Array (  => stdClass Object ( [id] => 69614 [title] => Go On A Vacation They Said, It'll Be Fun They Said [description] =>
The plan was to escape Delhi's heat and head out to one of the nearest hill stations. Sounds simple enough right? It was anything but.[article_slug] => travel-trend-is-to-get-stuck-in-a-bad-traffic-jam [sub_category] => 7 [none] => none [featured_image] => shutterstock_462136018.jpg [excerpt] => Maybe this time you don't answer when the hills call [category] => explore )  => stdClass Object ( [id] => 69611 [title] => Pride Month: 7 Countries with Liberal LGBTQ Laws [description] =>
The world is becoming more inclusive towards the LGBTQ+ community. With the abolishment of Section 377, India is also taking small steps as a nation to counter discrimination and violence. Did you know it is pride month this June? The 2019 Pride month parades have shown incredible participation and support and we’re only beginning our journey to an LGBTQ+ safe country. But there are other nations, who for years have formed laws that accept the gay community and there’s no question that they deserve to be celebrated. After all, it is an achievement of the country as a whole.
These are the 7 nations that have the most liberal LGBTQ+ laws:
What better nation to be first on the list than the first nation to decriminalise homosexuality? The Netherlands has always been an early adopter of liberal laws. Not only did it decriminalise homosexuality over two centuries ago (in 1811), but it also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation way back in 1994. In 2001, it also became one of the first nations to make same sex marriage and adoption legal. In fact, Amsterdam is known to be extremely supportive of the vibrant pride culture with active celebrations through parades and is home to various gay bars and clubs. In fact, a national “Homomonument” in Amsterdam honours the loss of homosexuals killed in response to their sexuality.
How rare and incredibly touching it is to see a straight leader of a nation wave about the transgender flag, yelling “Happy Pride”. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has always been an advocate and open supporter of the gay community. In fact, the nation itself -throughout history- has proved itself to be as friendly and giving as everyone thinks. Canada decriminalised discrimination as early as the 1960s and legalised gay marriage in 2005, becoming the 4th country to do so. The nation also holds a national Pride event called “Canada Pride” (soon to be held in Winnipeg in 2020). With rainbow crossings, various LGBTQ+ celebrations and even “gay villages”, the nation is constantly making the world a little safer. In fact, the nation’s $1-dollar coin commemorates gay rights battles!
Pioneering a safer society for the gay community in Latin America, the nation became the first country in South America to legalise gay marriage in 2010 and also adoption by same-sex couples. It speedily after, introduced gender identity laws in 2012. It is one of the most trans-friendly countries in the world. Buenos Aires also has hostels, Airbnbs, bars and nightclubs for gay tourists, in addition to the already thriving LGBTQ+ population in the nation. The government even openly funds a lot of gay events, including the GNetwork360 conference and the BA Pride Parade that is one of the most crowd-pulling events of the nation.
If reading Malta on the list left you surprised, you wouldn’t be the first one. An aggressively Catholic nation does not seem the most fitting on the bill when it comes to LGBTQ+ support. Astonishing as it may be, this small European island is one of the friendliest nations when it comes to its LGBTQ+ laws. Elected in 2013, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has ever since prioritised LGBTQ+ welfare. The nation banned conversion therapy in 2016, becoming the first European nation to do so. In addition to that, Malta also introduced gender-neutral language on legal documents; legalised gay marriage and adoption rights in 2017 and lowered the age for gender change from 18 to 16.
While Portugal may not be the earliest in the game, it definitely still delivered. They decriminalised homosexuality in 1982 and legalised gay marriage in 2010. Ever since, the nation has been swiftly making laws that help the safety of LGBTQ+ communities. Adoption became legal in 2016 and Law of Gender Identity was enforced from 2011. The nation is also known for its expansive trans-friendly laws and also has a no-tolerance ban on discrimination. In addition to these, the country is rich in its LGBTQ+ nightlife with bars, clubs, parties for people to celebrate and enjoy in safe environments.
Norway has always been considered one of the best places to reside economically as well as culturally. And their LGBTQ+ friendly laws only proves the point further. One of the first countries to provide laws against discrimination in 1981, the nation also allows for same-sex marriage, adoption as well as IVF treatment for couples since 2009. One of the most popular events of the nation is their Oslo Pride Parade that brings forth participation in thousands and also pulls people from abroad. Another event is the Oslo/ Fusion film festival that celebrates the community through art. You can also change your gender legally without medical changes and till date, no such application has been rejected. The nation also offers a “Casamiento Express” or Express Marriage for same-sex couples- no matter what nationality- in just 5 days.
While Belgium is universally synonymous with chocolate, it’s not the only thing it does well. The nation has for years been passing and enforcing inclusive laws for the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality was legal as early as 1795 but again reversed between 1965 and 1985. Nevertheless, the country became second to legally allow same-sex marriages in 2003 and made adoption legal in 2006, along with IVF treatment. The country also hosts popular pride festivals, including La Demence, Unicorn Festival and SPEK. It is also home to numerous openly gay politicians including former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
[article_slug] => pride-month-7-countries-with-liberal-lgbtq-laws [sub_category] => 6 [none] => none [featured_image] => Pride-friendly-countries-feature.jpg [excerpt] => Thanks to the laws of these nations, LGBTQ+ members feel safer and more included in the society [category] => explore )  => stdClass Object ( [id] => 69610 [title] => Lucknow In A Hurry: 5 Things You Can't Miss [description] =>
Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is a city of many layers, with lots to see and experience by way of architecture, culture, food and shopping. But what if you are on a quick visit to the city? Here are five things that will help you gain an insight into the soul of the city known for its refined manners. (Also, Lucknow is great destination for a weekend break from any of the major cities with direct flight connections.)
Bara Imambara and Chhota Imambara
Also known as the Asfi Imambara, the Bara Imambara was built on the orders of Nawab Asafuddaula of Awadh in 1775, to provide employment to his famine-stricken subjects. The four stories building has been hailed as an architectural wonder. The huge central hall has no supporting pillars. Galleries run within the building. It is here that you will come across the famous Bhool-Bhulaiyan or the labyrinthine passages; visit with an authorised guide because it is easy to get lost in this maze. Also located here is the Asfi Mosque and the Shahi Baoli. The Hussainabad Imambara or the Chhota Imambara was built sometime later by Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah. Its ornate design, collection of chandeliers and mirrors, and colourful stuccos are a photographers’ delight but do check with the local caretaker first. Ticketed entry.
Along with the two Imambaras, you may also take a look at the Rumi Darwaza which displays a mix of Hindu-Muslim architecture and the Hussainabad Clock Tower.
(Read about Lucknow's Little-Known Facts)
History may not have been kind to the Residency Complex in the heart of Lucknow but even in its ruined state, the place forms an interesting study in urban architecture. Constructed between 1775 and 1800, it was built for the British Resident General (a representative in the court of Nawab of Awadh). More buildings were added later. During the Indian Revolution of 1857, it bore the brunt of the attack by the rebel forces who had laid a siege to the complex after the British officers and their families had taken shelter here. Now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, some of the key structures include Bailey Guard Gate, Dr Fayerer’s House, Sago’s House, Brigade Mess, Banquet hall, Kanpur Battery, Sikh Square, Cemetery, etc.
A building in the heart of the complex has been converted to the 1857 Memorial Museum. A model of the Residency as it was before 1857 is kept here. Besides, display of photographs, lithographs, paintings, documents, period objects, etc. enlighten visitors about the Indian Revolution and life and times of the British occupants. The Museum is open on all days except Fridays, between 9am and 5pm. Bags have to be deposited at the cloak room near the ticket counter. However, photography is allowed (but do check once at the ticket counter). Documentary shows are held at the Memorial Museum at fixed hours between 10.30 am and 4.30pm. The complex is widely spread and requires some walking around if you want to see all the buildings and memorials. It is best covered in the early hours or late in the evening as the sun can be very strong during mid-day.
The sprawling La Martiniere campus, dominated by the breathtakingly beautiful Constantia, an example of Indo-European hybrid architecture, will take a better part of a day if you want to see in its entirety. Some of the must see corners include La Martiniere Memorial Hall, the Blue Room (with its original painting by Johann Zoffany), the Trophy Room (with a rare painting of the Lucknow Residency), the College Chapel, etc. But remember it is a running educational institution and so permission is necessary.
It was Frenchman Major General Claude Martin (1735-1800) who ordered its construction in 1796 – probably as a garden house – but did not live to see its completion in 1802. Martin bequeathed the house and his wealth for the benefit of education, which led to the establishment of the schools and colleges in Lucknow, Calcutta and at Lyon (his birthplace in France).
Shopping in Lucknow
Among other things, Lucknow is known for its delicate embroidery art or ‘chikan-kari’ and a mind-boggling range of traditional perfumes or ‘itar’. Traditionally, the embroidery was done with white thread on white muslin or cotton but now it has been adapted to include various colours and fabrics. Be prepared to be dazzled by the range of perfumes and the bottles when you visit Lucknow’s famous ‘itar’ shops. Traditional markets such as Chowk, Aminabad and Hazratganj are the place to go shopping.
No visit to Lucknow is complete without sampling the Awadhi cuisine. Although it traces its origin to the Mughal kitchens, the cuisine evolved in the royal kitchens of Awadh to have a distinct style and flavour of its own. Centuries ago, they introduced the ‘dum’ style of cooking, which the modern world is discovering as slow cooking. Some of the must try dishes include Lucknow Biryani, Kakori kebab, Galauti kebab (at Tunday Kebabi), Zarda, Sheermal, Nihari, etc.
If you are not a meat-eater, do not fret. Lucknow is also about vegetarian food, such as ‘satvik’ meal, various kinds of ‘chaat’ (including the basket chaat), ‘lassi’, ‘halwa’ and other varieties of sweets. The best way to round up any meal is with a ‘meetha paan’ (betel leaf loaded with myriad ingredients and served folded)
Tips: If you are visiting Lucknow for the first time or have little time in hand, it is best to opt for a guided tour. Uttar Pradesh Tourism organises regular walks, including the Kaiserbagh Heritge Walk and the Chowk Heritage Walk. Tornos India, a private enterprise, offers a range of walks covering many facets of Lucknow, including sightseeing tours, Wajid Ali Shah Walk, La Martiniere Experience, Revisiting Lucknow of 1857-58, Victorian Walk, Evening Culinary Walk, Beyond Kebab Walk, etc.uttara[article_slug] => lucknow-in-a-hurry-5-things-you-cant-miss [sub_category] => 4 [none] => none [featured_image] => view-of-Lucknow-skyline.gif [excerpt] => If you only have time to do 5 things in Lucknow, do these! [category] => explore )  => stdClass Object ( [id] => 69609 [title] => 5 Wildlife Apps For The Adventurous You [description] =>
It's been many years since Christopher McCandless died inside that little bus in a lonely corner of Denali National Park and Preserve. His time in the wild was full of adventure no doubt, but then he ate a plant and then died of poisoning (according to the movie Into The Wild). See, this happens when you don't have an app to identify plants. Don't let this be your story, be friendly with these five nature apps.
Chris would have loved this app. The FlowerChecker app, available for both Android and iOS devices, is a great app to have on your phone if you like the outdoors and are fairly curious about the fauna around you. Should you ever feel the need to find yourself something to eat in the wild and are not confident about your hunting skills, don't just run towards the brightest berries you spot in the wild. Use this app to identify. OR just use the app to simply identify and learn more about the plants. Safer, isn't it?
Did you know that butterflies are an indicator of a healthy environment? Yes, they are and their population is in decline. If you are a butterfly enthusiast then this app is for you (and the butterflies too). The app helps in identifying butterflies and your sightings will be added to the existing data managed by Butterfly Conservation. A small step from you will go a long way in the conservation of these winged beauty.
A personal favourite, eBird is an essential app for birders. When you are out in the field, this app keeps you on track by notifying you birding hotspots. eBird is a global online database of bird species, recorded by birders all across the globe. Your live records help in a lot of scientific study and conservation work. You can track your sightings from all around the world, check other's records, learn where to spot them birds (near you), real-time info, work offline, and many more convenient features.
Available for both Android and iOS devices, iNaturalist will help you be one with the nature easily. The app helps a lot in learning about a region's biodiversity. It includes everything, from birds, animals, plants to even identifying nests and scat. How cool is that? The app works offline too.
Probably one of the most important apps and a life-saving one at that. It's not just Swiggy that will save your life, you need this app to know everything about the snake you just came across. Android users, this is for you. It first started out as a website dedicated to study and monitor the big snakes like the Indian cobra, the saw-scaled viper, Russell's viper and the common krait. Now also an app and one that works offline too, the app is helpful when you find yourself in a snake territory or a possible snake encounter. The app will tell you about previous sighting/recording of species around you.
Before the beguiling charm of vacations, there’s the excruciating planning phase. Scrolling through flights, beefing up against bad weather, and now, a host of travel bans—the general hike in turbulence might just wean us off holidays altogether.
For those who grew up in time-pressed working families like mine, this organisational phase never evolved to round two. Summers idled by at my aunt’s, mishti doi and video games replacing resort afternoons. However, being a homebody didn’t mean curiosity had to die a natural death.
Once Google Earth entered the picture, spending hours on its rich maps became second nature. But when Street View walked in, with an enticing offer of panoramas from every corner of the planet, there was no looking back. I may still be stuck on the travel inspo phase (with an hour or four of continually embarrassing devotion), but for those who need a nudge to get out there, we’ve compiled seven breathtaking destinations from Street View that you can actually visit. They’re unlikely entries on the usual travel guide, and are nestled in intensely picturesque surroundings, so make the most of it!
Mirador Salto Grande, Chile
Located in Torres del Paine National Park, this popular waterfall neighbours the mountains, icebergs and golden grasslands of Patagonia. See if you can spot guanacos nearby—the adorable camelid is a wild cousin of the llama.
Getting There: Flight to capital Santiago → flight to Punta Arenas (3.5 hours) → bus to Puerto Natales (closest town; 3 hours) or directly to Torres del Paine (5 hours). Once in the park, hike or drive to the waterfall.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and summer (September–March)
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, Iceland
Designed in collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson, the building’s multicolour glass facade pays tribute to the country’s shimmery basalt landscape. The centre is a frequent name in lists of the world’s most beautiful modern buildings. If you’re blown away by its intricate design during the day, just wait till you see it after sunset.
Getting There: Flight to Reykjavik → drive/bus to Harpa Centre (45 minutes)
Best Time to Visit: June–August for comfortable temperatures; September–March for views of the architecture against the Northern Lights.
Hoeizan Crater, Japan
This volcanic crater formed during Mt Fuji’s last recorded eruption in 1707. Reaching Hoeizan’s rim can be supremely challenging for beginners, but it’s an interesting (and quieter) spot to view Fujiyama.
Getting There: Flight to Tokyo → Drive to Fujinomiya town (1.5–2 hours) → Hike to Hoeizan’s rim via the Fujinomiya Trail (3–8 hours, depending on speed), branching off at the 5th Station (30 minutes
Best Time to Visit: July–September, for mild weather and tourist amenities
Palmyra Atoll, US Minor Outlying Islands
Despite being a protected (and extremely isolated) wildlife refuge, visits are facilitated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under four conditions—research, volunteer work, sponsored donor trips, and monitored recreation. However, there are no tourist facilities. The atoll is largely uninhabited, and recreational visitors must bring all supplies, sleep on their own vessels, or camp out on the beach. Given the pristine location and unmatched biodiversity, it’s well worth the trouble.
Getting There: Flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Hawaii (6 hours) → Private plane (6 hours) or boat (5–7 days) to Palmyra. The Nature Conservancy manages the single-runway Cooper Airport.
Best Time to Visit: Dependent on approval. Do carry an umbrella—the atoll sees 4500 millimetres of annual rainfall.
The public square was once the heart of ancient Samarkand, as the Silk Road city bustled with trade, educational opportunities...and public executions. The confluence of Turkish, Mongol and Iranian architecture is on staggering display, accentuated by Uzbekistan’s rugged beauty. History buffs might remember India’s connection to Samarkand via Babar, the first Mughal emperor.
Getting There: Flight to Samarkand → Drive to Registan (15 minutes)
Best Time to Visit: September–October (for comfortable temperatures and minimum crowding)
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Australia
There’s a lot more to Tasmania than excellent farm produce and a terrifyingly cute marsupial. Located in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park is a prime location for photographers, nature lovers, resort addicts and adventure enthusiasts; it also offers stunning views of the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis).
I can’t blame Masterchef Australia for not attempting a cook-off here—the scenery is devastatingly distracting.
Getting There: Flight to Launceston → Hired car to Cradle Mountain (3 hours non-stop, or 24 hours to enjoy scenic stopovers). A self-drive can be harrowing for first-timers, so choose wisely.
Best Time to Visit: Summer and spring (October–April)
Home to the uttarÄÂÂmnÄÂÂya matha, one of the four cardinal institutions of Adi Shankara, this pilgrim town also serves as a gateway to several adventure sports hubs in Uttarakhand. Defence enthusiasts can visit the cantonment area, permanent home of the Garhwal Rifles. The station acted as base camp for rescue operations during the 2013 Kedarnath floods.
Getting There: Bus or train to Rishikesh, Uttarakhand → Rental car, taxi or State Transport Bus to Joshimath (8.5 hours)
Best Time to Visit: Summer and autumn (April–November)
All images courtesy respective contributors and Google Earth.[article_slug] => 7-incredible-google-street-view-destinations-and-how-to-get-there [sub_category] => 9 [none] => none [featured_image] => cover--palmyra-atoll-(1).jpg [excerpt] => There’s only so many times you’ll enjoy zooming in and out on your favourite vistas [category] => explore )  => stdClass Object ( [id] => 69607 [title] => Mauritius: Dive And Discover The Underwater World [description] =>
Sun, sand, sunsets: did you think Mauritius was just a honeymoon destination? Divers will know better. Mauritius is a year-round diving destination with a wonderful and varied marine life on offer. From sea sponges to reef sharks, diving into the waters will give you a glimpse of the underwater world.
With 330kms of coastline encircled by a coral barrier reef that protects the turquoise lagoons of the island, Mauritius offers exclusive diving experiences. There are passes and wrecks, enough to satisfy beginners and advanced divers. The best part? Most dive sites are close to the shore. Though most of the more challenging dive sites are found outside of the barrier reef, they can still be reached after just a 20-minute boat ride.
Where to dive in Mauritius
The northern region offers some fascinating dives (13m). Once dive year-long here thanks to colourful corals, abundant aquatic life and wrecks scuttled in order to create artificial reefs. Gunner’s Quoin is located a few kilometers from the northern tip of Mauritius Island where you can see parrotfish. There is also Whale Rock (26-38m), a submerged crater near Ile Ronde, where hammerhead sharks can be spotted. There’s also Holt’s Rock (16-25m) near Grand Baie where one can dive around rocks, as the name suggests.
A year-round micro climate allows diving all the time, outside the barrier reef. One of the most popular dive sites is located off Flic-en-Flac called Cathedral. The underwater landscape has been formed by currents here and one can discover canyons, chimneys and an impressive array of caves. Further down, close to Le Morne Mountain and up to Black River, the coral sites are very colourful, often visited by dolphins.
The beautiful lagoon that runs along the east coast is scattered with numerous passes through the reef, providing easy access to the deep sea. These areas are rich in plankton and attract a wide variety of pelagic species. Of all the passes, the Belle Mare is arguably the most stunning. Diving here is a real experience due to the strong currents and the spectacular concentration of fish the area attracts. A beginner can head to Blue Bay Marine Park in the south-east part.
Air Mauritius offers flights from India. There is a direct flight from Mumbai to Plaine Magnien. Indians have free visa on arrival
Choose a centre that is affiliated with the Mauritian Scuba Diving Association for a safe experience[article_slug] => where-to-go-diving-in-mauritius [sub_category] => 8 [none] => none [featured_image] => Diving-in-Mauritius.gif [excerpt] => Want to go diving in Mauritius? You need to read this [category] => explore ) ) 1