MICA (P) 039/03/2012
ISSUE 49 Romance of Travel
India | Myanmar | Luxembourg ÂŠ Clara Lock
INCLUDES plus: Switzerland
S T N E T N CO
13 0 2 B E JAN-F 16
ES R U T A > FE Odyssey
25 Touring Nf Brazil ons SpirditeoJaneiroâ€™s Ic 26 Rio
Tribaâ€™sl Northeast 07 India f Change Statenmoar in Brief 10 Mya of Captaijin Cook y i By Wnag Through F 12 Saili ontier aska l r s WildliFfe Viewing A Whegel o d l i w 6 W T 1 r n uchygoh Luxembou D d n a u Gr hro nd 20 Cycling Ttone tzerla i w S n S Set in res of Saxo Treasu
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IA UIDE G R A LYNES E O G P H 05 PSHOT: FRENC 14 SNA AVEL NEWS 18 TR VEL TIPS 4 TR A
R T A ND E S N I > I TZ E R L E SW G A P 8 2
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The Romance of Travel. It can mean different things to different people. For tourists, the word 'romance' may be a metaphor for a place where folks go to have their quiet time away from the madding crowd. For travellers, it's far more than just being away – it's also the journey itself that they fall in love with. As Robert Louis Stevenson once said, "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
With commercial flights and mass-market accommodation proliferating the market these days, some may say that the 'romance' is dead. In this issue, we let you be the judge. We’re featuring journeys that still retain their charms, from iconic sites to classic itineraries – it’s all about discovering new gems or rediscovering old ‘friends’. Europe’s rich history has always attracted plenty of travellers, and in this issue we feature tiny Luxembourg and the Saxon region of Germany. Both are steeped in historical gems, with the former best explored on bicycles, and the latter on your fingertips as you free-climb the region’s dramatic rock formations. We then head over the wild blue yonder of the Pacific Ocean to Fiji and French Polynesia – both of which have captivated adventurers since the days of Robinson Crusoe. If it’s tribal odysseys you’re looking for, look no further than Northeast India; this dramatic undulating terrain is home to dozens of mountain tribes that few visitors ever encounter. a more vibrant city atmosphere, head to Rio de Janeiro’s classic icons like Sugarloaf Mountain or its favelas where you’ll rediscover the city’s charms. Finally, those who have a love of classic wildlife encounters in the boots of Daniel Boone can head to Alaska’s wide open spaces where all creatures large and small, terrestrial or aquatic, are sure to quench your thirst for adventure. Whether you’re inspired by the Jungle Books of Kipling, the swashbuckling adventures of Crusoe, or the romance of Muir’s wilderness, there’s no time like the present to go out and explore.
Until then, Happy Trails!
CALLING TRAVEL BLOGGERS (AND WRITERS) Do you have a travel blog, or simply have a passion to write? We are looking for passionate souls like you to add to our online travel blog, whether you’re already a blogger or just itching to write for fun. Send your queries to email@example.com and we’ll be in touch!
Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writer Konrad Clapp Samantha Pereira Creative Director Lynn Ooi Designer Marilyn Wong General Manager Aaron Stewart
Media Rep Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd 242A River Valley Road Singapore 238299 Tel 6732 0325 www.sportsandtravelonline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sports and Travel Limited Rm. 1104 Crawford House 70 Queen’s Road Central Hong Kong Tel +852 2861 8746 Fax +852 2961 4800 email@example.com
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Tucked between India and Myanmar, the Indiaâ€™s wild northeast is a patchwork of former princely states and tribal homelands. Thanks to their geographic isolation from the influences of Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai, this region has retained many of its tribal aspects, making for culturally-rich experiences.
NORTHEAST INDIAâ€™S TRIBES
NAGALAND With 2,000 years of proud warrior history, the Naga people form the majority in Nagaland, with its many tribes making up almost 90% of the population. Historically a feuding bunch where headhunting was part of daily life, Christianity united the various tribes in the early 20th century, giving the Naga people a single cultural identity. Thanks to its geographic isolation, travellers can still see aspects of tribal life that has been the status quo for centuries.
NAGA IDENTITY Traditional Naga villages have always been built on steep hilltops, mainly for defense purposes. Divided into khels (small neighbourhoods), walled off from one another and separated by massive carved doors, extended families tend to live in one khel. Houses are often decorated with carved warrior imagery, mountains and the skulls of the revered mithun (a local cow); a Naga house's roofline is designed to resemble the high crest and sloping horns of the beast. Young Nagas from isolated mountain villages
usually sport their bright red, embroidered sashes and feathered headdresses when they head for the markets, as this is their best opportunity to find a future spouse. Wokha: Lotha Tribe At 80km north from Kohima is the town of Wokha (1,313m), a cultural stop and popular jump-off point for hiking trips to Mt. Tiyi, a scenic hilltop believed to be the spiritual abode of departed Naga ancestors. Terrace cultivation is practised here, fed by the Doyang river, which in turn is fed from several streams that flow from the hills surrounding the valley. The best time to visit Wokha is November, when locals hold their Tokhu Emong, the main Naga harvest festival. Unique to the Lotha people (one of the largest Naga tribes), Tokhu Emong runs for 9 days from 7th November, where you can sample some of Lotha's renowned cooking, including delicacies like steamed hornets. Known by a number of names, including
Hlota, Kyong and Tsindir, the mainstream Lotha people (numbering about 80,000) are concentrated throughout west-central Nagaland. A unique Lotha custom to look out for are their distinctive head wrappings, which according to their pattern, indicate the wearer's social status in the tribe. Mokokchung: Ao Tribe Lying in the midst of 6 hill ranges, 80km northeast of Wokha is Mokokchung, a Naga heartland and traditional abode of the Ao Naga people. With its profusion of gorges and hiking trails, all cut through by several major rivers, village visits to the surrounds as well as kayak safaris can be organised. Mokokchung (1,325m) also has ideal hiking conditions anytime outside of the monsoon (May-October) season. Mokokchung was originally built on a large hilltop, which has since spilled over to the surrounding valleys and hills. With virtually all of Nagalandâ€™s major roads intersecting here, urbanised Mokokchung makes for a very easy base to explore the state.
07 GETTING THERE Dimapur is the only city in Nagaland with direct rail or air connections to the rest of India, and has direct road access (75km, 2 hours) into the capital of Kohima. Many Naga operators are launching village home-stays, or traditionallythemed Naga camps, allowing visitors to get acquainted with the tribes and their way of life. Foreign tourists no longer require Restricted Area Permits to enter Nagaland. The new rules only require foreigners to register themselves at the local Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) of the district they visit within 24 hours of their arrival. Tour operators can also provide more information on permits. For more on Nagaland, visit www.tourismnagaland.com.
Nagaland's biggest tribe, the Ao people (ancestors of the Lotha) are concentrated around Mokokchung. The highlight of the Ao tribal calendar is the Moatsu festival, held annually in early May for 3 days, celebrating the end of jhum, or the 'clearing' of debris created by the Ao's slash-and-burn farming. During Moatsu, new marriages are arranged, rice-beer brewing contests are held, and a feast is had. Due to the Ao's zealous Christian beliefs, there's less of an animist overtone to Moatsu than in many other Naga festivals.
which attracts climbers on a 2-day hike to its peak. Believed to be the abode of Gods or repository of souls, hiking routes to the summit are dotted with small, ancient shrines. On Tuensang's northern border is the Mon district, the northernmost area of Nagaland. The Mon district is home to the Konyak.
The largest Ao village here is Ungma, the site of the Ao's first settlement. Slightly further away is the more 'traditional' village of Mopungchukit, where a local co-op operates a 'rural resort', giving visitors a glimpse into the daily workings of a Naga village, with basic rooms available.
The Konyak are found across northeast Nagaland, especially around Mon and Tuensang, as well as Assam and bordering areas of Myanmar. Often cited as the largest of the Naga tribes, the Konyak are identified by their extensive tattooing. Divided into 2 groups; Thendu (tattooed face) and Thendo (white face), the former inhabit the lower region and tattoo their whole face and the latter inhabit the upper region and tattoo only their forehead and chin. The men wear a headdress with boar tusks, and some carry a dao (machete).
Tuensang & Mon: Konyak Tribe About 269km from Kohima is Tuensang (1,370m) district, home to tribes like Konyaks, Changs and Khiamungans. The town's biggest draw is the snow-capped Mt. Saramati (3,841m), Nagaland's highest mountain,
The Konyaks are ruled by hereditary chiefs called 'Anghs', an institution prevalent only among the Konyaks. The Angh's house is the largest in the village, with a display of skulls in the front (they used to be headhunters). Konyaks are adept craftsmen,
known for their wood carvings and colourful shawls. The Konyak festival 'Aoling Monyu' is celebrated during the first week of April, when the men dance with daos or spears, dressed in colourful shawls and feather-andboar-tusk-studded headgear. Zunheboto: Sumi Tribe Zunheboto (1,252m) is one of Nagaland's most remote areas, inhabited by several tribes including the Sumi. Most Sumis live above 1,500m, meaning village visits are often by foot, as the region's heavy rain often leaves mountain roads washed out after the monsoon in October. Zunheboto is 150km (4 hours) from Kohima. Numbering 132,000, the Sumi are found across southern and central Nagaland, as well as Assam. The Sumi were the most prolific warriors among all the Naga; their most legendary warrior was said to have taken over 100 heads. Despite their fierce reputation, they've integrated well with the Ao and Lotha, as well as non-tribal Assamese. In many cases, they remain seminomadic, subsisting on agriculture, and while they're Christian, they still practise elements of traditional, ancestor-based worship.
MIZORAM Tucked at the border to Bangladesh and Myanmar, Mizoram is the southern-most state in India's Northeast. Over 30% of the state's 21,000sq.km. is covered in lush bamboo forests, accounting for half of India’s bamboo production. The serenity of hiking among these vast, surreal, swaying forests makes for a memorable experience. While tourism in Mizoram is still very much in its infancy, the state's single biggest attraction are its friendly Mizo people.
MIZO PEOPLE Mizoram's past is virtually unknown, though the people that make up today's modern Mizo ('Hill People') are believed to have migrated from southwest China centuries ago in search of better pastures. Mizoram's people consider themselves part of a single extended tribe – the Lushia community – which are descended from a branch of the Kuki-Chin community, whom can also be found in Myanmar's Chin state and in Bangladesh. One of the best places to see the Mizo in their traditional costumes is at the Bara Bazar in the capital of Aizawl, where the locals sell farm and homestead produce.
Although Mizoram and Tripura share a common border with Assam, their ethnic divide is far from similar. Mizoram settlers are predominantly from China, while Tripura has an overwhelming Bengali population; however, what they do have in common are vibrant tribal traditions where song and dance are integral to village life.
MIZO FESTIVALS Mizos have traditionally celebrated a number of major kuts (festivals) annually, mostly observing specific points in the agricultural seasons. Mizoram's 3 biggest kuts are the Chapchar Kut, Mim Kut and Pawl Kut. Chapchar Kut is the only festival of the 3 that's an official public holiday. Owing to Mizoram's highly Christian population (95%), certain traditionals aspects like spirit worship are no longer part of the proceedings. These days, Mizoram is trying to merge the more ancient Mim Kut and Pawl Kut with the more modern Chapchar Kut, creating a 3-in-1 state-wide Chavang Kut, held annually on 1 November. An all-encompassing 'autumn harvest' festival, Chavang Kut includes everything from traditional singing and dancing competitions, to decidedly modern beauty contests, as well as plenty of zu (Mizoram's regional rice liquor). Chapchar Kut The biggest of Mizoram's 3 major, traditional kuts, Chapchar Kut marks the midpoint during the jhum (traditional practice of slashand-burn agriculture prevalent in the Northeast). It usually falls around mid-March, following the initial felling of the trees (in January), and the later burning of the debris
GETTING TO MIZORAM Mizoram's Lengpui Airport, near the capital of Aizawl, can be reached from Kolkata in under 2 hours. While the Inner Line Pass is not required, foreign nationals visiting Mizoram will have to register themselves with the Superintendant of Police (CID/SB) Mizoram (the designated Foreigners Registration Office of the State) within 24 hours of arrival. For more in Mizoram, visit www.mizotourism.nic.in.
to clear the new fields. The festival is held in the midst of the jhum field, with traditional singing, dancing and – one of its most important components – drinking of zu. Mim Kut The most ancient of all the kuts, Mim Kut (Feast of Weeping) is held to honour the dead. Traditional Mizos believed the soul of the deceased remained around its village after passing, and would cause calamity if they starved, so offerings like mim (barley) are made at the beginning of the growing season. The main food during Mim Kut is changman (mim-sticky rice dumplings), accompanied by the drinking of zu. Pawl Kut The Pawl Kut (Feast of Straw) usually falls at the end of the harvest season, presumably initiated to mark the event when Mizos must expel zu pawl (rats) from their grain stores. Pawl Kut has no fixed date, but tends to happen around September-October annually. Since it celebrates the overcoming of famine, Pawl Kut entails a massive, communal feast, as well as traditional dances and singing.
09 GETTING TO TRIPURA Agartala has an airport that is served by airlines from Guwahati, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata (50 mins). Buses ply the route from Guwahati to Agartala (597km), where thereâ€™s also a railhead. No permits are required to travel to this state. For more on Tripura, visit tripuratourism.nic.in.
TRIPURA Neighbouring Tripura, with its verdant expanse of forests and rolling hills, is a former princely state ruled by Maharajas of the Manikya dynasty until 1949, when it merged with India. While small in geography, Tripura's attractions include grandiose palaces, important Buddhist and Hindu temples, picturesque lakes and a rich cultural heritage of its various tribes. Blending into the hills and valleys, the villages are a tapestry of rich ethnic traditions. Tripura's major sites include the Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala (the state's capital), and Neermahal, a water palace that was the Maharajah's summer resort in Udaipur.
TRIPURA PEOPLE The majority of the population are Bengali (70%), followed by 19 of Tripura's various tribal communities (30%), including Tripuri, Reang and Lusai. Hinduism is still the main religion, owing to the fact that it was once the state religion of the Tripuri kings. Traditional dance is an important tribal way of life, represented in a variety of cultures and customs, especially at festivals that celebrate jhum or the Hindu new year. Tripuri The Tripuris, considered part of the Tibeto-
Burmese ethnic group, are the largest of the tribal communities. They live in ua (bamboo houses on stilts) on the slopes of hills in groups of 5 to 50 families, and practise jhum farming. The women are distinguished by their risha, a hand-loomed piece of cloth used as their breast garment. After the sowing of the seeds in mid April, they pray to the God 'Garia' for a bountiful harvest, in a 7-day festival where they entertain their deity with song and dance. After that, the Tripuris rest while waiting for the monsoon. During this time, young men and women head into the hills in search of a colourful insect called lebang. The Lebang Boomani Dance is an annual insect hunt celebration, where the men would lure these insects from their hiding places by making a peculiar rhythmic sound with the help of 2 bamboo chips in the hand, while groups of women would catch the lebang. In both the festivals, the women would dance to music made by bamboo instruments. Reang The Reangs constitute the second biggest group among the tribal population. Scattered over Tripura and Mizoram, the Reangs cling to their traditional way of life as shifting cultivators and are considered the most retrogressive group, both economically and educationally.
Believed to be originally from the Chittagong hill tracts of southeast Bangladesh that migrated here in the 15th century, the Reangs are ruled by a Rai (village head), who has final say in all matters of village life. The Reangs are known for their unique dance form, the Hozagiri. The women who perform the dance stand on an earthen pitcher, with a bottle on their heads and a lit lamp placed on top. The movement of the hands or the upper body is restricted, whereas the movement from the waist down to their feet creates an interesting wave, as these dancers twist rhythmically to the music. Lusai Originally the inhabitants in the hills to the east and northeast of Tripura, the Lusai have now settled in the Jampui Hills. The hills are home to orange groves (and the Orange Festival in November), as well as a network of picturesque trekking trails. Like the rest of the tribes, the Lusais still practise jhum as their principle livelihood. They are the smallest tribal group in Tripura, known for their interesting customs and dances, including their Welcome Dance. The Lusai girls generally wear their colourful woven costumes, and would perform the dance whenever they have visitors.
Myanmar is a country in constant motion, and this is perhaps what makes it so beguiling. Even as it inches towards democracy and the accompanying progress, there is quiet charm squirreled away in corners of Myanmar that modernisation has not touched. The dust caked roads of ancient capital Bagan lead to temples where you can lose yourself in a bygone era, and the villages surrounding Inle Lake set in a simpler time. Myanmar, wrote Rudyard Kipling, is unlike any place you know about. Keep your heart and mind open, and you’ll often find yourself on the receiving end of a warm welcome and a betel nut-stained smile.
MYANMAR IN BRIEF TEXT AND PHOTOS BY Clara Lock
YANGON Yangon may no longer be the capital, but it is in this bustling city that Myanmar's state of flux is best witnessed. Five star hotels share the same street as corner-store book vendors, where you can still find a 1956 copy of Readers Digest or National Geographic. At dusk, candlelit evening markets spring up along crowded streets while the shiny new rims of continental cars flash past. Amidst the tourist-centric souvenirs of Bogyoke Aung San Market, squat by a small plastic table and share a pot of fresh tea as you swap stories with the locals. Yangon’s pulsing heartbeat of commotion may be disquieting at first, but peer beyond it and pockets of calm are never far away. Duck into the Shwedagon Pagoda – a massive gold structure visible from almost anywhere in the city – and find zen among the meditating locals and hundreds of Buddhist statues glinting in the sun.
Bagan is an ancient city with countless stories to tell. More than 3,000 temples spread across 40 square miles hold within their brick-red walls the tales of various ancient rulers. Dhammayangyi Pahto, the largest temple in Bagan, is one of the most fascinating and macabre. Legend has it that then-king Narathu killed his father and brother to ascend the throne, and built the temple to atone for his sins. He then insisted that the bricks be laid so tightly that not even a pin could fit between them, and punished errant bricklayers by having their hands chopped
INLE LAKE Time seems to stop around this expansive, idyllic body of water. Specked with men perched on the edge of their boats, paddling with one leg wrapped around an oar â€“ a technique characteristic of the Inle fishermen â€“ the lake is a source of life for the locals. Immerse yourself in the bucolic setting with a trek inland, where you can visit one of the villages surrounding the lake. Mine Thouk is a community small enough to be explored on foot, where youâ€™ll share dirt roads with ox carts and the occasional cow. Sugarcane plantations line the side of the roads, and you can watch workers extract molasses from the sugarcane crop, a raw ingredient in local Mandalay rum. For a leisurely day on the water, boat tours run daily and will take you to cottage industries where workers still weave on looms, make paper parasols from tree bark and roll traditional cigarettes by hand. There is a serenity about Inle that will soothe even the most road-weary traveller, and you may find yourself lingering here far longer than you intended.
off. It is worth a visit just to marvel at its construction. Skip the modern transportation and hire a horse cart for the day, or plan your own route, and go it alone on a rented bicycle. Those visiting at dawn and dusk will want to spend it at the Shwesandaw Pagoda. Nicknamed the sunset pagoda, a steep five-storey climb to its peak reveals a view of the plains, dotted with temples far and beyond, which are truly a sight to behold.
Situated in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, the archipelago of Fiji is made up of 332 islands, many of which are uninhabited. Coconut-lined secluded beaches, pristine corals and lush forests are the main draw of this island paradise, although most visitors tend to spend time in one of a handful of islands, including the main island of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu and the Yasawa islands. The rest of this scattered archipelago remains largely untouched by tourists, where traditional Fijian villages still dot the landscape and pristine deserted beaches are the norm. The classic way to get around these islands is aboard an old-fashioned schooner, where you can imagine yourself in Captain Cook's footsteps as you hop from one island to another and relive the golden days of travel.
ISLANDS OF FIJI Mamanucas and Yasawas While there are plenty of islands in Fiji to explore, probably the most frequented are the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups of islands, both of which are easily accessible from Nadi on the western side of Viti Levu. A popular island group just off the Denarau coast, the Mamanucas feature islands dotted with villages and resorts that offer easy access to palm-fringed sandy beaches and crystal clear waters which are mostly ideal for snorkelling or swimming. Divers can head to Mana Island's â€˜The Supermarketâ€™, a dive spot that guarantees shark sightings. Consisting of 20 ancient volcanic islands, the Yasawas is characterised by dramatic summits some 600m high, fringed by crystalclear lagoons. Mostly undeveloped, these islands offer great hiking and diving experiences, as well as Fijian culture that can be experienced at traditional villages. As both the Mamanucas and Yasawas are
IMAGES BY Tourism Fiji / www.fiji.travel
SAILING AROUND FIJI
dotted with traditional Fijian villages, you can have the option of participating in a kava ceremony with the village chief or have a classic 'Lovo' dinner accompanied by the 'Meke' dance. One of the highlights of a sailing trip to this group of islands is Musket Cove (a popular marina for visiting yachts) on Malolo Island as well as the isolated Modriki Island, the location for the film 'Castaway'. Scheduled sailing trips aboard Seaspray (an 80ft schooner), the Pelorus Jack (a 50ft yacht) or 'Whale's Tale' (a 100ft schooner) are available around these 2 groups of islands. Vanua Levu & Taveuni While it is Fiji's second largest island, it is still a lesser travelled part of the country and popular with a small community of visiting yachties centred around the town of Savusavu, south of the island. From here, you can cruise around Savusavu, as well as the nearby island of Taveuni and the Lomaiviti group of islands. Savusavu is
known for its hot springs that are scattered around the town, while offshore, the waters around the bay and beyond offer myriad options for diving; from walls to caves and corals to pelagics, it encompasses some of Fiji's best diving experiences. Beyond the barrier reef of Savusavu Bay is the Somosomo Strait that divides Vanua Levu and Taveuni. The latter is a mecca for divers, as it's home to the famous Rainbow Reef which is consistently rated as one of the worlds best dive sites. The reef is home to the Great White Wall, a sunken escarpment blanketed by luminescent white corals accessible via a tubular swim-through starting from 20m. Above water, Taveuni is nicknamed the 'Garden Isle', thanks to its rich rainforest that is home to most of Fiji's native birds and the unique Tagimaucia flower. You can opt for classic sailboats like the 53ft yawl 'Seahawk' or the luxury cruiser 'Tui Tai' to cruise around the area.
The ocean surrounding the Lomaiviti islands is renowned as the 'Big Fish' capital of Fiji, where marlin, giant trevally, wahoo and mahimahi draw plenty of fishing enthusiasts on big game fishing charters. Kadavu Lying just south of Viti Levu, Kadavu is one Fijiâ€™s least developed islands, giving it the feel of a classic undiscovered South Pacific island. Here, Fijians live in the traditional way, and the main mode of land transport is on foot. Thanks to this, visitors can expect kava to be offered at social gatherings. The island is a mixture of jutting volcanic peaks and thick rainforests that lead to
SAILING TRIPS One of the best aspects of sailing is the freedom - whether it's freedom to move from island to island, or the freedom to do as much or as little as you want. You can help on deck (take a turn at the wheel or trim the sails), do a little fishing or nothing at all. Fiji has plenty of yachts, schooners and yawls trawling its waters â€“ all you have to do is decide on where you want to explore, and what you want to do. If time or budget is of concern, there are plenty of scheduled cruises. Most yachts provide food and drinks, in addition to a full crew and many of them feature itineraries that include village visits and diving/snorkelling ranging from full-day to week-long.
mangroves, making nature hikes a major activity on the island. Kadavu is also a renowned dive site, thanks to the Great Astrolabe Reef which boasts a variety of stunning hard coral outer reef slopes and steep drop-offs blanketed by colourful soft coral. A highlight is Eagle Rock, which is made up of sunken boulders, pinnacles, narrow channels and sheer walls where you can see eagle rays and an astonishing collection of hard corals.
Lomaiviti A rarely-visited group, Lomaiviti consists of a handful of islands including Ovalau and Koro. Ovalau is home to Levuka, Fiji's first capital where you can experience Fiji's bygone days as you walk around the town's main streets that reflect the wild west and its colonial days.
The furthest group of islands from the capital is the Lau group, which offers not only exotic bays and crowd-free vistas, they're dotted with Fijian villages that practice a selfsustaining philosophy and offer travellers a chance to see Fiji long before it was discovered by European adventurers. Special permission is required to cruise this group of islands.
To truly enjoy the freedom under the sails, a private charter lets you anchor almost anywhere and explore uninhabited islands or dive secluded spots. While most charters operate around the islands they're based, there are also charters that cruise farther afield. Sailing in Fiji is year-round, although August to October sees clearer visibility and cooler sea conditions (for divers) while November and April are its warmer months with a good chance of rain.
GETTING THERE You can fly to Nadi via Hong Kong or Australia on carriers like Qantas and Air Pacific, as there are no direct flights from Singapore. For more sailing in Fiji, visit www.fijime.com.
SNAPSHOT: FRENCH POLYNESIA SOCIETY ISLANDS Tahiti Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia, as well as the cultural, economic and transport hub for the islands. Known as much for its dense tropical forests and volcanic peaks as its famous beaches, it’s also one of the best best hiking locations in the region. The island has two halves with the larger, round Tahiti Nui (Big Tahiti) connected to smaller Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti) by a narrow isthmus. Seen from the sky, a bird’s eye view of Tahiti hints at its volcanic past – topping out at Mt. Orohena (2,240m) the island’s rugged interior is dominated by dozens of soaring ridges and peaks which descend steeply down to a narrow coastal belt, fringed by offshore reefs and idyllic beaches.
runs from the middle of the island to the east coast. Notorious for its quick growing tropical foliage that obscures marked routes, dense cloud-cover and occasional thunderstorms, the route lures hikers with its unmatched views the classic Tahitian scenery of forests and knife-edge ridges descending to the island’s sandy rim. The only place in the entire South Pacific to have Sub-Alpine forests on the slopes of its 3 highest peaks (all above 2,000m), French Polynesia’s part of the larger Micronesia biodiversity hotspot. Like neighbouring islands, Tahiti’s forests are home to hundreds of endemic flora and fauna, including the iconic Polynesian Rough Tree Fern.
Trekking Despite being known for its beaches and pancake-flat surf, most of Tahiti is rugged jungles and mountains, making it an ideal trekking destination. The most notable hiking trail – the cross-island Papenoo Valley to Lake Vaihiria route – sets out from Papeete, the capital town of Tahiti. Following the course of the Papenoo River (23km), it
AUSTRAL ISLANDS Rurutu Located in the southernmost part of French Polynesia, the Australs are an archipelago of 5 islands that boast a huge array of aquatic life including 11 species of dolphin, numerous types of whale, as well as hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles. A former volcanic hotspot, the Australs are home to steep sea cliffs and far more famous for their migratory humpback whales. While small (30sq.km.), Rurutu’s biggest attraction is the annual humpback whale migration (July-November), when divers can easily swim with multiple whales at a time. Rurutu’s one of the world’s best destinations to see the gentle giants as they come to breed in the island’s extensive fringing reefs. Onshore, Rurutu is pockmarked with dozens of caves, some of which are archeological sites which used to be home to the island’s formerly cave dwelling inhabitants, who are more famous today for their intricate palm woven hats and mats.
There are no direct flights to French Polynesia, although you can fly via Australia or New Zealand via a number of airlines, including Air Tahiti Nui, Air New Zealand and Qantas.
And while the resort beaches of Bora Bora or Tahiti are big lures for well-heeled travellers, hiking the hills of the Marquesa islands or diving with humpbacks in Rurutu offer an untouched PHOTOS BY Tahiti Tourisme
MARQUESAS Seemingly at the end of the earth, the Marquesas are about a 3-hour flight from Society Islands. Even now, some of the islands are virtually untouched since the era of European exploration, meaning that their natural wonders and fascinating culture has remained intact for those who venture into these islands. Part of the draw here are the people - who speak in a Marquesan dialect - and its natural wonders, which encompasses towering mountains and 1,000foot waterfalls that cascade down sheer volcanic cliffs. At Nuku Hiva (the largest island), towering spire-like peaks, secluded lush valleys, fjord-like bays and impossibly tall waterfalls set the stage for early swashbucklers, while on Hiva Oa, its wild landscape dotted with giant stone tikis have drawn countless bygone travellers, including Paul Gauguin, who made this island his final resting place.
MARQUESAS TUAMOTU ISLANDS
Rangiroa Unlike mountainous Tahiti, all of the islands of the Tuamotus are coral islands – essentially high sand bars built upon coral reefs. The main island, Rangiroa, is one massive deep lagoon encircled with a string of 240 tiny islets (motu) and is the second the largest coral atoll in the world. The string of coral encircling the jade green lagoon is a dive paradise; the Avatoru and Tiputa passes are the sole channels that link the inner lagoon to the open sea, where divers and snorkellers are carried in a rush of water between the ocean and lagoon surrounded by seemingly millions of fish. Outside the reefs is a breathtaking array of large species along the walls of the drop-offs, including squadrons of eagle rays and schools of sharks and tuna. On land, the laid-back atmosphere of few roads, coral churches, and local shops complement the day’s activities, including a trip to black pearl farms.
Roughly halfway between the Americas and Australia, French Polynesia’s chain of 5 island groups has long been a byword for ultimate escapism by artists and adventurers alike, conjuring an exotica of the bygone era of travel.
Tucked in the northwestern corner of the American continent, Alaska's wilderness has always drawn travellers who come here to immerse in the great outdoors and encounter the iconic local wildlife. Alaska has an unparalleled abundance of wild and woolly critters, and plenty of finned and feathered ones as well. Large animals like moose and bears, caribou and wolves, whales and sea lions are a big part of the allure of the north. And all you need to find and enjoy
them is a little time, a little knowledge, and a spirit of adventure. KNOW YOUR GAME For starters, it helps to know where and when to look for animals. Lesson one in any wildlife quest is to carry binoculars. You can see creatures great and small any time of year and anywhere in the state. Wildlife viewing is often best in more remote areas of the state where there is less human foot traffic. This doesn't mean that populated areas and roadsides don't offer opportunities for animal watching.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY Travel Alaska
WILDLIFE VIEWING ALASKA WILDLIFE BY REGION In Southeast Alaska and in other coastal areas you've got an excellent chance to see marine mammals. Look for the spouts of whales and porpoises, clouds of mist formed when the animals exhale upon surfacing, best seen when wind and waves are calm. Scan the water with the naked eye, looking for a whitish streak just above the water's surface. Once you see spouts, train your binoculars on the area and wait â€“ the animals will generally surface again in the same vicinity. The most commonly sighted whales are humpbacks and orcas (killer whales), and the most frequently seen porpoises are Harbour and Dall's. Sea lions and Harbour
seals can often be seen basking on rocky islands near the water's edge. Also look for sea otters frolicking in the waves, lying on their backs and grooming their fur.
Look for their prominent white heads.
Along the shore in the Southeast, look for Sitka blacktail deer grazing near the water's edge, and scan the high peaks for mountain goats, often seen as white dots near the craggy ridgeline. Also along the beaches, watch for brown and black bears prowling near the tide line in their search for food.
One of Alaska's most noteworthy wildlife spectacles is the annual autumn convergence of thousands of eagles on the Chilkat River flats near Haines. From October through February, with nearly 3,000 eagles having been seen at a given time, this is the greatest concentration of eagles in the world. They gather to feed on a late salmon run, and the chance to see eagles in these numbers is not to be missed.
Whenever you're near water, bald eagles are almost always nearby, most commonly seen perched in the tops of spruce trees near shore, scanning the area for their next meal.
Another birding and wildlife spot is St. Paul Island in the Pribilof Islands where you can view northern fur seals at their rookeries, and some exotic bird species.
the salmon up the inlet and can be seen from the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm near Anchorage and along the Cook Inlet coast of the Kenai Peninsula. Occasionally they can even be seen from downtown Anchorage. They can be hard to spot when the wind is whipping the waves into whitecaps, but if the tide is high and the water is flat, keep your eyes peeled for white flashes as they surface. Coastal communities from Southeast to
Prince William Sound to Southcentral offer boat excursions for fishing and for wildlife watching. Half-day and full-day trips can be arranged, and knowledgeable skippers can take you to prime locations for chances to see the local animal life. also excellent from the decks of the ferryboats of the Alaska Marine Highway System that ply the coastal waters.
In Southcentral Alaska, including the Kenai Peninsula and the areas near Anchorage, coastal areas harbour the marine mammals that are found in Southeast, with the added attraction of white beluga whales. They follow
Also along the Seward Highway south of Anchorage, there's a spot called Windy Corner where Dall sheep often come down off the mountainsides and graze next to the road, making for some interesting traffic situations.
GETTING THERE Most flights from Singapore to Anchorage connect via Korea or Japan and Seattle, via carriers like Korean Air and Alaska Airlines. For more on Alaska, visit travelalaska.com.
ICONIC WILDLIFE The most commonly seen big game animal in Alaska is the moose. These large, ungainly looking beasts are often seen in Anchorage and nearly everywhere along the road. The Kenai Peninsula has some of the best moose habitat in the world, and you can usually spot them in the mornings and evenings when they are most active. Perhaps the most charismatic of the mega fauna is the bear, and everyone who comes to Alaska wants to see one. Your best bet is Denali National Park. Grizzly bear sightings are a common occurrence from these convenient and affordable excursions. Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula near the town of King Salmon and the Pack Creek
bear viewing area on Admiralty Island in Southeast offer excellent brown bear viewing as well. It's also common to see bears along the Denali Highway between Paxson and Cantwell and the Dalton highway north of Fairbanks, so stop and scan the open tundra frequently.
excellent chance of a good close-up view from one of the park shuttles. Other good places include the Dalton and Denali highways; pull off the road whenever you've got an unobstructed view of a large parcel of open ground and scan methodically with your binoculars.
One of the most enduring images of Alaska wildlife favoured by nature photographers is huge herds of barren ground caribou streaming over the tundra. These herds of animals, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, migrate over areas far removed from the road system, but you can still spot caribou if you're observant. The best chance for seeing them is at Denali National Park. Large herds are rare, but there's always an
Bears and wolves, caribou and moose, foxes and golden eagles and many species of birds all make their homes on the tundra, and the patient and the observant traveller will be rewarded with glimpses into their lives. Accessible wildlife is nearly everywhere in Alaska, and if you take the time to learn a bit about the land and its inhabitants, your experience will be all the richer.
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© Bock Casemates | ONT / Fabrizio Maltese
One of the smallest countries in Europe, Luxembourg is a bustling and modern city bordered by Belgium, France and Germany. Known for its prominent financial centre, it is also surrounded by natural beauty, with tracts of forests and Medieval fortifications – such as the UNESCO heritage site of Bock Casemates – in addition to its historic and charming castles (like Berg Castle) dotting the landscape. With Luxembourg’s small size, the whole country is criss-crossed with pedestrianonly streets and cycling paths, making walking and cycling the most efficient ways to get around. Here, you can slow down and get away from the fast-paced city as you course through lush forests, rivers and parks.
Castle Hollenfels | © ONT / Robert Theisen
PHOTOS BY Office National du Tourisme Luxembourg
CYCLING IN LUXEMBOURG
CYCLE ROUTES The National Network of Cycle Routes consists of 23 individual paths, also known as piste cyclable (PC) with more than 600km spread across the country. Ranging from 3.2km to 89kms, there are plenty of options to explore the country on 2 wheels. There are also themed panoramic tours which encompass everything from wine routes in Moselle to Roman ruins of Saarland (Germany), and breathtaking nature at the winding valleys of Ardennes.
Central Cycle Route – PC 1 (43km) Circuit trail from Grund (Luxembourg-ville) The circuit route begins at Grund, one of the oldest parts of Luxembourg City. Located along the banks of the Alzette River, it has developed into a lively place with several bars with an exciting nightlife. Cycling upstream after the Alzette bridge for about 10km, the route will bring you to Hesperange Castle. Sitting on the top of the Alzette Valley, it was built during 1190 to 1277, and is notable for being the main defensive
stronghold in the area, but has been badly damaged after numerous wars. Several houses are built around the remains of the stone wall ruins as pillars of support. Looking over the Frisange village, these stone walls have been listed as a national protected monument and are privately owned, thus not open to the public. Fentange to Strassen From Fentange, the route heads towards Kockelscheuer. The path here is uneven as you follow the dirt path across the road, crossing the dense Kockelscheuer forest. Here, cyclists are surrounded by long rows of tall, green trees and fish ponds that line the bike path. After Kockelscheuer, cycling an uphill stretch of about 100m rewards you with a panoramic view of Luxembourg City’s urban landscape from atop the hill. Strassen to Beggen The route then traverses dirt paths and vast grasslands in the dense Bambesch forest before exiting at the Eich plateau. At the end of the downhill ride is a spectacular view of Alzette Valley and its small villages - one of
them is Dommeldange, a quiet little town surrounded by orchards and woodlands. Known for its Medieval architecture, it has a significant Baroque-styled railway station easily accessible from Luxembourg station. Beggen to the Grund The journey from Montée Pilate towards Beggen is steep. As you ride south along the railroad bridge (Luxembourg-Mersch) you will pass Laval Park before reaching the scenic and contemporary Kirchberg commercial district - noted for The Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte Concert Hall (or the Philharmonie Luxembourg) designed with curved walls and 823 white columns, and hosts 400 performances each year. The route continues uphill towards the Bock promontory – one of the highlights of the route. The Bock Casemates, dug in 1644, is a structure of rock tunnels originally used as safe underground passages between city gates that also worked as a defence against invaders. After the fortress was dismantled in 1867, only a few kilometres of tunnels remain open to the public.
From Pétange to Colmar-Berg The journey follows the railway tracks of the old Attert line from Pétange to Ettelbruck. As you cycle along the border between Belgium and Luxembourg through the Steinfort forests, look out for the famous Charly railway line, used during 1904 to 1954 to connect Echternach to Luxembourg City. The journey along the railway tracks is scenic, as you ride past rolling farmland with grazing cows. Cycling along the meandering, wooded Eisch valley leads you to the Sept
Châteaux, or The Valley of Seven Castles, a small triangular area located at the northwest of Luxembourg City that stretches 37km and boasts a magnificent view of living history consisting of 7 castles (see below). The route then goes through a 700m-long illuminated tunnel towards Useldange village. High above the bank of Attert River is the magnificent 11th century Useldange Castle located in the centre of the village. Open to the public, the 25m square keep with circular towers hide a villa that has been added by its owners in the 1930s.
Following the Attert River brings you to Colmar-Berg – home of Berg Castle, the current residence of the Grand Duke’s family. Located on the banks of Lake Starnberg, the medieval fortress has a 65m dungeon, protected by walls and safety fences and is off-limits to the public. While the route ends here, there are opportunities to explore even further towards Ettelbruck or Diekirch.
Attert Valley Cycle Route – PC 12 (57 km)
CASTLES OF SEPT CHÂTEAUX: Mersch Castle: Built in the early 13th century, it was destroyed during the Burgundy Wars then reconstructed with a Renaissance-style facade. Some of the interior is still preserved, such as the ornate fan vaults in the current conference room, and only the town hall and tourist office are open to the public. © ONT / Robert Theisen
Castle Ansembourg | © ONT / Robert Theisen Castle Useldange | © ONT / Benoit Roland
GETTING THERE There are several routes into Luxembourg’s Findel Airport, including via London on British Airways. From the airport, a bus to downtown Luxembourg City (6km away) takes less than 25 minutes. For more information, visit www.visitluxembourg.com.
Castle Colmar-Berg | © ONT / Serge Waldbillig
Schoenfels: A neoGothic castle of the 12th century, it is undergoing renovation, with plans of adding a visitor centre.
Hollenfels: Dating back to the 11th century, it was once occupied by German, Belgian and French aristocrats. Today, it has been adapted into a youth hostel and ecological centre. Ansembourg Castle: Known as the Old Castle of Ansembourg, this 12th century castle is located high above the little village of Ansembourg, and is the current residence of the Count and Countess of Ansembourg. New Castle of Ansembourg: Constructed in 17th century, this castle is surrounded by towers and walls. Its beautiful garden porch with statues and fountains is open to visitors. Septfontaines (not open to public): Built during the 11th and 12th century with a Renaissance-style square keep, it fell into ruins until the 1920s, when owners carried out restoration works, losing much of its precious historic architecture. Koerich Castle: Built © ONT in a Romanesque style in the 12th century, the castle has a 11m-high keep, known as the 'witches tower'. In 17th century, it was altered into a Baroque-style and later fell into ruins before the state owned it in the 1950s. Open to visitors, it is undergoing repair works.
Located on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic, Saxon Switzerland National Park is famous for its wildly eroded landscape of sandstone formations consisting of cliffs, mesas, gorges and spires, topped in parts by manmade fortifications and castles from the Middle Ages, making this region deserving of the moniker ‘city of stone’.
TEXT BY Nicolette Pereira
EXPLORING THE TREASURES OF SAXON SWITZERLAND
Saxon Switzerland’s wide mountainous area is made up of clusters of sandstone formations, of which Bastei is the most popular.
BASTEI ROCKS The Bastei Rocks in the Elbe Valley, an iconic sandstone formation in a deep river canyon southeast of Dresden, is named because of its steep, towering rocks. Formed and shaped by water erosion of the Elbe River and its tributaries over 100 million years, the cluster of sandstone spires at Bastei Rocks reach a height of 305m above sea level, towering 194m above the Elbe River in the Elbe sandstone mountains of Germany.
Switzerland during the mid-19th century. Today, free-climbing courses by qualified climbers are available and advance booking can be made online.
your ascent up the legendary rock needle Barbarine, with great views and even a beer garden at the top. This reasonably easy climb can be attempted by moderate climbers.
With more than 750 climbing locations and 15,000 climbing routes spread over 1,100 spires, Saxon Switzerland is a mecca for rock climbing. The intricate spires are ideal for technical rock climbing as the solid sandstone does not easily crumble.
The best time to climb is during the warm summer from June to September, as there is more to see – including the rare eagle owl or reclusive river otter along the cliffs flanking the river – as you climb up to Bastei Bridge.
One of the most iconic sites here is the 76.5m-long sandstone Bastei Bridge with its seven arches – built in 1851 to connect 7 sandstone spires – spanning a ravine 40m deep. From here, you can see the entire view of the Elbe valley below. The Bastei Bridge is accessible via an hour long hike or via one of 15,000 free-climbing routes.
One thing to note is that there is a strong climbing ethic which has been laid down in the Saxon Climbing Regulations since 1913 relating to safety equipment and other climbing aids. For instance, climbing is only permitted on free-standing climbing rocks with at least 10m prominence, and almost all summits are furnished with summit registers and abseiling rings.
Climbing 'Free climbing' – a technique where climbers use ropes and equipment only as a protection against falls rather than to help them ascend – is said to have originated in Saxon-
One of the more popular climbing routes is the ascent through the 'needle eye' to the rock needle Pfaffenstein, near the village of Pfaffendorf. Here, you'll be able to continue
Hiking For an alternative route to the Bastei Bridge, there is a hiking trail that begins at the base of the cliffs at the river bank, from where it is an hour long climb on the trail aptly named Big Stairmaster. Some of the 600 steps are logs embedded in the mountain soil, though most of the climb is on stone steps either quarried or carved directly into the rock face. The path is clearly marked and gets very steep near the top, from where you can see the hills of the Czech Republic in the distance.
23 GETTING THERE Access to Saxon Switzerland National Park is from the towns of Pirna or Bad Schandau. Pirna, with its well-preserved old town area, is the largest nearby town and is considered the gateway to Saxon Switzerland and the National Park â€“ direct buses and trains take you to the park and its hiking trails. Alternatively, Bad Schandau (a spa town with many accommodation options) is located right in the centre of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, and is a stone's throw away from the starting point of hiking trails. The closest big city is Dresden, which has air connections to many cities within Europe. For more info on Saxony, visit www.sachsen-tourismus.de.
NEURATHEN CASTLE From Bastei Bridge, there is the entry point into Neurathen Castle, the largest medieval high-altitude castle in the region established during the 12th century for the purpose of protecting the trade routes along the Elbe River. A short 20-minute walk along the narrow footbridges connects you to the various rock towers that are part of the remnants of Neurathen Castle. Inscriptions on tables along the way describe the history of the castle. A large part of the castle is an openair museum, where you can see several original features of the castle, such as a cistern and stone shot from a medieval catapult. There is also a reconstruction of an onager (siege weapon) that was used in medieval times to guard the bridge against attackers, as well as the original roll-shaped
sandstone rocks used as projectiles for the onager.
KOENIGSTEIN FORTRESS The iconic Koenigstein Fortress, 7km away from Saxon Switzerland National Park, is a walled town built in the 13th century right on top of a 9.5 hectare rock granite plateau towering at 240m above the Elbe, and is home to with over 50 buildings, some of which are over 400 years old. The rampart run of the fortress is 1.8km long with steep sandstone walls up to 42m high. The fortress has never been conquered, though it has since been used as a 16th century monastery, a prisoner of war camp in World War I and II, as well as a state prison until 1922. Today, Koenigstein Fortress is a collection
of museums showcasing the history of the site throughout its existence and is open from April till October. You can walk along the perimeter of the castle walls where you can see the winding river Elbe and several plateaus such as the Lausitz hills. Koenigstein Fortress is easily accessible from the town of Koenigstein, which is a 40 minute train ride from Dresden's main station. From here, you can hop on the bus (Festungsexpress) from the centre of town, which takes only 10 minutes to reach the Fortress entrance. From the entrance, a comfortable 45 minute hike (or an elevator ride) up the fortress affords a panorama of Saxon Switzerland from along the perimeter of the castle walls that drop perilously down to the valley far below.
GEAR GUY: Ken Berg
GETTING COZY The outdoors can be a great setting for a romantic getaway. You likely have a combination of seclusion, great scenery, fresh air and the excitement of being outside. However, you are usually without most of the modern conveniences that people hold dear when alone with a loved one. However you don’t have to be.
WINE AND DINE UNDER THE STARS Few things add to a meal or a night under the stars like wine. Sadly the glass bottles make it difficult to travel with and heavy to carry with you if you are doing an activity such as backpacking where weight has a serious impact on your trip. Luckily GSI makes a wine tote that allows you to carry the bottle safely and even insulate it so that it stays cool on a day trip or picnic. Doing something a little more serious and don’t want the weight? Platypus has a wine
preservation system. It is similar to a regular water bladder but is lined with food-grade polyethylene so that it won’t absorb odour. You squeeze the air out of the container, and the wine will last at least a few days and apparently even weeks. Best of all, it is leakproof and there are no worries about your bottle breaking. Lastly GSI also makes a few wine glasses where the stems unscrew so that they take up less room in bag. While the plastic version is perfectly functional, the stainless steel looks classier (if you’re going for romance, you want to keep it classy).
Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada's premier outdoor retailer for the last 9 years, putting gear to the test whether it's cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.
SLEEPING TOGETHER If a tent is your accommodation it can actually be difficult to actually sleep together. To explain further, sleeping bags and sleeping pads are usually sold as singles, not doubles. This makes cuddling difficult (you knew that’s what we meant, right?). If you’re buying mummy bags, select one that has a right-side zip and a left-side zip; that way they can connect in the middle, allowing for two sleepers. It may also be more warmer as there are two people using their body heat to keep the bags warm. Thermarest also makes a couple kit so that you can keep you sleeping pads together no how much you... “roll around” at night. It simply uses some webbing and buckles, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room in your pack or add much weight.
If you're going for an outdoor trip, you’ll need snacks on the trail. The best options shouldn’t weigh your pack or stomach down. Here are a few to consider for your next trail adventure: Chocolate: Research has found that antioxidants in dark chocolate not only help keep blood pressure down and benefit cardiovascular performance, a chocolate bar helps keep your body fuelled with carbohydrates, and keeps your mood chirpy by increasing serotonin levels in your brain. raisins and peanuts): Known as trail mix, it’s an ideal cheap snack on the road, as it offers a mixture of salt and carbohydrates, and comes in a variety of flavours and mixtures. Granola Bars: There are plenty of options in the market, an offer a multitude of tasty flavours in a convenient pack. Like trail mix, it gives you carbohydrates and protein to keep you on the go. Jerky: Another ideal trail snack are meat jerkies – they're lightweight and offer a balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates, plus it keeps really well in any weather. Fish jerkies offer the highest amount of protein compared to beef.
Nepal... the name alone is sufficient to conjure up images of temple pagodas, long-haired saddhus in clouds of smoke and the ever-present Himalayas. Take a trip through old Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, search for tigers in Chitwan National park and marvel at the mighty Himalayas. While in Kathmandu, visit its16th century Durbar Square and Bhaktapur, an old town along the ancient caravan trade route between China and India. Try the local homemade curd – known as 'khopa dhau' – and visit the Swayambhunath, the most ancient and enigmatic of the holy shrines of Kathmandu. Then there’s enchanting Pokhara, with its pretty lakes and stunning panoramas of the Himalayas. Once a vibrant trade route, you can still see mule trains camped on the outskirts of town today. Here is where you begin the journey to the Annapurna Foothills, where you'll come across isolated mountain communities that give travellers a culturally rich experience along the 3-day trek. You'll also get to experience the terai of Royal Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage site where you travel through marshy grassland, savannas and forests in the footsteps of Kipling.
Pokhara Royal Chitwan National Park
GETTING THERE This 10-day Nepal Adventure takes you to Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan National Park, with prices starting from $1,199 (Code: ANNA) excluding airfare. STA Travel can help you arrange for flights to Kathmandu.
FOR MORE INFO: VISIT www.statravel.com.sg/g-adventures.htm EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org CALL 6737 7188 / 6773 9188
Home to a people of great ethnic and cultural diversity, Brazil is known not only for its culture but also for its dazzling beaches and great natural beauty. You can explore Brazil’s culture and diversity by dancing in Carnaval, surfing the waves at Copacabana Beach or hiking up to the world renowned Christ the Redentor statue. Besides being the most visually stunning city in Brazil, Rio De Janeiro is where you can also experience plenty of activities and partake in the culture of Brazil all in one place, making it a convenient destination to explore some of the country’s iconic sites.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER STATUE Standing at almost 40m and more than 709m above sea level, the statue of Christ the Redeemer (built in 1931) is one of Rio’s and perhaps the world’s greatest attractions, as it was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Situated atop Rio's Corcovado mountain, south of the city, the Christ statue commands excellent 360 degree views of Rio De Janeiro, including Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain and Sambadrome (Carnaval Stadium). The statue can be accessed via three different methods; by tram, by car, or on foot.
TEXT BY Nicolette Pereira
RIO DE JANEIRO’S ICONS The statue of Christ the Redeemer can be accessed by the 3.8km Corcovado Railway which winds through the Tijuca forest and up to the summit in approximately 20 minutes. As you climb up Corcovado Mountain on the train, you'll pass improvised shacks set on the hillside which were used by workers who built the statue in 1931. Visitors short on time might consider going by car, or arranging for a taxi to take you to the summit of Corcovado mountain. Christ the Redeemer statue can then be reached by walking up 222 steps or taking the elevator up from the summit.
You can also hike up to the statue from Parque Lage. The 2.5-hour hiking trail passes a few waterfalls and you can spot capuchin monkeys along the way. Be warned that the trail through the jungle is dense and very steep, and requires the assistance of chains attached to the rock face at one point. At the top of the trail, you will need to buy a ticket (S$7.30) from one of the van drivers to enter the observation area where the statue is. There is a small chapel inside the Christ the Redeemer's pedestal and you may see a couple getting married if you visit the statue on a late Saturday afternoon.
Rio de Janeiro's iconic Sugarloaf Mountain towers 396m above the water and is renowned for the breathtaking sights from its peak. You can ascend the mountain in three ways: hiking, rock-climbing or taking the cable car. There are two walking trails that you can take to get up to Sugarloaf Mountain: the Urca Hill trail and the Sugarloaf trail. You can ascend to Urca Hill's peak (220m), relatively easily on foot – it takes about
30 minutes and you can spot Marmosets along the way. The Sugarloaf trail which brings you right up to the peak of Sugarloaf mountain is an extension of the Urca Hill trail. However, it is more difficult as it requires an element of rock climbing. Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the largest and most popular urban rock climbing destinations in the world with 270 different routes to explore in the area. It is recommended to book a hiking tour or go with professional guides who can adapt the itinerary to your level of climbing. One of the most iconic ways up the mountain is by cable car, which is taken in 2 sections.
The first section is a 3-minute ride from Praia Vermelha to Urca Hill, offering views of Guanabara Bay and Corcovado Mountain. The next section is another 3-minute ride up to Sugarloaf Mountain, offering 360º views of Rio and all its islands, mountain peaks and beaches such as Copacabana Beach and Niteroi. One thing to note is that the descent by trail closes at 6pm, but descent by cable car is free after 6pm.
GETTING THERE There are no direct flights to Rio de Janeiro as yet, but you can get there on airlines like Qantas and Virgin Atlantic (transiting at London), which will get you to Rio De Janeiro International Airport in about 32 hours.
RIO’S OTHER ICONS Rocinha's favela A ‘favela’ is what Brazilians refer to as slums that originate from illegal houses built on vacant lands, such as hills. The largest, most densely populated and urbanised favela in Rio is Rochina's favela, where between 100,000 to 200,000 people live on the steep and rugged hill covering only 2sq.km. Rocinha has developed from a shanty town into an urbanised slum, with multistoried buildings and most houses equipped with basic sanitation, plumbing, and electricity. You can go on a 3-hour tour of Rocinha's favela with a local guide for a first-hand look into the lifestyles of the Rocinha community. The favela tourism project aims not to only show tourists another side of Rio but also to give work to the Rocinha community as part of a sustainable tourism project.
Carnaval Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World with its biggest carnival that lasts 4 days, 40 days before Easter (usually in February). The highlight of this festival is undoubtedly the Rio Carnival Parade (Samba Parade). You can experience Carnaval in two ways: you can either pay to watch the parade at Sambodromo Stadium or take part in the parade itself. For the latter, choose a samba school and the wing of the parade you’d like to be in before ordering your costume online. All you have to do is then show up at the parade venue on the appointed day and participate in the school's warm up (concentracao) before entering the Samba Avenue. Each school has about 80 minutes to parade down the samba runway, and each wing passes through the Sambodromo stadium in about 50 minutes.
Copacabana Beach Copacabana Beach, stretching a vast 4kms, is a popular strip of beach that is renowned as a setting for beach games like Beach Football and Beach Volleyball, which are very popular among locals. Besides being the official venue of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Copacabana is also host to several official beach volleyball competitions, including the 2016 Summer Olympics. Should you fancy joining the locals for a beach game, all you have to do is ask. Alternatively, you can also surf the consistent waves which vary between 1 to 3.5m high. Half-day surf lessons are available from instructors along Copacabana. The best time of the year to surf is during winter when winds are at their strongest and waves are at their wildest.
From soaring mountains to lush landscapes that are home to some of the worldâ€™s most endangered animals, Indiaâ€™s national parks never fail to enchant travellers looking for adventure.
With the new Tourist visa-on-arrival facility for citizens of Singapore, India is now so close to home. Be there to discover the charms of Incredible India.
India Tourism, #01-01 United House 20 Kramat Lane, Singapore 228773 Tel: (65) 6235 3800 Fax: (65) 6235 8677 Email: email@example.com
MICA (P) 039/03/2012
Mountains | Lakes | Nature | Culture | Traditions
Romance of Travel | Singapore's free adventure travel magazine. Includes 28-page Swiss Special. Jan/Feb 2013