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10 Things to do before you Die: The Ultimate Bucket List!

The main reason behind creating a bucket list is to live every moment to the fullest

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Picture of two parachuters skydiving. Wikimedia Commons

October 26, 2016: Do you ever feel that your life is heading nowhere and it has no goal? Many people create a bucket list that is full of crazy, adventurous activities.  The main reason behind creating a bucket list is to live every moment to the fullest. Here are the few things that you can try:

  1. Defy gravity

Go for skydiving. It is the perfect combination of excitement and serenity. Once the parachute opens, the heart rate will get steady, just take a moment and enjoy the view.

  1. Northern lights:

Of all the natural phenomenon in the world, nothing compares to the beauty of the northern lights. The lights are like dancing colors of the sky. The Algonquian Indians of Canada believed that the fire was built by the Great Spirit.

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  1. Verify for yourself that the Earth is round:

Set sail in one direction and do not stop until you’re home. Journey around the North of the Arctic Circle around the summer would be perfect. You can spend a night watching the sun circle above the horizon.

  1. Climb your own Mount Everest:

It is believed that Gods stay in the mountains. When Petrarch climbed 6000 feet and saw the view from the top of Mount Ventaux, he said, “What I had read of Athos and Olympus seemed less incredible as I myself witnessed the same things”. The reward would be unbelievable: to stand on the highest bit and get the perfect view. Maybe you would finally understand why the mountains are calling.

  1. Go on a road trip:

It is said that the journey is a destination; a road trip is an adventure. Do not make a plan. Avoid the question,” Are we there yet?” It’s all about the fun, the talk and the landscape. Enjoy the moment.

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  1. Conquer a fear:

Lucas Jonkman said,” Fight your fears and you’ll be in a battle forever. Face your fear and you’ll be forever”. Face your fear that has been putting limits on your full potential and let your breakthrough inspire other people.

  1. Donate something

Donate something that will bring change in someone’s life. Be it your hair, your blood or any other thing. Helping others will give you a feeling of satisfaction which is unbeatable.

  1. Bury a time capsule

Bury few of your favorite things in places where a stranger can dig it up. Leave a note with it telling him how these much things matter to you.

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  1. Take someone you love to a romantic place

The place should not be a local 5 star restaurant. Take your special someone to Paris or Santorini. Any romantic place would work where you can be close to nature and to your special someone.

  1. African Safari

African Safari is an affordable travel choice. Watching wild animals roaming freely and falling asleep would be a treat for the eyes. There would be many magnificent natural sights. You can meet people from all around the world in Africa.

  by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53

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Top 5 Affordable Travel Destinations where Money will be the Last Thing on your Mind!

Indian currency seems weak when compared to international currencies. Hence, planning a trip to New York or California is not easy

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affordable travel destinations
Japan will have your heart at first sight! Pixabay

How many times has it happened that you longed for an exotic foreign trip, but gave up on the idea because of upsetting figures in your bank balance? Indian currency seems weak when compared to international currencies. Hence, planning a trip to New York or California is not easy; everybody knows these are expensive places and you will have to think twice before your NYC dreams come true.

But what if we tell you there are countries in the world that you can visit and gather equally thrilling and exotic experiences, at much lesser price?

Yes, there are countries that can be on your travel bucket list, where money will be the last thing you will worry about! These places are not only unique and undoubtedly beautiful, they are relatively cheap and our Indian currency will prove a stronger, higher currency when compared to their own currencies!

So, what are you waiting for? We bring you our top 5 picks for affordable travel destinations and you should get packing!

 1. SRI LANKA

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 2.37 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupee)*

Sri Lanka is the first in our affordable travel destinations list!

affordable travel destinations
Sri Lankan beaches are a sight not to be missed. Pixabay

Despite being extremely small in size, Sri Lanka is a heavenly abode that makes it to the post of top five biodiversity hotspots in the world!

Dive in with the blue whales or watch spinner dolphins play against the setting sun! Go on a wildlife safari and spend days playing with elephants in the water.

affordable travel destinations
Elephant safari in Sri Lanka. Pixabay

Sri Lanka is a haven for back-packers, packed with Dutch architecture from the times of Sri Lanka colonialists, and exotic scenic locales, it is closer to home and yet, everything that any far-off international destination could possibly offer!

 

 2. JAPAN

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 1.70 JPY (Japanese Yen)*

Cute buildings, cute people, cute food, and cute everything else! Second on our list of affordable travel destinations is Japan.

Food is an integral part of Japan, and something that the Japanese wholly embrace as a prime part of life.

Japan’s history is intrinsically linked to the Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist faiths- the reason why a visit to Japan will be no less than a serene and tranquil experience.

affordable travel destinations
Japan will have your heart at first sight! Pixabay

Japan is categorically blessed with natural beauty with the country boasting of extremely rare and fascinating flora and fauna – experience the magnificence of Mt. Fuji in summer and spring, and visit the streets completely covered with cherry blossoms in March and April- Japan will present you with sights that will simply take your breath away!

 

 3. ICELAND

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 1.66 ISK (Icelandic Króna)*

Iceland convincingly makes it to the third spot on our affordable travel destinations list. Iceland is situated just below the Arctic Circle, which means the country has 24-hour daylight from mid-May to late July. Isn’t that already stimulating?

And who hasn’t heard of Iceland’s famous northern lights? The county is undoubtedly one of the world’s best places to witness the magic of the northern lights or aurora borealis. The best time to witness the magic of these celestial marvels from September to mid-April.

affordable travel destinations
The northern lights, do they even look real? Pixabay

Iceland’s rich water supply is undoubtedly its most valuable natural resource. Why are we telling you about this? Iceland has natural pools that can be found all around the country, calmly seated in natural environment.

affordable travel destinations
Iceland has natural pools that make for magnificent sights! Pixabay

Fun fact : People of Iceland do not have surnames. They follow the traditional Nordic naming system in which a person’s name includes their father’s first name.

 

 4. HUNGARY

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 4.00 HUF (Hungarian Forint)*

From its cosmopolitan cities to the charming countryside, Hungary will provide you with innumerable reasons to make a stop here. Nonetheless, it is going to be a decision you will not regret. From mouth-watering food to traditional folk culture, Hungary offers something for everybody, which is what brings the country on the fourth spot in our affordable travel destinations list.

Hungary’s countryside is filled with naturally magnificent sights- from natural landscapes in the Hortobagy National Park, to extravagant caves of Lillafured, your Hungarian vacation will be both peaceful and beautiful!

affordable travel destinations
Szechenyi Chain Bridge. Pixabay

Hungary will be the best option if you’re looking for an affordable vacation – with affordable food, drink, and many of the country’s attractions being totally free to visit such as the Chain Bridge)

 

5. VIETNAM

1 INR (Indian Rupee) = 353.78 VND (Vietnamese Dong)*

The last on the list of affordable travel destinations is Vietnam. With its fascinating history, succulent food, gorgeous beaches, old towns, islands and waters, Vietnam should definitely be on everybody’s bucket list.

affordable travel destinations
Sunrise at Vietnam is to die for! Pixabay

Street food is a trademark of Vietnam and you will find countless food stalls on street sides throughout your trip that you can gorge on! Vietnam will also not disappoint mountaineers, or adventure seekers- you can either rent a motorbike and drive to the scenic mountains in the north or along the length of the country from north to south – but beware, this thrilling ride is not for the faint-hearted.

Don’t forget to share with us if you do plan a trip to any of these places!

* Conversion rates are subject to change. 

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From Reel to Real: 10 Game of Thrones (GOT) Locations You Can Go to for your Next Vacation

Do you call yourself a true 'Game of Thrones' fan? Well then, here are some 'not-to-be-missed' travel destinations for you!

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Game of Thrones
10 Game of Thrones (GOT) Locations You Can Go to for your Next Vacation. Wikimedia
  • Game of Thrones is a popular television series, currently airing its seventh season
  • The study has been carried out by a travel expert company, Hotels.com™
  • Sudden splurge in tourism is often attributed to popular television series being shot there

New Delhi, July 24, 2017: Planning your next vacation? Why not head to the camel-colored castles at King’s Landing where your favorite character, Ed Stark was beheaded to death?

If you are a fan of present-day television series, you will be aware of a show called Game of Thrones, which has won hearts of millions across the globe, making it a cult classic. Right from the show’s inception in 2011, it has been shot at a variety of locations that are not as fictional as one may assume.

The exotic locales that have featured evidently in the series, and those that are anticipated to make a mark in the seventh season being aired currently, have sparked a new trend, making travelers pack their bags and depart for the sets.

A recent study by the travel expert, Hotels.com™ found that Northern Ireland, Croatia, Spain, and Iceland, where major segments of the series have been shot, have seen a rise in popularity in response to the TV show that has sparked the imagination of millions around the world.

If you are a member of the tribe that thrives on pop-culture, binge watches every season and episode of Game of Thrones, or are simply a curious traveler, then listed below are popular vacation spots that are bound to take you to the magical land of Sansa Stark and Jon Snow.

ICELAND

Having been a host to various television and motion pictures alike, Iceland has arguably seen a dramatic rise in travel searches ever since it marked its presence on Game of Thrones, making it one of the most sought after holiday destinations.

According to figures provided by Hotels.com™, the scenic destination is up over 285 percent ever since the show created ripples in the television landscape in 2014.

Iceland. Wikimedia
  • Vatnajökull

Places like Mývatn and the Vatnajökull glacier, where landmark scenes have been shot ‘North of the Wall’, have now come to the radar of curious travelers. One of the largest glaciers of Europe, the glacier makes 8% of the country and adds on to the chilling setting of the show.

In another year-on-year (2017 vs 2016) comparison data, Iceland continues to see an upward trend as the destination shows a 30 percent increase as fans set to visit the caves of Grjótagjá, among other places to bask in the valor of places visited by popular heart-throb Jon Snow.

CROATIA

Fans are now increasingly choosing to explore the many breathtaking scenes of the Croatian coastline, another key filming location, depicted in the series.  No Game of Thrones’ fan would want to miss visiting Trsteno Arboretum that made for the garden of King’s Landing, where some of their favorite characters like Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and Olenna Tyrell have strolled.

Šibenik in the Adriatic Sea also appears prominently in the series. Pixabay
  • Dubrovnik 

Dubrovnik in Croatia is rumored to be the filming host for the anticipated King’s Landing in season 7 of the show. One look and you are sure to be mesmerized by the massive stone walls that line the city.  Dubrovnik, which was the host to some scenes portraying the Red Keep, is a popular tourist attraction and is usually bustling with activity.

  • Krka National Park

Another key shooting location has been the Krka National Park which makes repetitive appearances throughout the Seven Kingdoms. If you’re keen on visiting the waterfalls of Westeros, you must visit Krka National Park, which has witnessed a 46 percent rise in search traffic according to New York based Travel+Leisure Magazine.

  • Split (King’s Landing)

Beyond the museums and the cathedrals of Croatia’s second largest city, stands Diocletian’s Palace and the scenic landscape that makes Split one of the fascinating places for visitors. GOT fans can instantly recognize the place featuring Cersei Lannister from season five.

The ancient city of Split on the Dalmatian coast and the city of Šibenik continue to be the most sought after locations, with both witnessing an uplift of nearly 120 percent and 60 percent respectively. If you are wondering, the city of Split is host to the Mother of Dragon’s throne room while parts of Šibenik comprise the famous city of Braavos.

SPAIN

  • Alcázar of Seville

With searches to the destination up 145 percent, Spain has also witnessed a dramatic surge in travel-search figures. Fans are increasingly planning thought-out vacations to locations in and around Spain to set foot in some of their favorite on-screen locales like the Water Palace of Dorne which is home to the House of Martell, scenes of which were filmed at the Alcázar of Seville in Spain.

Spain. Wikimedia
  • Bardenas Reales (Dothraki sea)

This spectacular desert-like region stretching over 100,000 acres will make all Khaleesi fans feel at home.  The landscape, which precisely defines the GOT universe, ranks among one of the few desserts of Europe with spectacular formations and a delicate environment.

 

IRELAND

Northern Ireland which boasts of some of the world’s most picturesque natural beauty, was bound to play host to several of the series’ iconic scenes.

 

The landscape of Belfast. Pixabay
  • Belfast

Among all the other locations that Spain has to offer, Belfast has maintained a premier position at the top of the fans’ lists. With searches for Belfast hotels ranging up nearly 120 percent even before the seventh season premiere, the destination is sure to host a growing tribe of the television series’ viewers in 2017.

  • Castle Ward (Winterfell)

Every GOT fan’s travel bucket-list features a visit to the forests of Winterfell that were shot at and around Castle Ward, and Downhill Stand, a beach in northern Ireland, where the burning of the Seven took place. The place will take fans back to a young Jon Snow and the beginning of this archery practices –  which was filed at the historic farmyard of Castle Ward.

MALTA

Among other places, major chunks of HBO’S most popular television series have also been shot at the island country of Malta. Featured in the first season, the Azure Window was essentially the site of the Dothraki wedding. Surrounded by water around the arch, the destination adds to the quintessential charm of the hit series.

Scenes have been shot at streets of Malta. Pixabay

Adding on to the list is another picturesque destination of Morocco. Many of the scenes filmed for cities together constituting the Slaver’s Bay were filmed at the fortified city of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco.As for fans wanting to visit the ‘Greatest City That Ever Was or Will Be’, popularly known as Qarth, a trip to Lokrum Island in the Adriatic Sea will be a treat to the eyes.

  • Mdina 

This walled city can be recalled from season one, from parts of the King’s Landing. Scarcely populated, the city of Mdina may not require more than a day for your visit, with a few cathedrals, museums and pretty streets to its credentials.

“As experts in accommodation and enthusiasts for travel, we’re thrilled to be able to facilitate memorable, rewarding stays for those who want to get close to the action. Along with so many around the world, we look forward to season seven and to enjoying the stunning locations in which it’s filmed,” said Hotels.com™ Director Regional Marketing Greater China, SEA and India at Hotels.com™ brand, Jessica Chuang, as told to ANI news.

While the trend to visit places where popular television series and motion pictures have been shot is not new, it sure has witnessed a sudden surge in the commercial market with fans around the world making a pilgrimage to sets all over the globe to experience their favorite television series more closely.

We also take a look at accommodations close to the filming locations that offer comfortable experiences to visiting GOT fans-

  • Seville / Spain: Water palace of Dorne

In the hit series, the city of Seville hosts the Water Palace of Dorne, parts of which were shot at Alcázar de Seville.

Popular options for stay: Hotel Boutique Elvira Plaza

Right in the center of Seville, this 3.5-star hotel makes for a comfortable stay at Dorne. Right in the vicinity of the Alcázar, the home of the House of Martell, the hotel makes for a beautiful combination of traditional flavor and modernity.

Accommodation at Hotel Boutique Elvira Plaza is available from Rs. 5,885 per room per night.

  • Myvatn / Northern Iceland: Beyond the Wall

The scenes beyond the Wall have been filmed at different locations around northern Iceland, the key locations being Myrdalsjokull glacier and the Vatnajokull glacier.

Popular options for stay: Foss hotel

The trendy yet sophisticated 3 star Foss hotel is a must for every GOT fan that is adventurous, alike located at a 30 minutes walking distance from Lake Myvatn, the scene of all action. A spectacular structure with wide options in room selections and suites, it would make the right choice.

Accommodation at Foss hotel is available from RS 16,284 per room per night.

  • Belfast / Northern Ireland: The Iron Islands

The rugged landscape of Belfast provides a scenic venue, attracting both, the film-makers and tourists. Another key source of attraction, which is almost always brimming with actors and fans alike is the production studio at Titanic Quarter with a replica of the Iron Throne, where major parts of the series are shot.

Popular option to stay at Melmaison Hotel

This 4-star hotel is a fine example of history meets contemporary style. Inspired in proportion by the illustrious Titanic which was Belfast’s most celebrated ships, the hotel is well well connected to prime tourist spots and stands at a stone’s throw from the most interesting commercial area, bars, and clubs of the land.

Accommodation at Malmaison Hotel is available from Rs. 7,977 per room per night.

  • Essaouira / Morocco: Astapor

A large chunk of season three has been shot in Essaouira which introduces to the viewers the Slaver’s city of Astapor, where lies the home of the Unsullied army.

Popular option to stay at Dar L’Oussia

A 4-star hotel, overlooking Astapor is well connected to the beaches, fishing port, and the souks, keeping you in close proximity to the area where most of the filming took place. Some of the rooms are beautifully done in traditional Moroccan style, giving you a true experience of an African holiday.

Accommodation at Dar L’Oussia is available from Rs. 5,046 per room per night.

– by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala


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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)