June 2013 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bahasa Indonesia’s Indian Connection

Indonesia as country has seen it being influenced by many religions, races and countries. History shows us that connection with India, Holland, China, Australia and Arab countries. This inter-cultural exchange has had a great impact on Bahasa – the national language of Indonesia, which has borrowed many words into its language from Arabic, Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese and the many Austronesian languages.

I knew about this even before I came to Indonesia, but my cousin wanted me to note down all the various Indian (Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu) words that I came across in my 2 months here in Indonesia. Today, Islam is a major religion of Indonesia, but once upon a time, it used to be Hinduism and hence Sanskrit (Samsakrutha in Bahasa) has had a great impact in today’s Bahasa. The name Bahasa in itself comes from the Indian word Bhasha, meaning language.

Below is a list of words that I have come across in Bahasa Indonesia with their meanings and related Indian word. I hope all the Indian readers will find this Indian connection very interesting. The thing to note is that some Indian words have also been borrowed from Arabic. Hence, the words that I might categorize as Indian can have an Arabic root. Many Hindi and Tamil words might have an original root in Sanskrit.

Word in Bahasa Meaning in Bahasa Original Indian Word Indian Language
Bahasa Language Bhasha Hindi
Utara North Uttar Hindi
Asli Original, Pure Asli Hindi
Masjid Mosque Masjid Hindi
Apam Kind of cake Apam Tamil
Kapal Boat/Ship Kappal Tamil
Kuil Temple Koil Tamil
Mangga Mango Manga Tamil
Roti Bread Rotti Tamil
Topi Hat Topi/Toppi Hindi/Tamil
Yudha War, Battle Yuddha Sanskrit
Warna Colour varna Sanskrit
Warta News varta Sanskrit
Akhir End Akhir Urdu
Badan Body Badan Hindi
Dunia World Dunia Hindi
Fakir Poor People Fakir Hindi/Urdu
Hewan Animal Haywan Hindi
Halal Religiously Lawful Halal Hindi
Haram Religiously Unlawful Haraam Hindi
Jahanam Cursed, Damned Jahannam – hell Hindi
Jail Prank Jahil – Ignorant Hindi
Kitab Book Kitab Hindi
Korban sacrifice Qurban Hindi/Urdu
Kursi Chair Kursi Hindi
Maaf Sorry, to apologize Maafi Hindi
Maksud Purpose Maqsood Hindi/Urdu
Maut Death Maut Hindi
Menara Tower Minar Hindi
Mungkin Maybe Mungkin Hindi
Musim season Mausam Hindi
Nikah Marriage Nikah Urdu
Sabar Patience Sabarr Hindi
Sabun Soap Sabun Hindi
Sehat Healthy Sehat, - health Hindi
Selamat Safe, Well being Salamat Hindi
Waktu Time Wakt Hindi
Anggur Grapes Angur Hindi
Pahlawan Hero Pehalwan, - strong person Hindi
Pasar Market/Bazaar Bazaar Hindi
Piala Cup Pyala Hindi
Medan Field Maidan Hindi
Takhta Throne Takht Hindi
Kedai Food Stall Kadai Tamil
Agama Religion Agama – Vedic principles Sanskrit
Aneka Multifarious Anek Hindi
Anggota Limb Angh Hindi
Angkara Insolence Aham Kara – Ego, prideta Sanskrit, Tamil
Angka Numerical Figure Anka Sanskrit
Angkasa Sky Akash Hindi
Alpa Negligent Alpa Sanskrit, Tamil
Antara Among, in Between Antar Hindi
Anugerah Honour, Award Anugraham Tamil
Raja King Raja Hindi
Putera Son Putirran Tamil
Putri Daughter Puttiri Tamil
Bakti Devotion Bhakti Tamil
Sakti Magic Shakti – Strength Hindi, Tamil
Suami Husband Swamy Tamil
Istri Wife Istri Tamil
Bumi Earth Bhumi Hindi
Jendela Window Jannal Tamil
Dua Two Do Hindi
Tiga Three Teen Hindi
Sastra Literature Shastra Sanskrit
Tirai Curtain Tirai Tamil
Sate Satay Catai Tamil
Kolam Pond Kulam Tamil
Kera Monkey Korunggu Tamil
Kari Curry Kari Tamil
Jaya Victorious Jeyam Tamil
Jiwa Soul Jeevan Tamil
Ganja Marijuana Kanja Tamil
Gajah Elephant Gajam Tamil
Dirgahayu Longevity Dirgayu Tamil
Desa Village Desam Tamil
Derma Charity Dharmam Tamil
Denda Fine Dhandam Tamil
Catur Chess Caturanggam Tamil
Candu Opium Candu Tamil
Bayu Wind Vayu Tamil
Bahaya Hazard Abayam Tamil
Alun Wave Alai Tamil
Kamar Room Kamra Hindi
Aniaya Abuse, Injustice Anyay Hindi
Asrama Dormitory Ashram Hindi
Ayah Father Ayya Tamil
Bahagia Lucky, Blessed Bhagya Hindi
Bahu Shoulder Bahu – arms Sanskrit
Barat West Bharat, India – located west of Indonesia Sanskrit
Basmi Destroy Bhasmam Tamil
Kabar News Khabar Hindi
Biasa Habitual Abhya sa Sanskrit
Biji Seed Bija Hindi
Binasa Death, destroyed Vinash Hindi
Bisa Venom Vesam Tamil
Bijaksana Wisdom Vicakshana Sanskrit
Budiman Wise Buddhiman Hindi
Cakra Disk, Sphere Chakram Tamil
Candi Temple Candika – another manifestation of Durga as goddess of death Sanskrit
Chandra Moon, Lunar Chandra – Hindu Moon God Sanskrit
Citra Image Chitra Hindi
Dana Donation, Funds Dhana Sanskrit
Dasawarsa Decade Dasa Varsha Sanskrit
Dewa God Deva Sanskrit
Dewi Goddess Devi Sanskrit
Duka Sadness Dukh Hindi
Gapura Gate Gopuram Tamil
Guru Teacher Guru Tamil, Hindi
Jelma Incarnation Janma – Birth Sanskrit
Karunia Blessing Karuna Sanskrit
Keluarga Family Kula-varga Sanskrit
Kumba Pot Kumbha Sanskrit
Lawang Cinnamon Lavanga Sanskrit
Rani Queen Rani Hindi
Siswa College Student Shishya Hindi
Menteri Minister Mantri Hindi
Mitra Partner Mitra Hindi
Nama Name Naam Hindi
Negara Country Nagara Sanskrit
Negeri City Negeri Sanskrit
Neraka Hell Narakam Tamil
Nirwana An ideal condition of harmony or joy Nirvana Sanskrit
Puasa Fasting Upawas Hindi
Pustakadi Book Pustak Hindi
Rahasia Secret Rahasya Hindi
Raksasa Monster Rakshsam Tamil
Ratna Gemstone Ratnam Tamil
Rupa Appearance Roop Hindi
Samudra Ocean Samudra Hindi
Sakti Powerful Shakti Hindi
Senopati General, Military Leader Senapati Hindi
Singa Lion Singha Sanskrit
Surya Sun Surya Hindi
Suka Like Sukh Hindi
Upacara Ceremony Uppakara Sanskrit
Wahana Vehicle Vahana Sanskrit

I am sure there are many other words in Bahasa Indonesia with a similar Indian connection. Either I have not come across those words or haven’t been able to connect the dots.

If you are more keen on finding the connection, you can start with this wikipedia article and then the rest of the internet.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Travel Photo: Balinese Temple Architecture

Balinese temples are very interesting to look at as Balinese Hinduism has ensured that the architecture is not really Hindu style architecture, but a mix of local designs too. This has led to tiered temple roofs, some vibrant doors, some very intricately carved sculptures and designs and overall an experience that is truly unique to Bali.

A door in Tirta Empul Temple, Bali, Indonesia
In this case, I saw this lovely door at the Pura Tirtha Empul temple near Ubud in Central Bali. Not only was the door eye-catching with its lovely orange color, but the two intricately sculpted barongs guarding it added to the aura. These mythological creatures and the other creatures on top and to the side of this door created a sense of mystery, which gave it a special look. One can find many such special looks in many temples across Bali.

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Balinese Temple Procession: Travel Photos and a Travel Video

Balinese culture is very unique. It is an interesting mixture of Hinduism from India and traditional animism and beliefs from Bali. The end product is Balinese Hinduism, which tourists from all over the world come to see and understand. Their temples, their dressing style, their traditions, their beliefs are all close to Hinduism, but still seems different.

Beautiful Bali Girls at Sukowati, Bali, Indonesia
I got to see some of this interesting Balinese culture live at the street in front of Sukowati market in Central Bali. There was long temple procession that passed right through the center of Sukowati. Apparently, this was a temple procession that takes place once every 6 months and hence there were a lot of attendees. Balinese men, women and children were decked up in traditional attire and gear. There was music, glamour and aura.

Balinese men play music during a procession at Ubud, Indonesia
Apart from finding this procession interesting, I hardly understood anything about the culture. I tried checking with locals, but got nothing much except for the fact that it is held once every 6 months. I hope you get to understand something from these travel photos and this video that I took of the temple procession. Even if you don't understand much, I hope it helps you see a bit of Balinese traditional attire and culture.

Colourful dressed Balinese Women in a temple procession at Sukowati

Balinese Men at Ubud, Bali

Temple procession at Sukowati, Bali

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Hotel Pison: Good Budget Hotel in Rantepao, Tana Toraja

If you wish to explore Tana Toraja, there are two things you can do. One base yourself at Rantepao and explore the area as day trips from Rantepao or keep moving base between different areas of Toraja. If you want some basic luxuries, good food, internet, et al, you should stay at Rantepao. If you feel like a rustic environment, you can stay in one of the many homestays in Toraja. I preferred to stay in Rantepao and ended up spending 9 days and 8 nights at Hotel Pison. Below review is based on this recent experience of mine.

1) Hotel Pison, run by a Torajan family offers a variety of rooms from basic fan rooms to fully loaded air conditioned rooms with TV, running hot water, et al. The cost starts at 100,000 rupiah and goes upwards to 300,000 rupiah for their best room.

2) They have a very nice in-house restaurant that delivers some lip smacking fare. You should also try out their home made palm wine, locally referred to as ‘balo’.

3) They are just 5 minutes south of the market and hence it is close to the supermarkets, the bank ATMs and the warungs.

4) A lot of Torajan guides are regulars of this hotel and hence one need not go around looking for a guide.

5) They offer motorcycles and vehicles on hire at good prices.

6) They offer free wi-fi, but it can be accessed only in their restaurant area.

7) The family running this place are very helpful and try and address all your questions with a smile on their faces.

8) Service can be a bit slow at times, but that is part of the laidback lifestyle of Toraja land.

Personally, I really liked staying here and I am sure I will return here in the future. This place is ideal for backpackers, budget travelers, couples and families.

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Pura Tirtha Empul: In Bali, but follows a tradition that is the norm in South Indian Temples

As a person who belongs to the Brahmin caste of Hinduism in South India, I have seen my fair share of orthodox Hindu rituals, traditions and culture that have been followed through generations. One such tradition involves bathing at all temple ponds, holy waterfalls, holy rivers and more. This culture is prevalent in other parts of India too, though is restricted to only some days. But, in South India, it is quite like the daily norm and people believe that if they have a bath in a holy river, they are cleansed off all their sins and also believe in the water giving them positive vibes.

Holy spring at Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali
And since it was the South Indian kings who brought Hinduism and Brahminism to Indonesia’s Bali, these traditions can be seen in Bali’s temples too. For a non-Hindu, such bathing scenes might amaze them. But, for me, who has seen this and participated in such rituals from childhood, this doesn’t seem odd. However, it is interesting to see such events take place in a country that is far away from India.

Rainy afternoon at Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali, Indonesia
Here at the Tirtha Empul temple, water from a holy spring is channeled through intricately carved aqueducts that are placed in the temple compound. People bring in their offerings, keep it next to the temple pond and enter the pond without any footwear. Then both men and women together have a dip in the pond and a shower at one of the many aqueducts. The belief in Bali is the same as in India where the holy water is supposed to cleanse them of their sins.

Taking a holy bath at the Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali, Indonesia
Once they have had their holy bath, they then go to inside the temple in wet clothes and offer their offerings and prayers to god. Generally this holy bath and temple visit is taken together with the entire family. In Bali, such activities happen more so during festivals and weekends.

Lord Indra at Tirtha Empul Temple, BaliThe Pura Tirtha Empul temple was built in the 10th century and is located at about 20 kms north of Ubud in central Bali. It has stunning location as it is surrounded by dense green mountains. The place is so nice that just opposite the temple, there is a resting house for the ex president of Indonesia and which is today used to host VIPs. If you want to some good architecture and a different culture, this is one temple you need to see. Entrance fees are 15,000 rupiah per person and if you are wearing short clothes, they will make you wear a sarong.

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Samabe Bali Resort and Villas: Luxury Romantic Getaway in South Bali

A private swimming pool facing the Indian ocean. Lots of space with lots of luxury. A private butler. High standards of service. Great location and great food. If this is your idea of a perfect romantic holiday, then you have reached the correct place. These luxury bali villas are a five star property who offer luxury suites and luxury villas to their customers.

Samabe Resort and Villas, Bali, Indonesia
Each villa and suite comes with its own private swimming pool and a private butler. Now that is some serious pampering. Some of these villas and suites also come with stunning views of Bali’s emerald Indian Ocean waters. These suites and villas are broken down into one bedroom, two bedroom, ocean facing and penthouse categories. Each has its special oomph factor and price tag.

Stunning Restaurant area of Samabe Resort, Nusa Dua, Bali
This property started operations as recently as June 2013, which means they are a new kid on the block, but once you stay with them, you will feel like they have been in the hotel business for very long as they have taken care of every single customer need. The Samabe is one of those places where you pay for your rich experience and leave all the headaches to be handled efficiently by the hotel’s expert staff.

The villas of Samabe, Bali, Indonesia
Apart from their beautiful suite and villas, they have a sensationally themed restaurant and bar that has a great character of its own. If you feel like dining here, you jump into their buggy carts and dine under a beautiful star light sky. If you wish for some privacy and a romantic dinner, you can either have it in the confines of your suite/villa or ask for a romantic dinner on the beach. This is one of those places where they try to make all your requests into reality.

Lovely Bar at Samabe Resort, Bali
In addition to the private swimming pools in each suite/villa, they have a large swimming pool facing the ocean and an area called the ring of fire for evening cocktails and barbecue sessions. Samabe has their own private beach that is located right below the cliff. Either you can request for a buggy cart or go on a romantic walk to the beach.

The private swimming pool with the Indian Ocean view at Bali, Indonesia
The Samabe team also arranges visits to various tourist attractions in Bali in their luxury vehicles and equipped with a knowledgeable guide. I stayed at Samabe earlier this month and marveled at how well my stay was organized. The Samabe team took care of my every need and ensured I had a great time. If you are a couple planning your honeymoon, a couple planning a romantic getaway, a family looking for a luxury holiday or simply if you feel like a luxury holiday, this is one of those places you should look up if you are looking at Bali to be your holiday destination. Like other five star properties, the price tags might seem steep, but once you sample their offerings and services, your opinion will change.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Destinations in Spain to keep holiday costs down

British holidaymakers rate Spain for their getaways because of the fantastic beaches and reliable climate, but also because traditionally visiting the country has always offered good value for money. Although Spain uses the Euro and the Pound has recently fallen in value against it, the good news is that prices in many Spanish resorts have actually decreased dramatically in the last year, even after taking the currency changes into account.

Recent research from the Post Office revealed that a basket of ten holiday items such as bottled water and sun cream which were checked for prices in various European resorts turned out to have the lowest prices in Torremolinos on Spain’s Costa del Sol and Javea on the Costa Blanca. The results actually recorded a drop in prices in Spain of 20% from the previous year and this is being put down to an effort by retailers to encourage British holidaymakers to continuing visiting the country.

Combined with other ways of keeping costs down for a holiday, such as renting villas in Spain, the fact is that a getaway to some of the most popular destinations shouldn't cost you any more that it did last year and in some cases might even cost less.

Costa Blanca The Costa Blanca has some of the most attractive coastal, resort and inland locations in all of Spain and when it comes to renting a villa there is plenty of choice. From the Montgo Mountains to the salt flats of Torrevieja, there is far more to the region that simply beautiful golden beaches and pure blue waters.

Costa del Sol The same can be said for choosing a holiday on the Costa del Sol. As well as the range of accommodation offered in some of the major tourist destinations along the coast, there are many individual villas each with their own unique qualities and locations. The Costa del Sol doesn't come by its name by accident, as the long stretch of coastline is renowned for its climate as well as the stunning scenery. From the glitz and glamour of the high life in Marbella through to the more family friendly resorts that prove popular year after year, there is truly something for everyone whatever kind of holiday they are looking for.

Low Costs
As shop prices are kept low to entice British holidaymakers to continue visiting Spain, it means that self catering in a rented villa can make even more sense for those looking to keep costs down whilst household budgets at home are under increasing strain.

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Grand Mirage: Bali’s Family Friendly Five Star Resort

Bali has been a tropical holiday destination for many years now. Surfers, backpackers, families on a holiday, couples and many more kind of travelers have been visiting this island in huge numbers to enjoy its white sands and tropical sunshine, to see its beautiful temples, to surf on its famous waves and see the culture of Hinduism far away from India, the home of the religion.

Grand Mirage Resort, Tanjung Benoa, South Bali
Increasing tourist numbers have created increased in supply too. Hence, there is no paucity of finding a place to stay in any of Bali’s key zones, the most popular being South Bali. But, at the same time, having too many options causes a lot of headaches for the vacationing family with young kids. And it is for such people that bali family resort offers a great value for money.

Grand Mirage Resort - A family friendly five star hotel in South Bali, Indonesia
This five star resort property located on the Tanjung Benoa beach in South Bali has been around for close to two decades. During this time, they have understood the needs of their customers and have created a niche for themselves in the family friendly category. This niche ensures that families need not worry about their kids while on their holiday as their kids have enough activities to keep themselves occupied. All that is needed is a little supervision while continuing to enjoy their own holiday. As part of this niche, Grand Mirage provides swimming pools of different sizes and depths to cater to their customers of different ages and swimming capacities. Then, they promote water sports in their swimming pool and as well at the beach. Then, there are the playing grounds with an assortment of slides and various games for the kids to stay occupied.

Coconut Bar by the Swimming Pool, Grand Mirage Resort, Bali
For the adults, the specialties are in-house spa treatment facility, an aqua medic pool, a coconut bar by the pool, a variety of cuisines at their different restaurants including a seafood restaurant offering the day’s fresh catch on the beach, entertainment, themed night buffet dinner on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, great service and many things that is signature of any five star hotel.

Riding a Catamaran in the Indian Ocean, Bali
In spite of all the above facilities, they offer their own private beach, sun bathing chairs and a lot of water sport options that include snorkeling, scuba diving, jet ski, catamaran ride and many more. And all of this for a very competitive price, which is what I think is a great value for money package as I figured it out for myself when I stayed with them recently a short while back.

Grand Mirage Beachfront, Bali
Their accommodation, value for money, food, service levels and amenities and plus the fact that they are family-friendly makes it a hot favorite in my mind for families of all types who are looking to spend their holiday in Bali. The place is also good for newly wed couples on a tighter budget and also for backpackers who wish to splurge once in a while.

P.S. This property is pretty popular with vacationers from India.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Travel Photo: Cute Damper Baby of Taipei 101

For a structural engineer, it is one of the largest dampers in the world. For a marketing mind, it is his brand ambassador. For a regular tourist, it is a super cute damper baby. Whoever the spectator is, the damper baby never has paucity of admirers. Or may be, Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world have done a good job with it.

Damper Baby at Taipei 101
For those who are interested in this damper baby, it is one of the largest structural dampers of its kind in the world and it’s primary function is to absorb the stress that a high rise building like Taipei 101 gets due to heavy winds. So basically, it protects Taipei 101 and the people working in the building at all times. It is also Taipei 101’s brand ambassador and has been promoted as a cute being with 2 legs and 2 hands just like a human baby.

The Mascot of Taipei 101
The idea was a huge success and lots of visitors not only like the damper baby, but are also curious about it in its true form. This damper baby can be seen in 5 vivid colors of red, yellow, green, grey and black. Each color has a noble theme and are fiercely popular both with domestic as well as international tourists. Damper baby memorabilia are one of the more sold gift items.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Thalasso Bali Spa: Get ready to be pampered!

A holiday always comes after a stressful time at work. And even when you are traveling continuously like me, once a while you need to sit back and relax coz even consistent travel can be stressful. And what better way to relax than in a spa on an exotic island. This is exactly what I did when I took a Balinese massage at the Thalasso Bali Spa in Indonesia’s South Bali.

Note: This video is the copyright of Thalasso Bali Spa and Grand Mirage Resort.

This spa situated in the middle of the Grand Mirage Resort on Tanjung Benoa beach offers many options that include spa packages, therapy, hydrotherapy, body massages treatment, body exfoliation treatment, body wrap treatment and many beauty range treatments. Since, my sore muscles needed some relaxation after carrying a backpack on its shoulders for many months, I opted for the traditional 60 minute Balinese massage program. As part of this massage program, one can choose from the many different styled rooms inside the spa or take the massage on the beach. I could also choose my oils for the massage. They ranged from interesting flavors to muscle relaxant oils to oils that help in reducing cellulite. I opted for the muscle relaxant oils.

The Aquamedic Swimming Pool of Thalasso Bali Spa
Thalasso Bali and its French trained therapists ensured I was properly rejuvenated after my massage. Even though, I was keen on a full body Balinese style massage, I was interested in trying their aqua medic pool with 100% heated water and seaweed. I have tried many different types of massages and spa treatments, but have never tried this. May be, I will try it the next time I visit Bali. The prices of the various massages and spa treatments can be checked online on their website. They also run special offers from time to time that you can leverage while opting for their program. I just wish I could have been pampered for a longer time at the Thalasso Bali Spa.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Goa Gajah: The Elephant Cave of Bali

All travelers visiting Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali ensure that they visit Goa Gajah. Such is the positive hype around this place. Goa Gajah is actually a temple that is tucked within a cave. It was built in the 9th century and is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Cave Temple of Goa Gajah at Bali's Ubud
At first instance, it doesn’t look like a temple and the scary cave entrance with its menacing creatures and demons take center stage. But, once you enter the cave, you see Ganesha, a set of 3 shiva lingas on one end and some other idols of gods. The insides of the cave are not big, but there are some temple like structures outside the cave. In addition to the cave and the temple, there is a bathing site with apsaras. These bathing sites are reminiscent of South Indian Hindu temples.

Goa Gajah Cave Temple of Ubud, Bali
Apart from the stunning cave, the Goa Gajah temple is also known for its dense canopy and waterfalls on the temple campus. There are some jungle temples if you walk down from the temple, cross the waterfall and climb the other side. If you want to visit this temple, remember that the temple is open only from sunrise to sunset, costs 15,000 rupiah per foreigner and is about 5 kms out of Ubud town.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Devdan Show: Bali’s Dance Show that you should not miss

If there is one show in Indonesia that you should see it is this show. If there is one show that allows you to see the vibrant and diverse cultures of its different islands, it has to be the Devdan show. This internationally acclaimed Devdan show is popularly referred to as the ‘Treasure of the Archipelago’. It show local traditions and cultures from Bali, Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua in a high energy dance performance.

This video is copyright of Bali Nusa Dua Theatre and I am just re-using it from their youtube channel.

This show organized by the Bali Nusa Dua Theatre is a fusion of traditional Indonesian dance activities with modern contemporary dance, world class aerial acrobatic attractions, dazzling costumes and high tech special effects. The best part about this show is its artists whose energy never drops through the 90 minute show and this ensures that the audience’s senses stay riveted to the stage. Such is the power the artistes hold over the audience.

Devdan dance show - treasure of the archipelago
Personally, I was blown away by the whole show. While I found the Javanese dances to be a bit slow, I was open mouthed during the Sumatran dance, had goose bumps during the Kalimantan acrobatic dance and felt like I needed to shake a leg too while I saw the wild Papua dance in action. The Balinese dances were also good, but since I am from South India, I have seen similar dance forms before and hence it was not outstanding for me. But, Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo) and Papua simply blew my mind away. While watching these dances, all I felt was sheer joy and privileged to be watching it live.

Bali Nusa Dua Theater, Indonesia
Apart from the outstandingly nimble, fearless, dexterous and skilled dancers, I think the support team (light effects, sound effects, stage setting, et al) should also get a lot of credit as it was a team effort to make it a magical performance.

This show takes place four times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) at 07:00 pm. Bookings can either be made online or through your hotel or travel agent. Adult tickets start from USD 55 and go on till USD 120 for reclining lazy boy seats and prime viewing location. These tickets also ensure free pick up and drop from your hotel to the theatre if you are a minimum group size of 2 people. At first look, the tickets might seem a bit expensive, but once you are enthralled by the 90 minute high performance dance show, you will realize that it is more than enough value for money. After all, it has got glowing reviews from celebrities like Rani Mukherjee (Bollywood actress from India), Matthew Jessner (Director of Macau’s most famous dance show) and esteemed guests from all over the world just to name a few. In simple words, do not miss this show.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

India: Do you Love it or Hate it?

As a traveler from India, I am always keen to find out how the world perceives India as a travel destination. And in my days of travels, I have come across only 2 unanimous answers. I LOVE INDIA! I HATE INDIA!! As an Indian, I understand these extreme reactions since we (India) are an extreme country. But, what I don’t appreciate is many travelers forming an opinion on India even before they set foot on Indian soil. This post of mine is aimed at those travelers and to help them understand the extremities of India and how they should be prepared for India and form an opinion on their own without getting influenced by media or other people.

Please note that I am in no way supporting the bad things going on in India, but am trying to make the traveler understand the current Indian situation and be able to travel freely and enjoy one of the more diverse countries in this planet. You can also think of these as tips to travel India. The only difference to these from other tips is that this one comes from an Indian who loves to travel.

India is a Land of Extremes!
India is difficult to travel. These are some of the reasons why India is so different from the rest of Asia, which is very travel friendly. Knowing these will help you prepare mentally before traveling to India.

1) The population in India is the second highest in the world.

2) The Indian cities have some of the highest population densities in the world.

3) Noise pollution levels, air pollution levels and water pollution levels are some of the highest in the world .

4) India has some very diverse weather conditions across its length and breadth. It has some of the hottest places in the world, it has the second coldest place in the planet, the rainiest place on earth and may be some of the driest in the world as well.

5) India has some of the spiciest (hottest) food in the world as a country. Most of India is vegetarian and finding beef is very difficult in most parts of India.

6) India speaks many unique and distinct languages that have different scripts. The country has a national language ‘Hindi’, but a lot of the people in the country either don’t speak it at all or speak it in passing. Generally, English is the un-official Indian language, which makes India the largest speaking English country in the world.

7) India has some of the richest people on the planet and also some of the poorest on the planet too.

8) Even though a lot of Indians are very educated, illiteracy still ranks high in many states of the country.

9) India stretches a mind boggling 36 degrees in latitude and thus the weather changes drastically with the latitude.

10) As the crow flies, South to North India should be about 5,000 kms, West to East India should be about 3,000 kms and North West to North East India should be about 5,000 kms. This shows the sheer size of the country. I know many countries are larger than India, but traveling through a crowded and large one is a different ball game altogether.

11) India is may be the dirtiest place on the planet. As an Indian, I am very ashamed of this status, but that is the stark reality.

12) The country is very male dominated. Hence, woman are often not given much respect. This may not be seen in the urban areas, but can be seen in the cities. Hence, don’t get worried if the taxi driver talks to your boy friend or husband in response to your question.

13) Pre-marital sex and public displays of affection are considered taboo in India and thus a lot of people coming from an open minded society are shocked. But, this is what India is and travelers should come to terms with it.

14) Indians love to stare and gawk to the extent of making others uncomfortable. This can happen to a female or a male traveler. These stares are more out of curiosity than animosity or lust.

15) Indians are some of the best in the world in terms of scams. The scam artists here can put many others to shame.

16) India has also some of the worst rape records for any country. This makes it a challenging situation for all female travelers. No one in the country likes that this is happening. My head bows down in shame when people mention this attribute of my country. I am happy that the media is giving these rapes a lot of publicity and hopefully rapes in the country will carry maximum punishment, which in turn will stop people from committing this heinous crime.

17) India has 2 tough neighbors in Pakistan and China and this means that there is always some bit of tension around the borders that India shares with these two countries.

18) India is a secular country. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism are Sikhism are some of the main religions. There are other religions being followed too, though in smaller numbers. Because of this wide spread of religions, there are always some religion based clashes going on in the country. But overall, people from all religions co-exist happily as Indian citizens.

19) A lot of people in India are poor and hence resort to begging and stealing. If you feel like helping, help with small amounts of money or food. But, stay on guard.

20) Like most of the world, India too is subject to terrorist attacks in the name of holy war. The Indian citizens follow the news closely and try to stay away from such zones. You should too.

21) Hygiene levels in India leave much to be desired. It is best not to compare India with South East Asia and one should eat from restaurants instead.

22) India has close to 5,000 kilometers of coastline.

23) India has a cold desert, a sand desert and a salt desert.

24) Indian infrastructure is way behind the requirements of the country. Traffic bottlenecks are quite the norm in larger cities. Urban planning is also missing.

25) Indian roads are pretty unsafe and road accident rates are quite high.

26) Corruption in India is pretty high. This is one of the reasons why in spite of positive measures being taken, the actual actions take a long while. 

Why you should TRAVEL to India?
The world knows about this. If not, you can find a ton of information on the web or in guide books. I will only mention the ones that I think is very important.

1) ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’. This is part of India’s main religion (Hinduism) and means ‘Guest is equal to God’. Indians as such are a hospitable race.

2) Food in India is possibly the cheapest in Asia. And I am not talking about street food, but the food available in entry level restaurants. Street food is dirt cheap.

3) Indian food is one of the more famous cuisines in the world. Each state in India has a different cuisine. What better than sample this cuisine right at its home.

4) Public transport in India is very cheap and the connectivity is very good. This is one thing you will appreciate even in the more remote parts of the country.

5) The culture, the festivals and the rituals of India are so vibrant and colorful. Just participating in some of them can be a life changing experience.

6) India has close to 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and more than 90 in tentative status. India also has one of the seven wonders of the world.

7) After East Africa, India is the next go to wildlife destination in the world.

8) A lot of foreign tourists don’t visit India. You can still find a lot of places where foreign tourists cannot be seen even during the peak tourist season. A lot of foreign travelers like such places.

9) India is home to one of the oldest cultures in the world.

10) India is the land of spirituality, OM, Shiva, Kamasutra, Yoga, Ayurveda and many more ancient arts.

11) Even though you might have to apply for a visa to India, you will get a 6 month visa to India and sometimes even a multiple entry visa. This can however vary with your citizenship.

12) India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is changing rapidly. Visit it before it loses all its traditions and cultures.

A bit of planning and preparation can ensure that you end up exploring and traveling India just like any other country.

1) If you are a solo female traveler, try to travel with some male company. If not, have some local friends at hand you can bank on in case of need.

2) Like with many other countries, always keep guard and don’t trust anyone till you think you should.

3) Don’t eat off the streets of India unless you have a crocodile stomach. The ‘Delhi Belly’ is not just a term coined in passe, but it happens to many travelers. A little bit of precaution should help you from not spending your holiday in the toilet.

4) Try and dress like Indians. Having white skin in itself makes you prime targets. Like most brown skinned people, the Indians are amazed by white skin and will end up staring at you. In all probability, they are just admiring your skin colour. If you wish to avoid these stares, try and cover completely. India has some fantastic cotton attire that should protect you from the sun, the heat, the dust and the stares.

5) In India, try and behave like a normal Indian. There are many places where a normal denizen would not go to and especially during certain times of the day or night. Be aware of such places and times and avoid them at all costs unless you want to taste trouble.

6) Don’t leave your drink unattended in bars, clubs, pubs and discotheques in India. Drink mixing is common in popular parties and events.

7) If someone misbehaves with you, don’t back down. Instead, raise hell and cry. The other Indians will rush to your help as we hate these anti-social elements ourselves.

8) Always keep a watchful eye on your belongings, especially in trains and buses.

9) Book well in advance if you are planning to use some of India’s more popular public transport and especially around the festivals and holidays. The public transport system goes fully booked as the populous nation travels in huge numbers during these dates.

10) Start with some of the more popular tourist areas to become comfortable with India and then spread your wings out slowly.

11) The charm of India lies in its people. Get close to them slowly and in return you will get showered with love.

12) If you fight India, India will fight right back. Just treat her with care.

13) Beware of scamsters in India. Treat invitations and other freebies with a lot of doubt. Ignore politely.

14) Politely ignore all food offered to you on the trains and buses of India. Such food may or may not be drugged.

15) Travel India for a longer duration. India is a large country and requires more than 2 to 4 weeks. If you are on a short holiday, explore only a small belt. If you wish to explore a larger area, keep 3 to 6 months. Even better, if you can explore India for a year.

Do you LOVE India or do you HATE it? Do you have a different opinion on the above? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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New Legend Hostel: Backpacker Hostel in Makassar, Sulawesi

If you want to do budget travel in Sulawesi island, then in all probability you will pass through Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. Most of the cheaper airlines and good bus connectivity goes through Makassar. This is where I began my Sulawesi trip as flights into Makassar were much cheaper than anywhere else on the Sulawesi island. While I was there at Makassar, I stayed at the New Legend Hostel on Jalan Jampea street in the Chinatown area and close to the harbor of Makassar. The below review is based on my recent experience of staying one night here.

1) The hostel is true backpacker style. It is slightly old, a bit run down at some places, but is the cheapest accommodation you can get in Makassar.

2) The dormitory beds cost 75,000 rupiah per night. They have 4 beds in one room and are cooled by a fan. The dorms don’t have doors or safety lockers, but it does not have bed bugs. The rooms come in fan and air-con options with attached bathrooms and cost 110,000 and 135,000 rupiah. Some inmates mentioned that their rooms had bed bugs. The shared bathrooms only have cold running water.

3) A simple breakfast of bread, eggs and tea/coffee is served free of cost from 7 AM to 10 AM.

4) Free wi-fi is available, but only at the reception on the ground floor.

5) The location of this place is one of its strengths. It is close to the Rotterdam Fort, Losari beach, the traditional Poverte Port and the harbor, which are some of the main tourist spots in Makassar city. The place is also close to many restaurants, warungs and street shops. Groceries, ATMs, supermarts and pharmacy stores are also very easily accessible.

6) The hostel is not very clean and can have a musty wet smell, but thankfully the dorms, the bathrooms and toilets located on the floors above were cleaner.

7) The reception is pretty helpful in arranging tickets for you and also guide you around the town.

If budget is a constraint, this is the place in Makassar. If budget is not a problem, then there are many options available close to this hostel and also in other parts of town.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Street Photo: Smiling Balinese Kids

There is something about me or my camera that kids around the world find interesting and/or amusing. Within a short moment, they turn from complete strangers to perfect camera models with different poses and smiles. A similar turn of events took place while I was watching a Balinese temple procession next to the Sukowati market in Central Bali, Indonesia.

Smiling Balinese Kids at Sukowati market, Bali, Indonesia
While I was shooting a video of this temple procession, I noticed these kids staring at me from the corner of my eye and as soon as I turned around with my camera, they got even more interested and started posing for me. And like always, once they see the output on my camera screen, it just makes them pose more. But, what I like in this capture were the genuine happiness and smile on the faces of these Balinese kids. Each one has a different expression and that is what makes this photo special. I hope you like it too.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bali’s Kintamani: Of a caldera, a beautiful temple and stunning mountain scenery

Kintamani is a town a lot of people in Bali don’t go to as it far in the north of Bali and quite far away from the airport in the south. This northern Bali town has quite a few specialties that ideally should make it a hot favorite. It is home to the second most important temple of Bali called the Pura Ulan Danu Batur. It is home to the Batur volcano and the caldera. It is very scenic and it’s cool mountain weather is quite a different experience from the rest of Bali.

Batur Lake of Kintamani, Indonesia
It is located about 50 kilometers north of Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali and can either be done as part of a day trip from Ubud or even better if you stay in Kintamani a couple of nights to enjoy the nippy mountain weather, a early morning walk in the cool mist and may be even climb the Batur volcano if you feel like hiking.

Batur Caldera and the Batur Lake at Kintamani, Indonesia
The picturesque and really stunning Pura Ulan Danu Batur, the scenic location of the Batur lake and the views of the Batur caldera will keep you awestruck as long as you stay in Kintamani. Everywhere you goto in Kintamani, you will see the mountain and the lake. And may be the temple too as it overlooks the volcano and the lake. This is one place you should visit if you wish to experience a volcano, a temple and cool weather all thrown into one. I definitely loved this place and would definitely go here again.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

How to get a Singapore visa from Jakarta

Getting a Singapore tourist visa in Jakarta is pretty simple. I applied for my visa this Tuesday and got it this Friday evening. This post is to help you understand the visa submission and collection process.

Singapore Embassy in Jakarta is on Jalan Rasuna Said in Central Jakarta.

Embassy working days are Monday to Friday, except for Singapore and Indonesian holidays.

Visa Submission time: 8:30 AM to 11 AM

Visa Collection time: 4 PM to 5 PM

Document required for submission: 1) Original Passport with 6 months validity and 2 blank pages
2) One color passport size photograph
3) One photocopy of passport front and back pages
4) Onward and return flight tickets
5) Completed visa application form (form can be collected at the embassy free of cost)

Visa cost: 237,000 rupiah (The embassy requests you to provide exact change). They don’t accept any other currency.

After submission, you are given a receipt for the visa fee and an acknowledgement for your visa submission. You are supposed to bring this acknowledgement on the 4th day after submission (Submission + 3 days). On the evening of collection, you can collect your e-visa printout. It is as simple as that. My visa says that I am allowed entry for 30 days and it is valid for multiple entry even though I thought I applied for single entry.

Key things to note:
1) The embassy allows you to apply for the Singapore visa only when your flight date is less than 5 weeks away from the visa submission date. I went to the embassy with the form 7 weeks before my actual travel and they declined to accept my application.

2) The embassy security guards are very strict about the embassy timings. So, do plan to be in early to accommodate for the notorious Jakarta traffic.

3) The embassy security guards do not allow anything in except your passport, documents and wallet. The rest of the stuff needs to be put in a safety locker that they provide at the entrance. It is best to go with very less stuff.

4) If you are staying in the Cikini area or the tourist hub of Jalan Jaksa, a ojek ride should take you 30 minutes and between 20,000 and 25,000 rupiah. A taxi should cost you the same or more depending on traffic, but will definitely take more time.

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Uluwatu– Bali’s temple at Cliff’s Edge

A stunning location. A beautiful temple that you can only see from the outside unless you pray in the local style and follow local traditions. A set of rowdy monkeys that steal tourist’s belongings. And the cliff’s edge and the lovely Indian Ocean view. This is how I would describe Uluwatu, one of South Bali’s main hotspots and also home to a temple that is on the edge of a cliff and that faces the Indian Ocean.

Uluwatu Temple at Cliff's Edge, Bali, Indonesia
It is famous for is lovely sunset views, but as with any equatorial country, the sunsets are very unpredictable and depends on how lucky you are. But, in spite of that the sunset is the main draw here and tourists ensure that they reach as early as 3 pm. The entrance ticket is about 15,000 rupiah and if you are wearing short dresses, the temple authorities will give you a full length sarong to help obey temple traditions.

Cliff view at Uluwatu, South Bali, Indonesia
It is just a short walk from the ticket counter to the temple, but the views are spectacular. The wide cliff with the sheer drop is very spectacular. But even better is the sound of the waves ramming against this cliff. Amidst all this awe at nature’s construction, be aware of the naughty macaques that are known to steal your ear rings, sun glasses, hats, bags and more and they only give it back when you exchange it for some food. Apparently, these monkeys are trained by the temple staff to do such naughty things. In most cases, you can get your belongings back by paying the temple priest some money and he in turn would bribe the monkey with some fruit or food items.

A Kecak dance performance taking place at Uluwatu, Bali
As the sun sets and nature’s vibrant views disappear into the darkness, the man made cultures and traditions of Uluwatu can be seen through the Kecak dance, a fire dance where the music is provided for by the mouths of the artists and their feet. The modulation and synchronization of voice is so good that this ends up being a captivating performance. The entrance fee to this show is 70,000 rupiah and the show starts at 6 pm sharp along with sunset and lasts one full hour amidst vibrant sound and drama. Uluwatu is one place that you will end up visiting if you are in South Bali. Such is its charms.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Travel Photo: Kid and Life Size Chess

Life size chess amazes me and it amazed me more to see a small kid stand next to it and try to play with pieces that would take an adult two full hands to move around. I was standing in my room at a five star hotel in Tanjung Benoa, Bali when these events took place. As a photographer, it was a very different frame for me with actually no clear lines, but I somehow like the output.

Kid and life Size Chess at Bali
These grey, black and white colors of the chess pieces and the floor contrast nicely with the colorful kid and it was even more amazing to see this kid play with these chess pieces. Hope you like this cross cross frame too.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Far Eastern Delights

If you’re looking for somewhere to backpack but are hoping to visit somewhere a little more off the beaten tourist track, Indonesia and the surrounding area could be the perfect place to visit. With enough Western-isms to make even an inexperienced traveller feel comfortable, but with a little less popularity than the likes of Thailand, this could be the perfect destination for someone looking for something a little different. After travelling around the area, I’ve seen and experienced a huge amount of exciting places to visit. To help you get ready for your trip, here’s a spotlight for some of the best.

Far Eastern Delights
Image Source: Virgin Holidays

First-things-first, you’ve got to start with the main area. Start off in Bali for some of the best water-based experiences in the area. Junkung Dive is one of the most professional and profound diving experiences available anywhere, perfect for anyone who loves to dive. With sights such as the US Liberty Shipwreck, Gili Selang and Amed Walk, it’s simply unmissable. And don’t worry if you’ve never dived before; there are 5 star trainers on hand to teach and guide you through every part of this experience. Next up is the Wae Rebo Village in Flores, which is perfect for anyone who loves to hike. You are guided up steep hills on a 3-4 hour trek, finally arriving at this traditional village. With only 8 families living in this area, you will truly appreciate what it means to be away from mainstream, modern society. You can even stay the night in one of the huts there, which is a great chance for anyone looking for a traditional Indonesian night.

The first thing you must do in Malaysia is take the Malaysia Heritage Tour of Eat, Pray, Love. Guiding around in groups of around ten, you’re given several hours to take in a huge variety of cultural experiences in a really friendly environment. One of the best things about this tour is that it doesn’t only allow you to see sights you may not otherwise have known about, but you try so much food! Local Chinese, Indian and Malay food is all up for tasting, so it’s a great chance to try something new. Langkawi is famous for its beaches, so you can’t miss the chance to spend a day simply relaxing on the golden shores, taking a dip in the sparkling blue sea. Cenang Beach is one of the best in this region, with lots of fun water sports and eaters available, though it’s also great just to relax and take in the sun and views.

Papua New Guinea
A little piece of British history is available here in the form of Parliament Haus. If you’re looking for some culture, of even just a little taste of home, this is an ideal spot. Opened by Prince Charles in 1984, it’s an impressive building with truly spectacular architecture which everyone can appreciate. The façade is a great spot for photographers thanks to the mosaic designs, whilst nature lovers will enjoy the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, beetles and stick insects which call this place home. You could easily miss the National Botanic Gardens thanks to their location in the middle of capital Port Moresby, but they’re a must-visit spot. With a 2 km boardwalk moving throughout a jungle canopy, there are also lawns and gardens showcasing amazing tropical plantation.

Finally, you should travel to the Philippines before making your way home. The sunken Japanese wrecks are brilliant for people who love both historical culture and nature. Taking the skills you learnt in Junkung at the start of the trip, you can check out the water-life which thrives around the wrecks under the sea. If you’re looking for something you simply cannot see anywhere else, the Puerto Princesa underground river is ideal. Take a tour through the river which travels underneath a mountain, and discover nature you didn’t even know existed. The rock formations are out of this world, and the tour guides truly know their stuff.

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Smiling Taiwan: Feel it! Love it!

Smiling Taiwan. That is how it Taiwan likes to refer to itself. And as a tourist, you will feel it and start loving its people immediately. It’s green mountains, its lovely smiling people, its efficient road system, its busy and workhorse like capital, its beaches, its corals and many more. Taiwan is a land that is very special and deserves a lot of time.

Smiling Taiwan - A Great place to visit
A lot of people visit Taiwan only for Taipei 101. While Taipei 101 is spectacular, the night markets, the really devout people, the bullet train, the stinky tofu, the ability to get all kinds of food, some fantastic green tea, some amazing landscapes and more is what you should go to Taiwan for. The central mountains and the east coast is more less populated, while the north and the west coast is the more well populated and busy. And if you are looking to buy some phones or laptop spare parts, then you are in the right country.

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Guest Post: Alternative Road Travel

There are so many quick, convenient and technologically amazing ways to travel these days that it's easy to forget that we don't all have access to modern travel. In this article, we take a look at some of the most basic travel modes from around the world, and at how they differ from westernized methods. From Tuk-Tuks in Thailand to the Bamboo railway in Cambodia, we find out about how it's not just about reaching your destination, but it's how you get there too.

Our guest author usually writes for PassSmart.com, but today she's given up regular road travel to look at some alternative options in the world.

Bamboo railway
Though not strictly road travel, we had to include this on the list. When the local residents of Battambang, Cambodia, got tired of waiting for unreliable trains, they took matters into their own hands. The Bamboo railway, also known as the 'norry', is only 3m wide and is made of bamboo. The makeshift railway can accommodate 10-15 people and travels at a steady pace. It may not be the most innovative pieces of technology, and, worryingly, they have no brakes, but it does the trick, allowing locals to transport their produce to the market. Bamboo drivers know the official railway's time schedule, so when they hear one coming in the distance, they quickly dismount from the tracks by taking the bamboo carriage apart.

Coco taxi
The Cuban Coco taxi is a favorite amongst tourists visiting the Caribbean country. The rickshaw type vehicles have two seats, three wheels and a moped engine. They get their name from their coconut-shaped bodies, as 'coco' means coconut in Cuba's native language, Spanish. Coco taxis are noisy, and you may be in for a bumpy ride, but they're cheaper than regular taxis in the capital city, Havana.

Boda Boda
The Boda Boda is a bicycle taxi which comes from Africa. They first started being used around 50 years ago as a means for travel for the locals, and have since become an entrepreneurial way for locals to make money. Transforming them into taxis, they're used to transport people between villages. They've since made the progression from bicycle to motorcycle, meaning locals can treat themselves to a speedier, if a little noisier, journey.

Tuk-Tuks and Jumbos
The Tuk-Tuk is not a new phenomenon, but it is one of the most popular travel methods for people visiting Thailand. They may be cramped, but in the bustling traffic of the Thai capital, Bangkok, there's little space for a larger vehicle. They have three wheels, 2 seats and fearless drivers who will get you from A to B as quickly as possible. Jumbos can be found in Laos, and they're really just a bigger version of the Tuk-Tuk; able to seat up to six passengers. Again, they're open-air and your ride may be a little bumpy, but they'll get you to your desired destination.

Bemos are the favored form of transport for locals in Bali, Indonesia. The open-air minibuses are small and cheap, but not particularly comfortable. The most unique aspect of a Bemo is that all of the seats have been ripped out, meaning they can fit more people in. Bemos travel on set routes like buses, so you can even take one for your airport transfer, if you're feeling brave enough. Don't be surprised if you come across livestock on a Bemo either, as all kinds of passengers are welcome!

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