An Amazon Adventure for Solo Travelers, An Alternative to Home Alone for the Holidays Part I

Looking out on the falling snow on a blustering 25 degree day, the Brazilian Rainforest seems a lifetime away although I just returned this week. My Amazon adventure was in the planning stages since the fall 2013 as an alternative to being "home alone" for the holidays. Attempting to replicate past celebrations can really fall flat. The best idea for "accidental" solos during traditional family holidays? Adventure travel to distant locations! I have had a lifelong love of adventure travel from Rarotonga to the Albanian border of Montenegro. Having been serenaded in Istanbul with the Yellow Rose of Texas (a first for me as a Washingtonian), I have skied both Dubai and Sun Valley (the former more successfully than the latter). In 2013, I was looking for a fresh approach for the holidays.

After considering my options, I decided on a river cruise. Having previously gone solo to join a Nile cruise and one along China's Yangtze River, I was intrigued by similar tours offered in Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America. River cruises are a good fit when traveling alone, especially in remote areas. If you choose a single cabin, you can have a ready-made travel group / dinner partners but with privacy and time alone when you need it. With meals and day-to-day transportation / outside sightseeing taken care of, I saw this as the perfect time-out from the hectic working world.

I chose the Brazilian Amazon for two reasons: First, it was closer geographically and easier to get to. Secondly, it added balance to my multiple prior trips to Spanish-speaking Latin America. I envisioned landing in a small plane as I had in Botswana's Okavango Delta, flying as "co-pilot" in a 2 seater plane. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Airbuses and 737's land routinely in Manaus, the capital of Brazil's Amazonas Province, with non-stop service via Miami.

After pre-trip planning to rival a space launch, I missed a few last minute odd details to consider. I offer a few practical tips I gleaned:

1. A frequent visitor to Brazil warned me not to lose my immigration form if I hoped to make my outbound flight. That seemed pretty simple. Then I realized that international flights into the Amazon landed around midnight and typically departed between 1-3 AM. I was unlikely at that time to be at the top of my game. Being practical, I packed a stapler to clip my immigration form to my visa / passport. Of course, the outbound US airport security scan was perplexed by this odd-looking item in my carryon luggage. Inbound immigration gave me a wry smile apparently amused to find a travel weary tourist dutifully whipping out a stapler on arrival.

2. At the last minute I read the fine-print that Brazilian regulation requires travelers to provide both copies of doctors' prescriptions and pharmacy receipts for drugs being brought into the country. Having a cornucopia ranging from malaria pills to less exotic fare, I had inadvertently overlooked this requirement. …

Holidays to Thailand – Breathtaking Beauty on a Budget

Thailand is known all over the world as a great tourist destination. Not only is this country full of amazing and diverse tourism sites, there is such an enormous variety of tourism packages to Thailand that holidays to Thailand can be both affordable and unforgettable.

Packages are available to suit every budget, and there are so many site destinations, accommodations, and dining choices that everyone is sure to enjoy their Thai vacation. Honeymoons, scuba diving holidays, walking / hiking holidays, cycling holidays, wildlife tours, family tours, cultural tours, or beach holidays are just some of the many ways to enjoy the great natural beauty and cultural riches that Thailand has to offer.

Holidays to Thailand are a delight to the senses and rich in cultural experiences as well. Thailand is blessed with four major natural terrains: Northern Thailand’s forests and mountains; Northeast Thailand’s steppe farmlands; Thailand’s Central Plains with their vast rice fields; and Thailand’s southern peninsula’s tropical islands.

Located in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand has a population of more than 65 million. Of these, three-quarters are Thai, with Chinese making up 14% of the population. Nearly 95% of the population is Buddhist, making Thailand one of the most heavily Buddhist countries on earth, but many other faiths are represented here as well. Though English is widely understood in tourist destinations and major cities in Thailand, learning a few phrases in Thai is a good idea before leaving on holidays to Thailand.

Bankok, Thailand’s capital, is many people’s first choice in destinations for holidays to Thailand. It is one of the world’s most exciting cities, with an amazing array of culture, history, extravagance, and nightlife, counterpoised with the serenity of the temples and floating markets. The Asian investment boom of the 1980s and 90s resulted in Bangkok’s becoming a regional financial and business capital. It has also developed increasing influence in sectors as diverse as politics, fashion, and entertainment. Some 11 million international visitors experience Bangkok every year.

But there is far more to holidays to Thailand than the dizzying urban landscape of Bangkok. Beach resorts like Phuket and Krabi are as beautiful as ever, and have come far in recovering from the 2004 tsunami. One of the most beautiful places in Thailand is Koh Samui in the southern part of the country. It is a very popular holiday destination in Thailand. The provincial town of Songkhla in the far south is a well-kept secret.The beach is unkempt, with a natural, windswept quality. This is off the beaten path for most tourists, yet it is a very beautiful place to visit.

Chiang Mai City is a lively city with a rich history and numerous cultural festivals, as well as terrific local restaurants, Buddhist temples, and plenty of entertainment options. The so-called Golden Triangle is a great tour of Thailand, where you’ll experience hillside tribal villages, the Mekong River, and much rustic natural scenery. The reason the area is called the Golden Triangle is because it is close …

Kotmale of Sri Lanka Holidays

Kotmale in the Development in Sri Lanka

Kotmale oya river with its origin in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka at an elevation of 2134 m (7000 ft.) running between the two hills of Tispane and Kadadora resulted in the valley having a fertile soil, the ideal good earth for cultivation. During the glorious days of ancient kings of Lanka too, the valley had been of immense vibrancy: paddy cultivation took root in clusters of villages amidst the industries of pottery and carpentry. It was home to goldsmiths as well as blacksmiths. Pidurutalagala Oya stream, Nanu oya river, Greogory’s tank rush in their waters to the Kotmale Oya river. So are Devon falls, St Clair’s falls, Puna falls and Cat Snake Garadi falls. Since the glorious days of ancient Sri Lanka to the years of modern accelerated Mahaweli multi-purpose irrigation project, an enormous volume of water rushed in resulting in floods sinking clusters of hamlets and villages of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. The high watermark of floods are noted even today in the railway station of Gampola close to Kandy, the gateway to Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.

Although the necessity of a dam was observed in 1950, a couple of years following the independence from the colonial British rulers, it was only in 1961 the preliminary studies of the Kotmale project were carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka in partnership with US Agency for International Development (USAID) and then again by UNDP-FAO from 1964 to 1968. During the period between 1973 and 1976, a feasibility study was carried out by the water and Power Development Consultancy Services (India) Limited (WAPCOS). In 1979, Sir William Halcrow and Partners in association with Messrs Kennedy & Donkin and the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB)of Sri Lanka were appointed to provide consultancy services: construction work commenced in February 1979; reservoir was impounded in November 1984; commercial power generation commenced in June 1985; ceremonially commissioned in August 1985.

Kotmale Dam, reservoir and power station

The dam with a Crest Length of 520 m and Height of 122 m created Kotmale reservoir, which at its full capacity regulates 174 million cubic meters of waters of the Kotamale Oya River. The water thus impounded is utilized first for the hydro electric power generation. The contribution to the national power grid of Sri Lanka by hydro electricity at Kotmale amounts to no less than 206 megawatts. Then the water is discharged to join the confluence of Mahaweli ganga river and the Atabaghe Oya river.

But then all the good things come at a price. Sri Lanka paid a heavy price for Kotmale dam, reservoir, tunnel and underground hydro electricity power station. Kotmale project is one of the five head works projects of the mega project of Mahaweli River Diversification, the largest (modern or ancient) irrigation scheme ever in the island.
57 villages were lost. 54 ancient and medieval Buddhist temples were sunk together with 57 villages on both banks of Kotmale Oya river …

Naturist Holidays at Port Leucate, France

Have you ever had a slightly disturbing dream that you found yourself nude in a public place, such as in a street, on a bicycle, in a shop or on public transport? If so, what happened in your dream? Did you wonder how you got yourself in that situation, were you embarrassed or did you think that it’s only a dream so it doesn’t matter?

If you have had such dreams, and you haven’t already practised naturism, perhaps it would appeal to you.

Every year, thousands of families spend their holidays between April and October in one of the naturist villages which lie between the ancient Mediterranean town of Leucate and the seaside resort and yacht harbour of Port Leucate.

The villages are mostly traffic free, but you can walk around or cycle like everyone else completely naked. There is a small shopping centre with a very good baker where you can buy fresh croissants, bread etc., you can shop in the supermarket, buy from the butcher, wine shop or newspaper shop and have a drink or a meal in one of the small restaurants, all while staying nude.

These villages, which include Aphrodite and Oasis, were established following a tourist commission set up by President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960’s. The government were looking for a way to entice thousands of holiday makers to stay in France rather than heading down into Spain looking for a beach holiday destination.

The old town of Leucate lies between the Mediterranean Sea and a large saltwater lagoon. South of the town there is a narrow strip of land several kilometres long between the sea and the lagoon. Six kilometres to the south was an old settlement and it was here that the commission proposed establishing a new development called Port Leucate with a yacht harbour, shopping centre and holiday accommodation. Work started in the mid 1960’s and de Gaulle visited the work in progress in 1967. Following his visit, the commission was asked to address the future of the beautiful stretch of beach just to the north of the new resort of Port Leucate.

At that time there was a growing practice and tolerance for naturism in France and there were already various naturist destinations including a large naturist holiday complex at Montalivet on the Atlantic coast north of Bordeaux.

The strip of beach being studied has the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Leucate lagoon on the other and is virtually an island as there are two channels to the north and south linking the sea with the lagoon. It was therefore decided that this would be an ideal location to develop a naturist beach resort with access restricted to the residents and holiday makers.

Rather than create just a camp site with mobile homes and camping spots, it was decided to create a real village with houses, apartments, tennis courts, swimming pools and a shopping centre. Plans were drawn up and work started in 1973. The years have …

The Artificial Coloring of Our Holidays

It's that time of year again! Colorful confections are hitting the store shelves, and likely your kids, like mine, are begging to purchase those colorful sugar bombs every time you walk into the store. It's such a constant battle that I try every way possible not to take my little critters shopping with me.

But don't get me wrong. I'm all for kids having fun and enjoying the holidays we all remember growing up with. Packaged candy treats around this time of year of are one of them.

I know I wrote about this last year, but it bears repeating. My problem, besides the excess of sugar, is the amount of food dyes consumed. It's just not good. And while you might argue that a small amount of colored candies for a short duration of the year is harmless, I'd like to persuade you otherwise. Artificial colors are a problem, and they are far more prevalent and far-reaching than you think.

Besides Halloween candy, food dyes are used in numerous products aimed towards our kids. A few examples include boxed macaroni and cheese, yogurts, cereals, jello, frostings, and even some snack crackers. Our kids are consuming these additives all year long, with a sudden spike around Halloween time.

Why should we care? For one, they are completely unnecessary, and the sole purpose of them is to sell more product … to your kids. Second, they are created from chemicals derived from petroleum.

Third, and perhaps most important, they can have detrimental health effects on the little bodies of our kids. Hopefully that perks your ears a bit.

A 2012 meta-analysis on studies related to artificial colors and hyperactivity in children found a positive correlation, meaning that food dyes were linked to over-active behavior. In 2007, even before this, a study in the UK showed an increase in hyperactivity in children consuming artificial colors, prompting the government to require labeling and warnings on products. Based on similar studies, Norway and Austria have banned them completely.

Additionally, newer research has shown that artificial colors can increase the risk for food sensitivities and leaky gut. Yikes! How you ask? Well, turns out that food dyes, when in the digestive tract, bind up some of your digestive enzymes, namely trypsin, which then inhibits the breakdown of proteins. These larger proteins ends up in the small intestine undigested, triggering inflammation, which then inflames the intestines and sets the stage for the immune system to over-react to foods. You also increase the risk for malabsorption and other conditions related to leaky gut (poor digestion, body aches, eczema, neurological issues, etc). Not good for our kids.

Personal story alert . My one experience with the detrimental effect of artificial colors is related to night terrors. Your kids ever have one of those? Oh man they are not fun. Imagine your 2 year old screaming in the middle of the night, eyes rolled back in their head, not even entirely awake, and nothing will calm him down. It's …

Jewish Holidays Are Biblical Festivals For God’s Church!

Religious Jews have celebrated God’s festivals for thousands of years. They were observing the biblical holy days long before the Church was brought into being. The Scriptures clearly prove that God entrusted the Jews with the preservation of God’s Law and sacred calendar (Genesis 49:10, Romans 9:4), and states this fact after the Church was founded (since some wrongly teach that it’s now the Church’s responsibility). Only the Jews out of all the tribes of Israel have faithfully kept God’s Word (Hosea 11:12). The Bible says it, so we should believe it, case closed!? Unfortunately not.

God used Herbert W. Armstrong to restore life to a dying Church (Revelation 3:1). It’s interesting that Herbert Armstrong restored 18 essential truths to His people. Why? Because the Jewish numerical value of 18 equals life. One of those truths restored concern the observance of God’s Holy Days.

Many have repented and forsaken their former pagan traditions to keep the biblical commands. But did God authorize Mr. Armstrong to determine when the holy days are to be kept? Did Jesus Christ reject the Jews and decide God’s Church would now be the custodian of His sacred calendar? After all, what’s the purpose of the calendar except to determine when the festivals are to be observed? No! Herbert W. Armstrong was to restore the knowledge of God’s holy days, not change the days the Jews have always kept them on. It was another religious organization that was prophesied to “think to change the times and the seasons.”

The Church of God celebrates every holy day on the same dates as the Jews except for Passover and Pentecost. If we can have the chutzpah to tell the Jews that they’re celebrating those days on the wrong days, then how can we rest assured that they’re not wrong about which day is the true Sabbath? The Sabbath and holy days stand or fall together. Either we trust God gave it to the Jews to accurately keep the correct days and dates, or we doubt God’s ability to keep His Word. Which is it?

Herbert W. Armstrong would’ve done well to recognize that God’s government has ordained the Jews to determine these particular matters. He should’ve just followed their example as to when to observe these biblical holy days, rather than to try and figure it out for himself. It wasn’t his responsibility!

I’ve read Herbert Armstrong originally kept Sivan 6 like the Jews for Shavuot/Pentecost. Later “he discarded the Jewish practice and established Monday as the proper day.” How ironic! How sad. Later he changed the day again he counted 50 from and kept pagan Sunday, but he was still counting from the wrong day. He unnecessarily became confused about which Sabbath was to be counted from. The Jewish religious authorities (that have prevailed) consistently agree that the Sabbath to count 50 from is the annual Sabbath, not the weekly Sabbath. The Pharisees — whom Christ said “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2-3) — whom GOD entrusted …

Weird Holidays

Throughout every day of the year, many people in the United States celebrate unique, strange, and weird holidays. Any person can apply to their respective government or to the United Nations in order to have a day formalized as a particular celebration. Unless the day is racist, sexist or otherwise hateful, it is usually considered as a special celebration. This freedom has led to some pretty strange holidays. Some interesting events, daily observances or weekly observances can also be celebrated as weird holidays.

Some of the interesting holidays in January are Happy Mew Year for Cats Day, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, Thomas Crapper Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, and Penguin Awareness Day.

Dump Your Significant Jerk Day, Weather Person's Day, Be Electrific Day, and Ferris Wheel Day are some weird observations of February.

In the month of March come Pig Day, Panic Day, Unique Names Day, National Children's Crafts Day, and Act Happy Day.

Weird holidays in April include Sorry Charlie Day, Blame Someone Else Day, Pecan Day, and Tweed Day.

Save the Rhino Day, Paranormal Day, and Kite Day are some of the weird holidays celebrated in the month of May.

Hug Your Cat Day, and Take Your Dog to Work Day come in June.

Weird holidays of July are I Forgot Day, Canada Day, and Country Music Day.

Sister's Day, Happiness Happens Day, and Professional Speakers Day are some August daily observations.

Labor Day and International Literacy Day are some in September.

Devil's Night, Internet Day, and Mother-in-Law Day come in October.

Among the weird holidays celebrated in November are All Hallows or All Saints Day, National Family Literacy Day, and Sadie Hawkins Day.

Coats for Kids Day, Special Education Day, and National Dice Day fall in December.

Bonza Bottler Day is a kind of fun holiday, which happens every month when a day and month coincide.

There are a fine number of websites or CDs providing a list of weird holidays and observations. These websites help to keep you informed about daily, weekly, monthly weird holidays and celebrations. Besides exact dates and list of the weird holidays, its history and holiday-related activities are also provided.

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