Digital Vacations Part 1 - Digital Vacations Ahoy - Beat Boredom This Summer!
BY MANIDIPA MANDAL
This is part 1 of a planned 4-part series on digital vacations. In part 1 here, we focus on digital vacations that center around global culture and heritage.
Summer’s here, school’s out—and none of us are going anywhere.
Sigh. It’s hard enough for adults to adjust to the Covid-19 crisis, but for the kids, the summer holidays are hot and interminable…
Now, add to that the frustration of cancelled plans with friends/grandparents and foreign/domestic trip tickets in the bin, and you’ll need a lot of cheese to go with all that whine. ;)
So how do you cope?
We suggest virtual travel for 2020, then. Call it the responsible tourism of the future—and this iconic decade.
Below, we suggest itineraries to suit all ages and stages, various interests and abilities. And please, let us know your ideas in the comments.
#livelocal in India
Taj Mahal, Agra
- Start off with Incredible India’s #DekhoApnaDesh webinar series,- the main website has plenty of lovely images to browse through as well, though that definitely requires parental guidance as information is relatively scarce. We’d say start with maybe grade 3 and up to avoid frustration. We recommend starting at the top, in Ladakh, working your way across Punjab, Delhi, Awadh, Varanasi, Bhopal to the North-East, and down through Bengal, then Pondicherry, Mamallapuram and Goa, finally returning to the Golden Triangle space to Sariska. For older children, the discussions around women in tourism and inclusive travel destinations are worthwhile conversation starters.
- After that, you could choose a city to explore or a theme. We like Delhi Food Walks’ series of gastronomic city tours. For a more varied metropolitan flavor, consider this interactive city-walk map for Kolkata—particularly evocative if your children have a tenuous connection to the city, like a grandparent in residence. Similarly, in Mumbai, you could stop by the Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, an Art Deco icon on Marine Drive, and maybe the Bandra–Worli Sealink bridge. You also just must do the Taj Mahal.
- There’s a good bit of history and craftsmanship online at the National Museum in Delhi and the Indian Museum in Kolkata; follow up with maybe the Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad, the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, the National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai.
- If you have you ever struggled to get a middle-school child to value Indian music over Anglophilic and Bollywood-centric hit lists, this brief and light overview of folk and classical music, looking from the outside in, might be just the springboard. If they’re ready for a deeper immersion, the Indian Express’ Pandit Chatur Lal Festival is online on Instagram—just follow the Indian Express handle. But India’s performance arts are not just classical, of course. People travel for festivals that include everything from pop and jazz to contemporary theatre—which is why this year, the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai is bringing it all home to you.
- And then, don't forget to (re)discover national capital Delhi—Jantar Mantar, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb... Here's a workbook when you're done, and these folks have some cool trivia on their Instagram account too.
Island city Singapore
One of our favourite vacation spots for family-friendly accessibility and hygiene, this easy-to-reach Asian holiday spot has no off-season and plenty of Indian flavour in the five-culture melting pot that cooks up its very contemporary vibe. While we’ll miss the wonderful wildlife experiences—breakfast with the birds at Jurong Bird Park, the River Safari and Night Safari, and the Singapore Zoo, of course—there’s still a lot of fun to be had. It’s not all hip and hectic, despite Orchard Road.
- Us adults, we’re saving money not going to the Great Singapore Sale this year; but the Singapore Heritage Festival goes online on 19 June.
- Nature lovers will likely enjoy this little clip of the hugely underrated Sungei Buloh nature reserve, through the eyes of a diasporic Indian guide, and some live cams here.
- Explore Sentosa, a totally different ambience, through the little attraction videos—quite the kaleidoscope, ending with a spot of sunset therapy.
- Singapore’s a busy nation, so you will barely have time to glance into the galleries of the Asian Civilisations Museum, but linger more on the National Gallery’s downloads and catch a glimpse of the Keppel Centre for Art Education for children as young as 4 years old.
- For the older bunch, the famous durian-shaped Esplanade—Theatre by the Bay is now online, Offstage.
- Revision as you sail off the island, here.
Age: All ages.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
From Hue to Hoi An by way of Halong Bay, Vietnam’s tourism department is acing it with these virtual tours. It’s not just the phoenix literally risen from the wars; here’s a heritage and a focus on sustainability not talked about nearly enough in the world. If you never considered a sojourn there, we’ll leave the kids to pester you too.
Ages: All old souls.
- Always ancient, yet never old—that’s what the pyramids of Giza feel like on this Google Maps discovery.
- You can explore its other sites and monuments—how about Queen Meresankh’s tomb?—as well as the artefacts in its museums courtesy the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities too.
Age: Best for middle school and up.
Gott lieb Germany!
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Europe, of course, has to be on this list—it’s the traditional summer destination for the aspirational Indian, right?
- Well, this year, we say drive through Deutschland, and start offbeat with the Porsche museum!
- Continue by way of Bavaria—this will be a substantial trip, complete with snacks and a fascinating assortment of stories—to the former-kingdom, now free state, of Saxony, from Leipzig to Dresden (you’ll find some virtuoso musical performances from the Dresden Music Festival here, if your teens are keen).
- That countryside seems so far away from hectic Berlin (you’ll need to curate a bit for your kids) and its devastating Wall, or the varied vistas of Stuttgart (you can even ‘fly in’).
- Finally, end on the fairy tale note of Neuschwanstein Castle, which you might notice provided inspiration for the iconic Disney logo.
Age: About 5 years and up.
Pic of Sweden's National Flag
- So often, the Scandinavian chic we see on social media is spare and bare, no? Well, a far richer picture emerges over on the Virtual Sweden site. You might be forgiven for checking whether we mistakenly took you to Italy or the south of France, with such artistic decadence. But it’s just one layer of the Swedish princess cake.
- The fabled love of nature is the sweet, green frosting over it all, visually as arresting.Check how that link to nature and sustainability is feeding into modern Swedish smart-city plans too.
- And then let the kids explore safely at will here—Swedish society is extremely respectful and accommodating of children.
- And here’s another mixed bag of Swedish history, culture and ecology, for good measure.
- Of course, Stockholm needs seeing.
- That checked off, return to the soothing spaces—in Lapland this time, again with the aurora and the (in)famous ICEHOTEL.
Age: Elementary school and up, with parental guidance.
The London Eye, United Kingdom
- Arrive, of course, on the London Underground (while you’re on that ride, check out the underground mail and the 100-year old postal railway!).
- Go on the iconic Red London Bus here through a virtual tour. Start with an overview, from right atop the London Eye, then a guided tour with a local. Slide under Tower Bridge (it’s not falling down this year at least!) and up the Tower of London.
- You can spend a whole week of nights at the British Museum and never get tired, we’re sure.
- The Natural History Museum is online, with Dippy the diplodocus greeting you in the entrance foyer, and the Zoo too.
- Children will like many of the exhibitions at the British Library too, including a review of Alice in Wonderland reimagined over the last 150 years. If you have a young ballerino or ballerina at home, take them to a performance at the Royal Opera House.
- The Courtauld Gallery has been shut for redevelopment a while, but their up-close-and-personal virtual tours show off every brush stroke for your child artist. We also recommend the V&A’s fashion collection.
- And of course, Shakespeare’s Globe.
- Return next day to walk through Westminster Abbey, and the Crown's many palaces and residences, and Buckingham Palace and all the other royal residences too.
- A little ways out of town, the Kew Gardens are also online—bluebell woods, kitchen garden, pretty rockery, 10-climate conservatory and all, it’s just too pretty and soothing to overlook.
- To round up your tour, complete this workbook to see how much you learnt and can recollect still.
Age: Preschool and up, depending upon their interests.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
- Start here for a quick overview, especially of the primary-age children.
- There’s the Eiffel Tower, but we actually think it only makes sense with a lot of weight of literature and movies behind it.
- The Arc de Triomphe is here.
- Of course, you need to stop at the Louvre, and don’t think it’s too stuffy for kids—from Hercules to Darth Vader, there’s a lot to appeal.
- Oh, and did you know Paris has three replicas of the Statue of Liberty?
- We also like, for tweens and up, the Musee d’Orsay’s collection, spanning Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas… May we also recommend the Musee de l’Orangerie?
- If the children have some idea of European history from the 18th and 19th century already, we encourage a trip down to the catacombs, which used to be a mausoleum owned by the Catholic Church.
- They can also enjoy the solemn organ music inside the Sacre–Coeur Basilica.
- On the other hand, all but the very youngest preschoolers will be amazed by the stained glass wrappings of the Sainte Chapelle.
- Also impressive is a walk through the Palais Garnier, the national opera house, with its frothy gilded panels and underground lake.
- There’s also the glass-topped Grand Palais, and the Monnaie, the mint—these are some of the places we’d probably leave off the itinerary for an actual family trip with youngsters, but here, we think you can control for boredom and exhaustion better.
- Afterwards, you can trail outside the city, down to Versaille.
- And alas, we can’t feed you like the French would, but this look into a French bakery at 4am will tell you what serious business bread and desserts are.
Age: Preschool and up, being a mixed bag.
Tokyo Tower, Tokyo
- The Olympics have been upheld, yes, and you have missed the cherry-blossom season, hanami.
- But you can still see the Land of the Rising Sun and stop by the Hitachi Seaside Park.
- Here’s a great overview to start with, and then you should certainly take the train, punctually.
- In the capital city, the curators themselves walk you through the Tokyo National Museum, in addition to English videos of its exhibits. This collection is neatly catalogued for easy viewing by youngsters keen on, say, samurai costumes or ninjutsu.
- Also stop by the Edo Tokyo Museum, the best place to explore this architectural period.
- Then see a livestream of Shibuya Crossing, climb Tokyo Tower, and relax with the monkeys in a hot spring at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
- Speaking of lucky animals, you must pause at a Neko cat café.
- Then take a peaceful ramble around Shukkeien Garden, laid out 400 years ago, complete with bonsai, koi pond, and tea house.
- You can also go gaze at Mount Fuji, and then seek out Japan’s answer to Switzerland—Niseko Village.
Himeji Castle, Japan
- Compare Tokyo with neighbours across the seasons too.
- Then watch Valley of the Dolls on the Nagoro Scarecrow Village.
- Totoro fans will want to visit the Ghibli Museum too; your older child may also enjoy the interactive Galerie Perrotins exhibits and the teamLab Borderless digital art museum—marvellous.
- Even more exciting is riding the Thunder Dolphin at the Tokyo Dome, and Yomiuriland, and a dekko at the 114-year-old battleship Mikasa. I
- f you feel up to visiting Gunkanjima, Japan’s battleship island, now’s the time to explore its past and present.
- Afterwards, calm down with some Taoist Zen meditation, complete with private Buddhlist monk, or some Zazen.
- If your children are too young to keep the faith yet, consider some art meditation for mindfulness.
- Of course, that’s also the age group laughing their heads off at the potty humour at the Unko (‘poop’) Museum.
- The more elevated soul may prefer the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, with ancient blacksmithing and historic artwork from around the world, both East and West—something not many European museums can lay claim to.
- There’s more fun to extend the trip on Kids Web Japan. Or you would stop at the fish market ahead of dinner. Or at the owl café.
- You could explore the ‘crow castle’ Matsumoto or the ‘heron’ Himeji castle. Then stop for a bowl of homemade Maggi ramen…
Flying visits and stopovers:
Machu Pichu, Peru
- Machu Pichu, a trip of a lifetime, starts here.
- Holland’s famous Keukenhof flower show went live online this year, and just wrapped up last week.
- Explore the fantastical Casa Batlo in Barcelona, discovering the gem doors and secret spots inside Gaudi’s building (the website also has more on Gaudi’s works and Barcelona’s Modernist moorings).
- The Met’s on Google, of course; their videos for their collection are an award-winner in themselves; and we recommend their timeline of art history too, for teens looking to understand the bigger picture.
- You can visit the Guggenheim from Home.
- Also better suited for high school (maybe middle school with some guidance) is this tour of the Vatican Museum, including the famous Sistine Chapel.
- The Van Gogh Museum’s collection is the largest of the artist’s works and memorabilia.
- See Vermeer, Rembrandt and other Dutch masters at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
- For teens and older, visit Anne Frank House.
- The Getty Museum in LA is not given the credit it deserves sometimes, though the Google Arts and Culture project recognizes it; the venue is beautiful too.
- The MOMA offers virtual viewing every Thursday.
- Girl power! Sort through everything Frida Kahlo at this virtual exhibit pulling together collections from 33 different repositories worldwide.
- Young citizen journalists, stop by the Newseum.
- Trek along the Great Wall of China, the only human-made structure visible all the way from space!
The Great Wall of China, China
- Explore the 18-member archipelago of the Faroe Islands in a first-of-its-kind remote tourism endeavour, where you are guided by a local—except you dictate where they go and what they do!
- Gawk at the Acropolis in Greece. Then continue to Crete, Corfu, Delphi, Olympia (of the Olympic Games), Eleusina, Messene, Lemnos, Delos, Odessa and more with the Greek Ministry of Tourism site You Go Culture.
- Then check out the Roman Colosseum, inside and out.
- Take a guided tour of Petra, Jordan—one of those vacations you probably won’t book except virtually.
- Walk around Angkor Wat’s ficus-strangled edifices, restored with help from our very own ASI.
- Investigate the mystery of Stonehenge and learn what we know of its past.
- A rare delight, hard to access in person, is the Chichen Itza ruins, centering on the Temple of Kukulcan, a Mayan serpent god.
- Take a tour of the Easter Islands, and find out more about these mysterious faces and more on the islands.
- Wend your way through a recreated 17th-century English village in Plimoth.
- Tons of walks and drives through Japan and the USA here from Wind Walk Travel.
- Take a boat to Ellis Island, and then take a tour inside the Statue of Liberty.
- Especially for the high-school cohort, consider the Out of Eden Walk project, which traces on the contemporary earth the migration of humankind across the globe.
- Speaking of, have you ever tried just spinning the wheel on Google Earth when you’re ‘feeling lucky’ (check for the dice button on the menu). It’s a great way to jumpstart yourself out of ennui—I got to the Venetian Islands off Miami, and I can promise it would never have occurred to me before!
- Also from Google, the Heritage on the Edge project looks at which of our heritage sites are in danger and why, and how communities with ownership of these world heritage icons are trying to save them with technology. Go save the world!
If you take one of these trips and like it, do leave us a line.
If you hate it, tell us why—and we’ll try and revise our work!
Should you have tried something we never thought to, please, please share right here so everyone else can follow in your famous footsteps.
Read part 2 on animals and their habitats here - (https://thenestery.in/blogs/journal/digital-safaris-visit-animals-and-their-habitats-from-your-home)
Read part 3 on natural wonders of the world and beyond here - (https://thenestery.in/blogs/journal/digital-vacations-natural-wonders-of-the-world-and-beyond)
Manidipa Mandal is a seven-year-old parent still learning about parenting. She also likes to read and write about ecology, biology (especially gender), food and travel.