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Archive for the ‘Travel Stories’ Category

By Suba Subramanium


Queen Charlotte Islands – how do I begin to describe these Islands? – a dream, a mythical, illusive dream? – that should just about be the closest description.

Queen Charlotte Islands, one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world, lie on the edge of the British Columbia Province of Canada and are nestled under the Alaska panhandle. The Islands are the ancestral home of the Haida – the West Coast Aboriginals who have lived here for thousands of years.

According to Haida legend, Haida Gwaii, as it is now known – is the place where time began. Haida Gwaii – islands of the people – has been home to the Haida people for at least 7,000 years.

Would you guess? there are 1,884 islands in the archipelago – snow-top mountains, fiords that plunge into the sea, mist-enshrouded forests, windswept sandy beaches, could you ask for more?

Langara, Graham, Moresby, Louise, Lyell, Burnaby, and Kunghit Island are the seven largest Islands and they rise as peaks of a submerged mountain chain, with the tallest peaks perpetually capped in snow.

Sport fishing, hiking, camping, kayaking, boating, whale watching, beachcombing or just sightseeing there is something for every one and every thing for someone.

If Camping is your forte then you have the Naikoon Provincial Park in the north, and the remote Gwaii Haanas National Park in the south.

If canoeing and kayaking is your passion then the southeastern side of the Charlottes, rife with tiny islands, secluded coves, and lots of sheltered coastline, should be your destination. The entire cluster of islands has been circumnavigated by kayak, and is open to the seafaring explorer.

If it is Beachcombing for the heck of it, all you have to do is stand on the west coast of the Charlottes and lo and behold, nothing lies between you and Japan except the great expanse of the North Pacific Ocean. Currents from across the ocean kiss the shores of Haida Gwaii, washing up all kinds of interesting treasures.

If it is whale watching you are hooked on, you are at the right place – no visit to the Queen Charlotte Islands will be complete without whale watching. Killer whales and Humpback Whales can also be seen on the surface, engaging in spy-hopping, flipper-flapping, tail-slapping, and breaching. Lo, what a sight!!!!!

The Queen Charlottes are rich in wildlife in the sky and sea, and on the ground. Blacktail deer, elk, beavers, raccoons, wild cows, black bears, river otters, bald eagles, falcons, jellyfish, starfish the list is long enough to impress any wildlife fan.

Have you made up your mind to visit the Queen Charlotte Islands? One thing I can promise you – you will never forget your visit.

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glimmeringGlistening in the pristine skies over a promenade of thousands of real stars begin to twinkle through the inky darkness. On a perfect night preferably on a new moon, the spectacular view of the sprinkled Milky Way so splendid it casts a shadow, a heavenly sight for amateur astronomers who look at the glint in wonderment.
And its not just the North Pole that you see twinkling high, you’d see stars hundred times as bright, fading away its glory. Or the Orion, which is so dominant in winters; draw an imaginary line up from Orion’s belt and it takes you to Taurus the Bull. Go down through the belt and you come to Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky. Spotting the Big Dipper, Sagittarius and Cassiopeia among zillions of stars is enchanting.

A 275 mile drive from New York and about 4 hours from Pittsburgh, the observation field at Cherry Springs State Park in remote Potter County, north central Pennsylvania, has become a Mecca for passionate astronomers and star gazing enthusiasts from eastern seaboard and Canada who just want to lie back and ponder over the majestic universe.

Just off the State Route 44, on a high hill, over 50 acre of the main stargazing field with view stretching from one horizon to another, with plenty of low standing pines and earthen berms to block wandering lights that comes from the passing traffic is the pitch black skies, making a natural planetarium of sorts.

In times about 40 years back, when our parents were young, the skies were brimming with stars, in recent times however artificial lights or the light pollution have washed away the natural quaint.

Certified by the International Dark Skies Association for its exceptional nightscape, the park is the scene of star parties and other events summer through fall and rents four small observatories. Just pay a minimal $4 to use the observation field and $20-$25 to use one of three large white domes and a shed at the field that open so astronomers can set their telescopes inside and look at the stars, take photographs without wind affecting them.

backpackingHoliday season is right here. Overnight trips may be easier to pack for but with week-long affairs we tend do go overboard with packing– for the fear of missing out the essentials. Here is a comprehensive checklist that makes you pack efficiently– with not an iota extra. Lighten your physical and mental load by carrying less, yet the trick, of course, is being sure you haven’t forgotten anything essential.

List it out: Always, always make a list and stick to it. This way you’ll be able to put what is necessary and would noit give way to guilty indulgences that take up too much space. While making the list keep the location, duration and season in mind. There is no point packing formals if it is a fun family getaway. Also decide on what kind of activities you are going to be indulged in, if you have combined business with fun, take clothes accordingly. I always recommend that, once you’re all packed, try carrying all your luggage for 5 or 10 minutes – say around a city block. This begins to simulate the short hauls you’ll have on your trip. After your test haul, you’ll be motivated to lighten up. Find items you can do with out.

Fold or roll: T-Shirts and Kurtis can be your savior, they are easy to stack and require very little space. Even after days of being folded and rolled they’ll come out nearly crease-less. Also you can tuck smaller items like belts, shoes, etc in the corners. Carry travel friendly fabrics like knit, gabardine, and denim. They travel more easily than linen, silk, and cotton. If you won’t have access to an ironing board or will be laundering items by hand during your trip, opt for easy-care fabrics that retain their shape and look good with a minimum of fuss.

Cross Out: When you can do well with just two shirts, you need not carry ten, unless you are traveling with a kiddo who’d puke very now and then. Pack versatile dresses, pair them with accessories, this way you’ll be able to transform your single dress for many occasions. Block colored sheaths can be paired with black pumps and pearls for a formal dinner or boots and chunky bracelets for a pub-hopping spree.

Guys should carry a pair of dark jeans that can be paired with formal shirts and leather shoes, but will look just as good with a T-shirt and sandal combo.

Grooming: If you’re not fussy about specific products, don’t waste precious space carrying bottles and tubes from home. Instead make regular rounds to different stores and take as many samples of your favorite shampoos, soaps, conditioners etc, keep them all in small zip pouches for each day of your travel. This way you’d not need to fish out big bottles and would also be able to travel light back home.

Put liquids into outer zip pockets.. far away from clothes and leathers.

Make sure you carry a foldable bag which you can use in case of an emergency.. like a shopping spree that you couldn’t stop. It’s always better to be prepared.

Always carry a small first aid kit with you with all the emergency items. Also keep your air tickets/ hotel numbers handy…. Read More

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The Qutub Minar – India’s own ‘Leaning tower of Pisa’. When someone told me this I took it with a tea-spoon full of salt. I phat-phatted in an auto-rickshaw towards the Qutub Complex in Delhi, India’s capital city.

All through the jolting ride I prepared myself for a visual treat- after the Taj Mahal, I had better. My first sight of the Qutub Minar was indeed awesome. Framed within a broken archway the Minar looked like a magnificent light-house beckoning me to come closer. Like a sail-less boat I drifted closer, in a daze.
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I walked towards this structure, almost 800 years old, wondering what kind of scaffoldings they would have used to reach a height of 72.5 metres, that is almost 24 storeys.

The closer I got to the Minar the more awesome it was. The diameter at the base of the tower is 14.3 metre and that at the top is 3.8 metres.
The word ‘Qutub Minar’ means ‘axis minaret’. The tower has five storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony. Intricately carved and fluted.
Architecture –par excellence! One wonders how many hands would have worked at it; how many hours of painstaking labour? In this age of steel and glass, I dare not hazard a guess.

Let me touch on the history of the Minar – the tower was built in three stages. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced construction of the Qutub Minar in 1193; but could only complete the first storey. The second, third and the fourth storeys were completed by his successor and son-in-law, Iltutmish in 1230. The Minar was struck by lightening in 1368 AD and the fallen top storey was replaced by two storeys, the fourth and the fifth in 1370 AD by Feroz Shah Tughlaq. So many hands have built the Minar over a period of 177 years, yet neither the beauty of the structure nor the wholesomeness of it is lost….

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Like the 7 Seven Wonders of the World, Indians voted for the 7 Wonders of India. The Campaign was conducted by NDTV, a television Network and the Ministry of Tourism in India. The Campaign started on August 26th, 2008 and the results were announced on March 30th, 2009.

A first-of-its-kind initiative, the 7 Wonders of India uncover the seven best natural and man-made marvels in the country. The Wonders tucked away around the country give people, not only in India but across the world, an opportunity to enjoy the magnificence of India’s 5000-year-old heritage.
The ‘7 wonders of India’ voted by millions of Indians are …………

konark-sun-temple
The Sun temple at Konarak, Orissa takes the form of the chariot of the sun god, drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels. It is heavily decorated with stone carving.

The temple was built during the 13th century by King Narasimha Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty.

Poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of Konarak: “here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”
meenakshitemple
Meenakshi Amman Temple is located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. This temple with its stunning architecture was a frontrunner in the election for the modern Seven Wonders of the World for its architectural importance.

The temple is surrounded by 12 towers, the tallest of which, the famous Southern tower, rises to over 170 ft high.
800px-Khajuraho-Lakshmana_temple
The Khajuraho groups of monuments are the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples. Khajuraho temples were built over a span of 200 years, from 950 to 1150.

The Khajuraho temples are made of sandstone. The temples are exquisitely carved.

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fun on beachFor Family Fun without the credit card hangover,try these top travel deals
Beach Destinations
1.Alabama Gulf coast

Why go : Beyond the white sand beaches and warm water, there’s hiking, deep sea fishing, a zoo , an acquarium and historic Fort Morgan.

Where to stay : The beach club is a terrific place to stay (1-866-601-9243), an 86 acre

beachfront resort with nine pools, a day spa, tennis courts and a children’s program on-site.
2.Outer Banks, North Carolina

Why go : Explore bike paths,lighthouses and protected sand dunes.Go shelling,crabbing,windsurfing.

Take a ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island – once home to Blackbeard the pirate.

Where to stay ; to get the complete beach experience, rent one of the regions 12,000 cottages.
(www.outerbanks.org)
3.Hawaii

Why go : It is finally Affordable.
This is the time to get to a luau or hit the surf..
Where to stay : Resorts like Starwood, offer rooms for as low as $135 a night (www.endlessescape.com).

Another option : Rent a villa with a full kitchen to cut meal costs.During a recent online research, a condo was spotted in Oahu that sleeps four for $599 per week.

Can’t beat that.
4.Prince Edward Island , Canada

Why go : Great exchange rates make this serene Island even more of a gem.Go biking or relax on pink sand at Basin Head and Red Point.

Where to stay : Camp in the provincial parks,rates start at $15 US.

(www.peiplay.com)

5.Rhode Island

Why go : They don’t call it the Ocean State for nothing : 400 miles of coastline means beaches are often unspoiled.Stop by ice-cream shops and ride the country’s oldest operating carousel.

Where to stay : Go to http://www.visitrhodeisland.com for hotel deals, bed and breakfasts and rental cottages.
6.St John

Why Go : This tiny spot is less developed than its popular neighbours.In the off season it is surprisingly inexpensive (www.usvitourism.vi).

Where to Stay : At Maho bay Camps, you sleep in tent-Cottages nestled in lush hillside overlooking the bay for a low season rate of $75 per night to sleep adults and two children under 16.Every Cottage has its own deck,fans,linens and cooking gear..(www.maho.org)

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hawaa1

Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for is beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal; Mohammed Begda built the Adalaj step-well for Rani Roobha whom he coveted; and Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh built the magnificent Hawa Mahal so that the women of the royal palace ‘can see without being seen’. Incredible!

I was standing right in front of the imposing Hawa Mahal craning my neck to see the beautiful structure. Such artistry, grandeur, just so that the royal women can watch what was going on in the streets below them, without being seen? It seemed incredulous, but then so is Taj Mahal.

As known the women in the royal palaces observed strict ‘purdah’, that is they kept away from the public view. Let us accept, they too needed some recreation and this monument was built so that they see the out side world unobserved, what a thought!!
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Built in 1799, Hawa Mahal is the most stunning sight in the city of Jaipur. It is shaped like a pyramid and has a staggering 953 small windowpanes and all of them beautifully carved.

As I stood at one of the 900 odd windows and looked down at the road below, I found myself wondering about the women who would stood like me looking down, almost 200 years ago. Were they happy in their confinement? What ever may be the case, hats off to the Maharaja who was so thoughtful and did it in style.

As every one said that it was best to see the Hawa Mahal at the break of dawn, I was there in time to see the Palace drenched in the first rays of the sun. I cannot possibly describe the beauty of the Palace in words. The golden light of the early morning sun floated beautifully through the windows of this palace creating a wonderful sight. The palace has to be visited to experience the true beauty…


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