UNIQUE PLACES TRAVEL INFO                      
Sikkim-RUMTEK MONASTERY,CHAAM-Religious Masked Dance,DUBDI MONASTERY-LADAKH - Maitreya Buddha In The THIKSEY GOMPA-Bihar, Madhya Pradesh,Uttar Pradesh-LUMBINI-Prince Siddhartha's Birth Place,BODH GAYA, VAISHALI, KUSHINAGAR- Commemorates the passing away of Buddha-Orissa-CHILIKA LAKE,Biggest Bird Sanct uary-The Queen of Hills,MUSSOORIE in Uttarakhand,The Claridges Nabha Residence- GOD'S NEW AVATAR-GOA TOURISM-KULIK BIRD SANCTUARY at North Dinajpur,West Bengal-

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SIKKIM

                                 RUMTEK MONASTERY

The Lepchas,Sikkim's original inhabitants,call this valley of flowers "Nye-MalAle" or "Heaven",deservingly so.Here lies largest Monastery,Rumtek,about 24km from Gangtok.If it is january,u can catch the "Cham" or religious masked dance in the 200-year-old Enchey Monastery.Do not miss the Tashiding Monastery dating back to 1717,perched on a hill between the Rathong and the Rangit rivers.It's a 40 minute walk up to the hill top there are rocks and stone-slabs with countless mantras carved on them.An added bonus visiting a third one- the Dubdi Monastery near Yuksam-would be a superb view.Perched at an altitude of 6840ft,the Pemayangtse Monastery boasts of a spendid collection of antique idols,scripture.Also famous for the seven -tiered wooden structure portraying the Heavenly Palace Santopalri.

Hot Ticket!

Greenwood Travels & The Bamboo Resort's 12-day package covers each of these monasteries.At Rs.88000/- for couple,u have an option of an arduous 9-hour trek to Dechenphu thrown in as well.Strarting from Bagdogra airport ,includes accommodation at the Bamboo resort with facilities for herbal baths,feng shui rooms and a traditional Sikkimese prayer room,meals as per itinerary,all trekking equipment,permits and entry fees.For more details e-mail to:info@sikkim.ch

 LADAKH

                           LAMAYURU MONASTERY

 

Ladakh or "Little Tibet",bound by the Karakoram in the north and the Himalayas on the south,has hundreds of gompas or monasteries,built back 10th century.The Hemis gompa,a UNESCO World Heritage site,is the largest at an altitude of 12000ft.Its three dimensional mandala architecture is unique,showcasing rare 17th century murals and also a treasure house of thangkas or embroidered Buddhist banners.

Spituk & Thiksey gompas-a vast collection of art & ancient manuscripts.

The Lamayuru monastery-125km from Leh,on a high rocky outcrop.

 

ShantiStupa-built by the Japanese in 1985 to commemorate 2500 years of the the religion.

Hot Ticket!

Ladakh Safari has a 9-day package covering these spots at Rs.19430/- per person.Starting from Leh airport ,includes accommodation in standard hotels on twin sharing basis,all meals,permits and entrance fees and taxes.For more details mail to:ladakhsafari@gmail.com

BIHAR-MADHYA PRADESH-UTTAR PRADESH

                                 SANCHI STUPA,M.P.

 

Maha Devi temple in Lumbini,the prince,Siddhartha's birth place in the Himalayas.Here what is called a "flawless stone" placed by Emperor Ashoka in 249BC to mark the exact location of the divine birth.Apart from Sarnath and Bodh Gaya,the ancient Nalanda University and Vaishali,where Buddha delivered his last sermon and blessed the famous courtesan Amrapali,also make for must visits.The Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar commemorates the passing away of Buddha.

Hot Ticket!

Flexi Tours has a 14-day package from Delhi at Rs.23,519/- per person.Ufly to Varanasi and then go on to Bodh Gaya,Nalanda,Vaishali,Kushinagar,Lumbiniand Lucknow,incudes B&B accommodation on twin sharing basis in standard hotels,entrance and guide fees and all taxes.All transfers by A/C cars.Airfares excuded.

For more details E-mail to : info@flexitours.net

ORISSA

                                  CHILIKA LAKE

Take a trip to Chilika LakeThe vast blue lake isbeautiful.The lake water is salty & u can see dolphins popping up and diving down in the flash of a second.U have to be really lucky to catch a glimpse of a whole dolphins.Chilika is home to loads of birds during winter,incuding Brahmini Kites and eels.

Reaching there: take hire a taxi,zeep from Bhubaneswar toward Chilika Lake,almost 2&1/2hours journey.

U can stay there in Orissa Tourism Bungalow at moderate rates.

ROUTE MAP

                    RAIN IN THE HILLS

 

It is raining monsoon packages.And if u are pursuing the rains across the country,then head for the Queen of Hills,Mussoorie in Uttarakhand.Set amidst cedar hills,The Claridges Nabha Residence is a heritage property worth checking out.The resort offering special 2-night and 3-day package right upto August 31.A deluxe room package is a little more expensive at Rs.11,999/- while a duplex room package is little more expensive at Rs.13499/-.The package includes breakfast + dinner as well.Located 35km from Dehra- dun railway station ,45km from Jolly Grant Airport(east of Dehradun).U can take a bus/taxi to reach the hill resort which is mere 4km from Mussoorie bus stand. Once u checked in ,you could experience 13 acres of private cedar forests or simply lounge around the resort's verandah and enjoy the scenic beauty of the surrounding hills.For reservations,call 91 135 2631 426/427 or E-mail at : nabha@claridges.com

KANHA

KANHA gives the amateur shutterbug in tourists a chance to get a little too close to sleepy tigress and some langurs.

The wild rush

If u are in Kanha,u are bound to bump into tigers and wildlife photography trips.

TRAVEL TRIVIA

Chandra Tal Lake is situated at a height of 4300m and is 6km from the Kunzum Pass in Himachal Pradesh's Spiti and Lahaul district.According to legend,this lake is where Yudhishthira was picked up by Lord Indra's chariot to begin his journey to heaven as a mortal.

Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary

The drive to Latpanchar through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is adventurous-

By sunset, u can manage to reach Raiganj,take a night halt at Government Tourist Lodge,which is very close to the Kulik Bird Sanctuary.There u will be greeted with an unforgettable sight .An astonishing number of open-billed storks nestled at Raiganj.Each and every tree around the lodge has white birds,and of every size.Open-billed storks are called shamukkhol in Bengali.They are almost 4ft in height and feed on the flesh of snails.On the next u can head to Latpanchar ,the gateway to the Mahanada Wildlife Sanctuary.The drive to the Latpanchar is amazing and adventurous.U have a very narrow steep road,coiling up from Sukhna towards Coronation Bridge passing by Kalijhora.There is Latpanchar bungalow on a peak,go out for a long walk and feel the nature.

HEAD FOR THE HILLS

It is about soaking in the hill station when purse strings are not quite so tight.Here's a look at the luxury traveller's Shimla :

How to get there :Take any flight to Delhi.Catch a train to Kalka just in time to board the toy train,which leaves for Shimla.

Stay at : From December through March,Shimla is covered with snow and is very cold,so it is perfect for snow -sports.Woodville Palace Resort on Bhavan Road and Oberoi Clarkes Hotel at the eastern end of the mall are t2 choices for accommodation.

Spot picks : Check out Tattapani.This small village is famous for its hot water springs.Or visit Kufri for some great hiking and skiing.If u have the time,go to Chail,Narkanda,Kasauli or Solan.

Shop stops : At the mall,u can buy all sorts of goodies.Check out the old books,woolen,handicrafts,handlooms and curios.Taste the plum sherbat and mushroom pickle.Check out the State Emporium for great handicrafts.Delicate ivory inlay work could make great gifts for friends back home.

Best bites : For a more elaborate (and expensive ) spread,Ashiana at the Ridge offers great service and good Indian and Continental fare.Oberoi Clarke's Hotel offers a sumptuous buffet.Alfa Restaurant,near Scandal Corner,is a popular place,though a little more expensive,for Indian and Continental food.

t2 must :Shimla has some excellent trekking trails.Do also get your skis together and head down to the slopes.

 LORD GANESHA

Nirmitee,The Art Gallery that overlokks the serpentine queue leading to Siddhi Vinayak in Mumbai's Prabhadevi,is these days displaying 1,001 different forms of Lord Ganesha.On the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi,Hindu Festival,the Lord of all things presides over a multitude of tasks and feats guaranteed to evoke smiles and devotion in equal measure.One can see this evergenial remover of obstackles not only maintaining accounts attentively,but also getting tech-savvy and musing over a laptop.The elephant-headed god is environment-friendly too.He appears crafted in clay.fibre,wood,bamboo and neem leaves,besides the 'conventional' paintings and sculptures.All idols at Nirmetee are made of bio-degrable material,although,for want of vegetable dyes,chemical colours have been used.The price tag ranges from the egalitarian to the exclusive - from Rs.40 to Rs.80,000.And the choice actually runs into hundreds.

Varied forms :1,001 different forms of Lord Ganesha at Nirmitee

GOA : Trusted Tourism Brand

Goa,with its scenic beauty,its hospitable people,religious and cultural harmony,heritage,architecture,art and culture,is an established popular tourist destination on both the national as well as the international arena.In fact,in the field of tourism,Goa has an enviable brand status.No wonder the state attracts 25 lakhs tourists annually,of which 4 lakhs are foreign visitors.

In the past couple of years,Goa has added yet another feather to its illustrious tourism story.Following the state Government's Monsoon Tourism initiative,this year saw unprecedented rush during the rainy season,especially on account of special thrust in promoting Goa as a prefered place hosting international conferences.The hotels were full and cities like Pannaji,Margao and Mapusa registered 100 percent occupancy.

The Goa Tourism Development Corporation(GTDC) is making result-oriented efforts to promote Goa across the globe not only as a great holiday destination but also as a holistic health and wellness getaway,a world class medical health and fitness destination,an adventure and eco-tourism hotspot.The GTDC is also upgrading its Residencies at Calangute and Miramar and has launched its luxury houseboat - Santa Lucia - which explores Goa's backwaters.

Goa continues to attract tourists from all over the world and is definitely one of the most safest destinations in the world.

BIRD SANCTUARY

              Kulik Bird Sanctuary In North Dinajpur -

ADINA Deer Park in Malda -

ANGINA,a bird heaven in neighbouring South Dinajpur for open-bill storks-

Here you must see Open-bills,Night herons,Cormorants and other beautiful birds come to the sanctuary to set up rookeries to rear their young during the monsoon period.

for details,log on to www.westbengaltourism.gov.co.in

AWESOME ALMORA

The soul-stirring beauty of Almora is simply timeless and lends itself to some sublime experiences which have fascinated many over the years

There's something in the air of Almora that is soul-stirring and has set philosophers and actors alike to sing paeans in praise of this hill station which was once a bastion of the Gorkhas.Some say,Almora existed even in vedic times !Situated nearly 6,000 ft above sea level in the Kumaon area of Uttaranchal,Almora is shaped like a horseshoe and perched on a 5-km long mountain range between rivers Kosi and Suyal.

The clear,crisp air,the sanctified sylvan spots,thickly wooded pine and deodar forests,sparkling lakes,gurgling

streams,twittering birds,heavenly sunrises...the hill station sure lends itself to some sublime experiences prompting greats like MK Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda to talk highly about its salubrious qualities.

MIX OF OLD,NEW

Like any hill station,the mall is Almora's lifeline.Flanked by restaurants,hotels and curio shops,this undulating streatch is the melting pot of many cultures.Indegenous cottages are interspersed with British bungalows speak of mixed styles - local and European architecture.The iconic Clock Tower is a perfect example of this architectural melange : it was erected in 1886 by an indian,but built ny a British engineer !

Almora offers some spectacular moments of natural beauty,like the sunrise and sunset over the Himalayas,best seen from Bright End Corner.It's a surreal experience worth capturing on camera.Close by is the Vivekananda Memorial where Swamiji had stopped for a while on his journey to the Himalayas.Kasar Devi houses many Europeans who fell in love with the place and settled down here.Martola is another place 10 kms away which has a high concentration of foreigners.

Almora also has some fascinating rock paintings,Lakhuudiyar being the most famous,which is believed to have existed in the Bronze Age! So there u have,a cauldron of many cultures,crafts and colour.Add to it the bewitching,almost virginal beauty of the Himalayas and u have a canvas which is soulfully elevating.

FACT FILE

How to go :Pantnagar is the nearest airport and the nearest railhead is Kathgodam,90 kms.it is well connected to Delhi by rail.

Best season :April-June,Sept-Nov

Where to stay :Kasaar Jungle Resort,Kalmati Sangam,Corbett Jungle Resort,Club Mahindra Valley Resort and Snow View Resort.

What to see :

Almora Fort - Perch yourself atop this fort to get a bird's eye view of the town and its environs.This is the most valuable asset that the Chand Dynasty has bequeathed to the hill station

Tamta Mohalla - Check out the enchanting copperware here.Coppersmiths abound in the area along with another local craft- the weaving of tweeds and shawls

Kausani - About 50 kms from Almora,Kausani is known as the Switzerland of India and is better known for its breathtaking views of Kedarnath,Badrinath,Nanda Devi and Nampa

Kalimutt - This picnic spot offers a great view of the Himalayas

Deer Park - It is 3 kms from Almora

State Museum - it is open from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm

Simtola - 3 kms from Almora,this picnic spot offers excellent view of the mountains

Temples - Almora is famous for its exquisite temples like Shiva Temple,Chitai Temple,Katarmal,Binsar,Jageshwar,Nanda Devi,Gannath and Kasar Devi

Shopping - Check out brass and bronzeware at Lal Bazaar,a unique market of more than two hundred years ,and Chowk Bazaar.Visitors must take home sweets like singara and balmithaiare.Almora is famous for its rabbit wool(Angora )woollens

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