Thursday, June 21, 2012

La Tomatina

The last Wednesday in August marks Spain’s messiest festival. Held in Buñol, an otherwise drab industrial town 40km west of Valencia, La Tomatina is a tomato-throwing orgy that causes the population to swell to more than 40,000 visitors in a town of just 9000 inhabitants.
The mayhem takes place on the town’s main square and Calle del Cid. At precisely 11am a large greased pole with a ham attached to the end of it is hoisted into the air, and there’s a mad scramble as people struggle against each other to pull it down. Once this is achieved, a rocket swooshes skywards and over 100 tonnes of ripe, squishy tomatoes are tipped from trucks to the waiting crowd. For precisely one hour, until a second rocket is fired, everyone joins in a frenzied, cheerful, anarchic tomato battle. After being pounded with pulp, expect to be sluiced down with hoses by the local fire brigade.

A food-fighting history 

The crazy food-fighting festival of La Tomatina began in 1945, but it is not known why. Locals have numerous theories, including the popular tale of disgruntled townsfolk attacking city councilmen during a town celebration. However, it could also be attributed to anything from an anti-Franco protest or simply a fun food fight between friends. Whichever way it started, the townsfolk of Buñol enjoyed it so much that it was repeated year after year, finally becoming an officially recognised celebration in 1952. Despite being canned briefly during the 1970s for having no religious significance, it has returned full-throttle every year.
The festival is now held in honour of the town’s patron saint, St Louis Bertrand, and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenceless).

 Travel plans

Most people come for the day, arriving on the morning train from Valencia and heading back in the afternoon. But if you want the full La Tomatina experience, stay for the week-long celebration, which involve music, dancing, parades and fireworks. The night before the fight, a paella cooking competition is held where women traditionally dress in white, and men forego shirts altogether.
Protection for the fight is recommended – wear old clothes and shoes and a pair of goggles to protect your eyes. As you’re hosed down with water after, a change of clothes is a good idea, although warm Valencia temperatures will have you dry in no time.
What you don’t bring to La Tomatina is also important. The crazed tomato-throwers take no prisoners; cameras are seen as positive invitations to pelt the owner. Women should be aware that a wet T-shirt competition is an unofficial part of the day. Tomatoes are supplied, but ensure they are squashed or fruit might not be the only bruised bodies in town.
If you don’t fancy being showered with soggy tomatoes, you can watch the spectacle in dry comfort on Canal 9, Valencia’s local TV channel. Or, you could avail yourself for the more painful orange-throwing festival, the Battle of the Oranges, held in the northern Italian town of Ivrea every February.

The Rules of La Tomatina
  • Do not bring bottles or hard objects as they can cause accidents and hurt other participants
  • Do not rip other people’s T-shirts
  • You must squash the tomatoes before throwing them as this reduces the impact
  • Ensure you keep a safe distance from the lorries
  • As soon as you hear the second shot, you must stop throwing tomatoes
Useful Advice
  • Wear closed shoes that you don’t mind throwing away afterwards. If you wear flip-flops, you may get hurt, or you could lose them easily during the battle
  • Wear old clothes, or clothes that you aren’t planning to wear again. They will most likely end up damaged from being ripped or incredibly dirty
  • You may find goggles useful. However, it is safer if you just ensure that you always have something clean to wipe your eyes with. The best thing is if you tuck your T-Shirt into your shorts to keep the bottom part of your T-shirt clean and dry
  • If you are planning to take pictures, bring a waterproof camera!
  • If you’re not from Buñol, and you want to stay overnight, don’t forget to look for and secure accommodation in advance
  • Do not miss the Palojabón – a soap-covered pole with a Spanish ham at the top: whoever can climb the pole and get the ham can keep it!
  • Stay safe and enjoy the festivities as much possible

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dubai Destinations and Landmarks

Dubai Gold Souk

Dubai has been long known as the ‘city of gold’, despite the fact that majority of its gold is imported from Asia and neighbouring countries. Dubai is a tax free shopping haven for gold lovers and is the Middle East’s center of jewelry market. Moreover, Gold in Dubai is the cheapest in the world.

Global Village Dubai

Located in Dubailand, the Global Village is the world's largest leisure, tourism and entertainment project. It is the first premier cultural, entertainment and shopping destination in the region, with diverse cultures, theater, art, commerce and cuisine gathering from across the world.

Art Galleries in Dubai

The art scene in Dubai and the UAE is rapidly increasing over time and due to the inherited favor for beautiful scenery, art galleries in Dubai are becoming world recognized. Artists from different regions of the Middle East and other countries are displaying their art works in galleries in Dubai, making this a one stop city and truly a city to remember.

Sheikh Zayed Road

The striking new Etisalat head quarters buildingis taking shape close to the Dubai World Trade Centre roundabout beside Shaikh Zayed Road. There is no part of Dubai more impressive than Shaikh Zayed Road, which stuns newcomers to the city with its glitzy designs. Among the most impressive buildings is the Emirates Towers office and hotel complex.

Desert Safari

The magnificence and harmony of the desert can be experienced in a choice of exciting half-day, full-day and overnight safaris. These action-packed trips cover varied topography ranging from desert to mountain and take in remote camel and goat farms and isolated villages.

Dubai City Tours

Dubai city tour by coach along the lanes of Dubai city will give you a glimpse of its ancient Arabian culture and heritage mantled with the modern cosmopolitan lifestyle. You will experience an exiting ride on the Abra (water taxi), the popular local mode of transport which takes you across the creek to spice souq and the glittering gold souq that gives Dubai its name "city of gold".

Big Bus Tour

Conventionally, big bus tours can only be seen in London and it’s one of the highlights of your tour per se, but since Dubai is a one stop city, you can always count on them to have everything that you need, including the famous big bus tour.


Dubai blessed with a beautiful beachfront, and the city's sultry heat makes nearly every day ideal for a trip to the beach. Dubai's main beaches run along Jumeira Road. Beach activities in Dubai include snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing and fishing, and there are many outlets in the city where gear can be rented.

Ski Dubai 

Ski Dubai has five runs of varying difficulty, height, and steepness. The longest run is 400 meters with a fall of 60 meters. There are gentler slopes for beginners and indoor black runs for more experienced skiers. Skiers and snowboarders are equally likely to enjoy Ski Dubai with snowboarders getting to perform their stunts on a 90 meter long quarter pipe.


The parks in Dubai are reputed to be among the best in the world. There are amusement parks as well as recreational parks and gardens. They all provide excellent environments that one can go to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Beach Resorts

The beach resorts in Dubai comprise incredible edifices made of marble and glass with gardens that lead to private beaches. Several of these also have public areas that are well-furnished, amidst luxurious surroundings, as Dubai beaches boasts of soft white sand and warm sea, that are safe for swimming. 

Spa Resorts

Offering several exclusive boutiques in the world, apart from super-luxury hotels, golden beaches and a thriving nightlife, the duty-free zone of Dubai is a haven for shoppers and a playground for adults. The Spa resorts often cater to upscale clientele, and feature world-class amenities and services, apart from easy access to all attractions in Dubai.


Dubai’s aim for diversification is purposely intended to create other forms of economic wealth apart from the primary oil resources. In the bid to establish this movement, Dubai Dolphinarium was created and developed to provide entertainment, education and environmental beauty for local residents and foreign visitors.

Dubai Museum

Dubai Museum includes archaeological objects such as pottery, stone and metallic items, stone engravings, and skeletons which were discovered during digs in the Emirate of Dubai (Hatta, Al Soffoh, Al Qusais, and Al Jumeira). Some pieces date back 4000 years.

Helicopter Tours

Taking a helicopter tour is one of the most adventurous ways of viewing the varied landscapes of Dubai. Helicopter tour is also one of the best ways of sightseeing in Dubai, wherein you can get an aerial view of the major tourist attractions in Dubai, and the forthcoming landmarks.


Dubai is a favourite spot for fishing enthusiasts. Dubai has already played host to numerous renowned mariners and sea fishing enthusiasts. Deep sea fishing is an exciting activity pursued in the waters of Dubai, and is a true blend of fun with adventure. The warm Arabian Gulf waters teemed with fish life, makes Dubai an ideal place for beginners and professional anglers alike.

Dhow Cruise

The Dhow is generally made of wood, and is mostly used for fishing. The evening spent on the cruise along the creek, would be the best to calm down the stress and relax your mind. The boat operators usually take you to a stunning spot, to enjoy a contrast between Deira and Bur Dubai, with one side boasting the modern side of Dubai, while the other end preserves the calmness of Arab land.


Aquaventure is one of the most important and superb attractions in Dubai, and is the right place for adventurous souls. It is easily accessible, and is located in the Atlantis, The Palm Hotel and Resort, on the outer rim of the well-known Palm Jumeirah Island.

Wild Wadi Water Theme Park

It's wet! It's wild! It's Wild Wadi - the wildest waterpark ever! It's 12 acres of pure fun with 23 adrenalin-pumping rides and attractions that leave you gasping for more. Situated between Burj Al Arab and The Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, it's just a 20-minute drive from the city centre. Get there and go wild!

Wonderland Theme Park

A huge indoor air-conditioned centre with over 100 rides, arcade games, video games and a whole lot more. There's also a place for mum and dad to sit and relax whilst enjoying a tasty meal from Mithu's Nest café which is situated inside the centre.

Umm Al Quwain

It is said that Umm Al Quwain (UAQ) is the best place in the world for people who enjoy sounds of waves and peace. Sailing in the calm water of lagoon offers best and most interesting sailing in the Northern Emirates.

Ras Al Khaimah

Located along the northern end of UAE’s Persian Gulf Coast, the Ras Al Khaimah emirate is located between the Arabian Gulf and Hajar Mountains. Covering a coastline of 27miles, including tranquil lagoons and golden sand beaches, it also shares the mountainous borders of Oman.


Fujairah, one of the seven emirates constituting the UAE, is a popular tourist destination. Fujairah is the only emirate that lies to the eastern end of the UAE, along with Gulf of Oman, while the other six emirates are located along the Arabian Gulf.

Upcoming Attractions

Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Saadiyat is one of TDIC’s (Tourism Development and Investment Company) flagship developments, located in a natural island, 500 meters off the Abu Dhabi coast. Saadiyat is a five-minute drive from Downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport, and an hour away from Dubai.

French Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi

France and UAE signed a pact on 6th March 2007 to create a universal museum, named Louvre Abu Dhabi, due for opening in the year 2014. This venture also laid the foundation for a new type of cultural collaboration between the two sovereign nations, meeting mutual needs and aspirations.

Let Mercury Travels take you on a trip to the magical UAE

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Travel Photography: 10 Simple Yet Practical Tips

Travel photography is something we all get excited about. Sometimes we take a bunch of photos and come back to realize that our 500-something photos didn’t really capture the spirit of our travels. To ensure that this won’t happen to you (again), here are some quick tips.

1.) Do a pack run-through

You’ve probably thought about what you’re going to pack on your vacation in terms of clothing and toiletries. However, what about your camera, lenses and accessories? Think about where you’re going and what you want to shoot. Would it be convenient for you to carry around a DSLR with a few lenses? If you’re primarily shooting landscape, maybe a wide-angle lens would suffice? Or maybe you would just like to stick to a simple point-and-shoot camera?
Also, don’t forget the little things. Like extra battery, additional memory cards, chargers and camera cleaning products.

2.) Getting there is half the fun

You begin traveling the moment you step out that door. So start snapping away your journey to the airport; touching down at your destination and being utterly confused; being tightly packed on a bumpy bus ride; the disappointment when your hotel doesn’t look like the picture on the brochure.

3.) It’s ok to be cliched

As photographers, we tend to want to take a photo that’s different. However, trying to frame every one of your travel photos to be ‘unique’ will either get you extremely frustrated, have you snapping up only 30 photos, or both. It’s fine to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower front-on, or the illusion that your friend’s pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

4.) It won’t be mundane one year from now

Like cliched photos, it’s also fine to take less than stunning subjects. The confusing currencies, the weird and wonderful signs, what you see while staring out the window. Don’t delete the ‘boring’ photos! They might seem mundane a few seconds after you’ve taken them. But you’d look back on them a year from now and realize just how well they’ve documented your travels.

5.) People spot

You can learn a lot about a country from looking at its people. The way they dress, how they walk, how they talk, the way they treat others, their emotions etc.

6.) Shoot before you eat

We’re the type that gets extremely excited about traveling because we get to try new kinds of foods and dishes. And trust us, others get excited about that too. My friends couldn’t care less about the tourist sites but were more interested to see what I had for lunch and dinner!

7.) Be creative, use props

The souvenirs and postcards you purchase, use them as props in your next photo. It’s a sure way to get you thinking out of the box and produce some interesting photos.

8.) Take notes

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it still doesn’t express how you really feel. Excitement? Culture shocked? Home sick? Carry a small notebook around and just jot down a few sentences when you feel over-whelmed to do so, along with the image number.
A lot of cameras now allow you to even dictate a short speech over your photo.

9.) Ditch your friends and go solo (for a while)

Friends who aren’t photographers have a hard time understanding how you can spend a few minutes on one subject. Or why obscure objects might interest you more than monumental buildings. That is why you need to have a few hours or even a day to yourself where you can roam around freely and not feel rushed or pushed into taking photos.
I often like to revisit a favorite spot and see beyond the famous landmarks and sites.

10.) Put yourself in the photo

As photographers, we often forget to put ourselves in front of the camera. Don’t just shoot a self-portrait with your arms stretched out in front of you (yes, I’ve done that plenty of times too). Give your camera to a trusting-looking passerby and get them to a photo of you. Even if you’re carrying a complicated DSLR, just simply switch it to the Auto mode.