Travel

21st February – History, Significance & Celebration of Amor Ekushey

21st February is also known as the ‘Amor Ekushey’, the root of the Bengali Nationalism and an independent country, Bangladesh.

The International Mother Language Day on 21st February is observed worldwide to promote the awareness of the cultural diversity, linguistic and multilingualism.

The announcement of the IMD – International Mother Language Day came from UNESCO in November 17, 1999. But, it was officially recognized in 2008 under the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution to establish. More than 280 million people speak in the Bangla language across the world currently. 21 February is the most memorable annual day in the history of Bangladesh. It’s a national day with a public holiday to commemorate the sacrifices and protests to protect Bangla as the national language in 1952 at the time of the Movement of the Bengali Language.

 

A Brief History of the Language Movement of the 21st February, 1952

This day is commemorated for the martyrs of the language movement on 21st February 1952. After the movement, Bangla got the honor of being the state language of the former East Pakistan, the current Bangladesh. The movement was made on the strength to preserve the privileges to speak and write in some one’s mother tongue. The day of International Mother Language has been celebrated since 2000 to create awareness of multilingualism and peace worldwide.

It was on 21st of the February in 1952 that the students of the Dhaka University, Jagannath University along with Dhaka Medical College come out with a demonstration to restore ‘Bangla’ as the National Language of the former East Pakistan. But, the Junta of Pakistan ordered to shoot out over the procession brutally. Large quantities of students, common people were killed near the High Court of Dhaka. We commonly know the name of Rafiq, Barkat, Salam etc. But, there were a lot more people killed.

 

The Significance of 21 February, Amor Ekushey

Amor Ekushey of 21 February has a large value and significance for the Bengali nation. On this day they get the right to speak and write in their mother language after donating a huge amount blood under the shooting of the Pakistani Police. It acted as the catalyst of the identity of the Bengali national in the East Bengal. It also became the ancestor to the movements of the Bengali nationalist, including the Movement of the 6-point and finally the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. 21 February is the National Day of the country with a public holiday. There is a Shaheed Minar (the Martyrs’ Monument) near the Dhaka Medical College to remember the victims and the movement.

 

Events and Celebration Internationally of the Amor Ekshey, 21 February

Each year, UNESCO selects the theme of the IMLD – International Mother Language Day. It sponsors all of the events relating to the IMLD in its Headquarters in Paris. The first and ancient event is the ‘Probhat Feri” from the first minutes of the 21st February. The other celebration and events of the day include discussion about the importance of the day, national, international and provincial award presenting. Bangladesh is the home of the Bengali Language and the day is observed all over the country. The day is also celebrated across the world, including countries like India, Canada, Russia, Philippines, Chile,  Egypt etc.

Another significant part of the Amor Ekushey, 21 February, is the month-long ‘Amor Ekushey Book Fair’.

 

Month-long Amor Ekushey Book Fair

The fair used to go up until the 21st of February for many years. But, due to the demand of the sellers, buyers and visitors, the fair is prolonged for the whole month of the February. The department of the Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh government controls the fair. The stalls are divided for the publishers, little magazines, child corner, Non-Governmental and Governmental Institute.

Moreover, the fair is also divided according to the name of the language movement martyrs, including Rafiq, Barkat, Shafiur, and many other scholars and renowned personnel. Here come many local publishers as well as some foreign publishers from India, Japan, Russia, and other countries. Some government institutions take stalls in the fair, such as the Bangladesh Tourism Board etc.

At the present time, some of the digital publishers like CD, VCD, and VDV take place at the Ekushey Book Fair. Some mobile operators come into the fair to introduce their new products and offers. The little magazines draw huge attention to the visitors.

 

Prestige, Luxury Dhaka Hotel 71

Hotel 71 is one of the best hotels in Dhaka and this Dhaka hotel is situated in the middle of the city. The Hotel 71 offers a great stay with its luxurious and modern amenities and cordial hospitality of the staff. All other facilities are included to make your stay in a Dhaka a memorable trip. The breakfast includes a variety of dishes made up of about 40% western dishes and 60% local dishes.

 

So, 21st February is a very important day with the history, significance and celebration of Amor Ekushey along with the Bengali nationalism. The 21st February is the part and partial to the Bengali language, Bengali tradition and all about Bengali (Bangla). Without the Bengali Language Movement of the 21st, the Bangladeshi national has nothing to say about.

It’s the base of all Bangladeshi and Bangla speaking people around the world.

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Top One Day Hikes Around Taipei

Hiking is a big deal in Taiwan and with good reason. There are literally hundreds of world class hikes all over the island that attract locals and tourists alike to their stunning scenery.

Being a largely mountainous country, there is no surprise that the hiking here is so good.

It might come as a surprise that a number of these great hikes can be done as day trips from the capital city Taipei. For many of us city dwellers, the idea that we could wake up early and then be hiking in the middle of thick vegetation, high up on a mountain that has stunning views of the city, might seem quite far-fetched, but with Taipei, this is not a dream, it’s a reality.

As a hiker that has explored the best trails that the city has to offer, I decided to let you know my top choice trails that can be done as day trips from Taipei.

Before you set out, don’t forget to pack a good quality rain poncho because the weather around Taipei is always extremely unpredictable.

 

Top One Day Hikes Around Taipei

1.    Wu Liao Jian 

This spectacular trail is definitely not for the fainthearted, or indeed, those who might be out of shape.

To get there, you will need to get a taxi or some private transportation out to the starting point by Hezue Bridge, as it is a little out of the way. From there, you start out by walking through thick forests as the trail winds its way gradually upwards. This trail is probably the most technical you will encounter, as often the paths are slippery and in some cases require you to step over trees and other obstacles. There are also a number of quite frightening metal ladders that require you to climb, the largest of which is around 25 meters.

The views from the top are stunning and definitely worth every moment of discomfort it took to get up there.

 

2.    Teapot Mountain & Mount Banping

If you are an aspiring photographer then this is the trail for you.

Located out to the northwest of Taiwan, this trail will definitely require a fairly early start to complete in time. The hike begins and ends at 2 historical towns, Jiufen and Jinguashi, the first of which is a former gold town that was made famous in the critically acclaimed film City of Sadness, while the latter town is part of Jinguashi Ecological Park. The hike winds its way around the wide open grasslands that hug the coastline and yield some amazing views over the Pacific ocean.

There are a few nice spots to catch the sunset if you decide to stick around and more than enough great restaurants in Juifen for you to find a great place to have dinner.

 

3.    Bei Cha Tian Shan

This has to be the most difficult hike on this list, while also being one of the remotest.

You can do 2 different hikes here, the first from Manyueyuan, is a long loop that will take you through some incredible scenery and take you the full day to complete. Another shorter trail, starts in Xiao Wulai and passes through a small section of giant redwoods, some of which are more than 500 years old.

The only drawback to this hike is that you will have to take private transport, as buses are non-existent out here.

 

4.    Pingxi Crags

If you want to test your nerve as much as you want to test your hiking abilities, then Pingxi Crags is the hike to try.

Though the hike is, on the whole, a lot easier than the others featured here, the Pingxi Crags themselves are pretty daunting. Likewise, Cimu Feng (Loving Mother Peak) and Shaozi Shan (Dutiful Son Mountain) can be a little scary, especially for those with a fear of heights.

As long as you are brave enough, you will be rewarded with some spectacular views of sprawling mountain ranges and beautiful little temples sleeping in the nearby valleys.

 

5.    The Four Beasts

For spectacular sunset views over Taipei, this is the best hiking trail around.

Comprising of the 4 peaks, Leopard, Lion, Tiger and the most famous Elephant, this trail gives the best rewards for the least effort. For the most part, the trail has been paved, meaning that it is relatively easy for even the most novice hiker. There are lots of ways you can enter and exit this trail, so you don’t need to follow it for its whole length if you don’t want to. For those people who just want the stunning views, you can take the MRT to the end of the red line and simply do the small climb up to Elephant peak to watch the sunset.

For those who decide to do the trail, you will be treated to tonnes of temples, shrines, gardens and even gyms that will have your camera shutter working overtime.

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Belgium: Waterloo and Beyond

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Sights

Visit Waterloo, 1815

You have to visit Waterloo if you travel to Belgium!

Seriously, you should not miss this… let me tell you why...

I’m pretty sure you have heard of the Battle of Waterloo? If not, let me give you a short recap. The Battle of Waterloo was where Napoleon lost a very important battle which lead history into what we know as Europe today.

(If you know about this historical event, skip this quick history lesson and read more about the museum beneath.)

 

Info about the historical event of the Battle of Waterloo

Napoleon dominated Europe for 10 years until 1814 when he was sent to the island of Elba for exile. After only 10 months on Elba, Napoleon saw the chance to rule over France again and headed back to Paris. He was right, and the army welcomed him and the French folk cheered. This was not in favor of the coalition of allies who defeated him before, so the Austrians, Prussians, Russians and British raised a new army and planned to defeat the French again.

In June of 1815, Napoleon marched into Belgium (not existing at that date yet as an own country) and fought the Prussian army, forcing them to move back and keeping them separate from the British army, otherwise the French army would be outnumbered.

Napoleon then decided to charge against the British army, which included Belgian, Dutch and German troops who were based in the village of “Waterloo”.

In many heavy fights on the 18th June 1815 it looked like Napoleon was going to win this important battle and that he was able to march through to Brussels. But Napoleon committed several tactical errors and the Allies were finally able to stop the French army. The Prussians were able to fight back and support the British troops, which got to the point that the French army fled, inclusive Napoleon.

After the defeat, Napoleon was sent to exile on the tiny island of Saint Helena between Africa and South America, where he died 6 years later.

Before 1815, Europe was a region with many wars between all the different kingdoms and borders. After the final defeat of Napoleon, Europe had a period of relative peace, which held up for over 40 years.

Without a doubt, Europe would have definitely been a different place today if Napoleon would have won the battle of Waterloo. Want some more information? Watch this video to learn more about Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo.

 

The Museum of Waterloo 1815

The Battle of Waterloo might have taken place a very long time ago and you might think that a museum about this event might be a bit dusty with its appearance, but The Museum of Waterloo 1815 is different, very different.

They use modern technology to bring life to the battle, and the history of that time. It feels a bit like traveling back to the year 1815. There is a huge hill called “Lion’s Mound” with over 225 steps, which is the memorial of the battle. You can climb up and take a look at the landscape where the battle took place, but even then, you cannot really imagine how it was in 1815. Choose to look again through your virtual reality glasses! Yeaph… here you have the option to compare what you see nowadays and what happened over 200 years ago.

You also can’t forget to visit the actual museum. The museum found a really impressive way to combine history with new technology and to even excite historical grumps to find out more about this important life event.

Wall images are not “simple” oil painted images, but actually animated screens, which still look like oil paintings, but moving! Take a look here: twitter.com/TravelDudes/status/908063760870510592

Then there is a path you follow which will take you past soldiers with their uniforms, which are definitely not dusty, but where you get a good impression of that time.

This leads you into a 4D cinema experience. This is where you can really imagine how it was at that time. They show and explain you the different tactical maneuvers and mistakes which were made, but also show the madness of this massacre. Around 50,000 people were killed or wounded in the battle of Waterloo.

There were three farms which played important roles and one is an extra must visit place, the farm “d'Hougoumont”. The Hougoumont Farm lies only a short walk South of the Memorial, but there is also a free bus transfer from the memorial. A battle in a battle took place at this farm.

The French tried to take over this strategically positioned farm and were even able to get through the gates. Ten British soldiers were then able to close the doors again, which meant that the farm was held by the British soldiers. This tinier battle played a very important role in the overall battle, and by understanding those tinier events, you can better understand the bigger battle and the events that took place.

The Hougoumont Farm brings you closer by using modern technology. You’ll experience a nice exhibition, but the film in the barn is what you have to see. I would like to tell you more, but I really can’t. Just trust me, you will be surprised, the creative way the battle of Hougoumont is presented is truly remarkable.

 

Good to know…

There are two different ticket prices and depending on how interested you are, you can choose the ticket that is right for you. No matter what, you should invest a minimum of 4-5 hours in to visit the Waterloo Battlefield. It’s easy to spend the full day there, if you are interested in learning more.

 

3-4 hours: Combined Ticket Memorial 1815 - €17

This includes the:

  • The Memorial 1815

  • The Panorama

  • The Lion’s Mound

  • The 1815 Experience

  • The Hougoumont Farm

 

6-7 hours: Pass 1815 - €21

This includes the:

  • The Memorial 1815

  • The Panorama

  • The Lion’s Mound

  • The 1815 Experience

  • The Hougoumont Farm

  • The Wellington museum

  • The Last Headquarters of Napoleon

  • The Farm/Brouwery of Mont-Saint-Jean

Find more info here.

 

Belgium beyond Waterloo

Yes, there is far more to explore, as you can read and watch in the video here. On top of that you should visit the Solvay Regional Estate. From the car park, it’s a short walk, which will first lead you to…

 

Fondation Folon

Here you will find the cafe/restaurant La Taverne de l'Homme Bleu, which is the perfect place to have lunch before exploring more. Enjoy the view and the good food before visiting the Fondation Folon. Never heard of Jean-Michel Folon? Me neither, but you might have heard of “The Blue Man”, which made Folon famous. Apart from that, he created many posters and drafted many cover images for magazines like Times Magazine. His work is often presented in well-known museums around the world… or you can just head to the Fondation Folon, where you can explore much more of his work all in one place. You’ll find painted art, sculptures, typical things, but also funky and unusual work. This is definitely a dynamic museum and the worth the €9 entrance if you are interested in art.

Just up the hill, you’ll find the…

 

Château de la Hulpe

The Château de la Hulpe has a huge park around it which you should definitely take a look at. This is the perfect photo stop along the way. Stroll along, relax on the grass, do some yoga, enjoy the views and this nice trip into nature.

 

Explore the City of Nivelles

Here you will find a typical Belgian city with that atmosphere you were looking for when first arriving in Belgium. You’ll find old traditional houses, a church with a few restaurants, bars and cafes.

The Collegiate Church of Nivelles definitely stands out with its two towers and a huge front.

Right next to it you’ll find the “Taverne Restaurant de l’Union”, which is well-known and is one of the best places to eat the local dish “Tarte Al Djote”. This is a tarte you should not miss! It’s full of chard, local cream cheese and butter... and it’s delicious. Here you’ll find the Tarte Al Djote recipe, if you are interested to give it a go yourself, but let me tell you, it tastes better in Nivelles. ;-)

Why? This dish was more or less endangered to be forgotten until some men got together and formed the brotherhood of Tarte Al Djote. Their mission was and is to preserve this cultural dish and to keep the folkloric and gastronomic heritage of the city of Nivelles.

It’s not easy to join this brotherhood and they take their duty very seriously. Each year they test all the different tarts and rate them. At the end, a winner is chosen and a list is published (in french) with the different restaurants who took part.

 

Find more info about Brabant Wallon on www.waterlooandbeyond.be.

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50° 40' 44.67" N, 4° 24' 14.5872" E
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Amazing Tidal Pools in Cape Town: A Local’s Guide

Known to be the busiest time of the year for Cape Town, during December locals know all too well to brace themselves for the influx of tourists flocking to the popular beaches. It is during these times that I slip away to secluded spots instead.
 
While many of the trendy beaches in Cape Town have amazing tidal pools, if you prefer less people, be sure to visit some of the tidal pool locations on my list. What’s great about these locations is that they are tucked away from the madness that comes with the festive season and still offer a picturesque view of the sea.
 
Here’s my guideline to exploring some of the hidden gems in my city that I’ve discovered over time.
 

Tidal Pools in Cape Town:

St James Beach

St James beach is one of the most visited beaches in Cape Town, as it is well known for its large tidal pool and array of iconic colourful beach huts. For sure, during the holiday season (December to January) you’ll find the beach packed with locals and tourists eager to catch a tan and a swim in the cooling waters of the tidal pool. But if you’re looking to enjoy the tidal pool and beautiful view minus the crowd, head to the beach during the early morning for a swim or jog. In addition, from February until mid-March while the weather is still sunny you’ll find the beach less busy.
 
St James beach is in close proximity to nearby restaurants, luxury accommodation, stores, and even has some heritage sites.  
 
Here’s a list of some of the great restaurants in St James:

  • Octopus’ Garden
  • C’est la Vie
  • Trattoria Antonia

Now that the road works on the main road leading to False Bay have been completed, driving to St James beach is no problem. If you’re up for a more adventurous trip be sure to travel by the public train, as the St James train station is right next to the beach.
 
Other than tanning, sandcastles, and laps in the tidal pool, you should go for a scenic walk down the charming pathway running to the neighbouring beach Muizenberg, which is well known for surfing and vibrant restaurants.
 

Glencairn

I’ve found that Glencairn is the last place people consider when travelling along the False Bay coast of Cape Town. Bear in mind, Glencairn beach is in close proximity to the tourist hotspots False Bay and Simons Town, which could explain why many travellers just pass by, sometimes without noticing the little haven.
 
Glencairn beach is easy to miss especially when you’re driving to get to the neighbouring suburbs of False Bay and Simons Town, your best bet is to look out for the Glencairn train station, which is located right next to the beach. Here, the tidal pool is quite similar to the one of St James beach but has yet to be discovered by the crowds.
 
Considering its closeness to the neighbouring beaches it’s surprising how Glencairn isn’t packed during the holidays and weekends. Since the secluded beach is located next to Glencairn train station, you can expect a scenic train ride on your way on both sides. If you’re travelling with a car, it’s a pretty straightforward drive seeing that it is situated along the main road connecting to Simons Town.
 
While it may not be as popular as St James it has all of the qualities for one to enjoy as you would at any other beach along the False Bay coastline. So if you’re the type who would enjoy a quick swim in the refreshing waters of the tidal pool or dip in the ocean, Glencairn beach is the ideal destination even for the sun-loving folk.
 
I find that the best time to visit this tidal pool is just before sunset as it offers a beautiful viewpoint of the ocean. The exclusive feel is perfect for those seeking tranquillity after being caught up in the hustle and bustle of the main attractions.
 
Also, there are a few great restaurants and pubs that you should visit. What more could you ask for as you sip on a sundowner while overlooking the sea – the ultimate Capetonian ritual after a long day in the sun.
 

Kommetjie

Peregrinate the False Bay coast to the small town of Kommetjie. A popular surfing and kite surfing location, Kommetjie is also a world-class windsurfing destination. Tucked away south of Long Beach at De Kom (Dutch for bowl) you’ll find the wide tidal pool accompanied by a breath-taking view of the sea. Most people spend the entire day here, as it’s a great opportunity to have a picnic with the family all while enjoying the sun.
 
While Kommetjie may be a little town it sure has plenty attractions that you should visit while in town.
 
These attractions include:

  • Bird watching: Most bird watching activity mainly takes place in the De Kom area.
  • Slangkoppunt Lighthouse: Tallest cast iron lighthouse in South Africa.
  • Imhoff Farm: Includes camel rides and reptile park.
  • Restaurants: There are a ton of popular restaurants in Kommetjie.
  • Soetwater Recreational Area: Camping site.

There’s no official public transport that goes all the way to Kommetjie aside from a bus service that ends in the neighbouring suburb, Noordhoek. The best option is to drive with a car as it will give you the opportunity to stop along the way and enjoy the majestic view of the coastline and suburbs below as you drive high up along the mountain.
 

Millers Point

Situated between two main attractions, Simons Town and Cape Point, Miller’s Point is often is the last place included in a tour down the False Bay coast. Here, you’ll find two small sandy coves and a spectacular tidal pool. It’s hard to believe how a beautiful destination such as Miller’s Point is excluded, but this could be due to its close proximity to the popular attractions.
 
The beach offers a lush expansive lawn, braai (South African name for barbecue) area and a boat-launching site for speedboats. This is the ideal location if you’re looking to enjoy a day in the sun with the entire family. On a clear day (roughly between November and February) you’ll get a beautiful view of the cliffs plunging into the sea.
 
Nearby attractions include:

  • Table Mountain National Park: Stretches from north of Cape Town down to the Cape Peninsula, includes Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
  • Cape of Good Hope: The most south-easterly point of South Africa.
  • Bird watching
  • Shark cage diving
  • Blue Marlin Restaurant: Popular seafood restaurant.
  • Boat trips: Venture a scenic boat trip to Cape Point where you’ll get to sightsee the breath-taking coastline.

While the coastal drive to Miller’s Point is a spectacular experience, be sure to be on the look out for baboons. It’s advised that you refrain from feeding them as they’re known for their vicious behaviour and therefore it’s best to roll up your car windows.
 
There’s no doubt that Cape Town’s popular attractions should not be missed; however, I find that the hot spots are often glamourized to a point that tourists don’t get a true sense of the city.  Use the above-listed unique guideline for not only the tidal pools but also to explore the turns and corners of Cape Town that are less travelled but worth the effort.
 
 
Travel tip shared by Anthea Adams
antheaadams.weebly.com

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Great Hiking Spots in Mauritius

The mention of Mauritius gets most people to envision white sandy beaches holding back deep azure waters against clear skies matching the color of the ocean.

Resorts are aplenty serving delicious Mauritian cuisine. But did you know that the island nation, which is a part of Africa is also blessed with lush jungles that are home to cascading waterfalls and beautiful land and aerial critters?

Let’s take a minute to thank the volcanic eruption that occurred millions of years ago to create the island.

While water-sport enthusiasts have plenty to revel in, hiking opportunities come as a cherry on the top of the cake. Its a total win-win!

Whether you’re looking to book a honeymoon package to Mauritius or travel solo, here’s presenting the most ideal places to go hiking in Mauritius.

 

Ideal Places to Go Hiking in Mauritius

Black River Gorges National Park

Expanding over 68 sq. km of land, the Black River Gorges National Park treats hikers with trails that stimulate even the weakest of sight senses. You can ascend the lush carpeted slopes of the Black River Peak and feast your eyes on astounding vistas of the lagoon down below or take the trail that leads to the enchanting Alexandra Falls or discover the marshy lands abundant with various plant species by taking the pathway close to the Petrin Centre. Too tired to walk? Hire mountain bikes and explore the wilderness here. No matter what you choose, you’re guaranteed to spot some awesome wildlife including the Mauritian flying-fox, macaque Monkeys, and the green echo Parakeet. Note that there is an entry fee of Rs. 100 per person.

 

Le Pouce Mountains

Standing tall between the Signs Mountain and the Peter Both Mountain the Pouce Mountain, is the nation’s 3rd tallest peak, situated in the north-western part of Mauritius. Here’s a fun fact: Le Pouce is a French word that literally translates to “the thumb”, thanks to the thumb-shaped pinnacle. Treks normally commence from Port Louis or St.Pierre. Once you reach the top, you’ll be treated with a panoramic view of the lush north, sugar-cane fields, and a few tiny islands in the distance. Although this is one of the easiest climbs in the country, make sure that you hire a tour guide for the best experience.

 

Lion Mountain

Lying in the Bombous Mountian belt, the Lion mountain offers a loop trail that takes about three hours to complete. While the seascapes at the mid-level offers verdant views of the surrounding valleys, you’ll be bestowed with staggering views of deep blue lagoons at the summit that just cannot be paralleled. The mountain is abundant in indigenous vegetation but here’s the big caveat – the terrain is pretty rugged so its advisable to book a tour guide to help you cross the rough patches.

 

Some Useful Information:

Best Time to go Hiking: It’s best to visit during the winter months i.e. between May to December.

Hiking Essentials: Flexible water-bottle, a hat, sunscreen lotion, a backpack, hiking boots, and a good camera (optional).

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Iceland For KIDS! Tips and Activities

Iceland is known as an extreme adventure destination famous for its volcanos, waterfalls and glaciers but that doesn't mean that it can't be a fantastic family vacation destination as well. 

In addition to all of the volcano hopping and glacier trekking that you probably already have planned...

 

Here are my Top Kid-Friendly Activities in South East Iceland:

1.) Bounce on the moss covered lava fields

Once you get even ten minutes outside of Reykjavik, you’ll see them. Rolling, green, glorious fields beckoning your kids from the backseat of your rental SUV. Pull safely over and let them loose. The moss that covers the lava field is extremely resistant and bounces back to little running feet. They can hop or run and their foot steps will feel super charged. It’s bound to add to some family fun! 

Some fields are better than others in terms of the ‘bounciness factor’ and our tour guide took us to the field pictured above. Ask your tour operator for recommendations or just rely on trial and error, there are fields almost every where you look once you are out of the city.

 

2.) Experience an Earthquake at the Earthquake Exhibition

On your way to the volcano area from Reykjavik is a solid two hour drive, you can break it up by visiting an exhibit on the 2008 Quake that shook Iceland. You can actually take a look at an 5,000 year old earthquake crack displayed under glass under ground, see what a kitchen would look like after a quake and even feel what a +6 Richter quake feels like by taking a turn in an earthquake simulator. The exhibit is free, the simulator is not. 

The exhibit is located in the same building at the Tourist Information Center in the shopping center of Sunnumörk in Hveragerdi which is about 45 km east from Reykjavik. 

 

3.) Watch skateboarders and take in the art at the local skatepark in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is an unexpectedly family-friendly city. There are a few parks around town but my favorite was the colorful skatepark in the city center. Slides for kids, skate ramps for teens and a huge spray-painted sea lion mural makes sure there is something for everyone. The park is near The Lebowski Bar which is a great place for beers for the big kids (you!) after the little ones are off to bed too.

 

4.) Make friends with some Icelandic horses

Iceland is known for it’s beautiful breed of Icelandic horses. Smaller and stockier than most horses, Icelandic horses resemble ponies and are so sweet and cute. We pulled over on the side of the road and patiently made friends with a docile-looking bunch. Farms and ranches are everywhere along the highways outside of the city so ask your tour guide if he or she has any they can recommend to visit with the kids. 

 

5.) Visit the Local Thermal Baths

The Blue Lagoon is a luxurious retreat and something very special for mom and dad but after you have spent a day relaxing at Iceland’s most famous lagoon, make it a family trip by going to a local city thermal bath with the kids. 

My favorite is the one by the sea in Reykjavik. When I was there, local and tourist families were grilling dinner on the barbeque, parents were relaxing in the hot baths and kids were running around and playing on the sand in the warm sea (it’s the run off from the thermal bath)- even though it was cloudy and cold outside! 

I can’t give specific directions to here but if you ask around to locals for where the Thermal Baths are by the beach and sea in Reykjavik, they should be able to point you in the right direction. It is about a 15 minute walk from Bus Hostel and SADCars Rental car.

 

A few tips to make your family vacation more enjoyable:

The weather varies in Iceland from windy to chilly to downright rainy and cold. Be sure to bring breatheable, layering pieces that dry quickly if wet and can be shed as the day heats up. I personally love LL Bean Kids because of their 100% Guarantee, if your kids are tougher than their gear just bring it back and get a new one at anytime- my mom LOVED this policy for us when we were little. 

Rain gear is a MUST. For little ones I recommend a full plastic rain suit, ponchos or a long rain jacket for adults (make sure it will cover your thighs as you are walking up volcanos or through lava fields in the rain) and a travel umbrella to throw in your purse for days spent exploring the city. 

Bring two pairs of outdoor shoes for the kids on every expedition. One pair of high-top hiking boots to keep out loose gravel on more intense hikes and a pair of sneakers that you know you kids feel comfortable in to change into as soon as you're off the volcano or out of the wet area. Most likely your tour guide will carry a backpack that you will be able to stash things in so you and your family can explore hassel-free but ask first.

Keep an extra pair of clothes and shoes in your rental car. Iceland is best explored by car so you will be spending a good amount of time traveling in your car or in the car of the tour company you are with- take advantage of this by stashing a small bag of extra clothes and an extra pair of comfy shoes for you (the kids shoes should be in your guide's backpack.) These will come in handy if you get soaked one of the waterfalls (like we did!) and it's nice to change out of hiking boots and into sneakers when you can. We toured with Jon from South Iceland Adventures for two days and just left our bag in his car overnight, I would assume whatever tour company you are with will let you do the same. 

24-hour daylight is hard on kid's sleeping patterns. At least a week before your tip to Iceland, start your kids on sleeping with eye masks. It feels weird and they will rip them off at first but after a few nights, the masks should stay on tight. Make it special by ordering a fun mask online like this Zombie sleeping mask or a matching Kitty night dress and mask here. 

Iceland's history is as fun as a fairytale. Look for kids books on vikings, volcanos, puffins and whales and read them together in preparation for your trip so the little one's have things to engage their imagination and look forward to on your vacation. Here's a good kid's adventure book to start with. 

Food in Iceland is mostly fish and meat-based and not exactly picky-eater or kid-friendly. However, in a pinch most petrol stations sell hot dogs and most restaurants can make kid-friendly fair if you ask. I am vegetarian and even though most of the time there was nothing veg on the menu, they were able to whip me up something wonderful at every place we ate. 

 

Iceland surprised me with how kid-friendly and family oriented the culture is and I'm sure you and your family will fall in love with it as much as I have.  

If you would like to read about the rest of my week-long Volcano Hopping adventure in Iceland, have a look here and to see my Photo Gallery on Iceland, have a look here.

Thanks and Happy Travels!

 

Travel tip shared by LindsayMC for Travel Dudes.

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Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park, California

Existing as one of the most iconic national parks in the USA, Yosemite is home to some of the best trails in the park system.

Featuring stunning meadows, lakes, waterfalls and granite cliffs; many of the park's most beautiful landscapes are only accessible by lacing up one's hiking boots and hitting the trails. From hiking bucket list worthy Half Dome to scrambling up Clouds Rest Trail, the hikes here offer something for everyone and are one of the best ways to discover the area.

Keep in mind that Yosemite is also one of the more central national parks in California, and makes for an essential addition to any California National Park Road Trip Itinerary

Ranging from easy to hard, and day hikes to backpacking, here are 10 of the best trails found in Yosemite National Park...

 

Top Hikes in Yosemite National Park

1. Vernal and Nevada Falls

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 8.8 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 2,191 Feet

TYPE: Loop

Beginning at Happy Trailhead near shuttle stop #16, hike by two gorgeous and famous falls located within Yosemite Valley. This hike starts off with a stroll along the river, followed by a steep incline until reaching the foot of the bridge. Hikers will pass by a closer look of Vernal Falls, then Emerald Pools and hike alongside Nevada Falls to the hike’s highest point. Head down the John Muir Trail in the summer for more views of Nevada Falls, as well as Liberty Cap, before reaching the original footbridge again. Portions of the JMT are closed in the winter, so head back down the same trail to the trailhead during this time of year.

 

2. Half Dome Trail

LEVEL: Hard 

DISTANCE: 14.8 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 5,164 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

Undoubtedly the most popular hike in Yosemite Valley, visitors come from far and wide for the opportunity to summit Half Dome. This endurance hike can take anywhere between 10 to 12 hours, meaning hikers should be in the best shape before attempting. The cables usually go up starting towards the end of May and a permit is required for the trail during this time. Most start at sunrise and decide on a turn around time if summitting does not seem doable by sunset. The last 400 feet are the hardest once reaching Half Dome, but the hike down is a breeze. Hikers usually opt to take the Mist Trail back down, which is the original way up, though the John Muir Trail is also an option and provides a change of scenery. For Half Dome Permits visit the National Park Service website (recreation.gov) or call the Yosemite Park Ranger Station.

 

3. Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 7.2 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 3,175 Miles

TYPE: Out and Back

One of the most visited falls in the park, as well as the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls offers hikers an easier lower falls trail or the more challenging upper falls trail. Consisting of three sections, visiting Upper Yosemite Falls takes hikers about six to eight hours roundtrip. The trail is 3 miles one way starting at Camp 4 and once at the top, there’s a platform to admire the valley floor nearly 2,500 feet below. Although not as popular as the lower falls, this hike will prove to be quite satisfying once the summit is reached.

 

4. Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 1.0 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 52 Feet

TYPE: Loop

Just a quick stroll up to the the falls, the Lower Yosemite Falls is one of the most popular trails in the park due to its short distance and accessibility. Kid friendly and wheelchair accessible for the first half of the loop, the trail is open year round, but can be icy in the winter — proceed with caution. Spring is the best time for viewing as the waterfall is often dry from late July through October. 

 

5. Four Mile Trail

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 9.2 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 3,612 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

Traveling 3,200 feet down to Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point, this trail features views of famous sites along the way including Half Dome, North Dome, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, and full views of Yosemite Falls. The relentless switchbacks are not for the faint of heart - hikers can also choose to hike one direction as long as transportation is secured when reaching the end of the trail. Note that winter closures are generally in effect from November to late May or early June, so plan to hike both directions during this time of year.

 

6. Glacier Point Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 0.6 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 236 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

One of the park’s iconic destinations, visitors must park and walk a little over a half mile to the final destination. Once at Glacier Point, a picturesque 270-degree view of the valley, as well as Half Dome and three of Yosemite’s famous falls are on full display. Not much of a hike, but rather a stroll, this is a must see sight. In the winter, the road to Glacier Point is closed from November to late May or early June, but cross country skiing and snowshoeing are both welcome to access Glacier Point. Strap on a pair of either and opt to spend the night at Glacier Point Ski Hut where there are bunk beds and various amenities. A reservation is required for this accommodation.

 

7. Clouds Rest Trail

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 12.3 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 3,113 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

A heavily trafficked trail found northeast of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, this is one of the best places to enjoy the view of the famous half mountain. This granite formation requires scrambling up a narrow edge with sheer drop-offs in order to arrive at the top, which is not for the faint of heart. Hikers will pass through flat trails, switchbacks, beautiful woods, a stunning lake and of course, the daring scrambling at the end. Once done, be sure to head back the same way to the trailhead.

 

8. Sentinel Dome Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 2.1 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 456 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

Home to beautiful wildflowers in the Spring, April through November is the best time to experience this trail and provides much worth for little work compared to many of the other trails in the park. Made famous by Ansel Adams in 1940, this trail is easy enough for most hikers. After  crossing over a stream, the hike begins on a gradual slope until reaching the summit of the dome featuring 360 degree views of the valley below. Along the way, hikers will pass by views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, as well as endless views of the gorgeous high sierras.

 

9. Mirror Lake

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 5.6 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 334 Feet

TYPE: Loop

Perfect for nearly any skill level, this longer hike offers stunning views on an almost entirely flat trail. An easy loop around Yosemite, this trail makes it way around Mirror Lake, which is famous for its nearly crystal clear reflection of neighboring Half Dome. Surrounded by mounds of snow in the winter or colorful wildflowers in the summer, this trail is well marked and less crowded than others found in the area. Take the free park shuttle to the far east end of the valley for the trailhead, or park your car at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

 

10. Bridalveil Fall Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 1.0 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 52 Feet

TYPE: Loop

One of the first falls upon passing through Tunnel View, standing at 620 feet tall, this short walk is a great opportunity to stretch those tired legs after a long drive up the mountain. Although much shorter than its neighbor across the way, Yosemite Falls, the mist created here is what makes it unique. When the wind blows, it appears as though a veil worn by a bride. Like most falls in the sierras, this one is best seen in the spring, but more often than not, there is water on it during the winter months as well, just not as much as other times of the year. Although the path is in fact paved, it's not wheelchair accessible due to the slight slope, but it is family friendly.

 

Yosemite Hiking Tips

Note that Yosemite is a park that does in fact receive a heavy amount of snow in the winter months.

Many roads are closed to trails at higher elevations or are only accessible by snowshoe and cross country skiing. For those still accessible, trails are slick and should be used with caution.

And year-round, all trails should always be trekked with enough water and food in case of an emergency. Although Yosemite Valley may feel very safe due to its high visitor attendance, accidents do in fact happen and hikers should be prepared for any scenario. And of course, always stay on the trail and pack everything you bring in, back out.

Remember to leave it better than you found it for future generations!

Top Reasons to Visit Romania

Romania is a country in the southeast part of Europe. This country boasts unique history, spectacular nature, surprising architecture, charming cities and castles, etc.

if you are planning to go on a vacation, but you still don’t know which destination to choose, why not consider visiting Romania? You can even explore Romania using a yacht at the French Riviera.

Here are some of the fantastic reasons why you should visit Romania

It is affordable

Although Romania is part of the European Union, it is a budget-friendly destination since your foreign money can come in handy. Prices for hotels and food are low compared to Western Europe. Some cafes and restaurants that are near tourist attractions may be a bit expensive, but they are still affordable.     Moreover, the admission fees for castles or museums are reasonable as well as transportation.

 

The people are friendly

No matter how amazing a country is, its people can make a huge difference. Romania is one the countries in Europe which is famous for hospitality and friendliness. Another good thing about Romania is that you can find people speaking English in some parts of the country. The younger people will gladly show you directions or give you advice when needed. 

 

The Danube Delta

River Danube is the second-largest river in Europe and it marks the southern border of the country before emptying into the Black Sea. It is a mark of natural beauty being a vast protected land. This river is ideal for bird watching, fishing, hiking, and boating.

If you are a nature enthusiast, then this is a must-visit destination for you. The Danube Delta is also the best and the largest preserved delta in Europe, hosting over 350 species of birds living in its marshes and lakes. It is a biosphere reserve habitat as well.

 

The Painted Monasteries of Moldova

Romania is home to one of the most picturesque places in Europe. The eight monasteries comprise of churches that date back to 13th to 16th C. Some of these monasteries serve as burial places for noble families. They are unique and well preserved.

 

Historic restaurants and delicious food

Romania is a country full of food, and the people there love food. In every corner of Romania, you will find friendly faces happy to serve you some delicious food. It’s typical soup “ciorba” is unique as well as some other dishes such as “sarmale”.

Apart from the unique and tasty food, Romania is home to very old restaurants with incredible interiors, painted ceilings, and ornate wood. The popular ones are located in Bucharest’s historic center. They include Casa Doina, Crama Domneascâ, Caru’ cu Bere, etc.

 

Breathtaking castles [including Dracula]

Romania has plenty of breathtaking landscapes and castles hidden on rocky hilltops. One of the castles includes the Bran Castle. It has a spurious connection to Stoker’s narrative. Other unique castles include Peleș castle and 14-century Corvin Castle.

The Maramureș Castle boasts towns and villages that resemble those of the Middle Ages that had the hay racks, horse carts, and wooden churches. Romania has a rich medieval history with beautiful castles.

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Top Things To Do In Crete

Crete is a wonderful place for a holiday as it has something for everyone. Crete is home to lots of Greece's cultural heritage. It's also a picturesque place that's ideal for those who like to explore.

Don't visit a naturally beautiful place like Crete without checking out everything nature has to offer.

 

1. Visit Balos Beach and Lagoon

Visiting Balos Beach and Lagoon is the first of our 10 things to do in Crete. An off road drive, which is part of the adventure, takes you to incredibly picturesque world-class beach where amazing, calm, shallow and warm water greets you.

 

2. Samaria Gorge National Park

Our second suggestion is to take in Samaria Gorge National Park. Gorgeous views, clear water and a challenging hike await you there. Safari Club Crete offer nature but with a little more excitement thrown in. You'll see wild goat herds while you travel in the mountains with a knowledgeable driver who will be more than happy to explain the Cretan way of life while giving you insights into the land.

 

3. Boat tour

While you're in Crete you should take at least one boat tour. There are loads to choose from including day cruises that take you around the island, sailing trips that take you on swimming excursions to otherwise impossible to reach places.

 

4. Semi-submarine

Go on the fantastic semi-submarine that offers tourists a chance to glimpse life under the sea.

 

5. Black Rose Pirate Boat

Augment whichever one of those you chose with a trip on the Black Rose Pirate Boat. Seeing the island from a boat decked out like a pirate's ship complete with crow's nests and a jolly roger is something that people of all ages will get a kick out of.

 

6. Sea Shark Glass Bottom Boat

The Sea Shark glass bottom boat is the 6th thing we're suggesting to do in Crete but it's quite possibly the best activity on our list. The boat itself is modern, comfortable and new so it's a great place to spend a few hours but the best feature is of course its glass bottom that will allow you to take some of the holiday's most remarkable images.

 

7. Scuba dive or snorkel

Scuba and snorkelling adventure trips are another attraction in Crete that shouldn't be missed. There's nothing quite like getting up close and personal with nature while on holiday.

 

8. Palace of Knossos

You can't visit Crete without taking a trip the The Palace of Knossos. This is quite possibly the most important archaeological site in Crete. This place was the cultural and political centre for the Minoan civilisation that populated the island between 2600 to 1400 BC. The site offers a collection of original and reconstructed architecture which combine to give you clear picture of life back in those days.

 

9. Anciient Aptera

Ancient Aptera is another important historical site. At least 4 civilisations have built on the site so you'll see a mixture of Doric temples and Roman baths along with an ancient theatre that will take your breath away.

 

10. Cycling

If you're interested in activity holidays, get in touch with Cycling Creta. Your trip can be as energetic as you like though because your guide will ride at your pace. Whatever you choose to do make sure you take plenty of photos!

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Vietnam Lunar New Year – 10 Things To Do and Don’t

For many of us younger Vietnamese, Tet always had been something very important to our families, to our culture and to our people.

However, we often don’t understand certain things that the older folks in the family usually say and do during these 3 important days of the Lunar New Year.

Just like many of the young Vietnamese living overseas, I have been through the age of wondering and struggling to find out the real stories and reasons behind each activity and behavior that the Vietnamese people do for Tet.

You may not agree with some of the believes and traditions that I’m going to list below, but reading this list will save you a lot of headache and hopefully will help you in starting to appreciate the beauty of our Vietnamese culture and traditions:

 

The 10 Do’s:

1. Say “Happy New Year” in any language that you can when you see a Vietnamese or an Asian person. In Vietnamese, it is “Chuc Mung Nam Moi,” with a big smile!

2. Give red envelopes (Li Xi), though in the old days, only married people were supposed to do this task in the new year because married people were believed to be more successful than single individuals. However, nowadays, giving away Li Xi is an act of showing your generosity and wishing the recipients luck throughout the year. Who doesn’t like getting money from those red envelopes? Because, I DO!

3. Smile, laugh often, and be energetic. Just don’t overdo the smiling and laughing because people may misjudge you as someone recently discharged from an asylum or someone on dope. Nevertheless, seeing someone with a smile on his/her face will brighten the mood of anybody on any day, so definitely do this!

4. Offer others something sweet such as candies or “mut Tet”. People believe that sweet things will bring sweetness for the rest of the year.

5. Offer the elderly a warm cup of tea if they have lost all their teeth or have diabetes. A warm cup of tea is believed to deliver happiness, warmth, and the flavorful sweet taste to the person. Vietnamese families usually gather around during Tet to just drink tea. The tea might not be warm, but love of family is surely warm.

6. Visit all your relatives. This is your golden excuse to visit your relatives and catch up with them. This is my golden excuse to meet the rest of my crowded family members to make sure that that cute chick I’m dating doesn’t happen to be my 5th cousin. (J/K!)

7. Give anything related to number 6 or 8. This is because our culture has been tied with some aspects of Chinese culture. Number 6 in Cantonese sounds like the word “Loc” in Vietnamese, which means Luck. Number 8 in Cantonese sounds like the word “Phat” in Vietnamese, which means Prosperity. I personally don’t believe in these, but I will do anything to make people happy. So, giving $6 or $8 for Li Xi would beat the $10. In the end, I save $2 to $4 for each Li Xi and still make others happy. Nice trick huh?

8. Give anything red in color, such as watermelon, li xi, dried fruits in a red box (mut Tet), etc. The color red is associated with Luckyand High Class rankings in Asian culture, especially the ones that are heavily influenced by Chinese culture. In addition, the color red brings warm feelings or hotness, like fire. So in short, red brings luck and warmth to the family.

9.  Wear new, colorful, beautiful clothes with light colors. Put those wrinkled, stinky clothes in the washer already!

10. Give the following package of fruits: custard apple, coconut, papaya, and mango. In Vietnamese, the fruits, respectively: Mang Cau, Dua, Du Du, Xo In the Vietnamese Southern accent, the fruits will be pronounced as “Cau Dua Du Xai”, which means “wishing you having enough money to spend”.

However, if you read number 4 on the 10 Dont’s List below, you will see that people usually take out the custard apple from the package due to the difficulty of finding it during Tet and the belief that 4 is a bad number. You will often see the package contains only coconut, papaya, and mango, which gives you the combination of “Dua Du Xai”, the truncated version with the meaning of “Enough Money to Spend”.

 

The 10 Dont’s:

1. Don’t show up at somebody’s house on the 1st day unless you have been invited by the house owner first. Otherwise, go on the 2nd day or at a later time. People believe that the first person who shows up at their house will bring to the family all the characteristics of that person. If a person is a successful person, the family will be successful. If the person has been unlucky last year, the family will be in bad luck all this new year.

So it is best for you to stay home until someone has invited you over. It’s their signal of telling you that either someone already has entered their house for this year or they personally like your characteristics to have you over and bring them luck. Believe it or not, I don’t think all this luck stuff is true, but I recommend you to listen to this advice to avoid being unreasonably blamed.

2. Don’t wear dark clothing or just black and white. Dark, black, and white clothing is believed to be associated with death and funerals. By the way, wear something nice and lively–it’s New Year!

3. Don’t swear, curse, trash talk, or argue. Any of these is already bad for any time of the year, not alone the New Year…

4. Don’t give presents with unlucky signs. For example: Any foods with squid or duck meat and number 4 and 7.

Squid produces black liquid, which is considered to be dirty and harmful, though the squid itself tastes super good! Ducks are believed to be stupid and their meat is dark (at least darker than chicken meat).

Number 4 is pronounced as “Tu” in the old Vietnamese language system which sounds almost like “Tu”, which means Die or Death in the old Vietnamese language that is heavily influenced by the Chinese language. Most people have mistaken the fact of number 7 being a lucky number. However, in old Vietnamese language, 7 is pronounced as “That”, which is the same spelling and same sound as the word “Lost” or “Missing” in old Vietnamese language. So in Vietnamese, number 7 is actually very bad! Not as lucky as you thought.

Oh yeah, and if you are in Vietnam, don’t eat or give dog meat during New Year. I’ll tell you the reason in person.

5. Don’t talk about negative topics such as accidents, deaths, or funerals. Who likes to talk about these things anyway?

6. Don’t ask someone to repay you a debt or loan. Wait until the next 2-3 weeks. People believe that if they have to repay or borrow money at the beginning of the year, they will have to borrow and repay money for the rest of the year. Best time of the year to dodge your debt, eh?

7. Don’t ask for “Li Xi” if it was not given. This is considered equivalent to asking the person to pay their debt. In my personal opinion, this has more to do with courtesy and politeness.

8. Don’t visit anyone’s house for the first 3 days of the lunar calendar if you have funeral in your immediate family in the last 3 years. Vietnamese people believe that the dead person in the family will not go to Hell within the first 3 years of his or her death.

Their spirit will follow the family members for 3 years before they either get tired from it or witness the fact that the family has gotten over the fact of their death. People don’t want spirits to go into their house during New Year because gods, goddesses, and Buddhas are partying it up during this time and paying less attention in guarding the house of the owners from ghosts and spirits.

So, sit home with your beloved spirit; people will come to your house to share your sadness if they are considerate. You do not want to take any stupid blame if some family sheds some blood for something that is totally unrelated to you.

9. Don’t take or ask to take things that are related to fire out of somebody’s house such as: lighters, matches, coals, fire fluid, gas, etc. Fire is considered to be the source of the warmth of the family, the desire of couple’s love. It is believed that families with fire taken away will have problems within the family. Firefighters should take 3 vacation days during Tet if their station happens to be within the Asian neighborhood.

10. Don’t take or ask to take things that are related to water out of somebody’s house such as: bottles of water, water containers, water dispensers, drinking cups, glasses, etc. People usually wish each other “Tai Loc Nhu Nuoc” or “Money and success coming in like water”.

So, taking water out of somebody’s house is equivalent to taking away their wealth. If you are thirsty, drink the water inside the house, don’t take the bottle home or you will see the owner coming to your house to take back their waterbottle with an angry face.

 

Lastly, I wish all the readers and travelers a happy new year, a successful 12 months, an amazing 365 days, and a wonderful 8,760 hours with your loved ones!

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

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