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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

10 Amazing Things to Experience in Cambodia on your next holiday

The Kingdom of Cambodia is one of the hottest destinations in South East Asia and is one country that offers a lot of diversity for the traveler to appreciate and indulge in. From the iconic Angkor Wat to South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake in Tonle Sap, from the bitter past of Khmer Rouge to the bustling capital city of Phnom Penh, from the pristine islands of Koh Rong and Koh Kong to the mountain forests of Ratnakiri and from the laidback riverside village of Kampot to the war caves of Battambang, this country has so much to offer.

If you are planning your next holiday to this kingdom, you might be interested in these 10 amazing things that one can experience here. These are based on my personal backpacking experiences through this glorious kingdom.

1) Watch Banteay Srei temple glow with the first rays of the morning sun at Siem Reap

Intricate carvings on Banteay Srei temple walls

This is not one of the temples on the main Angkor trail, but definitely the prettiest. Tucked some 35 kms away from Siem Reap, the 10th century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Banteay Srei’s intricate carvings is worth a good long visit. Like the famous Angkor Wat sunrise, the best time to visit this temple is also around sunrise and this is when all the carvings of this temple that is carved out of red sandstone glow in the orange rays of the early morning sun. As a lover of Hinduism, you will find a lot of rare carvings here.

2) Relax on the white sandy beaches of Koh Rong Island
      

Enjoying the pristine Long beach of Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

Popular beach destinations of South East Asia are in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. But, no one thinks about Cambodia as a possible pristine beach holiday destination. Which is why, it earns the off-beat beach holiday destination tag. The southern reaches of Cambodia are blessed with steamy dense tropical forests and pristine white sandy beaches. And a little further to its south are an amazing group of islands called Koh Rong and Koh Kong that offer a seriously solid beach holiday experience. I absolutely love Koh Rong, its beautiful forests, mangroves, long and deserted white sandy beaches and the warm waters of its gentle lapping waves. This is also the place that is known for phosphorescent plankton that glows in the night during certain times of the year and one that offers a very special swimming experience.

3) Catch the Famous Sunrise Shot at Angkor Wat

The famous Angkor Wat Sunrise

I don’t think I need to say much about this iconic activity. Almost all websites covering Cambodia, Cambodia guide books, magazines, travel books and more talk about this famous sunrise. In spite of all the hype, the sunrise is actually worth it. But, do wake up early and make sure you find yourself a good spot to park your backside and your camera gear or else be prepared to jostle amongst thousands of visitors who arrive every morning with their heavy camera artillery. And before you sleep that previous night, do pray that it rains heavily that night. As usually after heavy overnight rains, the air is clearer and the sunrise is vibrant. If you are not lucky to catch that perfect sunrise on your first visit, do not sulk. Rather, spend your time doing other things in Siem Reap and hope you get lucky with your next Angkor Wat sunrise. 

4) Enjoy Fresh Seafood at Sihanoukville

Fresh Seafood - One of Sihanoukville's main tourist attractions

At about a 6 hour drive from the capital of Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is your beautiful, yet busy coastal town with plenty of gorgeous beaches. The beaches here are good, but not special, but the locals sure do rave about the quality of seafood here, especially if you love squids, prawns and lobsters. Apparently, the coast of Sihanoukville is one of those few places in the world where squids breed and the baby squids here are quite the rage. In addition to the fresh seafood, this is also the place where you can get a taste of some of the best in Cambodian cuisine. If you do not have the time to explore the offshore islands, this is your ideal bet for a good beach holiday in Cambodia not too far away from the mainstream cities, thus giving it easy access.

5) Become one with the 216 amazing faces of Bayon Temple

2 faces of the Bayon pillar that consists of 4 faces

Angkor wat is famous for sure, but the temple that I absolutely love has to be the Bayon temple. I have visited this temple like 5 times and every single time, my eyes light up and my mind goes into a frenzy as I lose myself in the maze of these 216 faces (56 towers with 4 faces each). I feel like each face tells a story to you. Words don’t do justice to this temple. One has to see it for real to understand the true awesomeness.

6) Float in the floating village of Chong Khneas

Floating village at Chong Khneas, Tonle Sap, Cambodia

Floating churches, floating schools, floating houses, floating restaurants, floating gas stations, floating grocery stores…well, the whole world floats in the village of Chong Khneas. Located on the Tonle Sap lake, this floating village lives completely on the produce of the lake, which is rich in fish and shrimps. You have to experience this floating world for at least one night to truly understand the local way of living. There is nothing here in terms of natural beauty as there is water everywhere, but it is this ancient floating culture that is special. Just experiencing it gave me a high.

7) Indulge is some tubing at the laidback riverside town of Kampot

Tubing and Swimming in the Kampot river, Kampot, Cambodia

If there is one place where all you want to do is go out on those lazy swims, eat late and long brunches, read many books, practice your notes on your guitar or just do what gives you happiness, it has to be Kampot. This village situated by the Praek Tuek Chhu river offers those delightfully quite riverside accommodation where you can just put your feet up and do as you please. And when you get bored and need some adventure outlet, you can either hit the river or cycle up to the mountain nearby for some adrenaline rush.

8) Explore the Flooded Forests of Kompong Phluk

Canoeing through the flooded forests of Kompong Phluk, Cambodia

Located deep in the Tonle Sap are the flooded forests of Kompong Phluk. There are motorbikes, cars or buses here. Boats are the private and public transport here. The whole village floats and keeps moving in search for better fish. Whether it is the place of worship, schools, homes or shops, everything moves with the village. As a visitor, you have to take a canoe to navigate these shallow and densely forested waters. If you stay here longer, you can learn all about their special shrimp farming technique and be mesmerized by their floating culture that is far away by the civilized world.

9) Bite into some exotic insects at Phnom Penh

Insects, scorpions, snakes and exotic food galore at the markets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Khmer Rouge terrorized the people of Cambodia to survive in the wild and which is why I think the people took a liking to insects and reptiles. The Khmer Rouge is long gone, but this fascination for insects still remains. If you are brave enough to dig into those crunchy tarantulas or roaches or bite into those maggots or dare to get a taste of a scorpion or a baby snake, there is no better place to experience this than the streets of Phnom Penh. From crickets to grasshoppers, from scorpions to tarantulas and from maggots to snakes, there are a lot of exotic creatures on the menu here.

10) Understand the trail of terror laid out during the Khmer Rouge

Khmer Rouge beat children to death here, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

What the Nazi regime did to Europe, the Khmer Rouge did to Cambodia. There were concentration camps in Europe. There are killing fields in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge absolutely terrorized the people of this country. Multiple genocide at different parts of the country was the norm. Both men and women were slaughtered. These cruel people did not even spare the babies. Locals still manage to locate skulls and bones from these killing fields after a spell of heavy rains. I don’t mean to scare you, but if you visit the killing fields of Choeung Ek (just outside of the capital of Phnom Penh) and listen to the tales of terror through the audio guide, you cannot help the tears from flowing down. These killing fields offer a very humbling experience and a good insight into the bitter past of Cambodia.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Best Ways to Go Backpacking Without Hitting the Over-crowded Tourist Spots

Backpacking can be a lot of fun and this is a great way to see the world even if you are on a tight budget. There are lots of hostels to choose from in Europe and the rest of the world where you can grab a bed very cheaply. However, the main drawback with choosing to stay in cheap and cheerful hostels aimed at backpackers is that they tend to be very crowded and are located in major tourist hotspots. Here are some great ways to travel for backpackers who are planning to go off the beaten path a little. 

Find a Travel Buddy

Making new friends in Iran

Travelling with someone is a great way to keep costs low as you will be able to share the cost of accommodation, travel and food and will be able to afford to branch out a little bit and get out of the main tourist zones. If you don’t have a friend or family member at home who wants to go travelling, you can always look out for ads on popular traveller and social media sites and find a travel buddy who shares the same interests as you. 

Make Friends with Local People

Immersing yourself in local culture is total fun

Local people are an excellent source of information on the best places to go to avoid the crowds and they are likely to know about places that the not mentioned in guidebooks. Taking the time to make friends with local people in cafes and bars will give you access to these great places and if you are lucky your new friend may even decide to pay tour guide for the day and take you to these places themselves.

Choose Homestay Accommodation

Gramam Homestay, Kochi, Kerala, India

A large number of local people choose to rent out a room in their home and provide meals for a small fee. This type of homestay accommodation is often located off the beaten track and will give you the opportunity to explore a different place. This is also a great way to meet local people and gain an insight into their lives. You will also be able to find out first hand about the best things to see and do in the area and this is a great way to escape from the crowds and do something a bit different. 

Take your Own Tent

Staying inside tents at picturesque locations is so special

Bringing a tent with you means that you will have the freedom to sleep underneath the stars and get back to nature. A large number of national parks and other areas allow people to pitch their tents for the night either free of charge or for a small fee and many of the latest tents that are available to buy are very light weight and fold up small enough so that they can be stored easily in a backpack and carried with you wherever you go. Of course, it is a good idea to arrange backpacker travel insurance before leaving home to protect yourself and your belongings and give yourself pure peace of mind while you explore.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Time For A Spring Getaway? Why It’s a Bloom-ing Time to Go To Japan

Sizzle sizzle. It’s that time of year. (⌒▽⌒)

And a soft, blush-pink canopy drapes the skies of Tokyo, like someone swept a paintbrush over the city to give its people one collective excuse to let go of daily cares and live in the moment under colorful splendor.

Sakura trees in Hamamatsu, Japan - March, 2016

Sakura trees in Hamamatsu, Japan - March, 2016

Chefs at closet-sized sidewalk stands shout “Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ)!” to customers as they grill chicken (yakitori), beef, and leeks wrapped in slices of bacon on sticks.

Teenage students in front of a large cauldron of incense at Senso-ji temple. People waft the fumes over their bodies to bestow good health - April 2015

Teenage students in front of a
large cauldron of incense at Senso-ji temple. People waft the fumes over their bodies to bestow good health – April, 2015

Kites shaped like colorful carp and smiling, eye-less daruma dolls are placed in store windows.

Religious and cultural matsuris (festivals) transform temples, shrines and quiet parks into buzzing centers of activity, as they nestle between skyscrapers. Japanese boys say “Hai, pisu!” to me.

Crowds roam the grounds of Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo - April 2015

Crowds roam the grounds of
Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo - April 2015

I just love the arrival of spring in Japan, the time of year where “sakura,” (桜) or cherry blossoms, spring into bloom across virtually every stretch of Japan’s 47 prefectures, drawing hundreds of revelers for viewing, parties, and resolution-setting.

For hundreds of years, the sakura culture has been rooted in the “cycle of life, death and rebirth, on the one hand, and of productive and reproductive powers on the other.” It’s a bittersweet phenomenon, as people gather to celebrate the blossoming beauty while sadly anticipating their ending.

Jumping school girls My friend Allyson and I celebrating sakura at the International School of Sacred Heart -April 2005

Jumping school girls: My friend Allyson and I celebrating sakura at the
International School of Sacred Heart -April 2005

I have lovely, impactful memories of visiting various cherry blossom locations, participating in  hanami (花見) or “flower viewing” with my parents and friends, and eating special treats, since in Japan the seasons aren’t just something to see – they’re something to taste, too.

Sakura mochi at my host family’s residence in Hamamatsu, Japan - March 2016

Sakura mochi at my host family’s residence in Hamamatsu, Japan - March 2016

Just another big reason for making spring the time to visit this nothing-less-than-magical country.

Where to go:

Japan is comprised of eight regions -- Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu-Okinawa -- all of which have have different dialects, customs, and subcultures, but all share one thing -- “hanami.”

In Japanese “hana” means flower and “mi” means eye. It’s such a big local and national event that travel websites and news services detail maps of sakura’s daily, blooming progress.

Cherry blossoms regions copy
Credit
:
Japan-Guide

Generally, blooming begins in the south (Kyushu) at the end of March. The path continues through the middle portion of Japan (Kinki, Chubu, Kanto) in early-mid April, and ends up in Tohoku and Hokkaido the first week of May. All signify there are two full months of hanami. Glory! \( ^ o ^ ) /

Hamamatsu, Japan - March 2016 Credit Fusako Yamamoto of マミーズアタック

Hamamatsu, Japan - March 2016 Credit: Fusako Yamamoto of マミーズアタック

Here are a few recommendations of my favorite hanami locations:



Tohoku and Shikoku are known to have some fantastic spots, as well.

Cherry Blossom Flowers Japan

For more details about when and what types of sakura bloom (and how to plan your trip which you should definitely consider!), follow day-to-day updates through JNTO and Japan Info.



How to hanami:

With petal-power glory comes the intense excitement of participating in a hanami party.

Today, these parties are 24/7 in large parks, temple grounds, even near rivers, offering people the chance to relax and have fun among friends, family, or fellow employees, while sharing prayers for good health and prosperity dedicated to sakura.

When you book your trip, you’ll find hanami parties popping up virtually everywhere. More so, Japanese are very, very hospitable and welcome foreigners, so you’ll all be chatting, eating, drinking, laughing, letting loose, and living in the moment in no time.

My Japanese teacher and I celebrating the sakura - April 2009

My Japanese teacher and I celebrating the sakura - April 2009

I have many fond memories of Yoyogi Park festivals that host fun and lively hanamis:



Key items to have on hand:

+Mat or blanket sheet
+Bento box (buy at a konbini or department store)
+Beverages (beer, wine, sake)
+A good spirit

Optional:
+Portable speaker
+Pocket tissue (if visiting a  popular space there are usually long lines for toilets)
+Pocket wet wipes (find them at 100 Yen shops or “konbinis”)

Deliciousness:

Spring Food- Sakura festival - Japan

Sakura motifs adorn everything in Japan -- from fans and kimonos to cups and swords. The petals have even made their way into, you know it...Food. ヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ

They’re used as flavors, food coloring, and garnishes in items like mochi, daifuku, wagashi, green tea, and even, sakurayu (桜湯) -- cherry blossom infused water.

For foreigners, Japanese food typically means sushi, sukiyaki, and tempura, but a huge part of the food culture is incorporating nature and the four seasons into daily dishes through color, presentation, preparation and garnish. 

Winter Food- Sakura festival - JapanSummer Food- Sakura festival - JapanFall Food- Sakura festival - Japan

A big cultural deal:

A cherry blossom tree in full bloom is a sensual feast -- easy on the eyes, soft on the nose, warm on the soul.

Sakura is more than just a flowering tree. The blush pink, short-lived sakura reminds us that life is intensely beautiful -- but fleetingly short.

Sakura in front of the Jefferson Memorial in D.C. - April 2014 Having fun at our hanami party at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. - April 2014

(L to R) Sakura in front of the Jefferson Memorial in D.C. - April 2014 and Having fun at our hanami party at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. - April 2014

This Japanese cultural tradition has even transcended cultures and now nearly 1,700 cherry trees line the Tidal Basin here in Washington D.C. 

Floral fireworks are bursting into color in Japan and people are organizing the sakura matsuris. If you’re unable to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun this spring come celebrate this time of life renewal with me and the growing friendship between the U.S. and Japan.

Of course, you can always go over in September to experience “momijigari”, a festival that is equally as important as hanami, which focuses on the appreciation of autumn leaves. 

My friend Chaz of IAMMYLIFE and I - April 2014

My friend Chaz of IAMMYLIFE and I – April, 2014
About the Author:

Lauren Zelek (LZ),
my friend from the Millennial Train Project, is a cross-cultural consultant, speaker, and budding social entrepreneur who is passionate about travel and delivering authentic solutions based on needs of real people. She spent her formative years growing up in Japan, attending an international school, and expediting around Asia, now working to understand the human and environmental context of those she serves, currently: Third Culture Kids(TCKs), women, and the homeless.

Lauren is captivated by discovering cross-cultural gems that can pave the way for large-scale advances and enable meaningful human connection and collaboration.
Follow her currently work with the Embassy of Japan and personal journeys on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn. LZ is all about empowering people to make the most of opportunities!

Photo Credits:
All the photographs in this article are copyright of Lauren Zelek.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Interesting Ideas to Pass Time on your Travels

Those of us who are long term travellers will know that familiar feeling of being between destinations, whether it's on a ten hour bus journey through the Himalayas or waiting for your delayed flight in an airport lounge. These periods of downtime are part and parcel of the travelling lifestyle and admittedly they're not always fun. But remember this: it's how you deal with them that counts. If you can fill these mundane moments with fun and challenging things, you will truly be making the most out of your travel experience. Here are some ways to do just that:

Make Use of your Digital Downloads


Learning languages on the move

If you have an iPod, a tablet or even a kindle then there's no limit to the amount of interesting things you can teach yourself during a long stopover. For example, one of the best things you can do is to learn a few words and phrases in the native language of the country you're headed to. There are many interesting apps and websites to help you in that pursuit, including DuoLingo, which uses a gamification approach to teach you one of 16 popular languages and offers apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices. According to linguistic database Ethnologue, there are more than 6,900 languages spoken in the world but the most popular ones are not that many. Knowing the local language can open doors and will help you to meet local people and explore places that are off the beaten track. So, if you have a couple of hours waiting for a rainstorm to pass from your beach hut, or a morning waiting to change trains, then see that as an opportunity to make your travels even better in the long run. Or you could watch your favorite TV shows or movies!

Chat With Your Neighbour


My local friend helping me tie a Kurdi turban

If you're a solo traveller and you have some unexpected downtime, now is your chance to get chatting to some random people. One of the biggest learning curves of travel is developing your social skills and becoming brave enough to approach new people. Your stopover or unexpected flight cancellation is the perfect chance to do this. You'll be amazed how easy it is to strike up a conversation with a stranger once you've got over your initial shyness. You will learn that virtually everyone in this world has their own unique story to tell and you can learn something from every new conversation you have. Especially in terms of truly traveling rather than being a tourist, talking to people will bring you in touch with the local culture. Plus, you never know when the person next to you will be able to help you with exactly what you need: an interesting restaurant, hostel or bar recommendation you wouldn’t ever have gotten from a travel guide.

Practice your poker face


Enjoying a game of backgammon

Like chess or scrabble, poker is one of those games that everyone assumes you know how to play. The beauty of it is, you don't need to be an expert to play. Once you've learned the rules you can set up your own poker nights in hostel dorms and backpacker bars, giving you the opportunity to meet and swap tips with lots of other travellers. Who knows, you could end up winning a tournament or two and at the very least you’ll have a lot of fun while passing the time. Even if you already know the basics, it’s a good idea is to print and carry a table of poker hands for reference, for those times you’re not sure whether a flush is a better hand than a straight. According to WPT, there are more than 100,000,000 poker players worldwide. Especially when language is a barrier, knowing a popular game like poker will enable you to bond with fellow travellers and locals quickly and pass the time in an entertaining way. If you don’t already know how to play, start practicing with other newbies. You'll have that poker face perfected in no time!

Meditate


Listening to audio books on a trip to Malaysia

If you're lucky enough to have a quiet space nearby, then meditation is a brilliant way to de-stress and re-center yourself. This is a great thing to do if you've been stuck at a station or airport for too long and you're feeling restless. You can also meditate from your airplane seat or even in your hotel room. Having an iPod with a guided mediation can help if you're a beginner, or you can simply sit and focus your attention inwards. Try an app like Budhiffy, which offers specific instructions for a variety of situations, like “going to sleep,” “waiting around,” and our favourite, “travelling.”

Get your craft on


If you have some room in your backpack for craft materials, you could use your travel downtime to learn a new skill such as making bracelets or knitting. These activities can be very calming and they can also be a great conversation starter for solo travellers. If you have some talent with crafts you can be even more productive by selling your creations to other travellers.

Start a journal


One of the most enjoyable ways to while away the time when you're waiting for buses, trains or planes is to write a travel journal. All you need is a notebook and a pen to conjure up images of that amazing temple you saw in Thailand or the sunrise from that volcano in Indonesia. At the same time as making a travel journal you could also start your own scrap book with the ticket stubs, postcards and other souvenirs you pick up along your journey. Having these tangible reminders of your trip will be wonderful once you're back at home and you can even keep them to show your children years from now. And don’t forget, it’s also the first step to becoming a travel blogger.

Catch up on Sleep


A perfect place to catch a shut eye

If all else fails and you don't feel like trying any of the above ideas, you could always just catch up on some shut-eye. Sleep is the body's way of restoring itself and getting plenty of rest now will ensure that you reach your destination feeling refreshed and ready to explore. Just don't snooze so much that you miss your flight!

The befuddled look of a long term traveler

Photo Courtesy: Corey Warren, Founder of Live More Creative

Whatever you decide to do on your downtime, make sure it's something you enjoy and don't waste the time you've been given. Happy travels!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Yazd: Of Wind Towers, Zoroastrianism and a Sweet Tooth

One of the three cities (the others are Isfahan and Shiraz) on the famous triangle tourist trail of Iran, Yazd is pretty different from the other two. In fact, it stands out as a different destination in the whole of Iran and that is what makes this city special. It’s desert like environment, its wind towers (or wind catchers), its deep rooted history with Zoroastrianism, its importance on the ancient silk route, its affinity for sweets, its mud buildings and narrow alleys, its beautiful architecture and/or its friendly people, Yazd is truly special and that is why it is one of my favorite cities of Iran.

Muslim ladies walking through the narrow alleys of Yazd old town

The first thing that one notices as soon as they enter Yazd are its wind catchers. Apparently, these wind catchers are an architectural creation of Iran’s desert land to keep the buildings cool in the dry desert heat. And they are so effective that the interiors of the buildings feel like an air-conditioned environment even when  there are no fans or air-conditioners.

Amir Chakhmakh Complex, Yazd, Iran

It is because of these ancient windcatchers that Yazd gets its name of Shahr-e-Badgirha or city of windcatchers.

The famous wind towers of Yazd, Iran

Unlike Isfahan, Tehran and Shiraz, which have a busy bustle to it, Yazd is more laidback and you can feel that vibe when you strike a conversation with any of its cheerful denizens. The people here seem to enjoy life and want to share their joie-de-vivre with everyone.

Beautiful work on the walls of the Jame Mosque, Yazd, Iran

The more time I spent conversing with its people in bazaars, in front of sweet shops, at restaurants, at mosques and even in the narrow alley ways, the more I came to understand their happy nature.

Iranian Women finishing their prayers at Masjid e-Jame, Yazd, Iran

The cheerful nature of the people and the rich Persian architecture make for a fabulous combination and one that every visitor is bound to enjoy.  From the fine Persian mosaics of the Masjid-e-Jame to the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and the Yazd Tower of Silence, from the beautiful Amir Chakhmakh complex to the histocial Khan e-Lari and from the Madrasse-e-Kamalieh to the carved domes of the Grand Bazaar, there is lot of history and architecture to appreciate in Yazd.

Beautiful Masjid e-Jame of Yazd, Iran

And it is not just the architecture, but the handiwork too is quite special in this town. Be it textiles, silk weaving, silk carpets, coppersmith artisans, silversmith artisans or jewellery design, one can see it all unfold right in front of your eyes.

Yazd Coppersmith artisan at work

And if you wish to take some of these items back home as souvenirs, you can pick them up from the grand bazaar.

Beautiful Yazd architecture

One of the other things that I really like about Yazd is its food, especially its desserts. Their kahlifehs dish out amazing desserts such as baklava, pashmak, gaz, ghotab and so much more that I spend most of my time in Yazd with high blood sugar. I would definitely recommend that you try these amazing desserts.

The famous sugary desserts of Yazd, Iran

There is a famous confectionery in Yazd whose name I can’t recall, but this shop is right in the middle of the town, is fairly big, draws a lot of local crowd and is very well known in the community. So, if you wish to locate this place, ask your hotel or a local Iranian.

Atashkadeh - the Zoroastrian Fire Temple at Yazd, Iran

If you are tracing the Zoroastrianism trail of Iran, then there is no better place than Yazd as there are people who still practice this ancient religion. The fire temple, the temple of silence and the nearby hub of Chak Chak are great places to get closer to this religion.

The top of Yazd's Mosques

I know that a lot of people from the Parsi community of India are interested in tracing their ancient routes. If you are one of them, Yazd, Shiraz and Abyaneh are three of your top destinations in Iran.

A yazd rooftop view

There are many people from the yester Zoroastrian community who speak the ancient language and follow some of their ancient cultures in spite of converting to Islam. I met one such family at Abyaneh and I am pretty sure that one can find more such families in Yazd, which is a pretty good hub for this religion.

The minarets of one of Yazd's beautiful looking mosques

Whether you visit Yazd for its desserts, rich Persian architecture, its deep-rooted history with Zoroastrianism, its desert landscape or its cheerful people, you are bound to fall in love with this easy going city. And while you there, don’t miss the opportunity to lose yourself in its narrow alleyways with mud buildings and wind catchers.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Let’s Support Earth Hour 2016

As a frequent traveler, I always feel guilty for contributing to the rising air pollution and being responsible for climate change, even if it is only a minuscule percentage. And that is why whenever an environmental awareness or protection opportunity comes my way, I try and grab it with both hands. If you are one such person who cares about the environment, read on as here is an opportunity for all of us to shine a light on climate action.

I am sure you have heard of Earth Hour! In case, you haven’t, Earth Hour is an environmental awareness program that has been running for the past 10 years and one that aims to fight climate change. This year, Earth Hour 2016 is on 19th March, 2016 between 8:30 PM and 9:30 PM local time. During these 60 minutes, the goal is to switch off as many lights across our planet so that we can do our bit to change climate change and also see the stars that we miss seeing from our cities these days.



DU Group (maker of popular mobile apps) is collaborating with WWF for the 10th time to ensure that they build on the impact they have achieved together in the past decade and take the symbolism of ‘lights out’ into the digital space. Together with WWF, they want to engage individuals to create an exponential change with a provocative climate story and arouse them to protect the night. And this is where all of us come in. Using the power of social media and our empathy for the environment, we can make our contribution.



To make this awareness campaign interesting and to use the power of mobile phones and social media to spread the Earth Hour message to everyone, the DU group has come up with a cool Light Up the Night game (works only on the mobile platform) that one can access through three popular DU apps – DU Battery Saver, DU Speed Booster and ES File Explorer.

 

The idea of this game is to solve the puzzle of switching off the lights on 5 iconic landmarks across the world so that we can realize the beauty of seeing a star studded sky. And once you have won the game, you can use the power of social media to create more awareness for this environmental campaign. If you wish to take it one step further, you can aid in changing climate change by participating in any of these actions – donating your social feed, donating to earth hour, donating to a project, adding your voice and/or sharing a project. All these actions can be done at the Earth Hour website.

Let’s do our bit for mother nature by supporting and promoting Earth Hour 2016 and by using the power of social media to give it an exponential reach. The hashtags for this environmental awareness campaign are #ChangeClimateChange, #EarthHour, #FightTheLight and #LightUpTheNight.

Note: This is a sponsored post.

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