Six Unknown Architectural Wonders

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Palace of the Parliament, Romania
The world’s largest, most expensive and heaviest civilian administrative building, Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament is truly an unknown wonder. “Built by hated communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu… the building is so huge that it is difficult to take a photograph that does its scale justice ,” said Jann Hoke, a lawyer who worked in the palace in the mid-1990s.

Built in 1984, the neoclassical building has 12 stories (with eight additional stories underground), and some 3,100 rooms covering 330,000 sqm. The project cost an unprecedented 3.3bn euros, but it also cost the people of Bucharest much of their city. To build the Palace of the Parliament, one-fifth of central Bucharest was razed, including most of its historical districts, more than 30 churches and synagogues and some 30,000 homes.

“The patterned carpets on the main level, which run through hundreds of yards of wide corridors, were woven inside the building during construction,” Hoke said. “Weaving them outside and bringing them in was not feasible due to their sheer size.

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Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali

Built in 1907, the Great Mosque of Djenne is the largest mud structure in the world, constructed almost entirely of sun-baked earthen bricks, sand and a mud-based mortar and plaster. It is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style and was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988.

The mosque’s three minarets are decorated with bundles of rodier palm, which double as scaffolding for the annual repairs – a tradition that’s become a local festival in April and May.

“The brutal North African summers bring out cracks in the mud and weaken it over time,” said  Abishek Lamba. “Before the yearly rains that follow, the locals get together and re-coat the entire building with clay from a dried up pond.”

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Chand Baori, India
One of the most overlooked landmarks in India, Rajasthan’s Chand Baori is a spectacular square stepwell, 13 storeys deep, with walls lined with scores of double staircases that descend some 30m to the bottom of the well, where a pool of emerald green water awaits.

The mesmerising maze of symmetrical steps “appears to form a never ending path deep underground,” said Vipul Yadav. With its 3,500 steps, Chand Baori is “one of the deepest and largest of its kind in the world”.

Built by King Chanda of the Nikumbha Dynasty between 800 and 900 AD, Chand Baori was designed to be as practical as it was pretty. Due to the structure of the well, the bottom of it remains cooler than the surface, critical in the hot, arid landscape of Rajasthan.

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Derawar Fort, Pakistan
A fortress of monumental proportions, Derawar’s 40 stunning bastions rise from the desert in a striking square formation. Combined, the fort’s walls form a circumference of some 1,500m and stand some 30m high.

This is a magnificent structure in the middle of the Cholistan Desert,” said Faisal Khan. “Many people don’t know about the Derawar Fort. Even most Pakistanis don’t know of it.”

And for good reason: to get to the fortress, visitors must hire a guide with a four-wheel drive vehicle to make the day-long trip from the city of Bahawalpur, Pakistan through the Cholistan Desert to the fort, where special permission from the amir, or local leader, is needed to go inside.

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Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran
Mona Khatam described the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – an architectural masterpiece of Safavid Iranian architecture – as “a study in harmonious understatement”.

Located in Naghsh-i Jahan Square in the city of Isfahan, the stunningly elegant mosque was built between 1603 and 1619 during the reign of Shah Abbas I. It is named after the ruler’s father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah, a revered Lebanese scholar of Islam.

The mosque is unusual in that it features no minarets or courtyard. “This was probably because the mosque was never intended for public use, but rather served as the worship place for the women of the shah’s harem,” Khatam said.

As such, the prayer hall is reached through a long, twisting, underground hallway, and the decoration on the mosque is extraordinarily exquisite.

“The dome makes extensive use of delicate tiles that change colour throughout the day, from cream to pink,” said Khatam. “Inside the sanctuary you can marvel at the complexity of the mosaics that adorn the walls and the extraordinarily beautiful ceiling, with its shrinking, yellow motifs. The shafts of sunlight that filter in through the few high, latticed windows produce a constantly changing interplay of light and shadow.”

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Great Wall of India
“We have all heard of the Great Wall of China, but few know that India also has its own Great Wall, which has been long overshadowed by its neighbour to the East,” said Quora user Ayush Manu.

The Great Wall of India, also referred to as Kumbhalgarh, is the second-longest wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Located in Rajasthan, the wall is 4.5m thick in some areas, extends for 36km and has seven fortified gates.

Rana Kumbha, a local ruler, commissioned the wall in 1443 to protect his fort, situated on a hill above.

“Legend has it that despite several attempts, the wall could not be completed,” Manu said. “Finally the king consulted one of his spiritual advisers and was advised that a sacrifice be made, and a volunteer offered his life so that others will be protected. Today, the main gate stands where his body fell and a temple where his severed head came to rest.”

The wall was enlarged in the 19th Century and now protects more than 360 temples located within its walls, but it remains an unknown treasure to most of the world.

Courtsey : BBC, Quora

 

11 REASONS TO VISIT MANALI IN WINTERS

The crowds throng to Manali to escape the summer heat. Visit Manali in winters and enjoy the serenity and solitude with a snow capped picture perfect landscape

1. Snow, Snow and more snow

The ideal time to see & feel fresh snow and a breathtaking landscape you see only in the movies

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 2.  Snowman

Build your first Snowman

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3.  Stay in 4 star comfort at Budget Rates

The period of sparse crowds and upto 50% discount on Hotel rooms compared to summers

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4.  Snow activities

Skiing, Sledding, Snowmobiles all at Solang Valley

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5.  Hot Sulphur Springs

Take dip in the Hot Sulphur Springs at Vashisht , Klath or Manikaran

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6.  Himalayan Trout

Taste fresh Himalayan Trout at the many eateries on the Mall or The Johnson Café along with your favourite drink.

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7.  Hadimba Temple

The historic Hadimba temple, built in 1533 and located in the middle of a deodar forest

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8. Understand the benefits of a 4 wheel drive vehicle

If you are in Manali during snowfall then only a 4 X 4 Gypsy can take you to the relocated Volvo Stand.

gypsy9. Kullu Shawls

Buy the famous Kullu Shawls directly from the factory and keep the cold away

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10. See the local home heating system

The innovative home heating system used by the locals is like a Tandoor which works like a heater and is also used for cooking. The entire family sleeps around it at night.

TANDOOR

11. Adventure

Visiting Manali in Winters is an adventure in itself. The slippery roads, a white landscape, subzero temperatures, power cuts, frozen water pipes, regular warnings of heavy snowfall in the media gives one a feeling of continuous thrill.

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STREET ART WALK HAMBURG

What’s better than wandering through a city and finding little gems of artwork around every corner?

Fortunately Hamburg is a city that values good street art and after the sudden death of Hamburg most famous graffiti artist Oz last September (sadly he was hit by a train while spraying) street art has been given an extra push of attention.

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There are areas, which are almost decorated completely, others only have the occasional artwork. In this text I’ll try to show you around the areas where you will find a lot and there’s going to be something hidden for every taste. Also there are great cafés and bars in these areas, so don’t worry about your play time in between walking around. Please don’t only walk the roads I suggest, the streets are changing every day, you should definitely have a look for yourself as well!

Grab a friend, a drink and your camera and start exploring!

Let’s start a S-Bahn Sternschanze.

Getting out of the station, turn left and see what is currently papered under the bridge. This area is changing quickly, so make sure to take a picture of whatever artwork you like.

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After the bridge, turn right into Susannenstraße. Here you’ll find one of my favourites, the girl with the pink dress. I love the composition of the two smaller gentlemen appearing to be taking a picture of her and her bright colours which make her stand out in this already colourful street.

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Then turn right into Rosenhofstraße. You’ll find a vast amount of graffiti in every house entrance, so please take your time here.I especially like these stencil pieces and you will also find the pink girl’s little sister.grafiti05

At the road’s end, you’ll arrive at Rote Flora, an old theatre which has been squatted since 1989 and is decorated entirely with graffitis, stencils, drawings etc. And I mean entirely! It looks a little scary but every now and then it’s open for public concerts and you should dare to go in. Every single wall is coloured completely and it makes an important piece of history in the middle of the city.

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From there, walk on towards Karoviertel, which is another very alternative quarter, coined by it’s squatted apartments. These streets are also full of artwork, I found those two in a little alley leading to a playground.

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Then walk towards Reeperbahn, the red light district.

At the moment, you will find a massive mural by several artists, which is covering a building site.

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Like in the Sternschanze Area, you will also find several pieces of art hidden in smaller alleys or doorways. If the Reeperbahn is a little to “much” for you during day time but you are close to the harbour now, so if you still feel like walking around you could check out one of my favourite parks: Park fiction. Also there are plenty

of nice restaurants and bars in this area, so it’s definitely worth staying for a bit.

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Courtsey : Journeytodesign.com

INDIA’S MOST LOVED HILL STATIONS, A MUST FOR YOUR 2015 BUCKETLIST

DARJEELING

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Over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by tea plantations and with a backdrop of white Himalayan peaks floating over distant clouds, the archetypal hill station of Darjeeling is rightly West Bengal’s premier attraction. The towering Khangchendzonga (8598m), colonial-era architecture, Buddhist monasteries and the snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo, Tiger Hill, Batasia Loop and the War Memorial is what makes Darjeeling unique. A melting pot of Himalayan races from Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet and beautiful local handicrafts. This is the land of the flavoured Darjeeling tea revered by connoisseurs across the globe. This is the land of the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway where the century old miniature steam engine still chugs uphill vying for space with the fast disappearing Land Rovers. It is certainly that Darjeeling in the post modern era comprises of six T’s -Tea, Teak, Tourism, Toy Train, Tiger Hill and Trekkers’ paradise.What should you bring home? Tea, tea, and more tea—and beautiful local handicrafts.

GULMARG

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Originally called ‘Gaurimarg’ by shepherds, Gulmarg was discovered in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. It was also a favourite resort of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Gulmarg’s legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of Asia’s premier hill stations. Gulmarg is also a world class ski resort and has the world’s highest gondola ski lift and not to overlook, the highest green golf course in the world. It’s not so much a town as a twisting 4km-long loop of road ringing the undulating ‘Meadow of Flowers’ for which it’s named. However, the main reason to come to Gulmarg for many is to venture up through the backing stands of mature pines towards the bald ridge of Mt Afarwat. This can be done on foot or with ponies but is easiest using the two-stage gondola cable car that whisks you to 3747m for outstanding clear-day views, reputedly encompassing Nanga Parbat (the world’s ninth-highest mountain across in Pakistan) Today, Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty but also the country’s premier ski resort in winter when it is covered in snow and takes on the appearance of a picture postcard.

MUSSOORIE

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Established in the Himalayan foothills by a British Army officer in 1820, the “Queen of the Hills” stands above the rest, with its deep woods, favorable climate and Doon Valley views. It is perfect for long hikes, you will find lanes lined with pine trees and trails that lead up to gushing waterfalls inside oak-scented woods. Its name is derived from the berry-covered Mansur shrub found in abundance around this trekker-friendly area. The ghosts of its colonial past linger on in the architecture of the churches, libraries, hotels and summer palaces. The Savoy is a historic luxury hotel said to be haunted by ghosts from the past. Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was inspired by a murder committed in the The Savoy. For stunning natural sights, head to Gun Hill or Childer’s Lodge, the two highest peaks, or the famous Kempty waterfall. Perched on a ridge 2km high. When the mist clears, views of the green Doon Valley and the distant white-capped Himalayan peaks are superb, and in the hot months the cooler temperatures and fresh mountain air make a welcome break from the plains below.

SHIMLA

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The former summer capital of the British in India, and the present capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla has been blessed with all the natural bounties which one can think of. It has got a scenic location; it is surrounded by green hills with snow capped peaks. Bulging at its seams with unprecedented expansion, Shimla retains its colonial heritage, with grand old buildings, among them are the stately Viceregal Lodge, charming iron lamp posts and Anglo-Saxon names. The civic centre in Shimla is one of the only four heritage sites in India in the World Monument Fund endangered list. The Mall, packed with shops and eateries, is the centre of attraction of the town, and Scandal Point, associated with the former Maharaja of Patiala’s escapades, offers a view of distant snow clad peaks. Just a five hour drive from Delhi, Shimla is probably the most visited hill station in India

MANALI

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An array of chic restaurant openings has turned MANALI from a backpacker jaunt into a more savvy venue for modern travelers. No wonder the towering peaks and verdant terrain of Manali attracts adventure travellers, with skiing, hiking, mountaineering and river rafting the favored active pursuits. Come down from your endorphin high by breathing deeply at the four-story, wooden Hidimba Devi Temple, which sits in the middle of a nearby deciduous forest, or take a medicinal soak in the hot springs burbling from the ground a 30-minute walk from town. With super views of the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal Ranges, and with mountain adventures beckoning from all directions, Manali is a year-round magnet for tourists. Backpackers come to hang out in the hippy villages around the main town; adventure tourists come for trekking, paragliding, rafting and skiing; and Indian honeymoon couples or families come for the cool mountain air and their first taste of snow on a day trip to Rohtang La. As the main jumping-off point for Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul ,it makes sense to unwind here for a few days before continuing the long journey into the mountains.

UDHAGAMANDALAM

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Popularly referred to as Ooty, this gem among southern hill resorts is covered in eucalyptus and pine trees and coffee and tea plantations. Located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240m, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district . Nilgiri is India’s first biosphere. It has been declared as one of the 14 ‘hotspots’ of the world because of its unique bio-diversity. On a clear day, it’s possible to see as far as the Mysore plateau from Dodabetta Peak, the district’s most prominent viewpoint. The Stone House, a landmark 1822 bungalow, and St. Stephen’s Church are remnants of the area’s first British settlement. Also noteworthy: formal botanical gardens, a children’s mini-garden and a contemporary art collection. Ooty combines Indian bustle and Hindu temples with lovely parks and gardens and charming Raj-era bungalows, the latter providing its most memorable (and generally most expensive) places to stay. The town was established by the British in the early 19th century as the summer headquarters of the Madras government, and memorably nicknamed ‘Snooty Ooty’. Development ploughed in a few decades ago, but somehow old Ooty survives. You just have to walk a bit further out from the centre to find it. The journey up here on the celebrated miniature train is romantic and the scenery stunning. Even the road up from the plains is pretty impressive.

MUNNAR

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Munnar is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams – Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. 1,600 m above sea level, this hill station was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India. Sprawling tea plantations, picture-book towns, winding lanes and holiday facilities make this a popular resort town. Munnar attract adventure travellers hungry for paragliding, treks to Anaimudi (highest peak in South India) and hikes originating at the confluence of the three mountain streams .Among the exotic flora found in the forests and grasslands here is the Neelakurinji. This flower which bathes the hills in blue once in every twelve years, will bloom next in 2018. The stone Christ Church, built by the British in 1910, is adorned with renowned works of stained glass, and Eravikulam National Park, about 10 miles away, is home to equally colourful wildlife, including the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (ibex), ruddy mongoose and 120 bird species. South India’s largest tea-growing region, the rolling hills around Munnar are carpeted in emerald-green tea plantations, contoured, clipped and sculpted like ornamental hedges. The low mountain scenery is magnificent – you’re often up above the clouds watching veils of mist clinging to the mountaintops.

NAINITAL

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Crowded around a deep, green volcanic lake, Nainital is Kumaon’s largest town and favourite hill resort. It occupies a steep forested valley around the namesake lake Naini and was founded by homesick Brits reminded of the Cumbrian Lake District in Britain. Plenty of hotels are set in the forested hills around the lake, there’s a busy bazaar, and a spider’s web of walking tracks covers the forested hillsides to viewpoints overlooking the distant Himalayan peaks. For travellers, it’s an easy place to kick back and relax, eat well, go horse riding or paddling on the lake. According to mythology Naini Lake is one of the emerald eyes of Shiva’s wife. Nainital is a glittering jewel in the Himalyan necklace, blessed with scenic natural spledour and varied natural resources . Dotted with lakes , Nainital has earned the epithet of ‘ Lake District ‘ of India . Nainital is only 350km from Delhi by road and well connected to Train. Making it a popular weekend destination for people living in and around Delhi.

GANGTOK

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Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities. Irreverent, laid-back and happy-go-lucky Gangtok, is mostly a functional sprawl of urban concrete interspersed with patches of forestry. True to its name (meaning ‘hill top’), the city perches along a precipitous mountain ridge, descending down the hillside in steep tiers. It reflects a unique ambience which derives from its happy blend of tradition and modernity. Alongside the deeply felt presence of stupas and monasteries, Gangtok also bustles like any other thriving town. Some of the key places to visit include Rumtek Monastery, Do-Drul Chorten, Enchey Monastery, Tashi View Point and the Lal Bazaar. Apart from the few sights of religious importance and an inspiring view of Khangchendzonga soaring above the western horizon, there isn’t much to see in town. That said, travellers love its relaxed grain and often linger here for a few days, soaking up the local culture while arranging their travels (e.g treks and tours) around the state.

Reference: State tourism websites, tripadvisor, lonelyplanet

For your trip to any of the most loved hill stations contact Road2travel

The umbrella people: a visit to the craftsmen of Bor Sang in Chiang Mai

Umbrellas are pretty ubiquitous in Thailand – hardly surprising in a nation where the sun mercilessly beats down for months before the skies release their heavy monsoon rains that soak in seconds – if you’re caught brolly-less.

Umbrellas offer protection from the sun and rain but can play a cultural role as well as a practical one. They are an important symbol of royalty: Thai monarchs sit on thrones under nine-tiered umbrellas, the tiers representing the eight points of the compass and the burden of power. While in Buddhism, the umbrella represents protection from suffering and harm.

Umbrellas and parasols have a long history and have been developed the world over – usually to keep off the sun rather than rain. They’ve been found depicted on ancient Egyptian carvings in Thebes, and the ancient Persian capital Persepolis, and it is thought the opening kind, with ribs supporting fabric, were developed in China over 2,000 years ago. In many nations, umbrellas are seen as a symbol of power – the king of Burma used to be referred to as “The Lord of the 24 Parasols”.

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The story behind the famous umbrellas of Thailand is that they were brought back by a monk called Phra Intha, who travelled to Burma (Myanmar) and discovered the people making lovely umbrellas with mulberry bark (sa).

Being oiled, these umbrellas kept people dry as well as cool. Impressed, the monk took some examples back to his home of Bor Sang village in Chiang Mai and taught the people how to make their own. The talented artisans would add distinctive artistic flourishes, and the industry grew as umbrella making gave people work during the rainy season.

Bor Sang remains the centre of handmade umbrella production and they’re made in a huge variety of sizes, alongside large brightly colourful fans and gorgeous lamps. As it’s always a pleasure to watch master craftsmen working at their art, I went to Bor Sang, on a suitably rainy day, to look around.

Don’t picture a modern factory. The craftsmen in the village set up a cooperative in 1941 and the Bor Sang Umbrella Making Cooperative Ltd. is dedicated to maintaining the traditions and craftsmanship of the trade. You can wander around the open-sided wooden workshops and watch each stage of the umbrella making.

The first stage is the preparation of bamboo for the umbrella handle and struts. The workers sit on the floor and their knives move fast, slitting and splitting in a dazzling display of skill. It’s a wonder they don’t cut themselves, especially as most of them are casually chatting with each other as they wield their knives.

With the frame being made, the sa paper (although sometimes cotton or rice paper) is added. The workers turn the umbrella frames, some supporting the base of the smaller umbrellas between their toes. As they turn, the handmade mulberry cover is attached and strengthened and waterproofed with layers of lacquer.

umbrella3Finally comes the finishing touch – the colourful paint. This is what most tourists want to see because the talent of the artists painting the umbrellas and fans is amazing. Within a few minutes they create lovely patterns or pictures, generally of typical Thai scenes and symbols; such as, elephants, rice fields, sunsets and wildlife.

The umbrella artists won’t stop at painting umbrellas and handicrafts. They offer to paint the bags, shoes and clothes of tourists –so if you bring something to be painted, you’ll have a lovely souvenir.

From the examples I saw, it seems that darker items allow the bright colours to be seen at their best. One young boy was so delighted to have dragons painted on his shorts that I imagine his mother will have a hard time getting them back when laundry day comes.

The umbrellas are then fitted with a boss or ferrule at the tip and left to dry. The designs are so eye-catching that they are often bought as house decorations. Tourists were buying the smaller ones as souvenirs or ordering the larger ones, with custom art to be sent home, which the sellers are more than happy to do.

The umbrellas are so vital to the local economy, that they’re celebrated in a three-day umbrella festival every January. The Bor Sang Umbrella and Sankampaeng Handicraft Festival, sees the streets illuminated by lanterns and strung with the most colourful examples of the sa umbrellas. Of course, there’s a contest to see who can create the best and most beautiful umbrella.

In January, Chiang Mai is wonderfully cool so it’s the perfect time to explore Bor Sang and enjoy the festivities. And don’t forget to buy your own umbrella – the hot and rainy seasons are always around the corner.

Travel tips:

The umbrella making centre is open from 08:30 till 17:00 hrs. each day and can be found on San Kamphaeng Road some 8 km east of Chiang Mai city centre. It’s easy to arrange a tour or hire one of the city’s songtaeos to take you there.

Courtsey: tatnews.org

How To Survive a Long-Haul Flight

I think it’s safe to say that no one enjoys long-haul flights. No one. But here’s how to safely survive a couple of days trapped in an aluminum cannister with your sanity intact.Some flights pass by in the blink of an eye; some drag on forever. The good news is that some flights are better than others and there are things that will help mitigate the journey along the way. Don’t also underestimate the power of dread; long-haul flights are intimidating if you travel infrequently, but it’s not near as bad as you think it is after the hundredth time.I’ve definitely flown my fair share, including some rough routes. The worst flight I’ve ever endured involved a 12-hour flight from Hong Kong to Istanbul, followed by another 13-hour flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles. Instead of traditionally flying over the Pacific, I basically flew in the other direction. The layover was eight hours long. (It was cheap and it was for the holidays, what can I say?)It should be noted that this advice mostly applies to people who are flying international long-haul flights in economy class. If you’re in business class, you might want to take your glass of wine and hang out on a different part of this site.

Seating

Like on any flight, a good seat is paramount. On a transcontinental or transoceanic flight, though, trust me, you want an aisle seat. No matter how much you hate it, there is no way anyone can avoid the airplane bathroom over a 12-hour period.

If you’re sitting in an airplane that has a three-row configuration—where there is a section of seats on the left side of the plane, followed by a middle section, and section on the right side—you should opt for one of the aisle seats in the middle section in particular. Though it may not seem obvious, this seat has several advantages.

Most importantly, it gives you easy access to the aisle and bathroom while also giving the people sitting in the middle seats two options to get to the aisle. This should automatically reduces your chances of getting climbed over (or having to politely exit your seat so others can get out) by 50 percent or somewhat significantly. The aisle seats toward the left and right section of the plane don’t have this advantage.

This logic doesn’t necessarily work with all seat configurations, such as those in a 2-4-2 layout where the odds are pretty much equal for either side. Instead, it is much, much more common to get a plane with a 3-3-3 or 3-4-3 seat configuration. You can bet the airlines are trying to cram in as many passengers as they can.

Moving

It’s actually quite important to keep the blood flowing while you’re sitting down for ages. Though it’s not happened to me personally, AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher suffered a transient ischemic attack, or a “mini stroke,” on a plane en route to Hong Kong a couple of years ago when blood temporarily stopped flowing to her brain.

For those concerned, some of the foreign carriers are pretty good at demonstrating in-flight exercises in their safety videos. (CNN also has an instructional airline yoga article, who knew?) I always use bathroom breaks as a periodic opportunity to stretch my legs and either hang out in the back of the galley, at least for a few minutes, or walk down the aisle once or twice.

Eating

In the days leading up to the flight, I would stick to fairly light and healthy meals. There’s nothing worse than sitting with a Mexican burrito like a stone in your stomach when you’re trapped in an aluminized tube of claustrophobia. When you combine this with large periods of no movement, you’re going to feel pretty gross.

Though some people suggest skipping the meal service to combat jet lag, this depends on your own personal discipline. (I have a particularly strong sense of smell and the olfactory cues kick in my hunger pangs. Even watching The Food Network is sometimes a form of masochism.) Airlines actually tend to serve more correct portions—think Asian and European sizes—so I just generally take whatever the flight attendant puts in front of me. However, if that’s not going to be enough, pack something that’s easy to snack on.

During the meal service is when the aisle seat particularly comes into handy. Once the food is served and half of the plane begins to digest their food, you can be sure that the bathroom is going to be pretty popular soon. Don’t forget the fact you’re most likely on a pretty big-ass plane, which means there are lots of people on board. If you wait too long to do your business, you run the risk of being uncomfortable in your seat while everyone uses the loo.

In fact, there is an opportune time to go. There should be a fairly short window when the flight attendants have served the food and are no longing blocking the path to the bathroom just right before the meal trays are collected. Now, for some reason, people like to wait until the trays are collected before getting up from your seat. This is actually your golden opportunity, should you choose to take it.

Though it’s annoying to hold up your tray table and set it back down to get to the aisle, it’s going to be a lot more annoying waiting for six people to finish using the bathroom. Going to the bathroom during this in-between time ensures you won’t have to wait later, and even better, it means that you still have a relatively clean bathroom before everyone else has used it. This is especially true if this just happens to occur after the first meal service.

Sleeping

Especially because international flights usually serve free booze, people often resort to alcohol to help them sleep. Unfortunately, not only is alcohol a depressant, it’s also a dehydrating agent, so I actually generally discourage drinking on the plane. When you combine this with the pressurized cabin of an airplane, its effects can be amplified. I also can personally tell you this as someone who once fainted in the middle of an aisle during a 9-hour flight from Singapore to Australia.

In terms of tangible objects, investing in a cheap eye mask and earplugs work magic, and I do mean *magic* in terms of improving the quality of your sleep and regulating your circadian rhythm by limiting light. Travel pillows do considerably less in comparison; pillows are one of those things you’re better off using the complimentary one onboard. Not only are most airline pillows sufficient, you’ll also have one less thing to carry on the plane with you.

Getting to actual sleep is a far trickier business. Some people swear by complete sleep deprivation; I prefer to do things a little bit less drastically, especially if you have to work in the days preceding the trip. That said, shortening your normal sleep by a few hours does help. (Last-minute packing does wonders!) It’s not necessary, however, to feel like you need to get on the time zone of your destination immediately. This will either occur eventually or not at all.

In frequent traveler circles, some people like to cite melatonin as one of the more natural remedies for visiting the Sandman. The truth is, though, this is really dependent on how your body reacts to it like any other drug. While I’ve had poor results, I know others who swear by it. I would prefer melatonin if it actually worked for me, but the alternative is using more traditional over-the-counter sleeping aids.

Though Ambien is one of the more popular sleeping-pill brands, I’ve had excellent results with Unisom. It knocks me out faster than a light on even half the suggested dosage. For a flight, I would suggest to take only a quarter of a pill. Personally, I’m not sure if I would try a sleeping aid for the first time on a flight without knowing how it affects me beforehand. (Its active ingredient is doxylamine succinate but clearly check with your doctor before trying it. It can also leave users slightly groggy.)

Unfortunately, there is a small segment of the population that just won’t be able to sleep on a plane, no matter what they do. This does happen to me from time to time, and I can tell you that it’s anything but fun. Torture is staring at the plane’s current route on the in-flight entertainment system in pure silence.

Jet Lag

Everything starts from the minute you book the flight. If it’s inevitable that you’re going to have a flight with a connection, try booking the connection at the end. Nothing is more draining than beginning a 12-hour flight after you’ve spent three or five hours flying across the country just to get to the hardest portion of it. This may or may not be possible depending on where you live – travelers that live in major hub cities often have the most choices.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to reverse the connection so it happens at the end, this puts the hardest part, the long-haul portion, upfront. Not only will you have more energy to deal with the most taxing part of the flight, but by the time you make the connection, you’ll be exhausted. It sounds counter intuitive, but it’s actually not: by the time you reach the connection, you’ll end up sleeping through most if not the entire second leg. Most of the time, I end up passing the time in a wonderful, pure state of black unconsciousness.

The main thing I look at, besides connection points and costs, when booking flights more than anything else is the arrival time. One of the most important factors in beating jet lag has to do with remembering that it’s a lot easier to go to bed later than to wake up earlier. Keeping this in mind, flights that have a late afternoon or nighttime arrival are preferred. If you arrive earlier, all it means is that you’ll have to stay up a whole lot longer. (The key is to keep moving when you arrive until you have to go to bed; once you start resting, it’s game over.)

To get a good idea of when I should be sleeping on the plane, I usually immediately change the time settings to my destination on my phone once the aircraft is en route. Though it’s pretty tempting to pass the whole flight in a complete state of unconsciousness, sleeping the entire time can mess up your internal clock just as much.

The cabin crew is pretty good at giving visual cues during a flight; for instance, they’ll dim the cabin lights when it’s a good time to rest or turn them completely on and be in-your-face during specific intervals. The point is to not be deterred if you can’t sync your body exactly, but to sleep proportionately when you need to. Even if the best you can do is to flip flop the waking and sleeping portions of the flight, it will still help overcome serious jetlag.

If you’re on a long-haul flight, the chances are pretty high that we’re looking at a minimum time zone shift of six to twelve hours (unless you’re traveling north-to-south or south-to-north). If I sleep for half or up to three-quarters of the flight to anticipate an approximately 12-hour time zone change, I consider that a job well done. I find 6-hour time zone changes—give or take a few hours—are the hardest to acclimate to. If you’re flying east to Europe from the U.S. East Coast, you’ll run into these.

In a nutshell…

The thing about most of these tips is that what may work for another person may be completely different, but like anything, it’s only over time and with lots of practice does someone get used to flying long distance. Still, many of the strategies I mentioned can cut down significantly on the stress of flying. The important thing to remember is that, thankfully, the flight does eventually end.

Courtsey : maphappy.org

Himalayan Adventures – Gliding through the skies in Bir-Billing

Bir-Billing, located in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, is an adventure destination for paragliding. Bir-Billing is roughly a 2-3 hours drive from Mcleodganj – another tourist destination also famous for housing the monastery where His Holiness, The Dalai Lama resides. Bir-Billing is a well known destination among paragliders the world over and it also hosts annual pre-World Cup paragliding events with support from the Himachal Tourism Development Corporation, Government of Himachal Pradesh.

The nearest station to Bir-Billing is Patahankot, a drive of around 4-4.5 hours. In case of a bus journey, the Volvo bus from Delhi to Baijnath is the most convenient. Baijnath is a 10 km drive from Bir which is the landing point for paragliding. Billing, located a further 13 kms above Bir is the take-off point for the same. Either ways, Bir-Billing is an overnight journey from Delhi and takes roughly 12 hours to reach.

On the way to from Baijnath by road, one would be greeted by the sight of many paragliders flying in the clear skies as you come close to Bir. It is a rare sight in India. In fact it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is a lot easier to spot para-gliders floating through the skies in Bir-Billing than spotting birds.

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Upon reaching Bir, the sight of lush green tea estates on either side of the road will greet you. In the months of April – May, the weather is quite sunny and hot during daytime. The temperatures however go down after 4 in the evening and by night it becomes considerably cool and pleasant. It is better to spend the night in Billing than in Bir as Billing is at a height of 2400 metres above the sea level and enjoys a much cooler climate. Moreover, the aerial view that Billing offers of the entire landscape down below is a sight to behold. To watch the early morning sunrise in Billing is nothing short of a magical experience. Billing not only offers beautiful sights of lush green landscape, but also boasts of a splendid aerial view and is a beginning point into the forest which leads to Barabhangal village after a 5 days trek. There is no other approach road to this village, located in a remote region in Himachal Pradesh, except through the mountains.

There are two options of going to Billing from Bir – either by trekking through the hills/walking up the road or by car through the motorable road made for vehicles. Those who are keen on burning some calories can opt for either the trek through the hills (a steeper but shorter route) or use the motorable road for walking up (longer but less stressful and tiring). If you wish to enjoy the lovely sights on the way to Billing, it is advisable to opt for the trek/walk instead of the easier option of car.

Our joy knew no bounds when we saw the campsite which was our place to shack up for the night. A line of five colourful tents greeted us as soon as we reached our destination. The tents were pitched right under the clear skies and on the steep slopes which looked down upon the lush green mountains. Each tent can comfortably occupy two persons with their bags. If you wish to take a dump or pee, there is another tent created especially for that a few yards below the slope.

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If you are lucky, it might even rain and make the weather quite chilly. We did get lucky. We had come with our stock of booze for the night that actually helped keep us warm for the night. The same place which was hot in the afternoon had suddenly become very chilly at night due to the rainfall. It however was a night to remember for many reasons. It was after all a night out at a campsite in the Himalayas, lovely weather, and booze to keep us warm along with food cooked in a shack by the camp manager’s team. Most importantly it was a night spent under the open skies with thousands of stars shining brightly. It seemed like every star was trying to outshine the other stars. Thankfully, we were one of the few people present there in Billing that night to admire that beautiful sight where heavens seemed to be shining upon us. It seemed like the heavens had suddenly spread out its long black blanket with hundreds and thousands of stars stuck on it. Never before had I ever seen so many stars shine so brightly all at once in the skies. Thankfully, we had our share of booze to admire the lovely night. Thankfully, we were present on top of those hills to admire that beautiful sight.

The next day was the day of reckoning for us. As we got up in the morning, we were greeted by the sight of horses grazing around the hills. There is something really special about waking up in the middle of the mountains in the Himalayan range. The sight of this gigantic range which spans thousands of kilometres across multiple countries can make one feel insignificant and small. One look at these beautiful hills and snow covered mountains makes us realise that “our world” is just so small and there is so much more to explore.

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The weather on that morning was just perfect and we got ready for the ride with assistance from the organizers and our fellow pilots. Our introduction to the activity was quite simple. We walked up to the take-off point in Billing which was just 5 minutes from our campsite. The kits were already there and we were told that the instructions were very simple. The organisers told us, “You have to run as fast as you can and jump off the cliff. The faster your speed while running, the better your take off will be.” Very simple instructions indeed! Run down the cliff, jump off without a parachute and then hope that the glider opens up in time! That is certainly a perfect start to the day. But thankfully our fears were unfounded. Thankfully, gravity always does its bit and thanks to Newton’s laws of motion, the take-off was scary but safe. The entire thrill ride lasts for around 20-25 minutes with the pilot, who thankfully sits right behind you, controlling everything including the manoeuvring, speed and height. Our job is to sit there, scream and feel like a bird. At certain points we were flying high above the mountains from where I was gazing down on the planes below a few minutes back. The first 10minutes of the ride were quite scary as it took a while for the whole experience to sink in. The first 10 minutes of the ride were spent worrying about the consequences of an accident if anything went wrong. There was after all no chance of survival as we were flying way up in the sky without the comfort of a parachute. Thankfully, these fears were unfounded as the kits used for paragliding are tested and approved by competent authorities. The pilots too are skilled and well trained pilots who are equally concerned and cautious about safety.

The next 15 minutes were spent admiring the beauty of the landscape from a bird’s eye view. The whole experiences was simply mind numbing as we flew high over the mountain tops and tried spotting some of the prominent landmarks below. The goosebumps gave way to renewed excitement as we quikcly flew over the forests covering the mountains and the open plains right below these mountains. The landing spot for the activity too is a well maintained site. The landing can be a bit tricky if not done as per the instructions of the pilot. However if you pay heed to his advice a comfortable and smooth landing is easy to achieve. Our joy knew no bounds as we landed one at a time within a span of 10 minutes. We were literally jumping like mad-hatters and pounced on each other in a super-hyper and excited phase as we completed our rides. The entire experience was truly memorable and the flight towards the skies was surreal.

The Himalayas have always had a magical pull on me and this time it was no different. It was a new destination, a new adventure and a different experience altogether. Highly recommended for those who yearn for a high-flying experience.

courtsey : http://pranav84blog.wordpress.com/

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