Showing posts with label ReadyClickAndGo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ReadyClickAndGo. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Evening Shows in Beijing

beijing opera show redyclickandgo
There are lots of special evening shows on offer in Beijing – music, dance, acrobatics, opera – all great fun and easily accessible for tourists. However, should you pre book them or wait until you get there? If you are in China do you book them with your guide or the hotel concierge? And which ones do you book – for example if you are in Beijing do you go and see an Acrobatic Show instead of Beijing Opera? And if you book the Acrobatic Show do you book one with dinner served during the performance? And if you book dinner do you book dinner served by a waitress or buffet style?
I tend to book the shows once I am in China and I book them myself by taking a taxi to the ticket office in person. You get the right price and the right seat. If you decide to book a show with a guide there is a huge possibility that you will be overcharged and the reason is that they have to pay for the driver and car to pick you up at the end of the show.  It’s much cheaper to get a taxi yourself. Also you may pay for the highest price seats only to get one right in the back.  And if you pay for dinner you may get only a cold buffet which is more empty than full.
Beijing Opera – the best place to experience Beijing Opera is at the Liyuan Theater which is inside the four star Jinaguo Hoetl Qianmen. The perfomace takes place every day except Chinese New Year and tickets range from RMB200 to RMB580. You can also arrange a behind-the-scenes visit to meet the actors whilst they prepare for a performance.  They don’t offer a meal during the performance.
Address: No.175 Yongan Road, Xuanwu District
There are many more Beijing Operas but they are usually adaptions of the folk stories and mythology aimed at the local population like the ones at  Laoshe Teahouse,  ( Address: 3 Qianmen Xidajie, Tian’anmen),  Beijing Night Show  (address No.1 Dayabao Hutong),  Peking Opera @ Huguang Guild Hall, all of which offer different set menus.
Peking Duck Dinner – the best place is DaDong, according to tripadvisor. It may be the best once you get a seat and service! I prefer the Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in the hutong area of Beijing named after his owner, Mr Zhang Liqun. The duck is roasted in the old fashioned style, in a brickbuilt oven and roasted on coal. You may not get the waiter to shred the duck at the table but the taste is out of this world!
Address:  11 Beixiangfeng Hutong, Qianmen Dongdajie, Chongwen District
Acrobatic Show – There are so many of them but I would suggest The Legend of Kung Fu by Red Theatre. The story is easy to follow and it’shighly entertaining, combining  dance and Kung Fu.  The theatre is very popular outside China and they were guests at the Coliseum in London.
Venue: Red Theater
Address: Workers’ Cultural Palace, 44 Xingfu Dajie, Chongwen District
There are many more acrobatic shows such as Acrobatics show @ Tiandi Theater, Acrobatics show @ Chaoyang Theater,  Kun Qu Opera @The Peony Pavilion.
For more information about travelling in Beijing or day tours in China please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com. Alternatively visit our website www.readyclickandgo.com 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Snowdrop Walk

Snowdrops at West Wycombe Park, readyclickandgo
The fragile snowdrops scattered around West Wycombe Park were the first signs of spring even though the weather was cold and damp. We followed the map given at the entrance, passing the Manor House of the famous Dashwood family. The house, in a distinctive yellow colour, stands graciously on the top of a slope dominated by the whole landscape.  Built between 1740 and 1800 by Sir Francis Dashwood the house is set within a landscaped park containing many temples and follies. The first temple, hidden behind the house and very easy to miss is the Temple of Apollo or Cockpit Arch where cock fights took place.  Following the map, we passed a big ditch, a Ha Ha, a ditch to stop livestock straying onto the estate. At the end of the ha ha route there was the first folly, something we hadn’t seen on our previous visit, an octagonal tower built in the local stone, painted in the distinctive yellow and called the Temple of the Winds. The design of the temple resembles the Tower of the Winds in Athens.
From the temple we turned left towards the lake, created from the River Wye in the form of a Swan.  In the middle of the lake, surrounded by calm waters and relaxing swans, lies the Temple of Music inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Rome.  Sir Francis Dashwood , 2nd Baronet, embarked on an Italian Grand tour visiting villas of the Italian Renaissance which  he wished to reproduce on his own estate.
After a short walk along the lake we came across another temple  – the Temple of Daphne, modelled on a small temple on the Acropolis. It was surrounded by snowdrops in full bloom. I am sure there were more follies and temples scattered around the estate as we keep discovering them on each visit.
West Wycombe Park is an excellent place to get immersed into English history, learning about the past and how it shaped the present of West Wycombe. The Dashwood family still lives on the estate and you can see them occasionally.  Entry to West Wycombe Park is £10 for adult and the price includes a visit to the Manor House which is open from 1 st April – 31 st August. During the winter time there are snow drop walks and the entry is £2.50 without a visit to the House. Dogs and picnics are not allowed.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

How to eat turtle?

Food in China, ReadyClickAndGo


We had the best table in the whole restaurant overlooking the Yangtze River. There were 12 of us seated at a round table entertained by soothing Chinese music played live in the corner of the room and served by numerous waitresses ready to fill your glass after every sip. The cruise company director, a smart and well educated Chinese person who spoke English with a very strong American accent, sitting on my right, politely asked me if I would like to try turtle as it was a speciality in that area.  During my travels around China the most important rule you have to learn is never to refuse food offered by the Chinese. If you do – it’s a grave offence.
I travelled extensively in all side of China and I am well aware that number 23 from the local Chinese takeaway in London is not going to be the same as in China. I had numerous close encounters with chicken heads, mistakenly thinking of white potatoes until an eye popped out from the water. I have seen chicken legs nicely decorated on huge plates and soft snake meat easily taken for fish. But I never eat any of them.
When I was offered a turtle the first picture in my mind was soup, which I imagined eating with pieces of the meat left at the bottom of bowl. No one would release that I didn’t actually eat turtle meat. Perfect cunning plan! I eagerly said “Yes”.
We went through starters – dry and spicy strips of beef, very salty, peanuts, spicy Sichuan cucumber, dumplings which I like in any part of China, bean skin, cool shrimp without shrimp – it’s a rice milk mixed with red sugar water followed by wine. Lots of wine.
Somewhere between the starters and the main course the turtles arrived on two huge oval plates – I didn’t notice their arrival as by this time I was merry after lots of red wine.  Only after I was given plastic gloves, the same kind I use to dye my roots, did I realise there was a commotion at the table caused by over excited Chinese. My cunning plan evaporated!
How do you eat a whole turtle with the shell on? Especially when they look as if they’re alive. The one in front of me looked ready to walk off the plate. Her deep dark eyes were staring sadly at me saying “Save me”. Frozen at the unexpected sight of the whole animal in front of me I touched it slowly with my finger to make sure it was dead. It didn’t move.
Copying what everyone else was doing I got the hairdresser gloves on, pushed the turtle head further from me and gulped the whole glass of wine in one go. In the meantime my Chinese hosts were happy to pull off the top shell uncovering the tiny body of the turtle. There was no meat there.
“The shell is very good for your health!” He said with half the husk in his mouth.
“You need to suck it.”
The waitress filled my glass, sensing my nervousness. One of the high ranking party members, the usual decoration at this kind of meetings, was tucking noisily into the little legs, pulling them part and sucking them ferociously.  The bare bones were left on the side plate making the table a little graveyard.
The sounds of constant sucking, the heat, the wine, the jet leg – combined together made me pass out in the middle of the meal. The last thing I remember was the sound of the smashed bowl. The next thing I saw after that was the celling of my hotel room.
My boss kept saying that I had too much Chinese wine. I totally agreed with her!
I never tried turtle.
What was your worst meal?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Travel Year!

Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits and I am one of them! I would love to continue with my habit of travelling and in the New Year I would love to visit Brasil, Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos.  Which countries are on your New Travel Year list?
Happy New Year NASA Theme

To all Happy People around the world we wish a Happy and Prosperous New Year! 

Tara

Friday, 7 November 2014

Cave Churches in Greece

It was pitch dark even with the candles that burned on the right, close to the entrance. The three of us deliberated whether to venture further into an unknown without any torch or light, worried how long the dark would last for and what was at the end of the dark. Suddenly we saw a spider creature walking towards us. The creature was huge and it was talking but not in a language we could understand. We decided to exit and find some comfort in the strong sunlight.
We were in Greece, on our annual holiday exploring Kasandra, the first peninsula of Halkidiki. It was the end of September and the mornings were overcast which gave us an excellent excuse to explore various villages. We went in search of the famous Byzantium Castle in Nea Fokea only to end up finding another church by mistake, when taking a wrong turn and seeing the entrance door with a cross on top.  It looked like a church to us until we entered.
The small porch was covered in icons, with a place to light candles and a money box secured with a strong padlock, and was big enough for one person to stand up in. In the middle of the porch there were steep stone steps going down into the dark, the unknown.
After hearing the noise from the darkness and deciding to go outside, we sat under a fig tree discussing if we should go and find what was at the end of the black tunnel when the huge creature in the shape of a German appeared in front of us.
“Is the tunnel long?” – was our first question.
“No – but it’s dark. And you have to go on your knees at the end.”
“What’s at the end?”
“A prayer room.”
I was quick to dismiss the adventure as I consider myself mildly claustrophobic – I hate the noise of a plane door being shot or taking a lift to the 53rd floor (as in China).  Crouching in the dark cave to see a prayer room wasn’t appealing to me…but then who knew when I might be going back to Greece and to this place?
You start walking through a narrow tunnel by standing, then crouching and gradually you end up on your knees. All the time you can touch the walls of the cave as it’s not wide. It’s not pleasant either as it’s pitch dark, and if there was rain you’d get covered in murky water.  After 33 steps (my 33 steps) you end up at the spring or well, or holy water according to locals, I am not sure and on the right of it there is a prayer room where you can stand up as in a “normal” church. It’s quiet, solemn and I am sure there was some natural light as you could recognise some of the saints on the icons, but where the light was coming from, I am not sure.
I didn’t stay long as the fear of being underground was taking over me and I ran, if you can call it running, at a crawl and a crouch, just like the giant spider that had turned out to be the alarming German.  The photos I tried to take came out black and you’d need a strong flash to take a good quality photo.
I know Greece is known for the Holy Mountain Mt Athos and the monasteries spread around it. I have heard about cave churches where monks spends their time in prayers, undisturbed by the outside world. While in Greece I wanted to go to Mt Athos but as a female I am not allowed. The only possibility is to see the monasteries from a distance, from a boat as women cannot set foot on the peninsula.
The best way to see a real prayer cave is to visit St Paul’s Church in Nea Fokea. According to locals, the Apostle Peter hid in the cave from his persecutors and the cave has more than the one tunnel and one room that I saw, but these are closed as tourists get lost in them.
The cave church of St Paul’s is not easily located on maps or Google but you can easily find it when you’re there– it’s opposite the car park of the small port near the Byzantine castle on the main road.
Every year 29 – 30th June, the villagers of Nea Fokea celebrate St Paul and the procession starts from the cave church.
Byzantium Castle, New Fokea Greece ReadyClickAndGo

Monday, 13 October 2014

Visit Turtle Sanctuary in Polychrono, Greece

Turtle Lake, Polychrono, Greece ReadyClickAndGo
We had been walking for 20 minutes and except the occasional random sign with a picture of a turtle we didn’t see any lakes or any turtles for that matter. We hadn’t seen any humans either expect two Danish girls who decided not to follow these random signs right at the start of the route and gave up. With the rain descending on us I was sure they had made a wise decision. The road was secluded, winding through bushes and going into the central part of the peninsula. We didn’t have a map, water or any food and we didn’t even know if we were on the right road.  The only reason we kept going was because of my sister’s stubborn insistence that it must behind the next bend.  After so many bends she was quietly giving up until we meet a couple walking towards us.  They were coming back from the turtle lake, which was according to them was just up the hill on the right. Summoning the last dregs of energy we dragged ourselves slowly onwards and after an hour of walking we finally found the famous turtle lake. It was small, with steep sides, quiet and with no turtles. We ran around trying to spot at least one only to see goldfish, red, gold and white ones. We started to question if we actually had actually come to the right lake at all? After staring into the murky water we managed to spot three and half turtles – three grownups and one baby one, so it was hardly the sanctuary advertised on the internet.  I would call it a fish sanctuary, not turtle.
St Procopius Church. Polychrono, Greece ReadyClickAndGo
On the way back we stopped at the lonely church nearby for a well-deserved rest. The Church of St Procopius is nicely decorated inside and even though it’s far from the main path, the church garden looked neat and tidy. Someone had spent lots of time keeping the church alive which I find admirable. Hungrily we checked every single tree within the church yard and managed to get a few figs, enough to feed us until we got back to our apartment.
Would I recommend a visit to the turtle lake? Yes – but be prepared for a long walk. Bring water and some food. Also bring some bread for the turtles. You may be luckier than we were and see more of them. The lake is a project funded by the EC but it’s difficult to get any maps from the local tourist office. Try to locate the lake on google and print the map.  The locals could give you general information like “after two minutes’ drive on the main road turn right” which makes me think they haven’t been to the lake.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Visit Sarande, Albania


Shore excurions to Sarande, ReadyClickAndGo

The name of the lovely town of Sarande has changed throughout history to reflect the influence of the different cultures in the region. Originally the name derived from a Byzantine monastery honoring the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste which later, under the Ottomans, changed to Aya Sarandi. During Venetian rule Sarande was known as Santi Quaranta only to be changed during WWII to Porto Edda in honour of Mussolini’s daughter. The name was changed again after WWII, after Albania declared independence from Italy.
Sarande is located on the Albanian Riviera and has a lovely Mediterranean climate, mild in winter, dry and hot in the summer. It’s the best cruise port to see Albanian and Greek cultures coexisting peacefully together, evident in the city’s mix of Albanian and Greek architecture.
The first stop at this quaint town should be the Forty Saints Monastery, form which the city got its name, built in honor of 40 Roman soldiers who refused to give up their religion and as a result  were sent to Siberia. The monastery was built in the 6thcentury and on two levels. Unfortunately the second level was destroyed during WWII. It is possible to see the crypt of the monastery but only with special permission from the town hall.
You might like to head out from Sarande to Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just 20km away, and on the way stop to admire beautiful views of Corfu and the Ionian Sea from the 16th century Lekursi Castle built to protect the country from invaders from the sea.
Butrint, an UNESCO site, was first mentioned as a military settlement when Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, established a port there, after defeating  Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra.  The medieval history of Butrint is marked by power battles between the rival Byzantinum, Ottomon and Venetian Empires who have all left traces of their culture on the city and made Butrint interesting to visit on ashore excursion from Sarande.
Shore excurions to Sarande, Visit Butrint,ReadyClickAndGo
The whole area around Butrint is a National Park, protecting a huge national and cultural heritage of Ottoman and Venetian castles with Roman villas as well as unspoiled nature.
Lord Rothschild and Lord Sainsbury raised money to finance archaeological excavations at Butrint, such as the Greco-Roman theatre which is still standing but whose floor is filled with water in which turtles and fish live. Or the baptistery of a 6th century church which boasts a Roman floor mosaic of peacocks, vines, birds and wine urns as it probably originally a Roman’s private pool, the acropolis, the Greek Well of the Nymphs, the Temple of Aesculapius the city walls– but a huge proportion of the excavations have yet to be even started.
To the north of Sarande (around 90 min drive) there is a well preserved Ottoman town and  UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gjirokastra, which is worth including on a full day shore excursion from Sarande. It lay at the crossroads of several important trade routes across Europe and the Mediterranean, and was protected by the formidable Gjirokastra Castle which is nowadays a Military Museum. The town is built on a hillside and is nicknamed ‘the town of a thousand steps’ but is immensely quaint and charming, with distinctive old stone houses clustered along narrow cobbled streets.
Visit Gjirokastra_Albania_readyclickandgo
After enjoying beautiful sea views from the top of the hill head over to City Hall to see the 5th century ruins of the Jewish community Oncheasmos which once boasted a community center, school and a synagogue. Unfortunately most of the buildings were destroyed by earthquakes and invaders but you can still see some mosaic floors with animal designs, a menorah and other Jewish symbols among the tiles.
On the whole the town of Sarande makes and ideal stop over during cruising the Mediterranean. For more information about shore excursions in Albania please email tara@readyclickandgo.com or check our website at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The smallest church in the world?

by Olivera Milic. Conservationist and restorer, guardian of cultural heritage in her city and her country.
The smallest church in the World, ReadyClickAndGo
In the mid-17th century, a tiny church was built in Doinovici village, near Novi Pazar in Serbia. The church, better known as Marinica, is 2.5m x 1.5m (barely 4sq/m) and is thought to be the smallest church in the world.
Legend says:
“The pasha of Novi Pazar had long prohibited the natives to have their own temple. The natives were, however, persistent in their demands and in the mid 17th century a compromise was reached. Pasha finally allowed them to build a church, but gave them three tough conditions: the church had to be located on one of the hard to access spots, it had to be small and it had to be built in one night between dusk and dawn.”
The smallest church in the world, ReadyClickAndGo
This is how the Pasha wanted to prevent believers meeting in church in large numbers, so as not to plot against Turkish authority. However, they fulfilled all three conditions and Marinica was built in just one night, under the careful surveillance of the Pasha’s dignitaries. And today it’s a rare historic gem of a place with a great story and beautiful frescos!
It’s certainly the smallest church in Serbia – but is it the smallest church in the world? Let us know.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Things to see and do in Belgrade: Visit St Sava Temple

Things to see and do in Belgrade: Visit St Sava Temple


The most photographed icon of Belgrade, St Sava Church, is centrally located and visible from every corner of Belgrade. The façade of the church, the windows and bells were finished in 2009 but inside it's still a “work in progress” which still doesn't stop you admiring its sheer size. The guide mentioned that the basement of the Church is almost the same size as the church above ground itself if not bigger. 

This place, St Sava Church, has a very important place in Serbian culture and its history. The Church is dedicated to the first Archbishop of the Serbian Church, who was born as Rastko Nemanjic, the son of the first ruler of Serbia. In his youth he decided to become a monk and was re-christened with the monastic name Sava. He later established the monasteries of Hilandar on Mount Athos in Greece and Žiča. He died in Bulgaria only for his body to be moved to Mileseva Monastery where it stayed until 1594 when the Ottoman Turks removed the remains and burned them on the Vracar hills in Belgrade - St Sava Church is built on the very same spot. 

Three hundred years after the burning of the body the idea of building a church took hold although it was put off by many wars and the communist reluctance to build a church in the middle of Belgrade. Finally permission was granted in 1985 and building started soon after.  

Things to see and do in Belgrade: Visit St Sava Temple
The church is built in the Byzantium style with the figure of the cross forming its base and a large central dome above and four semi-domes lower down, with galleries all around supported by an arcade underneath. Does that sound familiar? You might have seen this construction somewhere else in Europe?


Things to see and do in Belgrade: Visit St Sava Temple

If you have visited Istanbul and the magnificent Hagia Sofia then you'll spot its resemblance to St Sava Temple.  Istanbul (once known as Constantinople) was established by the Roman Emperor Constantine (born in Serbia) who decreed that Christianity be the main religion of the Roman Empire. Constantinople, or the New Rome, became the capital of the Byzantine Empire for more than 1000 years and today the Hagia Sophia is the best surviving example of Byzantine architecture.

St Sava Temple is the largest working Orthodox temple in the world.


For more information about day tours in Belgrade and Serbia please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or visit our site at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com





Monday, 17 February 2014

Will the Taj Mahal open on Friday nights?

Will the Taj Mahal open on Friday nights?

India’s most revered monument, the Taj Mahal, is closed to visitors on Fridays as it is flanked by a functioning mosque and Fridays are the day of prayers. But plans have been announced to open up the building on these days between 7am and midday – at around US$100 per person as opposed to the usual fee of US$12. Currently the Taj Mahal is open every day except Fridays from 6am to 7pm.
The Taj Mahal hosts a festival every year between the 18th and 27th February called the Taj Mahotsav, and it takes place by the eastern gate, Shilpgram. Showcasing the region’s arts, crafts, music and folk dancing, it’s a great place for visitors to pick up great quality goods such as wood and marble carvings, pottery, brassware, carpets, jewellery, silk from Varanasi, Kashmir shawls, handmade carpets and paintings, and to enjoy the best of traditional foods from around the country.
Some historians say that the emperor Shah Jahan who built the magnificent white marble mausoleum for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal which means ‘Jewel of the Palace’, also planned to build one for himself in black marble on the opposite bank of the river and have the two connected by an ornamental bridge. However, before he could do this his son declared war, deposed him and imprisoned him in a pavilion further along the river, from which he would gaze at the beautiful testimony of his love for his wife. What a sight it would have been had he completed his own planned mausoleum too!
If you are planning to be in India for just a short time, ReadyClickAndGo can arrange private one-day trips by road or train from Delhi to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal as well as the impressive Agra Fort and the inspiration for the Taj Mahal, the so-called ‘baby’ taj. Tour Agra with your own guide, car and driver by emailing Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Chinese New Year of the Horse

Happy New Year of the Horse - Gong Hei Fat Choi with ReadyClickAndGo

Are you always rushing around to get things done quickly? Are you flexible but stubborn? Is your lucky number 2,3 or 7? Is your colour brown and flower jasmine? You are typical of people born in the year of the Horse which starts on the 31st January this year and is celebrated for two weeks. The New Year is the most important part of the Chinese calendar and is called the “Spring Festival”.
While in the western world we celebrate Christmas mainly by eating, in China the meaning of the celebration of New Year is slightly different. They celebrate good luck and good health and as such the food on the table is different.  The Chinese eat long noodles for longevity in the coming year, dumplings typically wrapped in the shape of an ancient boat-shaped coin, and for good luck the food on the table should be red as it scares away evil spirits, so red spices are added to the food.
Preparations for the Spring Festival start seven days before the New Year when the house is cleaned from top to bottom in order to sweep away any bad luck accumulated in the past year.  Then the clean house is decorated with red lanterns, lots of flowers, especially lotus as it’s considered the flower of rebirth. Fruit bowls are dotted around the house, but there must be an even number for luck. When visiting relatives or friends you give red envelopes with money inside to encourage saving in the coming year.
It’s not a good idea to try to travel around China during the Spring Festival, it’s difficult to get seats on trains as it seems as if the whole country is on the move back home to celebrate with the family. But if you are planning a visit to China over the coming months, do check www.ReadyClickAndGo.com for a great range of private day trips and sightseeing tours in China!
Happy Chinese New Year of the Horse!
 Gong Hei Fat Choi!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Altitude Sickness in China - Personal Experience

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…
Day Tours in China with ReadyClickAndGo
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 f****** 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…”
Day Tours in China with ReadyClickAndGo
Slowly calming down I ignored them and tried to get some sleep. After almost four hours after the first symptoms of high altitudesickness 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
NOTE: I visited Yunnan Province in October 2011 going from Kunming, Dali, Lijiang to Zhiongdian. If you need any information regarding travelling in China please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Day tours in Tokyo, ReadyClickAndGo

Well, head to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on January 2nd 2014 between 9.30am and 2.30pm and you can see the Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince and Princess, Prince and Princess Akishino and their young daughter, at a rare public appearance at the traditional New Year Greeting.
The Imperial family will appear five times during the day, at around 10.10am, 11am, 11.50am, 1.30pm and 2.10pm, behind bullet-proof glass on the veranda of the modern Chowaden building overlooking Kyūden Tōtei Plaza. Entrance to the inner palace grounds is by joining the queues at the main gate, Nijubashi, beyond the double bridge, before 2.10pm and walking through the gardens. Thousands of visitors are expected and will cheer ‘banzai!’ – long life – as they hear the Emperor’s greeting.
Akihito has just celebrated his 80th birthday and has surprised the country by announcing details of his own funeral arrangements, a relatively modest cremation. He is the 125th Japanese emperor, and will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who in turn will probably himself be succeeded by his nephew, Prince Hisahito, as he has only daughters who are not yet eligible to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne – the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world is facing a crisis in that male heirs are in short supply.
The palace was originally the Shogun’s castle, but nowadays the Imperial family live in more modern quarters on the site which is just 10 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Station. The inner palace gardens are only open to the public twice a year, at the New Year and on the Emperor’s birthday, although the public can visit the East Gardens most days of the week.  It is also possible to visit the palace grounds, tours are most weekdays at 10am and 1.30pm, last an hour and a quarter and are free of charge – more information here. 
If you would like to learn more about the imperial family and its history, the palace or its gardens, why not book your own expert Tokyo tour guide to show you the very best of the city’s sights? Prices for up to 8 hours are US$353.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Visit Taj Mahal by Moonlight - dates and trips for 2014


One day tour from Delhi to Agra, Visit Taj Mahal, ReadyClickAndGo

Visiting the Taj Mahal by Moonlight involves bureaucracy, tight security, the risk of fog in January and February and you aren’t even allowed to get very close, but the silvery gleam of the white marble and the shimmer of precious inlay stones through the darkness makes it all worthwhile.
The Taj Mahal is open at night for five nights a month when there is a full moon, and for 2 days before and 2 days after– except on Fridays when it is always closed for prayer and during the month of Ramzan (Ramadan).
You have to apply for tickets the day before you want to go, you cannot buy them for the same day. To get there you go to the Shilpgram parking lot (from the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal it’s past the Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel) between 10am and 6pm, and from where you will be collected and taken by van to the office. You will need to take your passport so that your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number will be recorded, tickets cost 750 Rupees and are not transferrable. 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.
Full moon dates in the 2014 are as follows, so you can apply to see the Taj Mahal by moonlight on these dates plus 2 days before and 2 days after;
15th January 2014
14th February 2014
16th March 2014
14th April 2014
14th May 2014
12th June 2014
11th Jul 2014
10th August 2014
8th September 2014
7th October 2014
6th November 2014
5th December 2014
4th January 2015
3rd February 2015
If you would like to visit the Taj Mahal by moonlight but are not able to buy tickets 24 hours in advance,ReadyClickAndGo can arrange the entry tickets for you as part of their selection of private day trips in Agra with your own guide, car and driver. If you are not staying in Agra you can book a same-day Agra tour from Delhi, and a comfortable, air-conditioned car will pick you up from your hotel in Delhi and take you to Agra where you meet your guide for the day. After exploring Agra Fort and the ‘baby taj’ you can enjoy viewing the Taj Mahal before returning to your hotel in Delhi. Email Tara Today!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Art, Wine and Honey in Novi Sad

What to see in Novi Sad, Galerija Matice Srpkse, ReadyClickAndGo
The National Museum in Belgrade, Serbia is the largest and oldest museum in Serbia, and has over 400,000 objects including many foreign masterpieces. Unfortunately the Museum has been closed for renovations for more than five years.
If you wish to learn more about Serbian national art we at ReadyClickAndGo would suggest you visitNovi Sad, Serbia’s second city, just an hour and a half north of Belgrade along scenic country lanes, or, if you can read the Cyrillic alphabet, you can get the train, or take the bus down the motorway.
Things to see and do in Novi Sad, readyClickAndGo
The Matica Srpska Gallery in Novi Sad is to be found in the old Stock Exchange building and it has more than 7,000 works of art, especially that from Vojvodina from the 17th centuryonwards. All the exhibits have English translations. On the ground floor are copies of the frescoes painted by Christopher Zefarovic at the Bodani Monastery in 1737, on the first floor are paintings and carvings, including precious icons from the Orthodox churches of Vojvodina. The second floor has a permanent exhibition called People andEvents, and displays pictures from 1900 to 1940 when the country was fighting for freedom and its national identity, and on the third floor are superb paintings from some of Serbia’s greatest artists, classic, romantic and realist – Constantine Daniel, Dure Jaksic, Uros Predic, Paja Jovanovic, Save Šumanović and Milan Konjovic. There are also the famous paintings ‘The Cockfight’ and ‘Wounded Montenegrins’ and one by Jovanovic for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, a huge historical composition, ‘The Proclamation of Dusan’s Law’. The Matica Srpska Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 1000–1800, Friday 1200-2000. The entry fee is RSD200 whcih is around 2 euros. Try to visit during the week as there will no one there except you and you can have the whole place to yourself.
Next to the Gallery there is the Memorial Collection of Pavle Beljanski who was a diplomat and huge lover of art who dedicated his collection to the Serbian nation. This gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday 1000–1800 and on Thursdays from 1300- 2100. Entry is RSD300.Opposite these two galleries there is another, this time of a collector called Rajko Mamuzic who also dedicated his collection to the Serbian people – it is well worth a visit and is also free of charge.
Wine and Honey Tasting in Serbia, ReadyClickAndGo
On the way back to Belgrade we stopped at the Musuem of Bee Keeping and Wine Celler at the Zivanovic family home. We met Mr Zarko Zivanovic whose great-grandfather was a professor at the famous Karlovac grammar school but was also the founder of modern beekeeping in Serbia and a man who had a great knowledge of wine making.In the family house is a unique beekeping museum with objects you rarely see nowadays but which used to be common – such as beehives made of thin strips of dried wood woveninto a dome shape and covered in mud – very different from the beehives made today.
Wine Tasting in Serbia, ReadyClickAndGo
Extracting honey in the old days was rather hit-and-miss and of course, there were no protective clothes then either – but people did believe that beestings were good for the blood! The honey at the Zivanovic farm is very clear and thick, not runny, which shows there are no preservatives added, unlike what you get in a supermarket.
Along with beekeeping and producing high qualilty honey the Zivanovic family is at the forefront of wine production in Serbia and are winning awards, diplomas and medals at home and internationally. They own huge vineyards 200 m above sea level near the Danube on the slopes of the Fruska Gora mountain,and their wine is produced in 300-year-old cellars. Their Ausbruch wine was on the wine list on the Titanic. Their greatest secret is the old recipe, passed down through the generations, from which is prepared Bernet wine, and this Bernet was served at the Russian, English and Viennese courts right up until the First World War. Similar to Port but much stronger, it is made from natural wines with the addition of 27 different ingredients such as raisins, beans, mustard, nutmeg, vanilla and figs. If you are passing through Novi Sad visit this unique place and you won’t regret it – you can book combined visits to the museum and the wine cellar with wine and honey tastings too. As an added bonus I would recommend you try to sneak inside Mr Zivanvic’s house to meet his grandmother, a beautiful, charming lady with an unbelievable zest for life which I guess is the result of plenty of healthy honey and fine wine! For more information about day tours in Serbia and things to see and do in Serbia please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com

Monday, 9 December 2013

Visit Chengde (not Chengdu)

day_tours_from_beijing_ReadyClickAndGo
It was the end of November and the first snowflakes were starting to fly around just as we set off from the airport in Beijing. By the time we reached the motorway the snow was getting serious and I began to wonder if we would be able to get to the Great Wall of China at Jinshaling. I had been to different parts of the Great Wall previously but wanted to see this part as it was unpolished, still rugged in its natural beauty and easily accessible on the way to Chengde, a city in Hubei Province.  The driver, with his thick neck and very short haircut, didn’t speak any English but when he turned to Miss Yang, a skinny, fashionable guide I knew instinctively they were talking about the Great Wall.
“Driver said it’s too dangerous to go to the Great Wall. “ Said Miss Yang turning her short bobbed hair towards me.
The sense of disappointment went through my tired body but there was nothing I could do. We continued our driving towards Rehe, the former name of Chengde. When my boss asked me to visit Chengde to see if we could add it to our tour programme I was under the impression that I was going to see pandas in Chengdu.  Only when I found out that the mode of transfer from Beijing was going to be by car not by plane I realised there was a difference in the last letter and the place I was going to see.
At the hotel, the only four star which was receiving foreigners I had a welcome reception by the director of the hotel who asked me, through a translator, to join him for dinner. After 12 hours on the flight, and two and half hours driving through the country I was desperate to get to bed but my sense of responsibility was still alive and I decided to go for dinner.
day_tours_from_beijing_ReadyClickAndGoThe restaurant was empty, dark with the tables set up for breakfast with the coffee and tea cups neatly laid out. Our dinner was served in one of the private rooms, where except for a huge table for 16 there was a sofa bed, a big plasma TV and the bathroom. The meal consisted of 12 different dishes, all freshly cooked and I enjoyed the Hongchang, smoked red sausages and Khleb which is a kind of Russian bread. In China bread is not served on the table but Chengde is so north and under the Russian influence that bread is a part of the cuisine. Also the climate is cold and eating bread keeps you warm.  My drink was an unusual choice for the north part of China, a coconut milk, served in long thin cans nicely decorated in blue. I was impressed with the marketing and the taste of the drink. The hotel director, secret entrepreneur at heart, offered to export cans of the milk to the UK. A subtle no didn’t stop him stockpiling my room with cans of the coconut drink to make sure that I always had a choice of cold or hot.
After the initial disappointment about not going to Chengdu I researched Chengde and I learned that at one point this small city, a short drive (2,5hours), from Beijing, was a Summer Palace during the Qing Dynasty (1614 – 1911). The Mountain Resort which was built in during the Qing Dynasty took 90 years to finish, and is located outside of Chengde. It is divided into four areas:  the Palace Area, Lake Area, Plain Area and Mountain Area.
day_tours_from_beijing_ReadyClickAndGoThe Mt Area we couldn’t visit as the snow was getting heavier making me worried about my return to Beijing but the Palace area was outstanding.  Imagine the Forbidden City in front of you but without any tourists, imagine the freedom to take as many shots as you wish without waiting for people to move from your viewfinder. Bliss!
Walking around we passed a happy couple walking backwards which made me think a mental institution must be located on the premises. The guide, a local woman born in the city, knowledgeable and in the love with the place, explained to me that humans are set to walk with their chest in front which during the lifetime can be damaging. In order to limit the damage the people of Chengde walk backwards, sometimes, usually in the park trying to develop Ying and Yang energy.
“Imagine it as a form of exercise.” she added.   I did try to imagine walking backwards around the local Tesco but then saw myself escorted from the premises by the security guard. It would be very difficult to explain the calming influence of Jing and Jang to Essex gizza boy.
Outside the Mountain Resort there is an area covered with outer temples which are copies of those of different minorities in China and which symbolize the various ethnic groups. Legend goes that the Emperor was fed up with all the internal fighting in China and he decided to call all the representatives of each minority to sign a peace. In order not to favour any of them, he built temples for each – the Tibetan Temple which is a replica of the Potala Palace, the Pule Temple reflects a traditional Han style while the Temple of Universal Happiness (Pulesi) was built in honour of the representatives of the Kazaks.  Originally there were 12 Temples of which 8 remain and together with the Mountain Resort are listed as UNESCO Heritage Sites.
At the back of the hotel I was greeted by the director again, who asked me if I would like to join him at karaoke which was conveniently located on the 3rd floor of the hotel. The sound of my own voice would cause a diplomatic row and making a polite excuse of an early start the following day, I refused the offer and spent a night in my hotel room drinking coconut milk.
The following day I took the train back to Beijing on my own, sharing sunflower seeds and hot water with local commuters who didn’t speak any English and since my Chinese is very limited our conversations were short but we enjoyed our journey together all the same.
I would do a day tour from Beijing to Chengde at any time. It’s a charming, full of history, friendly but kind of forgotten city on the tourist map. For more information please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or visit our webiste at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com