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  • 16 May 2020
    Frugality is the mother of all virtues. Justinian I In a country where tradition, history and legend are so entangled with the past, present and probably future, you don’t have to dig deep to find a day trip out of the city. A few searches on the internet and we found an absorbing read by a wanna-be travel writer who listed the 10 best things to see in Sirmium, or Sremska Mitrovica. With a population of less than 80000 souls you would think that 10 is overstretching things, but they were described so tantalisingly that you wanted to eat them, not just see them! Serbia has the largest number of Roman emperors born outside of Italy – 17 altogether, among them Constantine I and Justinian I but the determining factor, and listed as number one of the ten, was that Sirmium was the birthplace of not just one, two or three but ten Roman Emperors! How many cities in the world can brag of having given birth to ten Roman Emperors? The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus even called Sirmium “the glorious mother of cities.” That was enough to get our travel glands overworking and send us off to the western part of Serbia on an unusually sunny November day. The drive through the countryside was a perfect reflection of past centuries, despite the ravages and torments of the last one.  A bank, a coffee shop, churches, usually the Orthodox on the right and the Catholic on the left side of the road, duly followed by a grocer's, then a detached ruined house, followed by a new three-storey house made of the cheapest possible building materials imported from brotherly China. Then a huge space filled with freshly ploughed soil made it look like the enormous painting would melt into a different composition, only, unfortunately, it was to be just the same undeviating landscape…. a bank, a coffee shop…occasionally broken by a school or police station. There were no big-name companies. Or factories. It was Sunday and without people mingling on the streets the whole picture looked even more grim. Driving steadily through the countryside, I often wondered where the people worked. How did they make a living? “They deal with it.” One of so many phrases you hear from the locals very often. It means working at two or three low-paid jobs, paid cash in hand and, if they are lucky to be registered for at least one job, it’s usually at the lowest contribution level, killing in the bud any idea of a comfortable retirement. While we in the West are worried about the rising age of retirement, here they are ferociously fighting for any kind of pension. It is no surprise that Serbia is losing 51,000 citizens per year according to the OCED. Not to a high death-rate or low birth-rate but to pure emigration to any country in the world which would pay more than a pittance. Leaving numbers and reality behind us, we arrived in the early afternoon welcomed by empty parking spaces. The first stop was a regional museum which was number 5 on the travel writer's list. We didn’t plan to follow the list but the museum was right in front of us in a nice, white 18th century building so we decided to start from there.  Our excitement was short lived as the building was closed on Sunday. Luckily the Sirimium Palate Imperiale was just across a small roundabout located in a grey warehouse building which we dismissed upon arrival as another one of the architectural monstrosities raised in the name of the transition period from communism to capitalism. It was closed too, even though we had checked that it was open on Sundays! After cursing in a few different languages to the utter dismay of the local tramp, the only human on the empty street except us, we discovered big French windows which gave us a glimpse of what we were missing. The Roman ruins at Volubilus in Morocco or Leptis Magna in Libya simply dwarfed the ones in front of us. These ones were small. Simply tiny for 10 Roman Emperors. And whatever you might think - size does matter! If 10 Emperors had been born in and around any city in the world, that city would have been on the UNESCO list a long time ago! Slightly disappointed, we turned our backs and come across a monument to the sheep pig, something this area is very famous for. The Mangalica pig is international, well, Eastern European, a cross breed between Hungarian and Serbian stock with the small addition of wild boar who contributes the wool, although my knowledge of pig breeding is limited and I may be misinformed. But the meat is tasty as there is not much fat. Next to the pig statue there was a small creature which we couldn’t identify as a pig until someone recognised it as a dog. It was a type of dog called a Pulin. Yes, I heard Putin too. The Pulin is a traditional sheepdog from this area and it's immortalised next to the sheep pig. I know. I was confused too. We crossed number 3 from the list. Quickly, we moved on to the main pedestrian zone in quest of a sundial, wondering how to find it. By looking up at the buildings or down at the ground? There was no point asking anyone as no one was passing by. We crossed the whole main street to the other side of the modern town where we were surprised by another set of Roman ruins. Again, not on a huge scale but in good condition. A kid, hidden on a bench and immersed in a loud game on a new device, and annoyed at being asked for directions threw his right hand out towards the end of the road, with his eyes glued to imaginary friends on his tablet. Then sensing our confusion, he started shouting, still not looking at us: “There. Just there!” We quickly moved forward, leaving the distressed young human with his obsession.  Slowly, we come across the longest footbridge in Europe. Apparently. Later, at home we checked this claim and pages came up with the same  story. However, this one was also the prettiest one. The official name is St Irinej Bridge and its length of 262.2m connects two different parts of Serbia, Srem and Macva, over the River Sava. The views are amazing and we spent a considerable time walking up and down taking photos of different parts of Serbia, which actually looked exactly the same, flat. It’s worth noting that we didn’t need passports to cross from Srem to Macva. Not yet anyway. On the way back we haunted a young, tipsy woman, asking her about the sundial. She shrugged her wide shoulders, pulled her face while trying to retrieve any information from her intoxicated brain. Looking very far over our heads she remembered vaguely a clock somewhere in the city but that was in the museum now. What about the street art? Does she know where we can find it? It was on our list. Her face grimaced this time. It was the sign to give up. Slightly disappointed, we drowned our sorrows at an empty coffee-shop nestling in someone's garden. The waitress, a pretty young thing, didn’t know anything about Roman ruins, while an older lady sitting in the corner, cursed her bitterly for not knowing anything about her city. It turned out that it was not her city, that she had emigrated from Kosovo, in the south of Serbia which declared independence in 2008. We sit quietly worried in case we sparked another war. Impenitent, the old lady continued: “There are ruins, every time they build a house, the ruins burst up like popcorn.” Not sure she was convincing enough she added the urban legend how someone from the city found not one but two cups full of gold coins while building his house. Tired, we didn’t ask what had happened with the gold coins as somehow, we knew they were in the museum which was closed today. As it was Sunday. And tourism doesn’t work on Sunday.  
    30 Posted by bossgate
  • Frugality is the mother of all virtues. Justinian I In a country where tradition, history and legend are so entangled with the past, present and probably future, you don’t have to dig deep to find a day trip out of the city. A few searches on the internet and we found an absorbing read by a wanna-be travel writer who listed the 10 best things to see in Sirmium, or Sremska Mitrovica. With a population of less than 80000 souls you would think that 10 is overstretching things, but they were described so tantalisingly that you wanted to eat them, not just see them! Serbia has the largest number of Roman emperors born outside of Italy – 17 altogether, among them Constantine I and Justinian I but the determining factor, and listed as number one of the ten, was that Sirmium was the birthplace of not just one, two or three but ten Roman Emperors! How many cities in the world can brag of having given birth to ten Roman Emperors? The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus even called Sirmium “the glorious mother of cities.” That was enough to get our travel glands overworking and send us off to the western part of Serbia on an unusually sunny November day. The drive through the countryside was a perfect reflection of past centuries, despite the ravages and torments of the last one.  A bank, a coffee shop, churches, usually the Orthodox on the right and the Catholic on the left side of the road, duly followed by a grocer's, then a detached ruined house, followed by a new three-storey house made of the cheapest possible building materials imported from brotherly China. Then a huge space filled with freshly ploughed soil made it look like the enormous painting would melt into a different composition, only, unfortunately, it was to be just the same undeviating landscape…. a bank, a coffee shop…occasionally broken by a school or police station. There were no big-name companies. Or factories. It was Sunday and without people mingling on the streets the whole picture looked even more grim. Driving steadily through the countryside, I often wondered where the people worked. How did they make a living? “They deal with it.” One of so many phrases you hear from the locals very often. It means working at two or three low-paid jobs, paid cash in hand and, if they are lucky to be registered for at least one job, it’s usually at the lowest contribution level, killing in the bud any idea of a comfortable retirement. While we in the West are worried about the rising age of retirement, here they are ferociously fighting for any kind of pension. It is no surprise that Serbia is losing 51,000 citizens per year according to the OCED. Not to a high death-rate or low birth-rate but to pure emigration to any country in the world which would pay more than a pittance. Leaving numbers and reality behind us, we arrived in the early afternoon welcomed by empty parking spaces. The first stop was a regional museum which was number 5 on the travel writer's list. We didn’t plan to follow the list but the museum was right in front of us in a nice, white 18th century building so we decided to start from there.  Our excitement was short lived as the building was closed on Sunday. Luckily the Sirimium Palate Imperiale was just across a small roundabout located in a grey warehouse building which we dismissed upon arrival as another one of the architectural monstrosities raised in the name of the transition period from communism to capitalism. It was closed too, even though we had checked that it was open on Sundays! After cursing in a few different languages to the utter dismay of the local tramp, the only human on the empty street except us, we discovered big French windows which gave us a glimpse of what we were missing. The Roman ruins at Volubilus in Morocco or Leptis Magna in Libya simply dwarfed the ones in front of us. These ones were small. Simply tiny for 10 Roman Emperors. And whatever you might think - size does matter! If 10 Emperors had been born in and around any city in the world, that city would have been on the UNESCO list a long time ago! Slightly disappointed, we turned our backs and come across a monument to the sheep pig, something this area is very famous for. The Mangalica pig is international, well, Eastern European, a cross breed between Hungarian and Serbian stock with the small addition of wild boar who contributes the wool, although my knowledge of pig breeding is limited and I may be misinformed. But the meat is tasty as there is not much fat. Next to the pig statue there was a small creature which we couldn’t identify as a pig until someone recognised it as a dog. It was a type of dog called a Pulin. Yes, I heard Putin too. The Pulin is a traditional sheepdog from this area and it's immortalised next to the sheep pig. I know. I was confused too. We crossed number 3 from the list. Quickly, we moved on to the main pedestrian zone in quest of a sundial, wondering how to find it. By looking up at the buildings or down at the ground? There was no point asking anyone as no one was passing by. We crossed the whole main street to the other side of the modern town where we were surprised by another set of Roman ruins. Again, not on a huge scale but in good condition. A kid, hidden on a bench and immersed in a loud game on a new device, and annoyed at being asked for directions threw his right hand out towards the end of the road, with his eyes glued to imaginary friends on his tablet. Then sensing our confusion, he started shouting, still not looking at us: “There. Just there!” We quickly moved forward, leaving the distressed young human with his obsession.  Slowly, we come across the longest footbridge in Europe. Apparently. Later, at home we checked this claim and pages came up with the same  story. However, this one was also the prettiest one. The official name is St Irinej Bridge and its length of 262.2m connects two different parts of Serbia, Srem and Macva, over the River Sava. The views are amazing and we spent a considerable time walking up and down taking photos of different parts of Serbia, which actually looked exactly the same, flat. It’s worth noting that we didn’t need passports to cross from Srem to Macva. Not yet anyway. On the way back we haunted a young, tipsy woman, asking her about the sundial. She shrugged her wide shoulders, pulled her face while trying to retrieve any information from her intoxicated brain. Looking very far over our heads she remembered vaguely a clock somewhere in the city but that was in the museum now. What about the street art? Does she know where we can find it? It was on our list. Her face grimaced this time. It was the sign to give up. Slightly disappointed, we drowned our sorrows at an empty coffee-shop nestling in someone's garden. The waitress, a pretty young thing, didn’t know anything about Roman ruins, while an older lady sitting in the corner, cursed her bitterly for not knowing anything about her city. It turned out that it was not her city, that she had emigrated from Kosovo, in the south of Serbia which declared independence in 2008. We sit quietly worried in case we sparked another war. Impenitent, the old lady continued: “There are ruins, every time they build a house, the ruins burst up like popcorn.” Not sure she was convincing enough she added the urban legend how someone from the city found not one but two cups full of gold coins while building his house. Tired, we didn’t ask what had happened with the gold coins as somehow, we knew they were in the museum which was closed today. As it was Sunday. And tourism doesn’t work on Sunday.  
    May 16, 2020 30
  • 24 Apr 2020
    Here is first hand travelling experience of the First Time in #India by up and coming bloggers  Ana and Ignacio who are behind a very popular blog "Tango & Rakija" It`s no wonder that they say: you feel India with all your senses. It’s true. I have been there, have seen, smelled, heard, tasted it and I still feel it so strongly with all my senses… My first time in India was just like a plate of strong, spicy, delicious and brightly coloured curry – exciting and tasty but also leaving some discomfort in the stomach. On our FIRST ever trip to India, Mumbai was the first stop and we were arriving, why not to say it, a little scared. It was our first time together on a trip of this length, not to mention masses of advice about NOT DRINKING TAP WATER, NOT EATING IN THE STREET, having full, anti-all-INSURANCE, eating only in fancy restaurants… all that made us nervous, anticipating strange things. With all the suggestions, advise and survival equipment squeezed into our backpacks we reached Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, expecting BIG unexpected things of India. Once we managed to get into a cab and gave the address of our hotel to the polite driver, he started to ask us the ABC introduction questions: ”where are you from, what have you been doing so far, how long will you stay…?” We barely gave half answers, speechless looking outside and not being able to digest so much in that short period of time. It was late at night and I guess that the darkness didn’t improve our first impression. The silence in the car was broken once more when the driver spoke to us saying: “THIS IS THE BIGGEST SLUM IN THE WORLD” pointing through the window and slowing down the car. I cannot say if it was the biggest or not, but the row of rustic, half destroyed houses and abandoned buildings stretched as far as I could see. What I was seeing behind the road we were on, was beyond my imagination, a hundred times truer than any Hollywood film about India. We were both rendered speechless by the scenery which was so far removed from our views of this world.  That happy feeling when discovering a new place just turned into anguish and dread of what comes next. Eventually we reached the hotel and Ana’s first words were: “Did you see those houses?” as it took her all the way till the hotel before she could get the words out. I think that anyone’s first time in India simply cannot happen without some kind of shock. Even if you have been seeing things and going places, India is going to surprise you. Be prepared for that! Our hotel in Mumbai was, well, let`s say decent, but strange and definitely the first of that kind that we have ever seen. As we were walked in the room by the polite receptionist he generously sprayed our room, particularly the bed corners and area around the pillows, with an air freshener – it certainly camouflaged the smell of humidity and lack of ventilation but… you know… Anyway, the morning after seemed to be a bit brighter in daylight and things started to turn from tragic to tragi-comic and eventually we were also having lot of FUN. Mumbai is the most densely populated city in India, so, if you are going there, be prepared to see a LOT of people around. And there is lots of everything – this vast city is the scenario for the most heart-breaking poverty, while you will also see levels of wealth that somehow do not match, like trying to fit a picture of Da Vinci in a background painted by Van Gogh, it will just not match, the gap is just huge. In our opinion, Mumbai is a great choice for a first trip to India – it´s a huge city where you can find many different things – beautiful temples, pagodas, majestic buildings and amazing architecture, get to know about the traditional way of living and learn about Indian history. At almost any moment of the day you will have a feeling like literally all the inhabitants of the city are on the streets – the number of people is just hard to imagine, as well as the traffic with all the cars, TUK-TUKS, motorbikes, bicycles, trucks and their horns, traffic lights, … It`s like all the sounds, blinking lights and colors of the world are just there, happening at the same time, from all directions, concentrated at that one single street that you need to cross. I cannot fully describe the feeling of anxiety that we both experienced while trying to CROSS THE STREET in Mumbai for the first time – so-called semaphores and so-called traffic rules – forget about all that! It’s like a crusade getting from one side of the street to the opposite  – you will feel the adrenaline running through your blood and once you conquer it, you will feel like you aged 5 years in one minute but also a great victory. At certain moments big groups of people will come to your rescue because, while they are crossing, the traffic won’t be able to move at all, so there is your big chance to just jump in the mass and follow them. However, to understand the dynamics better, just look how others are doing it, and imitate that behavior with confidence and trust in whatever spiritual power you trust… in the end, it’s just crossing the street and after the first few tries you master it. Believe me when I say there are moments of the day when it is so difficult to walk on the streets due to the huge numbers of people, cars, motorbikes, even COWS… that you can’t even stop for a moment and think where you were heading to, you just move with the mass in an unknown direction. COWS on the street – that is also a totally normal thing all over India. Since the cow is a holy animal, it`s like a living adoration – they walk freely all around the city and even that crazy traffic will stop in a second to let the holy animal cross the street in peace. Eating cow’s meat is not an option, they are simply adored as free animals or, at most, they are used for transportation. Another” amusement” for our senses during our trip around India was the pollution which, unlike in many other countries, you can see, feel and almost touch. In a big Indian city like Mumbai you will find difficult to see very far as the landscape becomes as foggy as a random winter day in London…except that is not fog but air pollution that is visible and really possible to smell. Yes, you can literally smell the air and see it`s grey-red-ish color as a layer that goes above the landscape. Pollution is really a problem in India – tons of garbage are piled up all around and it looks like there is no garbage collection at all. With very high temperatures most of the year, fermenting garbage makes not only a strong smell but a fruitful source of disease as well. You will not see many garbage bins either. And this is true not only for the busy streets of the big cities. Remote locations, nature parks, beaches, villages, rivers – many of the amazing places are being gradually ruined by a lack of ecological conscience. Almost all the locals that you will meet are super friendly with foreigners. Actually, friendly up to the point that you will have moments of feeling like a super-star. Many people will ask to take photos with you. For some reason, it is really a thing there, to meet a foreigner and get a photo with one. We ended up making long photo-sessions with different people around the street – young, old, kids, a woman with babies…everyone wanted a shot with us. We were very confused at first – did they mistake us for some beautiful celebrity couple?…Hmm, I don`t think so. Some of them explained us that we just look unusual and different to them and they want a photo because… you know, that`s how the world works now, we all fight for some likes… and that`s how we ended up being celebrities in India. And you can be too! Another thing about people in India – they are generous and they really like to help. When you feel lost or curious about something don’t hesitate to ask. They will almost always be happy to help you. However, as the old proverb says “one hand washes the other” be prepared to return the courtesy in some situations – to visit their shop, take a ride with them if they drive taxi or tuk-tuk, or whatever else they offer you. That is also a way how you can organize your trip around India – for example book a ride to somewhere, find a tourist guide, find a restaurant or any other activity… just go to the street and ask the first person that passes by – they will happily recommend a friend, cousin, neighbor who has exactly whatever it is that you need. And the price of literally everything is negotiable so it will all depend on your negotiating skills and patience. Street Market (Crawford Market) You will be surprised at the number of shops and street sellers trying to sell you everything: from food to fabrics, dishes, clothes, jewelry, toys, tools, perfumes… A good advice is better not to ask for something if you are not really interested in buying it, otherwise it will be very difficult to escape; they are very persuasive sellers and you will end up buying things that you didn’t really want to buy. One more tip – if you go to a shop early in the morning just after they open, you have a bigger chance to negotiate a bigger discount since the morning is the most important moment of the day for them. If they don’t sell anything to the first customer that stops by, they believe the whole commercial day will be a reflection of it. In any case, bargaining in India is mandatory and any price anywhere is negotiable so it is almost a rule that you will pay less than the original price. In any case, they tend to give much higher prices to tourists than to the locals, so obviously you will have space for bargaining to a more reasonable price. However, considering that you will be mostly buying from street sellers who maintain their families and probably live in poor conditions, don`t exaggerate with bargaining – India is still probably much cheaper than where are you coming from. If you are lucky enough, or better still, if you are planning your trip to India in March, you will have an opportunity to visit the famous Holi festival – yes, that colorful one you always wondered about. FOOD in India – one of the most controversial topics among non-Indian visitors to the country. Street food in India It`s almost an extreme sport for foreigners and might be as difficult as doing a bungy jump for the first time but once you let yourself go you will love the feeling of adrenaline and taste of hot spicy curry. I will not lie to you – it will not be easy! But, I guarantee – it will be an unforgettable experience. Keep in mind – not all that you heard about India is true – there is much more that you have never heard of. Namaste! For more information about And and Ignacio please contact them by clicking here.   
    28 Posted by bossgate
  • Here is first hand travelling experience of the First Time in #India by up and coming bloggers  Ana and Ignacio who are behind a very popular blog "Tango & Rakija" It`s no wonder that they say: you feel India with all your senses. It’s true. I have been there, have seen, smelled, heard, tasted it and I still feel it so strongly with all my senses… My first time in India was just like a plate of strong, spicy, delicious and brightly coloured curry – exciting and tasty but also leaving some discomfort in the stomach. On our FIRST ever trip to India, Mumbai was the first stop and we were arriving, why not to say it, a little scared. It was our first time together on a trip of this length, not to mention masses of advice about NOT DRINKING TAP WATER, NOT EATING IN THE STREET, having full, anti-all-INSURANCE, eating only in fancy restaurants… all that made us nervous, anticipating strange things. With all the suggestions, advise and survival equipment squeezed into our backpacks we reached Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, expecting BIG unexpected things of India. Once we managed to get into a cab and gave the address of our hotel to the polite driver, he started to ask us the ABC introduction questions: ”where are you from, what have you been doing so far, how long will you stay…?” We barely gave half answers, speechless looking outside and not being able to digest so much in that short period of time. It was late at night and I guess that the darkness didn’t improve our first impression. The silence in the car was broken once more when the driver spoke to us saying: “THIS IS THE BIGGEST SLUM IN THE WORLD” pointing through the window and slowing down the car. I cannot say if it was the biggest or not, but the row of rustic, half destroyed houses and abandoned buildings stretched as far as I could see. What I was seeing behind the road we were on, was beyond my imagination, a hundred times truer than any Hollywood film about India. We were both rendered speechless by the scenery which was so far removed from our views of this world.  That happy feeling when discovering a new place just turned into anguish and dread of what comes next. Eventually we reached the hotel and Ana’s first words were: “Did you see those houses?” as it took her all the way till the hotel before she could get the words out. I think that anyone’s first time in India simply cannot happen without some kind of shock. Even if you have been seeing things and going places, India is going to surprise you. Be prepared for that! Our hotel in Mumbai was, well, let`s say decent, but strange and definitely the first of that kind that we have ever seen. As we were walked in the room by the polite receptionist he generously sprayed our room, particularly the bed corners and area around the pillows, with an air freshener – it certainly camouflaged the smell of humidity and lack of ventilation but… you know… Anyway, the morning after seemed to be a bit brighter in daylight and things started to turn from tragic to tragi-comic and eventually we were also having lot of FUN. Mumbai is the most densely populated city in India, so, if you are going there, be prepared to see a LOT of people around. And there is lots of everything – this vast city is the scenario for the most heart-breaking poverty, while you will also see levels of wealth that somehow do not match, like trying to fit a picture of Da Vinci in a background painted by Van Gogh, it will just not match, the gap is just huge. In our opinion, Mumbai is a great choice for a first trip to India – it´s a huge city where you can find many different things – beautiful temples, pagodas, majestic buildings and amazing architecture, get to know about the traditional way of living and learn about Indian history. At almost any moment of the day you will have a feeling like literally all the inhabitants of the city are on the streets – the number of people is just hard to imagine, as well as the traffic with all the cars, TUK-TUKS, motorbikes, bicycles, trucks and their horns, traffic lights, … It`s like all the sounds, blinking lights and colors of the world are just there, happening at the same time, from all directions, concentrated at that one single street that you need to cross. I cannot fully describe the feeling of anxiety that we both experienced while trying to CROSS THE STREET in Mumbai for the first time – so-called semaphores and so-called traffic rules – forget about all that! It’s like a crusade getting from one side of the street to the opposite  – you will feel the adrenaline running through your blood and once you conquer it, you will feel like you aged 5 years in one minute but also a great victory. At certain moments big groups of people will come to your rescue because, while they are crossing, the traffic won’t be able to move at all, so there is your big chance to just jump in the mass and follow them. However, to understand the dynamics better, just look how others are doing it, and imitate that behavior with confidence and trust in whatever spiritual power you trust… in the end, it’s just crossing the street and after the first few tries you master it. Believe me when I say there are moments of the day when it is so difficult to walk on the streets due to the huge numbers of people, cars, motorbikes, even COWS… that you can’t even stop for a moment and think where you were heading to, you just move with the mass in an unknown direction. COWS on the street – that is also a totally normal thing all over India. Since the cow is a holy animal, it`s like a living adoration – they walk freely all around the city and even that crazy traffic will stop in a second to let the holy animal cross the street in peace. Eating cow’s meat is not an option, they are simply adored as free animals or, at most, they are used for transportation. Another” amusement” for our senses during our trip around India was the pollution which, unlike in many other countries, you can see, feel and almost touch. In a big Indian city like Mumbai you will find difficult to see very far as the landscape becomes as foggy as a random winter day in London…except that is not fog but air pollution that is visible and really possible to smell. Yes, you can literally smell the air and see it`s grey-red-ish color as a layer that goes above the landscape. Pollution is really a problem in India – tons of garbage are piled up all around and it looks like there is no garbage collection at all. With very high temperatures most of the year, fermenting garbage makes not only a strong smell but a fruitful source of disease as well. You will not see many garbage bins either. And this is true not only for the busy streets of the big cities. Remote locations, nature parks, beaches, villages, rivers – many of the amazing places are being gradually ruined by a lack of ecological conscience. Almost all the locals that you will meet are super friendly with foreigners. Actually, friendly up to the point that you will have moments of feeling like a super-star. Many people will ask to take photos with you. For some reason, it is really a thing there, to meet a foreigner and get a photo with one. We ended up making long photo-sessions with different people around the street – young, old, kids, a woman with babies…everyone wanted a shot with us. We were very confused at first – did they mistake us for some beautiful celebrity couple?…Hmm, I don`t think so. Some of them explained us that we just look unusual and different to them and they want a photo because… you know, that`s how the world works now, we all fight for some likes… and that`s how we ended up being celebrities in India. And you can be too! Another thing about people in India – they are generous and they really like to help. When you feel lost or curious about something don’t hesitate to ask. They will almost always be happy to help you. However, as the old proverb says “one hand washes the other” be prepared to return the courtesy in some situations – to visit their shop, take a ride with them if they drive taxi or tuk-tuk, or whatever else they offer you. That is also a way how you can organize your trip around India – for example book a ride to somewhere, find a tourist guide, find a restaurant or any other activity… just go to the street and ask the first person that passes by – they will happily recommend a friend, cousin, neighbor who has exactly whatever it is that you need. And the price of literally everything is negotiable so it will all depend on your negotiating skills and patience. Street Market (Crawford Market) You will be surprised at the number of shops and street sellers trying to sell you everything: from food to fabrics, dishes, clothes, jewelry, toys, tools, perfumes… A good advice is better not to ask for something if you are not really interested in buying it, otherwise it will be very difficult to escape; they are very persuasive sellers and you will end up buying things that you didn’t really want to buy. One more tip – if you go to a shop early in the morning just after they open, you have a bigger chance to negotiate a bigger discount since the morning is the most important moment of the day for them. If they don’t sell anything to the first customer that stops by, they believe the whole commercial day will be a reflection of it. In any case, bargaining in India is mandatory and any price anywhere is negotiable so it is almost a rule that you will pay less than the original price. In any case, they tend to give much higher prices to tourists than to the locals, so obviously you will have space for bargaining to a more reasonable price. However, considering that you will be mostly buying from street sellers who maintain their families and probably live in poor conditions, don`t exaggerate with bargaining – India is still probably much cheaper than where are you coming from. If you are lucky enough, or better still, if you are planning your trip to India in March, you will have an opportunity to visit the famous Holi festival – yes, that colorful one you always wondered about. FOOD in India – one of the most controversial topics among non-Indian visitors to the country. Street food in India It`s almost an extreme sport for foreigners and might be as difficult as doing a bungy jump for the first time but once you let yourself go you will love the feeling of adrenaline and taste of hot spicy curry. I will not lie to you – it will not be easy! But, I guarantee – it will be an unforgettable experience. Keep in mind – not all that you heard about India is true – there is much more that you have never heard of. Namaste! For more information about And and Ignacio please contact them by clicking here.   
    Apr 24, 2020 28
  • 19 Feb 2019
    Do you know what the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven in Beijing and Chengde’s Mountain Resort sites have in common? All of them were built by a dozen members of the Lei family, architects for eight generations, and their creations are today known in Chinese as Yangshi Lei, meaning “Lei style” architecture. Fast forward to the present, and the architecture of China seems to be following only one style - strange, perplexing, and of course, enormous. After monitoring trends closely, we have made a list of the 10 most instragrammable buildings of China: New library in Tianjin Is it a real library or just background for the latest Instagram photo? All the images show people walking around with the latest smart phone in their hands but not the books. Can anyone advise if you need to be a member of the library to get the best Instagram shot? The Piano House in Anhui Some people say it's the most romantic building in China - I'm not sure about that but it's certainly one of the most distinctive! It was designed by architecture students at Hefei University and constructed from transparent and black glass  in the shape of a violin that houses the staircase and escalators, and a grand piano that is the main building. The Shanghai Tower The Shanghai Tower has the world's highest observation deck within a building or structure (Level 121, 561.25 m), and the world's fastest elevators at a top speed of 20.5 metres per second (74 km/h; 46 mph). It is the world's second-tallest building by height to architectural top. The Birds Nest in Beijing Open just in time for the magnificent 2008 Olympic and it’s called Beijing National Stadium or the National Stadium, but best known as the Bird's Nest or just simply a stadium in Beijing. Guangzhou Opera House Is it a rock or a house? It was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid who conceived the idea as two rocks washed away by the Pearl River. It does look spectacular on Instragram but it’s not seen very often. Who goes to Guangzhou? Chongqing Cities are very popular on Instagram but people are getting bored of Hong Kong and old Shanghai. A new city has been declared as the World's fastest-growing tourism destination – Chongqing. It looks magnificent…during the night when all the lights are switched on.  Beijing South Railway Station To house their high speed trains, the Chinese government decided to build a depot in Beijing in the shape of a saucer. Yes, a saucer. Actually, it feels a bit like an airport, it's so spacious and modern, but you really need to see it from above to admire the architecture - find the bird's eye view shots on Instagram.  Forbidden City I was under the impression the Great Wall would make this list but it seems people prefer an image of the Forbidden City. Any idea why? Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort Also known as "Horseshoe Hotel" and "Doughnut Hotel" due to its geometrical shape which looks amazing when the lights are lit. Underpants of Beijing Or the CCTV building. It involves two L-shaped high-rise towers linked at the top and the bottom at an angle to form a loop. My favorite is the Grand Hyatt Hotel In Shanghai - not because they have the best bar in the city called Cloud 9, but because of the atrium of the hotel. Highly recommended for getting vertigo.    
    316 Posted by bossgate
  • Do you know what the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven in Beijing and Chengde’s Mountain Resort sites have in common? All of them were built by a dozen members of the Lei family, architects for eight generations, and their creations are today known in Chinese as Yangshi Lei, meaning “Lei style” architecture. Fast forward to the present, and the architecture of China seems to be following only one style - strange, perplexing, and of course, enormous. After monitoring trends closely, we have made a list of the 10 most instragrammable buildings of China: New library in Tianjin Is it a real library or just background for the latest Instagram photo? All the images show people walking around with the latest smart phone in their hands but not the books. Can anyone advise if you need to be a member of the library to get the best Instagram shot? The Piano House in Anhui Some people say it's the most romantic building in China - I'm not sure about that but it's certainly one of the most distinctive! It was designed by architecture students at Hefei University and constructed from transparent and black glass  in the shape of a violin that houses the staircase and escalators, and a grand piano that is the main building. The Shanghai Tower The Shanghai Tower has the world's highest observation deck within a building or structure (Level 121, 561.25 m), and the world's fastest elevators at a top speed of 20.5 metres per second (74 km/h; 46 mph). It is the world's second-tallest building by height to architectural top. The Birds Nest in Beijing Open just in time for the magnificent 2008 Olympic and it’s called Beijing National Stadium or the National Stadium, but best known as the Bird's Nest or just simply a stadium in Beijing. Guangzhou Opera House Is it a rock or a house? It was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid who conceived the idea as two rocks washed away by the Pearl River. It does look spectacular on Instragram but it’s not seen very often. Who goes to Guangzhou? Chongqing Cities are very popular on Instagram but people are getting bored of Hong Kong and old Shanghai. A new city has been declared as the World's fastest-growing tourism destination – Chongqing. It looks magnificent…during the night when all the lights are switched on.  Beijing South Railway Station To house their high speed trains, the Chinese government decided to build a depot in Beijing in the shape of a saucer. Yes, a saucer. Actually, it feels a bit like an airport, it's so spacious and modern, but you really need to see it from above to admire the architecture - find the bird's eye view shots on Instagram.  Forbidden City I was under the impression the Great Wall would make this list but it seems people prefer an image of the Forbidden City. Any idea why? Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort Also known as "Horseshoe Hotel" and "Doughnut Hotel" due to its geometrical shape which looks amazing when the lights are lit. Underpants of Beijing Or the CCTV building. It involves two L-shaped high-rise towers linked at the top and the bottom at an angle to form a loop. My favorite is the Grand Hyatt Hotel In Shanghai - not because they have the best bar in the city called Cloud 9, but because of the atrium of the hotel. Highly recommended for getting vertigo.    
    Feb 19, 2019 316
  • 18 Feb 2019
    Yes we are late with Taj Mahal full moon dates for this year but we have been very busy with publishing our Travel Guide to China!   In the meantime below is a list of the full moon dates for 2019. Month 2019 2020 January 21 10 February 19 9 March 21 April 19 May 18 June 17 July 16 August 15 September 14 October 13 November 12 December 12 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    278 Posted by bossgate
  • Yes we are late with Taj Mahal full moon dates for this year but we have been very busy with publishing our Travel Guide to China!   In the meantime below is a list of the full moon dates for 2019. Month 2019 2020 January 21 10 February 19 9 March 21 April 19 May 18 June 17 July 16 August 15 September 14 October 13 November 12 December 12 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    Feb 18, 2019 278
  • 15 Apr 2018
    Sitting at the long table in the busy restaurant on the outskirts of the capital city of Shandong Province, Qingdao, irritated by constantly hitting the gas bottle every time I tried to stretch my legs, and desperate to see Stella on the list of beers, but disappointed at finding only Qingdao, annoyingly listed as can, two sizes of draft and two different sizes of bottled beer, I opted for a bottled water much to the horror of my hosts. The lunch party which consisted of a very polite guide and five members of the different bodies at the local council, were disappointed. After all it was a business lunch paid by someone else which meant free rein on the food and drinks. The finest bottle of snake wine was placed in the middle of the table with the usual question - have you tried it before. Of course, I have. And of course, I hated it. It leaves you with an oily, sweet taste in the mouth which doesn’t make you drunk, just sick. But then Qingdao beer is the same, sweet and no matter the quantity you take the only thing it's good for is your kidney stones which you may pass with the amount of pointless liquid drunk. It's pointless because it doesn’t make you drunk!  I politely smiled at my 6 boys, my 6 hosts for lunch, and stuck to the water. The Chinese cannot handle their drink except for hard core military serviceman coyly dressed in suit and tie, and they are easily recognisable as the soul of the party, going around calling on everybody to drink the large glasses of snake wine in one go. To refuse is a grave offence, even if you are Chinese. The first person to pass out is usually some naive underage girl employed as a secretary but brought in as a body for one of the big bosses who, after free food and immense hectolitres of alcohol, would like some personal company too. I wondered what they were thinking of me, the foreigner, a woman, without make up but with worn out trousers, who they have to entertain for next few hours, even though they don’t speak any English or me any Chinese. There is only a certain amount of staring and nodding you can do at these business lunches without coming across as a weirdo. The food was Mongolian hot pot. I had been hoping for a nice plate of rice and some soy sauce mixed with garlic on top, but that would have caused grave offence. Imagine going to a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for a fried egg on toast.  The number of people around us, mainly families, put me at ease and I started to concentrate on the conversation which I didn’t understand but with my over 40 visits to the country, I had learned how to look engaged. We swapped business cards. We bowed to each other, holding the cards with both hands, showing respect, reading them, scanning the letters on the cards, pretending that we understood what was printed on each side of the card, then put them on the table. Not in the pocket. You have to show respect. The families around us stopped for a moment, thinking they were witnessing some kind of star presence in their local restaurant, but my peroxide hair, done meticulously at home before the trip, would make them think that. You are in the world of people with dark hair. Of course, anyone with a little bit of bleach would be a star to them. While we were doing all the businessy things hordes of waiters brought bundles of delicious, live food and laid it all on our long table covered in a plastic sheet. The excitement began. Or the game. Without any rules. You just throw food in the boiling water whose bubbles are bursting on the table and wait until vegetables, fruits and meats change colour, structure or until it disintegrates. In the meantime, you drink. And you nod a lot. You don’t talk about business. The main eating etiquette around hot pot is patience. Sometimes there is not enough butane gas hissing from the bottle under the table to the bucket filled with the water on the table. Or the water in the bucket is too cold and takes a long time to come to the boil. Sometimes there is too much water and when its boiled its starts overflowing on the table. Or the bucket is too small to accommodate the food needs of 4 people, and then order has to established like a queue for a bus. You would take first place in the queue as a foreigner and as a guest. Felling hungry I loaded hot water with everything laid on the table, ignoring the needs of the guide, local council guy in charge of the tourism in his area and his assistant whose only job was to make sure the bosses glass was never empty. He didn’t speak or drink. He would occasionally get up, with more grace than the Queen, and with his right hand pick up the bottle, fill the bosses glass and then triumphantly sit down. He just won the battle of a very long and prolonged war for the best service, determination and loyalty. He wanted a tap on the shoulder, some recognition but what he got was only a request for matches from his boss.  The Chinese love their cigarettes and a ban on smoking similar to the one brought out across Europe would bring the government down. Not freedom of speech, the one party system or any lack of democracy. My bacon, mushroom and bok choy were stubbornly circling in the water refusing to be boiled. I turned them upside down hoping for some quicker results only to be sneered at by a waiter who mentioned something about patience and salvation.  Nothing about hunger. As guest of honour, I was sitting at the middle of the table enjoying a wide view and witnessing the progress of the cooking. The left side of the table was happily tucking into beef while the right was in the process of dropping a live crab into the boiling water. The creature, tied up like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, dressed in a similar colour, was still moving his whiskers hoping for escape. Not able to watch the execution I turned to my guide to ask about our next stop, at Mt Taishan. While he was explaining the time difference between taking a cable car to the top and walking, a huge commotion broke out on the right side of our table. The guide jumped quickly up, pulling me with him while the rest of the group was already standing on the chairs. The whole restaurant was staring at us in bewilderment. Then I saw him, a little creature, not orange anymore but red, running across the restaurant, trying to save his life. He had escaped from the cauldron, jumped from the table, frightening all my hosts, and now was heading to freedom. I smiled and quietly cheered him on, under my breath, “Go, go, go”. Where to I didn’t know. The quest for freedom didn’t last long. The finishing line was somewhere between the end of the restaurant and entrance to the kitchen when one of the slimmest chefs I have ever seen who looked like he had never eaten anything in his life, come out with a big metal tray. Coolly,as if he had been in the same situation before, he lifted the tray high and dropped it heavily onto the crab. The small creature made another two side steps and then stopped. The restaurant started to applaud and the skinny chief bowed with pride hiding the murder weapon behind his back.  The waiter became a professional cleaner, picked up the crab carefully, making sure he was dead and took him back to the kitchen.  Order resumed. I requested a big bottle of Qingdao Beer.  
    354 Posted by bossgate
  • Sitting at the long table in the busy restaurant on the outskirts of the capital city of Shandong Province, Qingdao, irritated by constantly hitting the gas bottle every time I tried to stretch my legs, and desperate to see Stella on the list of beers, but disappointed at finding only Qingdao, annoyingly listed as can, two sizes of draft and two different sizes of bottled beer, I opted for a bottled water much to the horror of my hosts. The lunch party which consisted of a very polite guide and five members of the different bodies at the local council, were disappointed. After all it was a business lunch paid by someone else which meant free rein on the food and drinks. The finest bottle of snake wine was placed in the middle of the table with the usual question - have you tried it before. Of course, I have. And of course, I hated it. It leaves you with an oily, sweet taste in the mouth which doesn’t make you drunk, just sick. But then Qingdao beer is the same, sweet and no matter the quantity you take the only thing it's good for is your kidney stones which you may pass with the amount of pointless liquid drunk. It's pointless because it doesn’t make you drunk!  I politely smiled at my 6 boys, my 6 hosts for lunch, and stuck to the water. The Chinese cannot handle their drink except for hard core military serviceman coyly dressed in suit and tie, and they are easily recognisable as the soul of the party, going around calling on everybody to drink the large glasses of snake wine in one go. To refuse is a grave offence, even if you are Chinese. The first person to pass out is usually some naive underage girl employed as a secretary but brought in as a body for one of the big bosses who, after free food and immense hectolitres of alcohol, would like some personal company too. I wondered what they were thinking of me, the foreigner, a woman, without make up but with worn out trousers, who they have to entertain for next few hours, even though they don’t speak any English or me any Chinese. There is only a certain amount of staring and nodding you can do at these business lunches without coming across as a weirdo. The food was Mongolian hot pot. I had been hoping for a nice plate of rice and some soy sauce mixed with garlic on top, but that would have caused grave offence. Imagine going to a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for a fried egg on toast.  The number of people around us, mainly families, put me at ease and I started to concentrate on the conversation which I didn’t understand but with my over 40 visits to the country, I had learned how to look engaged. We swapped business cards. We bowed to each other, holding the cards with both hands, showing respect, reading them, scanning the letters on the cards, pretending that we understood what was printed on each side of the card, then put them on the table. Not in the pocket. You have to show respect. The families around us stopped for a moment, thinking they were witnessing some kind of star presence in their local restaurant, but my peroxide hair, done meticulously at home before the trip, would make them think that. You are in the world of people with dark hair. Of course, anyone with a little bit of bleach would be a star to them. While we were doing all the businessy things hordes of waiters brought bundles of delicious, live food and laid it all on our long table covered in a plastic sheet. The excitement began. Or the game. Without any rules. You just throw food in the boiling water whose bubbles are bursting on the table and wait until vegetables, fruits and meats change colour, structure or until it disintegrates. In the meantime, you drink. And you nod a lot. You don’t talk about business. The main eating etiquette around hot pot is patience. Sometimes there is not enough butane gas hissing from the bottle under the table to the bucket filled with the water on the table. Or the water in the bucket is too cold and takes a long time to come to the boil. Sometimes there is too much water and when its boiled its starts overflowing on the table. Or the bucket is too small to accommodate the food needs of 4 people, and then order has to established like a queue for a bus. You would take first place in the queue as a foreigner and as a guest. Felling hungry I loaded hot water with everything laid on the table, ignoring the needs of the guide, local council guy in charge of the tourism in his area and his assistant whose only job was to make sure the bosses glass was never empty. He didn’t speak or drink. He would occasionally get up, with more grace than the Queen, and with his right hand pick up the bottle, fill the bosses glass and then triumphantly sit down. He just won the battle of a very long and prolonged war for the best service, determination and loyalty. He wanted a tap on the shoulder, some recognition but what he got was only a request for matches from his boss.  The Chinese love their cigarettes and a ban on smoking similar to the one brought out across Europe would bring the government down. Not freedom of speech, the one party system or any lack of democracy. My bacon, mushroom and bok choy were stubbornly circling in the water refusing to be boiled. I turned them upside down hoping for some quicker results only to be sneered at by a waiter who mentioned something about patience and salvation.  Nothing about hunger. As guest of honour, I was sitting at the middle of the table enjoying a wide view and witnessing the progress of the cooking. The left side of the table was happily tucking into beef while the right was in the process of dropping a live crab into the boiling water. The creature, tied up like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, dressed in a similar colour, was still moving his whiskers hoping for escape. Not able to watch the execution I turned to my guide to ask about our next stop, at Mt Taishan. While he was explaining the time difference between taking a cable car to the top and walking, a huge commotion broke out on the right side of our table. The guide jumped quickly up, pulling me with him while the rest of the group was already standing on the chairs. The whole restaurant was staring at us in bewilderment. Then I saw him, a little creature, not orange anymore but red, running across the restaurant, trying to save his life. He had escaped from the cauldron, jumped from the table, frightening all my hosts, and now was heading to freedom. I smiled and quietly cheered him on, under my breath, “Go, go, go”. Where to I didn’t know. The quest for freedom didn’t last long. The finishing line was somewhere between the end of the restaurant and entrance to the kitchen when one of the slimmest chefs I have ever seen who looked like he had never eaten anything in his life, come out with a big metal tray. Coolly,as if he had been in the same situation before, he lifted the tray high and dropped it heavily onto the crab. The small creature made another two side steps and then stopped. The restaurant started to applaud and the skinny chief bowed with pride hiding the murder weapon behind his back.  The waiter became a professional cleaner, picked up the crab carefully, making sure he was dead and took him back to the kitchen.  Order resumed. I requested a big bottle of Qingdao Beer.  
    Apr 15, 2018 354
  • 23 Jan 2018
    Check if Taj Mahal changes the colour under the full moon nights. Below is a list of the full moon dates for 2018. For more inforation about how to get tickets please check our previews entries.  1st January 2018 31st January 2018 1ST March 2018 30th March 2018 29th April 2018 28th May 2018 27th Jun 2018 27th Jul 2018 25th August 2018 24th September 2018 24th October 2018 22nd November 2018 22nd December 2018 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    484 Posted by bossgate
  • Check if Taj Mahal changes the colour under the full moon nights. Below is a list of the full moon dates for 2018. For more inforation about how to get tickets please check our previews entries.  1st January 2018 31st January 2018 1ST March 2018 30th March 2018 29th April 2018 28th May 2018 27th Jun 2018 27th Jul 2018 25th August 2018 24th September 2018 24th October 2018 22nd November 2018 22nd December 2018 REMINDER: Each evening, 400 people in 8 groups of 50 are allowed to the first platform which is about 350 metres away from the main building, for 30 minutes between 8.30pm and 12.30am, but you must get there half an hour before the time on your ticket for security checks and x-rays. You can bring binoculars and cameras but not video cameras, handbags, tripods, tobacco, matches, food or mobile phones.
    Jan 23, 2018 484