Monday, August 30, 2010

extending Armenian visa

My e-visa to Armenia had one obvious disadvantage - 21 days validity. My schedule changed and I had to extend it in immigration department. I was lucky to enjoy assistance of local colleague, otherwise I wouldn’t succeed in extending it for several reasons.
First, immigration department has no customer center, which means walking around the office and looking for appropriate room. Of course all information boards are in Armenian. Second, procedure is unclear (even for many department employees), so we visited several rooms asking for guidance. Third, application form is available in English and Armenian, but has to be filled out in Armenian. And now it’s time for a small quiz: what is the percentage of foreigners extending their visas and writing Armenian? Could it be more than 5%? I don’t think so...
Some time ago department had to understand that service designed for foreigners is obviously out of foreigners’ reach, so they appointed English-speaking clerk to support applicants. Of course not free of charge.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pirámide del Sol, Teotihuacán, Mexico

I climbed up to the top of piramide, enjoyed the view and realized, that I'm crazy afraid of walking down. There were no proper trails and stairs are very steep.
Thanks God for a kind Mexican, who volunteered to hold my hand on the way down. :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Japanese challenge, Japan

Simple things can be surprisingly complicated. AC remote controller with manual kept me busy for quite a while.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

luggage ownership proof

Luggage ownership check is a surprising procedure for many foreigners. Passengers need to show luggage sticker - otherwise airport security will not let them exit the airport. I noticed it is a common practice in former Russian federation countries. But is probability of luggage theft really higher than everywhere in the world? I don’t think so…

Monday, August 23, 2010

entering Armenia

I came to Armenia with my online e-visa, not really believing that it will be accepted at passport control desk. I paid for it extra 10USD and duration was only 21 days (instead of regular 120 for visa issued at consulate or at the airport).
There were tens of people in front of passport control. It looked like 2-3 planes arriving at the same time early in the morning (it was around 4:30, I guess). Lane bands were almost useless - people were crowding, squeezing, trying to sneak below bands, just to be first. Foreigners could be easily recognized in the crowd - a bit shocked and surprised every time someone appeared out of nowhere just in front of them in the queue, behaving like being there from the very beginning. One Armenian protested when another Armenian tried to sneak through and after short and emotional exchange of opinions they started to poke each other.
I finally reached passport control and officer started carefully examine my visa and passport. It took longer than in case of other passengers, so I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. But finally he stamped my passport, entered all data into computer and wrote on the piece of paper in front of him: “Poland - 1”. (local statistics seems to be still paper-based :) ). I officially entered Armenia.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

planning your safari in Kenya

Kenya has many National Parks, that are worth visiting while having safari. Very popular routes are taking tourists to parks on the South. Mombasa and Nairobi are considered starting or ending points.
I took it as well and from my experience I strongly recommend starting the trip im Mombasa and visiting Natipnal Parks going West: Tsavo, Amboseli, Nakuru, and finally Masai Mara and Nairobi. Why this way? The truth is that Masai Mara is the most spectacular place. If you start with it, most probably you will be bored or disappointed with all others.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Via Francigena

Via Francigena is one of Europe's longest pilgrimage routes. It's 1610 km long, starting in England and ending in Rome.
Few people are aware, that you can take this route as pilgrimage or just trekking. Thanks to EU funds the route was upgraded and equipped with information boards and marks. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

inside Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Atomium is a huge construction built for EXPO held in Brussels. Nowdays it is interesting spot on a city map. Most of it is accessible for visitors. You will find inside elevator, escalators and stairs. Taking escalators can be compared to entering deepest metro stations in Moscow. Not recommended for people suffering from claustrofobia! :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

safety instructions for safari, Kenya

While entering Tsavo National Park, safety instructions are communicated in a very straightforwad manner. Major rule is: stay in the car. And sometimes it is also better to close windows and roof, as angry animals could try to get some food (meaning you) from the can (meaning car)...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stained-glass windows in castle hill cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

I must admit that first time in my life I saw such a spectacular effect of stained-glass windows. All columns in cathedrals were covered with colorful lights. Dark and serious interior got completly new look and spirit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Budapest by night, Hungary

I arrived to Budapest late in the evening, and already on the way to my hotel I felt in love with it. This city is exceptionally beautiful by night. And for sure is aware of its charm. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding your way in Seoul, South Korea

I suppose, that reaching some places in Seoul without GPS is almost impossible.
First, I realized that all maps in subway ignore completely world directions - matching them with guidebook maps is quite a challenge. And source of serious confusion.
Second, some streets seem not to have names. But they are there. :)
Third, buildings are numbered according to building permit approvals, which means the younger the building, the higher the number. This also means that you will see building 21 close to 150, which doesn’t make sense to most of foreigners. And creates even more confusion.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mount Nebo, Jordan

Mount Nebo was the first and the last place I visited during my long stay in Jordan.
There is something magic there - maybe a view, maybe silence and a wind, maybe mystic atmosphere...?
It's one of places, that I would like to visit once again in my life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Desert safari, Dubai, UAE

Desert safari is a "must-do" when you visit Dubai. Crazy rollercoster drive, great dunes views and relaxing evening with food and music. Plus sleeping on a desert, if you have time.
But I recommend going for a safari with reputable company. It is common to see stupid drivers, who got stuck in sand.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cascade in Yerevan, Armenia

Cascade is a huge monument on the hill in Yerevan. Construction started in 70s and never ended. Few years ago they decided to extend it, but progress seem to rather slow (you can see cranes at the picture). Museum on top of Cascade is expected to open in 2010. But nobody knows how financial crisis will influence the schedule.
Initial purpose of the place was a monument. A big one... Very soviet-style way of expressing greatness of the nation - spent a lot of money for covering the hill with concrete.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kung-fu show in Red Theatre in Beijing, China

"The Legend of Kung Fu" is one of the most popular productions of Red Theatre. It has been recognized the best martial arts dance production in China in 2005. After 4 years performance is still attractive for tourists and local people - hall is almost full every day.

I've been surprised to see during the performance not only martial art and a bit of acrobatics, but also nice choreography (including excellent ballet scene), good scenography, lights and music. Shortly speaking - well done theatre production.
Second surprise was related to age of actors/ performers. There is a group of very young boys showing incredible flexibility, energy, and balance, and excellent kung-fu skills. I suppose they started training at the age of 5 or less. There is even special training center - Beijing Shaolin Martial Arts School - that is focused on this kind of education. Students and graduates of this school participated in Beijing Olympics 2008 opening ceremony.