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.


Booming Bangalore: India’s ‘It’ city

Updated 18 March 2019
0

Booming Bangalore: India’s ‘It’ city

  • Yoga at the resort offers the chance for gentle self reflection
  • The chance for some simple, but delicious food is just around the corner

DUBAI: Officially called Bengaluru — though not by the locals — Bangalore, the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, is lauded as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ thanks to the presence of prestigious IT companies and a burgeoning technology sector. Once known for its sprawling gardens and lakes, today Bangalore is more easily identified by shiny shopping malls, hip restaurants and traffic-congested roads. But beyond the trappings of urban life, the city still surprises with refreshing spots where you can hit reset.

One such oasis of calm is Shreyas Retreat. This coconut farm turned yoga retreat, set amid 25 acres of lush greenery, is the real deal, and one of India’s best-kept secrets. Though probably not for long.

Experiences here revolve around ‘self-discovery’, but with a refined approach to wellness. An in-house doctor will prescribe treatments ranging from oil massages and herbal healing experiences based on Ayurveda — regarded as the world’s oldest medicinal system — to more modern remedies such as hydrotherapy. You can choose to stay in one of the poolside cottages strategically placed around the retreat’s central courtyard, with the 25-meter pool and heated jacuzzi on your doorstep, or be at one with nature in a charming Garden Tented Cottage, several of which are scattered across the grounds. They come complete with canopied roof and outdoor patio, offering incredible views.

Need some time to reflect, then try the resort's yoga sessions at the Shreyas Retreat. (Supplied) 

Guests can also join in group-yoga sessions in the morning and evening, deepen their meditation practice or lend a helping hand at the retreat’s organic gardens. If all seems too new-age for you, packages are entirely customizable and really do cater to everyone — from the blissed-out yogi and spa seeker, to curious foodies who want to learn more about Indian cuisine.

The retreat is also an inspiring base to explore nearby landscapes, with trekking trips and village visits easily arranged. If you’d like to plan your own thrills, the scenic Nandi Hills, Hogenakkal Falls (often called the Niagara Falls of India), and cultural hotspot Mysore are just a few hours drive away.

The Nandi Hills provide the more adventurous with some spectacular scenery. (File/Shutterstock)  

For unique attractions closer to the city, a day at Lalbagh Botanical Garden is one well spent. Sprawling across 240 acres in the heart of Bangalore, it started out in 1760 as the private garden of Mysore ruler Hyder Ali. The government-run garden is home to the largest collection of tropical plants in India and a popular spot for bird-watching. Visitors have plenty to take in, including a serene lake, bonsai garden, aviary, sculptures and more. Its best known feature is the centuries-old glass house — designed along the lines of London’s Crystal Palace — that plays host to bi-annual flower shows which attract thousands of visitors.

A short stroll away from Lalbagh is Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (or MTR as it’s more commonly known), established in 1924. This is a no-frills dining experience. Delicious steaming hot food is served on steel plates as patrons tear into crunchy dosas (savory pancakes) and soft idlis (steamed rice cakes). Make sure to order try the rava idli — made from semolina — which was invented by MTR during World War II when rice was in short supply.

Bangalore is home to a handful of world-class galleries, including the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). However, if you’re short on time, there’s only one name you need to remember – Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. Home to a respected college of fine arts, the complex is buzzing with art aficionados and curious tourists picking up unique souvenirs. There are 14 permanent museum galleries to explore here, as well as five rotating art galleries that blend the best of contemporary works alongside more traditional and Indian folk pieces. Afterwards, wander through the verdant grounds, following sand-swept paths and enjoying the city’s creative energy. Bangalore may be India’s digital heart, but it’s got soul.