Tag Archives: New Year

Hanuwantia can be the change you need this new year!

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A bird’s eye view of the Hanuwantia island in days of Jal Mahotsav

On the lines of Rann Utsav of Kutch, Madhya Pradesh tourism has dared to do the unthinkable of bringing tourists to a location as remote as Hanuwantia with nothing to lure them. Now Hanuwantia is a hub for air, land and water adventure activities. Jal Mahotsav is in its third year now and gradually increasing its time span. For ten days two years back, it increased to one month last year and now 80 days. This year Jal Mahotsav specially targets the year-end tourists. So, if you are looking for any new destination this new year eve, why not try Hanuwantia. This year festival started on 15th October and will continue till 2nd January 2018.

One of the clusters of the tent colony

The vision of Hanuwantia Festival was actually inspired by Sentosa island of Singapore. Although these are very early days for Hanuwantia to climb to any comparable league half as good as Sentosa. The main attraction of Jal Mahotsav is water sports in its huge reservoir which will often look like a sea. But there are aero activities too, like paramotoring, parasailing and ballooning. Swiss tents have been put up for the tourists at the Jal Mahotsav. There are houseboats as well. An exhibition focused on Narmada river besides food zone, craft bazaar is being organised.

For all those who have been to Kutch, they will find quite a similarity between the tent colony at Hanuwantia and the tent colony at Rann Utsav of Kutch in Gujarat. Few clusters of tents and every cluster having a tents surrounding an artificially levelled ground.

Away from concrete cities, this is welcome change to be besides an artificial sea of water. Hanuwantia is besides the Indira Sagar Reservoir which is said to be the biggest such inland water body in Asia.

A paramotor at Hanuwantia in evening lights
Closer look of an airborne paramotor
Two paramotors in the sky at sunset, best time to enjoy
You can have fun riding a bicycle around the tent city

But being here is fun, only if you are planning to indulge in some air or water activities. Otherwise it could be boring after some time. Since Hanwantia has got no other activities, therefor the experience of coming to Hanwantia had to be a packaged one with everything under one roof. Hence came the idea of a tent colony and all sort of land, water and air activities.

Jet scooter on waters of Indira Sagar

Water sports is a genre getting immensely popular among Indian tourists and Hanuwantia has plenty of water to play upon. You can find a host of water activities here.

Jungle trek on Boria Mal island
Smaller cruise boats to take you to ride in the lake

Besides, you can also take boat trips to other islands in the reservoir. Some of these islands like Boria Mal has even got tents to stay overnight. Even forest department has pitched some tents on its own for the tourists. These islands can be explored even on non-festival days. Some of these islands have also developed wildlife due to reserved forest land. You can also enjoy trekking in these islands. Some other islands are haven for migratory birds in the winter.

What would have been a top dome of a big temple in its prime is now a testimony of the submergence alone in this huge waterbody!

Hanuwantia is popular as Hanuwantia Tapu among locals, named after a village of same name in Malhargarh tehsil of Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh. Foundation stone of Indira Sagar project on Narmada river was laid way back in 1984, but the work on project started in 1992. This was the earliest project on Narmada river and later the downstreams of the project paved way for more projects like Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Sardar Sarovar projects. Indira Sagar project reached to its full capacity in May 2005.

Locals in their boats near Boria Mal island

For a reservoir that big, it can be easily estimated that how huge would have been the submerged area. All islands in the Indira Sagar reservoir would have been little hillocks in the past. These islands have been named on nearby submerged villages. A history got submerged in the lake.

Where to Stay:

Inside the Swiss tent
Tents besides the Indira Sagar reservoir!

All tents are Swiss tents, with minor difference in facilities as per the package one opts for. Tents are undoubtedly good, with attached toilet and shower. Beds are comfortable. Tents are spacious, there is a sitting area inside the tent and a covered sitting area, outside the tent giving you the full view of the cluster. Tents also have air conditioners. The ground outside the tents work as a activity ground or playground where you can enjoy cycling. Teas can be served at the tents but dining area is separate, where all guests have to go for breakfast and meals.

Outside the tents

Be watchful to keep you tent door nets zipped, specially in evenings as there can be mosquitos around as there is ample water everywhere. Food is good if not exceptional. Try to taste some local delicacies of the Malwa region. The existence of this tent city comes only during the duration of Jal Mahotsav. SO if you plan to be at the Jal Mahotsav, than this tent city is perhaps only mainly available accommodation in Hanuwantia.

MPTDC Cottages at Hanuwantia

Hanuwantia also has a Madhya Pradesh Tourism resort with beautifully designed lake facing cottages but during the time of the festival these cottages mostly remain occupied by officials and politicians. But if you go outside the festival dates, you can certainly stay in these cottages.

House boats at Hanuwantia

There is another stay option during the festival time and also afterwards and it is Kerala style houseboats, a couple of them at Hanuwantia. These houseboats have three rooms on the lower deck and an open upper deck sitting area. There is a kitchen as well. These houseboats can also take you on a trip inside the lake.

How to Reach:

Islands near Sailani on the Indore-Hanumantia route

Hanuwantia  Tapu (island) is in Khandawa district of Madhya Pradesh. Indore is the nearest airport which is almost 140 kilometres away. Road to Hanuwantia from Indore passes through Omkareshwar and Barwah. This road journey takes around three to four hours, depending on road as well as vehicle. If you prefer train to reach here Khandawa is the nearest railway station on the Main Delhi-Bhopal-Itarsi rail line. Hanuwantia is 48 kilometres from Khandawa. Barwah on the Indore-Hanuwantia road also has a railway station but this is a metre gauge section line coming from Mahu.

A fisherman in the Indira Sagar lake

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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

Ushering in the New Year where seas meet!

Where will you bid adieu the year 2016 and welcome the New year? A question often strikes in the last month of the year to all travellers.  There are few places which have there typical charm for the occasion. Celebrating this transition into new year often means watching the last sunset of the passing year and then the first sunrise of the new year.

But then there are always limitations with different places. You can go to Goa for a perfect year ending sunset but you can’t enjoy the new dawn. And while you can welcome the new year with a perfect sunrise in Darjeeling’s Tiger Hill, you will not have chance to say goodbye to the passing year with a perfect sunset. There are very few places where you can watch a perfect sunrise and a mesmerising sunset from same place.

One such place in India is of course Kanyakumari or Kanniyakumari or Cape Comorin in Tamil Nadu. It is southernmost tip of peninsular India located in Cardamom Hills. Mythologically it is also revered as a Sangam where seas meet. Popular belief has been that three seas- Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean meet here. But geographically it is said to be touching Laccadive Sea and the Gulf of Mannar.

Well geographies apart, this a place where you can just turn your head to watch a beautiful sunrise and equally charming sunset from a same place. Hence it is perfect place for new year revellers to witness the last sunset of the year and first sunrise of the new year from the same place. And every year lot many tourist gather here on the year end to soak in this moment.

Last sunset of the year from Kanyakumari

You can see the curious travellers gathered to see the sunset at Kanyakumari on 31st December

And though it was cloudy on 1st January, but still it couldn’t dampen the spirits as everybody gathered to take a new year wish (resolution!) in front of the rising sun from behind the Vivekanand Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue.

Vitals: Kanaykaumari is in state of Tamil Nadu but it is close to capital of Kerala- Thiruvananathpuram which is closest airport 90 kms from here. Nagercoil at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border is just 70 kms from here. Kanyakumari has a railway station with daily trains via Thiruvananthpuram and Chennai-Madurai routes. Its well connected through roads with all major nearby towns of Kerala as well as Tamil Nadu.

Kanyakumari has descent places for stay suiting all types of budgets including hotels, resorts as well as dharamshalas. Kanyakumari is also a very important pilgrim centre due to its mythological importance. There are many religious centres, temples here. Its is often included in pilgrim circuits with Rameshwaram and Madurai. At the time os the year end many pilgrims from Sabarimala also reach there as those are also the days of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage.

(Disclaimer: These images were taken on 31st December and January 1st some time back)

Why the last sunset of the year has to be so beautiful!

Why the last sunset of the year has to be so beautiful! I wonder. Sometimes its so magical that you don’t want to let the year pass by… Although it also sets the tone to welcome the new year with all positive vibes. It also reminds us about the beauty of life, however troublesome the years gone by would have been…

Sunset at Thar1

Photographing sunsets or sunrises is normally all photographers’ favourite pastime. They can do it almost endlessly at every dawn and dusk. So has been the case with me. And when the charm is to capture the last sunset of the year, then you don’t want to blink, just to click… click… click.

Sunset at Thar2

Sand dunes at Sam near Jaisalmer (almost 35 kms from city) in Rajasthan are actually known for their fascinating sunsets. Sunset here shows, how romantic even deserts can be.

Sunset at Thar3

Actually, Sam is among the few places in the country which have been associated with watching the last sunset of the year. Tourists flock to this place every 31st December.

Sunset at Thar4

Most of them stay at Jaisalmer and travel to Sam to watch sunset. But a few also choose to stay at Sam itself for some quite days as this place has a handful of luxury resorts with all facilities.

Sunset at Thar5

At evening people line up on these dunes with their eyes glued to western sky.

Sunset at Thar6

The initial haze clears and what you see is a full glory of nature.

Sunset at Thar7

One feels that, just before setting, sun steals the whole beauty of nature in its shades, capable of mesmerising everybody.

Sunset at Thar8

You blink and you find a new colour in front of you.

Sunset at Thar9

And here comes the touch-down moment.

Sunset at Thar10

It slowly weans away…

Sunset at Thar11

See the melting moments. You will often feel that there are only three constants in these frames- the camera, the serene desert and the TV tower seemingly standing adjacent to the setting sun and saying it goodbye…

Often after watching a sunset like this, you will having a feeling of hollowness & emptiness deep inside. You will not like to talk or speak a lot immediately afterwards. But slowly a content will fill you and a smile appears with a resolve to welcome the sunrise of the coming day… a new year… a new beginning.

16 weird & wonderful things to do in Wales in 2016

Bodelwyddan Castles
Bodelwyddan Castles

As we enter the new year, Wales celebrates 2016 as Year of Adventure. Let’s se, what could be 16 unique things to do there which will let one discover its own adventure! That makes practically for most of the times in the year. So choose your time, choose your adventure. There are plenty of them-

1. Learn Welsh

Welsh is a Celtic language, and one of the oldest languages in Europe, spoken by an estimated 560,000 people in Wales. Learn some Cymraeg at Nant Gwrtheyrn, a heritage centre on North Wales’ beautiful Llˆyn Peninsula. Gwych! (Excellent!)

2. Visit a castle

There are more than 600 castles in Wales: more per square mile than anywhere else in the world. For fairy tale turrets, head north of Cardiff to 19th-century Castell Coch. Historic Harlech Castle in Cardigan Bay, Mid Wales, saw the longest siege in British history from 1461-1468, while in North Wales, visit opulent neo-Norman Penrhyn Castle and see a one-tonne slate bed that was made for Queen Victoria.

Bounce Below3. Trampoline in a slate mine

At Bounce Below, you can unleash your inner child on giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels made of netting in a 176-year old disused cavern. Intrigued? There’s only one way to satisfy your curiosity.

4. Experiment with seaweed

Laverbread, made from seaweed found clinging to rocks, is a crucial component of ‘the full Welsh breakfast’, along with bacon and cockles. Try the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company’s ‘Welshman’s Caviar’, a dried version they serve in burgers at beachside shack, Café Môr in south-west Wales. For something stronger, sip Dà Mhìle seaweed gin, available at stockists throughout Wales.


5. Be dazzled by beauty

The UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was the Gower Peninsula in south-west Wales, which marks 60 years as an AONB in 2016. Visit Rhossili Beach, which came third in TripAdvisor’s Top Ten Beaches in the World in 2013 and continues to scoop awards. And, when the tide’s out, walk to Worm’s Head to spot seals and seabirds aplenty.

6. Make an appointment with the Doctor

The Doctor Who Experience at Cardiff Bay, a stone’s throw from BBC studios where the series is filmed, takes visitors on a hair-raising interactive journey through 50 years of adventures in space and time, virtually accompanied by none other than Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord. You can also book to see the genuine TARDIS used in filming.

Walkers on Coast Path near Cwm-yr-Eglwys Pembrokeshire South
Walkers on Coast Path near Cwm-yr-Eglwys Pembrokeshire South

7. Walk this Wales

The first country to offer a dedicated footpath around its coastline, the Wales Coast Path is 870 miles (1,400 km) of varied and beautiful landscape. Add Offa’s Dyke, a path along the Welsh-English border, and you circumnavigate the entire country. Or just dip in wherever you please: the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in south-west Wales is particularly picturesque, or you can spot dolphins from the Ceredigion sections in Mid Wales.

8. Pray for rain

Then be in the right place to enjoy it. Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons is especially fun following a downpour. Don’t miss Sgwd Henrhyd, which featured in The Dark Knight Rises as the entrance to the Batcave; walk behind a curtain of water and hear the roar as it thunders down.

9. Don’t sleep; birdwatch

Skomer Island
Skomer Island

Just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, west Wales, Skomer Island is unlike anywhere on earth. Stay there in July and hear the incredible night-time symphony of thousands of Manx shearwater birds returning to the island after hunting. In autumn, watch Atlantic grey seals make their way home to give birth, and coo over cute puffins from May to July. Skomer is an island full of mystery, discovery, wildlife and adventure…it’s a unique island just waiting to be explored! No matter what time of year you visit, the island’s flora and fauna will leave you breathless with excitement and wishing you could stay for longer.

10. Catch some waves inland

The very first of its kind, Surf Snowdonia is an inland lagoon, set in the picture-perfect Conwy Valley in North Wales. Add a two-metre wave peeling over the surface for more than 150 metres and you have a surfers’ dream! Enjoy the thrill of the surf whether you’re a beginner or a hardened wave-junkie; open from spring 2016.

11. Listen to Welshmen

Family on Pier Llandudno, Conwy County
Family on Pier Llandudno, Conwy County

Wales started the trend of singing an anthem before a sporting match – doing so first in 1905 when Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) was sung at rugby games. The Welsh male voice choir tradition holds strong and there are concerts all over the country throughout the year. Stay at Llangoed Hall, Mid Wales, over Christmas and be treated to carols by the local Male Voice Choir.

12. Race a horse

In 1980, Britain’s smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells in Mid Wales, decided to stage its first Man vs. Horse contest. Now well known for its regular staging of wacky events and the biennial World Alternative Games, visit in 2016 to take part in Wife Carrying, Bog Snorkelling, Stiletto Racing and more!

13. Cwtch in a cupboard

Cwtch is one of Wales’ favourite words, roughly equivalent to a cuddle (i.e. ‘give us a cwtch’) and also meaning a cupboard or cubbyhole. Which is why it’s doubly fun that you can ‘cwtch in a cwtch’ at Wonderfully Wild’s glamourous lodges in gorgeous Anglesey, north Wales. Sleeping up to six across three bedrooms, the lodges all feature a cosy cupboard in which a double bed is neatly installed!

14. Go to the best book, food, music and… Elvis festival

Couple walking on Wales Coast Path overlooking Dovey estuary Near Aberdovey
Couple walking on Wales Coast Path overlooking Dovey estuary Near Aberdovey

Wales really likes to celebrate, be it writers and great literature at the Hay Festival, Mid Wales, all things edible at the Abergavenny Food Festival, Mid Wales, or music and dancing in fantastical Portmeirion, north Wales, at Festival No. 6. But an event to clear your calendar for has to be the Elvis Festival in Porthcawl, south Wales, an annual celebration of The King – and the biggest of its kind in the world.

15. Tick off 200 listed buildings

Conwy in north Wales is one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns in the whole of Britain, with more than 200 listed buildings that date from the 14th to the 18th centuries including the splendid Conwy Castle. It’s also home to Britain’s smallest house, which measures just 10 ft. x 6 ft. (3.05 m x 1.83 m)!

16. Pronounce this

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on Anglesey, north Wales, boasts the longest place name in Europe and the second longest in the world. It means ‘Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave’, but most people stick to Llanfairpwll. The longer form is an early example of a publicity stunt – it was invented in the 1860s and has been drawing in visitors ever since.

Brussels all decked out for the New Year!

New Year in BrusselsWith its many nightclubs, easy transportation, and original events, Brussels is a paradise for New Year’s revellers. Once again this year, Happy Brussels, presented by visit.brussels offers to guide party-goers to the best places to celebrate the arrival of 2016. The pass provides access to the best parties as well as well as flagship activities around the European capital. 

New Year’s Eve is a pivotal moment, one offering the chance to start the new year in good spirits and festive fashion. And Brussels has loads of opportunities to suit everyone’s taste. The Happy Brussels pass offers the chance to explore all of these possibilities by hopping from one fantastic party to the next, and topping it all off with a stay full of new discoveries.

New Year party in BrusselsIn fact, for 60 euros, the pass specifically provides access to a wide range of parties and a number of tourist activities. In its guide, it also combines advice for a magical visit to the capital of Europe under the glow of Christmas lights. For an extra 20 euros, Happy Brussels will throw in all the benefits of the 24 hour Brussels card: admission to 30 great Brussels museums and discounts for attractions, stores, restaurants, and bars.

City Wonders

Happy Brussels includes admission to tourist attractions like the Atomium, and the Galeries Cinema to see a film and visit the exhibition. Even more, it offers a day or evening tour around Grand Place and the Manneken Pis, as well as Christmas activities like the Christmas Market and the New Year’s Eve countdown.

Urban Treasures

BarThe Happy Brussels guide specifically indicates good tips and concept stores for an exhilarating experience in the fashion district, as well as a selection of hip and unusual bars that each have a wide selection of Belgian beers.

NYE Party Pass

Brussels provides the backdrop for a night owl journey till dawn. The party pass provides access to a series of popular clubs and parties for New Year’s Eve. There is something for everyone from Balkan and hip-hop to house and techno including gay friendly parties.

Happy Brussels opens the doors of the Fuse, You, and Madame Moustache,  the Wood, Palais 12 and many more.


pic1It’s the year end and New Year happens to be the biggest festival around the world, but nothing beats Philippines. Celebrated with éclat and great ardor, this Southeast Asian Island gives you more than what you expect. The New Year in Philippines is celebrated with lots of blare and sound as it drives away all evil spirits creates space for good ones. Fireworks, glittering lights, happy people is of the common sight and it lacks nowhere in display of its celebratory élan.

Phillipines1Crescent-shaped beaches dusted with talcum powder-like sand; uninhabited tropical islands, lush impenetrable jungles bristling with unique wildlife, the thrusting soaring capital of Manila, historic cities, a diverse local cuisine and culture …the Philippines has all this and more. Go there and discover some of the 7,107 islands of this vibrant archipelago where English is widely spoken, the people are fun loving and life moves to a lilting beat. So here are few things to look out for New Year celebrations in Philippines:

simbang-gabi-imageFireworks: This is about pure, unadulterated, angelic and fun fireworks like you have never seen before. Fireworks have become a major part of New Year’s tradition as the Simbang Gabi (dawn mass) is a Christmas tradition. The experience of seeing all those bursting and glittering lights and looking up in the bright skies is truly magical.

PhillipinesMake some noise: For those who are not fans of fireworks, there are alternative noisemakers. So what do we use? Trumpets (they’re hot items during this time), pots, pans, whistles, car horns, anything that will make a lot of noise. Or you can turn up your radio or MP3 full blast and have the songs blaring at top volume.

philip4Food: Here comes the best part food! Celebrate the New Year’s Eve by sharing a midnight meal with family and friends (called the Media Noche). This feast symbolizes family union and celebration. Tikoy, pansit, hopia, lumpia, adobo all the mouth watering dishes are made and feasted upon during this time.

What to wear during the New Year’s Eve celebrations? How about clothes with polka-dots on them? There is the belief that wearing clothes with polka-dots will bring lots of money (or prosperity). If you want to increase your good luck, make sure that all your pockets and wallets have money on them. This will ensure that you will not have empty pockets the rest of the New Year.

Lastly, when you celebrate the coming of the New Year, make sure you have a happy smile on your face. Failure to do so will mean you will have 12 months of unhappiness during the coming year.

Manigong Bagong Taon!
Say happy New Year Filipino style

पिघलते सूरज में नए साल का जश्न- समंदर की लहरों में

कल आपने पढ़ा हिमालय से जुड़ी दो जगहों के बारे में। आज जानिए समुद्र से जुड़ी उन दो जगहों के बारे में जहां आप बीते साल का आखिरी सूर्यास्त या नए साल का पहला सूर्योदय देख सकते हैं-

Last sunset of the year at Kanyakumari
Last sunset of the year at Kanyakumari

कन्याकुमारी का संगम: कन्याकुमारी हमारे देश की मुख्यभूमि का आखिरी सिरा है। यहां अद्भुत समुद्री संगम है। यहां पर बंगाल की खाड़ी, हिंद महासागर और अरब सागर मिलते हैं। इसीलिए इसकी महत्ता किसी तीर्थ से कम नहीं। अंग्रेज इसे केप कोमोरिन के नाम से जानते थे। तमिलनाडु में नागरकोइल व केरल में तिरुवनंतपुरम यहां के सबसे नजदीकी शहर हैं। देश का आखिरी सिरा होने का भाव भी इसे देशभर के सैलानियों में खासा लोकप्रिय बना देता है। लेकिन यहां की सबसे अनूठी बात यह है कि यहां आप एक ही जगह खड़े होकर पूरब से समुद्र में सूरज को उगता हुआ भी देख सकते हैं और पश्चिम में समुद्र में ही सूरज को डूबता हुआ भी देख सकते हैं। यह अद्भुत संयोग आपको देश में और कहीं नहीं मिलेगा। 31 दिसंबर की शाम इस साल को विदा कीजिए और अगले दिन तड़के वहीं जाकर नए साल की आगवानी कीजिए। कन्याकुमारी में पूरब की ही तरफ विवेकानंद रॉक भी है। सूरज की पहली किरण अक्सर इसी स्मारक के पीछे से समुद्र से बाहर निकलती देखी जा सकती है। इसीलिए हर साल 31 दिसंबर को बहुत सैलानी जुटते हैं। साल की आखिरी किरण को विदा करने और नए साल की पहली किरण का स्वागत करने के लिए। मौका मिले तो आप भी नहीं चूकिएगा अपने निकटजनों के साथ यहां जाने से।

कैसेः कन्याकुमारी के लिए दिल्ली, मुंबई व चेन्नई से ट्रेनें हैं। केरल की राजधानी तिरुवनंतपुरम यहां से डेढ़ घंटे के रास्ते पर है। वहीं सबसे निकट का हवाई अड्डा भी है। कन्याकुमारी छोटा ही शहर है। लेकिन वहां रुकने के लिए कई छोटे-बड़े होटल हैं। यहां समुद्र तट के निकट का फुटपाथ बाजार खरीदारी के लिए बेहद लोकप्रिय है। यहां जाने का फायदा यही है कि उत्तर भारत की सर्दी से बचा जा सकता है।

Fishermen in Chilika Lake in Odisha, India
Fishermen in Chilika Lake in Odisha, India

चिलिका का विस्तार: ओडिशा के तीन जिलों- पुरी, खुर्दा व गंजम में फैली चिलिका झील भारत का सबसे बड़ा तटीय लैगून और दुनिया में दूसरा सबसे बड़ा लैगून है। इसके अलावा भारतीय उपमहाद्वीप में सर्दियों में आने वाले प्रवासी पक्षियों का सबसे बड़ा बसेरा है। कई पक्षी तो सुदूर रूस व मंगोलिया से 12 हजार किलोमीटर तक का सफर तय करके यहां पहुंचते हैं। झील दुर्लभ इरावडी डॉल्फिनों का भी घर है। बेहद खूबसूरत झील में पुरी या सातपाड़ा से नाव से जाया जा सकता है। कहने को यह झील है, लेकिन बीच झील में कई बार आपको चारों तरफ केवल समुद्र दिखाई देगा। चिलिका के सूर्योदय व सूर्यास्त, दोनों की ही बात कुछ और है। लेकिन इन दोननों का ही आनंद नाव पर झील में जाकर लिया जा सकता है। नाव पर आप अपने साथियों के साथ हों, चारों तरफ पक्षियों का कोलाहल हो और जाते साल का आखिरी या नए साल का पहला सूर्य पानी में लाल रंग भर रहा हो तो क्या नजारा होगा! जरूर सोचिएगा। यही वो समय होता है जब प्रवासी पक्षियों को चिलिका में देखा जा सकता है। इसलिए समुद्र में नलबन द्वीप की तरफ जाते हुए तड़के जल्दी नाव से निकल जाएं ताकि समुद्र के भीतर पहुंचकर सूर्योदय देख सकें और फिर शाम को लौटते हुए सूर्यास्त। यानी समुद्र के बीच जाकर समुद्र से उगते-डूबते सूरज को देखें। नए साल की इससे बेहतर शुरुआत और भला क्या होगी। इसमें बच्चों को भी खूब मजा आएगा।

कैसेः तीन जिलों में फैली चिलिका झील बहुत बड़ी है। उसमें कई जगहों से जाया जा सकता है। पुरी से कई डॉल्फिन टूर चिलिका में जाते हैं। लेकिन सबसे लोकप्रिय जगहों में से खुर्दा जिले के बालुगांव में बरकुल और गंजम जिले में रम्भा है। समुद्र में कई द्वीप हैं, जहां प्रवासी पक्षियों को देखने के लिए जाया जा सकता है। भुवनेश्वर या बरहमपुर से ट्रेन या सड़क के रास्ते बालुगांव या रम्भा जाया जा सकता है। सबसे निकट का हवाई अड्डा भुवनेश्वर ही है। ध्यान रखें कि ओडिशा का समुद्री तट होने के बावजूद तड़के या देर शाम झील में जाते समय खासी ठंड हो सकती है।

पिघलते सूरज में नए साल का जश्न- हिमालय की गोद में

View of Kangchenjunga from Tiger Hill in Darjeeling. Photo :  Carsten Nebel/Wikipedia
View of Kangchenjunga from Tiger Hill in Darjeeling. Photo : Carsten Nebel/Wikipedia

साल की आखिरी शाम को विदा करने और नए साल की पहली सुबह का स्वागत करने का ख्याल कुछ अलग ही तरीके से रोमांचित करता है। लेकिन हममें से ज्यादातर अपने आसपास की होटलों या रेस्तराओं की न्यू ईयर पार्टियों या डिनर से आगे सोच ही नहीं पाते। आखिरकार जाते साल की आखिरी शाम हमारे लिए बीते वक्त को याद करने की और नए साल की पहली सुबह नई उम्मीदें जगाने की होती है। छोडि़ए होटलों की पार्टीबाजी और नाच-गाना और इस बार अपने हमसफर, दोस्तों या निकटजनों के साथ जाइए ऐसी जगह, जहां ढलते या उगते सूरज की लालिमा आपको भीतर तक आह्लादित कर देती है। सूरज के क्षितिज में समा जाने या वहां से बाहर निकलते देखना सबसे सुकूनदायक पलों में से एक होता है। हम आपको सुझा रहे हैं ऐसी ही कुछ जगहें। इनमें से कई जगहें ऐसी हैं जहां आप एक ही स्थान पर केवल अपनी नजरें घुमाकर शाम को सूर्यास्त और सवेरे सूर्योदय देख सकते हैं। इस फेहरिस्त में हालांकि आपको गोवा, केरल या पूर्वी तट के कई समुद्री तट नहीं मिलेंगे जो पहले से ही सैलानियों में बहुत लोकप्रिय हैं।

हिमालय की गोद में

Observation deck at Tiger Hill in Darjeeling to watch sunrise
Observation deck at Tiger Hill in Darjeeling to watch sunrise. Photo:  Shanoor Habib Munmun

टाइगर हिल का रोमांचः यूं तो हिमालय में किसी भी जगह पर बर्फीले पहाड़ों के पीछे से या घाटी में फैले बादलों में से उगते सूरज को देखना बेहद रोमांचकारी अनुभव होता है। लेकिन बहुत ही कम जगहों को इसके लिए उतनी ख्याति मिलती है जितनी दार्जीलिंग में टाइगर हिल को मिली है। टाइगर हिल दार्जीलिंग शहर से 11 किलोमीटर दूर है। दार्जीलिंग से यहां या तो जीप से पहुंचा जा सकता है या फिर चौरास्ता, आलूबारी होते हुए पैदल, लेकिन इसमें दो घंटे का समय लग सकता है। टाइगर हिल से सूर्योदय देखने की ख्याति इतनी ज्यादा है कि अल्लसुबह दार्जीलिंग से हर जीप सैलानियों को लेकर टाइगर हिल की ओर दौड़ लगाती नजर आती है ताकि वहां चोटी पर बने प्लेटफॉर्म पर सूर्योदय का नजारा देखने के लिए अच्छी जगह खड़े होने को मिल सके। हैरत की बात नहीं कि देर से पहुंचने वाले सैलानियों को यहां मायूस रह जाना पड़ता है। सूरज की पहली किरण जब सामने खड़ी कंचनजंघा चोटी पर पड़ती है तो सफेद बर्फ गुलाबी रंग ले लेती है।  धीरे-धीरे यह नारंगी रंग में तब्दील हो जाती है। टाइगर हिल से मकालू पर्वत और उसकी ओट में थोड़ी छाया माउंट एवरेस्ट की भी दिखाई देती है। 1 जनवरी को बेशक थोड़ी सर्दी होगी, लेकिन टाइगर हिल से साल की पहली सुबह को प्रणाम करना एक बड़ा ही रोमांचक अनुभव होगा।

कैसेः टाइगर हिल के लिए पश्चिम बंगाल में दार्जीलिंग जाना होगा। दिल्ली या कोलकाता से ट्रेन से न्यू जलपाईगुड़ी पहुंचे या हवाई जहाज से बागडोगरा। वहां से दार्जीलिंग सड़क के रास्ते पहुंचने में चार घंटे लगते हैं। मौसम अच्छा हो तो सिलीगुड़ी से छोटी टॉय ट्रेन से भी दार्जीलिंग जाया जा सकता है। दार्जीलिंग में रुकने के हर इंतजाम हैं। टाइगर हिल जाने के लिए रात में ही होटल वाले को बता दें और टैक्सी का इंतजाम कर लें।

Sunrise View from Sonapani, Almora
Sunrise View from Sonapani, Almora

नंदा देवी का नजारा: बात सूरज के उगने या डूबने की हो तो उसकी किरणों से फैलते रंगों का जो खेल पानी में या बर्फीले पहाड़ पर देखने को मिलता है, वो कहीं और नहीं मिलता। इसीलिए सूर्योदय या सूर्यास्त देखने के सबसे लोकप्रिय स्थान या तो समुद्र (नदी व झील भी) के किनारे हैं या फिर ऊंचे पहाड़ों में। उत्तराखंड के कुमाऊं इलाके में भी ऐसी कई जगहें हैं, चाहे वो अल्मोड़ा में कसार देवी या बिनसर हो या फिर नैनीताल जिले में सोनापानी- इन जगहों से आप नंदा देवी का खूबसूरत नजारा देख सकते हैं। सोनापानी गांव पहाड़ के ढलान पर है और सामने बुरांश के पेड़ों से लकदक दूर तक फैली घाटी है। घाटी के उस पार हिमालय की श्रृंखलाएं इस तरह ऊंची सामने खड़ी हैं, मानो यकायक कोई ऊंची दीवार सामने आ जाए। इन्हीं में भारत की दूसरी सबसे ऊंची चोटी नंदा देवी भी है। यहां आपको पर्वत के पीछे से उगता सूरज तो नजर नहीं आएगा, लेकिन खुले मौसम में सुबह की पहली किरण में नंदा देवी और बाकी चोटियों के बदलते रंगों में आप खो जाएंगे। कमोबेश ऐसी ही रंगत डूबते सूरज के समय भी रहेगी। दिसंबर-जनवरी में आप सामने के पहाड़ों की ठंडक महसूस कर सकेंगे, हो सकता है कि कभी बर्फबारी से भी दो-चार हो जाएं, लेकिन रूमानियत भरपूर रहेगी। सर्दी से डर न लगता हो और हनीमून व नया साल, दोनों साथ मनाना चाहें तो इससे बेहतर जगह कोई नहीं। बाकी दुनिया के हो-हल्ले से बहुत दूर- थोड़ा रोमांच और पूरा रोमांस। एक नई शुरुआत के लिए एकदम माफिक जगह है यह।

कैसेः सोनापानी जाने के लिए ट्रेन से काठगोदाम पहुंचकर या हवाई जहाज से पंतनगर पहुंचकर टैक्सी करनी होगी। वहां से सड़क का रास्ता लगभग चार घंटे का है। सोनापानी रिजॉर्ट में शानदार कॉटेज हैं, करने व घूमने को बहुत कुछ है और कुछ न करना चाहें तो भी यहां बोर नहीं होंगे। संगीत सुनाती मदमस्त पहाड़ी हवा है और गीत गाते पंछी। अल्मोड़ा व मुक्तेश्वर जैसे सैलानी स्थल भी निकट ही हैं।


Bruges hits all the right notes for Christmas!

Bruges in Winter
Bruges in Winter

Bruges is all about amazing atmosphere and winter romance. The window displays are decked out in all their Christmas finery, as are the streets and squares of Bruges.

Without a doubt the most beautiful winter venue is St. John’s Hospital! Every year Magical Winter Moments  is organised in this medieval hospital, with stunning flower decorations adorning this historical site. Prepare for an amazing spectacle from 22 November until 1 December.

Snow & Ice sculpture festivalNot wintery enough? Then why not replace the gorgeous flower arrangements with snow and ice sculptures? Head over to the square in front of Bruges’ railway station, where you can explore an enchanting ice world. From 22 November until 5 January the Snow & Ice Sculpture Festival will bring the fantastic world of the Disney film Frozen to life. Breathtakingly beautiful but also bound to make you catch your breath because of the cold. So make sure to bundle up adequately!

Are you walking from one winter venue to the other? Then make sure to find a bench or terrace near the Belfry around 11 a.m. for the belfry concerts on Wednesday,Saturday and Sunday. Celestial sounds which are bound to transport you to higher dimensions. By the end of November the stalls of the charming Christmas marketare in place and the lights of the ice-skating rink are beckoning. They both are definitely worth visiting.

Käthe Wohlfahrt
Käthe Wohlfahrt

Every year Bruges’ retailers outdo themselves with even more amazing window displays.  During the holiday months I love walking past the various squares to admire the Christmas lights. Do you want to avoid the Christmas crowds like I do? Then shop on weekdays! And because there is nothing like that warm Christmas glow, do take the time for a crisp waffle, a heart-warming cup of glühwein or a steaming mug of hot chocolate.”

Shop Käthe Wohlfahrt

Think Christmas and you immediately think of the Christmas decorations, Father Christmas and gifts. Or of that one-stop shop for all of the above and more called Käthe Wohlfahrt, because this family-owned shop is simply teaming with Christmas items. Handmade wooden Christmas figurines, ornaments and lights for the tree as well as original nutcrackers. This is the place to go for all of your Christmas decorations or to find a gift for someone special.

International December Dance festival

December DanceEvery year internationally renowned dancers and choreographers flock to Bruges’ Concert Hall for December Dance. This year the art director is the leading Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus. From 4 until 15 December he will add a sequel to his own festive year (his company Ultima Vez recently celebrated its 25th anniversary). And yet he will not only be hosting a retrospective of his own work. In December he will also invite (inter)national talent.

Compagnie Marie Chouinard

Treat yourself to an early Christmas gift with tickets for the Belgian premiere of the dance performance by Marie Chouinard. On 23 November eleven of her dancers will perform a special ballet to the sounds of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies. For her second choreography Chouinard drew inspiration from the book Mouvement by the Belgian surrealist, Henri Michaux. Ten mysterious dancers will leave you dazzled after their psychedelic trip.

Belgian Swing Jazz Orchestra

For a few weeks the jazz tunes in the Hotel Navarra bar will be replaced with traditional Christmas carols. But who says that you have to miss your usual portion of jazz? Because the Belgian Swing Jazz Orchestra invites you to join them in the Stadsschouwburg on 24 November where they will treat you to a concert of some legendary Belgian jazz from the period between the two World Wars. Stirringly beautiful.

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Bruges in Winter
Bruges in Winter

Hotel Navarra prepares for Christmas. “It is an annual tradition in the hotel. By the end of November it starts decorating for Christmas. And it plays Christmas carols instead of the usual jazz music.  At this point it is completely ready for Christmas. And so are guests because often Bruges is their number one destination for Christmas shopping. This hotel is the perfect place if you want a taste of the Christmas atmosphere and go and find some Christmas gifts.

Most people inevitably associate Christmas with good food! Restaurant La Porta serves festive food every day of the year. Gourmets will enjoy the tasty, Italian creations which chefs Jess Wittevrongel and Steven Verriest conjure onto your plates. Delectable food for an equally delicious price!