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Peace On Earth A Wonderful Wish But No Way

Are we human because of unique traits and attributes not shared with either animal or machine? The definition of “human” is circular: we are human by virtue of the properties that make us human (i.e., distinct from animal and machine). It is a definition by negation: that which separates us from animal and machine is our “human-ness”.

We are human because we are not animal, nor machine. But such thinking has been rendered progressively less tenable by the advent of evolutionary and neo-evolutionary theories which postulate a continuum in nature between animals and Man.

Our uniqueness is partly quantitative and partly qualitative. Many animals are capable of cognitively manipulating symbols and using tools. Few are as adept at it as we are. These are easily quantifiable differences – two of many.

Qualitative differences are a lot more difficult to substantiate. In the absence of privileged access to the animal mind, we cannot and don’t know if animals feel guilt, for instance. Do animals love? Do they have a concept of sin? What about object permanence, meaning, reasoning, self-awareness, critical thinking? Individuality? Emotions? Empathy? Is artificial intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that passes the Turing Test may well be described as “human”. But is it really? And if it is not – why isn’t it?

Literature is full of stories of monsters – Frankenstein, the Golem – and androids or anthropoids. Their behaviour is more “humane” than the humans around them. This, perhaps, is what really sets humans apart: their behavioural unpredictability. It is yielded by the interaction between Mankind’s underlying immutable genetically-determined nature – and Man’s kaleidoscopically changing environments.

The Constructivists even claim that Human Nature is a mere cultural artefact. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, are determinists. They believe that human nature – being the inevitable and inexorable outcome of our bestial ancestry – cannot be the subject of moral judgment.

An improved Turing Test would look for baffling and erratic patterns of misbehaviour to identify humans. Pico della Mirandola wrote in “Oration on the Dignity of Man” that Man was born without a form and can mould and transform – actually, create – himself at will. Existence precedes essence, said the Existentialists centuries later.

The one defining human characteristic may be our awareness of our mortality. The automatically triggered, “fight or flight”, battle for survival is common to all living things (and to appropriately programmed machines). Not so the catalytic effects of imminent death. These are uniquely human. The appreciation of the fleeting translates into aesthetics, the uniqueness of our ephemeral life breeds morality, and the scarcity of time gives rise to ambition and creativity.

In an infinite life, everything materializes at one time or another, so the concept of choice is spurious. The realization of our finiteness forces us to choose among alternatives. This act of selection is predicated upon the existence of “free will”. Animals and machines are thought to be devoid of choice, slaves to their genetic or human programming.

Yet, all these answers to the question: “What does it mean to be human” – are lacking.

The set of attributes we designate as human is subject to profound alteration. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all cause irreversible changes in these traits and characteristics. The accumulation of these changes can lead, in principle, to the emergence of new properties, or to the abolition of old ones.

Animals and machines are not supposed to possess free will or exercise it. What, then, about fusions of machines and humans (bionics)? At which point does a human turn into a machine? And why should we assume that free will ceases to exist at that – rather arbitrary – point?

Introspection – the ability to construct self-referential and recursive models of the world – is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What about introspective machines? Surely, say the critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection is willed – WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover, the notion – if not the formal concept – of “human” rests on many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding – why presume that men and women (or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were not. A lot separates males from females – genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to these two sub-species that makes them both “human”?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonian Form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence separate from the body. A machine-supported energy field with mental states similar to ours today – would it be considered human? What about someone in a state of coma – is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human – or, at least, fully human – and, if so, in which sense? What about a future human race – whose features would be unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence – would it be thought of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing “human” with “person”. The former is a private case of the latter. Locke’s person is a moral agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted by the continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke’s is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human persons (machines, energy matrices) if the functional conditions are satisfied. Thus, an android which meets the prescribed requirements is more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes’ objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume that such “souls” possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable. Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a “person” as a “primitive”. Both the corporeal predicates and those pertaining to mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all the individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity. Some, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible persons to animals – but this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizes the personhood of a brain damaged human (“capable of experiencing”). It also incorporates Locke’s view of humans as possessing an ontological status similar to “clubs” or “nations” – their personal identity consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

Fact And Truth

Many people has the notion that enlightenment is one state. Many also believe that when it is attained, a person is forever in that state.

The following is not a definitive article on this subject. It is just an expression of my own thoughts.

My opinion is that enlightenment is not just one state but is a progressive and gradual establishing of states of consciousness.

I, myself have not reach the end of the road. But from years on a spiritual quest, I can safely say that enlightenment happens in a series or stages of self-realisations and self-discoveries.

Usually there is a difference between an initial awakening and a later stabilisation of that stage that happens through practice or experiences. The initial awakenings are new discoveries about the dynamics of consciousness, while the stabilisation is the assimilation of what is being discovered into one’s life experience. Sometimes, a new discovery can completely over-rule or modify upon an older one.

Almost all stages of enlightenment can be said to be associated with Presence. However, the enlightening Presence comes in various degrees of intensity and clarity. The degree of intensity is directly dependent on the level and depth of one’s clarity as well as one’s realisations/discoveries.

Also, as one progresses along, the relationship or connections of oneself to the universe and existence at large also becomes clearer.

Below very briefly illustrates the progressive and stage-based nature of enlightenment:

When one first begin meditating, one may first experience the all-pervading Presence. This Presence, is most often experienced when thoughts are momentarily suspended. This Presence which exists in the Eternal Present Moment is our true self.

However such an experience can only be classified as an awakening to the true self.. which is no-self. This is because, after the meditation, the Presence seems to have disappeared. One cannot understand and find the connection of presence to our everyday life. Therefore one will have difficulty re-acquiring the Presence. And it takes many stages and series of realisation to understand the relationship of Presence to our phenomenal world. It can be said that the prolonged sustaining of Presence is dependent on the stages and depth of realisation.

Also, during the earlier stages we may mistaken another state to be the pure presence. For example, we may mistaken ‘I AM’ for pure presence. This is because the thinking mind has created a reflective image of Pure Presence. This reflection of the absolute is ‘I AM’.

Usually, in order to pass through the ‘I AM’ stage, the person must move unto even deeper understandings. These understandings may include realising that one’s personality is not the doer of action. This stage may persist for a while before the person realises the illusion of subject-object division. This stage involves recognising the hypnotic impression of there being an observer and the being observed. Here is where one begins to see through the illusionary nature of our phenomenal world.

I cannot comment on the stages before me as they are beyond me. Nevertheless, one can still see from the above description that enlightenment is not so straight-forward after all.

For your necessary discernment. Thank you for reading.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

The following article covers a topic that has recently moved to center stage–at least it seems that way. If you’ve been thinking you need to know more about unconditional love, here’s your opportunity.

When darkness turns to day, the sun moves over the horizon and touches everything in sight. This movement across the landscape brightens everything. Such an illumination awakens us all. We rise with energy moving in and through us allowing us to create a new day. A day unique from all the rest and creatively woven into our soul.  This is the landscape of our soul. As you can see, nature has a way of showing us just how powerful we are. The same power that created the moon and the stars and the movement of all space and time lies within the human heart. It is the heart of creation itself, and perhaps, the heart of our Creator.

Human beings are fortunate to be able to be aware of our awareness. This awareness gives us an opportunity to reflect on our soul and find blessing in being alive. Our consciousness of a creative force inside us guiding us into this world, through it, and eventually to our eternal home allows us to fulfill a purpose on this earth.  Such a purpose is beyond our own ability to really know. Yet, we can open our heart enough to allow our purpose to find us. This is done by recognizing that the things in life that really matter ARE the things in life that isn’t matter.  Yes, it is our soul’s longing to fulfill the purpose for which we came to earth for. No one really knows how a baby is conceived totally. Science and human understanding still hasn’t been able to fully comprehend such a force of nature. We can only embrace what is beyond us and find a way to bring into being forces of nature such as a tiny child.  When a child is born, we are in awe. The miracle of birth creates something inside us all. It is the remembrance that life does not come from us. Instead, life comes through us. As such, we are living in a dream come true. All of us are probably living our soul’s purpose more than we know, and even, can know. It is the mystery of all mysteries.

This does not explain why some of us find peace and other’s find pain. But, such a philosophy will enable us all to find grace in knowing our lives create in our world facets of ourselves we all are a part of. An understanding of such grace gives every one of us a chance to find mercy and grace and the same unconditional love we came into the world with when we were born.

Samuel Oliver, author of, “What the Dying Teach Us: Lessons on Living”

Enlightenment Is Not Just One State

Watching the news the other day, it occurred to me that people who have “words to live by” often begin to attack and even kill others. I thought back to my own angry youth, when I could easily use words to justify violent thoughts which might have become violent actions. Words are tools, and yet it seems that they can be more dangerous than gunpowder.

Imagine two men facing each other, pointing past one another. One is pointing at a tornado that is coming, and the other at a raging fire headed towards them. Each sees their own truth and is angry at the sight of the other’s hand. Each feels that the other’s hand is “wrong.” This may seem silly, but replace the tornado and fire with any modern issues, and the hands with words, and this scene describes how we often try to communicate.

We point past each other with our words, arguing as though we are looking at the same facts and experiences. We want to prove our words are the right ones, instead of learning to look at what the other’s words are pointing at. Words are seductive, and for all their undeniable usefulness, they also can lead us away from understanding when we focus on them, when we make them more important than the truth they are meant to point at.

There Are No Words To Live By

This isn’t just about communication with others. We focus on, and get trapped in a net of words that we use to explain the world to ourselves. We call things “right” or “wrong” for example, according to how they compare to our “definitions.” Unlike mathematics, though, word formulas and definitions can never be so precise. They cannot encompass the whole truth of reality. For example, with the least effort, you can create a circumstance where “stealing” would be right, and “helping” someone wrong. This isn’t an argument against using language or logic. It is just that both only go so far. Like a car that takes you across the country or world, they are useful, but like a car, they are only useful in certain ways, and you have to get out of them when you arrive at your various destinations. Taking a car to the lake isn’t a problem, but taking it into the lake is. This is what we do when our words and logic take us to dangerous situations.

Can having words to live by be dangerous, though? Absolutely. I once heard an otherwise compassionate person say he was against animal cruelty laws because he couldn’t find a logical and defensible set of words to defend them. If he saw a new machine, would he refuse to believe it existed until he could explain it and describe it? Reality, and the reality of right and wrong exist outside of words – they are not the words themselves.

I watched a man say on the evening news that we have the right to drop a nuclear bomb on Iraq, and that we should. As he explained why, you could see that whatever compassionate impulses he had, they were over-ruled by his total allegiance to his words, logic, and where these take him. It never occurred to him that maybe there is truth outside of his words and logic. It’s great to have guidelines, like “don’t lie,” or “we have the right to defend ourselves.” It is even better to remember that these rules will someday fail us, and we will have to make new ones. Words are just tools. There are words to die by, but there are no words to live by.

Comment On The Importance Of Human Life

Are we human because of unique traits and attributes not shared with either animal or machine? The definition of “human” is circular: we are human by virtue of the properties that make us human (i.e., distinct from animal and machine). It is a definition by negation: that which separates us from animal and machine is our “human-ness”.

We are human because we are not animal, nor machine. But such thinking has been rendered progressively less tenable by the advent of evolutionary and neo-evolutionary theories which postulate a continuum in nature between animals and Man.

Our uniqueness is partly quantitative and partly qualitative. Many animals are capable of cognitively manipulating symbols and using tools. Few are as adept at it as we are. These are easily quantifiable differences – two of many.

Qualitative differences are a lot more difficult to substantiate. In the absence of privileged access to the animal mind, we cannot and don’t know if animals feel guilt, for instance. Do animals love? Do they have a concept of sin? What about object permanence, meaning, reasoning, self-awareness, critical thinking? Individuality? Emotions? Empathy? Is artificial intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that passes the Turing Test may well be described as “human”. But is it really? And if it is not – why isn’t it?

Literature is full of stories of monsters – Frankenstein, the Golem – and androids or anthropoids. Their behaviour is more “humane” than the humans around them. This, perhaps, is what really sets humans apart: their behavioural unpredictability. It is yielded by the interaction between Mankind’s underlying immutable genetically-determined nature – and Man’s kaleidoscopically changing environments.

The Constructivists even claim that Human Nature is a mere cultural artefact. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, are determinists. They believe that human nature – being the inevitable and inexorable outcome of our bestial ancestry – cannot be the subject of moral judgment.

An improved Turing Test would look for baffling and erratic patterns of misbehaviour to identify humans. Pico della Mirandola wrote in “Oration on the Dignity of Man” that Man was born without a form and can mould and transform – actually, create – himself at will. Existence precedes essence, said the Existentialists centuries later.

The one defining human characteristic may be our awareness of our mortality. The automatically triggered, “fight or flight”, battle for survival is common to all living things (and to appropriately programmed machines). Not so the catalytic effects of imminent death. These are uniquely human. The appreciation of the fleeting translates into aesthetics, the uniqueness of our ephemeral life breeds morality, and the scarcity of time gives rise to ambition and creativity.

In an infinite life, everything materializes at one time or another, so the concept of choice is spurious. The realization of our finiteness forces us to choose among alternatives. This act of selection is predicated upon the existence of “free will”. Animals and machines are thought to be devoid of choice, slaves to their genetic or human programming.

Yet, all these answers to the question: “What does it mean to be human” – are lacking.

The set of attributes we designate as human is subject to profound alteration. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all cause irreversible changes in these traits and characteristics. The accumulation of these changes can lead, in principle, to the emergence of new properties, or to the abolition of old ones.

Animals and machines are not supposed to possess free will or exercise it. What, then, about fusions of machines and humans (bionics)? At which point does a human turn into a machine? And why should we assume that free will ceases to exist at that – rather arbitrary – point?

Introspection – the ability to construct self-referential and recursive models of the world – is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What about introspective machines? Surely, say the critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection is willed – WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover, the notion – if not the formal concept – of “human” rests on many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding – why presume that men and women (or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were not. A lot separates males from females – genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to these two sub-species that makes them both “human”?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonian Form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence separate from the body. A machine-supported energy field with mental states similar to ours today – would it be considered human? What about someone in a state of coma – is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human – or, at least, fully human – and, if so, in which sense? What about a future human race – whose features would be unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence – would it be thought of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing “human” with “person”. The former is a private case of the latter. Locke’s person is a moral agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted by the continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke’s is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human persons (machines, energy matrices) if the functional conditions are satisfied. Thus, an android which meets the prescribed requirements is more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes’ objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume that such “souls” possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable. Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a “person” as a “primitive”. Both the corporeal predicates and those pertaining to mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all the individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity. Some, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible persons to animals – but this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizes the personhood of a brain damaged human (“capable of experiencing”). It also incorporates Locke’s view of humans as possessing an ontological status similar to “clubs” or “nations” – their personal identity consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

The Science Of Superstitions

There are many kinds of narratives and organizing principles. Science is driven by evidence gathered in experiments, and by the falsification of extant theories and their replacement with newer, asymptotically truer, ones. Other systems – religion, nationalism, paranoid ideation, or art – are based on personal experiences (faith, inspiration, paranoia, etc.).

Experiential narratives can and do interact with evidential narratives and vice versa. For instance: belief in God inspires some scientists who regard science as a method to “peek at God’s cards” and to get closer to Him. Another example: the pursuit of scientific endeavors enhances one’s national pride and is motivated by it. Science is often corrupted in order to support nationalistic and racist claims.

The basic units of all narratives are known by their effects on the environment. God, in this sense, is no different from electrons, quarks, and black holes. All four constructs cannot be directly observed, but the fact of their existence is derived from their effects.

Granted, God’s effects are discernible only in the social and psychological (or psychopathological) realms. But this observed constraint doesn’t render Him less “real”. The hypothesized existence of God parsimoniously explains a myriad ostensibly unrelated phenomena and, therefore, conforms to the rules governing the formulation of scientific theories.

The locus of God’s hypothesized existence is, clearly and exclusively, in the minds of believers. But this again does not make Him less real. The contents of our minds are as real as anything “out there”. Actually, the very distinction between epistemology and ontology is blurred.

But is God’s existence “true” – or is He just a figment of our neediness and imagination?

Truth is the measure of the ability of our models to describe phenomena and predict them. God’s existence (in people’s minds) succeeds to do both. For instance, assuming that God exists allows us to predict many of the behaviors of people who profess to believe in Him. The existence of God is, therefore, undoubtedly true (in this formal and strict sense).

But does God exist outside people’s minds? Is He an objective entity, independent of what people may or may not think about Him? After all, if all sentient beings were to perish in a horrible calamity, the Sun would still be there, revolving as it has done from time immemorial.

If all sentient beings were to perish in a horrible calamity, would God still exist? If all sentient beings, including all humans, stop believing that there is God – would He survive this renunciation? Does God “out there” inspire the belief in God in religious folks’ minds?

Known things are independent of the existence of observers (although the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics disputes this). Believed things are dependent on the existence of believers.

We know that the Sun exists. We don’t know that God exists. We believe that God exists – but we don’t and cannot know it, in the scientific sense of the word. We can design experiments to falsify (prove wrong) the existence of electrons, quarks, and black holes (and, thus, if all these experiments fail, prove that electrons, quarks, and black holes exist). We can also design experiments to prove that electrons, quarks, and black holes exist. But we cannot design even one experiment to falsify the existence of a God who is outside the minds of believers (and, thus, if the experiment fails, prove that God exists “out there”). Additionally, we cannot design even one experiment to prove that God exists outside the minds of believers. What about the “argument from design”? The universe is so complex and diverse that surely it entails the existence of a supreme intelligence, the world’s designer and creator, known by some as “God”. On the other hand, the world’s richness and variety can be fully accounted for using modern scientific theories such as evolution and the big bang. There is no need to introduce God into the equations.

Still, it is possible that God is responsible for it all. The problem is that we cannot design even one experiment to falsify this theory, that God created the Universe (and, thus, if the experiment fails, prove that God is, indeed, the world’s originator). Additionally, we cannot design even one experiment to prove that God created the world. We can, however, design numerous experiments to falsify the scientific theories that explain the creation of the Universe (and, thus, if these experiments fail, lend these theories substantial support). We can also design experiments to prove the scientific theories that explain the creation of the Universe. It does not mean that these theories are absolutely true and immutable. They are not. Our current scientific theories are partly true and are bound to change with new knowledge gained by experimentation. Our current scientific theories will be replaced by newer, truer theories. But any and all future scientific theories will be falsifiable and testable.

Knowledge and belief are like oil and water. They don’t mix. Knowledge doesn’t lead to belief and belief does not yield knowledge. Belief can yield conviction or strongly-felt opinions. But belief cannot result in knowledge.

Still, both known things and believed things exist. The former exist “out there” and the latter “in our minds” and only there. But they are no less real for that.

Travel Is No Cure for the Mind

It’s just another day… and you’re just doing what you need to do.

You’re getting things done, and the day moves forward in this continuous sequence of checklists, actions, and respites.

But at various moments of your routine, you pause and take a good look at your surroundings.

The scenes of your everyday life. The blur of this all-too-familiar film.

And you can’t help but to wonder…

If there is more to it all.

For some reason — this country, this city, this neighborhood, this particular street — is the place you are living a majority of your life in.

And it is this thought that allows a daydream to seep in.

You start thinking of all the other places you could be in this world.

Or more accurately, all the places you’d rather be in.

Somewhere more exciting. Somewhere new. Somewhere that can provide experiences that are foreign to you.

You dream of going to the beautiful beaches of Thailand:

Or to Paris, where you can eat French food, enjoy delicious wine, and walk around the illuminated streets that you’ve heard so much about:

Or to Peru, where you can finally go to Machu Picchu and see the architectural wonder that an inexplicably high percentage of your friends have in their Facebook profile pictures:

Or to Alaska, where you can witness the glory of the aurora borealis in all its splendor:

The world is your playground, and you are certain that these unexplored areas will become sources of adventure, wonderment, and ultimately, happiness.

Travel is the answer much of us look to when we feel the automation of life. The routine of waking up, getting ready, going to work, eating the same lunch, sitting in meetings, getting off work, going home, eating dinner, relaxing, going to sleep, and then doing it all over again can feel like a never-ending road that is housed within the confines of a mundane box.

Travel Spot in Peru

There are not many cities that have experienced such social and political extremes in recent history as Amsterdam. In the 20th century alone, Amsterdam faced the atrocities of war for the first time in 400 years, became the radical center of 1960s social movements and witnessed a complete about-face in its core economy. Amsterdam’s progressive, multicultural, conscientious and contentious attitude wipes out images of a more docile past and ranks this capital city among the top 5 for European travel destinations.

Precariously positioned on the banks of both the IJ Bay and the Amstel River headwaters, Amsterdam made an early mark on the world with its dominant seafaring fleet and colonial aspirations in the 17th and 18th centuries. Amsterdam’s economy turned inward once England emerged as the seafaring superpower. Consequently, most of the enchantingly crooked mansions and townhouses alone the canals are now inhabited by eclectic stores, businesses and engaging galleries and the majority of Amsterdammers live outside of the canal belt.

Museums, Music and a Barrage of Culture

To gain a better understanding of how such a metropolitan city emerged from bogs, swamps and floodplains, visit the Amsterdams Historisch Museum. Extensive documentation covering centuries of growth spans the walls of the exhibits and a detailed segment is dedicated to modern day issues, conflicts and controversies surrounding Amsterdam’s path to becoming a free and tolerant society. Then, explore Amsterdam’s historic relationship with water aboard the Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum, a dry-docked ship from the East India Company. For a more refined jaunt into the past, a trip to the colossal Rijksmuseum will indulge the senses with fine art from Dutch masters throughout history.

As evening approaches, leave your museum voice behind and dive dancing and drinking into Amsterdam’s edgy and rowdy nightlife. The pubs and coffee shops that line the canals are a vibrant mix of locals and visitors, and the perfect place to begin your evening. Enjoy an extensive array of domestic ale or have a taste of the unique Dutch gin. Musically, Amsterdam has something for everyone. Visit Mulligans Pub for authentic Irish entertainment, kick back to some jazz in Dylan’s stylish lobby bar or go electro at the famed mega-club, Ministry.

For a moment of contemplation or a summer picnic, Amsterdam offers some of the best urban park spaces among European cities. Bikes are available for rental to take in the scenery at a faster pace, just beware of the tram tracks that crisscross most roadways and footpaths.

Of European cities, Amsterdam is most likely to surprise, excite and intrigue its visitors in a most unexpected fashion. Travel to Amsterdam to enjoy the perfect balance of open spaces, a lively urban pulse and a gracefully multiethnic ambiance.

About Hitch Hacking in Indonesia

Namaskar, welcome to Incredible India, where culture echoes, tradition speaks, beauty enthralls and diversity delights.

Bounded by the majestic Himalayan ranges in the north and edged by an endless stretch of golden beaches, India is a vivid kaleidoscope of landscapes, magnificent historical sites and royal cities, misty mountain retreats, colorful people, rich cultures and festivities. The timeless mystery and beauty of India has been waiting for you for 5000 years, always warm and inviting, a place of infinite variety – one that favors you with different facets of its fascination every time you visit India.

visit the four corners of India: North India, South India, East India, West India

North India – Land of Romance

You’ve arrived at Delhi. The months of planning and curiosity are over; you’re actually in India. Every experience, every sound, every smell shouts that you’ve arrived somewhere magical, somewhere Special. It is here that the deep love of one man for one woman created the Taj Mahal; where the King of Kings ruled; where the sacred Ganges flows past holy cities; where the Himalayas stand silent and magnificent; where 5000 years of culture waits to be absorbed.

Delhi – the Old and the New

Delhi is above all an historic city, an elegant capital, content to leave to Calcutta and Bombay the roles of commercial and business supremacy. It is in fact really two distinct cities; the energy and colour and the thronged bazaars and Moghul architecture of Old Delhi contrast with the formal splendour of New Delhi, whose wide boulevards offer ever-changing perspectives of Lutyen’s landscaped city. Delhi has several world-famous luxury hotels, with the comfort and style to ensure relaxation after your journey; from here, set forth to experience the sights and sounds of the city. The gracious Red Fort, the Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India), the Qutab Minar complex with its soaring tower – all are waiting to be explored. Allows some time to wander round the inexpensive modern shops and handicraft centres. Magicians and dancing bears entertain crowds in the marketplaces, while fortune tellers may offer glimpses of the future. The heat of the day gives way to balmy evenings; enjoy a meal in one of the many splendid restaurants, the exotic music of sitars and veenas and the subtle rhythms of the tabla accompanying the delicious cuisines from throughout the country. Flights and trains and buses run from Delhi all over north India, so it is always easy to reach the next destination.

West India – The Warm West

After the vibrant atmosphere of Bombay, allow the palm-fringed beaches of Goa to warm your spirit in the sun and relax your mind. Or meditate in cool and ancient Buddhist caves tunneled out of solid rock on the craggy hillsides – a dramatic contrast from the colourful fairs and festivals in unspoiled Gujarat. The choice is once again tremendous in this land that offers everything.

Mumbai – Gateway of India

There is a powerful life force at work in this thriving, modern commercial city, with its plate-glass skyscrapers and hectic colorful street life. The pace and confusion is vibrant, with businessmen hurrying to work, hooting traffic, fisherwomen in their bright sarees and ‘tiffinwallahs’ hurrying with their metal containers to deliver the businessman’s lunch direct from his home to his office. After relaxing on Chowpatty beach under the cool evening sky, sipping refreshing milk from a large green coconut, you will start to love Bombay. You will feel ready to visit the elegant and world famous Taj Mahal hotel for a delicious snack or drink while watching the sunset over the many boats in the harbour. In the luxury and quiet of a hotel room, sightseeing can be planned. Consider a visit to the lofty Hanging Gardens next door to the intriguing Towers of Silence; or maybe win a million at the beautiful Mahalaxmi Racecourse, one of the finest in India. A glamorous day visiting the famous Bombay film studios can be arranged, and perhaps a chat with one of the many film stars. Relive the ancient stories of the Hindu gods sculpted on the walls of caves at Elephanta. This well known island, where monkeys scamper across your path, is a short and pleasant boat ride from the famous landmark in Mumbai – the Gateway of India. When ready to leave this city of tycoons, commerce, skyscrapers and film stars, prepare for adventures of a very different kind which await at its doorstep.

South India – A Heritage of Centuries

The delightful south; almost untouched by invasions throughout its history, the Indian heritage is more intact here than in other regions of the country. This is a land of temples, a land of the devout where new wonders await – the profusion of orange flowers, the shade of the banyan tree, and the soft beat of distant drums as yet another festival starts…

Chennai – A Kaleidoscope of Moods Chennai is the centre of the Hindu tradition of Bharata Natyam (classical dancing) the art of temple sculpture also comes from this part of the country, and gives expression to both the devoutness and the artistic skills of the Tamil people. Chennai is the home of the ancient Dravidian civilisation, one of the oldest articulate cultures in the world. It is a city where the landscape of the past lives easily with more recent history. This busy, efficient metropolis is a good centre to plan a journey over South India. Make use of the international and domestic airport and the massive network of trains and buses. The friendliness, sincerity and colourfulness of the people can slowly be absorbed while taking a stroll over the sandy stretch of beach known as the Marina, or visiting Fort St. George, built by the British East India Company. So many of the street names reflect the city’s long association with other cultures; China Bazar Road, Armenian Street, Portuguese Church Street for instance. In 78 AD, the Apostle St Thomas was martyred in the city, but the Christian faith now finds graceful expression in the many churches, particularly the San Thome Cathedral. View the whole panorama from the Chennai lighthouse, or experience the culture from ground level in the temples, art galleries or museums. Head off in any direction from Chennai – even east, across the Bay of Bengal by boat or plane to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands; a paradise archipelago, lush and forested, home of some of the most exotic plant-life in the world. The crystal clear waters shimmer with tropical fish, and the islands are famous for their corals and water-sports facilities. North of Chennai is the large state of Andhra Pradesh, rich in archeological and architectural treasures. The capital, Hyderabad, was once the seat of the fabled Nizams. The Charminar is a national symbol, and the Salar Jung Museum a rich repository of the Raj.

East India – Excitement and Tranquillity

In no time at all the stimulating bustle and heat of Calcutta is left far behind, opening out to the cool and luscious mountains of refreshing Darjeeling. Encounter the mighty range of the Himalayas in Sikkim, the one-horned rhinoceros in wonderful wildlife reserves, then dream of a forgotten age in the ancient holy towns on the plains of rural India.

Discover the Soul of Calcutta

Calcutta is the largest city in India, indeed one of the largest in the world. Established as a British trading post in the 17th century, the city rapidly grew, acquiring a life and vibrancy of its own. Its glory is still reflected in the buildings of Chowringhee and Clive Street, know as Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Netaji Subhash Road respectively. It is a city which leaves no-one indifferent-fascinating, effervescent, teeming with life, peoples, cultures. The impact can be a shock at first; the rickshaws, cars, brightly painted lorries, trolley buses, the cries of the street vendors, labourers hard at work on the construction of the vast underground railway, the noise and colour of the huge New Market, the bustle of the crowds…but soon the jumbled impressions will sort themselves out. Central Calcutta is best viewed in perspective around the rolling green of the Maidan, 3 square kilometres of parkland where the early-morning yoga sessions provide for the city dwellers a relaxation from the stresses of urban life. For relaxation of another kind, visit the Indian Museum, one of the finest in Asia. Other attractions include the huge white marble Victoria Memorial, the Octherlony Monument and the headquarters of the Rama Krishna mission. To the north of the city is the silent beauty of the Belur Math and, across the river, the Botanical gardens (with a 200 years old Banyan tree, reputedly the largest in the world) and the Kali temple of Dakshineshwar.

Chepest to Travelling

As you pour the first glass of your favorite Chianti or Chardonnay and settle into an intimate Friday evening, you wonder about the wine’s origins. Look no further for the answer to your fleeting Friday night queries-Italy, land of romantics, heroic epics and passionately-written plays. In the countryside and cities where the Renaissance began it seems fitting to find a hedonistic exploration of the richest vineyards in the world to suit even the pickiest travelers. Best known for its world-renowned wines paired with decadent cuisine and intertwined with the rich culture of the people who produce it, it’s not just another spot on the globe- it’s a destination filled with memories to last a lifetime.

With La Dolce Vita the sky is the limit for destinations and experiences. They’ve thought of everything- from famous vineyards to elegant accommodations. The names are all familiar: Sicily, Tuscany, Venice, Verona-but these places are more than just a name on a fine bottle or a magical place in a Shakespearean play. With La Dolce Vita the countryside and cities become real as you taste “the good life” firsthand.

A relaxing walking tour of the Amalfi Coast in south Naples, home of outstanding wines from ancient Greek grapes, such as Aglianico, Greco di Tufo, and Fiano di Avellino, is just one amazing tour. Enjoy hillsides covered in lemon trees and umbrella pines, fresh seafood and the breathtaking sea that gave it life as Mt. Vesuvius rises behind you in majestic and ancient grace. If wheels and pedals are more to your liking you can coast through the countryside of Chianti Classico in Tuscany and see the dense forests and medieval castles that gave birth to wine of the same name. Enjoy authentic pasta fagioli prepared with handmade pasta and porcini mushrooms. A full glass of Chianti in your hand you watch the sun sets across the winding vineyards below you.

These tours are made for lovers and groups alike, as well as offering customized tours and additional single accommodations. Designed to dazzle the most inexperienced, as well as most elegant wine connoisseur, tours run May to November and are generally booked for five day and six nights stays.