Archive for October, 2007


Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Situated in a fertile plain on the northern-eastern banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane is the capital of Laos as well as the biggest village in Asia. The cultural and commercial center of Laos, Vientiane is home to an amazing range of temples, shrines, and historical monuments. Vientiane was once the capital of Lan Xang kingdom until its fall in 1707. Later, it was occupied by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri in 1779, and made a vassal of Siam. It was during the 19th century that Vientiane was declared the capital of Laos under the French protectorate. Today, Vientiane is a vibrant city, which at the same time retains a grace and charm of its own. The city is made up of five districts such as Chantabuly, Hadxaifong, Sikhottabong, Sisattanak, and Xaysetha.

Golden Stupa in Vientiane, Laos

The prime attraction of Vientiane is unquestionably its historical sites and monuments. Of which that deserves a special mention is Pha That Luang, a great sacred, castle-like Stupa built by King Setthathirat in 1566. Situated atop a hill, the Stupa is believed to have been erected on the site of a former Khmer temple of the 11th century. Legend has it that That Luang is the resting place of a remnant of the Buddha that is thought to have been brought here by some Buddhist missionaries from India during the 3rd century. This historical site now stands as a testimony of the Lao sovereignty as well as the effect of Buddhist religion in the region. Another great historical site in Vientiane is Wat Sisaket – an elegant temple built by King Anouvong in 1818. The main sanctuary of the shrine houses more than 6500 images of the Buddha, made of a variety of metals like bronze, silver, wood and clay. Many of these images date back to the periods, ranging from 16th to 19th century. The temple premises also contain murals elucidating the lives of the Buddha. Apart from these, a Burmese-style library can be seen here.

Additionally, historical sites in Vientiane include Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan, whose highlights are a large bronze statue of the Buddha, a big drum, and intricate carvings. Other popular historical sites in the area are Haw Pha Kaew, housing a throne, manuscripts and bronze drums, and Ho Phra Keo, which was formerly a monastery.

A must-see destination in Vientiane is Buddha Park, a sculpture garden which is strewn with an incredible variety of Buddhist as well as Hindu statues. Further, Vientiane’s attractions cover an interesting array of museums such as the Lao Revolutionary Museum, exhibiting artifacts used by Laotians and imperialists, such as, uniforms, maps, and guns; and Kaysone Phomvihane Museum, which is devoted to the life of the Pathet Lao leader.

Boasting of a variety of restaurants, bars, and bakeries, Vientiane also offers excellent options for entertainment and eating out. Talaat Sao, popularly known as the morning market, is a great place for those who want to enjoy a bowl of sumptuous noodles and grilled chicken. Some of the restaurants in Valencia’s Chao Anou St serve delicious duck rice. Dining options also include night market, where available are grilled chicken, pungent curries, and spicy salads, among many others.

Above all, Vientiane is a shopper’s paradise, with scores of outlets and stores selling pure silver, ethnic collectibles, elegant clothing, hand-made jewelry, and antique items.


Friday, October 5th, 2007

The capital city as well as biggest cosmopolitan city of Nepal – Kathmandu is a fabulous destination, situated in a bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by steep terrain. This fascinating city is highly favored for its excellent pagodas, narrow cobbled lines, and stone shrines.

Of the attractions of Kathmandu that deserves a special mention is Hanuman Dhoka or Durbar Square, which has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between the 12th and the 18th centuries, Durbar Square is a complex of palaces, courtyards and temples such as the Taleju Temple and Jagannath Temple. Attraction within the complex also covers Coronation Nasal Chowk, a gigantic statue of Kal Bhairav, the statue of King Pratap Malla, the big bell, and the big drum. Museums including the Tribhuvan Museum and the Numismatic Museum can also be found in the Durbar Square.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu is also much famed for its amazingly carved rose brick temples, all of which stand as a symbol of the rich heritage of the country. Most popular among the city’s temples are the Temple of Lord Shiva, whose highlight is a richly ornamented pagoda with two tiered golden roof and silver doors; Guheswari Temple, a shrine dedicated to the goddess Guheswari; Akash Bhairav Temple, a three-storied temple; Ashoka Vinayak – a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh; Kumari Ghar or the temple of Kumari – the living goddess; and Kashthamandap – a pagoda-style temple that is erected from the wood of a single tree. Kathmandu is also home to some Buddhist shrines such as Swayambhunath – one of the most glorious Buddhist sites in the world. Additionally, many of the temples such as Bouddhnath and Changu Narayan Temple are listed among the World Heritage Site.

Apart from temples, the city has to its credit a range of other religious sites such as Kopan Monastery, where meditation courses are offered year-round; Pullahari Monastery; Vaisha Dev, otherwise known as Toothache Tree; and Vajra.

Must-see attractions in Kathmandu also include a number of interesting museums such as Brass and Bronze Museum, dedicated to the history of metalworking in the country, National Woodworking Museum, The National Museum, and the Tribhuvan, Mahendra, and Birendra Museums. For nature lovers, Kathmandu provides excellent options in the form of Nagarjun Forest Reserve and Gokarna Safari Park with rare species of animals like spotted deer.

Situated north of the Durbar Square is Thamel, which is famed as the entertainment district of the city. The area is dotted with a large number of hotels, shops, and restaurants and dancing bars.

Also, while your stay at Kathmandu take a tour to Pokhara – a fabulous spot from where one can enjoy the gorgeous views of the High Himalayas; Gorkha – a historical city well-known as the place of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of the modern Nepal; Lumbini – the birth place of Lord Buddha, and Chitwan, which is much famed for its National Park with a rare species of animals such as horned rhino, antelopes, elephant and Bengal Tiger.


Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Netherlands, or, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is a modern as well as prosperous country, situated in the northwestern Europe. The most densely populated nation in the world – Netherlands has Belgium to the west, Germany to the east, and the North Sea to the north. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is made up of the Netherlands and overseas islands including Aruba and Antilles. Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, and is a member of several world organizations, which among many others are, the NATO, the European Union, and the OECD. Further, the nation forms a part of the Benelux Economic Union, and is home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

Besides being a strong base for international business, Netherlands is home to some of the best tourist destinations in the world. Netherlands consists of 12 provinces: Utrecht, Drenthe, Groningen, Gelderland, Flevoland, Zuid Holland, Limburg, Friesland, Noord-Brabant, Noord Holland, Overijssel, and Dutch Islands.

Leiden Town Hall, Leiden, Netherlands

The capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is not only one of the most happening destinations of Netherlands but also of Europe. The system of canals spreading across the whole city center; the Rijksmuseum – the national museum of the Netherlands; Rembrandt House Museum, housing the rare artifacts of Rembrandt van Rijn; the Amsterdam Dungeon – a marvelous blend of a museum, attraction park, and a theater; the Royal Palace; the House of the Waterfalls; the Portuguese Synagogue – an impressive building; and El Tawheed Mosque, founded in 1986, are just few among the attractions of the city. In addition, the city also has to its credit to a chain of world-class squares and open air markets including Koningsplein, Waterlooplein, and Albert Cuyp market.

Another prominent Netherlands city is Rotterdam, with its attractions such as Euromast Tower, offering the panoramic views of the city; Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI); Erasmus Bridge, an imposing bridge famed for its engineering marvel; and Sonneveld House, and historic home. Hague, with such destinations as Madurodam, Omniversum, and Escher in Het Paleis; Urecht, highly regarded for its Vredenburg Music Centre and Slot Zuylen; Laiden, whose focal points are Pietersherk and Valk Windmill; and Arnhem, noted for its Burgers’ Zoo and Safari Park and Airborne Cemetery, are the other prominent cities in the country. Also, worth mentioning are the attractions of the Netherlands cities such as Haarlem, Maastricht, Groningen, Den Bosch, Zaandam, Meddelburg, and Tilburg, all of them boasting of unique sights as well as museums and art galleries. Above all, many of these aforesaid cities host numerous interesting festivals.

Apart from these, accommodation is aplenty in the country, with a spectrum of both first-class and budget hotels. The nation is also much sought after for its gastronomic restaurants, serving sumptuous international cuisines.

Flights are always available to Netherlands, since it has international airports like Amsterdam Airport, apart from regional airports such as Eindhoven Airport and Groningen Airport. Additionally, the nation has a well integrated railway system, with more than 350 railway stations and three categories of train: intercity, trains, and rapid trains.

With salubrious climate, superb attractions, and exuberant as well as friendly people, the Netherlands attracts hoards of people year-round.


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

The world’s biggest Polynesian city – Auckland is a vibrant as well as alluring harbor city, located on a narrow isthmus, bounded by two harbors such as the Waitemata and the Manukau at the southern part of the Auckland Peninsula. The largest city in the country – Auckland is considered the gateway to New Zealand. This multicultural city, sometimes referred to as the ‘City of Sails,’ is a prominent center of commerce and trade in the country. Further, Auckland is much favored for its breathtaking landscapes comprising breathtaking scenery, amazing volcanic hills, fantastic bays and islands, and impressive beaches. Apart from these, Auckland is home to a multitude of internationally acclaimed tourist attractions.

Perhaps most popular among the attractions of the city is the spectacular Sky Tower – an impressive 328 mt tall building, which is the largest tower in the world. A part of the soaring SkyCity Casino complex, the Sky Tower is much famed for its Qualmark Endorsed Activity, namely, Sky Jump, which in turn enables jumpers to base jump by fire and then fall for about 16 seconds at around 85kph. The tower’s highlights also include an amusement center, an observation deck, and restaurants. Another great attraction of Auckland is the Tropical Butterfly House, which is largest of its kind in the continent. For those who are looking for something different during their stay at Auckland, then some of the best options are the renowned Nikau Glow Worm Caves, Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, the Auckland Zoo, and Villa Maria Winery coupled with a vineyard park, consisting of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Merlot grapes, apart from a variety of exotic as well as native trees, creating a superb parkland around the winery.

Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland attractions also include a plethora of beaches and islands, such as, Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, with more than 45 islands, of which some which are reserved for the indigenous plants and animals while others are a perfect base for swimming and boating; Waiheke Island, which is noted for its golden sand beaches and picturesque coves; Omana Beach, offering the enchanting views of Waiheke Island and Rangitoto Island (the youngest volcano in the city); and Muriwai – the longest among the west coast beaches in Auckland.

No visit to Auckland is complete without taking a tour to the museums and galleries in the city. Prominent among them are the Auckland Museum, displaying an impressive selection of the Pacific Island and Maori culture artifacts, and the Howick Historical Village, whose highlights are captivating Victorian-style buildings, cafes with homemade goodies, as well as ponds and backyard gardens. Also, worth mentioning are the mountains and parks in the region such as Waharau Regional Park – a diverse forested area spread over an area of 238 hectares; the Hunua Ranges, from where all of Auckland’s drinking water is originated; and Ambury Park, which is a wintering ground for a variety of migrant birds.

Above all, with such superb facilities as Eden Park, Mt Smart Stadium, Western Springs Stadium, and North Harbour Stadium, Auckland provides excellent opportunities to enjoy a variety of sport activities, including, motor sport activities, tennis, badminton, soccer, and rugby league.


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

A visit to Goa is a must for any tourist that visits India and there are excellent beaches and hot sunny days which make for an excellent place where to relax and enjoy the many pleasures that this tourist destination has to offer. Perhaps the best example of the excellent beaches in this part of the world are exemplified in Anjuna where the golden sands invite you and where there is also the Flea Market that opens on Wednesdays and which attracts people from everywhere where you can find jewelry items of the tribes and also many articles of clothing of traditional wear.

Goa Shipyard, Goa, India

You can also visit Bardez which also has excellent beaches, and there is Fort Aquada and Mapusa as well as Calanqute which are worth visiting. Close by there is the excellent Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary as too the Dudhsagar Falls. You can even visit Chandor and the Braganza House or the Fort at Chapora, while the Dandeli National Park is also a wonderful place to visit.

While in Goa, you can even visit Madgaon and Margao where there is the outstanding Cabo de Rama Fort, and a visit to the Mahadev Temple of Tambdi Surla should not be passed over.

In old Goa you can visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus and there is also the Divar Island that is worth a visit, while a look at Se Cathedral and the Church and Convent of St. Monica are also worth paying a visit to.

Another great place in Goa that you may want to visit is Panaji where you can go and see the Cabo Palace, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Fontainhas, Goa State Museum, Goa Velha, Idalcao Palace and the Institute Menezes Braganza.

Another place worth visiting while in the State of Goa is Ponda where you can view the Safa Shahouri Mosque, Shantadurga Temple and also the Reis Magos and Terekhol Fort.


Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Estepona is a town situated in Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain. The town comprises essentially of a fishing and farming community and despite modernization it has retained its basic Spanish essence. Situated 25 kilometers from its glamorous neighbor Marbella, it’s a perfect spot for a nice holiday with your family. It can be reached in an hour from the Malaga international airport.

The Sierra Bermaja Mountain standing tall at 1449 meters forms a serene backdrop to this city which is fast on its way to becoming a favorite tourist spot among foreigners. Calle real and Calle Terraza house most of the modern shops in the centre of the town. If you have a special liking for small shops, then a stop at the street café in the plaza de las Flores (the square of the flowers) is recommended. In the olden part of the city, the streets are narrow and cobbled and you would prefer a horseback ride for a car through these streets.

Estepona, Costa del Sol, Spain

The indoor market opens in the mornings near the castle ruins where one can enjoy shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables and get a sneak peak into the life of a traditional Spanish housewife. The clean long stretches of sandy beaches are every tourist’s favorite haunt. The beaches are well maintained and well equipped to cater to the inflow of a fast rising number of tourists. There is also this sandy La Rada beach in central Estepona and the Playa el Cresto, a sheltered cove, on the western marina. For those who want to have a night out dancing in the discos along the quayside until the small hours of the night, Estepona marina which bustles with activity both during the day as well as on nights is the place for them. The marina is on the western seafront and is an ideal place for those who would just like to take a peaceful stroll or watch the crashing waves in the sea. It is divided into two halves, one consisting of the working fishing vessels and the other for pleasure water rides. There are some truly magnificent yachts and pleasure boats available for rides. For all the culinary enthusiasts, there are many bars and restaurants which serve tapas, local Spanish delights besides international cuisine and unavoidable pizzas and burgers.

There are many parks, gardens, monuments and museums as well that blends easily with all the glitz of modern tourism apartments, hotels, clubs and bars. For entertainment, those with a passion for water sports will truly enjoy this place to the maximum for it offers a host of water sports and games. Golfing is one of the most common hobbies of the residents and don’t get amused if one stumbles upon some excellent golf courses at the doorstep! A riding school is also active.

A visit to this beautiful city of Estepona is sure to rejuvenate your system and prove to be a great holiday which will always be cherished.