The extraordinary things I’ve done and seen – in the year of the Lord of twenty-nineteen!

Hi folks, and – belatedly – Happy New Year!

Trust you all had happy, jolly, merry holidays. I sure did!…

All righty. Let’s get on… by looking back.

So, as per usual on these here blogpages of mine around this time of year, herewith, my round-up of last year: a summary of the facts and figures and countries and flights and tourisms and volcanoes and excursions and monasteries and walkabouts and treks and all the rest; woah – already for the sixth time (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)!

But… why?

Well, over-self-indulgence plays a part, for sure (especially when it comes to things like my total number of flights and other stats:). However, I’m lucky enough to travel to and experience a lot of highly interesting places/stuff, which I’m fairly certain will be of interest to some of you, dear readers. And you might not have read every post of the year (there are a lot of them). Accordingly, surely, a pint-sized review of the ‘greatest hits’ of the year (including ringing in the New Year in the Ecuadorian mountains in a hot-spring swimming-pool some 3600 meters above sea level!) will be worth something? I hope so, anyway. OK, so – ~rationale out the way, let’s get on with this…

The just-mentioned hot springs in Ecuador:

Read on…

A port with the fragrant smell of incense.

As part of my plans I have a brief one-and-a-half-day stopover in Hong Kong. If memory serves me correctly, the Chinese name of the city 香港 means “fragrant port”. It’s always useful to check these things though… Well, I was almost right – it’s closer to “incense harbor”. The meaning of these hieroglyphs were once explained to me a long time ago by a Chinese man who wasn’t that fluent in English :)

“Incense harbor”. What a beautiful name! For some reason, I got to singing the golden oldie by Vertinsky: “Your fingers smell of incense, and sorrow sleeps in your eyelashes…”.

A beautiful city! … I’m not here to discuss prices and the quality of housing or any other problems or troubles. As a tourist with less than two days to spare, the city is fantastic! Both at night and during the day.

Read on…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

Hanoi by night.

My lightning business trip is coming to an end. It started with the Moscow-Delhi route, but now I’m sat on my suitcase again and am about to fly more or less back the way I came. It all worked out well, almost like the last time I spent three weeks to a month travelling around the world :) But there’s no need for such heroism now. All the lands have been cultivated (except Antarctica, Atlantis, the Moon and Mars); the right people are tending them, weeding and watering them, pests are kept away and the crops are harvested. In some places several times a year :) And by doing so, they are saving everyone from global cyberthreats. But I still have to travel back and forth to boost the yield and to access new crops.

It was especially fun this time. India-Vietnam-Hong Kong. There were 15 business meetings and interviews, mostly in a suit (but without a tie), they were most welcoming everywhere and there are some great prospects. That’s the very brief summary. More details can be found on the internet – it has already been covered in various local media. There was one and then two installments sent from Vietnam (I should warn you that clicking requires a knowledge of Vietnamese). And I’m starting to learn Vietnamese… as long as it’s spoken. For example: “kaamoon”, “tsuk-tsuk-kwe”…

And for those who can’t, here you go :)

I try not to forget about the touristy things too. After all, every story should be accompanied by at least some interesting photos or video material (ideally, both). And since the report from Delhi was quite downbeat, I will try to compensate by highlighting all the positive things that followed.

So, let’s start. Hanoi – the view from my room in yet another hotel:

Read on…

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The daily life and sights of Delhi.

Delhi. This is the third time I’ve been here, and finally I decided to do some tourism. On the previous occasions, I’ve had to do press conferences, meetings and was always on the go. I did make it to the Taj Mahal once. But if we’re being honest, there are two things that get in the way of proper tourism here: the polluted air (see below for more), and the chaotic traffic. You step out of your hotel, leaving behind the cleansed, air-conditioned environment, and you are met with the smoke of the local neighborhood.

At the beginning of the week, when we had two days in Delhi according to our approved travel plan, a third obstacle made itself felt to would-be tourists: protests against some reforms taking place right next to some of the city’s main historical sites that are a must-see for every curious tourist. Unfortunately, they were closed. But Delhi has quite a few places to see!

Some of the main ones were still open to visitors though. One was the Emperor Humayun’s tomb. This is an interesting construction. If you don’t have time to do the Taj Mahal (which is much higher up the list, but constructed later), then make sure to see this place.

As a matter of interest, many buildings of importance in this part of India were built in the times of the Great Moguls who were partially descended from the Mongol Empire. For example, the aforementioned Humayun was born in Kabul, a descendant of Tamerlane, etc. In the pictures, he has a typically Mongolian appearance, at least to me. It was these guys who got the ball rolling with the “industrialization” in these parts.

Read on…

The Panthéon, the Pendulum, and Paris.

I’ve been to Paris so many times on business, and always manage to squeeze in a little bit of tourism, even if it means doing the same thing for the umpteenth time. After the 15th anniversary of our French office, I had a few hours to spare before the next leg of my business itinerary, so I went to Panthéon of Paris!

Here, amongst many other things, you can see the Foucault pendulum with your own eyes. It was first put on public display for curious tourists and other citizenry… apparently back in 1851. There it is – that dangling thing:

It’s moving, see!

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Venice vs. November, floods and a biennale.

What’s that whooshing sound? Ah, it’s me rushing from Cancún to Venice, to attend a business event the next day :)

I got to thinking about my previous visits to Venice and how I usually arrived by car. In fact, I hadn’t flown into Venice airport for about 15 years! This time, they told me I shouldn’t be too surprised about their unusual new arrivals terminal. And it really was unusual – or, at least the parking lot:

That’s right! You can take a boat from Venice airport (which is on the mainland) straight to the islands on which Venice lies.

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Diez cenotes, o, cenotes sobredosis!

Ingredients: the Yucatan peninsula; three free days between business events; a great desire to check out cenotes and bathe in them.

Something to be factored in: No Rio Secreto this time; been there a few times, done that, swum that – without the t-shirt.

Decision: Uno, dos, tres – let’s check out 10 cenotes!

There are four types of Cenotes: Cantaro (a cave with a hole in the roof thereof); cilindricos (with strictly vertical walls); aguagas (with shallow water basins); and grutas (cave cenotes, with a horizontal entrance with dry sections). Now, for some reason, along the coast of Yucatan there are mostly the latter to be found – grutas, while if you drive further from the coast inward they are overtaken by cantaro. Why, I don’t know.

Anyway, we set off to study the cenotes in the Dos Ojos park. Here, there are a full 28 cenotes, with around 10 accessible to folks for entering and bathing in. Apparently all the cenotes are part of one and the same system and interconnected as a single labyrinth (underwater river) – which runs to a total length of… 80 kilometers! And it’s all just 15km from Tulum.

Sources

All righty. Off we go – to Dos Ojos…

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Mayan pyramid duel – Chichen Itza vs. Coba.

Ancient Mayan sites are scattered over rather a wide territory, covering parts of what are today Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. But if you want things narrowed down to just former cities with pyramids, the internet obliges – in competing ways; for example:

10 Most Beautiful Ancient Mayan Temples
13 Most Beautiful Ancient Mayan Temples

On our three-day car-based excursion around Yucatan, besides Coba, we also made a visit to the famous Chichen Itza, including its centerpiece, El Castillo, aka the Temple of Kukulcan. Have a read of what that link takes you to – especially about the steps and the platform (=365), and about the ‘snake’ that slithers down the pyramid on an equinox.

The Maya were masters of astronomy and light-and-shade-architectural effects, but there was no equinox while we were there, so no snake. Still, this was just as well since the serpent attracts huge crowds, which I can’t be doing with.

We were there early morning; accordingly – very quiet.

Frontal view:

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Coba: My-oh-Maya!

Sometimes I regret not being a historian. I mean – to study different, unusual cultures, for example the central-American ancient Mayan one, and to do it as a job, not a hobby… – sounds ideal!

Now, the Mayans existed for 3000 years! They invented their own writing system, were advanced astronomers, mathematicians and architects, but then, for some unknown reason, they died out completely – around 400 years ago. They never got round to creating a single state, yet ruins of more than a thousand towns remain to this day, scattered across the Yucatan Peninsula and further south into Central America. The number of temples and pyramids is off the scale. And talking of temples and pyramids, that’s where we were headed early morning (since all architectural places-of-interest in the region open at 8am every day) on the second day of our three-dayer in Mexico recently (but we’d have been up at crack of dawn anyway for, as usual, we wanted to see as much as we possibly could – plus it would be uncomfortably hot if we’d have left it till later).

First up for us – the ancient city of Coba, whose ruins cover a large territory, and whose main pyramid is the tallest of all Mayan pyramids, at 42 meters. What the pyramid may have been called by the Mayans themselves nobody knows, but today it goes by the name Ixmoja.

Read on…

Yucatan 2019.

After a spot of business in Cancun (for the last time!), we rented a car and headed off toward Yucatán cenotes and Mayan pyramids. I’d been here plenty of times before, but for some reason only got as far as this here trinity of toursims: the ancient city of Chichen Itza, the ‘classic’ cenote Ik Kil, and the Rio Secreto underground river.

Since there are a great many cenotes and pyramids here, we carefully studied the internet first – determined which we still hadn’t seen but really should, and off we popped…

Read on…