Tag Archives: Viator

Are all oases this stunning?

We got lost.  Not once, not twice, but multiple times on our quest to get to experience an oasis for the first time.  Our family who lives in Oman had told us this was a must do on our trip.  Magazines, newspapers, and travel bloggers concurred.  However, Wadi Bani Khalid seemed to be playing a game of cat and mouse with us.  Each person who we stopped to ask for directions, appeared to send us on yet another path.  We saw multiple signs and yet the target proved elusive.  I could not be more grateful to our relative who patiently persisted and finally got us to this absolutely breathtaking location situated about 200 kilometers away from Muscat.

So, call me naive, but when I heard the word “oasis”, I was envisioning a bunch of palm trees surrounding a body of water.  That’s what I had read in books and seen in paintings.  But what I saw is really hard to put into words.

Nestled among the magnificent Eastern Hajar mountains, with majestic rock formations and boulders, Wadi Bani Khalid has the clearest, most gorgeous oasis where at any given time, the water appears to cover the entire spectrum of green and blue hues.  It is not an easy hike to traverse the wadi, your leg muscles get a workout for sure, but what you end up seeing and absorbing will stay with you for a lifetime.  We saw tourists come, spend just a tad bit of time, take pictures and leave.  Please don’t do that.  Plan to spend a half a day, hiking the area, swimming and just sitting back, enjoying a nice lunch al fresco before heading back to city life.  I’ve tried to capture our adventure in pictures below.

Since we had family living in Oman, we chose to drive here from Muscat.  You could rent a car and drive out on your own or take one of the tours offered by the many local tour companies.  The only risk, as we discovered with driving, is that the mountains interfere with the GPS signal and you need to allocate plenty of time to get here.

If you choose to take a tour, here’s a link to one from Viator:

Visit Wadi Bani Khalid

 

Discovering Judaism In India – Is That Possible?

By Lakshmi:

As a little girl growing up in India, we never once questioned the ability of multiple ethnicities to coexist in one land. I went to Catholic schools, my best friend was Muslim and my family doctor was Jewish.  While there were plenty of  Christians, Hindus and Muslims around, except for my family doctor and her holidays, our exposure to Judaism was  minimal.  And then there was a discovery.  The state where my parents hailed from (Kerala) housed India’s oldest synagogue and one of the oldest known Jewish communities.  And slowly the awareness settled in.  The first community arrived in India 2,500 years ago.  They settled in Cochin in the southern state of Kerala and gradually more settlers arrived spreading their wings to different parts of the country.  A few months ago, I was walking around in Pune in western India and noticed a large synagogue.  It was old and beautiful and I discovered that it was the largest one in Asia.  Suddenly the linkages between Judaism and India were appearing more commonly before my eyes…was it the awareness that I was developing or simply more interest on a rather forgotten community?

This morning, the New York Times carried a lovely piece on Passover in India.  It was a lovely read and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring our readers this little unknown slice of India.

“A Seder Spiced with Indian flavors” is a journey into how tradition and local cuisine have melded to create a one of a kind culture and history.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/dining/a-seder-spiced-with-flavors-from-india.html?_r=0

Conde Nast Traveller’s writing competition last year had a winner reporting on the “Jewish Settlements in India”. This is a lovely journey of visuals and words providing a sometimes sad/other times funny look at this community.

http://www.cntraveller.in/content/travel-writing-competition-traces-jerusalem

For those curious about how these synagogues might look like a world away, the following link provides beautiful photographs inside and outside some of these major places of worship.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/synindia.html

If you happen to be in India and want to get a hands on orientation, here are a couple of tour companies offering specialized day trips.  Just reading the summaries gives you a peek into a far away world!

http://www.mumbaimagic.com/jewish_heritage.htm

http://www.viator.com/India/Synagogue/d723

Have you visited any synagogues in India or know more about the local Jewish traditions?  We’d love to hear from you.

 

Mount Fuji and Hakone In A Day

By Siddhi: 

Who?  Anyone interested in seeing or photographing Mt. Fuj. This experience is for those who can tolerate cold weather and extended exposure to a temperamental climate.

What? Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan and one of the country’s “Three Holy Mountains” (alongside Mount Haku and Mount Tate). It is widely considered an iconic geographical landmark.

How? Although the Paupers aren’t fans of guided tours, getting to Mount Fuji and Hakone in a single day is quite a convoluted process unless you’re a skilled climber or are familiar with Tokyo’s landscape. So the easiest way to get see Fuji is through a tour company. A bus picks you up from your hotel and takes you to Station 5 of the mountain which is about 2300 meters high. From there, you take a bus to the town of Hakone that is centered in volcanically active areas near Lake Ashi and are led through a brief exploration of the region. Once the day winds down, you have a choice of either taking the bus back to the city, or the faster alternative: the famous bullet train.

Why? Personally, the entire Fuji experience was quite underwhelming. I feel like the reason I felt that way about something so many people rave about is because of my minimal tolerance for cold weather. I was bone-chilling cold the entire time and almost developed frostbite standing at Station 5 as I struggled to even hold my camera because of the biting wind. I had to spend 20 minutes near the portable heaters inside a small gift shop to undo what 20 seconds of December weather had done to me. But that is just my natural reaction to a climate. For those who are fans of photography and adventure day-trips in general, Fuji and Hakone could be memorable. There are some fantastic landscapes to capture, and when the day is right (which is luck in and of itself as you can reach Fuji only to find it shrouded), the vistas are beautiful. The views of the lake at Hakone are pretty stunning as well, and the cable car ride to the top of Owakudani Crater is reminiscent of the rising sulfur images of the national parks in Hawaii.

There are several tour companies that offer the Fuji/Hakone trip in a day.

Here are just a few:

http://www.japanforyou.com/index.php/japan-tours/mt-fuji-and-hakone-tour.html

http://www.viator.com/tours/Tokyo/Mt-Fuji-Lake-Ashi-and-Bullet-Train-Day-Trip-from-Tokyo/d334-2142TYO_F800_F820

http://www.japanican.com/tours/tourdetail.aspx?aff=GMT&tc=GMT01TYOOF880

If you are a true adventurer at heart, we’d love to hear how you saw Fuji without a tour!