February 09, 2013

10 Places to go in 2013

(This article was published in The Hindu Metro Plus dated 5-Jan-2013)

Make your travel resolutions for the New Year with these Top 10 ideas

1 South Korea
Much friendlier and easier to access than its Northern counterpart, South Korea is one of the biggest international business hubs in the region. Visit the World's Newest City Songdo (Isle of Pines) along Incheon's waterfront, which has been built from scratch for a staggering $35 billion on an artificial island spread across 6 sq. km, reclaimed from barren mudflat. Cisco intends to bring its state-of-the-art technology to make Songdo one of the most technologically advanced, smart and connected communities in the world. Is Songdo the way to go for modern cities? You must visit this ambitious aerotropolis, still under construction, that aims to take cities like Dubai, New York and Hong Kong head on.

2 St Vincent and The Grenadines
A paradise laden with coral reefs, turquoise lagoons and idyllic beaches, SVG is the perfect place to spend that romantic moment with your partner. For the adventurous, there is plenty of eco activity involving volcanoes, waterfalls, whales, diving and snorkelling. Try the novel concept of a de-tech or digital detox holiday, which lets you get away from your digital gadgets and immerse yourselves in nature. Don’t fret if your tablets and phones are confiscated; unplug from the world and enjoy your break exploring the 32-odd islands and cays in this archipelago.

3 Singapore
Celebrating its 50th year of independence from the British Crown, this culturally bio-diverse nation state offers lots of festivals and fetes in 2013. A shopaholic's trusted destination, Singapore is among the most beautiful and clean cities in the world. If you want to grab a shopping holiday, there’s no place like Singapore. But rapid urbanisation has led to some heritage areas getting lost, so if you want explore places like the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market or the Bukit Brown cemetery you need to go now before they are lost in the urban madness.

4 Mandvi, Gujarat
Tucked on the western-most part of India facing the Arabian Sea is one of the most beautiful and uncharted spots of the country, often missing from the tourist's map. This is the old ship-building town of Mandvi. Ship-building is still active, and you can see the silhouettes of abandoned ships and the ones of new ones being built on a beautiful moonlit night, lending a ghostly charm to the skyline. With its pristine white sand beaches, a beautiful palace (Vijay Vilas) and ornate Jain temples, along with sumptuous Gujarati thalis and dabelis, Mandvi is the perfect epitome of that beautiful town you always wanted to visit but did not know existed.

5 Amsterdam, Netherlands
There is more than one reason to visit Amsterdam in 2013. This beautiful and splendid city is celebrating a lot of festivals this year — from the 400th anniversary of the Amsterdam canals (Canal Ring is a UNESCO heritage site) and Vincent van Gogh’s 160th birthday to 175 years of the Artis Royal Zoo and the 125th anniversary of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Get ready to celebrate with the Dutch with concerts and events in this alpha world city. The town and visitors are also eagerly awaiting the re-opening in April of the Rijksmuseum (which houses masterpieces from Rembrandt and Van Gogh among others) after a 10-year renovation.

6 New Zealand
It happened during 2003 to 2006, when The Lord of the Rings was released and it will happen again with the release of The Hobbit. Tolkien Tourism is one of the most potent forces pulling visitors to Kiwi country, among the most beautiful and naturally diverse places in the world. The Kiwi landscape truly represents the magical setting of Middle Earth but there is more to New Zealand than just the Weta caves. Indulge in any of a dozen adventurous sports like bungee jumping, skydiving, whitewater rafting, hydro-zorbing, spelunking and more. No wonder they call this the adventure capital of the world.

7 New Fantasyland, Orlando
Just a few weeks old, with double the area (21 acres from 10 acres) of the old Disneyworld, your visit to the Magic Kingdom just got a whole lot better, with loads of new attractions and rides. This is the largest expansion in the Magic Kingdom’s history. Old rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventures have made way for new ones like Ariel's Grotto, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Barnstormer and others. Splitsville Luxury Lanes boasts of a 50,000 sq. ft bowling, billiards and entertainment zone. With the expanded space and two new themed areas, Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus, and two highlights yet to open, neither kids nor adults are going to be bored soon. And do try to find the ‘hidden Mickeys’ tucked away all over the park.

8 Reunion Island
With beaches that morph into lava fields and mountains, what has been often hailed as mini-Hawaii is a French overseas territory neighbouring Mauritius and is off the coast of East Africa (Madagascar). This island nation has almost a thousand kilometres of hiking trails along with Piton de la Fournaise, one of world’s most active volcanoes, that has exploded more than 170 times since the mid-17th century. Reunion Island is a must-visit destination before tourists and mega-resorts crowd it.

9 Tokyo, Japan
If you are interested in exploring sub-cultures, then look no further than Japan. Tokyo, a Blade Runner-esque city, offers a subway culture that no other city in the world can boast of. You will see a riot of colours in the trains and tunnels, filled as they are with bizarrely dressed gyarus, lolitas and yankiis! You may even spot a favourite Manga character in one of the fashion shows held so often across the city. Japan offers a mixed platter of cross-pollinated culture where manga madness merges with the tea ceremony; and cherry blossom season competes with ultra-modern urban landscapes.

10 Space
The Spaceport terminal in New Mexico is going to see a lot of action in the next few years. SpaceX's reusable space rockets and Virgin Galactic’s 2.5-hour suborbital flight, which includes a six-minute interval of weightlessness, are on the verge of making space travel a reality. What was once every kid's dream is going to be on everyone's bucket list. With 530 bookings already made, at a ticket cost of $200,000, get ready to conquer the blackness of outer space. 2013 could be your year!

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