that Malaysia has maximised its potential as a tourist hot spot for adventure junkies.Along with other wondrous creatures,the river Kinabatangan running through Sandakan,is flanked on both sides by freshwater swamps and marshy forests populated by none other than the famed proboscis monkey.The proboscis monkey is to wildlife buffs,what Beluga caviar is to food connoisseurs-extremely rare and difficult to spot.These monkeys with noses that are almost 7cm long and pot bellies as huge as ripe water melons are found only in Borneo.After completing the Proboscis monkey sighting,that is almost like a holy ritual for the safari geek,tourists generally head to the Turtle Island Park,that is located in the north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea.
The Islands of Selingan,Bakungan Kecil and Gulisan have been demarcated as the marine park where green and hawksbill turtles swim up to the shores during the deathly silence of the night and lay their eggs.
The Visual Extravaganza unfolds with the shelled creatures creeping onto the shores and scooping out the sand with their webbed feet into tiny bowls for laying eggs.Tourists watch with bated breath as the turtles lay ping-pong balls of eggs and cover their tracks and the egg bowls with sand in a frantic sweep of their flippers.
Next pit stop on the adventure trail is the International Sea Challenge being held at Labuan,a Malaysian Island at the mouth of Brunei Bay.This competitive tournament with kayaking and game fishing as sporting events has participants from all over the world slugging it out on the high seas.
Trophies of game fishing on the Labuan Beach
Getting there-Sandakan,the entry point to animal life reserves,such as Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary,Turtle Islands etc is an hour's flight from Kota Kinabalu,capital of Malaysia's Sabah State.There are daily flights to Kota Knabalu from Kuala Lumpur.
Where to stay- There is 5-star accommodation or luxury retreats and basic living quarters.
Currency- 1 MYR(Malaysian Currency Ringit)= Rs.13.19
Bergendang , traditional musical performance in Sarawak
TRAVEL TRIVIA :Bergendang is a traditional musical performance in Sarawak,where women sit behind a screen and play the gendang or drums.Young girls sing along with them while the men dance.
WAYFARER: With stilt houses, canopywalks and more, Kota Kinabalu is one exotic retreat
Indians are blessed by an acute awareness of international travel incentives (read duty-free shopping) that any foreigner worth his EURO can only aspire for. Even before boarding the aircraft at the IndiraGandhiInternationalAirport, most of my co-passengers to Malaysia had finished close to 90% of their shopping at the well-stocked duty-free shops, picking up chocolates and perfumes by the truckloads! One lady even dumped part of her designer luggage at the airport lounge in order to make space for a spot of retail therapy. Of course, such shoppers are egged on by the fear that the same chocolates and perfumes bought in regular shops would make them poorer by many extra bucks.
This apart, it was a fairly uneventful journey to the spiffy and high-tech KL airport, the poster child of gloss, glamour and yes, more duty-free shopping.
But there was no way I could even think of any high-octane shopping in the glitzy shops. For, I had to rush to catch a two hour flight to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, that’s located on the northwest coast of the BorneoIslands.
The drive from Kota Kinabalu airport to our hotel was spectacular to say the least. On the west glittered the emerald green waters of the South China Sea, while the east towered with the Crocker range of mountains. We feasted our eyes on the tiny water village that rushed past — gawking at houses propped up on stilts on the various water bodies that surrounded the city.
But the real ace in the holefor youngsters living here is the chance to fish for their lunch in their own backyards! The city itself is dotted with small, picturesque hillocks where luscious tropical fruits and vegetables are cultivated.
So, between the fresh seafood hauled from the South China Sea and exotic shitake mushrooms and Chinese cabbages organically grown on the mountain slopes, you can imagine how sumptuously laid out our tables were. But the tropical fruits, we were told, are seasonal and unfortunately we had arrived bang in the middle of the wrong season. So through our trip, we had to be content with starting at the juicy rambutans and mangos-teens that peeped at us from restaurant billboards.
After a huge meal(we had stuffed ourselves till the chairs creaked), we waddled to our tour buses which were to take us directly to the heart of the MonsopaidHeritageCulturalVillage. This village showcases the lifestyle and hunting rituals of the Kadazandusun, an ancient warrior tribe of the BorneoIslands. Located on the banks of the PenampangRiver, the village is a veritable storehouse of trophy skulls gathered by the headhunters of the tribe. The skulls are kept in the House of Skulls, a small hutment within the premises.
ACE OF VASE :
The China House in Tianjin is embellished with millions of ancient vases,bowls,and dishes.
VANITY FARE :
BURJ Al-Arab hotel in Dubai
TheSAIL-SHAPED BURJ Al Arabis the most recognisable hotel in the world and offers the uncanny combination of breathtaking views and appaling decor.All the Burj's duplex suites offer oceanic views.But the rooms themselves combine every bad cliche of Arabian style and display them proudly-from golden pedestals to velvet sofas,purple brocade,and gilded mirrors over the bed.Despite all this richness,the Burj boasts no real artworks and has no sense of style.Still,this is one of the most expensive hotels in the world and the first ever 7-star.If renting its rooms gives u a kick,then at least know that your discerning side can feast on the Burj's design,which was concieved by Tom Wright.The hotel's curved aquatic form and sea-front location give guests the feeling of being at sea.U can take that figuratively as well,for the Burj has an uncertain air.Its menus are rich but uninspiring,and its staff,while obsequious in the Asian manner,lack the subtle discretion great hotels teach their staff.What the Burj does offer is self-conscious exclusiveness.
Been there,Dune there
It's an adrenalin rush.When in Dubai,drive up dune cliffs and across sliding slopes in your SUV without toppling over.
Cherry blossoms paint Japan's landscape spectacularly white.They are a key tourist attraction during March and April
GENTING CITY OF Entertainment
Memorable Experiences Await U at 6,000 feet !
Escape to Malaysia's only premier integrated holiday destination at 6,000 feet above sea level,Genting City Of Entertainment,and get ready for a memorable time ! Witness breathtaking scenery when u ride on Genting Skyway,the world's fastest and South-East Asia's longest cable car system ! Have fun with over 60 rides at Genting Theme Park,the only theme park at 6,000 feet ! Be entertained by incredible world-class acts including the new international show,FLY : Defy Gravity ! Shop till you drop at over 8- retail outlets ! Satisfy your cravings with exquisite vegan,vegetarian and non-vegetarian specialities ! And relax with our range of comfortable accommodation including First World Hotel,certified as the World's Largest Hotel with 6118 rooms by Guinness World Records ! So for a unique holiday filled with memorable experiences,reserve your package to Genting City of Entertainment today.
For more details,visit- www.genting.com.my
Old-world charm mingles with modern amenities at Chengdu
It's a destination that was voted one of the best cities in China by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.It's also got the reputation of being one of the most laid-back cities on the continent,as well as home to some of the fieriest cuisine in the region.Most people will come here to see China's famous pandas,while others pass through simply to catch the train to Tibet.But the Sichuan capital Chengdu has much more to offer.Chengdu is one of the hottest destinations in Asia,situated in the south-west of the country,far away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing,it's an ideal location to experience the old and new faces of China.
One of the more popular areas to visit is Jin Li Street.Framed by ancient Chinese city gates,this area dates back to the ancient Han and Tang Dynasties.Strolling around ,u will find yourself surrounded by old-world stores selling embroidery,lacquer products and folk handicrafts.Yet at the same time,this is a fashionable area.There are cafes,bars and even the odd boutique hotel hidden away behind traditional doors - a sign of a city going through a period of rapid economic development.Infrastructure and roads have improved and journey times have been slashed to out-lying tourist attractions like the Panda Breeding and Research Centre.Hotels are being built at a rapid rate-an additional 1,200 hotel rooms came online recently.The govt.'s efforts to increase tourism have also helped boost the profile of the Sichuan Opera.In Chengdu,the Sichuan opera plays to a packed house daily,and is one of the most dynamic forms of Chinese Opera-more like a play with highly polished acting.The culture is another phenomenon in Chengdu.Most hotels and tourist haunts will put on tea ceremonies for guests.But possibly the best way to understand Chengdu lifestyle and culture is to visit a tea-outfits to more modest establishments along the streets.There are unlimited refills.So the Panda might have lured the tourists in initially,but now Chengdu is a city poised to show international visitors that there is a lot more here to see and do.
Shangri-La Hotel (5 stars)9 Binjiang Dong Road,Chengdu 610021,Sichuan .Phone:+86 28 8888 9999
Bin Jiang Hotel (3 stars) No.16 Section 1-Binjiang Road,Chengdu 610021,Sichuan.Phone: +86 28 86656451
Chengdu boasts a huge number of restaurants serving fiery Sichuan fare.The hotpot-style dish is extremely popular,best washed down with the locally brewed Xuehua beer.
Veranda Bridge Restaurant over the River ,FULAN
Veranda Bridge Restaurant - as the name suggests,this restaurant is contained within a bridge over the Fulan River.This establishment serves traditional Sichuan cuisine,a little on the pricey side.For more affordable eating options,head to the numerous food stalls at the end of Jin Li Street.
SICHUAN OPERA : The most 'authentic' larger venue is the Shunxing Lao Chaguan situated in the Chengdu International Convention Centre.Performances are on most nights from 8p.m.There is also the more casual tea house theatre at the Cultural Palace on Tidu Jie.Also see Shufeng Yayun in Cultural Park and the Ming-style open air stage in Wuhou Ci.
Some international destinations cater to those crazy about wildlife.
Some to those fanatical about beaches.
Some to those who crave a pulsating nightlife.
Philippines is for the discerning few who would rather have them all.
Imagine pristine white beaches including one rated as 'the finest beach in the world'.Imagine the widest variety of flora and fauna you have ever seen.Imagine spectacular topography.Now imagine all this in one country-the Philippines.
That's just a few of the stunning surprises the Philippines has to offer.It has also lush tropical islands like Mactan,in the heart of Cebu,home to hidden lagoons,palm forest,orchids,and some completely secluded,incredibly romantic resorts.Over 75 species of fauna on Calauit Islands Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary,over 300 coral species in the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park,and thelargest mall in Asia in Manila,the capital city with a Spanish body but a truly Philippine heart.Philippines is a dozen holidays rolled into one.To experience it for yourself,log on to www.wowphilippines.com.ph
UNDISCOVERED MALAYSIA ----
Island of the Pregnant Maiden : Langkawi
Discover a side of Malaysia you never dreamed existed.Tropical rainforests.Tea plantations.Jungle safaris.And the kind of luxury you can take for granted with Kuoni.
Dinner on the KL Tower : stars above and a carpet of lights below.
On the night safari at Taman Negara,fireflies light your path through the forest.
Float weightless over picture perfect islands on your cable car ride.
Fly the finest airlines.Stay at the most exclusive hotels.Travel everywhere in the comfort of a private sedan.
for more details,log on to www.kuoni.in
or e-mail at : email@example.com
Island in the sun
WAYFARER: Boracay in the Philippines is the perfect haven for the beach lover,
Imagine a place with white sandy beaches, shimmering cobalt waves, and tall, swaying coconut trees. Then imagine yourself lolling on a sun deck, a cool drink by your side, with nothing but serenity around you. As the naughty waves froth and rush to lick your feet you forget you are an inhabitant of this turbulent planet. Such a place exists and let me assure you. It’s called Boracay.
The tiny island south of Manila is a beachcomber’s delight. It’s one of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations and it’s where the sun worshippers flock for their tryst with sand, surf and leisure. This was the destination I made my way to at the end of summer.
Everywhere the eye traveled, all it could see was shades of blue and green. The bright blue seemed to hurt my eyes, which are more accustomed to dirty hues of blue.
As I felt the salt sting my eyes, I knew I had found the perfect haven for my time out. The feel of sand beneath my bare feet and the sudden sting of a shell, coupled with the sight of the beautiful cerulean ocean and white-capped waves reconfirmed the fact that I had chosen my destination wisely.
Boracay is a melting pot for beach lovers. That’s not surprising, as it has been voted the world’s best beach destination by several reputed lifestyle magazines. It’s the perfect island getaway with its warm blue waters, powder-fine white sand, and a palm-fringed 4 km beach.
There are two popular beaches here – White Beach (naturally) and Puka Beach. The White Beach is the place that takes the crown. The water here is shallow and the sand is finer and brighter than most beaches in the archipelago; it feel like treading on miles of baby powder. A green string of palm trees lines the beach, offering lotus-eaters an option to loll under their shade.
But for those seeking privacy and peace, it’s the stretch of white sandy beach along the northern tip of the island called Puka Beach that’s the perfect place to head to. Puka Beach is the ultimate tropical island: white sand, azure water and a laidback serene feel. The shells found on the beach are craft into jewellery by the locals.
I had barely stepped on the beach when vendors trying to lure me with sunglasses, shell jewellery and fresh water pearls accosted me. At least half a dozen people were lying in the shade of trees getting beach massages, having their bodies pampered by expert hands. Some of the younger folk were getting henna tattoos done while others were having their hair braided.
A carefree and casual attitude reigned all around. It was impossible not to get caught up in the mood and I succumbed.
A few locals were hounding the tourists with offers of parasailing, scuba diving and even a trip in a sailboat. After careful deliberation I settled for a spot of island hopping. The best way to see the beauty of Boracay and its various beaches is by papaw (outrigger sailboat) I had been told and so I took off in a papaw for my tryst with the adjoining islands.
Windsurfers and parasailers were all around as our boat took off with its cargo of six people. The scenery was breathtaking as our boat sped across the length of the island, and as we turned the corner I saw the cavernous caves that occupy Boracay’s northern tip. The caves looked as if someone had strategically placed them there for maximum effect, looming above the shimmering aquamarine waters.
The caves were vast and deep and provided the perfect shade to cool our roasting bodies for a few minutes while taking in the panoramic views of distant islands that seemed to go on forever. We went from island to island, soaking in the beauty of the pristine beaches and blue water.
Getting there: Cathy Pacific has regular flights from India to Manila with a stop–over at Hong Kong. From Manila, take a smaller aircraft to reach Catalan and a boat to get to Boracay. Air Philippines runs regular flights between Manila and Catalan.
Where to stay: The tiny island has no less than two hundred resorts of all kinds. Tariff for resorts on the White Beach are above PHP5000. Some options are – La Reserve Beach Hotel (firstname.lastname@example.org), Paradise Bay Beach & Water sport Resort (email@example.com) and Boracay Regency Beach Resort (www.boracayregency.com). For cheaper options, try Fat Jimmy’s Resort (firstname.lastname@example.org); Queen’s Beach Resort (Queensresort@boracay.ph.net); Pearl of Pacific (www.pearlofthepacific.com.ph).
Exchange rate: 1 Philippines Peso (PHP) = 0.99INR.
The boatman offered us what he called a ‘banana boat’ ride. By now I was having too good a time to turn it down. The banana boat turned out to be an oblong pair of inflated rubber rafts with seats in a single row.
Pulled by a motorboat, we skimmed and bounced over the rolling waves, screaming at the top of our voices. It was the most exhilarating experience and I loved it though I have always been a bit nervous about water. Even when the tide began to turn I wasn’t satisfied and wanted to continue.
The sight of the sun going down behind the rain bearing, nimbus clouds was an unforgettable sight. The lights had come on and the White Beach had turned into a party ground. The umpteen bars and restaurants on the beachfront were alive with music and lights. Even the dark nooks seemed to light up with brilliant fireflies. Unwilling to let the magic wane, I took a moonlight stroll.
Exhausted after the long day, I leaned back against a palm tree and watched the moon flirting with the clouds. And then, I saw a falling star and made a wish. I wanted to return to paradise one day.
My search for pristine shores, sapphire seas and peace ended at Boracay. It was the closet I could ever get to attain nirvana. If you are yearning for a holiday of a lifetime, this is the place to be. Affable locals, affordable tariffs and unlimited natural splendor – what more could anyone want?
Travel trivia: Ifugao, a landlocked province in Luzon, Philippines is known for its spectacular 2000-year-old Banaue hand-carved rice terraces, which have sometime been described as the eighth wonder of the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the terraces stretch up to the sky like stepping stones – the highest reaching a height of 4,920ft. It’s considered one of mankind’s greatest engineering feats.