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Croatia is fast becoming a tourist hotspot for island hoppers eager to spend a summer relaxing amongst beautiful beaches and historical towns. I hopped on a sailboat to discover the nation that is drawing celebs from far and wide.
Whether it be rocketing down the alpine coaster, gazing in awe at the thousands of ocean creatures on display or simply lazing by the pool, Vinpearl Land Amusement Park in Nah Trang, Vietnam, has something for everyone...Waking up to four grown men bouncing on my bed screaming “Happy Birthday!” while laughing like a bunch of drunken 8 year olds, was the start of one of the best days I’ve ever had. Waking up with my usual Oscar-The-Grouch impersonation, I let my friend know just how excited I was - by rolling over to go back to sleep. ...That was until I heard the words “It’s time to get up, the rollercoaster's open in half an hour!”. Yes, my very adult friends had booked tickets to Vinpearl Land Amusement Park.
Priced at 500,000VND (Approx $25 USD) per person, this ticket gets you access to one of the greatest attractions in Vietnam. Starting with the world’s longest sea-crossing cable-cart from the mainland Nha Trang to Vinpearl Island, you get to admire jaw dropping landscape with iconic white sandy beache and rolling vistas on display. You can end the day here, and still be happy with your purchase but I think this cart ride is barley the beginning of your adventure. The island is also home to a water park, mega arcade and roller coaster rides. As if that weren’t enough, Vinpearl also boasts Vietnam’s first 4D theatre; a 5000 seat amphitheatre, and the largest aquarium in the country.
While clinking over on the cable cart 60 meters above the ocean waves watching the Hollywood style Vinpearl sign approach, I was hard pressed to ignore my inner-child excitement. By the time I had reached the mega-arcade and strapped myself into the bumper cars, my friends and I had well and truly let our Inner Child completely take over. That is to say - if we had then given that Inner Child six bags of sugar washed down with four energy drinks. Yes, we were giggling like school kids, while slipping down water slides, and screaming higher than the small girls behind us on the roller coaster. I can safely say - it was one of the best birthdays I have ever had. Truly the only complaint I have about is place? There is simply too much to do in one day. I thoroughly recommend planning how you're going to tackle the day at the park before you arrive, or rather, just organize two days of fun to get the full Vinpearl Land Amusemement Park experience.
Far removed from the rest of India, while still retaining the feel and culture of the sub-continent, this group of over 500 islands (only 38 permanently inhabited) jut out of the ocean in emerald-green forest mountains with pristine beaches, stunning coral reefs and active volcanoes. The capital is Port Blair on the main South Andaman island, but from there it is a two-hour ferry ride to laid-back and lovely Havelock Island—home of the eco-hideaway Barefoot at Havelock. This is where you really want to get to; because let’s face it, if you’ve come all this way to get away, you might as well do it right.
With about 100 square kilometers, Havelock has been inhabited by Bengali settlers since the 1950s. The ferries come into Village Number 1 on the north side of the island (all towns are numbered on Havelock). Villages 3 and 5 offer a number of restaurants, shopping from vendor stalls to nice boutiques, motorbike rentals and internet cafes.
The Barefoot at Havelock resort, on the other hand, is located on the far south end of the island, about 20 minutes from these villages. But as mentioned, if you’re coming to an eco island getaway, this is the place to be. At Barefoot, you aren’t on a beach that is dotted by resort after next-door resort. In fact, you are on pristine beach number 7, rated as the best beach in Asia. A taxi or tuk-tuk can easily be taken when you want to go into town, or rent a motorbike.
Swimming Elephants and Coral Reefs
Barefoot is home to a celebrity: Rajan, the swimming elephant. Rajan is a 64-year-old prior logging elephant who is now cared for by the top-notch resort staff and enjoyed by guests, who can bathe and feed him, accompany him on a jungle hike and even go swimming with him.
Venture out and you can kayak through mangrove creeks, snorkel or dive the reefs; boat trips to nearby Ross and Inglis Islands are big draws. The pristine and unmapped waters of the Andaman Islands are one of the last frontiers for scuba diving (best from November to May). Corals abound with colourful reef fish, sea turtles, barracuda, tuna, sting rays and the occasional dugong. The Barefoot Scuba folks (he first and only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Resort in the Andaman Islands) come every evening around 6 pm, where you can make reservations for the following day.
Yoga and Ayurvedic Treatments
Iyengar yoga is available year-round (check in the off season). Morning lessons and longer courses run in a hilltop pavilion overlooking the cottages and cove, and you can also sign up for private or group sessions with Rajendran, who runs the yoga and ayurveda programs. He is also a knowledgeable birding and wildlife guide, and typically leads the programs with Rajan.
Ayurvedic treatments, great for both relaxation and healing, are available in a bamboo and thatch pavilion looking onto the forest and lily pond, and are one of the highlights of a stay here. And if you fancy doing nothing, you can relax in a hammock or in the privacy of your cottage, admiring surreal forests and incredible sunsets. There are mats and towels provided for your short walk to the beach.
Thatched Cottages and Safari-style Tents
The 19 elegantly designed wood and thatch cottages and villas, along with six brand-new tented cottages, are hidden among seven acres of grounds and connected by winding pathways. Their hardwood walls and conical thatch roofs made of environmentally sensitive local materials, and blend into the tropical foliage. You get basic comforts (modern plumbing with hot water, and air conditioning or ceiling fans), a restaurant/bar and an exhilarating closeness to nature.
The Barefoot philosophy means a minimal environmental footprint; accommodations were built from regenerable materials like bamboo, wood and palm leaves. The resort harvests its own rainwater and only draws minimal water from a natural spring that emerges on the premises, so as not to deprive the neighbouring village. Kitchen and shower wastewater is filtered to be used to water the grounds. About 70% of staff are from Havelock island, and almost all are from the Andamans.
Barefoot at Havelock is the perfect destination for those seeking an unpretentious hideaway on one of the world’s last undeveloped tropical islands.
Reviewed by Shelley Seale
Shopping in Delhi is an Indian experience you won't forget. From dusty streetside markets teeming with locals to modern multi-level shopping complexes and boutique designer establishments, there's no shortage of options. And then there's the sellers perched along the footpaths and lingering at every tourist site. It's practically impossible not to buy in India.
Here's a guide to just a few of Delhi's shopping havens.
Chandni Chowk Market Old Delhi
Get amongst it in Chandni Chowk - but if you don't like big crowds don't bother. Once a major trading centre of Asia, this market is swarming with people to navigate your way through - more than usual for Delhi - and at times there are bikes, bullock-drawn carts and cars to dodge too. Consider it an adventure! Chandni Chowk has the busiest and cheapest markets you'll find. It's where the many of the other sellers in town go to get their goods, so why not go straight to the source. You'll find a bit of everything - books, clothes, shoes, leather goods, electronic goods, food stalls and an immeasurable number of other matter. Don't miss the narrow side-lanes for even more options and a few surprises too. Centuries old, Chandni Chowk was established in 1650 when Mughal Emperor Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi and wanted a market just across the road from his fort - Red Fort, perched at the end of the shopping strip.
Connaught Place New Delhi
Also known as CP, the area offers a mix of shops, restaurants, bazaars and cinema halls packed into two concentric circles that wrap around an expansive circular park at the centre. It can be easily categorised into two areas - Inner Circle and Outer Circle. Situated in the heart of Delhi, CP is a popular place to shop. Amongst the colonial-style buildings with colonnaded verandahs you'll find over 400 retailers, including branches of all the major International banks, a number of tour operators, tourist-friendly food joints, modern local brands and some western outlets too. Branching off the circular ways are sub-markets and an air-conditioned underground market, Palika Bazaar, dominated by electronic items, clothing, fake designer products, pirated software and other illegal bits and pieces. The prices down here are low, but be careful and watch your bag. CP is closed on Sundays.
DLF Emporio New Delhi
India's five-star luxury mall, this is the perfect place to exchange the dust and smells for high-end designer extravagance. With an Italian marble, burnished wood and detailed brass interior, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of Paris or Milan (just don't look out the window). Showcasing only the top international designers, the likes of Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Fendi, Dior, Just Cavali, DKNY, Burberry and Hugo Boss retail here, the only place in India you'll find the real versions. Lap up the luxury to the sound of the classical pianist playing in the central lobby. Whatever you do, don't miss the floor dedicated to India's top fashion designers. Ranging from traditional garments to impressive modern-twists on conventional ideas, the colours are mesmerising, the designs stunning, and the results tempting to the hip pocket.
Dilli Haat New Delhi
Dilli Haat is the first ever permanent craft market showcasing handicrafts from all over India. It's a project created to bring together the many different styles and techniques of craftsmanship and handicrafts iconic to each state. Rows of bangles, silks, fabrics, decorative ornaments, furniture, leather goods, rugs and spices - and as always much more - are presented well for browsing along the organised stall setups. Created to imitate a village fair atmosphere, there are also open-air stages for traditional performances from across the country, and a wide range of cuisines. Not quite a traditional market, Dilli Haat is definitely the tamest ‘market' you'll find in Delhi, and if you're not travelling throughout India this could be a good chance to see the traditional variances. With 62 stalls, spaces are allotted on a rotational basis to vendors who would otherwise be limited to selling within their own village. Barter hard to bring the prices down. There's also a small ticketed entry fee: 15 Rupees for adults and 5 Rupees for children.
Janpath Market New Delhi
Stretching north of the Imperial Hotel, the streetside Janpath Market tinkles with everything from chimes, trinkets and pocket-sized souvenirs to shawls, clothes, pillow covers and colourful crafts. Well known for its wide variety of fashions, the market includes street-side shopfronts and vendors who simply spread their garments and handicrafts along the footpath and pinned up to the walls. You can even get your ears pierced in the street with some dangly new earrings, if you're game. Next to Janpath you'll find plenty more crafts and jewellery at the Tibetan Market, and Connaught Place is just up the road. Janpath Market is closed on Sundays.
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