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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Family, Kids & Senior Travelers’

Dubai Shopping Festival 2015

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Dubai has suddenly come up these last few years as being one of the most popular and most developed countries in the Middle East. As a top tourist destination around the world, what attracts people more and more each year to Dubai, is their annual Dubai Shopping Festival. Every year, for about the first month of the year, (upcoming dates for 2015 are Thursday, January 1- Sunday, February 1) the largest shopping and entertainment festival is put on throughout the city. People of all age ranges come for a mix of international concerts, musicals/ shows, sports, outdoor events and fashion events. There is nothing else like it.

For the month of January, the shopping is endless. Dubai offers countless markets for cool, hand-made collectives and top brand designers for the greatest looks with the best prices. If you’re struggling with your look or just want to see the newest fashion trends, the DSFV Catwalk is where to be. The other thing that separates this shopping month from the rest of the world, is that Dubai offers tax-free shopping! The prices you see are the prices you get, and because they make such a big deal out of their festival, prices are marked down even lower than usual. This is how they get all the people coming in.

There are endless things to do and see this month if shopping til you drop is not your thing. Whoever you are and whatever you like, Dubai has something to offer you. If you’re up for a good race, watch the horses compete in the Dubai World Cup Carnival or get in the auto zone to see which car comes in first in the Hankook 24H Dubai. A race you probably won’t find anywhere else, is camel racing! Dubai dedicates a whole season towards this. This is a race where you can fully immerse yourself in their culture. Take advantage of the opportunity while it’s in season! You won’t want to miss this.

Don’t just stop at camel racing- Dubai offers all sorts of different entertainment during this month for you to experience! Check out international dances, folk music, ballets, fair rides, concerts, pop-up restaurants and more. This is also your chance to win big. Dubai’s Shopping Festival is FULL of top of the line prizes. As a matter of fact, over the past two decades, they’ve given out more than 1.7 billion in prizes. These include Rolls-Royces and pure gold. Shops here typically hand out scratch-offs, coupons and opportunities to win prizes and get discounts for your favorite things.

With all this shopping and all these activities, transportation is key. Purchasing a hop on, hop off bus tour is definitely the way to go. Top popular options for this include the bus tour with a dhow cruise, walking tours and museum tickets all included. If you’ve already booked your things to do separately, then booking the Big Bus Dubai: Day And Night Combo Tour will make things super easy for you. This allows you to hop on and hop off as you please, with more than 21 stops.

Go ahead and book your trip to Dubai now! You’ll have the shopping experience of a lifetime with the best deals, entertainment and maybe even a new prize. No tax means you have an even greater reason to buy. Immerse yourself in their culture, meet lots of new people and to make sure you see the whole city by purchasing a hop on, hop off bus tour. Get ready, and let the shopping begin!

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Whats New On isango! – November 2014

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The way the world turns means that the northern hemisphere is slowing down as holiday and vacation destinations.  These are the months when warmer climates beckon.  So we bring you some really interesting things to do in exotic places around the world.  To keep the variety we have also picked a snow-packed location for your visiting pleasure.  We hope our choices tempt you to take them up.

Universal Studios Singapore Christmas Celebration Ticket

With its many pleasures Singapore never ceases to delight.  One of its biggest draws over the years is Universal Studios Singapore, especially its Christmas Celebration events.  You can get on thrilling futuristic rides based on blockbuster movies like the Transformers, Shrek 4 and Revenge Of The Mummy.  You will also be treated to fabulous LED light shows and even snowfall every hour.

Universal brings out all its famous and favourite characters for its Christmas bash.  The Sesame Street characters and Toy Soldiers will be out and about. They will be joined by Santa Claus and his elves – of course.

To make your Christmas celebrations at Universal even more enjoyable the Universal Studios Singapore™ Christmas Pass and the Studios Singapore™ Christmas Event Ticket entitles you to several special features. You get to use all the rides and attractions plus enjoy a Free Special Meal. That is not all.  In the evening you will be part of an exclusive and special Christmas event.

Charles Darwin Sunset Dinner Cruise

Darwin enjoys balmy weather and time spent on the water or waterfront can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences.  Get on board our luxury air-conditioned catamaran and cruise Darwin harbor at sunset.  You will cruise past some of Darwin’s historic landmarks such as Government House, State Square, Esplanade and the USS Peary Remembrance Look Out.  Every moment is a photographic opportunity.

The Sunset Dinner Cruise is a spectacular experience.  You can sit back and relax while you cruise the harbor and enjoy a glass of wine and a superb dinner.  Your dinner is just as magnificent as the views.  It is a territory style buffet and will consist of fresh baked bread, prawns, oysters, baked fresh fish (and other seafood), beef fillet, chicken, salads, fresh vegetables and a variety of deserts.

Hong Kong Art Gallery Tour

Hong Kong is recognized for being a commercial hub and a global financial centre.  Its gleaming high-rise towers speak of profit-making and a business first culture.  Happily this is not the whole picture.  Hong Kong has a large and ever growing art scene.  There are more than 200 art galleries to attest to its healthy art scene.

This tour will take you into several art galleries and their exhibitions where you can admire some really fine examples modern art from Chinese and international artists.  You will get insights into artistic trends as well as the Asian art market.  The guide will give you tips on how to value art works, auction tips and how to bargain in the art market.

The tour is a revelation for the art lover, connoisseur and investor and well worth the time.

Hong-Kong_25282_4

Buggy Adventure In Dubai

Dubai now has a well-established reputation as an adventure, sport and outdoor activity destination.  Some of the activities that burnish this standing involve the desert and its challenges.  There are several options to taking on the desert and her magic.

The buggy option is a great one because it is just that bit of an individual and personal adventure.  You can go solo or with a single partner on a roaring 800cc dune buggy across the undulating desert sands.

With a brief introduction and safety instructions you can roar off on your buggy through the trackless desert.  The buggies are fully equipped with a roll cage, bucket seats and a safety harness.

Dubai_25277_1

Snowmobile Adventure – Winter Kingdom, Iceland

This is one for the adventure minded.  Every trip is unique as the guide will take you where the best snow is and that condition and location changes from day to day.  To use the often-repeated phrase ‘once in a lifetime’ a Snowmobile trip across an Icelandic glacier is well and truly that and some more!

Skimming across the snow and the stunning Icelandic scenery on a powerful snowmobile is one you will not forget. This high-speed adventure takes you to glaciers and other places you will not be able to access on foot.

Your adventure will take you up to and on Langjökull Glacier, Iceland’s second largest.  From here you can see the highest mountain in west Iceland, the domed Hofsjökull glacier, and the Kerlingafjöll Mountains.Reykjavik_8068_1

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Hidden New Zealand

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There are few places on Earth with as much natural grandeur as the small island nation of New Zealand. Although it is only a small country located off the coast of the much larger Australia, groves of people have discovered the beautiful bays, towering cliffs, and expansive forests that stretch across this seemingly under-the-radar island. But what most visitors don’t know is that there are many unique and off-the-beaten path experiences to be had in this country that has now topped the must-travel list of nearly every traveler on the planet. To help you find and experience the best that New Zealand has to offer visitors, we have outlined four of the most interesting and rewarding excursions you can take on your trip to New Zealand.

Mount Cook and Tasman Glacier

If you are not far from Christchurch, NZ, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t experience a tour of Mount Cook in the Aoraki National Park. Not only will this tour include breath-taking sights of New Zealand’s highest mountain, but the tour also makes notable and equally as captivating stops along the way.

See the turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo as the sunlight reflects off the waters while you have your morning tea. View and hear the history of the Church of the Good Shepherd that provides spectacular panoramas of the nearby Southern Alps. Head to Lake Pukaki and take in the natural beauty of the national park. And lastly, climb the incredible Tasman Glacier where you can see the beauty that nature causes all on its own. This New Zealand tour of Mount Cook is like no other you’ve ever seen!

Waiheke Island

Another under-the-radar but incredibly worth doing trip in New Zealand is exploring Waiheke Island for a day. The island is only a short 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, NZ, and the ride itself provides stunning views of the New Zealand coast and islands around Auckland. While on the island, discover Waiheke’s beautiful beaches, where you can go swimming and sea kayaking. Witness the brilliant sands, pristine coastline, and seaside villages while walking around the island. You can even go wine tasting on one of the 30 vineyards on the island or mountain biking in the nearby mountains. If you are looking for a day of taking in beauty and relaxation on your trip, book your Waiheke Island ferry!


Waiheke Island ferry

Rotorua

If you’re interested in the arts and cultural roots of New Zealand and the Maori People, a morning tour around Rotorua is exactly what you’re looking for! Enjoy a sightseeing tour around three of Rotorua’s iconic attractions: Te Puia, the Rainbow Springs Nature Park, and the Agrodome. Visit Te Puia and the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute to see boiling mud pools, geysers, and the traditional culture and arts of the Maori people. Trek to Rainbow Springs and discover the unique wildlife and vegetation that covers New Zealand. And learn about New Zealand’s history at the Agrodome Sheep Show. Along with all of this, see five of the beautiful lakes surround Rotorua, Mount Tarawera and the Buried Village. There is no better tour for the history lover in you.

Rotorua Tour

Bay of Islands and Cape Brett

Last but definitely not least, for a unique New Zealand excursion the Bay of Islands and Cape Brett are a must-see! The tour heads out from Auckland and takes you by coach across Auckland Bridge and along the Hibiscus Coast to the Bay of Islands. Experience both natural beauty and compelling history on numerous legs of this tour! Visit Paihia, one of the earliest towns in New Zealand, and Waitangi, dubbed the “birthplace of the nation” where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Maori’s and Europeans. Cruise in the Bay to Cape Brett Lighthouse on Motukokako Island where you will see the fames Hole in the Rock and Grand Cathedral Cove. This tour is led by expert crew that will help you appreciate the historical significance wrapped in the natural grandeur around the Bay of Islands.

Bay of Island Tour

If you’re looking for a truly memorable and out-of-the-fox trip experience in new Zealand, these four excursions provide all of that and more!

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Visiting Cape Town in November

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Cape Town is located around the shores of Table Bay and the iconic Table Mountain in South Africa. Table Mountain has an amazing biodiversity with an estimated 2,200 species of plants, found nowhere else in the world. The region is proud to be apart of the World Heritage Site status. Nature has blessed the Cape Town area with land-based natural beauty of every kind, including abundant exotic fauna and flora. Even the sea shows off the city best here. Marine life reveals its dramatic side in the waters around the Cape.

All this natural wealth provides many opportunities for adventure/ sports enthusiasts and regular sightseers. The weather too, plays a large hand in the attractiveness of the Cape. November through March is summertime and the weather is known to be beautiful- ideal for holidaying and outdoor activities.

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In November, the gentle and cool southeasterly winds prevail, which make for perfect whale watching conditions. Probably the best shore-based place in the world for whale watching is the waters around Hermanus, a pretty little seaside town tucked in between the protective mountains and the sea. Whole pods of massive yet graceful Southern Right Whales often come within 20 metres of the shore.  A counter point to the awe-inspiring whales, is the antics of the loveable and delightful penguins crowding the shoreline and rocks.

The piece of land stretching south from Cape Town to Cape Point, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean is known as Cape Peninsula. The Cape Town is a wonderfully scenic region with a rich and unique biodiversity. Much of this area and its rare plants are protected by the Table Mountain National Park and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.  A drive down the meandering and picturesque roads offers stunning views of the coastline. The charming fishing village of Hout Bay offers plenty of photogenic spots. You will see plenty of seals, ostriches, penguins and other wild life during the drive.

Table Mountain is also a majestic piece of real estate. Taking a hike up its slopes will bring you up close and personal to the wonderful wild plants and flowers along the way.  You only have to be reasonably fit to negotiate the climb.  From its summit the eye-popping vistas of the city, the Cape and the surrounding ‘fynbos’ will be a well-earned and fulfilling reward for your efforts.

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a jewel in the glittering tiara of Cape Town’s attractions. This wonderful place, neatly tucked away at the foot of Table Mountain, transforms into a musical paradise.  Every Sunday afternoon, from November till April, it becomes an outdoor concert venue with a wonderful line-up of South African musicians gracing the stage. This year will be the return of some old favourites as well as new acts like The Soil, Barbara Hendricks, the SA National Youth Orchestra, Jeremy Loops, Johnny Clegg and Goldfish.

You can take your picnic basket and a couple of wine bottles, spread your blanket on the magnificent lawns sloping towards the stage and get your groove on as the brilliant sun sets behind the mountains.

Some other great activity options you could indulge in are a speedy and hair-raising trip down South Africa’s first summer toboggan track at the Cool Running’s Park.  You could also roar across the trails of the beautiful Cape countryside on a powerful quad bike. Or else there are more sedate yet just as fulfilling activities like taking a wine tour through some scenic Cape Town wine-growing areas like Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

There is much that to recommend about Cape Town, but the place sells itself!

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Sydney – Tops Down Under

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The city of Sydney and its suburbs are spread around of the world’s largest natural harbours.  Its near perfect characteristic curve is located on the south-east coast of Australia on the Tasman Sea.  It is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world.  It is also one of the most beautiful.

It is a city that has it all – a boisterously interesting history; great natural features and a vibrant art, fashion and cultural scene.  It is the site of two of the world’s most famous and outstanding man-made structures in the world – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.  To crown it all, it sits alongside miles and miles of fantastic golden sandy beaches, which are visited by some of the best surfing waves in the world.

SydneyBridge

For a visitor, Sydney has a bewildering choice of things to see and do.  Just touring the harbour area will take days.  There are other things to do as well though such as climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge  or taking a guided tour of the Opera House. This is a fascinating way to spend the day as you explore the unique design and engineering of the building, the Concert Hall and its acoustics.

Harbour cruises are a terrific way to experience the city because you get to visit Fort Denison, Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, Shark Island (so called for its shape), Darling Harbour and the Maritime Museum.  Night cruises across the harbour with a gourmet dinner are an exquisite experience too.

Once you have done the harbour you could make your way to the glorious shimmering sands of Bondi Beach.  A dip in Bondi’s clear blue waters alongside the beautiful people should be top of your list of things to do.  The other major attraction is the Royal National Park, known by Sydneysiders as the ‘Nasho’

 Sydney’s nightlife is enviable and must be sampled.  It is effervescent yet laid back in true Oz style.  Its bars, clubs, performing arts and other entertainment options are as diverse as its people and very often on the cutting edge.  But it’s the traditional beer and ‘tucker’ along with the warming friendliness and great charm of its people that sets this magnificent city apart from all others.  Whatever your style, sparkling Sydney is always entertaining.

SydneyNightlife

 Best Time To Visit

From a weather perspective the best time to visit Sydney is September to early December.  Other times to visit are February to April.  During both these periods, the weather is pleasant and the temperatures moderate.  December to February is the peak tourist months.

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5 Things You Can Do In Sydney Under AUD50

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Sydney is one of the world’s most exciting, multi-cultural and best looking cities in the world.  There is always something happening no matter what your interests and objectives are.  You could see a show at the Sydney Opera House, take a harbour cruise, visit Madame Tussauds, take a walking tour or head off up to the mountains to enjoy the views there.

You don’t need a large wallet to do these things.  isango! brings you 5 activities that you can do in Sydney under AUD50.

Sydney Opera House Tour

Opers house sydney

This tour of one of the most iconic buildings in the world is an eye-opener.  Your perspective will be from the inside out.  Did you know that the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 28 June 2007?  Your guide will take you through the interior of the Sydney Opera House giving the facts, figures and drama that make up the story behind it.  You will see the 10,000 pipe Grand Organ, the Concert Hall and the massive glass windows of the Opera Wing that give you unbeatable views of Sydney Harbour.  Sydney Opera House comprises of multiple performance venues that hold about 2,500 performances every year.

Sydney Harbour Cruise
Get on board your ship at the famous Circular Quay and set out for an hour and a half of sheer night-time Sydney magic.  After a hard day of sightseeing it will be great to sit down and relax with a refreshing drink in hand.  Start your Sydney evening with a sunset cruise across the city’s world famous harbour.  Your cruise ship will drift smoothly past some of Sydney’s iconic sights such as the Sydney Opera House and under the unmistakable Sydney Harbour Bridge.  All of them enchantingly lit up.

Madame Tussauds

madame tussauds sydney

Where else could you get up close and cuddly with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Albert Einstien, Ned Kelly, Captain Cook or Marilyn Monroe?  Maybe even sit next to Queen Elizabeth II?  Only at the newly opened Madame Tussauds Darling Harbour branch, Sydney of course!

Once again Madame Tussauds’ unbelievably real wax models provides an eclectic mix of stars from history, sport, film, music, culture and science.  With 75 iconic personalities from the past and present you won’t get a better opportunity to interact, mingle and pose with your favourite celeb.

Kings Cross Razorhurst Walking Tour
What a time!  What an era!  Sydney in the 1920s and 30s was a heck of a town.  Explore that seamy, violent underworld driven period when Tilly Devine, Kate Leigh and Nellie Cameron ruled most of Sydney through their razor-wielding henchmen.

Your Razorhurst tour will take you to the places where these ‘ladies’ operated.  Kate Leigh ran more than 20 sly groggeries.  Tilly famed as the ‘Queen of the Bordellos’ ran the biggest and most profitable brothel network in Sydney while Nellie Cameron refined the art of ‘gingering.’  For two hours you will learn about a Sydney that very few Sydneysiders know.

Hop-on-Hop-off Blue Mountain Explorer Bus Tour

Blue mountains sydney

After the frenetic pace of Sydney you should take off for an easy, relaxed trip to the fabled Blue Mountains.  On a clear day you can see them from Sydney – inviting you to explore.  Declared a World Heritage site, a visit to the Blue Mountains National Park is a perfect day trip.

The best option is the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.  You drive through some magnificent country with the option of stopping off so you can explore tempting forest trails, plunging waterfalls and a ride on the Katoomba Scenic Railway – the steepest in the world.  Then there are the towering Three Sisters and the Everglades Gardens to make your day full, wonderful and totally idyllic.

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5 Of Bali’s Most Interesting Temples

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There are an estimated 10,000 (or even 20,000) temples in Bali.  There is one at every turn and corner.  You will also find that Balinese temples come in an amazing variety of sizes and descriptions – from tiny little personal shrines to large elaborate complexes.  There are “puras” (Balinese for temple) on the top of rugged cliffs, besides lakes, in the middle of lakes, in the midst of jungles, in caves, at the seaside and on islands.  So it is no wonder Bali is called “the island of a thousand puras.”

Here is a selection we found fascinating.

Pura Besakih

Besakih Temple Bali

This is Bali’s holiest and largest temple.  Considered the “Mother Temple,” Pura Besakih is actually a grouping of 23 temples and pavilions.  The temples are situated near the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung, Bali’s largest volcano and tallest mountain.  Many of the temples are over 1,000 years old and serve different purposes.  The largest and main one, Pura Penataran Agung, is really impressive as its meru (tower) consists of six levels.

Pura Taman Ayun
Pura Tamn Ayun was built by King I Gusti Agung Putu of the Mengwi Empire in 1634. It is a Royal Family temple.  Its name means “beautiful garden” and fittingly so.  It is definitely one of the loveliest temples in Bali.

It has a moat around it, a picturesque landscaped courtyard, gardens and merus rising up several levels within its precincts.

Pura Goa Lawah (Bat Cave Temple)

Goa Lawah Temple Bali

This temple is radically different from the others in Bali.  It is a cave temple.  It has inherited its name from the thousands of bats that inhabit it.  The temple is also a preferred cremation site for the Balinese.  Bathing in the temple’s pool is supposed to purify worshippers.   Located in south eastern Bali, it was established as a temple early in the 11th century.

Pura Luhur Lempuyang
Luhur Lempuyang is not on the regular tourist trail but it is definitely worth a visit.  For the Balinese, it is an important shrine because it is one of the six “temples of the world” (sad kahyangan) and one of the nine directional temples offering a defense against evil spirits.

To get to the temple visitors and worshippers have to walk up 1,700 steps cut into the mountainside with a jungle all around.  Once atop, the location also provides some really awesome views of the island.

Pura Tanah Lot

Pura Tanah Lot Bali

This temple has a spectacular setting.  It sits on a rock outcrop just off the shore, in the sea.  Its name aptly means “land in the middle of the sea.”  It is also a very pretty one, especially at sunset when it can turn magical.  You can only get to it at low tide.  It was built in the 15th century by local fishermen under the guidance of the priest Niratha.

Dress Tips
Balinese temples are functioning places of worship and it would be advisable and respectful to dress properly when entering any one of them.  Legs should be covered and tops should not be too revealing.  You may have to wear a sash in some temples, which you can rent at the entrance.  Sarongs are also available to cover the legs.

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Where To Go This Summer – Part II

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Scotland

The highlands, Glasgow in particular, will be putting its best foot forward and donning its party dress this summer.  This is a mountainous, heather covered land of mists, the Loch Ness Monster and other myths, kilts and football mad natives!  It has hundreds of miles of wild, beautiful windswept coastline.   It is a magical land famous for its whisky blended with plenty of history.  So much of Scotland’s treasures are accessible – for free.  Except the whisky!

Scotland Castles

There is so much action on the calendar that it is really difficult to decide what to see and do.  For instance…

The 2014 Commonwealth Games – Glasgow
The XXth Commonwealth Games will see the world’s top athletes compete over 11 days of competition from 23 July to 3 August.  The ancient city of Glasgow dominated by the impressive People’s Palace will host the largest ever athletic gathering of its kind for the first time in Scotland’s history.   This multi-sport event will see the likes of Usain Bolt giving off their very best during the Games.

Homecoming Scotland 2014
The first edition of 2009 Homecoming was marvelously successful.  Following on that success, Homecoming Scotland 2014 is designed to bring people of Scottish ancestry from all over the world back to the country.  It is also an open invitation to people from all over the world.  Homecoming will gain an added significance and poignancy this year because in September the Scottish people will vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum to decide if “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be set against the backdrop of the Royal Mile, the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and ancient Parliament Hall.  For nigh on three weeks, this annual cultural festival will showcase artists of all hues as they perform and delight us with their creative and manic best.

The Ryder Cup

Scotland

After many a long year the Ryder Cup, that pinnacle of golf competition, pitting the best of Europe and the US will come back to Scotland.  The legendary home of golf will see the world’s best golfers swinging their clubs on the magnificent greens and fairways of the PGA Centenary Course in Perthshire where the Highlands and the Lowlands meet.

For all these reasons and more Scotland will be the centre of the world’s attention in the coming months!

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Brazil is Wild, Wonderful and World Cup Mad

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This huge and vibrant country is a wonder world and just cannot help itself.  It is blessed with thousands of miles of beaches, humungous tracts of rainforests, historic and futuristic cities fed by great rivers. Then there are the people whose blood seems to be pumped by a machine called “party.”  Add to that the elixir of football and you have all the ingredients for a super carnival.

Great!  So you are going to Brazil to watch the FIFA World Cup football matches.  Remember that this exhilarating and beautiful game takes under two hours to unfold, which is simply wonderful from a sight-seeing perspective.  When not in a stadium cheering your team, you will have so much time at each city to taste the spicy and fabulous banquet that is Brazil.

For instance…

Full Day Tour of Rio
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities to visit.  However, it is huge and doing it on your own will eat up your limited time.  So taking an organized full day tour of Rio, also called the Marvellous City, is a great time-saving sightseeing idea.  It will take you to all the main highlights of historic downtown Rio; including Cinelândia Square with its historical buildings, the Municipal Theater, the National Library, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the famous Sambadrome.

Christ the Redeemer Brazil

You then go through the solid rainforest of Tijuca to get to Corcovado Mountain.  Taking the cable car up is a great introduction to the astounding Christ the Redeemer statue on top and the fabulous views of Copacabana Beach, Ipnema and Leblon.

All in all it is a great programme.

Walking Around Historic Rio
Take a walking tour through the historic Rio and you will get a totally different flavour of this often turbulent city.  Rio’s legacy is impressive and very much in evidence as you wander through its cobbled streets to see the lovely colonial Portuguese influence in the form of the Imperial Palace, the France-Brazil House and the Benedictine Monastery.  Other architectural gems include the Candelária Church, the Banco de Brasil and the Casa França-Brasil and the hugely impressive Arcos da Lapa, which were part of the aqueduct that brought water into Rio.

Imperial Palace Rio

This walking tour is a fascinating one that will forever change your perspective of Rio.

Guanabara Bay Cruise
Another terrific way to see Rio is to take a boat cruise out onto the beautiful and vast Guanabara Bay.  Slowing cruising on its blue waters, you will get a panoramic view of all Rio’s landmarks without the hustle and bustle. Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado dominate an impressive skyline. Flocks of seabirds wheel over your head as you sit down to a delicious meal consisting of delicious Crab Cake and Fettuccine with Pomodoro or Fish with Shrimp Sauce and Risotto.

Guanabara Bay Cruise

Historical Salvador – Capital of Happiness
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Salvador seems to be in continuous party mode.  It has earned its nickname, “Brazil’s capital of happiness” for the numerous street parties.  But just as attention-grabbing is the long, tumultuous and interesting historical side to this lovely coastal city.  The best part is most of its past is preserved in the music, cuisine and architecture.

Taking the historical tour will reveal many gems of Salvador’s chequered past such as the lively, narrow streets of Pelourinho and its pastel hued houses that are about 300 years old.  Salvador’s colonial heritage shows up in the Forte de São Pedro, the Barra Lighthouse, the church of São Francisco and a thousand homes, churches and monuments built since the 16th century help make up the greatest collection of Baroque architectural heritage in Latin America.

Salvador is proof that there is a whole lot to Brazil you never even imagined.

Bahia By Night
There is an overwhelming perception that Portuguese culture and influence is what makes up Brazilian culture.  That is not the whole picture.  It is the African-Brazilian cultural-mix that puts the pop, crackle and sexiness in to what we perceive of Brazil.  It is the influence of African associated cultural practices that are celebrated and define Salvador.

Imacon Color Scanner

The best time to experience this hedonistic and outrageously colour culture is at night.  The many different expressions of the culture can be experienced if you take this wonderful tour.  Watch capoeira (traditional slave battles), or beautiful performances of Candomblé, Maculelê, Puxada de Rede, Dança do Caboclo and Samba de Roda and you will get a much deeper sense of what drives Brazil and its people.

Manaus And The Amazon Rainforest
Take a break from all the cultural aspects of Brazil because there is a more natural and wilder side to the country.  The incredible Amazon Rainforest, with all its spectacular animals, birds, plants and rivers is enough to take you by the heart and never leave you.

Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon forest region, is the best jumping-off place to explore this fascinating side to Brazil.  Not far from the city is one of nature’s most remarkable sights – the confluence of the Negros and the Solimões rivers.  Their differently coloured waters, which don’t mix as if kept apart by an invisible barrier, are worth every effort to see.  You could get really adventurous and go deep into the jungle and experience the Brazilian Amazon and all its flora and fauna face-to-face.

Victoria Regia Manaus

Another terrific draw is the Victoria Regia.  This is an extraordinary giant floating lily for which Manaus is famous.  Its leaves are over fifteen feet in diameter with a submerged stalk that can grow to over 25 feet in length.  The flowers are white on the first night they open subsequently changing to pink.

With all this and exciting football to immerse yourself in, you are going to find it difficult to return home.

Desfrutar Brasil!  (Enjoy Brazil)

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The Sights of Putrajaya

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Putrajaya is a showpiece city.  One cannot help but notice that.  This deliberately planned official federal capital of Malaysia is about 25km away from Kuala Lumpur.  The designers and planners have come up with an amazing blueprint.  

There are two very striking aspects to Putrajaya. One is the huge amount of area devoted to green spaces – like parks, gardens and botanical gardens.  The other feature is the magnificent buildings and monuments.  The city is traversed by broad and impressive avenues.

There is plenty to see and admire in Putrajaya and the best way to do so is to take a convenient tour from Kuala Lumpur.

Buildings

  • The Putra Mosque is outstanding for its pink colour and size and sits on the banks of the man-made Putrajaya Lake.  With a capacity of 15,000 worshippers, it is the principal mosque in Malaysia.

putra mosque 2

  • The Perdana Putra is a huge building housing the Prime Minister’s Office.  It incorporates Malay, Islamic and European neo-classicism architectural styles.  Massive and imposing, it is next door to the Putra Mosque.
  • The Putrajaya International Convention Centre sits at the head of Putrajaya Boulevard.  Looking like an alien spaceship, it is designed to resemble a Malay belt buckle.  The building can seat 10,000 people and is regularly used to host high profile conferences and conventions.
  • The Millennium Monument is a 68 metre tall obelisk with contributory architecture shaped like the hibiscus flower.  The pillar has etchings that mark important dates and events of Malaysia’s history.  At night when it is lit up, it looks very pretty.
  • The Putrajaya Landmark is located within the Taman Putra Perdana Park.  It’s a contemporary design with a high-technology theme.  Its overall impression is of a wizard’s hat from a Harry Potter film.  The Landmark site is surrounded by a maze of walkways and numerous scattered gazebos.
  • Jambatan Seri Wawasan Bridge is quite a visually striking one.  It is a combination of concrete, cables, and steel.  Lit up at night, it is very attractive.

When visiting the buildings and monuments in Putrajaya you need to keep in mind that there is a dress code.  T-shirts, shorts, sandals and “indecent” ladies wear are not allowed.

Parks and Gardens

  • The most important among the numerous parks and gardens is the Botanical Gardens (Taman Botani Putrajaya).  It is divided into three areas – flowers, ornamental plants and research.  It houses local plants as well as those from other parts of Asia, the Pacific and Africa.  It also has themed areas – Explorer’s Trail, Palm Hill, Floral Gardens, the Sun Garden and the Lakeside.

A visit to Putrajaya is worth the effort and time spent to see a beautiful ‘city-in-progress.’  It is a city that seeks to be progressive while striking a balance between the urban and the natural aspects of living.   So far it is succeeding.

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