From school and college holidays to running away from the pollution and hum drum of the city, there`s always an excuse to travel during Diwali. Here`s where everyone is headed this season
Avril-Ann Braganza and Pooja Bhula
Dubai`s grand airport enchants you as soon as you land. Then there`s the gold souk or Meena bazaar (psst...you can bargain here), Dubai Mall (which has an aquarium and an ice skating rink) and the Ibn Battuta and Emirates malls. Gawk at the 360 degree view of Dubai from the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa (evening is ideal as you can see the Burj Khalifa lit up and the musical fountain once you`re down) and try dune-bashing in the desert. There`s more—visit the grand Miracle Garden for its flowers, pose for a photo by Atlantis hotel, Burj Al Arab, the world`s most expensive hotel and drive by the homes of the elite at Jumeirah. Shout yourself hoarse on the Fomula Rossa, the world`s fastest roller-coaster (240 km/hr) at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, and when the sun sets, enjoy a drink at 360 Degrees, a lounge at Palm Jumeirah surrounded by water or at Vault, a lounge on the 72nd floor of the Marriott.
There`s more to Thailand than shopping. For some zen, head to the Reclining Buddha Temple, Temple of Dawn, Wat Rong Khun and others. Try water sports in Phuket and visit Phi Phi and the James Bond islands. On the streets, try grilled meats, spicy soups, stir-fries, cart food and finger foods. An hour from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is rich in culture and has well-preserved ruins. And for retail therapy there`s Prathunam market, Siam Square, MBK mall, Pantip Plaza, Chatuchak (Jatujak) Market (open on weekends), the night bazaars and floating markets. The popular cities remain the same—Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya and Phuket.
A flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bahru, a two-hour drive and a one-hour boat ride later, you’re in Perhentian. Here you can scuba dive, swim with vegetarian sharks and try orangutan rum or monkey juice. Melaka, one of Malaysia’s smallest states is another stopover you ought not to miss. Steeped in history and culture, the must-visit list includes Church of St Francis Xavier, Christ Church, Cultural Museum, Maritime Museum, Jonker Walk, Melaka River Cruise and Eye on Malaysia Melaka. Of course you can’t miss Kuala Lumpur, known for the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower. Also check out Aquaria KLCC, KL Bird Park, Orchid and Hibiscus Garden, National Museum, the Heritage Centre, Bintang Walk(eat and shop) and the National Palace. While in Malaysia also visit the Batu Caves, Genting Highlands and Langkawi.
Singapore has something for everyone. Kids can enjoy a day at Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and the Night and River Safaris. At Sentosa Island, relax on the beach, visit Universal Studios, Underwater World and say `hello` to the pink dolphins. Other attractions include Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion, Botanical Gardens and China Town. Savour meals at Jumbo Seafood and revel in the night life at Clark Quay. 165m above the ground, Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation ferris wheel lends stunning views, and just below it gorge on delicious Singaporean street food. For high-end shopping there`s Orchard Street and for a steal head to Bugis Street. History buffs must visit the Raffles landing site and the National Museum of Singapore.
The beauty of isolation is what one cherishes about the Andamans, but that`s now how colonial political prisoners detained at Port Blair`s Cellular Jail would have felt. It`s worth seeing the radial prison modelled around solitary confinement. While a trip to the Andamans is synonymous to scuba diving, kayaking through the mangroves is great fun (even though the danger of crocodiles is always lurking) and so is fishing, and swimming in Radhanagar beach on Havelock Island(considered India`s best beach). Take an early morning beach walk or bike on Havelock`s roads amidst mammoth mahua trees. Ruins of the old capital, Ross Island, taken over by tree roots and herds of deer, make for a picturesque scene and Baratang island dotted with thatch houses has amazing limestone caves with towering stalactites. Around sunset watching flocks of parrots circle and call out to each other at Parrot Island is just wonderful.
Not only are the garbs of locals colourful, but some of Rajasthan`s cities have are also been nick-named Pink City(Jaipur), Blue City(Jodhpur) and Golden City(Jaisalmer). They`re all known for forts, palaces and royalty, but each is unique. At Jaipur you must visit Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal, and to purchase traditional sarees or accessories take a trip to haat bazaar. The architectural splendour of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur is a pleasure to look at, but you shouldn`t miss out on Bramhapuri either. This is where you`ll find all the blue houses, painted so to keep the interiors cool. Sitting atop a camel, the desert safari in Jaisalmer, its golden sand stone structures and a show of folk dance will ensure an immersive experience. Attractions include Jaisalmer Fort and ruins of 300-year-old havelis. Often called `Venice of the East`, Udaipur is known for its beautiful lakes and lake palaces. You can visit Saheliyon ki Bari (Courtyard of the Maidens) and must visit Shilpagram, where artisans and craftsmen conduct a fair to depict the lifestyles of the folk and tribal people.
Holidaying in Kerela can be thrilling, relaxing, or both. Munnar is known for its tea gardens, but besides watching nimble fingers pluck tea leaves, you can also go trekking, watch elephants grazeat Elephant Arrival Spot or ride a horse at Top Station, Munnar`s highest point. But if you want to lounge and lay loose, then backwaters in Allepy and Kumarakom or beaches in Kovalam are meant for just that. Enjoy a houseboat-stay in the backwaters and explore nearby villages on foot or cycle. The two wheeler is easily available on rent at Allepy and riding on its flat roads is a delight. Allepy is one of the rare places in South India that offers camel rides. Rich in flaura and fauna, Kerela has several national parks for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. If your trip is incomplete with shopping, then Kochi, which has branded stores all over and street fashions near Fort Kochi, is your place. The Fort area is good for fishing too.
Beaches, fish curry and rice, Goa sausages, beer and sleep (of course the mention of Goa sausages might have given that away) But there’s more to this beach state—Fort Aguada the well-preserved 17th century Portuguese fort on Sinquerim Beach; Dona Paula, where lovers Dona and Paulo, separated by caste and nationality, are said to have jumped off the cliff thus ending their lives; and the Basilica of Bom Jesu, where St Francis Xavier`s mortal remains lie. But you can’t holiday in Goa without visiting its beaches—Anjuna, Baga, Calangute, Miramar, or bargaining at the Anjuna flea market and Arpora night bazaar. You`ll also find clubs, pubs and restaurants in Baga and Calangute, known for their night-life.
Information about trending destinations given by cleartrip.com, makemytrip.com, Thomas Cook India(Ltd.) and ITTR Travel Services Pvt. Ltd.
Inputs from Meenal Sharma, Niharika Sanyal, Kalpana Dharnidharka, Rama Sreekant, Sunami Paigankar, Rachel D`Souza, Roopal Julka, Samreen Samad