Five - Global Hotspots This Festive Season
season is around the corner and many Indians have started
packing their bags to greet the New Year somewhere outside
the country. Raadia Mukadam unveils five global hotspots Indians
are flocking to this season
to about 15 years ago: liberalisation is still some years
away, the big money is yet to flow in and a vacation abroad
during the Christmas-New Year season is reserved for about
a handful in India. Not many could afford it, not many considered
the season as vacation time, even the thought crossed the
minds of not many. That was 15 years ago. It is different
today. With liberalisation and the creation of a whole new
class of urban yuppies, there was a shift in work and leisure
values. Work hard, take a break and return to the grind. Now,
there was the money and, taking a cue from the West, the season
was considered prime time to revel. The hoi polloi still partied
at home but for the middle to senior level executive and businessmen,
a short spring abroad for the New Year was within the scope
of possibility. It is a concept which is gaining ground. Most
tour operators will vouch for it. There is only one catch
- Europe and the United States, traditional favourites with
Indians, have few takers due to their extreme winters. The
five global hotspots then that vacationers are thronging to
are Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Dubai and Australia.
There is a love affair that is slowly developing between
Malaysia and the Indian tourist. It is hard to pinpoint why
but one factor is that Malaysia is one of the ports of sail
for Star Cruises which rules the roost in India and cruising
is hitting big time among Indians. In simple words, if an
Indian wants to go on a cruise he cannot embark from India
but has to go to Malaysia or Singapore from where the cruise
starts. The booking, of course, is done from here.
Most cruise passengers also take a land package. This
allows them the best of both worlds enjoying the luxury
of a cruise and also exploring Malaysia before returning to
India, says Lalit Seth, managing director, Raj Travels.
Even discounting this phenomenon, Malaysia has enough magic
to keep the tourist enthralled. As their slogan, 'Malaysia
Truly Asia', promises, the country is a blend of different
cultures and religions, and Indians form the third largest
ethnic group after Malays and Chinese there.
does Malaysia have in store for you? Let's begin with Kuala
Lumpur (KL), the capital, which has two must-sees. The first
naturally are the mammoth Petrona Towers and the impressive
shopping arcade it houses. And then there is the famous 'Chinese
Night Market' for best bargain buys any time of the day or
A hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur gets you to Sunway Lagoon
which has the classy Sunway Lagoon Hotel, theme park and shopping
arcade. Moving on your itinerary, Putra Jaya, situated 25
kilometres away from KL, has retained its old palm plantations
while being converted into a sleek city. When its completed,
the city will be the Intelligent Garden City that epitomises
the governments vision of 21st century Malaysia.
At Genting, the entertainment city, you could try your luck
at the massive casinos or take a break for some live entertainment
with the Ice Show.
options in Malaysia include Langkawi, an adventurous chill
out zone and a duty free island; Taman Negara, which gets
you on to the wild side of nature; Cameron Highlands, a home-away-from-home
in the colonial set-up; Mount Kinabalu; Penang and Melaka.
Singapore periodically reinvents itself and is therefore a
destination which, despite its little size, never gets saturated.
It dons a new avatar every few years. For over a decade Singapore
had been a shoppers' paradise. It then went on to become a
place where gastronomic fantasies are fulfilled. And in its
latest reincarnation it is projecting itself as the culture
country of the East. Since November 2002, Singapore has exploded
into a frenzy of lights, colours and activities with the four-month
long 'Celebration Singapore'. Back-to-back celebrations, events,
parties, parades and more are happening. You can enjoy an
exhaustive range of shopping from branded labels, ethnic crafts
to flea market knick-knacks.
Whether you are culturally inclined or not, take a trip to
the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay, not only
to marvel at its architectural genius but to view the more
than 30 compelling performances that will be playing exclusively
all season. Those with animal inclinations should not miss
the Wild Breakfast Program at the Singapore Zoological
Gardens, in the company of animals.
For those of you who have the energy, draw up an itinerary
flying to Malaysia or Singapore, spending three nights there
before taking off on a cruise. And for those who would not
like to sail, a triangular fare offered by Malaysian Airlines,
Thai Airways or Singapore Airlines is recommended. This fare
permits you to land in Singapore or Malaysia and return from
the other country. You could travel between the two countries
by train, which is only a few hours journey. Air Mauritius
also offers special fares on Mumbai-Mauritius-Singapore-Mumbai
or Mumbai-Mauritius-Kuala Lumpur-Mumbai sectors.
Traffic to Mauritius is at all-time high with Emirates Airline
having launched flights to Mauritius which allows a three-night
stopover in Dubai at the same fare. Cashing in on this SOTC,
the outbound division of Kuoni Travel (India) Pvt Ltd, have
launched a five night in Mauritius with three nights
in Dubai package. The response has been rave. Already
the package has been sold to over 1000 passengers and they
cannot sell anymore due to availability of seats.
densely forested, surrounded by turquoise lagoons and multicoloured
coral reefs, the tropical island paradise of Mauritius is
as good as it gets. For tourists, Mauritius has pristine beaches,
undersea walks, scuba diving, parasailing, helicopter joyrides,
casinos and to top it all, the pleasures of duty free shoping.
Louis, the capital of Mauritius, is a must see
In December, there is an entire range of water-sports activities
available, from paddling, swimming, paddle-boating, water-sking,
parasailing, undersea walking, diving, submarine cruising
and deep sea fishing. On land, facilities include golf courses,
horse-riding, nature parks where one can go hiking or fruit-picking,
a forest reserve for hunting deer and wild boar, botanical
gardens and a bird sanctuary.
Compromise on any other activity if you might but take a full
day tour to Lle-aux-Cerfs, a beautiful resort on a Robinson
Crusoe-like island. Here you can enjoy the picturesque beauty
of fine white beaches and the translucent waters which is
the characteristic of Mauritius.
Shopping is Dubai's USP and if you are a shopaholic there
is no other place to go. With the Dubai Shopping Festival
(DSF) preponed this year to January 15, you can start drawing
up your shopping list. DSF is an unparalleled shopping extravaganza,
offering an array of fun, shopping and fabulous prizes, including
luxury cars and gold. In addition the event also features
fashion shows, street performances and daily fireworks. Sleep
is definitely not part of your agenda.
And yet, there is more to Dubai than shopping. From the timeless
tranquillity of the desert to the lively bustle of the souks
(markets), the visitor gets a kaleidoscope of attractions.
In a single day, the tourist can experience everything from
rugged mountains, awe-inspiring sand dunes, sandy beaches,
lush green parks, dusty villages, luxurious residential districts,
ancient houses with windtowers to ultra-modern shopping malls.
Dubai is both a dynamic international business centre and
a laid-back tourist escape; a city where the sophistication
of the 21st century walks hand in hand with the simplicity
of a bygone era.
The nightlife is equally varied, with many bars, pubs, discos
and nightclubs which remain open until the wee hours. Outside
the hotels, small eating places are to be found in all parts
of the city including Deira, Bur Dubai, Satwa and Jumeirah.
a single day, the tourist in Dubai can experience everything
from rugged mountains, awe-inspiring sand dunes to sandy
is a cosmopolitan society with a culture deeply rooted
in the Islamic traditions of Arabia
The city offers three of the finest golf courses in the world,
horseracing venues, traditional camel racing tracks, archaeological
sights and snorkelling as a recreational option. There are
also plenty of water sports, including jet-skiing, water-skiing,
scuba diving, snorkeling and deep-sea fishing. The icing on
the cake is the desert safari, complete with camels, a barbecue
dinner with a sensuous performance by a belly dancer. The
perfect culmination to a perfect vacation.
As Big As It Gets
While the East marks the hottest outbound destinations, Australia
still reigns supreme with the upper market segment. Australia
has an incredible array of experiences for the tourist, from
the vastness and drama of the outback, to the spectacle of
the Great Barrier Reef and its islands, the cosmopolitanism
of Sydney and arguably some of the best beaches in the world.
Visitors expecting to see an opera in Sydney one night and
then meet Crocodile Dundee the next day, will have to rethink
their plans. Australia is vast, as vast as it comes.
Summer (December to February) can get uncomfortably hot in
Australia. If you're in the southern states during these months
it's great beach weather. Up north, this is the wet season,
when it's very, very humid and when the sea is swarming with
box jellyfish. On the upside, the Top End is beautifully green
and free of tourists at this time. Not a very good time to
visit Queensland or the outback. Christmas is part of the
long summer school vacation and during December and January
you can be forgiven for thinking that half of Australia is
on holiday. This is when accommodation is almost always booked
out. Hang around till January and you can witness the huge
Festival of Sydney, an arts and cultural extravaganza. Sydney,
Australia's premier city and economic powerhouse, is built
on the shores of the stunning Port Jackson. Remember to go
to the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in
You can explore smaller regions by foot, horseback or even
on the back of a camel or clip-clop along the Snowy's excellent
horse riding trails. There are countless surfing beaches,
some of them in the cities and some in beach towns. In conclusion,
Autralia leaves you with that grudging feeling of 'so little
time, so much to do'.
has been strategically reincarnated as the culture country
of the East