Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Most Amazing National Parks

For all those who love nature and believe in preserving the gifts that the nature has bestowed over us, national parks are places of great interest and curiosity. Looking at the human history we can surmise that we human beings can survive in any kind of situation but our planet partners are not lucky enough. These birds and animals need to struggle a lot for living if their natural habitat is disturbed. Although, we have happily adapted ourselves with the rapid development in science and technology but the fauna still has to migrate from places to places in their struggle against such developments. In such conditions, national parks serve as a natural abode to them.

Maintaining biodiversity, a national park preserves a good range of flora and fauna. Thus, provide a fair opportunity to our posterity to learn about the being they are going to share the planet with. However, apart from preserving the endangered species of birds and animals, these parks also look after the natural bodies of great natural value. Many a beautiful waterfalls, snow covered hills, natural geysers, magnificent mountains, glaciers etc. are preserved very carefully by the national parks. Researching over some such parks I came across some amazing national parks that are not only known for the wildlife conservation but also for their natural values.

The Great smoky mountain national park: Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this National park was established in 1934 .This most visited national park in US, is known for its cloud wrapped mountains. Fog and clouds cast their veil over its great mountains which are also known as “smokies” giving it a beautiful site to be visited again and again.

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Arches National Park : A landscape of more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, it maintains a beautiful site for archaeologists, architects and all art lovers. The famous arch of Elephant Butte belongs to this park only. It satisfies various art lovers with its beautiful formations and contrasting colors. Located in US, this land of red stones was established as a national park in 1971.

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Yosemite National Park: The Yosemite national Park is known for its awe-inspiring valleys, waterfalls, wilderness. The famous Horsetail Fall attracts a remarkable crowd of visitors every year. This famous fall is also known as “Firefall” for the natural phenomena that gives it a fiery look. A prime location in US, the Yosemite valley is also known for being the World Heritage Site.

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Yellowstone National Park: Variously regarded as the world’s first National park, this park is known for its geothermal attributes. Famous for its natural geysers, the land was designated as a national park in 1872. The famous Old Faithful geyser forms the cynosure here.

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Rocky Mountain National Park: The park is a home to a wide range of wildlife, elevated rocky mountains and as many as 150 lakes. A good site for trekking and camping the park attracts many visitors every year.

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Crater National Park:The park has been named after the beautiful Crater lake that the land possess. One of the deepest lake in US, it flows at the crest of a famous mountain range known as Cascade. It came into existence as a national park as early as 1908.

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park: A home to more than 100 caves, this national park is also known as the land of caves. One of the world’s largest natural chamber is found here. These caves are a result of natural phenomena that dissolved the limestone that surrounded the place.

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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve:A land of water, coastlines, glaciers, snow and lakes, the place can happily be visited via ships or cruise. This heaven on earth is found in the range of US. A study says that around 2 million people visit this one of the most amazing national parks.

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Kenai Fjords National Park:A land of ice fields, glaciers and fjords the land was established as a national park in 1980. Harding , one of the largest ice fields and Bear, one of the largest glaciers are the cynosure of the park. And apart from this it possesses a wide range of wildlife.

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Death Valley National park: The land is a conservation of Desert environment. Also, known as the “land of extremes” the land has its temperature over 100 degrees. Although the valley has got a morbid name, a wide range of life succeeds in surviving here!

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These are a few amazing national parks that are to be visited in order to witness some of the awe-inspiring natural bodies and to understand the value of their conservation. There is no dearth of such valuable parks on earth. However, I mentioned some and if you have information about any such marvel, do share!

Information About London Bridge

London Bridge
London Bridge

Along with Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge tops Great Britain’s list of architectural icons that make up London’s distinctive skyline. While not the first bridge to span the Thames, Tower Bridge is the most recognizable and is often mistakenly referred to as “London Bridge.” While Tower Bridge is one of the world’s most famous bridges, few know its rich history. In fact, information about London Bridge is never complete without visiting its history.

Old London Bridge

The Old London Bridge of nursery rhyme fame dates from 1176, when Peter, a priest and chaplain of St. Mary’s of Colechurch, began construction of the foundation. Replacing a timber bridge (one of several built in late Roman and early medieval times), Peter’s structure was the first great stone arch bridge built in Britain. It was to consist of 19 pointed arches, each with a span of approximately 24 feet (7 metres), built on piers 20 feet (6 metres) wide; a 20th opening was designed to be spanned by a wooden drawbridge. The stone foundations of the piers were built inside cofferdams made by driving timber piles into the riverbed; these in turn were surrounded by starlings (loose stone filling enclosed by piles). As a result of obstructions encountered during pile driving, the span of the constructed arches actually varied from 15 to 34 feet (5 to 10 metres). In addition, the width of the protective starlings was so great that the total waterway was reduced to a quarter of its original width, and the tide roared through the narrow archways like a millrace. “Shooting the bridge” in a small boat became one of the thrills of Londoners.

In 1205, Peter of Colechurch died, and three other London citizens completed the bridge by 1209. Almost immediately the bridge became not only an important commercial crossing but also a choice business and residential site. Shops lined both sides of the roadway between the fortified gates at either end; houses were built above the shops, with 138 premises being recorded in 1358. Walkways and additional rooms were extended between the buildings, transforming the roadway into a tunnel-like passage through which merchants and other travelers bustled. In the 1580s, during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, water mills were installed that added to the uproar.

The bridge became the site of calamities. Three years after its completion a huge fire destroyed all the buildings and killed as many as 3,000 people. But the houses (a source of income for the bridge) were quickly rebuilt, lining the 926-foot (282-metre) length of the bridge and reducing the carriageway to only 12 feet (4 metres). In 1282, five arches collapsed under the pressure of winter ice. These, too, were rebuilt, and the bridge, though often in a state of disrepair, survived as London’s sole crossing of the Thames until 1750. In that year Westminster Bridge opened, despite opposition from City merchants.

Shortly thereafter the City decided to repair Peter of Colechurch’s bridge and the project was given to Charles Labelye, designer of the Westminster Bridge. By 1762 all the houses were removed, the carriageway was widened to 46 feet (14 metres), and the two central arches were replaced by one great arch at mid-span. The removal of the central pier led to serious erosion of the riverbed, and gravel was constantly poured to protect the remaining piers. Finally the maintenance became too much of a burden, and the City asked the renowned engineer John Rennie to design a wholly new structure several yards upstream.

New London Bridge

For the new structure, Rennie proposed five semielliptical stone arches, with the central span reaching 150 feet (46 metres), the next two 140 feet (43 metres), and the two shore spans 130 feet (40 metres). Rennie died in 1821 before work began, and the job was left to his two sons. George Rennie had actually made the design in 1820, but construction was conducted under John Rennie, Jr. in 1824. In 1831, King William IV and Queen Adelaide arrived by water to celebrate the opening of the new bridge. Demolition of the ancient structure began that year, and by 1832 it disappeared, having served 622 years.

Rennie’s bridge survived less than 140 years. Between 1968 and 1971 its facing stone was dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. state of Arizona, where it was re-erected on a five-span core of reinforced concrete to serve as a tourist attraction at the resort town of Lake Havasu City. The New London Bridge now crosses Lake Havasu behind Parker Dam, 155 miles (250 km) south of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

Modern London Bridge

The current London Bridge, built between 1968 and 1972, replaced Rennie’s stone arches with beams of prestressed concrete reaching 340 feet (104 metres) in the central span. Construction was carried out using the cantilever method, with segments being built outward from two piers, each segment tied to the previous one by high-strength steel tendons. In the centre, the two cantilevers did not meet but stopped short, leaving a space into which the builders placed a concrete beam to complete the span. The design represents a major post-World War II innovation in bridge engineering, but the bridge itself is not of great historical significance.

Bridge Parties

Another interesting information about the London Bridge is that it is an amazing venue for parties. Most bridges in the world are not ideal locations for throwing parties, but guests at a Tower Bridge event do not have to worry about dodging traffic. Within the bridge’s towers and the walkways above are several event spaces with spectacular views that make Tower Bridge one of London’s most popular venues.

Tower Bridge Exhibition

A visit to Tower Bridge Exhibition is the most exciting way to explore and experience the most famous Bridge in the world. Within the Bridge’s iconic structure and magnificent Victorian Engine rooms there is plenty to see and do!

After watching a new animated video about why Tower Bridge was built, guests can walk into the high level Walkways, 42 metres above the River Thames. This offers visitors a chance to admire stunning panoramic view of London, spying such popular landmarks as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Monument to the west and St Katharine’s Dock leading to Canary Wharf to the east.

The East Walkway houses the exhibition ‘Great Bridges of the World’ – this photographic exhibition features over 20 Bridges, each of which represents a breathtaking feat of engineering. In the south tower, a short video shows the construction of the Bridge, before guests proceed to the West Walkway where they can view brand NEW exhibition, ‘This is London’. Here, visitors can admire copies of over 60 iconic illustrations and excerpts from painter and illustrator, Miroslav Sasek’s classic children’s book, ‘This is London’. 

Continue on to the original lifting machinery in the Victorian Engine Rooms, complete with sounds and smells that transport you back in time to the Bridge’s origins. You will also experience a virtual Bridge lift, providing you with a unique view of the Bascules being raised. And currently on display is ‘Art at the Bridge, #4’, our brand NEW exhibition in partnership with Southwark Arts Forum.

A final visit to the Gift Shop before leaving allows the chance to take home a memento of your day.

Hotels in London Near Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge area offers a choice of fine hotels.

Hilton London Tower Bridge Hotel

The glass exterior of this Hilton hotel faces Tower Bridge. Guestrooms have wireless Internet access, plasma TVs, mini-bars and windows that open. The hotel also has a business center and fitness center. Its on-site eatery, the Larder Restaurant, serves a breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. Coffee and cocktails are available at the Ruba Bar.

Hotel Novotel London Tower Bridge

The Novotel is located on the Thames near Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The contemporary guestrooms have sleeper sofas, flat-screen TVs, in-room movies and Internet access. The hotel also features a sauna and fitness center, and provides a currency exchange and a staff that speaks eight languages. The Elements Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Enjoy sandwiches and cocktails at the Pepys Bar, named after 16th-century writer, Samuel Pepys. Families traveling with children receive a special gift, late check-out, adjoining rooms and free rates for kids.

The Tower

The Tower is a luxury hotel on the Thames near Tower Bridge. The 800 guestrooms have Egyptian linens, flat-screen TVs and mini-bars. Free wireless Internet access is available throughout the hotel, which also provides 24-hour room service and concierge service to its guests. Other amenities and services include a fitness center and limousine service. The Tower provides special venues along the river for weddings and receptions, and it has two on-site restaurants and a cocktail bar.

Apex City of London

The Apex City of London is a stylish, upscale hotel next to Tower Bridge. Amenities in the 179 guestrooms include free wireless Internet access, flat-screen TVs, refrigerator and coffee and tea service. The Apex provides guests with 24-hour room service, laundry service, a DVD library and mail delivery. The hotel also has a gym and contemporary conference and meeting rooms with views of the Thames. The hotel’s restaurant, Addendum, serves modern cuisine.

Best Hotels in London

London offers a fine choice of hotels. Visitors can choose where to stay from among the best hotels in London.

Luxurious London
Luxurious London

                                                Hilton London Canary Wharf Hotel

The Hilton London Canary Wharf Hotel is conveniently located in the center of Canary Wharf’s business, café and shopping district. The hotel is only 15 minutes from the London City Airport and near many popular London attractions. You will enjoy taking a river taxi to Waterloo and the London Eye, shopping in the West End and a visit to Greenwich. The Hilton’s spacious and comfortable guest rooms are contemporary in style and include flat-screen TVs, wireless high-speed Internet, on-demand movies and a mini bar. Hotel amenities include a business center, fitness center and restaurant.

Hotel Novotel London ExCel

The Hotel Novotel London ExCel is conveniently located in East London opposite the ExCel Exhibition Centre, in the Docklands. The hotel is also near the O2 Arena, Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Stratford and London City Airport. The Novotel’s modern style, spacious and comfortable guest rooms include an en suite bath or shower, sofa bed, work area, large-screen TV, wireless and broadband Internet access, laptop safe, mini bar and tea and coffee service. The hotel’s Upper Deck Restaurant and Bar overlooks the Royal Victoria Dock. Hotel amenities include facilities for business meetings, fitness center, sauna and steam room.

Crowne Plaza Hotel Shoreditch

The Crowne Plaza Hotel Shoreditch sits in the middle of Shoreditch High Street, near Bishopsgate, in East London.The hotel is contemporary in style and features 196 comfortable and spacious guest rooms, which include comfortable beds and leather armchairs. Rooms also include satellite cable TV, mini bar, workspace/desk, telephone/fax, data ports and wireless high-speed Internet. Hotel amenities include a fitness club, sauna, business center, meeting space and a rooftop restaurant.

London Bridge Hotel

In the borough of Southwark, the London Bridge Hotel is a four-star Neoclassical landmark. The façade’s recently restored stone carvings date to 1915, and a traditional fireplace welcomes guests into the lobby. Within a short walking distance, tourists can see the Tate modern gallery and Shakespeare’s Globe theater. The hotel offers a buffet breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, a fitness health club with a sauna and tea and coffee machines. Rooms have a contemporary interior and include a roll-away bed, windows that open and a flat-screen television. After dining in the attached Londinium restaurant or bar, guests can take a short stroll to the River Thames, located less than 1,000 feet away.

Danubius Hotel Regents Park

Near the Marble Arch and Mayfair underground stations, the Danubius Hotel Regents Park is situated in one of London’s most plush areas, the historic neighborhoods. It ranks among the best hotels in London. On a relatively quiet street, this four-star hotel is near London Zoo, Camden Town and Abbey Road. Many rooms offer views of cricket grounds and Regent’s Park. There is Internet and 24-hour room service. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge daily or guests can dine at the bar or fine restaurant. Guests looking to shop are only a short walk from famous Baker and Oxford streets

Saint Georges Hotel

Off the Marylebone tube station, Saint Georges Hotel is near Picadilly Circus at the cusp of Regent Street. Though it’s one of the smaller hotels in central London, many rooms are on top floors with views of the London skyline. The brightly decorated rooms offer satellite television, a shower and bath, Internet and soundproof windows. The hotel’s restaurant is on the 15th floor and offers happy hour specials during the week. Guests may also choose to relax in the lounge or bar.


Top 10 Tombs In The World

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living” said Marcus Tullius Cicero. Different culture treat the dead in different ways. In Tibetan Buddhist culture, people dispose the dead by feeding corpses to vultures. Hindus burn the dead reciting the funeral prayer. However in most of the culture, people bury the dead in complex and ornate tombs, crypts, and catacombs. Let’s have a look at ten most fascinating final resting places around the world.

Top 10 tombs in the world

Newgrange Tomb
Newgrange Tomb

Newgrange – One of the most impressive prehistoric monuments among top 10 tombs in the world is the Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. It was built between 3300 BC – 2900 BC. It covers the total area of 4046 metre square. The  circular mound is 40 feet in height and 250 feet in width.

Under the circular mound, a long tunnel leads to a high-domed burial chamber, a cor-belled vault with ceilings made up of stone slabs. The entrance is denoted by huge curbstone elaborating megalithic art. Nevertheless, this impressive tomb is the world’s oldest surviving building.

Tana Toraja Tomb
Tana Toraja Tomb

Tana Toraja – Torajans believe that death is not a sudden event but a gradual process towards life after death. The Toraja people in Sulawesi, Indonesia have the most complex funeral ritual in the world. When a person dies, the funeral ceremony lasts for weeks, months and years after death. The the dead is finally buried in a stone cave carved out of a rocky cliff. Toraja cave tombs have balconies, filled with tau tau, a wood-carved effigy.

Westminster
Westminster

Westminster Abbey – Initially Westminster Abbey was the burial place of kings, aristocrats, and monks. The gothic church Westminster Abbey is situated in London, United Kingdom. It was established by Benedictine monks in the tenth century. It was rebuilt in the 13th century by King Henry III. Ever since that, it is the coronation church for English royalty as well as the final resting place of monarchs. Many famous writers, poets and scientists were interred here. This one among the top 10 tombs in the world, is a treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and fantastic artifacts.

Giza Necropolis
Giza Necropolis

Giza Necropolis – With over 100 pyramids in Egypt, Giza Necropolis, in Cairo is nevertheless the largest and most complex of all the pyramids. It was built in 2560 BC. It is the house of remains of the deceased Pharaohs who ruled over ancient Egypt.

Pharaoh’s spirit called “ka”, is believed to remain with his corpse. The pyramid is 481 feet tall and 758 feet wide. The smooth exterior of the pyramid was made of fine white limestone. Internal is made up of granite blocks. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only surviving member among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings – Valley of the Kings is the burial ground of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. These are build up of limestone, sedimentary rocks and other coarse stones. Egyptologist, Howard Carter, in 1922, discovered and opened the tomb of Tutankhamen inspite of the warning “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King”.

Carter was bitten by a mosquito. He accidentally shaved the bitten area, during shaving, it grew into a large wound and finally resulted in blood poisoning. The tomb has a long rock-cut corridor, leading to one or more halls to the burial chamber. Royal tombs were decorated with religious texts and images.

Catacombs of Paris
Catacombs of Paris

Catacombs of Paris – The next among top 10 tombs in the world is the Catacombs of Paris. It is a huge network of underground tunnels and small rooms that used to be Roman-era limestone quarries. In 1700s, people in Paris were suffering from a terrible disease caused by improper burials and graves in church cemeteries. Finally the authorities decided to stack the remains in abandoned underground quarries. Only small portion of the tomb, that is 186 miles, is open to the public.

Terracota Army
Terracota Army

Terracota Army – While drilling for water, the local farmers of Xi’an, China in the year 1974, accidentally stumbled on the burial of Qin Shi Huangdi. He was the First Emperor and the unifier of China. The striking feature of the tomb is that around 8,000 lively statues of soldiers were buried along with Qin Shi Huangdi to help him in ruling even after death.

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo
Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo – The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are burial catacombs in Sicily, southern Italy. When the monastery outgrew, the Capuchin monks mummified the dead bodies, dressed them up in regular clothing and then put them on display on the monastery walls. There are around 8,000 mummies on the walls of the Capuchin monastery and in the catacombs.

The Sedlec Ossuary
The Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary – The building is an ossuary containing about 40,000 human skeletons artistically arranged to form decorations, chandeliers, and furnishings. The Sedlec Ossuary is in a small Roman Catholic chapel in Sedlec, Czech Republic. The masterpieces were made in 1870 by František Rint, a woodcarver. These features are chandelier made from skull and bones and coat of bone of arms.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal – “The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.” said the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. The so called “Symbol of Eternal Love” is situated in Agra, India. Taj Mahal was built on the order of Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife, Mumtaz.

The massive central dome, called the onion dome because of its shape, is striking feature with its symmetrical perfection.  The white marble tomb, in the center of the complex is flanked on four corners by minarets. The caskets of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are decorated with gems and inscribed with calligraphy, reciting the 99 names of God.

City of the Dead in Northern Ossetia
City of the Dead in Northern Ossetia

City of the Dead in Northern Ossetia, Russia – Another among the places to visit is the Rugged Gizel valley of Northern Ossetia, Caucasus, Russia, showing small stone buildings that looks like a normal village. But it is actually the house of the dead. It contains in them the mummified bodies dressed in their best clothes and shoes with hair tidily combed.

In 18th century, plague spread all over Ossetia. The localites built houses for their loved sick family members, who were provided with food. They had to live in there until death claimed their lives. A very painful mystery indeed!!

Top Caves of the World

Amazing Cave
Amazing Cave

The world is full with mesmerizing places. How about taking a journey beneath the Earth surface? Dark, deep and hauntingly beautiful, these underground gems can be found in all corners of the world. Enter the amazing world of caves. They are all simply incredible.

Cave of the Ghost, Venezuela

“Cueva del Fantasma” — Spanish for “Cave of the Ghost” — is so vast that two helicopters can comfortably fly into it and land next to a towering waterfall. A waterfall coming down from one wall forms a small pond at the floor. Researchers recently discovered a new dendrobatid frog species, Colostethus breweri, named for the frog’s identifier, Charles Brewer-Carías.

Mammoth Cave – Kentucky, USA

Part of the US National Park in central Kentucky, the Mammoth Cave has the longest cave system in the world called the Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System with over 365 miles of subterranean passageways. Established as a national park on July 1, 1941, it also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1981) and an International Biosphere Reserve (1990). Other spectacular sights to see include the giant sinkhole aptly named ‘Cedar Sink,’ and the ‘Frozen Niagara.’

Phong Nha Cave – Minh Hoa, Vietnam

The Phong Nha Cave, which is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, is located in the Minh Hoa districts in north-central Vietnam, about 500 km south of Hanoi. The national park was created to protect its over 300 caves and grottoes, aside from the ecosystem and the limestone forest of the Annamite Range. Out of the 300 Phong Nha caves, only 20 of those have been surveyed by scientists. With a total length of 126 km, it held several records including the longest underground river and the largest caverns and passageways before the discovery of Son Doong Cave.

Cave of the Swallows – Aquismon, Mexico

An open airpit cave situated at the Municipality of Aquismon in Mexico, it has freefall drop of 333 m from the floor of the cave to the lowest side of the opening, with 370 m drop from the highest side. The 2nd deepest pit in Mexico and the 11th in the world, a skyscraper like the NYC Chrysler Building could easily fit. The cave has low temperatures with thick vegetation at the mouth and rains can cause waterfalls to cascade into its opening. Aside from the layers of debris and guano, you can also find a sinkhole in a fault of the lower Cretaceous limestone, which can go down further to 512 m.

Elephanta Caves, Gharapuri Island, India

Carved out of a hillside in the fifth century, the ecstatic faces and swaying bodies of Hindu deities in the temples of the Elephanta Caves seem to be listening to the drone of ancient Indian instruments. The sinuous curves of the Siva Nataraja, or many-armed cosmic dancer, and the three faces of the Trimurti, representing the creator, preserver, and destroyer aspects of the god Siva, are as expressive today as centuries ago.

Fingal’s Cave, Scotland

This cave is formed from hexagonally jointed basalt columns with in a Paleocene lava flow. It is known for its naturally arched roof, which produces eerie sound made by the echoes of the waves to give an atmosphere of a cathedral.

Jeita Grotto Cave, Lebanon

The cave consists of two separate but interconnected limestone caves. Upper grotto and lower grotto. The upper grotto houses the world’s biggest stalactite (mineral deposit that hangs from the ceiling of a limestone cave). The lower grotto (20,300 feet overall length) is traversed by underwater lake and river.

Majlis al Jinn Cave, Oman

Majlis al Jinn is the second largest cave chamber in the world. It is located in a remote area of the Selma Plateau at around 1,600 meters altitude in The Sultanate of Oman. It was discovered in 1983 by Don Davidson, a geologist studying water resources in the Sultanate. Davidson presumably died some ten years later when he left Oman permanently and went hiking in the Andes. He rented a car, drove it to a trailhead, left a note on it saying where he was going, and was never seen again.

Waitomo Glowworm Cave, New Zealand

The Waitomo Glowworm Cave is a cave on the North Island of New Zealand, known for its population of glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa. These glowworms spin a nest out of silk on the ceiling of the cave and then hang down. Then, the larva glows to attract prey into its threads, so that the roof of a cave is covered with larva can look remarkably like the heavens at night. A hungry larva glows brighter than one which has just eaten.

Dongzhong Cave, China

Not actually a fascinating cave in itself, until you consider dozens of children attend everyday to the school on it! The Dongzhong (literally meaning “in cave”) is a primary school at a Miao village in Ziyun county, southwest China’s Guizhou province. The school is built in a huge, aircraft hangar-sized natural cave, carved out of a mountain over thousands of years by wind, water and seismic shifts.

Visit to China

Great wall of China during winter!”, this is what my dad said. My brother looked at me with a sly smile. You don’t know how risky and whiskey we were. We informed Roger, Jane and Peter that the tickets were confirmed. We packed our bags and five of us landed at the Capital Airport of Beijing, for visit to China on 24th December 2013 in the evening.  A weeks trip!

After having a large traditional Chinese platter, we slept like dead people after the journey. We had to stay in a nominal lodge, as we girls had to save a lot for shopping else visit to China would be incomplete.

Great Wall Of China
Great Wall Of China
  • Since the next day was Christmas, our first destination was Beijing Chaoyang Church, a newly built modern Protestant church. As soon as we entered the church for carols, it started hailing. It seemed that Jesus had himself come down to shower his blessing in form of snow. While most of the people were rushing home, we started playing with the ice and teasing each other.

  • Beijing Capital Museum – Our next destination was the Beijing Capital Museum. The snowfall would not affect us since we had to be indoors. Ancient Calligraphy, magnificent paintings, Jade Art, Ceramics Art, selected work of ancient bronze art especially Lord Buddha’s masterpieces, were center of attraction for the tourists. For dinner we had luscious street food at Night Market.

Beijing Capital Museum
Beijing Capital Museum
  • Beijing Zoo – The very next day we planned visiting Chinese national treasure, the giant pandas. We loved to see pandas playing, eating bamboos and sleeping. They were so cute and i really wanted to take them home. Varieties of invertebrates added to our Facebook album.

  • Forbidden City (the Imperial Palace) – Since the day was sunny, paying a visit to the Imperial Palace was brilliant idea. The palace was burnt, rebuilt, sacked and renovated a number of times and well depicts the 18th century in the Qing Dynasty. After the walk over 250 acres, we decided to refresh ourselves at Starbucks with hot coffee.

  • Tiananmen Square – Lying in the heart of the city, Tiananmen Square is the place for massive parades and performances. We enjoyed the colorful dance and also participated and this doubled the fun. Roger exclaimed, “this is real fun, real China’. And how true it was. Any place’s culture and heritage is reflected with its music and dance.

  • Ming Tombs – The days were passing so fast all blending with our laughter and joyful cries. Ming Tombs denotes the burial place of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. It was the ruling dynasty of China from the year 1368 to 1644. Only two tombs, Dingling Tomb and Changling Tomb are open for the visitors. It was so peaceful sitting in the lush green grass nearby.

  • Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) – This temple, built chiefly for the emperors to worship heaven is nevertheless highlight of Beijing. This is considered as a large sacrificing place uniting Heaven, Earth, Sun and Moon. The unique old Chinese trees draws lot of attention for the tourists as well.

Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
  • Hutong Pedicab Tour (Shichahai Area) – “Wanna have the all new-exciting experience of man-driving Pedicab?” said Jane. Yes!! we all replied. The narrow lanes of the old Beijing hutong areas, took us through the the Drum Tower, courtyard neighborhoods and Prince Gong’s Building. Pipe Tobacco Alley is the most interesting features that will take you to the old Beijing.

  • Lama Temple (Yonghegong) – We had read a lot about this temple in childhood, history. I still remember my history teacher was so strict. The religious building consists of five huge halls and numerous galleries. The reddish-orangey color of the walls was very appealing. The sacred place was initially a palace under a king, who after winning the throne offered it to Tibetan Buddhists. It was a sacred place ever after that. The center of attraction is the biggest Buddha statue carved from a single tree.

Lama Temple
Lama Temple
  • The Great Wall of China – The next destination was The Great Wall of China. It consists of a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth and wood. One whole day was occupied for covering the wall only. With the sport shoes and overcoats, we loved to see the wall covered all over with ice. We had to walk a hell lot. I looked at my brother with a rage and he kept saying “a little more to walk”, throughout the way with an unusual smiling face. I remembered how i use to cling on to his back like a monkey, while i was a kid and also knew how much he loved me. Now our visit to China was a success.

  • Electrifying Nightlife – On 31st December we had planned a luminous party. We took complete rest in the morning and afternoon after the visiting “The Great Wall of China.” For the electrifying nightlife, we decided to pay a visit to JJ Bar. The great tsingtao beer and the latest mandarin pop music definitely added mood to the party animals like us. We had dumplings, manchurian and soup-based noodles.

Traditional Chinese Food
Traditional Chinese Food
  • Chang’an Street – The New Year had started, the sky had never been so illuminating with the firework ever before. We took a stroll along Chang’an Street to Tian’anmen Square, very much recommended for the young people. The clubs, dance and music was so very fascinating. I was a bit over drunk as i was also wishing strangers “Happy New Year”, told my friend Jane. But after all it was New Year’s eve and hangover is good sometimes.

The trip was definitely a memorable one especially with great plans and great pals. We were welcomed at home by Mom and Dad, who after seeing our smiling faces forgot their anger and wished us “Happy New Year”. What a beginning!!

Best time to visit Kruger National Park South Africa

Orpen_gate_Kruger_park-Kruger_National_Park

The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares, SANParks – Kruger National Park is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.

Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Man’s interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries – from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela – is very evident in the Kruger National Park. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park’s natural assets.

When to go: Lets take a look at the  best time to visit Kruger National Park South Africa. Generally considered a year-round destination, the Kruger National Park has two distinct seasons and choosing exactly when to go to the Kruger depends on what you want to experience.

Most visitors to the Kruger National Park come for the wildlife and there’s no question that the dry winter season from May to October is considered the best time to go to Kruger for game viewing as well as walking safaris. Vegetation is low and sparse at this time of year, making animals easier to spot and follow, and permanent water sources provide rewarding game viewing.

Mid-winter – June to August is a very comfortable time of year to visit the Kruger as there are few mosquitoes, little if any rain and temperatures are pleasantly warm during the day and refreshingly cool at night. The bone-dry, end-of-winter months of September and October often experience uncomfortably hot and humid conditions but concentrations of animals around water sources are at their highest – this period is often regarded as the best game-viewing time for a Kruger Safari.

The summer rains arrive from November onwards, peak in January and February and end around April. The Kruger is transformed into a beautiful, thriving green landscape and it makes for superb photography. During the “Green Season”, game viewing is still good – with many young summer-born animals around it’s a predator’s paradise – and it’s the also best time to visit the Kruger for bird watching as well as safari-and beach holiday combinations.

How to Get Around: Whether you wish to fly or drive to Kruger Park, Siyabona will get you there. Fly in on a commercial line or by private charter, or, make your trip by car or 4×4 SUV. Make your trip around the best time to visit Kruger National Park South Africa.

There are three airports serving Kruger Park:

Northern Kruger Park: Phalaborwa Airport

Central Kruger Park: Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport

Southern Kruger Park: Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI)

Where to Stay: You can choose to stay in a number of different accommodation units in a number of different camps. Get your suitable accommodation around the best time to visit Kruger National Park South Africa.

Kruger National Park offers camp-run accommodation. Each camp has its own unique selection of accommodation types.

Camping

Sites for caravans or tents – most have power (except Balule and some at Punda Maria). Sites at lower Sabie have designated boundaries and own water taps.

Hut

Single room units with communal kitchen and communal ablution facilities.

Safari Tent

Permanent canvas tent bedrooms on permanent platforms. Some have communal kitchen and communal ablution facilities, while others are fully equipped and have more luxurious trimmings.

Bungalow

Single bedroom units with a bathroom. Some have communal kitchens while others have own kitchenettes with basic kitchen equipment. Some bungalows have perimeter or river views, while others have been upgraded to luxury status.

Cottage

Single bedroom units with living room, bathroom and kitchen.

Family Cottage

Multiple bedroom units with a living room, bathroom and kitchen.

Guest Cottage

Multiple bedroom units with at least 2 bathrooms of which one is en-suite. Fully equipped kitchen.

Guest House

Multiple bedroom and bathroom units with lounge area and often with bar facility and exclusive view.

Luxury Lodges

These exclusive private lodges, with a unique style and atmosphere form part of a suite of products known as SANParks “Golden Kudus”, where luxury is the order of the day.

Attractions:

1. The Big Five – Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino.

2. The Little Five – Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, Ant Lion and Rhino Beetle.

3. Birding Big Six-Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Lappet- faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Saddle-bill Stork.

4. Five Trees – Baobab, Fever Tree, Knob Thorn, Marula, Mopane.

5. Natural/Cultural Features – Letaba Elephant Museum, Jock of the Bushveld Route, Albasini Ruins, Masorini Ruins, Stevenson Hamilton Memorial Library, Thulamela.

Warnings:

Bats & Insects: Light draws many flying insects and with these insects come their predators. These predators could take on the form of bats and frogs. Please remember to keep your screen doors closed as this will prevent these unwanted creatures from entering your room. Should you forget and a bat enters the room by mistake, please do not panic! Calmly place a towel over the bat and release it outside or call for assistance.

Spiders, Snakes & Scorpions: Yes, these creatures are part of our environment but will most probably not harm you if not threatened. If you must walk around at night please DO NOT DO SO WITHOUT A TORCH. If you do come across a snake please do not try to catch it! Rather report this to the Manager on duty or to reception.

Fun Fact: Monkeys, baboons and tame bushbuck are very cute and can be entertaining for young and old, BUT PLEASE DO NOT FEED THEM. Remember that by feeding them, you are signing their death warrant, as they become aggressive and may have to be destroyed. By feeding these animals you do not only aggravate the situation but you also make these animals lazy and they become dependant on this food supply. The same applies to animals you may encounter along the fences of the camps in KNP, including Hyaena. Do not throw food to them or attempt to touch or tease them.

Before going out in the morning in search of animals please make sure that you have put all foodstuffs securely away. Remember that these monkeys and baboons have learnt to open up fridge doors and cupboards.

Barcelona’s most anticipated festival is here

Christmas is the most awaited festival in many countries. But Spain holds a unique importance for it. The country has a strong religious history where the festival is seen as more of a holy day. Christmas doesn’t end on the 25th of December but goes on till the 6th of January. There starts a line of activities from Christmas Eve (called Nochebuena) to Christmas to New Years Eve (called Nochevieja) and the anticipation of the arrival of the “Three Kings” on January 6th. Accompanied to them, is a lottery event called “El Gordo”.

Like many other cities in Spain, Barcelona dresses and lits up in a way to cherish the most anticipated festival of the year. With decorated trees and Santa in red flurry coats everywhere, there takes place exciting activities which make Christmas a special yet out-of-the box occasion in the city.

Barcelona's most anticipated festival is here
Barcelona’s most anticipated festival is here

Barcelona has a lot to offer during Christmas, from the scent of old streets to the narrow lanes of towns, the friendly atmosphere and the glittery marketplaces. Lets take a walk under the Christmas lights and take a nap under the cool breezin atmosphere of Barcelona.

 Barcelona Cathedral:It isn’t hard to find the City’s main Christmas market in Cathedral Square where the market plays host to a special day dedicated to traditional Catalan. The wonderful streets in the gothic area of Barcelona have almost 300 stalls selling Christmas decorations and gifts.

 Museu nacional d’art de catalunya: Barcelona’s most important museum with fine art collections dating back from the middle ages. The different sections ranging from metalwork to panel painting; stone sculpture to ivory carving present the European style trends in Catalunya.

Placa d’espanya barcelona: This is one of the most talked about monuments of Barcelona City, both historically and artistically. The two Venetian towers are beautifully lit up.

The Christmas ceremony takes place at Placa de catalunya. Here, a 12m Christmas tree is decorated with colorful lights along with other 300 streets and locations in Barcelona. Small L.E.D. Lights are used in order to avoid wasting too much energy. While solar energy gets stored up in daytime. The biggest ice rink in Europe is at Placa De Catalunya making way for 350 skaters. The ticket price which includes skate rental is €9 for 1 hour and €7 for 30 minutes.

Casa Batllo: Considering visiting Casa Batllo on Christmas Day? Pre-book tickets to avoid long queues. Exquisitely for Gaudi and art lovers, buying e-tickets would definitely serve as an advantage during the festive season. Also known as “The House of Bones”, Casa Batllo is famous architect Gaudi’s another unique and stylized work.

The entrance fee is €16.50 per person including an audio guide. Opening hours are from 9.00am until 8.00pm. However, it stays closed on X-mas and New Year’s Eve still you can pay it a visit.

Arc De Triomf: This is magnificently lit during the entire Christmas season. The night view just looks spectacular.

Sagrada Familia: Christmas Market opens up with 120 stalls during Christmas. Santa collects letters from little children and in turn gives them balloons and cookies. La Sagrada Família is only open from 9am to 2pm on X-mas Day.

Barcelona is one of the top shot cities of Spain for Christmas Shopping. Kick start your Christmas shopping with the city’s most amazing fashion Street- “Passeig De Gracia”. Introducing the annual Barcelona shopping festival, the Street is opened till midnight, on sundays and public holidays as well. Dress up warmly and enjoy a special light show in Torre Agbar between 6 – 11 PM.

Career benefits of Learning Languages

After completing my school studies, most of my friends were enjoying the status of being idle for a long span of two months. This two month duration was the so-called ‘haunting time’ before the results were to come out. If the results were to say ‘Passed’, my College Life was to get started in a few months time. I decided to take the positive flight and started researching about the respective career options; all depending upon my areas of interests.

There were about 3-4 career options rooting in my mind. Some were forced while some lied under my arena of favorites. The forced ones gradually belong to your parents/relatives wishes assuming the successful candidates in mind and eventually end up dreaming about their own child doing the same. Funny that!

I ‘finally’ had to choose my road between Hotel Management and Foreign Language. Since I always had my first love for the latter, a final decision was made with respect to Foreign Language.

Earlier people had a perception that ‘it was better sticking to one than to get bothered with two (languages). Further, more absurd views suggested that Bilingual people might have dual personalities. But these myths started taking a new shape altogether. As a result, the need for understanding Foreign Languages started rising day by day. Hence, many renowned universities across the globe are offering such courses today. College students, Job seekers, World travelers, all are well aware of the obvious advantages of learning new languages.

Career benefits of Learning Languages
Career benefits of Learning Languages

To be able to communicate in another language is definitely an add-on to your CV (Curriculum Vitae). Let’s take a tour at the innumerable career benefits of learning a language.

  • ‘International Social Relations’, has recently become a popular subject. People see it as a mass weapon to grab hold of. Studying the subject lets you know about the relation between different nations. This way, you can better relate to the people of the country, understand better the facts and documents.
  • Traveling always remains an enriching experience, isn’t it? You come into contact with people of different social cultures, traditions and languages. And language is an integral part of any business. Say, learning french in France would develop attachment with the country and so its people.

  • Knowledge of an extra language helps one to expand his/her Social Circle as well. Foreign Language adds an extra asset to your personality while you extend your family ties and social network.

  • If you are planning to Study Abroad, it would be easier for you to mingle with students of different nationalities speaking different languages. As in some countries, knowledge of their language is compulsory as well.

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” –Charles The Great. Learning a language might seem like a tough task but it is worth the effort. It opens up your mind to accept new ideas, make you more aware helping you to communicate in a much better way.