Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Travel Inspiration

Buy This Whiskey, Own A Land In Scotland!

Planning to get a land in Scotland? Why not buy a bottle of whiskey instead! Yes, you read it right. Scotland’s one of the finest single-malt whiskeys, Laphroaig, offers a lease on a square foot of land with the purchase of each bottle. When you buy one, you lawfully become a ‘Friend of Laphroaig’. And, as a ‘Friend’ you will be given a numbered plot (one square foot) of the distillery land, represented by your own little flag!


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Currently owned by Beam Suntory (American subsidiary of Japan’s Suntory Holdings), Laphroaig was founded in Scotland in 1815 by Donald and Alexander Johnson. It is the only Islay Scotch whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales.


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Talking about the rates, a ten year old Laphroaig can cost you around US$50 (approx. ₹3344), an eighteen year old bottle can cost you around double of that (around ₹ 6688) and the 25 year old one will lighten your wallet by approximately US$ 400. (approx. ₹26755). So, once you get your hands on any of these three, just register the bar code placed on the bottle to the Laphroaig website. And that’s it! You will, then, be a proud owner of a piece of land in Islay, Scotland.


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Tell Me More About China’s Panda Park

China’s 600-acre Panda Base is located just about 20 km from the north suburb of Chengdu city. ‘Cute’ and ‘cuddly’ Pandas frolic here, in their lovingly simulated natural habitat. Our correspondents Rakhi Agarwal and Supriya Kantak take you there:

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Here, they swim, climb trees, munch on bamboo and roll in the dirt; just like they would in deep wilderness. Bamboo trees form a welcoming canopy overhead. Birds tweet in the bushes: your chance to spot some endangered species, and some well-loved ones. Think black-necked cranes, thrushes, cuckoos, Kingfisher. Stop by to share a snack with friendly peacocks and pheasants strutting freely about.

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Pandas are peace-loving, happy with their bamboo diet. But if provoked, their powerful jaw muscles and 150-kg weight can give you the shudders.

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Pandas get their name from the Chinese words ‘Pan and Da’ meaning ‘fat and big.’ In anticipation of a big bear hug, Supriya and Rakhi entered the protected area; a maze of winding paths with bamboo shoots forming an arch overhead. There are other trees, of course- mostly tall and big. Willows, Gingkos, Chinars, Yulans…the names aren’t all familiar, but the fresh air cools your face and warms your heart.

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The 60 acre Panda Base also houses a charming lake, teeming with cranes and Mallard ducks and well swans. But more than that it showcases nature’s genius at thinking up shapes and sizes and colour schemes! So while gazing at the Aquarians swimming together in happy harmony how can you miss the beautifully mismatched yellow, red and orange set against the blue water? Once you have had your fill of the lake’s beauty, enjoy a scoop of ice-cream. On your way out, you must stop at the souvenir shop; take a sneak, though you should know that the shops inside offer lower prices.

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This article first appeared in our July-August, 2012 edition.

What’s the most scenic train trip in Canada?

We speak from personal experience here: Take VIA Rail’s Jasper-Prince Rupert train (formerly known as the ‘Skeena’).



The journey was among the most beautiful and memorable we ever took. From the gorgeous views all through to the comfortable seating, it was the stuff a traveller’s fondest dreams are made of.


This train connects with the Toronto-Vancouver train (the Canadian) at Jasper. The route takes you northwestward, first across the Interior Plateau to Prince George, and then along the Skeena River to the pacific coast and Prince Rupert. You get to see the most picturesque bits of northwestern British Columbia, with historical reminders of the lives led by ancient aboriginal people.


From the final 3000 kms into Prince Rupert, the train follows the mystic Skeena River, famed for the thick mist that often shrouds it- “Skeena” means “river of mists”. The train winds its way along the forested canyons of the river, with the water below gushing over rapids before widening to a peaceful flow, mirroring the surrounding environment.

It is worth booking “Touring Class” where the dome car provides a perfect perch from which you can view the breathtaking scenery. This is available June to mid September. Economy class travelers get an excellent view from their own seats, too.

The Jasper-Prince Rupert trains depart three times a week year around from Jasper. The journey time is approximate 20 hrs. The schedule allows for daylight viewing of the spectacular scenery, and a chance to view wildlife in their natural surroundings.

With inputs from


5 Tips For Solo Women Travellers?

Sure. We have Hetal Doshi, a solo travel expert herself, sharing her tips with you. Hetal runs The Wander Girls, a Mumbai-based company that organises women-only travels and events. Over to her:


1) Ensure that family & friends back home have a complete copy of your itinerary with the Hotel addresses and contact numbers, your cell number, and know where you’ll be on any given day and can stay in touch with you. This will give them assurance and will also boost your own confidence if you’re a newbie solo traveller.

2) For backup, keep copies of your passport, tickets, and other documents in all pieces of your luggage and carry the originals with you in your handbag which you keep with you at all times.

3) Walk around in flat sensible shoes and keep the heels for an evening out, if you must. You don’t want to be running around the whole day in platforms, heels or wedges. Bellies, slippers or shoes are all good options to keep your feet comfortable.

4) Travel as light as you possibly can. This will allow you to smoothly manage your luggage at airports even if trollies are missing and carry your luggage into local transport if that’s your chosen mode of transport. Also, in places such as Europe where the Hotels often don’t have porters you can easily lug your backpack/bag up and down the stairs.

5) A cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, a small folding umbrella, a bottle of water, something to eat, are essentials that you should have on you whenever you’re out exploring any place. The I.D. and money goes without saying of course! 

Tying the Knot Among the Clouds? Why Not?!

 This sweet love story began somewhere among the clouds. Serbian actress Vjera Mujović and Stefan Preis, a doctor from Germany, sat next to each other on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Mongolia. . En route, cupid struck.

A year later, the couple sealed their love onboard another Turkish Airlines flight. Delighted co-passengers watched the couple exchange wedding vows. The ceremony starred rose petals, music, a wedding cake—and wedding rings engraved with 05B and 05C, their seat numbers from the flight where it all began!

A plane affair turned very special, indeed.

Help me plan a trip to Ghana

Excellent choice! If you ever happen to be in the western part of Africa, do not pass up on the opportunity to travel for a week in Ghana. Terrains change from thick rainforests to vast savannas within a day’s travel. Elephants forage a few meters away, as you watch in awe. Get to know the slave culture of yester years first hand or watch true ancient African culture surround you.

TS Correspondent Nirav Shah was lucky to explore this land a couple of years ago. He swung on rope bridges high up the rainforest canopy and climbed the highest peak in Ghana. Here are a few tips from him to make the best of your trip.

 Where to go and What to do

Cape_Coast_Castle_GhanaCape Coast: An idyllic ex-colonial coastal town frequented by foreigners, famous for its sea food, slave castles and night life. Relax by white surf beaches and do canopy walking at the Kakum National Park, a rain forest that is a short taxi ride away. Thin rope bridges connect huge trees hundreds of feet above the ground. Visit the imposing Cape Coast and Elmina castles for a lesson on the infamous days of the slave trade. On a lighter note – don’t miss hilarious shop names of shops here.

Image: Anthony Pappone on flickr
Image: Anthony Pappone on flickr

Kumasi: Alternatively known as the ‘Garden City’ for its beautiful flowers and plants, this town is the seat of the Ashanti King – a powerful ruler of a tribe that once lorded over most of West Africa. Kumasi is steeped in cultural heritage, and has attractions such as Fort Kumasi, the Hat Museum and the Kumasi National Cultural Center. It also has a decently maintained zoo that boasts of a diverse variety of birds and animals.

Independence_Square,_Accra,_GhanaAccra: The capital of Ghana, this city is a typical urban centre with traffic snarls, pollution and busy markets. While Accra does not boast of many tourist attractions, it is a good base from which to explore different regions of Ghana. Photography enthusiasts should not miss out on photo walks through the bustling markets here!

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Mole National Park and Larabanga Mosque: Located in the northern part of the country, this is where you can experience a savanna environment. Standing 20 meters away from a herd of male elephants with no vehicle to run back to, or watching antelope jump around as you walk in the park can definitely be your trip highlights. However, sighting the lion is a rarity that requires persistent exploration over more than one day. The Larabanga mosque – the oldest mosque in West Africa built in the 15th century is a few miles from the park, and is a must-visit.

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Wli Waterfalls: The Volta region in East Ghana is inarguably the most beautiful; and the existence of stupendous waterfalls such as the Wli waterfalls, the highest waterfalls in Ghana at 60M bear testimony to this. Bathing under the cascade is refreshing, especially when you have thousands of bats resting on the cliff walls. A challenging 3 hour hike can take you to the upper reaches of the wall where the the waterfall takes on a vivid beauty.

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Mount Afadjato: When in a country, why not climb its highest peak! Especially when it is like Mount Afadjato, Ghana’s highest sole-standing mountain located in the Volta region that takes an hour to summit with the help of a guide. The view from up the mountain is incomparable, and a hike around it is a the perfect way to explore the rain forest.

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Tafi Atome Monkey Village: A visit to this village demonstrates a locale where humans and monkeys cohabit and live together. Definitely a must-visit if you want to overcome your fear of our closest animal brothers.

Know before you go

Transport: Accra is the ideal airport to look for a flight to. While taxis are available for inter and intra-city travel; using state buses and tro-tros (shared taxi vans) are a cheap option for the budget traveler. Ghana has good quality roads and hence travelling long distances usually does not take much time.

Telephone: SIM cards of multiple service providers e.g. MTN are easily available.

Currency: The Ghanian currency is the Cedi, with current rates at 1 Cedi = 30 INR

Visa: Visa applications have to be made to your nearest Ghanian embassy, and require ~1 week for processing.

Some useful websites and blogs:

Ghana Tourism Authority

Ghana Tourism official website

Ghana in Living Colour – Intrepid Travel

Two years in Ghana

Easy Track Ghana

Ghana Guide and Blog


10 Great Reasons to Visit Thailand in 2015

If your still planning a summer getaway, Thailand could be the easiest way out. A calender brimming with festive cheer and all-year long beach availability should be enough to get your bags packed. But we’ll give you more:

Family, shopping, adventure, food or Honeymoon – Thailand’s got a memorable trip planned for all.

  1. Gorgeous Beaches

    With countless little islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, this is a beach paradise! The perfect beach weather keeps Thailand  a popular party destination all year long. Patong Beach, Phuket is the largest and the most popular  with white sands, warm waters, scores of restaurants, and happening night-life. Haad Rin Beach hosts the “Full Moon Party” once every month. Be sure to attend this all night party if you’re here on the right day. For a quiet time, Koh Mun Nork is the place to be. This desert island has just one resort and is a 45 minute ferry ride away from the mainland.

  2. Shopping

    With swanky malls to lively night markets, the best place to shop in Thailand is in its capital city. While the Siam Square is home to some of the biggest malls and chic boutiques, the Chatuchak weekend market houses over 15000 retailers selling everything from latest fashion in clothing to vintage home décor items, books and Thai handicrafts. For some bulk shopping visit Pratunam for a variety of apparels at wholesale rates.

  3. Adventure

    Jet skiing in Pattaya, Wind surfing in Koh Samui, Kitesurfing and wakeboarding in Jomtien. Go deep sea diving and snorkeling on the shores of Koh Larn. Apart from the colourful corals, be on the lookout for sharks as well. Don’t be surprised if you come across a shipwreck or two! At Railey Beach the main attraction is rock climbing on the limestone karsts.

  4. Buddhist Temples 

    There are a number of Temples in Thailand and each one as beautiful as the other. These temples make for some very serene and spiritual locations as well as architectural gems! The most sacred temple of Thailand is located in the Grand Palace which houses the Emerald Buddha. Some of the other popular ones are the temple of the Reclining Buddha, Temple of Dawn, Temple of the Buddha’s Footprint, and Wat Mahathat.

  5. Food

    From the fine dining restaurants in Bangkok to local produce in the remote villages and sea food of the coastal regions, prepare to be amazed by Thai flavours. Dine at the award winning Baan Khanitha & Gallery in Bangkok for a memorable experience and authentic cuisine. In Chiang Mai, Ban Rim Num is a restaurant with a view! Enjoy the view of the scenery as you enjoy your meal. Some of the signature dishes of Thai cuisine are Phat Thai (Thai style fried noodles) and Tom Yam Kung (Spicy shrimp soup). The street food in the busy market streets of Bangkok is as yummy as it is visually appealing. Ratchawat Market, Sriyan Market and Chinatown serve some of the best street food too. Be sure to try out Catfish Salad and Shrimp tom yum noodles at these joints.

  6. Vibrant Culture

    Thailand is a colourful country and the rich culture is reflected in their art forms and festivals. One of the most famous indigenous sports is the brutal Thai boxing called “Muay Thai” and watching at least one fight is a must on the “to-do in Thailand” list. The traditional Thai dance and music performances can be enjoyed while strolling through the walking street market in Chiang Mai. The Thai New Year starts on 13th of April. It is called “Songkran” and celebrated with a water fight as a mark of cleansing, similar to the Indian festival Holi.

  7. History

    The kingdom of Thailand has a rich history of different rulers who have left behind some exquisite heritage sites. The Grand Palace and the ancient temples of Buddha are only a few among them. Ayutthaya used to be the capital city of ancient Thailand and is a favourite among History buffs and art lovers. Some other historical sites like the Khmer temples and ruins of other ancient cities give interesting insights into Thailand’s past and the cultural impact on its people.

  8. Dense forests

    With a large part of Thailand covered in lush green rainforests, how can we not think of Trekking? Places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer a lot of options for jungle treks — be it a day trip or a multi-day trek. Excursions to Khao Yai National Park and Khao Sok National Park will help you spot wild elephants and explore limestone karsts, caves, rivers and jungles and make for a great overnight camping site. Needless to say, the jungles house a variety of wild flowers as well. Get that camera ready!

  9. The Friendly Elephants

    Thailand is home to a large number of elephants. Spot these friendly animals in the jungles or go elephant back riding through wooded areas, crossing rivers, past rice paddies and pineapple plantations to get a glimpse of rural life. The elephant Conservation Centre near Chiang Mai invites volunteers to help these magnificent animals against abuse. Do more than just being a tourist and volunteer at this centre .

  10. The Road less travelled

    Looking for some off-beat options? Head straight to North-Eastern Thailand – Isaan! The least frequented region hardly ever sees any tourists but will give you a perfect insight into the life of rural Thailand. With a lot of festivals taking place here and the ancient Khmer ruins and temples, travelling all the way to Isaan is totally worth it! Isolated from the tourist traffic, life in Isaan has barely changed and is very different from that in cities. It is a beautiful place to lose yourself in natural beauty!

Inputs from TS intern Shruti Mahajan

Point me to the world’s most beautiful flower fields.

“Earth laughs in flowers” said Ralph Waldo Emerson and there couldn’t be a better compliment. This summer you could share in the joy and spend your holidays surrounded by nature’s bounty. And where would you find it? Try these:



Softening the harshness of British winters, “a host of golden daffodils” greet you in the Cotswolds. It is as if their trumpet-shaped flowers are literally announcing the onset of spring! Picture yourself, Wordsworth-like, wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’, until you chance upon these brilliant beauties. So what if the cold winds are piercing your bones; the budding blossoms are sure to warm your heart. Standing amid the golden yellows and clear whites, you can picture yourself in your favourite summer dress and flip flops. So rent a cottage by a daffodil garden and let English countryside bless you with scented serenity.



Quick, blink; or the exploding colours might just blind you! Every year, spring brings to California, their most vibrant possession—Ranunculus. Over 50 acres of land stretches out like a colour palette in The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California. Overlooking the blue Pacific, the field invites you to spend an entire day with picnic baskets, bicycles and cameras. If you are lucky, you might land up on a day when local entertainers are performing here, adding more colour to the proceedings! Spend a day here and dreams of the Ranunculus will stay with you all year, only to pull you back next spring.



The Lavender Fields of Provence are like potions or tonics of serenity. A whiff of the scent, a glimpse of the colour and a stroke of the texture is all you need to relax for a month! Sometimes, the lavender fields are surrounded by wheat fields which harvest at the same time. Ah! The sight of lavenders with golden wheat bands and sunlight in the background is no less than royal. The essence of the flowers yields healing homemade oils, handmade soaps and natural scents created in neighbouring farms and cottages.



A sea of sunshine on the bosom of the earth…that’s east Yunnan for you. It is as if a whimsical painter spilled a giant can of molten gold here. Neither sunshine nor gold, this is a cheery array of canola flowers, clustered together to create a visual spectacle. Set against the green-brown monotony of the hills, this floral farmland will have your camera as hungry as the bees here are for honey. Located just about 15 kilometres from Luoping town, the farmlands are easily accessible by bus. Trek your way to the 100-year-old Lingyin Temple at the top of one of the hills, to get the best view. Carry a bottle of rapeseed cooking oil back home, along with dozens of golden-yellow memories. But go now; the show is over by June.

Where are you headed to first?

I’m booking myself on VIA Rail Canada. Am I on the right track?

Imagine breathing in the wonders of pristine nature as your train winds its way through a vibrant landscape. From the Atlantic to the Pacific and the barren North to the bustling metropolitan hubs of the South — Canada remains unique at every turn.  Rail makes it possible to explore remote regions that today remain difficult to reach by other modes of travel.  img_2142Oh yes! Team TS travelled VIA Rail Canada–the national rail passenger service from Prince Rupert Island to Jasper, and it was a terrific experience all the way through.

Sit back and relax as the friendly crew abroad the VIA Rail network work hard to ensure a safe, comfortable and satisfying journey. VIA Rail operates almost 500 trains weekly across 12,500 kms, connecting 450 communities across Canada. The fleet includes 396 passenger cars and 78 active locomotives that serve 159 railway stations. 3386_photo_high_res_jpg On board, there’s a variety of factors that guarantee a memorable journey. For example, sumptuous food. Relish the best of Canadian delicacies prepared by renowned chefs. Take your pick from nourishing and delectable meals, such as gourmet cuisine made with rare ingredients served along with Canada’s finest wines. On the menu you will find, summer fresh hummus and crackers, fresh veggies and coriander wrap with sesame mayonnaise or the yummy Fourmi bionique gourmet mix. Sip on a glass of Diamond Estate Canadian red wine, as you enjoy the view rushing by the window. VIA Rail Canada   _sht7717 Remember to bring along your favourite old-time games – give the smartphones a rest. The skyline cars have tables and long bench seating perfect for card and board games. Also pack some music or a book, a camera for the spectacular views, comfortable footwear and sunglasses. _sht1968-lower-berth-night-time-1 _sht8927 VIA Rail is the best way to explore Canada’s diverse natural wonders, cultural attractions and proud history. If you are travelling with family, it couldn’t get better than this. For more about VIA Rail; Check out their Evolution blog. VIA Rail on Facebook and Twitter. Images:

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