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Christmas is a fairy tale in Taiwan

Christmasland is a “realm of Merry Christmas” in the urban setting of Xinban Special District, a sprawling playground intended for people of all ages, and also an effort to enhance New Taipei City’s global profile. By connecting attractions throughout the neighborhood (The Lin Family Mansion & Garden, 435 Art Zone, Huangshi Market, Fuzhong Shopping District, Nanya Night Market, etc.) to Xinban Special District’s emerging shopping district, Christmasland bolsters tourism in both New Taipei City and Northern Taiwan as it transforms the entire Banqiao area into a spectacular winter getaway destination complete with culinary treats, entertainment and lots of shopping.

Read Also: New year eve celebrations! Got to be Brussels!!

To mark the period between Christmas and Chinese New Year, the most festive time of the year in Taiwan, Christmasland incorporates elaborate venue and event planning efforts to touch visitors’ hearts with a sense of joy. It is a gorgeously illuminated, happiness-evoking enclave that creates a fairy tale-like experience out of the country’s tallest Christmas trees, fun-packed rides, and a series of regular events from county fairs, large concerts, and markets selling handmade goods to carnival parades. Designed with all demographic groups in mind, Christmasland is a true embodiment of the gleeful, festive atmosphere.

Then there are the New Year Eve Celebrations in Taipei that are special. The festivities begin at Taipei 101 building, when the countdown enters the final stage, the building itself lights up floor by floor from the bottom up for the New Year’s countdown, making Taipei 101 the biggest New Year’s Eve countdown clock in the world. After the countdown is over, fireworks are immediately set off, a star-studded group gathers on the spot to accompany a variety of activities and special ceremonies, and a special, exciting, out-of-the-ordinary Taipei New Year’s Eve celebration is on display!

Although taking place in the winter with its low temperatures and frequent bursts of cold air, Taipei New Year’s Eve celebration attracts a huge number of visitors despite the weather. Even if a cold snap hits, there is no drop in the enthusiasm of those welcoming in the New Year. The Taipei city government, that runs the event, has made the concept of turning Taipei city into “New Year City,” the creative axis of the event.

Since the staging of Taiwan’s first-ever grand New Year’s event in 1995, it won an enthusiastic response among young people and had the media competing with each other to report it, and this later spread throughout the entire country with similar celebrations being held everywhere. On the day of the event, the Taipei city government invites popular entertainers and famous pop singers to perform at the celebrations on the square in front of the government offices. At the same time, this glamorous New Year’s Eve celebration puts Taipei squarely on the global stage, winning international applause and becoming one of the most famous international and Taiwanese New Year’s events.

How to do Taiwan!

Taiwan is located in the western Pacific Ocean 160 km (100 miles) off the southeastern coast of the Chinese mainland and is a convenient gateway to Asia for the Indian traveler.

FLIGHTS: A number of airlines such as China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Thai Airways fly directly or with a stopover, in to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the Kaohsiung International Airport and the Taichung International Airport from the Indian metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Scoot Airlines also connects the cities of Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Trichy, Kochi, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad with a stopover in Singapore to Taipei.
The average flight time between India and Taiwan is of about 6.5 hours; and Taiwan is 2.5 hours ahead of India.

VISA: Indian Passport holders can enjoy Visa exempt entry into Taiwan for 30 days via an online system

The applicant must have at least one of the following valid or expired visas issued by UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand or any of the Schengen countries.

  • Valid resident or permanent resident card
  • Valid entry visa (may be electronic visa)
  • Resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan
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New year eve celebrations! Got to be Happy Brussels!!

Still planning for your new year eve celebrations! If you are looking for some options abroad, why not Brussels! It is a fantastic place to be on the new year eve. Besides being the capital of Europe, Brussels is also a dream place to hit the dance floor. With a plentiful of bars, nightclubs and party venues, there will be room to dance till dawn for all types of revellers. What more, for all those stepping out to look for new experiences, happy.brussels offers a pass that provides entry to various unmissable parties for New Year 2018. Brussels night life will no longer hold any secrets for them. If you are fond of hip-hopping in true sense, jumping from one party to another, this pass gives you a variety of options. Beauty is that it is not just limited to the parties alone. You can do much more with a happy.brussels pass to make a fantastic start to your new year.

So you can even plan a new year eve celebration and a winter holiday in Brussels. Queen of diversity with its 183 nationalities, Brussels also prides itself on offering a wide range of late night party venues. From tech house to dance, not forgetting hip hop, all musical styles can be found here. Many head for a night out in the capital to see the latest DJ or have a crazy night in one of the string of late night venues that light it up.

Brussels’ nightlife in all its forms

For the New Year, the Happy Brussels pass gives you a unique opportunity to discover all the facets of “made in Brussels” nightlife. The capital puts on its party clothes. From the superb Galerie Horta to the mellow atmosphere of the Sounds Jazz Club, not to miss the unmissable Fuse, the events offered take place in the capital’s most famous venues.

Apart from entrance to about ten New Year’s Eve events, the Happy Brussels pass also includes ways of enriching your stay with rewarding daytime activities. Indeed, Happy Brussels gives you the best tips on bars and unusual places to start off your celebrations; The pass also provides access to the Atomium, the unmissable architectural giant symbolising the capital of Europe. Finally, it includes admission to a show of your choice at the Cinéma Galeries.

Reaching Brussels

Right in the heart of Europe, Brussels has superb air, road and rail connections. More than 60 million Europeans live within 300km of Brussels, less than two hours by high-speed train. For those who fly in, it takes only 20 minutes from the airport to the city centre. And when you have arrived, it’s easy to move around the compact city, by public transport or on foot.

So, what are you waiting for! Come, joint the party!!!

Ten wayward manatees rescued

Members of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team at Florida, USA traveled to Charleston, S.C. recently, where in collaboration with multiple organisations and volunteers – they helped save 10 wayward manatees. The manatees were spotted in the upper reaches of the Cooper River, near a warm water outflow area. Historically, manatees move south into warmer waters when the water temperature drops below 68 degrees.  Due to rapidly dropping water temperatures in the river, the manatees remained close to the warm water outflow, instead of continuing to travel south. In doing so, they were isolated from adequate food sources and naturally warm waters.  Following close coordination with some members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff decided that rescues and relocation of the animals by SeaWorld Orlando’s manatee rescue team were warranted.

SeaWorld Assists with Rescue of Ten Manatees Stranded in South Carolina

Manatees are also called as sea cows. They are found in West Africa, Caribbean Sea and the Amazonian area. They are called as cows as they are slow plant eaters, peaceful and similar to cows on land. They often graze on water in tropical seas. Female manatees are called as cows, male are called bulls and their offsprings are called as calfs. But they are more closely related to elephants. Despite their size, they are graceful swimmers in coastal waters and rivers.

(Also Read: Melon Headed Whale Rescued in Florida)

In addition to SeaWorld Orlando’s team, support for the rescue effort included USFWS Ecological Services Office staff from Florida and South Carolina, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – including staff from St. Petersburg, the Northeast Florida Field Lab in Jacksonville, and the East Central Field Lab in Melbourne along with volunteers and law enforcement, Sea to Shore Alliance, ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, NOAA National Ocean Services – Charleston, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Clearwater (FL) Marine Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Brevard Zoo, Brevard County Parks and Recreation, Florida Wildlife Hospital, and Waterfront Solutions. Sea to Shore Alliance and local businesses played an integral role in monitoring the manatees’ activity and condition in the weeks leading up to the rescue effort.

Florida manatee and calf {Trichchus manatus latirostris} Crystal River, Florida, USA. Image by © Doug Perrine/Nature Picture Library/Corbis

The rescue operation took place over three days.  From November 28-30, 2017, the interagency rescue team captured 10 manatees from the Cooper River including eight males and two females. Once captured, each manatee received an immediate health assessment by a veterinary medical team comprised of veterinarians from SeaWorld, Jacksonville Zoo and UF. Manatees were transported south and accompanied on their journey by veterinary and animal care staff.  Once in Florida, additional health assessments were conducted at the Jacksonville Zoo by vets from the Zoo and the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. FWC staff served as the lead on transports in Florida to the release site in Brevard County, FL. Nine manatees were deemed releasable.  One female was exhibiting mild cold stress and is being cared for by veterinarians and staff at the Jacksonville Zoo with support from SeaWorld and the Lowry Park Zoo. She is Jacksonville Zoo’s first critical care patient at their new facility and is doing well. The Sea to Shore Alliance tagged five of the manatees before release and will monitor these animals as part of their Atlantic Coast manatee study.

One of the rescued Manatees

Jon Peterson, SeaWorld’s rescue manager, helped with coordination of the multi-agency effort.  “It is particularly gratifying to be a part of such a large scale effort, with partners from all over the Southeast lending expertise and manpower,” he explained. “When you can give ten threatened animals another chance at life that is a great week.”

(Also Read: SeaWorld returns two more sea turtles to the ocean)

Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership

As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees. The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. The Florida manatee was recently reclassified from endangered to threatened but is still at risk from both natural and human causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.  As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.

SeaWorld’s Rescue Efforts

SeaWorld Assists with Rescue of Ten Manatees Stranded in South Carolina

Over the last five decades, SeaWorld has rescued more than 31,000 wild animals in need including those that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned. SeaWorld’s goal for every rescued animal is to rehabilitate and return them to their natural environment as soon as possible. This year alone, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 47 manatees and returned 25 following successful rehabilitation. Guests to SeaWorld Orlando can learn more about the vital rescue work SeaWorld does for wildlife at the park’s behind-the-scenes Rescue Center used for rehabilitating wildlife that has been ill, injured or orphaned – including manatees, sea turtles, birds and other marine animals.

(Also read: Swim with sharks and feed the stingrays)

While a guided tour of the entire facility has been available for years, the park has now opened up one portion of this area for complimentary viewing to all park guests. Visitors are invited to step behind-the-scenes and catch a glimpse of SeaWorld’s working manatee rescue and rehabilitation facility to learn more about the plight of these vulnerable animals in the wild. See firsthand some of the top problems today’s manatee populations are facing and simple actions we can all take to help through digital medical charts, interactive displays, underwater camera viewing and rescue footage straight from the SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team.

Serendipity of art, culture & music fests this month


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Last month of the year brings most of the enjoyment. One of India’s Best dance festivals ended on 5th at Konark in Odisha and alongwith it, also concluded the Sand Art festival held simultaneously at Chandrabhaga beach. Both festivals are organised every year from 1st to 5th December. Similarly, another festival held every year on same dates is about to conclude- Hornbill festival at Dimapur which showcases stunning natural beauty of Nagaland and its great cultural traditions from 1st to 10th December every year. So, I might seem like already late in suggesting few events, but actually some of the best of the month are yet to come and you have enough time to plan a trip.

I can also definitely say that some of the events left in the month are few of the biggest and most outstanding events of the year. Just consider the fact that Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar is being held for last 142 years. It might be actually few of events on India’s culture map which started in 19th century, continued for whole of 20th century and are now still going strong in the 21st century. Do you remember anything like this! If not this, than there is Tansen Samaroh, which is organised in Gwalior every year for last 93 years. But if these two festivals are torch bearers of India’s cultural traditions, than their are also few which are more contemporary but still magical and bold enough to not just hold fort but position themselves at the top of plans for music lovers across India and abroad- like the Sunburn and Magnetic fields festivals. But I start with a festival which has in no time (in two years precisely) turned itself into biggest canvas for India’s art & culture.

Serendipity at banks of Mandovi

Serendipity Arts Festival is a multidisciplinary event on the banks of the river Mandovi in Panaji, Goa. A cultural experience in itself, the festival brings together visual, performing and culinary arts. Curated by a panel of artists and institutional figures, this second edition will feature over 70 art projects including 40 projects that are commissioned specifically for the festival. This festival in Panaji includes art initiatives that transform venues into spaces where audiences can experience the arts in exciting new contexts. Festival is organised by Serendipity Arts Trust (SAT), which is an arts and cultural development trust created to encourage and support the arts as a significant contributor to the civil society. SAT aims to promote new creative strategies, artistic interventions, and cultural partnerships which are responsive and seek to address the social, cultural and environmental milieu. Committed to innovation, SAT intends to support, promote &create platforms for innovation and creativity. Right from the first Serendipity Arts Festival, the aim has been to provide masses with a unique cultural and historical source of modern contemporary art and culture. SAT programs are designed and initiated through innovative collaborations with partners across a multitude of fields, each intervention created using the arts to impact education, social initiatives, community development programs, explore interdisciplinarity between the arts, and to understand the shared histories of the sub-continent better. To be precise, the entire endeavour is to justify the meaning of serendipity meaning i.e. a happy chance. There are 14 curators who have worked towards assembling a combination of acclaimed works, commissioned pieces, and innovative adaptations within their field of expertise. They will be present at this multi-disciplinary arts festival in Goa to engage, mould and mentor ideas into fruition.

When: 15th to 22nd December 2017

Getting there: Spread across a 1.8 km stretch along river Mandovi, the Festival locations have been strategically chosen for their historical value, natural settings and affinity towards the arts. With its close-knit networks and practical commute options, the is accessible to and welcomes everyone. Serendipity Arts Festival intends to transform the waterfront along the river Mandovi, Panaji into a hub of cultural activity. Goa’s only airport is at Dabolim and it is around 30 kms from Goa’s capital Panaji, which is where festival is.The main train stations in Goa are Madgaon station in Margao; Vasco da Gama; and Karmali station near Old Goa, 12 kms from Panaji, all well connected of different cities. Private and state-run long distance buses run to and from Goa.

142 years of enchanting classical music

Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan is the oldest festival of Indian Classical Music in the world. The vibrant voices of the vocalists, The soul stirring strains of Sitar, Santoor and Sarangi; the thundering sounds of Tabla and Pakhawaj; the cascading notes of Flute & Shehnai; the magic of Mohan Veena; the enchanting notes of Veena & Violin and the harmonious notes of Harmonium- all have touched the souls of enlightened audiences at Shree Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Sammelan, year after year for the last 142 years. This magnificent achievement has been made possible by the great musicians, the generous donors, the devoted audience and the dedicated ‘Harivallabh’ team. For some it is a matter of sheer devotion, for some it is a pilgrimage and for some it is a mission to preserve the best in Indian Classical Music, that attracts them to this Sangeet Sammelan and to receive the blessings from the great seat of music. Harivallabh shall complete 142 Years this year. The Government of India has recognized this festival as one of the National Festivals of Music. Drawing inspiration from Saint-musician – Baba Harivallabh, who started this Sangeet Sammelan in the memory of his Guru Swami Tulja Giri Ji, the Sangeet Sammelan has provided a platform where distinguished musicians could perform and give the best of their art and where anyone interested – initiated and uninitiated alike, could listen to them, free.

When: 22nd to 23rd December 2017

Getting there: Festival happens at Devi Talab in city of Jalandhar in Punjab. Jalandhar is well connected to all parts of country through road and rail network. Amritsar is the closest airport.

Tribute to a great musician at Tansen Samaroh

This is 93rd year of one of the oldest and most reputed music festivals in India. This cultural festival is dedicated to the pillar of Indian classical music, the great Tansen. The place where this great musician lies buries, Tansen Tomb, in Gwalior is the venue of a music festival held annually. Gwalior is the place that has retained the rich classical music tradition and Tansen devotion to music laid to the foundation of what is known as the Gwalior gharana style with its unique Dhrupad classical form. Khayal was also refined from the Gwalior gharana only. This festival is noted for its unique compositions in Indian classical style and forceful performances. Organised by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, the Tansen festival of music, the event is a unique show for the music lovers of the country to experience the superb melody rendered by the great exponents of Indian classical music. The history of the Samaroh shows that this used to be the most significant music festival of the Gwalior State. The great and well-known musicians and music lovers of the country and abroad participate in the Samaroh to offer their musical tribute to the all-time great music Maestro Tansen. Since it is the only one and the oldest day night music festival, the Academy honours the senior celebrities and junior artists of the music on this occasion by including them in the Samaroh through their music of performance. But unlike earlier years, this year there will be no foreign artists. This year there will be total nine music sessions. Seven of them will be held inside the complex holding Tansen’s tomb and tomb of Mohammad Ghaus. Eighth will be at birth place of Tansen in Behat at the banks of Jhilmil river. Ninth will be Goojari Mahal in the fort complex. City administration has declared a holiday on 23rd to facilitate people to attend the festival. In an addition, this year on the eve of the festival, i.e. on 21st December there will be a ‘Gamak’ seating at Hazira chowk, as a part of the ‘poorvrang’ to be graced by performance by Anoop Jalota. Two troupes of Adivasi artists will dance all the way from fort gate to Hazira chowk.

When: 22nd to 26th December 2017

Getting there: Gwalior is well connected to all parts of country. Gwalior airport has got daily flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Gwalior is very well connected to major cities across India by direct train links. Gwalior is situated on the North-South corridor of National Express Highway. The festival venue Tansen Tomb is right in the heart of the city.

Sunburn Festival gets new venue at Pune

Coming back to contemporary, deemed to be the biggest outdoor dance party to hit India’s beaches some years back, the Sunburn Festival is into its eleventh year this year. But it is beaches no more. Sunburn, one of the world’s biggest music festivals, last year moved from Vagator beach of Goa to a new venue ‘Sunburn Hills’ in Pune. But venue in Pune itself is again changed this year. India’s premier electronic music brand bids farewell to Sunburn Hills and is all set to deliver a better, smoother and bigger experience for all our fans this year. Ola Sunburn Festival 2017, will be hosted at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune, providing a perfect setting to celebrate the new decade of brand Sunburn. The new venue will not only host one of the biggest artist line ups and grand stage but also enhance the fan experience by giving hassle free entry to the festival arena and easy access to the venue, better parking facilities and traffic control. The strategically located venue will provide an excellent infrastructure along with health and safety amenities. The venue is also well-connected to the express highway, being just 5 mins away to entering the festival arena making the overall experience even more enjoyable. On its 11th anniversary, Sunburn is looking at creating an array of experiences that would not only give dance music enthusiasts memories that last a lifetime but also redefine the way entertainment and live music is consumed in the country. Sunburn is India’s premier electronic music brand hosting Asia’s largest 4-day Electronic Music Festival in Pune, Various city festivals, Arena gigs, Campus gigs and Club tours across the country since 2007. Sunburn Arena was introduced in 2011, bringing some of the worlds best DJs to India like Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Dash Berlin, Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and many more in an exhilarating arena format across all major cities. Fans can expect a world class experience with on-site camping options, the fan village, an extensive array of food courts, 40+ experience zones, flea markets, chopper rides, after parties among others. On the music side festival includes some of the biggest names from the dance music scene including Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, DJ Snake, Clean Bandit, Martin Garrix and Nucleya among others.

When: 28th to 31st December 2017

Getting there: Event will be held at Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune. The venue is also well-connected to the express highway, being just 5 mins away to entering the festival arena.

Getting ‘Magnetic’ in bigger ‘Fields’

Magnetic Fields Festival is newest addition to Rajasthan’s vastly growing music scene. Earlier it used to be a largely closed affair, but with increasing popularity, it has also grown in size. This is held at two stages in the restored 17th century Alsisar Mahal, in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This palace is now a heritage hotel. Lots of heavy metal music both from bands and DJs, traditional fashion, art and food will be on platter. Its a sort of fantasy carnival. Set in the pristine heritage village of Alsisar in Rajasthan, Alsisar Mahal is a battle hardened palace that has recently been renovated and refurbished into a luxurious hotel. Magnetic Fields is more than just a music festival, it’s a visual dream, a unique marriage of contemporary culture with Rajasthani heritage and hospitality. You will be transported through the looking glass into an intimate world with adventures, new experiences and memories waiting to be made. You can expect the freshest Indian sounds accompanied by some of the most exciting underground international stars alongside a cultural programme of local legends. Stretch in the morning and watch the new day come alive with yoga sessions; immerse yourself in treasure hunt, get better acquainted with the night sky in star gazing workshops, find your own little pocket of paradise and lose yourself in Bedouin dens; secret areas and feast on local delicacies given an alternative twist. Festival has accommodation option like palace suites, premium bedouin, normal bedouin are classic tents. You can also come and pitch your own tent provided you purchase a festival ticket. Line up for this year include Four Tet, Daphni, Ben UFO, Machinedrum, Khruanbin, Sassy J, Jayda G, Tijana T, Arjun Vagale, Josey Rebelle, Willow, The SKA Vengers, Komorebi, Jack Barnett, Teebs, Dolan Bergin, Begum X, Priya Purushothaman, Deep Brown, Stalvart John Tarqeeb, and many others.
Earlier Alsisar Mahal was the residence of the Thakur of Alsisar. Alsisar Mahal is the most recent addition to Alsisar Group of Hotels which has now become an ideal base to explore not only the old historic capital of Jhunjhunu but also the whole painted region of Shekhawati. This majestic palace, spread over a lush 10 acre plot, is situated in village Alsisar which is 23 Km’s from district head quarter ‘JhunJhunu’ in Rajasthan. The regal magnificence of the Alsisar Mahal’s architecture and the splendour of its beautifully decorated interiors are just mesmerising; antique furniture, intricately carved poster beds and medieval delicate Rajasthani motifs on fabric recreates a flavour of luxury living for guests.

When: 15th to 17th December 2017

Getting there: Delhi or Jaipur are the closest options. Daily from Sarai Rohilla, New Delhi to Sadulpur Junction – just under 4 hours followed by 45 min taxi from Sadulpur to Alsisar. This is the recommended travel option! By road its 6 hours from Delhi via Gurgaon > Rewari > Narnol > Singhana > Chirawa > Jhunjhunu and 4 hours from Jaipur via Chomu > Sikar (take a bypass) > Nawalgarh > Jhunjhunu.

A month long celebration of heritage at Mamallapuram

The Mamallapuram dance festival is conducted every year during Dec-Jan. It is a month long festival and dances take place during the weekends. Mamallapuram has retained its fame in stone, thanks to the great contribution of Pallava artisans. It is among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a jewel in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land that is liberally strewn with some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators. Unfortunately most of the work was left incomplete, and time and nature have also eroded the remains of this once great port. Yet, Mamallapuram’s wonders in rock leave visitors enthralled, conveying as they do, an impression of beauty and harmony. The monuments are floodlit at night and so it is possible to enjoy their beauty even after sunset. The 31-day Mamallapuram Dance Festival features 64 forms of traditional folk dance and 64 classical dance forms, showcasing the cultural ethos of the State. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kathak etc., are performed by well-known exponents of the art. The dances are performed against the magnificent backdrop of the Pallava Rock Sculptures. These sculptures provide an aesthetic touch to the festival where the best folk dancers in India perform. The crowd gets a visual treat by the incredible performances of Indian folk dancers where artists perform beautifully decked up in the finest traditional attire representing the rich cultural heritage of the country. Mamallapuram is also a popular beach resort and a culture front, especially for the tourists, who come from the world over who love to imbibe and soak in the rich traditions. This town beach is full of ancient monuments, sculptures, caves, monolithic temples and beaches.

When: 21 December 2017 — 21 January 2018

How to reach: Chennai (58 km) is the nearest airport for domestic and international flights. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India. The nearest railway stations are Chengalpattu (29 km) and Chennai (58 km). From these stations one has to take road journey to reach Mamallapuram. Buses from here to Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mamallapuram daily. Tourists can also hire taxis from Chennai.

Ushering in the new year with Losar

While looking for the tradition, you just can’t overlook culture at India’s most dramatic landscapes. The Losar festival marks the beginning of the New year in Ladakh/Tibet and is considered to be the most important festival of the region. During this festival, the Ladakhi Buddhists make a religious offering before their deities in the domestic shrines or in the Gompas. A medley of cultural events, ancient rituals and also traditional performances are performed during this festival. The Losar festival dates back to pre-Buddhist Bon era in Tibet. As per the ancient tradition a spiritual ceremony was conducted every year in the winter. During this ceremony people offer considerable amount of incense in order to propitiate the local deities and the spirits. Later, this ceremony was converted into a yearly Buddhist festival which most probably started during the tenure of the ninth Tibetan king, Pude Gungyal. The sleepy town of Ladakh is transformed into a melting pot of culture, colour and festivity during the Losar festival (Lo means year and Sar means new). The story behind these New Year celebrations is an interesting one. When the King of Ladakh, Jamyang Namgyal, was setting out on an expedition against the Baltistan forces, he was advised by the oracles to wait until the next year. His solution to this problem was bringing forward the New Year celebrations by a month. Since then, it has become a tradition to celebrate the Losar in the eleventh month of the year. It is also the time which marks the end of the harvesting season in Ladakh.

When: 19th December 2017

Getting there: With roads closed for the winter, only way to reach Ladakh at this time of the year is by flight to Leh. Leh has flights from Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu and Chandigarh.

Then there are also few regular ‘touristy’ ones like the Shilpgram Festival organised every year from 21st December to December 31st, at Udaipur in Rajasthan. This attracts massive crowd creating a scene of rural market fair and festival with live performance of folk artist from different parts of the country. There are several huts constructed in the traditional architectural style using mud and local building material to reflect the geographical and ethnic diversity of the different states of west zone of India. Situated 3 kms west of Udaipur near the Havala village is the Centre’s Shilpgram – the Rural Arts and Crafts Complex. Over 400 artisans and craftsmen from all over India come to set up stalls at the fair, which takes place in a sprawling artisans’ village set up by the government. Folk dances and cultural programs are also held as part of the festival. It’s a great way to experience rural India culture.

Another event in Rajasthan is the Winter Festival at Mount Abu which is held every year during the last week of December (29th to 31st December 2017 this year). The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of this quaint hill station, only one in the Aravalis. The three-day colourful festival is organised by the Rajasthan Tourism and Municipal Board of Mt. Abu. Mount Abu is located on the broad gauge line between Delhi and Mumbai via Ahmedabad. Direct trains run to various destinations including Ajmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. Convenient bus services are from Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Baroda, Jaipur,Jodhpur, Mumbai, Udaipur. Nearest airport is Udaipur.

Similar is the Cochin Carnival down in God’s own territory. This is one festival the whole of Kochi impatiently awaits every year. For this festival (23rd December 2017 to 1st January 2018) Fort Kochi is decked up like a bride and tourists, not only from within the country, but also outside, flock to this lovely port city to participate in the revelry. The inception of the Kochi carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese New Year revelry, held here during the colonial days. Gradually, it evolved to take the form of what is today popularly called the Cochin Carnival of Kerala. Preparations generally begin months in advance for hosting the unique games, fairs and partying during the Carnival of Cochin. The highlight of the carnival is the massive procession on the New Year’s Day. Led by an embellished elephant accompanied by drums and music, the carnival is a moment to behold. There is also staging of different South and North Indian folk dances during the festivity. Colour white simply dominates the concluding 10 days of December, during the carnival.

Still in Kerala, then you shouldn’t miss the Kanathoor Nalvar Bhoothasthanam at Kanathoor village of Kasaragod. To be organised this year from 28th December to 1st January 2018, this festival provides a platform for almost 40 theyyams to perform together. It is undoubtedly a must watch for all those who love the pomp and richness of Theyyam. This prominent Theyyam festival stages the Theyyam of the mother deity as the leading one. The costumes and paintings of the body remind one of an outburst of colours. The visual beauty and the incessant music would transform the onlookers to a different level, almost trance-like state.

But that’s not all as we have many more this month like- Chennai Music Festival at Chennai (December-Jnauray), Enchanted Valley Carnival at Amby Valley (16-17 December), Poush Mela at Shantiniketan in West Bengal (22-26 December) and Taalbelia festival at Castle Mandawa in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan.

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A small step to 10K subscribers on YouTube!


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I don’t call myself a YouTuber yet as I travel for the love of travel and not for creating videos for YouTube. But passion to document my travels brought me to both the platforms- WordPress as well as YouTube and it has been journey of love- both ways and at both platforms. I love my cameras across gadgets and put them to whatever use I can.

Screenshot of my YouTube channel

Every small step is a big milestone to a longer journey.  I crossed a small step this morning when number of subscribers to my channel EveryBodySaysIAmFine reached 10 thousand. Its a big number for me personally considering that it started as an unintended journey. Almost 6 million views given by these subscribers and many more users brings me a sense of satisfaction.

Love of viewers!

Having posted more than 150 videos so far obviously the love has not been that constant always, But as the big timers at YouTube know, it all depends on the traction that some videos will suddenly generate among the viewers. Same has been the case with me. But I am still satisfied that seven of my videos have generated 1,00,000 or more views. Obviously my love is travel but my YouTube channel showcases a bit more diversified content than my blog.

But this small achievement also brings a big responsibility. I have responsibility to publish good, quality and worthy content for all those who have deposed their faith in me. Hope to maintain this. Love to all!

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Melon Headed Whale rescued in Florida


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Rescuing any animal is a tough task, tougher is to take care of it and return it to its natural habitat. Few have got the commitment to do that. SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team is rehabilitating a rescued melon-headed whale that was found stranded on the west coast of Florida. The 320 pound, 8 and a half foot adult male melon-headed whale was rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) on October 13 and transported to SeaWorld Orlando.

A melon headed whale

Upon arrival, he was placed in a quarantine rehabilitation pool where the Animal Rescue Team and veterinarians provided immediate treatment and care including, fluids and antibiotics.

Over the last three weeks, the Animal Rescue and Veterinary Teams have monitored him round-the-clock tracking his vitals, appetite and swimming activity. Based on those tests and observations the whale is facing a lot of challenges, including a likely case of pneumonia, but the teams are working day and night to give him the best chance for a successful rehabilitation.

Although he is still in critical condition, the Animal Rescue and Veterinary Teams are working toward the ultimate goal of returning him back to the wild. The next step in his rehabilitation is a hearing test conducted by SeaWorld zoological experts and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hearing specialists to ensure that hearing loss was not the cause of the stranding.

While melon-headed whales are found widespread throughout the world’s tropical waters, they are not often seen as they are a pelagic, deep water, species.

You can see the video of rescue here-

SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team is on call 24/7 to save and care for injured, orphaned or ill animals. In collaboration with the government and other members of accredited stranding networks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates one of the world’s most respected programs to rescue ill and injured marine animals, with the goal to rehabilitate and return to the ocean. SeaWorld animal experts have helped more than 31,000 animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned – for more than five decades.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organisations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioural training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

P.S. Footage was produced by SeaWorld under the National Marine Fisheries Service Marine Mammal Health and Response Program.

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New Zealand celebrates Diwali with a Bollywood twist


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Diwali is not only celebrated in India but in many parts of the world and New Zealand left no stone unturned to have one of the best Diwali celebrations last weekend. Visitors were greeted with Bollywood dance moves, traditional music, authentic curries and a chance to enjoy and experience traditional and contemporary Indian culture.

New Zealand Police perform to Bollywood songs Munni Badnaam Hui and Chalti Hai Kya 9 se 12. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

Almost fifteen thousand people attended the annual Indian festival of lights at Christchurch. A group of six New Zealand police officers performed to famous songs of popular Bollywood Actor Salman Khan, such as Munni Badnaam Hui and Chalti Hai Kya 9 se 12. They also had a dance battle with an established dance group – Bollywood Dreams for which they underwent rigorous practice for two months.

39 Irish Step Dance group performing to Bollywood song – Slow Motion Angreza, from the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

The celebrations had other dance performances – one of which was 39 Irish Step Dance group and the other by Latin American Group – LatiNZone.  They performed on several trendy Bollywood songs which were received with immense appreciation by the Indian community present.

Latin American dance group performing to Bollywood songs. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

On asking about the festival and the varied performances, Thomas Shaji Kurian, Chairman of Diwali organising committee and Indian Social & Cultural Club (CHCH) Inc, said,The main focus of the celebrations is to ensure a seamless Indian cultural & Bollywood, food and Arts and Crafts experience to the wider community in Christchurch. Even in India (being so large with many different states with a diverse tradition) we do not get to see so many cultural and traditional performances under one roof and therefore this is a cultural treat even for the Indians. We also endeavour to involve the wider community to engage with the cultural and Bollywood performances. The popularity of the event built over 11 years has largely helped with roping in the wider community performance groups to engage with the festival.

Indian community in New Zealand celebrating the Diwali festival. Photo: Arthur Machado – Tourism New Zealand

A range of Indian food from 18 stalls kept hunger at bay, including south and north Indian dishes and traditional street food. Indian crafts such as lamp painting and Rongoli art works using coloured rice and flour were popular, as was the chance to dress up in traditional Indian clothing. Diwali celebrations concluded with firework displays, food stalls with assorted Diwali sweets, savouries and herbs, stalls offering henna paintings and people celebrating the conquest of light over darkness.

You can watch a video of the performances on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

New Zealand in nutshell:

Tourism New Zealand markets New Zealand to the world as a visitor destination. In the year ending July 2017, 3.66 million international visitors arrived in New Zealand: an increase of 9.5% on the previous year. International tourism is New Zealand’s largest earner of foreign exchange, pumping over $14.5 billion into the economy and directly employing over 188,000 people.

Visa procedure: One may forward their application to the TT office in Mumbai or Delhi, which will then be directed to Immigration New Zealand. A visitor visa for New Zealand is processed within 15 working days.

Airline connections: Connecting flights to New Zealand are available on Singapore Airlines/Air New Zealand, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines with stop-overs in their respective hubs.  New Zealand’s international gateways are Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Domestic services: You can fly between all New Zealand cities and most major towns using domestic air services. Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main providers. Their services are complemented by regional airlines, charter companies and scenic flight operators.

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