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Myanmar : Delight for travellers

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This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about – wrote by Rudyard Kipling. Today after over a century after he wrote this quote, Myanmar retains the power to surprise and delight the travellers. Myanmar was known as Burma prior to 1989; the name was changed during the Military rule. In the year 2015, Myanmar got its first Democratic governor in more than half a sanctuary.

Myanmar consists of over 100 ethnic groups bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. Yangon (Formerly known as Rangoon) is the country’s largest city and home to bustling markets, numerous parks, lakes and the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda which contains Buddhist relics and dates to the 6th century.

Myanmar today

Once the democratic government took charge of the country, the country has seen international investors interested to do business in Myanmar. Myanmar has also seen social and economic changes since the new government took over. Modern travel conveniences such as mobile phone coverage with internet access, domestic flights connecting tourist places, modern hotels are now getting common. The new Myanmar is very much a work in progress country.

Old World Charm of Myanmar

Myanmar consists of multiple ethnic groups and even today Myanmar does remain a rural nation of traditional values. Local men will be seen wearing a Longyi – like a sarong and chewing betel nut and spitting the red juice on the ground, women are seen with faces covered with thanakha (a natural sunblock) and cheroot-smoking ladies. Drinking tea is very common and tea houses serving traditional savouries and tea are seen all over the place.

Myanmar – is rich with over 2,600 years of Buddhist civilization and posses many golden treasures across the country. Myanmar offers different travel option for different travellers from a rich cultural and historical experience with golden temples and pagodas in Yangon and Mandalay to vestiges of Bagan or a spectacular sunrise & sunset in Bagan or Mandalay.

Temples of Myanmar are distinct in design and patterns and temples or relics combine with spectacular surrounding scenery will leave an unforgettable impression of the rich and spiritual life leads by the locals.

Inle Lake offers extraordinary leisure along with a rich insight of local life and floating villages, floating gardens and markets. The Inle Lake also connects to some of the famous trekking routes or one can Drift down the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River in an old steamer or luxury cruiser or visit a beach on the blissful Bay of Bengal. Trek through pine forests to minority villages scattered across the Shan Hills offer a true glimpse of the local life of the Myanmar villages.

Thankfully, the pace of change is not overwhelming and has left the simple pleasures of travel in Myanmar intact. Best of all, you’ll encounter locals who are gentle, humorous, inquisitive and passionate. Now is the time to make that connection.

Jay Kantawala from WIYO Travel visited Myanmar in May / June 18 and felt that people are by far the best part of Burma; he was welcomed with smiles and kindness everywhere he visited. Now is the best time to travel to Myanmar as the new democratic government is working hard to improve the country’s image and uplift tourism. Myanmar today remains one of the world’s mysterious and untouched destinations.

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Aboard Train 18: A promise that could not be kept

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Vande Bharat Express Train 18,

Chamraula (UP), Feb 16 (IANS) It was an offer one couldn’t resist — a journey back home in Delhi, quicker by at least six hours, by the high-speed Train 18, rechristened Vande Bharat Express.

But as it turned out, the much-hyped train, suffered a breakdown early Saturday morning and could not deliver on the promise of reaching home early.

The train, empty on its return from the inaugural run from Varanasi on Friday, was ultimately late by more than six hours due to a mechanical fault and reached the destination –New Delhi — by 1 pm on Saturday.

Dozens of journalists, Railway brass, several other officials, some political leaders and a few others were on the train in its inaugural run from New Delhi accompanying Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday morning. The train was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a subdued ceremony, clouded by the dastardly terror attack near Srinagar on Friday that killed over 45 CRPF personnnel.

With functions en route in Kanpur, Allahabad and finally a valedictory event in Varanasi, Vande Bharat had already overshot the scheduled travel time of eight hours to cover a distance of 775 km, which was understandable because of the inaugural run.

All the media persons, including from several regional television channels and railway officials and others were slated to come by a special train on the return journey, which would start around midnight to reach Delhi around midday.

However, a last-minute bait was thrown for those wanting to return to Delhi non-stop by the Vande Bharat Express which was travelling empty with a promise that it would touch the capital a little after 6 a.m.

Many did not fall for it because of the thought of a comfortable sleeping berth in the special train and chose to stick to their original schedule.

But there was a score of print and television journalists with news cameramen who jumped at the option to return by the high-speed Train 18. It left Varanasi a little after 10.15 pm. Having enjoyed the speed in the morning, the few of the privileged passengers began their return journey by Vande Bharat Express.

The majority of the journalists, who travelled in the Chair Car coach in the morning, chose to take the Executive Class for a feel of the luxury there–plump, spacious and well upholstered seats that could take an 180-degree turn keeping with the direction of the travel.

A few who travelled by the Executive Class in the morning chose the Chair Car coach so that they can lie down
across the three seats after lifting the arm rest.

However, the top brass of the Railway Board chose to return by the Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani to reach Delhi.

Everything was smooth but for the loud midnight announcements being made on the empty train about the stops in Allahabad and Kanpur for the railway staff to deboard. The sleep was often disturbed as the announcements were a little too frequent, considering the number of passengers to get down mid-day.

But as the passengers were hoping for an early arrival in Delhi, they could sense trouble because the fastest train on Indian tracks was running slow occasionally. And then came the complete halt at Chamraula, 194 km from New Delhi and still 2 hours 50 minutes to travel as the display on the LED panel for onboard entertainment showed. It was already 5.30 a.m.

After a couple of hours and a snooze, the journalists realised they were still at the same spot. Then came the offer from officials to switch to a Delhi-bound train. Came in the Vikramshila Express and those wanting to go — there were many — were shifted to the Delhi-bound train in a mid-track transfer. The train from Bhagalpur in Bihar was stopped for a “technical halt”.

While Vikramshila Express reached Anand Vihar Terminal on the outskirts of Delhi around 10.45 a.m., Vande Bharat reached capital at 1 p.m. The other special train carrying the majority of officials and journalists arrived around 3 p.m.

Officially, Railway spokespersons have said the trouble for the train came from a cattle being run over and a “communication and electrical failure”.

Even inside the coaches, mobile phone signals were weak often curtailing the talk while wi-fi was not available because, as one official put it, due to “electro magnetic interference”. Officials hope to set it right before Sunday.

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Modi flags off Vande Bharat Express

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Train 18

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday flagged off the indigenous Train 18, renamed Vande Bharat Express, from the New Delhi railway station to his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi in the backdrop of the terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir which killed 45 troopers.

A sombre Modi told a gathering at the station that he was “grateful to designers and engineers behind Vande Bharat Express” which set off at 11.20 a.m.

The train will clock 160 km per hour — the fastest on the Indian rail network.

The Prime Minister said with “our sincerity and hard work in the last four and half years, we have tried to improve the railways”.

Earlier, Modi inspected the coaches and the engine cabin of the Vande Bharat Express along with senior railway officials.

The flagging off was delayed by over 80 minutes as Modi presided over a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security to discuss the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi and members of the Railway Board were on board the train on its inaugural journey.

Bookings on the Vande Bharat Express opened on Friday. All the seats of were booked within four hours.

The train, which will start replacing Shatabdi Express trains, will run between Delhi and Varanasi.

The train has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai.

The gleaming blue-nosed train comes fitted with world class amenities on board like high-speed on-board WiFi, GPS-based passenger information system, touch-free bio-vacuum toilets, LED lighting, mobile charging points and a climate control system that automatically adjusts the temperature.

The 16-coach train will have two executive compartments with 52 seats each and trailer coaches with 78 seats each.

The executive class will have rotating seats to match the direction of the train.

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Goa acknowledges drop in tourist arrivals

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goa-couple-on-beach

Panaji, Feb 13 (IANS) Tourists arrival in Goa is on decline, acknowledged Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar here on Wednesday and underlined the need to work out solutions to address the issue.

“There is a drop in tourist arrivals in Goa and it needs to be looked into seriously,” Ajgaonkar told reporters after chairing the meeting with the industry stakeholders in Panaji.

“The problems identified will be looked into jointly after taking into confidence all the tourism associations and stakeholders,” the minister said.

Travel and tourism industry stakeholders are expected to submit a comprehensive report on issues affecting tourist arrivals, an official said.

Industry stakeholders have cried hoarse trying to draw the government’s attention to dropping tourist footfall over the past few years, and blaming the Tourism Ministry for not doing enough to promote the state.

At the meeting, industry stakeholders, led by Travel and Tourism Association of Goa president Savio Messias, urged Ajgaonkar to address the issues plaguing the industry like harassment of tourists, nuisance caused by organised begging at tourist locations, unreasonable taxi charges by local operators, and the high goods and services tax (GST) rate.

Ajgaonkar assured that his ministry would review the marketing strategy to promote Goa as a tourism destination more efficiently.

Goa is one of the top beach and nightlife destinations in the country and last year attracted more than seven million tourists, out of which half a million were foreigners.

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