Friday, 4 October 2013

The Best Asian Discovery

It sprawls across Asia in a glittering geographical garland of 17,500 beautiful islands that stretch from sophisticated Singapore in the north to sun-baked Australia in the south. It is a crucible of the oldest religions and cultures in human history; with Hindu, Buddhist and Christian traditions enduring amidst the largest Muslim and animist communities in the world – yet its government is decidedly secular and its thriving business-world fully materialistic. Its 250 million people belong to 350 different ethnic groups and speak 530 unique languages, yet are remarkably united in national identity. The character of this amazing nation is grounded in local community, yet its outlook is increasingly global. It is a gorgeous cornucopia of colourful cultures, creeds, cuisine and crafts, and it welcomes the world with wide-open arms. This is Indonesia - The Best Asian Discovery for travel and leisure.

In a crowded and competitive travel-industry, what makes Indonesia stand out? First of all, the nation’s sheer size and strategic location ensure that ancient cultures and traditional crafts thrive in our modern technological world. Modern houses have intricate ethnic d├ęcor, and high-powered deals are finalised by tycoons in traditional batik shirts. Sleek imported sedans vie for traffic-space with horse-drawn carts, and satellite-dishes relay telecasts of ancient dramas in authentic detail. In Indonesia, culture is alive and handicraft is part of daily life. Secondly, the fact that most of the islands in this vast archipelago were relatively remote from each other in ancient times results in art, architecture, culture and cuisine being very different from place to place. This gives Indonesia a powerful ‘pull-factor’ in tourism: it is an excellent destination for repeat visits.

Indonesia is probably the world’s last great ecotourism frontier, with its varied geography and unimaginable biodiversity. Try figuring out 28,000 known species of local flowers! From the giant Rafflesia that can weigh over 10 kg, to exquisite tiny orchids as rare and as precious as any gem, Indonesia is a flowering paradise of seductive scents and sensations. Bird-watchers from all over the world fly here to spot as many of the 1500 native species that they can, mindful of the fact that Indonesia has more endemic species than any other country on the planet. There are also over 3500 species of wild animals, from ferocious carnivores like the terrifying Komodo Dragons and the mysterious Sumatran Tiger to furry friends like the appealing little Slow Loris and the gentle and intelligent Orang Utan. And still on the topic of ecotourism, we haven’t even begun to describe the underwater wonders awaiting discovery in some of the most varied and spectacular dive-sites ever known!
There are enough websites and publications that extol every detail of this great nation's tourism attractions. At answers!, however, one special quality stands out here - and this is the warmth and love of the Indonesian people. From the most luxurious international hotel to the humblest native dwelling, hospitality in Indonesia is spontaneous and thoroughly sincere. The harried street-hawker hustling in a traffic jam, the musical Batak troubador at your dining-table, the busy village mother with child on her waist, the tattooed tribseman in his jungle domain, the multi-lingual European-educated boutique owner, the tired farmer trailing his buffalo home across the ricefields - every single Indonesian you meet will give you a smile and a beaming welcome. The hospitality and friendships that await the visitor can only be experienced personally - and that, alone, should be reason enough for YOU to head for Indonesia, the Best Asian Discovery in travel!

(All pix by answers! unless otherwise stated)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Best Commercial Aircraft

When the idea for this aeroplane was conceived in August 1965, it seemed an impossible dream. Some experts said it could not be built, while others said that even if one was ever built, it would simply be too big to fly. Yet just three years later in September 1968, the first production model was completed. It had to be seen to be believed. The body of this aircraft stretched out almost a full city-block; the cockpit perched 30 feet above the ground, the tail towered six storeys high - and most awesome of all, it had a maximum take-off weight of 735,000 lbs or 333,400 kg. This gargantuan creation was the Boeing 747 - the world's first wide-bodied aircraft, also called The Jumbo Jet. It looked majestic - but could it fly? How would such an enormous mass ever break free of the earth's gravity and soar into the sky?
From its birth, the Boeing 747 incorporated new technology that made the dreams of designers a practical engineering reality. Intimidating terminology such as High Bypass Turbofan Engines, Fault Tree Analysis, Widebody Design and Three-Segment Slotted Flaps were introduced, and soon became normal bywords in aircraft-engineering. In February 1969, the huge Boeing 747 made its maiden flight, and in January 1970 the first commercial flight of the Jumbo Jet took off from New York to London. The first 25 planes were bought by Pan American World Airways, and other airlines quickly queued-up to order this flying behemoth.

Once again, the naysayers were out in force, saying that just a couple of hundred units would be built before the Jumbo Jet was made obsolete by the new supersonic aircraft. Once again, the Boeing 747 proved them wrong. Now, nearly fifty years after the first production model was rolled out, about 1500 units have been built, with perhaps a hundred more on order. answers! has selected the Boeing 747 as The Best Commercial Aircraft for several reasons.

First of all, the sheer audacity of its concept and the swiftness with which it was made a reality changed attitudes in aviation-engineering forever. We estimate that it has carried over 2 billion passengers, making it one of the most popular commercial aircraft models of all time. Decades before the idea of Low Cost Carriers even germinated, the Boeing 747 had made air-travel affordable and accessible to millions of first-time air-travellers. Its long-range, large capacity and economic viability transformed the development of air-routes all around the globe. The 747-400 is one of the fastest commercial airplanes, reaching up to Mach 0.85; and with up to 550 seats the Jumbo Jet has been the highest-capacity aircraft for almost four decades. It is also the most recognisable commercial aeroplane in the world with its distinctive and much-loved frontal hump. The Boeing 747 is also one of the most versatile aircraft ever built, being equally effective as a cargo freighter, presidential transport, private luxury jet and even spacecraft carrier.

Most of all, we believe that the Boeing 747 will eventually become the longest-enduring aircraft model ever built, with variants flying our skies more than half-a-century after its first pioneering flight. Slim supersonic beauties have come and gone, and mega-planes are lumbering over the horizon. Computer-control has become commonplace and smaller, sleeker planes are zipping across the air-lanes. But the trusty Jumbo Jet will continue to fly for decades to come, carrying generations that are yet to be!

(Pix by FlyKonstantin, Science and Society Picture Library, the Widebody Aircraft Parade, Antoon's Foobar,etc)