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Belize – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Belize – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Belize, formerly British Honduras, is a country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages. Although Kriol and Spanish are also widely spoken among the populace, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language.

It is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and the Caribbean sea to the east. With 8,867 square miles (22,960 km²) of territory and 320,000 people (2008 est.), the population density is the lowest in the Central American region and one of the lowest in the world. However, the country’s population growth rate, 2.21% (2008 est.), is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Culturally, Belize considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American.

Tourism and Ecotourism

A combination of natural factors—climate, the Belize Barrier Reef, 127 offshore Cayes (islands), excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling, numerous rivers for rafting, and kayaking, various jungle and wildlife reserves of fauna and flora, for hiking, bird watching, and helicopter touring, as well as many Maya ruins—support the thriving tourism and ecotourism industry.

It also has the largest cave system in Central America . Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture. In 2007, tourist arrivals totaled 251,655 (more than 210,000 from the U.S.) and tourist receipts amounted to $183.3 million.

Religion

Religious freedom is guaranteed in Belize. Nearly 80% of the inhabitants are Christian, with 49.6% of Belizeans being Roman Catholics and 29% Protestants.. Foreign catholics frequently visit the country for special gospel revivals. The Greek Orthodox Church has a presence in Santa Elena.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced a significant increase in membership in recent years. According to the Witnesses, around 3% of the population attended at least one religious meeting in 2007. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 3,300 members in the country

Other non-Christian minorities include: Hinduism, followed by most Indian immigrants, and Islam, common among Middle Eastern immigrants and has gained a following among some Kriols.

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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It borders Russia to the north and the People’s Republic of China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only 24 miles (38 km) from Kazakhstan’s eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks, and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier patterns. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

At the end of the 17th century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de-facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence: In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and the – rather rough – transition to a market economy.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the nineteenth largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.9 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the country’s 2.9 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state’s citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live off less than US$1.25 per day.

Independence

With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia under the Bogd Khaan declared independence in 1911. However, the equally newly-established Republic of China claimed Mongolia as part of its own territory. The area controlled by the Bogd Khaan was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia.

The 49 hoshuns of Inner Mongolia as well as the Mongolians of the Alashan and Qinghai regions expressed their willingness to join the new country, but to no avail. In 1919, after the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied Mongolia. However, as a result of the Russian Civil War, the White Russian adventurer Baron Ungern led his troops into Mongolia in October 1920, defeating the Chinese in Niislel Khüree (Ulaanbaatar) in early February 1921.

In order to eliminate the threat posed by Ungern, Bolshevik Russia decided to support the establishment of a communist Mongolian government and army. This Mongolian army took the Mongolian part of Kyakhta from the Chinese on March 18th, 1921, and on July 6th Russian and Mongolian troops arrived in Khüree. Mongolia’s independence was declared once again on July 11th, 1921. These events led to Mongolia’s close alignment with the Soviet Union over the next seven decades.

Democracy

The introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR by Mikhail Gorbachev strongly influenced Mongolian politics leading to the peaceful Democratic Revolution and the introduction of a multi-party system and market economy. A new constitution was introduced in 1992, and the “People’s Republic” was dropped from the country’s name. The transition to market economy was often rocky, the early 1990s saw high inflation and food shortages. The first election wins for non-communist parties came in 1993 (presidential elections) and 1996 (parliamentary elections).

Transportation

The Trans-Mongolian Railway is the main rail link between Mongolia and its neighbors. It begins at the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia at the town of Ulan Ude, crosses into Mongolia, runs through Ulaanbaatar, then passes into China where it joins the Chinese railway system in Jining. A separate railroad link connects the eastern city of Choibalsan with the Trans-Siberian Railway; however, that link is closed to passengers after the Mongolian town of Chuluunkhoroot.

Mongolia has a number of domestic airports. The only international airport is the Chinggis Khaan International Airport near Ulaanbaatar. Direct flight connections exist between Mongolia and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Germany. MIAT is Mongolia’s largest carrier in Mongolia and provides both domestic and international flights.

Most overland roads in Mongolia are only gravel roads or simple cross-country tracks. There are paved roads from Ulaanbaatar to the Russian and Chinese border, and from Darkhan to Bulgan. Some road construction projects are currently underway, for example construction of the east-west so-called Millennium Road.

Languages

The official language of Mongolia is Khalkha Mongolian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and is spoken by 90% of the population. A variety of different dialects are spoken across the country. In the west the Kazakh and Tuvan languages, among others, are also spoken.

The Russian language is the most frequently spoken foreign language in Mongolia, followed by English, though English has been gradually replacing Russian as the second language. Korean has gained popularity as tens of thousands of Mongolians work in South Korea. Interest in Chinese, as the language of the other neighbouring power, has been growing. Japanese is also popular among the younger people.

A number of older educated Mongolians speak some German, as they studied in the former East Germany, while a few speak other languages from the former Eastern Bloc. Besides that, many younger Mongolians are fluent in the Western European languages as they study or work in foreign countries including Germany, France and Italy. Mongolian is one of the Mongolic languages. Mongolic is frequently included in the Altaic languages, a group of languages named after the Altay Mountains that also includes the Turkic and Tungusic languages.

Religion

According to the CIA World Factbook[31] and the U.S. Department of State[32], 50% of Mongolia’s population follow the Tibetan Buddhism, 40% are listed as having no religion, 6% are Shamanist and Christian, and 4% are Muslim.

Various forms of Tengriism and Shamanism have been widely practiced throughout the history of what is now modern day Mongolia, as such beliefs were common among nomadic people in Asian history. Such beliefs gradually gave way to Tibetan Buddhism, but Shamanism has left a mark on Mongolian religious culture, and continues to be practiced. Amongst the Mongol elite of the Mongol Empire, Islam was generally favored over other religions, as three of the four major khanates adopted Islam.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the communist government ensured that the religious practices of the Mongolian people were largely repressed. Khorloogiin Choibalsan complied with the orders of Joseph Stalin, destroying almost all of Mongolia’s over 700 Buddhist monasteries and killing thousands of monks.

The fall of communism in 1991 restored the legality of public religious practice, and Tibetan Buddhism, which had been the predominant religion in the region before the rise of Communism, again rose to become the most widely practiced religion in Mongolia. The end of religious repression in the 1990s also allowed for other religions, such as Islam and Christianity, to spread in the country. According to the Christian missionary group Barnabas Fund, the number of Christians grew from just 4 in 1989 to around 40,000 as of 2008.

Culture

The main festival is Naadam, which has been organised for centuries, consists of three Mongolian traditional sports, archery, horse-racing (over long stretches of open country, not the short racing around a track practiced in the West), and wrestling. Nowadays it is held on July 11 to July 13 in the honour of the anniversaries of the National Democratic Revolution and foundation of the Great Mongol State.

Another very popular activity called Shagaa is the “flicking” of sheep ankle bones at a target several feet away, using a flicking motion of the finger to send the small bone flying at targets and trying to knock the target bones off the platform. This contest at Naadam is very popular and develops a serious audience among older Mongolians. In Mongolia, the khoomei, or throat singing, style of music is popular, particularly in parts of Western Mongolia.

The ornate symbol in the leftmost bar of the national flag is a Buddhist icon called Soyombo. It represents the sun, moon, stars, and heavens per standard cosmological symbology abstracted from that seen in traditional thangka paintings.

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Penang Food Paradise

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Penang Food Paradise

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Penang is a state in Malaysia, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis, and the eighth most populous. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite.

Name

The island was referred to as pokok pinang The name “Penang” comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means island of the areca nut palm (Areca catechu, family Palmae). The name Penang can refer either to the island of Penang or the state of Penang.

The capital of Penang state is George Town. More specifically, George Town is also called Tanjung in Malay. Penang Island is simply Pulau Pinang and Penang state is Negeri Pulau Pinang in Malay.

Penang is severally known as “The Pearl of the Orient” and “Pulau Pinang Pulau Mutiara” (Penang Island of Pearls).

Language

The common languages of Penang, depending on social classes, social circles, and ethnic backgrounds are English, Penang Hokkien, Tamil and Malay. Mandarin, which is taught in Chinese-medium schools in the state, is also increasingly spoken.

Penang Hokkien is a variant of Minnan and is widely spoken by a substantial proportion of the Penang populace who are descendants of early Chinese settlers. It bears strong resemblance to the language spoken by Chinese living in the Indonesian city of Medan and is based on the Minnan dialect of Zhangzhou prefecture in Fujian province, China.

It incorporates a large number of loanwords from Malay and English. Many Penangites who are not ethnically Chinese are also able to speak in Hokkien. Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.

Malay is spoken locally with north-western dialect features, such as hang for “you” and depa for “they/them”.

English is a working language widely used in business and commerce, and is also the language of instruction of Science and Mathematics in schools. English used in an official or formal context is predominantly British English with some American influences. Spoken English, as in the rest of Malaysia, is often in the form of Manglish (Malaysian colloquial English).

Other languages, including Cantonese and Tamil, are also spoken in the state. Teochew is heard more in Province Wellesley than on Penang Island.

Religion

The official religion of Malaysia is Islam and the head of Islam is the Yang Dipertuan Agong, but other religions are freely practised. These are Buddhism, in the Theravada, Mahayana and increasingly also Vajrayana traditions, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism (the largest denominations of which are the Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptists) and Sikhism- reflecting Penang’s diverse ethnic and socio-cultural amalgamation.

There is also a small, but little-known, community of Jews in Penang, mainly along Jalan Zainal Abidin (formerly Jalan Yahudi or Jewish Street)

Agriculture

Penang agriculture is mainly made up of the major export crops of rubber and oil palm and some cocoa, the food commodities comprising paddy, fruits, coconut, vegetables, livestock (which is dominated by poultry and swine), fisheries and aquaculture, and new emerging industries such as ornamental fish and floriculture.

Owing to limited land size and the highly industrialised nature of Penang’s economy, agriculture is given little emphasis. In fact, agriculture is the only sector to record negative growth in the state, contributing only 1.3% to the state GDP in 2000. The share of Penang’s paddy area to the national paddy area accounts for only 4.9%.

Food

Penang island is a paradise for food lovers who come from all over Malaysia and even Singapore to sample the island’s unique cuisine, earning Penang the nickname of the food capital of Malaysia. Penang was recognised as having the Best Street Food in Asia by TIME magazine in 2004, citing that nowhere else can such great tasting food be so cheap.

Penang’s cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia, but is also strongly influenced by the cuisine of Thailand to the north. It’s especially famous “hawker food”, sold and eaten roadside, strongly features noodles and fresh seafood. Places to savour Penang’s food are Gurney Drive, Pulau Tikus, New Lane, Swatow Lane, Penang Road and Chulia Street. Local Chinese restaurants serve excellent fare too. American fast food outlets and cafés are readily found throughout the state.

Shopping

Although Penang has lost much of its shopping paradise grandeur of its past, it still boasts several modern shopping malls catering a wide range of merchandise. Among the more popular ones on Penang Island are:

  • Queensbay Mall, Penang’s largest and longest shopping centre,
  • Gurney Plaza, touted as Penang’s first lifestyle-oriented shopping mall. Opened in 2001, it is located at the famous Gurney Drive precicnt.
  • KOMTAR is Penang’s first and oldest modern shopping mall. Plans are currently underway to revive the massive complex.

Other notable shopping malls on the mainland part of Penang:

  • Sunway Carnival Mall located at Seberang Jaya.
  • Seberang Prai City Perdana Mall located at Bandar Perda.

Concerns about Penang beaches

State Tourism Development Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said that there were plans to clean up and landscape the beaches in Batu Ferringhi. “The cleanliness of our beaches has been neglected for more than 10 years and this is a challenge to the tourism sector,”.

He added that the state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) took water samples from beaches in Batu Ferringhi and determined numerous pollution sources including the sewage system, illegal restaurants and hawkers and car-washing activities.

State Tourism Development Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said he was informed of the matter by the management of Malaysia Airlines. “The number of tourists from these regions has been steadily declining over the past decade” and “Tourists come to the state for the surf and sand but they usually return home disappointed. We are even losing out domestically to Pangkor and Langkawi” “Rivers will be cleaned up and illegal outlets draining sewage into the sea will be connected to a treatment plant by 2009.”

Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (ATAP) chairman Eddy Low said “We strongly discourage food courts or stalls being set up or built near the sea to prevent the dumping of rubbish into the sea and around the area. ” He said there should also be a massive plan for a central sewerage system so that waste would not go to the sea. There is also a need to protect the outer islands such as Pulau Jerejak, Pulau Rimau and Pulau Aman. “It is important for us to maintain these islands which are still pristine and untouched by pollution.”


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