Saturday, April 03, 2010
1. Never list your home address on the luggage tag. If on business, put the company's address on the tag; if visiting friends you can list their address. Use covered luggage tags as well.
2. Stay with your luggage until the luggage is checked. If you must put your bag down, keep one foot on the handle.
3. Carry important papers with you; NEVER check anything that you simply cannot afford to lose. Photocopy your passport, driver's license and credit cards.
4. Bring a small flashlight. You never know when you'll suddenly be "in the dark" and find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. At night, keep your flashlight by your bed.
5. Make sure that your prescription medicines are filled properly and labeled accurately. In some countries certain prescription medicines are forbidden.
6. Never wear anything that projects affluence. No gold chains, expensive watches and rings, luggage, or other paraphernalia should be in easy view. Better yet: leave your jewelry at home.
7. If possible travel with only one or two credit cards.
8. Women particularly should never accept a drink from a stranger. Keep an eye on your drink at all times.
9. Vary your schedule; try not to come and go at the same time everyday.
10. Only stay in a hotel that uses cards to open room doors and make sure your room has a peephole and a deadbolt lock. Secure the chain and secure the door by pushing a rubber stop under it.
11. Stay in a room near a stairwell. Never take the elevator if a fire or smoke is detected. Always stay in a hotel where the doors enter the hallway and not directly from the outside.
12. Do not wear name tags in public.
13. Do not use unmarked taxi cabs.
14. Sit behind the driver so you can see him, but he cannot see you.
15. Pay the driver upon arriving at your destination and while you are still sitting in the vehicle.
16. If you must rent a car, rent only from a reputable company. Any operating problems that occur could signal sabotage.
17. Be aware of 'staged' car accidents meant to catch you off card.
18. Back into your parking spaces to facilitate a quick exit.
19. Park only in well lit and well traveled areas.
20. If your cell phone does not work outside of the country, consider renting one that does for the duration of your trip.
21. If detained for whatever reason by an official, ask for identification. If in doubt, tell them that you want to see his superior. Keep your emotions in check.
22. If traveling with children, bring along an updated photograph of each child in the event that you become separated from them.
23. Write your child's name and your hotel number on each card; include a close friend's or relative's contact information on the card. Give a card to each child which they will carry with them as long as you are away. Destroy once home.
24. Discuss with your family what they would do in event of an emergency while away from home, e.g. whom to call, how to contact emergency personnel, etc.
25. Do not discuss travel plans, your room number or any other personal information in public within earshot of strangers.
26. Bring along a basic first aid kit with bandages, iodine, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, alcohol packets, dramamine, pepto bismol, diarrhea medicine, etc.
27. Familiarize yourself with train and bus schedules before traveling. Have an alternate plan in place in the event your transportation plans change.
28. Do not flash your passport in public. Discreetly show important documents to officials only.
29. Consider purchasing portable alarms that emit a loud sound.
30. Watch for scams on the street. Children working with adults are notorious as pickpockets.
31. Never flash your money in public. Exchange funds with reputable and recognized exchangers only.
32. Have tips ready in advance for service personnel
Monday, March 01, 2010
Also one of the most beautiful countries in the world, New Zealand is an adventure lover’s dream. Despite its small size, it has mountains, volcanoes, rivers and coastlines that could only be described as magical. Most known for its majestic mountains, trekking, climbing, white water rafting, and in their summer, skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing, snowmobiling and ice climbing are all popular. Spelunking and blackwater rafting gives you the opportunity to see the glowworm-lit caverns and explore the underground rivers of the Waitomo Caves. The New Zealand coast is a great place to partake in surfing, water skiing, sea kayaking and sailing. Considered one of the best diving destinations in the world, some of the must-dive spots are The Poor Knights, Bay of Islands, Fiordland and Stewart Island.
Australia’s varied terrain makes it an adventurer’s paradise. Water sports are king in Australia, with everything from surfing, kayaking, windsurfing and white water rafting to jet skiing, speed boating and sailing. Of course no trip is complete without scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. If you choose to venture away from the stunning beaches there are many inland things to do, such as overlanding the Outback, biking, hiking, spelunking and climbing at Ayers Rock and the Blue Mountain. You can even find adventures in the city in Australia, like climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. To experience aboriginal culture, be sure to take in Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Australia also boasts a rich natural diversity and they like to show it off at the Australian Zoo, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Cairns Wildlife Dome and Cairns Night Zoo. There are also whale-watching tours between July and October.
Best known as a snow sports haven, Switzerland has enough to keep visitors enthralled all year around. Besides skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice climbing, air boarding, hiking, dog sledding and ice diving are great ways to take in this winter wonderland. Summer travelers to Switzerland can enjoy hiking, Nordic walking, rafting, climbing, fishing, canoeing, spelunking, biking, hang gliding, mountaineering, cliff diving, gold panning and going through rope suspension courses. Dotted with medieval castles, Switzerland’s rich alpine culture comes to life with an awe-inspiring beauty that will make you never want to leave.
4. South Africa
With spectacular coastlines and majestic mountains, South Africa attracts adventure travelers from across the globe. They boast both the highest abseil (112 meters high on Table Mountain) and the highest commercial bungee jump in the world (an exhilarating 216 meter drop off of Bloukrans Bridge). Other alpine excursions include rock climbing, sand boarding, hang gliding, mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking. If you prefer spending your time in the water, try white water rafting, scuba diving, shark diving, snorkeling, fishing, water skiing, surfing and sailing. Besides South Africa’s national parks, private reserves offer excellent opportunities to view elephants, lions, zebras, African penguins, rhinos, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, hippos and cheetahs, as well as boat tours to see right whales and great white sharks.
Known for its jungles, beaches and the Amazon River, Brazil is the perfect place to lose yourself in the beauty of the rainforest. A jungle tour is a must, whether you hire a guide and trek in on foot or take a boat or canoe to the “wedding of the waters,” where the Rio Negro runs into the Amazon. Besides the Amazon, the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park is one of the best places for wildlife watching, and you just might catch a glimpse of jaguars, capybaras, caimans, iguanas and more than 1000 different types of birds. In the southern mountains, repelling, rafting, hiking, climbing, horseback riding, hang gliding and mountain biking to God’s Finger, Bell’s Rock or to Iguassu Falls are great ways to take in Brazil. As for water sports, surfing and diving are the most popular but you can also find kayaking, sailing, fishing, snorkeling, windsurfing, kite surfing and jet skiing.
"The slickness of the small city (that’s what I’d like to call it) forced me to take a step back and reassess my initial perception..." - see the full travel article from Girish Khare here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/travelport
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
An elephant ride into the deciduous forests of Bandhavgargh, on a cold winter morning, can be the most exhilarating experience of one’s lifetime. It was for me. But unlike Africa where spotting animals, means simply driving out on to the Serengeti; India guards her secrets jealously and only those most determined, discerning and in a sense fortunate, get a glimpse of her magnificent wildlife. That morning the forests unveiled her soul for me, like a maiden in the mist. The sounds of the mahout’s grunts and the rustling bamboo leaves was interrupted by a low threatening growl that seemed to come from the very bowels of the earth. The elephant stopped. There barely 15 feet away in a clearing on the ravine floor lay a magnificent specimen of a tiger, the current dominant male.
If you have followed the Discovery Channel’s series on the most famous pair of tigers in the world, Sita and her mate Charger, you’ll be happy to know that the great saga continues to play out deep in the jungles of Bandhavgargh. Only this time it features the new generation of Chakradhara, Bhitri, Banvai, Bachi, and twenty two other stripped felines, of all ages
That night as the sparks from the night fire danced beneath a moonless sky, tiger stories unfolded. Once during the monsoon rains as Abhyuday Singh walked along a path on his property, suddenly from the left a large full grown tigress broke cover. It was a long tense minute before she turned and walked away. Had he run or showed signs of fear she would have taken him down in a few bounds. Apparently this happened less than 50 feet from where we sat gazing into the fire.
At the centre of the Treehouse Hideaway property is a giant Mahua tree with the dining hall built around it. The five others tree, Banyan, Peepal, Mahua, Tendu and Palash, each have a large very spacious and luxury tree house built more than 15 feet high up among their branches. Though the houses are kept cool and breezy throughout the day because of the leafy branches all around, the rooms are fit with all weather comforts of air conditioners and heaters. The Mahua tree has been given pride of place because a lot of life, traditionally, in this region revolves around the Mahua, especially its intoxicating flower. The large balcony of each of these five exclusive homes in the sky overlooks the lodge’s twenty two acres of wild forest, which is located literally at the edge of the Tiger Reserve. The tree houses are far apart and do not infringe on each other’s space, leaving one with a sense of freedom rare for any city animal.
About three hundred yards from the dining area is the lodge’s other special site, the Machaan which has been built over a jungle water hole. I spent a whole evening gazing at the wildlife come and go and took a few hundred photographs. I can think of nothing more exciting than sitting up in a machaan, alone, watching life pass you by.
Abhyuday is a natural born wildlife genius who has learnt to treat the jungle as his living room. To help his guests take the experience to another level he has provided each room with a Complete Indian Birds, hardback edition.
For me once is certainly not enough, I am sure return again and again.No Complaints.
Bandhavgargh has a large pool of very experienced naturalists this ensures that every guest is afforded a fantastic wildlife experience. Most naturalists are equipped with a powerful set of Binoculars and a professional camera.
Where is Bandhavgargh?
In the heart of
Sanctuaries and National Parks in MP
Van Vihar National Park
The Mahua tree is a large more than 100 foot tree that bares flowers which Tribal and rural folk (of MP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and even some parts of UP and
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The elephant cow chosen as my ride had the most calm and docile temperament, perfect for a novice like me. The thick rope tied around her neck was loose enough for me to get a firm grip and each of my feet fit snugly in the hollow behind her huge ears. These are much the same as the small hollows behind our own ears where one can insert a fingertip. It’s so important to get the sitting posture right because when the animal ascends or descends a river bank, the gradient can be as much as forty degrees. Believe me if you don’t know how to sit you can easily fall off and hurt yourself badly and even be trampled by the beast.
I was attempting to learn not master, how to ride an elephant in a single day, just so that I could do a jungle safari bare-back for a couple of hours. So for me to get used to the undulating lumber the mahout led the elephant, with me in the seat, around the river area where there was both tall grass and the river embankment. She was a truly gentle creature whose thick coarse strands of hair seemed to pop out of her head. I felt an immediate affection for her and absolutely no fear. Occasionally her trunk would fumble around to check where my feet were, then she’d let out an almost inaudible low rumble, it was a very comforting sound that resonated through my body. Elephants are known to communicate long distances in this manner, and use the soles of their feet as listening receptacles. At close proximity elephants love physical contact and can display a high degree of affection and concern for one another, even for the dead!
My next lesson taught me how to steer left, right, straight ahead or stop. I learnt some very simple commands; depending on which foot prodded her behind the ear and she’d move in the opposite direction i.e. a left foot meant right turn and opposite for the right foot. To get her moving ahead I would simply prod her behind the ears with both feet and call out ‘ugath’. To stop I dug my heels into her shoulders and call out ‘arr’. By the way I had to sit between her shoulders and head, the reason I mention this is because there is very little neck on an elephant and it seems you are almost sitting on her head. At the end of the day one must remember that elephants in
My feet tingled with excitement when the next morning the three elephants lumbered into the jungles of Chitwan. I was in the middle, a wise place to be! and as an additional precaution the regular mahout sat on her back a little further back actually.
The one thing all my years visiting jungles has taught me – you can never be certain about what one will see. So I have learnt to thoroughly enjoy the very habitat and treat every bird or animal I actually see as bonus, this way I’m never disappointed. As we silently plunged into the tall grass that covered vast areas of the river bank, the feet of this heavy beast carved a path among the pale green blades. Despite the size we made no sound as we progressed to water’s edge. I could see the lead Mahout point to the opposite bank and there in the wet mud basked a crocodile. But it had seen us and in a few seconds disappeared, head first, into the brown rushing waters. We lumbered on into the waters; I must admit this was the only part that I was worried about. We tread straight across the waters and up the far bank; I was slowly getting the hand of bending against the angle to compensate the shifting point of gravity. It was much like sitting on a horse bucking in slow motion. We kept a steady pace behind the lead animal as long as we were in the grasslands. But now I could see the tree line approaching.
Once inside the forest my elephant required a lot more manoeuvring and I had to concentrate far more on my riding. This meant that I kept getting smacked in the face with thin branches and leaves and even getting my face full of spider webs and insects. One time it seemed I lost sight of the elephant in front until we nearly bumped into its rear. I almost came alongside the other beast when the mahout motioned with his head at the rhino standing straight ahead in the path. Neither animal wanted to give way and for a few unnerving moments there was a tense standoff, until the Rhino angrily stormed off into the brush.
There is ‘almost’ no danger when you are on top of an elephant not even from tigers; however the only trouble comes from large elephant bulls. I was told of rare instances when a mahout meets a tusker, his elephant is charged and chased out of the jungle. Though it is not often that they venture to the fringes of the forest, however in Chitwan wild tuskers are known to raid the pens when the females are in oestrus apparently that’s how my elephant became pregnant! Mostly elephant cows are used to ferry people and tourists in the area.
It was a great morning out in the jungle; we had seen Cheetal, Sambhar, peacock by the dozen and a number of other birds and animals but above all that I was most happy with the fact that I rode into the jungle on an elephant and didn’t need the mahout to come to my rescue at any time during that entire trip.
That night slept came easily and certainly not because of the large glass of Raxshy, the local liquor, which I happily sipped through the evening. Only the loud but distant roar of a tiger sometime in the early parts of pre dawn opened my eyes, albeit for a few seconds. In the jungle I am so consumed with happenings around me that nothing else can occupy even the fringes of my imagination. It is in this state I know I will encounter that one moment, that something I’ll see or experience which will remain a special spark for the rest of my life. My moment came early the next morning. As I stepped out of the wooden cottage, there partly hidden by the bushes near the river a large antlered Sambhar grazed, its coat was dappled in the soft sunshine of morning. At the sound of the door opening it razed its head, looked at me and slowly waded across the river and into the grasslands on the opposite bank. I sat there for a long, long while staring aimlessly after it, the morning was cold and mist inches high above the undergrowth. To the left came the hysterical call of a lapwing screaming ‘did-you-do-it?!’ while grey wagtails dipped their tails to the sun as they hopped across the narrow strip of grass a few yards away from where I sat on the steps of the cottage.
Surely this was paradise anew.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Excerpts from "My timeless travels" by travel & food writer Girish Khare
Timeless crags seem carelessly strewn across an arid landscape. I’m worried about the heat and dust of Sinai, mind you its mid summer, so I can’t be laughed at for being so hassled. Whizzing past our vehicle are a host of top-of-the-line resorts; Hilton, Mobem Peck, Savoy, Hyatt, Marriot, etc some of them with as many as 2000 plus rooms, cottages and villas! They, however, hide one part of the engaging extremities of Sharm El Sheikh, the turquoise sea. The lack of green cover sharpens the suns rays to knife edge effectiveness, singeing my skin. But will you believe me if I said it was not hot?
The level of satisfaction a holiday provides is in direct relation to the state of one’s mind and equally the measure or absence of expectation. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the Sharm El Sheikh experience. The resort we stayed at wasn’t ‘spectacular’, but that’s precisely what made the difference … the ambience, not just the topless European beauties (!) at the pool and beach; the whole atmosphere was charged, gigantic speakers by the pool belted out great music, artisans, masseuse and the smiling staff all set the pace for a delightful stay. It was a kind of mini global community, Swiss, Poles, English, Russians, Italians, Malays, Japanese, Australian, us Indians, and a very stingy sprinkle of Americans. It was a kind of Mediterranean with a blend of Arabian fun. I always find it strange that resorts near the sea have a swimming pool, but here the invigorating thump of the double bass created the rhythm for life.
On the Red Sea at the tip of the sparse Sinai Peninsula - the Gulf of Aqaba and Saudi Arabia off to one side, the Gulf of Suez and Egypt's Eastern Desert off to the other - Sharm el-Sheikh has an imposing location. This resort town has become known throughout the world as the site for delicate and high level Middle East peace conferences. When it is not playing host to the leaders of pivotal global nations, it is welcoming a constant influx of professional and recreational divers who come for premier and pristine rock, sand, wreck and reef diving experiences. The adventure element is inescapable - camel riding, desert safaris, water sports and even an underwater shark observatory. But, contrasting the stark terrain, creature comforts and amenities also abound - casinos, discos, nightclubs with live entertainment, an amusement park, shopping precincts, bazaars, golf courses, tennis courts, health clubs and even a Hard Rock Cafe.
Sharm is a pure fun destination, unlikely as that may sound. Even the Desert services up the most spectacular sights and sounds. One night we drove out into the darkness of the desert, it was moonless and only the headlights of our Toyota sliced the night like giant flashbulbs. We couldn’t see the road that made the driver turn left and right, so purposefully at invisible intersections. Finally in a pitch black night the soft glow of flickering light was visible behind what appeared to be a high sand dune. But as we turned the corner, we encountered the wild beats of the desert drums and the frenzied dancing of young Egyptian girls and boys in the raised circular platform in the centre of a fairly large gathering. Couples reclined on divan’s and bolsters drawing on scented sheesha smoke while admiring the shapely young women enjoying themselves.
Everything about Egyptians has a sensual approach; they like to believe it’s romantic. For instance I was constantly approached to enquire how many camels I wanted for the hand of one of the two young women traveling with us. I am not sure whether that was a way to break the ice or compliment the girls or if they really meant it. But asked they did…And no the young women were not related to me but may grey beard somehow advertising the misleading notion that I was the father (!) The math was right, but hullo that’s pretty presumptuous! This happened to us EVERYWHERE in Egypt, without exception. The Italian men may have serious competition now.
For you guys out there, the Egyptian women’s skin is smooth as ornamental alabaster and a large percentage good looking. Though they also have a flirtatious angle to their communication, that’s just a style don’t get carried away! Out there in the middle of the desert, we saw this group of young women with their guys, pulling on sheesha’s and shanking a leg like the best anywhere in the world. By the way they are shapely as well; all of them were in shorts and T shirts! Brother, if it wasn’t so cool at night, it would certainly have been hot under the collar. I must add that with all this gyrating and amorous behaviour no one, neither girl nor guy stepped out of line… no cat calls, no hitch ups (as most men might expect) it was good clean fun.
Then there was the Belly dancer and the Dervish swirl – god it makes you dizzy. And a great grill of meats served up with some ‘hot-strange’ brew to wash it down. I’d say don’t miss a night in the desert, whatever else you do at a sea side resort on the Red sea.
Another treat, frankly surprise, awaited us the very next evening. We visited the fashionable area of Naama bay. Naama bay is more like a kilometer long open air mall, lined by fabulous eating places on either side. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Cannes by the sea (devoid of automobiles), with togged up gentry enjoying a tipple and watching the world go by. You find every nationality under the sun staring right back at you as you stroll down the breeze swept paved walkway in the cool of the evening. All sorts of wonderful stuff are sold in the smartly dressed shops and showrooms along the way. And you may encounter a someone else’s hand in your pocket helping you spend your money… so beware of politely phrased questions that go like this…‘Sir/madam do tell me how I can spend your money for you?’ or better still beware of ‘Amitabh Bashaan? Please come to my shop and write something in my guest book in Indian’ fall for that and you’ll be suckered into spending some money… mostly on stuff you don’t want. And before you suddenly begin to develop an air cushion under the feet (for being called AB), they refer to all Indian’s as Amitabh Bashaan… and if you don’t smile back and quickly walk away, you might end up having to listen to a bad rendition of Mehbooba! With apologies to Ra, the big B has certainly replaced the sun god in that part of the world.
For me, one of the most memorable parts of the trip was the underwater life on the coral reefs that hug the coastal shelf along the relatively small bays around Sharm. You can watch dolphins and even swim with them. You can dive and snorkel and enjoy the mildly warm, sapphire blue, crystal clear water. Even in the submerged sailing glass house we witnessed an array of wildlife including jelly fish, blue flying fish, parrot fish, packs of marauding mullet, the incorrigible sergeant major, the fashionable butterfly fish, puffer, trigger, fan coral, the deadly fire coral, oh I could go on and on. Two hours drive from Sharm is the ancient monastery of St Catherine and the brilliantly natural carved salt sculptures in the middle of nowhere. As a matter of fact Sharm el Sheikh is a surprise package; it’s a uniquely different perspective of life. It’s fun in the sun like you’ve never known all your life.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Everyone loves to travel - especially when the travel is free. And that's what gives incentive travel programs such powerful motivational resonance. Whether it's simple or elaborate, a well-developed program can work to your company's advantage in ways nothing else can. Below, we offer you a simple six-step process to help you put together the most effective incentive travel program you possibly can.
1. Identify your goals
The first step is to determine what you expect to accomplish. Is it your desire to motivate your employees, reward your current customers, attract new ones or increase sales of a particular product or service? It's important to be clear and specific about the desired outcome since it will ultimately help you track the success of your program.
2. Create a plan
Whom are you trying to reach with your program? How long will it run? How will you communicate its value internally and externally? Addressing questions like these at the start of the program is critical to its success.
3. Develop a budget
An incentive travel program doesn't have to cost a lot to generate big results. In fact, many companies simply reallocate inefficient portions of their marketing budgets to fund their programs.
How much are you prepared to spend to accomplish your goals? Clearly, the answer is a major determining factor for the types of travel rewards to which you can commit. TravelPort offers everything from airline tickets and hotel accommodations to our luxurious Pamperings travel packages. Of course, there are other expenses you should factor into your budget beyond the rewards themselves. The following is a recommended allocation of dollars for an effective travel rewards program:
Rewards - 80%
Promotion and communications - 10%
Administration - 5%
Training and research - 5%
4. Select the perfect rewards
TravelPort provides travel rewards of all kinds. Sometimes, offering round-trip air travel may be enough to help you reach your goals. In those instances when you want to make a really dramatic statement, offering something like a lavish Hawaiian or European vacation with Pamperings ™ packages or a trip to the Singapore F1 or IPL or may be just the ticket. With close to 5 years and 300 client in the incentive travel business, we at TravelPort can help you determine what travel rewards would be most appropriate given your goals and budget.
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If you want to maximize the results of an incentive travel program, it is imperative that you continuously and systematically stay in touch with your target audience. Use all the tools available to you to spread the word, including direct mail, HTML e-mails, in-house newsletters, outbound telemarketing and more. And don't just pull out all the stops at the launch of the program. Make sure you communicate the results on a regular basis. That's what's going to keep everyone to whom the program is targeted reaching for the stars.
6. Measure the results
Because you established your objectives up-front, it should be relatively easy for you to gauge the effectiveness of your program. Was the target audience motivated by your efforts? Did you see a measurable increase in employee satisfaction? In customer loyalty? In new business? Perhaps most important, by measuring the results of your program you can determine what to do in the future to make it even more effective.
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