Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Paris has all but exhausted the superlatives that can reasonably be applied to any city. Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower have been described countless times, as have the Seine and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between the Left and Right Banks. Yet, what writers have never been able to even slightly reflect is the grandness and magic.
Paris probably has more familiar landmarks than any other city in the world. As a result, first-time visitors often arrive in the French capital with all sorts of expectations: of grand vistas, of intellectuals discussing weighty matters in cafés, of romance along the Seine, of naughty nightclub revues, of rude people who won’t speak English. If you look hard enough, you can probably find all of those. But another approach is to set aside the preconceptions of Paris and to explore the city’s avenues and backstreets as if the tip of the Eiffel Tower or the spire of Notre Dame wasn’t about to pop into view at any moment.
You’ll soon discover (as so many others before you have) that Paris is enchanting almost everywhere, at any time, even ‘in the summer, when it sizzles’ and ‘in the winter, when it drizzles’, as Cole Porter put it. You’ll be back. 

You’re nursing a drink in a canal café when you hear Bach. A man with a wild hairdo is playing organ and trumpet on a nutshell of a boat, while his feet do the steering. Only in Amsterdam                 and back by popular demand. After a few years’ pout, this beautiful city has found its old self – quirky, creative and open-minded. Yet beneath the self-assured exterior, mental notes are everywhere. Not long ago the Netherlands swung towards the right, with crackdowns on immigration, religious freedom and red-light districts. Even in freewheeling Amsterdam, people were asking themselves: is too much tolerance a bad thing?
You can breathe easy: the soul-searching is over. The core values of Dutch society that we knew and loved have emerged intact. Newcomers who integrate are welcome; practising a faith is OK, as is the right to turn away from it. You like reefer madness? Fine, let’s hit a coffeeshop. A studded jockstrap for skate night? No problem, that’s crazy enough. Tolerance hasn’t gone out of fashion, it’s just had a makeover.
The city’s gorgeous looks haven’t faded either. The moments you spend ogling the old merchants’ villas, the Jordaan’s charming lanes or the lush Vondelpark are as magical now as in centuries past. The cafés are full, the museums are littered with Golden Age art and everyone still parties like there’s no tomorrow. Amsterdam is a delight to visit any time of year, but it’s hard to trump Queen’s Day, the world’s biggest party-cum–garage sale. In summer there’s an endless parade of festivals and events such as the Holland Festival, the Roots Music Festival and the outrageous Gay Pride parade, as well as delightful concerts on canal stages.
This city is too relaxed to stop being fun. To join in, all you need to pack is a few days’ attitude.

If ever a city could claim split personality, it’s Brussels. French versus Flemish, historic versus hip, bizarre versus boring. Full of contrasts, contradictions and intrigue, this is a multicultural equation that goes much deeper than just red tape and Eurocrats. An historic heirloom is closer to the mark. And in an age where so much is already discovered, Belgium’s capital seduces as one of Western Europe’s unknowns.
Brussels is a city of fine food, café culture, Art Nouveau architecture and the surreal. Pull up a chair and join laissez-faire locals who value the city’s casual atmosphere. Watch money go down on swish Ave Louise or buy dried caterpillars just blocks away in Matonge, the capital’s African quarter. Some of the world’s most enduring images of surrealist art were created in the nondescript northern suburb of Jette. And the architecture ranges from monumental edifices such as the Grand Place to organic Art Nouveau façades and the EU’s real-life Gotham City.
Constant among all this is the quality of everyday life – the shopping’s great, the restaurants fab, the chocolate shops sublime and the pub scene extraordinary. For a long time Brussels didn’t go out of its way to impress, but its stint as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2000 saw the city dusted and polished in a flurry that brought renewed life to historic buildings and decaying streets. A new spirit, just short of cockiness, emerged, flaming outside interest and inner-city regeneration. Nearly a decade on, Brussels is looking better than ever.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Places to visit in the year 2012

What places are calling your name for 2012? Whatever your mood, Here's a recommendation for you—from the romantic hills of Croatia to the perfect beach in Thailand.


Faster, Higher, Stronger

In Olympic-ready London, a new landmark (City Hall) meets old (Tower Bridge) along the Thames. The last time London hosted the Olympics, in 1948, locals subsisted on rations, there was no budget for new sports venues, and many competitors slept in military huts in Richmond Park. Britain may be entering another age of austerity, but nearly $15 billion has been spent on sprucing up the capital for the 2012 Olympics.
Many sporting events have already sold out, but there will be hundreds of free cultural events to enjoy throughout the summer. The London 2012 Festival will turn the whole country into a living stage, from a multilingual bonanza of Shakespeare productions at Stratford-upon-Avon to a soccer-inspired art installation deep in a Scottish forest. David Hockney, Leona Lewis, and Philip Glass are among the heavyweights headlining in London.


Perfumed Oasis
While neighboring oil-rich countries on the Arabian Peninsula are building skyscrapers and convention centers, Oman is erecting an opera house and planting desert gardens amid capital city Muscat’s white stone buildings. Sultan Qaboos sparked the country’s modern renaissance with his rise to power in 1970—adding scores of new schools and hospitals and increasing the miles of paved road from six to over 3,700.
Many of Oman’s delights cater to the elite luxury traveler. The ritziest hotel in Muscat offers a helicopter landing pad out back. Pleasure yachts anchor off the coast; it can be easy to forget the sea is Arabian, not Mediterranean. Muscat's Park Inn, pictured here, has a roof terrace view to rival any.

Muskoka, Ontario

Quintessential Cottage Country
Just two hours by car—but a world away—from powerhouse Toronto beats the heart of Ontario’s cottage country, Muskoka. Families have gathered here for generations to revel in true wilderness. The 2,500-square-mile area includes 8,699 miles of shoreline, 17 historic towns and villages, and innumerable waterfalls and lakes (like Kahshe Lake, above) framed by the peaks of Algonquin Provincial Park to the east and the isles of Georgian Bay Islands National Park to the west.
There’s plenty to do here but nothing you’d put on an agenda. Lounge with friends, barbecue everything, watch the night sky from the dock in the pitch black, play board games while listening to the rain. And run around barefoot all day.

Koh Lipe, Thailand

The Perfect Beach
Thailand's sun-drenched jewel in the South Andaman Sea, Koh Lipe has recently risen to the top of intrepid beach lovers’ A-list of island paradises. Considered an alternative to the overexploited Koh Phi Phi (which gained fame as the setting for the film The Beach), Koh Lipe is accessible only by boat, with departure ports that include Krabi and the nearby Malaysian island of Langkawi.
Crystal waters and pristine reefs surround the island. Up to 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species swim in the protected waters around Koh Lipe (the island is in Tarutao National Marine Park). Pattaya Beach may be the island’s most developed tourist spot, but head to quieter Sunrise Beach, where a now settled community of “sea gypsies,” the Chao Lei, live and fish. Take in the view from Castaway Resort's "chill-out deck," above.


Harmonic Convergence
Dusk falls on a primeval landscape on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. A final relic from the world’s last ice age, this North Atlantic island nation is a world of knife-cut valleys, gargantuan fjords, monumental cliffs, black-sand beaches, thundering waterfalls, and silent white glaciers. Recent volcanic eruptions remind us that Iceland is still a country in the making, with changed landscapes that even Icelanders continue to discover.
Three years of financial recovery have made Iceland more affordable, with consumer prices now largely pegged to the euro. The country’s return to a humbler attitude stems from a thousand-year-old tradition of self-reliance—a tradition that has preserved one of the world’s oldest living languages and harnessed some of the cleanest energy on Earth.

Sri Lanka

Jolly Good Times in Hill Country

The first thing that strikes you is the climate. Damp and bracingly cool, this place doesn’t fit your image of Sri Lanka, the lush island nation—formerly known as Ceylon—that hangs like a teardrop off the tip of southern India.
Nuwara Eliya (pronounced nyur-RAIL-ya) is a colonial-era resort town in Sri Lanka’s stunning hill country. This mountainous, mist-draped realm has long been popular with backpackers and other adventurers for its tea plantations (above) and rain forest preserves, known as the Central Highlands, which recently were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.


Ancient Beauty
Patrick Leigh Fermor, the dashing philhellene who died last June, knew that to get under Greece’s skin you must stray from the instant gratifications of its seaside resorts. Traveling on foot across the gorges of Roumeli and mountains of Mani, Leigh Fermor discovered a land of fierce beauty where traditions run deep. Eventually, he settled in Kardamíli, a sleepy hamlet in the southern Peloponnese, which he hoped was “too inaccessible, with too little to do, for it ever to be seriously endangered by tourism.”
Happily, he was right. While some islands have been scarred by unregulated development—and as the country grapples with the worst financial crisis in its modern history—Greece’s rugged mainland retains its unadulterated allure. Foraging for mushrooms in Epirus, watching pink pelicans take flight over Prespa Lake, listening to ethereal chanting in Meteora’s monasteries (such as the Roussanou Monastery, above)—there remain pockets of Greece where time stands still. You just have to know where to look.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

A Capital City of Titanic Ambition
Finding yourself in the company of a chef from the R.M.S. Titanic is just one of the surprises that Belfast has to offer. "Barney" leads the Belfast Bred walking tour on an ingredient hunt, tracking the culinary heritage of the Northern Irish city that built the Titanic. The centennial of her maiden voyage—April 10, 2012—gives Barney the chance to share Belfast’s pride in the “floating palace” and show off a capital that is redefining itself in the eyes of the world.
Sections of the city have undergone regeneration since Belfast emerged from the Troubles, the three decades of violence that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The Titanic’s birthplace on the River Lagan is now called the Titanic Quarter (above). A $152.1-million attraction opens in April with audiovisual exhibits, underwater footage of the wreck, and a ride that re-creates a trip through the shipyards of 1911 to tell
the passenger liner’s story. 
The glossy venue overlooks the Harland and Wolff slipways where the Titanic set sail to Southampton to begin her fateful voyage to New York.

New Zealand

Cyclists' Bliss
A violent struggle created this world, according to Maori mythology: Indigenous New Zealanders say Sky Father and Earth Mother were ripped from each other’s arms to make room for mountains, forests, and oceans. Around Rotorua, a Maori heartland and home of the mineral-rimmed Champagne Pool (above), it’s easy to believe the struggle continues, as the eerie landscape bubbles and churns like some primordial stew. Geysers erupt, mud boils, and steam seeps from cliffs and sidewalks, leaving a sulfurous scent in the air.
In a land where adrenaline lovers ride rockets suspended on wires and roll downhill inside giant plastic balls, biking seems one of the saner ways to plunge into a landscape that compels exploration: hot springs, glaciers, rain forests, and volcanoes, encircled by nearly 10,000 miles of coastline, packed into a country barely bigger than ColoradoNew Zealand is made for journeys, physical and spiritual.


Untamed Hovsgol
If you yearn for a connection to the wild, you will find it here. Hovsgol is the northernmost of Mongolia’s 21 provinces, shadowing Russia’s border and sharing the great Siberian taiga (subarctic coniferous forest). Lichens in bright greens and oranges color 10,000-foot passes, while sacred rivers, rumored to never freeze, feed lakes framed by snow-tipped mountains.
Hovsgol is just now opening its arms to travelers who come to catch and release taimen, giant salmonid “river wolves” that stalk Hovsgol’s waterways. Others come to ride Mongolian ponies in search of the Tsaatan, small bands of nomadic reindeer herders (above) who live in encampments and follow shamanistic beliefs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Canada. Mesmerizing scenery, historic cities and the magnificent Niagara Falls.

The extraordinary Canadian Rockies, with its snowy peaks, emerald lakes and stunning glaciers, makes a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer train truly unforgettable. 

Bump into deer, elk, moose and the elusive bear at the spectacular Banff and Jasper National Parks, among the most pristine locations on earth. 
Stumble upon aquamarine rivers, towering peaks, winding roads and turquoise lakes on the ancient Icefields Parkway, walk on the Athabasca Glacier. 
Take an ice mobile, or a gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Walk along Lake Minnewanka, be spellbound by Lake Louise. 
Follow the historic cowboy trail at a ranch in Alberta, take in a rodeo or brave the rugged wilderness on horseback.   
Discover the delightful city of Vancouver, explore the boutiques, galleries and restaurants in Granville Island and historic Gastown. 
Visit the famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, canter through its streets on a horse carriage, indulge in freshly-baked scones at a traditional Afternoon Tea. 

Get a whiff of its French heritage in the churches, basilicas and cobblestoned streets of Quebec, nibble on delicious crepes and croissants at its quaint sidewalk cafes. 
Cruise down memory lane at a charming museum along the 19th century Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. 
Find yourself a whisper away from the magnificent Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist, or descend into its swirling waters on a helicopter. 
Meander through the world’s most eclectic city, Toronto, stroll past art galleries, boutiques and restaurants on its delectable waterfront. 
Discover Canada on a spectacular holiday with Mercury Travels. 
It will be an experience that will always be precious.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Selamat Datang…Welcome to Malaysia

Endowed with a diversity of cultures, Malaysia offers a ‘truly Asian experience’. It is a fascinating holiday
destination offering something for everyone. There are three distinct destinations in the country –
Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia. Discover a delightful fusion of
three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian. A potpourri enriched with the indigenous
traditions of the KadazanDusuns, Ibans and other ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a modern cosmopolitan city. Established in 1857 at the
confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers, it is one of Asia’s most dynamic cities. Its impressive
skyline boasts of the world’s tallest twin towers towering at a height of 452m whose architecture is
representative of the country’s dominant cultures – the Malay, Chinese and Indian. Combined with the
colonial legacy of the British and Moorish influences, Kuala Lumpur has one of Asia’s most dynamic

Malaysia’s long coastline and many coral-fringed islands, with the Straits of Malacca to the west and
the South China Sea to the east, gives rise to a large number of fabulous beaches. Islands like Langkawi,
Tioman and Pangkor are world-renowned resort destinations. The Langkawi archipelago consists of 99
islands situated in the Andaman Sea, south of Thailand. The best beaches include Pantai Cenang, Burau
Bay, Pantai Kok and Pantai Datai.

Penang founded in 1786 by Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company is a cultural melting
pot of the oldest British Straits Settlement. The island’s alluring beaches and old-world charm has made
Penang a popular holiday destination. Nyonya food (a Chinese and Malay culinary blend) is also best
sampled in Penang and Melaka.

Further south, Melaka is known for its history, museums and unique Baba-Nyonya community. A famous
port strategically located in the Straits of Malacca, it was the centre of the spice trade in the region. Old
buildings and traditional trades and crafts make Melaka one of Malaysia’s most visited destinations. The
buildings reflect Portuguese, Dutch and British influences and the city centre is ideal for walking around.
Melaka is also home to the Baba and Nyonya community. Known as Peranakan or Straits Chinese, they
are descendants of the original Chinese settlers who married Malays.

  The states of Sabaha and Sarawak await nature lovers and adventurers. Discover the prolific marine
life and dense rainforest while exploring the underwater world and wilderness of Borneo. Known as
the Land Below the Wind much of Sabah remains forested. Kota Kinabalu, the capital, is a vibrant city
on Sabah’s west coast and the gateway to eco-adventures like mountain climbing, white-water rafting,
caving, diving and river cruising. The Kinabalu National Park, located in northwest Sabah, is Malaysia’s
first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to the 4095-metre Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia’s highest
peak, it has one of the world’s largest collections of flora and fauna.

Sarawak, the Land of the Hornbills is the country’s largest state and is characterised by distinctive
ethnic groups, many of whom still live in riverside settlements. Kuching, the capital, is located on the
Sarawak River. The waterfront and Main Bazaar features old shop-houses selling local pepper, artefacts,
antiques, birds’ nests and exotic forest products. Sarawak’s verdant jungles are strewn with massive
natural formations, the world’s largest cave chambers and vast endemic flora and fauna. The Gunung
Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a treasure trove of vertical cliffs, jagged limestone
pinnacles, intricate cave networks and over 20,000 animals and 3,500 plant species.

Malaysia also has many theme parks that make a family holiday exciting. Genting Highlands has indoor
and outdoor theme parks, shopping, and the added attraction of cold mountain air. Sunway Lagoon in
Petaling Jaya is famous for its thrilling waterpark rides, adventure rides and family rides. A’ Famosa near
Melaka City boasts the only Animal Safari in the country, in addition to a waterpark and amazing animal

Bursting with colour, pulsating with life, Malaysia awaits you.

Mercury Travels will take you on an unforgettable holiday to Malaysia. A fascinating country where time often stands still.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Twice the memories. At half the price.

Club Med is a PREMIUM ALL-INCLUSIVE holiday concept - consisting of accommodation, all meals with unlimited wines, open bar and snack, various sports and leisure activities, evening entertainment, supervised children's activities. Club Med is a perfect escape for families, couples and friends.

Club Med brings you generous offers on our all-inclusive summer packages, at our charming beach resorts in Phuket (Thailand), Kani (Maldives), Bali and Bintan (Indonesia) and Cherating (Malaysia).

Expect gorgeous locations, sumptuous gourmet cuisine, all-day dining and bar and a wide range of
leisure and sporting activities, all included in the booking price, yours to enjoy while the children have
a rollicking time on their own.

The all inclusive Resort package includes:

·         Accommodation in a twin sharing room in Superior rooms
·         Sumptuous Buffet Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with free flow of red and white wine, beer and beverages during Lunch and Dinner
·         Sports activities with expert tuition
·         Nightly entertainment
·         Bar and snacking inclusive
(Bar and Snacking includes: Drinks available at the Bar - bottled water, soft-drinks and fruit juices served by the glass, freshly-squeezed fruit juices, local and international brands of spirits, wines served by the glass, cocktails, local specialties (excludes: premium spirits, champagnes, bottled wines, Mini Bar, F&B on sale at Boutique)

Cost Excludes
Airfares, ticket taxes, cost of visa, expenses of personal nature, ferry / transfers & all that is not included under Price Includes

To set off on your Club Med holiday, call Mercury Travels. Quick, before these offers become a thing of the past.

                                                                                                                                                            *Terms and Conditions apply