Category Archives: Canada

Stags Only: The best bachelor holidays

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Planning a bachelor party with the boys? Skip Las Vegas and Bangkok and try these holiday ideas from ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY.

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So you’re getting hitched and your wild lifestyle is threatened by an Extinction Level Event (read marriage). Mad drunken parties with the boys, binge eating, dirty weekends, scanning dance floors and bars for fun, checking out the ‘scene’, ah the joys of bachelorhood… All this might seem history to the groom apparent, however, your friends couldn’t care less. They just want you to ride into the sunset of marital fidelity with all guns blazing. The idea is to go out and have fun. Here’s how to make it a bachelor party to remember… or forget!

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Get high in Dubai
What better way to celebrate with your mates than getting high together? And what better place than the world’s tallest building and the loftiest observation deck? Just short of a kilometer (828 m, 160 stories) At The Top in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is as high as it gets. Make it special with a signature taster menu (caviar, truffles, foie gras) at the stylish SKY lounge and Atmosphere restaurant at level 148, manned by top chef Jerome Lagarde.

But there’s no reason you can’t get higher! Feel the adrenaline rush as you skydive from 13,000 ft over Palm Jumeirah or get on a hot air balloon, chopper, gyrocoptor or a Sea Wings seaplane for an aerial tour. Dubai is the place for bad boys to have a good time, with dune-bashing, belly-dancing and adventures like Ski Dubai (Middle East’s first indoor ski resort) and iFLY Dubai (indoor sky diving and wind tunnel experience).

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Easy rentals make it easy to zip around in your dream luxe car or set sail on the Persian Gulf in a luxurious yacht with Jacuzzi, barbeques and champagne. Pimp it up with model hostesses, resident DJ and bouncers. And if you don’t mind getting wet, strap on a hydrojet equipment and get set for shred sleds, jet packs and jet blades.

Stay in style at Palm Jumeirah at Anantara Resorts as you go party-hopping at Sanctuary in Atlantis nearby, Zero Gravity, White Dubai, Trilogy, Rattlesnake, Ku-Bu, Cyclone or Ibiza club Blue Marlin, a weekend-only beach bar. With Dubai’s diverse expat mix, it’s like attending the UN’s sorority bash.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi

For more info, www.visitdubai.com

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Get lucky in Hong Kong
For King Kong fun, head straight to Hong Kong. Terrific street food, night markets, rooftop bars, a vibrant ‘scene’ and the world’s largest permanent light and sound show Symphony of Lights; what’s not to like? The central party district of Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai and SoHo buzz with bars and clubs like Magnum, Volar, Play, Dragon-i, Ce La Vi, the world’s highest bar Ozone at Ritz Carlton and Aqua Spirit rooftop bar overlooking Victoria Harbour.

To up the ante, take the hour-long ferry to Macau, a mecca for boys who like to party hard. Like HK, a Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Portuguese presence in Macau over four centuries gives it an exotic appeal – from its food, culture to architecture. Having the world’s highest population density (20,497 people per sq km), two islands south of the mainland Coloane and Taipa were joined in a massive land reclamation project to form the Co-tai Strip, a 5.2 sq km gambling haven.

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In 2007, it turned the tables on Las Vegas as the world leader in gambling revenue. Most of the 30 million visitors to Macau are drawn by 24-hour gambling at the 33 casinos and integrated resorts – Venetian Resort, City of Dreams, Sands Cotai, Galaxy Macau Resort and Wynn Palace, which opened this year. Event planners like Ludih can help you organize the ultimate stag bash with stretch limos, VIP access at clubs and private parties in luxury hotel suites.

Jet Airways flies to Hong Kong

For more info, visit www.macaotourism.gov.mo

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Go beer guzzling in Germany
Beer by the tankards or ‘ein mass’ (one measure in a large mug), pigging out on red meat (sausages to steaks) and busty bier mädchen (beer maidens) dressed in dirndls (Alpine peasant costume) and tight-fitting bodices that make Hooters seem like a church choir; Germany is custom-built for a boys’ week out. Beer Bike Tours combine two of the best German specialties – beer and engineering – plonk with your pals on stools around a small bar and quaff beer while pedaling your beermobile. It’s a good way to burn off what you’ll put on.

Drive from north to south Germany on the Deutsch Fachwerke Strasse (Half-Timbered House Road), checking out local brews at the 1200 breweries between Bremen and Munich. Pop in at Munich’s famous beer hall Hofbräuhaus and the Bier & Oktoberfest Museum. Or head straight to Berlin, legendary for its hedonistic club scene and endless party hours. There’s hardly a block in Berlin without a bar though the top spots are in the hipster district of Kreuzberg.

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Check out Berlin’s oldest biergarten Prater or rent a raft and float down the Spree River. Go dancing at the open-air Club der Visionaire off the Spree or Matrix in an abandoned train station – almost every club in Berlin is built in an abandoned something! Split up into smaller groups to get into clubs like Sysiphos or the infamous techno haven Berghain.

The German love for kink is apparent in strip clubs like Golden Dolls or CP Club and adult entertainment venues like Artimis and Kit Kat Club. For a mad time, visit during the 16-day long Oktoberfest (mid-September to first Sunday in October)! Don’t forget to take home a stein (no, not a stain but a stoneware mug) as a memento.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, from where its codeshare partners Etihad and KLM have several connections to Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin.

For more info, visit www.germany.travel

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Rum tasting in Mauritius
If you were considering Mauritius for your destination wedding or honeymoon, your bachelor party might be a good way to scope it out. Sensuous Sega dancers and fire-eaters by the beach, endless rum tasting sessions at rhumeries like Chateau de Labourdonnais, Chamarel, L’Aventure du Sucre and Saint Aubin and riding out to reefs for diving or snorkeling with the boys; Mauritius is not your average lazy tropical paradise.

There’s a lot for the adventure enthusiast – SeaKart, UnderSea Walk, Sub Scooter and Submarine tours with Blue Safari (the only sub operation in the Indian Ocean), the world’s third longest zipline and Quad Biking at La Vallée des Couleurs and Casela Nature Park. And if you’re into golf, there are over a dozen world class courses.

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With all the action packed in a relatively small island nation (65km long, 45km wide) and plush beachside resorts like Shanti Maurice, Sofitel Imperial and Radisson Blu Azuri, no adventure is far away. Dine on the best of French, Caribbean and Creole cuisine and wash it down with rum macerated with tropical fruits and spices.

Jet Airways flies twice a week from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to Mauritius

For more info, visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu

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Bar hopping in Dublin
Few cities have the pulse and vibe of Dublin where the pub, the poet and the pint are seemingly inseparable. The Irish are a friendly lot and it’s easy to strike up a conversation, make new friends and party like a local. Start your pilgrimage with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and their St James Gate Brewery where they teach you everything from how to pour the perfect pint o’ Guinness and how to drink one!

For a traditional Dublin pub experience with a live band, Irish music and food, The Merry Ploughboy Irish music pub is a must do. Wowing audiences since 1989, they even have a pick-up and drop facility from town. Go on a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl with quirky book-themed tours in the footsteps of famous authors through Dublin’s cobbled streets. Professional actors double up as guides performing from the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

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Sounds too dense? Hit the Temple Bar area to wet your whistle at Kitty O’Shea’s, The Hole in the Wall and The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub that opened in 1198. Not into beer? Take the scenic Giant’s Causeway Coastal route and head for an Irish whiskey experience at The Old Jameson Distillery (reopening after a makeover in March 2017).

Jet Airways flies to London, from where you can fly to Dublin or Belfast.

For more info, visit www.ireland.com

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Go Down Under in style in Australia
If you’re all set to change your FB status from Single to Married (or It’s Complicated), go down under in style by celebrating Down Under. Base yourself in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and you’re just a hop, skip and jump from all the entertainment – bars, restaurants, gentleman’s clubs and a variety of shows. Plus, in CBD, the trams are free!

Stay at Citadines on Bourke Street or check into luxe tents at St. Jerome’s with scenic views and bespoke brewery tours run by the Temple Brewing Co. For whiskey tastings, there’s The Humble Tumbler, Bar 1806 and Whisky & Alement. Australia is the perfect place for XXXX fun and we don’t mean Castlemaine!

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Take the fun out to sea with a stripper cruise or have a poker party with topless barmaids and nude waitresses. Drive out of town with your mates to Philip Island for surfing and to watch penguins, seals and wallabies in the wild. The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the Moto GP in October also has a 720m go-karting track. Continue the party on the Great Ocean Road past the Twelve Apostles to Sydney if you have more time… and stamina!

Jet Airways flies to Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Qantas flies to Melbourne and Sydney

For more info, www.visitmelbourne.com

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Island hopping in Indonesia
Imagine this. The moment you land in Bali, you and your Wolf Pack is whisked from the airport to your private pool villa in Semenyak where party girls welcome you with chilled Bintangs. Your pool party has its own DJ, with VIP access to top clubs at night and cruising on a luxury yacht with your bevy of beauties. Yes, in Bali, everything is possible.

If you don’t want to depend on an event planner, DIY, but don’t DUI. Choose a regular hotel in the main tourist hub of Kuta so you’re never far from action. Catch the sunset at beach shacks like Ku De Ta, Potato Head, Cocoon or Mozaic, then go late night clubbing at Sky Garden in Legian. The next day, recover with Balinese massages and foot reflexology. In the posher precinct Semenyak, you can have your own pool villa with party spots like Bounty, Mirror and Koh close by.

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Fly out to Labuan Bajo in Flores, where you can go diving and deep sea fishing or head out on a boat trip to Komodo Island to watch giant reptiles. With getaways like Sulawesi, Lombok and nearly 18,000 islands (of which 8844 are named and 922 permanently inhabited), you are indeed spoilt for choice.

Jet Airways flies to Bangkok and Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Garuda Indonesia flies to Bali

For more info, visit www.indonesia.travel

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Glamping in Oman
Oman may not seem like the most obvious choice for a bachelor party, but if you’re looking for good clean fun, the Desert Nation has quite a few surprises. Smoke sheeshas on the sands like a Bedouin, swim in wadis with barbecue parties at Wadi Bani Khalid, trek in the Al Hajar mountains or go dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding with your buddies at Sharqiya Sands.

But perish the thoughts of basic ‘Abdullah and the Camel’ sort of tents, Desert Nights Camp will spoil you silly with glamping (glamour-camping). Tents fit for sultans dressed up with plush rugs and drapes, the nomadic strains of the darbouka (stringed instrument) and oud (percussion) and the tantalizing aroma of barbecued meat, Oman is as sensory as its aromatic frankincense. Fly from Muscat to Khasab for 4X4 drives across rugged terrain and luxury dhow cruises with dolphin spotting and snorkeling at Telegraph Island.

Jet Airways flies to Muscat

For more info, visit www.omantourism.gov.om

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Explore the coffee shops of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has all the ingredients to threaten your marriage, so go at your own peril. A lot of the stuff illegal elsewhere is legit here. Much as the city likes to shrug the tag, over half a million tourists are drawn by visions of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Amsterdam’s legendary coffee shops, currently trimmed down to 220, come with elaborate menus offering everything from Moroccan Ice to Malana Cream for a Cheech & Chong stoner holiday.

There’s no better example of Amsterdam’s drug tolerance than Bulldog Leidseplein, formerly a police station, decorated with criminal artifacts! Scour the top forty listed in the local Mellow Pages: A Smoker’s Guide to Amsterdam and pop by at the award-winning Green House, The Grasshopper or Barney’s for a hit. The Cannabis Cup in November used to be a great time to visit until the recent clampdown. Another mandatory pitstop is Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen, where you’ll learn a new meaning to the term ‘window shopping’. For those racked by guilt, look out for the “Pimp Free Zone” sticker.

Jet Airways flies to Amsterdam

For more info, visit www.holland.com

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Get unreal in Montreal

With its trendy bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, every sort of club, Montreal is not called Sin City of the North for nothing. Get party girls to go clubbing with you, visit lap dance bars, try naked sushi or get your freak on at Kamasutra Club and Club Supersexe. St Laurent is a buzzing entertainment quarter while Crescent Street has great bars like Mad Hatter and Churchill’s, which has daily happy hours.

Montreal has a certain French flair and many time their bachelor parties in time for the cold winter sports season (thus justifying the need for warmth) or events like the jazz festival. Looking for an all-expense paid pre-arranged tour? Connect with www.connectedmontreal.com

Jet Airways flies to London Heathrow from where its codeshare partner Air Canada flies to Montreal, Toronto and other destinations

For more info, visit www.canada.travel

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unabridged version of the article that appeared in the October 2016 issue of JetWings International magazine.

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Tripping around Toronto

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PRIYA GANAPATHY goes on a journey across the Canadian countryside to explore popular weekend breaks  IMG_3348-Priya Ganapathy

“Beautiful day, eh?” smiled the man in the elevator, noting my snug over-the-top preparedness for the famous Canadian ‘wind chill factor’. He was in a tee and slacks. Having just landed in Toronto with a suitcase full of apparel to tackle the year from sun to snow, I looked set to go ‘trudging across the Tundra’, as Frank Zappa sang in ‘Don’t You Eat The Yellow Snow’! Occupying 9.98 million sq km of the world, Canada was indeed the Great White North. And one couldn’t let the cold get in the way.

After two weeks of whirlwind tours within Toronto witnessing street carnivals, festivals featuring local bands, buskers and pigging out at Ribfests, I wanted to do what local Canadians did almost every weekend – drive out to the country. Come spring and the expressways transform into steady lines of vehicles heading out of town, sailboats, cycles, and kayaks in tow. Families, couples and friends planned quick escapes from the week’s drudgery in advance. With tons of B&Bs and villas in the countryside, a love for the outdoors was definitely ingrained in Canadian life. IMG_3372-Priya Ganapathy

The dazzling diversity of Canada’s landscape offered a perfect backdrop for big ticket flicks like the Twilight series, Titanic, The Incredible Hulk, Brokeback Mountain, besides several Hindi movies. But I didn’t want to whoosh around its ten provinces and three territories, ticking off an imaginary bucket list or buying ‘Made in China’ souvenirs at malls. I was after the real thing, rooted in ancient histories and rarities. Canada is meant for slow travel and Ontario province presented delightful experiences.

Stoked by childhood memories of playing Cowboys and Indians and learning about Nanook of the North, I took off to Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Centre on Curve Lake, a 1½ hour drive from Toronto via Pickering and Peterborough. Set in the scenic Kawarthas, literally ‘land of reflections’ alluding to its immense network of lakes, Whetung is a fabulous showcase of cultural traditions and arts of the First Nations or aboriginal Canadians. Flanked by gorgeously painted totem poles, the centre has a workshop, Christmas shop and a picnic spot. One can endlessly browse galleries displaying handcrafted canoes, painted oars, birch bark and grass baskets, beadwork, dolls, moccasins, jackets and feathered accessories.

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Opened as a fishing lodge in the 1900s, the Whetung family ran steamboat cruises on the lakes. Four decades later they began a grocery and gift store which evolved into an enterprise promoting local arts as a cottage industry. The museum exhibits fabulous Native American collectibles from all over Canada. Superb carvings, pottery, quillwork, vibrant masks, jewellery, bead art and original paintings revealing an intrinsic spiritual connection with nature, keep visitors engaged for hours. I bought leather-strung inukshuks representing stone cairns or friendly spirit guides for safe travel, silver dreamcatchers, Haida art brooches and a scarf with aboriginal artist Ioyan Mani’s (a.ka. Maxine Noel) flowing art.

Another day, we drove to Lake Scugog and Port Perry for the Sunrise Ceremony that kicked off the traditional Pow Wow (gathering of indigenous communities) of the Mississaugas. The unique 2-day festival takes place all year round in different parts of Canada offering glimpses of a heritage long forgotten. Usually free and open to all, powwows are marked by traditional songs, dances, drumbeats and forging friendships, old and new. We sat mesmerised by the resplendent costumes, flowing robes, flying feathers and tassels as archaic ululations filled the air. IMG_2117-Priya Ganapathy

We cruised around Port Perry’s charming heritage houses and historic buildings and backtracked to the 19th century on a guided tour around the quaint Pioneer Village of Scugog Shores Museums. Old artefacts, a wigwam, bonfire and a drummer enhanced the ambient setting for a sacred Summer Solstice Ceremony by the waterside, where we received blessings from The Elders and listened to Metis and Inuits sharing their ancient wisdom.

The Town Crier competition provided an odd brush with British tradition. Flamboyantly dressed men and women rang their bells and bellowed in grand old fashion for the title, as elegant ladies in gowns and fussy hats glided around the fair like atmosphere. Evidently, the eloquent art of Town Crying is very much alive and the legacy of the Queen still thrives in Canada!

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An easy hour’s drive west of Toronto took us past great fields of green and gold, dotted with distant barns and rustic scenes to St Jacobs. This was pure Mennonite territory where the closely knit orthodox community faithfully preserved the religion and customs of their forefathers. Men in black coats and hats and women clad in apron gowns and bonnets went about their everyday tasks. Founded as Jakobstettel 163 years ago, St Jacobs is a cheery little place best explored on foot, cycle, bike or car. En route horse-drawn wagons and buggies trot along as hand-painted or whimsy metal signs lure you into boutiques with exquisite quilts, crafts, antiques and furniture. Stepping into art studios, theatres, breweries, restaurants and the Maple Syrup Museum, makes you feel like Goldilocks in an Artists’ Village, wanting to try or buy everything!

I stumbled into the Silo Weavers, Conestoga River Pottery and the stunning Thorn Glass Studio. Entering the home of Gerald Ueberschlag and Marlene, I discovered that he was artist Gerry Ueber who brilliantly captured Canada’s landscapes and seascapes, from the Muskokas to his Mennonite surroundings! The Mennonites are rather aloof, so the Visitor’s Centre thoughtfully provides information about their culture. St Jacobs Farmers Market and Flea Market (open Sat and Thurs year-round, Tue in summer) just 3km away, entices visitors with farm produce – vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, breads and bakes, delicious apple fritters and handcrafted items. IMG_3298-Priya Ganapathy

We took a detour to West Montrose near Waterloo to see the last standing covered bridge of Ontario. Used only by pedestrians, buggies and light vehicles, this 198ft wooden wonder built by John Bear in 1880, was reinforced with concrete and squats prettily across the Grand River. Nicknamed the Kissing Bridge, it was a favourite haunt for lovers to steal a peck in the conventional society of yore. In winters, the region turns into a skating and cross-country skiing venue. Fishing and canoeing along the beautiful Conestogo and Grand rivers and numerous trekking and birding trails draw nature lovers deeper into the vistas of Woolwich, Elmira and Elora, a heritage town on the river’s edge.

A day trip to Trent-Severn Waterway regions took us to the wet belly of Central Ontario where boat cruises operate along a 387km stretch of waterway. An extraordinary feat of engineering excellence, it took 87 years to put the whole system of 41 locks, a marine railway and 2 awe-inspiring hydraulic lift locks in place. Astonishingly, aboriginal folk ran boats on these waters 9000 years ago! We floated down lakes and channels, gazing at dreamy riverside villas, flying geese and rowing teams at practice. Soon, we were swept 65ft up in our boat at Lock 21, the famous Peterborough Lift Lock that shunts boats and small ships to the higher canals! IMG_1875-Priya Ganapathy

For a taste of rugged county, nothing beats the winding trails along Niagara Escarpment. Our expedition to Rattlesnake Conservation Point, part of the escarpment during the Ice Ages, turned into a day-long picnic in rock-climbing haven amidst cliffs and tall cedars. We clocked another quick getaway to panoramic Spencer’s Gorge and Webster’s waterfall with great hikes around.

The spectacular long drive via Muskoka to Algonquin, Canada’s oldest provincial park was the highpoint. Fall colours burst through in yellow, red, maroon and orange as if the forests and mountains were engulfed in flames. Over 17 well-marked adventure trails are strewn across an incredibly handsome terrain of craggy rocks, glacial lakes, rivers and dense jungle.

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Just 1½ hours from Toronto, the bewitching historic city Niagara on the Lake, is an excursion to die for. En route strawberry fields and cherry farms invite visitors to go berry picking as wineries beckon with wine-tasting sessions. A strip of land spanning 6 miles along Niagara’s western bank, bought from the Mississaugas for a mere “300 suits of clothing” by the British in 1781, today Niagara on the Lake is the loveliest corner of Ontario.

Its streets are festooned with flower baskets and romantic lampposts, archaic letterboxes line the sidewalks as horse-drawn carriages clip-clop alongside automobiles. We sauntered around old buildings, the Royal King’s Hotel, Native American boutiques, the Historical Society Museum housing 16th-17th century relics, Fort George and the old Pumphouse overlooking the magnificent Niagara River. Even its parks and cemeteries were picture perfect. IMG_2564-Priya Ganapathy

Enthused by the Niagara Parkway route, we drove to Laura Secord’s homestead. Not the chocolate house I imagined but the home of a legendary heroine who undertook a perilous 32km journey on foot to warn the British about a surprise attack by the Americans in 1813! A century later, a chocolate company branded their products in her honour and renovated her house as a gift to Niagara Parks. Our extended jaunt to Queenston Escarpment unfolded a stupendous river view. On the other side, the stars and stripes fluttered across the US border!

Twenty minutes later, we pulled over at Canada’s biggest tourist attraction, Niagara Falls. People surge in daily to get drenched under the world famous horseshoe cascade. I could blow my trumpet about my priceless keepsake – an iconic blue Maid of the Mist raincoat from Canada’s legendary cruise that closed operations in 2013. Perhaps, with the thrilling Voyage to the Falls and Illumination & Fireworks spectacle on the newly introduced Hornblower Niagara Cruises, it was time for an upgrade.

For more travel ideas visit www.canada.travel, www.viarail.ca

Author: Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the Mar 2015 issue of JetWings magazine.