Archive for April, 2009

Singapore – The Lion City!

April 27, 2009

57_merlion20sentosaSingapore is a small albeit beautiful country located in South East Asia. Singapore gets its name from Singa Pura, which means lion city. It is one of the wealthiest countries in Asia. This island city displays diversity and an amazing blend of three cultures – Chinese, Indian and Malay. While the national language of Singapore is Malay, Tamil and Chinese are also widely spoken here. Talked about for its high quality of life and beautiful landscapes, this clean and green country makes for a wonderful destination for a vacation.

Although it is a relatively small place, there are a number of things to do in Singapore.

 jurongSungei Buloh Nature Park, the largest bird sanctuary in Singapore is home to all kinds of exotic birds, tropical trees, flora and fauna. Singapore is also home to the largest bird park in South East Asia, Jurong Bird Park and the largest reptile park, Jurong Reptile Park. While you are there, watch out for the All-Star bird show at the Jurong Bird Park and the 50 different species of reptiles at the Jurong Reptile Park.

One of the most entertaining and famous activities in Singapore is the Night Safari, which offers you the opportunity to see nocturnal animals of various species.

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Chinatown, which is the heart of this city, has many temples displaying unique architecture, restaurants and many shops which offer some great bargains.

 

pb280003_lindia8001Little India as its name suggests has a striking resemblance to India. It is small part of Singapore, which is lined with restaurants offering typical Indian food and playing Hindi film music, street food vendors and shops.

 

sentosa1Sentosa Island is the most major tourist attraction in Singapore. It is simply beautiful and is always bustling with activities. It houses many museums, theatres, aquariums, luxury shops and beaches.

 

raffles-city-shopping-mallShopping in Singapore is a lovely experience, be it in the huge malls or in the street shops. It is particularly known for branded electronic items, which are available here at a much lower price than elsewhere. Orchard road is filled with malls that offer glamorous clothes, electronic goods, cosmetics and many other things.

Staying in Singapore

If you prefer to stay at Orchard Road, which is a shopping hub, you will find many luxury resorts, boutique and budget hotels. If you have a lavish budget, Pan Pacific Orchard hotel and Royal Plaza on the Scotts are the famous 5 star hotels in this location. Orchard hotel Singapore and York Hotel Singapore (4 star) also offer great amenities and views, and are slightly more affordable. If you are looking for budget hotels, you could try the YMCA which offers amazing value for money.

Heritage district is centrally located and offers a host of value-for-money hotels including Beach Hotel and Hotel 81. Park Royal and Hotel Royal are some of the prestigious hotels here and Naumi is a luxurious 5 star hotel located in the heart of the district.

Famous hotels in Chinatown include Furama City Centre (4 star), boutique hotel Keong Saik and budget hotel 81, while Little Italy houses the Cityhub Hotel and Perak Hotel, which are boutique hotels and Broadway and 81, which are budget hotels.

Sentosa Island, a favorite among many travelers has a host of luxurious hotels like Capella, Amara Santuary Resort and Sentosa Resort. Treasure Resort and Siloso Beach resort are amongst the budget hotels in Sentosa.

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Top 10 places to visit in USA

April 27, 2009

 

If you are planning a long and exciting vacation, United States of America is one destination that is likely to top your list. Located in North America, USA is a fabulous country which offers a unique opportunity to experience magnificent cultures, rich heritage, beautiful landscapes, fun and adventurous activities.

July-August is the ideal time visit USA as the weather is perfect this time of the year. This is considered the peak season for tourism. May-June and September are also worth considering as the travel and accommodation fares are less expensive and the weather is acceptable.

Here’s a peak into the top 10 places in USA that are must visits:

 

San Francisco

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It is a major city in the state of California, which is situated on the western coast. Known for its scenic beauty, Victorian architecture, cable cars and many famous landmarks, San Francisco has been voted as the #1 city to visit in USA numerous times. In fact it is one of the most visited cities in the world. The Golden Gate bridge which connects San Francisco to Marin country is a world famous tourist attraction. The rust colored towers that stand very tall and the graceful suspension cables make it the most photographed bridge in the world. It is very often used as a symbol representing San Francisco.

 Alcatraz Island, which houses the famous Alcatraz prison, is another major tourist spot. Back in the 1930s the Alcatraz prison used to be the maximum security prison which held some of the most notable criminals of that time. Later in the 1970s it was turned into a national recreation area.  There are a number of bay cruises In San Francisco that offer a one day tour of the Alcatraz Island.

Fisherman’s Wharf, which is located on San Francisco’s waterfront, is one of the main attractions. Tourists throng to Fisherman’s wharf to witness many attractions like the sea lions, The Great San Francisco adventure, Turbo Ride and sightseeing boat rides and to visit the souvenir shops, bay side restaurants etc.

The Castro, Coit Tower, China town, Lombard Street, Marina and Union Square are some of the other attractions worth seeing.

 

New York City

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Often referred to as “the city that never sleeps”, New York City is situated in the eastern coast and is the largest city in USA. Besides being known as the most important financial center of the country, it is known for its ethnic heritage, diverse culture and vibrancy. It has over 300 museums, many Broadway and musical theatres, and art galleries. It is a very cosmopolitan city with residents of various nationalities. Manhattan is the heart of New York City. It contains most of the financial, entertainment and cultural attractions of the city.

New York City has quite a buzzing nightlife with its countless bars, pubs and clubs. Some of the popular landmarks in NYC include Times Square, which looks stunning and vibrant when it is lit up at midnight; the world-famous Statue of Liberty, United Nations headquarters and the Empire State building.

 

Chicago

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This city has the most impressive skyline across the beautiful view of Lake Michigan. Chicago is the birthplace of skyscrapers as the very first skyscraper was built in this very city. It is very well known for its urban high-rise architecture. Also known as “the city of neighborhoods”, Chicago has 75 official neighborhoods.

Chicago, which houses some of the most famous Jazz and Blue clubs, has a very lively music scene. Most of the main landmarks and tourist attractions are in downtown Chicago, which is called The Loop. Sears tower, which used to be the world’s tallest building, is located here. You can get a 360 degree view of the city from the Sears tower skydeck. The view is simply stunning. Apart from the spectacular view the Sears tower also offers museum exhibits. Another major tourist attraction is the 148 feet Ferris wheel in Navy Pier. Navy Pier also has some important museums and theatre complexes. Other significant landmarks in Chicago include Grant Park, Magnificent Mile and Shedd Aquarium.

 

Las Vegas

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Casino is the first thing that comes to the mind when you think of Las Vegas. It is the entertainment and casino capital of the world. Everything about this city is over the top. The atmosphere and setting of this city is vibrant, full of colorful lights, loud yet inviting. The hotels here are adorned with bright lights and have unique names.  The Bellagio fountains is the biggest attraction in Las Vegas. It is a brilliant display of water fountains amazingly choreographed to dance to the music being played and is a breathtaking sight. The Eifel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, which is a replica of one of Europe’s most famous structures; Shark reef at the Mandalay bay hotel, Manhattan express rollercoaster at New York New York hotel are some of the other attractions.

 

Hawaii

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Tropical paradise and dream destination are words that are commonly used to describe Hawaii. If you are an adventure enthusiast and like scuba diving, surfing, sailing and other water sports, Hawaii is just the place for you.  If you are more of a beach person, the amazing beaches of Hawaii will not fail to impress. The crystal clean turquoise blue water and the white sand beaches make this island inviting and a truly amazing experience. Hawaii has six main islands – Oahu, Kauai, Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii, Molokai and Lanai. Each of these islands is different and unique in its own way adding to the beauty of Hawaii.

The precious island of Hawaii offers everything from natural beauty, tropical blue lagoons, gorgeous beaches, beautiful waterfalls and rainforests to snorkeling, surfing, entertainment shows and a wonderful shopping experience.

Miami:

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Located in the sunny state of Florida, Miami is often called the most modern city in USA. Miami is mostly famous for its sunny weather, golden beaches, and hip and rocking nightlife. This city is always full of life and is very popular amongst people of all ages. It has a number of great tourist destinations. South beach is a popular hot spot of Miami. The clear blue waters and unique landscape offer an enjoyable experience. Seaquarium, located close to the Miami Beach, is a one of its kind outdoor aquarium unique to Miami and is a must visit. Miami Metrozoo, a famous zoo; Everglades National Park, Miami skylift, Miami Science Museum and The Children’s museum are other famous attractions in Miami.

Another city Key West, which is close to Miami, is a beautiful island definitely worth visiting. Deep blue oceans, gorgeous beaches, swaying palms and water sports make it an exciting holiday spot.

 

Niagara Falls

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Niagara Falls is a massive waterfall located on the Niagara River on the border of USA and Canada. This natural wonder can be seen both from USA and Canada, since there are two cities surrounding the Niagara Falls – Buffalo, New York on the US side and Ontario on the Canadian side. The waterfalls are simply gorgeous and the view is astounding.

 A boat ride called ‘Maid of the mist’ offers an awesome experience of the falls. A boat leaves every 15 minutes from the base throughout the day. The ‘Cave of the Winds’ is another exciting experience in which an elevator takes you to the rocks at the base of the fall where you can experience the tremendous power of the spray and water.

 

Los Angeles

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The ‘City of Angels’ or L.A is the largest city in California. This quintessential metropolis is a city of dreams, glamour, Hollywood, fashion, entertainment, art and cultural diversity. L.A is often called the creative capital of the world.

Hollywood Boulevard is one of the most visited places in L.A.  This consist of some world famous spots like the ‘ The Walk of Fame’ for Hollywood stars, Highland plaza, which has a nice shopping plaza; The Wax Museum and Ripley’s believe it or not.

There are many famous museums and art galleries, known for its architecture and masterpieces. Other interesting spots in and around L.A include the Universal studios in Hollywood, Santa Monica(very close to L.A), Long Beach Island, Venice Beach and Orange Country

Last but definitely not the least, Disneyland rightfully called the happiest place on earth is an absolute fun experience. This world famous amusement park built by Walt Disney is a place that is enjoyed by one and all – people of all ages. The kingdom style parks, the adventurous rides, toontown, parades and the beautiful fireworks make Disneyland a truly memorable, thrilling and out and out fun experience.

Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon is an enormous gorge carved by the Colorado River in the state of Arizona. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is a truly awe-inspiring view. Nature walks, hikes, whitewater river rafting are popular activities around here. The Grand Canyon village, Desert view, and Hermits rest are significant landmarks.

 

New Orleans

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The city of New Orleans is the largest city in the state of Louisiana. Often called the most unique city in USA, New Orleans is hugely famous for its architectural styles, performing arts, celebrations and festivals and most recently for the hurricane Katrina. New Orleans has many renowned tourist attractions like the French Quarter, Bourbon Street which has a lively nightlife, Mississippi River, Jackson Square, French Market, Preservation Hall and Magazine Street, which has some great shopping.

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) in New Orleans is a hugely popular carnival celebration in the world. This involves plenty of parades, balls and king sized parties. This generally starts in the first week of January and is a good time to visit New Orleans.

 

A melting pot of various cultures, United States of America has all this and much more to offer and is waiting to be explored. This land of dreams is bound to be every traveler’s delight!

EUROPE – Traveler’s paradise!

April 26, 2009

 

Planning a vacation in Europe? If so, you have picked the perfect destination for a memorable holiday. Europe is one place where you can experience an exciting mix of scenic beauty, wonderful locales, culture and rich heritage. 

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In spite of being the one of world’s smallest continents, preceding only Australia, Europe is home to 45 different countries, all linguistically and culturally very diverse. Europe has a variety of climates, but most parts of the continent experience mild weather.

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While planning your trip, it is essential for you to find out the best time to visit Europe. Weather-wise summer, especially June- July is the most popular time to visit. Most tourists flock to Europe during this season. Everything is particularly beautiful and the atmosphere is dazzling in this part of the year. The only flipside is that summer being the peak season, air fare and hotel rates skyrocket and you will see more tourists than locales at this time. Spring (April to early June) is known as the shoulder season (neither peak nor low season). Surprisingly this is perhaps the best time to visit Europe, as the weather is just right – warm days and cool nights, it is not as crowded as the summers and the air fares and hotel rates are reasonable. Most part of the winter season, except Christmas time is considered low tourist season. Winters are chilly in most parts of Europe, while some places are severely cold. However if you don’t mind the cold it is definitely worth visiting closer to Christmas, when most cities are lit up beautifully and there is a festive cheer all around. You can enjoy the Christmas markets, carnivals and festivals, attend cultural events, ski and indulge yourself in some yummy winter special food and mulled wine. Airlines offer special discounts on flights and hotels have special winter deals, making winter the perfect time to plan a budget vacation to Europe.

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                                       Euro Rail

You can visit many new places in a relatively short span of time, even though they are in different countries, thanks to the fantastic train system (Euro rail) and the common currency. With a Euro rail pass you can travel on trains throughout Europe.   Getting a Schengen visa simplifies your travel within Europe. Schengen visa is a tourist visa, which enables you to travel between 24 European countries which are registered in the common visa system and air, train and road travel between two Schengen countries is considered as a domestic trip. This includes countries like France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, Sweden and many more.

 Prime Attractions in Europe:

France:

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 Paris – Paris, often referred to as the ‘City of lights’, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and romantic cities ever, making it the top destination for tourists world over. Paris houses some of the world’s most famous attractions like the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe, Cathedral Notre Dame, Champs Elysees and Pompidou Center.

There are a number of museums in Paris, the most famous one being Louvre national museum, which is a must visit. Do not forget to look for Leonardo da Vinci’s marvelous painting of Mona Lisa in the Louvre!

River Seine, which is situated right across the Eifel Tower, is the best known river in Paris. Take the cruise down the river and see the breath taking view of the city which is spectacularly lit up in the evening. There are a number of lunch and dinner cruises as well on offer.

There are a number of quaint villages all around France. A nice road trip with a few pit stops would be worth adding to the itinerary, if time permits.

Italy:

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Venice – Better known as the land of gondolas and canals, the magical city of Venice, which is located in northern Italy, is truly unique.  It is the only European city to have its entire transport system built on water. The absence of vehicles makes it completely traffic free and allows for long and peaceful walks. In fact the entire city can be covered by foot in an hour’s time. The gondola is a traditional Venetian boat and is one of the biggest tourist attractions here. The gondola cruises and city tours are exciting, fun and a must try for all romantics. Venice has some fantastic restaurants that serve delicious food. There are a number of famous palaces, serene churches and museums that are known for their distinct architecture and valuable art.

Rome – This capital city of Italy is all about history, ancient architecture, culture, food, wine and fashion (hot couture).Collosseum, an elliptical amphitheatre; The Pantheon, an ancient temple; The Vatican museum are some of the main places to visit in Rome. The intricate work and the magnanimous architecture of these monuments will tell you that Rome was definitely not built in a day.

Other places to visit while in Italy include Florence (known for its simplistic beauty); Tuscany (known for its amazing countryside, world renowned art, wining and dining); and Milan (the fashion capital of the world).

Spain:

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Madrid

Madrid – The capital of Spain is located at the heart of the country and is a very vibrant city. It is characterized by great monuments and museums, which boast of a brilliant collection of art. The highlights of Madrid include the Golden Triangle, where most of the art museums are located; El Prado museum, Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor. Apart from having a strong Spanish culture, it also has a thriving nightlife and has many pubs, discotheques that will wow you no end. While in Spain, try out as many tapas as you can. Tapas is a mini meal made of various Spanish delicacies (like fried egg, fried potatoes, manchego cheese and many many more.)

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Barcelona

Barcelona – This city is an art and design hub and has a number of art galleries. You will find a lot of modern sculptures, monuments and brilliant buildings designed by the likes of Antonio Gaudi and Joseph Puig here.  The beaches of Barcelona are major tourist attractions and are crowded almost always because of the sunny weather throughout the year, but they are beautiful all the same and the perfect spot for leisure. Barcelona is also famous for its psychedelic architecture, museums, Spanish cuisines, concerts and festivals. You will find many street musicians, jugglers, dancers and sidewalk artists here. Les Ramblas, The Gothic Quarter and Barceloneta are must visits.

 

Germany:

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Germany is increasingly becoming a happening tourist destination globally. Here are some of the best places to see in Germany.

Berlin, the capital city is located in eastern Germany and gives you the perfect feel of Jewish culture. It is popular for its music, art, lively nightlife, orchestras, theatres, palaces and museums. The Berlin wall museum, Brandenburg gate, Alexanderplatz, Potsdamerplatz and The Berliner Dom are the main places to see in Berlin.

While Berlin gives you a taste of German history and culture, Munich is more a fun experiential city. You will find many bars, opera houses and a busy city life. Bavaria, which seems like a fairytale setting with all its castles and Lubeck, a picturesque medieval town are other places worth seeing in Germany.

United Kingdom:

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London – Anybody who has lived in London will swear by the unpredictability of its weather. If you are in London, you must be prepared for rain in any part of the year. Weather apart, London has everything to qualify as a world class destination. In Dr Samuel Johnson words When a man is tired of London he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford

Tate modern and Tate Britain are National art galleries that display exceptional works of art. Trafalgar square is one of the main tourist attractions and has some interesting sights like The National Gallery, St Martin’s church and Nelson’s column. The Parliament house and Big Ben are at a walking distance from Trafalgar square.  The British museum, National History museum, Science museum, Horniman, Madame Tussauds and the museum of London are some of London’s major museums. The London Tower, which houses the spectacular crown jewels and Buckingham palace, which is the Queen’s residence are must visits. If you are a fan of musicals and theatre, you must watch some of London’s musicals and Broadway shows. You can get discounted tickets to matinee shows. Take a boat ride on River Thames or try the city cruise in the evening. Seeing the city skyline during the night is a magical experience.

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Whether you want to go backpacking with friends or want to go on a romantic vacation with your partner, Europe has something for everyone. Gift yourself the experience of a lifetime!

 

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April 26, 2009

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