Monthly Archives: October 2019

Hola Jinks

Hola Jinks
Hola Jinks

Hi Jinks (Druk Hotel, Wogzin Lam, Clock Tower Square, Thimphu) — Druk Hotel’s on-site bar is a dimly-lit space that has a lot of character. Early arrivals might be able to score one of the incredibly inviting armchairs by the bar, and proceed to indulge in a drink a two (the drink list features a selection of cocktails and wines).

Club Ace

Club Ace
Club Ace

Club Ace (Phenday Lam, Thimphu) — if you love to dance at nightclubs than this is the best place for you to put your dancing shoes on my friend. Once known as the “Big Bang Club”, Club Ace is one of the most famous nightclubs in Thimphu which is full of energy along with a dancing atmosphere. Electronic music, beautiful lighting and youthful atmosphere are the major points of attraction in Club Ace. Locals, as well as tourists, love to visit here when they are in the town. Club Ace is the perfect place for parties and get-togethers.

Zombala

Zombala
Zombala

Zombala (Phenday Lam, Hong Kong Market, Thimphu) — located in the middle of the market is the perfect place to charge your batteries after strolling out the markets of Thimphu. The place serves mouth-watering momos, the Ema Datshi with ingredients like mushrooms and chicken. The food is reasonably priced and there’s also an in-house-bar.

Hotel Ghasel

Hotel Ghasel
Hotel Ghasel

Hotel Ghasel (Hotel Ghasel, Nordzin Lam, Thimphu) – opened in 1997, this hotel is located by a popular local landmark (the Clock Tower Square). This was the first vegetarian restaurant that opened in the capital and serves both Bhutanese and Indian dishes, such as the vegetarian thali (a selection of small dishes, including rice and chutney), and masala dosa (a pancake made from rice batter, black lentils and a spicy potato stuffing).

Swiss Guest House

Swiss Guest House
Swiss Guest House

Swiss Guest House (Kharsumphe, Jakar, Chokor, Bumthang) – this restaurant got its name from the 1970s, when this location was frequented by Swiss nationals who were in the country working for Bhutan’s Dairy and Forest Project. This guest house is run by a Swiss-trained cheese maker, and (to no surprise) Swiss dishes are offered here, such as fondue, raclette, bratwurst, and zuri gschatzels (diced veal with mushrooms & cream).

Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá

 

Chichén Itzá (El Castillo pyramid)(Tulum, Yucatan – 179 km. west of Cancún) — some time before Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, this site was once a thriving Mayan city, considered one of the largest in existence. The pyramid that marks this location exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the northern Maya lowlands. The presence of central Mexican styles was once thought to have been representative of direct migration or even conquest from central Mexico, but most contemporary interpretations view the presence of these non-Maya styles more as the result of cultural diffusion. Due to its prominence, at least 1 million tourists visit it annually.

Along with the main attraction (El Castillo pyramid, a.k.a. Pyramid of Kukulkán), there are: Juego de Pelota (Main Ball Court), the North Temple, Temple of Jaguars, Tzompantli (Temple of the Skulls), Platform of the Eagles, Platform of Venus, Sacred Cenote, Temple of the Warriors, Tomb of the High Priest, and other Mayan ruins.

About Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura

The volcanic island of Fuerteventura (Spanish for “strong fortune”) is the second-largest of the Canary Islands (after Tenerife). Located about 100 km. off the North African coast, Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands – blessed with having the longest white sand beaches within that archipelago.

The Spaniards first settled in Fuerteventura during the early 1400s. However, since the island (along with other nearby Canary Islands) are geographically distant from mainland Spain and the Spanish crown in Madrid, Fuerteventura was subject to occasional pirate attacks, including one launched by North African Berbers in 1593 (who went as far inland as the capital), and the English in 1740 (which attempted but failed to take the Fuerteventura town of Tuineje), among others. No doubt, this and other Canary Islands were a port of call for successive waves of Spaniards en route to settle in the Americas – including Mexico and South America, and Cuba & Puerto Rico (when the two destinations were the last of Spain’s Latin American colonies in the 19th century).

With pirate attacks no longer being an issue by the 19th century, life at Fuerteventura became uneventful. Still, successive decades translated into limited commercial growth on the island (to commercial sea traffic). This remained the case well into the 20th century, until the Spanish government decided to build an airport at El Mattoral (just south of Puerto del Rosario — the island’s main town) in the late 1960s. With a functioning international airport, the Spanish authorities were able to tap into global commercial air travel as a solution to the island’s limited economic opportunities — with tourism being its engine of growth (especially from colder Northern European countries like the UK and Germany). As a result, the local population currently stands at 113,275 inhabitants, while 2.25 million tourists visited Fuerteventura in 2018 (according to surveyor Statista.com). That number is still modest, next to Gran Canaria (4.5 million visitors) and Tenerife (5.95 million visitors) in 2018.

Fuerteventura’s arid landscape meant that agriculture would always be a challenge, severely limiting the island’s population growth. Still, it made sense for Fuerteventura to turn to tourism for its economy, because the island is blessed with eternal Spring & Summer temperatures (meaning that it never goes below 15 degrees Celsius during the winter, nor rising above 30 degrees Celsius during the Summer). Its position in the sea means that trade winds usually keep hot Saharan winds away from Fuerteventura.

As a result, Fuerteventura is a great spot for windsurfers (especially those visiting Playa de Sotavento – on the southeast part of the island), along with Corralejo (a tourist enclave on the island’s north coast), and Costa Calma (which is not far from Sotavento). Other water activities pursued by visitors include traditional surfing, kite surfing and diving. Occasional windsurfing and kite surfing competitions are held at Fuerteventura, which literally puts it on the map among water sports enthusiasts.

About Brazil

Brazil
Brazil

Brazil was first discovered in 1500 when a fleet commanded by Portuguese diplomat Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived at a site between present-day Salvador and Rio de Janeiro called Porto Seguro. Since the Portuguese Empire’s priority was trade with the Far East, it didn’t bother to colonize the country until after 1530, when other European powers were threatening to claim Brazil for themselves.

Brazil got its name from the red wood found in its forests (pau-brasil) –which spurred for a time the lucrative international trade in that item (since it was used for making dyes). The early waves of Portuguese settlers first used indigenous Indian labor to establish plantations and settlements, but later turned to African slaves to help build a colony with a land mass the size of Europe.

By the end of 1600s, gold, emeralds and diamonds were discovered in the Brazilian province known as Minas Gerais (“general mines” in Portuguese) – which spurred development in that part of Brazil (with the arrival of skilled laborers from Europe, as well as fortune hunters). That region became responsible for shipping 30,000 pounds of gold a year to the Portuguese Empire in Lisbon. By 1763, Rio de Janeiro became the capital of Portuguese-ruled Brazil, and the colony’s economic importance to the Portuguese Empire was reinforced by its expanding list of exports (cotton, tobacco, and sugar). Brazil’s agrarian economy was expanded by the introduction of cattle ranching in the country’s interior.

In 1808, French conqueror Napoleon invaded Portugal, forcing that country’s monarch (Dom João VI), the Royal Portuguese family and their entourage to take refuge in Rio de Janeiro. For the next 14 years Rio de Janeiro was the capital of the Portuguese empire. At last, in 1821, the king returned to his native Portugal and left his son, Dom Pedro, to rule Brazil. The next year Dom Pedro, following the advice of José Bonifácio de Andrada, his minister of the interior, declared Brazil independent of Portugal.

Brazil was an independent empire from 1822 until 1889. Dom Pedro reigned for nine years, then turned over the throne to his 5-year-old son, Dom Pedro II, who became emperor in 1840 at age 14. Dom Pedro II ruled Brazil for 49 years, during which the nation became larger and richer. Wars with Argentina (1851-52) and Paraguay (1865-70) were settled peacefully. Railroads were built. Rubber from the Amazon jungle doubled foreign trade.

The early part of the 20th century was marked two phenomena: the emergence of a coffee and rubber-driven economy, and the wave of European immigrants (including Italians and Germans) that arrived in the country (with the encouragement of the Brazilian government). Still, the fall of world coffee prices during the Great Depression of the 1930’s brought new difficulties. In 1930, Brazil’s president was overthrown, and Getúlio Vargas became dictator. He patterned his government after the fascist regimes in Italy and Portugal. Vargas encouraged a spirit of nationalism and worked to boost the economy. Under his rule, living conditions improved and trade grew. During World War II (1939-45), Brazil fought on the side of the Allies and sent troops to Italy.

For many years after World War II, Brazil went through a series of military and civilian presidents. One of them (Juscelino Kubitschek of Minas Gerais) was responsible for creating the Brazilian state & bureaucracy as they’re known today – centered around the new capital of Brasilia in the country’s interior (which he established in 1960). Surrounded by tanks and technocrats, the Brazilian military brought about the “economic miracle” of the 1970s. However, it did not last. Their pharaonic projects — from hydroelectric and nuclear power plants to the conquest of the Amazon — never completely succeeded, and inflation soared. Power was to go peacefully back to civil hands in 1985.

During much of the 1980s, civilian rule was hampered by periods of hyperinflation (fueled by a debt crisis the government had with international creditors). Civilian politician Fernando Collor de Mello was elected president in 1990, promising to solve Brazil’s economic woes. However, rampant corruption under his rule resulted in Collor losing power two years later (1992). His then-Vice President Itamar Franco became the Brazilian head of state that year. Franco’s “Plano Real” finally brought the country’s runaway inflation under control.

Brazilian democracy entered a new phase when famed union leader Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva was elected President in 2002 (making him the country’s first working-class president). Despite his leftist background (which concerned the country’s business class), Lula’s presidency was marked by unprecedented economic growth. High prices for Brazilian commodities brought in sufficient revenues to finance social programs – with millions being lifted out of poverty. His protégé Dilma Rousseff became the first woman to be elected into the

MIAMI – THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Miami Nikki Beach
Miami Nikki Beach

The city of Miami is one of America’s younger metropolises. Located in the American state of Florida, that state (including the area now known as Miami) was originally settled by Spanish explorers in the 1560s. With that colonial power and Great Britain alternatively controlling it over the centuries, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. in 1821.

The city of Miami didn’t officially exist until 1896, with a population of just over 300. The city got its name from a river of the same name that ran through it. The name “Miami” is actually borrowed from the Mayaimi Indians who once lived some miles northwest of the city, toward Lake Okeechobee.

After going through a wave of prosperity during the 1920s, which first made Miami a vacation destination and a site for real estate development, the local economic suffered during the Depression in the 1930s. World War II, though, gave the Miami area an economic boost, since the U.S. military built a base there to defend that part of the country against German U-boat submarine attacks. By 1940, Miami’s population grew to over 170,000 residents.

Perhaps the biggest impact toward the city’s future was the Cuban Revolution of the late 1950s, which resulted in a large exodus of middle and upper class Cuban professionals who relocated mainly into the Miami area. Since then, the Cuban exile presence, as well as latter waves of middle and upper class individuals from other Latin countries helped make the city into the unofficial “capital of Latin America”. By the 1980s, they helped turn Miami into a major export center for goods being shipped into various Latin countries. Because of the economic instability of some of those countries (especially during the Latin debt crisis of the 1980s), wealthy Latins and companies based in South America felt more comfortable conducting their banking with Miami (given the U.S. banking law’s protections of depositors’ funds against bank failures). This gave the Miami area’s banking sector a huge boost, which it still enjoys to this day.

The city’s designation as the “unofficial capital of Latin America” was reinforced by the presence of studios for Spanish-language U.S. networks Telemundo, Univisión and Telefutura, as well as producing soap operas (“novelas”) and news programming for audiences in various Latin countries. That, as well as over 1,400 U.S. companies setting up the headquarters of their Latin American operations there (especially in Brickell Avenue – Miami’s answer to New York’s 5th Avenue, as well as in the wealthy Miami district known as Coral Gables).

By the 1990s, Miami began attracting hip young European vacationers (especially to Miami Beach). Them, along with American, Latin and other visitors, helped make Miami a popular tourist destination. Miami Beach benefited the most from this upsurge in tourism, since that once run-down part of the city went through a revival – complete with various hotel groups buying and renovating formerly abandoned Art Deco-style buildings, high-end retailers like Armani setting shop there, and trendy nightspots like Club Liquid and Crobar attracting celebrities like Madonna and designer Gianni Versace (who once owned a mansion in South Beach, before his untimely death in 1997).

A local magazine, Ocean Drive, helped make Miami a fashion center of the U.S., due to its steady features of top-name fashion models, as well as its success in promoting Miami as a luxury lifestyle destination (complete with marketing the million-dollar condo apartments that were being built in South Florida at the time). Thanks to a construction boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Miami’s skyline was transformed, ranking it the third most impressive in America – just after New York and Chicago.

Along with this land activity, its shoreline and air space were also very busy. The Port of Miami is the world’s busiest cruise ship port (with major cruise ship companies headquartered there), and Miami International Airport is the busiest airport in Florida — with the city being the largest gateway between the USA and Latin America.

These days, Miami attracts over 38 million visitors a year, spending an estimated US$17 billion. Miami’s status as a major American tourist destination is confirmed by the city hosting various world-class events, ranging from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Miami, to Art Basel, and even the electronic music events “Winter Music Conference” and “Ultra Music Festival” (which attract the “who’s who” of the international dance music scene, along with various record labels and radio stations).