Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 50, Tuesday, December 27, 2011



Overseas winter vacation

If you're planning to pack your bags to cross borders this winter, the first thing you need to decide is which climate you see yourself in. There are basically two things you can possibly want: you hate the cold and therefore decide to flock to warmer climes, or you love the cold and can not get enough of it, hence you are opting to visit colder regions.

If you want to escape the cold, Dubai might just be the place for you. The coastal strip surrounded by the desert has a temperature of 20-25C during this time of the year. Dubai has got plenty of heritage spots and museums to explore, but the modern Dubai has been in the limelight more in recent times.

Indeed, Dubai has turned itself into a city of impressive and towering architecture. The hotels and shopping malls are enough to make you dizzy. But the land is also a great tourist spot for the beaches it homes. The trip can be an adventurous one, with desert safari, skiing, hot air balloon rides, to name a few.

Continuing our focus on cosy weather, it's now summer in Australia. The continent has recently become immensely popular as a vacation spot. There are plenty of wildlife parks and zoos for you to visit. You may also opt to spend lazy days at the numerous beaches. Or get mesmerised in Queensland by witnessing marine life in the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest reef system.

On the other hand, you may decide to stay within Asian borders as this often means a lesser strain on the budget. Sri Lanka may not be the first name that comes to your mind when you are deciding which country to spend a vacation in, but the ancient island has plenty of delights and surprises locked in for people to witness.

Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. Today, it features well-preserved ruins of the past. A sacred place for Buddhists, the city is surrounded by many monasteries. Another sacred and thrilling place is Adam's Peak, a splendid conical mountain located in Central Sri Lanka. The mountain is also called Sri Pada, which means “sacred feet”. The mountain is believed to have the footprint of Buddha -- a rock formation close to the peak.

Kerala in India is yet another beautiful place to spend a vacation. The tropical heaven- or “God's own country” -- as some people say due to its immense natural beauty -- is known for its backwaters, coconuts, spices and mountains and waterfalls.

If you want a holiday close to nature, or a time-out to relax your nerves and have a peaceful time with your family, Kerala is the place you go to. The state has numerous water-falls and beaches. The state also gives you the option of trekking. There are a few eco-tourism villages (such as Kumbalangi Model Village and Akkalum Tourist Village) that will allow you to mingle with the local inhabitants, learn their recipes, etc.

Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are among the most common vacation spots for our country. Numerous people go to these countries in every season of the year. Vacations in these countries are “convenient”: they do not cost an incredible amount, have many tourist attractions and provide good value for shopping. And that is a very good proposition mix these countries offer, which makes visiting them worthwhile.

But that's enough of running away from cold. Its winter and you should enjoy the cold. Therefore, you can go to countries which have a colder climate than ours.

“Mystical” is the word many tourists have used when describing Bhutan. A small country situated near the Himalayas, it is filled with serene and surreal beauty. Possibly, the best way to explore this majestic land is through trekking. There are many mountains and villages to discover, as well as some inspiring temples to investigate. Trekking comes in various difficulty levels; you can therefore choose from the easy ones or a few challenging ones depending on your need.

Nepal is of course a very popular place among Bangladeshi tourists. And why wouldn't it be? After all, it boasts eight of the ten highest peaks in the world. Nature has indeed blessed the land with breathtaking beauty.

Nepal is not just a place you go to with your family; the place is a hotspot among honeymooners too. Apart from the mountains, you can also enjoy trekking in the villages to meet the indigenous people, or you might want to go for jungle safari at the popular Chitwan National Park.

Shillong of India is another place worth visiting if you are seeking a colder climate. In fact, India is an incredible land to tour with a low amount of money. Consider taking a package tour consisting of several states of India.

Contrarily, if your budget allows, fly to Europe. The continent will quench your thirst for exotic vacation. Tour packages may easily be customised. So, if you have several people, a group, it might be possible to have a tour package designed.

On the other hand, there are a huge number of tour packages that will take you to different lands within Asia. The costs are quite reasonable too.

If Christmas happens to fall on the vacation schedule, try to go to a cosmopolitan city. Christmas is a magical time, and celebrating in such areas can be very joyous.

And finally, no matter where you go, be cautious about the climate in mind. Nothing ruins a vacation like an unintelligently packed suitcase!

By M H Haider


Near the money-plants and mango trees

The Café Veranda at Alliance Francaise is a sorely sought out cool oasis. Here, gentle piped music plays in the background and photographs of people are outlined with carmine, silver and pale, narrow frames. With female singers chanting or musicians playing the piano or trombone and amid large mirrors outlined and bordered with gold painted laurels like leaves, are chairs and comfy cane sofas -- where one can rest and let one's thoughts flow.

Outside, through the large glass windows, framed by heavy drawn curtains, one can see the cascading waterfall-like screen of hanging green and yellow money plants. The leaves of these are dainty, compared to the large fleshy ones that grow alongside. Hedges, manicured lawns, green and clipped in all seasons, and branches of mango trees can be seen. This is along with the dainty, narrow leaves of the palm. Potted plants at the side lead to the large courtyard behind. Theses have clay figurines of animals and contain white painted exquisite metal chairs and tables -- where many gather, discuss and exchange ideas to calm down or whatever. Music is sometimes played here, at times for practice, at others just to pass the time. Sound from the traffic outside does prove to be the fly in the ointment. However, this does not deter the students, visitors and passing media people. Sometimes, live concerts by visiting musicians are performed here. Flashing coloured lights and all the works are then provided. Also, the children's drama school performs here regularly. And this remains a delight. Adult plays, based on foreign playwrights are seen here too.

In the clean and well-arranged veranda and classrooms, is the practice of not only French but also classes of guitar, dance, and the showing of French and even foreign films as by the “Zahir Raihan Society” etc. Also a prime attraction are the regular film weekends, showing movies like “La Femme a Cote” and “And Created Women” of the Roger Vadim and Brigette Bardot fame.

The “bibliotheque”, with the Zoom Gallery on side, where exhibitions of boutique-designed clothes, paintings and photographs take place, is surely the den of many book lovers. Here painters, dramatists, film-makers and linguists are seen along with the average person, who enjoys Francophelia, browses ad lib the treasure trove of books, both in French and in English. There is a wealth of information on not only visual art but on drama, cinema, sculpture, history, and simply all possible and probable branches of culture.

The latest fashion, cooking, and political information may be gleaned from the magazines like Elle, Paris Match, Le Monde, Geo, and what have you. Here, one gets to know about the latest romance movies of the European princes, princesses, countesses and even the Middle East oil barons, with sacks of diamonds and gold to sit on. There are also unusual clips on Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and the Arab and African countries in the pages of the newspapers and magazines.

I wish I were a fly on the ceilings of the library. Once I enter it, I just don't want to leave. Such is its attraction. So was it many decades back, when I sat with the librarian, Dr Nasima Zaman, in the mid seventies or the very early eighties. Even before the Liberation, coming for early morning classes was a pure joy. This was in all weathers. And when the record was “The rain it raineth every day” (Shakespeare).

By Fayza Haq


Winter Flower Festival at BRAC Kanon

In the concrete jungle of the urban dog-eat-dog Dhaka city, coming across even a tiny patch of green is a miracle with every inch of the soil being built upon with sky touching buildings. BRAC Kanon is that small, but refreshing plot of everything green flanked by the concrete establishments of the city. With lotuses and lilies floating on the water in the pool at the centre, BRAC Kanon transports you to a nostalgic wintry morning in the open fields of your 'desher bari'.

BRAC Kanon, a green initiative of BRAC that kicked off just a few weeks back started its Winter Flower Festival on the 23rd of December and it will continue till the end of this month.

Keeping in mind the winter season BRAC Kanon is promoting its collection of winter flowers which stay abloom for a mere 2 to 3 months and have to be taken care of in a way no different than usual seasonal plants, but have to be watered carefully; also, experts at the BRAC Kanon are always there to inform you about how to take care of your purchase.

Apart from the commonly seen seasonal plants and flowers you will be greeted with the pink colours of Petunia, the mauve of Begonia, the sunflower-like pink huge Dahlias and Morning Glories.

Chrysanthemums, Salvia, tiny Pentas and Dianthus are also a part of the offerings of the 15-20 varieties of flowers at the festival. Then there are the large white Snow Ball flowers whose name perfectly conveys the season that they bloom in. The seeds of all of these flowers are imported from Thailand and planted and grown here using organic fertiliser.

You will find these plants potted. If you want variety then you will find two or three different flowers potted together which are perfect for giving as Christmas or New Year gifts or for adding to your collection of plants.

By Karishma Ameen


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