Friday, December 29, 2006


As I researched Indonesia for my Bali visit, I realized there was a lot I didn't know. Indonesia is vast! The country is made up of 18110 islands of which about 6000 are inhabited. The distance between Aceh and Papua on either end of Indonesia are about 4000 kms apart (about the same distance as between San Francisco and New York City).

Indonesia has about 400 volcanoes of which about 130 are active. And with well over 210 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world after China, India, and the United States. Indonesia is also has the largest Muslim population in the world (which I did know).

A wealth of information for aspiring travellers is available here.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ringing in the New Year at Bali

Looks like I will ring in the New Year about 2.5 hours earlier than friends and family! I had initially planned a quiet New Year weekend with the family at the Leela in Goa or at the Le Meridian in Mauritius. But finally, we are going to the Laguna Resort & Spa at Bali.
Laguna Resort BaliThe resort is part of Starwood Hotels' Luxury Collection and promises to be a great experience. I have always wanted to vacation at Bali since it is off the beaten path of most Indian tourists (who tend to travel to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore).
Laguna Resort BaliBali has an unusual history and a lot of things going for it as a destination of choice, but on the downside, the two terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005 have made this destination less popular with western tourists in recent times.
Laguna Resort BaliWhile I am not planning sight-seeing tours during this visit, I may try to see one of their many Hindu temples. Hinduism arrived in Bali around 100 BC (refered to as Balidweepa in ancient inscriptions); however, the religion evolved independently after that and therefore has its own distinct identity. Bali has also been ruled by the Dutch and Japanese before becoming part of Indonesia. Watch this space for more when I get back... Wish you all a Very Happy New Year!

Other Bali posts from this trip: Indonesia, Islands of the Gods, Gourmet in Bali, The Laguna Spa & Resort


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Disney World in Orlando, Florida is special to my wife and I. We spent a memorable long-weekends here when we both worked in North Carolina during 1995-96. We then followed up with a 'trip-down-memory-lane' visit in 2001. During this visit we had stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. We loved the place! And now we are taking our daughter there on our next vacation for an entire week (Feb 27-Mar 05 2007).

The Animal Kingdom Lodge recreates the feel of a South African wildlife reserve lodge. Rooms follow the Kraal African village design, a semicircle concept, offering a view of close to 100 grazing animals and 130 birds on the property and in the private savannas.

Like Disney's other resorts, this Lodge has a distinctive theme carried throughout its architecture, landscape and interior designs. As you drive up to the resort, all you see is a small gathering of huts. The incredible size of the resort is hidden from the front, so it will be like driving up to a small safari village.

The Lodge is 6 stories tall. You enter the expansive lobby on the 3rd floor of the resort. There is a huge picture window which looks out upon 30 acres of land. From here, you can walk out onto an elevated viewing area (Arusha Rock) and enjoy the roaming animals.

All three savannas are special areas built specifically for the Lodge and are separate from Disney's Animal Kingdom. There are over 100 Sand Live Oak trees and 35,000 shrubs in the savannas. Seeds for many of the plants were supplied from Africa.

Throughout the rest of the lobby, there are examples of authentic architecture and design, from thatched ceilings to golden tones reflecting the richness and diversity of an African landscape. Rich wood tones surround a large mud fireplace and natural lighting will celebrate dawn and dusk with features that accentuate spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

In the hallways, there are alcoves with glass windows providing savanna overlooks. Altogether, more than 200 mammals and birds of nearly three dozen species populate the 33-acre area. The savannas surround the lodge on three sides. You can view the birds and animals from resort balconies or from several viewing points -- including a landscaped rock outcropping called the Arusha Rock -- 24 hours a day.

Related posts: Africa Recreated, Off to Florida, The Magic of Disney, Downtown Disney