Da Nang, VietNam – the Golden Bridge


Click to enlargeBored Panda

❝ A new bridge that’s opened outside of Da Nang, Vietnam — aptly named the “Golden Bridge” — has quickly staked its claim to being one of the most stunning bridges on Earth.

❝ The Golden Bridge, which sits about 4,600 feet above sea level in the Bà Nà hills, is designed to look like it’s being held up by two massive stone hands.

The golden walkway supported by the hands extends on a curve that stretches nearly 500 feet long and is lined with purple lobelia chrysanthemums while offering stunning views of the Vietnamese countryside below…

❝ A 2017 report published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization ranked Vietnam’s tourism growth seventh globally, and Vietnam was the only country in Southeast Asia to reach the top ten on that list.

When I started blogging several years ago, my boss was/is a tech journalist with a global reputation. Since I was already retired, I asked him where in the world did he think was the best place to live as a retiree, fixed income, the usual American constraints. One answer. VietNam.

I haven’t moved; but, if I did, it is likely I’d check out his suggestion. Especially somewhere in the vicinity of Da Nang. In addition to the tourism plans noted in this article, business growth should be phenomenal over the next decade. You see, Da Nang will be a dual interchange in China’s ONE BELT, ONE ROAD blueprint for global trade. Both a seaport link and a rail link.

Restoring historic neon signs in New Mexico

❝ There are nine new reasons to rediscover Route 66 in New Mexico. In 2003, nine vintage Route 66 neon signs have been restored to their former brilliance. From the wonderful TeePee Curio Shop sign in Tucumcari, to the wild and crazy neon Rotosphere in Moriarty, to the elegant Lexington Hotel sign in Gallup, the beauty and artistry of classic neon is once again dazzling and delighting Route 66 enthusiasts.

❝ There was a time when Mercury Meteors, Olds Rocket 88s, and the Pontiac Star Chiefs would trek through a galaxy of neon on Route 66. The streets with illuminated with a palette of ruby reds, sapphire blues, and emerald greens that broadcast promises of adventure, discovery, and gratification. Neon cowboys, Indians, sombreros, teepees, cactus, longhorn steers, thunderbirds, swallows, wiener dogs, ponies, and other critters and characters would come out at night to greet visitors. Places with neon lit names like the Bow and Arrow, the Royal Palacio, the Pig Stand, the Lariat, the Oasis, the Arrowhead, the Desert Sun, and the Trails West called out with invitations to stop and experience something unique.

RTFA. Just another reason traveling around our state remains fun. Sign restorations continue as do restorations on any old motel that comes up for sale.

Trump affects America’s tourist business the way we expected


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❝ Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan, has become a modern-day Mount Vernon. Tourists have long visited George Washington’s homestead. Now they venture through Trump Tower’s brass doors to ogle the decor—“it’s so gold,” said a German teenager standing near the lobby’s waterfall on a recent afternoon—or buy souvenirs. The Choi family, visiting from South Korea, wandered the marble expanse with their new “Make America Great” hats (three for $50).

❝ The question for America’s hoteliers and airlines is whether such visitors are just anomalies. A strong dollar is one reason for foreigners to avoid visiting America. Donald Trump may prove another, suggests a growing collection of data. Yet measuring the precise impact of Mr Trump’s presidency on travel is difficult. In addition to the currency effect, many trips currently being taken to America were booked before his election. Marriott, a big hotel company, reported an overall increase, compared with a year earlier, in foreign bookings in America in February.

But Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s boss, has voiced concern about a potential slump in tourism. In February, ForwardKeys, a travel-data firm, reported that in the week after Mr Trump first tried to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, international bookings dropped by 6.5% against the same period in 2016. Hopper, a travel app, found that average daily searches for flights to America have declined in 99 countries since Mr Trump tried to issue his travel ban, compared with the last weeks of Barack Obama’s term. Russia is one of the few places where demand has risen…Tourism Economics, a forecaster, expects 2 million fewer foreign visits to America this year, a 1% drop from 2016. Without Mr Trump it had expected a 3% jump…

❝ The industry has been here before. International tourism in America slumped by around 3% each year from 2000 to 2006. Most analysts blame not only the attacks of 2001 but stricter visa rules and anti-American sentiment abroad. Countries that had the dimmest view of America, according to surveys during that period, tended to see drops in travellers there, says Adam Sacks of Tourism Economics. “We are facing a potential rerun,” he says…

I’m not surprised. Are you? I expect the most insular, if not xenophobic of Trump voters will think the question unimportant. Some people hate realtors. Some people hate travel agents. Usually for not very well thought-out reasons.

Ain’t any Trump Bump in tourism!

❝ TRUMP Tower, in midtown Manhattan, has become a modern-day Mount Vernon. Tourists have long visited George Washington’s homestead. Now they venture through Trump Tower’s brass doors to ogle the decor—“it’s so gold,” said a German teenager standing near the lobby’s waterfall on a recent afternoon—or buy souvenirs. The Choi family, visiting from South Korea, wandered the marble expanse with their new “Make America Great” hats (three for $50).

The question for America’s hoteliers and airlines is whether such visitors are just anomalies. A strong dollar is one reason for foreigners to avoid visiting America. Donald Trump may prove another, suggests a growing collection of data. Yet measuring the precise impact of Mr Trump’s presidency on travel is difficult. In addition to the currency effect, many trips currently being taken to America were booked before his election. Marriott, a big hotel company, reported an overall increase, compared with a year earlier, in foreign bookings in America in February.

❝ But Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s boss, has voiced concern about a potential slump in tourism. In February, ForwardKeys, a travel-data firm, reported that in the week after Mr Trump first tried to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, international bookings dropped by 6.5% against the same period in 2016. Hopper, a travel app, found that average daily searches for flights to America have declined in 99 countries since Mr Trump tried to issue his travel ban, compared with the last weeks of Barack Obama’s term. Russia is one of the few places where demand has risen…Tourism Economics, a forecaster, expects 2m fewer foreign visits to America this year, a 1% drop from 2016. Without Mr Trump it had expected a 3% jump…

America’s main tourism lobby group is now urging Mr Trump, who presumably has some sympathy with other hoteliers, to emphasise that the country continues to welcome foreign visitors despite all the new security measures. The tourism agency for New York city, NYC & Company, is trying to counteract negative rhetoric from Washington, DC with advertisements in Britain, Germany, Mexico and Spain.

A bit more detail in the article. I wouldn’t expect any of this to be unexpected. George W gave us a similar present. And he was less boorish, less of an Ugly American.

Conservative PM in Oz has references to climate change removed from UN report


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The lead author of a major UN report on climate change has expressed his shock that every reference to Australia was removed from the final version, following intervention from the Australian government.

Guardian Australia on Friday revealed that chapters on the Great Barrier Reef and sections on Kakadu and Tasmanian forests were removed from the World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report, following the Australian Department of Environment’s objection that the information could harm tourism.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which jointly published the report with the United Nations environment program and Unesco, published an independent statement on the reef this morning.

“The biggest threat to the GBR today, and to its ecosystems services, biodiversity, heritage values and tourism economy, is climate change, including warming sea temperatures, accelerating rates of sea level rise, changing weather patterns and ocean acidification.”

Adam Markham of the UCS, the lead author of the report, said he was “really disappointed” by the revelation that parts of the document had been excised.

He also noted that with the removal of every mention of Australia went a number of positive stories about research and safeguards, including the protected area management strategies being tested to make Australian world heritage sites more resilient to change.

Australia has a good story to tell about its climate science and it should tell it,” he said.

It never ends, does it. We had conservative thugs like George W in the US – and Harper in Canada – condemned by the world of science journalism for their creepy efforts at censorship. They think no one will notice, no one will stick a finger in their eye and point out their deceit.

Thanks, Honeyman

Schmallenberg cattle virus – the town at ground zero – UPDATED

Somewhere among the dairy farms and forested hillsides of Schmallenberg, a picturesque district of 26,000 people in central Germany, a deadly new virus was born.

Or at least, that’s where it was first noticed a month before Christmas by scientists who examined a dead, new-born lamb with terrible deformities, on one of the 100 or so farms in the area. As is common in the world of science, the disease was named after the locality…

In the past few years Schmallenberg has made the best of its natural advantages to market itself very successfully as a healthy place for holidays close to nature. Since 2010 the town hall has worked hard to help farmers’ wives develop a lucrative sideline in farm stays where city families can enjoy life on a real working farm.

Becoming ground zero in an international disease outbreak has put all this in doubt. At the same time the livelihood of farmers who have lost lambs has been threatened.

By no means every farm has been hit, but there have been casualties, with affected farms losing as many as one in four of their new-born lambs and in some cases even 50 per cent…

Although plenty of farmers are prepared to talk openly about the virus, nobody will say exactly where in Schmallenberg it was first detected. The mayor said he did not know which farm was the first.

The mayor proudly pointed out that his town was founded in 1244. “Not much has happened since then,” he said with a wry grin. “Until now…”

“It was November 22,” Mr Halbe said, referring to the date when the disease was named after the town. The first cases were found in August.

As the scientists examined the corpse of the first dead lamb, the initial worry was that the disease could infect humans, through contact with farm animals or eating them. To everyone’s relief, that was deemed unlikely, although health agencies in Germany are still carefully monitoring farmers and vets who come into contact with infected herds.

The disease seems to move between species. Goats have been affected, and even bison. Scientists think adult cows have suffered fever and a drastic reduction in milk production, although so far none seem to have died from it…

Nowhere do Germans hope more fervently that the virus will fade away and quickly be forgotten. Then Schmallenberg can have its name back.

RTFA for the gory details – if you care to. The sort of disease particularly disturbing because it attacks in the womb.

UPDATE: The virus has crossed France and arrived in England. 74 farms in the UK affected, so far.

Chernobyl could become tourists’ “Nuclear Disneyland”. WTF??

Ukraine says it will lift restrictions on tourism in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 2011, formally opening the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident to visitors.

[The] Chernobyl nuclear power plant … exploded and burned in 1986.

Background radiation in the accident zone is still well above normal. But far from being a wasteland, wildlife has rebounded in the exclusion zone and trees are reclaiming the ghost city of Pripyat, said Mary Mycio, author of “Wormwood Forest”…

Currently, guides from the Chernobyl Zone Authority take about 20 to 30 people into the exclusion zone a day during the summers, said Yuri Rozgoni, whose Toronto-based travel agency, Ukrainianweb, books tours to the site.

Guides monitor radiation levels and “know where the people can go and where the people cannot go,” he said.

Mycio said tourists should wear “something that you wouldn’t mind leaving behind in case it does get dirty.” But most radioactive material has sunk into the soil…

“The only concern I would have is if too many people come in and it becomes this nuclear Disneyland,” Mycio said.

Uh, o.k.

Mecca as religious souk: the hajj has become big business

The arid landscape hugging the Jeddah-Mecca highway used to hold little appeal. But now travellers can marvel at the fantastical structure rearing out of the otherwise unforgiving landscape, clearly visible from 25 miles away.

The new 485-metre-high Mecca clocktower would bear a remarkable resemblance to Big Ben, were it not for the gold crescent and Arabic calligraphy adorning it, and represents a new era for Mecca, symbolising the dizzying vision and growth of the religious tourism industry in Saudi Arabia.

An estimated 2.5 million Muslims began the annual hajj pilgrimage today and the total number of tourists to Mecca and Medina, home to the prophet Muhammad, is expected to rise from about 12 million to almost 17 million by 2025.

The clocktower is part of a project that buckles under the weight of its own statistics. Abraj al-Bait, a complex of luxury hotels, malls and apartments, has an estimated value of $3bn, a built-up area of 1.4m sq metres, 15,000 housing units and 70,000 sq metres of retail space…

The level of pampering offered by some of the hotels – Asprey toiletries, 24-hour butler service, $270 chocolate selections – may jar with the ethos of sacrifice, simplicity and humility of hajj but it is not a contradiction felt by the customers snapping up royal suites at $5,880 a night, eating gelato or milling around hangar-like lobbies of polished marble in their Hajj clothing of bedsheets, towels or burqas. Raffles is reporting 100% occupancy for it 211 rooms.

Helal said: “As long as you do what you have to do for the hajj, it does not mean you have to eat bread or lobster, or sleep on a bed or the floor. It is not for me to say how people should stay when they get here…”

Business reports conclude that Saudi tourism, especially the religious variety, is recession proof. The government’s commission for tourism and antiquities said revenue from tourism this year would reach $17.6bn, then almost double again by 2015.

RTFA. As usual, religion is big business around the world. The landlords of Islam are no less greedy than the Baptist educators of the whole person. You get what you pay for – is still the slogan.