Saturday, December 29, 2012
Barcelona contains both the authentically historic and the wildly bizarre. From the tree-lined Las Ramblas to the narrow alleys of Barri Gòtic; from the beachside nightclubs to the city's dozens of sacred churches and cathedrals, this city by the sea seems to attract all types: the family, the adventurer, the couple, the backpacker, the culture lover -- and more -- with an almost overwhelming variety of things to do. You could stay for a few ... continue»
Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba during the Hajj in Mecca
Photo by: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Creative Commons
Mecca, also called Makkah, is a city in Saudi Arab. It is the holiest city in Islam, which is considered to be very sacred to Muslims faith. There is a saying that goes: “anyone who is born a Muslim, must visit Mecca at least once to wash his or her sins”. It is very interesting to know that almost two to three million Hajjis (pilgrimage to Mecca) pay visit to this city every year. Mecca today is facing both good and bad times. Good times because its popularity and bad times because of infrastructure problem.
Mecca is the home of Masjid Al Haram. Initially, it was a place for trading during the 7th century. Also, till 1924, it was governed by the local sheriffs’. After that, it saw a lot of modernization in its size and structure. Today, it is ruled by the local municipality of Mecca with a Mayor who is directly appointed by the Government of Saudi Arabia.
The history of Mecca takes one back to 2000 BC, with some people believing that Abraham built the Kaaba with his son, Ishmael. Over the years, this place had almost three hundred and sixty idols. Mecca today has the biggest Mosque in the world. Everyday, daily prayers are offered in it and another step is being taken by the government to renovate the entire place so that it can accommodate 900000 people at a time.
By Saudi law, non-Muslims are forbidden to enter Mecca, which is strictly enforced by the government.
The Banaue Rice Terraces of the Philippines have been said to be like the 8th wonder of the world. They were carved from the hillside by the tribes people of Ifugao about 2,000-3,000 years ago. The tribes people did this with their bare hands and crude implements, without using machinery to level the steps where they plant their rice, which is what makes this wonder so attractive, aside from the fact that the rice terraces are still used today.
This is considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of mankind, because if each one were connected end to end, then they would reach halfway across the globe or be 10 times as long as the Great Wall of China. It was not until only 13 years ago (1995) that the Banaue Rice Terraces were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The rice terraces are like stepping stones stretching towards the sky, where some of them reach almost 5,000 feet in altitude and cover about 4,000 square miles of land. They are now beginning to show signs that they are eroding, and some of them need maintenance, while the Ifugaos’ new generation is migrating to nearby cities in search of better opportunities.
Even though it is about 8 or 9 hours from Manila in a car, the Banaue rice terraces are known to be one of the most spectacular places to see in the Philippines. They have transformed the Cordillera mountains of barren stone into ledges that are fit to grow rice.
Pictures & Photos
Banaue Rice Terraces During a Cloudy Day
Photo by: MVI
Photo by: MVI
Panorama View of Banaue Rice Terraces
Photo by: Wikipedia
Photo by: Wikipedia
Banaue Rice Terraces With House and Green Spot and Rice
Photo by: kinobiel
Photo by: kinobiel
Wet Water at Banaue Rice Terraces
Photo by: Kinobiel
Photo by: Kinobiel
Banaue Rice Terraces Planting Season
Photo by: Kinobiel
Photo by: Kinobiel
Foggy Day at Banaue Rice Terraces
Photo by: mikeyOcampo
Photo by: mikeyOcampo
Bulol (Ifugao Rice God) State at Banaue Rice Terraces
Photo by: MVI
Photo by: MVI
Banaue Rice Terraces Black and White
Photo by: IRRIImages
Photo by: IRRIImages
Clear Day at Banaue Rice Terraces
Photo by: IRRI Images
Photo by: IRRI Images
The Golden Temple in India, which is often called the “Darbar Sahib or Harmandar Sahib” by the Indians, is one of the oldest places of worship for the ‘Sikhs’ and is located in Amritsar, Punjab. It is considered one of the holiest, blessed and sacrosanct places in India. It is a symbol of both beauty and peace. The temple is surrounded by a small man-made lake which has tons and tones of fishes in it. This lake is supposed to have holy water. The temple can be entered from four different sides and thus symbolizes openness, acceptance. This concept is based on the old tents which were open from all four sides, welcoming travelers from all directions.
The Golden Temple has three holy trees. There is also a small Sikh Museum near the Ghanta Ghar in Amritsar which is very rich in information, especially for the first time visitors. The entire top of the temple is made of pure gold and thus adds a lot of pride and beauty to the entire temple.
During the earlier days, this place was a huge lake surrounded by a thin line of forests. It is also said that Buddha journeyed to find out the real meaning of life spent some considerable time in this place. The first guru of the Sikh community called the Guru Nank also used to meditate in this peaceful place and years after he passed away, many of his disciples kept coming back to the site and then it finally became a sacred place. It was during the Fifth Guru, Arjana when the Temple was finally built 1604. It was Guru Arjan who installed the “Guru Granth Sahib” in the temple and appointed the first reader in August 1604. The temples architecture is that of both Hindu and Muslims. On many occasions, it was destroyed by a certain set of community and rebuilt by the Sikhs.
Moscow Kremlin is also called the Kremlin and is a castle that is situated at the heart of Moscow. It has four palaces and four cathedrals. The site is the official residence of the president of Russia.
The great Kremlin Palace is one of the biggest castle in the entire Russia. The palace has a very stunning looking combination of yellow and white with a green roof top. The golden color adds a touch of wealth to the entire palace. The palace was made in the year 1837 by King Nicholas I. The palace was initially built in the year 1462 during the rule of Ivan the Terrible. However, it was rebuilt because a lot of damage was done to the place during war times. During the 18th century, the construction came to a halt as the entire Russian capital moved it the north city. It was in 1740’s when an Italian architecture was hired by queen Elizabeth and once again the construction began.
The Palace was built to extend the Russian autocracy. The best architects were hired to perform the splendid job and finally they did come up with a fine piece of art. The dimensions of the palace are massive. The total length of the palace is 125 meters and the width is 47 meters and thus covers a total of 25,000 sq. meters. The whole building has almost 9 churches from the 14th, 15th and 16th century and has more than 700 rooms in it. The west side of the palace was for the Royal family. Just like many other palaces, this one is also off limits to public viewing.
Isabel, a dancer from the Brazilian Carnival in Rio, Brazil
Photo by: sfmission.com, Creative Commons
The Brazilian Carnival in Rio, Brazil is an annual festival that takes place four days before Ash Wednesday, which is described as the beginning of the 40 days fast, called lent. During the days of fasting, some Roman Catholics and Christians do not consume meat. The reason of the carnival is to bid farewell to some pleasures of the flesh and it is dedicated to Christ’s death.
The carnival in Brazil is a little different from its counterparts in Europe because it has a mixture of the Europe and African fundamentals. So much so that even the music, rhythm, and costume, changes a bit from one region of Brazil to the other. A fine example to quote the differences is seen in the southeast part of the cities, where the parade of the carnival is usually led by the Samba schools and only Samba school affiliates’ participate in it whereas in smaller towns, there is no public to view the carnival and hence, the carnival is organized in clubs. In the North east section of Brazil, even the common public is allowed to dance and take part in the parade and enjoy it to the fullest as they are made to feel a part of the big show. The Carnival is all about having fun, dancing to the catchy rhythm and wearing colorful clothes.
The modern carnival originated in the year 1641, it was actually a mimicry of the European style of having fun. However, over the years, it refrained itself and took inputs from different cultures like Europe, North America and Africa.
Fifty beaches, wild, unspoilt & so near -your perfect weekend break!
Ladakh, also called the Land of the High Passes, is part of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies in between two world’s greatest mountain ranges, i.e. the Himalayan Ranges and the Karakorum Ranges. The people who stay there are migrants of Indo Aryans and Tibetan civilization.
The Ladakh region is very thinly populated. This place is said to be the young land and only formed a few million years ago. Ladakh has an altitude of 9000 feet at Kargil and 21,170 feet at Saser Kanri. The temperature in winter reaches minus 22 degree Celsius and during summers, can go up to 20 plus. Leh and Ladakh have been said to be the only places where you can have a sun stroke as well as frostbit at the same time.
Water in such places is always scarce because the place hardly receives any rain. Ladakh was once covered by a Lake. The main source of water here is the melted water from the snow which is carried down by smaller streams and thus helps in irrigation. The farmers usually pray that the rains should not destroy their crops and the sun should melt the snow which should be the real source of irrigation. It is interesting and shocking to know that the place does not receive any water from the rain for almost 300 days in one year.
There are beautiful mountains all over Ladakh and it’s worth visiting if you’re into mountain activities. Some of the adventures that tourists can indulge into are mountain climbing, cycling, Jeep and yak safari, trekking etc. Also, there are a lot of monateries in Ladakh that are worth visiting.
The Dead Sea is also known as the Sea of Salt. This massive salt lake is spread between Israel and the West Bank to the west and Jordan on the east. The Dead Sea is 1,385 feet below sea level. It is said that the shores of the salt lake are the lowest on earth.
The Dead Sea is 1,240 feet deep, which makes it the deepest hyper saline lake in the world. The total salinity content is 33.7 percent. Because of its high salinity content, fish and vegetation does not thrive, it does not exist at all, thus its name. The Dead sea is eight times saltier than the other oceans and it is 67 kilometer long and 18 kilometer wide. The main tributary of the sea is the Jordan River as it lies in the Jordan Rift Valley.
Visitors from all over the world come to the Dead Sea, especially those who come from the Mediterranean basin. Over thousands of years, visitors have been visiting this grand sea. Historically speaking, the place was a refugee camp for King David. The Dead Sea is also considered to be the first health resort in the world as it supplies a variety of products likes potash for fertilizers and balms. Moreover, the salt from the sea is used to create cosmetic and herbal packets.
The Dead Sea is not polluted and experiences sunny skies and dry air all year round. The place has become famous for its therapeutic qualities. Some of them are the Climatotherapy, Heliotherapy (which is harnessing the positive biological effects of the suns radiation) and the Thalassotherapy (which mean bathing in the sea water.)
The Sydney Opera House is situated in Sydney, Australia. The opera house was made a part of the UNESCO, World Heritage Site in 2007 and is said to be the world’s most distinct 20th century buildings. It is also considered one of the most famous performing art centers in the world. The Sydney Opera House was built by an architect Jorn Utzon and also received the Pritzker prize in the year 2003. The synopsis of the quotation that was written on it said that the opera house is one of the masterpieces designed by this architect and will be considered the icon of the 20th century not only for this city but also for the country & continent of Australia.
The Sydney Opera House is located on the Sydney Harbor, which is very close to the Sydney Bridge. The opera house serves as a venue for art performing center rather than just the opera theater. To name a few, it became a major presenting venue for Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony. It is maintained and administered by the Sydney Opera House Trust.
The interior of Concert Hall, which is the home of Sydney Symphony with 2,679 seats
Photo by: Jason7825, Creative Commons
The opera house has a concert hall with a seating capacity of 2,679 seats, the Opera Theater with a seating capacity of 1507 seats, a drama theater that can accommodate 544 seats, a play house, a studio, Utzon Room and a Forecourt. The opera house covers a total are of 4.5 acres. It is 605 feet long, 388 feet wide and is made up of concrete frame, precast and ribbed roof. Its construction got completed in the year 1973.
The Potala palace at Lhasa was built by King Songtsen Gampo during the seventh century. It is located on the Red hill of Lhasa, Tibet. It was struck by lightning and war that led to its destruction. However, the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645 rebuilt the palace again. And since then, it became the political center of Tibet. The Potala Palace has 2 palaces in it, the Red and the White Palace. The red one signifies religion and the white one signifies ad ministerial building. This place is known for its complex constructions, huge buildings and the peaceful atmosphere and not to forget, its artwork.
Once you enter the palace from the east. It takes you to the main courtyard where the Dalai Lama used to watch the Tibetan Opera. The White Palace was called the Winter Palace and the white color signified peace, calmness and togetherness. The largest hall in the White Palace is on the fourth floor, the living quarters and the offices are on the fifth floor. The Potala Palace has a beautiful Balcony that faces the Lhasa.
The Red Palace exists in the middle of the Potala Palace and after the fifth Dalai Lama died, it was painted in red color that signifying power and dignity. The walls of the Red Palace have many Buddhists stories written all over. It has three chapels, the North which is dedicated to the Dali lama, Buddha and his medicines. The East chapel is dedicated to the Indian monk who introduced Buddhism in Tibet. The west chapel is said to be the most luxurious chapel as it has 3,000 kg of gold and foil with hundreds and thousands of gems and pearls.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
You don’t really need a purpose to visit Paris but the Christmas markets are definitely one good reason to visit during the festive period. The twinkling lights along the Seine, the elaborately decorated department stores in the Champs-Elysées and shopping areas and the great decorations as well as the iconic sights make Paris a spectacular sight to see during this time of year.
This is a big city and there are several Christmas markets offering gastronomic specialities traditional arts and handicrafts. The main Christmas markets are:
Christmas Market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées
Open: From November 21st , 2012 to January 6th 2013
Location: Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde, Paris
Metro: Charles de Gaulle – Étoile
This is the largest Christmas market within Paris’s city limits. The 160 chalet market lines the Champs-Elysées between the Rond-point and Place de la Concorde.
Christmas Market at La Défense
Open: From November 21st to December 29th,
Location: Parvis de la Défense (near the Grand Arche), Paris
Metro/RER: La Défense
With more than 300 stalls in a village of some 10,000m² , this is the largest and most festive Christmas market in the Paris region – set among the high rise buildings of this major business area – it’s got more of an authentic and eccentric feel to it than most other Christmas markets! You’ll find traditional arts and crafts lots of gorgeous festive decorations and plenty of tempting things to eat and drink.
Christmas Market and Ice Rink at Trocadero
Open: Daily from December 13th 2012 to January 6th 2013
Location: Place de la Trocadero, across from the Eiffel Tower, Paris
Quite a big market with over 120 stands peddling Christmas goods, an ice-skating rink and “snow villages” with a gian igloo and snowman etc. Ideal for families – young children will love it. The European Christmas Village ‘Trocadéro on Ice’ will be held at Trocadéro, opposite the Eiffel Tower, taking on the look and feel of a ski resort right in the middle of Paris!
Village open daily from 11am to 8pm.
Christmas Market at Disney Village
Open: November 7th, 2012 to January 8th, 2013. Open during normal park hours.
Location: Disneyland Resort Paris
Every year the traditional wooden chalets pop up at Disneyland Paris, so if you’re planning an outing to Disney World Paris around Christmas, make a point of stopping by the christmas market in the Disney Village to take a stroll and enjoy the characters, lights and buzz. As you’d expect – Christmas at Disneyland Paris is no ordinary affair. It kicks off in early November and lasts for 2 months. The whole place has a magical festive air and it won’t be just the children who get over excited by the attractions! It “snows” every day on Main Street USA where there’s an huge 80 ft Christmas tree! Santa lives at Disneyland Paris during this time and kids can drop their wish list letters off at his post office. Every night there is a tree lighting ceremony and the whole place sparkles (click on the Disney box on the right to see more details and to book).
More Christmas markets in Paris – the smaller ones!
Montparnasse Christmas Market
Open: December 5th, 2012 to December 30th, 2012. This market specializes in regional French delicacies and you can enjoy a snack in a festive atmosphere!
Location: Below the Montparnasse Tower Block
Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenüe
Christmas Market and Santa’s Village Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Open: December 6th, 2012 to January 2nd, 2013 .
Location: Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Notre-Dame / Quartier Latin
Around 30 chalets in a pretty location selling regional foods and seasonal goodies.
There are several more smaller markets. For opening times and details on all Paris Christmas market
The winter holiday season in the city of lights would feel degrees less cheerful and inspired without the traditional Paris Christmas markets that spring up each year. The markets, with their iconic clusters of wood chalets offering custom holiday treats like mulled wine, gingerbread, sausages and specialties from various regions of France, are an essential part of celebrating Christmas in Paris. They also make an ideal outing with kids in Paris. Visit one of Paris's many Christmas markets for a scenic winter stroll, or stock up on traditional foodstuffs or handcrafted toys, clothing and other items for gifts.
The History of Paris Christmas MarketsChristmas markets in Paris and elsewhere in France have their origins in the northern Alsace region, which has belonged to Germany at various junctures in history and therefore draws on German Christmas market traditions stretching to as early as the 14th century. The most famous-- and largest-- marché de noël in France is in Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.
Paris Christmas Markets in 2012-2013No matter where you're staying during your holiday trip this year, you're bound to find a market nearby. Some of these dates and times are subject to change; check back closer to December for updates.
- Christmas Market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées
This is the largest Christmas market within Paris's city limits. The market stretches from the Champs-Elysées roundabout (Metro Champs Elysées-Clémenceau) to the Place de la Concorde (Metro Concorde). Also visit the Maison de l'Alsace at 39 avenue des Champs-Elysees, a temporary boutique offering traditional Alsatian Christmas goodies.
Open: From November 16th, 2012 through January 6th, 2013
Location: Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde
Metro: Champs Elysées-Clemenceau or Concorde
- Christmas Market at La Défense
With 350 stands, one of the largest and most festive Christmas markets around-- in the surreal setting of high-rise buildings.
Open: From November 21st through December 29th, 2012
Location: Parvis de la Défense (near the Grand Arche)
Metro/RER: La Défense
- Christmas Market and Ice Rink at Trocadero
Featuring over 120 stands peddling Christmas goods, an ice-skating rink and "snow villages". This one's ideal for the kids.
Open: Daily from December 13th, 2012 to January 6th, 2013
Location: Place de la Trocadero, across from the Eiffel Tower
- Christmas Market and Santa's Village at Saint-Sulpice
Open: dates and times to be determined. Check back soon.
Location: Place Saint-Sulpice, Paris 6th arrondissement
- Christmas Market and Santa's Village at place Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Open from December 6th, 2012 through January 2nd, 2013 .
Location: Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris 6th arrondissement
- Christmas Market at the Montparnasse Tower
Open from December 5th, 2012 through December 30th, 2012. This market specializes in regional French delicacies.
Location: In front of the Gare Montparnasse, facing the tower.
Metro: Montparnasse Bienvenue
- Christmas Market at Place de la Nation
Open daily from early December (precise dates to be announced), 1:00 am to 8:00 pm
Location: Place de la Nation, 11th arrondissement
- Christmas Market at Place d'Italie
Open from November 24th-December 24th, 2012.
Location: Centre Commercial Italie 2 (Shopping Center), Metro Place d'Italie
- Christmas Market at the Place des Abbesses
This market, nestled in the heart of the quaint Montmartre neighborhood, will be open daily starting in December (precise dates to be announced).
Location: Place des Abbesses, 18th arrondissement
- Christmas Market at Gare de l'Est
Dates and times tbd: check back soon.
Location: Gare de l'Est, 10th arrondissement
Metro: Gare de l'Est
- Christmas Market at Notre Dame Cathedral
This year a market dedicated to arts, crafts, and fine cuisine is set to spring up on the square outside Notre Dame Cathedral, where a giant Christmas tree generally stands as well each year. Mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, warm chalets and even Santa Claus are reportedly set to take the square by storm.
Open: Daily from December 15th-23rd, 2012.
Location: Place du Parvis de Notre Dame, Metro/RER St Michel or Cité
This fabulous tour is carefully planned to make sure that you get to visit all of those must-see sights for which this vast, friendly and lovely land is so famous, with many excursions included. Before the main part of your tour stopover in Singapore and explore narrow streets, quiet squares and the frenzied harbour area. After your holiday in Australia, you will travel to New Zealand for a 14 night stay.