Monthly Archives: March 2014

The River of Five Colors: Cano Cristales



The River of Five Colors: Cano Cristales

Cano Cristales is a river flowing in Colombia in the region of Serrania de la Macarena, Meta. The river is popularly known as “the Liquid River” and also “the River of Five Colors”. The nicknames are such because of the strikingly amazing colors of the river. This river is, thus, also called the most beautiful river on this earth. You can see multiple colors in the river like yellow, blue, green, black and red. Red is due to the presence of Macarenia clavigera which is a special kind of plant that grows all over the floor of the river. The explorer named Andres Hurtado was the one who told the world about this beautiful and unique nature of this river in the year 1980. There was some guerrilla activity going on in this region which led to the immediate closing of this tourist site and none of the visitors were allowed to enter the region for many years. One of the reasons of closing the site was the environmental impact due to the tourists. But then, in 2009, when the conditions improved, the site was opened back by the Colombia Tourist Agency. But the foreign visitors coming for a tour of the river and surroundings is very less and the tourists agency are hoping to improve the numbers and are expecting more tourists in the coming seasons.

Geology:

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The rocks in the city of Macarenia are about 1.2 billion years old and there are few of the oldest rocks in this world. Also, the place has a diverse ecosystem with rich flora and fauna which have a great impact on the global biology of the place. The forests of Macarenia have soil lacking nutrients which makes the trees fall more often and a large population of fungi breaks them down. In the riverbed, there are small pits (called Giant’s Kettle) in circular shapes which are due to the pebbles consisting of highly dense minerals. The pits keep growing in size because of the phenomenon where one of these chunks or pebbles falls into a cavity and rotates because of the water flow to carve the cavity further.

Flora and fauna:

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There are a lot of aquatic corals and plants. The most popular one of those is the red colored endemic plant called Macarenia clavigera. There are no fishes in the river and that is because there are sedimentary materials present in the river in high concentrations.

Get there:

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Cano Cristales is not accessible through roadways. This is because it is an isolated and remote locality. It is located in a national park by the name ‘Serrania de la Macarena’. However, the trip to Cano Cristales can be very adventurous. If you are planning to go to Cano Cristales, you will need to go the municipality of the town ‘La Macarena’ in Meta Department. Once you reach there, you have two choices. One choice is to go from Villavicencio which is a DC-3 cargo airplane which is scheduled every day. The second choice is to take a direct flight – Bogota, which is scheduled on Fridays and returns back on Sundays. The exact location where you can witness the amazing transformations of colors of the flora and algae in the river is very critical region. Therefore, after the flight, the way to the river of Cano Cristales is to be covered on either horseback or by foot. There are guided tours available and the tour guides can show you the way. The tourists must know that they are not allowed to perform cooking in the year and no overnight stays are permitted.

When to go?

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There has to be a perfect balance in nature that makes the river goes alive with vibrant colors. Only if you reach the place at the perfect time, you can witness the beauty of this river that seems to be flowing from heaven. The recommended season of visiting this beautiful river is from the end of July to the start of December. This is because you can only see the colors in the river if the conditions are all right. The vibrant colors of the river can only be seen between the dry season and the wet season. During this time, the water level in the river is perfectly right and the brilliant red plant – Macarenia clavigera turns up on the river’s floor. The yellow and green colors appear because of the sand and there are many other shades visible from the top of the river. And for rest of the year, Cano Cristales is like a very usual river with blue water and green moss. But, for the above mentioned months, it turns out be an explosion of beautiful colors like a living rainbow because the water flows faster and deeper. The sun is the main ingredient that makes the plants red in color. This does not happen in the dry seasons because of the lack of sufficient water in the river that could support the life of the aquatic plants.

If you are, by any chance, heading towards Colombia during the seasons, then you must go and visit the river on the first chance you get.

Wonder of the World: Chichen Itza



Wonder of the World: Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is one of the largest archaeological sites that belong to Maya Civilization and is established at the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Its beauty and historic significance made it the most visited tourist destination in Mexico. In the year 1988, UNESCO World Heritage Site declared it as a World Heritage Site. Not only this, this place is also declared as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World recently. Tourists (especially from Cancun) prefer to visit this place during day time only as Cancun is only 100 miles away from Chichen Itza.  The people of Maya Communities are also responsible for the development of the wonderful sites of this place. Thus, tourists will find the essence of Maya Culture in all the Archaeological sites of Chichen Itza.

Path to Chichen Itza:

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If you are going by road, then Chichen Itza is right on the highway that lies between the city of Cancun (the resort city) and Merida (the capital city). The most adventurous route will be that of the road that is parallel to the toll highway road. This route is usually known as the “Libre route”. While travelling through this Libre route you will find many small villages along the road and can even stop there for sometime if you want. Some animals and pedestrians can be found on the roads and platforms. There are many ADO buses available from Cacun that will cost you 202 pesos as one way fare and will take 3 hrs to reach Chichen Itza. Some cheaper buses that will cost 122 pesos for one way trip are also available but will take 4 hrs to reach the destination. For tourists who are from far places, a number of companies offer tours. The names of some of these companies are Tours Aldebaran, Adventure Life and Entertainment Plus. Even the Chichen Services also offers Sustainable Tourism to tourists and support the people living in nearby area through their endeavors and projects.

History Behind Chichen Itza:

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For about thousand years, Chichen Itza has been the central Pilgrimage of ancient Maya. There is a Sacred Cenote, which is a sinkhole of limestone, was dedicated to “Chac”, the ancient Rain God. In the year 987, the king of the Toltec people came to Mexico to build a city of his own. He with his Maya allies discovered the most powerful city of Yucatan- Chichen Itza. The ruler addresses himself as “Kukulcan” which was taken from the name of the Serpent Deity of Mesoamerica. This Feathered Serpent Deity is also referred as “Quetzalcoatl”. Afterwards Chichen Itza became the centre of worship of Kulkulcan along with other gods also. As a result, many new buildings were built there in Toltec and Maya styles.

maya sculpture

The king of Chichen Itza witnessed a revolt against him in the year 1221. The king lost his power and the place was not abandoned but political power was shifted from Chichen Itza to somewhere else. The development of the city was stopped and no new buildings were built there until the 16th century. Despite of these things, Chichen Itza was still the pilgrimage of Maya. In the early 16th century, the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the city and the city lost its glory. The whole city was grown into a jungle and was decayed slowly. Then in the beginning of 1920s, the forests were cleared and some construction projects were started. The ancient structures of Chichen Itza were restored and became the main tourist attraction.

A Trip to Chichen Itza:

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There are many fascinating places in Chichen Itza but the main landmark of Chichen Itza is El Castillo. The El Castillo castle is also popular by the name “the Pyramid of Kulkulcan”. This is a temple cum pyramid devoted to the Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent God. It was also nicknamed as “the Castle”.  The temple is very beautiful to look at. The northern staircase of the temple has the sculptures of this god along the sides of the stairs. Inside this main temple there is an inner temple which is also a bigger one.  The tunnels which led to this inner temple were cleared by the archeologists to allow a view of this inner temple. On the top of this main temple, people can see the Jaguar Throne of the famous King Kulkulcan. This throne is red with jade spots and is carved of stones. This Jaguar Throne was kept in a room which is on the top of the temple. But these rooms are no longer accessible. The paths to these places including the inner temple are blocked because of destruction and erosion of some sacred monuments inside the temple.

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Another place which is blocked now is the “Temple of the Warriors”. The “Great Ballcourt” is also the only court at Chichen Itza offering Mesoamerican ballgame. The Great Ballcourt has 7 courts and these are the by far the most impressive place of Chichen Itza. Some other ancient places are the Temple of the Jaguars, Sweatbaths (a place to relax and purify the thoughts, body and mind of people), Platform of the Skulls, Cenote of Sacrifice, the Red House, House of Deer, etc. All these places are very near to each other and thus can be visited simultaneously. To know the history of the Maya civilization and explore their ancient monuments and temples, Chichen Itza is the place to go.

Abode of Mysticism-The Golden Pagoda,Bylakuppe, Karnataka



Abode of Mysticism-The Golden Pagoda,Bylakuppe, Karnataka

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Its amusing how always the images of higher altitudes cloud our eyes every time we talk about the Tibetan Community, or the high mounted multi-tiered pagodas or monasteries, in India. Though a visit to Tibet is not one of the many options people opt for owing to its inaccessible nature for common tourists, we do have a little Tibet well within our reach. As, justice to its claim of diversity, India has a lot more to surprise us than the social, political or economical tohubohu perpetually prevailing and it is , the existence of a thriving community of more than 10,000 Tibetans at the most unthinkable part of the nation-Karnataka.

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The beautiful hill station and refugee settlement, Bylakuppe, established by Lugsum Samdupling (in 1961) and Dickyi Larsoe (in 1969) ,in the midst of dense forests and coffee and oranges plantations, is less than four hours drive from Bangalore and two hours from Mysore, enroute to Coorg.

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As you draw nearer to Bylakuppe, traces of Tibetan culture come alive: varicoloured Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind, Tibetan script on sign boards alongside Kannada and English present almost everywhere, even hoardings of sacrifices of people from Tibet against the Chinese government hung everywhere, and monks,lamas,and nuns of varied ages in red robes strolling  past in their meditative trance  welcome you further to the iconic Golden Temple: Namdroling Buddhist Vihara(also known as Namdroling Monastery),which is the largest Nyingma monastery outside of Tibet, once established by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche shortly after he came to India from Tibet. It is a religious college, hospital and an abode to a sangha community of more than 5000 monks and nuns of almost all ages and glimpses of young monks engaged in playing games, chatting animatedly in groups or walking down the narrow lanes of the village, is common.

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At the entrance of the monastery ,enthralling its onlookers stands gold-tipped stupas that gleam when hit by the morning and noon sun, thus rightly justifying its title- The Golden Temple. And, once you step inside the realms of the spiritual abode through the two huge red ornate doors embossed with gold carvings and intricate murals based on Tantric Buddhism, every existing vexatious feeling of anxiety, annoyance, stress, the traumatic hustle-bustle of the cities ,the dust and heat, everything seems to fade leaving the soul empty to be filled with the sweet tranquillity hung in the air. Awaiting at the entrance of the prayer hall are the three gold-plated idols of Shakyamuni Buddha which is sixty-feet tall,Padmasambhava(also known as the Second Buddha or Rinpoche) Buddha and Amitayush Buddha which are both about fifty-eight feet tall. Beside them are situated two thrones, one of which adorns a framed photograph of His Holiness, Dalai Lama, who had consecrated this monastery in accordance with the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition.

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One sits gaping at the richly painted murals on the walls and ceilings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology, embarking the victory of the good wrapped in peaceful guise against the wrathful evil. The meditative ambience of the prayer hall with two beautiful gongs duly protected within padlocked chains at the corner and the sweet smelling incense burners seem to transcend the breathing soul to some other world! All its features are characteristic to the Tibetan style of architecture which is followed by all other Tibetan temples: brilliantly painted murals on walls and ceilings, ornate door knockers, and the beautiful band of Buddhist prayer wheels that devotees spin all day long while chanting mantras as according to Tibetan belief, turning prayer wheels disseminates the prayers to the five directions and ‘Wind Horses’ (lungta), which are flags inscribed with prayers, which have the same function. However despite this overt opulence, there lies the sense of tranquillity and humility within the domain of the temple, which is its most important attribute.

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Once the visit to this monastery is fulfilled, The Sera monastery awaits the traveller. Modelled after the original Sera University in Tibet, the monastery is vowed to the purpose of keeping the Tibetan Buddhist culture thriving in Bylakuppe demonstrating the cultural and emotional bond the community shares with their motherland.

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Apart from these two, there lies a honeycomb of other monasteries awaiting the visitors, such as the Nyingma monastery, Sakya monastery, and the Nyingma monastery. However, a visit to Bylakuppe is incomplete without the venture to the island  Nisargadhama on Cauvery which is just 14 kilometres away from Bylakuppe. Known for its splendid picnic spots with a hanging bridge, elephant rides, bamboo groves and deer parks, it is truly a place where the entire family can enjoy thoroughly.

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In Bylakuppe, what charms the traveller alien to its ways of living, are its people. Every alley, every shop, restaurant or rickshaw that you barge into, is always congested with happy faces in red robes! Some storming through the streets wrapped in clouds of youthful gay laughter, while some hobbling along with bent sticks veiled in the aura of deep composure.The Tibetans and Kodagau Hill people living alongside seem to compliment each other, their clothing brightened with an array of colours contrast with the greenery thriving apace to their existence. As the main livelihood of the people of Bylakuppe is farming, they are often found working on the fields. This place is one of such places where you feel at home-relaxed, easy-going, fascinating and beautiful, both its landscape and its people.

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And, as no trip is complete without victual indulgence, Tibetan cuisine along with South Indian delights is abundant here! An interesting medley of flavours of Thukpas (Tibetan flat noodle soup)are available here, occasionally with Dim-sums, but in only few shops. The Tourist Complex or the State Highway are good places for those who wish to tingle their taste buds into tasting a plethoric variety of South Indian and Tibetan delicacies. Even the Namdroling Monastery Restaurant, where the monks usually have their meals is a good place while the Malaya Restaurant in the market place, which serves both South Indian and Tibetan viands and is a decent casual spot where you can relax while eating and chatting along with the amiable monks and locals.

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 Karnataka, known for its unmatched beauty yet again stuns the traveller with the revelation of this place enveloped in unperturbed innocence, serenity and mysticism and the most inviting time here,is either during the monsoon, from September to February(time of ‘Losar’ the Tibetan New Year Festival ) or April to June as the holy festival of  is celebrated during this time, or the Buddha Jayanthi in June and Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6.

If you are the thrilling adventurer kind, then this might not be the best place for you, but if you wish to spend some quite and peaceful time, out of the hustle-bustle of the city life in the meditative lap of nature, you’d better get ready now!!

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The Grand and Majestic City: Dubrovnik, Croatia



The Grand and Majestic City: Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Want to make the most of your upcoming holidays? Then Dubrovnik is the place. It is a unique city and somehow amazing place as your first glimpse of the town especially when descending along the airport road can easily turn out to be a heat stopping, love at first sight experience. Dubrovnik is Croatia’s most popular tourist destination, a walled, sea battered city lying at the foot of a grizzled mountain. It is capital of South Dalmatia, with a population of approx 50000 inhabitants. With a gorgeous summer sun and Mediterranean climate a sought after attraction, some of the holiday charms include a visit to the Konavle Area and its country farms rich in olive groves and wine cellars or head up to mound Srd by cable car and at 400 metres above sea level take some amazing photos. There are loads of events and festivals as well as night clubs for party goers.

 

How to Reach

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Dubrovnik Airport is about 20 kilometers away from Dubrovnik. Upon arrival, bus transport to Dubrovnik is organized for each regular flight. Departures include bus transport from the bus terminal 1.5 hours before the flights of Croatia Airlines and Austrian Airlines. For all other regular flights the bus from the bus terminal leaves 2 hours before the flight. A taxi service is available all day. Several petrol stations are situated by the access road to and in Dubrovnik, some of which work 24 hours.

Dubrovnik has excellent boat connections to other Croatian Harbours and to Bari Harbour in Italy. It also has boat lines to the nearby islands. There is also a newly built Dubrovnik Bus Terminal situated in the vicinity of the Harbour.

 

Accommodation

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Dubrovnik offers various kinds of accommodation, from camps and comfortable rooms in private accommodation to luxurious 5 star hotels. When choosing the type of accommodation, you will also have to choose in which city district you wish to stay. Like in other parts of Croatia, hotels in Dubrovnik are classified in five categories, from one to five stars. The quality of hotel accommodation in Dubrovnik is extremely high. There is a Dubrovnik hostel which is a meeting place for young people from all over the world.

If you are a nature lover then you have the opportunity to camp in close proximity to Dubrovnik, at charming little resorts on the coast, but also in Dubrovnik at Solitudo Campsite in Lapad. Only a 15 minute bus ride from the Old City, this green city district abounds with beaches, hotels and walking paths.

 

Food

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If you would like to see how a nation really lives then you should go the market place – the very stomach of the city – and smell, touch, taste the food which people consume everyday. Even the finest chefs who visit Dubrovnik and prepare international dishes in some of the city restaurants can not resist the taste of courgettes from Zupa Dubrovacka, cabbage from Konavle and aubergines and tomatoes grown in the fertile and unpolluted surroundings of Dubrovnik.

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The delicacies of Dubrovnik are plain and without many spices. Prepared in a simple way, they are seasoned with plenty of olive oil which accentuates the juicy taste of natural foods. You would love the first class smoked ham, cheese kept in oil, octopus’s salad, Zelena menstra, sporchi macaroni, fried sprats and grilled sardines. In compliance of younger visitors, fast food restaurants, pizzerias and small restaurants serve simple Dalmatian food and dishes of other cuisines.

 

Places to see

 City Walls with Forts

 Dubrovnik---Bokar-Fortress

The Dubrovnik city walls are the major attraction for visitors and one of the best preserved complexes in Europe. Taking a walk along the city walls you will see some of the striking forts used for the defence of the Dubrovnik Republic. Of the five existing forts, Minceta, Bokar, and St. John were built within the city walls complex, whereas the two freestanding ones include Lovrjenac in the west and Revelin in the east. The interior of the fort and its terraces are concert venues of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra and Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

Churches

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The Baroque church dedicated to the Dubrovnik patron Sain Blaise was constructed according to the design of Venetian master Merino Gropelli in 1715, on the site of the previous church in the Romanesque styled dedicated to the same saint. The church of St. Blaise is located in the Old City centre close to the Orlando Column.

The small votive Church of St. Saviour  is situated at the beginning of Stradun, between Pile Gate and The Franciscan Monastery. There is a St. Dominic Church which is one of the largest buildings in the Gothic style on the Croatian coast. Valuable Dominican documents, incunabula, manuscripts, the Bible from the 11th Century and a jewellery collection of the Dubrovnik goldsmiths are also exhibited at the church.

The Rector’s Palace

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It is one of the loveliest buildings in the city and the seat of the Rector. The place frontage has a delightful colonnade with decorative stone benches. Inside, a beautiful courtyard is the venue for recitals and concerts. Artworks, costumes and domestic objects of the period are all on display.

 Boninovo cliff

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It is known to the locals as a popular suicide spot. Well, don’t panic. The fence, which guards passing pedestrians against unfortunate demise, is now populated by a myriad array of padlocks. It is a bit ten minute walk from the Pile Gate of the Old City. It is at once both a place of reflection and somber beauty.

The Aquarium (Akvarij)

 Sibenik, 13.06.2013 - Otvoren akvarij koji se prostire na 200 kvadratnih metara sa 20 akvarija

Housed in the magnificent St. John’s Fortress, the Aquarium gives you the chance to get to know the sea life of the Adriatic without having to eat it. Children will love it and animal right activists may be less than impressed.

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If you come to Dubrovnik in summer, you can spend your day on the Dubrovnik beaches swimming in the crystal clear sea. Id you get bored with your hotel beach, take a whole day excursion to the sandy beaches on the Elafite islands and in Slano, and pebble beaches in Brsecine and Srebreno. Your children will certainly ask you: When are we going to Dubrovnik again?

A Heritage Site in Nature’s Lap: Hallstatt, Austria



A Heritage Site in Nature’s Lap: Hallstatt, Austria

The village of Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut Lake District, Austria has an incredibly long and rich historical and cultural trajectory. The absolutely stunning surroundings combined with the cultural heritage of the land make it a worthwhile UNESCO World Heritage Site. The natural abundance, the quaint village tucked between the magnificent Dachstein Mountains, and on the banks of Hallstatter See Lake all makes Hallstatt a famous tourist destination. This is a place popular among the nature lovers, for family holidays, for those looking for adventure sports opportunities as well as those who want to travel to a place replete with peace and beauty.

Hallstatt Station

Hallstatt can be easily reached through trains. Trains from Attnang-Puchheim (on the Salzburg-Vienna line) to Obertraun pass through the Hallstatt Station. From the station, ferry rides take travelers to the village, as the station is located on the banks of Hallstatter See Lake. This ferry ride provides amazing and charming views of the village from across the lake. The town of Hallstatt provides all travelers with a memorable experience with its picture post card quality, the stunning vistas, and the layered cultural legacies.

Quaint village of Hallstatt

The history of this land stretches back to prehistoric times, as salt mining in this area was prevalent even back then. The archaeological artifacts recovered from around here also tie this place up with the Celtics. The Hallstatt Culture dates back to Early Iron Age in Europe. Dating back to 800-450 BCE, this culture was related to the then Celtics and Proto-Celtics. These historical and cultural facts make this picturesque place even more fascinating. Hallstatt is known as the place with the first salt mine worldwide. The salt caves dating back centuries today serve as popular tourist sites. Exploring the Ice Caves in winters provide equally unique and intriguing experiences.

Ice Caves

Many archaeological evidences tying the place with the Celtic people were found here, which includes the ancient cemetery found in the town of Hallstatt. To see the wide and varied cultural past of Hallstatt displayed for your perusal do visit World Cultural Heritage Museum and the Bone House or Beinhaus.

Charming Houses in Hallstatt

The village of Hallstatt can be toured on foot in less than half an hour. Strolling in the lanes lined with charming houses, to have magnificent mountains, lush greenery in the background, picturesque market square all add up to provide you with a fairy tale like setting.

Picturesque Market Square

The houses are built on the banks of the lake, and provide architectural delights in themselves. The Evangelical Church and the Catholic Parish Church located in charming surroundings make up for sites worth visiting. During the months of May to October, no cars are allowed within the town, ma king the whole experience of exploring it, more surreal and removed from the usual hustle and bustle of city life.

View from Photo Point, Hallstatt Village

The stunning sites that Hallstatt offers is bound to leave all with unforgettable impressions. The Photo Point near the Market Square, a popular destination among the travelers, provides breath taking main views of this charming town. With the mountains in the backdrop, and the lake lining it, the spectacular landscapes make a visit to Hallstatt worth it.

Ferry Rides

Lake Hallstatter See makes this picturesque town even more visually pleasing. Besides this the lake also provides opportunities to indulge in many other activities that include boating, ferry rides, swimming, diving to name a few.  The mountain lakes, like Hallstatter See with their pristine waters and amazing surroundings make up for a memorable diving experience. Bathing in the lake, or simply to select a peaceful spot and go fishing are also available for travelers based on their disposition.

Paragliding

Many other avenues for adventure activities are also available in Hallstatt. For the more daring travelers, the terrain of Hallstatt is perfectly suitable to go rock climbing. Or you can simply go hiking opting for among the numerous trails, experience Hallstatt’s natural beauty at a close range. Biking trips in the mountains, skiing and snowboarding in winters, diving, ice diving in winters, paragliding are some other avenues that are made available here and can be explored by the adventure enthusiasts. You can explore the ancient and mesmerizing salt mines or the ice caves like the Koppenbruller Cave, or the Cave of Hirlatzhohle which are among the more popular ones.

Echerntal

Hiking trails around the lake, or in the more abundant and lush alpine trails through the mountains, all will leave you invigorated. You can also go on the Hallstatt Theme Trail. This stroll takes you through the center of Hallstatt, and lakeside resorts. This picturesque trail is also laden with the fascinating stories of Hallstatt’s history. The travelers more interested in nature and stunning Austrian landscapes can hike around the Echerntal Valley. This valley is famous among artists and painters for years, owing to its sheer beauty and sensory impact. This nature trail is replete with added importance, as besides the spectacular views, it also has several ruins and stones dating back to the Ice Age.

Inns in Hallstatt

As tourism is a major factor in Hallstatt, there is no scarcity of accommodation. But if you want to have a slightly different experience of staying in this quaint town, then forgo the usual hotels, and stay in the Bed and Breakfast available easily near Lake Hallstatt or Obertraun, or you can also opt for the beautiful campgrounds around the town.

Hallstatt in Winters

Every place is within a walking distance in the little town of Hallstatt. To stroll through this picture perfect town with enchanting views is an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.

The Canterbury Cathedral: An Oasis for the Soul



The Canterbury Cathedral: An Oasis for the Soul

The most famous Christian structure in Southern England, the Canterbury Cathedral has a distinct place for itself in history. The construction of the cathedral started in the 7th century and ever since then, it has been torn down, rebuilt, refurbished and modified over a course of 1300 years. Needless to say, the Canterbury Cathedral is unique in its own way. The rich historic legacy that penetrates every nook and corner of the building whispers to the visitors.The skyline of Canterbury is majorly dominated by the myriad towers and spires of the Cathedral. The imposing structure is immense, and hence you can spend hours at the cathedral, mesmerized by its grandeur. The stained glass windows, the tombs and crypts, the immense bell towers and the ambient scenic beauty come together to create such a spiritual environment that the visitors are unfailingly affected by it.

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Located in Canterbury, Kent, it is the Cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England. Canterbury is well connected by railways and you can take a train to Canterbury quite easily from any major rail station in England. The docents of the cathedral are very hospitable and love pointing out the different facets of the building and share historic anecdotes with the visitors. Various accommodation options like lodges, inns and hotels are easily available making your stay at Canterbury as comfortable as possible. While at Canterbury you can also consider paying a visit too the Roman Museum located nearby.

Though at present centuries of weathering, pollution and corrosion have taken their toll in the state of the Cathedral, restoration efforts show a beacon of hope. The metal scaffolding has undergone immense damage due to weather change, the stained glass windows have been corroded and the stone work is crumbling at many places.

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The Cathedral was built in 597 AD and ever since has been witnessing a flurry of rebuilding activities. Following the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 AD, the influx of pilgrims coming to visit his shrine increased necessitating the expansion of the Eastern Wing. Following a fie in 1174 AD a large part of the building had been rebuilt in the Gothic style of architecture. In the fourteenth century another period of rebuilding paved the way for the present day structures to stand tall on the grounds.

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The Shrine of Thomas Kent

One defining moment in the history of the cathedral was the murder of Archbishop Thomas Kent by the knights of King Henry II. The King had been in frequent dissension with the priest and had allegedly remarked “who shall rid me of this turbulent priest?” His knights took the statement quite literally and Archbishop Becket became the second of four Archbishops of the Canterbury Cathedral to be martyred in the Cathedral itself. Following his assassination and posthumous veneration, his shrine became a pilgrimage for many ardent followers. Even today many flock to see the ‘scene of the crime’ (or ‘martyrdom’ as suggested in the official map of the Canterbury Cathedral). The murder was carried out in the north west transept.

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The Shrine had been constructed in the Trinity Chapel and placed directly above the original tomb in the crypt. It was studded with gold work and precious stones (many of which were gifts from princes of sovereign states) and was indeed a sight to marvel at. Various votive treasures were also added over the subsequent years, some on the shrine, some in surrounding pillars and tapestry. The influx of pilgrims generated wealth and income for the church and the revenue thus generated had been greatly used to carry out reconstructions of the various facets of the Cathedral. However the Shrine was removed in 1538 when King Henry VIII summoned the dead Saint to appear in front of the Court for charges of Treason against the Crown. Since the Summoned failed to show up, he was pronounced guilty and the treasures of his Shrine were carried away.

The Bells of Canterbury

The Bells of Canterbury Cathedral have a separate history for themselves. Their sweet chiming sounds have undergone sea changes over the years. Bells have been destroyed in earthquakes, re hung and remade. In 1981 ultimately the present day bells were restored and rehung in frames in the Cathedral. today there are a total of twenty one bells in the three towers of the Canterbury Cathedral.

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The oldest of the lot is Bell Harry which is hung in a cage atop the central tower (Bell Harry Tower). It was cast in 1635, and is struck at 8am and 9pm every day to mark the opening and closing of the Canterbury Cathedral and also occasionally for services as a Sanctus bell.

The Library of the Canterbury Cathedral is a treasure trove in itself. It is rich in manuscripts of old theology, British History, Local History, traditions, Medicine, Science and records of the anti Slavery movement. The library holds a collection of over thirty thousand books and pamphlets printed before the twentieth century and around twenty thousand books from the later period. The Collection is included in the online Catalog of the University of Kent.

A trip around the Canterbury Cathedral is definitely well worth the effort and time.

Bordeaux – Of Vine and Vineyards



Bordeaux – Of Vine and Vineyards

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Bordeaux, the Little Paris of France and one of the largest metropolitan cities in Europe is a destination that, let’s put it this way “is made for the oenophiles out there”. The city which is just beautiful in its appearance, architecture, lifestyle and vineyards is a treat for the lover of travel and beauty. The city located in the southern fringes of France on the banks of the Garonne River is a fascinating city of arts, culture, vines and lovely chateaus. It is the capital of Aquitaine region of France as well as the prefecture of Gironde department. A lovely city with a relaxed atmosphere, it is home to some two million people as well as one of the biggest vine industries in the world. Bordeaux vine is world renowned and vine tourism is one of its major attractions especially for the oenophiles.

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Bordeaux has seen civilizations since times of antiquity, the Celtic tribes as well as the Bituriges Vivisci settled here around 300 B.C before the town was annexed y the Roman Empire around 60 B.C. The city flourished in trade and arts around the 3rd century A.D during the Severan Dynasty rein but then plundered into obscurity due to two centuries of vandalizing and raids by the Vandals, the Visigoths and the Franks. The city lost most of its prominence due to regional power struggles among the Duke of Vasconia and the Count of Bordeaux in the Middle Ages with brief stint at resurgence as it served the capital of the Merovingian Kingdom during the 6th century A.D. from the 12th century onwards Bordeaux rose again in prominence in Europe when the Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine married the French speaking soon to be King of England Henry II. Within months of their marriage Henry became the King of England and the cathedral of St. Andre was built at Bordeaux, along with this the vine trade with Britain allowed the city to flourish. It also served as the capital of an independent state of Edward the Black Prince in the fourteenth century.

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Cometh the 18th century and cometh the Golden Age of Bordeaux, many of the cities now famous and wondrous buildings came up in that era. Such was the beauty of this city and its effect on people that the famous French author Victor Hugo said of it “take Versailles add Antwerp and you have Bordeaux”. The city rose in prominence throughout the nineteenth century as a model of modern development, city landscape, cultural center and center of vine industry. In fact Bordeaux was the model upon which the redevelopment of Paris was undertaken by Baron Haussmann on the order of Napoleon III. The city also served as the capital of France during many major wars including the Franco-Prussian War, the First World War and in some periods of the Second World War.

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Bordeaux epitomizes French taste, culture, luxury, countryside and lifestyle. The Mediterranean climate of the city makes it a charming place to be all year round visiting some of its most wonderful vineyards, its architectural marvels, its cultural centers and many other places. The city of Bordeaux and its people are considered to be very tolerant, easy-going and friendly people who have no prejudices as such and allow for free thinking debates. The city has a brilliant international airport in its western area known as the Bordeaux-Merignac Airport which connects one to major European destinations such as Paris, Amsterdam and London. Bordeaux has a flat geography which is one of its gifts as it allows one to travel around the city in bicycles or even skater blades, besides these the cities has well developed modes of public transport such as electronic trams, buses and ferry which can connect you to various parts of the city.

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Bordeaux with its rich cultural and historical heritage has a lot to offer to the visitors. There are many attractions in the city which allow you to explore the past and present of the city. Les Quais – near the banks of Garonne allows one to take calm walks during the evening or enjoy a ferry ride on the river as well as dance the night away in the many nightclubs in the area. La Victorie – in many ways the heart of the city where history meets student life, the area is filled with historic monuments as well student bars and restaurants, the Victory Arch a Roman masterpiece is also located here. Quinconces Square is a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of the Girondins who were guillotined by Robespierre; here you can see the fountain monument and the Girondins Memorial. The city is filled with beautiful gardens for picnics, cafes for hanging out and like any other French city with museums like Musee D’Aquitaine. But being in Bordeaux one thing that one must do is visit the beautiful and ravishing vineyards outside the city area and taste the wonderful vine in the authentic style of a Bordelais. These vineyards give you a glimpse of the beauty of the French Riviera and its countryside. Bordeaux is a city full of enjoyments and occasions for raising a toast of vine.

From Fruits to Smoothies: Foods Of California



From Fruits to Smoothies: Foods Of California

California is the place where people fully rely on eating healthy food grown by organic methods and all the vegetables, fruits come from farmer’s farm. California produces about 80% of all the fruits and vegetables in US. Due to its Mediterranean climate there, it’s very well suited  for farming. The lifestyle of people is such that they are very health-conscious so it’s one of the main added advantage why organic farming has improved over the years. Now let’s look at the famous foods which you can savour whenever you visit California.

First and foremost, a food that Californians love is Sourdough Bread.It is a must for every Californian family to have it on their dinner table. And you have to try it out otherwise you will miss the chance to soothe your taste buds. As this bread taste is crispy crust, chewy and it goes well when you have it with soups. And Non Vegetarians can try with several seafood dishes, it’s a great combo. The History of Sourdough Bread dates back to many ages and it was favourite of many miners at gold rush, as they carried it as starter. The uniqueness of this bread is that it can’t be produced elsewhere and even if you find it cant beat the original taste which is somewhat sour in flavour.

Next what we have on this list is yummy, delicious Dungeness Crab which will make you to have more. Many chefs love to prepare it using white wine and adding some aromatic herbs which will make a perfect dish to have with the wine. And year after year this dish has been evolved with very differently used methods and herbs. And it still continuous to be hot favourite of Californians. Dungeness crab are stirred fried with onion and ginger and  many of them prefer to have in the form of crab cakes.

All must have heard about rolls, you will find them everywhere and named after their  own place name. So here we will check out Californian roll which is the most fusion cuisine of Californian people. Californian roll is a combo of Japanese and Californian cultures. It is usually a sushi roll consisting of crab meat, rice, avocado, sea weed and cucumber.

Next we have is California Burrito which  is the fusion of Californian and Mexican food. we can find  many restaurants serving Mexican dishes now a days. The traditional Burrito consists of rice, beans and carne asada and even French fries also included. Now San Francisco mission burrito has become the national dish and it is prepared by large flour tortillas filled with rice, beans, many options or layers of meat, salsa, cheese, guacamole and nicely wrapped in a foil and can be enjoyed and even customers have the opportunity to choose the ingredients to add to their burritos. Even now a day’s fish taco is also catching the eyes of many food lovers. It is prepared by grilling the fish or by frying it and a dash of lemon juice is added and served with avocado. It is the perfect meal at the beach watching the sunset and tasting this dish.

 

Sun dried tomatoes which is prepared by drying the tomatoes in the sun which is an old Sicilian method which is done to preserve tomatoes. Back then it was done at backyard of farmer’s home but now it has become marketing source as it’s demand in public is more. This is present in each and every dish of Californian recipe. It is used mainly in pizza, pasta, salads and many other recipes and its consumption increased so much that food critics stated that it is a overused in all the Californian cuisine.

Next on the list is for those who have sweet tooth will love this yummy desserts. Firstly we have Caramel and Pecan chocolates. The taste is heavenly amazing and the semi dark chocolate also looks eye catchy. It is prepared by using oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, caramel, milk, semisweet chocolate , milk chocolate and diamond pecans. Then we will move on to California Ambrosia which is prepared by using oranges, sweetened flaked coconut, and grand marnier. The rich orange colour makes the dessert an eye treat and the taste will last longer in your taste buds.

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At last We have is Almond Toffe Bark which is carefully served in  the glass bowl looking enriched with chocolate flavour with lots of nuts into it. It is prepared by using almonds, butter, sugar, water, vanilla, salt and using different types of chocolate.

One of the most interesting fact is that California is the number one producer of ice creams. It has the record that it produces 133 million gallons of ice cream. You can taste varieties of ice creams there, it includes Desert tacos, Birthday cake ice cream cake pop, chocolate mocha, cherry pie ice cream, Flag parfait, California Ice cream sandwiches, the ultimate California sundae, Hot cocoa sundae etc you can try variety of ice creams.

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If you still have not felt enough of it then do visit McConnell’s Ice cream, which is a heritage California ice cream company started about 70 years ago. And please do try Spigot with palmer which is a peanut butter ice cream and is prepared from freshly available butter and organic egg’s. Each bite has richer taste and the quality is at its best. Lastly, feel the aroma of food which can make you to be happy contently.

The Next Big Thing: Sea Orbiter



The Next Big Thing: Sea Orbiter

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Sea Orbiter is a huge research vessel which will be constructed under an ocean in France. Sea Orbiter is actually an ongoing construction project which will get completed soon. This is a special project as it will be the first under ocean station in the entire world. This Sea Orbiter will be a research centre for scientists and will also be used as a mobile research station also. The station which is set to be positioned under oceans will have lots of laboratories, living quarters and workshops for researchers. Even it will consist of a high pressurized deck which will be used to support large submarines and divers also. This project will be completed under the guidance of “Floating Oceanographic Laboratory”. The main heads of this project are Jacques Rougerie (an architect in France), Jean Loup Chretien (an astronaut) and Jacques Piccard (an oceanographer). The whole project will cost the organization an amount of $52.7 million approximately.

How the whole structure will look?

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We can describe the whole structure as a craft which is semi-submersible in the ocean. It will weigh about 1000 tons. It will be 51 meters tall and will be submerged 31 meters below the ocean surface. It will be designed in such a way that it will float vertically and will also drift along the ocean currents. Two quite small propellers will be attached to change the trajectory and even maneuver of the structure if required. Some underwater robots will be utilized to explore the entire seabed under the ocean. The hull of the structure is made using an alloy of magnesium and aluminum, and will look almost 5 times thicker than the hull of a conventional vessel.

As the craft is vertically aligned, the above portion of the craft will be above the ground surface i.e. will be visible to the people on surface. The above part will be open and will have more laboratories and accommodation as to the lower submerged part. The organization wants to make a system to allow the divers to be in the submerged part for extended periods at greater depths which will be good for their research. They will do so by making the cabin pressure equivalent to the external-water pressure.

The motors are solar powered to enable the craft to move undersea without making any noise. Wind turbines are also available to provide extra power. The bottom part is of about 100 feet i.e. 100 feet under the sea level. As per the plan, there are 10 accommodation levels. Out of these six are under sea level and four are above the sea level. These ten accommodation levels constitute about 22 permanent residents.

Benefits to the People:

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This marvelous structure is open also i.e. each person can own a small part of the Sea Orbiter if they want to. Sea Orbiter is definitely a thing for the new generations. It is opening a new era of Ocean journeying. It will be a grand chance for everyone to explore the underwater world, discover the undersea life and enhance your global knowledge especially about the ecosystem. Even explorers are allowed to live inside the Sea Orbiter for at least 24 hours to explore the heart of the ocean themselves. As the project is developed strongly for educational and scientific purposes, this huge vessel will be a communication platform for people as they can share their views about their journey inside the Sea Orbiter through pictures and videos.

A Trip to the Stunning Sea Orbiter:

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Oceans are the hearts of our solar system. A one night under the sea in the Sea Orbiter will be like living in an underworld. The whole trip will be for sure unforgettable to the visitors. Your names can be encored into the Eye of the Sea Orbiter. People are allowed to stay in Sea Orbiter for two regular days on board along with an organ concert. The architecture of the Sea orbital is visionary and thus is build to draw attention of the sea species as well as the people. The see-through hulls will enable you to explore the sub-aquatic museums and other stuff to a large extent.

Future Scope:

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Sea Orbiter will be indeed the 1st space station in the sea around the entire world. Sea Orbiter is definitely a centre which has vast potential for researches in every field, especially in the field of medicine, human sustenance, pharmacology, nutrition, marine molecules and renewable energies. The organization is providing a global social and economic model which is having a provision to provide solutions and innovations in the every field to the world. Sea Orbiter is focusing on the current projects going on and is also looking forward to research deeply about the life forms under water and even the lost civilizations. Sea Orbiter will definitely be the principal source of information regarding the marine life in Future.

This non-stop structure is going deep down to explore the life inside the sea. A chance to join them and see the underworld with our eyes is a big advantage. To unlock the hidden secrets of deep and dark blue sea, people should be a part of the journey of this floating huge aquatic vessel for once at least. One should run and grab this once in a life time opportunity as soon as they get a chance.

Mountain Biking at Cambodia



Mountain Biking at Cambodia

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Cambodia , a small populous nation  south east of China is famous for its rich culture , pre historic works of art and a bloody civil war under a barbarian regime.  Up until recently Cambodia was still considered one of the  darkest places  on earth , courtesy  the Vietnam War which spilled on to its soils too( Vietnam , Cambodia and Laos are close neighbours) , an equally devastating and brutal regime of Khmer Rouge.  It did not see much of the outer world till late , only a few bunch of odd tourists were found visiting there marveling the  old sculpted temples dating back a good few hundred years in history. Its  virtually untouched civilization and bizarre ways of life almost shunned from the growth witnessed in other regions brought the unconventional tourist looking an out of world charm in an equally ‘out of world place’ .  That was until someone figured out the terrain of its inner regions and chanced upon a dirt bike to explore its mountains and valleys.

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Suddenly in the 90’s, the charm of Cambodia broke upon the world , nature enthusiast’s  flocked in droves to experience the latest thrill of ‘ joys on a toy’. The rough rugged and wild terrain of mountains in Cambodia bought new tourists to its shores , few out of sheer curiosity and few to experience its blast from the dirt bikes. Till date  Textiles and Tourism remain the main contributing factors to its small economy. A great country for adventure bikers to explore ,pump adrenaline with cruising through rainforests dotted with waterfalls , crossing rapids with your bicycle in tow , whooshing past rice paddy fields with friendly locals cheering as you make your way through uncharted territories or if your lucky enough an occasional sighting of wild elephants grazing in the grass.  Cambodia offers many adventurous avenues to let your hair down on a cheerful holiday with like minded tourists  without worrying about being stranded during emergencies or breakdowns.

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Since the growth of adventure bicyclists  many reputed travel agencies have set foot  here designing a comprehensive pocket friendly tour package depending on the nature and size of travel. Bike here are available  for cheap , less than 6$ for a day which you can use  for off-roading or trail biking. Many roads still remain in bad conditions but the potholes are generous and best for biker, with flat unpaved pathways adorned with the tracks of previous  cyclists. Don’t want to follow a conventional path? Your tour guides can arrange one for you with a small fee, a troupe heads out into the wild everyday with a dedicated  van following with essential supplies (for a flat tire or a breakdown) and enough  edible ‘ammunition’ to last you for days  while you seek the calling of your heart. Night halts are provided hotels lined on the ways or if  you want a taste of the local hospitality (locals are very hospitable and friendly), a stay with a family in the villages can be arranged.  Ensure you have enough mosquito repellents and a strong stomach to digest the food.  Tours are also organized between cities( Phnom Penh to Angkor  or  even to Saigon in Vietnam) apart from local destinations .  The ride takes one along temples dotting the country side(architectural wow’s) especially  Ta Phrom temple on the Siem reap-Angkor complex which is embraced by the gigantic roots of the  fig trees and enormous creepers or from  Sihanouk Ville to Chai Phat  along endless curls of mountain ways lined with shady trees and sugarcane plantations, untouched by civilizations due to its hard unapproachable routes  and terrains and yet bicycle friendly .  A night halt in a jungle cabin complete with hammocks and bonfire replicate pictures once found only in fantasy destinations ,a long day of pedaling through a wide territory culminates with a warm shower and hot soup before you tuck in and ascend on another  trek tomorrow.

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The terrain in Cambodia is mostly flat , ideal for both novice and expert riders but  can choose harder terrains based on their comfort at cycling.  Just a fifteen  minute ride from capital Phnom Penh brings you to the outskirts with series of shimmering paddy fields  as company whilst you zoom past them in a cloud of dust towards the more majestic rainforests and temples. A typical tour might involve cycling at at a leisurely pace with steady ascends , waging through wet fields  and waterfalls, encountering rocky terrain and possibly a flat tire too(help is behind you ), tugging your bike when the terrain is rough and slushy  and sometimes crossing a river in a bamboo thatched boat alongside postcard scenery , clear blue waters and  lush green mountains. A stay here with the locals is a must if you’re willing to try their authentic dishes and old folklore from their rich history they take pride in

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For a few dollars more you can lay your hands on a dirtbike too. These badass monsters offer double the pace and ruggedness  than a conventional bicycle. Treaded tires means its easier to push through dry sands and slush , encounter stomach churning flips and playing dirty. Few  annual dirtbike races are also held here thanks to the perfect weather and conditions aplenty.

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Cambodia truly is a bikers paradise, no enthusiast  has ever gone back disappointed or without  an upbeat mood .  A biker can spend time snorkeling,  kayaking in rapids , cross country cycling through wild terrains, back flipping into waterfalls after a long day of pedaling  to enjoying conversations and food on a bonfire before retiring to a  well  earned sleep on a lazy hammock  only to wake up and do  the same albeit at a different pace and a different place.