Sunday, August 24, 2014


These cities offer you the promise of a deeper and more engaging experience beyond a usual holiday; through experiential and shared learning and cultural activities, and you get drawn to an emotional connection between you and the destination.

Though the Middle East is very modern in nature, meals are not served in courses like in the West. There is a splendid array of appetizers to be enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean, famed as ‘Mezze’ which are the inexhaustible and highly flavoured range of irresistible nibbles served as either appetizers or as a meal itself.
Hummus, rice and meat wrapped in vine leaves, mashed beans, hot and cold salads, grilled seafood and meats and pickled vegetables being the most popular. The other accompaniments like the Kebabs and Bread are usually brought together with the Mezze on the table from which you can help yourself with your hands, sort of a community style eating, (of course you can ask for cutlery if you wish to). Later of course you can wash your fingers in orange flower oil warm water. In a few places Islamic laws also make it unimaginable to have alcohol with the meals so the locals enjoy water, light teas, a lemon mint refresher or a yummy sweet and sour drink called ‘Carcade’ made from tangy flowers. Baklava or a fresh bowl of fruits will make for a sweet dessert.

There is more to coffee than a 43-bean blend and I discovered this in Melbourne, which is home to a thriving cafe culture.
Interestingly unlike the Italians who consume their coffee while standing at the bar for people in Melbourne it’s more like enjoying their cuppa, in a social setting, immersed in a crowded environment, preferring to take a seat at a table and savour the taste of their coffee. To get a peek take a guided tour for stories of the coffee revolution, from the large coffee palaces in the 1950s to today’s hip boutique coffee bars, and you will discover why the cafe has become an important part of Melbourne culture and daily life. The tour includes a tram ride to quaint lanes which are supposed to be the coffee junkie’s paradise. As you walk you get an awesome whiff of the rich aroma of coffee roasting and can also smell exotic herbs and spices from the cafes all around. Each cafĂ© is different from the other. The tour comes to an end with a light and delicious cafe-style lunch and a cup of coffee, and yes all included in the price.

A large, modern Asian city yet rich with Chinese culture Taipei is an enchanting and charming place to visit. Your first port of call should be The National museum at Shilin which houses the biggest number of Chinese artefacts in the world that they need to rotate displaying the 655,707 items every 3 months. According to research each set averaging fifteen thousand items means that one needs to come back at least every quarter for almost 12 years to see every item in the museum. Your visit to Taipei would be incomplete without going to the famed 101, a construction wonder (also the tallest building in the world before Dubai came along). The ground floor of the building is a mall and a nirvana for shoppers. The mall is spacious and filled with designer stores.

Trying out dim sum should definitely be on your Hong Kong checklist so does stop by at a ‘yum Cha’ joint for Breakfast. Hong Kong indeed boasts of the best dim sum chefs, who prepare these mouth-watering delicacies ranging from buns to dumplings and rice rolls that contain a variety of ingredients, including pork, chicken, shrimps, prawns and a selection of vegetables served steamed, deep fried, baked or grilled.
Most famous traditional tea house in Hong Kong is Luk Yu which is an authentic vestige of a lost era. Interestingly the restaurant staff will walk around pushing a cart or carrying a tray stung around the neck to offer their goods. The prawn dumplings are a staple to any yum cha meal, and are probably the best dish of the day. The portions are usually served 4 pieces to a plate, so you can share if you wish to.   Besides the dim sum items listed on the checklist menu where one places one’s order, on offer are several fragrant teas to wash it down. The ‘bo la’, (a fermented black tea) compliments the food extremely well. The tea house is raucous most of the time as it is well patronized.

Time is of no importance in Fiji Islands, from the second you arrive in the laid back terminal and breathe the frangipani scented tropical air; you find yourself to be even more romantic. The tropical island of Fiji, is one of the favoured honeymoon destinations for wedding couples, is now fast emerging as a venue of choice for dream weddings too. The island offers diverse options in locales, wedding themes and cultures to match. Most couples for the convenience experience and beautiful locations opt to have their marriage at the hotel resort they are staying. As such, the hotels in the Fiji Islands now offer customized weddings that offer complete packages including travel, accommodation, gourmet spread, decoration, themes and even chapels. Moreover the islands prove to be attractive as it provides a readymade perfect setting for an exclusive and idyllic honeymoon with all the principal ingredients. Among the three hundred plus South pacific Islands, one can capture simple pleasures of a less complicated world along with friendly Fijians everywhere. In one word Fiji is freedom – freedom that comes with lush tropical gardens with far reaching waterways and secluded nooks to ensure the tranquillity of the environment. Whether you choose to relax soaking up the South Pacific sun, drop anchor at one of Fiji’s islands, scuba dive at world famous dive locations, surf the reef breaks or bush walk through the abundantly lush tropical rainforests, there is a myriad of ways to enjoy Fiji.

published in tlf