Showing posts with label experiences. Show all posts
Showing posts with label experiences. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 June 2012

How to see Japan’s Snow Monkeys on a day trip from Tokyo



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You’ve seen the photos of these cute, pink-faced hairy monkeys with frosted whiskers bathing in steaming hot springs in the middle of the snow? You can visit them all-year-round at ‘Hell’s Valley’ near Nagano on a day trip from Tokyo – it’s a bit of an expedition, but here’s how;

The Snow Monkeys, Japanese Macaques, live at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Park near Nagano which is easily reachable from Tokyo by Shinkansen train, from JR Tokyo Station. There are around 25 trains throughout the day, and the journey takes around 90-100 minutes each way, you can use a JR Rail Pass on most of the Shinkansen trains except for the super-fast Nozumi ones. If you do not have a pass, the ride is around 8,000 yen.

From Nagano Station, look for the Zenkoji exit from the station and the subway for the Nagano Dentetsu train (Nagano Electric Railway, a private railway so you cannot use a JR Rail Pass) to Yudanaka, this takes approx 50 minutes and costs 1,230 yen each way, and there are 7 express trains per day, at 0908, 1046, 1208, 1338, 1457, 1714 and 1941. The return Nagano Dentetsu trains back from Yudanaka to Nagano are at 0934, 1011, 1138, 1327, 1446, 1556, 1818 and 2049. In addition to these express trains there are slower ones in between that take about 20 minutes longer.

From Yudanaka, take a bus or taxi to Kanbayashi Onsen. From there, it’s about a 30 min walk to the Jigokudani Yaen-koen entrance, entrance 500 yen adults, 250 yen children, open 9-4 November to March, and 8.30-5 April to October. There’s no snow obviously in the summer, but the scenery of Hell’s Valley is still spectacular.

When you get to the park, there are pathways through the forest and to the special hot bath that was built for the monkeys, you’ll see them lazing in there and in the trees and as you walk around. There are about 200 monkeys living here and roaming free through the park, they are perfectly friendly and you’ll be able to get very close to them, although you should not try to feed them. You should allow a couple of hours to explore the park, you will need footwear that can cope with lots of snow in the winter, mud and monkey poo the rest of the year!

If you would like help planning a private day tripin Japan from Tokyo or Kyoto, please see our website www.ReadyClickAndGo.com or email us at Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com ReadyClickAndGo arranges private day tourswith your own English-speaking guide in Japan and throughout Asia.


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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



Saturday, 8 October 2011

A Day and a Night in Yokohama, Japan




Firstly, head to one of Japan’s newest but soon-to-be most popular interactive museums, the Cup Noodle Museum. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the invention of the Cup Noodle a museum dedicated solely to this ever-popular yet much maligned snack opened last weekend in the Minato Mirai district of Yokohama. Visitors can learn about the entire process and make their own in a section of the museum called My Cup Noodle Factory - how to knead and roll the dough, steam and flash-fry the noodles before watching them being dried, then they can design the cups they are packed in, choose the flavours and create their own favourite to take home – over 5000 flavour combinations are possible! The museum is open from 10am to 6pm and costs 500 Yen for adults, and is free for children. 95 billion servings of his noodles were eaten in 2010 and a Japanese astronaut even went into orbit in 2007 equipped with his own supply of vacuum-packed Space Noodles from the factory!

Afterwards, you can wander along to one of 50 venues hosting this year’s Jazz Promenade, a festival on the 8th and 9th October attracting over 2000 jazz musicians and 100,000 fans. Performances take place in some of the city’s formal concert halls such as the nearby Landmark Tower, Memorial Hall, Kannai Hall, Red Brick Warehouse No.1, Minato Mirai Hall, Media and Comunications Center, and Osanbashi Pier Hall in the evenings, in jazz clubs and also on the streets at tourist and shopping spots around the city during the day. Read more about the Yokohama Jazz Festival here http://jazzpro.jp/en.php#about

As you make your way back to the station in the evening, look out for artistically-illuminated parks and buildings, part of Smart-Illuination Yokohama which the same weekend, 7-9th October, is displaying energy-efficient LED lighting to stunning effect - environmental science as art! Read more about this unique event here http://www.zounohana.com/event/post_33.html

http://www.readyclickandgo.com/ can arrange private sightseeing tours of Tokyo and Yokohama by public transport with your own English-speaking guide – as well as the fantastic Cup Noodle Museum there are plenty of other sights well worth a visit – the 972ft high Landmark Tower is Japan’s tallest building and with the world’s second fastest lifts, the 1930s passenger liner Hikara Maru with its Art Deco interiors, the historic buildings at Sankei-en Park – or you can try your hand at making traditional Japanese pottery at Sakura Kiln, http://homepage2.nifty.com/mg_studio/eng_index.htm  or learn about Zen Buddhism at Sojiji Temple. Prices are from £165 for a half-day private tour – see 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 September 2010

How to get around Beijing?

by Bus



Until recently you had to speak Chinese in order to use a bus in Beijing, but Chinese Tourism have introduced a Yiktong Card which means “one card pass” in Chinese. It is similar to the Oyster Card used by TfL in London, Singapore’s EZ-Link, and Hong Kong’s Octopus card, and is like a credit card for travel that you ‘top up’ as you use it. In order to get a Yiktong card you need to pay a deposit of RMB20 plus RMB100 for the travel itself and you can top this up at subway stations, railway stations, most post offices and big supermarkets in Beijing. When you leave, you get your deposit back.
Bus fares range from RMB1-5 according to the route and whether the bus has air conditioning or not.

There are many different bus lines and they are categorised by number: the city lines are buses 1 to 122, night buses are 201 to 212, suburban lines are 300 to 949, air-conditioned buses begin with number 8, double-decker buses begin with the Chinese letter – Te which means special.

Little secret tips:
  • If you decide to use public transport to visit the Great Wall of China look for buses which start with the number 9. For example, to go to the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu go to Dongzhimen Bus Terminal and get bus 916 which takes you directly there

There four main bus terminals in Beijing:

Deshengmen Bus Terminal – buses to the Juyongguan and Badaling sections of the Great Wall, and Kangxi Grassland. The fare is RMB8-12.
Dongzhimen Bus Terminal – buses for the Mutianyu, Simitai and Jinshaling sections of the Great Wall. Only bus 936 which operates during the peak tourist season runs directly to the Mutianyu Great Wall, buses for the other sections, 916, 980, 918Z, stop before there and you need to transfer to a minibus. The bus fare is RMB10-16.

Pingguoyuan Bus Terminal – buses 929 and 931 go to the Jietaisi, Tanzhesi and Chuandixiacun Temples, and the fares are RMB15-20.

Beijing Railway Station Bus Terminal – 938 bus to Epoch City in Xianghe, fare RMB10.

Tianqiao Bus Terminal – bus 917 to Hancunhe village, fare RMB10

For more information how to book a Private Day Trip in Beijing on foot, by bus, tube, or by bycle with local guide please check our website at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com or email Tara@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


Sunday, 18 July 2010






We’d booked a guide and car and driver to take us around Sapa for the day-and-a-half we were spending there, and they picked us up mid-morning for a walk to one of the minority villages where the Red Dao and Black Hmong people live. As we got out of the car, there was a group of a dozen or so colourfully-dressed women from the village with baskets on their backs. They surrounded us and told us pleasantly that if they walked with us, we should buy something from them, which sounded fair enough and I agreed. Three of the women allocated themselves to me therefore, shooed away their rivals and set off with us cheerfully, asking questions and chatting in what little English they knew. They did not say Manchester United when I said where I came from (which virtually everybody else in the world does), so I amended my reply to England which they had heard of. The path was initially a concrete track – the local council had thought that foreigners coming to Sapa to hike in the hills might find the concrete more appealing to walk on than a real mountain track. It drizzled for much of the day, and the guide did not actually say before we set off that the walk was going to take 3 ½ hours, so I was rather dispirited when we stopped for a little sit down as I was really tired, to find out that we were only nearly half-way there. I looked at the three Red Dao village girls who were amiably waiting for us to continue, felt guilty at taking up their whole day on an unnecessary walk, shared out the biscuits my guide had brought for us, and set off again.

The walk was not particularly difficult, on more or less flat terrain but pretty despite the drizzle, with rice terraces and mountains, the odd fellow-walkers, a girl with buffalo, and we went into a farmhouse where two girls were softening a roll of material with an ancient wooden contraption they stood on and rolled with a pumping motion of their feet. There was a hole for a fireplace in the ground, sacks of rice, corn and chillies piled on the earth floor, some puppies and a TV, and the girls looked tired. The village we ended up in was little more than one lane lined with shops selling snacks and water for the tourists who arrive, exhausted, here. One of my Red Dao girls pointed up a hill and said they lived 2 kilometres further on, and I was amazed by their lack of fatigue when I had been fit to drop for a couple of hours. By the time my guide sat me down in a plastic garden chair I was therefore in no state to resist their salesmanship which consisted of them selecting from their baskets what I should buy – a wall-hanging, a pair of matching cushion covers and a scarf, one from each of them – and telling me what I should pay. One of the girls did say, “I say price, you say price” but this prompt to bargain passed me by at the time. I struggled feebly to convert the hundreds of thousands of dong they mentioned into sterling in my head but could only manage the vaguest figure that I still knew was over the odds, but handed over the cash virtually without a murmer, much to their surprise. My guide was slightly disgusted with my profligacy, but scooped me up into the.car before I could do any more shopping and took me to a hot little café for pumpkin soup and ginger tea.




The next day I knew I was in for another walk, but counted on it being shorter. It was indeed shorter, only 1 ½ hours, but all uphill on a concrete path with no shade and in really hot, humid weather. We drove for half an hour to a village in a valley with local radio screaming out from a loudspeaker, and where the guide took me to Mr Lan’s house for a cup of tea. Mr Lan had built an upstairs storey on his house where he had made a dormitory for overnight visitors, he had to just ask the village elders for permission to do so. They made all the men of the village there help build it, and in return, Mr Lan had to throw daily dinner parties for them – no money changed hands. It sounded like a jolly good system. Anyway, we trudged uphill, my guide picked leaves and crushed them with his fingers and put them under my nose until I recognised the smell as coriander or lemongrass or whatever. There were tiny piglets and chicks, geese, kittens, cocky dogs, a baby buffalo, and peasants of all ages from the village at the top, all striding along with a stamina that comes from daily necessity. It was not enjoyable at all, but was too embarrassed to tell the guide I wanted to turn back, and hoped that the next day I might enjoy it in retrospect. Two small village kids at the top took my empty water bottles and bashed them up happily whilst their mother clearly wondered why I was so red-faced and sweaty, and breathed so noisily. The guide took me to another farmhouse in the village – they just say hello and can we come in – and again, it was just a large wooden barn but with electricity. It was lunchtime and the family were eating bowls of rice together at a low table, and paid us little attention. The village was poor and ramshakle like the ones yesterday, not charmingly rustic as the tourist guidebooks imply, and I felt like an intruder. We walked back down to the car and climbed gratefully back in.
But I am still enjoying both walks immensely in retrospect!


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


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, 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



Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Its Christmas Eve in Serbia!

Tonight is Christmas Eve in Serbia and the last day of 40 fasting days before Christmas. According to tradition, today's lunch is a lenten lunch which usually consists of soup, fish, stuffed wine leaves, beans and salads and during the day we also eat dried fruit, walnuts, red wine and honey. Before lunch the tradition is to bring into the house a branch of an oak tree which symbolises the tree brought by a shepherd and given to Joseph and Mary to make a fire in the stable where Jesus was born. In the villages around Serbia the branch of oak is cut in the forest but in the big cities it's usually bought at the market or in church, and it is burned tonight to represent light and warmth bringing a new beginning. There are lots of traditions which symbolise Jesus's birth, for example, it's good to bring straw into the house to symbolise the crib in which Jesus was born, and to have coins scattered around the house similar to the gold coins given to Jesus by one of the Kings.
Tomorrow is Christmas Day and according to tradition, we go to the midnight liturgy, then in the morning a guest (ideally a young healthy male!) is allowed into the house on this day, bringing the new year. The greeting on the Christmas Day is Hristos se rodi which means Jesus is born - the reply is Vaistinu se rodi which means Verily is born. After returning from the morning liturgy the custom is to serve a Christmas lunch which means the end of the 40-day long fast. The feast starts with prayer, lighting a candle and incense. Lunch is different rotiserie meats, lots of cakes, salads and drinks, and a loaf of home-baked bread in which is hidden a coin - whoever finds it can expect lots more money during the coming year! The custom is to exchange presents and spend the whole day at home, visiting friends and family the next day.
Churches that follow the Julian Calendar celebrate Christmas Day on 7th January – Serbian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Jerusalem Church, Egyptian Kopti, some Etiophians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Macedonias and Montenegrians.

Merry Christmas!

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

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas from Belgrade, Serbia!



I am sitting on the 3rd floor of my mum's apartment in the city center of Belgrade and emailing all around the world wishing a Merry Christmas to all my friends scattered around the globe, from Rachel in Nepal who is doing charity work after being dumped yet again, to Elke in Thailand after being made redundant yet again, to Fran in London doing an MSc in Environmental Science after deciding that she had enough of travelling. Out of sheer fun, I wish Merry Christmas to my friends in China even I know they don’t celebrate it. They do the same to me.
I can hear my mum on the phone to her brother in Holland and her best friend just across the river Danube which is just at the end of the number 706 bus in a different part of Belgrade and wish them a Merry Christmas too.
Despite the celebratory feelings we, the Serbian people, don't actually celebrate Christmas on the 25th December. Our Christmas comes a bit later on the 7th January - some people in the West call us the "Eastern Catholics". This is because of our use of the traditional Julian Calendar, under which December 25 falls on the Gregorian calendar's January 7. The Julian calendar, a reform of the Roman calendar, was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC and it has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months, and a leap day is added to February every four years. Hence the Julian year is on average 365.25 days long.
The Gregorian solar calendar is an arithmetical calendar. It counts days as the basic unit of time, grouping them into years of 365 or 366 days; and repeats completely every 146,097 days, or 400 years, and which also happens to be 20,871 seven-day weeks. Of these 400 years, 303 (the "common years") have 365 days, and 97 (the leap years) have 366 days. This gives an average year length of exactly 365.2425 days, or 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds.
Basically, the only difference is that the Gregorian calendar is 13 days behind the Julian calendar.
During this festive time, you greet another person with "Christ is Born," which should be responded to with "Truly He is Born." The Serbian name for Christmas is Božić , which is the diminutive form of the word bog, meaning 'God'.
Most Serbian families celebrate the Christmas/New Year season with a Christmas tree in the house. The decoration of the tree is a very good opportunity to gather family members around, and the main tradition is for the head of the household to go into a forest on Christmas Eve (6th January) preferably before sunrise, or at least before noon, to select a young and straight oak tree and a log cut from it is in the evening ceremoniously put on the domestic fire. A bundle of straw is taken into the house and spread over the floor.
On Christmas Day, (7th January) the celebration is announced at dawn by church bells and by shooting. Huge importance is given to the first visit a family receives that day. People expect that it will bring prosperity and well-being for their household in the ensuing year; this visit is often pre-arranged. Christmas dinner is the most celebratory meal a family has during a year. A special, festive loaf of bread is baked for this occasion, and the main course is roast pork . It is not traditional in Serbia to exchange gifts at Christmas. Gift giving is, nevertheless, connected with the holiday, being traditionally done on the three Sundays that immediately precede it. Children, women, and men, respectively, are the set gift-givers on these three days. Closely related to Christmas is New Year's Day by the Julian calendar (January 14 on the Gregorian calendar), whose traditional folk name is Little Christmas.
I wont be in Belgrade for little Christmas but I am sure I will celebrate it in London with my friends Rachel, Elke, Fran….

Friday, 11 December 2009

Train from Sarajevo ( Bosnia) to Belgrade ( Serbia)

According to the Bosnian winter train timetable the first direct train between Sarajevo and Belgrade since the 1992-95 war will start running on the 13th December 2009 at 1135. True to typical Balkan confusion the train will consist of three carriages : one from Bosnia, one from Republika Srpska and one from Serbia. The price of the ticket is the same for all three carriages and one way in 2nd class is Euro 25 or GBP23 The train will run daily leaving Belgrade at 0815 and arriving in Sarajevo at 1735 according to the spokesman of Bosnian trains.

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




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/








Sunday, 6 September 2009


VISIT TO THE ICE FESTIVAL HARBIN

CHINA

2nd part

When you mention Harbin everyone thinks of the Ice Lantern Festival which takes place from 5 January until the end of February. Those dates are very flexible and depend on global warming – sometimes ice starts falling off he sculptures at the beginning of February and you have to be very careful not to get too close to the ice exhibits. The opening ceremony is on 5th of January in the afternoon when the lights are officially switched on, followed by a fashion show, Chinese dancing and music. Preparation for the Ice Lantern Festival begins in December when large ice cubes are cut from the Songhua River and transferred to Zhaolin Park ready for artists from all around China and recently world, to make sculptures of dragons, temples, waterfalls, taking you through Chinese folk tales. The combination of illuminated lights inside the ice block of different shapes give you amazing spectrum of colours and sets you imagination racing.
After a few hours of walking around Zhaolin Park we decided to get some warmth in the restaurant which was actually a tent with a big heavy rubber door to keep the warmth inside. We decided to go to the Tibetan tent which was very cosy and very warm inside. The lights were smouldering, sending us off to sleep. After taking two pairs of gloves, a balaclava and Russian hat, thick woollen scarf and
waterproof jacket (that was just the outside layer of my clothes!), I ordered a nice hot Tibetan Tea. The combination of ginger, green tea and sugar fried in a pan then covered with hot water is very soothing, sending heat through every small vessel in your body. We looked at the menu and between choosing a juicy yak steak and soup back in the hotel-decided to go for soup.
On the way back to the hotel we visited the Ice Sculpture at the World of Ice & Snow Show. This show used to be a part of the Ice Lantern Festival at Zhaolin Park but with the years it has grown so much that the organizator decided to move to the Sun Island. Every year has a different theme – this year was Russia with all the sculptures fashioned in a typical Russian style. Among them were replicas of some of Russia's most famous architecture, such as the East Palace, and Moscow's Red Square.  
So in the middle of the show we could see the Red Square built from ice and illuminated. The Basilica was in the most prominent place and by the time we decided to take some shots our camcorder was so cold it gave up. You have to carry your camera between your skin and vest. Once you decide to take a photo it takes all

your acrobatic skills to get the camera out from underneath all the layers. Once the camera is out you need to free your hands in order to press the button and don’t forget it’s cold, your hands are trembling. When I showed all my photos to my friends they questioned my ability to take straight photos, not realising what I had to endure! 



How to get to Harbin:



The best time to visit the Ice Lantern Festival in Harbin is in January. You can either get there by flying from Beijing to Harbin or by train but please note the train tickets are not confirmed until 10 days prior departure. You need to stay 3 nights in order to see all attractions. There are lots of good hotels around but I would recommend the Gloria Hotel as its centrally located and price is affordable. For more information please email Tara at tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com or check our website at http://www.readyclickandgo.com/

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Religious Tour of Belgrade ( Walking tour of Belgrade)

Walk to the lower part of Kalamegdan Fortress passing the Nebojsa Tower which used to be a prison during the Turkish occupation and which today is a museum dedicated to the Greek revolutionary Rigas Feraio, strangled by the Turks here and thrown into the Danube. Not far from the tower is St Petka’s Church, well known for its spring which according to locals has healing powers. The church has lovely mosaics and also relics (bones) of the saint herself which are displayed every Friday.

A few yards away is St Ruzica Church, the oldest Orthodox Church in Belgrade, which was badly damaged during WWI and rebuilt in 1925 when two statues of soldiers were added at the entrance.

On the famous Knez Mihailova Street is Bajrakli Mosque, built around 1575 by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. During the Austrian occupation (1717 -1739) the mosque was converted to a Catholic Church only to be changed back again in 1741 during the Turkish invasion. Today it is the only active mosque in Belgrade.

Not far from the mosque is Belgrade’s Synagogue, opened in 1926. This synagogue is the only active synagogue in Serbia and its rituals are held by Serfadi Jews who came to Serbia during the 1490s from Spain and Portugal.
Crossing Knez Mihailova Street see the most prominent Orthodox Christian place of worship, the Saborna Crkva, also known as the Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel. The cathedral was built in 1840 by Prince Miloš Obrenović, one of Serbia’s early kings. The church was built in the neo-classical style with late baroque elements, and the interior is richly decorated with a carved golden iconostasis. At the entrance in a small garden are two graves, one of them of the Serbian linguist, Vuk Karadzic, who is best known for his book on Serbian spelling, Write as you speak and Read as it is written. The second grave belongs to Dositej Obradovic, the Serbian author, philosopher and linguist who tirelessly advocated ideas of European Enlightenment and Rationalism.

Opposite the Cathedral Church there is the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate which was built in 1935. On the main façade an impressive portico has low columns and an arched portal above which is a sculpted coat of arms of the Patriarchate of Serbia. On the top of this facade, in a niche, is a mosaic representing St. John the Baptist.

Closer to Tasmajdan Park there is St Mark’s Church built from 1931 to 1940 in the Serbo- Byzantine style. At the south end of this church is a sarcophagus with the remains of the Serbian Emperor Stefan Dusan, and at the north end is a crypt of white marble containing the body of Patriarch German Doric. St Mark’s has a highly valuable collection of 18th and 19th century Serbian icons, and next door is a small Russian Orthodox church.

In the centre of Belgrade there is a new addition to the city’s religious architecture, the Cathedral of Saint Sava which, once finished, will be the largest active Orthodox Church in the world. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and it is located where Saint Sava is thought to have been burned in 1595 by the Ottoman Empire’s Sinan Pasha. Work on the cathedral started in 1935 only to be stopped during WWII. In 1985 the Patriarch reapplied for permission to continue building only to be refused 88 times, and permission to finish the building was finally granted in 1984.
The topmost point of the cathedral is some 134 m (439.6 ft) above sea level and is visible from everywhere in the city. The interior of the church is not yet finished but standing inside even now is impressive and awe-inspiring.


Please email tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com for further information.