Nestled amidst sprawling tea estates surrounded by majestic mountains and pristine valleys, Munnar is an idyllic destination for those wishing a perfect getaway from the hubbub and mundane urban life.
Situated in Idukki district of Kerala in India, Munnar is at an altitude of 6000 ft. Derived from Tamil words, “muunu” (meaning three) and “aaru” (meaning river), Munnar is at the intersection of three rivers namely Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundali.
Lush green and beautifully manicured tea estates define the landscape of this hill station which served as the summer resort for the erstwhile British rulers. The mist gently enveloping the hills and the humble silver oaks dancing to the tunes of wind are a sight to behold.
Home to the world’s highest grown tea plantation, Kolukkumalai tea estate is a must visit hill top. The factory built in the 1930s presents some of the old time tested methods of tea processing. The guided tour provides in depth understanding of the entire tea processing stages from withering to rolling, oxidation, drying, fibre extraction and grading. Tea connoiseurs can try fresh and flavourful tea at the quaint tea outlet attached to the building.
Among other attractions around Munnar are:
Mattupetty Dam – Located 13 kms away from Munnar, the dam is built between beautiful hill ranges. Elephants are said to frequent this place. The water looks so still that you can see the reflection of lovely tea gardens. You could row a boat or simply sit by the lakeside and enjoy the serene ambience.
Tea Museum – The museum showcases the collection of the Colonial era. Besides, the place also provides insight into the art of tea processing.
Attukad waterfalls – Located 9 kms away from Munnar, many streams emerge from this cascading beauty.
Eravikulam National Park – The park is home to an endangered species of Nilgiri Tahr, a rare mountain goat. A variety of rare trees and shrubs can also be found here.
Spice garden tour – There are few spice gardens in and around Munnar, open to visitors. The tranquil place attracts visitors with a treasure of an amazing range of spice plantations ranging from cardamom to cinnamon, pepper and cloves. A tour around the garden helps visitors understand how these spices are grown. It is here that we discovered that bay leaf and cinnamon are derived from the same tree. While cinnamon is derived from the bark, the leaves are bay leaves.
Get soaked in serenity as you take a stroll, stop by the lone chayyakada (tea shack) to sip some hot tea and laze by the lakeside or simply watch the sun shine drizzle into the trees or moon light illuminate the hills. The captivating sights of the enchanting hill station can be extremely soothing to the sore eyes bored of skyscrapers and polluted roads. Every moment in Munnar is deeply etched in memories. We returned to the hubbub after a peaceful retreat. We are now back to the mundane but the cool crisp mountain air has recharged our body, mind and soul to get back to work and look at things with a fresh perspective.
Planning on visiting China? Then here are some cues for an eventful trip!
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China was built to keep out invaders and to retain inhabitants. This enormous wall spans across five provinces from the Shanhaiguan Pass in the east, to Jiayuguan Pass in the west and looks like a gigantic dragon across deserts, grasslands and mountains.
As the name suggests, this is a fancy retreat which the emperors once used and now is treated as a resort for tourism purpose. Take a nice long walk and spend time here in this place which is spread across 290 acres; this park palace is surrounded by the Kumi Lake and is a feast to the eyes of any tourist.
Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses
A place where there is an army of 8000 soldiers, no not real soldiers but just sculptures. A form of funerary art buried with the emperor to protect him in his afterlife.
Huashan (Flower Mountain)
Hua means brilliant, or flowery and shan means mountain and is one of the five sacred Taoist mountains in China that is well-known for its sheer cliffs and plunging ravines. Huashan boasts a lot of religious sites: Taoist temples, pavilions, and engraved scriptures are scattered over the mountain.
Yuyuan Garden (Happy Garden) s believed to have been built in the Ming Dynasty, more than 400 years ago. With an exquisite layout, beautiful scenery and the artistic style of the garden architecture I will definitely enjoy this place and hope to click a lot of pictures!
Jade Buddha Temple
The Jade Buddhas, white in colour were brought from Burma in the nineteenth century. One is seated while the other is in the recumbent position of Sakyamuni symbolizing the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment or nirvana. The temple was built between 1911 and 1918 in the style of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), with symmetrical halls and courtyards, upturned eaves, and bright yellow walls.
The Bund of Shanghai
The Bund is one of the most widely recognized architectural symbols of Shanghai. A 771-metre long retaining wall for flood control was built in the bund, paved with colourful tiles and dotted with flower beds and European-style garden lights. Atop the wall is a spacious walkway for sightseeing.
A fit body and an open mind are any traveller’s best companions. Especially if you are travelling for business, you need a sharper mind and a fitter body to make sound decisions. You cannot afford to suffer from low energy, jetlag, bloating, or stress, which are all productivity killers.
Want to increase the sharpness of your brain, be fit and more productive? Then follow the tips below.
Passing out, throwing up or facing trouble with coordination and memory? Yes these are some of the side effects of jetlag, that you’ll not want when you are headed to your business meeting. Surprisingly simple exercises help get rid of these symptoms. Start by brisk walking in the airport and taking the stair wherever possible before boarding the flight. Even inside the flight try to stay active by walking around, doing leg stretches and glute sqeezes, so that you keep your blood flowing and avoid cramps. In your hotel room, you can try yoga, mild squats, pushups and planks. These exercises will sharpen your mind and increase energy. However remember to listen to your body, and give it the needed rest.
Even the slightest dehydration can play irate games with your mood, energy, and reasoning ability. So keep sipping water throughout the day. Avoid too much of caffeinated, carbonated or alcoholic drinks. Stick to water and fresh juices wherever possible. Drinking plenty of water can also help relieve jetlag.
As you are travelling and working across time zones, don’t be tempted to stay up late for team calls from your home office. This will get you overworked and too tired. Inform your team and boss about your available time, so that the status meeting or calls are scheduled accordingly. Go back to bed as early as possible, so that you are ready and fully rejuvenated to take on the next day. Get as much sleep as possible, as your body and mind are already in disarray about the time zone changes. Don’t stretch or tax them further by staying up late.
We all know the adage about how all work and no play made jack a dull boy. So ensure you schedule some time off and experience the culture and landscape of the neighbourhood. If you are keen about visiting sightseeing spots that interest you, do your research before setting out, so that you don’t end up disappointed and stressed. Don’t miss out on enjoying the culinary delights of the area. Most importantly don’t forget to get a souvenir to delight your loved ones back home.
To make the most of your business trip, you need to be free from money, shopping, payment and forex worries. Hence remember to carry an international travel card for a hassle-free money management during your business travel.
Awed by the grandeur and power of free falling water? Gently kissing the gliding clouds and rainbow, the waterfall pelts out a formidable thunderous roar, which is a force to reckon with. Cool, and crystal clear, every waterfall has a mesmerising effect that refreshes the mind and soothes the soul.
Want to experience the wild, free falling waters? Then visit these 3 amazing waterfalls from around the world.
Stretching across the US-Canadian border, the Niagara Falls (167 feet) never fails to awe its onlookers. Consisting of three major falls viz, Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls, this overwhelming flow of water is a great source of inspiration to explorers, travellers, artists, authors, filmmakers, etc! Apart from just viewing the overpowering water source, there are so many other activities you can do around the Niagara river. You can cruise through the basin of Niagara Falls State Park’s Horseshoe Falls by taking the Maid of the Mist boat tour or engage yourself with interactive exhibits at Niagara Gorge Discovery Centre and explore the exotic flora and fauna at the hiking trails.
The greatest curtain of falling water in the world, the Victoria Falls is an awe-inspiring natural wonder. Located on the Zambezi River, and creating a watery smoke that thunders, this largest water fall in the world extends for more than a kilometre and a height of more than hundred meters. Known as the adventure centre of Southern Africa, there’s no dearth of thrilling activities to do around Victoria Falls. Don’t miss out on the elephant back safaris, lion walks, bush walks, mountain biking, white water rafting and fly fishing.
Born to a volcanic eruption and tectonic plate movement, Iguazu Falls is celebrated as the most spectacular waterfall in the world. Spanning between Argentina and Brazil, the U shaped Devil’s Throat drops more than 80 meters into a milky abyss of mist. A trip into the surrounding subtropical rainforest will let you catch a glimpse of tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, jaguars and caymans. If you are a plant lover you can relish the 2,000 species of vascular plants. The large clouds of water spray incessantly, thereby soaking several river islands and the riverine forests nearby. This creates an extremely humid micro-climate favouring lush and dense sub-tropical vegetation that harbours a diverse fauna.
Visiting wild and free waters is such a liberating experience. So don’t carry wads of cash and waste your precious time on checking foreign exchange and worrying about the safety of your money. Carry a travel card for hassle free shopping and travel.
Go experience the raw power of gravity!
Flustered about travelling to Dubai during the holy season of Ramadan?
Well, don’t be! It’s a great opportunity for you to get a first-hand authentic look into how beautifully Ramadan is observed in a destination where Islam is the official religion.
Isn’t gaining authentic socio-cultural experiences, one of our primary travel motivations?
So what better place to experience the same, other than Dubai, the most progressive emirate! However here are a few pointers you’ll have to keep in mind, so that you do not hurt or interfere with the religious sentiments of Ramadan.
Muslims fast rigorously
The Muslims fast from sunlight to sunset. They completely forego food, drink and other distractions during this period and yet continue with their usual day-to-day activities. Though Islam is the state religion, people from other faiths are not required to fast or observe religious rites. They are just requested not to do things that will disturb the harmony of intense prayer, charity and fast, which Muslims observe.
Fewer crowds, great deals
This is a great time for those who travel on a budget. You’ll find there are Ramadan discounts and deals being doled out from every side. Most shops and restaurants open up after sunset till early hours in the morning. The Muslims stay indoors during the day praying and fasting. So, with lesser crowds, tickets to landmarks and fun theme parks will be easier to get without much waiting time.
Refrain from eating in public
It’s advised to avoid eating or drinking in public places, because it could cause inconvenience to the fasting Islamic brethren around. Remember they do not even drink water till dusk. However if you are hungry or parched, check for designated spots to eat and drink. Super markets and few restaurants will be open during the day. So getting food will not be a problem at all.
Enjoy Suhoor and Iftar
The Suhoor and Iftar are the most delicious nutritional pre-dawn & post-dusk meal respectively. The menu usually begins with water, dates, milk or juice, Harira (soup of lamb, lentils and chickpeas), Malfoof(stuffed cabbage), Lamb ouzi(lamb with spiced rice and nuts), Sayadia fish ( onion rice and white fish) and ends with desserts such as Luqaimat (fried pastry covered with dates syrup), just to name a few. They welcome their friends and family home to have this sumptuous meal together. There are several restaurants that have an elaborate Iftar buffet. Ensure you don’t miss out on these delicacies!
Visit mosques nearby
Don’t forget to visit or atleast pass by nearby mosques during the sunset prayer. You’ll be able to observe that every ear and soul in the area would be attuned to one channel, the Adhan (call to prayer). It would be so touching and inspiring to see the flood of faithful worshipping together.
Get ready for late-evening shopping
The shops in Dubai begin bustling with activity once the fast breaks at dusk. Malls and other shopping venues open up for tourists during the late evenings. The Ramadan night market at the Dubai World Trade Centre is one such great place to go on a shopping spree.
Remember to carry a prepaid travel card to shop hassle free, pay for restaurants, accommodation and sight-seeing.
Wondering where you can travel with your children this summer?
Check out the child friendly holiday destinations mentioned below, to try something new and have a whale of a time!
Enchanting children with Sentosa Islands, Universal Studios, Gardens by the Bay, and the Zoo, Singapore is a country you must visit. The awesome shopping scenario, flawless transportation and delicious world cuisine, makes Singapore an ideal place to visit this summer season.
South Africa offers children adventurous retreats with it fascinating culture and wildlife. They can experience the thrill of game tracking and wildlife encounters at Kruger National Park and Kapama Game Reserve. In the city of Cape Town, children can explore Table Mountains and hike the hidden trails of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. There is also a chance to get up close and personal with the endangered species at animal rehabilitation centers.
Not only is France a country of cheese, snails and romance, it’s also a great place for children to have a good time. There are endless activities for children such as exploring the Louvre, sailing in the Jardin des Tuileries and climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If you want to send them on a thrill trip, check out the gargoyles at Notre Dame. A French trip is never complete without visiting the Arc de Triomphe, and enjoying an ice cream on Ile St-Louis!
Name it and Thailand has it! Whether it comes to beaches, mountains, elephants, sparkling temples or bustling markets, Thailand is a wonderland for children. Visit the Siam Ocean World and Safari World to be enthralled by the massive aquatic wildlife display. With activities such as kayaking, snorkelling, rock climbing and long nature walks in the jungle, you’re sure to have a great time with adventurous breathtaking views!
Offering an irresistible combination of ancient history, coupled with the thrills of a fast-paced city, and the beautiful countryside, London remains a top destination for children to visit. Swirling on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel, walking along River Thames, enjoying at adventure theme parks will keep them excited through the day. Visiting the Buckingham Palace, the royal parks and museums will have your children infotained and happy. However the trip to Great Britain cannot be complete until you have flicked your wand at the the famous Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio!
Overseas trips can be expensive, especially when travelling with children. So, plan well in advance, be smart and travel with a light wallet. Use a travel card to pay for all your hotel bookings, entry tickets, shopping and eat outs. Remember you can also save a lot of money by using the interest rate lock feature available in travel cards.
Enjoy the summer with your children!
What if with a single card you can take on the world? Wouldn’t you like the freedom to travel and shop without the fear of losing on currency exchange rates fluctuation, overspending, theft or fraud? If you have answered yes to the two questions, then we would like to introduce you to the world of multicurrency prepaid cards, with its different stories on how life is good when you go prepaid.
The International Student
It was a memorable day for Omar on 3rd August 2016. After completing his graduation in Dubai, Omar got admission into a prestigious university in France to pursue his higher education on this day. He was excited to move to Paris for the 18-month residential programme and looked forward to living there as a student while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Europe.
Omar, however, had a few concerns on how he would manage his money in a foreign land. He had received partial funding towards his tuition fees, and the remaining fees and other living expenditure had to be borne by him, or rather his parents.
Omar was particularly worried about:
1. Getting money on time during the course of one-and-half years.
3. Managing his expenses including school fees, shopping, dining, etc.
4. Carrying foreign currency in bulk which might be unsafe since he will be staying at the university accommodation and might have to share his room with other students.
5. Keeping track of the Pound Sterling, Euro and UAE Dirhams during his cross-country travels.
It was then that Omar was introduced to the concept of a multicurrency prepaid travel card during one of those farewell conversations he had had with his favourite teacher. In this case, gocash – the multicurrency prepaid card available in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). gocash features proved to be the perfect solution to all of Omar’s concerns.
Here’s how the multicurrency prepaid card helped Omar:
1. gocash served as a single multicurrency prepaid card which Omar used for his ATM withdrawals in different countries, point-of-sales purchases at stores, and for all his online transactions.
2. He saved on foreign exchange through gocash card’s exchange rate lock-in facility. Omar loaded Euros in his card when the Euro exchange rate was at its lowest and locked it. He did the same with the Pound Sterling. This enabled him to transact at the same rate whenever he used the gocash card thus saving money.
3. He even kept some backup UAE Dirhams loaded in his gocash card, and used it when ordering gifts for his dad or flowers for his mum through his UAE-based go-to online shopping sites.
4. Omar was not worried about the card getting lost or stolen since he could always call gocash customer care and get the card blocked. The currency loaded will stay intact.
5. The gocash card came with a safe and secure PIN and password which helped Omar feel safe about his money.
Having experienced the convenience and joy of managing expenses with a multicurrency prepaid card, today, Omar recommends gocash card to all his UAE friends in the student community and swears by its benefits!
The Footloose Wanderer
Michelle is a 27 year-old investment banker in one of the top wealth management firms. On her 28th birthday, Michelle realised that those graveyard shifts at work had taken a toll on her health. So she spoke to her boss and decided to take a year-long sabbatical. After getting an approval for her long absence and after much contemplation, Michelle decided to travel around the world for the next one year.
Since this was Michelle’s first ever solo travel, she faced the following challenges:
1. Michelle planned on travelling to eight countries and wasn’t sure how she was going to manage so many different currencies.
2. Michelle was also worried about carrying a lot of cash on her, fearing theft and unwanted attention.
3. Using a debit card or credit card would work out expensive and confusing, what with all the exchange rate calculations.
4. Swiping credit or debit cards in a foreign country might not be safe and made Michelle wary.
5. Michelle wanted to avoid frequent trips to foreign exchange dealers to change currency, or go looking for forex outlets or worse be stuck with a bad exchange rate.
After much research, she decided to get herself a multicurrency prepaid travel card.
Here’s how the multicurrency prepaid card helped Michelle:
1. Michelle loaded six currencies including US Dollars in her card. Since US Dollars is accepted in most countries, she carefully chose the remaining five currencies to ensure she was never short of local currencies of the countries she planned to visit.
2. Since the card was pre-loaded with all the currencies, it was safe and easy on her wallet. This solved Michelle’s biggest challenge of carrying bulk cash or many currencies in her heavy wallet.
3. Michelle used the multicurrency prepaid card for all her needs including shopping, ATM withdrawals, online purchase of air tickets and hotel bills settlement, no matter which country she was in at the time.
4. Prepaid cards are not connected to bank accounts and they are only limited to the value loaded. This feature makes it easier to mitigate the risk of online theft.
5. Michelle loaded the currencies of her choice at an optimal time and locked-in competitive exchange rates. This helped her save greatly, for her shopping and while she shopped!
After a fabulous and refreshing I-me-Myself trip, Michelle now travels whenever she gets more than two days in hand. She even started her own travel blog in which one of her pet subjects is on savings while travelling and the star of those articles is the multicurrency prepaid card.
Frequent Business Traveller
Josh runs an export and import business. His nature of business warrants frequent visits to countries for business development and client servicing. In a year, Josh travels for at least 8 to 10 months and lives out of his suitcase. With all the travelling to multiple countries – sometimes one after the other - Josh couldn’t keep a track of his spending or even the exchange rates, and ultimately couldn’t expense the costs to the company.
Being on-the-go most of the times, Josh wanted to get rid of the following:
1. Frequent visits to the forex dealers to exchange currency.
2. Losing money on forex rate fluctuations.
3. Using personal debit or credit card for hotel bookings, last minute airline purchases, etc.
4. Carrying multiple currencies and a bulky wallet when travelling to different countries in one trip.
Seeing Josh’s challenges in managing his travel expenses, his accountant introduced him to multicurrency prepaid cards.
Here’s how the multicurrency prepaid card helped Josh:
1. Pre-loaded the card with multiple currencies at locked-in exchange rates.
2. Ensured savings and optimised the company’s travel budget by leveraging the currency rate lock-in feature of the card.
3. Single multicurrency prepaid card set aside exclusively for company expenses and business travel, therefore giving much control over his expenses.
4. The multi-purpose feature of the card allowed cash withdrawals, online purchases and in-store payments.
5. With the safety and security features the card offered, Josh worried less about theft and fraud, and focused more on winning business and customers.
Josh found that multicurrency prepaid cards make travelling much more pleasant. He not only made sure that the company provided staff with these cards when they travelled on work, but also started using them for his personal travels!
The Cautious Spender
Dev and Sunita were immigrating to a new country on a long-term work assignment. One leg of the move required them to stay in the UAE for nine months while the paperwork was formalised. During this layover period, Dev and Sunita wanted to make sure they kept their spending in check as they wanted to save as much as possible for their resettlement expenses in the new country.
Running a full-fledged household with two university-going children was challenging for Dev and Sunita, especially in a foreign land. After the first week in the UAE, Dev and Sunita realised they needed to find better ways to manage their money.
They frequently faced trouble in the following areas:
1. On top of pocket money, their children sporadically asked for extra money as they navigated through school life in a new country. It was getting difficult for Sunita to keep a track on the money given to them.
2. Dev opted to pay bills online wherever possible since his work hours were erratic and Sunita wasn’t well versed with the local commute.
3. Dev and Sunita didn’t want to use multiple credit cards and wanted to streamline payments.
4. Since Sunita was new to the country, she wasn’t comfortable handling local currency and preferred a card to cash.
When Sunita went to the neighbourhood UAE Exchange branch to send money to her family back in India, she started talking to the staff and during the course of the conversation, she came to know about gocash card, its multi-usage and benefits. Sunita immediately bought a card and told Dev that she will use it to run the household.
Here’s how the multicurrency prepaid card became a family card for Dev and Sunita:
1. Sunita pre-loaded the card with the amount, in UAE Dirhams, allocated towards household expenses. This helped her in keeping track of her spending. She also carried minimal cash and paid for her shopping and grocery purchases with the multicurrency prepaid gocash card. This empowered Sunita and she didn’t have to ask Dev for money frequently.
2. The children were given their own gocash cards loaded with pocket money, which were topped up in intervals. This ensured that the spending was controlled and Sunita could keep a track of their withdrawals or swipes.
3. Sunita also took over the task of settling bill payments online, since gocash could be used for online transactions.
4. Dev even loaded the card with US Dollars and Euro so that whenever he needed to make any international payments related to the resettlement paperwork and visas, he didn’t have to worry about exchange rates.
5. With the multi-use prepaid cards, Dev and Sunita could budget and manage their finances with better control and across many payment channels.
Dev and Sunita are almost at the end of their nine-month stay in the UAE. They are now strong advocates of using prepaid cards to manage household budgets, and hope that such facilities will be available in the new country that they are moving to.
Introduced in the year 2012, Gocash is the flagship product of UAE Exchange and has enabled and empowered numerous card users in the UAE. With its dynamic features, the card became the most sought after product for many people for varied purposes. Currently the product is available in the UAE with plans of rolling out the same in other countries as well. For more information please visit, www.gocashcards.com
This article was originally published on Éclat Q4 2016 edition.
Getting ready for your summer travel?
As the mercury level rises, most of us feel like sneaking out to the cooler sides of the planet. Waking up amidst snow-capped hills/mountain ranges such as the Alps or Himalayas will help you relax, and soothe your mind, body and soul.
However remember to plan your itinerary and finances carefully so that you don’t get yourself caught up in any hassle especially those with regards to cash and forex. Carrying a multi-purpose prepaid travel card is the best way to be stress free and not worry about money issues at all.
Don’t know what exactly you need to look for when choosing a travel card? Then read on to know!
Rate lock facility
If you want to save money while travelling, then your travel card should have the exchange rate lock facility. Here is how it works.
We all know exchange rates fluctuate on a daily basis. One day it’s ideal and the next day it skyrockets, making us lose money. The forex rate lock facility gives you the freedom to lock favourable rates and use them later during your travel, when the rates go haywire. This feature helps you save a lot of money.
If you are looking to travel across multiple countries, then this feature will come handy. You need not carry separate travel card for each currency. Just one travel card that has the facility to load, manage and use multiple currencies will do.
There may be days when you need actual cash in your hand. Hence check if you can use the card to withdraw money from ATMs without any exorbitant withdrawal fee.
Travel usually involves shopping, accommodation, dining, ticket booking, car rentals, etc., all of which require online or POS payments. Hence ensure that your travel card can help you pay anywhere without any hassles.
Ensure you can reload cash on your card, on the go without steep charges.
24/7 customer care
Since you would be depending on your travel card for your daily cash requirements, you need 24/7 free access to the customer support team. If in some unfortunate scenario, you lose your travel card the replacement card should be provided by the support team within 24 hours.
Fee and charges
Surprising as it may sound, few cards charge you even when you don’t use them. So, check for application and replacement fee, transaction fee, inactivity and hidden charges, cash withdrawal fee at ATM machines and SMS notifications fee before your purchase the card.
If you find that your travel card scores positively on all the above features, you can go ahead and get the card before you head out on your holiday.
Remember, never settle for less!