Hong Kong Highlights – II

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Continuing from the previous post,the next morning, after having breakfast, we left for our Lantau Island and Big Buddha tour. We went to Wanchai MTR station and took a train to Tung Chung which is the station closest to the Lantau Island tour. The MTR is one of the most reliable, safe and efficient ways to travel around Hong Kong. The MTR extends all the way from the heart of Central and Causeway Bay to the New Territories and Lantau Island. It covers 82 stations on the Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, Tung Chung, Tseung Kwan O, East Rail, West Rail, Ma On Shan and Disneyland Resort lines. The MTR also operates a 35.2km Airport Express and 36.2km Light Rail networks which can take you to Hong Kong Airport and 68 stops in the North West New Territories. It also provides speedy through train services to major cities across Mainland China. Once we reached Tung Chung station, we picked some lunch. The complex has many options for fast food meals. We ate at New York Fries and also picked up a Subway sandwich. Once we were done with lunch, we walked ahead towards the cable car terminal. We reached the ticket counter and exchanged our voucher for tickets. There was a really long queue to get to the cable car, though not too long a wait. The cable car ride is a 5.7 km unique experience, travelling from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping village. We enjoyed the ever-changing panoramic & spectacular views like Hong Kong Airport, South China Sea, North Lantau Country Park, and finally the Big Buddha. It is a 20-25 minutes amazing ride where you can see the bird’s eye view of some of the many beautiful visuals.

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Upon reaching Ngong Ping Village, you will find many attractions like souvenir shops, dining options and other entertainment experiences. You can stroll through the village until you finally reach below the Big Buddha. You can climb up towards the Big Buddha or take in the sheer size of it from below. The Big Buddha is the largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha. Below the statue is the Giant Buddha exhibition hall. A short walk away is the Wisdom Path where an ancient prayer is inscribed on a series of wooden columns set in a figure of eight to signify infinity. You can light incense sticks at many designated areas. You can also visit the Po Lin monastery where you can witness monks chanting hymns and praying. You can also catch a traditional vegetarian Buddhist meal at the monastery canteen, which is what we did as we are vegetarians and did not want to miss a chance of tasting some vegan food. There are many options to choose from and the food tasted great. Once we were done with our meal, we headed back towards the cable car terminal. We walked back at a leisurely pace, checking out the different shops for souvenirs, etc. We picked up a few gifts and souvenirs and finally reached the cable car terminal and went back to Tung Chung. We then took the MTR back to Wanchai station, back to our hotel.

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After resting for a while, we met a local friend who took us to dinner to a really great vegan restaurant. Even though it was a good 20 minute walk, it was our preferred mode of transport to the restaurant. We had left a little early so that we could enjoy the sights as we strolled towards the restaurant. Seeing Hong Kong by night is a great experience, with its streets lit up with neon signage everywhere, busy with throngs of people. We finally reached the restaurant, which was a great dining experience. The food was really very delicious and scrumptious. One of the highlights of the meal was the amazing fruit tea our friend had ordered along with our meal. It was different from anything we had tasted before, warm, sweet and delectable. After our meal we walked around one of the night markets just to have a look. We did not find anything we liked, but it was still a great experience. We did try a few drinks though, a few fruity cold drinks and a special Asian milk tea. Once we were done browsing and enjoying our drinks, we took a bus back to our hotel. By then we had tried out almost all modes of transport in Hong Kong; taxi, ferry, MTR, cable car and finally the local bus. We reached our hotel, our stomachs full with all the different culinary experiences of the day and our heads full of the beautiful sights we had seen through the day.

The next day was a bit relaxed. We just walked the area around the hotel. We were supposed to go to Macau that day, but due to some reasons we could not go. So, we decided to explore the promenade behind our hotel. We strolled through the promenade and took in the beautiful views of the water, the yachts, etc. We ate some lunch and just walked around aimlessly for some time. At night, we ate dinner in a really great Indian restaurant with a few friends. It was a great end to a somewhat lazy day.

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The next day, we were to check out and leave to go back home. We had a bit of time after we had checked out of the hotel. We spent some time in the beautiful gardens of the hotel. Once our coach picked us up, we left for the airport and took our flight back home with some amazing memories of a really amazing city.

Hong Kong Highlights – Part I

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Hong Kong, a city of bright neon lights, crowds, amazing food and the hustle and bustle of activity, is a must visit destination in South East Asia.

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We had visited this amazing city just recently for a few days. As it was our first visit to the city, we mostly did all the touristy things only. We tried to pack in as many sights as possible in the 4 days we had. We reached Hong Kong Airport in the morning. The landing strip is a beautiful sight as it is so close to the water. Once we got done with immigration and picked up or luggage, we went to the counter for the coach that was dropping us off at our hotel. We were taking transfers on a “seat – in – coach” (sic) basis, where the coach picks up & drops off many passengers from & to their respective destinations. First of all, as there were many passengers on that day for different coaches, we got into our coach after a long wait. Even once we got into our coach, the coach took a long route as there were many different hotels where other passengers needed to be dropped off. We took in our first sights of Hong Kong, as we sometimes passed narrow roads, street markets, small shops, fruit n vegetable vendors. This part looked like an older Hong Kong. Then there were times, as we reached the Wanchai district, when we saw tall buildings, modern architecture and a newer Hong Kong. Our hotel, the Grand Hyatt was also a part of this new Hong Kong, situated in the Wanchai district. The Wanchai district and a few others are the most developed and modern areas of Hong Kong island, where many of the financial, technological, electronic companies are based. Hong Kong itself is one of the financial hubs of the world.

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The Grand Hyatt, one of the best hotels in Hong Kong; has great views, good service and is at a great location, being very close to the Wanchai ferry pier. It’s also close to many shops, restaurants and other entertainment. It houses the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, one of the biggest in the city, where there are many exhibitions, conferences, conventions, etc. taking place every few days. The rooms are beautiful, tastefully decorated and with great views of the skyline.

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Once we were checked in, we freshened up and left immediately for our “Big Bus Hop on Hop Off” Hong Kong City tour. We took a taxi from our hotel to pier 7, which was the start point for our tour. There is one piece of advice I would give, travel by taxi only if absolutely necessary. It is an expensive affair. Also they accept only Hong Kong Dollars. They do not accept the US Dollar or RMB, the Chinese currency (which is a problem everywhere in Hong Kong). While we are at this another problem we faced was that most places in Hong Kong; restaurants, shops, etc. accept only visa, no American Express. Now getting back to the city tour, we had taken a 48 hours pass which covered all three of the routes and also the night tour. There were three routes to choose from, red, green and blue routes. The red route is a tour of Hong Kong Island and includes sights like Hong Kong Convention and exhibition Centre, Peak Tram, Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong’s premium dining experience), Mid-Level Escalators Man Mo Temple, etc. The Hong Kong Island tour enables you to explore everything from traditional temples and historic colonial sites to the most contemporary shopping and high-rise architecture. The green route takes you away from the bustling city, into the south of Hong Kong Island, providing beautiful views of Hong Kong’s countryside and coastline. The sights include Aberdeen, Ocean Park, Repulse Bay, Stanley Market, etc. At the Aberdeen Harbor, you can take a ride on a “sampan”, the traditional fishing boat. The blue tour is a tour of Kowloon. The sights include Temple Street markets, the science museum and many other markets, museums, etc. We chose to take the red & green route and the night tour so that in we could cover Kowloon by night.

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On that first day we started with the red route from pier 7. We got off at directly at the Peak Tram stop, viewing the other sights from the bus itself. The Victoria Peak Tram & Tower, I found, is one of the best sights of Hong Kong. The Peak Tram takes you on the top to the tower which provides the best views of the city’s breath taking skyline. The tram ride itself is great fun indeed, taking the narrow route towards the top. Once we reached the top at the Peak Tower, it was an amazing sight. The Peak Tower, perched at 396 meters above sea level, is one of the most stylish architectural icons in Hong Kong. With an avant-garde design representing the epitome of modern architecture, the spectacular tower has been featured in millions of photographs and postcards across the world. Inside the peak tower, there is an array of restaurants, shops and other entertainment. And of course, the Peak Tower boasts of the highest 360 degrees viewing platform – The Sky Terrace 428 (It stands at 428 meters above sea level). The Sky Terrace offers breathtaking & spectacular panoramic views of this beautiful city. Whether you visit The Peak in the morning, afternoon or nighttime, The Sky Terrace 428 is a scenic spot that one should not miss. On P1 or level 1 there is an outpost of the wax museum, which house wax likenesses of international as well as local stars like Jackie Chan, etc. We skipped going there as we had already visited the one in the US. We took some great pictures of the panoramic views from the Sky Terrace, spent some time loitering around in the Peak Tower and then took the tram back down to get the next bus to continue our tour on the red route ahead. Once we “hopped on to the next bus, we did not stop at any other sights. We had spent a good chunk of our time at the Peak Tram, and had to also continue onwards for our night tour. The other spot we wanted to visit, but could not due to lack of time, is the Man – Mo temple. Built in 1847, the Man Mo Temple is a picturesque tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo).

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Our tour ended at the point we started from, pier 7. We took the bus for our night tour which started at 6 pm. The night tour is a one hour tour of Kowloon at its best. The tour takes you through the bustling streets and night markets of Hong Kong. If one wishes, they can stop at any of these markets to take on the unique experience of haggling with the expert shopkeepers. You will be sure to get a good deal somewhere or the other. The night tour ends at the “Avenue of Stars” at the Tsim Sha Sui promenade. As you walk along the promenade at the Avenue of Stars, you will see a sight similar to the Hollywood walk of fame at Los Angeles. You will see the signed hand prints and statues of the many stars of the Hong Kong film & television industry. Between 8:00 and 8:20 pm, one should find a good spot to stand and watch the “Symphony of Lights” show. It is a spectacular sound & light show involving 44 buildings on the Hong Kong Island skyline. After strolling along the Avenue of Stars, taking pictures along the way, we stopped at a Starbucks and picked up a couple of coffees. We found an appropriate spot to watch the show and waiting in anticipation for it to start. We were not disappointed. It was a really amazing show which showcased the Hong Kong skyline at its best. After the show, we strolled towards the Star Ferry Terminal for the ferry ride across Victoria Harbor, back to Hong Kong Island. Once we reached Hong Kong Island, we had a quick dinner and headed back to the hotel.

Look forward to the continuation of the trip in the next post..coming soon!

SIZZLING SOUTH AMERICA Part II

The next country to visit is Brazil, one of the world’s most captivating places. Brazil is South America’s giant, a dazzling country of powdery white-sand beaches, pristine rain forests and wild, rhythm-filled metropolises. Brazil’s attractions extend from enchanting, frozen-in-time colonial towns to dramatic landscapes of red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls and idyllic tropical islands. Add to that, Brazil’s biodiversity: legendary in scope, its diverse ecosystems boast the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth.

Brazil offers many adventures for travellers with budgets large and small. There’s horseback riding in the Pantanal, kayaking flooded forests in the Amazon, ascending rocky cliff tops to breathtaking views, whale-watching off the coast, surfing stellar breaks off palm-fringed beaches and snorkelling crystal-clear rivers or coastal reefs. Brazil’s coastline is almost one uninterrupted line of surfing nirvana. The Panatal wetlands in the west of Brazil teem with puma, anacondas, giant river otters and a myriad of other exotic creatures. No less entrancing is the prospect of doing nothing, aside from sinking into warm sands and soaking up a glorious stretch of beach, a caipirinha (Brazil’s national cocktail) in hand.

Brazil’s most famous celebration, Carnaval, storms though the country’s cities and towns with hip-shaking samba and frevo, dazzling costumes and carefree joie de vivre, but Brazilians hardly regulate their passion for revelry to a few weeks of the year. Wherever there’s music, that carefree lust for life tends to appear – whether dancing with Cariocas at Rio’s atmospheric samba clubs or following powerful drumbeats through the streets of Salvador. There’s the dancehall forró of the Northeast, twirling carimbó of the Amazon, scratch-skilled DJs of São Paulo and an endless variety of regional sounds that extends from the back-country sertanejo to reggae-loving Maranhão.

Brazil’s high season runs from December to March. This is when the country fills with both foreign visitors and vacationing Brazilian families (school holidays run from mid-December to Carnaval, usually in February). Prices rise during this time and you’ll face more crowds, though this is also the most festive time in Brazil. Brazil’s low season runs from May to September. With the exception of July, which is also a school-holiday month, this is the cheapest and least-crowded time to visit the country – though it can be ­utterly vacant in some resort areas and cold in the south. Owing to generally temperate weather year-round, there’s no bad time to visit Brazil. But unless you have your heart set on attending Carnaval, you may want to avoid the summer crowds (and heat), and visit from April to November. Treks into the Amazon and the Pantanal are best then – especially from June to August, when it’s drier.

Rio de Janeiro, known as the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city), is nothing if not exhilarating. Having some of the sexiest population, sultry Rio is one of the most attractive cities on the planet. Flanked by gorgeous mountains, white-sand beaches and verdant rainforests fronting deep blue sea, Rio occupies one of the most spectacular settings of any metropolis in the world. There are a range of things to do in Rio de Janeiro. You can surf great breaks off Prainha, hike through Tijuca’s rainforests, sail across Guanabára, dance the night away in Lapa, learn Samba – the seductive dance of Rio, people watch & relax at the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

Start your visit to this beautiful city with Cristo Redentor. Atop Corcovado (which means ‘hunchback’), Cristo Redentor gazes out over Rio, a placid expression on his well-crafted face. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 710m. At night the brightly lit, 38m-high statue is visible from nearly every part of the city – all 1145 tons of the open-armed redeemer. Take the cog train up Corcovado for stunning views beneath the open-armed Cristo Redentor.

Move on to the famous Copacabana and Leme beaches. The long, scalloped beach runs for 4 km. There is always a flurry of activities stretching along its length. There are kids showing off their soccer skills, locals & tourists lining up for cocktails at kiosks and of course the beautiful tanned people. . Leme is a mix of older residents and favela kids, while the area between the Copacabana Palace Hotel and Rua Fernando Mendes is the gay and transvestite section – easily recognized by the rainbow flag. Young soccer and futevôlei (soccer volleyball) players hold court near Rua Santa Clara. The beach next to the Forte de Copacabana is the fishermen’s community beach. In the morning, you can buy the fresh catch of the day.

Next, visit Centro, Rio’s bustling commercial district. It is a blend of high – rise buildings with the remnants of its grand past in the baroque churches, wide plazas and cobblestone streets. Visit the Jardim Botânico, an exotic botanical garden, which houses over 8000 plant species. It is quiet & serene during weekdays & blossoms with families & music on weekends. There is a pleasant outdoor café that overlooks the garden. The Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil, housed in a beautifully restored building, is one of Brazil’s best cultural centers. It has a cinema, two theaters and some of the city’s best (and free) exhibitions. There is always something going on here. These are just some of the things you can do here. There are a myriad of different places to see & things to do here in Rio.

Next visit the Sao Paolo, one of the world’s biggest metropolises. Even though the city lacks the natural beauty of Rio, it has much going for it. It is the cultural capital of Brazil, with a dizzying array of attractions including first-rate museums, nightly concerts, experimental theater and dance. The nightclubs, bars and restaurants are among the best on the continent.

Start your visit with the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. The museum possesses Latin America’s most comprehensive collection of Western art. The museum hovers above a concrete plaza that turns into an antiques fair on Sundays. The museum is considered a classic of modernism by many and an abomination by a vocal few. The collection, though, is unimpeachable, and ranges from Goya to El Greco to Manet. The museum hosts temporary exhibits, and there is a bright, pleasant cafeteria on the lower level. Next visit Parque do Ibirapuera, the biggest green space in central São Paulo. It makes for a fine escape from the city’s seemingly infinite stretches of concrete. In addition, the leafy 2-sq-km park serves as a thriving center of the city’s cultural life, with a series of museums, performance spaces and the grounds for São Paulo’s renowned Bienal. The park was inaugurated in 1954 to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary.

Next, head to the top of the Banespa skyscraper, Brazil’s version of the Empire State Building, Banespa Skyscraper, for one of Sao Paolo’ s best panoramas. Ride free to the observation deck on the top floor for views of the city. You can also visit the Mercado Municipal, a delightful market specializing in fresh produce and dried goods. This covered market is a beautiful confection of stained glass and a series of vast domes. It’s also a great place to sample a couple of classic Sao Paolo delights like mortadella sandwiches and pasteis, pockets of dough stuffed with meat, cheese or fish and then fried. Many Sundays there is also live music.

While you are visiting Argentina & Brazil, other must visits are: the region of Patagonia, The great Amazon & also the Iguazu Falls. Patagonia is a region located at the southern end of South America, territory shared by Argentina and Chile, boasting some of the most dramatic landscapes on Earth. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes Mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific Ocean and from the east of the mountain range to the valleys it follows the Colorado River south towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean. To the west, it includes the territory of Valdivia through Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The Argentine portion of Patagonia includes the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz, as well as the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego archipelago and the southernmost department of Buenos Aires province: Patagones. The Argentine politico-economic Patagonic Region includes the Province of La Pampa. You can trek, ski, fish, whale watch, etc. in many regions of Patagonia. One of the most famous sights is the Perito Moreno Glacier where you can even take a mini trek.

Another must visit are the magnificent Iguazú Falls, the waterfalls of the Iguazú River. The falls are located on the border of Brazilian State Paraná and Argentine Province Misiones. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The Iguazu River rises near the city of Curitiba. It flows through Brazil for most of its course. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. . There are points in the cities of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, which have access to the Iguazu River, where the borders of all three nations can be seen, a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the three cities.

Of course, you can’t visit South America & not visit the Amazing Amazon. The Amazon rainforest is almost like a continent in itself, with a whole network of mini routes within its borders. The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, and some 2,000 birds and mammals. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in the region. . One of the best ways to tackle this huge landscape is by taking an unforgettable river trip from the jungle city Manaus in Brazil to Leticia in Columbia.

This is just a start to the diverse continent that is South America. The next post will be a continuation of more a few more amazing countries to visit when in South America  

SIZZLING SOUTH AMERICA Part I

You haven’t really travelled until you’ve taken on South America. The continent is home to astounding natural and cultural wonders, including the snowcapped peaks of the Andes, thousands of kilometers of magnificent white-sand beaches, captivating colonial towns and indigenous villages, and the Amazon rainforest – home to more plant and animal species than anywhere else on earth.

The challenge is deciding where to begin. With so much choice, it’s as though the continent was built for travel; a place that excites, thrills and challenges

You can sweat yourself dizzy on an Amazon canoe ride before ending the day caiman-watching on a black-water lagoon. Brave a white-knuckle bus ride down Peruvian slopes and be astounded by endless Andean vistas. Endure Patagonia’s wind-driven rain while chasing life-affirming sunsets or simply lose yourself in the break-neck chaos of Buenos Aires or Salvador.

South America however is not just about breathtaking sights – its stunning soundtrack is sure to leave your feet a-tapping long after you’re back in the day job. Sensuous Samba spices up the sandy streets of Brazilian beach towns, Argentine folk music trickles out of truck radios in the pampas and the jolting rhythm of cumbia makes those Andean bus rides even more absurd.

However, when it comes to experiencing this incredible land the real reward is undoubtedly the South American spirit. The entire continent approaches life with the enthusiasm of an old-fashioned road trip: windows down and stereo blaring. South America is a continent that engulfs you and changes you – your state of mind, your outlook on life. As soon as you step foot on South American soil, the transformation begins.

Argentina, one of the most – visited destinations in South America, is cultural and scenic pot pourri. Arriving in Buenos Aires is like jumping aboard a moving train. A mosaic of drab apartment blocks and haphazard architecture whizzes by as you shoot along the freeway toward the center of the city. Then the street life appears – the cafes, the purple jacaranda flowers draped over the sidewalks and porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) in stylish clothing walking purposefully past the newspaper stands, candy kiosks and handsome early-20th-century stone facades. And it’s not just Buenos Aires that’s a stunner – Córdoba, Mendoza and Bariloche each have their unique personalities and attractions, and are all worthy of your visit. Tango is possibly Argentina’s greatest contribution to the outside world, a steamy dance that’s been described as ‘making love in the vertical position.’ In Buenos Aires especially, you’ll find endless venues for perfecting your tango moves, from dance salons to milongas (dance events) to atmospheric cafes. You can satisfy that carnal craving for juicy steaks which isn’t hard to do in the land that has perfected grilling those wonderfully flavourful sides of beef. Parrillas (steak houses) are on practically every corner and will offer up any cut you can imagine. There is an exhilarating passion for fútbol – Argentines are truly devoted to this sport and experiencing a live match should be on your itinerary – and you have a rich edgy culture, part Latin American and part European that you can’t help but fall in love with.

While Argentina’s big cities have a lot of urban pleasures to offer, their real purpose is to springboard travellers into the country’s greatest attraction: the natural world. From mighty Iguazú Falls in the subtropical north to the thunderous advance of the Perito Moreno Glacier in the south, Argentina is a vast natural wonderland. The country boasts some of the Andes’ highest peaks, several of which top 6000m near Mendoza and San Juan. It’s home to rich wetlands that rival Brazil’s famous Pantanal, mountains painted in rustic colours, deserts dotted with cacti, massive ice fields and arid steppes in Patagonia, glacial lakes, Andean salt flats, penguins, flamingos, caimans, capybaras and more. These are all the unforgettable sights and adventures for you to experience and be amazed by.

Some world – class ski – slopes are located in Argentina. Las Lenas, Chapelco and Cerro Catedral all have decent snow from June to September. Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua (6962m) is the highest summit in the Western Hemisphere, and should be only undertaken by the very experienced as it can take weeks only to acclimatize to the thin air. Mendoza offers plenty of scope to satisfy white water thrill – seekers. The Amazon has an estimated 15,000 animal species, with around 1800 species of butterflies alone! The same accessibility is also available in the Esteros del Ibera marshlands in Corrientes, while the Peninsula de Valdes is a great place to watch whales.

The weather in Argentina is wildly varied, from the scorching subtropical summers of Chaco and Formosa provinces, to the freezing, gale-force winter winds of Tierra del Fuego. Argentina’s seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere’s. The best time to visit Buenos Aires is in spring (September through November), when the jacarandas are in bloom and temperatures are blissfully cool, and in fall (March through May). Summer (December through February) in the capital is hot and humid. Mendoza, Córdoba and the Lake District are all spectacular in fall: the leaves put on an epic display, temperatures are comfortable and the crowds are thin. Summer is the best time to hit Patagonia, when the weather’s milder and more services are available. In other seasons, public transport becomes trickier as services thin out. Northern Argentina can be brutally hot in summer and is best visited in spring. Winter (June through August) and fall in this region are also pleasant. Ski season runs mid-June through mid-October, and the resorts are most expensive and most crowded in July and August when every porteño (person from Buenos Aires) seems to be on the slopes. The most expensive times to travel are the Argentine vacation months of January, February and July.

Start your trip with Buenos Aires, the cosmopolitan capital of Argentina. Mix together a beautiful European-like city with attractive residents, gourmet cuisine, awesome shopping, a frenzied nightlife and top-drawer activities, and you get Buenos Aires. It’s an elegant, seductive place with a ragged edge, laced with old-world languor and yet full of contemporary attitude. Buenos Aires is somehow strangely familiar, but unlike any other city in the world.

In between cutting-edge designer boutiques, ritzy neighborhoods and grand parks are unkempt streets full of spewing buses and bustling fervor. In the middle of all the mayhem seek out the classic Buenos Aires: the old-world cafés, colonial architecture, fun outdoor markets and diverse communities. Rub shoulders with the formerly rich and famous in Recoleta’s cemetery, making sure to sidestep the ubiquitous dog piles on the sidewalks. Fill your belly at a parrilla (steak restaurant), then spend the night partying away in Palermo Viejo’s trendiest dance club. Come to Buenos Aires and you’ll understand why so many people have fallen in love with this amazing city, and even decided to stay. There’s a good chance you’ll be one of them.

Start with Plaza de Mayo, founded in 1580 as the city’s first central plaza. Plaza de Mayo is the symbolic and physical center of Argentina’s rocky history. The square’s name commemorates the May Revolution (1810) that began Argentina’s process of independence from Spain. Move on to Galerías Pacífico, a beautiful French-style shopping center which dates from 1889. The Galerías boasts vaulted ceilings with paintings done in 1954 by muralists Antonio Berni, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Manuel Colmeiro, Lino Spilimbergo and Demetrio Urruchúa. For many years the building was semi abandoned, but a joint Argentine-Mexican team repaired and restored the murals in 1992.

Also visit Casa Rosada, the rosy colored Renaissance – style palace which is home to Argentina’s presidential offices. You can then pass by the Cemeterio de la Recoleta where ‘streets’ are lined with impressive statues and marble sarcophagi. Crypts hold the remains of the city’s elite: past presidents, military heroes, influential politicians and the rich and famous. The neighbourhood of La Boca is you should head to soak in all that is typically Argentinian. The Caminito Street is famous for street tango artists and related memorabilia. The place also has numerous tango clubs and Italian taverns for travelers who want to taste local wine & cuisine.

Another city worth visiting in Argentina is Mendoza. A bustling city of wide, leafy avenues, atmospheric plazas and cosmopolitan cafés, Mendoza is a trap. Even if you’ve only given it a day or two on your itinerary, you’re bound to end up hanging around, captivated by the laid-back pace while surrounded by every possible comfort.

Lively during the day, the city really comes into its own at night, when the bars, restaurants and cafés along Av Arístides fill up and overflow onto the sidewalks with all the bright young people, out to see and be seen. All over the country and in much of the world, the name Mendoza is synonymous with wine, and this is the place to base yourself if you’re up for touring the vineyards, taking a few dozen bottles home or just looking for a good bottle to accompany the evening’s pizza. The city’s wide range of tour operators also makes it a great place to organize rafting, skiing and other adventures in the nearby Andes.

In the next post we shall explore the sultry & sexy country of Brazil

Yoga on the Go! – Part II

In the last post, I spoke about several asanas & routines one should follow while on the go. These will definitely keep you fit as well as fresh through out your travels.

Now we will talk about the five chakras which are “Muladhar”, “Swadishthan”, “Nabhichakra”, Anahata Chakra, and Vissudha. Practicing asanas for the five chakras is an important part of any yoga routine. Follow the five Tibetan Rites, which works on improving all the five chakras. The rites are as follows:

First, keep your feet apart & hands stretched out on the sides, horizontal to the floor. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders. Spin around clockwise 5 times until you become slightly dizzy. Once done, relax & take a few normal breaths.

Next, sit on your knees, put your hands on your waist & move them forward & backward, inhaling & exhaling. When moving your hands forward, form a hump and when moving backwards, open your shoulder blades. Repeat 5 times.

In the 3rd asana, lie flat on the floor, face up. Fully extend your arms along your sides and place the palms of your hands against the floor, keeping fingers close together. Then raise your head off the floor tucking your chin into your chest. As you do this, lift your legs, knees straight, into a vertical position. If possible, extend the legs over the body towards your head. Do not let the knees bend. Then slowly lower the legs and then head to the floor, always keeping the knees straight. Allow the muscles to relax, and repeat 5 times. Breathe in deeply as you lift your head and legs and exhale as you lower your head and legs.

Next, sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet apart. With the trunk of the body erect, place the palms of your hands on the floor alongside your buttocks. Then tuck the chin forward against the chest. Now drop the head backward as far as it will go. At the same time raise your body so that the knees bend while the arms remain straight. Then tense every muscle in your body. Finally let the muscles relax as you return to your original sitting position. Repeat this 5 times. Take rest before repeating this asana. Breathe in as you rise up, hold your breath as you tense the muscles, and breathe out fully as you come down.

In the last asana, lie down with your face down to the floor. Support yourself by the hands palms down against the floor and the toes in the flexed position. Throughout this asana, the hands and feet should be kept straight. Start with your arms perpendicular to the Floor, and the spine arched, so that the body is in a sagging position. Now throw the head back as far as possible. Then, bending at the hips, bring the body up into an inverted “V”. At the same time, bring the chin forward, tucking it against the chest. Repeat this 5 times. Breathe in deeply as you raise the body, and exhale fully as you lower the body.

You can start with 5 repetitions, going up to 21. This routine for the 5 chakras can be done anywhere while travelling, especially in areas where the low oxygen level. It will help to retain the oxygen level in your body.

You will see, how doing just a few of these stretches, asanas & routines will help you stay relaxed & rejuvenated during your travels.

Perfect blend for your magical journeys