Posted in Travel

Extraordinary Journey – Yakut People

 

yakutia

lany

 

346

fiu

Yakut people are native population in eastern Siberian region who mainly live in Sakha/ Yakutia Autonomous Republic.

It is believed that Yakuts originated from Turkic people from south Siberia 800-1000 years ago.  In the past, due to the threat of their enemies they fled from Central Asia to the north.

Their first settlement was at Lena River, close to the area of Yakutsk, the capital of Sakha Republic. Russians made first contact with Yakut people only in 17th century (Yakutsk fort was founded in 1632 by Russian Cossacks), but Russian settlers didn’t move to the area of Sakha/ Yakutia Republic until late 18th century.

Yakuts, who are living in Siberian region have to survive extremely cold winters, where the temperature might drop down to -60°C (-76.0°F). Despite the temperature people still have to go to work and children are still supposed to attend the school. They might only have an additional “vacation” from school if the cold drops below -50°C. However, in the summertime temperature varies from 20-40°C.

Population

There are around 400.000 Yakut people. Vast majority resides in Sakha Republic, but there is significant population in the United States and Canada. Birth rates show that in the near future Yakut people might outnumber Russians in Sakha/ Yakutia Republic.

Architecture

Traditionally Yakuts were cattle- and horse-breeders. In the past, they had to live in different places to let their livestock survive. They had to move twice a year: end of May – summer season, and October – winter time.

During wintertime Yakut people lived in houses called balagan, which was made of mud, dung and birch logs. It had a chimney in the center of the building. These houses were built with sloping walls to isolate living spaces from cold and because of the permafrost, houses were built on wooden deck. Building traditional housing has drastically decreased since 1991, when Soviet collective farming was disbanded. However, farming families and fishermen still own them and use them.

Traditionally Yakuts were cattle- and horse-breeders. In the past, they had to live in different places to let their livestock survive. They had to move twice a year: end of May – summer season, and October – winter time.

Religion

Original religious beliefs were animalism and Shamanism; latter one is now recognized as an official religion of Sakha Republic. It is a mixture of Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic beliefs in supernatural. According to it spirits live in houses, mountains, trees and forests. Also, in the water and animals. The strongest spirit lives in bears, owls and ravens. In old times bear feet were placed outside the bed of the little children for protection. In the old days both male and female could be a shaman, but women were considered to be more powerful.

Because of historical factors and its influence from Russian diaspora, most Yakuts have lost their beliefs in Shamanism or have converted to Russian Orthodox religion. However, Shamanism has not totally vanished. People still believe that shamans have some supernatural powers. They are respected and protected by people and local authorities.

Yakut people today are also reviving their knowledge about traditional naturopathy (alternative medicine) to find cures for all kind of sickness.

Dress/Clothing

In old days main material to make clothing was animal hides and furs. Most common hides were from reindeer and horse. They were used for clothing and footwear. The hides were sewed with dried intestine threads or yarn made of horse hides.

During the winter time clothing had to be and still is very thick and warm. Nowadays, younger generations have shifted from traditional Yakut warm jackets, but reindeer fur boots are still widely used. To make one pair of boots, hides of cow and eight reindeer feet are used.

Rabbit fur is also very useful. Each inch of the fur is used to make valuable items such as socks, gloves, coats and blankets.

There is also the national dress that is worn during celebrations and weddings, but is rarely seen on a daily basis.

Also, it is worth mentioning that women love their Yakut ornamented adornments, which are usually made of silver or gold.

Festivals

Yhyakh

It is summer solstice celebration that is held on June 21th-22th. It is related to the sun deity that Yakut people believe in. According to some ancestral calendar, New Year started in June – when everything becomes alive again. During the festival, people dress in their national dresses and eat traditional food. Celebration includes ceremonies, mantras, game contests and races. Horse racing is considered to be most important game of the festival.

Yhyakh is important festival for the entire nation. People from small villages and isolated areas prepare traditional dishes and sew light costumes for the celebration that they all attend.

The festival usually starts with an ancient ritual and algys (prayer) made by shaman; the prayer is for a well being of the people at the festival. Sprinkling kumys to the fire, sacrificing horsehair and pancakes is a part of the ritual. When the ritual is done people drink kumys from a special sacred vessel choron.

Source: Youtube, M.Borgarbúi via: www.expnowhere.com/culture/yakut-people-and-their-culture/

Photographs: Pinterest, www.travelingyourdream.com,

www.bashny.net

 

 

 

Posted in Car Rental, Travel

Driving in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations in Central-America but hotels don’t tell you that you might need to rent an ATV to be able to make it to the hotel (check-in); some roads are unpaved where you are not allowed (and physically unable) to drive a minicar.

Keep in mind that maps are not accurate on road conditions, even my National Geographic map showed roads with solid lines which would indicate a paved road but it happened many times in the Monteverde and Rio Celeste areas that the paved road broke up after half a mile leading to steep and rocky mountain roads which are only accessible by ATV.

Both maps and GPS show all unpaved roads because the roads do exist but it may be in a condition that requires a Russian tank. You need to have some driving skills to maneuver an economy car through a 20 mile mountain road, you need to accelarate uphill and use impulse downhill while finding your way though between the big rocks.  You should never drive at night in the mountains because there are no street lights and you really need to watch out for any danger from crossing animals to incoming traffic, sharing a serpentine is difficult even in daylight, let alone at night.  Just to give you an example your speed is around 10 mph if you manage to drive an economy car.  If it rains, you need to get out as soon as possible because roads will become impassable, buses and small cars will get stuck in the mud and you can’t go anywhere in your SUV either because of them.

When traveling to Central or Latin-America, please note that there are no physical addresses.  Both residences and businesses use a short description as an “address” like “800 miles from the gas station”, or “100 meters from the soccer field to the left”; I have seen them using a church or school as a landmark as well.

When you have a GPS (whether it is your own or belongs to the rental car), you can’t put in words like “800 meters from the gas station” but you can put in the name of the hotel, a national park, school, church or other land marks or just search for gas stations in whichever city.  You can zoom in and out the GPS screen to have a bigger view, if not the whole city at least the neighborhood ahead of you.

I hate to burst your bubble but developing countries are lacking signals on the road. It sucks big time because without street/route names sometimes you don’t even know which city you are in because guess what, there are no city or county names posted!  So, this is what I am suggesting you:

PRIOR TO YOUR TRIP please buy a road map which includes detailed city maps as well.  When you arrive please take a few minutes to study it, be familiar with where you are and where you are going, see if you can memorize street names or neighborhoods you need to drive through.  You certainly can’t hold the map while driving unless there is somebody sitting next to you, who can somewhat read the map.

In addition to the map, you will need a compass. No, I’m not kidding, you are going to need one.  You can also use your smart phone’s compass application which is almost as accurate. You need a compass to have an idea if you are going to the right direction.  If you know from the map that a road is north of you but you got no clue which way is north, then start driving, let your compass tell you.  If your compass is on your smart phone, hold your phone down, the back of your phone should face your legs (when sitting in the car).  The road won’t be completely straight but after a short drive you will be able tell your position.

Now, there is one more option, certainly depending on where you are. If you happen to be in a city near Starbucks, McDonalds, a shopping mall, gas station or any place with free wifi than go ahead and connect your smartphone and simply turn on Waze, get the directions to the place you are heading.  KEEP IN MIND THAT ONCE YOU GET THE NAVIGATION YOU CAN’T MAKE A MISTAKE BECAUSE THE APP WON’T BE ABLE TO RECALCULATE WITHOUT INTERNET; once you leave the wifi area, you are on your own again, so if you do mess it up, I suggest you to turn back and do it right.  The way Waze works is that even though you lose the internet connection, it will save the directions for you. You can thank me later, my friend, but you gotta use your common sense when everything else fails 😉

As a last resort: Ask locals for directions and show them the map.  On the countryside don’t expect them to speak your language, you may need to polish your Spanish in terms of directions 😉

Regarding GPS: If you need to buy a download for the continent, don’t bother it unless you plain to visit other countries there later, and there is no need to pay $10 a day for renting it with the car, for that money you can already buy one brand new.  We made it without a GPS and keep in mind that a GPS may not work either if you are in remote areas of the country, like being in a jungle or volcano area in Costa Rica. In Europe you certainly need a GPS, I would not do it any other way, but today I was only focusing on developing countries.

Photos from various sources: Remax Oceansurf, Loupiote, pacificlots

 

Posted in Camping, Gadget, Outdoors, Travel

Solar powered tent that charges your gadgets by Orange

 

Telecom giant Orange unveiled a concept solar tent in conjunction with the opening of the Glastonbury music festival in the U.K.  The tent is a concept, currently not available yet.

Solar Energy Collection

The idea is that specially coated solar threads are woven into conventional fabric so designers wouldn’t have to use fixed solar panels to harness the energy. It would also have three directional glides that can be moved throughout the day to maximize solar efficiency and energy collection.

The solar energy is channeled into four main power uses: heating, lighting, communications and recharging.

Control Centre

The most amazing bit about this concept solar powered tent is its central wireless control hub which lets you see the amount of energy being generated and used, as well as sending out a wireless internet signal for anyone who needs to surf the internet. This is displayed on a touchscreen LCD display screen.

The control hub also has a wireless charging pouch which powers mobile phones and other portable devices without the need for messy wires and multiple chargers. The “magnetic induction” technology passes an electric current through a coil embedded in the charging pouch and this in turn generates a magnetic field which creates a charge and powers the battery.

Central Heating

Also controlled by the central hub is the most amazing bonus for the ultimate posh camping experience an internal heating system. This takes the form of a heating element that’s embedded within the tent’s groundsheet giving under floor heating that can be triggered automatically once the temperature falls below a set level.

Glo-Tec

The tent would be equipped with “Glo-cation” technology that would allow users to find their tents by sending an SMS message or using an automatic RFID tag similar to the ones used in London’s Underground Oyster subway cards. The tent would then glow in response enabling the lost camper to find their tent, the text message triggers a distinctive glow seen from a distance.

The tent would also serve to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal, though it’s unclear whether it would have a Wi-Fi booster for a central area hub or act as an independent Wi-Fi router.

Various sources: Candice Lombardi from Cnet and InspiredCamping

Photos: Kaleidoscope (Kascope), Pinterest

 

Posted in Hotel, Travel

How to check your hotel room for bed bugs

Nothing worse than traveling and taking your new “pets” home in your luggage and clothing.

I came across this video on Facebook that shows you how to examine your room in a couple of minutes and tells you what to do when you do find bed bugs.

This is how bed bug bites look like:

arm

Please check out Jim Dill’s video from the University of Maine and prepare for your trip 😉

 

Image: homeinspectioncost, bed-bugbites

Posted in Travel

When to buy your air ticket and when to fly for less

I researched this topic online and gathered the most useful information that I could find. This is the best advise travel experts can give us on when to buy our air tickets and when to fly.

Kim Komando says airlines announce deals on Monday evenings, Rick Seaney says it happens on Tuesdays at 3 PM Eastern Standard Time; however, they both agree that by Tuesday afternoon other airlines are scrambling to match those deals. So Tuesday afternoons are the best time to hunt for reduced airfare.

Peter Greenberg at CBS News suggests waiting until 1 a.m. on Wednesday to snag the deals that didn’t get taken on Tuesday.

Texas A&M University and the Wall Street Journal claim that weekends are actually the best time to book air tickets because airlines are more likely to lower their fares on Saturday and Sunday in an attempt to sell out their inventory and allegedly we can save an average of $60 by purchasing our tickets on Sundays instead of Tuesdays.

So, what should we do? Kim says that if you see one airline offering a deal on Monday, make plans to buy your tickets on Tuesday. If there are no deals going on, buy on the weekend.

FareCompare says: When to start and finish shopping: Shop too late and you may be hit with the steep prices last-minute business travelers pay but shopping too early can also cost more. These shopping windows yield the best-priced fares.

  • Domestic tickets: The best time to buy airline tickets for U.S. travel is between three months and 30 days before departure.
  • International fares: The best time to buy international airline tickets is between 5 ½ months and 1 ½ months before departure. During peak seasons such as June, July and August or December holidays, purchase tickets two months in advance.

You should always compare air ticket costs but in addition to that I normally sign up for email or text travel alerts when the price goes down (once you already know where you want to travel).

FareCompare says that a little inconvenience can save you money if you are flexible with your travel plans. Non-stops flights are more convenient but you can often find better deals on connecting flights. Adding a stop (or two) can sometimes save as much as 50%.  

Bigger airports (particularly hubs) often have cheaper airfares. Compare prices from your hometown airport as well a larger airport and you may find a longer drive is worth it.

They also pointed out that we can also save money by shopping one ticket at a time: When booking travel for two or more people, book just one ticket to start. That’s because of a quirk in airline reservation systems that requires multiple tickets sold in a single transaction be the same price. Shopping one ticket at a time can save money.  Example: An airline has one ticket left for $100; all the others on that flight cost $200. If you shop for two tickets at a time, you’ll pay $200 for both (because of that quirk). Shop for tickets one-at-a-time in separate transactions and you’ll get that last $100 ticket.

Cheapest days to fly:  Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Expensive days: Fridays and Sundays, which are the most popular days, especially around holiday weekends. 

Cheapest times: Fly when most people don’t want to: at dawn, red-eyes (overnight flights) and flights around the dinner hour.

Kim has a few suggestions on which sites to use for booking: When you run a search for tickets on Kayak.com, you’ll see a Price Trend box in the left-hand column. It tells you whether to buy or wait and Kayak’s confidence level based on whether prices are going up or down. If you want more information about how it made its decision, you can click the box with the lowercase “i”.

Another site good site is AirfareWatchdog. It pulls deals directly from airline websites that sometimes don’t show up in regular searches.

Even after your buy, make sure you’re getting the best deal. Yapta will watch prices so if they drop below a certain amount you can get a refund of the difference.

While saving money is nice, sometimes it’s better to spend a few more bucks for less travel hassle. Hipmunk lets you sort flights by “agony,” which factors in time of departure and layovers.

Nobody mentioned so far that traveling east or west is cheaper so let’s say you live in Washington D.C. and want to travel to Tokyo; you can do it by either traveling through California or changing somewhere in Europe, therefore I suggest you to check both directions but consider flying time and layovers! Saving $100 may not be worth it if you are flying 10 hours longer with terrible connections but if you are saving a lot, choose a flight with a long layover in a major city and get out of the connecting city while waiting (if no visa required).  You need at least an 8 hour layover (the longer the better) to enjoy the city and get back to your airport on time. Please note that you will have to go through a security check again.

Posted in Cheap Airline, Travel

Cheap international airlines and fees

There are no rules set in stone concerning which websites are the cheapest or which airlines are the most affordable. No such thing.  While WOW Air and Aer Lingus might be one of the cheapest international airlines from the east coast to Western and Northern Europe you certainly have to compare the prices with other airlines; you just never know who is running a promotion.  In Europe check out RyanAir, Easyjet, AirBaltic, WizzAir, Volotea and Vueling, where tickets start from 6 Euro one way with taxes and fees included.

Keep in mind that Wow Air charges a service fee if you don’t book directly with them, which is $26 per flight leg.  Seat selection is anywhere between $9-48 per flight leg.  Checked baggage is $48 if prepaid online, $68 if paid at the airport. Hand luggage is free up to 11 pounds (5 kg) but over the free allowance it will cost you $38 if prepaid online and $48 if paid at the airport.  This is very typical for European airlines, they try to off-set the low costs but if you are a smart traveler you can still save money by not selecting a seat (let the airline choose for you) and packing light.

Certain airlines charge you for tickets purchased over the phone so do it online, no big deal.  Curbside check-in can also cost you a few bucks so line up inside the terminal or check-in online up to 24 hours before departure, you can even print your own luggage tag!

Take your headset with you, most likely the airline will charge you for it. If your flight is long you will need one, if not for onboard entertainment, to cancel the noise around you.

Food on flights: Forget free food on domestic flights within the USA and Europe, you are lucky if you get a cookie or a whole peanut, and unfortunately the same goes on international flights shorter than 6 hours, unless you are flying on first class. The flight attendants hand you a “menu”  with a small and not-so-great selection of food items, never mind healthy.  I say bring your own food or get a meal to go at the airport.

We flew from Paris to Washington on Iceland Air, changing in Reykjavik.  The first leg was about 4 hours, the second was 6 and we had to beg for water.  Luckily we purchased breakfast in Paris and bought some meals to go at the connecting airport so we managed the 10 hour flight.  On a side note: while the Reykjavik airport is very modern and clean, it is the smallest I have ever seen which gets super crowded in the summer months due to the short tourist season.  Lines were long at the bathrooms and food court; I tend to think they are one of the most expensive airports in terms of food costs due to the cold climate on this northern island where they export goods.

 

Posted in Car Rental, Europe, Travel

Renting a car on Sardinia and Corsica

Both Corsica and Sardinia are fairly remote locations, “hidden” gems of the Mediterranean, a popular vacation spot of the “rich and famous” so if you are a budget traveler do what I did: book your car rental (and hotels) a year in advance.  There are only a few car rental agencies to choose from and they only have a small selection and limited amount of cars.  Car rentals are not only expensive but they tend to get sold out sooner rather than later so once your plans are firm, reserve a car as soon as you can (most rentals can be cancelled or modified), besides you will have to pay for the car when you pick it up so you got nothing to lose by booking early.

Now, both islands have several car rental locations, the most popular ones are at airports and by ferry terminals so you can pick up a car at any airport and return it at any ferry terminal, which most tourist do.  Sardinia is pretty big and roads are scarce between the mountains; the serpentine slows cars and trucks down and nobody likes to get stuck for kilometers (hours).  Driving 10 kilometers can take you an hour and a half depending on where you are going, airports and ferry terminals can easily be 2-3 hours away one way with “traffic” so smart tourists don’t like to waste time and gas (which is expensive in Italy) not to mention burning the brake pads. Here people prefer one way drop-offs which cost around $100 in the summer of 2015.

VERY IMPORTANT: Once you rent a car in Sardinia, you can’t take it over to Corsica and vice versa.  Even though both countries are members of the European Union and the two islands are literally just a 45 minute ride away from each other, the cars are registered in different countries and different car insurance rules apply.  You need to pick up and drop off cars on each island, which is a bit troublesome but at least you save on ferry by only paying for pedestrians.

ANOTHER NOTE: You better have an idea of your road trip prior to your vacation because once you land on Sardinia, you can no longer change your mind and request a different location for a drop off or modify the time of return, especially in case of minivans.  Since they only have a limited amount of cars and are probably fully booked in the summer months, they really need the car back on time and wherever you indicated originally. So, I suggest you don’t go with the flow here.  Stop thinking with your American head 😉 

Remember: When you are in Europe, it is not all about you.  People in the travel and hospitality industry earn a full wage unlike in the US where agents earn commission.  In Europe most agents don’t care if you are happy or disappointed, they will get paid regardless how you feel, whether you return or not, and the more south you go, the slower the service gets 😉 Did I mention siesta? 😉