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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top Placeto Go in 2010

1. Sri Lanka
For a quarter century, Sri Lanka seems to have been plagued by misfortune, including a brutal civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and a separatist Tamil group. But the conflict finally ended last May, ushering in a more peaceful era for this teardrop-shaped island off India’s coast, rich in natural beauty and cultural splendors.
Keith Bedford for The New York Times
Guests by the pool at the Galle Fort Hotel in Galle, Sri Lanka.

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The island, with a population of just 20 million, feels like one big tropical zoo: elephants roam freely, water buffaloes idle in paddy fields and monkeys swing from trees. And then there’s the pristine coastline. The miles of sugary white sand flanked by bamboo groves that were off-limits to most visitors until recently are a happy, if unintended byproduct of the war.
Among the most scenic, if difficult stretches to reach, is Nilaveli Beach in the Tamil north. While a few military checkpoints remain, vacationers can lounge on poolside hammocks under palm trees or snorkel in its crystal-clear waters. Or they can order cocktails at the Nilaveli Beach Hotel (www.tangerinehotels.com/nilavelibeach), a collection of recently renovated bungalows with private terraces.
An international airport in Matara, on the island’s southern shore, is under construction, which will make the gorgeousbeaches near the seaside village of Galle easier to get to. Decimated by the tsunami in 2004, the surrounding coastline is now teeming with stylish guesthouses and boutique hotels.
Unawatuna, a crescent-shaped beach a few miles south of Galle, may be furthest along. Higher-end hotels there include Thambapanni Retreat (www.thambapanni.biz), which features four-poster beds, yoga and an ayurvedic spa. The Sun House (www.thesunhouse.com), in Galle, looks like a place where the Queen of England might stay, with its mango courtyard and colonial d├ęcor. One stylish place tucked within Galle’s city walls is the Galle Fort Hotel (www.galleforthotel.com), a refurbished gem merchant’s house run by a couple of Aussies. — Lionel Beehner
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Monday, January 11, 2010

52 Weekends: Go somewhere different every week

January 1 - 3: Rhythm & Vines festival in New Zealand

Be the first in the world to ring in the new decade at New Zealand’s annual music festival, Rhythm & Vines, according to leading New Zealand travel website NewZealand.com. Set in a vineyard in the hilly coastal town of Gisborne, one of the first places in the world to see the sun, Rhythm & Vines is the biggest New Year’s Eve party in the country. Pitch a tent among the grape rows, groove to three days of live music, and keep hydrated with rivers of Sauvignon Blanc. Remember: it’s summer in the Sourthern Hemisphere, so pack your jandals (kiwi for flip flops.) For the full post CLICK HERE.
NewZealand.com is a leading website for traveling in New Zealand.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
January 8 - 10: Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is like Disneyland but at -10 degrees Celsius declares award-winning online travel community VirtualTourist. Master sculptors from around the world fly in to carve intricate ice towers, many of which are several stories high. When the spires are lit up by neon lights, you’ll feel like you’re wandering through the Magic Kingdom. Harbin, having once been under Russian rule, still reflects its colonial past from architecture to food to souvenirs for the folks back home (nesting dolls, anyone?). For the full post CLICK HERE.
VirtualTourist is an award-winning online travel community.

Pongal festival
January 15 - 17: Pongal Festival in Chennai

According to TheCityGuidePongal is a spectacular harvest festival held every January in Chennai. For four days, the city turns into a colorful canvas for celebrations. Tamil Hindus offer thanks to cattle and deities, engage in bull taming sports and eat sweet rice that bubbles over the vessel for good luck. (Post coming Tuesday, January 11)
TheCityGuide is a leading leisure and entertainment website in India.

January 22 - 24: Boracay International Funboard Competition

Travel blog Langyaw's author Estan Cabigas provides the perfect weekend: The International Funboard Competition in Boracay. It is one of the largest annual windsurfing races in Asia, attracting hundreds of surfers and kiters from around the world. There’s ocean fun for everyone: Pros compete for titles, while amateurs take lessons from the region's best surfers. When the sun sets on the island, the revelry kicks up and rages until the next morning.
Estan Cabigas is a traveller, photographer and creator of the travel blog Langyaw.

January 29 - 31: The Australian Open in Melbourne

The City of Melbourne hosts the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. From January 18-31, the world's top players -- including Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams -- will duke it out in the searing summer heat. Who will make a comeback, and who will suffer a meltdown? Grab a courtside seat and find out.
Mr & Mrs Smith is a leading guide for boutique and luxury hotels around the world.

February 5 - 7: Sapporo Snow Festival

Starting from six statues built by six high school kids, the Sapporo Snow Festival has grown into a blockbuster with hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures, millions of visitors and countless live shows. Tourism website Japanican.com suggests that after a long day of wandering and skating, to wrap your hands around a steaming bowl of ramen. A bottle of Sapporo beer will make you an authentic member of this jolly crowd.
Bryan Reynolds is director of the Japanese tourism website Japanican.com.

February 12 - 14: Chinese New Year in the heart of China -- Beijing

Like the firecrackers whizzing overhead, the capital of China explodes into color when the New Year arrives. Red flags and dragons frolic in the streets; children wobble on stilts and reach for lucky money. The spirited activities and tasty dumplings sold in the streets will satiate the most jaded of locals. By Yi Wang.

February 19 - 21: The Carnival in Goa, India

Leisure and entertainment website TheCityGuide exclaims that Goa, India has a reputation as a hedonistic hippie paradise -- and for three days, the state turns into a bacchanal worthy of the Romans. When the sequined drag queens striking poses on parade floats and the rainbow body paint begins to hurt your eyes, find refuge in a temple or under a waterfall.
TheCityGuide is a leading leisure and entertainment website in India.

February 26 - 28: The 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada

The final weekend of Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games, will be the pinnacle of Canada’s 17-day celebration of snow sports, according to the official tourism website for Vancouver, Tourism Vancouver. The ocean and mountain wrapped city of Vancouver -- consistently voted one of the most livable cities in the world -- will be overflowing with parties, sporting events, buff athletes and visitors from over the globe. Spot the world’s top winter athletes then eat, drink and party in cosmopolitan Vancouver.  
Tourism Vancouver is a leading resource for travelling in Vancouver.

March 5 - 7: International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh

Yoga masters try to visit Rishikesh at least once in their lives, and even John Lennon made a pilgrimage at the peak of his spiritual fervor. At this annual gathering, yoga practitioners take lessons with revered masters, eat vegetarian food, participate in charity events and enjoy breathtaking views of the Himalayas. By the end of the weekend, your soul will feel as clear as a crystal.

March 12 - 14: Damascus and Aleppo in Syria

If you can only spend a weekend in Syria, then hop between Damascus and Aleppo, two cities vying for the title of “oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.” UrbaneNomads's Hajar Ali says that Damascus is a thriving cosmopolitan hub where centuries of culture mix with modernity. Aleppo retains the charms of old Syria with its authentic hammams (Turkish baths), imposing Citadel and mysterious tekkes (Sufi buildings).  
Hajar Ali is the founder of UrbaneNomads, a luxury travel company that promotes off-the-beaten track and intelligent tourism.

March 19 - 21: Istanbul

The ancient Roman city of Constantinople, the Byzantine capital of Byzantium, the longstanding capital of the Ottoman Empire, and now the fifth biggest city in the world, Istanbul retains all the different cultures that have passed through, blending them into a unique mix of east and west, antiquity and modernity, exhilaration and relaxation. Early spring is the best time to visit, as the mild weather is perfect for dipping into Turkish baths and perusing Istanbul's bustling outdoor bazaars.
Hajar Ali is the founder of UrbaneNomads, a luxury travel company that promotes off-the-beaten track and intelligent tourism.

March 26 - 28: Rough and tumble Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is a massive, once-a-year bacchanal that is almost as much about the sport as it is the booze. While fleshy thugs fight for the oval ball in the stadium, all around the city hordes of body-painted fans give way to bottomless drinks and rowdy cheer. By Andrea Fenn, CNNGo editorial intern.

April 2 - 4: Easter Celebrations in Sydney, Australia

Road Less Travelled blogger Neerav Bhatt declares Easter is the perfect time to visit Sydney: The weather is cool, the sky is clear and the city offers plenty of events. There’s the Sydney Royal Easter Show (a parade of Easter cheer), Golden Slipper Festival (the richest day of horseracing) and the country's biggest surfing festival. Here are some insider tips on how to get to events, where to stay, and what to eat.  
Neerav Bhatt is a professional Australian blogger and author ofRoad Less Travelled.

April 9 - 11: Songkran Pouring of Water Festival in Chiang Mai

Songkran or the Pouring of Water Ritual is one of Thailand’s most important festivals, according to Lin Zhiqiang of travel blog PassportChop. Songkran marks the beginning of the Thai Lunar New Year. While the official dates of Songkran are April 13 - 15, the celebration could start as early as the weekend before and last as long as the entire week. The best place to soak in the revelry is in the streets of Chiang Mai, where throngs of people stand in rows with buckets and hoses to douse passersby.  
Lin Zhiqiang is the author of PassportChop, one of the most popular travel blogs in Asia.

April 16 - 18: Cherry blossom season in Kanazawa, Japan

Japanican.com's Bryan Reynolds believes Japan’s cherry blossoms have inspired poets for centuries, their brief lifespan drawing even the most hardened recluses out of their winter blues. Only in bloom for a week or two, forecasting sakura season is never an exact science. But on this April weekend, the cherry trees of Kanazawa in central Japan should make for a stunning addition to Kenrokuen, the most famous of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens.  
Bryan Reynolds is the director of Japanese tourism website Japanican.com.

April 23 - 25: Hoi An, Vietnam: Foodie and fashionista haven

iTravelVietnam.com decrees that former trading port, Hoi An (not to be confused with its anagram counterpart Hanoi), is a worthy stop on the tourist trail. The architecture from the 16-19th centuries is a blend of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese styles: brightly colored silk lanterns hang in the doorways and light the streets in a pastel glow. Hoi An is also a haven for food and fashion fans. Tailors line the streets and can duplicate almost any item of clothing from a photo or description. Bespoke shoes and bags are also on order. So if your budget doesn't stretch to Jimmy Choos, Hoi An is a great opportunity to get couture copied.  
Thanks to Jessie Richardson, Managing Editor of iTravelVietnam.com.

April 30 - May 2: Shanghai World Expo 2010

CNReviews blog author Kai Pan has Shanghai figured out. This May, the 2010 World Expo comes to Shanghai. Billions have been invested into upgrading the city’s infrastructure, not only to impress incoming foreign visitors but also to equip this growing metropolis for its increasingly international future. Like during the roaring 1920s before the Communist Revolution, Shanghai is showing off some leg as the premier city of mainland China.  
Kai Pan is a Shanghai-based entrepreneur, and the outspoken author of the eclectic CNReviews blog.

May 7 - 9: Rocket Festival in Thailand

Every sixth or seventh month of the lunar calendar, Yasothon in north-eastern Thailand emerges from its long provincial sleep with the Rocket Festival, locally known as Bun Bang Fai. User-generated CommuniTrip provides the scoop on the three-day event marked with wild music and dancing and a parade of oxcarts strewn with banners and mock missiles, the festival culminates with rockets whizzing through the sky, leaving billows of white vapors. Visitors stand agape as locals challenge each other with their homemade rockets, comparing heights reached, distances covered and the quality of vapor trails.  
CommuniTrip is a user-generated travel guide and travel social network.

May 14 - 16: The Feast of the Drunken Dragon in Macau

LuxuryInsider shows you how to have a little drunken fun in style this weekend. Rooted in local legend, the Macau Drunken Dragon Festival is a spiritually uplifting celebration of public drunkenness. Seriously. A bunch of guys dress up as dragons and parade about town, pausing frequently to get sloshed. Repeat until everyone passes out.  
LuxuryInsider is one of Asia's leading luxury online magazines.

May 21 - 23: Singapore Arts Festival

Global boutique guide Mr & Mrs Smith suggest a mind-expanding weekend of cutting-edge dance, theatre, visual arts and music at the month-longSingapore Arts Festival, which runs from May 14 to June 1 and is the biggest event on the city’s arts calendar. See specially-commissioned works by Singaporean, Asian and international creative types, as well as free outdoor performances across the island. After overdosing on culture, there are tempting bars, restaurants, shops and hotels to ensure a stay is more than just intellectually stimulating.  
Mr & Mrs Smith is a leading guide for boutique and luxury hotels around the world.

May 28 - 30: Sailing down the Mekong River in Laos

Compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors’ massive tourism markets, Laos is a bit of a mysterioso, and so is a perfect destination for a laid-back getaway. From herbal saunas to sizzling street food and a stunning riverside view, sensory overload awaits. Explore the recently discovered Chong Ong cave and take a float down the Mekong River.  
Contribution by Hajar Ali, the founder of UrbaneNomads, a luxury travel company that promotes off-the-beaten track and intelligent tourism.

June 4 - 6: Jeju Island, South Korea

Jessica Ong, from South Korean lifestyle magazine Kozine, gives the inside look at Jeju Island for this weekend. Thanks to its isolated location, warm weather and romantic tropical image, Jeju Island is a favorite spot for honeymooners and tourists. It’s no surprise that UNESCO designated the Korean isle a Natural Heritage, she says. For a belly laugh, visit Love Land, the sex-themed amusement park.  
Jessica Ong is a journalist for Kozine, one of South Korea's leading lifestyle magazines.

Kalb Bay
June 11 - 13: 2010 World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa

This would be a great weekend to spend in South Africa, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off and the cheering starts with the sound of a vuvuzela (stadium horn). Joy-Anne Goodenough, of travel blog Portfolio Collection, suggests that between the matches, enjoy Cape Town’s placid beauty and oceanic landscapes for an unforgettable weekend of football, wine and nature.
Joy-Anne Goodenough is the author of award-winning travel blog Portfolio Collection.

June 18 - 20: The Dragon Boat Races in Hong Kong

Tradition, ritual and sportsmanship are all said to be hallmarks of Hong Kong’s Dragon Boat Festival according to life-long expat Rory Boland. The event’s also an excuse for thousands of boiled-under-the-midday-sun-spectators to storm the city’s beaches, before tucking into imperial sized picnics and making sandcastles out of drained beer cans. But the pull remains the Dragon Boat races. These spectacular competitions see teams of twenty rowers lock oars in breakneck canoe races that are the aqua-bound version of drag car racing.
Rory Boland is a life-long expat and the official HK guide of About.com.

June 25 - 27: Sri Lanka's inland empire

Sri Lanka's mountainous inland offers the most disparate set of attractions, from the ancient capital of the Lankan kingdom, to the sacred and nearly inaccessible city of Sigiriya. Enjoy climbing temple-dotted mountains and exploring untouched forests. Don’t forget to take a picture with a friendly elephant.

July 2 - 4: Queenstown Winter Festival

Treat yourself to a ski break at New Zealand’s biggest winter party, held at its best-known extreme sports destination. The Queenstown Winter Festival is a 10-day celebration in the ultra-scenic heart of the South Island, where the dramatic snow-covered Remarkables mountains meet serene Lake Wakatipu. Expect street parties, music, food and adrenalin-fuelled snow sports events from June 25 to July 4; then hit the slopes to show off your moves.  
Countribution courtesy of Mr & Mrs Smith -- a leading guide for boutique and luxury hotels around the world.

July 9 - 11: Shandur Polo Festival

Polo is a sport facing extinction, you say? The memo hasn’t reached the people of Shandur, who have been holding a polo competition for 800 years in the mountains of Kashmir, on the highest polo ground in the world, says Hajar Ali. For two days, rival villages challenge each other in the Game of Kings. While in the past the losing team would face death, now it’s all about providing a fun and picturesque show for viewers.
Hajar Ali is the founder of UrbaneNomads, a luxury travel company that promotes off-the-beaten track and intelligent tourism.

July 16 - 18: Pulau Macan Island, Indonesia

Snorkeling amongst coral that first appears splattered with graffiti; waking up to waves lapping at an open-air bungalow; fresh sushi from fish caught only hours before. Brandon Hoover of TheJavaJive blog tells us that all this is possible on the tiny island of Pulau Macan, only a 90 minute boat ride from Jakarta. From the eco-friendly approach to conservation, to the organic and healthy cuisine offered, the island is a welcome respite from Jakarta. To be checked out while it’s still a secret.  
Brandon Hoover is a photographer, engineer/designer, traveller and author of the photography blogTheJavaJive.

July 23 - 25: Fuji Rock Festival in Fuji, Japan

Craig Exton of TokyoGigGuide wants you to go to the Fuji Rock Festival. So do we. The Fuji Rock Festival is said to be the safest and cleanest music festival in the world. In the picturesque mountains of Niigata, thousands of music fans gather on an enormous ski resort and wander around grinning in the rain. This is Japan, so expect tasty food, perfect planning and plenty of weird but fun summer distractions.  
Craig Exton is a Japanese music scene expert and founder of TokyoGigGuide.

July 30 - August 1: Beiteddine Music Festival in Lebanon

The Beiteddine Music Festival is not only one of the most important festivals in the Middle East, attracting leading artists and jubilant crowds from around the world. It is also a storybook experience: set in the magnificent Beiteddine Palace, the festival promises moments of "One Thousand and One Nights" enthrallment. And when the music’s over, beautiful Beirut is just half an hour away.  
Contribution by Hajar Ali, the founder of UrbaneNomads, a luxury travel company that promotes off-the-beaten track and intelligent tourism.

August 6 - 8: Hawaii's "other islands" Lanai and Molokai

Surfers, scuba-divers and beach bums always make a beeline to Maui and the Big Island. Break away from the throng and discover Lanai, the most secluded and mysterious of the Hawaiian islands. Don’t leave out Molokai, once a refuge for defeated warriors and now a haven for those who enjoy tranquil white beaches, unspoiled rainforests and one of the world’s most coveted coffees.

August 13 - 15: Tsam dances of Mongolia

Once a year, a group of oddly-dressed dancers gathers on the mountains and performs days of uninterrupted frantic dances at the sound of heart-shaking drums. A rave? Hardly. It's the Tsam dances of Mongolia, one of the most awe-inspiring Buddhist festivals in Asia. Find spirituality in ancient temples, or simply enjoy the colorful dancers' costumes in Ulan Bataar and the surrounding grassland, says UrbaneNomads' Hajar Ali.

August 20 - 22: Qingdao International Beer Festival in Qingdao, China

Straight from the mouth of QingdaoChinaGuide's Colton Dirks comes a weekend of beer. A festival in honor of the nectar of the gods -- beer. Cheers to that! Every summer, Qingdao hosts the largest beer festival in Asia with international breweries from all over the globe flocking to the sandy shores of Shandong Province. Picture giant tables jammed with beer-swilling Chinese and beautiful women strutting on stage as the sound of gan bei (bottoms up) rings out. When the munchies strike, there are plenty of Chinese and Western options. And beautiful Shilaoren beach is only a 10 minute walk from Qingdao’s Beer City.
Colton Dirks has lived in Qingdao for more than five years, and is the managing director of QingdaoChinaGuide.

August 27 - 29: Hamilton Island Race Week in Queensland's Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Unwind in style at Hamilton Island Race Week, a chic affair held each year in the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. This is Australia’s largest offshore yachting regatta, with prestige sailing events attracting hundreds of competitors from August 20-28. Pack a mix of glam and sporty designer labels and try to bag yourself a room at luxe tropical resort Qualia, where the spa beckons once the sailing action’s over.
Contribution by Mr & Mrs Smith is a leading guide for boutique and luxury hotels around the world.

September 3 - 5: Nature basking in Madagascar

Madagascar is the biological paradise according to Rhett Butler, writer and founder of Mongabay. The island, a little larger than California, is home to bizarre and eclectic plants and animals that are just waiting to be discovered. A drive to the forest reserve of Perinet promises to be rewarded by sightings of jeweled chameleons, magnificent orchids and the indri, a lemur with a haunting song.
Rhett Butler, writer, conservationist and founder of Mongabay, a website focused on tropical rainforests like the Malagasy ones.

September 10 - 12: International Noodle Festival in Shanxi, China

It may seem odd that an entire festival is dedicated to noodles -- but in Shanxi province, noodles are a serious business. Held in the city of Taiyuan, the International Noodle Festival showcases the age-old craft of hand-making noodles side by side with modern technology that produces one of the world’s food staples. Cooking demonstrations and crash courses on the different varieties will fill up knowledge-hungry visitors. Shanxi has more than just noodles too. With 2,700 years of history, it’s a cradle of Chinese civilization and home to some of the most beautiful temples in China. With the noodle festival, Shanxi is pulling just one of its many cultural strings.  
Contribution sourced through CommuniTrip, the user-generated travel guide and travel social network.

September 17 - 19: Oktoberfest in Munich, and around the globe

Mention the world’s biggest beer festival and minds immediately turn to the Oktoberfest in Munich. Six million visitors troop to the 31-hectare Theresienweise Square every year to drink and be merry. Locals, who call the festival “Wiesn” (after the festival’s location), showed up late to the 2005 German elections because they were out boozing the previous night. A veritable theme park for those old enough to drink, the square showcases various attractions, such as a 3D space museum and cable car rides for the hard of stomach. The rest of the world has taken note: almost every country has its own version of Munich’s Oktoberfest. Let’s say prost to that!  
Contribution sourced through  CommuniTrip.

September 24 - 26: Formula One Grand Prix, Singapore

Attracting over 100,000 spectators and more than 110 million TV viewers worldwide, Singapore is the place to be for the F1 Grand Prix night street race, says Lin Zhiqiang. Besides on-track high-speed action, spectators are treated to pre- and post-race parties with top DJs and international entertainers.  
Lin Zhiqiang is the author of PassportChop, one of the most popular travel blogs in Asia.

October 1 - 3: Commonwealth Games in New Delhi

The weekend before the Commonwealth Games (which start on October 3 in New Delhi) hums with celebrations and preparations. Smita Dhall, of Ghumakkar, asks what better time to visit India's capital, a microcosm of all the sights, smells and sounds the sub-continent has to offer? Visit New Delhi’s classic heritage sites, sample the fragrant vegetarian cuisine, and shop til you drop at the sprawling malls and markets.  
Smita Dhall, traveller and author of Ghumakkar.

October 8 - 10: MotoGP in Kuala Lumpur

On this weekend, the fast and the furious descend on Kuala Lumpur for the annual MotoGP at the Sepang track. Dedicated followers of petrol fumes and two-wheeled shenanigans are advised to get up to speed on the racing season, because this town loves its motorsports and even amateurs are not shy about showing off their skills. For those less needy for speed, the city has a lion’s share of culture and cuisine.  
Contribution by LuxuryInsider is Asia's leading luxury online magazine.

October 15 - 17: Illuminated Boat Procession in Thailand

TheLandOfSmiles blog offers insights into the Land of Smiles this weekend. The annual Illuminated Boat Procession marks the end of Buddhist lent. Citizens of Nakhon Phanom, in northern Thailand, welcome Buddha's return with a procession of brightly illuminated boats set ablaze and afloat on the Mekong. The eye-catching show is accentuated by colorful fireworks and the surrounding limestone mountains that border Laos.  
Talen is the author of the Thai blog ThailandLandOfSmiles and suggested this weekend getaway.

October 22 - 24: Trekking in Nepal

It’s October and the monsoon rains have washed through Nepal, leaving the air crystal clear. This is the ideal time to explore Nepal's world famous mountains, Everest and Annapurna, and dive into outdoor adventures if you want to listen to what Jaime and Martin Engstrom of travel blog SeatOfOurPants. Kathmandu is the perfect jumping-off point, so let's lace up those snow shoes and see what adventures the north has to offer.  
Jaime and Martin Engstrom are the couple behind SeatOfOurPants, a fun and informative travel blog about their life on the road.

October 29 - 31: Melbourne Cup Carnival

Book a room early if you want to hit Australia’s biggest horseracing event -- the Melbourne Cup is known as the horse race that stops the nation. The equine fun kicks off with Derby Day on October 30, followed by Emirates Melbourne Cup Day, Crown Oaks Day and Emirates Stakes Day if you are around longer than the weekend. The big race is actually on the Tuesday, November 2, so best to make this a long weekend if you are traveling. With fabulously fashionable trackside parties and picnics, this is a chance to catch Melbourne with a spring in its step. Pack a hat worthy of the Queen Mother.
Contribution by Mr & Mrs Smith.

November 5 - 7: Colombo World Spice Festival

Home to some of the most refined teas, coffees and herbs, Sri Lanka already has the reputation of being a scented island. Add to that the first and biggest spice festival in the world, and you have enough to pamper your senses for an entire weekend. Fill your belly with aromatic cuisine, and don't forget that in Sri Lanka, it's never too cold for a swim in the tropical sea.  
Contribution by Hajar Ali of UrbaneNomads.

November 12 - 14: Guangzhou's East Asian Games

Travelers to China tend to overlook Guangzhou, but on this weekend, nothing can steal the city’s thunder. The East Asian Games promise to open with a bang, bringing together elite athletes as well as tourists from the surrounding region. As one of China’s first “open” cities, Guangzhou prides itself as an entertainment veteran: try browsing though street markets, relaxing on a deluxe dinner cruise, and savoring the culture of Cantonese tea houses.

November 19 - 21: Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Cambodia remains a nation of mystery, and no temple holds more fascination than Angkor Wat. November marks the start of the dry season, which is the best time to marvel at the Khmer architecture. Siem Riep, a charming city with a mix of Chinese and colonial influences, is only a few miles away.

November 26 - 28: Lamu Cultural Festival in Kenya

While the main celebration in Lamu is Maulidi (the commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad), the Cultural Festival is probably the only time you’re guaranteed to see a Swahili wedding, a decidedly elaborate affair consisting of stick dances, henna painting and nights of segregated revelry. This is all set in the beautiful old Lamu town, with maze-like alleys, exotic sights and legends of a lost city that will enchant you at first sight.
Contribution by Hajar Ali of UrbaneNomads.

December 3 - 5: Art Basel Miami Beach

Given its party-hard Cuban culture, pastel-pretty buildings, stylish shops and sun-kissed beaches, you don’t need an excuse to visit Miami. But Florida’s funkiest city really turns it on for Art Basel Miami Beach from December 2-5. Sister event to Switzerland’s prestigious Art Basel, the event attracts over 250 top galleries, with events held in the art deco district near the ocean and fringe festivities covering music, film, architecture and design. Did we mention the parties?  
Contribution by  Mr & Mrs Smith.

December 10 - 12: Get warm in Taiwan's hot springs

Todd Alperovitz, author of The Daily Bubbletea, thinks Taiwan is a beautiful island. When the Portuguese arrived in Taiwan in 1544, they named the island Ilha Formosa, meaning “Beautiful Island.” And you’ll nod in agreement on your first visit: Despite being smaller than most US states, Taiwan offers a huge variety of attractions, modern skyscrapers, world-class museums, bustling night markets, stunning mountains, and more importantly the rejuvenating hot springs. During the weekend of December 10-12, there’s the added attraction of the Taipei International Flora Expo.  
Todd Alperovitz is a teacher, cyclist and author of travel blog, The Daily Bubbletea.

December 17 - 19: Spring in Tasmania

Tasmania is home of some of the most striking and unspoiled natural landscapes you could imagine. Trek around the spectacular Bay of Fires, watch wildlife in the best-preserved ecosystem of the world, or cycle on silent and winding forest roads. If what you need is a refuge from the crowds before the Christmas frenzy, then enjoying spring in Tasmania is the perfect way to spend a December weekend.

December 24 - 26: Christmas celebrations in Manila

The Philippines prides itself as the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia, so Christmas is a much-anticipated event according to Estan Cabigas of the travel blog Langyaw. As soon as the '-ber' months commence, expect to hear carols on the airwaves and see Yuletide cheer in malls and homes. Manila’s traditional Xmas festivities are the perfect excuse to visit. Just don’t exclaim in wide-eyed wonder, “Wow, a lighted Christmas tree and Santa figures in the middle of September!”  
Estan Cabigas is a traveller, photographer and creator of the travel blog Langyaw.

Read more: 52 Weekends: Go somewhere different every week | CNNGo.comhttp://www.cnngo.com/explorations/none/52-weekends#ixzz0cJcbN5HJ

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