June 2017 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

10 Lesser Known Experiences for your next Singapore Holiday

Lion at Merlion Park and Singapore Downtown

The tropical island country of Singapore, that is such a hot favorite with Indian travellers, is a destination that is pretty well trodden by tourists across the world. But, that doesn’t mean that it is devoid of those hidden or lesser known experiences that can make your Singapore holiday more fulfilling. From mangrove forests to late night parties, from markets to food centers and from islands to museums, there are quite a few off beat experiences to be had in Singapore.

Here are 10 of my favorite off-beat experiences and that you can definitely look to add to your Singapore holiday itinerary.

Experience a Gastronomic Journey at Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre

Healthy Chinese Vegetarian Meal at Singapore

Singapore and food go hand in hand. Such is the strong connection that life in Singapore revolves around its food scene rather than its business hubs. From traditional Hokkien Chinese food to Indian and other cuisines, the food scene at Tiong Bahru is amazing. Add to it the wet market and the live catches and you have a gastronomic discovery right in the center of Singapore. Chwee kueh (vegetarian), deep fried shark fritters, the traditional cakes of Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh, the vegetarian delicacies of Ru Yi Vegetarian stall and the kopi (coffee) are my personal favorites.

Dance to the Beat at Zouk

What used to be three old warehouses built along the Singapore river is arguably Singapore’s best cosmopolitan bar and dance club. Among the more recognized dance clubs in the world, Singapore’s Zouk is a place where you can groove and dance to the beats of some of the most well known DJs the world over. Head here for those adrenaline packed late night parties. And while you there and taking a break from the dance floor, you can try Singapore Sling, the iconic drink of Singapore that was created at the Raffles Bar.

Go Birdwatching at Jurong Bird Park

Lory Loft, Jurong Bird Park, Singapore

Managed and run by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the Jurong Bird Park is a fantastic family getaway. Loved by visitors of all ages, this place is a birdwatcher’s paradise. From penguins to cassowaries, owls and snowy owls to pelicans and from flamingos to lorikeets, one can sight a great number of bird species from all over the world. The African waterfall aviary, the Lory Loft, the nocturnal path called the world of darkness and the wings of Asia are my personal favorites. The Jurong Bird Park also packs in entertaining shows with the birds that are extremely educational for young kids.

Kayak through Mandai Mangroves

A biodiversity hotspot and the largest remnant of mangrove forest and mangrove swamp on mainland Singapore, the Mandai Mangroves is paradise for nature lovers. From terrestrial to migratory birds and from mangrove horseshoe crabs to reptiles and amphibians, this tract of mangrove forest is great to watch and study all kinds of animal species. The best way to experience all of this is from a kayak as you slowly float in the shallow waters.

Watch a Movie under the stars at Marina Bay

Singapore Marina Bay Sands at night

A hot favorite with the locals, the Movie Mob is an initiative where one can drive in and watch a movie under the stars with hundreds of Singaporeans at the famous Marina Bay location. Hosted one or twice every month during the weekends, this is an ideal way to live the Singaporean way of life in a spectacular environment where you are under the stars and surrounded by the shining high rises and attractions of Singapore. Entry is free, but online check in is required and one can also vote for movie choices here.

Enjoy the Aerial Views from the Singapore Cable Car

Singapore Cable Car - Sentosa

Connecting Mount Faber with Sentosa island, the Singapore cable car gondola lift is a great way to soak in the views of Singapore’s lush green forests, spectacular cityscape and the gorgeous ocean all in one panoramic view. The icing on the cake is the ability to enjoy a private dinner while you enjoy the rich visuals.

The Singapore Cable Car is definitely one of the best ways to experience the new and different Singapore. 

Dine in the Dark at Nox

Blind dining seems to be quite the rage these days and Singapore seems to have its own dine in the dark restaurant at Nox where one can surrender their taste buds and visually perceptive minds to dining in total darkness. A unique dining experience where you are assisted by visually impaired individuals, Nox - Dine in the Dark offers a food, wine and cocktail selection that is bound to whet your palate and leave you totally full and happy.

Stroll through Singapore’s last village – Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin village atmosphere

If I were to tell you that there exists in the vastly urban Singapore swaying coconut palms, lush rubber plantations, rustic trails, secluded beaches, mangrove forests, hornbills and other exotic bird species, a virtually unspoilt coral reef and lush green countryside all on one small island, you would think that I am possibly joking. But, there does exist one such island called Pulau Ubin that seems to have been untouched by time. Considered to be Singapore’s last village (Kampong), this island is perfect for nature lovers, bird watchers, mountain bikers and for those who love a quieter way of life.

Walk along a lifestyle destination called Dempsey Hill

Located real close to the bustling Orchard road is the lesser known Dempsey hill, one of Singapore’s most hip and quaint neighbourhoods. With over 150 years of history in this place, the best way to experience this lifestyle destination is by checking out its various walking trails that take you through restaurants and celebrity restaurants, cafes and brew shops, designer shops, art studios, pet hotels, apothecary spa and so much more.

Rediscover Childhood at MINT – The Museum of Toys

If you have a child hidden inside of you, you will definitely fall in love with this place. Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys or MINT Museum of Toys is a place that showcases a private collection of vintage toys. Spread across 6 levels and hosting over 50,000 items, the highlights of a visit to MINT museum has to be the enamel sign gallery, the Alice Doll by Farnell, the Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy and a whole bunch of other characters, childhood favorites and collectables. Ideal for people of all ages, MINT is a great place to take your kids on their Singapore holiday.

I hope these 10 lesser known attractions of Singapore offer enough food for thought for your next upcoming holiday. In fact, you can even avail some exciting offers on MakeMyTrip and Airbnb with your Citi Cards to book your flights and accommodation for your Singapore Trip. Experience the New Singapore like never before. #WhatsNewThisVacation.

Note: Some of these pictures have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons License. Each picture has been linked to its respective page on wikipedia.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

6 Tips to take the Best Instagram Photos

Famous Hawa Mahal of Jaipur, Rajasthan

Travel photography seems to be the rage on Instagram these days and the photos are so amazing that they tempt us to visit the destination portrayed in the photo. Have you wondered how the photos come out so vibrant and appealing? Well, as a travel photographer, I have figured out my own techniques to capture the best moments and these tips and tricks can help you take those eye-popping Instagram pictures.

Portrait of a Rawan Hatha Musician, Bikaner, Rajasthan

I have prepared these tips keeping the pink city of Jaipur in mind, but these handy tips and tricks can pretty much be applied to all locations in India if not the world over.

1) Make use of the golden hours

Colorful Mirror work on the rear walls of the Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, Rajasthan

A couple of hours during sunrise and sunset is what the photographers refer to as the golden hours. If you make a habit of getting up early, you will be able to make use of the soft color tones during these times. Not only do you get some of the best light during this moment, but you will also be able to see action that regular people miss. This is also the time to capture that mist, fog, dew drops, first rays of the sun, golden hues of the setting sun, frenetic activity of the starting day and so much more.

2) Engage in a conversation with the locals

Rajasthani Handlebar - pride of the Rajasthani men

Candid portraits and street scenes are a great way to get to know the destination. But, if you wish to make a solid connection, engage in a conversation with the locals, get to know them, ask for their permission and pretty much get invited into their comfort zone or homes. Not only do you get a solid personal story, but you bring some some amazing portraits and stunning frames.

Rajsthani man with big moustache in front of his silk scarf shop at Jodhpur

In the case of Jaipur, get to know about the iconic Rajasthani moustache, their colorful turbans, their delicious cuisine, their festivals, their language, their culture and so much more.

3) Explore the local hangouts

Colorful Jodhpuri shoes on sale at Jodhpur, Rajasthan

The best Instagram photos don’t necessarily come at the top tourist attractions, but at the places that are frequented by locals. In Jaipur, it is the markets, temples, lake sides and forts that attract the most locals who dazzle with their colorful attire and interesting mannerisms. For other cities, local hangouts could be bus or train stations, local bazaars, vegetable and flower markets, street business hubs, gardens or parks among others.

4) Keep a track of happening local events and festivals

The window portrait, Bikaner, Rajasthan

We all know how colorful our Indian festivals are! Add to it performances by local troupes portraying their culture and you have a cultural photography extravaganza. Before you reach a destination, do some background research for such events and festivals and if time permits, do try and experience these events and festivals up close and in real.

5) Hit the local eating joints

Rajasthani Thali at Jaipur, Rajasthan

Food is an integral part of Rajasthan’s culture and appeal. Personally, I would visit Jaipur simply for its lip smacking food. Starting from the iconic lassi to the famous Rajasthani Thali and from the mawa kachori to the ghewar dessert, not only is the food in Jaipur a gastronomic high, but these drinks, dishes and servings in traditional plates, glasses and other crockery make for fantastic photographs. If you want a win-win tip, hit the local eating joints and go home with a happy stomach and a camera full of yummy food pictures.

6) Check out trending destination hashtags and popular Instagram accounts

Beautiful play of colors inside the Durbar of Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

While it is certainly a lot of fun to discover the destination on your own, it requires a lot of time and effort and not everyone can afford that. Hence, for that quick boost, I would recommend checking the popular hashtags for a destination on Instagram along with popular destination related Instagram accounts. This way, you can check out the photo feed and select pictures that you would like to re-create or experiences that you would like to have for yourself. And when in doubt, you can always drop the owner of the Instagram account for tips and suggestions. You might also get lucky and get invited to a fantastic photography opportunity.

Jaipur by Sankara Subramanian   Expedia Insta Guide to India

I hope these tips and tricks makes your travel and travel photography experience a richer one. For more ideas, look up Expedia’s pet Instagram project where in they have created an Insta Guide to India. This guide which has been built in collaboration with popular travel photographers allows you to see and learn about some of the best spots to click those super attractive Instagram photos. I too have collaborated on this project with Expedia and you can see my suggestions for the pink city of Jaipur all complete with quick details and colorful pictures.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

5 Best Safari Parks in Africa

An Elephant March in Africa

When traveling to Africa, going on a safari is a must. A crucial part of understanding African nature and fauna, safaris are journeys to observe local wildlife. The continent offers tons of options, each one of them unique in their own way. But if you have limited time and you have to pick, what are the 5 best safari parks in Africa?

Maasai Mara

African Lion walks on the jeep track and straight towards me

Many would argue the Maasai Mara National Reserve is the best safari in Africa. It starts in Kenya and continues on into the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. This trip lets you experience the best of both countries, offering you untouched, fenceless land. What’s great about this journey is that there’s plenty to see all year round, as approximately 2.5 million animals trek through the area annually. Big cats are prominent figures of the Maasai Mara: lions, cheetahs, and leopards are plentiful. But they are not alone. The rainfall seasons (April-June and October-November) make this the perfect place for zebras, wildebeest and Thompson’s gazelle to give birth. This, in turn, provides prey for predators. You might also spot rhinos, elephants, crocodiles and monkeys, making this basically the ultimate safari.

Sub -Adult White Rhinoceros looking at us

One special tip
: You can take a hot-air balloon trip over the reserve, which will get you some spectacular snapshots for home.

Kruger National Park

A maze of black and white

If you’re looking to gets all your wildlife in one setting, look no more. The Kruger National Park in South Africa is not only big in size but also hosts a huge range of animals. You can find what we call ‘The Big Five’ here: lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos, and elephants. Other species include over 500 types of birds, 50 different kinds of fish, African wild dogs, giraffes, zebras, and pythons.

Check out the young one bending its fore limbs and eating foliage from the ground

Kruger is one of the best-maintained national parks in the world. The roads are sealed and lots of camps are even wheelchair accessible. The park usually opens at six in the morning and is big enough that you might find yourself going for hours without bumping into other tourists. That being said, if you are looking for a quick visit - perhaps if you’re traveling with children - there are shorter routes that get to the excitement relatively fast.

Okavango Delta

Hippopotamus - the monster in water

Picture a safari, and you like thinking of a golden-brown savannah with the occasional green bush. This spot in Botswana will prove your mind wrong. The largest inland delta in the world, Okavango is the ideal location for African wildlife. Birds, reptiles, and mammals all thrive in this wetland. Many safaris across Africa only offer you jeep rides through a park. What’s great about the Okavango, is that you can also rent a traditional canoe (a mokoro), and glide through the many rivers. Floating feet away from pods of hippos is thrilling - maybe even slightly scary - but definitely unforgettable. Other options include hiking trails and riding a horse through the reserve.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The Beautiful Grey-crowned Crane

This reserve in Uganda is best known for being the home to over half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Other species that you can find here are hundreds of types of butterflies, birds, exotic frogs, monkeys, and chimpanzees. Many of these animals are endangered species, making Bwindi unique in that sense. It is worth noting that the landscape here is gorgeous. Think anything from volcanoes to waterfalls. ‘Bwindi’ means ‘darkness’, referring to the deep, mist-covered rainforest that this park is located in. Just like the Maasai in Kenya, Uganda has two rainy seasons. Although the park is accessible year round, many tourists, therefore, prefer a visit in from May to September, or in February.

Etosha National Park

Coke's Hartebeest

Etosha National Park in Namibia is perhaps the most kid-friendly safari of the bunch. Not only is Namibia considered one of the safer countries, but the roads are also well-kept with clear signs, making it a good option if you decide to drive your own vehicle. The park is known for its 100 million-year-old salt pan, which is so large, that it can be seen from space. There are waterholes, however, where the Big Five, wildebeests and zebras gather. Three hundred species of birds also call the Etosha home. Some days you may see copious amounts of flamingos around the salt pan. Sometimes there might be up to a million of them, an amazing sight, and a spectacular picture opportunity.

Why you should visit these 5 best Safari Parks in Africa?

Inquisitive Cheetah Cub

Come on - let’s face it - you simply won’t see lions strolling around a park in Brussels, or see a gazelle giving birth on the hills of San Francisco. To see real African wildlife, you have to go to the untouched, African nature. The five parks mentioned above are only a small selection of the choices you have. What all of them have in common, however, is that they are both a great start for safari-newbies, but have enough to see for the more experienced African travelers.

Maasai Ostrich at Maasai Mara Game Reserve

About the Author
: This article was written by Lena Hart, savvy travel blogger at asabbatical.com , a personal travel blog of Adrian Sameli. To connect with Lena, follow her on Facebook.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Abyaneh: Where time stands still in Iran

Abyaneh - Where time stands still in Iran

Humble and super hospitable people, stunning mountain landscapes, a rich fervor of Zoroastrianism, an amazing laid back village vibe and the stunning red mud and brick houses and narrow cobbled paths, Abyaneh has to be one of my favorite places in Iran.

Abyaneh mountain town view

Located in the Karkas mountains and at about 2 hours from the gorgeous houses of Kashan and 3 hours from the mighty Persian city of Isfahan, Abyaneh has somehow managed to stay disconnected from the rest of the country. It feels as if time literally stands still here!

Local women ambling through the streets of Abyaneh, Iran

Decked up in snow white during the winters, Abyaneh is gorgeous all year around and pack so much into a Iran holiday that sometimes I wish I should spend my entire trip here.

Street Photo - Elderly Abyaneh Lady in her colourful clothing

Abyaneh is perfect for those lazy nature and culture holiday lovers. When I was there, all I did was amble across the village, from mountain top to valley and from one local home to another being pampered with their lovely hospitality.

Walking through the brick lanes of Abyaneh, Iran

The people here dressed in their traditional attire still follow Zoroastrianism in their heart even though they technically are supposed to follow Islam. They grow apples, oranges, pears, walnuts, peaches and some vegetables and herbs and herd cattle for their livelihood.

Potrait of a elderly gentleman from Abyaneh, Iran

One of the oldest villages in Iran, the highlights of a visit to Abyaneh are its reddish hues of the village architecture and the vibrant clothing of its traditional women. These reddish hues are also fantastic for photography enthusiasts especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when they shine bright against the mountain landscape. If you find yourself a hotel room with a balcony, you will pretty much see this gorgeous view all through your trip.

Close Portrait of Abyaneh Woman

As you walk by these traditional reddish mud and brick houses and through fruit orchards, you will come across cold mountain streams, stunning vantage points, a castle in ruins, a local mosque, local schools and so much more. This is one of those places where you can volunteer, hone your Persian language (Farsi) skills and learn about the ancient Zoroastrianism religion.

A serene Abyaneh view

A holiday to Iran is definitely a trip that I heavily recommend and in that holiday do make sure to have Abyaneh in the itinerary. After all, it is not always that you come across one of the oldest villages in the world and where time stands still!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

5 Beautiful Reasons to Hit the Road and Go to Western Australia in Autumn

Ningaloo Reef - Western Australia

Photo Credit: NingalooWhaleSharkFestival.com

When the weather starts to change and Australia’s hot summer starts to fade away, the amazing colours of the fall begin to emerge and Western Australia is the best place to be to take full advantage of the beautiful fall colours and spectacular weather. Our 5 must see places in Western Australia in autumn are Kununurra, the Blackwood Valley, Rottnest Island, Margaret River, and Ningaloo Reef. This is a lot of ground to cover, so be sure to hire a vehicle from Budget Australia to help you get around the state while touring the best spots in the fall.

1) Kununurra for the Ord Valley Muster

Ord Valley MusterOrd Valley Muster Road Trip

Photo Credits: OrdValleyMuster.com.au

Kununurra is located in the remote Kimberley in northern Western Australia. For 17 years now, it has been home to The Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster. This festival celebrating the business, culture, Aboriginal history, and beautiful scenery takes place each May.  You can experience one of the most remote places in the world when you visit Kununurra and the Kimberley. It is one of the stops on the legendary road trip known as the Gibb River Road. In this region, you can see some of the most spectacular and dramatic scenery including gorges, waterfalls, hot springs, and national parks. In the fall, the Kimberley is just heading into the dry season which is the best time to visit because the weather is still warm but less humid than in the summertime. 

2) The Blackwood Valley

Blackwood Valley, Western Australia
Photo Credit: AustraliasSouthwest.com

The Blackwood Valley is located west of the Margaret River Region and about a 3 hour drive south of Perth. The valley is carved from the Blackwood River, the longest river in Western Australia. It is a wonderfully picturesque region filled with quaint bed and breakfasts, small businesses that show off the amazing local craftsmanship, local galleries, delicious food and wineries. In the fall, the leaves start to turn colours and the weather begins to cool down making for a lovely getaway.

3) Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island - Stunning getaway in Western AustraliaRottnest Island - Great beach holiday in Western Australia
Photo Credits: ExperiencePerth.com

Rottnest Island is a vacationer’s dream island located off of the coast of Perth near Fremantle. It is great any time of the year, but in the fall it is even more special because the summer crowds have diminished but the warm and sunny days have not. There are beautiful white sand beaches, snorkelling, boating to be had all along the perimeter of the island. The interior is filled with local wildlife. One of the most popular animals are the Quokka. These are adorable and friendly marsupials that are native to Western Australia. If you look up #QuokkaSelfie on social media, you will see just how friendly and how cute these little guys are!

4) Ningaloo Reef

Swimming with a Whale Shark - Ningaloo Reef - Western Australia

Photo Credit: VisitNingaloo.com.au

Ningaloo Reef is located near Exmouth and is the largest fringing reef in Australia. A fringing reef means that the reef begins right off of the beach. It has some of the best snorkeling in Australia, but is most well-known for being one of the few places in the world where you can actually swim with the largest fish in the ocean, the whale sharks. They migrate to Ningaloo Reef between April and July. In May is the annual Whale Shark Festival in Ningaloo, and is a prime opportunity to go snorkeling before the waters get too cold. Swimming with these gentle giants is a chance of a lifetime. There are plenty of other things to do in this vacation town with resorts, restaurants nearby. Plus, the desert and some fascinating scenery is just a short drive away.

5) Margaret River, Western Australia

Rich Colors of Margaret River in Autumn

Photo Credit: MargaretRiver.com
Margaret River is a region south of Perth located on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is one of the top spots in Australia for wine, so there is delicious foods and excellent wines to sample at the vineyards of the region. However, there are also beaches, national parks, forests, and caves, so there is something for everyone in Margaret River! During the fall season, the weather is beautiful and the panoramic scenery all around is lit up in beautiful colour.

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