Over the last few weeks I have had a number of people asking me various doubts on planning an independent international holiday & particularly about booking hotels abroad. So, till such time as HolidayIQ launches a comprehensive international section (don’t worry, that is coming soon & I promise, it will be a great planning tool), here is a quick primer on how to book hotels & resorts abroad.
I am an online guy, so my first preference is always to book hotels online. With both Travelocity and Expedia launching India sites, the widest international hotel inventory is available to be booked from India and paid in Rupees. So, it sure beats your neighbourhood travel agent hollow. And since both sites have an Indian call centre, one can also talk to a real person in India to double check your bookings, which is often a real comfort.
I stress-tested booking a family room (4 people, 2 adults and 2 kids) at Orlando – in or around Disneyworld – on both the sites. Both Expedia & Travelocity did a good job and threw up a number of options (although Travelocity gave funny error messages & repeatedly failed in my Firefox browser which was a disappointment). However, Expedia’s search methodology was a shade more user-friendly since it allows you to find hotels by naming the Attraction you want to go to and throws up hotels around the attraction. Of course, both Travelocity & Expedia also allow you to narrow the list of hotels in the search results by distance or ease of access to the attraction.
Both excelled in prices. Hotel room prices around Disneyworld started in Expedia at Rs 1386 per night and in Travelocity at Rs 1583 per night. Continue reading →
I was brought up on a plot of land about a sixth of an acre. Born to a man who had left the embrace of land, but whose father was both a village teacher and a farmer. So land and by extension Nature was always around in my childhood.
Nature entranced me as a child. As I look back, I can trace many of my skills back to the days when I used wander across the compound on Saturday afternoons with nothing much to do other than climb trees, poke into warrens and eat a lot of fruit.
Nature taught me to See. For the two qualities most required for observation are the qualities that nature absolutely forces on you. The first is a keen appreciation of scale. The second, patience.
As a child you soon learn to appreciate that Nature operates at all sizes. From tiny little bugs that make concentric circles as they burrow in the tropical earth to large trees that groan with the lashing rain, our little plot had the whole spectrum of scale. And for a kid, this is pretty cool – one minute allowing you to rub your nose deep into the mud closely monitoring the intricacies of the earthworm and the next to swinging high on the branches of a monstrous mango tree.
But, you need patience with Nature – as all kids who have tried to catch a dragonfly to tie a knot on its tail will testify. (Incidentally, I tried to find a youtube video showing a real dragonfly and failed. All the videos are of rock bands, toy helicopters, Japanese Animes or even the odd nightclub. Does seem to say a bit about our current relationship with Nature).
Penguin has recently published this extraordinary book by Ruskin Bond on Nature. If you are a lover of nature, run to get your copy. If not, well, my sympathies are with you.
My son clambered up on my lap as we launched into the episode where Kubera, the Treasurer to the Gods, invites young Ganesha to a feast. An early reference to Kubera’s greatness is in the description of his wonderful garden, the magical, Chaitraratha.
Gardens are an interesting, repeating motif in mythology & legend. Remember the Garden of Eden, where man got knowledge & was banished to earth? To me, nothing so demonstrates man’s supposedly evolutionary superiority as his creation of gardens. And as I wander the world, I keep a definite eye out for them.
A garden I have always wanted to see but have not yet managed to is ‘Lunuganga‘, a tropical garden created by the Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Bawa was an interesting character. After reading English at Cambridge & Law in London, he went on to a career at the Bar in Sri Lanka. Then at the age of 38 he shifted gears to become an architect. Lunuganga, the garden Bawa created outside Colombo, started out as a rubber estate, which he lovingly and meticulously worked on for over 50 years, turning it into a world- renowned tropical paradise. What a fascinating enterprise that must have been.
A favourite fantasy of mine is to create a flowing garden on a large tract of land atop a barren hill overlooking the sea. I can see it clearly. The weather is neither hot nor cold, but of course, is humid. I am sure I will recognise the place when I see it. My suspicion is that it is in one of the islands of Indonesia – possibly even a remote corner of Bali. Or maybe it is a little atoll in the Pacific. The search goes on.