Image courtesy: Klans Sandrini, Ruchika Vyas, Reginald Pye, Troy Newell (Stock Xchng)
Experience Other Religions - Travel is about immersing yourself in another culture, in a world that is different from your own. In what seems like an ideal way to truly experience such an immersion, Irish- Australian expat Ben Bowler launched the 'Monk for a Month' programme in 2008. It involves spending time in a Buddhist temple in Thailand - something that Thai men are known to commonly do. Although lessons are open to the public, as they can simply walk up to a temple and ask for it, being a foreigner can often present logistical problems in the form of language barriers and appropriate etiquette. This programme, which costs about GBP 600 for a 28-day package, intends to help ease these issues so that people can get the most out of it. Contrary to popular opinion, the monks are keen to have tourists spend time with them in their temple.
‘Muslim for a Month’ in Istanbul, on the other hand, offers an in-depth understanding of a religion that has often been misunderstood. There is a vast difference in the perceptions of Buddhism and Islam. The former has been widely accepted and draws a large number of tourists, whereas the latter is often in the news for the wrong reasons. The idea is to provide the average individual with a better understanding of Islam without having to convert. Along with a portion of regular sightseeing in Istanbul, this programme also includes prayers (during the day and at night) and lessons on Islam’s basic practices. One can also attempt fasting, along with giving up alcohol and pork to truly dive into the programme.
Take A Zero-Gravity Tour - For the large part, experiencing zero gravity has been the privilege of astronauts, cosmonauts, people in the military, people who work at NASA (I’m sure they snag a ride or two in between breaks) and, of course, celebrities (remember Apollo 13?). Well, you can now be part of that elite club—provided you have USD 5,000 to spare. For a little under USD 5,000, which includes pre-flight training and a post-flight party, you can experience complete weightlessness aboard a modified Boeing 727-200 jet for 25 seconds at a time. A regular parabolic flight lasts for about 90 minutes, with 15 up-and down parabolas at an altitude of 24,000 to 34,000 feet. Although the ride is a toned-down version of what astronauts feel in space, it is called NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’, so carry along some medicines just in case. Be sure to drink water during your zero gravity experience; it is poured by the bubble!
For a few extra greens, you could be bouncing around in the flight with a former astronaut and/or celebrity guest. And if you’re really keen, you can show off your Superman-like flying moves to your friends and family, or celebrate a special ‘flying’ birthday party by buying out the entire 27-passenger flight. All you need to do is pay a transit fee and have the plane flown to your chosen airport in the US. Alternatively, some tours also offer zero-gravity flights in Russia as part of a fourday tour package, priced at approximately USD 6,500 to 7,000), and France-based Novespace offers the same in France, for around USD 5,700. These packages add a dash of culture, such as a tour of the Star City cosmonaut complex.
Eat At An Undersea Restaurant - Eating in an all-glass restaurant located 16 feet below sea level poses an unusual moral dilemma: being watched by sea creatures as you eat their former fellow-inhabitants, cooked to perfection. Ithaa—a finedining restaurant, comfortably seated in the Indian Ocean—is located at the Conrad Resort on Rangali Island in Maldives. Shaped like a hemisphere, it presents a breathtaking 180° view of coral and marine life in crystal-clear, blue water. While enjoying the scenic shades of blue, you can enjoy contemporary Maldivian-Western fusion fare through a grand seven-course meal that’ll make your wallet lighter by at least USD 200 a head. Not a bad deal for an intimate date with the sea, right? Launched in 2005, what makes this restaurant really special is that it has a limited life span of only 20 years. Additionally, they are now permitted to transform the restaurant into a room for a night among the stars (a permission granted to them on the occasion of their five-year anniversary in 2010), provided the restaurant is not booked for dinner. You can also use the restaurant for private parties and weddings, but be sure to book well in advance.
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