Showing posts with label PrivateDayTrips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PrivateDayTrips. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Today is a Day for #DTTOT


WHY #DTTOT

We don’t talk about hotels, about flights, about food - we talk about small but most important part of your holiday - day trips, shore excursions, sightseeing, travel experiences, activities...And we talk about it on twitter...

The #DTTOT was started by Tara from @PrivateDayTrips and now the talk is hosted by many other fellows obsessed with day trips, shore excursions, sightseeing, travel experiences, activities...

HOW TO TAKE PART

JOIN US by signing into your twitter accounts and by following #DTTOT. Simple!
We hold chats every Tuesday between 6-7 PM GMT (Greenwich Mean time)
Come and join us when you can. It’s fun and it’s free.


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Altitude Sickness in China

He looked like a genuine doctor with the all props: white coat, stethoscope, thermometer in his left hand and pressure gauge in his right. I could be at any hospital in the UK except that I was at a hotel room at 4000 metres suffering from altitude sickness and my doctor didn’t speak any English – he was Chinese. My Chinese stretched to 'Njihao' and 'two beers' which in the present situation weren’t helpful at all and whilst I was pleased to see him with all the western props I was worried in case he started treating me with Chinese Medicine. The Front Office manager, a very calm guy from Nepal who spoke Chinese and English, acted as translator. The cleaning lady was present only as a witness in case of inappropriate behaviour...

I knew I had altitude sickness – nose bleeding, dizziness, headache, breathless - I'd had it before at Everest Base Camp and after taking oxygen I'd been fine. I asked for it now, finding it hard to speak. The front office guy reassured me the doctor would take care of me...and he did...Very professionally he took my blood pressure, my temperature and checked my heartbeat...I was fine according to him...They opened the window to let fresh air in, they covered me in a few more blankets and they offered me something to eat...They stood around my bed and stared at me and talked in Chinese but did not bring oxygen ...I felt like a caged animal...occasionally the front office manager would ask how I felt....

“The same” I would reply time and time again. Seeing there were no changes he decided to translate the doctor's conclusion...After touching my pulse the doctor said I had indigestion and my body would take care of the situation and I didn’t need oxygen at all...I just needed to relax...The words were flowing in and out my head not making any sense...I wanted to believe them and continued to stay still under layers of heavy blankets...then I started to shiver, slowly and gradually – firstly just my arms then my legs then my whole body...In between heavy shaking I realised that I couldn’t have indigestion as I'd been sick since yesterday morning, since we entered the 4000m area, and that I hadn’t had breakfast today...there was no food in my body to give me indigestion... The front office manager, the most experienced person out of the three in my room, took the blankets off me and my socks then started to massage my feet...he was mumbling “Oh My God, Oh My God” but trying to cheer me up me saying that I will be fine, just bad circulation, I just needed to get the blood to flow all through my body....From somewhere burst the sheer terror of ending up at a Chinese hospital in the middle of nowhere, and I grabbed the last vestiges of energy to sit up and yell in a very unladylike way “Get me (blip) oxygen, now!”

That galvanised them. Within a few minutes I had a big blue oxygen pillow behind my back with the pipes going straight up my nostrils. With the first flow of oxygen I felt calm, peaceful, I began to feel human again! The cleaner made tea for herself and the doctor and sat on the corner of my bed staring into nothing, and the front office manager managed a smile.

“Chinese medicine is fantastic. They can lower cholesterol with tea. Can you imagine, with tea? Western medicine can’t do it even with medication....He is a good doctor...The whole village goes to see him when they are not well...”

Slowly calming down I ignored them and tried to get some sleep. After almost four hours after the first symptoms of high altitude sickness struck I could think straight. Exhausted I felt asleep. When I woke up I found the room clean, stocked with bottled water which I drank endlessly, and two pieces of toast. The doctor and front office manager came back to check on me and I offered to pay, thinking that bill could go into zillions of pounds and that my insurance may refuse to pay due to the fact that I did have a beer last night on an empty stomach. The doctor refused any payment but I insisted on giving them some money as a token for everything they did for me.

Soon after they left I called the concierge for more bottled water to be delivered to my room only to be told that this time I had to pay for it. Obviously I was healthy now!

Advice:

- If you are visiting a mountainous region, always check the altitude -especially in Yunnan Province – talk to the local guides, they are not trained to give you much information about high altitude in their area, unlike in Tibet where you are warned as soon as you arrive!

- Before booking hotels in high altitude areas check if there is a doctor on standby and if he is practising Western or Chinese medicine

- Check with the hotel if they have oxygen bottles or pillows. Buy a bottle and carry it with you. It’s not expensive or heavy but very helpful

- Take aspirin 75 mg

- Drink plenty of water

- Talk and walk slowly

- During my stay at Mt Everest Base camp I was told to drink ginger tea

For more information regarding travelling in Yunnan Province please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com



Sunday, 13 February 2011

What and where to eat in China?





ReadyClickAndGo, China
  There is something about spices tasting different once they change their country of orgin but it’s the same with people. I don’t recognise most of my friends since I changed my country and I can’t expect my Dim Sum to have the same taste here as in China.

If you are travelling to China on a group tour most meals are included. Seating is different from the usual Western style where 2 maybe 4 people share a table. In China meal times are a time to socialize, to talk, to have a meeting, to do business and as result 8 or 10 people, sometimes even more, share a round table and food. Chinese people don’t just dine, they banquet, which in western countries is done only at weddings. The order of the dishes may come in different ways from how you are used to at home – soup could be served last and the whole banquet could be served without rice. In some places serving rice is regarded as a lower class thing, the rich would eat meat and preferably fish. 
 
Beijing Duck, ReadyClickAndGo, China
 Some of the dishes are very tricky to eat with chopsticks such as nicely roasted nuts in unspecified spices, but if you risk huge embarrassment when all the nuts spill over the table you can always pick up a few with your spoon and put them on your plate from where you can pick them up by hand. Don’t serve yourself from the main dishes on the table with your hands or your own chopsticks or cutlery, it’s not hygienic!

Apart from the different seating system and order of food the biggest problem is to recognise the dishes served you. The safest way is to grab your local guide and keep him close to you until all the dishes have been put on the table. This way you can find out which are spicy, vegetarian, cold or hot. On numerous occasions I simply guessed and presumed food was not particularly spicy only to find myself spitting it out under the table.

Food Street Vendors, ReadyClickAndGo
 The tourism industry is still young in China and the government still decides which restaurants can cater for foreigners and of course which meals should be served. Hence after 14 days travelling on a group tour through China you will find Chinese food somewhat repetitive and often bland. The only solution is not to book an all-inclusive tour and give yourself a break by eating somewhere else – perhaps at the hotel you are staying at. This is of course only valid if the hotel if of a good standard as you may end up with an even worse choice than the restaurant chosen for your group tour. From my experience of travelling around China, I would suggest eating with your local guide: they are resourceful in finding cheap restaurants and home-made meals. I really enjoy dishes I haven’t seen or tasted before. In this type of restaurant of course all the menus are in Chinese and some of them don’t even have a menu: the restaurants are full of local people who decide what to eat on the spot by just shouting their order at the chef. These types of restaurants are basic: some chairs are broken, tables are not cleaned properly, service is non-existent but the food is excellent. If you are worried about ordering chicken feet check what other diners are eat and order by pointing at their plates. If you feel adventurous I would recommend eating with locals at their secret places.


Food Market, RadyClickAndGo, China
 If you are vegetarian these places could be your only solution to the greasy chips or courgette served in government-approved restaurants. China doesn’t cater for vegetarians and is losing a huge amount of people who refuse to come because of it. As I said at the beginning of this article: tourism is still young in China and they are improving and hopefully we, tourists, may soon be able to eat where we want and order what we want.

Etiquette during meals is closely observed especially if you are dining with a Chinese host who sets the seating plan by choosing the most important person to sit next to him at the top of the table (which is opposite the entrance). If he decides to give a speech you must reciprocate by giving a speech yourself too. Chinese people don’t drink alcohol and if they do it’s usually just one glass of rice wine or a glass of beer. If you are lifting glasses to toast, hold the bottom of the glass with your left hand while touching other people’s glasses. This way you show respect to your Chinese host.

If during the banquet the Chinese slurp their soup that means they are enjoying it very much and it’s a tradition to make a noise while eating. Just think of a Western person saying "The soup was delicious."”

After chopsticks the second most important meal prop on the table is the tooth pick. The Chinese love them and use them all the time. On my recent trip to China I actually collected toothpicks and counted 24 different ones from just one province – they are all with carvings on the head rather than just the uniform ones in the West.
Recently some Chinese restaurants have started to put salt and pepper on the table but that is only for the tourists. Most Chinese wouldn’t dare ask for salt and pepper as that would be insulting to the chef.

For Private Day Trips to China please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com  or check our website at http://www.ReadyClickAndGo.com/




Saturday, 22 January 2011

Chinese New Year in London







  We went through Christmas here, then New Year here and there with a time difference of one hour, then Christmas there, the one called Orthodox, and now to round the celebrations off we will finish it with Chinese New Year, here in the UK. If you can’t celebrate it in China the best place to experience Chinese New Year is in London and I do apologise to all people in Singapore, Toronto, Sydney who claim their celebration of Chinese New Year is the best. It is not!

My friend, Jenny Chen, a girl from Beijing, is excited as she is flying home on Friday to spend the holidays with her elderly parents who she hasn’t seen for the last two years. She is in a shopping mood and austerity measures brought on by Mr Osborne don’t apply during Chinese New Year. And why should they? I never thought about spending less on my parents when I was getting them a present for Christmas. And with my background they get two presents for the two Christmasses as well! Jenny’s credit card is redder then the lantern in our office that she put up to mark her contribution to the celebration of the Chinese New Year in London. She is sorry that she is not going to be here but also happy at the prospect of seeing her parents.

This year celebrations in London are the biggest since they began in London. Apart from celebrations at Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, where colorful Chinese dragons, lions and acrobats will dance followed by loud music, you can mark the Chinese New Year at different establishments around London.

The Victoria and Albert Museum set the exhibition of Imperial Chinese Robes to coincide with Chinese New Year in London. Among the many garments on show are gowns designed for everyday life as well as rituals, banquets, travelling, hunting and official royal visits. The Imperial Chinese Robes exhibition takes place from 10am – 6pm, Tuesday 7th December 2010 – Sunday 27th February 2011 at Victoria and Albert Museum. Tickets are £5.00 or £3.00 concessions. For more information please click here.

You can celebrate Chinese New Year at the National Maritime Museum with a spectacular evening of stargazing which takes place from 5.25pm, on Saturday 12th February 2011. Tickets cost £16.00 per person. For more information and to book tickets, click on the link below. For more information please click here.

The Wallace Collection contributed to the celebration of the Chinese New Year by arranging a special silk painting workshop hosted by artist Caroline Dorset.

The silk painting workshop for Chinese New Year at the Wallace Collection runs from 11am – 4pm, Saturday 5th February 2011. Tickets cost £25.00. For more information and to book tickets, call the gallery on 0207 563 9500 0207 563 9500. Fo rmore information please click here.

Find out more about Chinese culture through arts and craft activities as part of the Chinese New Year at the Museum in Docklands celebrations which will take place on the 5th and 6th February 2011. For daily activities please click here. The Grand finale to end the Chinese New Year London celebrations will take place at Leicester Square with a huge (and free!) fireworks display.
Gong Xi Fa Cai

恭禧發財

For Private Day Trips to China email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com  or check our website at http://www.ReadyClickAndGo.com/








Thursday, 30 December 2010

Belgrade’s newest attractions

ReadyClickAndGo, a travel company specialising in private day trips, spent a few days in Belgrade last week to discover more about this fast-changing city’s latest highlights:


1. Virtual Tourist has recently declared Belgrade’s Ada Ciganlija Island to be the 3rd best island within a city, behind Paris and Prague. Perfect for picnics and watersports, the island is covered by trees that muffle the sounds of the city, and it is also the site of Serbia’s first golf course. The beautifully clean waters of Sava Lake that lap its gravel beaches are home to many varieties of carp, and can reach 24 degrees C in the summer, thanks to the warm microclimate here http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B229Z20101203


2. At the tip of the island you can watch one of Belgrade’s most eye-catching landmarks taking shape, a new bridge across the Sava River that will be the largest asymetric single-pylon cable-stayed bridge in the world. The main span of 376m has no supports actually in the Sava so as not to restrict shipping even during construction, and the deck is anchored by 80 stay cables as thick as a man’s arm and a single pylon 200 metres high – one of the highest points in the city. The whole bridge including the main span will be nearly a kilometre long and 45 metres wide with 6 road traffic lanes, 2 railway lines and 2 cycle and pedestrian paths, and it is due for completion in September 2011. http://www.savabridge.com/project.htm


3. Just a few metres higher than Sava Bridge is Mount Avala’s TV transmitter tower, reopened earlier this year and a popular out-of-town picnic spot for locals. This new tower is almost identical to the original that was bombed by NATO in 1999, and money for its reconstruction was raised by donations from over a million people. It is slightly taller and much better built however, and is one of few built as a tripod anywhere in the world. http://serbiatraveller.blogspot.com/2010/11/avala-mountain-and-national-park-near.html


4. Another tower in Belgrade has been restored and will re-open any day now, and that is the medieval Nebojsa Tower at the foot of Kalemegdan Fortress. Renovations were partly funded by Greece as one of their revolutionary heroes was executed in the tower when it was a prison, and one of the exhibitions will feature his life. Other exhibitions will be on the shared history of Serbia and Greece under Turkish occupation.

5. The Museum of Yugoslav History is hosting an exhibition of modern art until the 15th February 2011 in the Museum of 25th May, called Beyond the Iron Curtain. Painting and sculpture by Soviet and Polish artists from 1945 to 1989, both official and dissident, is on display, and you can also visit Tito’s tomb, ironically with a great view of the vast new St Sava Church.

Whilst travelling around Belgrade can be straightforward on public transport or on foot if you can master some Cyrillic script first, getting out of the city is often a little more challenging. ReadyClickAndGo offers private day trips and sightseeing excursions throughout Serbia, with your own English-speaking local guide, car and driver. A private day trip from Belgrade city centre to Avala Mountain and the nearby Vinca archaeological site with a private car, driver and English-speaking local guide is £75 per person.

For more information about Serbia please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Sagano Romantic Train, Kyoto, Japan



The narrow-gauge steam train Sagano Torroko Ressha or Romantic Train is one of Japan's most scenic journeys, and can be combined with an exciting boat trip back on the Hozu River to make a wonderful day trip from Kyoto. The scenery is beautiful all year-round, with cherry blossom in spring, maple leaves in autumn, and bamboo groves. However, it is tricky to piece together with the trains and buses and boats all going from different places - these directions will take the stress out of trying to find your way!

The Sagano train goes from Arashiyama to Kameoka on a 25-minute ride costing around 600 Yen, and the boat trip back on the Hozu River takes around 2 hours and costs around 4000 Yen.

1. Take the JR train on the Sagano Line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station. This takes around 15 minutes and costs around 230 Yen.

2. In the same building as the Saga-Arashiyama Station is the Torroko Saga Station. From here, take the Sagano Romantic Train to Torroko Kameoka Station, it runs every hour between 9am and 5pm every day except most Wednesdays from March to the end of December (but check the departure times beforehand – you should pre-book tickets a day or two ahead anyway at the JR ticket desk at Kyoto Station). Car number 5 is usually the open-sided carriage – great in summer, a bit chilly perhaps at other times!

3. When you get off the Sagano Romantic train at Kameoka, you need to either take a bus to the Hozu River to get on the boat, and this takes around 15 minutes, look for the Hozugawa-kudari bus, or get another train from Torroko Kameoka Station to JR Kameoka Station and then walk about 10 minutes to the boat.

4. The boats down the river are small, for around 20 people and you sit on the floor on carpet with a vinyl see-through top in cooler weather. The boats are rowed by 3 oarsmen who are very skilled at negotiating the rapids and pools. They depart every hour from 9am to 3.30pm for Togetsukyo Bridge at Arashiyama, a famous beauty spot, and worth lingering at.

5. Once you are back in Arashiyama, the nearest station to the disembarkation point to get to central Kyoto is the Keifuku Arashiyama tram, about 10 minutes’ walk away, and which takes you to Shijo-Omiya Station in about 20 minutes and costs 200 Yen.

If you just want to do the Sagano Romantic train, you can return to Arashiyama from Kameoka, and perhaps take a gentle hike through the bamboo groves and past some beautiful little Zen temples, or break your journey at the intermediate station, Hozukyo. The train runs in both directions. http://www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/eng/index.htm
If you just want to do the boat trip, you should take the JR Sagano Line train from Kyoto Station to JR Kameoka Station which is about 10 minutes’ walk from the embarkation pier. Note that the boat trip only goes one way, downstream, from Kameoka to Arashiyama. http://www.hozugawakudari.jp/en

For more information about Sagano Romantic Train and another Private Day trips in Japan please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com  or check our website at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/




Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What is Beijing Opera?

Beijing Opera does have singing in it, yes, but it is much more like a pantomime with music, dance, mime, choreographed fights and acrobatics as well, and with dramatic, vivid costumes and make-up, exaggerated movements and gestures. It is theatrical and dramatic, and not supposed to be at all realistic but to deal with the timeless themes of human experience using symbolism. Stories are either romantic folk tales which are generally light-hearted and comic, or action epics based on military exploits from the rich history with lots of acrobatics and skilful fight scenes. They are moral and philosophical tales with universal themes and therefore they do not require much in the way of scenery or props and usually take place on bare stages. Walking in a large circle represents a long journey, an oar represents a boat, and a whip a horse for example. Usually there is just a table and chairs on the stage, and these can represent a mountain, a bridge, and so on.


Stories feature a handful of stock characters such as the clown, the wise old man, dashing young hero, innocent girl, spirited concubine, and so on. Older men wear fake beards, and the clown has white paint on his nose, so all the cast in Beijing Opera are specific types, their status and character represented by their costumes and make-up, and are instantly recognizable by the audience. Colours represent character, red for loyalty and righteousness, white for wickedness, brown for stubbornness, yellow for ambition or cunning, black for goodness and valour, blue for heroism, green for rash violence, gold and silver for gods and spirits, and these are seen in the costume designs where the higher ranking characters wear symbolic colors such as purple or yellow or red and heavily embroidered robes. Lower ranking characters wear simpler costumes in duller colours, but all have the extra-long sleeves known as water sleeves that can be flicked about by the wrist to show emotion and create the circular rounded movements that are essential elements of a good performance. All movements on stage are sweeping and circular movements rather than straight lines – the actors even roll their eyes when looking at someone or something, rather than just simply looking across.

Songs are sung in a high pitch with a nasal tone and lots of vibrato, the lyrics are written in rhyming couplets in an old-fashioned Beijing slang. Music is provided by traditional Chinese instruments which are versions of fiddles, lutes, horns and pipes, as well as drums, cymbals, gongs and castanets – it’s noisy, and that’s perhaps why the singing is so piercing, to make itself heard!

Although Beijing Opera has a long history with hundreds of traditional plays in its repertoire that draw on episodes of Chinese history and literature, more and more is being written based on contemporary life, and also based on Western culture with many of Shakespeare’s plays being produced as Beijing Opera. Even the Communists produced the ideologically-sound Eight Model Plays about the Japanese occupation, the class struggles after the civil war and the foundation of the republic, but nowadays people prefer old-fashioned stories from the good old days.

If you would like a great evening out, to see a performance of Beijing Opera together with that other Beijing specialty, a Peking Duck dinner, contact Tara at ReadyClickAndGo by emailing tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com  to arrange tickets, restaurant and pick-up from your hotel in Beijing. http://bit.ly/9nrO3b
Tara can also arrange a behind-the-scenes visit to meet the actors whilst they prepare for a performance, along with a walking tour through Beijing’s hutongs and a demonstration of how to make dim sum, on a fascinating full-day excursion http://bit.ly/9EouML


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

FESTIVALS IN CHINA


Very popular Festival well known as the Ice Festival of China, takes place in Harbin from the 4th January,  when the Opening Ceremony takes place. The temperature drops well below 26 C and regardless of how many layers of clothes you have on, you will feel the cold! If you do decide to visit Harbin, do all your sightseeing between 12 and 3 in the afternoon, and protect your camera from the cold too. And of course try the local dumplings – they are very warming, and known as the best in the whole of China! More information about the Harbin Ice Festival you can find in one of our previous blog .

The biggest festival in the country is the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year. The festival traditionally begins on the 1st day of the 1st month in the Chinese lunar calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called the Lantern Festival. Last year (2009) the Chinese New Year of the Ox was on the 26th January, this year the year of the Tiger began on the 14th February, and 2011 will be the year of the Rabbit from 3rd February.

A very interesting Festival is the Dragon Boat Festival which is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th moon in June. Intricately designed and colourfully painted dragon boats are the highlight of the event.

The Qing Ming Festival Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice - falling on April 4-6 each year. After honouring their ancestors' spirits, the Chinese believe that the temperature rises and rainfall increases, thereby bringing a good harvest - honouring the dead is therefore an important part of the order of the universe.

The Double Seventh Festival, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, is a what we in the west celebrate as Valentines Day. The Double Seventh Day is not a public holiday in China, but it is widely celebrated and enjoyed.

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. In Chinese culture, the full moon is a symbol of peace and prosperity for the whole family, and the number 8 symbolizes wealth and prosperity. In the middle of the lucky 8th month the moon is full - so an auspicious time for celebrations.

All these festivals above are celebrated mainly by the Han Chinese, the largest of the country's ethnic groups of which there are over 50, each with their own festivals - these are some of the most well-known.

Water-Splashing Festival of Dai - regarded as the New Year of the Dai ethnic minority, who live in Yunnan Province. It takes place from the 14th to 16th April (24th to 26th day of the 6th month of the Dai calendar).

Bullfight Festival of Miao - takes place on the 25th day of the first lunar month in Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces. The Miao ethnic minority people are primarily farmers who naturally regard cattle as an indispensable friend - this festival is to celebrate them them.

Adult Ceremony of Jino - this indicates the transition from childhood into adulthood when both clothing and hairstyles are changed. This festival takes place on the 15th birthday for girls and 16th for boys in Yunnan Province.

March Fair of Bai – the biggest trading festival. It takes place from 15th to 21st day of the 3rd lunar month in Yunnan Province, at the foot of Mount Cangshan in Dali.

Nadam Fair of the Mongolians – takes place on the 15th July in Inner Mongolia.

Kaizhai Festival takes place at the beginning of the 10th month of the Islamic calendar in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xinjiang and Gansu Provinces. According to Islam, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar is the fasting month of Ramadan. After 29 or 30 days of fasting comes the traditional Kaizhai Festival on the first day of the 10th month and it lasts 3 days.

The Muslims of China also celebrate the Corban Festival on the 10th day of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

As well as these festivals, China also celebrates International Women's Day (8th March), Labour Day (1st May), National Youth Day (4th May), International Children's Day (1st June), People's Liberation Army Day (1st August), Teachers Day (10th September).

For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

or check our website to book private day trips in China at http://www.ReadyClickAndGo.com/


Chinese New Year

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Chapel of Peace, Sremski Karlovci, Serbia




Around 50 miles north of the capital city of Serbia, Belgrade, on the slopes of the Fruska Gora National Park and on the right bank of the Danube River, is one of Serbia’s most important spiritual and cultural towns, Sremski Karlovci. Since 1713, this place has been the seat of the Serbian Archbishops so don’t be surprised if among the sea of tourists from different countries you come across a group of black-robed Orthodox priests come to visit the ornate 19th century Archbishop’s Residence. Especially famous for its good wines and honey (which both you can taste at various establishments around the town), its local dessert kuglof (a fruity, spiced cake), its beautiful baroque architecture and very nice inhabitants, Sremski Karlovci is also well known for its contribution to history books since it was here that the term ‘round table’ was first used when describing the signing of a peace agreement. The first peace agreement to be so described was signed here in 1699 between the Turkish, Polish, Venetians and Austrians, and it was thrashed out around a round table on a site a little way out of the town which is commemorated by a circular building, the Chapel of Peace, that has four doors, one for each party to the treaty.


According to the caretaker of the Chapel of Peace, a well-informed and talkative chap, this unusual building is beginning to be popular with visitors again since the EC decided to invest in its reconstruction on the condition that it opened its fourth door behind the altar, the so-called Turkish Door. When we came to visit the Chapel of Peace there was no one to greet us except strong winds and closed doors. We, like history-hungry peeping toms, looked through the windows and keyholes trying to catch a glimpse of the past. Suddenly a tall guy appeared in front of us telling us to go to the opposite side of building and he would open the door for us. It seemed strange that he did not tell us to enter the building with him, but later he explained that he only carries the key for the Turkish door as most visitors are from Turkey - as we were Christian we could only enter the building by one of the other doors. Inside there is an altar which covers the Turkish door (the chapel was built by the Catholics of the town), and there used to be an organ but it was damaged by the rather careless builders who restored the building recently. The windows are distinctive - on the first floor they are made in the shape of the Dutch flag and on the ground floor they represent the Union Jack – both England and Holland were the ‘international peacekeepers’ overseeing the peace agreement of 1699. The whole building is painted yellow inside and out, the staircase to the first floor is original but covered in paint stains and refurbishment is ongoing.

The Chapel of Peace is a witness to a significant historic event, but nowadays is sadly underused – it would make a wonderful space for concerts and exhibitions, and is definitely well worth the stroll from the town centre along the quiet residential streets.

For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Cherry blossom-time in Japan






The Japanese love their fairy-tale cherry-blossoms, sakura, and admiring the fluffy pink-and-white clouds of cherry-blossoms is called hanami - the hanami tradition dates back many hundreds of years although it used to be just for the Imperial court - nowadays everyone enjoys it. It’s a popular tradition in springtime to have a little party in the park under the cherry trees with a picnic and a glass of sake or beer, or to stroll along the romantic riverbanks or streets where the trees are illuminated by paper lanterns at night. The most common blossoms are yedoensis, or somei yoshino, white with a tinge of pink, although there are about 200 varieties native to Japan, and the trees do not bear fruit. The sakura themselves last only a couple of weeks before the petals wither and fall, but to the Japanese, their great beauty, abundance and fragility are representative of life itself, and, above all, its shortness.

Typically the cherry-blossom season starts in the southern regions such as Okinawa in January, moving northwards over the following weeks to reach Kyoto and Tokyo in late March, and it lasts for barely a couple of weeks in any one place. The cherry-blossom season is a little early this year, 2010, as the weather has been quite mild recently, so from around March 21st to April 6th the sakura buds will be blooming in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Hanami in Tokyo


One of the favourite spots for hanami parties in Tokyo is Ueno Park which has over 1000 cherry trees and is free to enter, and which is also hosting the 6th annual Tokyo Opera Nomori Festival between March 16th and April 10th 2010. There are around 40 classical concerts scheduled around the neighbourhood, some of them free, to celebrate the arrival of spring. Nearby you can also find the National Museum, the National Science Museum, the Museum of Western Art and the Metropolitan Modern Art Gallery, so it is easy to combine an enjoyable Japanese tradition with world-class culture!

Shinjuku Gyoen is not far from Shinjuku Station, and it also has 1000 trees but of many different varieties – there is an entrance fee payable here of 200 yen.

Hanami in Kyoto

Kyoto’s best spot is Maruyam Park next door to Yasaka Shrine, it’s centrepiece is a great pink weeping cherry tree that is lit up at night, and entrance to the park is free. Heian Shrine has many weeping cherry trees in its garden, but you have to pay 600 yen to go in. You may like to visit the gardens during one of four evening classical concerts this year to celebrate the blossom festival, 9th -12th April, tickets cost 2000 yen. Alongside Heian Shrine is the Okazaki Canal which is lined with sakura, and you can take a boat trip of around 25 minutes for 1000 yen to get really nice views. Kamogawa River is also a favourite viewing spot especially where it is crossed by Kitaoji Street

Ninnaji Temple has late-flowering sakura, and Hirano Shrine has hosted its own cherry blossom festival for a thousand years – it’s on the 10th April, and the shrine is only a 10-minute walk from the Golden Pavilion. Kiyomizu and Kodaiji Temples are specially illuminated at dusk during the blossom time, entrance fees are around 500 yen.

For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or check our website at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/


Saturday, 20 March 2010

Travel guide to Serbia



Visa

You may not need visa but you need to register with the Police. Registration is done automatically by hotel staff upon check-in, however if you are staying with friends in a private dwelling, you must register your presence with the police in the district in which you are staying.

Getting there

The main airport in Serbia is in the capital city, Belgrade, and it is named after the Serbian scientist Nicola Tesla. It’s avery small airport and quite close to the city centre. Once you are out of the building don’t let yourself be persuaded by cab drivers to take you to the city centre for 20 euros as that is not a bargain. As the airport is very close to the town (25 min from New Belgrade and 35 min from the old town, depending from the traffic over the Danube) you can get on the shuttle bus service provided by the national airline, still called Yugoslavian Airlines (JAT) or on one of the local buses (LASTA). The JAT shuttle will take you to the city centre and drop you in front of the Hotel Slavija, and the buses will take you to the train and bus stations which are not far from each other. The cheapest option is bus number 95 which stops close to the domestic departures building, but it does take ages to get into town, driving through all the new suburbs of Zemuna and New Belgrade – interesting though! Tickets can be bought before you catch the bus from the newsagent at the airport, and they cost 90 dinars which is less then £1.
You can also fly to Nis, a quaint town in the south that is rapidly gaining popularity.
Trains connect Serbia to all quarters of Europe, the main routes being Budapest, Vienna, Thessalonika, Bucharest, Sofia and Skopje and with the possible exception of routes to the East, they are comfortable, punctual and clean, and overnight trains are a good way of arriving. Trains within Serbia however are a little older and a bit shabby.
The Danube flows right through the centre of Belgrade and many river cruises on the way to the Black Sea from Budapest moor overnight here. It’s an expensive way to get to Belgrade, but you do have time to see Belgrade’s main street and impressive fortress.

Getting around

Very difficult! Most maps, sign posts and other important information is written in the Cyrillic alphabet rather than the western Latin alphabet, and this is the official script of Serbia. You might find it useful to familiarise yourself with Cyrillic letters in order to be able to spell out words – names especially.
The main public transport in Belgrade are the buses which are very frequent. There are thousands of taxis too, they vary in size, comfort and price – sometimes you get a little old Yugoslavian banger, sometimes a much more modern car! You can hail taxis in the street or go to a taxi rank, or call one (or get someone local to call one for you)
Beotaxi, 011/970 (White cab)
Žuti taxi, 011/9802 (Yellow cab)
Pink taxi, 011/9803 (Pink cab)
Hiring a car is very easy but driving on your own around Serbia could be a tricky business especially if you are a first time visitor. Driving is on the right, roads could be bumpy, traffic signs are posted in the official cyrillic letters and fellow drivers are not very patient. If you can’t afford to pay for someone to drive you around then travel by bus.

Where to stay?

In Belgrade I would recommend the Moscva Hotel which has a very long history (it opened in 1908), is very conveniently located in the city centre and has welcomed such distinguished guests as Albert Einstein and his Serbian wife, Mileva. Another hotel with a good location is the Balkan Hotel, not far from the Moscva.
Be aware that prices are higher but the standards not as good as in four or five star hotels in Western Europe. If you are going outside Belgrade I would suggest you stay in small inns which are affordable and professionally run. This Easter I am staying in one very close to the National Park of Fruska Gora., where there is a spa and a few beautiful old monasteries to visit.
Spa hotels are usually too expensive for the level of comfort they offer. The rooms are old fashioned and the hotels themselves usually a little unkempt as there has been not enough money for the government to invest in them (they are mostly state-run). However, the staff are always lovely!
National holidays.
There are too many holidays for the western soul! The number of official holidays comes from the fact that the old communist ones are still kept plus there are several new ones added since those days – so they represent the turmoil Serbia has been through in the last 20 years.
January 1 - 2 (New Year's Day), January 7 (Eastern Orthodox Christmas), January 14 (National Holiday (Orthodox New Year), February 15 (Constitution Day), 2 Apr Orthodox Good Friday, 5 Apr Orthodox Easter Monday, May 1 - 2 (Labour Day).

Working holdays
January 27 (Saint Sava's Day), 9 May Victory Day, 28 Jun St Vitus' Day, 31 December New Year Eve.

Local time
Central European Time Zone GMT+1

Religion

Orthodox Christianity is the major religion, the Serbian Orthodox Church became autonomous in 1219. Other important religions are Islam, Catholicism and Judaism.

What is Serbia famous for?

Hospitality – regardless of the hardship Serbians have been through in recent times guests are always very welcome. And always welcomed with open arms.

Spas – the Republic of Serbia is rich in thermal mineral springs whose waters, depending on their chemical make-up, temperature and other properties, make it possible to treat and cure almost any illness for which spas are recommended.
Monasteries - medieval orthodox monasteries such Studenica, Manasija, Žiča, Ravanica are an excellent opportunity to see part of Serbian history. If you are interested in art, there are excellent fresco masterpieces, especially the Beli Anđeo (White Angel) fresco in Mileseva monastery.

Nightlife – Belgrade is one big night club from 10pm until the early morning, especially during the summer time when most of the bars are open on the banks of rivers Danube and Sava. Drink domestic beers as the bars don’t stock a huge amount of foreign beers and they often run out of them. Try the national drink, rakija (raki) which is usually made of plums and is 40% alcohol. Older people swear by its medical attributes.

Festivals - Visit EXIT festival that is happening in the beginning of July, in Novi Sad, on Petrovaradin fortress. The EXIT festival came into being in the year 2000 as an act of rebellion against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, that had for years been keeping Serbia out of touch with the outside. The Belgrade Beer Festival, takes place at Ušće in Belgrade every August. Anotehr famous Serbian Festival the Guca trumpet festival also known as the Dragacevo Assembly is an annual brass band festival held in the town of Guča, near the city of Čačak, a three-hour bus journey from Belgrade.

What to eat?

The main dishes are based on meat, usually pork. There are some vegetarian dishes available, and it’s vegetarian heaven in the weeks before the Orthodox Christmas or Easter when Serbians fast, or eat no meat.
• Gibanica – filo pastry pie with spinach and cheese or just cheese (like spanakopita or tiropita in Greece)
• Pasulj – beans, a national speciality, often cooked for a long time and delicious with cured meat.
• Prebranac - cooked and roasted beans with various spices and vegetables. Completely meat-free
• Punjene Paprike - stuffed peppers
• Roštilj– various meats grilled on an open fire, charcoal grilled.
• Paprikas - stew with paprika, usually made with chicken
• Gulas - stew with paprika with beef
• Sarma - cabbage rolls, similar to dolmades but made with sauerkraut instead of vine leaves
• Riblja čorba - Fish soup using freshwater fish, very good at the barge restaurants along the Danube and Sava.
• Proja - a type of corn bread with white cheese, and a national speciality.
And don’t forget to try domestic product – rakija – ( raki) which is usually made of plums and has 40% of alcohol. Older population swears by it’s medical attributes.

Do not

Talk about war. Especially the recent one. If you have to - talk about WWI and WWII. If you are gay do not show affection publicly – it is still a rarity here.

If you need more information about travelling in Serbia please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or click out our website at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The best time to travel to China




Did you know that London and Beijing are at the same latitude but the climate of these two cities differ wildly. London is an all year round destination but the best time to visit Beijing is in the spring or autumn, the summers in Beijing being very humid and the winters very cold .Thankfully some might say, the Gobi Desert is slowly moving towards Beijing and influencing the climate - a few years ago Beijing was covered in “red snow” which was a dust brought by strong winds from the Gobi Desert.

China is a vast country almost the same size as the whole of Europe and it's very important to choose a good time to visit it. Most of the travel guide books suggest travelling either in April, May or September, October when hotel prices are usually high. This rule is valid if you are going for longer than three weeks and if your tour starts in Beijing and finishes in Hong Kong. Most people plan to go to China only once in their lifetime and they tend to choose longer tours to keep costs down. But from my experience I would suggest you go for a shorter time, say up to 10 days. This way you can go during November and early December or February and March when the prices are lower and the weather conditions still acceptable. Yes it may get cold but not unbearable. If you wear warm clothes which you can buy cheaply at the local market in any city in China then you will get nice crispy days which are fantastic for taking good photos plus most of the sights are empty and you can enjoy them on your own away from other people. If you are going to the south of China the winters are usually mild and make traveling a pleasure in the southern part of China between the months of November and February.

Whenever you decide to travel to China try to avoid 1-8 May (Labour holidays) or 1- 8 October (Liberation Day) when hard - working Chinese get a one week holiday. Most of the sightseeing spots during this time get swamped with large groups of Chinese people who have a different way of exploring - you can recognize them very easily – they are all dressed in the same color clothes for easy recognition and led by a tour guide with a megaphone whose strength is strong enough to seriously damage your ears. Not to mention that you won't be able to get close to any of the sights and you won't be able to hear your own guide.

If you are going to stay in big cities try to book hotels during the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) as most Chinese try to escape from the city to the countryside during weekends.

Also check if there are any big exhibitions taking place, these usually increase the cost of your hotel stay. This year EXPO takes place in Shanghai from May to October so hotel prices are going to be higher. F1 is also taking place in April in Shanghai and the same will apply.

For more information please check our webiste at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/ or email Tara at Tara@ReadyClickAnGo.com



Thursday, 18 February 2010

UNESCO sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina

UNESCO has included the following sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina on its World Heritage List:



The Old Mostar Bridge (Stari Most) in Mostar commissioned in 1557 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Construction began in 1557 and took nine years. Charged under pain of death to construct a bridge, the architect reportedly prepared for his own funeral on the day the scaffolding was finally removed from the completed structure. Upon its completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the Bosnian War. After the end of the war, plans were raised to reconstruct the bride and on the 23 July 2004 bridge was inaugurated.

Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge in Visegrad is a bridge over the Drina River in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was completed in 1577 by the Ottoman court architect Sinan on the order of the Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasa Sokolovich, who was of Serbian origin. The bridge is now widely known because of the book The Bridge on the Drina written by the Serbian Nobel prize-winning author, Ivo Andric.

For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or check our website at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The best place to see Giant Pandas in China



Since the earthquake in Sichuan Province there are two good places to see pandas – one in the Panda Research Centre in Chengdu itself and one in Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base. Wolong centre was destroyed by the earthquake and by sheer luck only the pandas survived and they’ve been transferred around Chengdu. Some of them are "rented" to zoos around the world.
Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base is located in Bifengxia Town, Ya’an City of south-west Sichuan Province. The distance from Chengdu to Ya’an Panda Base is 140km and takes around 2 hours drive to get there. The drive is very scenic, through forest, waterfalls, river and breathtaking landscapes. The mountain weather is changeable, so wear layers for warmth and rain protection. Wear comfortable/waterproof walking shoes. It can rain anytime of the year, particularly June, July, and August (also sunnier during this period) and snow is most prevalent from November through to March. Although there are more Pandas here, you’ll get to see Pandas more in their natural habitant, than in the Panda Research Centre in Chengdu . You can spend around at least 1.5hrs here - subject to conditions you can have your picture taken with a baby Panda for 1,000 RMB (approx £100) . Also you can do some voluntary work which includes feeding pandas, cleaning the enclosure, monitoring their habits but you have to be in extra good health as the forms which you need to fill in ask for very personal information such as: "Do you have mental issues?" Within the park there is the Ya'an Wild Animal Zoo where you can see golden monkeys, tigers, hawks and so on.
Afterward, take a short drive to see Shangli Ancient Town - situated along the river it’s easy to walk around by yourself. Its very interesting for tourists as it looks like an old traditional Chinese town still unspoiled by the mass market. Within the town you can see traditional shops selling homemade Rice Wine, Foods, Handicrafts etc. I found very nice antiques for a very good price and even if it's fake it does look good on my window sill! The Panda Research Centre in Chengdu is located almost in the city centre, but its much more professionally run and controlled. I had a feeling that the Pandas are in a more sombre mood here and in very limited enclosures. But in this centre you would be able to see Red Pandas which you can't in the Ya’an Centre. For those of you staying few nights in Chengdu I would suggest that you go to see the pandas at the Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base. For those with less time I would suggest you visit the Pandas in the Research Base in the city center of Chengdu. If you haven’t got either the time or the money to go to Chengdu then go to a zoo in China but please be prepared. The Panda enclosures may look very clean, big and well-kept but in order to get to the Panda enclosure you have to pass Siberian tigers and see live chickens thrown to them. Or pass dirty and unkempt monkey cages. By the time you get to see the Pandas you feel a bit sick.
For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndo.com or check our website at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Japan for free – fun and free things to do in Tokyo


Free things to do in Tokyo


1. Free entrance to the observation decks of Tokyo’s tallest towers!

See Mount Fuji on a clear day from the 45th floors of the Tokyo Metropolitain Government Towers, 799 ft above the city streets! Toei Subway Oedo Line, Tochomae Station, Tokyo Subway Tocho Station, exit 4, or Shinjuku Station
http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/TMG/observat.htm

2. Free walking tour of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace every Saturday afternoon, 1-3pm, with a local volunteer English-speaking guide. Book your place by emailing info.freewalkingtour@gmail.com Meet at the stand saying Free Walking Tour at Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Central Exit. http://www.freewalkingtour.org/

3. Free bicycle hire at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace every Sunday between 10am and 3pm, to ride a car-free route 2 miles long between the Iwaida-bashi Bridge and the Hirakawa-mon Gate of the gardens. Cycle past pine trees, the palace moat, guard towers and fountains and choose from mountain bikes, tandems, racing bikes and even children’s models. Available from the Information Center next to the Babasakimon Imperial Security Police Station (bring ID). Nijubashi-mae Station, Tokyo Station, Marunouchi exit or Nijubashi Station, exit 2 Chiyoda line http://www.tokyobybike.com/2009/08/imperial-palace-cycling-route.html

4. Geek heaven - Sony Showroom

Located on the lower floors of the landmark Sony Building in the Ginza district of Tokyo, the Sony Showroom displays cutting edge audio visual and computer gadgets and trend-setting prototypes for you to play around with. Ginza Station, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi, Ginza and Hibiya lines exit B9 or Yurakucho Station, JR Yamanote line http://www.sonybuilding.jp/e/index.html

5. Mad about cars? Toyota Auto Salon Amlux

One of the world’s largest car showrooms. If you have brought your international driving licence, you can test drive any of the 70 cars on display here for a nominal fee. Ikebukuro Station Yamanote line, East Exit, or Marunouchi, Yurakucho lines, exit 35. http://www.amlux.jp/english/floorguide/index.html

6. Car theme park for petrolheads - Toyota City Showroom at Mega Web

In the futuristic Odaiba district over the Rainbow Bridge and near the giant Ferris Wheel is the Toyota City Showroom that features hybrid models as well as vintage and racing cars, and offers visitors the opportunity to test drive any of the vehicles in the Toyota range for a nominal fee if you have your international driving licence to hand. Tokyo Teleport Station, Rinkai Line, or Aomi Station, New Transit Yurikamome line (sit at the very front of the train for great views!). http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/English

7. Fabulous Flea Market - Oedo Antiques Market

On the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month at the Tokyo International Forum in the Marunouchi district, 9am-4pm. This is Japan’s largest outdoor market with over 250 sellers and thousands of visitors. Yurakucho Station, JR Yamanote line or Yurakucho line, exit D5
http://antique-market.jp/eng/index.shtml

8. Beer Tasting – Suntory Musashino Brewery

On Sundays and Mondays in March, and Saturdays and Sundays November – February you can join a tour of the Musashino Brewery to watch how Suntory make their award-winning beer, and then taste some. Tours last 1 hour and are in English. Bubaigawara Station, Keio, JR Nanbu line
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/sit/tokyo/t009.html

For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

or check our website at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

UNESCO sites in Croatia



The World Heritage List includes 7 properties in Croatia from which are following featured with ReadyClickAndGo

Old City of Dubrovnik – inscripted by UNESCO since 1979
Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian - inscripted by UNESCO since 1979
Plitvice Lakes National Park - inscripted by UNESCO since 1979
Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Porec – inscripted by UNESCO since 1997
Historic City of Trogir – inscripted by UNESCO since 1997
The Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik – inscripted by UNESCO since 2000
Stari Grad (Hvar) Plain – inscripted by UNESCO since 2008




Sunday, 25 October 2009

The World Heritage Sites, China


The World Heritage List includes 38 properties in China from which are following featured with ReadyClickAndGo:
Mogao Caves
Mount Taishan
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area
Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
Lushan National Park
Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area
Old Town of Lijiang
Dazu Rock Carvings
Mount Wuyi
Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun
Longmen Grottoes
Mount Qingcheng
Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas
Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains
Yin Xu
Kaiping Diaolou and Villages
Fujian Tulou
Mount Sanqingshan National Park
Mount Wutai
For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Vietnam Travel Information


Health

There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Vietnam, but talk to your GP about whether you should consider Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Polio vaccinations or a course of anti-malaria tablets. If you are on prescription medication, you should carry a note from your doctor stating the treatment, drug name and dosage.

Do not drink tap water. Your hotel may provide bottles of water in your room – if it is in the bathroom it is free, if it is elsewhere, you will be charged for it. When buying water always make sure the seal around the cap is unbroken.

Avoid ice in your drinks, salads and unpeeled fruit, which can all lead to upset stomachs.

Passports, Visas, and Immigration

If you are a British passport holder you will need a visa to travel to Vietnam. You can obtain one from the Vietnamese Embassy in London, and should enclose a passport-sized photograph and the applicable fee of around £38. Please ensure you have a full empty page in your passport and that it is valid for at least six months after the date you are due to exit Vietnam. To download a copy of the visa applicationform, visit
http://www.vietnamembassy.org.uk/consular.html#VISA
On arrival in Vietnam you will be given 2 forms to complete, a Health Declaration Form which you hand to Immigration, and an Entry and Customs Declaration Card which will be stamped and which you need to keep carefully to hand in on your departure from Vietnam.

Luggage

When you collect your luggage on arrival at an airport in Vietnam, either from a domestic or international flight, you should make sure you keep safe the baggage receipt issued to you on check-in, and these are inspected when you leave the airport.

The baggage allowance on domestic flights in Vietnam is 20kgs.

Money

The currency in Vietnam is the dong, currently 30,000 dong = £1 sterling, or US$17,500 approx. You cannot obtain dong before you arrive in Vietnam, although there are exchange bureaux at the airport and your hotel will usually have exchange facilities or be near a bank. There are also many cash machines throughout the country. It is very common for prices to be given in US$ and these are accepted very readily by shops, restaurants, as tips, etc. which is very useful if you are concerned about changing too much money into dong as you cannot change it back once you leave Vietnam.

Tipping

A dollar goes a long way in Vietnam. Tipping is not expected like it is elsewhere in Asia, but it is still genuinely appreciated rather than taken for granted, and you will reap the benefits.

Time

Vietnam is seven hours ahead of GMT.

Weather

There is no perfect time of year to visit Vietnam as the country




is so long it covers different microclimates and when it is dry in the north for example, it could well be wet in the south. Always pop a light cagoule or long plastic mac in your luggage. Generally speaking, the climate falls into these 2 regions;
Northern and central Vietnam has cool and wet winters which last from November to April, while summers are hot and humid, and last from May to October with occasional typhoons. Southern Vietnam has fairly constant temperatures, with the rainy and humid season from May to October, and the hot and dry season from November to April.

Electricity

The standard power source in Vietnam is 220v, 50hz AC with either flat or round two-pronged plugs, similar to those found in Europe, so you can bring those adaptor plugs.

Internet

Many hotels now provide internet access free of charge.

Business Hours

Offices, museums and shops tend to open early in Vietnam, between 7am and 8am, and close between 4pm and 5pm on weekdays, with lunch taken between 11am and 2pm. Most government offices are open till noon on Saturdays (Sunday is a holiday), and museums are closed on Mondays. The Post Office is usually open from 6am to 8pm all week, and sometimes even during public holidays. All banks are closed on Sundays, and foreign banks close on Saturdays as well.

Shopping

Many of the handicrafts on offer in Vietnam are similar to those you would find in China, and may well come from there – silk clothing, ceramics, lacquerware, embroidery and the like. In Saigon the Parkson department stores offer up-market international brands, and at the Binh Thanh and Binh Tay Markets there you can find ‘designer’ bags, watches and sunglasses, usually fakes of course, but cheap as chips if you bargain well!

In the old town of Hoi An there are endless silk shops, and you simply have to pick one you like the look of! It is a good idea to have some clothes tailor-made for you very reasonably in Hoi An – but you might like to check the origin of your chosen silk (Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, etc,) and whether it is 100% silk or with some polyester.

Strings of pearls are also commonly found in markets and souvenir shops but they may be fake – have a close look and if the stones seem perfect, they may be plastic.

You will need to bargain and the golden rule is, unless you would like to buy it, don’t ask the price, as you will then find yourself on the bargaining merry-go-round which is difficult to get off with any dignity. Think about how much you would be prepared to pay for the item, then ask the price. If that is still too high after a couple of minutes, walk away, and if they are keen to sell at your price, they will call you back to agree. Don’t drive too hard a bargain – a dollar to you is probably negligible, but can be a day’s wage for many Vietnamese.



For more information please check http://www.ReadyClickAndGo.com/