Travel News 🌄 Latest Travel and Tourism News from Kerala in India • Posts about Kerala Local Travel News • Tips for Travelling to Kerala • Travel • Onmanorama en Fri, 22 Mar 2019 11:59:38 GMT Kerala Tourism launches 'Nishagandhi Monsoon Ragas' music fest Thiruvananthapuram: 'Monsoon Ragas,' a music festival, being organised by Kerala Tourism, marks the states successful entry into music tourism, Governor P Sathasivam said Saturday. The festival would attract more tourists to the state, the governor said while inaugurating the second edition of the five-day music extravaganza here. He suggested conduct of such festivals in other cities of the state as well. Lauding the pivotal role of tourism, Sathasivam said, Our unity in diversity helped us make a strong comeback from the devastating floods and other natural disasters. Tourism has proved its unique character in adverse situations." Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran, elaborated on the tourism projects being planned across the state. The Travancore Heritage Project is about to kickstart this year. The Vellar Craft Village will be dedicated to the public soon," he said. The Chala Heritage Street project, which costs around Rs 10 crore, will spruce up the city. Raja Kesavadasan statue will be erected at Aryasala junction in the city," the Minister said. The festival promises a rare treat of classical and ethnic musical traditions of the subcontinent, featuring both vocalists and instrumentalists of various streams. The festival commenced on a nature-friendly note with Bamboo Symphony by Unnikrishna Pakkanar followed by a concert by Chitravina N Ravikiran. The venue would reverberate in the following days with performances of leading singers like ghazal maestro Jaswinder Singh. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 05:14:44 GMT Kerala Tourism invites franchise bid for Champions Boat League New Delhi: The Kerala Tourism Department, along with agency consortium led by E factor Entertainment and The Social Street, have invited bids from interested parties to buy nine team franchisees in the inaugural edition of the Champions Boat League (CBL). The CBL has been designed in the popular league format in an endeavour to make Kerala's famed snake boat race a world-class experience for tourists and to create an international sporting atmosphere for participating clubs and their oarsmen. The teams up for franchise ownership at the CBL are: Pallathuruthy Boat Club, Police Boat Club, United Boat Club, NCDC, Village Boat Club, KBC/SFBC, Vembanad Boat Club, Town Boat Club, and Brothers Boat Club. The parties interested in buying a team can share their expression of interest on Last date to send in proposals for the nine teams is July 25. Franchisee team ownerships will be finalised and announced at an auction ceremony in Kochi on July 29. The 2019 edition of the boat league will begin on August 10 with Nehru Trophy Boat Race at Punnamada Lake. The CBL is scheduled to take place at 12 places across the state starting from August 10 until November 1. The other races are Pulinkunnu (August 17), Thazhathangadi (August 24), Piravam (August 31), Marine Drive (September 7), Kottappuram (September 21), Ponnani (September 28), Kainakari (October 5), Karuvatta (October 12), Kayamkulam (October 19), Kallada (October 26) and the President's Trophy (November 1). Thu, 18 Jul 2019 11:39:20 GMT 7000-km ride in 16 days: Thrissur bikers cover countries on Harley Davidson Three friends, each with a Harley Davidson motorbike, travel together for 16 days covering 7308 km- something like 700-800km per day-setting out from Thrissur and touring places including Nepal and Bhutan and getting to know the different cultures and experiences there! Meet Laiju from Viyyur, Subhash Chandran from Ayyanthol and A Ramesh from Cherur who are just back from a bike tour of these neighbouring countries. The beginning On 1st of June the three member gang started from Thrissur with Nellore in Andhra Pradesh as the first destination. They enter Bhutan via Visakhapatanam, Puri, West Bengal and Siliguri. They visit the famous places in Bhutan like Thimpu and Paro and return to Siliguri. Then they enter Nepal via the Bangladesh border and visit Kathmandu and Sonauli before returning to India. Thereafter they head back to Thrissur via Varanasi, Nagpur, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The friends of the threesome arranged a huge 'welcome-back' celebration for them near the tunnel at Kuthiran. Long journeys, short rests The journey was planned in such a way that the trio started off at around 0630 or 0730 each morning. But for the stoppages for breakfast and lunch, the bike ride is usually near-continuous. They take a short break every 150-200km. Between 06:30pm and 08:30pm, they stop the journey for the day. They plan the destinations and the route with reference to the Google maps. E P Jose from Chembukkavu, himself a travel enthusiast, assisted the trio with the routes through live-location. Bhutan, a cut above the rest The motorbike permit costs Rs 100 and Rs 120 per day in Bhutan and Nepal respectively. The climate in these countries was not very different from that in India. In social etiquette and courtesy, Bhutan is at a higher level than Nepal. Bhutan has better traffic sense with most people avoiding unnecessary overtaking and honking and most complying with the zebra lines for crossing. The air pollution is minimal. It is generally colder in Bhutan with the hills and the valleys closely packed together. The traffic situation in Nepal is more or less akin to that in the big cities in India. The Singapore dream The trio gained a lot of confidence touring these places. Before this adventure, they had only toured Bangalore and Goa. Now they are planning for further international tours. Their dream tour now is Singapore, covering more than 8000km. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 01:12:13 GMT Rishikesh's iconic Laxman Jhula bridge closed Dehradun: The Uttarakhand government on Friday said it had closed the iconic Laxman Jhula bridge on river Ganga in Rishikesh over safety concerns. The narrow bridge is used only by pedestrians and two wheelers. However, police officials said the local administration was yet to receive a formal order for its closure. "The pedestrians are still using the bridge," said Laxman Jhula SHO Rajinder Singh Kathait. Sub Divisional Magistrate Neekanth Sham Singh Rana said the decision to close the bridge came after the Public Works Department and the local Muni Ki Reti Municipality gave a joint technical report stating that the 96-year-old bridge had completed its duration. Additional Chief Secretary Om Prakash said in an inspection following the report parts of the bridge were found in poor condition and on the verge of collapse. "The bridge is not able to sustain the load of pedestrians anymore. The Muni Ki Reti Municipality therefore recommended its closure with immediate effect, failing which, it said, a big mishap may take place," he said. Uttarakhand Agriculture Minister and local MLA Subodh Unniyal confirmed: "Yes, a decision for the closure of the bridge was taken by the Muni Ki Reti Municipality." The suspension bridge was constructed in 1923 and was a big attraction for pilgrims visiting the holy city of Rishikesh. It is widely believed that Laxman, the younger brother of Lord Ram, crossed the Ganga where the bridge stands. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 03:26:46 GMT Munnar waits for the bewitching rains to enthral tourists Munnar: The beautiful hill station, with its serene weather and natural beauty, always draw crowds to enjoy its vibrant monsoon. But this year it has received very less rainfall. Normally, Munnar receives 160 cm rainfall from January to July 10 but it has received only 76.25 cm rainfall so far. Mostly Munnar receives 400-450 cm rainfall in an year. Tourists flock to Munnar in monsoon to experience the misty tea gardens, scenic hills, paths covered with fog and a pleasant climate. The beautiful monsoon Munnar is where you can enjoy the most mesmerising looks of the rains. People in Munnar has named it 'number 40 slanting rain' as it rains along with wind in 40 degree slant angle. It is also believed that the rain drops have a width similar to that of the thickness of the 40th thread of yarn used in weaving. The light drizzles and heavy showers never fails to charm in Munnar. It has an ethereal charm in places like Marayur, Kanthalloor, Mattupetty and Vattavada. The visitors would be enchanted by the dark rain clouds that cast a mystical feel over Marayur. Though Vattavada, where fresh organic vegetables are grown, is just 40 kilometres away from Munnar, the weather here is influenced by the climate in Tamil Nadu. So, the monsoon in Vattavada is often limited to a few rain showers. The same could be said about Mattupetty as well. However, the visitors are able to enjoy boating at these places. Hundreds of tourists from the Gulf region, especially Saudi Arabia and Oman, are expected to arrive in Munnar to enjoy the beautiful monsoon. Munnar got its name from the three rivers – 'aars' in Malayalam – that flow in the area. There are Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundali. Munnar is located between the panchayats Pallivasal, Devikulam, Marayur, Mankulam, and Kuttampuzha. The topography of Munnar became what it is now thanks to the tea gardens owned by the Tatas. However, the first tourist bungalows near Munnar town were built by the British. The CSI church and cemetery at Old Munnar were also built by them. At the highest point in this cemetery lies the tomb of a British lady named Eleanor Isabel May. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 00:37:53 GMT For this women-only group, age is no barrier to travel Even a curio can provide a spark to set out on a journey. Nalini Chandran of Thrissur has such an experience to relate. She saw an item from Bali which made her wish to travel to the Indonesian island. Several relatives were prepared to take Nalini to Bali but she decided to chart another path. Nalini, instead of depending on her kith and kin, asked her friends whether they were interested in joining her. Everyone immediately agreed and started packing their bags. It was a sudden and surprising trip for many of them. A travel group of eight members comprising teachers, housewives and bank officials was thus formed. All of them were residents of Thrissur city. Nalini Chandran, Lata Venugopal, Sudha Nair, Nalini Venkatesh, Bhanumati, Krishnaveni, Preetha Venugopal and Jaya Nagarajan were aged between 38 and 84 years. Most of them were above 60. Every member of the group had travelled abroad earlier. Some even had spent their childhood in foreign countries. Children and grandchildren of many of them were residing in other nations. However, the eight women realized a new fact during the trip to Bali. It was that even after many experiences in life, they still had so much to share by way of love, fun and pain. These emotions they had not shared with anybody else till then. That made the trip to Bali special and gave the women a joy that they had never experienced before. “In the hotel room, we joined together to sing songs and swayed to the tunes. On the streets, we held the hands of children and wandered around the shopping places picking up items that we fancied. Our trips lasted till late night,” said a member of the group. “A new world of freedom that was much different from others opened up before us. We were so happy. Independent women, none of our children or relatives have tried to restrict our freedom. Most of us still work. Even then, we realized that there was a freedom that was beyond such advantages we enjoyed,” she added. When the women's group reached a village of fishermen on the seacoast at Bali, they received a warm welcome. “We were moved by the hospitality of the villagers,” commented a member. The group planned two more trips but they did not take place owing to various reasons. Later, the women went on a tour to Pune. It was a sudden programme and Preetha and Jaya Nagarajan could not make it. In Pune, the group spent several hours at the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple. “Kerala should learn a lesson from the street shopping in Pune. Nobody stares at you there. You don’t also have the fear of being harmed. We felt we were safe even among the crowds at night,” said a member. Taxi drivers and hotel staff behaved properly with the group and gave due respect. “As senior women, we received special consideration. But in Kerala, we have never felt so dignified,” she continued. The group has already started preparing for its next journey. The destination is Himachal Pradesh. All the eight members will be part of the tour to experience the eternal beauty of the Himalayas. For the women, these trips have become as enjoyable as the celebrations at home. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 00:48:34 GMT 17-year-old hitchhikes across 29 states in trucks Thrissur: When Vishal Henry set out on a trip to experience India he had a mere Rs 400 and five pairs of clothes that his mother gave him. During his schooldays, Vishal had studied India but the 17-year-old learnt real lessons about the country during his 93-day trip that covered 29 states. A holiday trip Vishal, son of Praveen and Sreedevi of Kunnamkulam, decided to tour the country during the holidays after his plus-one exams. A student of CMS HSS in Thrissur, Henry started his journey on April 2 with the permission of his mother. Sreedevi accompanied Vishal till Kanyakumari. From there, Vishal was all alone and he hitch-hiked till Chennai. The schoolboy spent the nights and carried out his basic needs at temples or petrol pumps. The only unhappy experience Vishal faced was in Odisha, where two men robbed his phone. When he complained to the police, Vishal was told that it was a common occurrence there. The youngster wanted to return home immediately, but his mother gave him courage and asked Vishal to continue the journey. To avoid the delays at the police station, his mother transferred money to buy a new phone to the account of the All-India Malayali Association. The help provided by the association proved timely. The phone was a constant companion for Vishal during the rest of the trip and he enjoyed clicking photos. To enable a smooth ride, the youngster had learnt a smattering of Hindi. However, he faced some hurdles in Meghalaya and Kashmir, where the security was tight. An uncharted trip When he set out on the journey, Vishal had no idea about his destination. In fact, he used to thumb trucks and head to wherever the vehicle went. On one occasion, he had to stand on the roadside waiting for a truck to give him a lift for as many as nine hours. Among all the places he visited, Meghalaya attracted Vishal the most with its natural beauty. The youngster finally concluded his adventure in Goa. From there, he returned to Kerala on a flight, the ticket for which was arranged by the Rotary Club. Now Vishal is keen to go on more trips. Wed, 10 Jul 2019 00:43:49 GMT Eyeing more tourists, Alappuzha to turn responsible Poochakkal: The major tourism hub of Alappuzha is all set to kickstart various Responsible Tourism projects after several of its tourism opportunities were lost due to the floods, frequent hartals and strikes. The projects would be started in July. The initiative would follow the model of the Responsible Tourism that was successfully implemented in Kumarakom, another renowned tourist destination. It is being implemented as a special project as part of the Responsible Tourism Mission of the tourism department. The project would help tourists get a taste of local life, the cultural heritage and cuisine. More number of tourists are in district now due to the various water sport events. The project that aims to cash in on the monsoon tourism would also benefit the houseboat tourism. Avoid middlemen Artists, farmers, handicraft experts, fisherfolks and coir workers, auto-taxi drivers and groups can register for the mission. With the name and other details uploaded on the website, the hotels and resorts can contact them directly, without involving middlemen. Around 1,200 groups have completed the registration formalities. Of these 350 are artists. Projects in first phase The projects planned in the first phase include Kalari and fishing at Cheerapan Chira in Muhamma panchayat, and weaving cloth bags at Kainakary. As part of the golden fibre tour project, tourists can visit the coir industries of Alappuzha. Tourists can also take part in cycle safari from Mararikulam to Kuttanad and relish the Onam sadya in the warm ambience of a local home. They can register for the lunch-at-home project. Kakkathuruthu island to benefit Kakkathuruthu island in the Ezhupunna gramapanchayat attained global recognition after the National Geographic magazine listed it among the must-visit places across the globe. The sunset view from here was what specifically wooed the renowned magazine. The tiny island stretches for 3 km along the Kaithapuzha backwaters, part of the Vemabanad Lake. Around 350 families live in the island that has a width of a mere 1km. The country boat is the only means of transportation to the main land. The narrow lanes on the island, the areas set up for fishing and backwater safari are its main attractions. Being responsible The responsible tourism was kickstarted in Kerala in 2007. After the trial projects at Thekady and Vythiri succeeded, it was implemented at Kumbalangi, Bekal, and Ambalavayal by 2012. The project envisages to better the standards of living of the local people along with the growth in tourism. Vegetables, fish and meat would be collected for houseboats in the district. The organic vegetable farming and fishing sectors in Mararikulam would be linked to the houseboat tourism. Vegetables, fish and meat for a two-bedroom house boat would cost up to Rs 2,000 every day. Resorts and homestays shell out more for these on a daily basis. The project plans to let the local people benefit from these. The details of those groups that have registered would be handed over to tourism sites, hotels and resorts this week. For registration, submit two photos, a copy of Aadhaar card along with the application at the office near to the Punnamada tourism centre. Phone: 8547208523. "The project gives importance to related industries and create job opportunities locally. As part of the mission, people would be trained as community tour leaders and this would eliminate the harassment by middlemen. The small-scale products would also be able to find a market," explained S Harish, who is the mission coordinator of the Responsible Tourism project in Alappuzha. Mon, 08 Jul 2019 00:44:05 GMT Kumarakom makes it to list of 17 Iconic Tourism Sites in India Kottayam: Kumarakom, the popular destination in central Kerala, is all set to be the new face of Indian tourism. The recently presented Union Budget has recommended to include Kumarakom in the list of 17 Iconic Tourism Sites. This would lead to a comprehensive development of the Vemabanad tourism region. The aim is to develop the basic amenities, facilities for tourists, environmental protection and to attract more tourists. A draft development report on Kumarakom was filed during the tenure of the last Narendra Modi government. Infrastructural development Former Minister of State for tourism Alphons Kannanthanam said that world-class facilities, including convention centres, water sport facilities, art gallery, and amusement park would be set up. A road from National Highway in Cherthala to Kumarakom would be build. Kumarakom, Kuttanad and certain regions of Alappuzha district would be part of the project. Vembanad to benefit Kumarakom attained a global tourism status after the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spend his vacation at the region in December 2000. Travel magazine 'Lonely Planet' included Kumarakom among the must-visit places in the world. Around 30 prominent hotels, including the Taj, are functioning in the region. Kumarakom also boasts of more than 1,500 houseboats. Around 4 lakh tourists, including 40,000 foreigners, visit the region in a year. It is one of the main centres of responsible tourism. Kumarakom was declared as a special tourism zone in 2005. A ride along the backwaters in the houseboats, the farmlands of Kuttanad, and the bird sanctuary spread across 14 acres are the main attractions at Kumarakom. Delicacies made of pearl spot and prawns, too, attract visitors to this land. Sun, 07 Jul 2019 06:38:27 GMT Jaipur is the latest addition to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites 'Pink City' Jaipur on Saturday made an official entry in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and leaders across the political spectrum welcomed the signal honour to the historical city. The UNESCO shared the announcement on Twitter. "Just inscribed as @UNESCO #WorldHeritage Site: Jaipur City in Rajasthan, #India. Bravo," the UN body posted on Saturday. The decision was taken at the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which is taking place in Azerbaijan from June 20 to July 10. In addition to Jaipur, the committee examined 36 nominations for inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List during the session. Welcoming the announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "Jaipur is a city associated with culture and valour. Elegant and energetic, Jaipur's hospitality draws people from all over. Glad that this city has been inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO." Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot expressed his happiness at the development, terming it a proud moment for the state and a development which will boost tourism. "It is a matter of great pride that our #PinkCity, #Jaipur has been declared as a #WorldHeritage site by @UNESCO. It will add to the glory of the capital city of #Rajasthan", he said in a tweet. Gehlot opined that the development will boost tourism and the local economy. "#Jaipur listed on the world map as #WorldHeritage site is not only a matter of prestige but it will give a boost to tourism. The local economy will benefit along with improving infrastructure." Jaipur princess Divya Kumari termed it as a proud moment for the entire state. "I am really feeling proud and happy about this development as my ancestors had built this city. Maharaj Jai Singh II, the founder of the city, was one of my ancestors. He invited the best craftsmen and architects from all over the country to ensure they built the most beautiful and well-planned city of the world. They considered astronomy, planetary movement and Vastu Shastra while bringing up the city to ensure that the city gets the best location and the people are happy, prosperous and safe here. "In fact, Jaipur is one of the most planned and beautiful cities of the world, deserved the honour of being the World Heritage City. It will benefit the city to retain and maintain its originality and beauty as once the UNESCO tag a city as a heritage city, it ensures that its originality is retained. Hence now, many unwanted structures and encroachments and buildings coming up in the walled city shall have no place in this premises," Divya Kumari, who is also a MP from the state, said. "Also, this development shall bring in more tourism and more employment will come in thereby boosting the economy. People from all over the world shall come here to look at its amazing architecture. The success of this initiative needs to be given to the entire team who worked on it going beyond borders for its implementation, she added. Jaipur was founded in 1727 CE under Sawai Jai Singh II. The city was proposed to be nominated for its value of being an exemplary development in town planning and architecture that demonstrates an amalgamation and important exchange of ideas in the late medieval period, Unesco had said. "In town planning, it shows an interchange of ancient Hindu, Mughal and contemporary Western ideas that resulted in the form of the city." Jaipur City is also an exceptional example of a late medieval trade town in South Asia and defined new concepts for a thriving trade and commercial hub. In addition, the city is associated with living traditions in the form of crafts that have national and international recognition, it added. Sun, 07 Jul 2019 04:42:28 GMT Ancient Iraqi city of Babylon designated UNESCO World Heritage Site Ruins of Babylon, Iraq: The ancient city of Babylon, first referenced in a clay tablet from the 23rd century B.C., was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after a vote that followed decades of lobbying by Iraq. The vote, at a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan's capital Baku, made the ancient Mesopotamian city on the Euphrates River the sixth world heritage site within the borders of a country known as a cradle of civilization. Iraqi President Barham Salih said the city, now an archaeological ruin, was returned to its "rightful place" in history after years of neglect by previous leaders. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also welcomed the news. "Mesopotamia is truly the pillar of humanity's memory and the cradle of civilization in recorded history," he said. The government said it would allocate funds to maintain and boost conservation efforts. Babylon, about 85 kilometres (55 miles) south of Baghdad, was once the centre of a sprawling empire, renowned for its towers and mudbrick temples. Its hanging gardens were one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar II. Visitors can stroll through the remnants of the brick and clay structures which stretch across 10 square kilometres, and see the famed Lion of Babylon statue, as well as large portions of the original Ishtar Gate. As the sun began to set on the crumbling ruins, activists and residents flocked to the replica Ishtar gate at the site's entrance to celebrate what they called a historic moment. "This is very important, because Babylon will now be a protected site," said Marina al-Khafaji, a local who was hopeful the designation would boost tourism and the local economy. It would allow for further exploration and research, said Makki Mohammad Farhoud, 53, a tour guide at the site for more than 25 years, noting that only 18% of it had been excavated. "Babylon is the blood that runs through my veins, I love it more than I love my children," he said. Decades of neglect Excavations of what was once the largest city in the world, began in the early 19th century by European archaeologists, who removed many artefacts. In the 1970s, under President Saddam Hussein's restoration project, the southern palace's walls and arches were shoddily rebuilt on top of the existing ruins, causing widespread damage. This was exacerbated during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when US and Polish troops stationed nearby built their military base on top of the Babylonian ruins. Many inscriptions written by soldiers can still be seen on the ancient bricks. The site is in dire need of conservation, Farhoud said. Unlike three other World Heritage sites in Iraq, UNESCO did not designate Babylon as one in "in danger" after objections from the Iraqi delegation. Iraq is replete with thousands of archaeological sites, many of which were heavily damaged or pillaged by Islamic State during its barbaric three-year-rule which ended in 2017. The other five World Heritage Sites are the southern marshlands, Hatra, Samarra, Ashur and the citadel in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region. Sat, 06 Jul 2019 06:33:25 GMT Govt plans to turn 17 ‘iconic’ tourist sites into world-class destinations New Delhi: The outlay for tourism and culture ministries saw marginal increase of 1.82 per cent and 7 per cent respectively in the Union Budget 2019-2020. Rs 1,378.53 crore has been allocated for building tourism infrastructure, while Rs 575.50 crore has been allocated for promotion and publicity. For the culture ministry, an allocation of Rs 875.33 crore has been made for central schemes and projects. With a focus on developing infrastructure, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said 17 "iconic sites" will be transformed into world-class destinations to give a boost to the tourism sector. "The government is developing 17 iconic Tourism Sites into world-class tourist destinations and to serve as a model for other tourism sites. The Iconic Tourism Sites would enhance visitor experience which would lead to increased visits of both domestic and international tourists at these destinations," she said in her maiden Budget speech. While the funds for the Tourism Ministry was Rs 2,150 crore in the 2018-2019 Budget, it rose to Rs 2,189.22 crore in 2019-2020. The allocation for the Culture Ministry, which was Rs 2,843.32 crore in 2018-2019, increased to Rs 3,042.35 crore for 2019-2020. The finance minister said the government will take measures to ensure that the rich tribal culture of the country is preserved. "With the objective of preserving rich tribal cultural heritage, a digital repository is developed where documents, folk songs, photos and videos about their evolution, place of origin, lifestyle, architecture, education level, traditional art, folk dances and other anthropological details of the tribes in India are stored. The repository will further be enriched and strengthened," Sitharaman said. "One hundred new clusters will be set up in 2019-20 to enable 50,000 artisans to come into the economic value chain," she said, adding, "The government will launch a mission to integrate traditional artisans and creative persons with the global market to obtain patents for them." Sat, 06 Jul 2019 04:15:28 GMT Statue on Slovenia's Melania tourist trail divides opinion Sevnica (Slovenia): After Melania cake, Melania honey, and even Melania slippers, the Slovenian hometown of the US first lady will now boast a statue of its most famous daughter - albeit one that has faced decidedly mixed reviews. The life-size statue on the outskirts of Sevnica was inaugurated on Friday and is the brainchild of 39-year-old American conceptual artist Brad Downey, who says it's the first monument anywhere dedicated to the wife of US President Donald Trump. The sculpture was carved into a tree using a chainsaw and depicts Melania in a blue dress raising her left hand in a waving gesture, emulating a pose she struck at her husband's 2017 inauguration. Its somewhat naive style has led some critics on social media to brand it a "scarecrow". "I can understand why people might think that this falls short as a description of her physical appearance," Downey said, but insisted that he found the end result "absolutely beautiful". Since Donald Trump took office in 2017, sleepy Sevnica has become a magnet for tourists and journalists searching for insights into the American first lady's past. Entrepreneurial locals have been cashing in on the influx, offering a bewildering array of Melania-branded food and merchandise as well as a tour of the area taking in the key sites of her early years. Downey came up with the statue as part of a project aimed at exploring the first lady's Slovenian roots and commissioned local artisan Ales Zupevc - also known as "Maxi" - to actually carve the sculpture. Downey said he was struck by the fact that Maxi was born in the same year and in the same hospital as Melania herself. He said conversations with Maxi had enabled him to see Melania's ancestral region through local eyes. "You see this river that she would have seen as a child, you see the mountains," he said. However, not everyone has been moved to wax lyrical about the artwork. Nika, a local 24-year-old architecture student, said: "If the monument was meant to be a parody, then the artist has been successful. "We in Sevnica can only laugh and, at the same time, hold our heads in our hands over their (the Trumps') catastrophic reputation," she added. Katarina, a 66-year-old resident of nearby Rozno, said that she thought the monument was a "good idea". "Melania is a Slovenian hero, she made it to the top in the US," she said. Sat, 06 Jul 2019 03:51:19 GMT Now, you can use Indian currency to buy goods at Dubai duty free Kottayam: Indian travellers who visit Dubai have a reason to be happy. Now, you don't need to convert the Indian rupee at any duty free shop in Dubai airport. The facility has been arranged on all three terminals of the airport. Earlier, Indian travellers had to convert the rupee into Dollar, Dirham or Euro before shopping at duty free shops. With the new initiative, Indian currency is the 17th currency which will be accepted at Dubai airport. Out of 90 million passengers who visited Dubai airports last year, 12.2 million were Indians. The decision to accept Indian currency was made considering the increase in the number of passengers from India. Dubai duty free, one of the biggest retail operators in the world, is widely popular among Indians. The shops are open 24 hours in the airport. Wed, 03 Jul 2019 10:15:28 GMT Govt identifies 15 thematic tourists circuits under Swadesh Darshan scheme New Delhi: Fifteen thematic tourist circuits have been identified by the government for development under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said in the Lok Sabha on Monday. Patel also said that two schemes are being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism for the promotion of tourism in Fatehpur Sikri which include domestic promotion and publicity for promotion of domestic tourism and restructured scheme to promote Indian tourism in overseas markets. "Buddhist circuit is one of the fifteen thematic circuits identified for development under the Swadesh Darshan- Integrated Development of Theme-Based Tourism Circuits Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism," he said during Question Hour. All sites in the country related to Buddhism including Kapilvastu are covered under the Buddhist circuit for development, he said. Other themes include Coastal, Heritage, Himalayan, Krishna, North East and more. Patel said projects for development under this scheme are identified in consultation with state governments and union territory administrations and are sanctioned subject to submission of detailed project reports and their adherence to scheme guidelines, availability of funds and submission of utilisation certificates for funds released earlier. Discover all 15 circuits here: Wed, 03 Jul 2019 03:33:26 GMT Coming soon! 'One Telangana Card' for travellers Hyderabad: The Telangana government has invited bids for designing and implementing the 'One Telangana Card,' a smart card ecosystem, which can be used for payment related to travel services in the state, a senior government official said Friday. Principal secretary of IT and Industries Jayesh Ranjan said the common card system was aimed at integrating the payments related to travel services availed of by the residents and visitors in Hyderabad Metro Rail, Telangana State Road Transport Corporation buses, Hyderabad Multi-Modal Transport System, autorickshaws, Ola, Uber cabs and others within the state. This is a state government initiative. We are looking for a consortium to participate in this project. The consortium should have a bank or financial institution as one of the partners. There has to be payment clearing house. There has to be a vendor who will supply machines (to read smart cards)," the official told PTI. Dubbed as 'one nation, one card', Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the indigenously-developed National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) in March to enable people to pay multiple kinds of transport charges, including metro services and toll tax, across the country. "The Centre has also announced NCMC. We have decided that we will go ahead with our own card and as and when some national card is launched we will integrate ours with it," Ranjan further said. The successful bidder is expected to manage the implementation of smart card payments ecosystem, including the required hardware, software, network infrastructure, and related interfaces and should be able to manage the interfaces to Hyderabad Metro Rail, Hyderabad MMTS, TSRTC bus network necessary for the implementation of Common Card Mobility Project in the city, the request for proposal (RFP) document said. A senior official of Telangana State Technological Services which had issued RFP from prospective bidders said pre-bid meeting was held in June first week. The bidding would be closed by July 15. Tue, 02 Jul 2019 01:05:29 GMT Over 7,500 Amarnath pilgrims on way to cave shrine Jammu: Over 7,500 pilgrims are headed to the Himalayan cave shrine to perform the annual Amarnath Yatra as it began on Monday amid tightened security, police said. A second batch of 4,417 pilgrims left Jammu for the cave after a first batch of over 2,000 pilgrims had left for the Kashmir Valley on Sunday. No traffic will be allowed from Srinagar to Jammu till the convoy of yatris cross the Jawahar Tunnel, an officer said. No vehicle carrying Amarnath pilgrims will be allowed to move on the Mughal Road that connects Poonch and Rajouri districts. From the Baltal base camp in north Kashmir's Ganderbal district 7,500 yatris left to perform the Yatra on Monday. The remaining have already travelled with the Chhari Mubarak via the Pahalgam route and reached the shrine. The 45-day long annual Yatra to the Himalayan Cave Shrine situated 3,888 metres above the sea-level will end on August 15 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival. According to the devotees, the shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that symbolises the mythical powers of Lord Shiva. Using the uphill trek of 14-km from Baltal allows the pilgrims 'darshan' inside the cave and return to the base camp the same day. Helicopter services have also been made available for the pilgrims from Baltal. "On Monday, the yatris comprising 3,543 men, 843 women besides 31 children left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in an escorted convoy of 142 vehicles. "Of these, 1,617 pilgrims will reach the Baltal base camp and 2,800 the Pahalgam one. Authorities have decided not to allow any traffic in the opposite direction on the Jammu-Srinagar highway till 3.30 pm in order to ensure smooth passage to the yatris towards the valley," an officer added. Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, who is also the chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) will attend the special puja at the shrine that traditionally begins with the arrival of the 'Chhari Mubarak' (the Holy Mace of Lord Shiva) at Amarnath on the morning of the first day. The SASB manages all affairs of the annual Hindu pilgrimage with the assistance of the state and the central governments. Extraordinary security arrangements have been made to ensure a smooth and violence-free yatra this year. How to reach Nearest railway station is Jammu, at a distance of 178 kms from Amarnath. From Jammu, one can hire cabs to reach either Baltal or Pahalgam. From Baltal, it is a 14 km trek (1 to 2 days) to reach Amarnath. The Pahalgam route is relatively longer and takes around 3-5 days (36-48 km). Mon, 01 Jul 2019 08:47:24 GMT Wait on for migratory birds at Chilika lake Berhampur (Odisha): Migratory birds which usually reach the Chilika Lake and other parts of Odisha ahead of monsoon, are yet to be sighted this year, ornithologists said. The south-west monsoon has already advanced in the state. The pied-crested cuckoo (also called Jacobin Cuckoo), a migratory bird locally known as the 'Pika' generally arrive before the onset of the monsoon in the state, said noted ornithologist Uday Narayan Dev. "I have tracked the arrival of the monsoon with the sight of the pied crested cuckoo for the last some years in the state and also confirmed the arrival of bird was just ahead of the onset of the monsoon", he said. But the particular bird is missing this year, even though the monsoon has already arrived in the state, Dev said. The black and white bird travels thousands of kilometres from Africa to reach the country during May and June, ahead of south-west monsoon and returns to its home usually after January. "We can't say the exact reason of the monsoon bird missing in the state. It needs deep study," said Dev, who has authored several books on bird watching and Chilika birds. Migratory birds such pied-crest cuckoo generally arrive in the state before the Raja festival. The sight of this bird is also considered as the harbinger of the monsoon, ornithologists said. The farmers in the rural areas in the state start preparation for agriculture work when they hear the sound of the pied crested cuckoo, retired forest officer Sudhakar Mohapatra said. Sun, 30 Jun 2019 11:21:26 GMT After 40 years under water, Kancheepuram temple deity to open for devotees Chennai: The temple town of Kancheepuram is gearing up to receive lakhs of devotees hoping for a rare 'darshan' of the Aththi Varadar deity after a long gap of 40 years at Devarajaswami Temple. The 12-foot idol of Aththi Varadar (made out of fig tree), lying in a silver casket under water in the temple tank for the past 40 years, was taken out on Friday early morning. Devotees will be allowed in for 48 days from July 1 to August 17 at the Devarajaswami temple, popularly known as Varadaraja Perumal Temple. The last time Aththi Varadar was raised out of the water was on July 2, 1979 and before that in 1939. Normally a person can have 'darshan' of Aththi Varadar once or twice in his or her lifetime. "We are expecting between 30,000 - 50,000 devotees per day between July 1 and August 17. All the arrangements are in place. Three temporary bus stands have been built outside the town. Parking lots have been created outside the town for cars and other vehicles. Shuttle services will be operated to transport the devotees to the Varadaraja Perumal Temple," P. Ponniah, Collector, Kancheepuram District told IANS. During the first 24 days, Aththi Varadar will bless the devotees in a lying posture and the next 24 days in standing posture. Sat, 29 Jun 2019 03:23:10 GMT UP emerges as new Bollywood destination Uttar Pradesh is emerging as the new Bollywood destination as A-listers have opted to shoot their films in the state and filmmakers are also busy exploring virgin locations. Officials say that the film-friendly policies and favourable conditions have evinced interest in shooting in the state. Megastar Amitabh Bachchan is already shooting in the state capital for his upcoming movie, "Gulabo Sitabo". Popular films like "Raid", "Bareilly ki Barfi", "Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana" and "Toilet Ek Prem Katha" were also shot in Uttar Pradesh. The much-loved films like "Mukti Bhawan", "Masaan", "Ranjhana", "Laga Chunri Mein Daag" and "Bunty Aur Babli" were shot in Varanasi. Karan Johar's much-awaited film "Brahmastra" is also being shot in Varanasi. According to Principal Secretary Information and Tourism, Avanish Awasthi, Uttar Pradesh provides most favourable conditions and resources for film production. Lucknow, in particular, has been a favourite for film makers. The state capital has plenty of 'havelis' and palatial bungalows that add to the charm of storytelling on screen and the new memorials and parks that have come up are also an attraction for film makers. In several cases, the owners of these locations have not charged a penny for shooting. The only 'charge' is a photograph with the stars or an invitation to a meal. Earlier, Akshay Kumar had shot extensively in Lucknow for "Jolly LLB 2". "Lucknow Central", "Ishaqzaade" and "Dawat-e-Ishq" were set in the backdrop of Lucknow. John Abraham's upcoming "Batla House" is another Lucknow based film. The critically acclaimed movie "Mulk" was also shot in the city of Nawabs. The biggest factor which is drawing filmmakers to the state is that in recent years, there has been no major law and order problem related to film and its subject. Earlier, shooting of films like "Gadar- Ek Prem Katha" was temporarily stalled because some Muslim clerics objected to some of the names mentioned in the film. The unit of Deepa Mehta's "Water" had to leave Varanasi without shooting even a single frame because the residents objected to the subject of widow remarriage. Sat, 29 Jun 2019 01:09:16 GMT India holds road shows in US to attract tourists Washington: Aimed at attracting more Americans to explore the various facets of 'Incredible India', road shows are being held in different US cities to showcase the country's various facets ranging from rich cultural and historical heritage to adventure and medical tourism. The four-day road show, organised by the government of India in association with industry stakeholders, received enthusiastic response from the US tour operators, officials said here. “The road show has reflected that there is a lot of interest among Americans to visit India and explore its various facets ranging from rich cultural and historical heritage to adventure and medical tourism,” Meenakshi Sharma, director general (Tourism) said. Sharma is leading a high-powered Indian tourism delegation to Washington DC, Boston, Seattle and San Francisco in the US and Vancouver in Canada. On an average 1.2 million American tourists visit India every year. The Department of Tourism has set the goal of increasing it by 10 per cent every year, which she said is doable. For this, Sharma underscored the need of creating the right kind of partnership. And now that the connectivity has increased due to more direct flights between the two countries, she hoped that more and more American tourists will opt India as their destination. A similar road show was held in New York last year and this year they are having in new cities. In her presentation before the key American stakeholders and tourism partners, Sharma talked about the various experiences that American tourists can have in India, starting from heritage to fair and festivals, cuisine and shopping. The focus, this time, she said, is more on themes rather than on destination. Because, we understand that nowadays people would like to experience and not so much ticking a box, she said. Noting that India is just getting started to explore its tourism potential, she said World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) lists India at third position in Travel and Tourism Power and Performance Report 2018. India accounts for just 1.2 per cent of the world tourism share, and India's earnings in terms of World Tourism Receipts is 2.1 per cent, she said. This reflects that, travellers coming to India are spending more, and India is just getting started, Sharma said. However, the growth of foreign tourist arrival in India (14 per cent in 2017) is much faster than rest of the world (6.8 per cent), she said. In her presentation, she said that India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, with 18 of the 125 airports being international airports and as many as 23 airports have been developed and upgraded in the last five years. As part of its efforts to promote tourism, India has extended e-visa facility to 167 countries. In 2018, 274,000 Americans visited India through e-visa facility. While single entry has been converted to multiple entries, she said existing restriction of allowing foreigner for visiting India for a maximum of three times in a year has been removed. The government has also extended e-visa facility for tourist, business, medical and cruise, she said. Fri, 28 Jun 2019 00:51:46 GMT Domestic travellers can check-in 3 hours prior to departure at Cochin airport Nedumbassery: The domestic passengers at the Cochin International Airport can now avail the check-in facility three hours before the flight's departure. The new arrangement would come into effect from Tuesday. Earlier, the domestic check-in counters started functioning only two hours before the departure time. Security guards used to stop people, who turned up early, from proceeding to the check-in area. The time needed for security checks has increased due to the heightened vigil against terror attacks. This has led to a huge rush at the security hall. There have also been instances of passengers not being able to get to the terminal gates due to this. This has prompted the CIAL authorities to issue instructions to the airline companies to start the counters early. The authorities have urged the domestic passengers to make use of the facility to avoid the last-minute rush. However, there is no change in routine for international passengers. They would be required to reach three hours prior to the departure. Mon, 24 Jun 2019 05:11:19 GMT Kerala Tourism gets on board #TikTokTravel Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Tourism has launched its official account on TikTok and will be part of its in-app travel campaign #TikTokTravel. The world's most popular short-form mobile video app had recently launched the India edition of its in-app travel campaign #YehMeraIndia. The desi campaign invites TikTok users to share their travel moments with the world and thereby, helping India achieve the status of a main global travel destination. Kerala Tourism director P Bala Kiran has shared his team's excitement for being one of the first state tourism boards to come on board TikTok and be part of #TikTokTravel and #YehMeraIndia campaigns. “TikTok will surely help India become an attractive tourist destination. It is highly encouraging to see that several hashtags on Kerala already have lakhs of viewers. This is the most opportune time to begin our TikTok journey. The TikTok's tremondous reach would help showcase the alluring locales of Kerala to the world and inspire foreigners to get a real flavour of this land. We also hope that they would also share their videos on TikTok, further popularising the state,” the IAS officer added. Travel with TikTok TikTok boasts of about four lakh videos under the travel hashtag with 1.7 billion viewers. The videos are interesting and highly imaginative. Some of the videos have the creators interacting with the nature in various ways, while others focus on those indulging in street food and the varied culture of the land. Main tourist places in Kerala with maximum viewers on TikTok Palakkad: 3.55 crore viewers Wayanad: 3.29 crore viewers Munnar: 3.28 crore viewers Kovalam: 29 lakh viewers Thekkady: 13 lakh viewers Main tourist centres in India with maximum viewers Taj Mahal: 7.92 crore viewers Golden Temple: 6.76 crore viewers Himalayas: 2.26 crore viewers Red Fort: 1.36 crore viewers Gate way of India: 90 lakh viewers TikTok India's director of sales and partnerships Sachin Sharma said that his team has high hopes on the India campaign. "The beautiful landscape of India and the colourful culture would gift the tourist an unforgettable experience. All this would be showcased to the world through TikTok videos, inspiring several others to come to this wonderful land," he added. While pointing out that India has more than 20 crores of TikTok users, he said that he was hoping that through the travel campaign, TikTok would turn into the most sought-after platform for sharing their travel experiences. TikTok is gaining widespread popularity among the people, especially travellers, with its ease of taking videos during journeys. TikTok has retained its top position among the free apps on iOS and first spot in Google PlayStore. Mon, 24 Jun 2019 00:42:54 GMT Agartala airport gets international tag, third in northeast Agartala: After Guwahati and Imphal, the Agartala airport is set to become the third international airport in the northeastern region by the end of this year or by early 2020, a minister said here. "The Airport Authority of India (AAI) has informed us that their ongoing works to make Agartala's Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport as an international one would be completed by this year end. But if the works are hampered due to the monsoon season or any other factor, then the declaration would be made by early 2020," Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranajit Singha Roy said. The AAI had undertaken a Rs 438 crore project to upgrade the Agartala airport to international standards by providing world-class facilities. "The budgeted expenditure of Rs 438 crore is expected to be escalated. However, our government constantly asking the AAI to complete the works early and maintain the stipulated standards," the minister added. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb also recently discussed with the Civil Aviation Minister in New Delhi about the upgradation of the Agartala airport, which was built in 1942 by then King Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. According to an official of the Chief Minister's Office, Union Civil Aviation Minister Raj Kumar Singh responded positively when Deb requested him to expedite the works. The airport in Agartala is the second busiest in the northeast after Guwahati's Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. The Imphal airport was declared as an international one two years ago. During the World War II, the Agartala airport was used by the 4th Combat Cargo Group of the US Army Air Forces 10 Air Force, flying Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft over Myanmar. It was used as a supply point from which the unit air-dropped supplies and ammunition to the advancing Allied forces on the ground. Following the completion of the project, Singha Roy said flights between Agartala and Dhaka, as well as other Bangladeshi cities like Chittagong and Sylhet, will be operated. "The state government had already provided 72 acres of land to the AAI for construction of the new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure." According to AAI officials, the Agartala airport handled on an average nine lakh passengers per year. The Union Civil Aviation Ministry last year renamed the Agartala airport, earlier known as Singerbill Airport, after Tripura's last ruler Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. Singha Roy said that the renaming of the airport came in the wake of a long-pending demand of the people of Tripura as well as the state government to rename the airport after the late Monarch as a tribute to the last ruler of the princely dynasty. The airport is located 20 km north of the capital city and sits just along the Bangladesh border. An informed official said that the AAI is now implementing Rs 3,400 crore projects for the up-gradation of various airports in the northeastern region. According to the AAI North East Region Executive Director Sanjeev Jindal, Rs 720 crore project now being implemented for further up-gradation of the Imphal International Airport. Sun, 23 Jun 2019 03:05:35 GMT After 95 years, Munnar-Mattupetty monorail service to be revived Thodupuzha: The tourism department is all set to restart the Munnar - Mattupetty monorail service which was stalled 95 years ago. The authorities plan to run the service in the model of the renowned Himalayan train service in Darjeeling. The old railway lines that pass through Tata's tea estate are 35 kilometres long. Five kilometres of these lines would be renewed in the initial stage. If the project succeeds, the old railway lines would be completely renewed. The tourism authorities said that the Tata Company has promised to allot the land. This is one of the most prestigious projects undertaken by the tourism department. Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the renewed railways would draw more number of tourists to the hill station. The officials of the railway development corporation and the tourism department would reach Munnar to discuss about the feasibility of the project. The budget of the project and the following procedures would be decided after this group has tabled their report. Himalayan railway in UNESCO's world heritage list The Darjeeling-Himalayan train service runs between New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Darjeeling. The narrow gauge steam engine service is popularly known as the toy train for its colourful and compact bogies. There are 17 stops for the train in the 87 kilometres long route. It is often hailed as one of most amazing train journeys in the world. The UNESCO has declared this toy train service as a world heritage site. It was the British who built the Munnar-Mattupetty monorail lines. It was the easiest way to transport tea and other products to Mattupetty. From 1908 onwards, the train began to run on steam. However, the railway lines were destroyed in the massive landslides and floods in 1924. The old railway station now functions as the head quarters of the Kannan Devan Tea Plantation Company. The wheel of the train that used to run then is exhibited in the museum here. Sat, 22 Jun 2019 05:21:39 GMT Now visitors can read posts in Kannada on Kerala Tourism's FB page Bengaluru: The official Facebook page of Kerala Tourism will now update posts in the Kannada language as well. Vivid descriptions about the major tourism centres in Kerala are posted in Kannada to draw more tourists from Karnataka. The first post in Kannada was uploaded on the first week of May about the incredible natural beauty of the Athirapilly waterfalls. This post garnered hundreds of likes and was widely shared as well. Following this, posts in Kannada appeared about the various tourist destinations in Varkala, Munnar and Idukki, on the Facebook page. These posts gained more than 50,000 'likes' and 'shares' within just a few days. Initially, information was posted only in Malayalam and English. Though Kerala was ravaged by the floods last year, the number of tourists from Karnataka didn’t dwindle. Around 10, 02,016 tourists from Karnataka had visited the various tourism centres in the state last year. Karnataka holds the second position in the number of domestic tourists visiting Kerala. Meanwhile, the first position is held by another neighbouring state Tamil Nadu with 13, 78,992 tourists visiting last year. The tourism department conducts B to B meets every year in Bengaluru for the promotion of Kerala tourism. Tue, 18 Jun 2019 08:24:11 GMT Vistara, GoAir launch summer offer New Delhi: Local carriers Vistara and GoAir on Monday launched sale of tickets offering an attractive deal for flyers. Many popular destinations such as Goa, Kolkata and Bengaluru are covered under the pre-monsoon sale. While full-service Vistara has offered all-inclusive fare for as low as Rs 1,299, the best deal by GoAir is for Rs 1,769 for a one-way trip to Lucknow from Delhi. “A minimum of 15 days advance purchase is required for Economy and Premium Economy Class bookings, and a minimum of three days advance purchase required for Business Class,” Vistara said in a statement. GoAir's offer is targeted at long weekends and booking would open Monday night. The six-day sale of tickets is for travel between July 1 and September 30, 2019. The offer by the two carriers has come close on the heels of largest domestic carrier IndiGo launching similar deals. The low-cost carrier had last week put one million seats up for grabs with fares starting at Rs 999 across its domestic network. Tue, 18 Jun 2019 04:23:19 GMT Railways drops plan to offer massage services to passengers on trains New Delhi: The Railways on Saturday dropped its plan to offer massage services to passengers on board, days after a BJP MP wrote to Union minister Piyush Goyal raising objections against the proposal. In his letter to the railway minister, newly-elected Indore MP Shankar Lalwani had said it was against the Indian culture to provide massage services to passengers in the presence of fellow women travellers. The Railways said in a statement Saturday that the proposal on providing head, neck and foot massages to passengers of 39 trains originating from Indore has been withdrawn. "Proposal for introduction of head and/or foot massage services to be provided in the trains originating from Indore was initiated by Ratlam Division of Western Railways. As soon as this proposal came to the notice of higher authorities of Western Railways, it has been decided to withdraw this proposal of starting massage services in trains," the statement said. As per the plan, the massage facility was to be made available in 39 trains originating from Indore, including Dehradun-Indore Express (14317), New Delhi-Indore Intercity Express (12416) and Indore-Amritsar Express (19325). The services had been proposed to be offered into three categories gold, diamond and platinum. In the gold category, any non-sticky or olive oil was to be used and it would have cost Rs 100 to a passenger, while the diamond service was to be provided for Rs 200 and any essential oil was to be used. The platinum package was to be with cream for Rs 300. All the services would have been provided for 15-20 minutes. "Western Railway respects the suggestions given by its consumers and their appropriate suggestions are also implemented from time to time. Western Railways also appreciates the positive suggestions of public representatives, railway consumers, and public at large," the statement of the ministry said, indicating that it had received negative feedback from passengers as well. Mon, 17 Jun 2019 03:46:41 GMT This 21-year-old is the youngest person to visit all 196 countries Lexie Alford from California is all of 21. She has already visited all countries within this young age. If someone were to tell you this, you may turn sceptical or may feel astonished. But this is a truth. This girl has already visited 196 countries by the age of 21. It is the age at which typical Indian girls start looking for a job after studies. And Lexie is not done yet. She is looking for fresh journeys and newer destinations. When she completed her tour of North Korea on 31st May, she was covering the 196th sovereign nation. Lexie’s parents are running a travel agency in California. Since a very young age, Lexie was fond of traveling. She let her mind free on travel. Starting with short journeys with her parents, she has now matured into long, solo journeys. This transformation was the key to her present achievement. When she completed her solo journey to North Korea, she not only clocked the 196th country, she also broke the Guinness record set by James Asquith. James Asquith, a British national had to relinquish the record for the most widely travelled person in favour of Lexie. Lexie is not excited about her record-breaking fete. She is traveling because it is her passion. She is not doing it for breaking records. She is on her way to the long paths of unending journeys. Sat, 15 Jun 2019 11:45:37 GMT Kochi airport to bar daytime flights from Nov to Mar Nedumbassery: The Cochin International Airport would suspend daytime operations from November 2019 to March 2020 due to the carpeting of the runway. The runway would be shut from November 6, 2019 to March 28, 2020 during the day hours. There would not be any flight services from 10 am till 6 pm during the five-month period. Currently, 31 domestic services and seven international flights start journey from Kochi during this time. These many flights also land in Kochi during the daytime. However, the runway would function as usual from 6pm till the next day morning. The airline companies have been asked to change the flight timings accordingly. Maintenance works and recarpeting would be held in the day hours and by evening the runway would be made available again. The carpeting work involves re-surfacing and strengthening of the runway. As per the civil aviation director general's instructions, runway carpeting has to be carried out every 10 years. The first runway carpeting of the airport that started functioning in 1999 was held in 2009. For the second time around, more advanced works would be carried out. Fri, 14 Jun 2019 07:23:18 GMT Why Manduadih railway station will blow you over Varanasi: The newly revamped Manduadih railway station in Varanasi is of world-class level – it can easily be mistaken for a swank corporate office or an airport terminal. Varanasi, also called Banaras and Kashi, is the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Not only does the station building make the railway station class apart, but also all its various passenger-friendly amenities. The new facilities provided by Indian Railways include LED lights, an air-conditioned waiting lounge, and stainless steel benches. According to the reports, the Modi government plans to rename the revamped Manduadih station as 'Banaras' railway station. Fountains have been set up to beautify the areas which now have a spacious waiting area, circulating area, booking/reservation office, cafeteria, food court, waiting rooms, and more. The station also has AC and non-AC retiring rooms as well as dormitories. The platforms are clean and shining with LED lights and LCD display panels. The premises are well lit with LED lights and cleanliness is top-notch. This station will not only provide world-class international standard facility to the passengers but, it will also offer employment to Varanasi citizens. The Manduadih railway station has eight platforms and currently, eight trains originate from the station. Former Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha had written to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath requesting him to consider the renaming of the Manduadih Railway Station. "The name Manduadih does not sound good and does not connect with the legacy of Banaras," a top railway official of Varanasi division was quoted as saying. The matter, however, did not reach its logical conclusion since elections were announced shortly after the new railway station was completed. Soon after Narendra Modi-led NDA came to power, the historic city of Varanasi has come alive as massive development projects have been sanctioned to re-develop Kashi or Varanasi, one of the most important religious and revered sites for Hindus. Sun, 16 Jun 2019 04:47:29 GMT Gadkari suggests cruise ship project to develop Kerala's tourism sector Thiruvananthapuram: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has suggested a cruise ship project to develop the tourism sector in Kerala. A ship service from Thiruvananthapuram to Kanyakumari-Rameswaram till Chennai - if the state government or any private party comes forward to kick-start the project, the Centre would extend all help, the minister added. Gadkari, who along with his family members are spending their vacation at the Taj Green Cove Resort at Kovalam in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district, shared his vision for the state in an exclusive chat to Manorama. "Cruise tourism is growing rapidly across the globe. The coastline from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai is extremely beautiful. Kovalam and Vizhinjam are one of the most sought-after tourist centres, while Kanyakumari and Rameswaram are world-renowned pilgrim places. I am sure that a cruise ship that connects all these strategic points would be a huge success," Gadkari pointed out. Huge scope for Vizhinjam The Union minister said the Vizhinjam international port would lead to a significant leap in Kerala's development graph. “The facilities being developed in Vizhinjam would be on par with those available in Dubai, Colombo and Singapore international ports. By the time Vizhinjam port is completed, Thiruvananthapuram too should be equipped with the basic facilities,” he said. “The expansion of the national highway bypass into four lanes is in its final stage. Roads for containers and rail facilities should be completed at a fast pace. For this purpose, I have given permission for Thiruvananthapuram ring road project,” he said, adding that the state government should ensure that procedures such as land acquisition are completed at the earliest. Thiruvananthapuram gets a like from Gadkari The senior BJP leader said that he really liked the cuisine and climate of Kerala. “Thiruvananthapuram is a beautiful city. That's why I chose Kovalam to spend some leisure time with my family. I had earlier stayed at the Leela Hotel at Kovalam when I came to Kerala for official purposes. I really like the people, the greenery, the climate and the food of this land. I went for shopping in the city with my grandchildren. There is still lot of potential for Thiruvananthapuram to grow in the tourism sector,” he said. Thu, 13 Jun 2019 03:29:18 GMT Indians prefer to save and travel as a family A good number of Indian travellers are now travelling to newer destinations along with their friends or family members, states a survey conducted by Travel Tours, part of FCM Travel Solutions. Interestingly, 72.9 per cent of Indian travellers still prefer to save up before planning a holiday with only a small pool of respondents willing to opt for travel loans, the survey found. According to a statement issued by FCM Travel here on Monday, the survey was conducted individually with more than 1,200 respondents in the age group of 25-65 across eight major Indian cities who had booked international travel. As per the survey, more and more travellers are coming out of their comfort zones and travelling to newer destinations to experience their hobbies or unexplored interests. Interestingly, the preference is still to explore new destinations as a group, be it with family members or friends (preferred choice of 45.6 per cent of travellers polled), and not as a solo traveller. This group is further broken down with 71 per cent opting to travel with their immediate family while the remaining choosing to include extended family and friends. Beach holidays, the hottest trend last summer, has taken a backseat (34.8 per cent) while adventure holidays came in second with a preference rating of 45 per cent after family holidays. The survey also found that South East Asia continued to be a preferred destination with the Indian outbound traveller with 35.3 per cent having visited over the last six months and 30.7 per cent intending to visit over the next six months. This was followed by Middle East and South Asia. Thu, 13 Jun 2019 00:51:13 GMT Munnar charms monsoon tourists with rain, discounts Thodupuzha: Munnar is now witnessing a steady stream of travellers who are keen to enjoy the sights of monsoon. The 'Kashmir of South' displays picturesque rain scenes particularly in the afternoons. Visitors from Gulf countries and north India have already started arriving in the area. With schools yet to reopen after the summer vacation in the north, travellers from there are having a great time in Munnar. Guests can be seen playing badminton in the rain at their resorts. The monsoon tourist season that has started now will last up to Onam. Apart from Munnar, travellers flock nearby Thekkady, Ramakkalmedu, Panchalimedu, and Vagamon during this period. Most hotels in Munnar also offer discounts on room tariff during the rainy season. According to statistics, Munnar, with around 3 lakh tourists, received the most number of visitors from May to August last year. Meanwhile, the figures for the other tourist spots in the area were, Vagamon with 1.50 lakh, Ramakkalmedu with 50,000 and Panchalimedu 40,000. According to Idukki Tourism Promotion Council, several programmes have been lined up to celebrate monsoon tourism in the district. They include a rain walk and music band at Vagamon later this month. In July, the Tourism Department is planning more events at Ramakkalmedu. Even though Munnar is receiving many visitors during rains, the biggest rush to the area is seen during the November-February months, when severe cold grips the region. The most popular spots in Munnar are Rajamala and Mattuppetty. Other spots like Marayur, Kanthalloor, Vattavada, and Chinnakkanal also draw travellers with their scenic beauty. Tue, 11 Jun 2019 03:56:54 GMT Air India to resume additional Delhi-Colombo flight from July 15 New Delhi: Air India will resume its additional flight on Delhi-Colombo route from July 15, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Sunday. The national carrier had stopped operating the additional flight after the April 21 Easter Sunday terror attack in Sri Lanka that targeted churches and luxury hotels, killing total 258 people and injuring 500 others. In Colombo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pledged India's solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka as he visited the St Anthony's church, one of the sites of the horrific attacks, and paid tributes to the victims of the deadly terror strikes. Out of 258 people killed, 11 were Indians. Puri said in a tweet on Sunday, "Honouring the spirit of friendship & mutual cooperation between India & Sri Lanka, & to express solidarity with the people of the island nation, I am delighted to announce the resumption of additional Air India flight between New Delhi and Colombo from 15th July 2019." "Having spent several years as a young diplomat posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka and its wonderful people will always have a cherished place in my life. Also not many people know that I was in Colombo when Prime Minister ShriNarendra Modi summoned me to Delhi to join his team in September 2017," he added. Tue, 11 Jun 2019 00:56:28 GMT These Army officers hit roads to relive their passion New Delhi: Army life is known for its adventure, but there are a few officers, serving and retired, who are experiencing this by going beyond the framework of their duties. Some do so through the wanderlust and passion for biking as they go on uncharted routes of picturesque places and feel the nature closely. The bike provides them freedom and mobility and an unmatched sense of thrill. For these soldiers, there cannot be any better mode of transport than the motorcycle, which gives them the experience of travelling on all sorts of roads and even taking to places that are difficult to reach. Sharing his adventures with motorcycles, Lt Gen (retired) Satish Dua told IANS, "I had a love for bikes when I was very young. By the time I got commissioned, I already had two bikes, a Yezdi and a Bullet." After retirement this hero of 2016 surgical strike took up biking as a hobby and now he travels with his two sons enjoying every moment of his ride. "I now own a Ducati and a Bullet and I take good care of them," said the former Army officer. "I never gave up my love for bikes. when I was Major General in North East, instead of going in the staff car I used to go in a Bullet to the office. Even when I was the corps commander in Srinagar I used to ride a bike to my office. "When I got posted in the Army Headquarters, I came to office only a couple of times on bike as in Delhi it is not conducive to ride a motorcycle," the officer added. His love for the bike was such that the day he retired, instead of going in a car, he chose to ride his bike to his home and his gesture was appreciated by many. "When I took over as Corps Commander in Srinagar in 2015, I went from Pathankot to Manali to Rohtang Pass on motorbike with my sons. Monsoon had set in and many people advised me not to take this ride. But I went on till Ladakh, where we went to the eastern-most part up to the Pangong Tso lake. I drove 50 km along the lake. It was simply mesmerising – you riding along the beautiful lake and enjoying your drive along with the nature." This was not the end for the Army soldier as again in the summer of 2016, he went to Gurez across Razdan Pass on motorbike and that too in uniform. "Similarly when I was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) in the northeast, I had gone to Aizwal from Silchar on motorcycle and again in uniform," Lt Gen Dua said. "I just like it... Open air, the nature and the best part is you can stop anywhere without getting down and take out your phone and click a picture." Talking about his Himachal trip, the bike lover soldier said he took a ride from Chandigarh along Sutlej and Beas rivers and then to Manali to Rohtang tunnel and came back to Kullu. This was not the first time that he was riding through these routes, as he had done so in 1984. Besides love for bike riding, Lt Gen Dua also has a passion for horse riding and loves riding his favourite horse called 'Govindaa.' Another senior army officer Lt Gen DR Soni is also a diehard bike lover, who does not leave a chance to be on his bike. He said of all the bike brands, his all time favourite will be the 'Bullet' and he proudly calls himself a "Bullet Man." "I love bikes very much. When I was in the Armoured Corps, I used to go on the bikes. In one unit with 20-25 officers there were at least five to seven Royal Enfields and three or four Jawas, one or two Yezdis and an equal number of scooters," Lt Gen Soni said. He also recalled how during one of his younger days he decided to take a bike ride from Gwalior to Delhi. "I started off for the road trip on my bike without listening to anyone. For me life was full of fun with adventure and there was never a thought that I will die," the officer said. The officer, who also plays guitar during his free time and also a dog lover said that he travelled a lot on bike from Ahmednagar to Mumbai and Pune. "I enjoyed all my rides," he added. His passion for bike was such that he would ride 100 km only to watch a movie at a different place and he mostly loved riding bike during rains. This biker has an advice for all passionate bike riders "never drink and drive and always wear a helmet." "Passion does not mean one loses mental balance and if you do so then then you will kill yourself. We never drove without a helmet. We never drank and drove. "If you are fond of biking you have to be careful. You don't have to take chances. Because thrill is not in taking chances but just sitting on your bike and driving out into the wilderness," the officer said. The officer currently bought a new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 CC twin engine bike and waiting eagerly to take off to a beautiful destination with his wife who is a doctor and served in the Indian Army as a Colonel. Colonel Deepankar Zinta, who is also a serving officer at the Headquarters Army Training Command, Simla said he had the love for riding bike at a very young age. "My first motorcycle was Yamaha RX 100. This I got after lots of pushing and blackmailing as my parents were not in favour of me riding a bike," Col Zinta said. The officer said that when he was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1997, a friend of his got injured during a routine exercise. His Bullet motorcycle was at the service centre. "He asked me to collect the bike from the service centre. I used to call Bullet a 'Milkman Bike'. I drove his 'Milkman bike' from Pune to Ahmednagar and fell in love with the machine and bought a Bullet for myself. "I travelled a lot with my bike and have had both group and solo rides. Bike has always been my passion and they will remain forever," the officer added. Sun, 09 Jun 2019 16:00:23 GMT This 53-year-old Kerala woman is a veteran mountaineer She is a 53-year-old senior bank manager. She is also married and has two children. But none of these factors prove to be an obstacle for Mini Augustine to pursue her passion - climb the Himalayas. Adventure has always beckoned Mini and trekking is one of her greatest passions. Whether it is climbing snow-clad mountains or skiing down the hills, Mini is the not the one to be left behind. Born in Kottayam and brought up in Coimbatore, Mini has undertaken several adventurous trips. But a trip to the Himalayas on a bullet in 2017 tops the list. “A trip to the Himalayas? Ain’t it easy?” she quipped. Mini has already trekked to the Chanderkhani Pass in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. She had gone for the 10-day trekking with a group of 65 people. The oldest in the lot, Mini not only climbed the difficult paths with ease but also wooed the youngsters by the sheer passion she exuberated. She went through Kasol, Graham, Padri and Mingthach and Nagaro camps to reach the Sur Pass, and said the journey was beyond her expectations. However, on the fourth day of her trip to Graham, she slipped and fell down. If not for some tree branches in between, she would have fallen into the river. That was the only scary part of the journey, Mini recounted. However, Mini was soon back on her feet and continued the journey with zest, proving to be an inspiration to the others in her team. Climbing the Sur Pass, which is 13,800 feet above the sea level, was nothing short of a dream-come-true experience for her. As the altitude increases, breathing problems and other illnesses begin to kick in along with the biting cold. However, for Mini these are just minor irritants that add more beauty to the adventure. In 2017, at the age of 51, Mini had travelled through Manali to Sarchu and Khardung La Pass to reach Leh on her bullet. Her adventures made her a talking point back home. The woman in her 50s still has the physical strength and the zest to climb the Himalayas again. She keeps herself fit through regular jogging and also does Suryanamaskar daily. Mini works at the Chalappuram Canara Bank regional office near Kozhikode town. Mini's husband Biju Paul is the assistant commissioner at central excise and customs department. Her son Kevin is a musician, while daughter Anne Elizabeth is pursuing MA in applied economics at Christ College in Bengaluru. Fri, 07 Jun 2019 03:43:34 GMT Rs 500-crore zoo to come up in Mumbai Mumbai: An ultra-modern zoo of global standards, spread across 100 acres, is expected to come up in the lush green environs in the suburban Goregaon in Maharashtra, officials said here on Wednesday. The zoo, estimated to cost around Rs 500 crore, will have a host of unseen wild animals, trails and jungle safaris, nature education centre, a separate breeding centre and other facilities as per guidelines of Central Zoo Authority (CZA). The proposed site in Aarey Milk Colony was inspected by a CZA team in 2014 which recently gave its clearance, and the new zoo will be virtually adjacent to two tourism centres like the famed Film City and nearby the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). On Wednesday, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Maharashtra Forest Department and BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) whereby 100 acres of the 190-acre government land will be given for setting up the zoo. The BMC will soon appoint a project management consultant and prepare a comprehensive master plan for the zoo which will be executed from its own resources. However, the net revenues shall be shared by the civic body and the forest department. The MoU documents were signed and exchanged in the presence of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar. As per the MoU, the forest department will provide technical expertise in procuring various animals for the zoo and other facilities which would showcase the rich biodiversity of the state and the country. Since there is no space to expand the existing 50-acre zoo in Byculla, an alternative site inside the Aarey Milk Colony was explored. Fri, 07 Jun 2019 00:49:52 GMT Indians rank 2nd among 'Bleisure' travellers globally: Study Mumbai: With 72 per cent Indian travellers extending their business trips in 2018, they have been ranked second among 'Bleisure' travellers across 31 countries, according to a study. Indians are second to Thai travellers (80 per cent) and more than the global average (51 per cent), a study has revealed. Bleisure is a new trend which means business and leisure trips. conducted the study during October-November 2018 among 53,492 respondents, including 1,852 Indians, across 31 markets who had travelled at least once in past 12 months. Nearly, two-thirds of Indian travellers (65 per cent) said they have been on a domestic business trip, which is the highest globally ahead of Indonesians (62 per cent) and Chinese (62 per cent). In addition, more than half (58 per cent) of Indian travellers reported that they had been on an international business trip in 2018, it said. This is more than double the international standard (25 per cent) and the highest among the 31 markets surveyed, it added. When travelling for work, Indians also claimed to enjoy business trips the most of all the nationalities surveyed. About 83 per cent Indian business travellers rates business travelling 7 out of 10 or higher, compared to 58 per cent global travellers giving similar ratings. Similarly, Indian business travellers are most positive of all the nationalities surveyed when asked whether they are able to enjoy destinations on their business trips. About 76 per cent Indian travellers said they often get to enjoy their travel destination compared to 56 per cent of global travellers. Lastly, the study also revealed that in some of the scenarios Indian business travellers are most anxious about travelling. Almost 55 per cent of them have expressed their concerns over the prospect of accommodations having received fake reviews and misleading photos, followed by 53 per cent feeling apprehensive about their personal details being stolen or no confirmation of their bookings. "We are witnessing a steady rise in 'Bleisure' trips being taken by Indian business travellers for both domestic and international destinations. We're likely to see this trend continue to grow in the near future, with the potential to help boost the Indian travel industry to scale further heights," Country Manager, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives Ritu Mehrotra said. Wed, 05 Jun 2019 01:07:36 GMT Elephanta art festival begins in Mumbai Mumbai: The "Elephanta Festival" of art and culture, promoted by the Maharashtra government, kicked off at the iconic Gateway of India here Saturday. Inaugurating the festival, state Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal said the government was committed to boost tourism in all possible ways. "In the coming days, the Elephanta (island) will get more facilities for tourists. Soon the tourists can travel by a rope way," Rawal announced. The gala event is organised on the Elephanta Island. Elephanta Caves located on the island are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are a collection of cave temples predominantly dedicated to Lord Shiv. "The two-day 'Swarang' festival will have a lot of music, singing, dancing..Various art forms and crafts, painting will be on display," the minister said. The festival is organised by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to promote tourism in Mumbai. A senior MTDC official said a Heritage Walk for the specially-abled people has been organised on the Gharapuri island on Sunday with an aim to show them various Shiva sculptures. "The motto behind this walk is to introduce ancient Shiv tandav, Yogamudra, Gangavataran, Ardhanarineshwar and Trimurti," he said. Noted singers like Rahul Deshpande, Swapnil Bandodkar, and Priyanka Barve will perform on the occasion while noted scriptwriter Achyut Palov, painter Vasudev Kamat, cartoonist Nilesh Jadhav and Shil Kumbhar will give live demonstrations on 'Avishkar Live.' Tue, 04 Jun 2019 00:47:20 GMT At 77, this solo woman traveller has visited all continents but one For the attention of those travel-freaks posting 'selfies' on social media along with the description of their solo trip to Ooty on an Enfield Bullet: Meet this 'mother' who had done that and more decades earlier. Sreedevi Antharjanam, 77, of Panchavati Illam, Pullur, Kasaragod is now getting ready for her solo trip to Australia. "Travelling solo is safer, no need to have a company," Sreedevi teacher has no two minds about it. Atop Mount Kailas She lost her husband 30 years ago. She undertook nearly all of her solo journeys after retiring as an L P school headmistress in 1998. She has travelled around all inhabited continents except Australia. She has completed pan-Indian tours three times. She has been to the Himalayas about 6 times. She visited Kailasam (Mount Kailas) in 2005 along with a group from Kerala. She bathed in Lake Manasarovar at -20 degree centigrade. She went up the Everest in a helicopter from Kathmandu and posted an Indian flag up there. She even had 'jeera rice' from the Buddhist monasteries there. Her rich travel experiences can drench you like a heavy snowfall. Mar Papa, the man Sreedevi cannot forget the journeys to Europe and America. A ropeway journey up the snow-clad Alps and a submarine journey under the Niagara falls are etched in her memory. She narrates her experience of meeting Pope John Paul II. "On that day he was not keeping well. Still he allowed me to sit by his feet. He blessed me with a hug. He gave the group grapes and other fruits. I also got a chance to ring the gigantic bell of Saint Peter's Basilica." She spent about 100 days in Europe and America. Andaman Islands, Singapore etc are also her favourite places. But ultimately, she likes the food and the culture of Kerala. Straight out of the kitchen Sreedevi is a native of Puthanchantha near Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur. Her mind was toughened by the stringent social systems during her early childhood. In those times, girls were rarely permitted to even step out of their houses (Illam). She was adamant to go to school for studies. She was forced into a marriage with T P Govindan Namboodiri of Peringottu Illam of Kaithapram while studying in the 9th standard. She insisted to her husband to let her complete the school education. After that she did TTC and started working as a school teacher. She retired after 34 years of service. Unending journeys She saves from her pension and from the money given by her children to undertake these journeys. Dr T P Ramakrishnan, her elder son, is the principal of the Sanskrit College in Chennai. T P Ramachandran, her younger son, is an engineer in Canada. Sreedevi usually avails the services of a reputed travel agent to plan and organize her journeys. Her last big trip was to Sri Lanka last year. Presently, she is looking after the cashew plantations and vegetable gardens in her 10 acres of land. She also finds time to take Bhagavad Gita classes for children. "I cannot anymore move about as fast as earlier. I am ageing. Still, I want to travel as long as I can move my limbs." Her decision is final. Mon, 03 Jun 2019 10:59:43 GMT Tourist arrivals in Kerala up 6.82% in first quarter of 2019 Thiruvananthapuram: Tourist arrivals in Kerala shot up by an impressive 6.82 per cent during January-March this year, indicating that the state had swiftly overcome the ordeal of last year's devastating floods. During the first quarter, the total number of tourist arrivals (both domestic and foreign) was 46,12,937 as compared to 43,18,406 during the same period in 2018. The domestic arrivals touched 41,90,468 as against 38,77,712 during the corresponding period in 2018, registering an increase of 8.07 per cent, a press release here said. However, the arrival of foreign tourists saw a dip of 4.14 per cent. The total number of visitors from abroad stood at 4,22,469 during the first quarter against 4,40,694 in the corresponding period of the previous year, a fall of 4.14 per cent. The increase in domestic tourist footfalls, especially in Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Idukki the districts that suffered the brunt of floods that ravaged large swathes of Kerala in August-September last year is a pointer that the state's tourism had recovered completely from January 2019 onwards. In fact, Ernakulam, with an increase of 108,169 domestic tourists, registered the highest growth among the 14 districts of the state. The total number of domestic tourist arrivals in this district was pegged at 9,96,091 during January-March this year as against 8,87,922 in the corresponding period of 2018. The districts of Idukki, Alappuzha, Kannur and Kozhikode also registered decent growth during the period. The number of domestic tourists was 3,43,938 (2,48,052 in 2018) in Idukki, 1,80,562 (1,32,442) in Alappuzha, 2,10,247 (1,84,389) in Kannur and 3,20,795 (2,76,188) in Kozhikode. Kollam, Kottayam, Malappuram, Wayanad and Palakkad were among the other districts that registered an uptick in domestic tourist arrivals. Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram districts showed negative trends in domestic arrivals, which was possibly due to the downtrend in the arrival of pilgrim-tourists to the temples of Guruvayur and Sree Padmanabhaswamy. "Last year's floods were unprecedented in fury and devastation and it battered large swathes of the state, affecting its infrastructure that had a bearing on the tourism sector. There was rampant apprehension that Kerala's tourism would take a long time to recover. But we were able to allay these apprehensions by swiftly putting in place an effective action plan to win back the confidence of tourists," said Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran. "The uptick in domestic tourist arrivals is a strong testimony to it," he said. The growth in tourist arrivals was due to the Tourism Department's sustained promotion campaigns from November last year. The first among these was 'It's time for KERALA campaign' from November 2018 to January 2019. It was followed by 'Human by Nature'- part of the marketing initiative to refurbish the perception of the state's tourism sector. The video, launched in February, has been designed to appeal to both high spenders and backpackers and firmly entrench Kerala's tourism in a competitive global marketplace. Thiruvananthapuram (including Kovalam and Varkala) witnessed the highest downfall with a decrease of 27,760 tourists. The total number of footfalls of foreign visitors in the district was 1,08,787 as against 1,36,547 in the corresponding period of 2018. Tourism Secretary, Rani George said the growth in domestic tourist arrivals was a strong reflection of the state government's efforts to repair the damage in double-quick time. "It sent out a message to tourists that things were fast becoming normal in the flood-ravaged Kerala. Our efforts have now handsomely paid off," she said. Tourism Director, P Bala Kiran said the state had launched "Dream Season" campaign in May to woo travellers during the monsoon by combining the magic of rains, wellness tourism, especially Ayurveda treatments, and backwaters. Its impact would be seen in the second quarter of 2019, he added. Sat, 01 Jun 2019 04:05:25 GMT How Mt Everest is turning deadlier with traffic jam "They suffered because of the traffic jam, not because of wind and coldness," said Tshering Jangbu Sherpa, a mountain guide, referring to the recent tragedy en route Mount Everest. With the increase in the number of people trying to reach the peak of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain, the path to it has become even more dangerous due to "overcrowding." Many face their ends, as they are stuck in the crowd, widely referred to as 'traffic jams', very close to the peak. Everest is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet, its peak being about 8,848 m from the sea level. A climber can summit the majestic Himalayan mountain from two sides. One, being the southeast ridge from Nepal and the other, the north ridge from Tibet. The route from the Nepalese side is usually taken, as it is considered easier and one has to spend less time at high altitude. Moreover, the Nepalese government issues more climbing permits than the Chinese government which is in charge of the Tibetan side. This is precisely the problem, as everyone follows the "same single file line," which affects everyone climbing behind a person who may move slowly. "With a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal," said Robin Fisher, a British mountaineer. "There can be two lines of people - one going up, and one going down the summit. Everyone is hanging onto this one rope," says Norbu Sherpa. This overcrowding results in climbers having to wait a long time "queuing" in the death zone (8000 m). These jams are dangerous as climbers are already tired, fighting altitude sickness, which makes one dizzy and nauseous, and also the climber may run short of oxygen, not having enough for the descend. Andrea Ursina Zimmerman, an expedition guide, says this situation is also caused by "unprepared climbers who do not have the physical condition for the journey." In all 807 people is reported to have reached the summit last year, the number increasing this year. As per the forecast by liaison officials of the expedition, 122 people were supposed to summit on May 21, 297 on May 22 and 172 on May 23. A climber only needs to pay for the permit if one is accompanied by a Sherpa guide. While this may seem as a lucrative business, it is important to take strict actions to prevent such tragedies. The Nepalese government had issued nearly 381 permits recently, each fetching it $11,000. There are no safe routes to the top and death lurks every step, but with the death of 11 people this season due to the sheer number of climbers curbs could be in the offing. "Only trained climbers should be granted the permit to climb Everest," says Ameesha Chauhan, who recently survived the "traffic jam" on Everest. Thu, 30 May 2019 06:07:02 GMT Historic Old Railway Station in Kochi faces shocking neglect The historic Old Railway Station premises in Ernakulam could offer local residents an escape from the hustle and bustle of Kochi city, but it is now in a pathetic condition. Ask anyone in Kochi about the route to this place and nobody would have even heard of any railway station other than North and South. However, Google Maps can show you the way and a visit to this eerily beautiful place would be an eye-opener. Once a stately structure, the 'Ernakulam Goods' railway station is now an abandoned place with a crumbling building overgrown with wild greenery. Ironically, no one seems to remember that it was at this very railway station that Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore set foot during their visit to Kochi. Mahatma Gandhi, too, had arrived here while heading to Vaikom to take part in the path-breaking agitation related to the temple there. According to legend, Rama Varma, the Maharaja of Kochi, had sold the golden ornamental coverings of elephants belonging to Poornathrayeesa Temple to fund the development of this railway station. The first train reached here on July 16, 1902. Passenger train services were conducted regularly till 1960, but modernization of South and North railway stations sounded the death knell for the Old Railway Station. In 2001, the government converted the station into a goods shed, but that, too, was gradually abandoned. Among the other notable historical figures who used the Old Railway station are Robert Bristow and Lord Irwin. Bristow was instrumental in giving Kochi the present shape. But presently the surroundings of the Old Railway Station remind a visitor of the wooded Cherukara station on the Shoranur-Nilambur route even though the place is hardly 500 m from Banerjee Road, one of the busiest areas in Kochi city. An eerie atmosphere prevails with the dilapidated building, old railway tracks and the darkness created by thickly growing trees that prevent sunlight from reaching the ground. The owner of the nearest shop warns curious visitors enquiring with him about the path to the Old Railway Station that they better keep off. People living in the neighbourhood are wary of anti-social elements who have made the station their den. No wonder this large plot measuring 42 acres is now haunted as far as the local people are concerned and they never even consider venturing into it. But even now there is hope for better days. The station premises can be included in the tourism projects of Kochi and suitable renovation carried out. It would then be a boon for the residents eager to find a place to relax in the heart of the city. Tue, 28 May 2019 07:12:05 GMT Heritage tourism centre to promote tribal products in Kochi Kochi: A heritage tourism centre for promoting tribal products and art forms will be set up at the tribal complex that is coming up in Kochi. The centre aims to protect and promote ethnic tribes by providing them with be a venue for the exhibition and sale of tribal products, a new platform for tribal art forms and promotion of ethnic food. The complex spread across 2,229.22-sq-mt on 1.18 acres on Foreshore Road is being made at a cost of Rs 8 crore. The 3-storey building will have an auditorium with modern facilities, exhibition-cum-sale stalls, food court and dormitories. The scheduled caste & scheduled tribes welfare department aims to ensure a permanent income for tribal people through this initiative. The tribal complex would be opened by July first week, district tribal officer G Anil Kumar has said. Eight shops will be set up for finding a market for tribal products such as wooden sculptures, items made from bamboo; forest produce such as honey, bamboo rice, ragi; and agricultural products. People will be able to buy authentic tribal products at the complex. Stalls of Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India, Attappadi Cooperative Farming Society and Wayanad Amrit would also function at the complex, apart from five shops of the tribals. The Attappadi Co-operative Farming Society would be bringing in lot of agricultural produce such as cardamom, pepper, coffee and tea. It will provide a permanent market for tribespeople from Attappadi. Even sculptures made from coffee wood will be on sale. Another highlight of the complex is an air-conditioned auditorium with a modern sound system, video projector and control system. The complex would be a hub to protect rare tribal art forms that are facing extinction. These art forms and traditional know-how can be imparted to coming generations through this initiative. Various art forms will be showcased at the venue along with the support of District Tourism Promotion Council, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Department of Culture, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi and folklore academies. The complex is also equipped to hold small residential camp, seminars and workshops. It also has separate dormitories for both men and women with 20 beds each. The complex is being built by Kitco also will have a special hall to conduct programmes. Sat, 25 May 2019 03:38:18 GMT 'Modi cave' in Kedarnath is set to become spiritual destination Dehradun: The cave at the Kedarnath shrine where Prime Minister Narendra Modi meditated overnight is all set to become a spiritual tourist destination. Within a few days, the 'Dhyan Kutia' where Modi stayed to meditate on Saturday has virtually been rechristened as the "Modi cave" by a large number of people who are enquiring about its booking. Developed by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a government enterprise which promotes tourism in the state, the cave - at a height of over 12,000 feet in the hills around the shrine - comprises a small area with an attached bathroom and a window overlooking the majestic temple. Wrapped in a saffron robe, Modi had meditated there for nearly 17 hours. His photos have gone viral on the social media. "We will shortly open this cave for tourists through online booking. Until now, due to some technical snag, booking is closed," GMVN General Manager B L Rana said. Denying media reports that there are luxuries inside the cave, Rana said there is only a single bed, a bucket and a mug for bathing. The cave has an electricity connection but there is no network for mobile phones. The Prime Minister had said that he remained cut off from the world when he was inside the cave. "There was no communication (inside the cave) and there was a small window through which I could see the Kedarnath temple," Modi had said. At the moment, the bell system which connects the cave with the GMVN office at the shrine is not working. Through this bell, the visitor in the cave can reach the GMVN office for enquiries or help at any time. "We are trying to restore the bell system and will open the cave for bookings when it is restored," said Rana. The per day rent of the cave has been lowered to Rs 990, from the earlier rate of Rs 3,000. Fri, 24 May 2019 05:26:00 GMT After Alaska-Andes ride, adventure cyclist Dhruv Bogra eyes Siberia, Mongolia New Delhi: He took up the extreme version of cycling only in his early 40s. Now, after a gruelling 15,000 km ride from Alaska to the Andes, gaining "elevation" of 22,000 ft and writing an inspiring book on the journey, adventure-hungry Dhruv Bogra is eyeing Iceland, Siberia and Mongolia for a reprise. "In June 2016, I plunged into the unknown when I began my long cycling journey from the northernmost and remotest part of Alaska aiming to cycle across the North and South American continents. This was a journey that one can never really train for," Bogra told IANS of the journey that ended earlier this year. "There were far too many factors such as the remote wilderness, the scarce food and water, wild animals, challenging terrain and grim weather, not to forget the traffic on some busy highways and gun violence in Central America. I cycled over 15,000 km from the sparse and barren Arctic tundra with the bear, caribou and glacial rivers to lush and dense boreal forests of fir and aspen in the pristine wilderness of the Yukon in Canada. "I was spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies in Jasper and Banff, as I was stunned by the charm of the islands in British Columbia near Victoria. After cycling for over 4 months and 6,000 km I reached the shores of the Pacific Northwest of the US and cycled down past incredible vistas of the ocean and ancient redwood forests, national parks and gorgeous vineyards of the Napa valley," he said. Thereafter, he crossed over to Mexico at Tijuana and cycled down the length of the Baja Peninsula, a barren, arid desert which had a sprinkling of small towns and the most treasured cacti on the planet. He rode in Mexico for almost 4 months and 3,500 km, cycling through many historical and heritage lands and cities like Mazatlan, Toluca, Morelia, Guadalajara, Tequila, Oaxaca and San Cristobal. "I crossed into Central America and explored the fascinating land of rainforests and volcanoes. Guatemala is particularly rich in culture and I was fortunate to go to Tikal to witness the glory of the ancient Maya civilisation. I covered Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and finally went directly to Peru. I spent two months cycling the highest plateaus and mountains of the Peruvian Andes and ended my journey in the Sacred Valley and the ancient capital of the Inca Empire in Cusco," Bogra explained. The outcome is "Grit, Gravel and Gear" (The Write Place), with 22 stories and numerous poems and peppered with detailed maps, illustrations and vibrant pictures depicting the landscapes of the Americas, the people and their cultures. "The incredible adventure had to be documented and shared with the world and since I always had a dream of writing a book, I felt this would make a great story that would be enjoyed by all. It is not just an adventure cycling book, it is a metaphor for life and growing out of one's comfort areas," Bogra said. Quite appropriately, he named his bike "Quest" as "one of the missions of my journey was my quest for the meaning and purpose of our existence and explore distant lands. It was a quest for adventure, culture, ways of life and the wilderness." What of the planning that went into the effort? "The planning was extensive and intensive and stretched over almost a year. Not only did I have to train physically and psychologically for the journey but also plan each and every mile over two continents on multiple country-specific maps. Gear and clothing was selected carefully keeping in mind the terrain, weather and weight as that is of paramount importance. "Since the expedition was self-supported I had to plan for gear that could be used over varied terrain and weather conditions such as the type of tent, sleeping bag and cycling clothing. In all there were over 80-90 items in my four panniers weighing over 40 kg. These ranged between bike tools to waterproof match boxes to bear protection spray," Bogra said. What of the "elevation" he gained? "In cycling and running parlance, the distance traversed is also measured for elevation gained. This refers to the sum of every gain in elevation throughout an entire trip. So in this journey the total elevation gain or the sum of the altitude 'gained' over 15,000 km was over 2,20,000 ft which is identical to climbing Mt Everest many times over," Bogra explained. What of the future? "Cycling adventures in Iceland, Siberia and Mongolia," Bogra said without batting an eyelid. Fri, 24 May 2019 04:08:21 GMT Sherpa climbs Mount Everest for record 23rd time Kathmandu: A 49-year-old sherpa reached the top of Mount Everest for a 23rd time on Wednesday, creating a new record for the most summits of the world's highest mountain, Nepali hiking officials said. Kami Rita Sherpa, a native of Thame village located in the shadow of Mount Everest, reached the 8,850-metre (29,035-feet) summit via the Southeast Ridge route, accompanied by another sherpa, tourism department official Mira Acharya said from the base camp. His latest ascent took him two summits clear of two fellow sherpas, hiking officials said. Acharya said Kami, who goes by his first name, reached the top at 7:50am (0205 GMT) and is now descending to lower camps. She said about 30 other climbers were on the way to the summit and were expected to top the peak on Wednesday or Thursday, when the weather window is expected to remain open. Kami says he will try and climb the peak two more times. “I am still strong and want to climb Sagarmatha 25 times,” Kami had told Reuters before leaving for the mountain in March referring to the Nepali name for Everest. The route taken by him was pioneered by New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay when they became the first climbers to reach the summit in 1953. Nearly 5,000 climbers have scaled the peak since the pioneering ascent, many multiple times. The climbing season ends in May and hundreds of climbers are currently on Everest, trying to reach the top from both the Nepali and Tibetan sides of the mountain. Tourism, which includes mountain climbing, is a main source of income for cash strapped Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains. Fri, 17 May 2019 00:50:26 GMT Kottayam's first flea market sizzles despite drizzles | Video Mild showers graced the opening day of Kottayam's first ever flea market, christened Rubber Band, at the CMS College grounds on Saturday. The enthusiastic crowd at the colourful market was hardly affected by the rain that started two hours into the event. With more than 400 online registrations and 800 offline, a huge crowd of youngsters and families thronged the flea market's myriad of stalls. More than 30 local vendors have put up stalls offering clothing lines, artworks, home décor items and much more. The most boisterous of the visitors thronged the open mic stage, conceptualized to host anyone who wishes to perform. There were thirty registrations within an hour after the event started to perform on the stage, clearly indicating the preferences of the crowd that flocked to the flea market. Dancers, singers, and bands kept the liveliness alive till the event wound up for the night. In a corner, near the entrance, was a group of college youths jamming to classic tunes on their guitar and not failing to make passers-by hum along. The entertainment does not end at that because visitors can indulge in a game of caroms, jenga, volley ball, or even hula hoop their way around the gaming corner set up at the market. Even rain couldn't stop a few groups from merry making. Food stalls also drew visitors in hordes. The venue started to liven up even more post 7 pm as families poured in. Dosas and ice-cream rolls were the pick of a majority, though fast food stalls alone did not succeed in grabbing the spotlight. Home bakers and chefs selling baked goods, desserts, pickles and more had quite a few customers, too. In fact, one of the home-bakers, The Deli, has put up three fancy cakes for auction on the second day, to raise money for Fani victims in Odisha. Post sunset, the ambience of the venue literally lit up with string lights all around, setting a sparkly ambience. The organisers described the atmosphere as 'Poli Vibes' and even put up a sign of the same name. The event was inaugurated by district sub collector Eesha Priya. Nearly 400 tickets for the second and last day of the market have already been sold. The second day promises even more entertainment with singer Sachin Warrier performing live. The Rubber Band is being hosted by a core group of 15 achievers from diverse walks of life, including media, finance, architecture, photography, automotive, marketing sectors. The entry fee is Rs 100 and tickets can also be bought online. Tue, 14 May 2019 06:19:12 GMT Kerala Tourism's new global campaign hits Times Square Kerala Tourism is increasing its global outreach with a new campaign christened 'Human by Nature'. Capturing the lush green colours and ethnicity of Kerala, the promo ad of the campaign is now shown at the famous Times Square in New York City, Manhattan. Times Square is a famed site for tourists around the globe. This location hosts around 3 lakh people on a daily basis, making it one of the busiest places in the world. Reports say that the advertisements in Times Square takes in around 1.5 million impressions on a day-to-day basis. Overwriting the nine-year old campaign 'Your moment is waiting', the Kerala Tourism released the 'Human by Nature' campaign on February 19 in Delhi. The campaign mainly focuses on people and nature existing in a coherent fashion. Taking real-life stories and true to the beauty of the land, the campaign includes a 3-minute short-film, conceived and scripted by Stark Communications and directed by Vivek Thomas of Miramar Films. The film encompasses real-life cast and powerful human stories set across different terrains of Kerala. The photographs of the new campaign is taken by renowned Canadian photographer based in New York, Joey Lawrence. “Kerala Tourism has always taken the less-traveled route, be it products, marketing or promotion tools,” states Kadakampally Surendran, Tourism Minister of Kerala, talking about the new campaign. The new campaign talks about the modern traveler and their journey for authenticity. This is one of the aspects focused through out the film. The new campaign is open to key markets such as USA, UK, Gulf countries, France, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium. Fri, 10 May 2019 09:12:34 GMT Indulge in Fun 'n' Frolic with 'Rubber Band' at Kottayam's first flea market A group of 15 enthusiastic youths will be organising Kottayam's first exclusive flea market 'Rubber Band' at the CMS College grounds on Saturday and Sunday with help from many volunteers. The event will begin at 4pm on both days. Flea markets are known to combine street shopping with lots of fun and frolic and Rubber Band promises the same. More than 30 local entrepreneurs will be setting up stalls at the event that aims to join the cultures of Kottayam. Myriad food stalls are being set up to beckon the foodies of Kottayam. You'll be spoilt for choice with homemade foods like pickles, desserts, snacks and favourite items from popular food outlets in Kottayam. This weekend, you'll be splurging on more than just food. Among other vendors are local artists who will be putting on display their works. You can also buy hand-crafted home decor items or handmade novelty bookmarks. There is loads for fashionistas of the town, as well. Upcoming designers and popular boutiques will be putting their latest designs on sale. And it doesn't stop at clothes as you will also have unique jewellery to choose from. For those looking for more than just run-of-the-mill shopping, you can expect lots of interactive fun activities and games. Looking for a platform to showcase your talents? Use the open mic to do whatever you do best – comedy, sing, or recite poetry! Special guest 'Muthuchippi Poloru' fame playback singer Sachin Warrier is set to perform on the second day of the market. The event is hosted by a core group of 15 achievers from diverse walks of life, including media, finance, architecture, photography, automotive, marketing and more. They aim to "utilise the team synergy towards creating a lively and memorable experience for all the stakeholders concerned". Ticket fee The entry fee is Rs 100 and tickets can be bought either at the spot or online. Sat, 11 May 2019 01:38:33 GMT Pooram lovers need to wait for just four more days until the mega spectacle Thrissur: Much to the delight and excitement of the pooram lovers, the world famous Thrissur pooram has begun with the flag hoisting ceremony. The main pooram or the festival is on May 13th, while the sample firework is on May 11th. At the dawn on 14th, the audience could enjoy a thrilling firework which will light up the skies of Thrissur, followed by the colourful pakalpooram in the morning. The flag hoisting ceremonies were conducted in the Thiruvambadi, Paramekkavu and 8 other temples on Tuesday. It is the local residents who perform the flag hoisting ceremonies at these temples and this is a unique tradition here. At Paramekkavu, the idol of Goddess Bhagavati was carried on the tusker named Devidasan to the kokkarni of the Vadakkunnathan temple, for the aarattu ceremony. The percussion ensemble or the melam was led by Perumvanam Kuttan Marar. The flag, on which a blessing pooja was performed by Dinesan Namboothiri at Thirruvampady was used for the flag hoisting ceremony. The idol of Goddess Bhagavathy was carried by Thiruvampady Chandrasekharan. Minister VS Sunil Kumar had attended the flag hoisting ceremonies at both the temples. Flags were subsequently hoisted at the blackboard tree at the courtyard of the Paramekkavu temple and also on the Naduvilal and Naykanal banyan trees at the Thiruvampady temple. The flag hoisting ceremonies were also conducted in Kanimangalam Sastha temple, Chembukavu Karthyani temple, Panamukkumpilli Sastha temple, Pookattikara Karamukku temple, Lalur Karthyani temple, Choorakattukara Kavilamma temple, Ayyanthol Karthyani temple and Kuttoor Neythalakavu temple. On the main festival day, special processions would be conducted from these temples to the Vadakkunnathan in the evening. Parayeduppu or acceptance of a measurement of paddy from the homes of the devotees would be conducted on all days until the main pooram, by the various temples. Fri, 10 May 2019 04:43:01 GMT Leaving no feather unturned: The splendour of Alavattom at Pooram Thrissur Pooram is round the corner and preparations are in full swing. People and festival-enthusiasts from all over would throng the Vadakunathan ground in Thrissur to watch the Pooram in all its grandeur. It is not just the majestic elephants with Nettipattam that attract the hundreds and thousands of people to the temple town. Alavattom, a decorative circular fan made of peacock feathers, is also one of the major attractions. And both Thiruvambadi and Paramelkavu devaswoms will go all out to outshine the other and their chief artisans are ensuring that the Alavattoms are of the best in the league. The chief artisan of Thiruvambadi devaswom, Kadavath Chandran of Kannimangalam, described the laborious process that goes into the making of these festival artefacts. “We have completed the majority of the works on the 15 sets of Alavattoms. Only the final touches need to be done now. “We had started the work by February end. This time around, the peacock feathers were procured from Changanassery. Earlier, we used to get it from Coimbatore. But buses do not allow us to carry them and if we try to bring them in cars, there will be checks at every posts,” he said. “You can only make Alavattom with good, wide peacock feathers. For one set you need 1.5kg of feathers. And for 15 sets, you need 25kg. Each kilogram costs up to Rs 2,000 and the whole bunch would come up to Rs 50,000,”he explained. A veteran in this field, Chandran recounted when it all began: “I had learned the art of making Alavattom in 1975 and joined as an assistant and it has been 45 years in this field now. I have been with Thiruvambady for 17 years. I have been actively involved in the work ever since I retired as office assistant from the Catholic Syrian Bank,” he said. Creating magic with peacock feathers The first job is to untie the bunch and separate the peacock feathers. The feathers are then finely shaped and cut. Traditional floral patterns are stitched on to the centre of these circular fans. The feathers are then aligned in a circular fashion on the thick board papers. It takes a minimum of 4-5 days to finish making one Alavattom. Preparations are in full swing at Paramekkavu devaswom too and only final nitty-gritties need to be taken care of now. Its chief artisan, Thekethara Radhakrishnan, is making his debut at the grand stage of Thrissur Pooram. A veteran of 35 years, he has been making Alavattoms for smaller festivals (Poorams). He started working at the tender age of 15. He has mainly prepared Alavatom for Aarattupuzha and Kuttankulangara poorams. Sun, 05 May 2019 04:06:47 GMT France top European destination for Indian travellers New Delhi: France tops the European destinations for Indian tourists, with the number of travellers from this country expected to cross 8 lakh as of 2018, French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler said Thursday. He said over 7 lakh Indian tourists visited France in 2017, twice the number as compared to 2014. Visa applications over the past five years registered an increase of over 180 per cent, the envoy said at a seminar here on tourism cooperation between India and France. In 2018, the number of visa applications grew by 15 per cent as compared to 2017, underpinned by an over 43 per cent increase in applications from south India (Consulate of Puducherry), he said. Noting a "striking upsurge," Ziegler said it demonstrates that France is ever growing in popularity and that the country is "now the number one European destination for Indian tourists." Describing it as "just the beginning of a trend," he said: "We are very honoured to witness this upward trend and it is a priority to facilitate Indian tourism in France." He said since 2015, the Embassy has been issuing visas within 48 hours. "In fact, last December, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs himself highlighted that our priority was to build up French expertise on welcoming Indian tourists in France," the Ambassador said. A seminar with French professionals will be held soon in Paris, with a special focus on welcoming MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) trips and Indian weddings, he said. "Indeed, professional trips account for over 30 per cent of Indian tourists and we know that France has all it takes to attract more Indian weddings," he added. Referring to last week's fire incident at Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris, in which one of the most visited monuments in France was badly damaged, he said many Indian people expressed their solidarity and sadness on seeing the iconic building burn. "I was moved to see that one of my favourite monuments in Paris was also deeply loved by people in India. It also highlighted that Paris is a much-loved destination for Indian people, and others across the world," the envoy said. Wed, 01 May 2019 05:09:39 GMT Kerala eases access to the disabled at tourist hotspots Tap into the sights of historic Fort Kochi lanes, view the Chinese Fishing nets from raised platforms, or feel the waves of Shankumugham beach even if you are bound to a wheelchair. Also, hear the legends and stories of Kerala through sign language. Order unassisted the Kerala sadya or Thalassery biryani from the Braille menus. Kerala is getting ready to extend its warm hospitality to all - and the differently abled and their caretakers are most welcome! The successful culmination of the first phase of Barrier Free Kerala in 2019, the ambitious but much-needed initiative taken by Kerala Tourism Department, has made touring the enchanting state a possibility for the differently abled. Apart from the ramps, easy availability of wheelchairs, crutches, and other resources to facilitate easy manoeuvre, the state has also provisioned for specially trained staff who can guide the tourists in sign language. Audio guides and information in Braille language can give further assistance. Accessible tourism is redefining accessibility by looking not at how locales are labelled accessible not based on the transportation facilities but for whom it is accessible and emphasises on making travel a more viable option for those with physical or cognitive impairments. The incompetence of our society at providing infrastructural support to the disabled should not be a reason to prevent them from partaking the sights of different communities, safely. With advanced assistance, it will also be possible for the caretakers to explore around. In a society where even day-to-day functions in familiar grounds prove difficult, enabling a travel atmosphere for the differently empowered comes with a lot of additional responsibility. The enthusiasm behind the project in Kerala should not wear off after the initial phases. For it is not only a novel idea but it's high time that we brought the differently abled into the common fold. It is gratifying to know that in some popular zones in Kerala tourists are seen tapping its sights, some on foot, others on electric wheelchairs, some reading from tactile guides, others listening to audio guides or sign language- but all delighted by what they experience. Alappuzha Beach Alappuzha has reportedly the first disabled-friendly beach in the country. The beach at this picturesque place has a 50-metre wide ramp on one side. The Braille signposts and audio-visual guides help the needy. A joint effort of the Tourism department, health department, voluntary organisations and associations for the disabled, the developed beach is equipped with automatic wheelchairs as well. The project was well appreciated by the differently empowered who were grateful to the government for providing easy access to the beach which has now become a major place of recreation for them. Fort Kochi Fort Kochi was amongst the first tourist hotspots to be upgraded for the disabled-friendly tag. Famous for its yesteryear Dutch-Portuguese buildings, the Chinese fishing nets, and now the beautiful cafes and the enthralling Muziris Biennale, Fort Kochi has a lot more to offer. Complete with frequent ramps with non-slippery tiles that easily make way to eating zones, spill-out arenas, and washroom facilities ideal for the differently abled etc., Fort Kochi can be easily toured. The famous Chinese nets, a Kochi speciality, can be viewed from raised platforms bordered with hand railings and lamps for support. This enables even those sitting on the chairs to view from a desirable position. Shankumugham Beach, Thiruvananthapuram The pristine beach in the state capital is all in for more revamp and has already enabled ramps and walkways across the area. Special mats are spread out to ease the wheels on to the beach enabling the differently abled people to take a stroll on the sands. An additional feature is the installation of alarms to inform others in case of requirement of help. Arrangements for signs and instructions in Braille and audio-visual aids will be made available in due course. The Tourism Department also looks forward to launching curated tours that can heighten the experience for the differently abled. The initiative will be in collaboration with the Responsible Tourism Mission, another programme of the department. Customised tours will not only ensure easy comfortable travel for their takers but also let the government know how beneficial the services are and how further ventures must be taken. There are already many tour companies that offer packages to the disabled to Kerala and other places in India. Companies like Royal Indian Voyages and Enable Travels with their campaign #CanDo provide accessible tours at affordable rates. The tours are customised based on the disability of vision, speech, hearing and locomotion. Hotels which are accessible and with all facilities needed are chosen for stay and the volunteers appointed are capable of communicating with the customers. Opting for such tour services can be a relief for the person as well as the caretakers. Thus, while it is heartening to note that departmental initiatives are enabling the otherwise marginalised community to mingle with the mainstream public, continuous efforts must be ensured to make sure the services retain the quality. Different tactile tours can be an ideal way to promote handicrafts, artefacts in museum and other products which will reap benefits for the artisans as well. Promoting tours for the deaf would mean encouraging more youngsters to volunteer for learning sign languages and being guides. Public support The project, which has completed its first lap, should be promoted further until the entire state becomes truly friendly to the differently abled. The public too must be supportive of the government enterprise by protecting the installations and constructions and moreover by encouraging the intended beneficiaries to utilise them. Responsible citizens can help their peers in need by informing them of the facilities, helping them use them thus giving them a new lease of life. Sun, 28 Apr 2019 04:27:43 GMT 10-day Golden Week holiday begins in Japan ahead of imperial transition Tokyo: Japan on Saturday kicked off an unprecedented 10-day holiday, including celebration days for the imperial transition, as airports were packed with record travellers while people queued at teller machines in the cash-dominated nation. Japan is preparing for the abdication of Emperor Akihito on Tuesday the day before Akihito's eldest son, 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito, takes the throne. The long holiday for the famously hard-working Japanese combines two celebration days with the traditional "Golden Week" in May. While many plan to commemorate the national ceremonies across the country, others are seizing the rare opportunity for a trip at home and overseas. A record 60,700 people were expected to go abroad from Narita airport, Tokyo's main gateway, on Saturday, Japan's public broadcaster NHK said. Domestic holidaymakers formed long queues for Shinkansen bullet services at Tokyo station to return home or go sightseeing, while highways were crowded with vehicles in a major exodus from the capital. The number of travellers at home and overseas during the long holiday is expected to hit a record 24.67 million, according to Japanese travel agency JTB. Lenders were bracing for the lack of bills at cash dispensers as customers are expected to withdraw sufficient cash as banks will remain closed until May 6. On Friday, several cash dispensers in Tokyo were temporarily out of service as people rushed to ATMs to financially prepare for the holiday. Cash is king in Japan and credit cards are much less popular than in other countries so it is common for people to carry around relatively large amounts of yen to pay for day-to-day things. Not everyone is welcoming the long holiday in Japan, however, as some people are concerned about a limit to public and medical services while others who have to work over the period complain about childcare. A survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily showed 45 percent of Japanese "felt unhappy" about the long vacation, with only 35 percent saying they "felt happy". Sun, 28 Apr 2019 01:02:58 GMT Rediscovering treks of Kedarnath, Badrinath For centuries, pilgrims trekked hundreds of miles to visit Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines nestled in the Garhwal range of Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Most of these routes, also undertaken by Adi Shankracharya, vanished after roads were built right up to Badrinath and Gaurikund, the base camp of Kedarnath. And now, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) of the Uttarakhand Police has undertaken a new initiative to rediscover these treks that were lost in the vagaries of time. A 13-member team, headed by Inspector Sanjay Upreti, has been sent to Kedarnath-Badrinath areas, said Director General of Police Ashok Kumar. "Only 70 years ago, pilgrims used to trek to reach Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines. But after roads were built, these routes were lost. We have made a new initiative to retrace these treks," said Kumar. The SDRF team, which started its journey on April 20 from Lakshman Jhula area in Rishikesh, has already reached Thakra village near Srinagar town on the borders of Rudraprayag and Pauri districts, covering a distance of more than 140 km along the Ganga river. "Tomorrow, we will reach Rudraprayag area from where we will divide the team in two to undertake Kedarnath and Badrinath routes in different directions," said Upreti from Thakra village. The team members, including two women, are carrying ancient literature besides torches and ropes. They will take help of the global positioning system (GPS) to relocate these treks. "We are also taking the help of villagers and sadhus to find these treks," said Upreti. "If our mission is successful, it will give a boost to the religious and adventure tourism in the area," said Kumar. A detailed report will be prepared after the team returns, said Kumar. Sat, 27 Apr 2019 01:06:48 GMT Simla biker retains 'King of Shivaliks' title Simla: Simla's intrepid biker David Kumar on Sunday scored his third win on the roll in the eighth edition of Hero MTB (mountain biking) Simla and retained the ‘King of Shivaliks title, event organisers said here. The second stage of the 110-km race finished at beautiful Craignano in Mashobra that traces its history to the British India, followed a podium ceremony here. Ashish Sherpa from Hero Action Team won the second stage of the race, displaying a strong competitive performance. Due to a gap of 15 minutes built by Kumar in Saturday's stage, he bagged the top honour and won the yellow jersey. Two-time Hero MTB Shimla champion Kumar clocked his third win at the race with 06:02 time and was crowned the King of Shivaliks. Sherpa was the overall runner-up with 06:22 time. Sidharth Thakur from Shimla won the Student Solo category, while Sunil Barongpa from Kullu won the Masters Solo Category. Binita Rai from the Shashtra Seema Bal (SSB) won the Women Solo category and was crowned the Queen of Shivaliks. Nearly 80 cyclists took the start line out of the registered 88. A few riders dropped out within the first five kms of the race. The second stage, named The Kingdoms Alley, took the riders through Kiarkoti and Moolkoti route. The riders climbed nearly 1,500 m in only 30 km making it a short but technical day. This year saw the maximum participation from Gurgaon and Simla. Tue, 23 Apr 2019 05:03:29 GMT US warns of more attacks in Sri Lanka, revises travel advisory Washington/Colombo: The US State Department said in a revised travel advisory 'terrorist groups' were continuing to plot possible attacks in Sri Lanka after 290 people were killed and about 500 wounded in blasts in churches and luxury hotels on Sunday. "Terrorists may attack with little or no warning," it said in the revised warning, which was dated Sunday US time. It said possible targets included tourist locations, transportation hubs, shopping malls, hotels, places of worship, airports and other public areas. Latest News: Pipe bomb near Colombo airport defused by Sri Lanka Air Force Lanka lifts curfew Meanwhile, Lankan authorities lifted a curfew on Monday, although there was uncharacteristically thin traffic in the normally bustling capital. There was still no claim of responsibility for the attacks on two churches and four hotels in and around Colombo, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka, and a third church on the country's northeast coast. A government source said President Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the National Security Council early on Monday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, the source said. There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west. The South Asian nation of about 22 million people has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about eight and 12 per cent. Soldiers armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Centre in the business district, where the four hotels were targeted on Easter Sunday, according to a Reuters witness. Scores of people who were stranded overnight at the main airport began making their way home as restrictions were lifted. The government also blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, making information hard to come by. Wickremsinghe acknowledged on Sunday that the government had some prior information about possible attacks on churches involving a little-known Islamist group, but said ministers had not been told. Mon, 22 Apr 2019 09:35:57 GMT Board Maharajas' Express and travel like a king Maharajas' Express definitely is a luxury train that bears all the features associated with its regal name. The Indian Railways has conceived and executed its travel facilities in a way that will beat the best of hospitality favours dished out by the country’s star hotels. Interested to board a coach of the Maharajas’ now into its tenth year of inception? The traveller can not only see the varied heritage of the ancient land around, but get a feel of being a king oneself – being virtually pampered by the host team. It was in 2010 the Indian Railways launched the noble concept of the Maharajas' Express. The debut train in the series chugged off westward from Kolkata to the national capital of Delhi in March that year. In a couple of years, the service earned the World Travel Award. That 2012 recognition, as the world's Leading Luxury Train, was repeated seven times consecutively - till last declared. Least surprising, given its hospitality features as well as the kind of places the train takes its visitors to with elan. The journeys have a season: October to April - that is from autumn to spring, when the weather is pleasant (especially upcountry). The Maharajas' offers two categories of trips going by their time-span. One is seven days and eight nights; the other is four days and three nights. Among them is a round trip, where the train originates from Delhi and drops the passenger back in the same metropolis. The stopovers are Jaipur, Ranthambore, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Gwalior, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Lucknow. There is a Delhi-Mumbai service of the same duration, with an equally exciting itinerary: Agra (Uttar Pradesh), Ranthambore, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur (all Rajasthan) and Balasinor (Gujarat) before hitting the destination. Back from the commercial city in the west, the train offers a slightly different package at the initial phase while climbing up to Delhi: Ajanta, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaipur, Ranthambore and Agra. The four-day trips are Delhi-Delhi, too. Three halts: Agra (Taj Mahal), Ranthambore (wildlife sanctuary), Jaipur (palaces and forts). The service has four grades of rooms (coaches): deluxe cabin (Rs 4,25,900), junior suite (Rs 6,73,750), suite (Rs 9,82,840) and presidential suite (Rs 16,87,920) - for the seven-day trip. For the four-days-three-nights package, the respective rates go thus: Rs 2,74,200, Rs 3,52,540, Rs 5,41,280 and Rs 9,18,740. The interiors of the coaches are surreally beautiful. The food is delicious, what with two restaurants capable of accommodating 42 guests at a time. The dishes are Indian as well as foreign - be it breakfast or dinner and whatever in between. The train has two bars as well: Raja Club and Safari, making it gala time for those interested in drinks. Overall, it can be an unforgettable trip. Mon, 22 Apr 2019 02:06:36 GMT First hotel with sleeping capsules opens in Slovenian capital Ljubljana: Tourists who visit Ljubljana can now stay in the Slovenian capital's first sleeping capsules after the city's Central Hotel put up 10 capsules in a former telephone switchboard room. "This is a new story in Slovenia," said Matej Rigelnik, chief executive officer of the hotel. Slovenia, the native country of US First Lady Melania Trump, has seen a surge in tourism since it joined the European Union in 2004 and the eurozone in 2007. The Alpine state's capital has a picturesque medieval centre that stretches along the Ljubljanica river and a castle on a hill above the centre. Last year the number overnight stays by foreign tourists in Slovenia jumped by 15.4 percent, with most of them coming from Germany, Italy, Austria, Netherlands and Croatia. Sun, 14 Apr 2019 01:05:11 GMT In tourist-hungry Portugal, Brexit means 'Brelcome' Lisbon: Haunted by the idea that Brexit may affect Portugal's booming tourism industry, a government agency has launched a campaign to say "Brelcome" to the thousands of British visitors who choose the country as a holiday destination. "Portugal will never leave you" is the main slogan of the "Brelcome" campaign, which has already reached around 6 million Britons through social media and other digital platforms, the Turismo de Portugal agency said. Holiday seekers from Britain are Portugal's largest tourism market, representing 20 percent of the industry, but last year they already stayed fewer nights, dropping 7.3 percent compared with 2017, according to official data. The pound tanked after the June 2016 referendum result and has since gyrated wildly on any Brexit news - potentially making destinations outside the euro zone, such as Turkey, more attractive. If Britain ends up crashing out of the bloc without a deal, the pound could drop about 5 percent, a Reuters poll showed. The European Union on Wednesday gave Britain six more months to leave. Spain, the most popular destination for British sunseekers who accounted for 9 percent of foreign visitors last year, is seen as the biggest loser from a no-deal Brexit, which could wipe off more than $1 billion in spending between 2019-2025, according to Euromonitor. Taking pre-emptive action, Portugal's campaign, launched last month, features a series of videos saying its beaches, golf courses and wine cellars will always be there, with or without Brexit. "We thought this was the right opportunity to tell a very good friend that we will never leave them," president of Turismo de Portugal Luis Araujo told Reuters, noting that the two countries are the world's oldest allies, forged through a 1386 treaty. "We have been growing in every market for the past three years, particularly in the United States and Brazil, but we will never have a market as big as the UK so it's really important for us." Portugal has said British tourists will not need a visa even in the event of a no-deal Brexit and said airports in the Algarve and Madeira would open separate customs lanes for British visitors to ease entry. No-deal legislation to protect the rights of British citizens living in Portugal was also approved by the government last month. Sat, 13 Apr 2019 03:36:02 GMT Kadamakudy all set to welcome visitors for annual Kettukalakkal festival Varappuzha: The beautiful hamlet of Kadamakudy, where the Pokkali rice fields sway in the breeze, will enthral with excitement for the next three days as they celebrate the Kettukalakkal festival. The festival began yesterday and Kadamakudy will revel in excitement as they taste the delicious lake fish delicacies, and enjoy kite flying and angling competitions. The Kettukalakkal festival is held at the Pokkali fields by the Kothadu Korambadam service cooperative bank to expose the unique rural beauty of the interior areas of Kadamakudy and explore the tourism scope of it. The fish ponds and the Pokkali fields are the major attractions of Kadamakudy. Pearl spots, red snapper, prawns, tilapia and mullet are abundantly available here. The fishes, caught from the organic Pokkali fields where ammonia isn't added, taste incredibly delicious. Kettukalakkal Kettukalakkal is a festival that is traditionally held at the Pokkali fields in the Kadamakudy and Dewaswampadam areas. Pokkali rice is grown for 6 months in a year, and these fields would be transformed into huge fish ponds during the next six months. Kettukalakkal means catching the fishes, in entirety, from these fields during the month of April, just before Vishu. Though the traditional fish farming has changed a lot owing to changes in the climate and other geographical features, Kettukalakkal is still a grand celebration for the people of Kadamakudy. After catching all the mature fishes from the fields, the people in the locality would be allowed to catch the rest of it. This practice is called the 'kettupottikkal' and the village would gather around these fields to celebrate it. Tourism scope It for the third consecutive year that the Kettukalakkal festival, is been led by the Korambadam service cooperative bank. Bank president Harold Nicolson said that hundreds of visitors from the district and the neighboring districts pour in to witness the historic Kettukalakkal. The beautiful inland waterways, rivulets and the mesmerizing natural beauty of the hamlets in Kadamkudy attract the tourists. Kadamakudy which is just 6 kilometres away from the Varappuzha town is lined with pokkali fields and this place is truly a haven of peace and tranquillity. Ecstatic celebration Though the village of Kadamakudy was inundated in the deadly floods in August last year, the pokkali fields and the fish ponds haven’t lost their charm. More number of fishes was grown in these fields this year. The harvest too was amazing as the paddy didn’t get affected with virus infections. However, the owners of the fields say that the scorching heat has affected the growth of the fishes in the last one month. Until 14th The Kettukalakkal festival led by the cooperative bank would be inaugurated in Kadamakudy 4pm today. The festivities would be held, every evening, until 14th April, from 4 pm to 6 pm. Harold Nicolson said that various programs like food festival, traditional boating, kite flying and angling competitions would be held as part of the Kettukalakkal festival. Sat, 13 Apr 2019 00:42:43 GMT Warm reception accorded to Velankanni Express in Ernakulam Punalur: The Velankanni Express has been extended to Ernakulam and the train was given a warm welcome at the railway station here on its inaugural trip. The train had started its service three months ago. It used to leave Velankanni at 5 pm on Sunday to reach Kollam by 8.45 am on Monday. For the return, the train left Kollam at 4 pm and reached Velankanni on Tuesday morning. However, this schedule was inconvenient for pilgrims from Kerala who had to depend on other means for a trip to the famous Velankanni shrine. With the introduction of the new train, pilgrims from Kerala can spend almost 12 hours on Sunday at Velankanni before boarding the return train. A reception was arranged for the train at Punalur where the two loco pilots were garlanded. Around 200 passengers boarded the train from Punalur. Train timings: No: 06015 Velankanni Express leaves Ernakulam at 11 am on Saturday to reach Kollam at 2.45 pm, Punalur at 4.25 pm, Shencottai at 6.55 pm, Virudunagar at 9.25 pm, Manamadurai at 10.35 pm, Trichy at 1.55 am and 7 am at Velankanni on Sunday. The trip to Ernakulam commences as train no: 06016 at 6.50 pm on Sunday from Velankanni to touch Trichy at 9.40 pm, Manamadurai at 12.10 am, Virudunagar at 1.45 am, Shencottai at 4.45 am, Punalur at 6.45 am, Kollam at 8 am and Ernakulam at 12.30 pm on Monday. Wed, 10 Apr 2019 02:11:34 GMT Andaman set for tourism makeover on the lines of Maldives, Mauritius A series of development projects have been planned by the government to give a tourism boost to the picturesque Andaman and Nicobar Islands to make them a major tourist attraction like Maldives and Mauritius. Key projects for the all-round development of the Andamans include premium tents and tree houses, mangrove interpretation centre, turtle observatory centre, island hopping facility, beach shacks and sunrise points, premium island resorts, beach promenade, nature trail and camping facility besides other infrastructure. These projects are expected to bring in investment of more than Rs 650 crore and have in-built condition of 60 per cent local employment, a Home Ministry official said. The Andamans is world renowned for its pristine natural beauty, rich marine life, flora and fauna spread over 836 islands, islets and rocks. The islands present picturesque views with rich culture and heritage. "The pristine water with world class beaches and shallow reefs are a major attraction for tourists. Our aim is to make Andamans an attractive tourists destination similar to Maldives and Mauritius," the official said. Paving the way for 'Ease of Tourism,' 30 islands have already been exempted from the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime and requirement of mandatory registration of foreigners arriving in the archipelago within 24 hours of their entry has also been done away with. The water-sport industry has been given a big boost and water-sport regulations and guidelines have been simplified, duly considering the safety aspect of users while honouring operator's interest. The islands have witnessed an increase in number of licenced diving centres, whereas adventure products like sea walk and para sailing have been newly introduced. The bed and breakfast scheme has enrolled 40 home stays, 121 tour operators have been registered since 2014 and a state-of-art sound and light show facility has been installed at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island. Floating jetties have been installed at various tourism islands and orchid, butterfly gardens are being developed to attract nature lovers. During 2014-18, tourist arrivals have increased from 3.11 lakh to 5.13 lakh, an increase of 65 per cent, hotel accommodation has doubled, which is more than 7,000 at present and more than 100 small size Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) tourist boats and 1,000 tourist cabs have been added over the period. A total of 94 per cent area in Andamans comprise rich forests, mangroves that house endemic birds, wildlife and tropical rain forest. "Tourism has emerged as the primary economic growth driver for the islands after careful deliberation of their social fabric, environment sensibilities and development potential," another official said. According to the data available with the Union Home Ministry, more than 16 lakh tourists have visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from 2015 till 2018 to see the natural beauty, beaches, flora and fauna and historically-significant landmarks in around 38 inhabited islands out of the 836 islands, islets and rocks. The archipelago has received about 5.13 lakh tourists, including over 20,000 foreigners in 2018 while it received 4,87,229 tourists, including 15,310 foreigners, in 2017. In 2016, as many as 4,00,019 tourists, including 15,467 foreigners, had visited the Andamans and in 2015, a total of 3,11,358 tourists, including 14,674 foreigners, had gone to the Union Territory, the data said. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands comes under the administrative control of the Home Ministry. The Andamans was in news last year in the wake of killing of John Allen Chau, 27, by members of the reclusive Sentinelese tribe in North Sentinel Island. The archipelago has been inhabited for several thousand years, at the very least. The earlier archaeological evidence goes back some 2,200 years; however, the indications from genetic, cultural and linguistic isolation studies point to habitation going back 30,000 60,000 years, well into the Middle Palaeolithic, according to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Tourism Department. Tue, 09 Apr 2019 00:52:22 GMT Youth cycles all the way to Vagamon to spread awareness It has been 15 years since the bicycle became an inseparable part of Vishnu's life. A native of Cherthala, Vishnu Kammath, is not just an ordinary cycle commuter. He is an active promoter of cycle journeys. This youngster, who works at FACT, takes the trip from Cherthala to Kochi, once every week, on a bicycle. With these weekly cycle trips, Vishnu aims to promote the idea of environmental-friendly modes of travel. Vishnu says that a few of his friends accompany him on cycles during his trip from Cherthala to Kochi. He observes that the number of people who are ready to give up the use of motor vehicles, for at least a day in a week, is significantly going up. While discussing the need to promote cycle journeys, some of his friends said it was impossible to undertake long distance journeys on a bicycle. Vishnu decided to prove them wrong by taking a long distance trip on his cycle. Recently he went on a trip to Wagamon to promote the significance of travelling by cycle and also to make VHSS students aware about the various safety gears. Vishnu, who cycled to Wagamon VHSS, ended his trip by distributing a handbook about safety management written by Joby Kandanad to the school library. Through his cycle journeys, Vishnu aims to spread awareness about first aid, benefits of exercise and environment conservation etc. Vishnu says that he undertook this challenge to prove that cycle is an amazing means of travel, both for short and long distance journeys. Vishnu was a class 8 student when his father bought him his first cycle. He still continues his friendship with the bicycle and regularly enjoys cycle rides. The one that he is currently using is his third cycle. But Vishnu says he didn't discard the two older ones. Those cycles are kept safely at his house in Cherthala. Vishnu is a member of the Pedal Force Cycle Association in Thripunithura. He says that the association does a lot for promoting the importance of cycles. Last year, the association flagged off a project called 'Let's go to work on cycle' to promote the use of cycles as an alternative to motor vehicles. Vishnu and his friends conducted a patriotic rally from Thripunithura to the Kochi air force base to pay their respects to the soldiers who died in the Pulwama attack. He is happy that he has turned his friends and colleagues into cycle-lovers. Sun, 07 Apr 2019 01:13:44 GMT Meet the 'kombans' who travelled Ooty on wheelchairs When the 'kombans' decided to visit Ooty, nothing could get in their way. The group of 25 differently-abled people fixed their wheelchairs onto their three-wheeled scooters and took off to Ooty as a grand rally. They spent two days in Ooty visiting places in their wheelchairs. This trip gave them great confidence and it didn't take too long to plan another one to Kullu-Manali in Himachal Pradesh. 'Kombans' is a group of differently-abled people from the Malappuram-Perinthalmanna areas, who can move only in wheelchairs. The idea to set out on a scooter trip to Ooty came up during their usual evening chit chat. All 25 members got ready for the journey in just a week's time. They weren't sure how they would move around Ooty once they reached there. That is how they decided to attach their wheelchairs onto the scooters and take the trip. Their journey began with a delicious breakfast from the valley of the Naadukani mountain pass in Perinthalmanna. They were admitted for free at many places including the botanical garden, seeing their great enthusiasm and passion for travel. They weren't allowed, in the beginning, to enter the beautiful meadows in Pushpanagari, with their wheelchairs. But the kombans were not ready back out and they finally did enjoy the beauty of the lush green meadows. This group has already proved their mettle by initiating unique activities like 'music on wheels' and 'drama on wheels.' They have already begun preparing for their next grand trip to Kullu-Manali. Sat, 06 Apr 2019 04:17:25 GMT With opening of tulip garden in Srinagar, tourist season begins in Kashmir Srinagar: Asia's largest tulip garden overlooking the famous Dal Lake here in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir was Sunday thrown open to public, marking the beginning of new tourism season in the valley. The garden witnessed an impressive footfall of locals and tourists on the first day of its opening this year. Formerly known as Siraj Bagh, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden was opened in 2008 by then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The idea of the garden, spread over 30 hectares in the foothills of snow-clad Zabarwan range, was conceived to advance the tourism season in the valley by two months. The average life span of tulip flower is three to four weeks, but heavy rains or too much of heat can destroy them. The Floriculture Department plants tulip bulbs in a phased manner so that the flowers remain in the garden for a month or more. This year the department has planted nearly 12 lakh bulbs of different varieties. "We have around 12 lakh tulip bulbs this year, out of which four lakh fresh bulbs have been imported," the director said. Shah said the garden houses 51 varieties of tulips this year. "Then there are 12 varieties of hyacinths and some more varieties of other flowers," he said. He said the garden achieved a bloom of about 20-25 per cent on the day of its opening. The official said the opening day was a "good beginning" as footfall of visitors - both locals as well as tourists - was impressive. Tue, 02 Apr 2019 02:42:24 GMT Move over Taj, India lures tourists with grand poll carnival New Delhi: India's frenetic cities, historical monuments, tasty food, and beautiful scenery may be among the biggest attractions for foreign tourists. But with election fever hitting India, a few of them are prepared to forgo some of that – and the elephant ride – to meet an election candidate or attend a political rally. The world's biggest democracy, with about 900 million voters, is set to decide in April-May whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets a second term following his thumping victory in 2014, and that gives the Indian tourism industry a different way to market the country. Some Indian tour companies are courting international visitors with week-long 'election tourism' packages that would try to combine some traditional sightseeing with access to political campaigning. The packages were first tested during the 2012 state elections in Gujarat and have now mushroomed nationwide. "The Indian election is like a festival," founder of Election Tourism India and Chairman of Gujarat Tourism Corporation Society Manish Sharma said. Election campaigns and rallies in India can be spectacular in terms of scale, reflecting the power of fundraising for the state and national political parties. Events and rallies headlined by Modi, the head of his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, and the opposition Congress party's Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have generated a lot of interest, Sharma said. The Ahmedabad-Gujarat based Election Tourism India, which works with more than 35 tour companies across India, has received nearly 3,500 bookings for election packages from outside India, he said. The packages consist of popular tourist destinations, political rallies and interactions with election candidates and other local politicians. The length of the election – it takes more than five weeks for everyone to be able to vote – also provides tour operators with plenty of options. The trips offered range from 5 to 8 days, and offer visits to a wide variety of places. The packages are not expected to appeal to the average tourist but more for those who are inclined in politics, such as political students, journalists, and researchers. Tue, 26 Mar 2019 04:44:22 GMT Stares of Malayali men unbearable, say foreign women tourists A common problem faced by foreign women visiting Kerala is the stares they attract from the local men. "You Malayalees need to change your attitude," says Irine, from Germany. "The staring is often unbearable," adds the western woman. But is Irine alone with such an opinion? Certainly not. Every woman tourist who has visited the state has been subjected to intense gazing at least on one occasion here. "People look at us from head to toe as if we are some criminals," explains Esther, a traveller from Spain. Esther has realized that Keralites look at foreigners not out of curiosity. Irine has stopped wearing shorts in the state. She now prefers only churidars. Apart from Irine and Esther, Ivan too holds such views. Ivan, a youth from Canada, is in Kalamandalam to learn Kathakali. All of them have several interesting incidents to relate from their days spent in Kerala. "We all love Kerala for its culture, traditions, and natural beauty. But the stares are terrible. We are examined as if we landed from some other planet," says Irine. "Once I was walking along the road after dusk had set in, two men approached me on a motorbike and showered abuses on me. Initially, I was terrified. But now I have got used to such behaviour. The attitude of the men in the state towards women has to undergo a sea change," she adds. The German tourist has more to reveal regarding Kerala's people. "In the morning, people arrive in bikes and throw plastic covers containing garbage on the roadsides. Later in the evening the same people pass that way covering their nose. Don't they realize that throwing garbage on the roadside is a crime and creates a social problem? Wouldn't it lead to the spread of contagious diseases? Don't the people know all this?" Irine asks. 'Day with masters' Kerala Kalamandalam now offers a tour named 'Day with masters' for the benefit of tourists. The visitors will be taken around the campus from 10 am to the time when classes end in the evening. Visitors have to register their names at the Tourism section of the Kalamandalam and a nominal entry fee of Re one will be charged. An artiste from the campus will serve as the guide. The visitors can walk around the premises and in the Koothamabalam where masters of Kathakali such as Pattikkamthody Ravunni Menon, Krishnan Nair, Thakazhy Kunju Kurup, Ramankutty Asan, Gopi Asan and Hyderali once held viewers and students in thrall. Statues in full Kathakali attire are also arranged at a hall in the Tourism office. Visitors can check all kinds of costumes – 'pacha,' 'kathi,' 'minukku,' and 'thaadi.' Apart from Kathakali, mannequins of Ottan Thullal, Mohiniyattam, and Koodiyattom dancers are also exhibited. All of them are faithful representations of real performers. Statues of Narada, Bali, Sudeva, Balabhadra, Roudra Bheema, Simhika, Narasimham, and Parasurama are the other displays. Sun, 24 Mar 2019 01:50:39 GMT Noted travel bloggers from world over visit scenic Kerala Kochi: Twenty-six renowned travel bloggers from 21 countries across the globe on Thursday set off on a fortnight's trip to Kerala by bus to visit places of tourist interest and cultural value and post their experiences real-time. The sixth edition of the 'Kerala Blog Express' (KBE) had its first halt at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, where the writers took a round of countrys biggest contemporary art festival that is concluding on March 29, a press release from Kerala Tourism said here. The KBE, as a unique initiative of Kerala's Tourism Department, seeks to earn global focus on the states brand assets through first-hand accounts of the travellers. The express this time has a stronger representation from Latin American countries with 16 of its 26 bloggers being women, the release said. The journey facilitates the visitors to write and post their experiences real-time, as the luxury coach they were travelling in is equipped with cutting-edge connectivity solutions, it said The KBE 6, which would conclude its journey on April 5, shaped up after organisers shortlisted more than 7,000 entries the department received from 50-plus countries. The endeavour goes by Kerala Tourisms latest global campaign titled 'Human by Nature', a three-minute video film, encapsulating the scenic states charms, it added. Fri, 22 Mar 2019 07:25:15 GMT Girl, 10, covers 100 km on bicycle in one day How far do ten-year-old kids go on cycle? School, tuition centre, maybe as far as the nearest shop, right? Some parents may think twice before letting kids ride on the main road. But introduced to cycling only six months ago, Devamitra, has achieved something girls of her age could only dream of. On March 17, Puthuppally native Devamitra rode from Kottayam to Alappuzha via Changanassery and back to Kottayam through Kumarakom – covering a total of 100 kilometres in one day. The ride that began at 4.30 am from Devalokam, Kottayam, was completed at 12.30 pm. She was assisted by her father Pramod. Starting from Kottayam, she enjoyed the serenity of Kuttanad cycling through Changanasseri and reached Alappuzha beach. She returned through Muhamma, Thannermukkam, and Kumarakom. Pramod, too, is a good cyclist. Devamitra was inspired by her father's love for cycling. Both certify that it is a very good exercise. Devamitra has shown there is no age barrier either. She is a fifth standard student at Kottayam Lourdes Public School. Devamitra is a good roller-skater, too. The passion that began at age 7 continues. She is the daughter of Pramod Madappally Tharayil and Soumyamol. Sister Vedamitra studies in LKG. Thu, 21 Mar 2019 03:59:23 GMT Historic Omallur farm fair begins in Pathanamthitta Pathanamthitta: Reminding visitors of the glorious agricultural heritage of the area, the one-month-long Omallur fair ('Omallur vayal vanibham') has begun. Produce brought by the farmers have been arranged for sale at the venue. The main attraction of the Omallur fair is the trade of traditional farm produce and cattle. The rural fair lays stress on the close association between man and the earth he ploughs. A procession carrying a lamp was taken out from Thekkevayal paddy field at Velinelloor panchayat in Kollam district highlighting the history of the Omallur fair. It was later given a warm welcome at Omallur. The welcome ceremony was arranged with the cooperation of the panchayat and local people. As part of the function, a lamp was lit under the Pala tree, which is a memorial to the fair. Omallur fair was inaugurated by Pathanamthitta Catholicate College principal Dr Mathew P Joseph. Panchayat president Geetha Vijayan presided over the function. Panchayat members P K Jayasree, Sujith Kumar, Sarada Kumari, and Ramadevi Kuttappan Nair, Agricultural Officer Janet Daniel, Panchayat secretary Sandeep Jacob, T P Haridasan Nair, Sajayan Omallur and Abhilash Omallur spoke. A farm seminar was also held, which was led by B Ramani. Prof Kadammanitta Vasudevan Pillai inaugurated a cultural event organized as part of the fair. A procession was also taken out. Variety of produce Visitors to Omallur fair can take home a variety of farm produce like elephant yam, colocasia, yam, several other tubers, saplings of fruit and vegetable trees, garden plants and others. Various earthenware, implements of regular use, pans made of black soil from Thanjavur and traditional items such as 'para,' 'nazhi,' vegetable knives, grindstone and agricultural tools are also displayed for sale. Moreover, at a stall put up by the Krishi Bhavan, saplings of several vegetables and seeds are available. History of the fair The origin of the Omallur fair dates back to the times when the only means of transport on land was the bullock cart. It is believed that a huge bull used for the purpose had freed himself and ran along with the stick of a Pala tree to which it had been tied at Thekkevayal in Kollam district towards Omallur. At Omallur, a local farmer managed to rein in the mad bull and tied it again to the same Pala branch. The Pala stick gradually grew into a huge tree which stands at the same spot now. Under the tree, a cattle fair and a farm fair came to be organized which later became the 'Omallur vayal vanibham.' Tue, 19 Mar 2019 01:43:32 GMT Karaladu in Wayanad awaits visitors to enjoy the brand new raft ride The zip line ride which was stalled at Karaladu has been reinstated and is expected to give an impetus to tourism prospects of the area. The visitors can also enjoy an amazing raft ride which is a latest addition to the tourism facilities here. One can enjoy a thrilling zip line ride across the water body and have a peaceful ride back to the banks in the raft. Tourists who come in groups can enjoy the ride together in the 20-seater raft made with bamboo. Though there are pedal and paddle boats here, the new raft in which a group of people can enjoy the ride together would be a unique experience. A ride in the raft would be the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the pristine lake in all its glory. The zip line project in Karaladu is part of the adventure tourism project here. Tourists weren't allowed to take the zip line ride for the last few months owing to various reasons. This had severely affected the tourism sector of the area as there had been a significant drop in the number of tourists visiting Karaladu. The zip line ride across the lake was definitely the most attractive feature which drew hundreds of tourists. Tourism and adventure enthusiasts hope that Karaladu would regain its lost glory with the return of the zip line. The tourists would be allowed to take the ride as soon as the zip line works are done and the engineering section completes its inspection. It is hoped that all the procedures would be completed by the end of the week. Mon, 18 Mar 2019 03:53:08 GMT 200-year-old Vallakadavu boat jetty now harbours Kerala's rich biodiversity Thiruvananthapuram: History beckons at the boat jetty at Vallakadavu, around 5 kilometres from the city. The heritage structure built by the Travancore royals that once served as the harbour for the kingdom has been transfigured into a museum by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board. The place was so much abuzz with commercial activities at one point of time that no wonder why the 19th century renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma chose the hustle and bustle of the old boat jetty as the central theme in one of his works. Raja Ravi Varma's 'Historic Meeting' has king of erstwhile Travancore kingdom Ayilyam Thirunal and his brother Visakham Thirunal welcoming Madras Governor Richard Greenwill at the boat jetty. This painting by Ravi Varma, worth Rs 18 crore, is among the prized collection of controversial diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, involved in PNB fraud case. The Income Tax Department has initiated auction procedures for the painting, which was published in the Malayala Manorama daily the other day. The boat jetty and its entrance hold significant stature in the history of the erstwhile kingdom. The jetty in the coastal hamlet of Vallakadavu was as easy access to transport goods from sea, especially from trading hubs like Alappuzha. The trading activities at Vallakadavu, which was originally known as ‘Kalpalakadavu’, could be traced back to 200 centuries, say local residents. The jetty always bustled with activity as many workers thronged the spot. The biodiversity museum and the huge aquarium have been set up retaining the original two-storey structure of the jetty. The vault of the heritage building had always caught the fancy of one and all. The renovation was carried out at Parvathy Puthanar starting from the place where the arch work once stood and extended up to the boat jetty. After nearly two centuries, the old boat jetty is now in thick of action. Students and cultural enthusiasts visit the heritage structure to get a glimpse of the exhibits highlighting the rich bio-diversity of Kerala, various farming practices that were in vogue, exotic paddy seeds and visuals of natural calamities that took place around the globe, apart from showcasing science marvels. Sun, 17 Mar 2019 03:51:51 GMT Old Jain shrine in Wayanad in ruins due to ASI apathy A Jain Temple likely constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries during the Hoysala reign in present-day Karnataka region is now in ruins, unprotected and abandoned though ironically a sign board of Archeological Survey of India (ASI) stands at the entrance declaring it to be a protected monument and legal action against those trying to destroy it. The temple ruins are located at Punchavayal, near Panamaram, in Kerala's Wayanad district and it seems the apathy of the ASI is behind this sorry state of affairs. Wayanad, which is situated on a picturesque mountainous plateau on the Western Ghats, might be called the Paradise of Kerala. It is a land where tradition, history and mystery enchant every visitor. The lands of modern-day Wayanad is a significant presence in the course of Kerala's history at least from the 10th century. The reflections of artistic expressions of the tribal community of Kerala in their distinct secluded form in the ancient social structure can be still traced in the hamlets of forested hilly tracts here. These were fair reasons for the students perusing their final-year post-graduation in History to finalise Wayanad as their destination for the study tour mandated in the curriculum. The team of history enthusiasts consisted of class tutor asst prof C H Abdul Lathif, Dr T Divya , asst prof Jaison Augustine and nine students of the 2017-19 batch of MA students of the department of history, Maharaja's College, Ernakulam. The plan did not consist of any time-bound itineraries rather the aim of the journey was to briefly understand the significance of Wayanad and Malappuram in the history of Kerala by getting a bird’s eye view of the places of historical relevance here. It was by mere accident that the travellers noticed the temple ruins. The discovery came as a delight to the team of history enthusiasts. An ASI board welcomed them at the basadi (shrine). The board declared that the place was declared as a national monument according to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (or AMASR Act) 1958 of the Government of India. It declared that those trying to damage the site would be punishable which included a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh and imprisonment up to two years. It was also stated that according to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010, the site and its surroundings were protected and any attempts of encroachments were a punishable offence. Shockingly, the actual situation of the heritage site was pathetic. The remains of the stone structure were in an exposed condition and a major part of it has been already destroyed. Two stone temples in this area are called Vishnugudi and Janardhanagudi and were testimony to a thriving Jain culture in the area in the past. It is said that more than 300 sculptures are part of this temple ruins. Whatever that is remaining is itself a marvel to human eye and one great reminder of human skills. The walls of the temples have remains of inscriptions that if decoded may reveal new doors of Kerala history. It was in 2014 that the ASI produced the first notification regarding its decision to undertake the protection of Vishnugudi. Though the board remains in a good condition no sign of protection is visible here. One tends to doubt whether this negligence is the result of the tendency to ignore the significance of Southern History when talking about Indian History as a whole. While a look at the relics will surely bewitch anyone with an interest in art, culture or history, a closer look is equally disheartening. Empty liquor bottles, stumps of cigarettes, and packets of Hans that is adorning the floors of this epical monument today. This points to the presence of antisocial elements who can bring further danger to the existence of this heritage structure. A photo exhibited at the Museum in Pazhahasi Kudeeram at Mananthavadi shows that the temple was in much better position earlier. The stone entrance that is seen in this photograph is not even found in a destructed form anywhere near the premises. The road runs very close to the monument and any plans to expand it can even lead to a total destruction of the entire monument. asst prof Dr T Divya noted "the unexpectedly noticed ruins of Jain Basathi at Punchavayal were really mesmerising and disappointing at the same time. The old Kannada inscriptions in the temple throw light to the Jain migration to the northern part of Kerala from the Kannada region. The monument has typical Jain Architectural and sculptural features like the floral designs, Naga images, and Vyali mugam steps, Pillared Mandapas and fish images or those of the Minanathar…" Only with pain one could bid farewell to these relics. Fri, 15 Mar 2019 05:47:13 GMT Israel moves pristine corals after restricted beach reopens Eilat: For 50 years an Israeli oil company kept bathers and scuba divers away from a prime strip of beach in the Red Sea resort of Eilat. But it couldn't stop the sea life. A spectacular and diverse reef, undisturbed by the splashes of three million beach-loving Eilat visitors each year, blossomed. The corals made the oil pipeline and a simple docking pier their home. A year and a half ago the 300 metre-long beach was handed back to the public after the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), whose facilities are gated off and subject to military secrecy, scaled back its operations. Scientists found a magical undersea world of unspoiled corals and schools of fish. Faced with huge visitor interest in the virgin site, Israel's Nature and Parks Authority decided to relocate the corals for their own protection so the industrial debris left by EAPC could be removed. "The most complicated part of opening this beach is preserving the wealth of species in this unique spot, while still allowing the public to enjoy the natural treasure," said Assaf Habary, manager of the Eilat region for the nature authority. Coral reefs are home to an estimated 25 percent of all marine life. They are under threat worldwide by climate change, pollution and unregulated fishing and tourism, so saving each piece is important. "There are hundreds of colonies of coral that we need to relocate, one by one, delicately," Habary said. Watched by a passing dolphin, he and his teammate used hammers and chisels to gently chip the richly coloured corals off cement barrels and pipes half-buried in the seabed. Enough tapping at the base of the coral and it simply peels off. The collection of corals, ranging from the size of a baseball to a basketball, were then floated down shore and placed on a natural, hard surface they would hopefully adopt as their new home. Roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirds under serious threat, according to the World Wildlife Fund. In Eilat, however, aquatic life seems to be bucking the global trend. Scientists have found coral here can tolerate unusually large rises in temperature, while those elsewhere are turning white and dying as oceans warm. They believe the corals that settled thousands of years ago in the northern Red Sea had to pass through a narrow strait of warmer water that acted as a thermal barrier, ensuring they are more resilient to temperature increases. Thu, 14 Mar 2019 04:33:59 GMT Kozhikode beckons adventure enthusiasts to enjoy paramotoring Kozhikode: Sub collector V Vigneswari and assistant collector K S Anju celebrated women's day on March 8 by flying around in the clear blue skies. The women officials inaugurated the paramotoring event at the DTPC beach by volunteering for the first ride. The sub collector said that her flying experience, enjoying the serene beauty of the beach below, was amazing. She added that it was almost like flying in an open air-plane. The sub collector even expressed her wish to try para motoring again. Both women stressed that there was nothing to be scared and that flying enthusiasts including women should make use of the opportunity. ADM E P Mercy, DTPC secretary C P Beena, and Thahaildar E Anithakumari also took part in the event. Regular flying sessions will be conducted from next week until May 31, from 5 pm onwards, near the Lion's Club here. One can fly up to 300 ft high and glide around 2 km. A trained pilot would accompany the fliers. It costs Rs 3000 per head to enjoy the beautiful sceneries in the beach, flying up in the sky. The paraglider is brought here by the Aero Club of Calicut. Salim Hassan, the chief flying instructor at the Aero Club of Calicut said that the flying schedules would be decided after analysing the weather each day. Tue, 12 Mar 2019 05:43:25 GMT All mountain railways in India to have vistadome coaches New Delhi: All mountain railways in India will now have vistadome coaches, allowing passengers to enjoy the scenic beauty of hilly terrains, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said. The latest addition of vistadome or glass-enclosed coaches have been made to the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. "Given the positive feedback on this initiative of Indian Railways, order for hundred vistadome coaches have been given to the concerned production unit," said Goyal, while speaking to reporters. Vistadome coaches have been designed to provide panoramic view to passengers, while enhancing their travelling comfort. These coaches have been provided with large windows on the sides and glass panels on the roof to provide better viewing experience. Three broad-gauge coaches have been manufactured by the Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli and are running between Dadar and Madgoan in Araku Valley and in Kashmir Valley. Four mountain railways have been provided with vistadome coaches. In total 11 vistdome coaches are presently in service - four in Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, two in Kalka-Shimla Railway, one in Kangra Valley Railway and one in Matheran Hill Railway. Two meter-gauge coaches have been modified to vistadome by Golden Rock Workshop, Tiruchirappalli for Niligiri Mountain Railway. The minister said that plans are afoot to manufacture or retrofit 18 more coaches to vistadome ones in the next three months for Kalka-Shimla, Kangra Valley, Patalpani-Kalkund section (in Madhya Pradesh) and Mailani-Nanpara section (in UP). Another 69 more such coaches will be planned in 2019-20 to make it 100. "This is another attempt by the Indian Railways to add to passenger experience while promoting tourism in the country," he said. Sun, 10 Mar 2019 05:53:16 GMT Agra tourism pins hopes on flights to new destinations Agra: The tourism industry is expecting a major boost in business with Agra getting air connectivity to Bengaluru, Bhopal, Lucknow and Varanasi from May under the government's Udaan regional connectivity scheme. Airport officials said low-cost airline Indigo is keen taking advantage of the scheme in order to connect the Taj city with major destinations in India. Agra is currently connected by air with Jaipur and Khajuraho. Work on a new Rs 400 crore terminal building at the Kheria airport, now renamed Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya airport, is expected to begin soon. In the past, there have been several initiatives to increase Agra's air connectivity with international destinations, but according to local tourism industry players "interest-groups and the Delhi lobby of travel agents and hoteliers" somehow always managed to stall the plans. Agra Civil Aviation Society Secretary Anil Sharma said Agra's international airport project was also hijacked by politicians to Jewar in Bulandshahr district. Sat, 09 Mar 2019 04:53:28 GMT