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Ladakh, where Buddhist spirituality, culture reign supreme

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IANS Photo IANS Video Making of Neerja | Starring So... Subscribe To Affiliates IANS PhotoIANS VideoIANS MultimediaIANS HindiIANS LiveBusiness WireBollywood CountryIANS publishingIANS SoftwareIANS ConsultancyPR Newswire Common Links Advanced Search All the Headlines Back to index2016-09-29 A | A- | A+ Ladakh, where Buddhist spirituality, culture reign supreme

Leh, Sep 29 : Ladakh — once the hub of the ancient Silk Route — is aptly described as a place where Buddhist spirituality and its ancient culture reign supreme amidst virgin nature.

It’s a cold desert in northern India, dotted by tiny hamlets spread over the Himalayan peaks adjoining Tibet, where one can simultaneously have a close brush with sunburn and frostbite in summer.

Leh, the headquarters of Ladakh, is connected by road — open only five months a year due to heavy snowfall — from Srinagar and the distance of 434 km takes two days with a night halt at Kargil town; and almost equidistant from the picturesque Manali tourist resort in Himachal Pradesh via the picturesque Lahaul Valley. The latter route is more treacherous.

leh

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Travelling by air is the most convenient way to reach Leh, available round the year.

“It’s a place where spirituality and culture co-exist, where traditional life is thriving by adapting green, modern technologies. It’s truly called a crown jewel,” remarked British tourist Alfred Martin.

For Malaysia-born Michelle Yeoh, famous for her role in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning martial arts love story “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, visiting the “rooftop of the world” is a spiritual journey. The analogy, however, was not exactly appropriate as the expression “Roof of the World” generally refers to Tibet.

“It’s a spiritual journey for me every time. This land of high mountain passes always reminds me of a stronghold of Buddhist art, culture and spirituality and this spirit of purity is rarely seen elsewhere in the world,” Yeoh told IANS.

She was in Ladakh earlier this month for the week-long Naropa festival, a once-in-12-year celebration of the birth anniversary of the great Indian saint Naropa, at the famed 17th century Hemis monastery, located 40 km from Leh.

“From July till late October is the best period to explore ancient monasteries and trek to a host of mountain passes,” remarked tour operator Sonam Dawa in Leh.

Ladakh reported a tourism boom in 2015, attracting 146,501 visitors, including 19,075 foreigners, up more than 25 percent from the previous year, according to the local administration.

This year, till July, it saw 161,444 tourists and a majority of the foreigners were from Israel, France, Britain and the US.

The entire Ladakh region is populated mainly by tribals. The climatic conditions are harsh as much of the land is a cold desert where the mercury remains below minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter for weeks on end.

The staple food is barley, wheat, peas, rice, rapeseed and salted tea mixed with yak butter.

From the world-acclaimed Hemis monastery to Druk Padma Karpo School, also known as “Rancho’s School” after the Aamir Khan character in the film ‘3 Idiots’, these places speak about the unique spirit of Ladakh, from an ancient past to the innovative present.

Image result for pangong lake

Built in 1630 by Druk Staktsang Raspa, a student of the fifth Gyalwang Drukpa, the monastery holds the Hemis Festival every year in summer in honour of Guru Padmasambhava, the eight-century Indian guru revered for spreading Buddhism in the Himalayas.

The monastery’s museum is a repository of an astounding 1,500 artefacts, some dating back 1,400 years.

Just an hour’s steep uphill hike from the Hemis Monastery takes you to the Gotsang cave and retreat centre, a spiritual journey.

Chemdrey, one of Ladakh’s greatest fortress monasteries, is 45 km from Leh, en route to the picturesque Nubra Valley and the world’s highest salt water lake Pangong that freezes in winter.

The statute of Padmasambhava is the most important statue in the Chemdrey monastery.

The Shrey Palace, located 15 km south of Leh, houses a 12-foot statue of Buddha in the temple of Shakyamuni, one of the largest metal statues in Ladakh.

The palace, which boasts a view of 108 stupas , is owned by a royal family of Ladakh. Monks of the Drukpa lineage are taking care of it.

Adventure and thrills lie west of Leh.

The mighty Indus and Zanskar rivers are popular for whitewater rafting. The place where the blue waters of the Zanskar and the green of the Indus join, some 36 km from Leh, is known for its most beautiful views.

There is also the famous Sikh shrine, Gurdwara Patar Sahib, managed by the Indian Army, 20 km from Leh.

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Getting to Leh:

How to travel: In summer, by public or private transport. From Manali to Leh via Keylong; From Srinagar to Leh via Kargil.

Leh is connected by air from Delhi and Jammu.

Where to stay in Leh: Small hotels, guest houses and even homestays with local people. Interestingly, there are no houses left in Leh, only guest houses.

Buddhist leader The Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order, is promoting homestays among the locals by adopting eco-friendly ways. ( IANS Vishal Gulati )

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Indulge yourself into Culinary Paradise of Vietnam

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Food is a very important part of Vietnamese culture and life. Vietnamese food is deeply influenced by historical and cultural conditions of the country and varies in different parts of the country. There are about 54 ethnical groups in the country that stretches 3,260 kms along the seashore with subtropical climate. Vietnamese cuisine is partially influenced by neighboring countries and the French who dominated Vietnam as a colony from late 19th to middle 20th century.

Vietnamese cuisine has a balance of salty, sweet, hot flavours and sour, these flavours are achieved through cane sugar, fish sauce, chili peppers or tamarind. The locals use plenty of local herbs and their food is not overly spicy. Chili or Chili sauce is usually served separately.

Rice Culture in Vietnam
Vietnam has two large deltas: the Red River Delta in the North and the Mekong in the South. Vietnam used to be the 2nd largest rice exporter in the world, however in the year 2011 they have dropped to 5th largest rice exporter in the world. They supply around 8% of world’s rice.

Vietnamese people consider a meal with rice as a ‘main meal’; if a meal is without rice they land up considering as a snack. During lunch or dinner rice is usually placed in the middle of the table before other foods are arranged surrounding the rice. This is the traditional Vietnamese style usually followed even today by locals at home.

Local Drinks in Vietnam
– Rice wine is one of the most popular drinks amongst locals, usually had with a meal. In recent times local and international beers are also getting popular.
– People of Northern Vietnam usually enjoy hot tea or coffee as against people of Southern part, who prefer iced tea.
– French colonists probably introduced Coffee to Vietnam and Coffee is a local habit, Vietnamese coffee is strong and flavourful. Locals also enjoy iced coffee that is usually served with condensed milk.
– Green tea with pistils of lotus or petals of jasmine is popular. Traditional lotus tea is time consuming and can be far more expensive then dry green tea.

Most popular Food preparations of Vietnam

Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Spring Rolls) – Translucent spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and may be combination of different meats. It is amongst the most popular dishes.

Pho (Pho is pronounced as ‘fur’) is Vietnam’s National dish and serves as staple food, a noodle soup that is eaten at any time of the day, primarily at breakfast. The basic bowl of pho consists of a light chicken or beef broth flavoured with ginger and coriander to which one adds broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef. One can also enjoy vegetarian Pho in few places.

Cha Ca – Is a very popular seafood preparation in Vietnam, it is devised in Hanoi and more popular in this region. The preparation is white fish sautéed in butter with dill and spring onions then served with rice noodles and a scattering of peanuts. Chili sauce and other sauces are served as accompaniments along with the main dish.

Vegetarian meals – Vegan or Vegetarian meals are getting popular in Vietnam. A Buddhist temple or pagodas can amaze you with chicken, fish or meat form, however they are actually prepared from taro, potato, tofu or lotus seeds and vegetables.

According to Jay Kantawala, founder of WIYO Travel, The taste of the Vietnamese cuisine is distinct and unforgettable. If one is visiting Vietnam, they should spare some time just to trying different local cuisines during the trip” Jay recommends.

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Tourism prime focus besides IT in Andaman & Nicobar Islands

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Port Blair and Around
Port Blair and Around, Photo Source www.andamans.gov.in

Port Blair, Nov 22: With tourist footfall going up by 23 per cent in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, the authorities have decided to heavily invest in the sector as well as in information technology (IT) to ensure holistic development of the islands, stakeholders say.

“Tourism and It would be our prime focus. At least four lakh tourists come to the islands every year and stay for four days on an average. The amount of money tourists would spend on amenities like drinking water, food and lodging, would be a major boost for the island’s economy if the number keeps on increasing,” local MP Bishnupada Ray told a select group of visiting mediapersons in this capital of the Union territory.

“Development is needed as it is a secluded place, far from the mainland. However, with proper connectivity and infrastructure, the amount of natural resources and potential the Andamans have, can feed all of India,” he added.

According to the Andaman and Nicobar administration, the number of tourists increased by 23 per cent from around 3.25 lakh in 2015 to over 400,000 in 2016.

“The administration does not levy any tax on the tourists. With the boom in tourism, the revenue that would come from the food and hospitality sectors would certainly benefit the region’s economy,” Chief Secretary Anindo Majumdar told IANS.

“According to our estimate, from the tourism sector alone, the government would earn revenues of nearly Rs 400-500 crore ($61-77 million) every year,” he said.

The archipelago, endowed with picturesque landscapes, sterling beaches and nature’s generous gifts, is eyeing a sustained flow of high-end tourists.

“Promotion of tourism, including high-end tourism, in a sustainable manner is one of the developmental priorities of the administration,” Majumdar said.

The islands — nearly 1,300 kilometres west of the Indian mainland in the Bay of Bengal — are a tourists’ paradise. The Union territory comprises 608 emerald islands with exotic names, out of which only 31 are inhabited. It overall enjoys a whopping 94 percent of forest cover.

One can laze around the enticing beaches at Havelock Island, or Ross and Smith — the twin islands joined by a bewitching sandbar. Sea-bathing and sun-basking at the Corbyn’s Cove beach helps one to unwind and de-stress while the Hilltop Gallows on Viper Island and Port Blair’s Cellular Jail are sure to overwhelm visitors with a sense of patriotism as the clock ticks back to the days of India’s freedom struggle.

The majority of tourists visit Port Blair, Ross and Havelock, which are home to various adventure sports like scuba diving, snorkeling and sea-walking.

Havelock, probably the most coveted tourist destination for its famous Radhanagar and Laxmanpur sea beaches, stands tall among all the islands, that are far less accessible for the majority of tourists.

Ray said massive infrastructural development has taken wings for the expansion of National Highway 4 that would connect north, middle and south Andamans.

Also the civilian and army airports are being upgraded and the number of flights from the mainland as well as within the islands would significantly increase in the near future under the Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) flight scheme.

Conceding that building heavy industries in the islands was difficult due to its distance from the mainland, Ray said a massive Rs 1,102 crore project for laying an undersea optical fibre cable (OFC) between Chennai and Port Blair will open up new horizons for the IT sector.

“We are also focusing on building the Andamans as an IT hub as the fibre optic is coming from the mainland. All the major islands like Port Blair, Havlock, Long Island, Diglipur, Rangat, Nicobar would get the benefit of internet in the coming days.”

IANS

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Be at peace in the lap of Oman’s luxury resorts (Travelogue)

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Oman

Muscat, Nov 20: Bored of the humdrum of life? The desire to visit a peaceful holiday destination? The pictorial landscapes, exotic beaches and superlative hospitality of the luxury resorts in Oman can be a perfect “check-in”.

With its tourist season currently on, the country — which sees visitors from across the world and is a little over three hours by air from India — has a lot to offer in terms of experiences through its delightful resorts. Lazy lads seeking a comfortable experience will also be enthused about trying out the adventures on offer.

One such resort is Dunes by Al Nahda, situated at Wadi Al Abiyad Sands in Barka. Surrounded by undulating dunes and mountains all around, this desert resort gives a nice soothing experience and has 50 tent-style rooms.Dunes by Al NahdaWith an open-air dining area and activities like bunker golf course, dune bashing, quad biking, sand surfing and camel riding, this place fits the idea of a perfect holiday destination with family or friends.

Interestingly, the resort’s head chef Mathivanan Lakshmanan, who hails from India, said a lot of foreigners residing at the property demand Indian cuisine, especially shahi paneer and pav bhaji.

Since the wedding season is on, if honeymooners are looking for a royal experience, try Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, located 2,000 metres above the sea level on the Green Mountain.

It has a once-in-a-lifetime experience to offer — Diana’s Point, which surprised me. The spot, named after the late Princess Diana, was full of European and American couples celebrating the romantic environs at the resort with light music and a 360-degree view of mountains.

With an average temperature of around 20 degrees — half of what I experienced at other places in Oman — this resort leaves you in awe not only with its outer scenic beauty but also with the hospitality, multinational cuisine and luxurious rooms. And don’t miss out on spending some leisure time on the balcony to soak in the straight-out-of-a-painting scene.

Another interesting destination is the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa. Situated in Muscat near the seashore, this grand property hosts a lot of Indian weddings. There are various activities like beach parties, dolphin watching and boat riding on offer. Sounds of Arabian music adds to the experience of dining here.

Whether it’s about residing on sand dunes, near the sea or on top of a mountain, the resorts in Oman make the stay special. But you do need to really loosen up your purse strings. To be honest, the only things offered for free are the dates and coffee.

Interestingly, all these resorts are located not too far away from one another. One can easily enjoy their hospitality to the fullest in a week’s time.

By Sandeep Sharma
(The writer’s trip was at the invitation of Oman Tourism. Sandeep Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

IANS

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