Exploring the city and outskirts of Kathmandu is an exciting and an intoxicating experience for visitors from around the globe with bustling streets, a large variety of flora and fauna, medieval temples and some of the best hiking and walking trails.
The city has character with old charm architecture intricately carved wooden doors and windows, lively narrow streets filled with shops dedicated to small yet thriving specialist businesses full of different colours, smells with sounds of tourists mixed with locals.
Although I have visited Nepal a number of times, this year I attended the Himalayan Travel Mart, organised with the objective to establish Nepal as a Gateway to the Himalayas and as a destination capable of hosting events at international level. The travel mart hosted around 74 Buyers from 36 countries and over 50 sellers, representing the Himalayan Region, Bhutan, India, Tibet, Indonesia and Nepal.
It is best to arrange a sightseeing tour of Kathmandu City with a visit to the Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu Durbar Square), an ancient durbar (palace) with its numerous old palaces, temples and pagodas. Visit the famous Temple of Living Goddess “Kumari”, and the Kasthamandap Temple, believed to be constructed from the wood of a single tree from which Kathmandu derives its name.
Nepal is a Himalayan Kingdom often referred to as the “Land of Mount Everest” and the “Land of Living Goddess-Kumari”. Abroad, the country is also associated with the heroism of its brave warrior ancestors – the talented “Gorkhas”.
My favourite part of the adventure was visiting a monastery in the mountains and meeting the resident monks. A definite must visit is the Boudhanath Stupa – an ancient colossal stupa and the center of Tibetan Buddhism in the world and the Pashupatinath Temple – the Temple of Lord Shiva situated on the bank of the Bagmati River.
The excursions take time but if you want good views, head to Swayambhunath Stupa, which is situated atop a hill from where you can get a bird’s, eye view of Kathmandu Valley. I also enjoyed the views from the Namo Buddha Stupa, which offers a serene ambience ideal to meditate in.
I fell in love with the local cuisine and yet surprisingly had some of the best international cuisine in the city as well. Who would have thought that the best pizza I would ever eat will be in a quaint restaurant called Fire and Ice in the streets of Kathmandu.
We visited an orphanage as well after a visit to a monastery. The orphanage is part of a CSR initiative called Mission Himalaya, which focuses in providing free education, free healthcare and poverty relief aid to the needy people from the remote and under-developed regions of Nepal.
I spent the last few days exploring the shops and markets with two fashionable and seasoned travellers and together we got fascinated and taken in with the beautiful gemstones, the colourful pashmina shawls, the soothing musical instruments and comfortable yet classic clothes designed to stay trendy for years in places like Indra Chowk to luxury boutiques.
The wide variety of products in all price ranges is attractive to all ages and tourists often head to the Thamel area for souvenirs and handicrafts.
Going back to Nepal ended up being a therapeutic and calming holiday cum work destination that I needed and meeting travel aficionados from all over the world who are passionate about the Himalayas was definitely an added bonus. I look forward to my next visit already.
It is always a delight to meet with the Velaa Private Island team and at ATM we were invited to a VIP event to get introduced to the resort’s new General Manager, Mr Michal Smejc.
Having spent the past six years in South East Asia, and being the younger brother of the property’s owner, Jiri Smejc, Michal has all the premises to take over the lead of this ultra-luxury resort in the Maldives. As a family member, Michal has spent countless days at Velaa Private Island from the very beginning, witnessing the origins of this unique resort as a construction site to conversion into what is today known as one of the top private islands in the world.
His culinary passion, knowledge of luxury travel as well as love for nature, diving and the South Asian culture were essential decision factors when the General Manager role became available earlier this Spring.
We met at the capital Club and sampled delicious canapés and signature beverages prepared by the resort’s very own Executive Chef, Gaushan de Silva, former chef for the Jordanian royal family, who was flown in directly from the island.
Velaa means turtle in the local Maldivian language, after the generations of turtles who nest and hatch on the island, and the turtle shell design can be seen throughout the design of the villas and resort.
Velaa Private Island is a tropical paradise destination for offering the luxury Gulf traveler a very private and relaxing holiday at this boutique island hideaway. The resort offers an exceptional range of watersports and island-based activities to keep both adults and children of all ages entertained.
Created out of a passion for the Maldives, the Owner Czech Businessman Jiri Smejc and his wife Radka have overseen every last detail, working closely alongside award-winning Czech Architect Petr Kolar. From the exquisite interiors of the Villas and Private Residences, to the Lha Velaa (Little Turtle) Kids Club to a pristine 9 hole Golf Academy, shaded Tennis Court, Squash including a submarine for exploring the rich marine life.
There is a Clarins Spa to retreat to when you need some downtime or just enjoy world-class diving and deep-sea fishing while on holiday.
Living on an island, I was fortunate to have an amazing array of water sports to choose from as a child. After all, being brought up on the Coral Coast of the exotic Fiji Islands has its advantages and amongst a host of watersports like surfing, sailing and canoeing, people from our town and visitors enjoyed river rafting as well. It may not be as dramatic as the Futaleufu River’s Terminador rapids but still provided an exciting experience.
Naturally, finding out more about the Futaleufu River brought back a host of childhood memories. Heard surging from a quarter of a mile away, the Class V stretch of white water at Futaleufu cascades over and around imposing granite boulders for eight-tenths of a mile, and it lives up to its name.
The river, which runs more than 120 miles through Chile, drops 3,000 feet from beginning to end, and through its most challenging section of rapids, the Futaleufu drops 45 feet per mile, which is 33 feet more per mile than the Colorado River when it passes through the Grand Canyon.
In Patagonia, which emerged as a world-class white-water destination a little less than three decades ago, the Futaleufu is the ultimate crown jewel. A group of kayakers first negotiated the Futaleufu rapids in 1986, and the following year a commercial rafting company from the United States attempted the Terminador and other rapids along the river.
Outfitted with a traditional rafting boat full of gear and rafters without paddles, the American company successfully traversed a handful of Class V rapids before reaching the stretch of white water that, based on the impending result, would come to be named Terminador.
The rapid offers no margin for error, and the raft, weighed down by rafters who couldn’t addle, drifted from the necessary line down the left side of the river. Instead, it was pulled down the center of the rapid, where it was trapped (and subsequently destroyed) in a large, violent hole, the section of a rapid below a submerged boulder where the resulting waterfall creates a backward-falling wave of equal strength.
All of the rafters survived, but news of the event quickly circulated throughout the international rafting community, and for years the Futaleufu was deemed unraftable. It wasn’t until 1991 that Eric Hertz and his company, Earth River Expedition decided to explore the possibilities.
With 20 years of rafting experience and supported by his fleet of specially designed rafts and catarafts (a cross between a catamaran and a traditional white-water raft that offers greater stability through rapids and better rescuing ability), Hertz and a small team of guides spent a couple of years in the early ‘90s making exploratory runs of the river. Initially, Hertz would allow only accomplished rafters with Class V experience to join him on those explorations, although today, 90 percent of Earth River’s clients are beginners.
The classification of white water is not an exact science and rapids can change classes with the rise and fall of a river’s water level. Nevertheless, as a general rule, a Class V rapid is considered the most extreme white water that can be rafted commercially. In addition to being difficult, it can be treacherous.
With the Mundaca, another famous class V rapid, there is the danger of being swept up in the current that slings everything toward a giant hole near the bottom of the rapid – a hole so large that the backward – crashing wave downriver is as high as the initial drop before it. A hole of this magnitude will flip a raft instantly.
Regardless of the rapids faced, what everyone discovers after a full day of rafting the Futaleufu is the river’s uniqueness. The river is fed by the melting glaciers in the Andres Mountains some 8,000 feet above sea level, but because those glacial waters filter through a series of high-evaluation lakes they’re about 20 degrees warmer when they reach the canyon where the river’s rapids begin to form.
Those high-elevation lakes also allow the silt to separate from the water, which makes the Futaleufu clearer than most glacier-fed rivers and gives it a Caribbean-like turquoise hue. According to Hertz, even the canyon’s geology contributes to a unique rafting experience.
The Futaleufu may be unique, but like most high-volume rivers, it’s in danger of losing its identity. From the beginning of Earth River’s involvement in Patagonia, rumors circulated about damming the Futaleufu for hydroelectric power, which is why Hertz bought land at strategic points along the river.
This allowed him to build distinct campsites, each with its own ambience, and it allowed him to block the damming of river at those specific areas. Hertz was careful to take a minimalist approach. He cut down a few trees and made sure every riverbank dwelling was concealed from view along the water.
All four of Earth River’s campsites are different. They range from a sprawling property with communal area recessed into caves, lost beaches, and natural springs to a treehouse community where guests can drift off to sleep while listening to a cacophony of frogs croaking in the nearby lake. Wooden and stone hot tubs are mainstays at every campsite, as are flush toilets and hot showers, but guest expecting luxurious accommodations with white-linen service will be disappointed.
The luxury of an Earth River trip is that novice paddlers can find peace of mind knowing that their guides can lead them down a river famous for its world-class white water.
The first thing I fell in love with in Nashville, the music city was Nashville’s premier hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & convention center and the beautiful guitar exhibits. I went there to attend an IT conference with Epicor and expected a simple resort but the ambience, excitement and energy of the place made me feel I could live there for years and not get bored.
The beautiful gardens beneath climate-controlled signature glass atriums, the meandering Cumberland River plus an extraordinary selection of dining, shopping and recreation options made me feel like this was more of a getaway and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere in between the conference.
I walked through various indoor gardens, cascading waterfalls and took a boat ride in the indoor river and still had time for the spa and fitness center. Most times, the lush greenery reminding me of my own country Fiji Islands and made me feel right at home.
Inspired by elements of music everywhere in the resort, I set out to see more of what the rest of Nashvile had to offer. Music is in the DNA of people from Nashville and the award-winning Station Inn is considered to be one of Nashville’s premier venues for bluegrass music. Notable artists have performed at this venue, which is perfect for concerts and jam sessions by up-and-coming artists.
Then there is the Tennessee State Museum that tells the story of the state’s rich history over three floors of the building. Creative visitors will love the Frist Center that hosts Visual Arts displays by local, state and regional artists along with national and international exhibitions.
Music lovers will find the ‘Two Old Hippies’ a haven as a retail store offering a large selection of guitars, music, clothing and other novelty merchandise. The shop has a stage with an organ, several guitars and a drum set as well as lighting and a mixing board in a deco where walls are full of music artefacts and memorabilia.
Alternatively, head to Curb Records, an independent music label founded by Mike Curb. The label’s top recordings include hits by legendary artists. A philanthropist, Curb has been instrumental in restoring historic buildings, including Columbia’s Historic Quonset Hut, a recording studio originally established by Owen Bradley, and the Johnny Cash Museum.
Then there is the music Row, home to several businesses and attractions related to the city’s musical heritage. Considered the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry, the area has the historic RCA Studio B, Columbia’s Historic Quonset Hut, Owen Bradley Park and numerous shops and restaurants. “Musica,” a large bronze statue designed by Alan LeQuire, is the centerpiece of the Music Row Roundabout.
It is all about Music in Nashville. The Musicians Hall of Fame at Historic Nashville Auditorium honors the artists and session musicians who have accompanied legendary performers in a broad range of musical genres, including country, rock, jazz and soul.
Naturally I stopped at the Marathon Motors Factory in the heart of downtown Nashville. This area has an array of music recording studios, numerous shops, studios etc. If you like walking, head to ‘The Gulch’, a historic walkable neighborhood with hip restaurants, eclectic boutiques and vibrant nightlife venues.
In Nashville’s Centennial Park, the Parthenon stands as an exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. You can see the 42-foot gilded sculpture of Athena, and temporary shows and exhibitions.
There is so much to se and do in Nashville but Music is really what makes this city stand apart. I enjoyed Nashville and look forward to going back again.
In between meetings in New Orleans and Nashville last month, I took a short break at the Grand Beach Hotel in Miami, which is a new beachfront addition to Miami Beach with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. The property is located on Millionaires’ Row, close to the excitement and nightlife of South Beach and easy to get to from both Miami International Airport and Ft. Lauderdale Airport. It was the perfect break and we are delighted to share our thoughts on the property.
I stayed in one of the hotel’s 430 spacious suites that offer a balcony and two full bathrooms. In-room amenities include two flat-screen TVs, complimentary internet access, international Satellite TV, a refrigerator, wet-bar, coffee-maker, iron, safe, work area and had enough space to open two of my suitcases and a carry on comfortably in the space.
In the afternoons, the best thing to do is enjoy the two beachside pools and hot tubs or head to the 7th floor pool overlooking the Atlantic while enjoying Miami’s year-round perfect weather. The best part of the hotel is having access to more than 200 feet of beautiful white sandy tropical beaches on the Atlantic Ocean or if you like working out, head to the hotel’s well-equipped gym.
I opted for the beach experience and was told I had access to two beach chairs and one umbrella under my room included in our daily Resort Fee. It was perfect and the hotels helps to make the most out of your stay in Florida, whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, relaxing retreat, convention accommodation, a family escape, or are travelling on business.
The hotel completed an exciting $10 million suite renovation in 2015 hence majority of the suites have been refreshed but a few of the original classic suites remain for nostalgic guests. The refreshed suites feature a sleek modern design dressed in a bright color scheme and vibrant fabrics for an energized fresh appearance, new bedding, new carpeting, new sleeper sofa(s), and carefully recrafted furniture with glass countertops, new artwork, and floor to ceiling shower glass doors.
If you feel like a meal, “Chez Gaston” and the lounges serve culinary delights or tropical refreshments. The Chez Gaston kitchen has been expanded to allow the culinary team to service more guests at a faster pace which complements the recently renovated and extended Espresso Gelato Bar that offers many more food and beverage options than ever before.
You can choose to dine in the privacy of your room with the room delivery services, or leave your Miami Hotel for the entertainment of South Beach, which is what I did to catch up with friends from my last visit to Miami.
The checked out the meeting spaces in the hotel and it had all the latest technology and offered a first class selection of catering options for an exotic Miami Beach meeting, family gathering or social event. A business center and a library are just some of the other amenities offered as services.
Grand Beach Hotel is using the next generation of TravelCLICK’s award-winning booking engine, iStay, which revolutionizes the online booking experience with an enhanced user interface and superior property merchandising to drive higher conversion, increase revenue per stay, and enhance guest satisfaction.
It integrates hotel packages and enhanced stay options on the same screen as room reservations and displays up to six large, compelling photographs per room type hence the best way to get to know the hotel before booking. I certainly enjoyed my stay at the Grand Beach hotel in between two major international conferences and recommend it for a good rest and relaxation venue.
The successful history of the largest and most successful Greek luxury hotel brand, Grecotel oversees a collection of Greece’s finest resorts, each individually designed, crafted and inspired by its own supreme beachfront location.
The brand values high standards of quality, great team and responsiveness to tourists’ needs are key to a successful future together with the unique concept of hospitality that is rooted in Greek culture and style. Hence Grecotel delivers sophisticated lifestyle experiences for travelers in the country’s most beautiful destinations.
Grecotel properties are located in prime locations around Greece on the islands of Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, the prime mainland regions of Sounio south of Athens, Halkidiki in the north and Kyllini in the legendary Peloponnese.
Each property has a unique character, from ultra-luxury boutique hotels to magnificent resorts on sprawling estates and family-friendly or all-inclusive holiday-lands for quality vacations or romantic hideaways and luxurious spas.
This summer Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort celebrates 10 years of the iconic Resort. Famous the world over for authentic hospitality and devotion to the art de vivre. Indulge in the celebrations with specially designed events throughout the season.
Mykonos Blu Grecotel Exclusive Resort continues to capture guests imagination with its world famous beach, unrivalled suites and the friendliest welcome on the island. It is a dreamy place, ethereal and unreal, when you are there but intensely real as it lures you to return.
Then there is the Corfu Imperial Grecotel Exclusive Resort, which reflects the peninsula’s gorgeous natural setting with an unsurpassed collection of exclusive accommodation among luxuriant, splendid gardens along the shore’s edge. There is easy accessible berthing for yachts & services
Not to be missed is the Riviera Olympia Resort in Peloponnese, Greece set on a spectacular two kilometers long vast beach, with a choice of four amazing resorts. It is a small world away from everyday life with a multitude of resort facilities; all near ancient olympia, where the olympic games were born.
The Grecotel Hotels and Resorts provide a unique architectural experience in itself and a paradise of opulent amenities, gourmet restaurants and luxurious, well thought-of details, all embodying the essence of the genuine Greek hospitality.
Having been awarded over 2000 international awards by guests and the most prestigious international tourism organizations, Grecotel owners are mostly proud of its team known for providing impeccable service of the highest standards in the Grecotel culture.
Villas by Grecotel is a new exclusive service tailor-made to assist you in choosing the perfect villa and a brand new Full Concierge service, all with the Grecotel legacy in privileged hospitality.
Most propoerties offer an abundance of watersports and sports facilities including tennis courts and multi-sports area. If you love wellness, pamper yourself with a sauna before enjoying the treatment of your choice and immerse yourself in the sensory delights of harmonizing treatments at the spas in Grecotel Hotels and Resorts.
Having chosen beachfront locations of superb beauty and history, Grecotel works tirelessly to preserve the natural environment around them. Today, Grecotel hotels have become destination venues for people from all walks of life who through years have enjoyed Grecotel’s signature hospitality and created beautiful memories.