RAVE: Honeymoon Hotspots – 3

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Honeymoon Hotspots
RAVE

May 2005
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WHERE: DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

WHY: How about doing something out of the ordinary on your honeymoon–sand skiing down the dunes of Dubai. Or perhaps you’re in the mood for something a bit more relaxing after your stressful wedding? Whether it’s a soothing massage at the world’s only seven star resort, some serious jewelry shopping at the Gold Souk, or a romantic stroll on the pristine, sandy beaches of the Jumeirah Beach Park, Dubai has something for everyone. And there is nothing conservative about this Middle Eastern Mecca. Dubai is home to more than 200 nationalities–and their food! Restaurants serving everything from Polynesian to Lebanese cuisine abound.

WHEN TO GO: Check out the madness that is the Dubai Shopping Festival from late June through September, when you can roam through handcrafted carpet emporiums, and get authentic Prada for bargain prices! Don’t worry guys, there’s lots for you to do too–fashion shows, and all the latest electronic gadgets for dirt cheap. Avoid the winter months of December and January unless you like light showers.

HONEYMOON BUBBLE: When money ain’t no thang, splurge on a 3,604-square-foot 2-bedroom suite at the world’s only seven star hotel, Burj Al Arab, where $3,188 gets you a private 24-hour butler and chauffeured Rolls Royce. Too steep? Seven-star luxury can still be yours for $1,739, which gets you a 2,421-square-foot one-bedroom suite with gorgeous panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf. (Burj Al Arab, 971.4.301.7777, http://www.burj-al-arab.com, one-bedroom suites from $1,739) Looking for something a little less extravagant? The five-star Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina offers 1,640-feet of private beach–and ample opportunity for romantic strolls with your jaane mun. (https://www.lemeridien.com, with king studios starting at
$109).

IF YOU ACTUALLY PLAN ON LEAVING THE HOTEL: Dubbed the City of Gold, the Gold Souk is one of the largest retail gold markets in the world. Bargain hunters in the know come here for all their jewelry needs–whether its intricately designed gold earrings for $60 to $2000 pearl necklaces. Haggling is all part of the show in acquiring bargain prices on exquisite jewelry from all over the world.
(http://www.goldsouk-dubai.de). When all that shopping wears you out, head to the Jumeirah Beach Park, a magnificent melding of environment and landscaping. Opened in 1989, and partly designed by Pashaura Singh Dhillon, the park is an artist’s canvas of colors from imported grass, golden sand, and clear blue gulf water. Its specifically designed “resting area” is perfect for a picnic or a little snooze under the trees. For thrill seekers, sand skiing is the hottest thing to do in this city of golden sand dunes. Safe for even the most uncoordinated couples–no injury occurs when you fall, and there are no trees to hit. Knight Tours offers all sorts of opportunities for adventurous honeymooners starting at $100 (www.knighttours.co.ae).

WHERE: KASHMIR, INDIA

WHY: Long considered an unstable tourist destination, Kashmir’s concerns over real and imagined safety issues has started to subside, and tourists are slowly trickling into this beautiful place. With tourism still in its infancy, the good news for honeymooners is prices are down, but luxury is up. Why settle for a lake view when you can have your honeymoon in the middle of its still waters? Houseboats afloat on Srinagar’s shimmering Lakes Dal and Nagin make an idyllic honeymoon haven. The picturesque view of snow-capped mountains is just the icing on the cake!

WHEN TO GO: Visit from April to June when religious festivals like Durga Ashtami and Baisakhi when Kashmiris bring on their best Bhangra moves and a huge thamasha of color on the Dal Lake.

HONEYMOON BUBBLE: Soak in the serenity of it while feeding each other locally grown grapes on a pimped out houseboat in the middle of Dal Lake. While booking on arrival is always much cheaper than reserving online, particularly since none of the houseboats have websites, there are tour companies you can book through. JK tourism offers a double room deluxe for just $30. (www.jktourism.com) For more all-inclusive luxury, try Himalayan tours five-night deals (starting at $696 per person, www.Himalayantours.com). If lake-top living isn’t your cup of chai, get the next best thing– a room overlooking the still waters.
You can’t beat the view or the rates at the five star luxury Centaur Lake View Hotel. (www.hoteliers.com, kings start at $88)

IF YOU ACTUALLY PLAN ON LEAVING THE HOTEL: Although there is no real need to leave your houseboat–the lake is a city unto itself with everything you can imagine being sold by shikaras (kashmiri gondolas) from barbers in boats to pashmina shawl sellers to men bearing mutton samosas and the spicy local delicacy, alu dum–the surrounding area is also worth exploring. If places of worship and history are your game, Srinagar won’t disappoint, with its historic Gurdwara Chatti Padshashi, shrine to the Muslim saint Makhdoon Sahib and temple of the goddess Sharika. All templed out? The Mughal Garden houses three distinct and magnificent gardens: Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, and Chashmashai. For a spectacular view of both the Dal Lake and the snow-capped Pir Panjal mountains, head to Nishat Bagh. Or check out the remnants of a Buddhist monastery at Chashmashai (www.koausa.org/Nature/gardens.html).
–Navdeep Singh Dhillon

WHERE: BHUTAN

WHY: Walking through the unpaved streets of this magical kingdom
tucked away between India and China is like going through a time
warp. Nobody carries around cell phones, there are no McDonalds every three blocks–there aren’t even any blocks! There are, however, plenty of yaks, and shaggy dogs. And lets not forget the greenery; lots of greenery, breathtaking views, and landscape that looks like it was edited in Photoshop. The glitch? If you want to see heaven on earth with that special someone, be prepared to fork over some cash–at least $200 per day. The perks of paying up? You will be one of the very few people who get to enter the kingdom of Bhutan this year–one of 5000 people in the world to be exact. That’s the Himalayan monarchy of Bhutan at work in an effort to keep the culture unspoiled.

WHEN TO GO: Avoid the monsoon during July and August. The best time to come to Bhutan is during October and November and April through June, not only for the clear skies, but because that’s when the most colorful celebrations take place. Visit during one of the many vibrant Buddhist festivals, such as the “tschechu,” performed at the end of the harvest season in mid-April. The main event is watching the monks bust out dance moves using a variety of colorful costumes and elaborate masks!

HONEYMOON BUBBLE: Accommodation included in the $200 aren’t all that plush. A double bed is considered opulent, and make sure you bring extra socks during the winter, as there is generally no central heating. Fortunately, there are some high-end resorts to the rescue to make your honeymoon in the magic kingdom even more magical–and keep you warm and toasty at the same time! Try the Uma Paro, complete with endless views of forests, mountains, and valleys from every room, heated towel racks, minibars, yoga mats, and even a complimentary Shambala massage! (www.uma.como.bz, all-inclusive ten-day romantic packages start at $8,388).

IF YOU ACTUALLY PLAN ON LEAVING THE HOTEL: Whether it’s sights you crave, relaxation or even mouth watering eue chum (Bhutanese pink rice), your mandatory tour guide is the person to arrange it for you. Adventurous couples can go on mountain excursions through the gorgeous Paro valley, while couples who want to take it easy can do so in the confines of a massage table at a local massage joint or at the hotel (if it‘s fancy enough). Or go and spend the day with a yak herder’s family, exchanging ‘How we got hitched’ stories, translated through your guide.

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