Summer holiday getaways: Ooty, Amsterdam, or Thailand?
Here are four perfect getaways for April. From an artsy weekend in Ooty to a stroll through the tulips in Amsterdam. Or how about the Thai version of Holi?
Editor's Note: Our travel columnist, Charukesi Ramadurai, offers perfect getaways for those long summer holidays. From an artsy weekend in Ooty to a stroll through the tulips in Amsterdam.
Chill in the hills of Ooty
So this month, Ooty. I know you are thinking - huh, Ooty? Really? Bear with me for a moment and see what this Queen of South India - oh how we love such sobriquets! - has to offer beyond the obvious inexpensive honeymoon destination attractions (read: large lake and flower gardens). Most obviously of course, when the plains are all ablaze in the summer heat, Ooty is a great place to cool off.
The most pressing reason for you to head there now though is the MAD Festival 2012 from 5th – 7th April. This Music, Arts and Dance Festival is in its first edition this year and the organizers plan to take it to a different tourist destination each year.
The main venue is the 170 year old Fernhills Palace and tickets come with accommodation packages - choose between basic tents (starting Rs. 5,999 for the full festival pass and tent accommodation for 2 for all three days) and a pampered stay at Palace (package at Rs. 49,999 for pass and stay for 2) or find a mid-range place close by. In store for you is an eclectic line up of artists, ranging from the Raghu Dixit Project to the Manganiyars of Rajasthan.
And for why you should definitely be part of this year’s MAD Festival, I quote straight from their website - The breath-taking view of sudden drops, valleys and glades, the incessant cool breeze, and a mad culmination of music, arts & cultures, is the construct of what we promise to be - a mind expanding experience.
So go now, go forth and expand your mind.
Farming in Coonoor
And once you have had your fill of Ooty, head further down to Coonoor, the music still ringing in your ears. There are two not-to-be-missed experiences here. First, the Acres Wild cheese farm where Mansoor and his wife grow most of the produce used in their kitchens.
The farm also has three guest cottages spread far apart in the property, allowing guests the luxury of privacy and solitude (rates begin from Rs. 2,000 per couple, including breakfast). And be warned – “We are a genuine farm stay and NOT a resort.” As a farm stay guest, you can learn cheese-making with their two day course. Or contact Mansoor Khan and arrange to drop in for a day visit on weekends - email Mansoor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or take a tea holiday with Tranquilitea at the Tenerife cottage set on the edge of lush tea plantations (tariff from Rs. 4000 per room). Tranquilitea has on offer several activities for those inclined to be up and about all the time. The better option however, is to sit out on the lawns and soak in the greens and blues of the area in absolute silence. Sandeep, the owner, is an expert on tea and conducts tea-tasting sessions for guests and visitors by prior appointment.
Time for some tulips, also bikes, bridges and boats
If it is April, Amsterdam is the city to definitely be in. The tulips are in full bloom and the city, always in high spirits, gets totally into form for its biggest street party, the Queen’s Day celebrations on the 30th of the month. For the best tulip experience, take a day trip to the nearby Keukenhof gardens spread over 32 hectares and with 15 km of footpaths. Apart from the flowers (which are obviously the great attraction – remember the glorious colours in the song ‘Dekha ek khwab toh yeh silsile huey’ from Silsila?), there are cultural events, restaurants and play areas for children at Keukenhof. If possible, time your visit to coincide with the flower parade with its colourful themed floats on 21 April. If you can’t be at Keukenhof that day, try to make it to Haarlem in the evening towards the time the parade ends there.
While in Amsterdam, don’t miss these experiences: a boat ride in the canals, a bike ride along the main streets and a long, leisurely stroll in the sprawling Vondelpark. And if you have the time, take a half day tour of North Holland to see picture-perfect Dutch countryside, including the quintessential windmills and saiboats on the way.
Get soaked during Songkran
And closer home, there is Thailand celebrating its Buddhist new year Songkran between 13 – 15 April. On the days, people pour out on to the streets and pour water on each other – think of a Holi sans the technicolour. If you are in Bangkok on those days, then the place to be is the famed Khao San Road where you can get soaked (and soak others) while sipping on some Sang Tip, the local Thai whisky. The more authentic cultural experience of Songkran, however, is said to be had at Chiang Mai up North.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city after Bangkok and is home to over three hundred Buddhist temples and is surrounded by mountains. Visit the Phuping Palace that used to serve as the royal residence during the winter months. And head on to Baan Doi Pui, a village that is home to the Hmong hill tribe; a touristy but interesting experience.
Charukesi Ramadurai is a freelance writer and travel blogger from Bangalore. When she is not actually travelling, she is busy planning her next trip. Read more about her at her website.
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