Category Archives: World

16 reasons to book a ticket to China

China is impossibly vast, and textured with so much history, that its oriental mysteries are a draw for any serious traveller. The Great Wall of China is one of the wonders of the ancient world and reason enough to book a trip to the country with the flaming red flag. But the many mountain ranges, forests, rivers and deserts make China a truly wholesome travel experience. Here are 16 compelling reasons to start looking up flights to Beijing.

  1. Changbai Mountain in Jilin

Changbai Mountain in Jilin

Bordering North Korea, this is a volcanic mountain with a beautiful crater lake at the centre called Lake Tianchi, some waterfalls, springs and a rich biodiversity. The translation of its name ‘perpetually white mountain’ seems appropriate when it’s cloaked by snow in winter.

  1. Road trips in Dalian, Liaoning

Dalian, Liaoning

Ride or walk along a road that’s reminiscent of the corniche of the French Riviera at the seaside Binhai Road. Stretching from Binhai West Road to Donghai Beach, this 35km road offers many pleasurable vistas.

  1. Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin

Dalian, Liaoning

Like its name, this hill in Guilin resembles a huge elephant drinking water from the river. The Water Moon Cave between the elephant’s legs and trunk, Puxian Pagoda, Yunfeng Temple, and Sarira Dagoba are some of the impressive sights on the hill.

4. Retrace the Silk Route at Gansu



Unravel the mysteries of the Silk Route like the explorers of yore at Gansu, a town on the banks of the Yellow River. The Mogao Caves are a treasure trove of Buddhist art. Also worth visiting are the majestic Jiayuguan Pass, Labrang Monastery and Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves.

5. Giant pandas in Sichuan

Giant pandas in Sichuan

If you love these black-eyed furry creatures, don’t miss the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, where you’ll find over 30% of the world’s highly endangered giant pandas. Pandas here aren’t caged; so be prepared to encounter them while you’re driving or walking in the reserve.

6. Great Wall in Beijing

Great Wall in Beijing

This one needs no introduction but let’s just be reminded that the 21,196 kilometers long wall stretches from east to west China, with many deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus along the way. We’d love to visit a site that has been around for over 2000 years!

  1. The royal heritage of Hebei


Hebei is home to the Mountain Resort of Chengde, which used to be the largest royal summer resort of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Many beautiful temples lie outside the wall of the resort. In Hebei, one can also visit summery beaches and the scenic Baiyang Lake.

8. Light of the Three Gorges in Hubei

Light of the Three Gorges in Hubei

The historical province of Hubei is strewn with intriguing cultural relics and the Three Gorges. Explore its Chu culture through old towers, grottoes, remains of cities, royal mausoleums and temples. The Hubei Provincial Museum houses the world’s heaviest musical instrument.

9. Mount Huangshan in Anhui

Mount Huangshan in Anhui

Better known as the Yellow Mountains, this is a World Heritage Site with stunning natural beauty. Often cloaked in masses of clouds, the mountains contain strangely shaped pines and rocks and hot springs. The ethereal sunrises and sunsets here are legendary.

  1. Penglai Pavilion in Shandong

Penglai Pavilion in Shandong

Penglai Pavilion is perched on the peak of Danya Mountain and offers spectacular views of the Beibin Sea. It is one of the four great towers of China. Other impressive structures on the mountain include Tianhou Palace, Longwu Palace, lvzu Palace, Sanqing Palace and Mituo temple.

  1. Potala Palace, Lhasa

Potala Palace, Lhasa

Potala Palace in Lhasa is the highest ancient palace in the world and a glorious tribute to the Tibetan people and their beliefs. There are two parts – the Red Palace with its beautiful golden roof and the White Palace, both of which are equally fascinating.

  1. Modern splendour in Pudong, Shanghai

Pudong, Shanghai

Explore China’s dazzling modern avatar at Pudong, a new district in Shanghai. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the world’s third tallest tower and has an outdoor viewing platform with a glass floor that makes you feel like you’re stepping out into the sky!

  1. The beach resorts of Sanya, Hainan

Sanya, Hainan

Sanya on Hainan Island is famous for its serene bays and luxurious beach resorts. Wuzhizhou Island and its coral reefs are renowned for scuba diving, surfing and other water sports. A 108m-high Guan Yin bronze statue can be seen on an artificial island at the Nanshan Temple complex.

  1. Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Temple of Heaven in Beijing

This imperial sacrificial altar is the largest and most impressive of China’s ancient sacrificial buildings. Even larger than the Forbidden City, the main structures in the temple are the Circular Mound Altar (Huanqiutan), the Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian).

  1. Terracotta Warriors in Shaanxi

Terracotta Warriors in Shaanxi

The Terracotta Army or Terracotta Warriors and Horses were built by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of all China, for his mausoleum.  Possibly the most monumental archaeological excavations of the 20th century, the museum contains 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots and even weapons.

  1. The islands and gardens of Zhejiang


Zhejiang means ‘a winding river’, referring to the Qiantang River in the olden times. It is considered one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. The West Lake is a truly breath-taking sight, as is Mt. Yandang, the Thousand Islets Lake, Tiantai Mountain and the Orchid Pavilion.

Barahi Jungle Lodge: Primeval Nepal

In another country
But one that feels like home
From the blankets of green to the drongo’s trajectory
Everything echoes of the forests I used to roam.

We move through life craving new experiences, but all the time unconsciously, seeking something that resonates with that which we already know and love. When I first encountered the forest, it wasn’t like anything I’d ever known. I’d been born and brought up in one of the world’s largest, richest and most populous cities after all. Yet, I knew I was home. The trees, the birds and the wilderness struck a primeval chord deep within my soul. That was when I realised that cities aren’t the natural habitat of humans either, a fact we are often lost to. And that’s why the mind quietens, the soul sings and the body rejoices in the scent of the wild when one is in the jungle. We’ve all left fragments of our selves with the trees but lucky for us, they are loyal gatekeepers.

I exited an airplane and found myself in Kathmandu airport, along with numerous other Indians, Nepalis and the odd white-skinned traveller. Catching a domestic flight to Bharatpur was like a mini-adventure. These are small and chaotic airports and while some staff speak a smattering of Hindi, you can’t really count on it. But the flight itself was twenty minutes of stunning mountain vistas and the best view of the Everest I could ever have hoped for. We flew higher than any bird and we towered over the highest creations known to man. I felt blessed to be in Nepal and even more blessed to be venturing into the Terai, the subtropical region known for its rich biodiversity.

A lilting breeze
Nudges the wooden chime into motion
The sweet cries of Tharu children
Enhance the rustic notion.

The first thing I look at when I enter any room, is the verandah. It is my own private window to the world, a limbo of sorts, where I’m home and still flirting with the outdoors. The verandah of my cottage at Barahi Jungle Lodge came with a pretty wooden chime that tinkled in the morning breeze and sent me rushing for pen and paper. I saw a jackal peek from between the bushes on one occasion and a bunch of local children enjoying boisterous games on another. Beyond the woods lay the Rapti River which is arguably the best part of the lodge. The ethereal boat rides in the morning fog and the dazzling sunsets unfolding over its shallow water will not be easily forgotten.

I enjoyed wonderful French press style coffee in my room, thanks to the fragrant powder and plunger the lodge provided. Funny little frogs sat in sockets carved into the wall behind my bed, staying guard while I slept. The colours of the decor were borrowed from the earth and the elegant simplicity of the cottage gave me restful sleep and much poetic inspiration. The day we arrived, we caught a last glimpse of the luxurious pool before Meghauli found itself in the grip of darkness. But darkness was good, because it meant we’d get to sit by a bonfire and watch a series of beautiful Tharu dances, compered by the multi-talented in-house naturalist Saket Shrouti. They weren’t professional dancers – mainly members of the staff but their joyous faces and the stories interwoven into the performances were such a pleasure to witness. In the end, we broke into dance ourselves, while the women crooned softly into the night in lieu of recorded music.

Tharu dance at Barahi Jungle Lodge

A jackal peeks from between the bushes
While Chitwan forest stands sentry
Clouds of fog float over the Rapti River
What is this if not nature’s poetry?

Truth be told, we spent less simply soaking in the beauty of the lodge than we’d have liked. But what could we do, the treasures of Chitwan National Park were hard to resist and there were so many things to do, like bathing Ranikali, the elephant who enjoyed a good scrub, going on a walking safari and hunting for the remains of legendary rhinos, watching seabirds in flight and lazing crocodiles on a boat safari, visiting the local Tharu community and being treated to a peacock dance in the middle of the forest. But there was one night when I felt the spirit of the lodge come alive, as truly as the flames of the crackling bonfire. Varun Kumar, the respected manager of the lodge and Saket put together a glorious bush dinner for me and a few other guests. We tried the local beer Gorkha, talked about the transience of life and allowed the trance music to seep into our senses. It was my second night in Nepal and I was so glad there were two more before I left the Terai.

Sunrise at the lodge
Sunrise at the lodge

One morning, we took a birding tour through the lodge and in a clearing close to the river, we found a treasure trove of winged beauties, all fluttering around the cotton silk trees with their vivid red and orange blooms. Butterflies sporting enticing colours and patterns flew restlessly, pausing only for a moment or two, while we scrambled for our cameras. On our way back to the lodge, we chanced upon the living enclosure of the in-house elephants. They were feeding on their favourite ‘sandwiches’ rolled in hay that the elephants expertly untied and shook off with their nimble trunks. Food at the lodge was a melange of Indian, Thai, Chinese and Nepali cuisines but what I loved most was the sumptuous Nepali thali with many varieties of vegetables, rice, roti, the ubiquitous saag preparation, yoghurt, Nepali tomato chutney and dessert.

The blissfulness of Barahi Jungle Lodge extends far beyond the lodge itself. The neighbouring river, the surrounding forests and their exotic denizens are as much a part of the experience. While I’ll reserve the wildlife safari tales for another day, I’ll leave you with this beautiful video of a sunset we witnessed at the confluence of the Rapti and Narayani Rivers after a mellow boat ride. The wind blew fiercely, perhaps to compete with the passion of the setting sun. I stood on the edge of the cliff, listening to the merry sound of the water flowing between the pebbles. The river was far below me, flanked by a little stretch of white sand. It was enough to create the illusion of being at sea. But where we were was even more magical – the meeting point of two beautiful rivers, both reflecting the flaming sun. Two glasses of wine later, everyone else returned to the lodge. But we remained sitting there, unwilling to leave that world of glowing saffron behind. I might have never left, but for the promise of more adventures the following day.

Practical information

Barahi Jungle Lodge
Courtesy: Barahi Jungle Lodge

Barahi Jungle Lodge at Meghauli, Nepal is a premier wildlife luxury resort owned and operated by Pugdundee Safaris. All cottages at the lodge face the Rapti River and one has to cross the river to reach Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage Site. The park is best known for its rhino population. Read my concise TripAdvisor review here. All the activities mentioned in this post were organised by the lodge. Rooms begin at Rs 16000 per night.

  • Address: Andrauli, Meghauli-1, West Chitwan, Nepal
  • Bookings:
  • How to reach: Fly to Bharatpur airport and then it’s an hour long drive to the lodge.
  • Best for: Wildlife enthusiasts and couples and families looking to relax in the lap of nature. A minimum of two nights stay is highly recommended.
  • When to go: Chitwan National Park is open throughout the year.

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Dubai: The fog, the fort & the desert

I’ve been feeling uneasy about my travel articles lately. I keep asking myself – why should you, the reader, have any interest in what I have to say? As far as this post goes, I’m going to treat you to views of Dubai city, wrapped in thick clouds of morning fog. I’ll try to bring to life the wonder and excitement that courses through you during a desert safari. And I want to talk to you about why I loved Old Dubai and its fort-turned-museum so much. If that sounds interesting, please read on. Else, the mini-guide at the end of this post should help plan your trip to Dubai. I’m assuming that’s the reason you’re here. If not, please leave a comment and tell me what brought you to this article!

The fog

Fog at Crowne Plaza Dubai

I was in Dubai with friends to bring in 2017. The thick fog delayed our flight by over five hours, leaving us tired, sleepy and cranky when we arrived into the golden metropolis. But the silver lining to this was, I knew I was in for a rare treat in the morning. I made sure I hit the sack at a decent time on my first day in Dubai. At 7 AM the next morning, my friend and I descended the stairs of Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road in our pyjamas, camera and yawns in tow. But all our drowsiness vanished once we found ourselves in the nippy outdoors. The temperature was lovely – around 20 degree celsius. And the metro rail in the distance seemed to disappear into nothingness – so dense was the fog! But the biggest jolt we received was when we looked up – the top of our hotel and all the neighbouring buildings were shrouded in dreamy white fog. I’d never witnessed anything like it. Fog is something I associate with mountains and hill-stations – not bustling cities like Dubai. Go to Dubai in the peak of winter for the blankets of fog and the dipping thermometer.

Fog in Dubai

The fog was present well until mid-morning. When we reached Open Beach at Jumeirah at around 11am, the top of Burj Al Arab had been claimed by the fog. And that’s the only picture I might have captured, had the fog not eventually relented. Even so, there’s an ethereal glow to all my pictures of the Burj. And I’m not complaining.

Burj Al Arab at Open Beach, Dubai

The fort

I love museums and I knew had to go to Dubai Museum, housed within the 18th century Al Fahidi Fort and the oldest structure in the entire city. The moment we exited Al Fahidi metro station, I realised this was a Dubai I could learn to love. The sandstone streets of Old Dubai greeted my eye, lined with beautiful buildings sporting latticed walls. It was 10:30 AM in the morning and I was happy as only a traveller who has chanced upon a dear destination can be. It was a short walk to the museum and on the way, I spotted quaint grocery stores fragrant with the smell of Arabic coffee and dates.

Dhow outside Dubai Museum
This mahogany dhow stood tall outside the museum
Artifacts at Dubai Museum
While inside, we peeked into the life of the Bedouins.

Constructed from sea rocks and gypsum, the fort was originally built to defend Dubai and serve as a residence for the ruler. Restoration work on the fort was completed by 1994.

Dubai Museum
At the museum, lifelike men
Dubai Museum
and winged creatures
Dubai Museum
plunged us into the past.

The desert

You don’t realise just how unimaginably vast and magnificent the desert is, until you’re at its very core, your feet upon those countless grains of sand. In my travels, I’ve romanced mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and beaches galore. But never had I confronted the mystical beauty of the desert until Dubai. All my childhood memories of the Arabian Nights, ephemeral oases and genies swam before my eyes as I watched a herd of camels move leisurely in the distance.

Camels in the desert during desert safari at Dubai

But this was when I was standing on my own two feet. Just moments ago, I was being hurtled in all directions in a Toyota Land Cruiser, courtesy my very first desert safari. If you think roller coasters are scary, wait till you experience a desert safari. As the vehicle navigates the slopes and dunes of the desert, you’ll find the sky beneath you and the sands above you. Because direction and gravity are rendered meaningless in the course of dune bashing.

Quad biking area at desert safari, Dubai

The first stop we made was simply to drink in the golden glory of the desert and of course, click a few pictures. The second was to try our hands at quad biking. These are four wheeled vehicles that anyone (even children) can ride, on a single or double seater basis, to get a first-hand feeling of navigating the desert. But be warned, it can be quite expensive. I gave it a miss in favour of watching a marvellous sunset.

Desert safari in Dubai

Our desert safari concluded with a huge live entertainment and buffet dinner set-up, where I saw some couples enjoying camel rides in the last of the daylight. For a fee, you could also get yourself clicked with an eagle on your shoulder. The belly dancing was all right, as was the Egyptian dance and fire show but the highlight of the evening for me was the excellently flavoured shisha and the chance to dress up like an Arabian woman. Do expect to be wedged between hundreds of people when you end up at the desert barbeque dinner but then you can’t really leave Dubai without witnessing a belly dance in the midst of the desert.

Shisha or hookah at desert safari in Dubai

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Tales from Altstadt, Zurich’s Old Town

A tour of Zurich’s Old Town feels like a walk through a living history museum, full of Renaissance-era structures and narrow, twisting lanes that seem frozen in time.

Old city map of Zurich
My plunge into three century old history begins the moment my guide Annemarie pulls out a map dating back to the 1860s.

Once every few weeks, the citizens of Zurich are privy to a new piece of ‘art’. Without warning, oddly shaped statues, installations or concepts that defy definition spring up on unsuspecting street corners. The citizens tend to detest the upstart at first but over time, every work of art becomes an indistinguishable part of the city, much like the churches, guilds and town hall of yore. Zurich’s Altstadt (German for ‘Old Town’) encompasses Kreis 1 (District 1), parts of which are on the banks of the lovely Limmat River. My plunge into three century old history begins the moment my guide Annemarie pulls out a map dating back to the 1860s.

Bahnhofstrasse and Burkliplatz

Ganymed statue at Burkliplatz
An arresting statue of Prince Ganymed pleading with Zeus to take him to Mount Olympus occupies centre-stage.

We begin our walking tour at Bahnhofstrasse, where I’m staying. This posh area is the best luxury shopping destination in Zurich and its streets are lined with banks and boutique shops including Bucherer, the famous watchmaker and the adjoining Uhrenmuseum Beyer, dedicated to the world of horology. At Café Sprungli in Paradeplatz, we spot beetle-shaped chocolates and Annemarie tells me that these insects once plagued the city of Zurich until they were almost eradicated by offering citizens incentives to trap them. At the end of the street, we see the lake-side Burkliplatz, dotted with plump swans in an area that was once a swamp. An arresting statue of Prince Ganymed pleading with Zeus to take him to Mount Olympus occupies centre-stage.

Frauenbad Stadthausquai

Stadthaus, Zurich
Opposite the bath house is the Renaissance-era city hall Stadthaus, where Swiss citizens come to be joined in holy matrimony.

We turn into a quiet street called Stadhausquai, home to the Frauenbad bath house for women, which turns into a bar at night. Opened in 1885 to allow women to wash themselves as they didn’t have bathrooms at home, today it’s a popular public pool often frequented by sunbathers. Zurich’s bars cater to all kinds and this one is called Bar Fuss Bar, translating to ‘Bare-foot Bar’. Opposite the bath house is the Renaissance-era city hall Stadthaus, where Swiss citizens come to be joined in holy matrimony. At the quay, a wedding party sails away on a boat, waving goodbye to cheering onlookers. Annemarie tells me that this is a Swiss tradition for good luck. In the distance, we can see the double towers of the Grossmunster, a Romanesque-style Protestant church built by Charlemagne at the graves of the city saints Felix and Regula, as per local legend.


Chagall painting of a white stag at Fraumunster, Zurich
According to Annemarie, a white stag was often seen protecting the King’s daughters and its image forms a leitmotif in most of the paintings.

In 853, King Louis the German had two unmarried daughters and it was for them that he built the Fraumunster Church on the remains of a former abbey. Led by Hildegard, the Benedictine Convent ruled over Zurich, Uri and the Albis Forest. The church is worth a visit for its beautiful Chagall windows, each depicting a different story from the Bible. According to Annemarie, a white stag was often seen protecting the King’s daughters and its image forms a leitmotif in most of the paintings.

Munsterhof and Lindenhof

Lindenhof Park, Zurich
The climb to Lindenhof Park takes us across hills shaped by the Ice Age, now turned into cobble-stoned paths.

We emerge on to a beautiful town square full of medieval buildings in the Lindenhof quarter called Munsterhof. My attention is drawn to the blue coloured Restaurant Zunfthaus Zur Waag, which used to be a guild house for wine merchants. The walk from the square to Lindenhof Park is littered with road signs in interesting shapes like keys and dragons. Annemarie informs me that this was to indicate the name of the road to folks who couldn’t read in the olden days. We come face to face with the clock of Peter’s Church, which is Europe’s largest clock-face, beautiful murals, water fountains and flags atop most homes. The climb to Lindenhof Park takes us across hills shaped by the Ice Age, now turned into cobble-stoned paths. From the park, I get a spectacular view of Zurich city, with its ancient buildings and the glittering Lake Zurich.

We end the tour with a peaceful walk by the Limmat River and a stroll through the streets of Augustinergasse, famed for its carved wooden bay windows and colourful coffee shops.

Things to do in Zurich's Old Town

  • Buy: Authentic Swiss crafts from Schweizer Heimatwerk and truffle of the day from Café Sprungli, both on Bahnhofstrasse
  • See: The wedding celebrations at Stadthaus (the city hall) and on the boats on Lake Zurich
  • Do: A boat cruise down the Limmat River, which takes you past the city’s grandest landmarks
  • Stay: The four star Hotel Glockenhof offers affordable comfort and is centrally located at Bahnhofstrasse, a stone’s throw away from Rennweg tram station.
  • Eat: The world famous Hiltl Restaurant for cutting-edge vegetarian and vegan cuisine, Restaurant Zum Kropf for the authentic Swiss experience and Quai 61 for a mesmerising view of the lake.
  • Visit: Zurich is bright and sunny in the summer months (June to September) but witnessing its snow-laden streets at Christmas is also delightful.

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Beach paradises you must visit

Who doesn’t love a trip to the beach? Soaking in the rays as you lounge about on the golden sands is most people’s idea of paradise. Calming and relaxing, a vacation away to the seaside will do anyone a power of good.

But where are the best spots to check out? Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most popular places to visit if you’re off on a beach holiday; providing you with some ideas of potential future destinations to explore.

  1. Thailand
Thailand beach

As a spot which has become increasingly popular in recent years, Thailand earns a warranted place on our list. Whether you’re looking to go wild on the party beaches of Phuket, or are searching for a more relaxing time in Koh Phangan, you’ll find something which works for you.

Snorkelling and diving are also common features on most beaches, with services set up to specifically cater to the rising number of tourists in the country. Once you’re done with the beaches there’ll also be a myriad of cultural options to get involved with.

  1. UK
UK beach

It might not sound like a nation which springs to mind when considering a trip to the beach, but, when you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense that the UK gets a mention. The British Isles are completely surrounded by the sea, which means there are beaches scattered all throughout the region.

Cornwall is a particularly popular spot which draws in a lot of tourists, with beaches lined along practically the entirety of the south-western county. Spots like St Ives and St Michael’s Mount are ideal for families.

  1. Albania
Albania beach

Albania might not be a country you naturally associate with a trip away to the beach, but in reality this Eastern European nation is actually a haven when it comes to golden shores – with some even comparing them to the majesty of the Mediterranean Sea.

While a period of civil unrest erupted in the nation back in 1997, things have significantly quelled since then. Albania now stands out as one of the more picturesque spots to visit in the eastern corner of the continent, with a relatively rustic feel really adding to the atmosphere.

  1. Australia
Australia beach

The Great Barrier Reef might be the crowning glory of the Australian coast, but it doesn’t detract from the immense amounts of fun you can have on the shores there. After a busy day of exploring in the Outback, what could be better than getting back to civilisation and cooling off with a dip in the sea?

Serene sky blue seas teem with surfers and beach goers, as you indulge in a few beers on the sand with all your closest pals. The Australians love the beach so much you can even find them there on Christmas Day (albeit, this is during their summer period).

  1. Brazil
Brazil beach sunrise

We couldn’t round off the list without mentioning one of the most famous countries in the world for beach escapes. Brazil has become renowned the world over for its luxurious golden sands – thanks in no short part to the Barry Manilow classic, “Copacabana”.

In truth, the Copa is just one of a handful of amazing beaches the South American nation has to offer, with the likes of Ipanema and the Barra da Tijuca also standing out as destinations you should definitely visit if you’re ever in Rio.

The Ipanema is in reality one of the most commonly photographed beaches in the world – with the strip serving as the backdrop to the now iconic Sugarloaf Mountains. Holiday snappers would do well to get a shot of this region of immense culture and beauty.

Fancy a trip to the beach for your next holiday? Check out one of these fantastic spots when you’re next on your travels. You’ll come back with an awesome tan and a series of amazing memories.


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