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Opulence personified

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2012

Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini is the preferred choice for both business and leisure travellers

Slow down to serenity

For your MICE needs

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The luxury MICE hotels in India offer state-ofthe art business facilities, which are at par with global standards

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Sankhara villas transform life’s simple essentials into lifetime treasures

A fortune for you

11 Fortune Hotels’ philosophy and positioning has enabled it to carve a niche in the hospitality industry

Connecting with excellence

12 Hotel Clarks Shiraz, Agra provides the discerning traveller with superb care, comfort and connectivity

Go green with luxury

14 ITC Hotels provides green living with the best of luxury facilities

Novotel, naturally

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16 Hotel Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach offers luxury living for business travellers and family vacationers


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One city, many faces

A world in itself

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Istanbul enjoys a wonderful mix of culture, diversity and harmony

Discover and explore the beauty of India in 15 different ways

The soulful city

Glorious Gujarat

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25 Emerging as one of India’s premiere tourist hubs, Gujarat caters to every mood and desire

With its temples, art forms and natural reserves, Bhubaneswar charms the world with its antiquity

Perfect for MICE

The beach escape

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Spectacular locations, modern facilities and relaxed ambience—all these are credentials of an ideal MICE destination

Journey into South Africa

Mighty Madhya Pradesh

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A sojourn in South Africa is totally addictive and creates a lifetime experience

Immersed in tranquillity

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The picturesque beaches of Karnataka make them ideal for those seeking a relaxing break

Madhya Pradesh is home to a plethora of tourist attractions—heritage, wildlife, architecture and spirituality

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Letters

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Thailand's Koh Chang is a quiet refuge, far from the bustling city life

What when where... Style statement

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We hear you... Readers speak out and share their thoughts Globetrotting women The story, Women With Wanderlust, in the February 2012 issue was truly an interesting read. Even I crave for a little quality 'me' time away from the daily challenges of juggling home and work, and hardly get time to be with my friends or indulge in some hobbies. I enjoyed reading about the thriving cultural destination of Barcelona as well as Tucson, which is a renowned spa haven. While reading the story, I was thinking about certain things, like, is it really safe travelling alone, wouldn’t I feel lonely, but, you really put these myths to rest. —Ritu Wadhwa, Delhi

ART Group Art Director Amitabha Sen Creative Director Ankur Jain Assistant Art Director Mandeep Singh

A quiet refuge with your beloved, away from the fast pace of life, is on everyone's wish list. And, the soaring peaks, fresh air, colourful hues and breathtaking valleys indeed make India's hill stations an ideal place for romance. I have been planning a short vacation with my spouse for quite some time now, and the story, Love (S)peaks, in the February 2012 issue has helped me immensely in deciding a perfect holiday spot for us. —Shivam Pal, Nagpur

Reading the story, A Cultural Wonderland, in the February 2012 issue transported me to the beautiful Thai city of Chiang Mai. Thailand has always been known as a country which blends both historical and modern culture, and Chiang Mai seems to be a perfect retreat, with so many attractions and no dearth of recreational activities. —Kriti Narayan, Chennai

Showcasing world events I am truly, madly and deeply in love with the What When Where... pages of Today's Traveller. Not only do they provide details about the various events taking place every month, but they are also great visual treats. I look forward to more such wonderful pages. —Sunil Das, Bengaluru

Today's Traveller is published/printed by Kewal Gill on behalf of Gill India Communications Private Limited from House No.1, 2nd Floor, Right Side, Vinobha Puri, Lajpat Nagar II, New Delhi 110 024. Printed at: Sonu Printers, B-82, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-1, New Delhi 110 020. All rights reserved. For correspondence and advertising: House No.1, 2nd Floor, Right Side, Vinobha Puri, Lajpat Nagar II, New Delhi 110 024. Tel: +91 11 29841710-13 Fax: +91 11 29841714 Email: gillindiadel@gmail.com

Buddhist trail Being from Odisha, I was still amazed to read about the outstanding range of Buddhist sites and monuments in the state. The story, On The Path To Enlightenment, in the February 2012 issue, did justice in showcasing Odisha's Buddhist circuit. The famous sites of Dhauli, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri are perfect examples of Buddhist art, architecture, education and learning. —Radha Goswami, Bhubaneswar

Please send your feedback to todaystraveller@gmail.com

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MARKETING & PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT General Manager Amit Khurana Assistant General Manager Vagish Mishra Managers Vipul Bhatia Manoj Singhal Vikas Bhatia Junior Manager Salil Savant FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION General Manager Ajith Kumar LR Finance Controller CA Vijay Gosain

Iconic India Post The story, India Post:Iconic Service Provider, in the February 2012 issue was an informative read. It was interesting to learn about India Post’s emerging new ways of communication, and now it has also pushed the borders of communication, offering a host of financial and premium services, like e-payment, logistics post, media post, the post office savings bank, and MO Videsh. By this, it has truly proved that an efficient and reliable communication network is the backbone of a country. —Shankar Sharma, Kolkata

Publisher/Editor Kewal Gill Executive Editor Kamal Gill Vice President Vivek Mittal Managing Editor Arjun Gill Deputy Managing Editor Simran Mishra EDITORIAL Senior Editor Prabir Biswas Associate Editor Indira Laul Senior Assistant Editor Ruchika Gill Sub-editor Ritika Sarin

Romancing the hills

Charming Chiang Mai

MARCH 2012 | VOLUME 15 | NO.8

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All information in TODAY’S TRAVELLER is derived from sources, which we consider reliable. Information is passed on to our readers without any responsibility on our part. The contents of this publication contain views of authors and are not the views of Gill India Communications Pvt Ltd (GIC). Similarly, opinions/views expressed by any party in abstract and/or in interviews are not necessarily shared/ do not necessarily reflect any opinion of GIC. All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction in any manner is strictly prohibited. Material appearing in the publication cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without prior permission. The same rule applies when there is a copyright or the article is taken from another publication. Publications reproducing material either in part or in whole, without permission could face legal action. Editorial enquiries and enquiries concerning the reproduction of articles, advertising and circulation should be emailed at gillindiadel@gmail.com. The publisher assumes no responsibility for returning unsolicited material nor is responsible for material lost or damaged in transit. The publisher reserves the rights to refuse, withdraw, amend or otherwise deal with all advertisements without explanation. All advertisements must comply with the Indian Advertisements Code as well as the Advertisements Code of South Asia. The publisher will not be liable for any damaged or loss cause by the late publication, error or failure or advertisement to appear.


hospitality | crowne plaza new delhi rohini

OPULENCE

Personified

Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini, a prominent landmark of North-west Delhi, is the preferred choice for both business and leisure travellers >> TT bureau

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rowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini, with its strategic location and warm hospitality, caters to those looking for a sophisticated ambience, efficient service and authentic experiences. Easily accessible from the airport, it is located in close proximity to local entertainment attractions and leading educational institutes. The hotel has 50,750 square feet of meeting space, one of the largest in Delhi/NCR with an attractive choice of 13 indoor/outdoor venues. All these venues are ideal for huge conferences, corporate events, weddings and other social gatherings, accommodating 20 to 2,000 people. LUXURY ACCOMMODATION The 183 well-equipped rooms of the hotel include 144 Superior Rooms, 18 Deluxe Rooms,

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13 Club Rooms and eight Suites. These spacious and elegantly designed rooms are equipped with all the modern amenities, like 40-inch LCD TV with media hub, in-roof safe, individually-controlled air conditioning, fourfixture bathroom, ISD/DDD and voice mail, tea/coffee maker, mini-bar, Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, 24-hour room service and special care for the physically challenged. DELECTABLE DINING For the Epicureans, Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini offers an enticing range of dining options. The all-day dining restaurant, Mosaic, with 128 covers, is the place to unwind with Italian, Indian, Chinese and Western-comfort food, with a choice of frozen and blended beverages and wines. For relishing Indian fine dining, Spice Art is the place to be. This restaurant with 116 covers,

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serves authentic North-West Frontier cuisine, featuring a range of kebabs and curries, along with Awadhi, Delhi and Kashmiri cuisine. ConneXions, the bar, is the place to relax with music, exotic finger food and an exclusive Wine Cellar offering a distinctive range of world wines. The exclusive pastry shop, Deli, serves an assortment of scrumptious snacks and delectable desserts, accompanied by a selection of exotic teas and coffee blends. ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION There are also various fitness and recreational services offered by the hotel. For complete rejuvenation of mind, body and soul, Adya, a relaxation spa, offers Asian and European therapies. The spa comprises of therapy rooms, a unisex salon, a well-equipped gym and an outdoor swimming pool.


hospitality | sankhara villas

SLOW DOWN TO

serenity

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ituated in Mauritius’ coastal village of Poste Lafayette, Sankhara beach villas—Tiara and Almira—are the perfect places to re-establish closeness with loved ones, restore ties and rediscover oneself. Designed by French-trained Mauritian architect and furbished by an interior designer from New Zealand, the villas represent a fusion of Eastern cultures. The fivebedroom Tiara villa has Balinese Zen-style, while the three-bedroom Almira villa is styled with a contemporary Moroccan feel. The fine interiors of Tiara blend perfectly to conjure up an ambience cocooned in harmony and serenity. The majestic sitting rooms open to a Jacuzzi and slate-pool terrace as well as to the Indian Ocean,

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Located amidst tropical palms on the eastern shore of Mauritius, the Sankhara villas transform life’s simple essentials into lifetime treasures >> Arjun Gill

bordered by a pristine white-sand beach and ocean lagoon. Other delights include the elliptical bath with a wonderful ocean view and the hamam, a traditional steam bath. Almira, with a subtle mix of Balinese and Mauritian architecture, features polished teak floors, a high-vaulted ceiling and an impressive Moorish silver chandelier. The villas have all modern amenities, including satellite television and video-ondemand, wi-fi high-speed Internet connectivity, Wii consoles and round-theclock room service. For satiating your palate, Chef Orlando Rene provides fine dining with an a la carte menu of local, international and vegetarian cuisine. Fresh food is locally sourced; the island’s fishermen provide the daily catch of

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local fish, and other specialities are flown in. Guests can also participate in private cooking lessons with the Chef. Sankhara’s wine list offers a connoisseur’s selection of wines from around the globe. The complimentary services include mineral water in bedrooms, afternoon tea with pancakes and fruit brochettes, turn down service and Sankhara gifts, such as a sarong or baseball cap, with extra gifts for wedding and anniversary couples. Guests can relax and sun bathe on sun loungers in the tropical gardens by the pool or the secluded stretch of beach. Other leisure activities at Sankhara include stargazing, tai chi, yoga, meditation, aqua gym, whale watching trips and water-sport activities. For more information, visit www.sankhara-villas.com


hospitality | fortune hotels

My Fortune, Chennai

Fortune Select Loudon, Kolkata

Fortune Select Global, Gurgaon

Fortune Select Excalibur, Gurgaon

A FORTUNE FOR YOU Fortune Hotels’ unique philosophy and contemporary positioning has enabled it to carve a niche in the hospitality industry >> TT Bureau

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ith its brand operating in key business and leisure destinations—New Delhi, Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Navi Mumbai, Indore, Pune, Goa, Mussoorie, Mysore, Ooty, Port Blair and Jaipur, to name a few—Fortune Hotels has earned the distinction of being a ‘first class full service business hotel’ chain in the country. A wholly-owned subsidy of ITC Ltd, the hotel chain has clearly defined sub-brands, including Fortune Select, Fortune Park, Fortune Inn, Fortune Resort and the recently launched My Fortune. The new brand, My Fortune, comprises stylish lifestyle hotels,

providing the comfort of home and efficient service, creating a sense of belonging. Offering a perfect blend of traditional Indian hospitality with new-age technology, this brand caters to the upscale to upper upscale market segment. The first hotel under My Fortune was flagged off in Chennai. Apart from My Fortune, the year 2011 saw the opening of Fortune Inn Exotica at Hinjewadi in Pune, Fortune JP Palace in Mysore, Fortune Park Boulevard at Chhatarpur and Fortune Park DJ Avenue on MG Road in New Delhi. Commenting upon the expansion plans, Suresh Kumar, Chief Excecutive Officer, Fortune Hotels, says, “We have always emphasised on the virtue of leveraging on the power of a ‘spread’, as ‘the length of the chain is the

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strength of the chain’. We plan to work towards taking further our vision of unfurling a Fortune at every 180 kilometres by concentrating on Metro, mini-Metro, Tier I and Tier II cities across India. The chain has extensive expansion plans and we are looking at being a 90-hotels strong chain by the year 2015.” The chain has been the winner of numerous awards, including Hospitality India Award for the “Best First Class Hotel Chain 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2011”; the PATWA Award for the “Best First Class Business Hotel Chain 2007”; the Abacus TAFI Award for the “Best Value Hotel Chain in India 2009”; Safari India Award for the “Best First Class Hotel Chain 2010” and the recently received SATTE Award for “Best Mid Market Chain 2012”.

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Connecting with

EXCELLENCE Located in the heart of Agra, the 50-year-old—yet modern—Hotel Clarks Shiraz provides the discerning traveller with superb care, comfort and connectivity >> Indira Laul ven the most experienced traveller will tell you that Agra is worth seeing. And, if you’re a diehard Indophile, you would most definitely have visited the Taj Mahal at least once during your lifetime. However, during my recent trip to this historic city, I experienced a memorable new connect. Visions of the Taj were still uppermost in my mind as our car negotiated the turn on the Taj Road and entered the precincts of the Hotel Clarks Shiraz. It’s true that first impressions are indelible—my first response was an immediate 'wow'. The soothing almond colour of the property’s facade found favour with me, it blended perfectly with the serene

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ambience of lush, green surroundings. From the recesses of my mind, memory jogged certain statistics that I had learnt about this gracious hotel. That the 50-year-old, yet contemporary, Clarks Shiraz was indeed the first 5-star hotel of India and that it was designed to be a super-luxury 5-star deluxe of its times, and continues to hold that oldworld charm. That this oasis in the heart of a milling tourist hub is the only hotel with a view of the Taj Mahal as well as the Agra Fort; that it is located amid the lush green forest cover of the Agra cantonement area, just 2 kilometres from the Taj Mahal. Moreover, it is virtually almost a hop skip and a jump to the airport and the railway station from this one-of-a-kind property.

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(seven kilometres from the airport and three kilometres from the railway station). What more could one ask for? I was soon to realise that Clarks Shiraz was much more than a splendid building with a convenient location. Two bell boys unobtrusively collected our luggage and


hospitality | hotel clarks shiraz, agra

motioned us into the spacious lobby, while a cheerful lady from the front desk welcomed us with the proverbial rose, hot towel and cold drink. That’s, when I made another mental note about yet one more USP of the hotel—‘care’. It was a constant leitmotif throughout our stay at the hotel—whether it was to do with the nonintrusive service meted out by Housekeeping; the fruit basket, confection and mini-bar in the room; the utter thoughtfulness of the Food and Beverage staff and management, who thought nothing of catering to our every whim, including packing a sumptuous breakfast for us at the crack of dawn. Our room was part of the 237 luxuriousand-well-appointed rooms, with most facing the Taj. The rooms offer a fruit basket on request, with paid mini-bar and savoury basket. The

two suites are elegantly-designed, with a sitting room and a bedroom. After a much-needed shower, using the branded toilet amenities provided, I felt refreshed and comfortably happy; and that’s when I thought ‘comfort’ was the next USP of this hotel. I met my companions at The Mughal

Room, where we partook of multicuisine specialities on offer—from Mughlai to Chinese and Continental, to the dulcet tones of the soulful ghazal singer. Adjacent to this restaurant, was the Mughal Bar, the rooftop bar, and the Khayyam Bar, both of which had an excellent ambience. The Buffet Restaurant, also offers a multicuisine spread. One could indulge in a quiet cup of coffee at The Coffee Shop, or have a quick bite at the Cakes & Bakes confectionary. We took a stroll after dinner and admired the glimpse of a faint outline of the Taj Mahal in the moonlight from the rooftop terrace. The next morning we explored the ‘business’ possibilities of the hotel. The Shehnaz Hall overlooking the greens outside has special

conference packages for corporates, including a theme-evening option, like Mughal, Hyderabadi, Brij, Avadhi or Jungle. The new Akbar Hall has two sections, with state-of-theart interiors and a unique lighting system for different themes and functions; and The Tower Hall, which is a relatively smaller hall situated at the lobby level, is ideal for those in search of a private, intimate venue. As we left this royal hotel that afternoon, I knew I was coming back to the Clarks Shiraz— the hotel synonymous with the three ‘Cs’— care, comfort and connect. I had found another reason to visit this beautiful and historic city.

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GOING GREEN WITH LUXURY Lotus Pavillion, ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru

ITC hotels have integrated world-class eco-friendly practices to maintain a high standard of green living while providing the best of luxury to its guests >> TT Bureau oday, hotels around the world are actively committing themsleves to preserving the environment by adopting green practices. By blending eco-friendly practices with contemporary design elements, they are delivering the utmost luxury in the greenest possible manner. When it comes to India, it is ITC that has blazed a trail by blending luxury with green living. Its hotel division, ITC Hotels, is the first hospitality chain in the world to conceptualise what it calls,

GREEN CONTRIBUTIONS BY ITC LUXURY COLLECTION HOTELS

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Relaxation area at Kaya Kalp – The Royal Spa, ITC Mughal, Agra

• ITC Maratha, Mumbai: The hotel consumes 22 per cent less energy than US EPA’s (US Environment Protection Agency) benchmark for large-size luxury hotels. • ITC Maurya, Delhi: It is the world’s first hotel with LEED Platinum certification under the Existing Building (EB) category. • ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru: It is the world’s largest LEED Platinum certified hotel in the New Construction (NC) category. • ITC Sonar, Kolkata: The first hotel in the world to be registered with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for improvement in energy demand in the building sector as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project under the Kyoto protocol. • ITC Grand Central, Mumbai: The hotel’s rainwater harvesting capacity is more than half of the peak rainfall. • ITC Mughal, Agra: The hotel is a forerunner in implementing and encouraging environmentally-sensitive building exterior and hardscape management practices. • ITC Windsor, Bengaluru: The entire electrical energy demand is met through renewable sources of energy, i.e. off-site wind turbine generators. • ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad: The hotel is a leader in energy efficiency, sustainable site development, enhanced indoor air quality and implementing a Green Education programme. • ITC Rajputana, Jaipur: By being water positive, carbon positive and solid waste recycling positive, ITC Rajputana, Jaipur, is Rajasthan’s first and only LEED Platinum hotel.

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hospitality | ITC hotels

ITC Rajputana, Jaipur

‘Responsible Luxury’. The concept adopts contemporary green business practices, which also harnesses the elements of nature to provide the best in luxury with the lowest environmental footprint. As a result of this unflinching commitment to ‘Responsible Luxury’, ITC Hotels is the first hotel chain in the world to have all its nine luxury properties LEED Platinum certified. The LEED Platinum rating is awarded by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for extraordinary commitment to highest standards of energy, water and waste efficiency, among other aspects of sustainable strategies. All the nine Luxury Collection hotels of ITC— ITC Maurya, New Delhi; ITC Maratha, Mumbai; ITC Grand Central, Mumbai; ITC Sonar,

Kolkata; ITC Windsor, Bengaluru; ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru; ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad, ITC Mughal, Agra and ITC Rajputana, Jaipur— are now LEED Platinum and the green projects taken up by these hotels are also providing inspiration to the overall green building movement in India. Luxury with green living is amply reflected not only in the way all the Luxury Collection hotels of ITC operate, but even in their architecture, which strictly adheres to the green building standards set by the US Green Building Council. At the heart of ‘Responsible Luxury’ is product design in the form of green buildings that are energy-efficient, utilise renewable energy, conserve and recycle water, while taking concrete steps to preserve the ecoITC Maratha, Mumbai

system around them. In addition to the wide spectrum of environment-friendly measures that ITC Hotels implement, the ITC Group’s carbon-positive, waterpositive and solid-wasterecycling-positive status ensures that a guest’s stay at any of its luxury hotels contributes to a lower carbon footprint. ITC Hotels boast the largest captive consumption wind farms owned by any hotel chain in the world, world’s largest Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) installation, as well as the largest and first on-site Paraboloid solar concentrators, which is a first in the global hospitality industry. More than one third of the food and beverages used is harvested and processed locally, not far away from the hotels, ensuring freshness

of ingredients and less carbon footprint. Initiatives, such as the use of LED fixtures, water efficiency in air-conditioning systems and use of low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and certified wood not only enhance comfort and efficiency, but also contribute towards maintaining a greener and healthier environment. Only treated recycled water is used for flushing, landscape treatment, cooling tower and miscellaneous cleaning, while sensor-operated waterless urinals, dual-flush water closets result in further reduction in water consumption, considerably below the US Green Building Council Standards. ITC’s premium luxury hotels ensure optimum comfort for guests while saving energy by the use of advanced air-conditioning features, such as carbon dioxide sensors and room climate controls. Considering that plantation is important for environmental protection, all luxury hotels take utmost care to protect the ecological stability of the immediate surroundings of the hotel and consciously promote cultivation of native plants. In the area of waste management, almost the entire solid waste is either reused or recycled through recycling programmes. A majority of associates travel either by public transport or use pooled vehicles. ITC Sonar, Kolkata

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The facade of Hotel Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach

NOVOTEL, NATURALLY The Square serves breakfast with Asian, Indian and Western-influenced cuisines

hat could be better than the soft sound of waves lapping against the shore as you flip over in your super-soft luxury bed, or watch the sun disappear into the ocean as you sip your Bacardi, or sneak a quick look-see at panoramic ocean views when the meeting you’re attending gets a tad boring? All this is possible, and then some, at the recently opened Hotel Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, because the key player

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Hotel Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach offers luxury living for business travellers and family vacationers >> TT Bureau

All rooms of the hotel overlook the ocean

in this luxurious property is the sea, which makes its presence felt from every habitable space. Nature is a willing partner at Novotel, this combines with the luxury of fine dining, extraordinary facilities for business and social events, and the added advantage of prime location. Situated on RK Beach, next door to the Varun Inox Multiplex, ensuring world-class cinema entertainment, the hotel is close to the airport and is in close proximity to major attractions and commercial areas. With over 3500 square

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hospitality | hotel novotel visakhapatnam varun beach metres of indoor and outdoor space, Wi-Fi access, three restaurants, an executive lounge, bar and spa, the hotel provides the largest banqueting facility in the city, infact the largest banqueting facility in the whole of the East Cost and is able to cater for business and social events of up to 4000 people.

Menu of the Day, and all seats overlooking the ocean. The pièce de résistance of the restaurant is the elegant show kitchen, which also has two private dining rooms for special occasions. Vué, a sophisticated and graceful lounge bar overlooking the ocean, serves a fine selection of single malts, blended Scotch and heady concoctions of cocktails to unwind.

ROOMS WITH VIEWS All 161 well-appointed rooms of the hotel overlook the ocean. The MEETING BUSINESS AGENDAS Superior Room is contemporary chic, spacious and designed for Novotel is the catalyst that provides the impetus for all kinds of business maximum comfort, with a king-sized bed, en suite bath/shower, sofa events and meetings. If it’s for a training course, Novotel provides a Ubed, ergonomic work area, 2-inch LCD TV with Internet access, shape setup, where the trainer is at the centre, to encourage discussion broadband connection, hair dryer, mini-bar, tea/coffee maker, and and interaction among participants. However, meeting rooms for small accommodation for up to 2 adults and 2 children. The Premiere Room groups is also possible. For the executive who holds regular meetings has all the Superior Room features, with added products with his team, Novotel ensures a conducive ambience THE KEY and services, such as the coffee machine, Ipod docking for interaction and arranges delectable meals; for that PLAYER IN station, extra bathroom amenities, bathrobe and slippers, power presentation, the hotel proffers a theatre HOTEL along with complimentary Internet access, local calls and configuration, speakers and all state-of-the-art NOVOTEL water. The Executive Suite is splendid, with its spacious, VISAKHAPATNAM equipment needed for such an event. Besides this, VARUN BEACH well-designed two-bedroom suite and bathroom. Its welcome drinks, a mini-putting competition or a video IS THE SEA, incomparable amenities include two flat screen TV's, bath game challenge between meetings can be arranged. WHICH MAKES robes and unlimited access to the hotel’s fitness facilities. Other aids include a space calculator to calculate the ITS PRESENCE All rooms support smoke alarms, are non-smoking, space necessary for your event and a checklist of all FELT FROM EVERY while the bathrooms are fitted with hair dryer, phone things required. HABITABLE and radio. SPACE WELLNESS FINE DINING Avail of the sauna at the fitness centre or the open air Jacuzzi. Take in a Health care is of paramount concern, therefore the restaurants are massage or a refreshing swim in the infinity pool. Or just marvel at the non-smoking areas as well. On offer are a wide range of cuisines for the view while jogging at the roof top terrace garden that offers an discerning gourmand. The Square boasts of European décor and serves undisturbed view of the ocean. breakfast with Asian, Indian and Western influenced cuisines. It has the largest buffet in town and an interactive kitchen with live cooking FAMILY TIES counters, teppanyaki, and a wood-fired pizza oven. For a quick bite, Novotel provides fun for the whole family, arranging outings and Sugarr is a café that offers a wide range of freshly baked pastries, designer activities for children and parents, such as visits to theme parks and desserts and homemade gourmet chocolates. Zaffran is a specialty museums; Kids’ voyage, a collection of guide books, present tourist restaurant that serves Northern Frontier cuisine, with a five-course regions in a fun and instructive way. Take a refreshing dip in the pool

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FOR YOUR

MICE NEEDS

Grand Hyatt Mumbai

The luxury MICE hotels in India offer state-of-the art facilities for conventions and conferences, which are at par with global standards >> TT Bureau

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march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com


hospitality | MICE hotels

The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon

ith MICE becoming an essential part of the corporate culture, the high-end hotels in India are offering a perfect blend of hospitality and cutting-edge technology, while you work upon refreshing agenda and motivating your team for better performance. These hotels are fully-equipped with state-of-theart communication and presentation facilities for all your business needs. So, whether you are planning a small meeting or a big product launch or a conference, Today’s Traveller puts some light on the best MICE hotels in the country.

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Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi

THE CLARIDGES, SURAJKUND, DELHI, NCR Set amidst sylvan surroundings, The Claridges, Surajkund, Delhi, NCR has four meeting rooms— Fennel, Thyme, Basil and Cilantro—which can accommodate 10 – 150 people and are equipped to meet the business requirements of the modern world. All the meeting rooms boast latest audiovisual facilities, including adjustable dimmer lighting, secretariat room with business facilities, advanced telecommunication system, built-in video-conferencing system, plasma screens, wireless microphones, CD/DVD player with digital and analogue recording facility, high-resolution data projectors, electronically-operated concealable projection screens and wireless highspeed Internet connection. The Saffron Ballroom, which can also be partitioned into three sound-proof halls, features wireless Internet and specialised facilities for conferences, car launches, exhibitions, weddings and cocktails, and can accommodate 10 to 1,500 guests.

The Claridges, Surajkund, Delhi, NCR

THE LEELA KEMPINSKI GURGAON With a total convention space of 27,000 square feet, The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon is one of the

Taj Lands End, Mumbai

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Leonia Holistic Destination, Hyderabad

most celebrated business hotels, ideal for meetings, conferences, banquets and special events. All the meeting and function rooms are supported by the latest audio-visual and communications facilities, including a fullyintegrated sound system, retractable projection screens with video projection and retractable theatrical lighting bars. Smaller meeting rooms have built-in track lighting, both pencil and wide-angled, hidden projection screens and soft acoustic walls. The Pearl Ballroom, a pillar-less space spanning 9,200 square feet, is the perfect venue for product launches, exhibitions and events catering up to 1,000 guests. Maple Room features daylight and state-of-the-art technology with roll down screens for projections, whereas The Royal Room can entertain upto 300 people for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. TAJ PALACE HOTEL, NEW DELHI Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi offers 40,000 square feet of conference and banquets area with a spectrum of 11 independent, tastefullyappointed halls and two well-maintained lawns accommodating 500 people each. A perfect embodiment of world-class service

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Hyderabad International Convention Centre, Hyderabad

THE LUXURY MICE HOTELS IN INDIA ARE OFFERING A PERFECT BLEND OF HOSPITALITY AND CUTTINGEDGE TECHNOLOGY and hospitality, the hotel has always been the first choice for international conferences, media conclaves, awards nights, product launches and exclusive Ministerial and Head of State meetings. Taj provides comprehensive state-of-the-art facilities equipped with wireless broadband Internet access, mood lighting, video conferencing and the ability to include simultaneous translation in all languages. GRAND HYATT MUMBAI Known as “The Meetings Hotel” in Mumbai, Grand Hyatt Mumbai has witnessed many high-profile corporate events and meetings. The hotel has 10 meeting rooms that include The Grand Ballroom, which can accommodate 1,200 people in theatre-style arrangement. In addition, there is a dedicated outdoor space for exhibitions—the only one available in a Mumbai hotel. The Grand Ballroom and all the meeting rooms are equipped with the latest state-of-the-art

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audio-visual equipments and high-speed Internet connections. The hotel also has outdoor venue options, including a 40,000 square feet exhibition area, adjacent to the hotel as well as the Ballroom gardens, lawns, the courtyard and the poolside. THE ASHOK, NEW DELHI Symbolising the traditional grandeur and hospitality of the historical capital city, The Ashok, New Delhi takes complete care of your conventions and meetings. From the fairly compact Ruby suite to the spacious Convention Hall, the hotel offers all the specialised MICE facilities one could look for. The re-furnished Conference Hall, the largest in India, has special lighting effects and can seat upto 2,500 people. Other Committee Rooms, and Exhibition and Board Rooms of varying dimensions provide the perfect venue for ancillary functions. TAJ LANDS END, MUMBAI Located in a prominent business district of Mumbai, Taj Lands End is an ideal place for formal gatherings, international exhibitions and conventions. The meeting halls are connected by a spacious pre-function area,


Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini

perfect for exhibition booths. For larger events, consider the lawns or a poolside location catering 35 to 600 people in a theatre-style arrangement and up to 1,200 people for receptions. All the meeting rooms are equipped with modern amenities, including high-speed Internet access, video conferencing, web casting facilities, audiovisual equipments and security services. CROWNE PLAZA NEW DELHI ROHINI Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini offer facilities and amenities ensuring seamless conduct of business requirements. The hotel has 50,750 square feet of meeting space, one of the largest in Delhi/NCR, with the single largest ballroom of 8,500 square feet that can cater upto 900 people. With a seperate entry to the ballrooms, the hotel offers 11,000 square feet of pre-function area along with an attractive choice of 11 indoor and outdoor venues. The other attraction is the Tensile structure, located next to the Terrace Garden, with an impressive décor apt for social functions and conferences. All the venues are ideal for formal and informal gatherings for 20 – 2,000 people.

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Le Meridien Kochi

LEONIA HOLISTIC DESTINATION, HYDERABAD Leonia International Centre for Exhibitions and Conventions (LICEC) is equipped with stateof-the-art audio-visual facility, seven fleximeeting rooms and one board room. It has 5,837 square metres of Leo Arena, which is a convertible indoor convention centre that can accommodate up to 6,100 plus delegates to be addressed at a time. Leonia Convention Suite, largest of their meeting rooms, is a perfect venue for product launch, presentation or meeting. The audio-visual includes built-in screen, video conferencing, surround sound, LCD projector and its own AV room to ensure everything runs like clock work. HYDERABAD INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE, HYDERABAD The first purpose-built and state-of-the-art convention facility, Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) is a perfect choice for hosting major conventions, trade shows, meetings and special events. A Green Globe certified convention centre, HICC has an internal hall measuring 6,480 square metres, which can accommodate 5,000 guests and can be partitioned into six smaller halls. There is a

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spacious pre-function foyer area and 32 breakout rooms, including specialised meeting rooms, speaker preparatory rooms, boardrooms and VIP lounge. LE MERIDIEN KOCHI Le Méridien’s signature chic style is vastly evident in its world-class convention centre, ideally located between the airport and the business districts. The convention centre has 12 halls with 52,000 square feet of air-conditioned space and theatre-style seating capacities ranging from 50 to 2,500. Spread across 25 acres, the hotel offers 95,000 square feet of lawn space adjoining the backwaters, which can accommodate up to 7,000 people and is ideal for open-air gala events. The halls—Cheraman Hall, Oman Hall, Nayanar Hall and Manappuram Halls—with all the latest amenities and facilities, can be tailored to specifications for corporate conferences, exhibitions with stalls, product launches, dealer meets, formal board meetings and press conferences. State-of-the-art business centres provide efficient service for the discerning business traveller, including a fully-equipped business centre with three breakaway cubicles.


destination | istanbul

ONE CITY, MANY FACES Amazingly located on the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Istanbul enjoys a wonderful mix of cultures, rhythm of diversities and harmony of religions >> TT Bureau body, Istanbul offers an endless array of options for making vacations exciting and memorable. MUST SEE Blue Mosque: With magnificent interior panelling of blue and white `Iznik’ tiles, cascading domes and slender minarets, the Blue Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul. Hamams are the best way to rejuvenate in Istanbul

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here the s k y l i n e features both minarets and church spires, musicians fuse western pop with the traditional folk, weighty heritage coexists cheerfully with the modern developments, and labyrinths of street shops thrive along with quality malls—welcome to Istanbul, the only city in the world which sits on the threshold of two continents (Europe and Asia), serving as a melting pot of different cultures, faiths and religions. Be it the architectural marvels, the sylvan beauty of forests, serene beaches, delectable cuisines or Hamams ( Turkish variant of a steam bath) to lighten up your mind and

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Topkapi Palace: Once the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans, the palace houses imperial collections of robes, weapons, shields, and jewellery. Hagia Sophia: A former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque, Hagia Sophia, now a museum, is truly one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings. Its major attractions are massive marble pillars and artistic mosaic patterns depicting various religious scenes. MUST DO Cruise over Bosphorus: Bosphorus offers some of the finest vistas of Istanbul. You can witness breathtaking views of the old city peninsula with Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque rising from

the hill in full splendour. Shop at Grand Bazaar, Spice Market and Istiklal Cadessi: Jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, leather apparels, glazed tiles and brassware are some of the popular items at the Grand Bazaar. The Spice Market, a short walk from the Grand Bazaar, is the best place to pick up dried fruits, nuts, spices, oils and essences of the finest order. Istiklal Caddesi, situated in the modern part of the city, is one of the most popular strolling, shopping and snacking street, dotted with boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Relax at Hamams: If you want to steam away the travel grime while in Istanbul, visit the Turkish bath houses, known as Hamams in local parlance. Deemed as one of the best ways to unwind and rejuvenate, Hamams have a raised marble platform, which is positioned above wood or coal furnaces to generate the heating effect. Many of the Istanbul’s imperial mosque complexes include a Hamam. Savour the traditional flavours: While you can tickle your taste buds with a wide variety of lamb kebabs, seafood, and grilled meats, don’t forget to taste mezzes—small plates of hot and cold appetizers, which are quite popular amongst the locals. If you are fond of the street food culture, then you must try simit—a traditional ringshaped bread covered in sesame seeds, usually served warm with tea. With cascading domes and slender minarets, the Blue Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul


CONTENTS Gujarat: growing globally Exploring new vistas Countless festivals for celebrating life The royal world of heritage


Gujarat: growing globally Emerging as a role model for Indian states and developing countries alike, Gujarat offers a tourism platter to satiate every taste and mood

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aking initiatives, setting targets, going on a “mission mode,” and then shifting the targets to new heights—that’s how Gujarat, the ‘Growth Engine of India’, has been treading on the tourism path, leaving a trail of prosperity and success. Having emerged as one of the most promising and comprehensive destinations on the Indian tourism circuit, Gujarat has also made astounding achievements in nearly all the sectors of the economy. Adhering to the welcoming words, ‘Aavo Padharo’, the people in Gujarat are extremely friendly. They treat guests virtually like a God. Significantly, it’s also the warmth and hospitality of the people here,

Gujarat leads the world • World’s largest petroleum refinery at Jamnagar. • World’s largest producer of processed diamonds. • World’s largest producer of castor and cumin. • World’s largest gas-based single location sponge iron plant. • World’s largest single location copper smelter at Dahej.

which add to the vibrancy of Gujarat, where you can discover centuries of history and a promising future. Steeped in history that encompasses the time period from the Harappan civilization to the Mughal period, Gujarat’s cultural exuberance is literally unmatched. The birthplace of the great freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, Gujarat is projecting itself as a model of success, not only before different states of India, but also before the developing countries of the world. Gujarat derives its name from ‘Gujjars’, who passed through Punjab and settled in parts of Western India. Located on the west coast of India, the state is the gateway to the north and central parts of the country. It is bordered by Rajasthan in the north, Maharashtra in the south, Madhya Pradesh in the east and the Arabian Sea as well as the Pakistani province of Sindh in the west. The Arabian Sea offers 1,666 kilometres of long coastline with some of the finest beaches,

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sacred shore temples and offshore islands. The coastline is one of the longest for any Indian state. In the field of tourism, Gujarat has been capitalising on its diversity by ingeniously packaging and marketing its tourist attractions by adopting the hub and spoke model. A unique concept, the model leverages its diversity and richness and also creates a convenient model for tourists visiting the state. Inspired by the shape of the wheels, the centre of the wheel represents a major urban centre and the spokes depict noteworthy tourist destinations in the vicinity—all located within an hour’s drive from the urban centre. From architectural marvels to splendid ruins, from serene beaches to silvery sands, from fascinating diversity of wildlife to

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How to reach By air: Ahmedabad, the premier airport of Gujarat, is connected to major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, etc, by daily services. Gujarat has its own international airport, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, which connects to countries, worldwide. The airport is eight kilometres from the Ahmedabad Railway Station. Gujarat’s other airports are: Vadodara, Surat, Kandla, Jamnagar, Keshod, Porbandar, Rajkot, Bhuj and Bhavnagar. By rail: Gujarat comes under the Western Railways’ zone of the Indian Railways. The main cities of Gujarat are connected to all the metro cities of India. By road: Gujarat has approximately 72,165 kilometres of roads and it is well connected to other states of India.


indigenous Ayurveda therapies to lighten up the mind and body, Gujarat offers something for every taste and desire. Whether you are a backpacker, an adventure freak, a researcher, or an art collector, a visit to Gujarat will surely make lasting impressions on your mind. Withholding the secrets of primitive India, Gujarat takes pride in showcasing some of the country’s most ancient archaeological sites like the Indus Valley, or Harappan Civilization, of Dholavira and Lothal. The state also depicts India’s golden era, with its innumerable forts and palaces like Lakhota Fort (Jamnagar), Pavagadh Fort (Panchmahal district, near Baroda), Uparkot Fort (Junagadh), Vijay Vilas Palace (Palitana) and Aina Mahal (Old Palace, Bhuj). Endowed with bounties of nature, Gujarat’s varied land forms— deciduous forests, majestic grasslands, marine ecosystems and wetlands—make it rich in biodiversity. With its four national parks and 21 sanctuaries, Gujarat serves as the perfect habitat for some of the endangered and rare wildlife species. Gujarat’s Gir National Park is march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

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Gujarat serves India Products Soda Ash Groundnut Cotton Fabrics

Gujarat’s contribution to India 100 per cent 42 per cent 35 per cent 30 per cent

Sectors Salt processing Diamond processing Petrochemicals Chemicals Pharmaceuticals Engineering

Gujarat’s share in India 85 per cent 80 per cent 62 per cent 51 per cent 45 per cent 9 per cent

the only home to the Asiatic lion. The state also has the unique distinction of having the world’s only ass sanctuary at the Little Rann of Kutch, and India’s first marine national park in Jamnagar. From cultural tourism point of view, too, the state has a wide range of offerings. It offers exquisite handicrafts like Patola (handwoven sari), bandhani tie and dye, block printing and embroidery. There are also traditional dance forms like Garba and Dandiya Raas. The landscape is embellished with colourful tribal festivals and fairs like Tarnetar and Chitra Vichitra—all depicting the vibrant culture of Gujarat, one of the most diverse states of India.

The land of legends is also emerging as a promising destination for adventure tourism. While Saputara, the state’s only hill station, offers facilities for paragliding and skiing, Ahmedpur Mandvi, Nargol, Tithal, Chorwad and Dummas serve as the perfect destinations to enjoy water sports. Gujarat’s innumerable highly-revered sites have made it a prominent centre for spiritual tourism as well. Religious sites like Somnath, Dwarka, Pavagadh, Mount Girnar, Ambaji and Udvada (Parsi fire temples) draw a sea of humanity from all parts of the globe.

Know Gujarat Area: 1,96,024 square kilometres Location: On the west coast of India Population: 60,383,628 Capital: Gandhinagar Languages: Gujarati, Hindi and English Literacy rate: 79.31 per cent

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Gujarat: Other highlights • Situated in the western part of the Indian sub-continent, Gujarat derives its name from the “Gujjars” who passed through Punjab and settled in some parts of Western India. • Gujarat was a part of the erstwhile unified Bombay State. In 1960, Bombay was bifurcated into Maharashtra and Gujarat. • Gujarat is bordered by Rajasthan in the north, Maharashtra in the south, Madhya Pradesh in the east and the Arabian Sea as well as the Pakistan province of Sindh in the west. • Gujarat has an ancient history of maritime trade across the world. • Gujarat is well-connected to major cities in the USA, EU, Asia and other Indian metropolitan cities. • Gujarat has the longest coastline in India stretching 1,666 kilometres. • Gujarat has 72,165 kilometres of road network. • Gujarat has 5,188 kilometres of railway network. • Gujarat has 2,200 kilometres gas grid.


Exploring new vistas Gujarat is making impressive strides in adding new dimensions to its tourist portfolio

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randed as one of the most prosperous states of India, Gujarat is leaving no stone unturned to attract tourists from across the globe. Committed to project Gujarat as one of the pioneering tourist hubs of India, the state-run Tourism Corporation of Gujarat has undertaken a number of initiatives. From roping in none other than the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador to drafting a policy for popularising cruise tourism in the state; from developing beach tourism to working in close tandem with officials of the Egypt Tourism for the development of the tourism sector; from setting up tourism institutes to undertaking projects for march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

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developing facilities for adventure tourism at the state’s only hill station Saputara, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat, virtually seems to have gone into an overdrive to explore various avenues for popularising Gujarat as a tourist destination. The Gujarat government has taken earnest initiatives to upgrade its tourism-related infrastructure. Elaborate plans have been drawn up to oversee various tourism projects across major segments, such as beach tourism, business tourism, eco-tourism, religious tourism, rural tourism and cultural tourism. A paradise for birds, Gujarat holds a special charm for bird lovers and has emerged as a worldclass bird watching destination. Home to hundreds of species of birds and the site of many bird migrations, including the rosy pelican, flamingo, white stork, yellow-footed green pigeon, black ibis, brahminy kite and heron, the state attracts bird enthusiasts as well as orinthologists from all over the globe. It is due to

this reason that Gujarat has been chosen as the site for Global Bird Watchers’ Conference, the first having taken place in 2010. The main aim of organising such as a conference is to catapult Gujarat on the global birdwatcher’s map. The 2013 edition of the conference is expected to be held next January. Gujarat has established an enviable reputation as a state that offers a bagful of attractions in the area of niche tourism. It has come up with lifestyle tourism offerings like golf courses, leisure facilities, beach water sports, rock climbing, aero sports, business tourism, entertainment complexes, wellness resorts, art galleries, museums, to list only a few. The state also organises world-class business events, trade shows and conferences round the year. All these offerings are ably supported by high quality infrastructure, excellent air connectivity, commendable quality of rail and road network, well-maintained highways, a wide range of modern tourist amenities, and of course, packages to lure tourists of all budgets.

Gujarat’s major steps to promote tourism • Gujarat has decided to extensively focus on tourism-related infrastructure. • Gujarat is working towards promoting cruise tourism in the state. • Gujarat government is promoting new areas of tourism, such as beach tourism, adventure tourism, etc. • Niche tourism is another major area that has received attention from the government. • World-class business events, trade shows and conferences organised throughout the year have endeared Gujarat to business tourists, worldwide.

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Countless festivals for celebrating life If you want to remain engaged in festivities throughout the year, Gujarat is the perfect place

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ith around 3,500 festivals and fairs celebrated in a year, it’s no wonder why Gujarat is branded as “the Land of Fairs and Festivals.” Gujarat’s vibrant festivals and fairs not only showcase the state’s rich traditional and cultural diversity, but also promote unity, spiritual well being and self discipline in the true sense. Some of Gujarat’s important festivals and fairs known worldwide are:

INTERNATIONAL KITE FESTIVAL (UTTARAYAN) From being just tagged as any other relic of the past, kite flying has attained great heights in Gujarat—a vibrant state in India that has made the traditional pastime a state-

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sponsored extravaganza by hosting the much awaited International Kite Festival, also known as Uttarayan, for over last two decades. The state tourism department

hosts the International Kite Festival on January 14 every year, coinciding with Makar Sankranti—the day when the sun enters the Tropics, heralding the arrival of warmer months after the winter season. Since, the sun’s movement during this phase is in the direction of the northern hemisphere, it is termed, ‘Uttarayan’, meaning, a ‘sojourn of the north’. Therefore, the kite festival is also popular as Uttarayan festival. Master kite makers and flyers from all over the world descend on Ahmedabad to showcase their skills and mindboggling, unusual kites that leave the crowds wanting for more. Irrespective of

The kite story The exact origin of kites arrived in India is not known. However, it is believed that kites arrived in India either through Muslim traders coming eastward through Persia, or Buddhist pilgrims coming from China in search of sacred texts.

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the age, caste and creed, people from all walks of life enthusiastically participate in the kite festival. The objective of the festival is to outsmart rival kite flyers by bringing down their kites. These kite-fight duels are one of the major highlights of the festival. Uttarayan’s gastronomic delights primarily include lip-smacking undhiyu (a delicacy of mixed vegetables), unlimited supply of sugarcane juice and specially-prepared sweets, such as jalebi, til ladoo (a sweet made of sesame seeds), and the most popular chikki (a chewy cookie made out of groundnut mixed in jaggery). The festival reaches its culmination in the night. As the night approaches, kite lovers start releasing Tukkals—illuminated box kites with lanterns—into the star-studded sky. As the night shimmers amidst Tukkals, the breathtaking, dazzling ambience literally


Sumptuous undhiyu The much-loved Gujarati vegetarian curry, undhiyu is an integral part of Uttarayan’s festivities. Normally served as a main course, undhiyu primarily consists of a variety of vegetables cooked with fresh herbs, ginger and garlic, and has a sweet and spicy flavour. The traditional preparation of undhiyu involves placing of all the ingredients in an earthen pot, sealing it, and later burying it upside down for cooking. gives you an out-of-the-world experience that is hard to translate into words. Deemed as one of the most participatory festivals of the state, Uttarayan draws crowds not only from India, but also from different parts of the globe. In the past, kite enthusiasts from Malaysia, Indonesia, USA, Japan and China and other countries have participated in the kite festival. While the master kite makers from Malaysia brought their waubalang kites, those from Indonesia came with their llayang-llayang kites. Likewise, kite innovators from USA arrived with giant banner kites; the Japanese performed with rokkaku fighting kites; the Chinese with their flying dragons. These kites have shared the skies with Italian sculptural kites, and the latest, high-tech modern wonders. Of course, on the national front, the name of Rasulbhai Rahimbhai of Ahmedabad is synonymous with the kite festival. This famous kite flyer trains up to 500 kites on a single string, making it a cynosure of the event. MODHERA DANCE FESTIVAL The three-day festival, held annually during

the third week of January, exhibits traditional dance forms across India. One of the Gujarat’s most famous festivals dedicated to music and dance, the event is organised at the Sun Temple of Modhera— one of the Gujarat’s architectural wonders. With their mesmerising performances, artistes representing different regions of the

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country literally add life to the sandstone figurines carved on the edifice of the Sun Temple, a masterpiece of the Golden Age of the Solanki Empire. During the time of the festival, the entire temple wears a bridal look, with colourful lights illuminating its every nook and corner. For all those interested to witness the treasure of the

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Rainbow-hued Kite Museum The unique museum in the heart of Ahmedabad city houses an extraordinary collection of kites. From kites that have been crafted from 400 pieces of paper to the multicoloured kites prepared from silk, cotton, polyester and other materials, the museum in Sanskar Kendra houses them all. With such a rich collection of rare kites, it’s no wonder that the Museum remains one of the most sought after places for tourists in Ahmedabad. The Kite Museum is the brainchild of Bhanubhai Shah. The visiting hours of the museum are from 10.00 am to 12 noon and from 4:00 pm to 6.00 pm. The museum remains closed on Mondays. performing arts of the country, the Modehra Dance Festival is a must to attend. NAVRATRI Gujarat emerges with all its vibrant colours on account of Navratri—a nine-day festival, dedicated to the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga. Navratri is synonymous with energy and is celebrated with a burst of pulsating dance. The celebrations are spread across a period of nine days and nights. ‘Nav’ means ‘nine’, and for this entire duration, Gujarat is immersed in festivities, which spontaneously erupts into dance, the most moving and evocative of the arts. Perhaps the longest of its kind in the world, this dance festival is truly an unforgettable experience. Navratri is essentially a festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The nine nights of prayer and festivities retrace the fight between good, represented by Goddess Durga, and evil,

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embodied by the demon King Mahishasura. In Gujarat, obeisance to the Mother Goddess is paid by fasting by day and dancing at night. Navratri is welcomed with endless energy and enthusiasm. The young and the old, men and women and children participate actively in making it a great success year after year. In it, people seek happiness and a good time together—the essential aspects of the Gujarati way of life. From the beginning of Navratri to its end, tens and thousands of people participate in the festival, attired in their colourful dresses and costumes. People

assemble in villages, towns and cities to celebrate the feminine divinity, or Shakti, embodied by Goddess Durga, who destroys all that is evil and protects humanity. The excitement begins long before the festival itself. People spend endless hours to design, stitch, assemble, or buy, the best attire for Navratri. This is the period when womenfolk acquire what are called, “chaniya-cholis-odhni sets”, the most popular dress consisting of skirt, blouse and veil respectively, which is embellished with mirror inlays, appliqué works or tieand-dye prints. These can weigh several

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kilogrammes and go together with artistic jewellery. The streets and markets of Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Vadodara, Surat, Jamnagar and other cities and towns and villages are lined with costumes and ornaments for sale. Everywhere in the towns and cities of Gujarat, from hobby classes to dance academies, dance classes attract people who want to look their best when they dance during the festival. From the formal to fashionable steps and styles, these classes offer a wide range to students to make their celebrations memorable. Beauty salons and spas also do a brisk

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business during the festive season. The pious pray and fast and call upon the blessings of Shakti. The festival, which starts on the first day of the Gujarati month Ashwin, is a perfect merger of spirituality and mirth, making the nine nights an unmatched event in sheer size and scale. The ringing laughter, the rustles of skirts, the glitter of jewellery, the fervour and the festive spirit, all combine to make it a festival of grandeur. The whole atmosphere is one of revelry and celebration leading to the 10th day when Goddess Durga kills the demon King Mahishasura, symbolising the victory of good over evil. The ceremonial prayers and lively dances capture the very heart of Gujarat’s rich tradition, culture and its way of life. There is vigour, enthusiasm and unmistakable pageantry. Navratri is a time when celebrations become awash with a riot of colours. The festival is celebrated in three phases. The first three days are dedicated to Goddess Durga or Shakti, or the power that destroys evil. The next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. The last three days are devoted to worshipping Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. Open expanses, essential localities,

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street corners, river sides and places near lakes and ponds, schools, clubs and makeshift stages transform themselves into dance venues. And, the dances carry on into the wee hours of the morning. Navratri has a number of other attractions also. ‘R aas Garba’ and ‘Dandiya’—two traditional dances—are the interesting highlights of Navratri in Gujarat. Garba is a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot containing water. As women, dressed in vibrant attire, whirl around the pot to the beats of music, the

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onlookers clap in a steady rhythm, adding to the joyous atmosphere. In Dandia or ‘stick’ dance, men and women both join to make a dance circle, holding small, bright coloured sticks (dandis). In small groups, men and women surge in waves of circular movements to the intoxicating rhythm of the dance while striking the sticks together. During the performance, both men and women love to be seen dressed in their best traditional outfits. While women flaunt heavy jewellery along with colourful, embroidered choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas—all glittering with mirror work,


converge at the Sabarkantha district to participate in the fair. Dressed in colourful costumes, tribes in large numbers dance, sing and rejoice amidst splashing of colours and beating of drums. In addition to this, breathtaking performances by skilled jugglers add to the attraction of the fair. Interestingly, the fair also acts as a meeting place for various tribal groups for finalising matrimonial proposals. The fair offers tourists an environment packed with fun and frolic. Besides dancing with the local tribes amidst the folk music, you can also pamper your taste buds with an array of tribal cuisines. Numerous stalls in the fair display the best of rural handicrafts, including exquisite silver jewellery.

men prefer sporting the traditional, colouful kedias. RANN UTSAV The white silvery sands of Kutch play host to the Rann Utsav, a cultural extravaganza, which projects some of the finest forms of Gujarat’s art, crafts, music, dance and cuisines. Packed with nearly all the traditional flavours like handicrafts, dance, songs, rituals, theme pavilions and food courts , the three-day Rann Utsav has lately acquired a significant place on the global tourism map. Held during the full moon light in December, Rann Utsav takes the visitors to an entirely different world, with its cultural events, primarily showcasing the heritage and the craftsmanship of one of India’s most prosperous states. While an array of folk music and dance recitals enchants the audience, the shimmering moonlit landscape adds to their exhilarating experience. Creating a mosaic of exquisiteness, the Rann Utsav begins in the palm-fringed Kharaghoda village, which is very close to the Little Rann Sanctuary. The White Desert of Dhordo at Kutch remains the main attraction of the cultural fest. Moreover, visitors can get an aerial view with the chopper services that offer desert safari, heritage flying and group package tours. Tourists can also learn varied art forms like block printing, embroidery and wall hanging while attending the Rann Utsav.

TARNETAR The three-day colourful fest perfectly blends romance, colours and music. Centred on young tribals seeking marriage partners, the Tarnetar is held at the Triniteshwar Mahadev Temple of the Thangadh town in Gujarat’s Surendranagar district. During the fair, women dressed in colourful attire have to choose their grooms among young men, who assemble under gorgeously embroidered umbrellas. This tradition is believed to have begun around 200-250 years ago. Marriages are finalised after the fair. The ceremonial event is also marked by a series of folk dance presentations. Hundreds of women whirl in unison and stamp their feet to the drum beats, sending vivid splashes of colour and music to the atmosphere. A large number of stalls selling local handicrafts and ethnic jewellery spring in every nook and corner of Thangadh during the fair.

SHAMLAJI Held at the highly revered Shamlaji Temple around the month of November, the Shamlaji fair attracts a large number of tribals, not only from Gujarat, but also from the adjoining state of Rajasthan. From far flung areas, tribal groups arrive at the Shamlaji Temple to seek blessings of Lord Vishnu, a popular Hindu deity to which it is dedicated to. Amidst chanting of hymns and ecstatic shouts, tribes worship the deity, and also bathe in the holy Meshwo River, on the banks of which the Shamlaji Temple is situated. Besides the reverence aspect, the fair is also deemed as an important trade destination for the tribal groups to buy silver ornaments, metalware, clothes and garments.

CHITRA VICHITRA It is one of Gujarat’s largest tribal fairs, which starts with grieving at the unison of three rivers—Vyakul, Akul and Sabarmati—and aesthetically culminates with merrymaking. At the start of the fair, tribal converge along the rivers to mourn for their departed ones. The next day of the mourning, the fair sets off with merrymaking. Countless tribes, particularly the Garasis and the Bhil, from all parts of Gujarat march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

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The royal world of heritage Capturing the mood of the imperial times, Gujarat’s heritage hotels offer world-class accommodation

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ujarat’s heritage hotels recreate medieval splendour in their décor, style and facilities to transport you into the royal world in order to relax, unwind and rejuvenate. Here are the trademark features of some heritage marvels: VIJAY VILAS PALACE, MANDVI Situated on the banks of the Rukmavati River, the Vijay Vilas Palace depicts nearly all the elements of the Rajput architecture, with its central high dome, bastions at the corner, coloured window panes and stone carvings. Built in 1929 by Rao Vijayrajii, the palace is famous for filming Bollywood productions. Built of red stone, it stands out with its own private beach. KUSUM VILAS PALACE, CHHOTA UDEPUR Built in the early 1920s, the imposing Kusum Palace is dominated by a huge dome flanked by smaller domes and turrets. It has porticoes, courtyards, outhouses and 30 acres of open ground. With its interiors adorned with Belgian mirrors, original French furniture of the Louis XIV style, chandeliers, grand dining and drawing rooms, the Palace is bound to catch your fancy. BALARAM PALACE RESORT, PALANPUR Exhibiting spectacular work of the neoclassical architecture, the Balaram Palace was the weekend retreat and hunting resort of the Lohanis, who ruled from Jalore in southwestern Rajasthan. Landscaped gardens, 13 acres of private wood land, Mexican lawns, modern fountains, and exotic flower beds are some of the major

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Wankaner, the Royal Oasis and Residency exhibits stunning work of Venetian-Gothic architecture, with arches, balconies, pillared porticoes and marble biradaries. European chandeliers, French crystal, Belgian glass, Burma teak furniture, Persian rugs and custom woven Mirzapur carpets adorn the interiors of the palace. KHIRASARA PALACE, RAJKOT The grand monumental property rests atop a hill, situated around 15 kilometres away from the bustling city of Rakjot. Towering 150 feet above the Khirasara village, the palace stands imposing, majestic and undefeated. Artistic fountains, exotic flower beds and landscaped gardens add to the beauty of the palace, which has a unique and incomparable history of more than 450 years.

attractions of the Palace, which was built in the late 1920s. MANDAVADA, JUNAGADH Built in 1842, the Mandavada fort was set up by the Nawab of Junagadh, and later gifted to the Kathi warrior chieftain Bapu Hasur Wala. Spread in a sprawling area of 5,000-

square yard, the Mandavada palace is famous for its interiors, decorated with exquisite handicrafts, brass utensils and beadwork textiles.

GOPNATH BUNGALOW, BHAVNAGAR Built in a European colonial style, with cottages and mansions surrounding a courtyard, the Gopnath Bungalow used to serve as the seashore retreat of the royal family of Bhavnagar. Facing the sea, the royal property is deemed as a nature lover’s paradise. Blessed with a rich marine life, visitors here can also catch a glimpse of stripes hyena, jackal and coastal birds.

ROYAL OASIS AND RESIDENCY, WANKANER Located in the erstwhile princely state of

DARBARGADH POSHINA, POSHINA Dominated by huge gateways, a massive dome, numerous pillars and arches,

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Darbargadh Poshina, the pride of the Chalukya dynasty, boasts of pleasant courtyards, gardens, lawns, shady trees and terraces with views of the Aravali mountains. The palace-resort has four Gold rooms, 12 Platinum rooms and a Nawabi suite, all equipped with modern facilities. RIVERSIDE PALACE/ORCHARD PALACE, GONDAL Gondal offers a glimpse of its princely past through its two 19 th century heritage properties—Riverside Palace, an elegant European-style mansion, which was once the residence of the GondalYuvraj; and the Orchard Palace, the guesthouse in the palace estate. The 11 and 7 double rooms in the Riverside Palace and Orchard Palace, respectively, are appointed with European colonial-period furniture like four-posters, carved tables and old dressers.

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THE PALACE UTELIA, UTELIA Depicting the stunning work of the IndoSaracenic architectural style with European influences, the palace was built around the turn of the 17th century to replace a wooden palace by Nekamdar Thakore Saheb Sur Sinhji. It features five domes, pillared galleries, balconies and porticos. Intricately carved wooden beds add to the beauty of its 17 well-appointed rooms. VIJAY VILLAS VIJAYNAGAR Situated at the foothills of the Aravali ranges, in close vicinity of Gujarat’s forested area, the Vijay Villas Vijaynagar is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Its picturesque surroundings serve as a refuge for a plethora of wild animals and colourful birds. Vijay Villas Vijaynagar has eight double rooms equipped with ethnic dÊcor and all the modern facilities. It also has a swimming pool and a rooftop restaurant, where you can pamper your taste buds with an array of Gujarati and Rajasthani delicacies.

HOTEL NILAMBAG PALACE, BHAVNAGAR Once the pride of the ruling Gohil dynasty of Bhavnagar, the Nilambag Palace was built in 1859 AD. As you enter the palace, a stunning, intricately-carved wooden arch greets you. Shimmering Czechoslovakian chandeliers adorn the lounge and the dining room of the palace. Blending modern comforts with traditional ambience, this relic of the past has 24 rooms, a colonnaded swimming pool and a garden restaurant. THE RAJMAHAL PALACE, WADHWAN Sprawled across 14 acres, the Rajmahal Palace has tennis courts, lily ponds, fountains, cricket pitches and outhouses. Built in the 19th century, Rajmahal offers wellfurnished rooms, a garden restaurant, a billiards room and a garden restaurant. Its Darbar hall catches your fancy with a throne, king-sized portraits and painted ceilings.

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RAJVANT PALACE RESORT, RAJPIPLA Resembling a typical European mansion, the palace is a part of the 8-acre Vijayraj Palace complex constructed for Maharajah Vijay Singh in 1915. The palace impresses everyone with its Romanesque dome, classical columns, Greek capitals, Gothic arches and Venetian doors. A number of old and new decorative marble, brass and ceramic objects adorn some of the rooms. All its rooms are equipped with modern facilities. HOTEL SARITA MANDVI MAHAL, CHANDOD Built in the 19th century, Sarita Mandvi Mahal depicts the vibrant cultural era of the Rajputs. Set amidst tranquil surroundings of Chanod, the princely architectural complex shares its origin with the famous Mandvi Mahal of Gujarat. Its courtyard displays a natural charm through potted plants and fascinating sculptures. The hotel boasts air-conditioned rooms, a swimming pool a shopping arcade and a library. Situated close to the hotel, flows the river Narmada, where tourists can enjoy boating and other water sports.

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Fact file Registered/Head Office Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., Udyog Bhavan, Block No. 16, 4th Floor, Sector-11, Gandhinagar – 382 011. Phone: 91-79-23222523, 23222645, 23220002 Fax: 91-79-23238908 E-Mails: ps2md-tcgl@gujarat.gov.in, ps2jtmd-tcgl@gujarat.gov.in AHMEDABAD Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., H. K. House, Opp Bata Showroom, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad. Phone: 91-79-26589172, 26576434 Fax: 09727723935 E-Mails: tibahd@yahoo.co.in, ahmedabad@gujarattourism.com

MUMBAI Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., Khaitan Bhavan, 1st Floor, J.Tata Road, Opp Ritz Hotel, Churchgate, Mumbai – 400 020. Phone: 91-22-22024925 Fax: 91-22-22883541 E-Mails: pancholi_rmtcgl@yahoo.co.in, tcglmumbai@mtnl.net.in

NEW DELHI Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., A/6, State Emporia Bldg., Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi – 110 001. Phone: 91-11-23744015 Fax: 91-11-23367050 E-Mail: somanspathy@yahoo.com

JAIPUR Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., Government Hostel Campus, M. I. Road, Jaipur – 302 001. Fax: 91-141-2378070 Mobile: 09829079388

CHENNAI Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., KOLKATA Tourist Complex, Wallajah Road, Shri P. C. Das, Chennai – 600002. Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd., Telefax: 91-44-25366613 C/O. Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation, E-Mail: gujarattourism@vsnl.net 15, C.R. Avenue, 5th Floor, Kolkata – 72. Tele Fax: 91-033-22254317 Mobile: 09433196081

Printed and published by Gill India Communications Pvt. Ltd.

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MICE

Perfect for

Spectacular locations, unique traditions, modern facilities, and cosy, relaxed ambience—all these are credentials of an ideal MICE destination >> Ritika Sarin

M

ICE is the latest buzzword and fastest growing segment in the travel and tourism industry. Though all about exploring and exchanging ideas, the whole meeting and conference experience is enhanced by the right location, quality infrastructure, delicious cuisine and superb entertainment options. Be

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it a meeting of various companies, an international conference, a product launch party, or an incentive trip, these exclusive MICE destinations are perfect for work and play. THAILAND An exotic and hospitable destination with world-class venues and state-of-the-art facilities, Thailand is ideal for MICE. Bangkok

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alone has many multi-purpose convention centres that have access to hotels, transportation, business services and leisure pursuits. Phuket, famous for its sun, sand and sea, is touted to be the next biggest MICE destination in Thailand. It offers an unbeatable combination of spectacular scenery, superb hospitality, state-of-the-art infrastructure and world-class business hotels and resorts. The


business | MICE destinations

From Burj Khalifa to Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Dubai is a perfect destination for corporate events

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) has named Hua Hin as its luxury MICE destination. Known today for its quiet beaches, quaint towns and charming heritage, Hua Hin’s infrastructure and accommodation is some of the best in Thailand. Apart from these destinations, Chiang Mai, Cha Am and Samui are regarded ideal for meetings and incentive trips. Incentive travellers get a chance to discover the elements that make for a memorable experience—from pristine beaches and tropical islands, to lush jungles and exotic wildlife, to numerous temples and adventure sports, to delectable cuisine and amazing nightlife. DUBAI From bustling souks to awe-inspiring skyscrapers to majestic deserts, Dubai is a truly enchanting destination for corporate gatherings or events. Labelled as the ‘City of Gold’, Dubai has long been associated with five-star living and out-of-the-ordinary developments, the latest example being Burj Khalifa. The opening of this landmark also introduced a number of meeting and event venues, further expanding Dubai’s status as a world-class hub for business and events. Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) and Dubai Airport Expo are also famous venues for exhibitions, conventions and conferences. An innovative

meeting venue is Bateaux Dubai, a 56-metrelong glass and steel vessel offering day and night cruises. It can be used for various corporate events, including product launches, meetings, fundraisers, press conferences and business breakfasts. Additional tourist options for businesses include a desert safari tour or a leisurely dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek or shopping in Dubai souks. KOREA With state-of-the-art convention facilities coupled with spectacular surroundings and a good international and domestic transportation system, Korea is one of the topmost MICE destinations around the world. The country has nine major convention centres in its major regions, including Seoul

and Jeju Island. Pre and post meeting tours are a great attraction as visitors can immerse themselves in the remarkable cultural heritage and vibrant nature of Korea. They can also relish the famous Korean cuisine, experience oriental medical treatments, indulge in shopping or enjoy various cultural performances. No matter what the season, convention goers can enjoy a number of sports and leisure activities, including water sports, paragliding, skiing, golf and hiking. CZECH REPUBLIC Often referred to as ‘the heart of Europe’, Czech Republic, with its rich cultural heritage and remarkable architecture, offers unique historic venues for MICE events. Thanks to its central location and easy accessibility, the country has emerged as the preferred choice for business

Due to its central location and easy accessibility, Czech Republic has emerged as a preferred MICE destination

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Royal Albert Hall is a popular choice for large-scale events in London

needs. One of the best heritage locations for business events is Prague Castle, a prominent landmark of Czech Republic. Other famous venues are Zofin and the Municipal House in the Old City Centre. The other key business centre in Czech Republic is Brno. Popular incentive options include spa centres in Western Bohemia, which not only offer meeting facilities, but also a wide range of relaxation packages, together with golf activities. Various teambuilding activities and events can also be organised, ranging from outdoor activities like rafting,

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skydiving or climbing, to thematic events in line with famous movies like James Bond, Moulin Rouge and Indiana Jones. LONDON From contemporary business hotels to state-of-the-art convention venues, London is a well-connected, progressive and culturally open place for meetings, incentives, conferences and events. It comes as no surprise that London, the capital of England and the UK, and the world’s ninth-largest city, fares on top of any business destination

list. In 2009, London was rated the number one global city to hold a conference. For large scale events, the choices are astounding— from the grand auditorium of Royal Albert Hall to a corporate

dinner aboard the HMS Belfast, from an event held at the iconic Tower Bridge to a conference hosted by Lord’s Cricket Ground. London’s iconic attractions, worldclass sports activities, cultural

Prague Convention Bureau is a famous venue for business events

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business | MICE destinations

Austria’s Vienna Convention Bureau is the best place to host an event, conference or convention

events and fascinating history all combine to create an ideal incentive destination as well. SWITZERLAND Magnificent alpine vistas, sophisticated cities and medieval villages, coupled with state-of-theart infrastructure, superb service and diverse culture make Switzerland a perfect and unforgettable MICE destination. From high-end luxury hotels to the various spectacular convention halls, the country guarantees successful meetings, conferences and events. The capital city, Bern,

Lucerne, Crans-Montana, Davos, Pontresina, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, Montreux-Vevey, Ticino, Zurich and Valais have a tradition of business tourism, and enjoy a popularity that remains unchallenged. Historic cities, beautiful lakes, mountain settings, glamorous resorts and luxurious spas—all make for a great bonus after a meeting or conference. TURKEY With excellent transport links, Turkey is a convenient meeting point for Europe and Asia and is

perfectly equipped with a variety of venues and accommodation. Turkey ’s commercial capital, Istanbul, was ranked in the seventh position, globally, as a MICE destination by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). The second major MICE hub, Antalya, offers excellent properties with amazing convention facilities and added attractions like golf clubs and top-class venues like Mardan Palace. For smaller incentive groups, Cappadocia offers wondrous landscape, ancient underground cities and cave dwellings, villages cut out of living rock, and balloon rides. JORDAN From the haunting, primeval starkness of Wadi Rum, to the teeming centre of urban Amman, from the majestic ruins of bygone civilizations to the timeless splendour of the Dead Sea, Jordan is a unique place and has emerged as a leading MICE destination. Because of the ease of transportation and excellent meeting and convention venues, the country is accustomed to receiving world leaders and business people from all over the

march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

world. Amman, Aqaba, the Dead Sea and Petra are the best places for business in Jordan. The King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center (KHBTCC), located at the Dead Sea, offers state-of-the-art facilities for meetings and conventions. Jordan also offers numerous choices for incentive travellers—from desert experiences to exploring historic sites, to indulging in water sports and relaxing amidst the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea. AUSTRIA Blessed with art and culture, tradition and modernity, great cuisine and hospitality, Austria is a perfect place to combine work and pleasure. The country has many ideal locations for hosting conferences, trade shows, conventions and other business events. Lower Austria is a top grade location in terms of business environment and infrastructure. Vienna is the leading meeting and incentive city in Europe, and the Vienna Convention Bureau is the best place to host an event, conference, conventions, etc. For incentives as well, there is ample scope—white-water rafting tours, yoga and meditation classes or barbeque nights.

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Journey into

South Africa

A sojourn in South Africa is totally addictive—the wide open spaces, abundant wildlife, the vineyards and cuisine create a lifetime experience >> Kamal Gill

Mount N

elson H

otel, Ca

pe Town

The Ta

Penthouse Suite (The Balm

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oral) at Mount Nelson Hot

y Ho ble Ba

tel, Ca

el, Cape Town The Lo

unge, T

he Tab

le Bay

Hotel,

Cape T

own

pe Tow

n


travelogue | south africa

Manhattan Suite at

oek Franschh Ermitage Suite at L’ n o o m Honey & Villas Chateau

L’Ermitage Fra nschhoek

Fairlawns Boutiqu

e Hotel and Spa, San

dton

Chateau & Villa s

I

am Chalo and my driver is called Jaldi!”This is how Jason from the Hylton Ross company introduces himself to us on our arrival at Cape Town airport. We are amused as Jason is both guide-cum-driver for us. He recounts the endless times he has had to cajole Indian tour groups to keep to time, sharing with us happy anecdotes of Indian travellers visiting South Africa. We are sure of two things: Indians are travelling big time to South Africa and the locals are now familiar with some distinct Indian habits—Indians are 'late lateefs" (never on time), Indians cannot do without Indian food and that Indians prefer whiskey as their tipple. We decide that come what may, we will be dot on time, we will eat European food and we will enjoy the famed South Arican wines and brandies! Which is what we did all through the six days we spent with Jason in Cape Town and later on through our travels through Johannesburg, Madikwe Game Reserve and Sun City, courtesy South Africa Tourism, South African Airlines (SAA) and Jenny and Denys Botes, who head the South African tour company, SST Travels, recognised in travel circles as a big player in bringing

Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa,

The Pala

ce of Th

e Lost C

ity Hote

LUXE LIFESTYLE Hotels in South Africa reflect the exotic brilliance of native Africa with cool modulated European Crysta l Court overtones. The combination is irresistible. Like at The Palace of The India, the Mid East and the Far East, which are Lost C ity Hote l, Sun C known for opulent hotel properties with vast spaces, luxury ity enclaves and suites with indulgences,South African luxury hotels also provide luxe in momentous ways. We stayed in three awesome hotel properties in Cape Town—the legendary ‘pink’ Mount Nelson hotel in the Penthouse Suite (The Balmoral) with wrap-around verandahs overlooking Table Mountain and Lions Face; at the iconic Table Bay Hotel which dominates the V&A Waterfront—Cape Town's 'heart,' where alfresco restaurants, pubs and nightclubs vie with distinctive shopping, aquariums...and a working harbour; and the luxurious all-suite L’Ermitage Franschhoek Chateau & Villas (of the fabled vineyards and French township), where the Honeymoon Suite made us into serial honeymooners! In Johannesburg—the discreet and the ultimate luxe destination—Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa, Sandton, surprised us with its French chateau and chic ambience, tucked away as it is in gardens in the heart of the city, close to Sandton. The Manhattan Suite, where we stayed, has an amazing silver and black colour scheme, adjoining which is a library lounge where you can enjoy a drink or a coffee either inside or out on the terrace. The unusual and the unexpected is always reserved for South Africa's wildlife reserves—Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge in this instance, where the extraordinary privacy of our villa overlooking the reserve allowed us to be one with nature; and, in the exotic imagery of Sun City—where, atop a hill, the domes and turrets of The Palace dominate the skyline and where, out in the garden expanse, we are led down a red carpet fringed with flickering lamps to experience the most romantic candle-lit “Gazebo” dinner...it’s the stuff dreams are made of. The view ing deck at Jamala

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l, Sun Cit

Sandton

y

rk ame Pa ikwe G e, Mad g d o L l Safari e Roya Madikw Jamala

Madikw e Royal

Safari Lo dge

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Lion

c

uen ubs q

ch th

eir th

ir

Ma st at

dikw

e Ga

me

A hippo ta kes a mu d bath at Madikwe Game Res erve

rve Rese

vides Lodge pro oyal Safari R e w ik mala Mad hole at Ja The water viewing e am great g

Indian visitors to South Africa. However, we did sneak in two Indian meals—F.east India in Long Street Cape Town and Swad at Melrose Street in Johannesburg. SAA has great connections out of Mumbai and offers by far the most friendly service on its 8-hour flight to Johannesburg. Good vacations usually begin and end with a flight...and we were delighted to begin on a great note and

Neat

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rows of vi

ot the neyards d

hills at Ste

conclude our visit on an equally high note...the Business Class was exceptional. CREATIVE EXOTICA We are struck by the imagination and sheer creativity of the country and its people, which boasts a host of designers (interior or fashion), architects, hoteliers, chefs, writers, and jewellers. In fact, every South African entrepreneur worth his/her salt first proceeds with

llenbosch

A mea

l at Gro

ot Con

stantin

innovation as a driving force before launching his/her ventures. Everything else comes later. Heritage and culture play a pivotal role and enduring preservation values have created pools of cultural excellence at various levels—arts, crafts, dance, music, food and lifestyle. With threads such as these creating the tapestry, we are mentally prepared to be delighted by the amazing diversity offered by the country. We visit art galleries and ethnic Indaba showrooms; unusual museums like the Afrikaans Language Monument and museum at Paarl; and Satyagraha House, a homage to Mahatma Gandhi, in Johannesburg. Step into Johannesburg, Cape Town or Sun City's shopping arcades and you have a surfeit of retail therapy. Fashion and jewellery (diamonds and tanzanite to die for) stores at the Waterfront in Cape Town and at Sandton in Johannesburg, showcase global and local brands. Night clubs? You

a wine

estate

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got it. Casinos, theme and amusement parks? All laid out. GARDENS AND LIONS We split a day 50:50 between two satisfying experiences. We decide to spend a morning at the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens in Cape Town. It is sheer bliss. Sun, clear blue skies and crisp breeze are companions as we walk down endless pathways of covered greens. It is a world alive with birds and butterflies. We sit on a wooden bench, take in the scents of a herbal garden, admire native plants and foliage, stroll through vast green vistas of flowering shrubs dotted with dramatic sculptures and feel thoroughly content. Later in the day, we walk around the fenced walkways of Drakenstein Lion Park, climbing up a number of wooden ‘machan’ style lookouts to catch sight of a pride of lions as they catnap in family togetherness amidst the cool shades of trees.

at Gro Museum

ot Const

antina win

e estate


Seal Colony at Hout Bay, Cape Town

Turning a corner, I look eye ball to eye ball as a big lion gazes back with slit, tawny eyes. The lion is atop a rocky platform, tension in every snew of its body. I feel the hair rise at the back of my neck as I think: what if this lion decides to take a leap over the electric fence? The cool mountain air blows in and I banish the thought, even as I step back and decide to transfer my gaze to the beautiful mountains in the giant park. The conservation effort brings in rescued lions from all over the world to this sanctuary of peace and natural habitat. FOOD AND WINE Exploring the great vinelands over two days brings us to Stellenbosch and the French corner, Franschhoek. The endless stretch of green vineyards in disciplined rows make for a deep blanket of green against rocky mountains when viewed from a distance. Stellenbosch appears to belong to another time... against a backdrop of the Hottentots Holland mountains (a part of the Cape Fold belt), the white-gabled Cape Dutch

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Satyagraha

House at Jo

hannesbu

homesteads bring back another century. We are blown away by the charm of the tree-lined streets, little shops and alfresco restaurants. We visit the wonderful old-world Groot Constantina wine estate, do a wine tour before settling to a memorable meal under giant oak trees. The rustic countryside ambience of the Anura vineyards offsets its immense portfolio of good Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, Merlot and Cabernet wines. We do a wine tasting under the able guidance of Percy Gabriels...seven excellent white, red and sparkling wines paired with cheese. Not to be missed is a brandy and chocolate tasting experience at KWV Brandy Emporium, where 5, 10, 15 and 20-year-old vintage and potstill brandy is served with Belgian chocolates. The 1918 distillery has wonderful, original-carved oak barrels which are works of art in themselves. A distinctive feature of South Africa which the country has used expediently is the utilisation of outdoor elements in virtually all activities of life. So, from chic alfresco restaurants, trendy verandah restaurants, outdoor wooden sit outs at wineries for tasting

rg

Street shopping at Franschhoek

Tea pairing at

The Lounge, Th

e Table Bay Ho

tel


travelogue | south africa

y see penguins at pla Boulders Bay... to The board walk at

rm trich fa An os Climbing up at Ca pe Point

or having meals in alfresco restaurants or dining in wrap-around verandahs or wooden decks around your hotel room/villa/suite to terrace sitouts for drinks, snacks and dinner to outdoor spas, therapies and (heated) pools—it’s all happening outdoors. From Cape Town’s Long Street and Waterfront to Johannesburg Melrose Arch and Sandton, you have specialty F&B outlets offering global cuisine, entertainment and music, with both indoor and outdoor options. The French Connection in Franschhoek creates remarkable fusion cuisine paired with wine, as too, the Societi Bistro in Cape Town—an alfresco eatery serving excellent Italian cuisine. Indian restaurants are everywhere, and Bhandaris or the new-avatar F.east Indian restaurant in Cape Town to Swad in Melrose Street in Johannesburg, provide authentic Indian meals, desserts, and, of course, whiskey! Inevitably, unimaginably beautiful gardens and landscaped greens frame the outdoor venues and conservatories. Weather permitting, outdoor is where the best is reserved for you. So, our exclusive-for-two candlelit dinner in a gazebo framed by diaphanous white curtains at The

Palace in Sun City is memorable. Soft music serenades us even as the sounds of a cascading waterfall nearby adds elements of live drama. Stuck in my memory is an astounding dinner arranged by Chef Rudi Liebenberg and Sommelier Carl Habel at the newly-refurbished (at a cost of 6 million rand) The Planet restaurant at Mount Nelson. There are stars on the ceiling and on the carpet, flowering shrubs framing the all-glass frontage of the semi-alfresco dining area in the Conservatory, with doors opening into beautiful gardens. Another frame that is indelible is a ‘Tea pairing' experience ( try the Herbal Honeymoon tea with a Lemon Mint and a Coconut Tartlet) at the fabled hi-tea at the glass-fronted Lounge overlooking Table mountain at Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, with Tea Sommelier Mingwei Tsai and Assistant Pastry Chef Anita Van Tonder. An equally delightful dinner at the Atlantic Grill overlooking the Waterfront at Table Bay Hotel, where Sommelier Domnnic brought in great wine pairing to a new fusion cuisine on the menu, is difficult to forget. Sliding open its glass doors to bring in the magic of the evening and the gardens over dinner is the gourmet Terrace restaurant at Fairlawns

The train trolle

y at Cape Point

Kirstenbosch Botanical G ardens, Cape Town

e Reserve ikwe Gam mala Mad Ja at s ra Zeb

A hot air balloon safari by AirTrack at Pilanesberg National Park, near Sun City

Adventu re hot air Air activities offered b Track bal loon safa y Sun City... a ri

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Penguins

at Boulde

Wine tast ing rs Bay

Brandy ta sting at

KWV Bra ndy

Drakenst Emporium , Cape To wn

Boutique Hotel & Spa in Johannesburg, where we enjoyed subtle nuances of an amazing menu paired with the finest South African wines. The sheer novelty of a candle-lit dinner in the Madikwe Game Reserve at Jamala holds my breath. Sitting by a bonfire, with the stars sparkling down on you and where a lion’s distant roar lends a touch of the wild to the ultimate gourmet meal by Chef Nicco—is awesome. My gourmet memories would be incomplete if I do not mention the unbeatable breakfast spread at the Crystal Court at The Palace, Sun City...the best we have ever had...and we have had some! WIDE OPEN SPACES Which brings me to one other reason why South Africa is such an amazing destination —the natural scenic splendour, clean unpolluted air and scale of space. Rolling countryside as far as the eye can see, vast mountain ranges within a half-hour drive by car, and the ocean water hugging a vast coastline curling around the Cape of Good Hope. So, you can travel your way through any number of seaside destinations, each sporting resort hotels, yachting, sailing, paragliding, surfing—and more. Cycling paths crisscross the entire cape area and it is no wonder the city of Cape Town and its environs is host to several global cycling events. Seaside restaurants, coffee shops, pubs and alfresco eateries dot the coastline. So large is the scale that you have a sense of personal space and

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at Anura

Vineyard s, Cape To wn

ein Lion P

ark, Cape

A sundow

Town

lack of crowding anywhere you go. And, I haven’t even started on the huge bio-havens of preservation that stretch hundreds of kilometres devoted only to natural African vegetation, like the Cape Point reserve. There are many natural wonders to explore—the seal colony at Hout Bay, penguins at Boulders Bay, ostrich farms, and more. Interspersing these giant reserves, are the big game parks for which South Africa is justly famous. The game reserves are teeming with wild life and natural bio-diversity and the Big 5 can be found in almost all the reserves. The two wildlife reserves we visit include the 55,000-hectare Pilanesberg National Park, which holds in its boundries a 1200,000,000-year-old volcano...a match for the Big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard); and the 75,000-hectare Madikwe Game Reserve, home to 66 mammal species, including the Big 5, and more than 300 resident and migrant bird species. What sets this country’s wildlife reserves apart is the hi-end technology that is used everywhere in the game reserves—whether it is the surveillance, electric fencing, helicopter checks, the wireless systems in every safari jeep, the thoroughness of drivers and guides, the knowledge and careful mapping of terrain. Each game reserve has meticulous information on the animals and this gathered knowledge is updated daily by the rangers and guides. Equally unique are the mind boggling

march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

ner at Mad

ikwe Gam

e Reserve

The Afrik aans Lan guage M onument and Muse um, Paarl

range of accommodation available at the game reserves. We check out the luxe angle at Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge. We are spoiled for choice—from a villa with a private outdoor shower and bath, individual rim pool overlooking the jungle and a private wooden deck around the villa for game viewing from our bedroom, or hold-yourbreath—even your bathtub—we have it all. A 380-degree glass frontage to our bedroom is the wow factor, and our sense of unshackled freedom is evident as we stretch the hours as far as possible, sitting outdoors under a bright, unpolluted night sky trying to spot animals, chatting till the wee hours, as the world becomes our oyster. Outdoor is also adventure activity, which is big, big, big in South Africa. So, for all those wanting an adrenalin high from bungee jumping from head-spinning heights at the arch-shaped Bloukrans Bridge in the Western Cape, to game watching, where elephant herds surround your open jeep and lions hypnotise with their powerful gaze—to even a balloon safari over the Pilanesberg National Park near Sun City (which is what we did, waking at 3 am in the morning and waiting for perfect weather conditions for a take off at 5.20am)—you need to only sign up for it. The hot air balloon flight by AirTrack Hot Air Balloon Safaris lasts an hour. On landing, sparkling wine is served, something of a tradition in hot air ballooning circles. South Africa needs only to be experienced once—you become an addict for life.


Koh Chang, located in Trat Province, is Thailand’s third largest island

Immersed in tranquillity With crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, virgin rainforests and breathtaking waterfalls, Koh Chang is a quiet refuge, far from the bustling city life >> TT Bureau

L

ocated in Trat Province, about 300 kilometres east of Bangkok, Koh Chang is Thailand’s third largest island and a must-see for those visiting Koh Chang Marine National Park. Popularly known as “Elephant Island” because of its jumbo-like outline, Koh Chang boasts of numerous attractions, including diverse wildlife, a plethora of adventure activities, the finest red gems, sweet Rakam fruits, and the historic Koh Chang Naval engagement.

The eastern side of Koh Chang is still largely unexplored and has appealing beaches

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MAJOR ATTRACTIONS Scenic waterfalls If you want to relax amidst the sound of cascading waters and spectacular surroundings, head to Koh Chang’s splendid waterfalls. The most famous is Than Mayom, while Klong Nueng is the tallest waterfall on the island. The other waterfalls are Khlong Phlu, King Rama and Ke Rhepet. Breathtaking beaches The main beaches of Koh Chang are located on the west coast, including White Sand Beach, Klong Prao Beach, Kai Bae Beach and Klong Makok Beach. White Sand is ideal for swimming and relaxing, whereas Klong Prao has a beautiful bay lined with casuarinas trees. The eastern side of Koh Chang is still largely unexplored, and has less popular, but appealing beaches like Wai Chek Beach, Salakphet Bay, Long Beach and Salakkok Bay. Bang Bao Fishing Village A photogenic village, it is an ideal place to learn more about the lifestyle of fishermen. The highlight of Bang Bao Fishing Village is the wooden houses which are built on wooden stilts, stretching out into the bay, and the community is linked together via a bridge


destination | koh chang that reaches every house. Clear waters and rocks here are enchanting and you can enjoy fresh seafood with a fascinating sea view. Koh Chang Naval Battle Area South of Koh Chang, close to Salak Petch Bay, is the Naval Battle Area where the battle between the Thai and French Naval forces was fought over the eastern border conflict on January 17, 1941. MAJOR ACTIVITIES Diving and snorkelling Some of the world's most exquisite coral and exotic marine life exists in the sea adjoining Koh Chang. The major diving spots are Hin Luk Bat, Hin Rap, Koh Wai, Koh Gra and Hin Kadung. In addition, there are two wreck diving sites—Koh Chang wreck, a Thai warship sunk by the French Navy, and Pak One wreck, which sank after hitting a coral reef. The best diving season in Koh Chang is from October to May. Elephant trekking For some adventure, go for elephant trekking which consists of two planned routes. One

trek will take you through a rubber plantation and a pomelo orchard, while the other route passes through an inland valley to the north of the island, where you can bathe the elephants in the Nag Yom Waterfall. Wildlife exploring As most of the island is covered with rainforests, Koh Chang is home to a large variety of wildlife. The major species include stumptailed macaque, barking deer, wild pig, Javan mongoose and silvered langur. The island is also a haven for birdwatchers as it is the abode of more than 80 bird species. Khao Laem and Khao Yai are popular sites where native species like Koh Chang hornbills, parrots and sunbirds are commonly spotted. Fishing and boating There are many fishing trips organised by tour operators in Koh Chang. Squid fishing is a popular activity for those wanting to explore and experience the nocturnal fishing. You can also hire a sailing boat and relax amidst the serene surroundings. Hiking In the verdant mountains of Koh Chang, hiking allows you to explore the lush flora and fauna of the island. The main routes are from Klong Son to Kai Bae and from Ban Klong Son to White Sand

Beach. Short hikes to various waterfalls are also popular with tourists. Learn Thai cooking Learn to cook your favourite Thai dishes at one of the Thai cooking classes in Koh Chang. These classes give you a better understanding of the various ingredients used in Thai cuisine. The popular dishes to learn are Green Curry (Gaeng Kheaw Wan), Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yum Goong) and Papaya Salad (Som Tum).

KOH CHANG

HOW TO REACH

Khlong Phlu is the largest waterfall on the island

Elephant trekking is a good way to explore the beautiful scenery of Koh Chang

By Air: The nearest airport is at Trat, from where visitors can reach Koh Chang by ferry boats. It takes 45 minutes by Bangkok Airways to reach Trat Airport from Suvarnabhumi Airport. By Boat: There are three main piers from Trat on the mainland to reach Koh Chang— Tha Thammachat, Center Point Pier and Laem Ngop. By Road: The island is well-connected from Bangkok, Chanthaburi and Ban Phe. It takes few hours to reach there from Pattaya.

With the world’s most exotic coral and marine life, Koh Chang is a heaven for divers

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what when where... YOUR WINDOW TO WORLD’S EVENTS IN MARCH 2012

01

What: Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race When: 3 – 18 March, 2012 Where: Willow, Alaska, USA The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a legendary test of endurance. Mushers and dog teams brave fearsome weather conditions, darkness and exhaustion across 1,850 kilometres of Alaskan wilderness from Anchorage to Nome. While the start

02

in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban centre, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages and small Athabaskan and Inupiat settlements. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic representation to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.

What: New York International Children’s Film Festival When: 2 – 25 March, 2012 Where: Various venues, New York, USA Now in its 15th year, the nation's largest festival for kids and teens will present four weekends of ground-breaking and thought-provoking new works for ages 3-18, with 100 new films, opening and closing galas, new feature premieres, six short film programmes, filmmaker Q&As, filmmaking workshops and special events. The festival has been growing in stature since its launch in 1998 and today, pulls in a rewarding line-up of filmmakers and celebrities with a feast of flicks from around the world—new features, shorts and videos. After the screenings, the filmmakers discuss their work and audience members vote for award winners.

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world | events

03 What: St Patrick's Day Festival When: 17 – 18 March, 2012 Where: Various venues, London, England St Patrick’s Day celebrates all things Irish, with laughter, fun, and of course, Guinness. The parade What:

Lakme

Fashion

Week

05

involves marching bands, floats, street theatre and

What: Hong Kong

more. All 32 Irish counties are represented, dressed

Flower Show 2012

in their traditional county colours. Other parade

When: 16 – 25

participants include members of London's Irish

March, 2012

community and other Londoners. Apart from the

Where: Victoria

parade, you will be treated with ceili dancing,

Park, Hong Kong

2012

traditional Irish music, celebrity MCs, and Irish

Fragrant and exotic plants take over

Where: Grand Hyatt Hotel, Mumbai,

speakers ready to teach you a few Irish phrases.

Victoria Park for Hong Kong's annual

India

Flower Show. On show are a rich profusion

Summer/Resort as a category was

of potted plants, beautiful floral

introduced by Lakmé Fashion Week to

arrangements, as well as gorgeous

promote the rapidly emerging concept

landscape displays by local, mainland and

of resort wear in India. The first season

overseas participants. Guided tours and

attracted

flower-selling stalls are popular with the

established and emerging designers

gardening fanatics, and budding

who showcased their creativity and

photographers can enter their best snaps

designs of resor t wear, a year round

of the show in the photo competition. The

fashion concept. The coming years will

theme for Hong Kong Flower Show 2012

see an increased exposure for Indian

is ‘Floral Delights’ and the theme flower is

designers to buyers, media and the

hyacinth.

global fashion industry.

04

march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

Summer/Resort 2012 When: 2 – 6 March,

outstanding

talent

of

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07

What: 2012 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix When: 15 – 18 March, 2012 Where: Albert Rd, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is the country's premier sporting event and offers an action-packed extravaganza of ontrack and off-track activities for people of all ages to enjoy. Besides a stellar line-up of elite motor racing, a host of other offerings will keep you entertained throughout the day. Set in the stunning surroundings of picturesque Albert Park and offering striking

06

views of Melbourne's skyline, the 2012 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix will be a feast for the senses.

What: 4th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta When: 15 – 18 March, 2012 Where: Monumen Alaf Baru, Precinct 2, Putrajaya, Malaysia The Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is a home grown event that draws everyone from all around Malaysia and neighbouring countries. Themed ‘1 World, 1 Malaysia, 1 Fiesta’, this event features 23 balloonists from Belgium, USA, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Malaysia and Japan. The other attractions at the event include helicopter ride, KMX kart, archery, street magic show, kite flying and fireworks.

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15 VI REA SI S T O IN NS D T IA O

A WORLD IN ITSELF A land where traditions reincarnate, music changes its rhythm, the weather plays differently, food acquires different tastes and clothes shimmer in new trends—it’s the magic called India >> Asit Srivastava

I

ndia, the cradle of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, can fascinate any visitor with its size, diversity in culture, colours, scents, languages, architecture and geography. Extensive and lively, India’s travel and tourism industry is one of the most lucrative businesses in the country. The industry is thriving due to two major reasons—firstly, the economic growth of the middle class has led them to drive the domestic tourism growth; and secondly, a growing number of business trips made by foreigners to India are often coupled with a weekend break or a long holiday. The country has so much to offer—from sandy deserts to palm-fringed beaches, from ancient monuments to adventure holidays, from rocky mountains to snow-clad peaks, from gurgling streams to daunting rivers, from serene surroundings to rugged landscapes, from calm Yoga to fierce wildlife—there is something for everyone. No matter where you start from, you will end up exclaiming, “Incredible India!” Today’s Traveller brings you 15 ways to discover and explore the beauty of India.

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discover | india unrivalled

1. Nature: splendid colours in wilderness India, a land of great variety, showcases almost all the natural wonders. From the scenic backwaters in Kerala to the cascading waterfalls in Uttaranchal, from the endless stretch of sand in Rajasthan to the snow-clad mountains in Himachal Pradesh, India is replete with innumerable spellbinding natural beauty that is therapeutic for mind and body. And, when it comes to unsurpassed natural beauty, you just can’t help but think of Kashmir, also referred to as the `Paradise on earth’. Redefining the world ‘beauty’, Kashmir is virtually a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons—always extravagantly beautiful.

2. Hills: tranquillity abounds With the highest mountain ranges in the world, the Himalayas, running north to east, the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges across western and central India, and the Western ghats in the western and southern parts, India is surrounded by hills, which are mesmerising because of their majestic beauty. From unconquered peaks of tremendous heights, uncharted glaciers and valleys, to an unbelievable range of vegetation, the mystical and serene hill stations in India offer some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Shimla—branded as the `Queen of Hills’, Nainital, Ooty, Coorg, Darjeeling, and Mussoorie are some captivating hill stations with old-world charm.

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3. Adventure: stretching the limits If you enjoy the rush of adrenalin and are ready to meet challenges, India offers you the prefect scenario for an array of adventure sport options. From taking a dive to the watery depths of the sea world with scuba diving, surfing, canoeing and snorkelling in Kerala, Karnataka and Goa, defying gravitational force while trekking the astounding heights of the Himalayas, to braving the dizzy heights of summits clothed in radiant white, in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of Uttaranchal, the country is never short of providing the thrills and spills that are a part of adventure sports.

4. Beaches: the power of aqua Blessed with a pristine coastal stretch expanding to 7,000 kilometres, India offers the finest beaches of the world. Indian beaches provide visitors an excellent opportunity to explore the myriad colours of nature. The west coast with the Arabian Sea and the east coast with the Bay of Bengal offer verdant vistas to the ever-seeking discerning traveller. Some of the most scenic and diverse are to be found in Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep. Be it for romance, a family picnic, water sports, solace, or a vivacious nightlife, India has beaches to suit every desire and need.

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5. Wildlife: close encounters Wildlife sanctuaries and national parks spread across India offer an enthralling diversity of terrain, flora and fauna. From striped predators lurking amidst the tall grasslands, to majestic Asiatic elephants moving in herds, to peacocks dancing in all their splendour, India’s forest reserves, like Ranthambore, Corbett, Sunderban, Kanha and Gir, support a staggering array of wildlife. Offering immense opportunities for wildlife tourism, India has over 70 national parks and about 400 wildlife sanctuaries. A home to 500 species of mammal, India is the last refuge of the one-horned rhino and the Asian lion. From the Himalayas to Kerala or Gujarat, virtually every nook and corner of India showcases scores of species of the avian kind. With around 1,200 species of birds, including colourful and conspicuous varieties of quail, jungle fowl and pheasant, India is a paradise for bird watching.

6. History: always in the making The rich history of India, spanning a period of more than 4,000 years, provides a glimpse into its amazing evolution. A meeting ground between the East and the West, India has been an invaders’ paradise till it attained freedom in 1947. Having been ruled by various dynasties (Maurya, Gupta, Maratha and others), the country has a marvellous heterogeneity, which makes it a subject of study for scholars across the globe. No matter how many Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Portuguese, British and other raiders had their way with the land, local Hindu kingdoms invariably survived their depredations, living out their own sagas of conquest and collapse. From a country reeling under colonialism to emerging as a leading economy in the global scenario within a period of 50 years—the transformation of India has made its foreign counterparts sit up and take notice.

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discover | india unrivalled

7. Architecture: surprise, awe and admiration India offers a bounty of artifacts and monuments dating from pre-historic days to modern times. Housing some of the world’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces, majestic edifices rise from every corner of India. From monuments dedicated to gods and maharajas, India has the world-famous Taj Mahal—the monument dedicated to love. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the 17th-century marvel is a magnificent exemplar of the Islamic architectural tradition. The great Stupa at Sanchi, India’s finest surviving Buddhist monument, is another awe-inspiring masterpiece. The carnal, erotic, delicate and divine reliefs of the Khajuraho group of temples in Madhya Pradesh are one of the most illustrious manifestations of Indian architecture.

8. Crafts: a kaleidoscope of colours and textures The diverse ethical customs and varied cultures of India have made it a home to innumerable arts and crafts that are highly acclaimed throughout the world for their aesthetic appeal and magnificence. From shells to paper, stones to clay, bamboo to terracotta, bones to brass, wood to leather, artisans in India are adept in crafting out breathtaking creations from all kinds of materials. The flamboyant wooden carvings of Arunachal Pradesh, the fine and intricate chikan embroidery of Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow, stunning stone carving of Jharkhand, and votive terracotta figurines of Gujarat are some of the popular crafts forms in India.

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9. Cuisine: unforgettable aromas It’s not just from scented flowers like roses and jasmines, India also derives its unforgettable aroma from the multitudes of spices that go into the making of delectable, mouth-watering recipes. Indian cooking reflects a perfect blend of different cultures and ages. From delicious pavement snacks to palace gourmet, India offers some of the world’s greatest cuisines. Some of the culinary gems which visitors can check out include vegetarian sweet-sour Gujarat dishes, mustard-spiced curries of Bengal, and the rich, Mughal-styled biryani of Hyderabad or Lucknow. India also offers an amazing collection of sweets, including gulab jamuns, jalebis, sandesh and kulfi.

10. Spiritual: rediscover yourself

11. Festivals: binding India’s cultural fabric The multitudes of festivals in India and their elaborate rituals to mark the celebrations awe people from the western world. Be it Holi, Deepawali, Eidul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Zuha, or Christmas, festivals, here, are akin to a golden thread, which weaves together different religions. Taking into account the size of the country, the vast diversity of its people, religions, cultures and languages, it is often said that there are more festivals in India than the number of days in a year.

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Spirituality and mystical charm have always drawn myriads from various parts of the globe to India. Be it in search of inner peace, discerning the true self, or attaining salvation—perhaps all this is possible in India. While a mere dip in the Sangam—the divine confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers—in the holy city of Allahabad, is believed to absolve one of all sins, it is also deemed that staying in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, during ones the last days, allows one’s soul to escape the endless cycles of rebirth and suffering. As the world becomes increasingly materialistic, hordes of people from different countries visit India to seek peace of mind. Numerous cultures and religions have thrived and flourished together for ages in India. From time to time, several saints and spiritual leaders have shown the people the right way to engage in spiritualism, by instilling a sense of compassion, love and respect in them for all, including trees, animals, and even stones.


discover | india unrivalled

12. Wellness: a rejuvenating experience With the unique trinity of Yoga, Ayurveda, and meditation prevailing here, it’s hard to compete with India when it comes to blending healthcare with spiritual well-being. Impressed by the traditional and alternative form of wellness therapies, hordes of people from across the globe choose India as their choice destination, either to avail of Kerala’s traditional `Panchkarma’ treatment for purifying the body, or practise Yoga for attaining dynamic fitness, or meditate for discovering their inner self. Moreover, with spas and rejuvenating centres coming up in several parts of India, wellness tourism in the country is expected to grow by leaps and bounds.

13. Shopping: offers galore! With a staggering array of fabrics, carpets, jewellery, furniture, and a host of other items depicting exquisite craftsmanship, India is a shopper’s paradise. Craftsmen have been perfecting their art here for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from generation to generation. Every region has its own unique offering for visitors. Indian silks, cottons and wools are deemed as the best in the world. Brocades from Varanasi, shawls from Kashmir, world-famous heavy jewellery from Gujarat, ornamental plates from Agra, and traditional, antique furniture from Rajasthan, are some of the hot picks from Indian bazaars and state-run emporiums.

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14. Luxury: the royal way If you want to live life king-size, India is the perfect place. Stay in the boudoirs of erstwhile maharajas at the numerous heritage hotels in India, or feel like royalty just by boarding India’s luxury trains. While the heritage hotels, including forts, palaces and havelis in several states, including Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, offer the perfect mix of aesthetic and natural beauty, along with amazing state-of-the-art facilities. Luxury trains like Deccan Odyssey, Fairy Queen, and Place on Wheels allow you to experience all the luxuries worthy of the Indian maharajas of yore. From the finest of spas, offering various massages, therapies and vitalising solutions, luxury trains offers you plush interiors, sumptuous cuisines, well-stocked bars, sparking chandeliers, and Persian carpets-all for that royal touch.

15. Leisure: everything for the perfect break Tagged as an ultimate travel destination, India, offers a host of leisure activities for that perfect break. From tucking yourself away in pleasant seclusion at numerable hill stations in the salubrious Himalayas or Nilgiris to gliding along the backwaters of Kerala—`God’s own country’, from exciting angling experiences in Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, to gripping a teeing off amidst the dramatic backdrops of Coonoor, Naldehra and Darjeeling, India offers endless leisure activities. Not to forget the pristine beaches in the South, which offer perfect locales for sun bathing, boating and other leisure activities. Kanyakumari, at the southernmost tip of India, provides the rare spectacle of setting sun and moon rise, simultaneously.

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THE SOULFUL CITY Having preserved its glorious past of elegant temples, exquisite art forms and natural reserves, Bhubaneswar charms the world with its antiquity >> TT Bureau

F

ind yourself amidst the dizzying heights of heavily sculpted towers; make your way into the splendid ruins; revel in nature’s lap; set out on a spiritual journey, or catch a glimpse of some of the most ferocious felines— Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital, has all this and more for everyone.

ATTRACTIONS Lingaraja Temple: It is Bhubaneswar’s largest and oldest temple, which perfectly represents Odisha’s architectural excellence. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Lingaraja Temple was built in the 11th century. Also

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known as the Bhubaneswar temple, the Lingaraja is famous for its breathtaking sculptures and carvings on the walls. The curvilinear temple can be seen from a long distance, thanks to its giant tower (deul), which extends to a height of over 180 feet, dominating Bhubaneswar’s skyline. Sprawled over 25,000 square feet, the Lingaraja Temple houses 150 subsidiary shrines. The `lingam’ at the temple is quite unique as it’s one half represents Lord Shiva, and the other Lord Vishnu. Mukteswar Temple: Richly sculpted, the Mukteswar Temple perfectly blends ancient and modern designs. Owing to its marvellous sculptures and intricate designs,

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the small temple is also referred to as the “miniature gem of Odishian architecture.” Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is carved with figures of ascetics in different meditative poses. Mukteswar ’s gateway (torana) is singularly attractive. The gateway is embellished with graceful female forms and intricate design patterns. The decorative gateway—an arched masterpiece—is reminiscent of the Buddhist influence in Odisha. Khandagiri and Udayagiri: The twin hills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri, that are famous for their rock-cut caves, which were once the habitation of Jain monks. A total of 33 caves exist in Khandagiri and Udayagiri,


state | odisha

VIBRANT HANDICRAFTS

BHUBANESWAR, THE CAPITAL OF ODISHA, IS KNOWN FOR SCULPTED TOWERS, SPLENDID RUINS, FEROCIOUS FELINES AND SERENE NATURE

known for their stupendous carvings. Elephant Cave (Hathi Gumpha), Queen’s Cave (Rani Gumpha) and Ganesh Cave are some of the must-see sites, which are popular for their elaborate sculptural friezes. While amazing statues of elephants are installed at the Elephant Cave, the Queen Cave is known for carvings related to historical scenes and religious functions. It is believed that most of Khandagiri’s caves were used for meditative purposes. Nandankanan: Picturesquely carved out of the Chandaka forest, Nandankanan is the perfect location for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Situated in the serene vicinity of Kanjia Lake, the Nandankanan wildlife

sanctuary is home to white tigers, Asiatic lions, black panthers endangered Gharials, European Brown Bear, Himalayan Black Bear, and a host of endangered birds. Literally meaning the `Garden of Heavens,’ Nandankanan also houses a botanical garden, which is popular for its rosarium, and children’s park. Dhauli: Situated around seven kilometres from Bhubaneswar, on the banks of the Daya River, are the Dhauli hills—the site for the historical Kalinga wars, which greatly influenced the great King Ashoka, who later embraced Buddhism. Dhauli is popular for its Buddhist Peace Pagoda, popularly known as Shanti Stupa. Built in the early 70s by the Japan Buddha Sangha and Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha, the Shanti Stupa is in the shape of a dome. Atri: Situated in scenic surroundings, replete with lush greenery, Atri, situated around 42 kilometres from Bhubaneswar, is famous for hot sulphur springs. It is believed that the hot spring water is potent to cure skin diseases and other ailments.

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• Silver Filigree: Deemed as the queen amongst Odisha’s handicrafts, silver filigree involves drawing silver through a series of smaller holes to produce fine strands of wire. Later, the strands of wire are given shape to produce ornaments and other utilitarian items. • Pata Paintings: The Pata Chitra Painting, one of the most fascinating art forms of Odisha, has a tradition that goes back to centuries. Instead of paper, a smooth cloth serves as the medium for these paintings. For the Pata Chitra, small strips of cloth are prepared. In order to give a leathery finish to the paintings, artists use a mixture of glue and chalk. • Horn: Artisans in Bhubaneswar produce everyday articles like combs, flower vases, and pen-stands out of cattle horn. Horn artefacts are a style statement in several parts of Odisha.

GETTING THERE By air: Biju Patnaik Airport is the major airport in Bhubaneswar. By rail: Bhubaneswar’s railhead is well-linked to major cities of the country. By road: It is well-connected to important cities by NH5. BEST TIME TO VISIT: Though Bhubaneswar is comfortable throughout the year, the ideal time to visit is from October to March.

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K

arnataka, flanked by the soaring Western Ghats in the east and blessed by the blue waters of the Arabian Sea in the west, is dotted with numerous breathtaking beaches that provide respite to those craving a getaway from the maddening grind of city life. For solitary walks on the long stretch of sand or romantic evenings against the setting sun or a swim in the turquoise waters, a trip to the beaches of Karnataka promises you a memorable experience. GOKARNA Gokarna, a remote holy town, has five famed beaches—Gokarna beach, Kudle beach, Om beach, Halfmoon beach and Paradise beach. The Gokarna beach forms the coast of the town while the other four beaches lie to the south of Gokarna town. Out of all five, Om beach

THE BEACH

escape The picturesque beauty and charm of Karnataka’s beaches make them ideal for those seeking a relaxing break >> Ritika Sarin

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state | karnataka

is quite popular and is named so because it is shaped like the auspicious ‘Om’ symbol. The way up to the winding path that leads to Gokarna is a scenic one, with the Western Ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other. MARAWANTHE With the West Coast Highway cruising alongside the Arabian Sea on one side and the picturesque Kodachadri Hills forming a backdrop to the Sauparnika River on the other, Marawanthe boasts miles and miles of white sand. The place takes on the look of a fairyland at sunset, when the sky turns crimson and the golden rays of the sun are reflected on the sea as well as the river. This peaceful beach is a paradise for water sport lovers as well as picnickers. Nearby attractions include Baindur, a hamlet with a lovely beach close by; Ottinane, with overhanging cliffs, which is an ideal place for viewing the sunset; and Belaka Theertha Falls. MALPE Malpe, located about six kilometres from Udipi and at the mouth of the Malpe River, is an important fishing centre and enriches Karnataka's coastline with its fabulous beach. With the endless stretch of golden sand, swaying palm trees, clear blue sky and gentle breeze makes it an ideal place for a beautiful, relaxing holiday. When in Malpe, make sure you visit the Balarama and Ananteshwara Temples, Darya Bahadurgarh and Malpe’s oldest tile factory, set up by the Basel Mission. ST MARY’S ISLAND Just six kilometres from the Malpe coast, St Mar y ’s Island is famous for its stunning geological formations, which are actually a series of hexagonal basalt rock formations that rise into the sky to varying heights and colours, from earthy red to black. Because of this geological asset, St Mary’s Island is declared a National Geological Monument. The 100metre-wide and 300-metre-long island is also popular as it is believed that the famous Portugese explorer Vasco de Gama dropped

an anchor when he landed here in 1498. KARWAR Karwar makes for an idyllic retreat, with its gentle waves, golden sand, a tranquil ambience and acres of emerald foliage. With the captivating landscape, ringed with rugged hill ranges, thick wood and mysteriously deep valleys, this paradise inspired the great poet Rabindranath Tagore to pen down his first play. There are plenty of other must-see places in Karwar. The Sadashivgad Hill Fort with a Durga Temple, the unique octagonal church, the 300year-old Venkatrama Temple with ochre paintings, and the Naganatha Temple, where an ant hill is worshipped, are sure to make a lasting impression. Devbagh is the most enchanting of the five islands along the Karwar coast. KAUP Kaup, located at a distance of 12 kilometres from Udipi, is famous for its lovely beach, a ruined fort and an old 100-feet-high lighthouse. Don’t forget to visit the two temples of Goddess Mariamma and the Jain basadis, which are now in ruins.

HOW TO REACH By air: Bengaluru International Airport is the major airport. By rail: Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka, is well-connected to all the major cities of India. By road: The state and its capital is connected to major cities of India through NH 4, NH 7 and NH 209.

KURUMGAD The tortoise-shaped island, Kurumgad, is renowned for the hilltop Narasimha Temple, which attracts thousands of devotees during the annual jatra held on Pushya Purnima every year, in early January. Located 4 kilometres from the mainland, this beach is replete with history, complete with the remains of a fort with cannon holes. Visitors can opt to enjoy the panoramic view of the sea, sand and the neighbouring islands or indulge in a range of activities, including trekking, dolphin and seal spotting, diving, snorkelling and stargazing.

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A

ptly known as `the heart of incredible India,’ Madhya Pradesh has emerged as one of the most favoured tourist destinations in India, thanks to the innovative planning and strategies adopted by Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC). From introducing `Caravan tourism’—a first in India—to launching air taxis and water safaris for tourists; from using the obsolete art of shadowgraphy for making the highly creative TV commercial “MP ajab hai, sabse gajab hai,” to launching a `You tube’ channel with videos of top destinations, and a mobile phone audio guide service for historical monuments, it’s no wonder why Madhya Pradesh has bagged a number of national tourism awards. Madhya Pradesh is home to a plethora of tourist attractions—be it the sensuality of Khajuraho, the regal charm of the European-style palace Jai Vilas, or the exciting panorama

MIGHTY

Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh, the very heart of India, is dedicated to archaeological treasures, exciting wildlife, exquisite architecture and spiritual journeys >> Asit Srivastava of wildlife in the sylvan surroundings of Pench—a Madhya Pradesh tour will most surely fill your holidays with pleasurable and unforgettable moments. HERITAGE: Madhya Pradesh projects the rich cultural heritage of India in the form of innumerable palaces, forts and majestic stupas. The gleaming white Jai Vilas, the Europeanstyle palace, situated in Gwalior, depicts a unique mix of Italian, Tuscan and Corinthian architecture. The historic treasure of Bhimbetka caves is situated around 45 kilometres from the capital city of Bhopal. The caves house enchanting rock paintings made from the colours extracted from manganese, hematite, soft-red stone and wooden coal. Around 46 kilometres from the capital city of Bhopal, on an isolated hill, exists Sanchi. It is known for its stupas, monasteries and pillars dating from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. The carnal, erotic, delicate and divine reliefs of the Khajuraho group of temples in Madhya Pradesh are one of the most illustrious manifestations of Indian architecture. Branded as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, the shining sandstone temples turn pale pink at dawn and mysterious white in the moonlight.

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state | madhya pradesh WILDLIFE: Madhya Pradesh is considered to have the richest wildlife across India. Earlier a `Shikargah’ (game preserve) of the maharajahs of Rewa, Bandhavgarh, a national park, is now home to all the white tigers alive today. Nestled in the lower southern reaches of Satpura Hills, lies the Pench National Park, which has been named after the Pench river, which meanders through the Park. The undulating terrain of Pench is famous for large herds of gaur (Indian bison), cheetal (spotted deer), and wild boar. The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur District is an ideal habitat for lions, tigers, leopards and cheetah. The Karera Bird Sanctuary in Shivpuri district plays home to over 245 bird species. PILGRIMAGE: A home to numerous religious centres, Madhya Pradesh attracts millions of pilgrims from all across the world. One of the most famous pilgrim spots, Ujjain, is situated

along the banks of the sacred River Shipra. While the Bade Ganesh Ka Mandir is popular for the gigantic statue of Lord Ganesh, the Mahakaleshwar temple comprises one of the 12 `Jyotirlingas’ of Lord Shiva. Another revered spot, Omkareshwar, the sacred island, appears in the shape of the revered Hindu symbol `Om’. Referred to as “the hill of many wonders,” Chitrakoot is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in India. The most prominent pilgrimage site in Chitrakoot is Ramghat—a group of ghats that line the River Madakini. LEISURE: Madhya Pradesh offers you an array of leisure activities that add more excitement, fun and frolic to your tour. Branded as `Holiday on wheels,’ Caravan tourism was introduced in the country from Madhya Pradesh. A unique tourism product, caravan buses promote family-oriented tours to mainly three circuits, with bases in Jabalpur, Indore and Bhopal. While travelling along the length and breadth of the three circuits, tourists in caravan buses can avail all modern facilities, including Wi-Fi connectivity, mini-bar, and studio-style bedroom. If you wish to be adventurous, you can opt from rafting safari packages and enjoy the thrills in the waters of the Betwa river. Boating facilities are available at scenic water bodies in Tigara, Shivpuri, Halali and Bhopal.

march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

A COLOURFUL MATCHMAKING What: Bhagoria festival When: 1 – 7 March, 2012 Where: Jhabua-Alirajpur It is a colourful tribal festival of the Bhils and Bhilalas, particularly in the district of West Nimar, Jhabua and Alirajpur. Celebrated days before Holi, Bhagoria festival’s main highlight remains a mass Svayamvara (marriage ceremony). As the name of the festival indicates, (bhag, to run), after choosing their partners, the young people elope and are subsequently accepted as husband and wife by society through predetermined customs.

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market watch | products

TAG HEUER AQUARACER CALIBRE 16 AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH

STYLE

The Aquaracer Calibre 16 Automatic Chronograph has water sports in its soul. Water resistant to 300m, this exceptional instrument features

STATEMENT

a diving extension on the bracelet for safety, and a superluminova dot on the bezel at 12 for readability. The subtly-textured dial and the fine silver-edged counters add visual appeal and elegance.

TOMMY HILFIGER TRAVEL BAGS These travel bags are functional, sturdy and light to carry, and take luxury and class to a whole new level. The bags are unique in design, with inbuilt TSA lock facility, sporty alloy wheels and retractable handles. Inspired by the Manhattan skyline, these bags are 2inches expandable, and have branded sporty alloy wheels and retractable spring cushion handles.

TATHA ORANGE BODY BUTTER Tatha’s Orange Body Butter, with a super rich emollient, is suitable for for the dry season when the skin is robbed of its natural oils. The orange body butter is a refreshing and relaxing blend with fragrance of orange to uplift the mood instantly.

DA MILANO LAPTOP BAG Da Milano’s laptop bag is crafted from the finest ostrich and croco-embossed Italian leather, matt-finish leather and full-grain Italian leather. This sleek, compact and versatile laptop bag features multiple compartments to store a laptop, documents, mobile phone and other essentials. To ensure maximum comfort, it has a leather-padded, top carry handle and comes with removable and adjustable shoulder straps, and is stylised with silver metal hardware.

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march 2012 | www.todaystraveller.com

TEACHER’S HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY Distilled, matured and bottled in the Highlands of Scotland, this scotch whisky has full and rich flavours, with a creamy peat tang and a touch of vanilla and sweet ripe fruit. A 100 per cent peated Highland malt, the spirit is lightly, yet entirely peated, and has been so since 1898 when the Teacher’s family first decided to build a distillery in the Highlands. Its burnished gold colour, exudes a rich softness linked with a smooth, slightly dry aroma.


RNI NO: 68182/1997


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