In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
India starts Angkor Wat replica in Bihar
A Hindu trust in India’s eastern state of Bihar has begun building a replica of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple.
A foundation-laying ceremony for the $20m (£12.5m) project has been held 25km (16 miles) from Bihar’s capital Patna, on the banks of the Ganges.
The builders say the result will be the world’s largest Hindu temple.
The main temple of the Unesco-listed Angkor Wat was originally Hindu when built in the 12th Century but was later used for Buddhist worship.
The Mahavir Mandir Trust says construction will take 10 years.
‘Pride of Hindu temples’
“It will be the world’s largest Hindu temple… bigger in size, shape and height than the Angkor Wat of Cambodia,” the trust’s secretary, Acharya Kishore Kunal, told the BBC.
“It will be known as Virat Angkor Wat Ram temple but will also house other Hindu deities like Radha-Krishna, Shiv-Parvati, Ganesh, Surya and 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu”, he said.
“We’ll make this temple the pride of the Hindu temples in the world and I’ve started it on the occasion of the 100th year of Bihar state’s foundation.”
The temple will be constructed on a sprawling 40-acre site in Vaishali district in north Bihar.
Mr Kunal said the god Ram was believed to have visited the site in the course of his journey and was welcomed by King Sumati of the Vaishali kingdom.
Royal wedding and revamps boost visitor numbers at UK attractions
Westminster Abbey had a record 1.9 million visitors in 2011 and the National Museum of Scotland saw a 141% increase.
Royal wedding fever sparked a record number of visits to Westminster Abbey last year, propelling it into the top 10 most-visited attractions in the UK for the first time, new figures reveal.
The Abbey welcomed nearly 1.9 million overseas and domestic visitors in 2011, up 36% on 2010, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva). Millions of TV viewers watched the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the 700-year-old building in April.
In contrast, St Paul’s cathedral, where protesters set up an anti-capitalism camp, saw visitor numbers dip 4% to just under 1.82 million. Attractions in rural areas also struggled, Alva said, not because of the quality or attractiveness of the properties but due to the punitive price of petrol.
The Tower of London welcomed nearly 6% more visitors last year, at 2.55 million, while National Portrait Gallery visitors rose 3% to 1.88 million. The British Museum retained the top slot as the UK’s most visited attraction with 5.85 million visitors, a modest increase of 0.1% on the previous year.
Overall, new museums and those that ploughed money into refurbishment reaped the benefits by pulling in large crowds. TheNational Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, for example, saw a 141% increase in visitors last year, one of the biggest increases of any attraction. It reopened fully in July after a £47m development and welcomed nearly 1.5 million visitors, achieving its original target of one million in less than four months.
Visitor numbers rose 22% at the National Maritime Museum, which opened the £35m Sammy Ofer wing in July. The Old Royal Naval Collegein Greenwich saw a 31% increase in visitor numbers, helped partly by its starring role in films including The Iron Lady and Pirates of the Caribbean. But there was a steep decline (down 44.2% to 879,550) at the observatory at Greenwich, which introduced a £7 charge last year for access to the courtyard with the meridian line and the historic observatory, Flamsteed House.
Visits to the Natural History Museum in London rose nearly 5% to 4.87 million, while the nearby Science Museum saw visitor numbers rise 6% to 2.91 million, its highest number since current records began in 1992.
Handy tips on how to survive flight delays
It’s the moment every air traveller dreads. You arrive at the airport, look up at the board to find your departure gate and see a big, block capital DELAYED staring back at you.
Along with seeing a customs officer reach for a rubber glove and sitting next to a screaming baby on a plane, a delayed flight has to be the worst start to a trip you can get.
Last week, the Government released figures for the on time performance of airlines in Australia, with Qantas leading the way with 83 per cent of departures and 81.9 per cent of arrivals on time.
A spokeswoman for the airline hailed the figures as a victory over the other tardy airlines, saying: “One of the main reasons [our passengers] choose to travel with Qantas is they get to their destination on time far more often than with other airlines.” (Isn’t that just another way of saying we’re the ‘least worst’ of all the airlines…?)
The reality is that one in five flights in Australia is delayed by more than fifteen minutes, with the number of cancellations in 2011 reaching 1.8 per cent, double the figure of the year before. Simply put, every third return trip you make by plane will be delayed in some way.
Unfortunately, delays and cancellations are part and parcel of air travel, but how do you deal with them? How do you make sure you don’t miss the next flight? And how do you handle the boredom of having to spend multiple hours in a departure lounge?
Here are few tips on how to survive a delayed flight.
While there’s no predicting how and when a flight will be delayed, you can help yourself by taking the earliest flight on an airline’s schedule. While it doesn’t guarantee you won’t be delayed, it does mean you will avoid the domino effect early delays have on the rest of the day’s departures.
Be a twit
If your flight is delayed, follow your airline on twitter and check hashtags with the airline’s name. Not only will you get official updates from the airline but you might also be able to share information with other travellers.
On the Spot: A refundable hotel reservation may cost you
Hotels have followed airlines in offering nonrefundable reservations for one price and refundable ones for a higher price.
Question: I want to book four nights in a hotel in Venice, Italy, for mid-April. It will be about 800 euros, about $1,075. I was all set to book when I realized that my credit card would be charged upon booking, and it wasn’t refundable. A refundable reservation would be about 1,000 euros, almost $1,350. This is not common in the United States. Is this a Venice situation? A Europe thing? Do I risk waiting another month? Do I swallow my compunctions and book?
Answer: This is not a Venice or a Europe thing. These days, it’s a hotel thing.
Like the airlines, hotels have discovered that last-minute cancellations can be a problem. Taking a page from the airlines’ playbook, hotels in the U.S. and abroad increasingly are offering a nonrefundable rate as a way to ensure that their rooms are full, just as airlines want to make sure there are seats in their seats. You book a little early, you get charged a little less, but there’s a trade-off: “If you have any thought you might want to change plans,” said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, “you’re going to be totally stuck.”
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the airlines should be beaming.
Expect to see more of this.
“We’ve seen it increasingly the past few years,” said Tom Meyers, editor of EuroCheapo.com, a guide to budget hotels in Europe. Hotels “will often offer a nonrefundable rate and a ‘free’ cancellation rate, and there’s usually about a 10% difference.”
A “free” cancellation rate?
Meyers acknowledges the sleight of hand in this. “They call it ‘free cancellation,’ but you’re paying extra for it,” he said.
But, he noted, the nonrefundable booking solves a big issue for hotels. “Several years ago, they had a major problem: [Travelers would] book a month in advance, and then spend the next month hotel shopping.” If they found a better price, they would cancel. “I’m just as guilty,” he said. “I’m sure I did the same thing.”