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List Of Essential Words & Phrases For Travelers To Japan


Chances are, you will never actually need to speak a word of Japanese while traveling through Japan. They are a thoughtful lot, and in almost every instance they have put up illustrations, like pictures for food in restaurants, a step-by-step guide to using their dazzlingly efficient metro, for all the hands-free functions on that space-age toilet, for just about everything in fact, including how to stand in line politely and wait your turn, and even how not to get your hands stuck in closing doors. They possess an almost uncanny ability to second-guess your doubts and fears, and answer (in pictures) the most obvious questions that will spring to your worried/concerned traveler-mind before you can even ask them. On the flipside, they are a gracious bunch too, and if they think you have made an effort to learn their language (a linguistic Rubik’s Cube of permutations, combinations, nuances, allegories, possibilities and interpretations), they will most certainly reward you with an extra smile or a deeper bow. It’s worth it to go armed with a few must-know words and phrases, starting with the most basic and working your way up.  1) Arigato Gozaimas-u. Literally, thank you. Odd we should begin with this, but in a culture that holds politeness as one of the greatest human virtues, you will be using this right through your day. The ‘u’ at the end is not really pronounced; it’s more of a phonetic hiccup that you add on, which lingers in the air after the phrase is uttered (getting just that bit right will add an ephemeral brownie point to your cred). A simple ‘arigato’ will also suffice if you get sudden brain-freeze and cannot remember the second word; they won’t judge you for it.  2) Konichiwa Quite simply, ‘hello’. It’s your best fallback option if you cannot remember its distant cousins ‘good morning’ (ohayo-gozaimas-u) or ‘good evening’ (kombawa). Predicate every first-time encounter with this; it’s civilized, it’s just ‘howdy’ with an eastern twist (and a bow).  3) Sumi-masenIt means ‘excuse me’. Say it effortlessly, and say it fast; say it like it almost sounds like ‘simasen’, but not quite. You will use this for almost everything, to get someone’s attention, or as a mild apology for harmless goofiness and dim-wittedness. Remember we said mild apology; that’s lower down on the scale from an outright ‘oh gosh, I am so sorry!’ (gomen-nasai), like when you trail in mud on a clean tatami mat even though the illustration outside said ‘No shoes, please’.  On to phrases and (almost) whole sentences, so you sound like you’ve made an effort. It might even please you to know that if you pull these off with flair, you will be speaking Japanese better than most Japanese can speak English. And by that we mean the large bulk of the citizenry like shopkeepers, ticket counter attendants, taxi-drivers, cops, waiters/waitresses, and that guy in that corner ramen-outlet whose soup-wizardry makes you weep with joy. In short, all the people that matter.  4) Okuda-saiLiterally, ‘I would like, please’, or ‘please give me a….. add a noun', like ‘birru’ (beer) or ‘mizu’ (water). Useful and practical in restaurants. Here’s how it would sound if you went whole hog: “Sumi-masen, okudasai birru”. And when that long, tall glass comes, “Hai, arigato-gozaimas-u”, with a gracious nod of your head. Done. You won’t get a pat on the back, but that sweet smile or blush of mutual respect will be worth it.  5) Wa dokodesu ka.Say it a few times and you’ll get it down pat. It means ‘Where is the …..” (add noun)? Imperative, essential, never leave home without it. Except in the Japanese version, the noun will come first. For example, ‘Where is the toilet?’ would be ‘Toire wa dokodesu ka?’ (yes, toire is toilet). Now, let's put it all together in a real-world scenario. You’ve had three beers, your bladder is full, you are tipsy and happy, you walk up to the pretty hostess and go, “Sumi-masen, toire wa dokodesu ka?”, and she points you in the right direction without the slightest eyebrow-roll of condescension at the fact that there is a huge sign saying ‘Toilet” right there. Bow, say “Arigato-gozaimas-u”, and walk to the ‘toire’ proudly, because what you lost in poor observation skills, you made up with linguistic dexterity.  6) One-gai-shimas-u (o-nay-gai-shimas-u) Hard to translate into one neat English word, but this marvelous little mouthful (say it a few times and it will roll off easily) is a one-stop-shop for basically just about any request for help. Google Translator will tell you it means ‘please’, but it goes way beyond that; it delineates humility, a sincere supplication for help, recognizing the other person as supremely suited to do so, thereby establishing a temporary hierarchy. You may use it to imply you are hopelessly lost. That would go, “One-gai-shimas-u, hoteru 4 Seasons wa dokodesu ka?” (yes, you guessed right, hoter-u means ‘hotel’)......in which case the gent or lady will probably drop everything they are doing and go out of their way to make sure you find your hotel, you poor little lost-lamb. Here’s another perspective: a martial arts student will walk up to a senior, or a sensei (translation: he/she who came before you), and simply bow and say, “One-gai-shimas-u, Sensei,” which means, “I stand before you. Please give me all the help you can.” Fascinating word. Learn it.  If you’ve made a few friends and gone beyond the helpless-tourist-with-a map status, here are a few more simple words and phrases that will help you get around.  - Issho ni karaoke/pachinko ni iku no? “Shall we go to the Karaoke Bar/Pachinko Parlor?” (Note: please say kara-oh-kay, not carry-okee)  - Ya-meh “Stop.” “Enough.” “No more.” Very useful with a time-out gesture and a self-deprecating smile when you’re 10 sake-bombs down already at the Karaoke Bar, and your host orders one more round. Because you are a polite person, you will say, “Ya-meh, gomen-nasai.” (Enough. No more. Sorry. Foolish grin.)  - Oishii “Delicious!” Exclaim it with flair, after that first bite of pork ramen just melts in your mouth. Want to make it more genuine? Shout, “Hon-toni! Oishii!” It means, “I’m not kidding! It’s delicious!”  - Wakarimasen “I don’t understand.” May come up more often than you think. Cue for the other person to either try their English (broken or whole), or draw you a chart, diagram, map to help you out.  - Tasukete “Help!” Never hurts to know that word; in fact we urge you to know it in as many languages as possible. For all the dodgy moments and situations we cannot foresee.  - Eki Train station. Chances are you will use the train a lot. Combine this with 5) above and go, “ Sumi-masen, eki wa dokodesu ka?”  That’s it. You’re good to go. Again, chances are you will never have to use any of these because our travel experts will be with you every step of the way, parting the seas of doubt and incomprehension in a foreign land so you may walk across safe and bone-dry, but it never hurts to be a little street-smart. Or earn some local respect.

Foods of India: Punjab


The passion and zest of Punjab are represented in their culture, music and unique food. What exactly does Punjabi cuisine offer that makes it one of the most sought after in the world? Here is our guide to the taste of the Punjab.Punjabi food borrows heavily from the clay-oven traditions of the entire North West Frontier Provinces (once all India, and today fractured into Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan). Its food is famed worldwide, and once you’ve eaten authentic tandoor food, you’ll know why. If food is an integral part your travel itinerary, then India is clearly the destination for you.OverviewWhilst tandoor is a Central Asian tradition of wider origins, Punjab has wholeheartedly adopted it as an integral part of its regional food. Tandoori food involves cooking bread and meat in a clay oven; large feasts were cooked up once upon a time, shared by whole villages in kinder times when community was everything. Today, the traditions are carried on in individual homes (and across restaurants all over the world), with a few variations in taste and texture (why change something that was perfect to begin with?) Food you’ve got to try: When in India, try some of these quintessential dishes of Punjabi cuisine that have won hearts all over the world.Tandoori ChickenThe piece-de-resistance of Punjabi food: no-nonsense, staple and bloody delicious. Food wags have been known to say that is probably the only method of preparation that can make a boring bird like chicken transform into something that will make you weep with joy. The tender meat is marinated in yoghurt, seasoned with garam (hot) masala(spices), garlic, ginger and pepper. It is then cooked in a tandoor slowly at carefully regulated temperatures, making it fall-off-the-bone tender and succulent.Aloo ParathaParantha is perhaps the only dish in the world to have an entire street named after it. If you stroll through the streets of Chandini Chowk in New Delhi, you can find the famous “Paranthe Wali Gali.” Be it plain or stuffed, this bread is a staple of most Punjabi households, to be eaten at any time of day or year, and it’s a great alternative to the traditional plain rotis and chapattis.Sarson da SaagAs bizarre as it might sound, this dish is synonymous with a famous Bollywood potboiler movie about young love in rural Punjab, with its depiction of the colourful “Sarson ke Khet” (literally Fields of Mustard), where the young lovers cavorted. We strongly recommend you give this staple curry a whirl, made from mustard leaves (sarson), some choice masalas, and a vegetable of your choice, usually spinach (saag).Makki di RotiPaired with Sarson da saag, this match is truly made in heaven. Traditionally covered with ghee (clarified butter), this famous Punjabi delicacy is made using unleavened cornbread, unlike the traditional wheat flour used to prepare rotis in India.Chole-BhatureMutually, the two are the desi equivalent of mac and cheese - they just go together. It’s a deadly of combination of chana masala (spicy chick peas) and fried bread called bhatoora made from maida flour (soft polished wheat). Available in most Punjabi restaurants and at local street vendors, never pass up on this mouth-watering, spicy and exotic dish from the repertoire of Punjabi Cuisine.Butter ChickenIt won’t be an overstatement to say that this creamy rich, lightly spiced dish paired with either naan or rumaali roti actually runs through the veins of every foodie in India. These creamy chunks of juicy chicken are prepared in tasty and buttery gravy made from ghee, tomato puree, fresh cream, cumin seeds, red chili powder and sugar. Family feasts are incomplete without this dish on the menu.Amritsari FishWho said Punjabi cuisine is all about chicken? Come and try the Amritsari fish. Despite Punjab being land-locked, fish is still an important delicacy. The fresh river fish Sole and Singhara make excellent fare for the salt-of-the-earth Punjabi table. Served all over the country, it’s an excellent evening appetizer to start a splendid evening dinner with family, friends and lots of whiskey. Traditionally a dry dish, this fish is batter fried which makes it juicy on the inside. You can either have it with a naan or by itself.Paneer TikkaIt is often said that happiness comes in small packages which is precisely true in case of paneer tikka.  Marinated in a customary Punjabi recipe of spices and mint for hours before they are grilled on skewers, these small chunks of paneer (cottage cheese) cubes are a delight for vegetarians (even avowed non-veggies give this dish an approving nod). Try this with some really zesty mint chutney for that authentic combination of texture and taste.LassiNo Punjabi meal is complete without a glass of cold lassi. It is so much more satisfying to end a meal with a tall mug of this rich and creamy Indian beverage made from yogurt and water/milk. Originally sweet, some people prefer to have the salty version (chaas or buttermilk) often garnished with coriander, considered to be less acidic due to the butterfat being removed (and hence great for digestion too). Need we say more? If your mouth is watering already, and you are ready to take a deep dive into authentic Punjabi cuisine in India, then let us connect you with one of our local travel expert in India who will customize an appetizing tour for you.

5 Endangered Animals You Should See Before They Are Gone


Humans and animals, and their tenuous link with each other, where do we begin? Common sense would decree that for a healthy planet, a happy symbiosis between us and them would be obvious, but clearly it's not. We are wiping them out faster than they can make 'em. Ironically, the more beautiful they are, the faster they go. Here are 5 beautiful creatures, almost too good to be true, that we have systematically attempted to wipe off the face of the earth. But just as humans destroy, a few good ones conserve as well. Will these beauties survive our rapaciousness? We believe so. Plan your next vacation around these carefully curated experiences that bring you face to face with these rare and endangered animals around the world.     1) The Jaguar: An animal so good-looking and so marvelously engineered by evolution, they named one of the world’s finest cars after it. In sheer size, it’s right there, 3rd on the list after the Royal Bengal Tiger and the buff, muscular African Lion. In efficiency, it marries the climbing abilities of a leopard with the swimming skills of a tiger, with more bone-crushing force in its jaws than the lion; this cat’s an all-round ninja-athlete with an arsenal of assassin skills. Its beauty is intoxicating; just take a look at the rosettes on that skin of burnt gold..........and there you have it: the prime reason why this marvelous cat that once proudly roamed all of the Americas, from Arizona to Patagonia, dazzling its peers and prey alike with its majesty, is now reduced to hunting and hiding in tiny pockets of the world, mostly the Amazon, parts of Central America, and the odd rare sighting in Utah and Arizona. Ancient Mayan kings and royals wore its skin once upon a time; then the US Fur Industry stepped in, and through the 60s and 70s, killed tens of thousands of Jaguars every year to clothe commoners. Take a trip to Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica to see this rare beauty roam free, or ask our experts to take you on an exclusive Jaguar spotting tour of the gorgeous wilds of the Pantanal in Brazil.Situation today: Near Endangered. Conservation efforts are up. The fur trade is banned. An estimate of 15,000 left worldwide (with just 150 in the US).  2) The Mountain Gorilla: If you consider that the Mountain Gorilla has 98% of Homo Sapiens DNA, with 5 fingers and toes just like humans do, are remarkably intelligent with the use of tools, and have a vast vocabulary for communication, you’d think we’d show them some compassion and empathy. But no, this beautiful and gentle animal has only one predator, its closest cousin (yes, us), and we have decimated their population to a few living handful in the heartland of Africa’s deepest jungles and volcanic slopes. The reasons are numerous, but its all us, make no mistake. Destroying their natural habitat to feed the world’s pulp and paper mills, chopping up body parts for miracle medicines, sold as pets or to circuses and zoos, consumption of their meat (considered a staple delicacy in Africa, and bizarrely, in some uber-posh, uber-illegal and uber-reprehensible secret ‘food clubs’ all over the western world), and of course, that age-old human vanity: trophy collection. Raging civil wars in Central Africa make it that much more difficult to focus on conservation. Today, there are an estimated 700 Mountain Gorillas left in the wild (with WWF leading this hopeless battle for their survival); you will see them on a guided trip through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, and pockets of Rwanda and the Congo. Situation today: Critically Endangered Conservation efforts are hampered by civil wars. An estimated 700 left in the wild.  3) The Wild Bactrian CamelWhat animal can withstand nuclear radiation, extremes of temperatures that fluctuate from +50 to -50 C, and a complete absence of freshwater? We’ll give you a hint: it is not the cockroach. Out in the wild badlands of Central Asia, there is this remarkable mammal that does just that, without losing any of its sweet, friendly, pliable, almost saintly demeanours: the marvellous Bactrian Camel, a testament to the sheer resilience of life if there ever was any. An entire region of Inner Mongolia was once an active laboratory for perfecting the nuclear bomb, with over 40 major tests since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki up to the present, guaranteeing enough radiation in the air to make a cockroach puke. Temperatures plunge to -50C and soar to +50C in a matter of months, probably the largest yo-yo of climatic conditions on this planet. The ground water is saline and meager. And every once in a while, sandstorms strip away rugged rock faces like paintwork on a car. In the midst of all this glorious hostility, one can spot a graceful creature bobbing along without batting its remarkably adapted eyelid, an expression of sublime calm on its face, and a sangfroid that would put the Dalai Lama to shame. This two-humped beauty has made conservationists weep at its unflappable grace under pressure, enough to force the Chinese government to segregate areas to prevent it from ending up on that It-Was-Nice-Knowing-You list. Because, get this: despite having the skills to survive the worst of man and nature, the numbers of wild Bactrian Camels are still reducing drastically, almost dying out, with only a 1000-odd alive today, mainly due to indiscriminate hunting and trapping for domestication. Humans, really! The plus side? All domesticated camels used for transport and tourism actually lead good lives, and are very well looked after by their owners. One of Mongolia's many must-do vacation highlights is to ride these gentle animals on a guided tour across the beautiful Gobi; it is guaranteed to be an experience you and your kids will never forget! Situation today: Endangered. There are areas of the Gobi where they roam free, with some being domesticated for agriculture and tourism. There are an extimated 1000 left in the wild. 4) The Royal Bengal Tiger: The only cat with a triple-barreled name, because to just call it a tiger would feel inadequate, somehow (not to mention inaccurate, as there are 9 subspecies of tiger, 3 of which are already extinct). The lion may be the King of the Jungle, but this biggest of cats is all royalty combined, king, queen, princeling, duke, dame, earl and count all packed tightly in 500 lbs of brawling muscle. No wonder its heads adorned the walls of homes of every British brigand dispatched to tend to the colonies, mounted in a silent roar of anger, right up there next to portraits of Queen Vicky and Kings Eddie and Georgie. What’s the harm, they must have said, there’s so many of the bloody beasts. Track to a famous grisly photo, circa 1920, of a British hunting party posing with bullet-ridden tiger carcasses, majestic even in death. Yes, even before our foreign cousins came over, our Indian royals liked a hunt or two, but this was another level of genocide. One noted tiger naturalist and historian has been quoted as follows, "over 80,000 tigers were slaughtered in 50 years from 1875 to 1925. It is possible that this was only a fraction of the numbers actually slain...." Numbers did not so much fall as were blown away. Enter into the mix the Chinese penchant for virility and longevity, which can only be achieved by tiger parts allegedly, and in 200 hundred years, the Royal Bengal Tiger went from well over 100,000 to just 3800 today, mostly in the Sunderbans and the stolidly protected parks of India (Kanha, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Ranthambore) and Nepal (Chitwan). Plan a trip with the kids to Kanha National Park, an important and relevant highlight of India, to see these striped beauties in the wild. If in Nepal, ask our experts to take you on a guided tour of the UNESCO-protected Chitwan National Park where numbers are up from virtually nil to 200 in recent years! Situation today: EndangeredConservation efforts are working, and for the first time in 100 years, numbers are rising again. There are an estimated 3800 Royal Bengal Tigers in the wild today scattered over India, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.  5) The Great Indian Rhinoceros We are seriously getting tired of words and catch phrases like ‘poaching’, ‘traditional medicine’, ‘virility’, ‘longevity’, as if before we started killing every creature on the planet we were useless in the sack, infertile, and almost always died young. This largest of rhinos, muscled and armored and magnificent, weighs in at almost 3 tons, stands as tall as a man at the shoulder, and wants nothing more out of life than to be left alone to munch on grass, leaves and fruits. But its horn, 8 to 25 inches long.... ....can fetch up to USD 100,000 on the black market. Why? Because it is said to contain magical properties for humans (only an imbecile would make that connection), and unfortunately the demand all across the middle-class of Asia is HUGE. One SE Asian country believes ground rhino horn is a cure for both, cancer and hangovers (another astonishingly imbecilic connection)! Is it a surprise then, that they once roamed prolifically all over the Indian subcontinent, and after reckless genocide right through the 20th century to fuel the ‘traditional medicine’ market, their numbers hit a rock-bottom of just 600 left in 1975? Thanks to tireless conservation and education, their numbers have since risen to 3500 as of 2015. But we’re not out of the woods yet, folks, because guess what, human stupidity, beliefs and superstitions are eternal, and the fabled rhino horn is still a coveted item in the hushed underground markets of parts of Central and East Asia. But today, thankfully, you can see these gentle and magnificent creatures roam the national parks of Assam and Orissa in India, living free and full lives (albeit always under the shadow of death). Situation today: Just been upgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’. Conservation efforts are working, against all odds, and the trend is up. Hurrah! There are an estimated 3555 rhinos in the wild, spread out mostly over the Terai Region of NE India.

A Beginner's Guide To Food In India


Food in India belongs in a world of its own; there’s no comparison to it anywhere else. Here's your starter-guide to one of the world's most maddening and complex cuisine-universes. To even generalise it by saying ‘Indian food’ is a fallacy – we are talking a continent of people whose palettes are as varied as their dress and language; every region has its own highly distinctive styles, flavours and methods of cooking, and gosh, these vary even between villages that are a shouting distance from each other! If this were to be explained thoroughly, it might take years and/or a very fat book (one that would make War & Peace look like a novella). In the meantime, here’s your bare minimum beginner’s guide. Quick note on ‘curry’: whilst in the west ‘curry’ is often used to refer to a specific flavour like curry leaves, when we use the word in the Indian context, we’ve kind of got it all wrong. ‘Curries’ cover all sorts of food in India, many of which share little or no physical resemblance and taste, as if they come from worlds away from one another. Once you’ve eaten Punjabi Butter Chicken curry..........as well as a Kerala coconut-based fish curry while traveling around South India..... ....you’ll realise this pretty quickly. Curries can be both wet (lots of sauce) or dry (none), have meat or be vegetarian, and contain completely different spices, so if you don’t like some of the curry you’ve tried, there’s no doubt you’ll like another. A few common words every traveller to India must know (without getting region-specific):- Masala simply means spices. There’s not much specificity here. Any seed, root, branch, twig that grows wild and can be ground, boiled, heated, vinagered, and enhances flavour and taste is fair game. And it goes beyond just making you smack your lips or wipe your sweat. Every individual explosion of flavour in your mouth is linked to health, skin, blood, heart, liver, kidneys, you name it; used right, this is the stuff that makes just any old food transform into 110 Octane fuel for the body (that's race-car stuff, folks).     - Bhindi: Lady’s fingers (UK) or okra (US)- Ghee: Clarified butter (from which the water and milk solids are removed). And although your regular store-bought butter is not necessarily bad for you at all, the age-old Indian medical science Ayurveda deems ghee to be the big daddy of healing foods, great for tissue-repair, balancing hormones, and overall immunity-booster. And the taste? Let's just say, once you go ghee, you never go back. - Mutter: Peas- Aloo/alu: Potato- Gobi: Cauliflower- Paneer: Cottage cheese, made out of raw milk. Hint: soft lumps of these in your spinach make it deliciously creamy!  - Dahi – Yoghurt- Raita – Yoghurt with extras (usually onions, tomatoes or cucumber) in it. - Dal: A lentil (a superfood that the west is only just discovering, the perfect combination of carbs and protein in one easily-digestible bite), cooked with various masalas, usually eaten with rice or chapatti.- Brinjal:  Aubergine or eggplant- Doodhi: A gourd, a vegetable somewhere between a pumpkin and a courgette, with a pleasantly sweetish taste.- Murgh: Chicken. - Gosht: Mutton. Either sheep or goat, mostly the latter, depending on your location. - Machchi (much-chee): Fish. (Hint: avoid this in land-locked areas; it's probably a couple of days old, and they probably won't know how to cook it. Hint: when on the coast, only ask for this!)- Jhinga: Prawns. (Same hints apply, as above.) - Chapatti / Roti / Paratha / Bhakri: Just some of the popular Indian breads made of unpolished flour (atta). (Hint: good roughage.)- Naan / Kulcha / Puri: Popular Indian breads made of polished flour (maida). (Hint: No roughage, but weirdly tastier.)- Dosa / Appam / Idli: Just some of the popular Indian breads made out of fermented rice (probiotic stuff, good for you!), found mostly in South India or South India-themed restaurants all over the country.  Off you go; we’ve only scratched the surface, but this will be enough to convince the locals that you’ve been kicking around India for a while (reality: even as that first-ever stamp in your passport is still drying). If you're ready to discover the real Indian food scene, then connect with a local travel expert in India who will customise a foodie tour for you.    Bon apetit!

5 Reasons Botswana May Be Cooler Than Other Safari Destinations


Africa is gorgeous. We recommend you go everywhere, but here are 5 reasons why Botswana is special.  1) BIG ELEPHANTS. LOTS OF ELEPHANTS  Botswana boasts more elephants than any other African country, and that number is 50,000, give or take. Not only that, Chobe National Park, one of Botswana's unmissable highlights,  boasts some of the largest pachyderms on earth. If you stacked all those elephants on top of each other you’d have a trunk (not to be confused with Trump) tower reaching 150 km into the sky. That, folks, is well over the Earth’s atmosphere, into outer space. Hell of a crash if they fall.  2) THERE ARE SAFARIS AND THERE ARE BOTSWANA SAFARIS And this is something any Africa-expert worth his camo-khakis will tell you. Yes, the entire continent is full of creatures great and small playing out that daily dance of life and death for your shock, awe and amusement, but only in Botswana will you have your greatest chance of seeing Africa’s most elusive cat, the leopard. Several leopards. Leopards coyly running through bushes and mating; leopards day-lounging on branches; leopards hefting kills up trees. And the Tsaro lions (not to be confused with the Tsavo of Kenya), let’s not forget them, these cats can swim! They typically chase massive buffalos into rivers, get them stuck in the mud, and proceed to do what they do best. What a show! A welcome change from the usual dry-land shenanigans.  3) WILDEBEEST MIGRATION? UH-HUH You’ve heard all about the Great Wildebeest Migration, ad infinitum. But have you heard of the Great Zebra Migration? That one’s the exclusive provenance of Botswana, folks. November is when the stripey-magic starts, as the first of the rains hit the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks. Acres and acres of dry arid lands are transformed into things of lush grassland beauty, attracting over 25,000 zebras that come to munch, drink and procreate. Which means hungry carnies right at their heels, picking them off. It’s not unusual to see a young being foaled, the same young finding its spindly legs and then running alongside its mother in less than an hour. Aforesaid young may be a meal soon too (we hope it won't, and it will grow up to foal its own young one day), but we have to accept the inevitable 'circle of life' on safaris.  4) FEEL LIKE A VIP Botswana has ditched mass tourism and fought poachers in order to foster a sustainable use of its natural resources. Quality over quantity. Huzzah! That means exclusivity, like the entire experience is tailored around you, giving you that warm, fuzzy VIP feeling. Which also explains why Botswana is expensive. It also means first-come, so if you are keen on an exclusive horse ride through the teeming wildlife of the gorgeous Kalahari (another Botswana specialty conducted by our experts) we recommend you book in advance.  5) BIOMASS HEAVEN: A DELICATE BALANCE Botswana is extremely sparsely populated, whether it’s the Kalahari, the lush Okavango Delta, or its enormous national parks. Meaning, they do wild animals very well, with only the right number of humans to keep things ticking along. That’s an almost perfect biomass, with no single species upsetting the delicate balance of nature (read, us humans). And nope, that doesn’t mean plenty of space to develop a new golf course resort either. It means a vast area the size of France, with a place for everything and everything in its place, to be explored and enjoyed for its sheer raw and untouched natural beauty.

Travel to Sri Lanka's Temple of the Tooth


Sri Lanka is more than tea-estates and glorious beaches; no visit to the Emerald Isle is complete without a tour of its numerous and fascinating UNESCO Heritage sites, some of them dating back to the early days of the 1st millennium. Of all these, the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic is probably the most fascinating and lore-ridden.History and folklore buffs, step back into the mists of time, when gentle Buddhism was still taking root in ancient Lanka; we promise you a good old yarn, if nothing else, on this carefully curated trip that even the kids will love!This famous temple in Kandy, an important highlight of Sril Lanka's heritage supposedly houses the tooth of the Buddha, snatched from his funeral pyre and smuggled into Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali and her husband, Prince Dantha. The legend born right there and then (with the help of royal decree) was that the relic holds extreme symbolic power, and whoever holds the tooth, holds the power to the kingdom (a tad jingoistic, perhaps causing Buddha to turn slowly in his grave). But you have to admit, that’s a much better deal than the tooth fairy gives you.Rituals are performed three times a day at the temple and on Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the tooth with scented water and flowers; the water itself is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present, lucky you!

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