I have attracted the envious stares of friends each time I've rambled about some unheard spots visited in India or abroad. So it did come as a surprise when a friend described her thrilling encounter with a cheetah in Africa. "Oh, you visited?" I asked. "Only via webcam," she said.
Welcome to the wonderful world of virtual vacations. You no longer need to plan breaks, book hotel rooms, share space with strangers or spend a single rupee to take a break. Through live streaming done on webcams, panoramic videos and voiceovers in several languages, a round trip around the world is just a click away.
Art story: Art lovers worldwide are taking free walking tours of the world's best museums with the Google Art Project. Topping the list of must-visit spots are The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery in London, The Palace of Versailles in France, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and their many masterpiece on display. Recently, the NGMA and the National Museum were added to the list, providing an Indian flavour. The best part,
there is no closing time and no fellow art lover can nudge you to move on. Worth a visit!
Go wild: Several zoos and safaris offer live streaming via webcams to help you observe wildlife without actually visiting the place. Take for example Africam.com that has tied up with Tembe National Elephant Park and Nkorho Pan. Cameras placed around waterholes let you watch a cheetah or deer headed for a drink. Cameras with stereo audio and night-vision are on offer, as are sighting alerts via Facebook and Twitter. The option of watching recorded highlights is available too.
Similarly, the National Zoo in the US has webcams to let you observe cheetahs, flamingos, elephants and pandas while the pandas, apes, and polar bears at the San Diego Zoo too are just a click away. And for an undersea experience, do try webcams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Such a wonder: If you are a history buff or into natural and man-made wonders, browsing through Armchair Travels' virtual tours is worth the effort. From a walk around the Taj Mahal in Agra to walking down the same aisle as Kate Middleton at Westminister Abbey, this website has it all. At the Taj, tourists can avail of maps to explore 22 different areas of the monument and gardens through 360Â° panoramas, maps,narrated mini-movies, music and text. The website offers similar tours of St Paul's Cathedral, Chatham Historic Dockyard and Royal Botanic Gardens in London. A visit to Niagara Falls and Clifton Hill too can be crossed off your bucket list by logging on to cliftonhill.com.
And if you wish to know what the inside of the British Parliament or what the White House looks like, Armchair Travel and Google Project let you roam down the hallways where once Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln walked.
Take a walk: But if it is just the feel of the place that you are looking for, some tours offer precisely that. Armchair Travels has virtual tours to the famous cities of Oman, a trip around Berlin, London's Piccadilly Circus, and a number of beaches in Normandy used during World War II. View A City too has walks up and down the bylanes of Boston and New York in the US. And don't be afraid of getting lost. A detailed map is given to each tourist to help you complete their journey.
So this May, where are you headed?