China Is Now Dominate In World Tourism By Land, Air And Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S SHINE NEWS AGENCY)

 

Cruising through a stretch of rough seas

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Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal in Baoshan District

By land, by air and now by sea, the Chinese have come to dominate world tourism. Cruise lines are now capitalizing on that travel bug, despite some rough seas this year.

“China’s cruise industry is on the cusp of rapid growth that has enormous potential,” said Wang Younong, chairman of the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal.

Last year, 18 cruise vessels were operating out of Chinese ports, carrying 2.4 million Chinese passengers. That was up from four vessels and 200,000 passengers in 2012.

Numbers, however, are expected to decrease to 14 vessels and 2 million passengers next year.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd, the second-largest cruise line worldwide, will operate its Spectrum of the Sea and Oasis of the Seas liners in China in the near future. Spectrum of the Seas will be the biggest and most expensive cruise ship in Asia, with industry cutting-edge technologies.

Costa Cruises, an arm of US-based Carnival Corp, plans to bring two tailor-made ships in 2019 and 2020 to China, according to Mario Zanetti, president of Costa Group Asia. The company introduced cruising to China in 2006 and currently holds 26 percent of China’s cruise market.

MSC Cruise, the industry leader in the Mediterranean, South Africa and Brazil, will operate its MSC Bellissima, a cruise ship featuring rich entertainment, in China, and Genting Group will deploy two 204,000-ton cruise ships that can accommodate 9,500 passengers at the Shanghai port in 2021.

The commitments to the China market may be impressive, but there is an underside to the glowing prospects.

US-based Norwegian Cruise Line, a service with a history of more than 50 years, announced that it is withdrawing Norwegian Joy — the first-class cruise ship tailor-made for Chinese passengers — from the market after one year of operation here.

Cheng Juehao, deputy professor at the Shanghai Maritime University and deputy head of the Shanghai International Shipping Institute Cruise Economy Research Center, said some cruise companies may have miscalculated in their strategies for the China market.

“The Chinese cruise market saw soaring growth of similar products by almost all global cruise operators trying to expand their business here,” Cheng said. “In order to compete with each other, ticket prices nose-dived from 20 percent higher than sophisticated markets such as Europe and the United States, to between 30 percent and 40 percent lower.”

Low ticket prices are the results of sales channels, according to Ye Peng, vice director of sales for Costa.

In China, 90 percent of tickets are sold through cruise agents, who buy up all the berths on a ship and then redistribute tickets by various channels. However, in Western markets, 30 percent of tickets are sold through direct sales by cruise lines.

In China, travel agents make only about 6 percent profit from sales of cruise tickets, a much lower percentage than with other travel products.

As a result, some operators are finding it difficult to remain profitable, and the customer experience is being sacrificed to low expenditure.

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Costa Cruises, an arm of US-based Carnival Corp, entered the Chinese market in 2006 and currently holds 26 percent of the nation’s cruise market.

Industry officials in China said competition is undercutting business performance in the market. Only operators who improve the quality of cruises and cater to the needs of passengers will come out on top.

Zhang Zhendong, general manager of Tianjin International Cruise Home Port, said China’s cruise industry is in a period of transition.

“In 2017, the market entered adjustment phrase that will last until 2020,” he said. “That will be followed by a 10-year golden age of cruising. Next year may see a temporary trough in the market. However, the market is 10 times larger now than it was in 2012, and the compound growth rate is almost 30 percent, which is rare in the world.”

Roger Chen, chairman in China for Carnival Corp, said his company remains upbeat on the China cruise market.

“We are here to stay in China,” said Chen, speaking at the 13th China Cruise Shipping Conference and International Expo in Shenzhen earlier this month.

Market fluctuations this year are a bit exaggerated, he said, and it’s natural for any industry to have adjustment periods.

“We are collaborating with China State Shipbuilding Corp to build the largest made-in-China vessel as part of a joint venture, and we will operate this vessel in the Chinese market,” Chen added.

Costa China’s Ye said his company needs to advertise cruises as a lifestyle and spend time and effort building and differentiating its brands.

“When Chinese passengers leave the cruise vessels,” he said, “they often don’t even know the ship’s name. We have to work on the branding of the vessel and providing diversified choices.”

ALL THE THINGS TOURISTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO IN VENICE ITALY

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ITALY’S QUARTZY NEWS)

 

 

ALL THE THINGS TOURISTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO IN VENICE

By Rosie Spinks 

Venice has long been known as the sinking city, but only in modern times has it begun sinking under the weight of its tourists. Each day, the UNESCO World Heritage site receives up to 60,000 visitors, resulting in a city that is increasingly becoming devoid of actual Venetians.

While Venice is not the only city grappling with the crisis of over tourism, it is taking a more punitive approach than most in dealing with visitors. Earlier this year, the city began separating tourists from locals during busy periods. And in 2017—in addition to taking steps to divert large cruise ships to a nearby industrial town—the city’s tourism board launched the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign to remind tourists of everything they can’t do while visiting the fine city. There are even “angels of decorum” employed each summer to ensure the rules are enforced.

This week came news that tourists may soon be banned from engaging in a fairly common activity: sitting. While sitting in and around the famed St. Mark’s Square is already banned, there is a new proposal from mayor Luigi Brugnaro to ban sitting on the ground throughout the city, with offenders facing fines between €50 and €500. The rule will be voted on in October.

If the mere act of resting one’s backside after a long day of sightseeing may be banned, it’s worth asking what else “boorish” visitors—the seemingly preferred adjective of tourism officials—are supposed to avoid. Here is a list of forbidden behaviors in Venice, as well as the fine they incur.

  • Sitting is banned in the following places: “in St. Mark’s Square and in Piazzetta dei Leoncini, beneath the arcades and on the steps of the Procuratie Nuove, the Napoleonic Wing, the Sansovino Library, beneath the arcades of the Ducal Palace, in the impressive entranceway to St. Mark’s Square otherwise known as Piazzetta San Marco and its jetty.” (€200)
  • You can’t idly stand around, even to consume food and drink, unless you are in a restaurant or cafe. (€200)
  • You may not swim or immerse your body parts in any canal, stream, “water spot,” or in St Mark’s Basin. (€450)
  • You can’t litter, although that should be obvious. (€100-200)
  • You may not roam Venice’s historic streets or be in any private or public vehicle “while bare-chested or wearing swimwear.” (€200)
  • You may not scatter food or food waste, even if it’s to feed pigeons. (€50-200)
  • Bicycling is not allowed, “even when led by hand.” (€100)
  • You may not camp, nor lie on benches. And don’t even thinking about standing anywhere in possession of camping equipment, because that is banned too. (€50)

The Great Wall Of China’s Repair Work Is Called “Brutal And Ugly” By Locals

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Chinese outrage over ‘ugly’ restoration of Great Wall

中国”最美野长城”被抹平引发众怒

CHINESE social media users were in an uproar Friday over restoration of a 700-year-old section of the Great Wall that has been covered in concrete, turning it into a smooth, flat-topped path.
Known as one of the most beautiful portions of the “wild”, restored wall, the eight-kilometer (five-mile) Xiaohekou stretch in northeast Liaoning province was built-in 1381 during the Ming Dynasty.
Photos posted online showed that its uneven, crumbling steps and plant growth had been replaced as far as the eye could see with a white, concrete-like cap.
“This looks like the work of a group of people who didn’t even graduate from elementary school,” said one user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. “If this is the result, you might as well have just blown it up.”
“Such brutal treatment of the monuments left behind by our ancestors! How is it that people with low levels of cultural awareness can take on leadership positions?” asked another. “Why don’t we just raise the Forbidden City in Beijing, too?”
Even the deputy director of Liaoning’s department of culture Ding Hui admitted: “The repairs really are quite ugly,” according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The Great Wall is not a single unbroken structure but stretches for thousands of kilometres in sections from China’s east coast to the edge of the Gobi desert.
In places it is so dilapidated that estimates of its total length vary from 9,000 to 21,000 kilometers, depending on whether missing sections are included. Despite its length it is not, as is sometimes claimed, visible from space.
Emergency maintenance was ordered for Xiaohekou in 2012 to “avoid further damage and dissolution” caused by “serious structural problems and issues due to flooding” and was completed in 2014, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said in a statement on its website in response to public and media outcry.
The government body has begun an investigation into the approval, implementation and outcome of the maintenance work, stating that it would deal with work units and personnel found to be at fault severely, “without justifying their mistakes”.
Around 30 percent of China’s Ming-era Great Wall has disappeared over time as adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities — including stealing the bricks to build houses — erode the UNESCO World Heritage site, state media reports said last summer.
Under Chinese regulations people who take bricks from the Great Wall can be fined up to 5,000 yuan ($750), but plant growth on the wall continues to accelerate decay, and tourism, especially to undeveloped sections, continues to severely damage the world’s longest human construction.

EUROPE BY TRAIN: FIVE GREAT ONE-WEEK RAIL TRIP ROUTES

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘ON THE LUCE’ TRAVEL BLOG ON STUMBLE UPON)

 

EUROPE BY TRAIN: FIVE GREAT ONE-WEEK RAIL TRIP ROUTES

Europe by train: Five great one-week rail trip routes

Train travel is one of the best ways to see Europe – the continent’s fairly compact so it’s easy to get around, and you can sit back and soak up the stunning views with a picnic. But if you’re planning a rail trip, most of the suggested itineraries seem to be geared up for Interailers on month-long trips. It doesn’t have to be this way though – you can have a mini European rail adventure too. Pick a region and a few destinations and get planning (the Seat 61 and Deutsche Bahn websites are great for routes and timetables). Or if that sounds too much work, here are five of Europe’s best one-week rail trip ideas to get you started. All of the routes are possible in a week, but if you’ve got more time then you can take things slower and spend more time in each place. The idea isn’t to wear yourself out trying to see everything in every destination, but to take in some of the highlights and get a taste for each place (and if you love it you can always come back!).

Flamsbana scenic railway in Norwegian fjords

The Flåmsbana scenic train in Norway

NORTHERN EUROPE – CANALS AND CHOCOLATE

Start off in Amsterdam and spend a couple of days checking out the city’s canals, cafés and museums. Then take an early train on to the pretty Belgian city of Bruges (3 hours away). Spend the afternoon feasting on local chocolate and beer then next morning climb to the top of the Belfort tower or take a boat trip before catching an afternoon train to Paris (3 hours). You’re totally spoilt for things to do in Paris, so choose a few favourites to do over the next couple of days. Then take the train on to Switzerland’s oldest city, Chur, on the banks of the Rhine (5 hours). Spend the night in Chur then next morning catch the Bernina Express, one of Europe’s most scenic train journeys through spectacular Alpine scenery to Ticino in Italy, where you change to a local train to connect to Milan (total 7 hours). Then spend your last morning shopping and sightseeing in the Italian fashion capital before heading home.

A one-week rail trip itinerary in Northen Europe

Though Northern Europe from Amsterdam to Milan

ITALY – PALACES AND PIZZA

Begin your trip with a couple of days in Venice – cruise the Grand Canal, get lost in the backstreets and brave the crowds at St Mark’s Square and the Doges Palace. Then take an early train to Florence (2 hours) and spend the afternoon gallery-hopping. Finish getting your fill of Renaissance art the next morning then take the short journey on to Rome (1.5 hours) for the afternoon. Spend the next day seeing the historical sights of Rome before travelling on to the gritty coastal city of Naples (1 hour 10 mins). Stuff yourself in the home of pizza and if you have time to spare you can catch the Circumvesuviana railway to visit nearby SorrentoHerculaneum or Pompeii. Finish off with a couple of days on the island of Sicily – you can take the train all the way as it travels right on to the ferry for the 30-minute boat trip across the Messina Straits (takes 6 hours 45 mins to Taormina, 7.5 hours to Catania or 9 hours to Palermo).

A one-week rail trip itinerary in Italy

Through Italy from Venice to Sicily

EASTERN EUROPE – CONCERTS AND CAKE

Arrive into the Hungarian capital Budapest for a couple of days soaking up the culture, steaming in the thermal baths and partying in ruin pubs. Then catch a train on to Bratislava in Slovakia (2.5 hours), a compact city on the banks of the Danube. Spend the afternoon and next morning checking the city’s mix of 18th-century and Socialist-era architecture. Then travel on to Vienna in Austria (1 hour by train – or if you fancy a change from rail travel then the two cities are also connected by a boat along the Danube). Visit an ornate palace, catch a Mozart concert at the opera house and fill up on delicious sachertorte at a coffee house. Next travel on to Ljubljana in Slovenia (6 hours) for a couple of days exploring the charming old town, or you’re also only an hour by train from beautiful Lake Bled. Then end your trip in Zagreb, across the border in Croatia (2.5 hours), with a day visiting its museums, galleries and churches.

A one-week rail trip itinerary in Eastern Europe

Through Eastern Europe from Budapest to Zagreb

SPAIN & PORTUGAL – PAELLA AND PORT

Start off in the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona and spend a couple of days checking out Gaudi’s handiwork and catching some rays on the beach. Then take an early train down the coast to Valencia (3 hours) where you have the afternoon and next morning to explore the city’s mix of ancient and modern architecture and try a paella where it was first created. Take a short train ride inland to the Spanish capital Madrid in the afternoon (1.5 hours) and spend the next day visiting its parks and galleries. Then catch the Lusitaniaovernight train that evening, leaving Madrid just before 10pm and arriving into Lisbon at 7.30am the next morning. Spend a couple of days in Portugal’s capital spotting street art and feasting on seafood – or you can take a short day trip to the palace at Sintra (30 mins each way). Then finally travel north to Porto (3 hours) to end with a day of port-tasting on the banks of the Duoro.

A one-week rail trip itinerary in Spain and Portugal

Through Spain and Portugal from Barcelona to Porto

SCANDINAVIA – FJORDS AND FUNICULARS

Begin your route with a couple of day in the Danish capital Copenhagen – cycle around the cobbled streets and check out the design shops and Michelin-starred restaurants in Nyhavn. Then take the train over the Öresund Link bridge and tunnel into Sweden and on to Stockholm (5 hours). Spend a day exploring the city, from medieval Gamla Stan to the hundreds of islands in the archipelago. Then travel across the border to Norway and Oslo (6.5 hours) where you can get a dose of Scandinavian culture at the city’s museums and art galleries. Take the scenic rail route towards the coast next – first the mainline train to Myrdal (4.5 hours) and then the Flåmsbana mountain railway to Flåm (50 minutes). Spend the night on the edge of the fjords and take a cruise out into the Sognefjord before travelling on to Bergen the next day (2 hours). Finish off with a trip to the fish market and great views from the funicular to Mount Fløyen.

A one-week rail trip itinerary in Scandinavia

Through Scandinavia from Copenhagen to Bergen

So which would be your favourite route? Get lots more inspiration for travel by train in Europe in the On the Luce ‘Rail Travel Ideas Book’, launching early 2018.

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You don't need months to spare to see Europe by train – five of the best mini European rail adventures, with routes in Italy, Scandinavia and more – ontheluce.com

World’s 50 Most Dangerous Countries Revealed For Travelers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘BORED PANDA’ WEBSITE)

 

World’s Most Dangerous Countries Revealed, And It May Change Your Travel Plans

Just like last year, International SOS and Control Risks have released a map that shows just how tourist-friendly all countries are, and it’s worth looking at if you’re planning a trip for 2018 to a place you’ve never been before. After all, we all like coming back from a holiday with all of our limbs and other valuables.

Collecting data from the World Health Organization and other institutions, the interactive ‘Travel Risk Map’ reveals just how risky countries are regarding road safety, security and medical matters. According to The Ipsos Mori Business Resilience Trends Watch 2018, 63% of people think travel-related risks have increased during the past year. In the paper, security threats and natural disasters were cited as main reasons for changed travel plans.

Scroll down to check out how countries rank up against each other and let us know what you think about it in the comment section below!

More info: travelriskmap.com (h/t)

This is how much travelers will be risking their health in 2018 across the globe

And this is how the world looks from a security threat point of view

Finally, road safety

Puerto Rico, Trapped Between Colonialism and Hurricanes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Puerto Rico, Trapped Between Colonialism and Hurricanes

Puerto Rican Graffiti. Photo by Flickr user Juan Cristóbal Zulueta. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Puerto Rican Graffiti. Photo by Flickr user Juan Cristóbal Zulueta. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

You came to Puerto Rico for the golden sand and sun—gold, you will recall, was also the basis of our first colonizers’ initial attraction. For the endless piña coladas and rum-spiked mysteries. For the colonial charm and quaint, humble lifestyle. Poverty looks so alluring in the Caribbean, what with the bright colors, crystal-clear waters and the backdrop of lush greens—besides, it’s only for a week. Your friends say it’s the hottest Spring Break spot; the newspapers say it’s a debt-ridden disaster; your parents say it’s dangerous and that the water is undrinkable; and the brochures say it’s a (tax) haven, an absolute paradise. So here you are, in your bathing suit and sarong, mojito in hand, ready to focus on your one task for the week: getting a tan.

But it turns out that the sun isn’t nailed onto the sky, and it doesn’t run on one-million 100-watt light bulbs that never fail. The tides rise and the swells are ferocious. Coconuts, palm trees and branches are potential projectiles. And a hurricane is heading straight for your worry-free fantasy.

So you try to catch a flight out of this paradise-turned-inferno, because a hurricane was not on your must-see itinerary. Instead, JetBlue takes you to a hurricane shelter in San Juan, a hot and humid coliseum, where your beach chair is replaced by a cot; your piña colada by a Walgreens water bottle; your dream, by our reality.

The power was out in my house as I imagined the scenario above, which had taken place the day before, right before Irma’s arrival. After Irma’s passing the next morning there were more than a million households without power. The Electric Power Authority (AEE) was predicting the outages would last two to four months, and almost 80,000 households had lost water service as well. Over 6,200 people were in shelters on the northeastern side of the island, and Puerto Rico’s agricultural industry had suffered $30.4 million in losses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Governor Ricardo Rosselló were still evaluating infrastructural and residential damages. And now a powerful new storm was heading our way: María.

Puerto Rico is no stranger to crisis. Before Irma’s rampage through the archipelago, Puerto Rico was already in the midst of one of the most devastating financial and socio-political crises in its recent history, with an unaudited $74 billion debt under its belt, $49 billion in pension obligations, and several decades’ worth of illegal bond issuances and trading related to its status as an overly-advertised tax haven. Neoliberal policies such as draconian budget cuts and extreme austerity measures had already rendered life in Puerto Rico quite precarious. And the whole thing was being overseen and managed simultaneously by Governor Rosselló, an unelected and antidemocratic Fiscal Control Board, and judge Laura Taylor Swain, all of whom were going back and forth on the country’s fiscal management and debt restructuring processes.

But even as Hurricane Irma headed straight towards it, for many outside of the country, Puerto Rico is a mere blip on CNN’s news ticker, an enchanting US-owned island on a tourist brochure, that exotic place where the music video for “Despacito” was filmed (and made all the better by Justin Bieber), a pebble sinking between an ocean and a sea that have seen too much.

But Irma’s passing and aftermath have once again brought to light Puerto Rico’s primordial conundrum: colonialism.

Puerto Rico has been a US colony (the US prefers the euphemistic designations of “commonwealth”, “unincorporated territory” and “free associated state”) for 199 years, a relationship that has led to the country’s being trapped in a steep downward spiral. The current fiscal and socio-political crisis is only one of the side effects of this relationship.

Hurricane Irma’s passing underscored the damage done by the neoliberal austerity measures imposed by the Fiscal Control Board and the crimes committed by corporations taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s colonial status. For starters, as a result of the massive closure of public schools, only 329 schools across the island were available as hurricane shelters compared with the 372 available during Hurricane Bertha’s passing in 2014.

Puerto Rico’s infrastructure also finds itself in an advanced state of deterioration, including roads, bridges, the University of Puerto Rico and public service buildings all of whom were critically endangered during Irma’s passing. A good part of the country’s “essential infrastructure” is on the coast, making it vulnerable to flooding, high tides and storm surges, especially during hurricanes of Irma’s or Maria’s intensity.

It is notable that much of that infrastructure was built to benefit the tourist industry and mercantile trade with the US, and the US alone. Money invested in infrastructure tends to go towards revitalizing these “essentials”, not to repairing the potholed roads in our communities, remediating asbestos-filled buildings or replacing crumbling light poles at the mercy of hurricane winds. All of this is further proof of our colonial market dependency and the essentially colonial nature of the tourist industry, which caters particularly to PR’s relationship with the US.

Even the disaster declaration signed by the US President authorizing FEMA assistance for Puerto Rico second-rate, allowing only for search and rescue, public health and safety, and debris removal. It didn’t include rebuilding or even restoration of power, and with the current fiscal crisis and the Fiscal Control Board’s silence since Irma’s passing, rebuilding and restructuring will be a tough feat for Puerto Rico given the lack of available resources.

Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico’s Carla Minet said:

The budget cuts, in an already weak economy, will probably make the storm’s social impact worse.

Minet added that a pre-Irma forecast by the Center for a New Economy’s policy director, Sergio M. Marxuach, predicts that the recently approved the Fiscal Plan would result in another lost decade, continued population loss due to migration and lower birth rates, lower employment, less access to public education, pension cuts, worsening health outcomes, higher mortality and lower life expectancy, and, ultimately, higher rates of poverty and inequality. “Now add in the cataclysm of a monster hurricane that the plan never accounted for,” said Minet.

The Fiscal Control Board is likely to use Irma as an excuse to aggressively push the many policies it has in line, such as the privatization of PR’s Electric Power Authority (AEE). Nor would it be surprising if Gov. Rosselló and the Fiscal Control Board used the occasion to dismantle and privatize the University of Puerto Rico, the only public higher education institution in the country, as well as a number of other public institutions that are defenseless against the colonial rule of the Fiscal Control Board and its blatant neoliberal attacks.

Now, barely two weeks after Irma’s passing, we’ve just been hit by another category 5 hurricane, María. This just as some household have just got back their electricity supply, and while others are still living in the dark; while the ground is still strewn with fallen trees and light posts waiting to take on second lives as projectiles; while many, both locals and refugees from neighboring Caribbean islands, are still recovering from the loss of their homes, their entire reality; and while crisis and colonialism continue to hold hands, as they do every day.

And so, you’re sitting in your cot with your straw hat on, hundreds of locals scrambling around you with what’s left of their lives stuffed into a bag or a suitcase, wondering why JetBlue dropped you off here and high-tailed it; why the shelter is so understaffed; why the power went even though it hasn’t yet started raining and not a gusts of wind has blown; why CNN wasn’t covering Irma’s passing over Puerto Rico. “I’m here, send over an Embassy representative for me!” you yell in your mind as you stare at the screen of your almost-dead smartphone. Why, you wonder, has life had been so unfair to you, ruining your longed-for vacation in the Island of enchantment.

Then your thoughts are interrupted as you spot a window and you walk gloomily towards it and look through pigeon-christened glass, and watch as the storm clouds gather and gusts of wind batter a US flag—oh, and a Puerto Rican one too.

7 climbers fall to their deaths in the Alps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

7 climbers fall to their deaths in the Alps

A view of the Zillertal Valley in the Austrian Alps, near an area where five climbers were killed.

Story highlights

  • Five climbers were killed after falling onto a glacier in the Austrian Alps
  • Two others were killed in Italy climbing in a group roped together

Rome (CNN) Seven climbers fell to their deaths in two separate incidents in the Alps on Sunday, officials said.

Five of the climbers died in the Austrian Alps, Zell am See provincial government chief Martin Reichholf told CNN. Two others were killed as they climbed in a group roped together in the Italian Alps, according to an emergency center there.
Reichholf said there were indications that the climbers were German citizens, adding that details were still emerging.
The climbers in Austria fell around 300 meters (1,000 feet) onto a glacier near the town of Krimml, according to Dr. Egbert Ritter, a trauma surgeon at the AUVA hospital in Salzburg.
Adamello Glacier
Krimml
Map data ©2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009), Google, Inst. Geogr. Nacional
A sixth climber — a 60-year-old man — is in intensive care at the hospital, but his injuries are not life-threatening, Ritter said. Six helicopters were at the scene of the accident, he told CNN.
The climbers fell at around 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) about 1.5 kilometers south of a mountain cabin called the Zittauer Hutte at an altitude of around 3,000 meters, he said.

Group roped together

In Italy, a man and woman who appear to be in their mid-30s were killed as they climbed the Adamello glacier in the the Trentino Alto Adige region, according to the emergency rescue center in the town of Trento.
They were part of a group of nine Italians from the city of Brescia. The climbers were connected by three ropesThey fell when those on the lowest rope slipped on the glacier, dragging down others higher up the slope, according to the rescue center.
A further two climbers were seriously injured, including a 14-year-old boy who is being treated in Trento hospital.
Three helicopters were used to rescue the group, officials said.

U.S. State Department Warns Citizens Against Going To Mexico Tourist Locations Because Of Violence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

The U.S. State Department has warned its citizens about traveling to Cancun and Los Cabos, two of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, after a surge in violence in those regions.

A travel advisory issued Tuesday upgraded the warnings for two states, Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, saying turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime and shootings in which innocent bystanders have been killed.

For years, both regions were largely insulated from the drug war violence that has engulfed other parts of Mexico, but this year they have each seen a major uptick in killings.

There have been deadly gun battles in downtown Cancun, and in January, five people were killed at a nightclub in nearby Playa del Carmen. In Los Cabos, a municipality on the Pacific Coast that includes the cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, three people were shot to death this month at the entrance to a popular beach.

The travel warning could deliver a major blow to Mexico’s $20-billion-a-year tourism industry, which represents about 7% of the country’s gross domestic product..

“This is a very bad news for Mexico,” said Rafael Fernandez de Castro, director for the Center for U.S.-Mexican studies at UC San Diego, who said recent growth in Mexico’s tourism industry has been a rare bright spot in an economy that quaked after President Trump’s threats to tear up free trade agreements and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the rapid increase in development, especially in Los Cabos, may have helped contribute to the violence, Fernandez de Castro said, as migrants from around the country came to build new hotel rooms and resorts.

“The growth of Los Cabos has been way too accelerated in the last two years,” he said. “It’s creating a little bit of social chaos.”

The State Department’s decision to warn residents about travel to the resort cities “is a reality check for the booming towns and economy of Mexico,” he said.

Mexican officials have gone to lengths to portray the country’s beach resorts as family friendly and safe. Violent incidents “are extremely rare among the millions of international tourists who visit Riviera Maya each year, and the entire tourism industry works to ensure the safety and satisfaction of all visitors,” reads a statement on the website of the Assn. of Riviera Maya Hotels.

.

But 10 years into the country’s military-led drug war, violence is surging across the nation. This year, Mexico is on track to record more homicides than in any year in the last two decades.

Rising demand for heroin in the U.S. and power struggles among the country’s top drug cartels, authorities say, have led to an increase in killings in 27 of Mexico’s 32 states.

In Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, 169 killings were reported from January to July, more than twice as many as during the same period last year.

In Baja California Sur, home to Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas, 232 slayings have been reported this year, nearly four times as many as during the same period last year.

Although tourism from the U.S. dropped off about five years ago during another period of high violence in Mexico, it has substantially recovered, with the number of American visitors increasing 12% from 2015 to 2016, according to the World Tourism Organization. Mexico recently surpassed Turkey to become the eighth most popular travel destination in the world, drawing 35 million international visitors last year.

Tourism officials in the Riviera Maya, the 140-mile-long stretch of Caribbean coastline that includes Cancun as well as Playa del Carmen and Tulum, have already been on the defensive this year after reports that a young woman died after drinking tainted alcohol at a resort.

The State Department also issued a warning in response to those reports, cautioning vacationers to drink alcohol in moderation and seek medical help if they begin to feel ill.

At least 17 killed in Burkina Faso restaurant terror attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

At least 17 killed in Burkina Faso restaurant terror attack

Story highlights

  • Unknown number of assailants attacked restaurant Sunday night local time
  • Government spokesman called the raid a “terrorist attack”

(CNN) At least 17 people were killed and eight others wounded after a number of assailants attacked a restaurant in Burkina Faso around 9 p.m. local time Sunday (5 p.m. ET), according to state-run media RTB.

The attack took place in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation. It’s not known how many attackers were involved.
Attackers barricaded themselves in the Istanbul restaurant on Avenue Kwame Nkrumah in the center of the city, RTB reports, citing authorities.
Burkina Faso Communications Minister Remis Dandjinou called the raid a “terrorist attack,” according to Reuters, and said the victims were from a number of countries. Efforts are underway to identify the bodies so the authorities can inform their families.
State media RTB reported that two “terrorists” had been killed.
After the attack, a security perimeter was established by the Defense and Security forces and all roads leading up to the Ouagadougou International Airport were closed.
The Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident.

Ongoing issue

Militants have targeted civilians in Burkina Faso previously, most notably in 2016 when attackers raided a luxury hotel in Ouagadougou, shooting some and taking others hostage in a siege that lasted hours and ended with 29 people dead.
An al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, Al-Mourabitoun, claimed responsibility for that assault, which had similarities to one at the Radisson Blu Hotel in neighboring Mali in November the previous year.
That attack left 22 people dead.

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE BLOG OF ‘NOMADONROAD’, PLEASE CHECK OUT HIS EXCELLENT BLOG SITE)

 

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

Road Trip to Hampi – The City of Ruins

Traveling is a Drug one must admit. When one gets addicted, it kind of gets difficult to get rid of it. You will find excuses, inspirations and so on, to travel more, regardless to the destinations being close or far, I am sure all the travelers can relate to what I am talking about here.

So, it happened  one evening when me along with my friends – Bobby & Ajay  were watching this documentary called “Mysteries of Asia: Lost Temples of India” where they discuss about this particular place called “Hampi – The Ghost City” – which in the Southern part of India – Northern Karnataka, living in the same state we hadn’t been there. I know most of the time we tend to ignore the places we are close by or we grew up, rather we tend to take it for granted.

Hampi is within the ruins of Vijayanagara once a bustling city – Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi got its name from the River Pampa which is now called as Tungabhadra – on the banks of which the city was built. The site was chosen because it had natural defenses, in the form of rocky hills on three sides and the river on the fourth. It was a thriving, bustling city till the second half of the 16th century, when it was laid siege to and ultimately overrun by the Sultan of Bijapur. As legend has it, the city’s temples were ravaged by the invaders and its sandalwood palaces burnt down in an attempt to wipe it clean from popular memory. And so Hampi was forgotten – its stone survivors overwhelmed by jungle growth; until British archaeologists stumbled upon it several many decades later. And here were are, Like all others who thong to this place to get a glimpse of our very own history,,,, As the Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes mentioned in 1522 AD, “This is the land of riches”…You will have to witness it to believe it !!!

I felt a little bad for not have explored this beautiful place however it’s never too late. Mostly I love travelling alone as I mentioned in my first post however as they say “More the merrier”. I was happier when my childhood friends, who also equally love travelling and exploring the unexplored agreed to join me. Hence, we decided overnight to travel and explore what this place had to offer. All we knew is this place wasn’t going to disappoint us for sure. I, Bobby and Ajay re-assembled at my place with our bags packed and left to Hampi at around 11:45 PM, this was in the month of September 2014, most ideal period of the Year to Visit Hampi J . Since it was an immediate travel plan we had not booked any accommodation, we thought we will figure out by the time we reach Hampi – by the time Bobby said that he googled and most recommendations was to stay at Hosapete town which is 12kms away from Hampi. We all concluded that we find accommodation at Hosapete

I always love trips like this when you don’t have plan so much. Travelling with your best buddies are always an advantage, you can stop the car any time you want, take pictures, eat and talk nonstop about any topic under the sun. Our journey took place and we loved every bit about it, excited to see the place for the first time we were just like those kids going to a fair.. 😂😂

Ajay, Bobby, Dev (Me)

Ajay, Bobby, Dev (Me)

By the time we crossed Bangalore it was around 1:00 AM in the Morning, we thought of giving a theme to this travel and called ourselves as “Wolf Pack” and themed it as “wolf pack – Trip to Enthralling Hampi”. Ajay had taken the Driver Seat, me – the navigator and Bobby as soon he got inside the car – he started sleeping 😂. Ajay is one person who can’t keep quiet and is perfect companion if you are driving at night – ideally he can speak about anything – name the topic, he would have something to talk about – we started talking about politics, work etc.

This being an unplanned trip of ours we dint do any homework about the places to explore. We decided to go old School without using much of a technology. The only place we kept in our mind was Hospete which we followed the route by asking the road side shopkeepers, daba’s and the passerby, keeping only one place in mind

I really didn’t keep a track of time nor the distance. I saw the road sign, I could see that we were only 80 KM away from Hosapete and the time was around 6:30 am, we reached Hosapete around 7:30 am and started searching for accommodation, we saw these two Hotels – “Shanbhag Towers” and other being “Hotel Priyadarshini” (mostly due to our Budget), we settled in for Priyadarshini because it had a nice Bar & Restaurant attached to it.

Even though we arrived quite early, the hotel staff were quite accommodative and helped with reservation. As soon we got our room, we took a quick nap, freshened up and headed for the Breakfast. Breakfast was quite good and started conversing with the Hotel staff related to Places to visit etc, one recommendation provided was to take Local Guide while at Hampi if you need to know the place, history etc., because Hampi being quite vast, we might miss certain important places.

After having quite a heavy breakfast – we set out to Hampi, as we got close to Hampi we started seeing the ruins, for some reason I started having chills while we passed through the ruins and the structures.

We finally arrived at Hampi – near Virupaksha Temple. Virupaksha Temple is part of Group of Monuments at Hampi, the presiding diety is Lord Shiva – one of the Hindu God. This temple was built by the Queen “Lokhamadevi” – wife of Vikramaditya II in order to commemorate the King’s victory over Pallava of Kanchipuram. We parked the car and the first thing we wanted to do was hire a Local Guide.

As we were passing by the Virupaksha Temple, we got to see some of the erotic carvings on the Temple Tower, in most case these carvings can only be seen on the outside walls but none on the inside walls. In its popular saying, they say that these carvings were meant for educational purpose in those days as temple’s were visited by large part of the population and these carving on temple pillars & walls formed a ideal place to spread awareness

 

Finally we found a Guide and started inquiring about the guide fee – it looks like the guide fee is standard/fixed – 1500 Rupees per day, we hired him and thus started our tour of Hampi. We started with Virupaksha Temple and the structures nearby, the guide was very knowledgeable was able to answer any queries which we put forth and was good with Camera as well. Oh I forgot to introduce him, our Guide’s name: Mr. Gurumurthy – if any is visiting Hampi and would like to have a Local Guide – in order to know history, places etc of Hampi, you can contact Gurumurthy on + 91 94815 66709.

In and around Virupaksha temple we can see structures which are of the Jain period, Hemkut Jain temples, Ratnantraykut, Parsvanath Charan and Ganigatti jain temple, most of Idols are missing – ideally there are nothing inisde the structures. The entire hill surrounding the Virupaksha Temple is called as Hemakuta Hill. This place is one of best to see the sunrise and sunset and is a treat for photographers, another best place to see the sunset and sunrise is the Matanga Hill.

By this time we were feeling little tired, but I would once again like to say that Hampi is a treat for Photographers, so much to see and so much to capture – we might not know as where to start and where to end. we started inquiring about various things about the place and our guide Gurumurthy was always ready to answer with a smile.

We had now started to get down from the Hemakuta Hill, Next Place of significance was “Kadalekalu Ganesha” – it is one Largest Statue of Ganesha ( Hindu God, Son of Lord Shiva)  in Southern India carved in Granite, the name “Kadalekalu” means Bengal_gram/Chicpea – since the belly of Ganesha is in resemblence of Bengal Gram, one more thing to notice if you go behind the Idol you can see an Hand holding/supporting the Idol from the back – Popular belief or artistic represtation could be that it is Ganesha’s Mother Parvathi holding him from the back. It is also believed that some people try to cut open the tummy as they thought there was some treasure in that, you can still see the cut stone in front of the temple!. Now we started heading towards Gopura – Krishna Temple, on the way we met some localites – took some pictures, visited naturally formed Caves.

Krishna Temple – This temple was built during the reign of Krishnadevaraya after his successful campaign against Gajapatis of Orissa, the temple is in the abandoned state – This was abandoned after the fall of Vijaynagara empire. Krishna temple bazaar has been excavated through the last decade, and restoration work is still in progress

Krishna Temple Bazaar

Krishna Temple Bazaar

After completing Krishna Temple, we started towards the Lotus Mahal, Lotus Mahal – as the name suggests, its in the shape of the Lotus, according to our Guide – Lotus Mahal used to be a place where royal ladies used come and mingle, it used to also serve as meeting point for King and his ministers. There are several monuments nearby

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal

On the way to Lotus Mahal, you can notice this building – according to the guide, this is the place where the finance team of the King used to reside – more to do with storage of coins etc.

Some more from the group Monuments of Hampi…

Finally we are here at the Massive Elephant stable and we can see that these are least destroyed structures in Hampi. This stable was used to park Royal Elephants. There are 11 domed tall chambers, the center one is decorated and huge.

The structure below Recently discovered …Radically different from the rest of tank constructions in Hampi, the Stepped Tank is made of made of finely finished black schist stone blocks. It seems the tank was made elsewhere and later brought and assembled at its current location. Practically every stone is earmarked for this purpose and some bears even ‘sketches’ by its architects. The purpose of this tank is not very sure, mostly it was used during the religious ceremonies by the royals.

We took rest for a while at the tank and started discussing with our guide Gurumurthy – various other aspects about other Structures near by – Every structure in Hampi has a story associated with it and we felt enlightened knowing the history through the ruins and it took us back in time.

This is the place where the king used to behead people whom he found to be cheating in Revenue Funds….Every year there used to be a Cabinet Meeting and if anyone found guilty was punished publicly….On a lighter note, this technique should be used for all Rapists 🙂…lol

 

The one below quite a gigantic tank or maybe bathing place – I can even term it as swimming pool  for visitors who used to visit the empire in those days – its really quite Massive.

 

We covered most of the major structures in and around the Lotus Mahal – now started heading towards the Vittala Temple, Vittala Temple ( Dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu ) is one of the ancient, well know monument in Hampi and it is quite close to the banks of Tungabhadra River – then Pampa River, the main attraction is the Chariot and the musical pillars. This monument was built during the reign of King Devaraya II. Here are some of the captures on the way to Vittala Temple.

Market No 3 - In front of Vittala Temple

Market No 3 – In front of Vittala Temple

 

On the way to the Vitalla Temple Complex, I would recommend that you visit Achyutaraya temple complex, this seems to be more less visited compared to Virupaksha and Vitalla Temple complex.

 

 

 

Here we arrive at the most awaited Vittala Temple Complex – as mentioned quite from far, the chariot is quite visible and forms the major attraction – it is considered one of the stunning architecture and only there of them are found in India – One in Orissa (Konark Temple), Second in Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu) and this being the third one. The “Chariot” never moved , unlike those wooden temple cars used in the temple festival ceremonies. What probably moved was its four wheels around its axle, all made of granite. There was a dome like superstructure over the chariot. That too is missing now. However you can see them on the first ever photographs of Hampi taken in 1856 by Alexander Greenlaw

The Musical Pillars: Large Mantapa is famous for its musical pillars which it houses and also called as Saregama pillars indicating the Musical notes emitted by them, you can hear the musical notes when the pillars are tapped gently.

 

This 5-meter or so tall ‘balance’ is located near the Vittala temple. Also called as Tula Bhara or Tula Purushadana, the king used to weigh himself with gold, gems, silver and precious stones, and distributed to the priests. It’s believed that this had been done during the special ceremony seasons like solar or lunar eclipses. You can spot three loops on top of the balance, into which the balance actually hung. Also in one of the pillars you can spot the king’s image carved along with his concerts. 

By this time I think we had more or less covered major sites of Hampi –  In order to cover the places we did even skip our lunch – we managed with snacks and fruits which were being sold on the streets. Ideally you cannot cover complete Hampi in a day, it is practically impossible as our Guide Mr Gurumurthy says that we might need a life time to know it completely but still you get to miss since new discoveries are continuously been done in the region, We felt we need to visit again to cover the places which we would have missed. Time was now close to Sunset, we went near by Thungabadra River to watch the Sunset.

Old Bridge...Thungabadra River...Some people say this is where the Enemy army got an entry inside HAMPI..

Old Bridge…Thungabadra River…Some people say this is where the Enemy army got an entry inside HAMPI..

Whenever we venture out on a trip, we three would have one photograph which majorly forms our Cover Pic, our Guide Mr. Gurumurthy shot this photograph for us and it came out really well.

There were three more monuments which we had skipped earlier since our Guide  recommended that we can visit them while on the way back to Hemakuta Hill (Near Virupaksha Temple – that is where we had parked our vehicle), We started towards the Hemakuta Hill, since the sun was setting in, we thought calling it off for the day once we see these structures:

  • The Lakshmi Narasimha Statue: This is the largest statue in Hampi. Narasimha is sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake called Sesha. The heads of the snake acts as the hood above his head. The god sits in a cross-legged Yoga position with a belt supporting the knees…The original statue contained the image of goddess Lakshmi, consort of the god, sitting on his lap. But this statue has been damaged seriously during the raid leading to the fall of Vijayanagara.

 

  • Badavilinga Temple, Hampi : This is the largest monolithic Linga in Hampi. Located next to the Narasimha statue the Linga is housed inside a chamber with an opening in the front.A close look on this icon can reveal three eyes (depicting the three eyes of Siva) carved on it. Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue).

 

The last monument to visit was Sasivekalu Ganesha (Mustard seed Ganesha) which is at the foothill of  Hemakuta Hill, Guide recommended that we see this before sun completely sets and will call off for the day.

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Sasivekalu Ganesha

This concluded our day at Hampi, We thanked our guide Mr. Gurumurthy for wealth of information shared and we were craving for more. We thought we spend some more time on top of  Hemakuta Hill watching the sunset and take some good pictures, we had another 2 days left – we started planning for next 2 days

Enchanting Hampi

I got some power now…..Let me save u

I had now started thinking that we have such amazing places which were close to Bangalore where we grew up and we had never made a point to come and see it, nonetheless we were enjoying every bit the place had to offer, from history to art – art to scenic beauty. The sunset of all things stole my heart away, it was so beautiful, I got engrossed in it.

Meanwhile Plan for the next two days was done – we decided that we head towards our hotel, take some rest, freshen up and re-assemble for Dinner at the attached Bar and Restaurant. Plan was that, early morning we head towards PattadakalAihole and Badami. Our next 2 days tour which we had intended to travel is on a seperate post, please click_here

 

Here are Information which might be helpful for anyone visiting Hampi:

Right Time to visit Hampi:

October to Feb – Main reason being weather is cooler during this period, avoid going during summer, most of the temple complexes remain open from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm.

How to get to Hampi:

By Airplane: The nearest airport is Hubli which is around 140KMS from Hampi, fly to Hubli and then take a taxi or Bus, The Bus are normally operated by Karnataka State transport and would take around 4 -5 hours to reach from Hubli to Hampi. Please check Plane & Bus Timings accordingly ( refer http://www.ksrtc.in, redbus.in)

By Train: The train stops at Hosapet/Hospet junction, this place very close to the place where we had our accommodation. Train runs serveral times a week from Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa. You can book you train tickets from IRCTC website https://www.irctc.co.in, currently other websites such as makemytrip.com, yatra.com do take train reservations.

By Bus: As mentioned earlier – Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates daily buses to Hospet from Bangalore, Mysore and Gokarna. From hospet you can reach hampi on a local bus.

By Car: Its around 350Kms from Bangalore, Drive till Chitradurga on NH-4, take a right turn on NH-13 towards Sholapur till Hospet, and then drive another 13km to reach Hampi (direction towards Hampi is well marked).

Moving in and around Hampi: I would strongly recommend that you Hire a Moped, Motorcycle or even a bicycle while at Hampi so that moving around becomes very easy unless you enjoy walking. Bicycle might cost around 150/day and Moped could be more or less around 250 – 300 per day

Contact of Guides:

  • Gurumurthy – +91 94815 66709.
  • Rama – +91 94491 19485

Stay: For a First time visitor, I would recommend staying at Hospet due to accessibility to railway Station, better Hotels, medical stores, clinics etc. as mentioned earlier Hampi is also not very far from Hospet. You get a wide range of hotels at Hospet from Budget to expensive ones. Use any of the booking sites such as www.Booking.com,  www.trivago.in etc.

You can find a cheaper guest houses across the river – “Virupapur Gaddi” it is also called as Hippie Island – I will cover this in a seperate post, we had been to this place quite recently. A lot cheaper guest houses are available here – I would not recommend staying here if you are on a short visit, you can avoid it since there is no road access from the archaeological site Hampi, only way to reach this place from Hampi is via the River, if the water levels are higher it might be too risky, there is road access via an alternate route which is 40Kms away – unless you intend to stay longer in Hampi for more than a week and explore all places nearby and would need a cheaper accommodation, you can look at this option, otherwise I would recommend staying at Hosapet/Hospet.

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