BEST TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN THE WORLD
TRAVEL In Kerala,Ethiopia,Dominica,Jamaica,Srilanka---If you want to rediscover yourself and connect with nature, head for Dart moor National Park. Its wooded gorges, rocky rivers and meadows are awesome! ---Time stands still in the kayaking country of Krabi with its magical lagoons and magnificent cliffs--MAGICAL MACAO --

New horizons

TRAVEL 360: Responsible tourism helps the global tourist taste a slice of community life,

Splurging cash in snazzy tourist: joints – does that sum up tourism for you? Well, think again. Responsible tourism, which promotes tourism in a region without exploiting its human or natural re–sources, is rising in the popularity meter in India and abroad.

        Its tourism that respects the environment, culture and the people,” says Diana McIntyre-Pike, CEO, Country style Community Tourism Network and Jamaica. Tourists visit a place as guests to the community living there and experience their kind of life. “Its not adapted to suit the visitor – rather the guest must adapt to the local life,” insists Jim Winston, managing director, Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge in the Caribbean island, Dominica. Most of the money earned goes directly to the hosts and is used for their own development – in agriculture, education and the like.

        Heres a race of the hot community tourism destinations around the world.

Kerala: Shaded among palm trees and stones throw away from the Arabian Sea, lies the Malaria village in Alapuzha, 75km from Cochin airport. Home stay in cottages over 15 acres is a unique experience. Youll love the homemade Kerala cuisine and the warmth of the family you stay with. Going fishing with the local fishermen or paddling in canoes is just right for those who love the water. You can explore the nearby coir and toddy-making factories on a bicycle or even opt for an elephant ride.

HOT TICKET! Arakal Heritage offers accommodation in AC cottages at Rs5500 per day on a doub-le occupancy basis, including breakfast and dinner. For a non-AC cottage, the price is Rs5000. A day of Ayurvedic massage for each person is free if you stay for seven days. A2-hour elephant ride will cost Rs2000. Mail to:

abi@arakal.com. For other Kerala home stay locations, visit http://www.keralatourism.org/homestay/.

Ethiopia: Trekking through Ethiopias third highest massif in Lalibela is quite a challenge. Sightings of scrambling Gelada baboons or bird watching just make it more special. About 110km away lies Equate Miriam, Ethiopias first responsible tourism site. Take time out to visit the Grain Bank set up here to support its members through periods of grain shortage and inflation. While you enjoy your stay in the tukuls (thatched cottages) and sample the enjera bread, you can also take part in farming or catch the carpet weavers at work.

HOT TICKET! TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives) has a 5-day pack-age at $50 per day for a minimum of two people, which includes accommodation in tukuls, meals, guides and pack animals (for luggage). An additional $160 will be charged for transfer by cars. Mail to: Info@community-tourismethiopia.com.

Dominica: Life in this small Caribbean island is simple and rural with most people cultivating barely enough for their own sustenance. Its a unique experience to combine scuba diving or whale watching with a day of fermenting or roasting of coffee and cocoa beans or even discovering herbal medicines. Youll enjoy lending a hand in the village school. Coconut and bamboo harvesting are significant occupations here and you can have a go at making crafts at the workshops.

HOT TICKET! The travel agency 3 Rivers has a weeklong package in Dominica with a six-night stay in a jungle cabin or tree house and a one-night stay with a local family. The cost per person is $1,400 and $700 for each extra person. The package includes all meals, surface transport and taxes. Mail to: info@3riversdominica.com.

Jamaica: The Jamaican South Coast with its sun-kissed beaches, traditional fishing villages and century-old holiday villas, is a treat to explore. You can visit the magnificent seven-tiered cascading YS falls, sample the famous south coast peppered shrimps or learn to make bam my (cassava bread) while relaxing in family farms. A special experience would be visiting the historical Accompong Village, founded in 1739 after the Maroons (runaway slaves in the West Indies and America) signed a peace treaty with the British, and where they remain till date, largely isolated.

HOT TICKET! Country style International and its Community Tourism Network offers a seven-day package to Mandeville and the South Coast at $1,680 per couple on a double occupancy basis, guides, all meals and taxes included. Transportation charge is extra. Mail to: countrystyletourism@yahoo.com.

Sri Lanka: From beaches to jungles, mountains to blue seas, our neighbor in the south has it all. Visit Balapitiya, a fishing village with golden beaches – two hours from Colombo. A community center here helps the locals recuperate from tsunami-inflicted destruction and trauma. Participate in fishing and farming or pick up some traditional medical or culinary skills. The Shramadana Weekends offer the opportunity of volunteering to work with the villagers to help create a new facility like a preschool or irrigation channels.

HOT TICKET! Sarvodaya Community Tourism Initiative offers a 7-day package to Balapitiya at $900 per person. It includes accommodation (in local homes or a hostel), surface transport and meals to: communitytourism@sarvodaya.org.  

           

Discover Dart moor

If you want to rediscover yourself and connect with nature, head for Dart moor National Park. Its wooded gorges, rocky rivers and meadows are awesome!

Fill your lungs with fresh air. Catch the delicate scent of gorse flowers. Listen to the song of skylarks. Devour fresh home-baked bread and farmhouse cheese. Do all this and more amid the spectacular beauty of the Dart moor National Park in Devon, Southwest England. The famed Dart moor ponies roam the Moor nonchalantly along with the ubiquitous sheep. Our first stop was Okehampton, an attractive town that serves as the gateway to the wild North Moor, an ideal base for walkers. Visitors can step back into the past with a visit to the substantial ruins of Okehampton Castle. 

    We resumed our journey and drove through the charming towns of Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey on our way to Becky Falls. Moretonhampstead, an attractive market town and gateway to the Eastern Moor, has unusual two-story arcaded almshouses and interesting buildings around the town square. Bovey Tracey nestles on the Southeast edge of the park and offers tourists opportunities for walking, canoeing, fishing and pottering. A walk around Bovey Tracey reveals many beautiful and intriguing buildings such as the mediaeval Parish Church of S Peter Paul and Thomas of Canterbury, Cromwells Arch and the Old Railway Station that is now a heritage center. The town is also a great base for exploring the naval city of Plymouth and Devons Roman capital Exeter.

ONNATURE’S TRAIL: Becky Falls first opened to the public in 1903 and has been attracting and inspiring poets, writers, painters and visitors over since, including Rupert Brooke and Virginia Wolf, both of whom stayed there. Although a very popular destination for Victorian visitors, the falls have been sought out for centuries. There is an abundance of rare and endangered flora and fauna including rare lichens and fungi, in the Becky Falls Woodland Park. It has, therefore, been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are three trails around the falls marked by blue, red and purple lines. The blue trail takes about half-an-hour to complete and is perfect for children. The red trail – which we took is more demanding in places and requires sound footwear but contains the best views. The purple trail is only for the fit and well shod. 

    Children are also kept entertained by the animals on display. The owls are particularly fascinating. There was a grumpy one called Mrs. Merlin that seemed to be a hit with the old and young alike. Sev-eral Bengalese owls were on display, and one had surprisingly been named Arun.

    Our next stop was Buck fast Abbey in the pretty little town of Buck-fast Leigh. Today, it is home to a community of Benedictine monks who lead a life of prayer, work and study. Central to every mona-stery is its church. The Abbey church of St Mary provides a quiet and peaceful haven for individuals to spend time in personal prayer and contemplation. The abbey is also famous for its stained glass, bee keeping and tonic wine.

    We returned home to the smell of wood smoke and the promise of irresistible grub for dinner!

The park covers an area of 368 square miles, the largest and wildest area of open country in southern England!”

 

FACT FILE

How to go: Fly to London by Emirates or British Airways and then drive down to Dart moor. Alternatively, stay at Exeter, make day trips by bus.

Best Season: June/August/September

What to do: Dart moor offers a range of biking routes from flat-sure-faced cycle ways to challenging off-road hill climbs. Indulge in fishing as Dart moor rivers are noted for wild brown trout, sea trout and salmon.

    Visit Buck land Abbey, formerly the home of Sir Francis Drake, Devons most famous sea dog and explorer.

    Taste mouth-watering local fare: pies, scones, pasties and cakes at the innumerable delicatessens and tearooms in Dart moor.

Where to stay: Eastwrey Barton is a delightful Georgian country house on the Moretonhampstead Road at Lustle-igh. Web: www.eastwreybarton.co.uk; Price of Peace is a delightful B&B that stands a few yards from the bank of the River Porridge at Hatherleigh. Web: www.priceofpeace.co.uk

Where to eat: For real ale, real food and a real welcome, visit The Trout and Tipple at Tailstock. Warrens House Inn at Post bridge offers pub food, including homemade rabbit pie!

                                 

In a silent world< xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" prefix="o" namespace="">

WAYFARER: Time stands still in the kayaking country of Krabi with its magical lagoons and magnificent cliffs,

What did Indian a Jones feel like in Raiders of the Lost Ark – the first of the iconic series – as he canoed his way to find hidden treasure in the forests of Thailand? Not particularly different from the way I did in the mangrove forests and lagoons of AO Thailand, Id reckon.

   To say you can hear a pin drop as you weave your way through the thick with mangrove forests is an exaggeration. You begin to want to ask the people next to you to stop breathing – thats how silent and still these magnificent lagoons are, surrounded by gigantic limestone karsts (cliffs), stalagmites and stalactites. The cliffs are covered with plants and leaves that appear to be growing out of control. So thick is the undergrowth here that the cliff on which it grows is barely visible.

Getting to the lagoons is as thrilling as being there, especially if its your first kayaking experience. From Krabi in southern Thailand, AO Thailand is a short half-hour drive, which can be done by taxi or in a hired car. The only way to reach the lagoons is by sea kayaks. At AO Thailand, youll find small kayaking companies to hire kayaks and a guide from, who leads you into the dense mangrove forests that open out into the lagoons.

   Its a short distance from the shore and first you kayak across the sea to reach the swamps. Navigat-ing through the mangrove forests can be a challenge. Even if youre alone in a kayak (if you can manage to steer it), a guide has to accompany you through one lagoon to the next.

   If however you have ample time at hand, there are do-it-on-your-own maps to guide you. But its easy to get lost and find you back in same lagoon time and again and never know its the same one.

When you enter the mangrove swamps, you get the feeling that time is at a standstill. Nothing appears to have challenged there for centuries. In fact, Kid Kekina, our guide and owner of the kayak company, confirmed that time had indeed stood still in this part of the world. “Ive been coming here since I was a kid,” says Kid, now 51, “and nothing at all has changed,” his voice sounding rather loud to my ears.

   Every croak of the gigantic frogs, monitor lizards, chameleons and other life forms found in the mangroves is petrifying, with the sound echoing and amplifying in the lagoons. We made our way in to and out of four lagoons, which appear the same and yet unique in the thrill they give you.

   A constant rain and low tide (we were alone there in the afternoon as the rain had deterred other visitors) made sure that we managed to spend only two hours in the area. Once you are out of the lagoons, its easy to make your way onto one of the tiny white, spotless beaches along the looming cliffs.

   Apart from kayaking, theres little to do in AO Thailand. Its a small sleepy, green village – the kind that dots all of southern Thailands landscape, where you can only take in the natural beauty and peaceful life.

Though AO Thailand is one of the spots, the entire country around Krabi is kayaking country”. A 45 minutes boat ride from Krabi takes you to Railway – one of the most stunning beaches in Thailand, with a character of its own, thanks to the mix of international tourists.

   But where you stay at Railway can make or break your vacation. One of the best spots is the Rail-way Beach Club bungalow, which is a bit like staying in a jungle bang on the beach. The bungalows, owned by foreigners, are let out when theyre not in residence.

   Each bungalow has a Thai styling element but is individualistic and reflects what I think is the owners personality (its clear no one builder designed tem). The 33 houses are built in a thick jungle with huge cliffs as the backdrop but are a stones throw from the Railway beach west, enveloped by weird shaped cliffs on two sides.

Railway is an ideal point to base you and see the entire region by boat (tourists tend to base them–selves in Krabi but it has not much natural beauty, so we preferred Railway).

   The tiny town – full of bars, café and restaurants – has some incredible rock formations with rock–climbing gear available at every corner. The beach has a water sports and activities shop that lets you try things at your own pace. You can get to see the best of the cliffs (including a trip to AO Prang Na, the tourist-infested James Bond island used for shooting the Bond classic, The Man With The Golden Gun, by hiring a speed boat (the long-tailed traditional boats are for shorter distances). The boat make their way between islands, which jut rudely out of the ocean and look like small volcanoes ready to erupt at any moment.

   Im a strong believer of not planning minutely, so AO Thailand or even kayaking among the cliffs was never on our agenda (we didnt have one). Yet it turned out to be one of the best experiences we had in Thailand. Next time youre in Thailand and shopping is not a high priority; close your eyes and head blindly through Bangkok to Krabi. You wont regret it.

Ready reckoner

Getting there: Fly from Bangkok to Krabi and take a taxi to AO Thailands kayaking hub.

Where to stay: Rent a house in Rail–way at about 5,000 bathe (Rs.6381) a night (minimum two nights stay) without food.

Exchange rate: 1.00 THB=1.3 INR approx.

Web watch: Log on to http://www.revtravel.com / kayakthailand.htm

Travel trivia: Mau Thai or Thai Boxing is the national sport of Thailand, with origins in the ancient battlefield tactics of the Siamese army. It is unique in its approach to close quarters fighting. Fighters are able to use their elbows, knees, feet and fists more effectively than in other martial

Magical Macao

WHY THIS SHOULD BE YOUR NEXT LEISURE DESTINATION. PLUS, INDIA AS A POTENTIAL SPOT FOR A LAS VEGAS-STYLE RESORT

Macao, a six-hour flight from Mumbai and an hours ferry away from Hong Kong, is the next big name on the luxury-seeking travelers bucket list. It is everything some tourists are looking for – a shopping paradise, a cathedral to casinos and an international leisure and business destination.

    After landing in Hong Kong (there are international flights from across India to get you there), a visitor can take a 45-minutes ferry ride from Hong Kong to Macao. Visa is on arrival and although the filling in of several immigration forms is a bit of a bother, the ride on the Cotai Jet more than makes up for it. As one nears the shores of Macao, out of the sea looms the impressive skyline of the Cotai Strip – the attempt by Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVSC) to bring a Vegas-style slice of gambling heaven to Asia. If you have seen the Oceans trilogy, youll know what to expect, only far closer home.

    Touch shore and hop on public transport – bus, rickshaw in some parts, or cab – to any of the small hotels around town. If you have money to spare, you can pick The Venetian, a 10.5 million sq ft pro–perty modeled on Venice, with 555,000 sq ft of space dedicated to a casino, undoubtedly the prime attraction of Macao. To give you an idea of the scale of operations The Venetian sucks in enough ele-ctricity to power 322,000 households!

    Expect to lose your way around The Venetian. Sheldon G. Adelson, the 75-years-old CEO of the resort – and the sixth richest man in the world when The Venetian was launched last year – uses a tiny scoot to move around the multilevel colossus. Word has it that Sheldon has since had over US $10 billion knocked off his personal fortune by the economic downturn. A local magazine writes that now questions are even being raised in investment-banking circles about how he is going to pay for the rest of the Cotai Strip”.

    But on August 28, the first pieces of his ambitious plot fell into place. The Venetian turned a year old and with its anniversary, LVSC launched the Four Seasons Hotel Macao and with it, the Shoppes at Four Seasons and the Cirque due Soleil, a Canadian-based entertainment empire. Although less imposing than The Venetian, “boutique hotel Four Seasons Macao promises more privacy and exclusivity. It exudes the charm of colonial Macao as European and Chinese motifs meet, Chinoiserie, hand-painted skills, carved wood and stone; handmade tiles and golden ochre bring the place alive.

HIGHLIGHTS OF FOUR SEASONS HOTEL MACAO

Location: A five-minutes drive from the Macao Airport.

Accommodation: 360 suites, health club, several swimming pools, a spa, 27,500 sq ft of conference and banquet facilities and more than five restaurants serving Cantonese, Portuguese and international cuisine.

Plaza Casino: Spread across 85,662 sq ft, the casino has 175 gaming tables and 213 slot machines with an exclusive member-only Piazza area.

The Shoppe’s at Four Seasons: This is the 211,000 sq ft shopping mall that boasts more than 180 global luxury retail brands across three floors, 60 of which are a first for Macao. Image consultants at the mall can be reached for wardrobe recommendations and a private shopper will help you on your treasure hunt.

Entertainment: Cirque due Soleil has made Macaos The Venetian its first permanent quarters. Catch daily shows of Zaia, the journey of a teenage girl who wishes to unravel the mystery of life.

WHEN AT MACAO

Gamble at the casino: Try your luck at roulette or any of the slot machines. If you know your hand, try the card games.

Warning: Take someone reliable along who can drag you away – it can get rather addictive.

Shop: Till you drop – or till the bottom drops out of your bank account.

Warning: We wouldnt recommend going on a spree unless you have money to burn. With brands like Verses, Fending, Class by Roberto Cavallies, Shiatsu Chen, Shaman sky, Gucci, Dior and more, shopping at the resort-malls is dear. The local market at San Mallow is far more reasonable with cos–metics, perfumes and casual clothing available for a few Hong Kong dollars or local currency pataca – both equivalent to Rs.6 Indian currency.

ALSO VISIT

1.  San Mallow to get a feel of the Macanese culture with its colonial buildings. Walk down numerous narrow streets with shops on the ground floor and apartments above them. The most lucrative vendors appear to be the bakeries.

Fishermans Wharf: Spend the afternoon sitting at a sidewalk café sipping wine and feasting on Lisbon specialties. A place to stroll, shop, eat and people-watch.   

 

MALAY MAGIC

Tourism Malaysia has a special package, valid till March 2009, for Indian travelers to Kuala Lumpur. This three-night, four-day package is priced at Rs.8555 per person and includes airport transfers, accommodation with breakfast in four-star hotels and one Indian set dinner. A KL night tour, entrance to KL Tower, night view photo opportunity at the Patrons Towers along with a trip to China Town is on the cards too. You can also opt for a two-day getaway to any one of the following places – Langkawi, Penang, Kotakinabalu, Kuching, Pangkor, Putrajaya, Gentling, Sunway Lagoon or Afamosa Resort. If you opt for surface transport to any of these destinations from KL, there are no additional charges for either road transfers or accommodation. If you take a flight, you have to pay for the airfare. Email pr2@tracrep.com/ pr3@tarcerp.com/ pr@tracrep.com for more details.