Jordan Trail: A trek through history via ancient villages and wild wadis

(CNN)Picture the Appalachian Trail in California, or the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

That’s the Jordan Trail, and only a slice of it.
The 650-kilometer trail takes about 40 days to complete, starting at the northern tip of Jordan in the city of Umm Qais and ending in Aqaba in the south, where hikers meet the country’s only coastline.
    Jordan is more than just desert, and the cross-section of the nation that the Jordan Trail cuts through is a tour de force in diversity.

    ‘Unique experience’

    Hikers move through four ecosystems, defined by lush and fertile valleys in the north, then on to rugged canyons along the Dead Sea, waterfalls and hot springs in the semi-arid central regions, and finally towards the famed Wadi Rum desert in the south.
    The trail takes old Roman and Ottoman roads through Petra, the Nabatean city that is as famed as it is mystical, and which dates back to about 300 BC. Today, it’s the postcard picture of Jordan.
    Officially opened in February 2017, the Jordan Trail is being billed as a new tourism initiative pegged on inclusivity. The route features 52 local villages, which hikers use as points of lodging, providing business opportunities for towns newly introduced to the tourism trade.
    Trekker Olivia Mason, 25, from Glasgow, Scotland — among the trail’s first hikers — says the route opens up new experiences.
    “We stayed with one family in Khirbet Al Souq and we were only their second guests,” she tells CNN.
    “They gave us their whole house to sleep in and moved in with relatives nearby. We talked with the family about their lives and the area, and in the morning we watched the children go to school in their uniforms. It is these encounters that make the trail a really unique way to experience Jordan.”

    New tourism

    Often classified as an adventure trail, the tour is more suitable for those in strong physical condition, but is still open to a large range of hikers.
    Mahmoud Bdoul, one of the guides along the Jordan Trail, has been taking tourists through Petra for 10 years, and says the trail offers a great escape from the trappings of modernity.
    “When you complete the trail and arrive in Aqaba, you realize the noise of cars has been absent from your life for a month,” Mahmoud said last year after doing the first technical walk-through for the hike.

    Mahmoud was born in a cave in Petra and his Bedouin upbringing introduced him to the peace of the desert at an early age.
    “I spent two years living in the cave where I was born until 1985 when Petra became a UNESCO heritage site,” he says. “The government made an agreement with my Bedouin clan and we moved out of the caves to a new village built on the north side of Petra.”
    Mahmoud’s village became one of the first beneficiaries of the tourism trade in Jordan.
    “The people in my village, as traditional Bedouins, used to depend on goat-herding and growing agricultural crops, such as parsley, wheat and olives,” he adds.
    As a student of sustainable tourism, Mahmoud believes the most vivid memories hikers will take away will be of the people they meet.
    “Visitors will be surprised with the hospitality of Jordanians,” says Mahmoud. “The trail really lets the trekkers enjoy dealing directly with locals in their Jordanian environment, seeing them in their villages and experiencing their daily lives.”
    As Mason completes one of the first publicly open walk-throughs of the trail, she’s living the experience first-hand.
    “There is so much history throughout the trail, of course including Petra, but also sites such as Ajloun Castle, Karak Castle and Iraq Al Amir,” she says.
    “But the culture, too, shines, whether through the homestays where local food is always eaten or people that always welcome you into their home.
    “Everyone always says that if you stopped for everyone who offered a cup of tea on the trail, you’d never finish.”

    Jordan Trail highlights

    Um Qais
    This northernmost point of the Jordan Trail sets hikers off into a panorama that isn’t often associated with the country, let alone the Middle East.
    Verdant forests filled with the sounds of birds and farm animals greet your early footsteps along the route.
    The northeast corner of the nation is where most of the country’s population is located and there are lots of villages along the way, as well as Bedouin herders who mush their goats and sheep with authority.
    This region is truly the most representative of the overall Jordanian population, yet the least known to foreigners.
    Wadi Mujib
    This wadi — the Arabic word for valley — cuts through a central section of the Three Wadis region and opens up on to the Dead Sea.
    The area is a designated reserve, and contains a number of migratory bird species that are popular among bird-spotters.
    During the spring and summer seasons, Wadi Mujib’s canyons fill with water, creating mild rapids you can float down.
    Wadi Hasa
    In south-central Jordan, hikers pass through Wadi Hasa, an area filled with limestone waterfalls and babbling brooks.
    The water from these rivers is used by local farmers, who can be seen growing a host of vegetables, including tomatoes and melons.
    Wadi Hasa also has historical value. The valley, known in Hebrew as Zered, is mentioned in the Torah and the Old Testament, especially the books of Deuteronomy and Numbers, as the place where the Israelites camped on their final approach to Moab.
    Petra and Wadi Rum
    The crown jewels of Jordan’s tourism industry, Petra and Wadi Rum are the highlight of Jordan’s southern desert heartland.
    Here, geology is a natural form of art that shows off its dazzling skills in swirls of sandstone painted in russet palettes on rocks.
    Homestays in Jordan have traditionally been most popular here, where visitors can camp out with Bedouins and ride camels across the mountainous desert of Wadi Rum, living out their own personal reenactment of “Lawrence of Arabia” (which was also filmed here).

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/17/travel/jordan-trail-trekking-highlights/index.html

    Can this slow dating app work in our modern, fast-swipe era?

    Image: appetence / mashable composite 

    Speed is of the essence in our modern age of fast-swipe online dating. So much so that the process of swiping, matching, and chatting can feel like a race to to that great (or not so great, depending) finish line we call a date.

    But a brand new dating app wants people to take things slow real slow, in fact using the ancient art of conversation to seduce matches. It’s pretty groundbreaking stuff for those getting by with the odd “DTF?” message on Tinder.

    Appetence, which is free to download on iOS from the iTunes store and claims to be the world’s first “slow dating” app, forces users to talk to each other before they can see each other’s profile pictures.

    How so? Upon downloading the app, users are asked to select a bunch of their interests and tastes relating to music, gastronomy, movies, TV, books, and even pets. The app’s “slow matchmaking” algorithm then shows you compatible profiles based on your interests and search settings.

    Unlike Tinder, Bumble, and basically every other dating app out there, the app won’t just show you photos of your match. You have to earn that privilege by talking to them. When you first start conversing with your match, your profile photo appears entirely covered by a pattern.

    Image: rachel thompson / mashable

    Image: rachel thompson / mashable

    As you chat with your match you have the opportunity to like the messages or “encounters” they send you. The more you like, the more pieces of your profile photo are revealed. But it’s not easy. Your match needs 50 likes in order to see your full profile photo. And you, in return, need 50 likes to see theirs. Which means you’ll both need to have some serious banter.

    This slow approach to dating is certainly novel in a world where speedy swipes are based largely on profile photos, and you can kind of see the point: “Unfortunately, our society today promotes relationships with increasingly fragile ties. ‘Fast Dating’ has made many women and men tired of not feeling special,” says Appetence founder Camilla Forsell.

    “The conversations have become monotonous and similar, and having a ‘Match’ is no longer as exciting as the first few times,” Forsell continues, adding that she wants people to “seduce” one another using just “their way with words.” Hmmm.

    But, the real question is: Do people really have the time and patience to invest in a protracted conversation with someone you might not actually fancy? In the age of fast swiping, most of us just want to get in and get out of dating apps as soon as possible. And for most of us, actually seeing someone is part of that equation.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/10/slow-dating-app-appetence/

    book reviewing for fee

    Vanity Reviews Versus Fee-For-Review

    Probably one of the most controversial topics still in the book publishing industry is the idea of an author (or publicist) paying for a review of their book. It’s an offshoot of the self-publishing versus publishing industry argument that comes from the old vanity presses of the past.

    A vanity press, for the younger readers, was a publishing company that would charge an author for the entire print run of a book. The publisher might make attempts to sell the book, but their profit had already been taken in the print run of the book (and sometimes ongoing storage fees of the unsold books). The publisher often kept rights to the book, provided little to no support (cover design, marketing, etc.), or charged excessive fees for those services. The books usually didn’t go through an approval or editing process, the only things required being a manuscript and the money to pay the publisher.

    So, the stigma of the vanity press was a hold-over into the era of self-publishing. While many of the vanity press companies morphed into self-publishers, other companies truly did provide a cheap, effective way for an author to get a book into print and platforms to sell it to an audience apart from the traditional publishing route. And even with many self-publishing authors reaching best-seller status with their books, there still is, in the book industry, that same lingering stigma of the vanity press for self-publishers.

    Leading from that is the issue of paying for reviews. As more print publications reduced or eliminated their book sections, the competition for authors and publishers to get attention for books escalated. So, in 2001, ForeWord Reviews launched Clarion Reviews, which charged a fee to provide a review for a book. From there, fee-for-review services popped up, and with the rise of Amazon, services that would provide as many 5-star reviews for your book or product as you could afford.

    Over the years, paid review services have become more acceptable, though still controversial to some. Even Kirkus Reviews, the oldest book review service in the U.S., has a paid version for authors or publishers that can’t be reviewed through general submission. But the sigma of the vanity press has also rolled over into the fee-for-review programs. And in some cases, for good reason.

    For every professional review company offering a neutral, professional review for a fee, there is another company offering a glowing 5-star review for a fee. While they couch their program in vague generalities about placing a book with the perfect reader or that they only release 4- and 5-star reviews, they’re really just going to write up a review guaranteed to make the author happy. Kirkus reviewers have always been anonymous, so they have the freedom to say what they think without potential retribution, and because fee-for-reviews isn’t the primary income stream for Kirkus, they also don’t need an author to be happy with a glowing review so they’ll come back with the next book the author writes.

    Publisher’s Weekly moved away from their old PW Select program where self-published authors had to pay a fee to get a chance (25%) of a review, and now just charges authors for a database listing and some general promotion of their book within the PW and BookLife ecosystem.

    One good sign if a review program is more “vanity” than “fee:” does the company review any other books or only books they’re paid to review? Much like the vanity publishers whose only business model was being paid by authors to publish their book, not sell the book to bookstores or the public for the author, vanity review services only review books they’ve been paid to review. That creates both the impression that they’re only in the business of providing “feel good” reviews for authors and getting them to come back book after book, but also reduces the credibility of the review to bookstores, libraries, and other readers.

    Reasons to pay for a review:

    1. It can get you that first review to kick-start your marketing and to give you something to include on your book cover and media kit (if you get the review done pre-publication).

    2. You’re looking for an independent, critical look at your book, outside of your friends and family who have read it so far.

    3. Your local newspaper or media outlets don’t do local book reviews (or any book reviews).

    4. You need a professional book review (or several) to get your local bookstores or libraries to carry the book or set up a local author appearance for you.

    Things to watch out for:

    1. The fee-for-review service only reviews books they’ve been paid to review, or the majority of the books they review are paid reviews.

    2. They don’t review books and authors you don’t recognize (all of the books reviewed are self-published or very small press).

    3. Industry professionals recognize and recommend the service and don’t get a referral fee for sending business to them (not something easy to discover, but an important issue).

    Make sure you get a review that is accurate, honest, and reflects a good general view of the book and isn’t a generic three-sentence review that could have been generated by reading the back cover or a couple of other reviews online.

    The only companies that I can find that do more than just fee-for-review, i.e. the majority of the reviews done are not paid for by authors are (in order of when they began offering the service as far as I can tell):

    1. Forward Reviews
    2. City Book Review
    San Francisco Book Review
    Manhattan Book Review
    Seattle Book Review
    Kids’ BookBuzz
    3. Kirkus Indie Reviews

    Places that only review books for a fee:

    1. Indie Reader
    2. Self-Publishing Review
    3. Blue Ink Reviews

    How much would fictional houses cost in real life?

    (CNN)From Great Gatsby’s luxury estate to Count Dracula’s Transylvanian lair and Amelie Poulain’s tiny Parisian pad, the houses in which our favorite fictional characters reside are often inspired by real-life properties.

    CNN tracked down some of literary and cinematographic history’s most famous post codes and calculated their value in today’s property markets. Use the slider tool to reveal their prices.

    The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald

      Great Gatsby’s home in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novelis a symbol of1920s wealth in America.
      “In his blue garden men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars,” the narrator says of Gatsby’s buzzing property.
      One of the properties thought to have inspired Fitzgerald — and director Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film adaptation, the source of the image above — is the Beacon Towers in Great Neck, Long Island, near where the author lived between 1922 and 1924, and wrote the first three chapters of the novel.
      Demolished in 1945, the Gothic building had belonged to suffragette and architectural designer Alva Belmont, who threw opulent parties for the city’s elite.
      All this history combined with literary fame, would have further upped the mansion’s price today, says associate broker Maggie Keats of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

      Master and Margarita (1967), Mikhail Bulgakov

      The famous, morbid ball scene in Bulgakov’s novel was partly inspired by wild parties held at the Spaso House, the US ambassador to Russia’s residence since 1933.
      Bulgakov and his wife attended one such revelry in 1935, where live pheasants, baby bears, goats and roosters mingled with guests in smoking jackets and ball dresses.
      According to Savills global real-estate agent, the value of the Spaso House today puts it in the top 5% of Moscow’s real estate.
      Despite this, the US government paid $3 per year between 1990 and 2004 to rent the building — this fixed price was set by a Soviet-era contract, which devalued after the collapse of the USSR. The rent has since changed but is a secret.

      Sherlock Holmes,Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

      When Conan Doyle wrote his detective series, the real Baker Street in London stopped in the 100s — 221B didn’t exist.
      When the street was renumbered in the 1930s, the Abbey National Building Society bank was assigned the notorious number 221.
      The bank received so many letters addressing the famous detective that it hired a secretary to respond to the queries.
      A dispute over whether the Sherlock Holmes Museum — located at 239 Baker Street, and opened in 1990 — or the bank should receive such letters was resolved in 2002, when the bank left the building.
      The Holmes Museum, which emulates the detective’s home, is technically located between 237 and 241 Baker Streetalthough special permission from the City of Westminster allowed it to list its addressas 221b.
      The property’s current exorbitant price tag may have proved challenging even for the celebrity detective, due to the explosion of London’s property market over the past 20 years.

      Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren

      The nine-year-old Swedish children’s book heroine Pippi lives in Villa Villekulla with a monkey, Mr Nilsson, and a horse who is usually found on the porch. One of the house’s main treasures is the tree that grows Swedish soda water.
      The house pictured above, built for the 1969 Swedish TV series based on Lindgren’s books, is now the Pippi Longstocking Museum located at the heart of an attraction parkin the small town of Kneippbyn on Sweden’s Gotland Island.

      In the Mood For Love (2000), Wong Kar-wai

      The two small flats where this movie plays out shape the plot and atmosphere of this classic romance, as neighbors Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen learn that their spouses are having an affair.
      The typically cramped Hong Kong properties reflect the characters’ lack of privacy — they are constantly spied upon by other neighbors and their landlords — and are a catalyst for them falling in love.
      But there is also a political context. By the early 1960s — the era depicted in the film — thousands of Shanghai exiles had moved to Hong Kong, especially to the North Point neighborhood.
      Many of them were wealthy business people (like Su’s husband) and intellectuals (such as Chow), and expecting their move to be temporary they led a separate life to locals, which explains the characters’ sense of alienation.
      Engel & Vlkers estimated the value based on the cost of an average 861-square-foot (80sqm)flat in a traditional walk-up in North Point, Hong Kong.

      One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Gabriel Garca Mrquez

      The house in which generations of the Buenda family live, love and die in the fictional village of Macondo was inspired by Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s grandparents’ home in Aracataca, Colombia, where the author grew up.
      “Neither my mother nor I, of course, could even have imagined that this simple two-day trip (to sell my grandparents’ house) would be so decisive that the longest and most diligent of lives would not be enough for me to finish recounting it,” Marquez wrote about his trip to the house as a young man in his autobiography “Living to Tell the Tale”.
      Based on Marquez’s writings, Colombia’s Ministry of Culture in 2010 spent $350,000 reconstructing the house — which had been demolished — and opened it as a museum in the author’s name.

      Dracula (1897), Bram Stoker

      The Bran Castle in Brasov, which is now owned by the Romanian royal family, is generally associated with the famous vampire Dracula, and consequently receives 800,000 visitors a year.
      But there isn’t any historical evidence to support the myth around Bran. Built in the early 13th century by the Teutonic knights, the castle has no concrete link to Vlad Tepes — the Wallachian medieval king who inspired Stoker’s vampire. While Tepes ordered the killing of many Saxons in Brasov, it is not known if he ever stepped foot in the castle.
      Nevertheless, Forbes magazine deemed the property to be the most expensive European home in 2007.
      Romanian real estate agents Transylvanian Properties used that figure to make their estimate, taking into account subsequent renovations and extensions.

      Amlie, (2001), Jean-Pierre Jeunet

      This film’s whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life revolves around Amlie Poulain, a shy waitress who lives in a tiny Montmartre flat.
      With its crimson walls, replica Renaissance paintings, and pig-shaped bedside table lamp, the flat reflects Amlie’s cheekiness and charm.
      The neighborhood is part of the 18th arrondissement, in north Paris, near the Sacre-Coeur basilica, the Moulin Rouge cabaret and a Dali museum. Montmartre became famous as an artists’ hub, where the likes of Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh lived, attracted by the cheap rents.
      But this is not the case anymore — the general increase in property prices across Paris, as well as tourism and the municipal renovations in the area, led to a 260% increase in property prices from 2000 to 2016, according to MeilleursAgents.
      Amlie set locations are part ofthe tourists’ route, and the film might have played a role in the neighborhood’s property price rise.

      Out of Africa (1937), Karen Blixen

      In her memoir, Danish author Blixen described in detail the Nairobi farmhouse in which she lived from 1917 until 1931 — a description which later informed the 1985 film of the same name starring Meryl Streep.
      After Blixen’s return to Europe, the house had multiple owners until in 1964 the Danish government bought it and gave it to the Kenyan government as an independence gift.
      Initially, the government used the building as a college principal’s home, but it opened it as a museum in 1986, after the success of “Out of Africa” the movie.
      The film, however, was shot in a different house in Kenya, which had previously belonged to Ngina Kenyatta, the widow of the east African country’s first President Jomo Kenyatta.

      And one that really is fictional…

      Hogwarts is the center of the Harry Potter world. Built in the Scottish Highlands in 993 AD, according to JK Rowling’s texts, this old ruined castle features 142 staircases, ample towers, turrets and forests, as well as a quidditch field and lake.
      The Harry Potter films usedseveral locations in England to recreate the magic of Hogwarts, including the banquet hall at Christ Collegeand the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Gloucester Cathedral and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.
      Because of this, CNN asked a real estate expert to estimate the approximate value of thefictional building only, excluding fields and forests, and assuming it were located in the Scottish Highlands.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/architecture/famous-fictional-houses-one-square-meter/index.html

      The Salad Oil King New Book Review

      From the San Francisco Book Review:

      There’s something about criminal stories that commands our attention. Maybe it’s the chance to look behind the curtain of illegality and see just how someone can manage to pull off a wild scheme. Maybe it’s the curiosity of wondering what goes through someone’s mind and brings them to commit actions the rest of us would never dream of. Whichever the case, the story of Alfonso “Fonso” Gravanese has all the elements needed to be a classic tale of American crime, and it spins out from a master storyteller.

      Full Review Here – http://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/salad-oil-king/

      Get The Salad Oil King HERE

      The Hunger Saint by Olivia Kate Cerrone

      Hunger Saint is about Ntoni, a twelve-year-old boy forced to labor in Sicily’s sulfur mines to support his family after his father’s untimely death. These child laborers were called carusu or “mine-boy”, a labourer in a sulfur mine who worked next to a picuneri or pick-man, and carried raw ore from deep in the mine to the surface.

      Seattle Book Review gave it 5 stars and a great review here – http://seattlebookreview.com/product/the-hunger-saint/

      A historical story of child labor, but not from all that long ago.

      Get the book here http://amzn.to/2pJjHOJ

      More book reviews

      How to photograph Hanoi like the city’s Instagram stars

      (CNN)From food-fueled itineraries to quiet cultural corners, Hanoi is a photographer’s dream destination.

      With a penchant for side streets and quiet lakes, these Instagram stars explore the city’s rooftops, coffee shops and the French colonial Old Quarter.

      The night owl

        March 22, 2015. Hanoi, Vietnam. A couple poses for pre wedding photos at sunset on the side of Hoan Kiem lake. #couple #pose #photoshoot #hoankiem #lake #sunset #preweeding #wedding #groom #bride #kiss #intimacy #cinematic #fun #travel #documentary #hanoi #vietnam #ReportageSpotlight #everydayvietnam #everydayasia #everydayeverywhere

        A post shared by Linh Pham (@phamhaduylinh) on

        With more than 70,000 followers on Instagram and a career as a photojournalist and documentarian, Linh Pham is among Vietnam’s most talented photographers.
        After studying graphic design in college, Pham spent two years traveling the world as a freelance photographer.
        But he felt a lack of connection to these places and soon returned to find his roots in Hanoi.
        In 2015, he began photographing the city, capturing its energy, people and social issues — re-exploring his hometown through oft-overlooked details.
        “I want to tell the world about contemporary Vietnam through my photos,” says Pham.

        Test post here. The cool folks at @instagram just allow us to post landscape photos along with the same old square starting from today. Instagram created a new shooting habit for me as I'm shooting 1:1 with the phone exclusively these days. Let see what people come up with this new (to Instagram) tweak! March 22, 2015. Hanoi, Vietnam. Police officers watch over the crowd attending Earth Hour in front of Hanoi Opera House. #landscape #police #officer #policeman #crowd #flare #night #opera #theater #earthhour #travel #documentary #hanoi #vietnam #everydayvietnam #everydayasia #everydayeverywhere

        A post shared by Linh Pham (@phamhaduylinh) on

        “It’s not just the kind of postcard landscape you would expect from the guidebook. As a developing country, Vietnam has a lot more stories to offer.”
        As a local, Pham says he knows many “backstage” shots and alternative angles to show Hanoi from a fresh perspective.
        “I love photos with layers — the kind of photos that make you stop and look more closely to really figure out what’s going on in the scene,” he adds.
        He gravitates to the Long Bien Market at midnight to capture night-shift workers in action, walks around at 5 a.m. before sunrise to enjoy the silent streets and climbs to rooftop apartments to see the city from above.
        But even if you’re not quite so committed to roaming the streets from dusk to dawn, Pham suggests a few more accessible photography opportunities.

          #MyHanoi: Photojournalist Linh Pham

        MUST WATCH

        “In Vietnam, life happens on the streets — just walking around provides you with glimpses about how people are and have always been living,” he says.
        “It’s heaven for street photography because of the vibrant activities outside.”
        He suggests stopping to try the local sweet soup — a glass of crushed ice with tapioca balls and grass jelly — while watching the city come to life.
        “To some people it’s a noisy and congested city, but there are secret quiet corners right at the heart of Hanoi,” he says.
        “On the surface it looks old, chaotic or plain dirty, but with patience and empathy, one can surely find beauty and order in every frame.”

        The peace-seeker

        Lm sao thi bay thnh ph nhu nt c k Nhng ngy bt nhp ph khn Thng 2, c iu chi i ti

        A post shared by Lan Chi (@caracat) on

        A Hanoi native, 30-year-old Lan Chi Tran has a deep connection with her hometown — evident on her vibrant Instagram feed, where she has 9,000-plus followers.
        “Hanoi is a dreamy city,” says Tran. “Some people say that my images are simple and touching. It makes them miss Hanoi, or makes them really want to go to Hanoi.”
        The graphic designer doubles as a street photographer, chronicling her favorite teashops, streets and moments in Hanoi.
        Tran pursues photography as way to relax — even in busy Hanoi, she finds peace through her practice.

        Ch khu nh rn rng nng lung linh

        A post shared by Lan Chi (@caracat) on

        “I often go around by myself, and when I observe slowly and feel it with all of my senses, I see beauty everywhere,” she explains. “It’s a way of meditation for me — a way of mindfulness.”
        Tran says every corner of Hanoi is inspiring — from coffee shops to trees, people, architecture and old-world charm.
        For colorful and calming surrounds, she suggests Phan Dinh Phung Street, a tree-lined avenue dotted with French villas and Chinese mansions.
        She also recommends Ly Dao Thanh Street, in the old quarter behind Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi and, of course West Lake, the city’s largest freshwater lake.

          #MyHanoi: Street photographer Lan Chi Tran

        MUST WATCH

        “I always feel calm when being at these places,” she says. “The streets are always crowded but when you are there, it’s somehow very quiet and peaceful.”
        When showing friends around town, Tran skips the big-name restaurants and heads instead to her favorite local coffee shops and cafes.
        She likes to tuck into lunch at Crab Noodle along Nha Tho Alley or sip on soup at Sweet Soup on Hang Bo Street.
        “When I am taking pictures, I want something colorful,” she says. “I like to play with the colors — and I want happy photos.”

        The culture hound

        Ao Dai in the traffic. #vietnam #vietnamese #ig_vietnam #everydayeverywhere #everydayvietnam #everydaysoutheastasia #usa #ig_worldclub #wanderlust #aodai #hanoi #picoftheday #lensculture #lensculturestreets #streetphotography #streetphoto #viagem #viaje #travelgram #natgeotravel #asia #streetstyle #ig_respect #igturko #us #nightshot #igglobalclub #photooftheday #condenast #ig_spain

        A post shared by Javier Puig Saura (@javierpuigsaura) on

        Originally from Minorca, in Spain, 42-year-old Javier Puig Saura moved to Hanoi in 2014, when he was posted at the Spanish Embassy in Hanoi.
        A career diplomat, Javier says he was immediately blown away by the energy and color in Hanoi — so much so, that it inspired him to resume his long-neglected hobby of photography.
        “I was so surprised by everything I saw — the traffic, the buildings, the people, the food — that I wanted to share it with family and friends back in Spain,” Javier tells CNN Travel.
        “After a year in Hanoi, one of my best friends came to visit us and talked to me about Instagram, encouraging me to post my pictures there.”
        The more he shot, the more Javier wanted to see and discover — all the while posting on his dynamic Instagram feed.
        “Life, from birth to death, happens on the streets,” says Javier. “And there is also this fabulous mix of tradition and modernity, European influence and Asian character.”

        Chc mng nm mi Once again thousands of kumquat trees are being delivered all around Hanoi by fast and somewhat rash motorbikes. Kumquat is a symbol of luck, wealth and hapiness. Tt, the new lunar year, is getting close! Get ready for the year of the Rooster!!! #vietnam #vietnamese #hanoi #hanoianstotravel #everydayvietnam #everydaysoutheastasia #everydayeverywhere #ig_vietnam #ig_spain #picoftheday #photooftheday #travel #travelgram #travelphotography #wanderlust #tet #buddhism #natgeo #natgeotravel #asia #photojournalism #nikon #streetlife #viajar #streephotography #visitvietnam #bike #newyear #travelasia #lensculturestreets

        A post shared by Javier Puig Saura (@javierpuigsaura) on

        When Javier sets out to shoot, he typically avoids landscapes and food, gravitating instead towards people.
        But street photography is tough. He says it’s akin to going fishing or hunting — luck must be on your side.
        Instead of simply snapping away, Javier usually begins with a conversation.
        “Basically, taking pictures is an excuse to meet people so I use the camera as a pretext,” says Javier, who regularly sits down to share a beer with his subjects and even delivers printed photos later as a gift.
        “For me to trigger the camera is the last act on a long series of actions. I like to find a true little story, something unimportant but real as life.”
        A few of his best fishing expeditions have occurred in the Old Quarter, which Javier says is endlessly photogenic with its yellow facades, French colonial architecture, and bustling motor traffic.

          #MyHanoi: Javier Puig Saura

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        He often visits Hoan Kiem Lake, where he finds Hanoians of all ages exercising, performing Aikido — a Japanese martial art — or just taking a stroll, ice cream in hand.
        On the first and 15th day of each month, Javier visits major pagodas and temples — like the Tran Quoc pagoda or Phu Tay Ho temple — to take portraits of the calligraphers who work there during the busy holidays.
        “Their job is to write in old Vietnamese characters the wishes and prayers of the worshippers in papers that they will then burn in the fire of the pagoda,” explains Javier.
        “The smoke is supposed to convey the wishes to the heavenly gods. They wear long beards and are dressed in colorful robes — it’s a beautiful sight.”

        The coffee connoisseur

        I used to love all the ghost stories in this book! Classic! #lieutrai #ghoststories #cafe #reading books #coffeebreak #vietnamesecoffee #lieutraichidi #nhanam #iphonography

        A post shared by Bien Nguyen (@bienontheroad) on

        Although he grew up in a small village, just outside of Hanoi, Bien Thuy Nguyen didn’t feel any connection to the city until he moved there as an adult.
        The Instagrammer — who shoots under the moniker Bien on the Road — relocated to Hanoi eight years ago to attend university.
        “I am not a city boy, but Hanoi is always my city, and my favorite city,” says Nguyen.
        “I got my first camera in 2008. I was shooting in my free time with friends … I fell in love with Hanoi and all its charms. All the historical and cultural layers inspire me.”
        Now a full-time liaison officer at the UN International School in Hanoi, Nguyen says photography is a hobby — not a profession.
        He snaps photos while traveling or wandering around Hanoi, focusing on people and street scenes.

        T tm #playingcards #hanoi #vietnam #instatravel #travelgram #instadaily #wanderlust #instagram #ig_travel #ig_hanoi #ig_street #ig_myshot #ig_vietnam #travel360 #travellife #travelphotography #traveladdict #travelling #tourists #oldmen #hanoistreetlife #hanoipavements #littleplasticchairs #hiddencharm

        A post shared by Bien Nguyen (@bienontheroad) on

        “The people and their daily life in the city are like watching a film — lively and interesting,” he says.
        “I take photos of whatever happens on the streets, or at secret corners, quiet alleys, beautiful architecture such as temples, churches, castles… of course coffee shops too.”
        Nguyen captures cafes for his side project Hanoi Hideaway — a site and app dedicated to finding Hanoi’s rich coffee culture.
        “You can also find many interesting stories about the city and its history in coffee shops.”
        Nguyen recommends Loading T, located in a French villa featuring exposed brick walls and mosaic tiled floors, the coffee shop is known for serving one of Hanoi’s best “egg coffees.”
        The thick coffee drink is a local staple, made with egg yolk in lieu of milk, coffee powder, condensed milk and butter.

          #MyHanoi: Bien Thuy Nguyen

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        Then there’s Nhac Xua Cafe, a historic music spot, which began as an amplifier and speaker repair shop.
        “When he first opened (the repair shop), the owner would serve customers green tea and play old music — mostly Vietnamese pre-war songs — while they waited,” explains Nguyen.
        “People loved it and asked the owner to turn that shop into a coffee shop. Sitting on the tiny bamboo chairs by Westlake in the evening and listening to old music will bring you back to the old days of Vietnam.”

        The storyteller

        Hng nc tr huyn thoi #teashop #hanoi #hometown #vietnam #travel #dailylife #nov2016 #ricohgr

        A post shared by Hai Thanh (@haithanhptw) on

        A Hanoi-born documentary photographer, Hai Thanh keeps a “visual diary” of day-to-day life in Vietnam on his popular Instagram account.
        Formerly a photojournalist, working at local newspapers and magazines, Thanh has been photographing the city since 2004.
        “In the early years, I used street photography as a tool to develop my own voice,” says Thanh.
        “The city is an eternal inspiration of mine — it’s kind of like my big house. I have everything here: family, job, friends, foods and love.”

        #streetvendors #flowers #oldquarter #hanoi #hometown #vietnam #dailylife #travel #streetphotography #nov2016 #instagram #ricohgr

        A post shared by Hai Thanh (@haithanhptw) on

        The self-taught photographer turns a lens on the city’s social issues, including living conditions and the evolution of the city.
        “I try to capture the emotions inside the pictures,” he says. “When I’m on the street and taking photos, it keeps me motivated.”
        “I never expect the perfect picture — I just enjoy photography and finding one moment at a time.”
        For Thanh, the most interesting aspect of photographing Hanoi is its people — around Hoan Kiem Lake, in the Old Quarter or around the markets to see everyday life in the city.

          #MyHanoi: Maika Elan and Hai Thanh

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        “I love taking photographs of crowds — it’s a lot of fun,” Thanh says. “For travelers, I would send them to the narrow alleys, where residents live and share a public space together. It is so Hanoi!”
        Of course, a trip to Hanoi isn’t complete without sampling the city’s diverse street eats — think ph b (beef noodle soup), bn ch (grilled pork with rice noodle), and bnh m pate (goose pate sandwiches).
        “You must taste the local food in every corner of the Old Quarter,” he says. “You don’t know anything about Hanoi if you never try the street foods.”

        The activist

        #cafe #tit #17months #kycon #saigon #family #travel #stair #apartment #oldhouse #maikaelan

        A post shared by Maika Elan (@maikaelan) on

        Married to Hai Thanh, Maika Elan is a documentary photographer who tells intimate stories through her lens.
        She picked up a family camera in 2006 and started experimenting while studying sociology in university.
        At the time, Elan focused on the villages and farmers in the countryside. But as she advanced, she took interest in city life and issues closer to home.
        “For me Hanoi is always full of positive energy and almost everything is on the street so you really can see the real life here,” she tells CNN Travel.
        “I love to take picture in the small alleys. They look very small and dark from outside, but when you walk in, its very long and often open up to stairways or kitchen, with lots of sunshine. It always takes me by surprise.”

        A ceramic seller stand in front of her shop. #portrait #hanoi #vietnam #market #maikaelan #photography #viiphoto #viimentorprogram #ceramic #woman #vietnamese

        A post shared by Maika Elan (@maikaelan) on

        Sporting a shock of blue hair, the Hanoi-born photographer says the city’s positive energy never ceases to inspire her.
        “With photography you will see the small details,” she says. “I live more in the moment with photography. You see more, talk to more with people. It changes you day by day.”
        But her real passion lies in documenting the everyday struggles facing Vietnamese people.
        In 2012, she won a World Press Photo award for an image depicting an LGBT couple in bed.
        The photo was part of Elan’s “The Pink Choice” documentary project, where she spent two years traveling across Vietnam to explore the lives of same-sex couples.
        By the end of the journey, she had taken hundreds of intimate photos in the homes of more than 70 gay couples.
        “People showed me their love and how they survived, how they stand together,” she says.
        Love the music from CNN’s #MyHanoi videos? Here’s a full list of featured tracks:

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/travel/myhanoi-instagram-insider-guide/index.html

        Arthur Blythe, acclaimed jazz musician, dies aged 76

        Blythe was at the vanguard of jazz in the 1970s, when his Lenox Avenue Breakdown album from 1979 described as a masterpiece

        Arthur Blythe, the jazz musician and composer who was a key part of the genres experimentation in the 70s alongside the likes of Don Cherry, has died at the age of 76.

        A short post left on his Facebook page said he died in the early hours of Monday morning and mentioned his Parkinsons disease, which he had since 2005.

        Early this morning the great Arthur Blythe passed, it read. As many of you know he was a gentle soul and a musical genius. He had been fighting Parkinsons disease for several years. His spirit will live on in his unique music, which he humbly gave to our universe.

        Blythe was at the vanguard of jazz in the 1970s, with his Lenox Avenue Breakdown album from 1979 considered to be a key release of that period and was described as a masterpiece in the Penguin Modern Guide to Jazz.

        He continued to release music until relatively recently, and his performances on his 2003 album Exhale, which would be his last, were described as absolutely devastating by the Guardians jazz critic John Fordham.

        Born in Los Angeles, Blythe made his name playing with Don Cherry alongside blacklisted musician Horace Tapscott before becoming part of the second wave of avant garde jazz players of the 70s in New York, where he was known as Black Arthur Blythe.

        Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/29/arthur-blythe-jazz-musician-dies-at-76

        Morse’s Oxford: The city that inspired Colin Dexter – BBC News

        Of the main players in the Inspector Morse stories by Colin Dexter, one remains – the city of Oxford. The character died in The Remorseful Day, published in 1999. John Thaw, the actor synonymous with the role of the curmudgeonly detective, died in 2002. And Dexter himself died earlier this week.

        As the Lord Mayor of Oxford once said: “In his novels Colin Dexter has shown our city as having a distinct and separate identity from its famous university.”

        The “dreaming spires” and attendant well-to-do academics and eccentrics were important factors in the books, but so were the lanes round the city centre, the arterial Iffley and Cowley roads, the north Oxford suburbs of Jericho and Summertown, and the railway station.

        Dexter himself was well aware of the city’s allure for readers and viewers. When the first episode of the television series was broadcast in 1987, he said: “The huge value for me as a writer is that, even if people haven’t been to Oxford, they would love to be in the city.

        “I think if the story had been set in Rotherham or Rochdale no-one would be particularly interested to see the streets and side streets, but so many people outside Oxford are delighted to see the High Street, St Giles and the colleges.”

        Image copyright PA
        Image caption John Thaw, who played Inspector Morse in the television adaptation, pictured with Colin Dexter in 1999

        The Randolph Hotel featured prominently in both Dexter’s and Morse’s lives. Morse was often to be found pondering cases while enjoying a real ale or red wine there, while Dexter’s favoured drink in later life – he gave up alcohol for medical reasons – was tonic water.

        Staff at the hotel said the writer would often visit various rooms around the hotel to help him get details for a storyline.

        “He continued to be a regular at the hotel bar and was so loved by staff, that we renamed the bar after his most famous character – Morse. He was very much part of this hotel and we will miss seeing him perched at the end of the bar or reading a book by the fireside, sipping his drink.”

        Image copyright Randolph Hotel
        Image caption Colin Dexter poses with some of the staff at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, where a bar is named after Inspector Morse

        Famous haunts from the books and television series, such as the Ashmolean museum and the Bodleian library, have expressed sorrow at his death. But, perhaps more significantly, so have lesser-known Oxford institutions, demonstrating Dexter was very much a man of the people – and a man of the real city.

        The writer shared his hero’s affection for good beer, classical music and cryptic crossword puzzles, but by all accounts lacked his spiky nature.

        Alcock’s Butcher and Fishmonger in the Summertown area has a blackboard outside saying “Mr Dexter, you will be sadly missed”.

        Paul England from the shop said: “He was a lovely guy. Always used to see him early in the morning.

        “He used to walk down and get his paper and then he always used to come in for a pork pie and a chat. He used to tell us some good stories and jokes, which I think we’ll always remember. We just knew him as Mr Dexter who bought his pork pie from the butcher.”

        Christiane Fagan fondly remembers him “sitting quietly in the The Dew Drop Inn in Summertown. Such a lovely man”, while Carol Maling remembers chatting to him on a bench outside the old Radcliffe infirmary when he was waiting for his wife Dorothy to finish work.

        “We used to share biscuits and chocolate,” Ms Maling said.

        Although he claimed to know very little about actual police procedure, Dexter was a welcome visitor at Oxford CID. Former police officer Dermot Norridge was a detective in the city between 1986 and 2003.

        He said whenever he and his colleagues were investigating any incident related to one of the university colleges, they would say they were “having a Morse moment”.

        Mr Norridge claims the irascible character even had an influence on the sounds heard floating through the corridors of the police station: “There were certain offices where the radio was retuned to Radio 3 or Classic FM. The officers involved may well have been aware of classical music before Morse, but I’m completely convinced this listening to it was down to the influence of the programme.

        “I met Colin a few times – he used to come with the crew to the station, and once he was invited to our annual dinner to give a talk. If I had to sum up my memory of him, it would be ‘a complete gentleman'”.

        Image copyright PA

        Sue Howlett remembers the author hopping on the bus from Summertown, and always saying hello, while Sue Parsons said she “used to know him years ago when he would to come in to order stationery from Colegroves in Turl Street. Such a lovely man always having a laugh and a joke”.

        Bob Price, the leader of Oxford Council, says the city will always feel the impact of Dexter’s work: “The television programmes, and the way they were filmed, made a huge difference. They really drew people to Oxford.”

        In his 13th – and final – book Dexter says:

        “Morse had never enrolled in the itchy-footed regiment of adventurous souls, feeling little temptation to explore the remoter corners even of his native land; and this principally because he could imagine few if any places closer to his heart than Oxford – the city which, though not his natural mother, had for so many years performed the duties of a loving foster-parent.”

        He said of that paragraph: “For ‘Morse,’ read me”.

        Image copyright Getty Images

        Colin Dexter is not the only author to have a strong link with a specific city. Here are a few more literary locations and their fictional dwellers

        Ian Rankin: Edinburgh

        The The Inspector Rebus novels are mostly based in and around Edinburgh and take in such landmarks as Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace, as well as Rebus’ flat.

        The novels are characterised by the stark and dark depiction of a city characterised by corruption, poverty, and organised crime. Rebus bends the rules and ignores his superiors while battling his own personal issues. But he does solve the mysteries.

        You can explore the key locations online.

        James Joyce: Dublin

        Joyce once claimed of his book Ulysses that if Dublin “suddenly disappeared from the Earth, it could be reconstructed from my book”.

        Published in 1922, Ulysses focuses on the stream-of-consciousness wanderings through Dublin of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Ulysses has been summarised as: “Man goes for a walk around Dublin. Nothing happens.” The novel is seen by many as one of the most influential works of the 20th Century.

        Jane Austen: Bath

        The Assembly Rooms are the setting for many of the evening balls depicted in social satire Northanger Abbey and melancholic love story Persuasion, while the Pump Rooms were the place to mingle with during the day to give off a fashionable air of importance.

        Milsom Street, Bond Street (now New Bond Street), George Street and Edgar Buildings are all mentioned in the books.


        Related Topics

        Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-39343923

        Texas Police Ask The State Not To Crack Down On Sanctuary Cities

        A parade of Texas law enforcement officials once again registered their opposition Wednesday to a Republican-backed effort to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with immigration authorities.

        But conservative lawmakers seem poised to ignore them.

        SB 4, which would fine local officials that refuse to comply with detainer requests to hold undocumented immigrants on behalf of the federal government, has already passed the full state Senate. The House State Affairs hearing Wednesday marked the bills first step on its way through the legislatures lower house. Most of the states Republican lawmakers view it as a commonsensical effort to enforce the immigration laws already on the books.

        But several police officials from the states largest cities have cautioned that the law would make their jobs more difficult by alienating immigrants and making law enforcement vulnerable to liability for increased racial profiling that they say will likely accompany the bills implementation criticisms widely shared by legal experts and immigrant families.

        Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said pressing his officers to help enforce immigration law would distract them from their core responsibilities. Its going to pull my officers away from their more important duties of combating crime, Manley said.

        Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said passing the bill would alienate immigrants, as the police would begin taking on a greater role in federal immigration enforcement.

        Its imperative that we maintain trust with the communities we serve, Salazar told the committee. We risk driving this segment of the population into the shadows. I have seen examples where victims of domestic violence are told by their abuser, Go ahead and call the cops. You know where youre going.

        Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff of Harris County, which includes Houston, said he suspected the bill would make the state less safe by making unauthorized immigrants fearful of calling the police if they see a crime.

        I think that inherently when someone witnesses something traumatic, theres already going to be fear, Gonzalez said, let alone when they fear they themselves will be deported.

        One woman described suffering precisely that experience. She told the committee that it took three years for her to find the courage to call the police to report an abusive partner even after he held a gun toward her, threatening to shoot her and then himself if she left him.

        I was worried that if I called the police, I would be asked about my immigration status and then deported, she said. You will be empowering the abusers and giving them another tool to carry out their abuse [if you pass SB 4].

        Legal experts also cautioned that letting police play a greater role in federal immigration enforcement would open the state up to lawsuits.

        Lets be clear, Celina Moreno, an attorney with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said. Racial profiling is a foreseeable consequence of SB 4.

        Kali Cohn, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, added that jurisdictions that honor all requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented immigrants can be sued for violating the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees protection from unlawful searches and detention.

        An ICE detainer asks a local law enforcement agency to hold someone for 48 hours, Cohn said. But when those additional 48 hours begin, local law enforcement still need probable cause to make that detention. The problem is they cant point to probable cause because ICE detainers are not supported by probable cause.

        Several Texans who either have undocumented family members or were undocumented themselves said the bill would threaten their safety. My dad isnt an alien, one young girl said through tears. Hes a human being and he should be treated like one.

        The vast majority of those who testified asked the legislature to abandon the bill. Of 638 who registered, only 11 urged lawmakers to pass the bill, according to Texas state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). The hearing continued well into the evening.

        Opposition from law enforcement notwithstanding, Texas lawmakers are likely to pass the measure against sanctuary cities.

        Republicans have tried to ban sanctuary cities for years, despite the fact that the vast majority of local officials honor virtually all federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants in local jails on behalf of ICE. But conservative efforts to pass such legislation have failed in the past because Democrats had enough votes to block floor debate in the state Senate.

        Last year, Republicans loosened the century-long tradition of requiring the votes of two-thirds of the state Senate to make it easier to pass a conservative agenda, in a state where they control all three branches of government.

        Despite conservative emphasis on ridding the state of cities with liberal immigration policies, currently the only jurisdiction to limit its cooperation with ICE is Travis County, where Austin is. In January, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez adopted a policy of declining to hold immigrants for ICE if they qualify for release or bond, unless they are convicted or charged with one of a short list of crimes including murder, sexual assault and human trafficking.

        Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) responded by stripping the county of $1.5 million in state grants and threatening to find a way to remove Hernandez from office.

        Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/police-ask-texas-not-to-crack-down-on-sanctuary-cities_us_58c9ef14e4b0ec9d29d8a234?iwzisnxoj8snvobt9&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009