Best Seat to watch cricket at Galle

March 11, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

If you ever wish to watch a cricket match at the Galle International cricket stadium and are unable to get yourself a ticket, don’t break a sweat. You still might have the chance to get a great seat with a fantastic 360 degree view of the entire stadium. This seat is at the neighbouring Galle Fort that overlooks the stadium and the Indian Ocean.

Best way to watch a cricket match at GalleIMG_6804  
Not only is this a great place for watching the match, but also offers ample space to park your camera equipment and take some long distance shots, provided you have a high focal length lens. All you need is a large umbrella to protect yourself from the elements and some food and water to keep you satiated. And you are all set to enjoy your cricket match.

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Top three European beach holidays

March 10, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

There’s no need to take a long haul flight to enjoy the combined benefits of sun, sea and surf – some of the world’s most stunning coastal spots are right here in Europe. These three top destinations have something for everyone, whether you’re looking to sightsee, party, or simply relax and enjoy the sunshine.

Aiya Napa, Cyprus: It has a reputation as one of the top clubbing destinations on the Med – and for good reason. In summer the resort is a favourite of the young and glam, who come to trawl the bars and clubs, ramp up the volume with outdoor beach parties and top up their tan in itsy-bitsy swimwear. Aiya Napa takes on a more relaxed vibe during the winter season, making it a good choice for a spot of out-of-season sunshine. Alternatively, if you’re planning a summer break then take a look at the nearby resort town of Protaras, which is a popular family destination. On The Beach has some great deals on beach holidays at Protaras.

Costa del Sol, Spain: The ‘Sunshine Coast’ encompasses a large section of the Spanish coastline, but with so many gorgeous beaches and popular towns in the area it’s impossible to pick out one single resort as topping all the others. Wherever you go in the region, you’ll find white-sand beaches, well-maintained golf courses and a host of nightlife destinations perfect for letting your hair down. Visit during a carnival such as the Fiesta de Los Reyes in January to see the area at its most authentic (and with temperature still in the high teens during the winter months you won’t miss out on the chance to tan either). For the culturally minded, the birthplace of Picasso makes a great day trip and the most popular areas have a scattering of fascinating museums and religious sites.

imageimage[2] Kos, Greece: This stunning island close to the coast of Turkey is a true Mediterranean paradise. It’s got it all: archaeological heritage, year-round balmy weather, waters bluer than the sky and a selection of resorts geared towards young people and families alike. For a taste of the local nightlife head to the village of Kardamena, popular with the young crowd; or base yourself in the main port, Kos, to experience the best of the region’s historical and tourist attractions. From wine-tasting to walking in the mountains, there’s plenty to keep you entertained when you’re not chilling out on the beach.

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Second Highest Astronomical Observatory in the world!!

March 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

One of the best places to see a starry starry night in India would be its deserts. And whether it is the Great Indian Thar Desert (sandy desert), the Little and the Great Rann of Kutch (Salt Desert) or the cold deserts of the Himalayas, the stars can be seen in millions and so unbelievably special. Out of these selected few, the best place in India to see the best starry sky is Hanle in the Changthang cold desert. Its cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour make it the best sites in the world for studying the stars.

Sunset at HanleIMG_7942  
And that’s why the Indian Astronomical Observatory, run by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore is situated here at an altitude of 15,000 feet from MSL making it the second highest astronomical observatory in the world. This trans-Himalayan region is one of the most hostile environments in the world with oxygen levels as low as 10% of coastal regions and temperatures that border on the extremes of obscene. This place is as remote as it gets with not more than 100 people living in its vicinity. But, it is here in this remote and hostile terrain that our Astronomical scientists work through the night to study the stars and the world around it.

Golden yellow at Changthang Cold DesertIMG_7934  
And it is here in the middle of the Changthang Cold Desert that me and my friends went to see the stars. Enroute to Hanle, we saw some of the best landscapes that one can see and the golden colours of the sun on the mighty mountains is a treat to any eye. And when we reached Hanle, we got treated to the coldest weather that we had seen in our entire lives. And the situation just worsened when the sun set. The wind picked up and soon turned into a gust. The diesel in all our vehicles started to freeze and hence the drivers kept the engine running for 30 minutes every hour through the night. And when the temperature went below minus 40 degree Celsius, we felt that hell had frozen over.

Sunset moment at the Changthang Cold DesertIMG_7918  
But, amidst all this, the saving grace is the brilliant guest house, run by the institute with its large rooms, heaters and oxygen cylinders. And the food was great too, though it was a pain to walk in the brain numbing cold from the guest house to the dining hall about 2 minutes away. And even more harrowing yet interesting experience was when we found out that our western toilets had also frozen. Hence, before using it we had to pour a bucket of hot water to unfreeze it. Quite an experience huh!

Photographing the sunset moments at Changthang Cold DesertIMG_7948

The skies were great and there were tons of stars and they sure were a very pretty sight, but the extreme weather forced us into our rooms much before our initial estimate. If I remember right, we lasted five long minutes outside staring at the starry sky and it took us 60 to 90 short minutes to recover some of our body warmth after returning to our rooms. Extremely tough terrain, but hats off to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and their team for braving it out and doing their work in such super tough conditions. We were hardly comfortable during our half day n full night long stay here. But, I definitely wish to return here in the summers and see the starry spectacle a bit more thoroughly.

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The Chinese Connection in Changthang Cold Desert

March 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

The Changthang cold desert is one of the most remote and hostile regions in the world and it is possibly one of the prettiest too. The Himalayan landscapes in this region is simply outstanding with the snow clad mountains casting a strong contrast to the dry and barren countryside.

Sunset at TangtseIMG_7805  
Since this area is very remote and hostile, it is very difficult to find a place to stay here. But, if push comes to shove, you end up finding a manageable place even in the remotest of villages. And that is how we found the Yakmik Changla Guest House at Tangtse when our original plan got altered due to permit issues and road blockages.

Evening sky at TangtseIMG_7809  
This guest house is part of a local home. The place came well equipped with a bukhari (kerosene room heater) in the common living room and a LPG room heater in our 4 bedded room. Thus, our chances of weathering the minus 30 degree Celsius weather was very high. In fact, we were really comfortable inside. The rooms were simple, but came with nice beds and thick blankets. And all this for 800 rupees per night, which was very reasonable given that they would be spending quite a bit in the form of fuel (LPG and Kerosene)

Sunset on the way to TangtseIMG_7816  
The food was excellent even though options were not much. Lunch and dinner are wholesome meals where Rotis, dal and sabzi being available for the vegetarians, while yak meat, the local delicacy was available to the non-vegetarian eaters. Breakfast and evening snacks are limited to Maggi and Bread Omelette. Again, very limited resources, but feels like heaven in that biting cold weather. And the icing on the cake was when we asked for Chang, the local brew (millet beer) and they provided us this too.

Sunrise in the Western Himalayas of Changthang Cold DesertIMG_7827  
But, everything about the guest house was not that rosy. And we figured that out when we used the restrooms. First, the restrooms had no light and second, they were open to the world at the bottom. But, the best part is that our offerings that go down 20 feet below us is fed by the pigs below. To all those who are not aware of this, this is called the Chinese loo. Phew! This Chinese connection was quite an interesting experience for us.

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Finding great deals on London hotels: can it be done?

March 08, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

We take a look at the enviable task of finding good deals on London hotels in Knightsbridge

Finding a roof over our heads is not easy. Especially not during a recession, which has hit Europe – so accustomed to a general ease of movement and accommodation – harder than predicted.

As well as deeply affecting social housing programs and house prices, we also need to consider the costs of holidays and hotel accommodations, as many businessmen and hoteliers look to find ways to provide excellent service whilst running a business.

For many of us – hoteliers or visitors – the key is to think outside the box. Work off-season, shift your calendar, change perspective. Accommodation in the heart of London’s most exclusive areas – such as hotels in Knightsbridge from the likes of Millennium Hotels – can be booked for very reasonable prices, if you’re smart.

imageimage[3] Alongside the last-minute sites and ‘hidden deals’ offers which allow you to book a cheap bed at a hotel with a hidden identity, it’s also worth going direct to hoteliers’ websites. Very often they’ll be the first to promote new offers and actually give you the deal upfront, rather than making you jump through a series of overwrought hoops.

Some good tips on general life in the city, finding your way around and alternative accommodation – such as a new crop of B&Bs, homestays and pub guestrooms – can also be sourced through major media outlets such as Guardian Travel or the Independent’s excellent travel section.

So, much like train tickets, the key to finding a good hotel deal is to combine the old price-comparison and ‘cheap deals’ sites with the company websites themselves. This will allow you to do some shopping around without getting slavishly caught up in the grind of click-refresh-click-refresh and losing a whole evening/weekend/workday (hey, we didn’t say where you were searching from).

The plain truth is, though, thanks to the internet’s ability to spread news far and wide, it’s definitely better to go online than over the phone for this one.

Photo Copyright: Harvey Nichols by wallyg on flickr

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