Friday, November 23, 2012

10 Minutes Of Terror On Vacation In Iraq

Iraq, Samarra

I'm in Samarra, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, the birthplace of the insurgency and a hotspot for sectarian tension in war-torn Iraq. My heart is racing and my mouth is dry. This is the most frightened I've been in months.

But I'm not scared of the Sunnis, I'm scared of plummeting to my death.

I'm climbing one of the famous spiral minarets of Samarra, a pair of towers with a narrow staircase snaking up the exterior. They were built in the ninth century. The taller one is 52 meters (171 feet) and the shorter one is 34 meters (112 feet). I'm on the shorter one. It doesn't feel short to me.

As I've mentioned before, I have a fear of heights, a phobia that years of rock climbing never cured. That doesn't stop me from going up one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture, though. I'm a sucker for medieval buildings.

Up I go, step by step. They're steep, a bit uneven, and they relentlessly narrow as they rise higher. You can see just how little room there was between me and the abyss in the above photo. That's my foot at the lower right, and beyond the step you can see our bus, which comfortably seats 20 people.

The stairs are wide enough, I tell myself. I've climbed narrow spiral staircases hundreds of times and have never fallen off.

But there was no risk of death on those, a little voice tells me.

"Shut up," I reply, and keep climbing.
They tell me the muezzin who ascended this minaret five times a day to give to call to prayer was blind. He'd keep one hand on the wall and climb without seeing how high up he was. I can't decide if that's a good hiring decision or a bad one.

I keep both my hands gripped on the aging, crumbly brick. I've been climbing for what seems like hours. Surely I must almost be there?

"Go back!" someone shouts from below.

You're kidding me, right?

"Go back, there's no room!"

From around the corner comes another member of our group, a Norwegian sailor who has no fear of heights. When he sees me he stops.

"Go back," I say.

"Don't worry, I'll pass you," he replies.

"That's a really bad idea. Go back."

He comes close. I flatten myself on the wall as he reaches around me, grabs the edge of the brick, and eases past. You can see his brave/foolish move in the photo gallery, as well as the beautiful panorama that awaited me when, a few steps later, I reached the top.

It was worth the climb. Even more rewarding was that sharp-edged feeling I had the entire time going up and the adrenaline rush of the even more hazardous trip down. Colors and sounds were vivid, every step a crucial moment – every moment a lifetime of excitement.

Want to get high? Skip the drugs and grab your fear by the balls.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Travel Guide - Travel Insurance

Travel Guide - Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of preparing for a trip. Getting the right insurance cover is very important. Choose the wrong policy and if the worst happens you could find that you are not covered - do be aware of what you are covered for and what you need to arrange separate insurance for. By the same rule, visiting a foreign country on a short city break is very low risk and you might well be covered for medical expenses by national reciprocal agreements. In this case, travel insurance recommended by many travel agents is extremely expensive, mainly due to commission plus administrative costs, and you will pay disproportionately to the risk by a huge factor.

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Rejecting Reality: Rove, Trump and the Fringe Factor

As televised theater, it was hard to beat. As political prognostication, it was a head-scratching moment. As partisan warfare, it was nothing short of audacious.
But Karl Rove’s insistence that Barack Obama had not carried Ohio—despite the call by his own network, Fox News, that the president had done just that—represented something larger. It captured, for some long and awkward moments, the refusal of some in the media-and-politics game to accept reality.
And that has been a recurring pattern this year.
We’re not talking here about a bad judgment call by a pundit. Everyone in the commentary business, including yours truly, has made those. If failed predictions were a felony, the jails would be filled with media folks.
Rove, to be sure, is a smart guy. He wasn’t called George W. Bush’s architect for nothing. He helped his guy win two presidential elections. He knows polls inside out.
But Rove occupies a rather unique perch at Fox, and not just because he jumped from the Bush White House to the role of conservative cable commentator.
Rove, who also has a Wall Street Journal column, helped create two political action committees, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies, that raised and spent about $175 million in this campaign, most of it on television ads promoting Mitt Romney or attacking Obama. He was, in every sense of the word, a full-fledged political player.
But he was also Fox’s most visible contributor, appearing far more often than Sarah Palin, delivering his political insights on shows from morning to night.
Fox isn’t the only news channel to employ active partisans—CNN has a few, too—and media organizations long ago decided to blur the line between journalism and politics. I know the ties are generally disclosed, but personally, I wouldn’t allow anyone who raises money or holds a party position to be on a news organization’s payroll. Why should viewers think they’re getting anything but one-sided spin?
Still, Rove undoubtedly wants to preserve his reputation as a political seer, which is why it was so stunning when he went rogue on Tuesday night.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Cancun Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving in Cancun
Cancun offers an unimaginable world of underwater beauty and is one of the best places in the world for scuba diving. Cancun scuba diving is famous because of its shallow reefs alive with the dazzling colours of fish and coral.
Scuba diving in Cancun is so popular because of the Great Mesoamerican Reef (the Gran Arrecife Maya). This is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest coral reef in the world. The Great Mesoamerican Reef stretches from Punta Nizuc, which it at the tip of the Cancun Hotel Zone, all the way to the Bay of Islands in Honduras. This is an amazing 450 miles of coral reef!
Cancun’s coastline is home to nearly 100 coral species, 350 molluscs and 164 species of reef dwelling fish. Cancun is also the home to the hawksbill sea turtle, crocodiles, lemon sharks and manatees. All the species are incredibly beautiful and are enormously valuable as an attraction for tourists. When scuba diving in Cancun you can expect to encounter some of the most beautiful sea creatures you are ever likely to see.
Cancun Scuba Diving Venues
There are many fascinating scuba diving venues in Cancun for both the novice as well as the more experienced diver. You have a choice of open water diving along the reef and there are also several sunken boats to add to the adventure. If you go inland along the Cancun – Tulum corridor you will find many caverns and cenotes, also known as “sink holes”.
Cenote or Cave Diving 
Cenote diving or cave diving is a speciality of this region with many Cancun dive schools specialising in this. There are two different types of cenote diving, one is called cave diving and this is when you swim beyond the reach of natural sunlight and the other is cavern diving where you stay within sight of natural light. After Hurricane Wilma many more underwater caves have opened up that you can explore. Take a look at the list of cenotes you can explore read more..
To cavern dive a diver must either be a certified cavern diver or be accompanied by a certified cavern diver. Cavern diving courses involve two days instruction and four dives. A full cave diving course is taught over a week with a minimum of 14 cave dives.
Cancun Scuba Diving Certification
If you would like scuba diving certification in Cancun there are many certified instructors and dive schools offering PADI certification courses. They will provide you with all the equipment and training you need. Even many of the Cancun hotels offer courses that teach the basics for excursions for those that just want to experience what it is like to scuba dive in Cancun.
If you are interested in Cancun scuba diving you can contact one of our reputable dive schools and ask for advice or you can book a course or excursion in advance.

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Cancun Celebrates The Day Of The Dead

Cancun, the jewel of the Mexican Caribbean, is proud to share Mayan traditions with visitors from all over the world, including the most recent holiday: the Day of the Dead, also known as El Día de los Muertos.
Over a backdrop of turquoise waters and white-sand beaches, the destination celebrated with traditional vibrant colors, music and mysticism that come with this elaborate and festive holiday.
“Hanal Pixan,” Mayan for “Food for Souls,” is a traditional Mayan holiday in which people come together to celebrate and remember their friends and relatives who have passed away. This holiday is celebrated on November 1 and 2 when, according to Mayan tradition, souls receive permission to visit their relatives.
Throughout Mexico, El Día de los Muertos is one of the most important celebrations and includes several rites, among them the decoration of tombstones and graves with altars using items like embroidered table cloths where the favorite foods of the deceased are placed. Among the foods presented at the altars, the most important traditional meal is the “pib,” a corn cake stuffed with meat and spices cooked in an underground handmade oven.
Several eco-archeological parks celebrated the Day of the Dead including Xcaret, who hosted events to honor the dead and celebrate this vibrant holiday. Xcaret also featured presentations of “Life and Death celebrations” as well as traditional altars, theater, music, dance, folk art and gastronomy.
Alltournative is another company committed to preserving Mayan heritage and includes the celebrations for this unique holiday. On November 2, Alltournative participated in the celebrations of the Tres Reyes Mayan community where tourists and locals alike were able to witness the different altars, savor and enjoy Day of the Dead traditional meals and experience a magical ceremony where Crisanto, a Mayan shaman of the community, invited the souls of the dead to be a part of the celebrations.
The Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomed visitors and locals alike to take part in this mystical holiday celebration and invites everyone to experience the upcoming celebrations of December 21, 2012 which marks the end of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new era.
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Planning a Caribbean Family Vacation

The Caribbean is ideal for families. In fact, there are few better places to take your children than this veritable playground of white-sand beaches, warm and clear waters that are ideal for anything from wading to water sports, and resorts that cater specifically to families with a dizzying array of swimming pools, restaurants and child-care options. Add to that activities ranging from hiking and shopping to snorkeling and eco-adventures and you have the makings of a memorable Caribbean family vacation full of adventure and fun.

Choosing the Right Caribbean Island for Your Family

If you are flying with young children, look for an island with a large number of direct flights so you can travel at a convenient time and avoid having to switch planes. JamaicaPuerto Rico, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have hundreds of direct flights from North America weekly.
These popular islands are also good bets for families in terms of dining and hotel options. Large resorts abound, many of them with programs specifically geared toward children, and you’ll have no trouble finding kid-friendly dining options, whether at your resort or a familiar fast-food joint.

The Best Caribbean Activities for Families

Spending time on the beach should be your first priority; one gem is the soft, white sand of Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Beach. If your kids are daredevils, they’ll enjoy the challenging waves and winds of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, where they can try windsurfing and kiteboarding.
Other special experiences include snorkeling or diving and feeding friendly stingrays atStingray City on Grand Cayman; hiking through El Yunque National Forest; and taking a nighttime swim in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, both in Puerto Rico. Older kids may enjoy the duty-free shopping on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands or in St. Maarten.

The Best Caribbean Hotels for Families

The two best lodging options for families are all-inclusive resorts and villas. Prices at all-inclusives cover accommodations, meals and a dizzying array of activities. Jamaica, theDominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have terrific options in this category, including FDR Pebbles, which assigns each family a nanny.
The Atlantis in the Bahamas has a truly awesome children’s program, plus acres of water-based entertainment including a snorkeling trail, a shark tank and a 60-foot-long waterslide.
Villas come with a kitchen and often a housekeeping staff, but you won’t have all the built-in entertainment choices.
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Williamsburg Travel Guide

Governor's Palace
There's no better place to explore American history than in the lab where it was conceived: Williamsburg, Va. The area surrounding it, known as the Historic Triangle, encompasses the Virginia Peninsula, a finger of land bound by the York River, James River and Chesapeake Bay. Historically and culturally the Triangle was home to some of the most important milestones in American history, including the initial settlement of colonial British North America (Jamestown), the place where that settlement learned to govern itself (Williamsburg), the site of eventual independence from foreign rule (Yorktown) and one of the seminal battlefields of said independent nation’s Civil War (the entire peninsula). And unlike in New England, you can get an angle on the history of slavery while exploring this area. And we'll be honest, if you have zero interest in history, you might want to go elsewhere. On a tourism level, the Triangle is easy to love—and hate. There are fantastic eating and lodging options in and around Williamsburg. And the entire experience is kid- and family-friendly. On the other hand if you take history very seriously, the Triangle can initially come off as too much of a theme park. And there’s no denying: It gets crowded here, especially in summer. Well, we can’t keep away the crowds, but we can assure you: If you want to really learn about what makes the U.S ... well, the U.S., there are people here who are obsessed with American history waiting in the wings past the screaming kids. Give a costumed interpreter or a park ranger some time, and you may come away having learned something new about a country whose roots run deeper and older than you may expect. 
Williamsburg Carriages

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Hingaara – Nature Stay Carries Rejuvenating Activities

Hingaara Nature stay is a heritage home situated in Guddekeri that is close to Agumbe. Agumbe is generally famed as the Cherapunji of the south. It is a 300 years old traditional house that is an ideal merger of adventure and heritage. It lies among the warm nature’s bounty and shows a diverse lifestyle of the Malnad region.
This ancestral house was called ‘Guddekeri Manee’ and now it is known as, ‘Hingara – Nature Stay’. It has transformed into a hospitality sector and arranges many activities that attract hundreds of people to this spot. You too can reach here, but first get hold of a reliable travel agent and book your tickets to Bangalore and from Bangalore you can buy bus tickets to Guddekeri (Hingara). Bus timings are from 10 pm and reach Hingara in the morning at 6:30 am.
If you want to get away from the boring and stressful city life, then you can visit Nature Stay at Hingaara that offers a warm hospitality with a spice of rejuvenating activities. This is a serene locality that provides the travelers an enthusiasm for photography, adventure, bird watching and a lot more.
How to reach
· Nearest airport:
1. Mangalore airport
2. Bangalore International airport
· Nearest Railway station:
Udupi and Shimoga are closest railway stations and from here tourists can either rent a car or make bus tickets booking online or through a travel agency for Hingaara.
Also, make reservations for the Hinagaara Nature Stay package to make your stay thrilling.
· Direct bus services are from:
1. Mangalore to Guddekeri – a 3 hours trip from Mangalore.
2. Bangalore to Guddekeri – an 8 hours ride from Bangalore.
The package offered for one day and one night that is 24 hours costs Rs. 1950 per individual. The activities that are carried out in the package includes rope climbing, fishing, pedal boating, water cave walk, swimming in the nature pool and visit to a stream.
A trip to the Kundadri betta for watching the sunrise, early morning is just awesome. People living in the city have forgotten what a sunrise is and this experience is totally unbelievable. Agumbe is a sunset point in the Western Ghats that is 825 meters from the sea level. The sunset point is crowded by tourists to watch the enthralling scene in the evening. The camp fire in the night with a natural backdrop is a must experience. Meals that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner are very tasty, a touch of the Malnad cuisine.
People also join in various adventurous trekking programs. There are various sites for trekking around Hingaara-nature stay.
Trekking spots near Hingaara  Distance (Kilometers)
· Akki Raashi Battadha   2
· Jogi Gundi 2.5
· Vanke Abbi 3
· Kaar Bailu Gudda 3.5
· Kundadri Betta 4
· Barkana 7
· Varaahi Back Waters   10
The encampment in the Back water Island for one day costs Rs. 400 per person that involves lunch and tea. This is a very exciting activity to sleep by a campfire in a camp bed under the stars at night. If you are motivated by an adventurous game to shun the stress then you can make online bus tickets booking and reach this place to enjoy the best hospitality, adventure and food.
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