Beijing preparations for Olympics in full swing

Bird’s Nest National Stadium under construction. August 8 marks the One Year Countdown to the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. If you are planning a trip to Beijing for the grand gala, you must know about the major preparations and venues, which are underway. The preparations for 2008 Summer Olympics are in full swing. About 550,000 foreign visitors and 22,000 journalists are expected to attend the Olympic Games. Also, there will be 550,000 local volunteers lined up to help the guests. China has already spent $40 billion to add everything it can to add to the glitter of the city. Many Government-sponsored etiquette campaigns are working to stamp out the bad manners like spitting, littering and reckless driving. The Crazy English program has been started to make the cab drivers learn English. During the 17-day Olympics, the choking pollution and traffic will be checked. At least one-third of 3.3 million vehicles will be banned, and dust-spewing building sites and sooty factories will be shuttered. The Watercube National Aquatics Center under construction. Now let me tell you about the main venues. In total, there are 31 Olympic venues, out of which 12 are new, 11 are under renovation, and eight are built as temporary structures. These are located in four clusters in the north of the city. For soccer and sailing five venues are set up outside Beijing in mainland China. There is one venue in Hong Kong for equestrian events. The Olympic Village is a high-rise compound for 10,500 athletes and is located at the far northern end of the Olympic Green. The Bird’s Nest National Stadium and the Watercube National Aquatics Center are the two more attractive venues. Former being a gargantuan bowl that seats 91,000 and the latter is a simple box design with a translucent, blue-toned outside skin that makes the structure look like a cube of foam or bubbles. With new venues, buildings and etiquette campaigns, Beijing is getting a makeover. The games will kick off with the Olympic Torch Relay, which begins several months before the opening ceremony, to ignite the main flame.

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China to become the world’s top tourist destination

Image Credit Asia is becoming the second largest tourism destination in the world, second only to Europe. One such place that is drawing more and more tourists is China. Within a decade, this fascinating place is expected to top the list of the world’s most popular destinations. The Great Wall of China which has recently been picked as one of the New Seven wonders of the World and it is being used as a tool to bring tourists into China. Li River, Beijing, Xian, the Yangtze River, Guilin, Yangshuo and Shanghai are must see. I’m sure you all know about the Summer Olympics that are scheduled to be held in Beijing in 2008. The city is getting a makeover with many new programs. Tiananmen Square, Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall are among the main icons of Beijing. In the evening time, you can also enjoy a spectacular acrobatic show or The Legend of Kung Fu, a wonderful, spiritual and energetic ballet. Image Credit Yangtze River cruise will give you chance to see the Three Gorges Dam, one of the world’s biggest projects and watch life on the river which carries 80 percent of China’s waterborne traffic. Next, you can go on Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, past the karsts, ragged mountains which look like giant green molehills and remind one of classic Chinese landscape painting. Yangshuo which is a charming small town is good for shopping. If you are in Yangshuo, you can’t miss an evening performance of a sound and light show featuring a cast of 600 local farmers and fishermen on a set that incorporates the river and a backdrop of the mountains. Though China is becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations, yet it’s not the place for an independent traveler. English is not spoken widely in China, so taking a package tour is preferable. Wendy Wu Tours offers a 17-day package called the Wonders of China. It’s an ideal way to see the main points of interest in four-star comfort. Wendy Wu Tours offers a selection of programs to suit every traveler. It has a number of fully-escorted tours of China ranging from 10 days to 29 days. The 17-day Wonders of China tour runs from March to November and prices start at $3,980 twin share, including international air fares, national escort and local guides, departure taxes and visa fees for Australian passports

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Chinese Lantern Festival: World’s most unique spectacle

If you’re still short on plans for this weekend, go out and see the Chinese Lantern Festival, running until October at Ontario Place, and experience one of the most unique spectacles in the world. It’s the nightly celebration of Chinese culture in Toronto and is the largest festival of its kind outside Asia. During the festival, the cities and villages are filled with brightly-illuminated and decorated lanterns that hung from temples and are carried by children through the streets. Celebrate Chinese culture as you check out the lanterns and enjoy nightly entertainment including a dragon dance and performing groups from China. While they are stunning during the day and early evening, they are amazing after dark. Some of the dramatic lanterns float on ponds and have geysers spraying water that add to the drama. This year, there are some forty giant illuminated lantern installations that depict the themes from the Qin, Tang and Song dynasties. In addition to the lanterns, the festival also features a teahouse, Continue reading “Chinese Lantern Festival: World’s most unique spectacle” »

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Inner Mongolia – Everlasting mystique of stunning grasslands beckons

Inner Mongolia is an extraordinary place that offers a different kind of travel experience rarely found in other Chinese cities. It has a peculiar natural scenery, long history and brilliant culture. The mystique of stunning grasslands, the Gobi desert, the Naadam festival and the Mongolian way of life are the main draw for tourism. The capital city of Hohhot is a gateway to attractions in Inner Mongolia and has a few historical places worth a visit. Wudangzhao Monastery: Wudangzhao Monastery in Baotou is the only intact Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Inner Mongolia. It’s a vast complex that used to be the residence of the highest ranking lama in Inner Mongolia. Mausoleum of Genghis Khan: Inner Mongolia was hometown of Genghis Khan. Located 185 kilometers south of Baotou, the Mausoleum holds his clothing buried in his memory. Dazhao Temple: It’s one of the biggest and best-preserved temples in Hohhot. Image Credit Xilituzhao Palace: It’s the largest surviving Lama temple in Hohhot. Zhaojun Tomb: It is also known as Green Tomb (Qing Zhong) because each winter, when grass turns yellow this tomb remains green. Wanbu Huayanjin Pagoda: It is an exquisite and magnificent brick-wood structure about one hundred and fifty feet tall. It is also known as White Pagoda. No doubt, there are many interesting historical sites that attract the tourists but what is most attractive about Inner Mongolia is its natural beauty. Vast grasslands such Xilamuren Grassland, Gegentala Grassland and Huitengxile Grassland are all good places for grassland experience. Image Credit The bright sky, fresh air, rolling grass, the flocks and herds moving like white clouds on the remote grassland and mushroom-like yurts all contribute to make the scenery a very relaxing one. You can also try some different activities such as visiting traditional families and enjoying the graceful Mongolian singing and dancing, Mongolian wrestling, horse and camel riding. Also, there are many deserts, the most famous and visited ones are the Badain Jaran Desert, Tengger Desert and Kubuqi Desert. When to go: The best time is definitely during the traditional Mongolian Nadam Festival period when there is a better chance to participate and feel the lively atmosphere of the grassland life. Early autumn and summers are the best times to visit Inner Mongolia.

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Wedding tourism: A booming business in Japan

Wedding tourism companies are well-known tradition in Japan. Many specialized agencies offer custom-made ceremonies. Among the favorite wedding destinations are Paris and some European romantic spots. The Sezakis are one of a growing number of Japanese couples flocking to Paris for whirlwind weddings. There are many agencies that provide everything from flights to dresses and bouquets. Watabe being the dominant player publicly traded on the Tokyo exchange with a turnover of around £140 million this year. No doubt, Hawaii is still the number one overseas wedding destination for Japanese, but Europe is gaining the ground with around 20,000 marriage ceremonies in the past year. The American Cathedral performs about 80 Episcopal ceremonies a year, the American Church in Paris will host 200, while an Adventist Church outside Paris takes tops the field with 300 Japanese weddings per year. This year, around 200 couples will be blessed at the American Church in Paris. These dream weddings with prices from about 2,000 Euros to 4,250 Euros ($2,750 to $5,800) are fantasies and not strictly weddings, but blessings or thanksgiving ceremonies. They use many of the familiar wedding vows but as most couples have already been married in civil ceremonies in Japan, the words are changed to I have taken you to be my wife instead of the present tense.

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Dubai adds another feather in its cap with Chillout ice lounge

It seems Dubaians’ love of ice knows no bounds as the city recently opened a chill-out lounge entirely made of ice. Named Chillout, it’s a 2,400-square-foot restaurant where everything from walls, tables, chairs, cups, glasses, plates to the art on the wall and the beaded curtains are made of ice. If you go out to dine in this chill-out ice bar, you’ll have to sit on ice benches or chairs, eat at ice tables, in ice plates and drink from ice glasses. You can get a drink, the rental of a hooded parka, woolen gloves and insulated shoes for $17. Hot drinks and food, from an Asian fusion menu are served in stainless steel thermos containers but the temperature inside will make these cold within 15 minutes. Diffused lighting, from low-heat LED bulbs, constantly changes colors as it filters through the ice blocks. To prevent body heat from upsetting the atmosphere of the lounge, the maximum of 45 people are allowed. With the world’s tallest building, the largest shopping mall on the cards, the largest snowdome in the world and the planned theme parks, you’re kind of left wondering what could be coming to the city next. Anyways for now, Chillout is a great relief for people from the soaring temperature! Scroll down for more pictures of the Chillout ice lounge.

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Eye-catching Big Buddha statue: An Island paradise

Few statues in the world leave a powerful impression on us. One such mesmerizing statue is that of Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Sitting 34-meters high and weighing 220 tons, it’s the biggest Buddha statue in Asia. Visible from afar, it appears to shine in the strong Hong Kong sun. From a distance, the Tian Tan Buddha sitting meditatively on the peak of a hill brings peace to the mind. It’s the large statue that is crafted from 202 pieces of Bronze. It took ten years to complete the Giant Buddha seated on a lotus throne. If you wish to see the statue up close, there is a flight of stairs which leads to it. Millions of tourist toil up 268 stairs to see the statue closely and to be photographed under the statue. One reward for the climb is the striking view of the island and the seas. Plan to spend a day and enjoy yourself. The monks serve vegetarian meals. Weekdays are less crowded than the weekends, so plan accordingly. Open to visitors daily from 10 am to 6:00 pm. If you are in Hong Kong, you can’t afford to miss it. Believe me, it’s worth a visit.

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Ancient urban sprawl might have doomed Angkor Wat: Study

The international team of archaeologists has published a new map of a widespread ancient settlement surrounding Cambodia’s Angkor Wat that supports the fact that the area was once the center of one of the largest cities of the pre-industrialized world. The study was carried out by Damian Evans, an archaeologist from archaeological computing laboratory at the University of Sydney and colleagues from Australia, Cambodia and France. The research also sheds light on the extent to which the city sprawled and on its mysterious downfall. Researchers used ground-sensing radar provided by NASA and found evidence that the ancient Cambodian capital took up an area of nearly 1,000 square kilometers. Using new radar technique, which senses differences in plant growth and soil moisture content created by topographical differences, 1,000 new manmade ponds and more than 70 long-lost temples were also identified.

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Israel Museum undergoes renovation to become more user-friendly

Those who have visited the famous Israel museum will definitely agree with me, if I say that most of the exhibits of the museum remain hidden in a maze of different entryways. Configuration of the museum confuses the visitors. To rationalize and simplify the experience for visitors, the museum is undergoing renovation. The project involves about 7,500 square meters of new buildings and about 18,500 square meters of renovation and renewal in galleries. The new buildings of the museum will not only be airy and modest glass structures with ceramic louvers to deflect the sun but will also provide a sense of transparency and illumination at night, making the museum more welcoming. New entrance will be made that will fit neatly into a block of the existing sprawl (about two-thirds of the way up the promenade). This will shorten the hike and guide visitors to a central hall from which all the main galleries can be reached, providing a clear sense of geography. The museum will get new look that will make it more welcoming, but the existing architecture will not be distorted or undermined. Much of the museum will remain open during the renovation but the highlights of the collection will be shown at the museum’s off-site locations like the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum and the Anna Ticho House. The project is scheduled to be finished in 2009.

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World’s highest escalator!

We all have been reading about the world’s tallest buildings, largest dams, largest church, longest bridge and longest tunnel since long but do you know where the world’s tallest escalator is? It’s in Osaka City, Japan. One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and the seventh-tallest building in Osaka City is the Umeda Sky Building. It’s a 173 m building that was designed by Hiroshi Hara and constructed by Takenaka Corporation. Located in the Umeda district of Kita-ku, the building consists of two 40-story towers that connect at their two uppermost stories, with bridges and an escalator. So, if you are not afraid of heights and wish to feels like you are floating up into the sky then take the world’s tallest escalator ride which is an event in itself.

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