South East Asia as a Single Tourist Destination to The Indian Traveller

As a tourist , be a privy to ASEAN Experience!

Mr Manoharan Periasamy, Chairman APCT with other ASEAN officials

The ASEAN Promotional Chapter for Tourism (APCT) – India Chapter got together in Mumbai on August 26, 2015 at ITC Grand Maratha Ball Room to promote ASEAN as a single and collective tourism destination to the Indian audience. APCT was conceived by the member countries of the ASEAN as part of its efforts to leverage the tremendous tourism potential of the region. More than 200 members of the trade fraternity, media and high level officials attended the meet here.

Mr Manoharan Periasamy, Chairman APCT – India Chapter said, “South East Asia has always been an attractive destination for Indians. In fact, India has consistently been one of the top 10 tourist generating markets to this region. Last year we had over 102 million visitors to the ASEAN countries and over 3 million were from India.” Mr Manoharan Periasamy is also Director, Tourism Malaysia, India.
“Historically Indians have been visiting Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. ASEAN has much to offer with the inherent diversity in terms of peoples, lifestyle, culture, religion and culinary experience, together with the rich natural landscape and deep historical heritage. Last year Myanmar saw a 50% increase in their tourist arrivals and India was a major contributor to it. Places like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are also fast featuring on the Indian must visit countries list. These are all positive signs for us at APCT”, added Mr. Periasamy.
ASEAN recognizes the strategic role of the Tourism Sector in its economic growth and hopes that by 2025, the region will be a quality tourism destination offering a unique, diverse ASEAN experience, and will be committed to responsible, sustainable and inclusive tourism development, so as to contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of ASEAN people.

Through the APCT, numerous initiatives are being taken to ensure that the tourists get the best during their holidays in the ASEAN region. Special emphasis is being laid on enhancing product development through regional packages, increase in public awareness of ASEAN products and offerings, facilitation of intra-ASEAN travel etc. APCT is also identifying ways to standardise and implement a certain level of standard of tourism. Each individual country has been assigned the role of lead coordinators to ensure that the tourists can expect world-class facilities when they visit the South East Asian Nations. Areas like Homestay, Spa service, Security and safety guidelines, Clean tourist City standards, community based tourism standards are being finely looked into.


With some of the world’s best travelling experience awaiting the tourists at the ASEAN region, the members of the travel trade were urged to create special ASEAN packages like the immensely popular European packages. The ASEAN region has a plethora of offerings for the traveller: the best shopping destinations, theme parks for children, unexplored islands and adventure, cruise tourism, exotic spa treatments and the most beautiful wedding and honeymoon locales.


Officials at the APCT – India Chapter opined that the current need for multiple visas is hindering cross border tourism in the region. They informed that a proposal for an ASEAN Common Visa for non-ASEAN nationals to facilitate business mobility and tourism is in discussion. Smaller schemes such as the Cambodia-Thailand single visa have already been implemented and they have proven successful. Another example is the Malaysian VOA for Indian tourists coming from Singapore and Thailand.

Speaking at the event, Mr Dhananjay Saliankar, Regional Director, Starwood Sales Organisation, South Asia, Starwood Hotels & Resorts said, “Starwood Hotels & Resorts, has a good presence in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. We have also entered new markets like Laos, Cambodia and Philippines in the recent past. Also Indians are familiar with our brands here in the country, be it Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, St Regis, W hotels or The Luxury Collection. So they look out for our brands in their holiday destinations and prefer to stay with us.” Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 1,200 properties in over 100 countries. The chain operates over 65 hotels in the ASEAN region and is hopeful of increase in business especially in the MICE sector.

APCT – India Chapter aims to strengthen the presence of ASEAN region in the travel market, and to keep India’s travel trade, media and corporate sector updated on the current issues and tourism development in the region.

Last year the ASEAN region saw 102 million visitors with Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, being the top 5 visited countries and Myanmar and Laos registering the highest growth of 53% and 10% respectively.

Thar Festival Jaisalmer: Melting pot of Culture, Tradition, Music & Folk-dance

My cousin Aarti was here in Mumbai recently for her official visit and was kind enough to visit me for a day. She hails from Jodhpur and is married in Jaipur, so a true blue Rajasthani. Amidst our conversation, she mentioned about Thar Festival of Jaisalmer which is a big attraction amidst tourists especially foreigners. As Rajasthan never ceases to fascinate me, I always look forward to visiting Rajasthan at any given opportunity.

She invited me to come to Jaipur as usual and asked me to come in February, 2016 so that I can visit Jaisalmer also and attend the famed Thar festival too. My curiosity grew and I wanted to know more about Jaisalmer and in particular, Thar Festival. I connected with an old friend of my mine who told me about fascinating sand dunes of Jaisalmer but she had visited the place in December so she could not share much about Thar festival. I imagined in my head that Thar Festival would be somewhat similar to Rann Utsav which I had been to in December of 2013. Good, it was not! Read on to know why Thar festival is different?

On digging deeper I came to know that Thar festival is a mirror to the Rajasthani culture and tradition which is lively with vibrant colours which is a continuous celebration for three days when your soul gets one with the soul of Rajasthan. Here you become one with everything Rajasthani.

It is the grand and famous fort of Jaisalmer which is host to the celebration of the Desert festival, whereas the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation is taking all the responsibilities to organize it successfully. The auspicious Day is Full moon (Purnima) when the event kick starts. If you have dream to witness this grand event which takes place in the beginning of every year in the month of February, this is the time to be in.

During the Desert Festival entire Jaisalmer shrinks in the campus of Jaisalmer fort. Groups of folk dancers in Ghaghra & Dhoti Kurta accompanied with folk singers who are equipped with local musical instruments sing and express the tale of warriors, lovers, kings & queens of Sand city and Rajasthan. There are some other performers like snake charmers, acrobats and puppeteers who amplify the charm of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, too. Don’t miss to attend the contests to judge the man with the best (Read: Biggest) moustache.

Aarti suggested that we should not miss the Camel riding/racing when the Camel riders try to leave behind their rivals in the competition creating the clouds of sand. Attired in the colourful embellishments these camels look awesome when they run like horses on the festival ground and it creates a truly mesmerizing view.
Every night during the festival in the Thar Desert there are various events where fabulous plays and dances are performed and one doesn’t feel tired and wants the show to go on and on. You can stay at one of those royal camps, where you feel like a maharaja or maharani yourself.

This is the time when you can find a big range of Rajasthani handicrafts, wooden items, fabrics, paintings, jewelleries in the Desert festival ground. You can buy beautiful multicoloured long skirts and odhnis too.

Don’t forget to savour Rajasthani Daal-baati, Churma, Gatte ki Sabji and other more famous dishes along with tea served in the clay pot available in the food stalls. Jaisalmer Desert Festival is totally is a time to live some best moments in your life.

Location: Sam Sand Dunes 42 K.M. from Jaywalker
How to reach: SUV or Camel safari
Timing: In the month of February
Attractions: Cultural showcase
Airport: Jodhpur
Railway Station: Jodhpur

Inputs courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation

Here I come Jaisalmer, & Aarti!!!

ASUS Selfie! for the perfect SELFIE!!!

On August 8, 2015 I was  at ASUS DIVA MEET ( Diva Bloggers)  Meet at ITC Grand Central…

…where ASUS MD Peter Chang announces the Latest ZenFones and ZenPad Models at Divas Meet in Mumbai on August 8, 2015…

…In a glittering ceremony at ITC Grand Central which witnessed  Indian debut of ZenFone 2 Deluxe, ZenFone Selfie, ZenFone 2 Laser, ZenPad 7.0 and ZenPad 8.0, and worldwide launch of ZenFone Max.

A congregation of over 100 bloggers enjoyed the evening organized by ASUS, where ASUS MD Mr Peter Chang launched various models  addressing the gathering as “Beautiful Ladies” and I am sure everyone was flattered. The Grand Ballroom was appropriately decked up for the launch, though we had little idea about what was going to unfold. As event started little late, all of us were busy chit-chatting with each other.

& here he was! Mr. Chang with beautiful Selfie Phone of ASUS in his hand, I must say it is a product to die for – especially for PYTs who like to click Selfie at the drop of a hat.

I had known about the event which was held in Bangalore & Delhi organized in association with indiblogger and Sonakshi Sinha was the celebrity guest for the  launch. Indiblogger’s Nihal regaled the audience with his rock – band and what a singer he is!  So when compared to that, Mumbai event was a lack – luster event which did not compete with Delhi and Bangalore  in engaging the bloggers. Moreover their selfie contest was also quite complicated where blogger had to sign up through facebook account.  Had it been simpler, I too would have participated.

Evening started with Ms komal welcoming the bloggers and inviting Mr Chang to update gathering about their various products who elaborated on ASUS Selfie and took amazing selfie with all of us present in the Grand Ball – Room.  I liked the external lolly flash showed by him and doled out to winners of the selfie contest.

The celebrity in Mumbai was Anusha Dandekar who conducted a workshop for DIVA Bloggers on make-up tips and how to get that perfect look for that Perfect Selfie.  She was quite charming and her make-up tips and styling were quite a revelation. So much so her style of holding the selfie phone for her selfie was perfect.  As a true DIVA she mesmerized us with her style, make-up tips and overall persona.

This was followed by Selfie Catwalk where ladies had to catwalk while taking selfies and ladies had great time with that.  Finally, a selfie contest was organized where participants clicked many interesting selfies, which I will share with you.

Many of us checked the models displayed there.  & I must say, looking and holding those phones were best part of the evening. By the time I stepped out, I had made up my mind to buy one selfie ASUS and gift it to my PYT daughter especially the chic pink one!

Overall an interesting evening, which could have been splendid!

Here is the snapshot of ASUS range, which you must check, it is splendid, every phone lovers dream!!!

ZenFone 2 Deluxe: See the crystal miracle

ZenFone 2 Deluxe (ZE551ML) delivers powerful all-round performance and beauty, with a gorgeous new multifaceted polygonal finish accentuating the signature ZenFone 2 Ergonomic Arc design. ZenFone 2 Deluxe features a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display, 13MP/5MP PixelMaster cameras, 2.3GHz 64-bit Intel® Atom™ processor with 4GB RAM and 4G/LTE connectivity. ZenFone 2 Deluxe also features ASUS BoostMaster fast-charge technology for 60% capacity in just 39 minutes. As with all other ZenFone 2 models, ZenFone 2 Deluxe includes the latest ASUS ZenUI — the world’s first fully-customizable mobile interface — and Trend Micro™ security software for safe web browsing.

ZenFone 2 Laser: See at the speed of light

ZenFone 2 Laser models all benefit from a powerful 13MP PixelMaster camera with an f/2.0 wide-aperture lens to capture stunning, high-resolution photos with zero shutter lag — augmented by laser auto-focus technology that empowers users to capture perfect clarity in just 0.3 seconds. Available in 5-inch (ZE500KL), 5.5-inch (ZE550KL) and 6.0-inch (ZE601KL) versions with up to 1920 x 1080-pixel Full HD resolution, ZenFone 2 Laser also incorporates the latest and toughest Corning Gorilla Glass 4. It boasts an up to octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processor with up to 3GB of fast memory for unwavering performance.

ZenFone Selfie: See the perfect you

ZenFone Selfie (ZD551KL) is a fusion of fashion, technology and craftsmanship that lets users see their perfect selves, with dual 13MP PixelMaster cameras, dual-color, dual-LED Real Tone flash both front and rear, plus laser auto-focus for ultra-fast shots with complete clarity. ZenFone Selfie’s Ergonomic Arc design and intuitive rear key makes capturing selfies easier than ever, with live digital cosmetics to apply some magical glamor — all enjoyed instantly on the stunning 5.5-in Full HD display. ZenFone Selfie’s exceptional front-facing PixelMaster camera has a huge 13MP resolution and an f/2.2-aperture, 88-degree wide-angle lens to capture more of every smile. The unique Selfie Panorama mode enables selfies with an outlook of up to 140 degrees, so everything and everyone becomes part of the shot.

ASUS ZenPad 7.0 (Z370) and 8.0 (Z380)

ASUS ZenPad features clean lines, embossed-leather patterning, and premium styling influenced by fashion accessories such as clutch bags and wallets for a luxurious appearance unique among mobile devices. Ergonomic rounded edges make ZenPad comfortable to hold and carry, and its polished metallic frame adds a bold visual accent.
ZenPad is the world’s first tablet to feature an innovative interchangeable cover design that lets users easily customize their tablet with functional back covers. These can provide extra features and additional color options, while perfectly matching ZenPad’s looks.

Scenic & Serene Ladakh on a bike with Joshis…


When my colleague & friend Mohini Mahajan Joshi mentioned to me about the Bike trip to Ladakh with adventurous husband Anish Joshi, my immediate reaction was OMG, would you be going to Ladakh on a bike? I can’t imagine going even to Pune, forget Ladakh.But the courageous & adventurous couple that Joshis are, convinced me completely about their adventure ride to Ladakh. And voila! What a trip it turned out to be!

You too enjoy their Ladakh trip on a Bike in an exclusive Photo-Essay for travel-knots readers:

Ladakh – The land of mystery and intrigue which never ceases to amaze travellers with its towering peaks and snow-capped Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges, the rapidly-flowing Indus and Zanskar rivers and numerous streams carrying the glaciers from the mountains tucked amidst lush green valleys, all conjure a travellers dream.

In short, Ladakh is an art of nature.

Ladakh is not only a trekker’s/ oops Bikers’ paradise, but a delight to every traveller as it offers serenity and tranquility amidst picturesque and scenic views of nature.

A DATE with New Delhi, Must read, Must view in all its glory!

Going to Delhi always excites me as it happens to be my home town, my  house at Mayur Vihar, my school at Tagore Garden and my College, Hindu College in Delhi University always bring fond memories of my time spent there.  I always use to tell my husband, Mukund and daughter Tanyaa who are true blue Mumbaikars and did not have the opportunity to visit Delhi with me in last so many years, what Delhi was like.


I could read the expression of slight disbelief on their faces going by the media reports in the recent past about what Delhi has to offer now then what it was like to be in Delhi in eighties. Now when the opportunity came in the form of marriage of my nephew on April 21, I wasted no time in turning it into Delhi’s sightseeing trip, of course not without our share of enjoyment of marriage in Bhiwadi.


The excitement was palpable; I was taking my family to my home town (transformed into home town for Metros) for the first time, after nearly 20 years of marriage…Tanyaa was very excited to visit the places where her mother had spent her childhood.

The bookings were done in Rajdhani Express and journey was itself an experience for them.  Train reached almost in time, and without wasting any time, we set out for shopping sojourn to Sarojini Nagar market. My daughter was delighted to see the stuff being sold there (all teenagers love Sarojini Nagar market) and was quite aghast at the fashionable chics there. She lambasted me and my mother for instructing her to dress conservatively while she is in Delhi, so, you can imagine her pain at not been able to match the pace with fashionable Delhiites.  

An evening spent at Dilli Haat

After shopping in Sarojini Nagar to her heart’s content, we moved to Delhi Haat situated opposite INA market which is home to all State Handicrafts interspersed with street plays, mehnediwalis, hairbraiders, food court, coffee cafe’s what not. To top it all, weather was very pleasing, cloudy and windy. After having great time there we moved on to Connaught Place – Rajiv Gandhi Chowk (honour of hosting biggest Indian flag at the centre point of Connaught Place). Tanyaa loved the lighting, the landscaping, the food, the shops…everything about Connaught Place. I did not want to miss the opportunity of visiting the swankiest Khadi Gramodyog  Bhawan which was part of college days shopping, Tanyaa loved the Khadi collection there, though she is a self-confessed fan of Colaba Causeway, Linking road and street –shopping in Bangkok.  I loved the fact that my daughter has great regards for cultural heritage of our country.

A visit to Qutub Minar

The day ended with our visit to famous Hanuman Temple in Connaught place which I use to visit very often as a child, as an adult.

A visit to Bahai temple in New Delhi

It was my long – cherished dream to visit the temple, in particular with my family, the wish was granted what if after long 19 years of wait.    

–         Bienu Verma Vaghela