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In Hong Kong, visit a park spread over two islands



Photo Source, Google

Hong Kong, March 20 

You want to feel spoilt for choices of sumptuous street food, shopping options and roller-coaster rides? This oceanarium, a park near the disputed South China Sea in Hong Kong, may just be the right place to visit.

The Ocean Park, spread over two small islands separated by a distance of 1.5 km and connected by a cable car ride, also houses animal-themed amusement parks and is one of the most visited places in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is nearly five hours away by plane from New Delhi and is quite popular for its attractions like Ocean Park and Disneyland. Its street food and shopping options also draw revellers. And if time permits, some even take a ferry ride.

But if one has a tight schedule and just wants some entertainment, good food and roller-coaster rides, the Ocean Park is a one-stop shop for all this.

To reach the park, travel via the rapid transit MTR from Admiralty Station, an area which was once headquarters of the Royal Navy. Travel time is usually around 10 minutes.

The fair weather and sudden cold breeze welcomed me upon arrival at the park. The park entrance was crowded by a swarm of tourists taking selfies. We opted to join them and looked for the very first stop at the Giant Panda adventure, one of the highlights of the park.

Ocean Park’s giant pandas are not only among the most popular attractions, they are also well pampered residents, with a sophisticated feeding regime to satisfy their fussy eating habits.

A walk in the park will show you helpful signages telling you where to go next. So you never really get lost, despite it being a huge place.

The park is divided into two islands — Waterfront and the Summit.

To cross between the two islands, you have a choice of riding the cable car system that features an astonishing view of the island and the much famous and disputed South China Sea or an underground train system known as the Ocean Express that utilises multimedia effects to simulate the feeling of travelling into the depths of the sea.

We took the cable car to cross to the Summit island. The queue was long but we had the privilege to enter via a staff line as we were hosted by the park management itself. The eight-minute ride gave a panoramic view of the Waterfront and Summit islands.

Ocean Park is not just a theme park full of animals for kids but also has an amusement park for adults to enjoy too.

There were lots of tourists and one could spot many Indians among them. For visitors to Hong Kong, Ocean Park is increasingly becoming a must-visit destination.

You cannot claim to have done Hong Kong, unless you take a ride on a ferry. Since 1888, the Hong Kong Star Ferry has been one of the unique — and cheaper — things to do in an expensive city.

It is basically a short 10-minute ride that takes you across to the Victoria Harbour between Tsim Sha Tsui, Central Pier. But that short cruise lets you enjoy the amazing view and ocean breeze and the images seem to remain stuck in your mind for many days, especially if you do the night trip.

Whether you’re shopping on a budget or willing to splurge, it’s guaranteed that you’ll find what you’re looking for in Mong Kok. Even in early hours, Mong Kok’s streets are as busy as in day time.

With a wide range of products on offer, shoppers are advised to prepare a list of what they want to buy or else you’ll be overwhelmed by the wide range of products on sale. From electronics, computers, high-end fashion, jewellery and traditional Asian ornaments, you get everything. Name it, and you have it, in this shopping haven.

Make sure to drop by in Ladies’ Market, Flower Market and Bird Market for excellent bargains. Another shopping destination is the Temple Street Night Market. It is kind of interesting and slightly different from that of the more commercialised Mong Kok. It only opens when the sun goes down. You can see Fortune tellers offering a glimpse into the future if you are willing to part with a bit of moolah.

It is a popular street bazaar, named after a Tin Hau temple and a place so steeped in local atmosphere that it has served as the backdrop to many a memorable movie. Also, haggling with the local vendors is one of the fun experiences you’ll have in this night market. Hint: They’ll eventually give in to the price you offer.

Souvenir pieces such as chopsticks, magnets, tea ware, electronics, watches, jade and antiques are also up for grabs for low prices.

Adventure and excitement are always in the air. Hong Kong tries its best to make your dream come true. And even small things are a pleasure, like a languid stroll in the narrow streets. And if you have a large budget, many more doors will open. Hong Kong seems to meet you half-way in everything you want to do.

By Aadil Mir 


(Aadil Mir was in Hong Kong at the invitation of Ocean Park. He can be contacted at [email protected])


Delhi Ring Railway to soon see steam-hauled service to attract tourists

Two options are being considered: A round trip or a hop-on-hop-off ticket.



Steam locomotives will be chugging along on all hill railways across the country — besides charting out a new course on the Delhi Ring Railway — as the Railways pushes the idea of reviving the glory of its steam heritage.

With the successful operation of a steam-hauled train on the Palanpur-Jogindernagar section of Kangra Valley Railway, all five hill railways now have steam loco services to attract tourists.

Kangra Valley Railway, which is on the tentative list of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, witnessed the revived steam loco operation recently after more than 20 years. The regular steam loco operation is expected to boost tourism in Himachal Pradesh.

While Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway have regular steam locos services, the Kalka-Shimla Railway and Matheran Hill Railway are equipped to conduct chartered services on tourist demand.

But the big thrust will be seen in the capital’s long-neglected — and once-popular — Ring Railway, that has fallen by the wayside as the city expanded rapidly.

“It is a big revival of steam locomotives in Indian Railways, and our aim is to have regular steam loco operations in all hill railways — and also in the long-awaited Delhi Ring Railway route,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with rail heritage.

With the advent of diesel and electric locomotives, steam engines were phased out in 1995 by the Railways.

Ring Rail Delhi

Though there was a move to run a steam locomotive on the Delhi Ring Railway during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, this did not materialise for various reasons.

However, the state-run transporter is now actively working on reviving the service to showcase its heritage, bring back the romance of steam engines and promote tourism. The task has been assigned to Northern Railway.

The existing 34 km-long ring railway, which runs parallel to the Ring Road, passes through several prominent places of Delhi like Chanakyapuri, Safdarjung and Sarojini Nagar and is expected to attract large numbers of tourists and rail enthusiasts interested in steam locos.

As per the plan, the train, comprising four heritage coaches with a steam locomotive, would start from Safdarjung station and travel to Anand Vihar, Old Yamuna Bridge, Old Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin station before returning to Safdarjung.

Delhi Ring Rail

Tourists will be able to visit the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, National Rail Museum, the historic Old Yamuna Bridge, Humayun’s tomb and rail buildings such as Old Delhi station, Kashmere Gate and Baroda House by using the service.

“The landscape along the proposed route will be beautified, besides other necessary arrangements to make it operational. The fare structure and timings are yet to be decided,” the official said.

“Two options are being considered: A round trip or a hop-on-hop-off ticket,” the official added.

At present, there are very few steam locos across the world that are still in working condition.

By : Arun Kumar Das

(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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62% prefer self planned trips over travel packages: Survey



travel packages

New Delhi, Feb 6: As many as 62 per cent people prefer self-planned trips over the packages provided by travel agencies, according to a survey carried out in six metro cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Bengaluru.

The survey, conducted by Chrome Data Analytics and Media, was conducted on 2,468 people in the age group of 35-54 years constituting 52 per cent males and 48 per cent females.

It said that 59 per cent of the respondents would prefer a nature-related destination for holidays. It also said that 48 per cent would prefer travelling with their friends.

According to the survey, US is the dream destination for 35 per cent of the respondents.

At least 60 per cent of the respondents “usually” holiday for less than seven days, it said

Around 33 per cent said that their travel plans got affected by the number of official leaves they got.


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Why a visit to the world’s largest river island is a must



Bamboo house of Mishing tribe

By Natalia Ningthoujam

Kamalabari (Majuli), Feb 5: Assam’s Majuli faces flood fury — and the threat of erosion — whenever the mighty Brahmaputra river swells. So take a break from your high-tech lifestyle and hop on that double decker boat to live the simple life in the world’s largest river island before it loses the title.

Cruises on luxury vessels can take you to your destination, but to understand the locals’ lives, it is best to travel like them on a rickety motor boat, which can also carry cars, bikes and anything that can’t swim, from Neemati ghat to Kamalabari ghat.

First timers might fear for their lives but for the frequent travellers, it’s like any other public transport. Some are so carefree that they even play cards.

After the half-hour ferry ride, you will reach the shrinking island, which is located over 300 km from Guwahati, Assam’s main city, and is home to approximately two lakh people consisting of Brahmins, Kalitas, Mishings, Deori and more.

Visitors can stay in various resorts, which might remind you of your hostel days due to availability of only basic amenities, or limited homestays.

While driving to your accommodation, you will see paddy and mustard fields, and bamboo plantations along the roads.

Out of the various house forms, the bamboo stilt houses — with an open fireplace in the middle — of the Mishing tribe, are quite unique, and you will see women working on looms made with bamboos and a cycle’s wheel.

Unlike the people of Sualkuchi, a silk-weaving village in Assam, Mishings here make “mekhela chador” and other traditional outfits only for their own use. And men use their physical strength to make beds out of bamboos or other furnitures, when they are not farming.

Majuli, a hub of the Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture, has many satras (religious and cultural institutions).

“Earlier, there were over 60 satras in Majuli but due to erosion, there are currently just 32 satras here. Auniati Satra is the biggest one in Assam. The land measures up to 500 bigha,” Anant Kalita, the satra’s museum guide, told this visiting IANS correspondent.

“We don’t call ourselves monks or pandits. The ones who stay in satras are called Vaishnavs. We worship lord Krishna. We dance, pray and do dramas, which were created by (saint-scholar) Sankardev,” he added.

The satra is open to all — Brahmins, Kalitas and people from other communities of Assam.

“Even Muslims can come. Ladies can come but can’t stay in the satra. After marriage, people need to stay out of the satra.

“There are 350 people in the satra. Vaishnavs and bhakhts stay in satras, the ones who are outside are called disciples,” said Kalita, who has been here for the past 18 years.

The Samaguri Satra, on the other hand, has kept alive the tradition of mask-making.

Its studio houses numerous masks, like those of Narasimha, Ram and Laxman that are used during festivals and Bhaona, which is a traditional form of entertainment through which religious messages are shared.

Explaining the process of mask-making, popular mask artiste Hem Chandra Goswami’s brother Tilak Goswami said: “The masks are made of mud, cotton cloth, cow dung and vegetable colours. One mask takes about 15 to 20 days to make.”

“Our entire family knows how to make masks. We have been making masks for the last six generations,” added the 65-year-old.

After learning the craft here, some even go to Dibrugarh or Guwahati.

It’s not just the people at satras who are warm and welcoming. Once the local children spot new faces, especially with DSLR cameras, they will happily follow you and strike a pose.

You might have to use a lot of hand gestures while communicating with the locals as they aren’t fluent in English or Hindi, but they will leave you overwhelmed — irrespective of their financial condition, they will not let you leave empty handed.

A cup of tea or a plate full of home-made sweets (rice flour pitha) is the least they can offer, and a request: “Please visit again.”


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