Romania is the largest country in South-eastern Europe. Its terrain is distributed almost equally amongst mountains, hills and plains with 14 mountain ranges of the Carpathian Mountains dominating the centre of the country.
This beautiful country is perhaps best known for being the home turf of one of history’s greatest villains, Vlad Dracula. However, above the draw of Count Dracula, the world is now waking up to its many other wonders. There are multi-coloured medieval cities, the forest-clad Carpathian Mountains, beautiful wilderness, countless historic towns and mystical castles. With Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic architecture, fascinating history, and the opportunity to see bears and wolves in the wild, it is no wonder why people are talking about Romania these days.
The Lure of Count Dracula
Besides his house in Transylvania, the Snagov Monastery, his burial place and the 1453 Poienari Fortress, said to be the real Vlad the Dracula’s Castle, places such as the Princely Court at Targoviste and the Bran Castle are also linked to the Dracula legend. However, the Bran Castle is said to have had only housed Dracula for a few nights. Nonetheless, these sites are definitely worth checking out.
The Bran Castle is a magnificent example of medieval eastern European castle architecture and still houses authentic folk Romanian furniture.
Bucharest, The Capital
The surroundings of Bucharest are packed with interesting sights which witnessed some defining moments in the history of Bucharest, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
The Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum
This is an ethnographic museum depicting village life and culture. Here, to charm and delight its visitors are wooden windmills and thatched roofs.
The Stavropoleos Monastery
This Eastern Orthodox monastery for nuns in central Bucharest, built in Brâncovenes style, is dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The name Stavropoleos means ‘The city of the Cross’ and one of the monastery’s constant interests is Byzantine music, expressed through its choir and the largest collection of Byzantine music books in Romania.
The Sinaia Monastery
This was designed to serve as a monastery as well as a fortified stronghold on the route from Brasov to Bucharest. The initial plan was for the monastery to hold 12 monks, to imitate the Twelve Apostles, but in time the number of monks grew.
Sibiu is about baroque architecture, about beautiful houses, nice squares, Saxon legends, but also about great events. One of the best theatre festivals in the world is organised here; it’s named very simple: Sibiu International Theatre Festival.
Brasov: The heart of Romania
The historic charming city of Brasov, is tucked majestically beneath the verdant hills of the Southern Carpathian Mountains in Central Romania. Awash with gothic, barque and renaissance architecture, this once walled city is one of the loveliest cities in the whole of Transylvania.
The Peleș Castle is nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, near the town of Sinaia. It is charming to see the spires of Peleș pricking the clouds. Allegorical hand-painted murals adorn the interior courtyard facades, and ornate timber framing, giving the castle a pleasant old-world feel.
Built in the 13th century, the Bran Castle represents a unique blend of medieval and modern history, legends and tradition. Not only has it been the inspiration behind Dracula, Bran Castle is also considered a national monument in Romania, attracting visitors from all over the world.
(Khmer) ទីក្រុង Cape គឺជាទីក្រុងឆ្នេររបស់ប្រទេសអាហ្វ្រិកខាងត្បូងសម្បូរទៅដោយទេសភាពស្អាតៗ និងល្បីល្បាញលើផ្នែក….
The Switzerland of India
It’s a shame that there should be outbreak of violence and security threats in Imphal. This little paradise in the North East of India beckons time and again after only one visit.
Manipur, the jewelled land sits pretty amidst a host of hills and borders Myanmar. With rich culture and diversity to boast about, Manipur is a state which beautifully epitomises modernity with traditions. Untouched natural lakes, blue-green hills, cascading rapids, winding rivers, forests and picturesque landscape the Manipur experience is exhilarating to say the least. No wonder, it has also been referred to as the Switzerland of India.
Manipur is famous for its graceful dance form, folklore and vibrant handloom attires. The hub of the state is Imphal, which is also the capital.
My trip to Imphal was on a whim, to attend a friend’s wedding and explore the mosaic of traditions and cultural arrangements. The mini-metropolis is home to extremely polite, helpful and humble people; needless to say you are guaranteed to return with great memories and friends. Traveling with a localite makes it easier for communication and knowing what’s good to eat besides feeling more assured for my personal safety and in the areas of security. Curfew was imposed in certain parts of Imphal East district of Manipur. No one is to remain in the streets after 6pm daily, but life goes on. The Manipuris begin their day as early as 5am, break into lunch by 10am and get their dinner early evening, then, post 6pm you won’t want to venture out. This state embraces the saying, ‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise!’ Imphal makes for a small town complete with all the necessities; from streetwear shops, bakeries, momo joints, to banks and ATMs. For all liquor loving travellers, Manipur is a dry state, hence before you say cheers or bottoms up, a liquor permit is required.
Kangla: Casts A Spell
The Kangla Fort is reminiscent of Manipuri history; an enormous premise bounded by a protective wall, which was the palace for the Manipuri kings in olden days. Unfortunately, just a part of the fort remains standing today. If you have a religious bent of mind, you would want to pay a visit to the Govindajee and Kamakhya Temple. This beautiful temple is dedicated to Lord Ibudhou Pakhangba, the chief deity of the state. Alongside the temple is a remarkable Hiyang Hiren Glass Museum that houses four dugouts, two are prototypes of the ancient canoes believed to be have been used by the male (Ibudhou) and female (Ibendhou) deities sacred to a majority of the local community while the other two were used during boat races by the kings.
The fascinating Kangla Museum and castle are a part of the fort. Once there, you cannot miss the breath-taking polo grounds. It is no wonder Manipur is the birthplace of the royal games.
Shop Till You Drop
Notwithstanding the curfew hours, armed forces or protocols, you have to visit the markets to appreciate the refinement of traditional weaves and your best bet is the noisy yet unique Ima Market, the largest and only one ‘All Women’ market in the world. Here offers a range of handloom and handicrafts, from scarves, stoles, shawls, sweaters, black stone cutlery, jute and bamboo ornaments. You will have a field day tempted by an array of products; all promising to do you proud when you have them. Another popular market, the Paona Bazaar, sells items such as canes, pots, even chic clothes and even winter wear from Myanmar.
(Ima Market is one of the oldest markets in India, and it might just be the most spectacular one too. It literally translates to mother’s market as it is run solely by thousands of women, making it Asia’s largest all-women’s market.)
Only Floating Lake In The World
Your trip to Imphal would be incomplete if you have not visited the Loktak Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in northeast India, also known as the only Floating lake in the world due to the large amount of floating phumdis on its surface. Phumdis are heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition that has been thickened into a solid form.
Expect the journey to be mesmerising and be ready to feast your eyes with shimmering wonders as you go uphill and watch the lake gradually comes into sight. Perhaps this place is indeed God’s own paradise. A boat tour around the lake takes you to observe dense populations of communal breeding birds. On the lake itself, is the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating National Park in the world and the last natural habitat of the Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) the dancing deer of Manipur. A glimpse of the deer in this unique wetland ecosystem is a must for any wildlife enthusiast.
The cuisines in Manipur are very interesting, mostly prepared with plenty of dried fish and large variety of fresh leafy vegetables, both aquatic and terrestrial. The taste is very different from mainland Indian cuisines because of the use of various aromatic herbs and roots that are peculiar to the region. Manipuris love their bread, Tan Ngang, and their sumptuous momos, which are very similar to the Japanese Gyoza but usually served with a soup. An all-time favourite amongst the Manipuri ladies is the Singju, a salad prepared with finely chopped banana stem, topped with ngari, a popular fermented fish product and dried fish.
The World’s Best Fitness Retreat Destinations
Working (Out) Holiday
Working (Out) Holiday
The World’s Best Fitness Retreat Destinations
Whether you’re an avid sports fan, a fitness addict, or after a different way to get into exercise; the idea of packing your bags and heading to a country many miles away from home to burn those extra calories off is in. Usually lasting for at least a week, the many fitness havens on offer has you spoilt for choice. Here are some of the best destinations that’ll make you reach your perfect shape in your new favourite country: from Bali to St. Lucia, the Philippines to Spain, there’s a workout holiday for everyone.
Deep stretching over the rice paddies of Bali
The awe of Bali in Indonesia attracts thousands of visitors every year for a number of reasons: temple exploring, ancient ruins and endless beauty found in its beaches and volcanic regions. What also adds to Bali’s appeal is the abundance of fitness retreats that aim to please every fitness level. Known for its picturesque views and beautiful diving spots, Bali is the perfect place for both bootcamps and fitness retreats that brings in a lot of fitness-goers each year. If you like the underwater with a heavy dose of relaxation in between burning those calories, Bali is your best bet
One example of a fitness camp found in Bali is aimed at giving you the full detox. With a mixture of high intensity workouts and low cardio exercises, and several wellness activities thrown into the mix, these camps guarantee not only to improve your health physically but also mentally. These fitness retreats also provide you with some of the best cuisine made by Bali’s resident chefs to fully experience the benefits of the retreat.
Alternatively, you can try a much more hardcore solution with a bootcamp that touches elements of Crossfit, lengthy cardio exercises and weight lifting. With many of these fitness retreats boasting at least 3 workouts a day, with hugely nutritious meals in between, it’s claimed all the fat you want to shift will be replaced with muscle. For the most part, many go for the quick fix, but those that are after the extra physical challenge can test their mettle.
Sun, sea & mud baths in St. Lucia
Working out on the Caribbean coast surely sounds like the dream, with St. Lucia being one of the top destinations for the ideal fitness and holidaying experience. With Tai Chi, spa breaks, detox sessions and even the more vigorous forms of exercise on offer you’re spoilt for choice with breathtaking views to take in and coconut water on tap in St. Lucia.
Tai Chi is a hit in St. Lucia, with various retreats dedicated to the martial art that often resembles yoga. It’s also beneficial for almost anyone at any age or physical ability, with both mental and physical bonuses. You can even mix it up as much as you please, with a variation of fitness classes, yoga and pilates on offer to target those trouble areas.
Being a volcanic island, the mud baths are one of the highlights of St. Lucia that draws numbers of visitors each year. Mud baths are known for their youthful properties and also aids in muscle and joint repair, as well as drawing the toxins from your body, relieving stress and exfoliating your entire body. Great for a spa break, after a hard workout or just because you deserve one.
Or you can speed it up a little with the triathlon team, who run training bootcamps every year! These are geared for the annual triathlon and championship that many from across the globe flock to every year, with all the dietary advice and workouts you need to reach the finish line. Perfect for those aiming for their personal goals, or to even tick something off the bucket list.
Climb through the mystical highlands in the Philippines
Made up of over 7,500 islands, the Philippines is full of immense beauty that’s often overlooked by visitors. With the Philippines being a huge biodiversity hub filled with beaches, mountains and rainforests, it also bodes well for the fitness industry with many fitness camps and retreats for those after a workout in one of the most incredible countries in Southeast Asia. As soon as you leave its capital and urban heart, Manila, you begin your journey through an oasis of untouched greenery, sands and rolling rice paddies.
The Batangas, the home of the world’s most highly acclaimed beaches, is the perfect getaway for fitness enthusiasts. Surrounded by lush flora and fauna, the idyllic land of Batangas gives you the best of both worlds, being both rich in exercise and biodiversity. Many of the fitness retreats in this part of the world cater to the vegan lifestyle that include meal plans to suit any dietary need. What’s more is the number of treks throughout the wondrous highlands mixed with general fitness activities such as circuit training, meditation and power walks. After exploring the forest regions you can take yourself down to the white sandy beaches that have been named the most beautiful beaches in the world. Catch some rays and soak in the crystal clear blue sea to round off your trip.
Get your fitness fix in the Spanish mountains
Aside from having Sangria and tapas to your hearts content, Spain is also filled with some of the best European-based fitness resorts. With both fitness solutions in the mountainous areas and in the tourist hotspots that cater to your every whim, this cosmopolitan country with all the sunny rays you could possibly ask for is a dream.
Wellness clinics in Spain are the latest in resorts that focus on medical conditions, fostering healthy habits and maintaining a much better way of life. Their aim is to improve the lifestyles and diets of all residents by using a range of different exercise routines and sticking to a highly nutritious diet. These detox escapes can work wonders for those in need of a swifter push into a weight loss program without going to extreme lengths or using dangerous methods to reach those fitness goals. Hospitality, relaxation and boosting your physical health are the main goals of these clinics which will cater to your every requirement.
If you’re after the party scene without the hefty hangover, Andalucía is the place to go. With the traditional highlights showing everything the world knows about Spain – eating tapas and paella, dancing the flamenco and mingling with matadors – you truly experience something much more authentic, with exercise to boot! The Sierra de Las Nieves (The Mountains of Snow) is ideal for the explorer in you with plenty of footpaths and cycle routes to choose from. In between the more vigorous exercise sessions you can also try the many yoga and pilates sessions delivered in the heart of the mountains.
All fitness packages and retreats from these countries can vary in cost, with some starting at $400 and others costing over $2,000, depending on the results you desire and your budget. However, alternatives are available such as day trips or 3 – 5 day long workout classes that allow you to see the sights and get in shape.
So whether you’re after that toned body you’ve wanted for a few months (or years), or even just a break away from your office desk, exercise retreats, spa breaks or a week-long yoga escape and detox are well worth the journey. Getting to see your favourite countries whilst raising your heart rate is one of the best ways to see the world by burning calories. So get your active gear on, bring out your best trainers and swimsuit and hop on a plane to your perfect fitness getaway.
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