Friday, October 28, 2011

Top 10 Things to do in France

France has it all - enviable beauty, refined architecture, cultural sophistication, and infectious romance. Every little corner of the country is worth visiting regardless of the season, and deciding on a compact itinerary given all those unmatchable attractions can really give you a hard time.
Here is a list of top 10 things to see or do on your vacation to France.
   1. Climb the Eiffel Tower
Ascend the Eiffel Tower for spectacular views of Paris. At over 1,000 feet, the massive structure has two restaurants, a souvenir shop, viewing area, and more. Return at night with a bottle of Bordeaux and lie in the grass at the Champs de Mars, gazing up at the spectacular light display.
2. Experience art at the Louvre
The Louvre, Paris’ world famous museum is home to the world's most exquisite artistic legacy, from Egyptian mummies and Code of Hammurabi to Venus de Milo and Leonardo's Mona Lisa. The museum showcases over 35,000 pieces of art, making it a symbol of French sensitivity and finesse.
3.Visit the Palace at Versailles
Located 13 miles southwest of Paris, Versailles was the political capital of France for over a century. Louis XIV built the Chateau de Versailles in the 17th century, sparing no luxury or extravagance. Now, a popular tourist destination, visitors come to see the lavish palace, with its carvings, woodwork, marble and abundant gardens.
4.Climb the bell tower at the Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, built between 1163 and 1330, has a striking gothic exterior, two broad towers, and many sweeping arches. Inside are a 7800-pipe organ, a magnificent rose window, as well as carvings, statues, and saints. Climb the towers for spectacular view of Paris. The south tower holds the great bell of Notre Dame, as tolled by Victor Hugo’s fictional hunchback, Quasimodo!
5.Enjoy an evening at the Moulin Rouge
Located in the vicinity of Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge has enthralled millions over the years. Lively and seductive, the cancan dance is a spectacle of whirling costumes, slender legs, sexy lingerie, and outstanding technique. France with its unbridled romance at its best!
6. Ski, Hike and Bike in Chamonix valley, French Alps
Backdropped by the monumental wall of Mt Blanc in the French Alps, the Chamonix valley is a year-round paradise not only for enthusiasts of outdoor sports, but for anyone who appreciates the magnificent vistas in the heart of the massif, where endless trails unveil indescribable panoramas. There are fantastic opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Unforgettable fun guaranteed.
7. Tour Wine Country in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is famed throughout the world for its wine and countryside vineyards. Rent a car and drive north to the vineyards and follow the wine trails in the Medoc or Sauternes appellations to discover prestigious wine chateaux. For an education in wine, the Ecole du Vin offers wine lessons in English. Certainly an intoxicating experience!
8. Pray at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
Our Lady of Lourdes had appeared to Bernadette Soubirous several times in the tranquil town of Lourdes, nested in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Today, millions flock to the Sanctuary and to its sacred Cave of Apparitions. Devout or not, you will be moved on seeing people engrossed in reverence or immersing themselves in the waters of the grotto's 17 pools. A touching experience!
Amble though the medieval walled city of Carcassonne with its wealth of monuments. A visit to the fortified settlement of La Cité is a true step back in time. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its narrow cobblestoned streets, medieval buildings, towers and little squares filled with atmospheric restaurants make for a unique experience.
10. Attend an A-list Party on the French Rivera
The French Rivera, known in France as the Cote d’Azur, is a great destination for a holiday. It has a plethora of jet set towns including Nice, Cannes, and Saint Tropez, known for wild all night parties.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Enchanting Egypt

Welcome to Egypt, a country that takes you back five thousand years, and introduces you to the most ancient and mighty civilization in the world.

Egypt is alive with architecture, sound, beauty and excitement. The land of the Pharaohs, it is probably one of the oldest vacation spots. Early Greeks, Romans and others visited Egypt to see the wonders of the Pyramids. But Egypt is much more than Pyramids and monuments. It is also Red Sea scuba diving, nature and desert treksfishing and birding expeditions, hot night spots, luxury hotels and five star restaurants. It is romantic cruises down the Nile on luxurious river boats, a night at the grand opera and unique cultural experiences.

Cairo is the gateway to this enchanting country. The city houses the magnificent Pyramids of Giza, the Valley Temple and the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum and the San Sergious Church. You can spend endless hours wandering through the lively souks of Cairo. At the famed Khan el Khalily Bazaar, with well over 1000 shops, you can explore antiques, gold and silver ornaments, hand-crafted leather goods, alabaster vases, papyrus sheets, scents and incenses, blown glasswork, fancy souvenirs, cartouche pendants with your name written in ancient hieroglyphics, and Egyptian cotton clothing.

One of the most famous grand hotels in Egypt, the Mena House Oberoi lies at the foot of the pyramids in Cairo. Richly decorated in Oriental style, it has a distinctly Moorish ambience with spacious, fully equipped rooms and verdant gardens. The famed pyramids are a stone’s throw away and are even visible from the hotel swimming pool.

Fly to Aswan to board your cruise on the Nile - a must-have experience! Before boarding the cruise, do take time out to visit the world famous High Dam, an engineering marvel when it was built in the 1960s. Also visit the beautiful Temple of Philae, dedicated to the goddess Isis.
The cruise introduces you to many beautiful cities alongside the River Nile. Kom Ombo is a beautiful old city which houses the Kom Ombo Temple dedicated to the two Gods Sobek and Haroeris. The temple dates back to about 180 BC during the Ptolemaic era, with additions made in Roman times. It stands on the bank of the Nile between Edfu and Aswan. Edfu houses the Temple of Horus, built during the reigns of the Ptolemies between 237 BC and 57 BC. The cruise also takes you to the famed Deir el Bahari - a complex of mortuary temples and tombs, the temple of Hatshepsut, the Valley of the Kings and Colossi of Memnon.

Post a relaxed cruise you could experience the thrill of an adventure holiday. Hop onto your 4x4 vehicle and drive on the Bahariya desert road towards the Bahariya Oasis. En route you could visit the Wadi Al Hitan, the Valley of the Whales, home to 40 million old whale skeletons. Drive along the ancient caravan route of Darb Wadi Al Rayyan onwards to the Bahariya Oasis. Then towards the Black and White Deserts whose landscape is dominated by dozens of small black-topped mountains. Travel onward to the magnificent area of the Crystal Mountain and Aqabat. Aqabat, 'the difficult', is the name given to scores of rock sugarloaves surrounded by soft sand, powdered chalk and coloured stones of varied sizes. Drive onward till you reach the Farafra Oasis, the smallest oasis in the Western Desert, and the setting of the ancient town of Qasr al Farafra. The desert experience is truly thrilling.

Another option is a short break at the beautiful seaside resort towns of Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. Located at the banks of the Red Sea, they are ideal for a luxurious holiday. Sharm el-Sheikh fascinates visitors with its Bedouins, colourful tents, mountains and sea. The warm waters of the Red Sea are ideal for many varieties of rare fish and coral reefs. Snorkel in these waters or observe them through glass bottom boats. Also check out the exciting night life at the various clubs.

Combine your Egypt holiday with a trip to Greece and Turkey. Come and experience Egypt, the cradle of civilization, on an exotic and unforgettable holiday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Amazing Australia

Australia is one of the most spectacular countries in the world. It encompasses the rocky red gorges in the North, the surf beaches in the East, the large stretch of the Great Barrier Reef in the North East, the snow covered mountain ranges in the South and lush vineyards in West. With an array of diverse experiences, an amazing culture and warm people, Australia is a fabulous holiday destination.
Queensland is famed for the pristine beaches of the Great Barrier Reef, the spectacular Whitsunday Islands, the theme parks at the Gold Coast, the bustling city of Brisbane, the salubrious atmosphere at Cairns, and of course, the glorious sunshine all year round. The Great Barrier Reef, the only natural world wonder visible from space, is your window to an amazing underwater world. Easily accessible from Cairns is the rainforest at Kuranda Village and the Tjapukai Park, which introduces you to aboriginal culture. While the serenity and tranquillity of Cairns charms you, the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast is sure to enthral you. Gold Coast is home to the theme parks - Dreamworld with the fastest and tallest rides in the world; Movieworld with your favourite movie experiences; and Seaworld with dolphin and shark shows.
New South Wales houses the Hunter Valley Wine Region and the Blue Mountains National Park, and has the charming city of Sydney as its gateway. Sydney, one of the world’s most spectacularly scenic cities, is located on the banks of the Darling river. It is home to the awesome Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Sydney Tower – the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Among the must-visit attractions are the Royal Botanical Gardens and the picturesque Taronga Zoo which houses over 3,000 animals.
Victoria seduces with its rolling green hills of the Yarra Valley, the famed Great Ocean Road, the fabulous Philip Island and metropolitan Melbourne. In the wine area Yarra Valley, you experience the local wines and also ride aboard the famed steam train - Puffing Billy, as it traverses a path of 24 kms through forests, fern gullies and rolling farmlands. Drive down the Great Ocean Road for some spectacular scenery and a breathtaking view of the ‘Twelve Apostles’ – huge stone pillars rising from the surf. A fabulous experience is a visit to Philip Island, a 3 hours drive from Melbourne. At Philip Island you could board the Wildlife Coast Cruises to Seal Rocks to see thousands of seals in their natural habitat. A visit to the Philip Island Nature Park introduces you to hundreds of small fairy penguins – a truly unforgettable experience! The Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit holds the 500cc motorcycle races and the World Superbike Championship. Experience the thrill of Go Karting or Hot Laps in a HSV Holden on these tracks. Of course, Melbourne is a charming metropolis, home to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, great food and amazing shopping.
South Australia is a patchwork of diverse experiences – from Flinders Ranges and the Outback to the Simpson Desert, from the wine making Barossa Valley to elegant Adelaide. Adelaide is a sophisticated city that has preserved its heritage and links with the past. It is a clean and gracious city close to some of the best metropolitan coastal beaches in Australia. Easily accessible from Adelaide is the fabulous Barossa Valley with its charming wineries, great wine tasting and delicious winery lunch! The rolling Adelaide Hills is dotted with quaint villages to Hahndorf, rich in German heritage and a delight to walk and browse along the main street. Western Australia includes white sand beaches, marvellous marine life and beautiful forest areas.
Tasmania, slightly cut off from the mainland, boasts of alpine waterfalls, dense rainforests, sparkling glacial lakes of Cradle Mountain, and gigantic granite peaks of the Freycinet Peninsula. Cradle Mountain, with its icy streams cascading from rugged mountains, calm lake waters and a wealth of wildlife, is truly incredible. Explore the Huon Valley, and visit the Tahune AirWalk as well as sample the local wine and cheese. Down the East Coast of Tasmania is the Freycinet National Park. At close quarters to the Park is Wineglass Bay, one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
Australia is truly a travellers’ paradise and a perfect destination for a holiday of a lifetime.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Join the Parade!

The Chingay Parade Singapore, to be held on the evenings of 19 and 20 February 2010, is an annual street parade to celebrate Singapore’s multi-cultural uniqueness, and is a colourful extravaganza of exciting floats and performances. Chingay is part of Singapore’s unique way of celebrating the lunar new year.

Chingay Parade Singapore 2010 will take place at the F1 Pit Building at Marina Bay. Visitors can purchase tickets for seats at the 36,000-strong grandstand or simply stand along the parade route.

Chingay has enjoyed a long tradition, with its first parade dating back to 1973. Its name, 'Chingay', was coined from its phonetic Hokkien equivalent, which means 'the art of costume and masquerade'.

AF1 Pit Building at Marina Bay
• Be dazzled by Chingay 2010, showcasing Asia in wondrous ways beyond your wildest imagination.
• Majestic flying horses promise to make an impression with unusual fantasy characters in Chingay 2010’s opening!
• Traditional dragon and lion dancers seize the parade grounds by storm! Cover your ears as you marvel at Guang Xi’s ‘firecracker dragon’!
• Legendary well-loved tales (Butterfly Lover, Puteri Gunung Ledang and Indralogam) weaved into rich multi-ethnic performances will spin you into a spell of intrigue
• Samba Singapore! Rock to the Samba Parade in Asian style! Be thrilled by the exotic costumes and waves of colours along a continuous parade route lining the waterfront
• The Grandest Finale in Chingay History will debut in Chingay 2010, featuring performers and float from the new Resorts World at Sentosa!
• For the first time, Chingay Parade offers a dazzling array of events and activities to entertain audiences beyond the parade duration

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stunning South Africa

South Africa is several countries rolled in one. Cape Town intrigues visitors with its glorious beaches, enchanting vineyards, striking Table Mountain and rugged landscapes. Sip wine at Spier and watch the sun set as you’ve never seen it before. Not to forget the mesmerizing wilderness of Kruger National Park, teeming with exotic game and the natural beauty of Knysna. This is an exhilarating land, that will reward your senses and your soul to an unimaginable degree. South Africa with its diverse experiences, promises a wholesome holiday experience.

The South Africa itinerary is a suggested holiday itinerary. You can extend your stay with the suggested extension holidays at Sun City Resort or at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. Mercury Travels offers customized holidays to South Africa and other captivating destinations. Come and see Africa the way you want you to.

SOUTH AFRICAJohannesburg/Cape Town/Spier/Cape Town/Oudtshoorn/Knysna/Kruger/Johannesburg (11 nights/12 days)
Day 1 – Arrive Johannesburg/Cape TownArrive into Johannesburg and take a connecting flight to Cape Town. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Cape Town.
Day 2 – Cape TownWake up to a leisurely breakfast. Set off on a half day Mother City Tour that includes visits to the Houses of Parliament, the Castle, the South African Museum and other historical sights. The cable car ride takes you to the Table Mountain for a breathtaking view of the city. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is the last stop before you make your own way to the hotel. Overnight in Cape Town.
Day 3 – Cape TownSet off on a full day Peninsula Tour that introduces you to spectacular Cape Peninsula, also called the Fairest Cape. Take a leisurely walk in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Travel past Sea Point and Camps Bay, past the famous beaches of Clifton and Llandudno, towards Hout Bay. Drive along the Atlantic Seaboard. Pass through Noordhoek and Scarborough. Visit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Seal Island. Drive along the Indian Ocean coastline, where you can visit the beautiful Boulders Beach, and perhaps sit among the famous colony of Jackass Penguins. Thereafter, enjoy a short stop at the naval port of Simon’s Town before returning to your hotel. Overnight in Cape Town.
Day 4 – Cape Town/SpierThis morning, you head out into the wine growing area of Spier. This is a great place to enjoy nature and unwind. Check into your resort and spend the rest of the day soaking in the ambience. Overnight in Spier.
Day 5 – SpierAfter a lazy breakfast, you can indulge in any of the variety of leisure options including visiting the Wine Centre, the open-air theatre, the swimming pools, the spa, craft exhibitions, wildlife encounters or even wine tasting on horseback! Overnight in Spier.
Day 6 – Spier/OudtshoornSet out from Spier and drive down to the Mossel Bay via the Robinson Pass to Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn is also known as the Feather Capital of the World, thanks to its huge ostrich industry. Overnight in Oudtshoorn.
Day 7 – Oudtshoorn/KnysnaVisit the Crocodile and Cheetah Park and take pictures of yourself with the cheetah. Check out the Cango Caves, regarded one of South Africa’s most spectacular natural wonders, to marvel at the icy formations underground and then head off to the ostrich farm. You then proceed onward to Knysna. Check into your hotel and spend the rest of evening at leisure. Overnight in Knysna.
Day 8 – KnysnaTake a cruise on the Knysna Lagoon. Guarding the lagoon are the Heads, imposing sandstone cliffs that provide powerful protection against the Indian Ocean. Knysna’s forests, marshes and pristine beaches are home to a variety of rare animals and birds. Proceed to the Tsitsikamma National Park and spend the rest of the day discovering the joys of the town’s many art galleries, craft shops and coffee bars. Overnight in Knysna.
Day 9 – Knysna/KrugerCatch your flight from George Airport to Kruger. The fabulous National Park of Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Upon arrival, you are met and are driven into the interiors of Kruger, to your private game reserve lodge. Post lunch, its time to experience the game drive you have been waiting for. Overnight in Kruger.
Day 10 – KrugerWake up at dawn and leave for a game drive into the jungle, prior to sunrise. Return to your lodge for some sumptuous breakfast. Enjoy two more game drives during the day. Overnight in Kruger.
Day 11 – Kruger/JohannesburgCatch a flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival you are met and escorted to your hotel. Overnight in Johannesburg.
Day 12 – Depart JohannesburgYour holiday comes to an end today. You are escorted to the Johannesburg Airport for your flight back home or you could opt to extend your stay with additional holiday options.

SOUTH AFRICA EXTENSIONSSun City Break (2 nights/3 days)
Day 1 – Arrive Sun CityThis morning, on arrival into Johannesburg, you met and transferred by road to the fabulous Sun City complex. The drive to the Sun City complex, which borders the Pilanesberg National Park, takes about two hours. On arrival into Sun City, check into your hotel and relax for the rest of the day. Loads of evening entertainment awaits you here. Overnight in Sun City.
Day 2 – Sun CitySun City offers myriad entertainment and relaxation opportunities, as well
as enough attractions and activities to keep you busy. From slots to safaris; theatre extravaganza to a games arcade for children; horseriding to golf; The Valley of Waves to The Lost City... the resort facilities are endless. The Palace of the Lost City Casino has over 850 slot machines and 38 gaming tables with a huge array of gaming choices. Check out the Gary Player Country Club and the Lost City Golf Course - both international-standard 18-hole golf courses. The Lost City Golf courses is noted for the crocodiles in the water feature of the 13th hole. Overnight in Sun City.
Day 3 – Depart Sun CityPost breakfast, its time to depart for Johannesburg to catch your flight
back home.

Day 1 – Arrive Victoria FallsWelcome to Zimbabwe, the land of the fabulous Victoria Falls. Your flight from Johannesburg arrives this morning into Victoria Falls. Upon arrival you are met and transferred to your hotel. Check in and relax. Later in the evening, enjoy a stunning sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Overnight at Victoria Falls.
Day 2 – Victoria FallsThis morning you set out to see the Falls up close. The Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. At 1,708 meters wide, it is the largest curtain of water in the world. It drops between 90 meters to 107 meters into the Zambezi Gorge. The local people call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means 'the smoke that thunders'. The sheer marvel of the towering column of spray, the thunder of the falling water, the terrifying abyss and the tranquil lagoons upstream in which hippos and deadly crocodiles lurk, leaves you speechless and wanting for more. Return to the hotel later in the afternoon. The evening is free for rest and leisure. Overnight at Victoria Falls.
Day 3 – Depart Victoria FallsWake up to breakfast this morning and its time for you to be escorted to the airport to catch your flight back to Johannesburg.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A romantic adventure

Do you and your beloved take adventure as seriously as you took your vows? Treetop walks, wakeboarding, kayaking, hiking – whet your palate and take the plunge. Hide away in your own private paradise, or venture out to where the bright city lights are - never too far away.
Are you ready for the flight of your life? If yes, then MegaZip is a must visit place for you. Hidden in the jungle of Imbiah Hill, it is the perfect destination for couples who can throw caution to the wind as they zip, climb, swing and plunge in one of Singapore’s premiere beachside locations.
For those who crave for more excitement around water, Singapore has that too. You can water ski, scuba dive or go sailing. Discover some of Singapore's amazing diving sites that hold rich marine life. If you are looking to reach and enjoy true solitude with your loved one, go canoeing in the warm ocean water. Paddle and explore the idyllic waters, catch a bit of the sun and live up the fitness spirit. To rent your double kayak, head over to any of the sea sports operators at Changi Point, East Coast Park, Mac Ritchie Reservoir, Kallang Sea Sports Club and Sentosa Island. Singapore is one of Asia's top water-skiing and wakeboarding centers. Several operators rent out equipment and also offer professional instruction.
Get the ultimate bungee experience only at G-MAX located in the downtown Singapore. Clarke Quay is the home of bungee and for any adventurous couple; Singapore is the place to be. The G-MAX Reverse bungee is perhaps the most extreme Singapore activity of all!
One of the most romantic ways to see the city with your soul mate is a twilight cruise on the Singapore River. Catch the Singapore skyline bathed in the moon’s silvery gleam.
Love to spend your time with your partner under the canopy of stars? Do visit Night Segway® to experience a night full of spark in Sentosa. Cruise through the island's dazzling evening attractions underneath the stars, and experience a thrilling adventure on a whole new level!
An experience not to be missed in Singapore is the only virtual rollercoaster ride - CineBlast. Ideally located next to 4D Magix – Sentosa, it is Asia’s first and only experiential 4-dimensional motion-simulated cinematic ride. With wide-screen projection and high definition, you’ll find yourself propelled into parallel worlds of fun, excitement and exhilaration with your partner.
A wild date anyone? Take a walk on the wooden boardwalks and trails skirting the edge of the MacRitchie Reservoir and through the forest. This 250m long and 27m high suspension bridge connects the two highest points of the reservoir - Bukit Pierce and Bukit Kalang. It offers a spectacular canopy-level contrast to the usual under-story view from the jungle floor. Instead of arching their necks to observe the canopy, you are now able to catch a glimpse of the vibrant ‘high life’ of the forest at your eye level. From this high vantage point, nature enthusiasts will be able to have a closer observation of the animal community in the shelter or take a peek at the flowers or fruits of tall trees and climbers and their pollination activities.
Singapore may be in the tropics, but in Snow City you can ski, snowboard or snowtube around the man-made icy slopes or build your own snowman right in sunny Singapore.
Cycling is a great way to explore the parks and natural reserves of Singapore. Cycling tracks abound in the parks, but if you want something really tougher than flat ground, try mountain biking at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or Pulau Ubin. These are untamed tracks, rough and raw, going over steep slopes and gravel paths, crossing into some of Singapore's wilderness and outback sites. So rent your 2-wheelers from bicycle kiosks in the parks and cruise along while enjoying the pleasant and serene ambience.
If holding hands with your sweetheart and rollerblading is your thing, head to the tree-lined East Coast Park and feel the sea breeze gently caress your face. You can blade though a McDonald's restaurant, a world's first skate through outlet, to purchase drinks or ice cream to quench your thirst.
Each moment spent in Singapore will create memories to last, woven together with wonderful experiences to cherish for a lifetime. Come let Singapore be your romantic paradise.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Down Under's urban intrigue

Australia is a spectacular country with an array of diverse experiences, a melange of amazing culture and warm people. The Australian government’s migration programme has resulted in more than six million people from some 200 countries making Australia their home, bringing with them their cuisine and traditions. Their settlement in certain suburbs have made these precincts more interesting, and have helped shape the major Australian cities into the unique urban landscapes they are today.

In Sydney, head to the inner city suburb of Leichhardt for a taste of Italy. It was once a working class area populated by first and second generation Italian immigrants. ‘Little Italy’ is centred around busy Norton Street and has plenty of Italian cafes, restaurants, bookshops and a movie theatre.

Sydney’s Chinatown is another fascinating area. Located near Town Hall in the city centre, Chinatown is focused around Dixon Street. It’s a pedestrian mall with many Chinese restaurants and grocery stores. Close to Chinatown is Sydney’s Spanish quarter, where you can find several Spanish-style restaurants and bars.

For funky fashions and cheap-eat restaurants serving up everything from North African to Vietnamese choose Newtown, or for fashion boutiques and chic inner city atmosphere with an alternative side try Oxford Street. It leads up to the fashionable suburb of Paddington.

Further out of town the in-place for international cuisine is Cabramatta which has on offer cuisine from a large range of countries including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Lebanon, Iraq, Italy, Spain and Turkey.

Melbourne has some intriguing city precincts too. Among these is the bayside suburb of St Kilda with restaurants and bars that attract a distinctly bohemian crowd. The St Kilda Esplanade, which nudges up to a beach and a historic pier, is popular by day, while the restaurant and bar strips really come alive once dusk falls.

The city has its own Chinatown, centered on Little Bourke Street which is home to Australia’s oldest Chinese settlement dating back to the 1850s. Just north of the city centre grid are the suburbs of Carlton and Fitzroy. Carlton is known for its Italian restaurants and cafes which cluster along Lygon Street. Fitzroy revolves around edgy Brunswick Street, with its funky art galleries, alternative bookshops, restaurants, boisterous bars and cool cafes.

Perth suburbs of note include upmarket Subiaco, which offers a pedestrian village experience with a mix of friendly markets, boutiques, antique shops, pubs, restaurants and art galleries. Not far from Perth’s city centre is Fremantle - the best preserved example of a 19th century port streetscape in the world. Back streets reveal old dockworkers’ cottages, and warehouses converted into trendy apartments. Also here are the iconic Fremantle Markets, where you can shop for fashion, home wares, antiques and local produce. Treat yourself to Japanese, Turkish, Indonesian, French, or Vietnamese food too.

In Hobart, the state capital of Tasmania, you can find Salamanca Place. This was once the haunt of sailors, whalers, dock-workers and convict labourers. The old Georgian warehouses here are home to art galleries, theatres, cafes, craft shops and restaurants.

In Queensland’s state capital, Brisbane, the small inner-city enclave of West End is a free-spirited place known for its many ethnic restaurants, cafes, and Asian grocers. Then there’s the Fortitude Valley with its vibrant cafes, trendy fashion outlets, popular nightclubs, live music venues, renovated pubs, great restaurants, and the city’s very own Chinatown.

In South Australia, the suburb of North Adelaide is crammed with Victorian and Edwardian architecture and the streets are lined with restaurants, cafes, bistros, and six popular pubs. Northwest of the city centre is Port Adelaide, a historic seaport which is home to some of the finest colonial buildings and several museums, including the National Railway Museum.

Australia’s capital city, Canberra, is a relaxed culturally-significant place. In addition to the nation’s major museums and art galleries, Canberra hosts around 80 diplomatic missions from around the world in its leafy suburb of Yarralumla. The architecture here is well-worth seeing.

Discover these fascinating suburbs, off the main tourist route. Come and enjoy alluring Australia.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hill side story

NORTH EAST INDIA is a corner of this vast and wonderful country that is India. It is relatively unexplored, with lush forests, exotic wildlife and people that are esoteric.

Darjeeling - is the dreamland of the East. It (2134m) has been a popular hill station since the days of the British Raj. Surrounded by lofty mountains, it is a fascinating place rich in natural beauty and surrounded by Buddhist monasteries. To reach there, you can take the famous toy train - now a Unesco World Heritage Property - a meter gauge train operating over some breathtaking scenery.
Gangtok - (1780 m) is a city that could be out of a fantasy tale. The mighty Kanchenjunga peak (8500m) provides a stunning backdrop to this quaint town. In the mystery-laden mists, prayer flags whip in the breeze and wheels spin in the hands of lamas mumbling invocations to God. In the distance are the snows; on the streets, amidst brightly painted pagoda roofed houses, are friendly, smiling people. The Tsomgo Lake lies on the outskirts of Gangtok, and is considered holy by the locals. It is surrounded by snow-clad peaks and is frozen for a large part of the year. Not too far away is the Nathula (or 'whistling') pass. It lies on the border between India and China and is famed for its dramatic scenery.
Shillong - (1496 m) the capital of Meghalaya was planned by the British as a hill resort and a summer retreat. The beautifully kept golf course and several English country cottages testify to another influence besides the local. Beautiful lakes and falls, hillside cottages, a large university, and the popular Bara Bazar are quaint aspects of this town. The place, the people and the climate all combine to create an atmosphere to make Shillong an ideal holiday resort throughout the year. Cherrapunjee, the wettest place on earth, is only 56 kms away from Shillong.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In the abode of Ravana

The beauty of the island nation of Sri Lanka has to be seen to be believed. Once considered to be the abode of Ravana - often seen as the good and pious but misguided man commonly villified by mythology - the small land mass just off the southernmost tip of India is well worth a visit. Food, nature, legend, crafts, gems, textiles and, of course, the people - all go into making Sri Lanka a true paradise of sight, sound and experience.

Mercury Travels has packages that will help you explore the beautiful island.

Day 01 - Airport / ColomboOn arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, you will get your first taste of warm Sri Lankan hospitality. The representative from Nkar Travels & Tours (Pvt) Limited will welcome you and help you transfer to Colombo. Overnight in Colombo.
Day 02 – Colombo / KandyAfter breakfast, transfer to Kandy. En route visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. This centre is set up especially for abandoned or injured baby elephants. They are reared here and trained to become working animals. Feeding and bathing in the river provide the best opportunities to see the animals close up.
Check into the hotel in Kandy. In the evening, join the city tour of Kandy. Visit the Temple of the Holy Tooth, the relic of Lord Buddha, the Gem Museum and a traditional batik-making factory. A stroll in the market place would also be interesting. Late in the evening experience a colourful cultural show where you can really get a taste of Sri Lankan culture. Overnight in Kandy.
Day 03 – Kandy/ Nuwara EliyaAfter breakfast, visit the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy. Thereafter continue your journey to Nuwara Eliya. Stop at the Ramboda waterfall; en route you can stop and enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea while enjoying the spectacular scenery. Spend the evening relaxing in the cool climate. Nuwara Eliya is known as the 'Little England' of Sri Lanka. It is set against beautiful backdrop of mountains, valleys, waterfalls and tea plantations. It is supposed to be one of the coldest places on the island, but is really just like being in England on a spring day; be warned the temperature does drop at night. All around Nuwara Eliya you will see evidence of the former British presence. Houses are like country cottages or Queen Ann-style mansions. Overnight in Nuwara Eliya.
Day 04 – Nuwara Eliya / BentotaAfter breakfast proceed to Wadduwa via Kitulgala. Witness the world famous St. Clair’s and Devon waterfalls. Spend the evening at leisure on the beach. Overnight in Bentota.
Day 05 – Bentota / ColomboAfter breakfast proceed to Colombo. In the evening, go on a site seeing and shopping trip around the busy. You’ll see the famous Bandaranaike International Memorial Hall, the Valukarama temple and the municipal council. among other sights. You can enjoy fair bargains by shopping at some of the reputed shopping malls, but pay a visit to the Pettah Bazaar.
Overnight in Colombo.
Day 06 – Colombo / AirportAfter breakfast proceed to the airport for your flight back.