Thursday, September 10, 2009

MUST Tour in These PLaCeS

Most Interesting Places in the World

Chobe National Park, Botswana

I've only spent one day in Botswana, but that was an exciting visit to the Chobe National Park on a day trip from our base on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. The park is named after the Chobe River on the country's northern boundary, but it covers a massive 11,700 sq km of dusty plains, woodland, savanna and forested floodplain. It is home to an exciting variety of large mammals and over 450 bird species and is renowned for having the highest concentration of elephants in Africa with anything like an amazing 60,000-80,000.
The birds we spotted included the long-legged African jacana, the long-necked African darter, the long-legged and long-necked white egret, the wire-tailed swallow, bee eaters, a goliath heron, male and female fish eagles, lots of blacksmith plovers, a yellow-billed stork, and open-billed storks flying in formation. The animals we saw included lots of male impalas, red waterbucks - noted for the circle on their rump - and red lechwe (both types of antelope), pukus and a kudo (another two types of antelope), some buffalo, a water lizard, a warthog and its baby, a large female crocodile guarding its eggs, and

group of hippos on land. And, of course, lots of elephants ...

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The night before my visit to Ha Long Bay was spent in a hospital in the city of Hai Phong nursing a black eye and other bruising after passing out in my hotel. I discharged myself as soon as dawn broke and before being checked by a doctor because I had no intention of missing the group's tour of Ha Long Bay.
The name Ha Long means 'descending dragon' and the legend is that the bay was cut from the rocks as an enormous beast thrashed its way to the depths. It covers around 1,500 square metres with 2,969 rocky limestone islands (980 of them with names and 2
0 of them inhabited). The bay in the Gulf of Tonkin is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some 400 tourist boats plough the waters but, so immense is the bay, that one's own trip still feels very personal. The weather that morning was quite misty, but the experience was nevertheless magical and mysterious.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil/Argentina

During a three-week trip to South America in 2001, Vee and I spent about 24 hours at the sensational Iguassu Falls. Iguassu means Great Waters in Guaraní (which is the language spoken by many in Paraguay). After 800 miles gathering anger across Brazil, the Falls are located at conjunction of Brazil (north), Argentina (south) and Paraguay (east), with the actual cataracts shared by Brazil and Argentina.
Vee and I had both seen Niagara Falls twice and had been incredibly impressed, but Iguassu Falls are just so much more awe-inspiring. First, they are quite simply bigger, being twice as wide and taller by 20 metres. They are more than 2 km across and more than 70 metres high with a total of 275 individual cataracts. Second, the area is not just about the water - impressive though that is - it is a sub-tropical reservoir of an amazing diversity of fauna and flora. There are about 350 types of birds and 2,000 species of plants in the National Park. Thirdly - and wonderfully for tourists - there is an incredible system of walkways thaDown at the river, we donned bright orange life jackets and boarded a bi-motor rubber dinghy for a ride up to the Falls themselves. This is not the experience at Niagara Falls where around a hundred people board the "Maid of the Mist" wearing plastic macs because of the spray. This is much more personal - about 20 people speed into the very heart of the Falls and are totally drenched.
After staying overnight on the Brazilian side of the Falls, next morning we drove over the bridge into Argentina, a very easy and informal process. As on the Brazilian side, the Argentinean side has a system of walkways that give visitors wonderful views. There is a lower walkway of 1,100 km and a higher walkway of 1,000 km.
The Argentinean walkways, though, are made of metal grills and run much closer to the water. Down every slope, round every corner, and up every ramp we witnessed another glorious view, another fascinating vista, another inspiring scene, so we took photographs endlessly. It was pointed out to us where Roland Joffé did his location shooting for the film . I could hear in my head the film's haunting theme "On Earth As It Is In Heaven" written by Ennio Morricone. On the Argentinean side, it is easier to see a variety of wildlife from the walkways and we observed a toucan with a magnificently coloured beak, a lizard and lots of swifts, jays, vultures and other birds.
The highlight of the morning in Argentina, though, was the visit to the most violent and fearsome of the Falls' 275 cataracts known as Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). This involves a short drive round to the edge of the Falls, a short boat ride out to a flimsy bridge, and then a precarious walk the length of the bridge (it was swept away in the floods of 1983 and 1992). At this point, one is standing on a platform looking into the very throat of the Devil and the power of the water is mesmerising. One's ears are pounded by the roar of the cataract and one's eyes are caught by the swifts darting into the spray.t enables one to feel a very part of the Falls and almost enter into them. From this network of concrete walkways, we had stunning views of the Falls and many opportunities to see exotically-decorated butterflies. The final section of these walkways on the Brazilian side of the Falls takes one above some of the water flows which is very wet and very exciting. Everywhere there were bright rainbows that seemed to follow you as you moved.

Los Angles

The Los Angeles coastal area was first settled by the Tongva and Chumash Native American tribes thousands of years ago.

The first Europeans arrived in 1542 in an expedition organized by the viceroy of New Spain and commanded by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese-born explorer who claimed the area of southern California for the Spanish Empire. However, he continued with his voyage up the coast and did not establish a settlement.

The next contact would not come until 227 years later, when Gaspar de Portola, along with Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi, reached the present site of Los Angeles on August 2, 1769. Crespí noted that the site had the potential to be developed into a large settlement.
In 1771, Franciscan friar Junípero Serra built the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel near Whittier Narrows, in what is now called San Gabriel Valley. In 1777, the new governor of California, Felipe de Neve, recommended to Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursua, viceroy of New Spain, that the site noted by Juan Crespí be developed into a pueblo. The town was officially founded on September 4, 1781, by a group of forty-four settlers known as "Los Pobladores". Tradition has it that on this day they were escorted by four Spanish colonial soldiers, two priests from the Mission and Governor de Neve. The town was named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los angeles del Rio de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the Porciúncula River). These pueblo settlers came from the common Hispanic culture that had emerged in northern Mexico among a racially mixed society. Two-thirds of the settlers were mestizo or mulatto, and therefore, had African and Indian ancestry. More importantly, they were intermarrying. The settlement remained a small ranch town for decades, but by 1820 the population had increased to about 650 residents. Today, the pueblo is commemorated in the historic district of Los Angeles Pueblo Plaza and Olvera Street, the oldest part of Los Angeles

The people of Los Angeles are known as Angelenos.Nighttime hot spots include

places such as Downtown Los Angeles, Silver Lake, Hollywood, and West Hollywood, which is the home of the world-famous Sunset Strip.
Some well-known shopping areas are the Hollywood and Highland complex, the Beverly Center, Melrose Avenue, Robertson Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, The Grove, Westside Pavilion, Westfield Century City, The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center and Venice Boardwalk.


Built in 1956, the Los Angeles California Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the second largest Mormon temple in the world
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles leads the largest archdioces. in the country. Cardinal Roger Mahony oversaw construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, completed in 2002 at the north end of downtown. Construction of the cathedral marked a coming of age of the Catholic, heavily Latino community. There are numerous Catholic churches and parishes throughout the city.
The Los Angeles California Temple, the second largest temple operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is on Santa Monica Boulevard in the Westwood district of Los Angeles. Dedicated in 1956, it was the first Mormon temple built in California and it was the largest in the world when completed. The grounds includes a visitors' center open to the public, the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center, also open to the public, and the headquarters for the Los Angeles mission.
With 621,000 Jews in the metropolitan area (490,000 in city proper), the region has the second largest population of Jews in the United States. Many synagogues of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements can be found throughout the city. Most are located in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. The area in West Los Angeles around Fairfax and Pico Boulevards contains a large number of Orthodox Jews. The Breed Street Shul in East Los Angeles, built in 1923, was the largest synagogue west of Chicago in its early decades. (It is no longer a sacred space and is being converted to a museum and community center.) The Kabbalah Centre, devoted to one line of Jewish mysticism, is also in the city.


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