One of the best bits of advice I could give anyone is to travel while you’re young. You have your youth and your health on your side. Trust me, once you get bogged down with a career, mortgage and family commitments, it is so much harder to do the budget, backpacker thing for any length of time. My twenty year old daughter is just about to complete her tourism studies and has plans to don the backpack and head off. We’re in full support of this knowing it will probably be the only opportunity to experience the true freedom of backpacker travel.

Travel when you're young

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A guest post from a good friend who recently visited Akshardham

In my other business, Interim Business Solutions, I am fortunate to have a lovely helper from Mumbai, India. Lata has been a wonderful helping hand since March 2013 and we have become good friends – virtually! She was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Akshardham and a number of other wonderful travel destinations which of course made me green with envy. She has been kind enough to share her experience with us.

It was a “maybe” trip on our list of places to visit due to the short time we had in Delhi…but then later became ”THE highlight” of our Delhi visit! It was an one of a kind experience. It’s very difficult to encompass all that we saw and felt in mere words… and more so because it’s all captured within our mind and heart literally as there are no pictures to fall back on (photography strictly forbidden).

Akshardham Hindu TempleAkshardham Temple in Delhi, is a brilliant example of the modern day architecture having its roots, rooted deep in the past. It is one of the modern monumental wonders of India, a specimen of rich Indian architecture much famous for its minute carvings and magnificent sculptures. It has been heralded by the Guinness World Record as the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple.

Akshardham means the eternal, divine abode of the supreme God, the haunt of eternal values and virtues of ‘Akshar’ as defined in the Hindu texts where a heart of devotion, purity and peace forever perches.

As soon as we entered the temple premise, we were overwhelmed to see immense beauty sprawled all around us in exquisitely carved pillars, ornate domes, quadrangle shikhars, reincarnated in a pink and white attire. (The pink stone symbolizes bhakti in eternal bloom and white marble that of absolute purity and eternal peace).

When we entered the ‘Mandir’ (temple), standing with its head held high at 141 ft. to reach the sanctum sanctorum, it took us time to appreciate the impressive pillars, hauling the colossal alcove on their shoulders. They are beautiful. We could see the consummate artistry – flora, fauna, dancers, musicians and Gods – crafted on their surfaces from top to bottom! They are just awe inspiring! The Garbhagriha (Inner Sanctum) reminds one of the Gothic architecture, standing like a silent spectator of divine divinity, where one can even hear one’s heart beat!

There is much more to the place than just the temple…

The Akshardham parikrama (circumambulatory path) consists of 1,152 pillars, 145 windows and 154 samvaran shikhars; amounting to a total of 53,956 stones.

The Swaminarayan Akshardham parikrama is made of red stone from Rajasthan, consisting of 1,152 pillars, 145 windows and 154 carved spires; amounting to a total of 53,956 stones. Surrounding the temple like a beautiful decorative garland, every window and gallery in the lower parikrama provides different views and insights to the amazing Akshardham monument.

In the last 800 years this is the only and largest, intricately carved Mandovar in India, embellished with sculptured stone effigies of India’s great rishis, sadhus, devotees, acharyas and divine incarnations. Walk around the temple premises to reach the tranquil Narayan Sarovar. In the evenings, the lake glitters like a sparkling diamond amidst floating lotus leaves . It is said that the lake contains holy waters from 151 rivers and lakes sanctified by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, including Mansarovar in Tibet.

There are three Halls that one can visit to experience the journey of the temple…

1: Sahajanand Darshan (Hall of Values) Universal values for mankind are presented from the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan through films, light and sound shows with robotic figures. Everything here appeared so real, mainly in the robotic dramatizations.

2: Neelkanth Darshan (Giant Screen Theatre) Projected on an 85 ft x 65 ft screen, a large format film vividly portrays the true story of an 11-year-old child-yogi, Neelkanth Varni (The young Bhagwan Swaminarayan). With a cast of over 45,000 people and shot in 108 locations in India, the film takes the viewers on an exciting pilgrimage of India.

3: Sanskruti Vihar (Boat Ride) A spectacular boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian culture, which flourished on the banks of river Sarasvati. We sailed through the world’s oldest Vedic village and bazaar, through Takshashila- the world’s first university, the caves of Ajanta, and much, much more.

The huge Premvati Food Court serves fresh, pure vegetarian food, snacks and drinks.

Also the evening light and laser show are a must watch.

The Akshardham temple is quite serious about security, so if you plan to visit, do note that the only things you are allowed to carry inside other than the clothes you are wearing (cap/shawl/sweater, reading glasses, sun glasses/shoes are all ok – knees need to be covered) are your wallet (not purse) and house/vehicle keys. No food items, no mobile phones, no flowers, candles etc. Leave all these behind in your vehicle/hotel and you will be able to avoid the queue to deposit and retrieve non-permitted items at the cloakroom.

We were overwhelmed by the grandeur of the place. After our senses could absorb as much as humanly possible…we sat and let the beauty and serenity sink in…reluctant to let the real world intrude the feeling of calm and harmony within us!!

Top 10 Delhi (EYEWITNESS TOP 10 TRAVEL GUIDE)

Map

TravelTipsPlus Google Map of Akshardham

One Great Reason to Visit Akshardham

One great reason to visit this travel destination is to experience the exquisite poetry carved in stone, it’s awe inspiring architectural geniuses and to experience supreme peace (sorry that makes it 3 reasons but it HAD to be mentioned!)

Akshardham, India

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The Italian lakes sound like a holiday for Nan and Granddad, but the reality is far from it. Streets are lined with honey coloured walls and decked with faultlessly glamourous Italians bathing in the warmth of the Dolce Vita (and it’s not difficult to see why this is truly an Italian phrase once you’ve consumed your third ice cream cone of the day).

Garda Icecream

More often than not ‘the biggest’ turns out to be the worst – think of chain restaurants and hotels, where giant price tags affix themselves to familiar names, all for a taste of roasted disappointment. This is not the case with Italy’s largest lake however, as the towns surrounding Lake Garda are small and authentic, still offering you the chance to find those teeny, backstreet restaurants with space for 8, whose chequered table cloths will recall quieter days.

The plan of attack for Lake Garda should involve a visit to the prettiest towns surrounding the lake, many a boat trip atop the pristine, aquamarine water and as much gelato, gnocchi and pasta as one can acceptable consume in polite society.

The most convenient airports for getting to the lake are Verona or Brescia, and from there you can take a short train ride on to one of the lakeside towns.

Ideally, it is better to choose one lakeside hotel and stat put, rather than lugging your belongings back and forth across the lake. From your base point, it’s easy to access any of the towns by catching a lake ferry – though be careful to give those jetty timetables a thorough once-over, as the timetables aren’t always suited to the zippy, cram-it-all-in traveller. This is Italy, after all; the land where they appreciate “dolce far niente’ – the pleasure of idleness.

rocca_scaligeraEvery trip should include a visit to the town of Sirmione on the southern shore. The town’s moated, 13th century castle “Rocca Scaligera” (try pronouncing that one with Italian flair!) provides fantastic views across the lake, if you have the energy or motivation to make it up to the top. For those in it for the relaxation, a visit to the hot springs, such as Terme di Sirmione, is in order. Hot springs have been used over the centuries for their healing properties, and whilst the sceptic might find this notion a questionable tourism ploy, the waters will undoubtedly leave your skin softer and your mind refreshed after a good soak.

Next up on the agenda is Gardaland. You don’t need to be with kids to enjoy this fantastic theme park and, after all, not the entire getaway can’t be spent sighing over views of the lake and sipping wine.

castle_malcesineThe second town of interest is Malcesine, with the stunning Scaligero Castle, perched high on a cliff overlooking the lake. This is a popular wedding spot, so don’t be surprised if you see dozens of well-dressed, good-looking Italians skirting around. Literary lovers will also enjoy indulging in extracts of Goethe’s writing, and accounts of his castle visits.

Forgetting fears of heights will also allow you to take a cable car up Mount Baldo to visit the restaurant and shop at the top, as well as providing you with one of the best photo opps of the trip. Finally, after a tiring day of sight-seeing, the well-regarded Ristorante Al Gondoliere is the place to be for the best homemade gnocci around. This restaurant serves the kind of food that has you Googling local house rental prices.

Finally, top off your trip with a visit to Riva Del Garda. At the very north of the lake, the scenery here transforms from towns and medieval alleyways to glorious mountain backdrops and fjords. This part of the island is much less built up, and is also considered the best ice cream stop off point (a well-loved favourite is the Gelateria Flora whose sundaes will make you come back for round two). The more adventurous travellers will also delight in the treks into the mountains, which will bring you to waterfalls, Bronze Age settlements and castle ruins.

So what do you think? Have you packed yet? Let us know about your experience of Lake Garda below!

 

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Where is Point Nepean?

Point Nepean marks the southern point of the beautiful Mornington Peninsula and the eastern entrance to Port Phillip Bay. It has a rich history and played an important role in shaping the early settlement, quarantine and defence of Victoria.

My family and I had a recent power-break weekend away where we stayed at the very comfortable Oceanic Apartments in Sorrento and spent the Sunday exploring Point Nepean. We were extremely fortunate with the weather given it is still winter but the sun did shine and only a gentle breeze meant it was very pleasant walking weather.

Point Nepean, Mornington Peninsula

We parked the car near Gunners Cottage and walked from Point Nepean Cemetery, Observation Point, Cheviot Hill Stop to Fort Pearce where we boarded the bus to the Fort Nepean. (Our feet had had enough walking!). We passed pristine beaches (above) and reminders of the war history of the area (below). The sign on the gate is a warning for unexploded bombs beyond!

War history reminders at Point Nepean

We spent a good hour at Fort Nepean exploring the military forts and tunnels and the photo below is showing the very tip of the peninsula, the heads (opening to Port Phillip Bay) out to Point Lonsdale in the distance.

The Heads at Point Nepean

Lonely Planet East Coast Australia (Travel Guide)

Map

TravelTipsPlus Google Map of Point Nepean

One Great Reason to Visit Point Nepean

One great reason to visit this travel destination is for the stunning views across the bay to Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale and the heads.

Point Nepean by Cycle Atlas

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