Planning a trip? A guide to the world’s most bizarre travel destinations

Tuva, which is in the heartland of Central Asia, was once as independent nation. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 22 March 2017
0

Planning a trip? A guide to the world’s most bizarre travel destinations

DUBAI: Calling all avid explorers, if you feel like you’ve been there and done that, this is the travel list for you.
There is a litany of locations across the world that are not recognized as nation states but claim autonomy or are culturally unique and many are easily accessible.
So, if North Korea isn’t daring enough or Bhutan sounds boring, give these destinations a try on your next trip abroad.
Tuva
Tuva, which is in the heartland of Central Asia, was once an independent nation but tilted toward the Soviet sphere of influence in the 1930s and 40s.
Eventually, Tuva sought admittance into the Soviet Union and is today part of Russia but the area retains unique cultural practices and is a popular holiday jaunt for the likes of President Vladimir Putin.

Wildlife spotting is popular and the region is home to lynx, ibex and wolverine.

Christiania
This plot of land is a social experiment started by hippies in central Copenhagen in 1971.
They declared the 0.34-kilometer-square former military barracks the Freetown of Christiania and within a year the Danish government granted them use of the land on the condition that they paid their utility bills.
Members of the highly democratic community were known to dabble in hard drugs and now face a dilemma – they must either pay the government for the land by 2018 or face eviction.
Somaliland
The 3.1 million people of Somaliland, located in the Horn of Africa, have sought independence from Somalia since 1991.
The self-declared borders reflect those of the former British Protectorate of Somaliland and the capital is called Hargeisa.
The area can be accessed via direct flights from Nairobi.
There are beaches aplenty and 5,000-year-old cave paintings just 50 kilometers from the capital.

Seborga
Close to the Italian border with Monaco, Seborga was headed by Giorgio Carbone, the former head of a flower-growers’ cooperative who titled himself His Tremendousness during his tenure as prince.

Carbone discovered that the town was not mentioned in the documents that outlined the formation of Italy and became prince after a 1995 referendum, until his death in 2009.

Mayotte
Mayotte in the Comoros Islands rebuffed decolonization and opted to stay under French control in 1975.

The island is administered by France as though it were a territory in Europe and it is a regular stop on the French presidential campaign trail.

Visitors can hike up Mont Choungui or scuba dive in crystal-clear waters.


Delightful Delhi: a heady mix of culture, cuisine and shopping

Delightful Delhi:a heady mix of culture, cuisine and shopping. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 January 2019
0

Delightful Delhi: a heady mix of culture, cuisine and shopping

  • New Delhi is where India’s rich, complex history collides with its post-modern ambitions
  • The best way to discover this great city is through its food, temples and shopping streets

DUBAI: Mirza Ghalib once poetically quoted his own soul as saying: “The world is the body and Delhi is its heart.”

Lofty as the claim is, there are probably few better ways to describe this chaotic, colorful city, where India’s rich, complex history collides with its post-modern ambitions, where the country’s power players live minutes from abject poverty, where many different cultures, cuisines and faiths seamlessly coexist. For such extreme contrasts to find a rhythmic harmony, heart needs to be a big part of the equation.

While there are guidebooks aplenty to show you around the many historical sights, the incredible architecture, and the museums and art of Delhi, the best way to discover the heart (and soul) of this great city is through its food, temples and shopping streets.

Delhi’s finest food can arguably be found at Indian Accent. Regularly ranked as India’s best restaurant in various awards, this upscale eatery is one of the pioneers of modern Indian dining, offering an inventive take on traditional Indian flavors, and combining them with European-style finesse. There are many others doing similar things in India now, but under the stewardship of celebrated executive chef Manish Mehrotra, Indian Accent continues to maintain its podium finish status.

The contemporary, intimate venue oozes understated sophistication — with not a hint of Indian kitsch in sight — providing the perfect setting for the seasonal menus. An amuse-bouche could include delicate carrot shorba (soup), aloo tikki (potato croquettes) and mini dhoklas (steamed fermented rice cakes), while a must-try dish is the restaurant’s refined take on that quintessential street food phuchka (‘potato spheres’ stuffed with spicy mashed potato and doused in flavored waters — served here as shooters in five different flavors). Best to place your trust in the chefs however, and try the degustation menu (which should include their signature dessert, daulat ki chaat, an Old Delhi classic of chilled mousse-like cream; but if it doesn’t, ask for it).

Elsewhere, Lavash by Saby — a classic example of Delhi’s multi-faceted dining scene — specializes in the delicious micro-cuisine of Bengal Armenians. This trendy venue is located in the chic precinct of Mehrauli.

Delhi is home some of India’s largest Hindu temples and mosques, but the non-denominational Bah’ai Lotus House is my top recommendation for those seeking some spirituality. Acclaimed for its unique lotus design — not dissimilar to the Sydney Opera House — the white marble temple is worth visiting as much for its award-winning architecture as for the tranquility that suffuses its atmosphere. Bah’ai temples welcome everyone, without discrimination, and this is a true oasis, offering a welcome respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.

For more wonderful architecture, visit the “spiritual-cultural campus” of Akshardham. It’s a relatively modern structure among the thousands of ancient temples across India, but what it may lack in historic value, it more than makes up for in the beauty of its buildings and their surroundings. The impressive architecture incorporates a variety of traditional styles, and Akshardham provides a diversity of attractions for visitors, from exhibitions to its stunning gardens.

If you’re looking for retail — rather than spiritual — therapy, Delhi runs the gamut of options, from designer boutiques to street-side stalls. To shop like a local, head to Mehar Chand Market, the city’s latest retail district. A (relatively) recently gentrified precinct, this neighborhood market has replaced its groceries and tailoring shops with chic stores, all with a distinct skew toward the indie and artisanal. Amidst the quirky street art, the stylishly updated heritage shophouses are now home to handspun garments in Ekmatra, unique homeware in Nicobar, eclectic designs in The Shop, plus boutiques by a new brigade of Indian designers including Masaba. The enclave is also emerging as a dining hub, with venues such as Altitude Café (a healthy eatery offering locally-inspired gourmet goodies) punctuating the stores.

Also popular among Delhi’s trendsetters is Hauz Khas Village — a historic complex in which the medieval-era buildings now house an achingly hip selection of designer boutiques, galleries and cafés.

Even if you’ve only got a few days to spare, a trip to this thriving city should satisfy any visitor, regardless of their aims. Delhi really does have something for everyone, and fully justifies Ghalib’s lofty claims on its behalf.