THAILAND: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

Thailand - Land of Smiles

Millions of visitors flock to the ‘Land of Smiles’ every year and it is easy to see why. Whether you want to party, laze on a beach, or stuff yourself with local delicacies, Thailand has something for everyone. Beyond its more obvious attractions, however, a little deeper exploration yields up Thailand’s subtler charms.

Thailand: At a Glance

Experience the Best Attractions of Thailand

  1. Muay Thai, Thai Boxing Boxing Days: Grueling training sessions, a rudimentary diet and sparse facilities—these are the staples of training for Muay Thai or Thai boxing. There are special camps run across the country that offer short-term courses for visitors. Most have English-speaking instructors, and training periods can range from one day to a few weeks. Check out the Lanna Muay Thai Boxing Camp in Chiang Mai and the Muay Thai Institute in Bangkok.
  2. Biking in Thailand Biker Fun: Thailand is great for two-wheeled exploration, as long as you can deal with crazy traffic. Check out the Big Bike Company in Patong. They rent out Honda CB 400 cc motorbikes that are fun and fast. Your inner petrol head will certainly be happy, especially when you hit the long, winding roads.
  3. Red Curry from Thai Cooking Cook up a Storm: If you love Thai food and like pottering in the kitchen, why not combine the two and take in a Thai cooking class. The Baipai Thai Cooking School in Bangkok is a well-known institute in a beautiful location, and offers short courses run by English-speaking instructors. If you are in Phuket, the Phuket Thai Cookery School offers you a haven from the noise and bustle of the city. Located on Siray Beach, you can couple your cooking classes with panoramic ocean views and then walk off a meal in the evening or even take a siesta on the wooden sundeck.
  4. Adventure Sports in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand Leave the Road Behind: Go off the beaten track and indulge in some soft adventure sports in Nakhon Nayok. From rappelling to cutting through forests and streams on ATVs and white-water rafting, there are lots here for the intrepid adventure-lover.
  5. Unrestrained water fight, Songkran Festival, Thailand Get Wet: Thailand turns into a free-for-all water park once a year. The Songkran Festival is an unrestrained water fight, and visitors are fair game, both to be soaked and to do the soaking Images of the Buddha are ‘bathed’ and young Thais seek the blessing of their elders by pouring scented water over their hands. Held at the peak of the hot season, Songkran is quite literally a chance for the entire country, and all its visitors, to cool off.
  6. Turquoise Waters, Phuket, Thailand Join the (Yacht) Club: If your sailor self has been feeling neglected for a while, and you are feeling especially indulgent, Thailand has many great yachting options. A sailing holiday in Thailand is an especially beautiful experience with the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea and swimming and snorkeling at your leisure. Most trips are around Phuket and Koh Samui, and you will get to see other islands as well.
  7. Koh Phangan's Sanctuary Island Resort Kick Back: Take a break from all that activity at Koh Phangan’s Sanctuary Island Resort. The Sanctuary is a laid back, alternative health resort on a isolated beach fringed by tropical forest and tropical seas. Your mind and body will both leave refreshed and ready to take on the world again.
  8. Loi Krathong, Thailand's festival of lights Festival of Lights: Come November, Thailand transforms into a veritable fairyland of lights, Loi Krathong is Thailand’s festival of lights held on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month of the year. If you are lucky enough to be staying on the coast, you will be able to see lights stretching far out across the water. The word ‘loy’ means ‘to float’ while ‘krathong’ is the lotus-shaped receptacle. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or a spider lily plant; it contains food, betel nuts, flowers, candles, and coins.
  9. Tom Yum Thai Soup Soup It Up: Thailand is known for its spicy, flavorful food and tom yum soup is one of the country’s best-known dishes. This clear, hot-and-sour soup combines herbs, spices, and seafood to great effect.
  10. Wat Bang Phra, Yantra Tattoos, Thailand Get Inked: Experience tattooing like no place else at Wat Bang Phra. The monks here create delicate sak yant (also known as yantra tattoos) following age-old methods, and bless them afterwards.

LAOS: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

Laos Travel: Best Sights

Laos was not really thought of as a tourist destination until the 1990s, when people realized it had more to offer than just pachyderms and Buddhist monks. Even as elephants and religion continue to drive the country, there are also dramatic landscapes, ancient architectural ruins and much history to be discovered, making it a wonderful spot for the inquisitive traveler.

Laos: At a Glance

Experience the Best Attractions of Laos

  1. Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang, Laos Take a Walk: A blend of traditional architecture and urban structures, Luang Prabang is made for ambling around in. Make a stop at the Royal Palace Museum before heading on to discover the War Nong, Wat Sene, and Wat Khili temples. Chill for a bit at Dara Market, and later catch the sunset from the boat pier.
  2. Tiered Roofs of Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang Do a Temple Run: Visit one of the oldest temples in Luang Prabang—Wat Visounnarath, which is home to the incredible That Mak Mo stupa. However, the most beautiful temple in Luang Prabang has to be Wat Xieng Thong, whose tiered roofs sweep low almost to touch the ground. The temple is considered a archetypal example of the Luang Prabang style of architecture.
  3. Street Food in Laos, including Fried Crickets A Different Treat: Jump straight into the native experience and try a serving of fried crickets. These crunchy snacks are available both at street-side stalls and in some cafes and eateries, and are best eaten hot, and with an open mind! Khop Chai Deu in Vientiane is a safe place at which to try crickets and other local delicacies.
  4. Buddhist Statues in Pak Ou Caves Buddha Says: The Pak Ou Caves are a short trip upstream from Luang Prabang. This network of caves at the convergence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers is where you will find hundreds of Buddha statues left by devotees over the centuries.
  5. long Kong Lor Buddhist Cave Explore Hidden Caves: The capital of the Khammouane province in south-central Laos, Thakhaek is a small municipality dotted with lots of lovely French architecture. However, its main draw lies in its limestone mountains—the site of hundreds of unexplored caves, including some that are believed to keep undiscovered treasures. How is that for adventure? The most well known among these is the 7.5km-long Kong Lor Cave. Also worth a dekko is the Buddha Cave, which holds, as the name suggests, rows and rows of gorgeous Buddha statues.
  6. Mok Pa: herbed fish steamed in banana leaves, Laos Take a Cooking Class: If you have fallen in love with Lao food, take a cooking class so that you can whip up some of your favorite dishes back home. Tamarind offers cooking classes that give you a crash course in Lao cuisine, followed by a visit to the market to pick out fresh ingredients. You can learn to make mok pa, a dish of herbed fish steamed in banana leaves, or laab, a minced-meat and herb salad, among other tasty treats.
  7. Wat Phu Champasak Temple Heritage up Top: Overlooking the Mekong River valley, the incredibly well preserved Wat Phu Champasak Temple complex is more than a thousand years old. Lined with jacaranda trees, this Khmer-styled temple was originally dedicated to Shiva, and later converted into a Buddhist temple. As you are walking around soaking in all the history and culture, keep your eyes peeled for the funny crocodile and elephant stones.
  8. Kwang Si Waterfalls, Laos Fun in the Water: Drive, trek, or hitchhike your way past forests, villages, and rice fields to the cascading waters of the Kwang Si Waterfalls. Dive in for a bit of a paddle, walk up for pretty views, and then dig into your picnic basket for a well-deserved meal. Remember to stop at the Asiatic Black Bear Rescue Centre that looks after bears rescued from poachers.
  9. Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos Mountain Shrines: Bang in the heart of Luang Prabang’s old town, Mount Phou Si is a small hill of religious significance to the locals. It is sandwiched between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, and offers great vistas over the city. Two shrines call Mount Phou Si home, namely War Phou Si, halfway up to the top, and Wat Chom Si, which sits at the peak.
  10. Lao handicrafts Night Owls: While Luang Prabang has no dearth of charms through the day, its night market is worth exploring, too. With what is possibly the largest collection of Lao handicrafts available for sale in one place, it is a great place at which to buy souvenirs to take home.

SINGAPORE: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

Singapore Skyline

Great things do come in small packages, and Singapore is the ideal example. From quirky, obscure bookshops, gritty designers and excellent cuisine to exemplary street food and sophisticated bars and watering holes and even extraordinary wildlife encounters, this power-packed country offers you a holiday experience you will definitely never forget.

Singapore: At a Glance

Experience the Best Attractions of Singapore

  1. River Safari, Singapore Down the River: If you always wondered what lies beneath the waters of the Mississippi, you need look no further than in Asia’s first river-themed wildlife park. At River Safari, you will meet over 5,000 aquatic animals, spread out over 300 species. Documenting life in eight river habitats, here you will learn about the giant river otter, the endangered Mekong giant catfish, and much more. This is one experience you will not want to miss.
  2. Singapore Zoo Animal Magic: Known as one of the most spectacular zoos in the world, spread out over 26 hectares of intimate viewing platforms and sensitively constructed habitats, the Singapore Zoo is your ticket to wildlife wonderland. You could make friends with the free-ranging kangaroos in the Australian Outback, then head to the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia to see the Hamadryas baboons.
  3. Chili Crabs, National Dish of Singapore Something Fishy: Singapore has some of the most superb seafood in the world, none more iconic than its chili crabs. Recognized as an unofficial national dish, this delightful dish involves crab slathered in a sweet-spicy sauce and served with fried mantou (buns) with which to mop up all of that extra sauce. No less well known are the pepper crabs. Served in a black-and-white pepper sauce, these are hugely enjoyable treats.
  4. Singapore Flyer, The world's largest observation wheel Love’s in the Air: What better way to proclaim or re-affirm your love than at 165m above the ground in the world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer is one of the most beautiful ways to take in the magic of Singapore. If you are looking to spend a special evening, book the Moet and Chandon Champagne Flight. Raise a glass of bubbly in this especially themed capsule as you take in the sights of the city and splurge on a romantic four-course meal that comes with a personal butler.
  5. Gardens by the Bay (Singapore) are made up of three spaces---Bay Central, Bay South, and Bay East Green Thumbs: If you are craving some open green space, this 101-hectare horticultural attraction with over 250,000 plants will give you just the breather you have been looking for. A mere five-minute walk from the city, the Gardens by the Bay are made up of three spaces—Bay Central, Bay South, and Bay East. The view from the promenade is resplendently beautiful and the grounds are a great spot for a stroll in the evening followed by a family picnic on the lush lawns amid plain trees.
  6. Battlestar Galactica Roller Coaster (Singapore,) the world's tallest dueling coaster ride Filmi Business: All you movie lovers, who are always dying to be part of the action, get to Universal Studios. Go on rides designed to take you through the worlds of Madagascar, Shrek 4, and The Mummy Returns. Scream your lungs out on the world’s tallest dueling coaster ride at Battlestar Galactica and prepare to be amazed by unbelievable special effects in the Transformers ride.
  7. IFly (Singapore,) the world's first vertical wind tunnel for indoor skydiving Flying High: Experience the heart-thumping rush of skydiving without the risks at IFly, the world’s first vertical wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. With a flying height of 17.22m (the equivalent of five storeys), anyone between seven to 106 years olds can fly. The technology ensures a high degree of safety, and the massive wind tunnel lets you try out free flying and even formation skydiving.
  8. Clarke Quay, Singapore Something for Everyone: There is not much that Clarke Quay does not have. Whether you are looking to eat, drink, party, or shop for antiques, this colorful entertainment center will have it. At night, the entire zone is lit up and the fountain grooves to suit the mood of the moment. With loads of dining, dancing, and partying options, Clarke Quay is a meeting place for people from across the world.
  9. Peranakans - Dscendants of an early Chinese community in Singapore Go Peranakan: Descendants of 17th century Chinese traders who migrated to the Malay Archipelago, the Peranakans, brought a rich convergence of Chinese and Malay cultures, with sparks of Dutch, Indonesian, and Portuguese influences, to Singapore. Along with religion and traditions, their food has distinguishing flavors, with recipes that have been handed down for generations, and is a must-try at restaurants like Blue Ginger on Tanjong Pagar Road.
  10. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Dining with the Stars: Marina Bay Sands houses some of the most exquisite restaurants and celebrity-chef outposts in Singapore. Here, you can sample culinary masterpieces cooked up by some of the world’s best-known chefs, including Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, and Daniel Boulud.

Satyajit Ray, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Akira Kurosawa at the Taj Mahal

Satyajit Ray, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Akira Kurosawa at the Taj Mahal

Satyajit Ray and Akira Kurosawa at the Taj Mahal Three of the greatest auteurs of world cinema, India’s Satyajit Ray, Italy’s Michelangelo Antonioni, and Japan’s Akira Kurosawa at the Taj Mahal around the mid-1970s.

Satyajit Ray (1921–1992) was a Kolkata-born an Indian filmmaker regarded as one of the greatest auteur of world cinema. Michelangelo Antonioni (1912–2007) was an Italian film director, screenwriter, editor, and short story writer. The celebrated Akira Kurosawa (1910–1998) was a Japanese film director, screenwriter, producer, and editor. Akira Kurosawa is widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of world cinema.

The Shiv-Hari Duo of Pandits Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia

Shiv-Hari is the duo of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, two of the most distinguished contemporary Hindustani Indian classical musicians. Shivkumar Sharma is the virtuoso of the Santoor ( Indian hammered dulcimer) and Hariprasad Chaurasia of the Bansuri (Indian transverse flute.)

Sharma and Chaurasia first collaborated in 1967 as part of a trio with guitarist Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra to produce the album “Call of the Valley”.

The duo later formed Shiv-Hari and teamed up to score music for many popular Bollywood motion pictures, viz., Silsila (1981), Faasle (1981), Vijay (1988), Chandni (1989), Lamhe (1991), Parampara (1993), Sahibaan (1993), and Darr (1993.) Chandni, Darr, Silsila, and Lamhe were made by film director, script writer and film producer Yash Chopra.

Pictures of the Shiv-Hari Duo

  • Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia with Ravi Shankar
    Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia with Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.
  • Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and Brij Bhushan Kabra
    Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia first collaborated in 1967 as part of a trio with guitarist Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra to produce the album “Call of the Valley”.
  • The Shiv-Hari Duo with Amitabh Bachchan and Yash Chopra
    The Shiv-Hari duo conferring with actor Amitabh Bachchan and film director, script writer and film producer Yash Chopra during the making of Silsila (1981.)
  • The Shiv-Hari Duo of Pandits Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia
    Over the decades, Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia have also collaborated on many concert tours and played Indian classical music together.
  • Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia with Annapurna Devi
    Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia with surbahar exponent Annapurna Devi, daughter and disciple of Baba Allauddin Khan, and first wife of sitar exponent Ravi Shankar.

Song on Saraswathi in Raga Yaagapriya: Kalaavati Kamalaasana Yuvati

Goddess Saraswathi, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, and science

Muthuswami Dikshitar Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775–1834 A.D.), the youngest of the trinity of South Indian Carnatic Classical composers, composed the following in veneration to Goddess Saraswathi, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. Kalaavati Kamalaasana Yuvati is in raga Yaagapriya and Aditala.

Lyrics

Pallavī

Kalāvatī kamalāsanayuvatī
Kalyānam kalayatu Sarasvatī

Anupallavī

Balābalāmantrārṇarūpiṇī
Bhāratī mātṛkāśarīriṇī
Malālividārīṇī vāgvāṇī
Madhukaraveṇī viṇāpāṇī

Charaṇam

Sarad-jyotsnāśubhrākārā
Śaśivadanā kāśmīravihārā
Varā śāradā parā’ṇkuśadharā
Varadābhayapāśapustakakarā

Surārchitapadāmbujā śobhanā
Śvetapaṇkajāsanā suradanā
Purāri-guruguharañjanī
Murārisnuṣā nirañjanī

Meaning

Pallavī

May Saraswathi, Goddess of Arts, the Sakti of the Creator Brahma, bring about all good things.

Anupallavī

May She the embodiment of the mystic syllables of the twin mantras, balā and abalā (which remove all hunger, thirst and fatigue and bestow all learning), Goddess of Language in the form of the Alphabet, the destroyer of the accumulated obscuring dirt of Ignorance, Goddess of Eloquence (Vāgvāni), of tresses dark like the bees, having on her hands the Veena, bestow all good things.

Charaṇam

May She, whose form is resplendent like the autumnal moon-light, whose face is like the moon, who is the Great Goddess Sarada sporting in Kashmira Country, who is the most subtle form of Sound, who holds in her hands boons and security from fear (for her devotees) and also the goad, the noose and the book, whose lotus feet are adored by the Gods, who (as Lakshmi) is the shining Goddess of beauty with fine rows of teeth, who (as Parvati) delights Siva (Her Lord) and teacher Guha (Her son), may Saraswathi wedded to Creator Brahma born of Vishnu, the Goddess who is Pure, untainted transcendental Being, bring about all good things.

Cat Delights in Hanami (Flower Viewing) of Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

‘Tis the season for ornamental cherry blossom trees and their Sakura blossoms. The Japanese tradition of Hanami (“flower viewing”) involves enjoying the beauty of Sakura cherry blossoms. In contemporary Japan, people gather in great numbers around blossoming flower trees and revel in the outdoor parties beneath the Sakura during daytime, evening, or at night.

Cat Delights in Hanami (Flower Viewing) of Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

It is indefinite as to when Hanami first started, but it was refered to in Shikibu Murasaki’s classic Japanese literary work, The Tale of Genji, written around the 11th or 12th Century.

Cat Delights in Hanami (Flower Viewing) of Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

Hanami is an central Japanese custom. Japanese get away from their conservative reputations and enjoy a picnic with friends and family under the cherry blossom trees. They grab bento boxes and beer from combini (convenience stores) and proceed to one of many viewing spots for a Japanese cultural experience of a unique kind.

Cat Delights in Hanami (Flower Viewing) of Sakura (Cherry Blossom)

The most renowned cherry blossom spots can get really jam-packed. So enthusiasts get to their favorite spots beforehand and claim their spots with picnic rugs or tarps. Their reserved piece of parcel will be respected, even though they disappear and return later in the day.

Raga Brindabani Sarang (Kafi Thaat)

Raga Brindabani Sarang 'Tum Rab Tum Sahib' from the Kafi Thaat

The raga Brindabani Sarang is a Hindustani North Indian classical melodic form from the Kafi thaat. The notes Ga and dha are not used in this raga.

Brindabani Sarang is generally played in the Madhyanah (around noon) and is believed to evoke the Shringara rasa, or an ambiance of romance and mysticism.

The Arohana is ni (mandra saptak) sa re ma pa ni sa and the Avarohana is sa ni(komal) pa ma re sa. The ni swara is shuddha in the arohana and komal in the avarohana. The vadi and the samavadi are re and pa respectively. The pakad or chalan of this raga is ni sa re ma re pa ma re ni sa.

Brindabani Sarang Composition / Lyric

Perhaps the most famous composition in Brindabani Sarang is by Tansen, the most prominent of Hindustani classical music composers and a musician from the court of Mughal emperor Akbar.

Tum rab tum saheb
Tum hi kartaar
Ghata-ghata pooran
Jal-thal bhar bhaar

Tum hi rahim
Tum hi karim
Gaavat guni-gandharva
Sur-nar sur-naar

Tum hi pooran brahma
Tum hi achala
Tum hi jagat guru
Tum hi sarkaar

Kahe miya tansen
Tum hi aap
Tum hi karat sakal
Jag ko bhav paar