Manali, Jan 18 (IANS) Traditional apple-growing villagers around this tourist resort in Himachal Pradesh are wrapping themselves up in thick blankets as they prepare to observe silence for almost a month in a hoary religious tradition. The silence comes with the belief that the gods have returned to the heavens and are in deep meditation. Noise from the earth would disturb them. And if they get angry on being disturbed, it will bring misfortune for the villagers and for their livestock.

Sagrada Familia

Barcelona has something for every tourist. It has lovely beaches, mountains, architectural marvels, art museums, sports, food and wine, and entertainment. Ranked as one of the major global cities, Barcelona has seven buildings of architect Antoni Gaudi, all of whom are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. On checking into my hotel, I visited one of the seven beaches of the city near the Olympic Stadium. The long sea coast was full of revellers.  The beach is quite close to the Barcelona port, and we could see huge cruise ships docked there.

A view of Bhopal from Upper Lake

Bhopal, a city of lakes, is one of the greenest cities in India. Founded in the 11th century by Raja Bhoj, who was known for his interest in art and literature, Bhopal continues to be a city of art and culture. 

Fountain at walberg-castle

Till I visited Belgium, I did not know that a town named Sint Niklaas existed. I knew that a town called Santa Claus is situated in the State of Indiana in the USA, but had not known that the Flemish town in Belgium is considered to be the hometown of Santa Claus!

Golgotha Jerusalem

Bengaluru: After visiting Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus Christ, we proceeded to Galilee. A region in northern Israel, this is the land where Jesus walked. We saw the Sea of Galilee, a huge freshwater lake which is below the sea level. It is also the second lowest lake in the world. This is the lake where Jesus is said to have performed many miracles.  

Temple  of Apollo

When our driver-cum-guide Dmitri asked me as to what place in Greece I want to see most, I replied unhesitatingly “Delphi”. He was surprised and asked me the reason. I told him that as an admirer of Greek history, I am curious to see the place whose prophecies changed many events in the world.  Dmitri said that whenever ancient Greeks and Romans had to take decisions on very important matters they sought to hear the words of the gods in the form of oracles. Greeks believed that God Apollo would speak through the priestess Pythia from his temple in Delphi.

Auckland: From jumping off Sky Tower, flying fox ziplines, taking a free fall with a bungee or wine-tasting on Waiheke Island, Auckland provides a mesmerising mixture of serenity and adventure to those seeking to add some thrill to their lives. The city's vast harbour, quiet islands and vibrant landscapes offer an exciting and accessible mix of urban, water and wildlife activities, giving tourists and visitors a whole lot of enjoyable options during their stay.

Loktak lake with hundreds of floating islands

Imphal: If you want to explore the raw beauty and rich culture of Manipur, one of the eight northeastern states, but are unsure about where to stay, here's some good news for you. Manipur's Tourism Department, in collaboration with private players, has come up with an innovative idea to attract more holidaymakers: state-funded homestays in far-flung corners. And the state government is also mulling a ropeway over the Loktak Lake, northeast India's largest fresh water lake.

Wenseslas square

As a student of literature, I knew the term Bohemian, which meant having an unconventional taste in music, art or literary pursuits, was associated with the people of Bohemia (Czech Republic). And my desire to visit Prague stemmed from this. On visiting Prague, I was proven wrong. 

Mechukha (Arunachal Pradesh): Encouraged by a 50 percent growth in tourist arrivals over the past few years, Arunachal Pradesh is seeking to promote the strategic border state as an adventure tourism hotspot to draw the young and the daring. The state, abutting China, is already known for its natural beauty -- picturesque hills and valleys, landscapes snowed white in winter, famous monasteries, unexplored passes and tranquil, high-altitude lakes -- and registered about five percent growth in tourist footfalls in 2015. What was missing were adventure hotspots.

Panoramic view of Petra

My interest in going to Petra was because of the movie ‘Indiana Jones’, which was filmed there extensively and also because I thought it had something common with Ellora and Badami caves. On landing at King Hussain Airport at Amman, I hired a taxi to take me to Petra.  We travelled around three hours on a desert highway sprinkled with many roadside eateries and souvenir shops. The highway reminded me of Bengaluru-Mysuru road.

A panaromic view of Victoria, capital of Seychelles

Victoria (Seychelles): It was raining heavily when the inaugural SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo touched down on the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles and one could hardly make out the water cannon salute from inside the aircraft. As the passengers deboarded at the Seychelles International Airport on Mahe island, each of them were handed out umbrellas by ground staff waiting at the end of the stepladder to get to the small arrival terminal a few steps away.

Rotorua (New Zealand): If you are an adventure freak, this city -- located on New Zealand's North Island -- should be at the top of your wish list. It is home to activities like Luge, OGO (Outdoor Gravity Orb) or the Agroventure, as well as the highest commercially-rafted waterfall in the world. Not to miss is Skyswing -- all of which give a chance to discover moments that make for great memories.

Graphic depiction of how paintings came about

It was 7am when we arrived at Bhimbhetka. We had driven for an hour from Bhopal to see the World Heritage Site known for its rock paintings. I had imagined the paintings at Bhimbhetka to be similar to Ajanta caves but was surprised when told that while Ajanta dates to 2nd Century BC, these paintings are almost 30,000 years old; and that was the reason for my curiosity.

Temple Street market

Hong Kong: A skyscraper-studded skyline and Disneyland are the two things that people most often associate with Hong Kong. Termed the Pearl of the Orient, Hong Kong turned out to be the place where some of my dreams were realised. Accompanied by a few journalists, I took a train from the Hong Kong International Airport to Kowloon station. It was a wise decision to skip the red taxis and opt for a train as the high-rise hotel W Hong Kong was just five minutes away from the station.


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