Friday, November 27, 2009

Manmohan Singh meets Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama toasted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the lawns of the White House at the first state dinner of his presidency to celebrate the "friendship" between India and the US. "Aapka Swagat Hai (you are welcome)," said Obama in Hindi.

A.R. Rahman’s live performance of 'Jai Ho' from the multiple award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire resonated in the Whitehouse marquee during the predominantly vegetarian dinner. Indian dancers performed to the music of A.R. Rahman. The 300-plus strong guest list at the state dinner included some of the most powerful and talented Indians and Americans. Actors Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood, legendary director and producer Steven Spielberg, Hollywood filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, Indian music composer and singer A.R. Rahman, writer Jhumpa Lahiri, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, author Thomas Friedman and new age guru Deepak Chopra were some of the celebrity guests. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Obama's aides like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, senior advisor and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs Valerie Jarrett were among those present at the gathering. Indian billionaires Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, Indian-Americans like Indra Nooyi, Anish Goel, South Asia expert in Obama's National Security Council Rajat Gupta were the other notable guests.

Dr. Manmohan Singh said the two countries must find new pathways of international cooperation that respond more effectively to grave challenges confronting the world, and said, "A strong and sustained engagement between our two countries is good for our people and the world. We are embarking on a new phase of our partnership".

Indian Dancers perform at the White House

Indian Dancers at White House
P112409PS-1624, originally uploaded by The White House.

Indian dancers perform at the State Dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in honor of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and his wife Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House on November 24, 2009. The dancers performed to musician A.R. Rehman's live song 'Jai Ho' from his Oscar-wining score for the blockbuster "Slumdog millionaire".(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Please note the terms of usage of the photo as appended below the photo: This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Obama

In honor of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India and his wife, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first official State Dinner of the Presidency at the White House on November 24, 2009.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Planning for the best all inclusive holidays

Having a memorable holiday is the best way to unwind and re-energize our body and mind, apart from spending quality time with family and friends, or whoever are our companions on such a trip. In fact , most people meticulously plan their holidays, be it to the Himalayan hill resorts, Guatemalan highlands, Maldives, or some of the most popular and romantic destinations in Spain, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, or some other long haul holidays.

While on holidays, we need the services of tour and travel operators, hotels, car rentals, travel insurance and many more holiday-related services. We can’t afford to get trapped anywhere because of any problems with these services. So, we use the services of experienced professionals in travel and holidays. Even those having too much of money and preferring the best in hospitality services look for bargain holidays as no one wants to waste money and get poor services. So, one of the best that I came across to help you plan and book your holidays is Global Holidays.

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A visit to their site and their travel blog is one of the best ways to educate you on the options available and facilities in your dream holiday destination. They have highly experienced professionals to answer your questions on your holiday options.

Global Holidays holiday search and booking engine offers the best in technology and services offering the widest choice of cheap holidays and holiday bargains, with over 110 million holiday combinations for you to choose from.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everest Climbing Routes: Southeast Ridge

Mount Everest (also called Sagarmāthā / Chomolungma or Qomolangma / Zhumulangma / Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng), the highest mountain on Earth (8,848 meters or 29,029 ft), has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal and the northeast ridge from Tibet. The southeast ridge is technically easier and is the more frequently used route. It was the route used by Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand mountaineer and explorer) and Tenzing Norgay (aka Sherpa Tenzing, a Nepali Indian Sherpa mountaineer who later settled in India) in 1953 and the first recognized of fifteen routes to the top by 1996.

The ascent via the southeast ridge begins with a trek to Base Camp at 5,380 m (17,700 feet) on the south side of Everest in Nepal. Expeditions usually fly into Lukla (2,860 m) from Kathmandu and pass through Namche Bazaar. Climbers then hike to Base Camp, which usually takes six to eight days. Climbing equipment and supplies are carried by yaks, dzopkyos (yak hybrids) and human porters to Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier. When Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest in 1953, they started from Kathmandu Valley, as there were no roads further east at that time.

Climbers spend a couple of weeks in Base Camp, acclimatizing to the altitude in order to prevent altitude sickness. During that time, Sherpas (Sherpas are an ethnic group, who migrated from eastern Tibet to Nepal within the last 300 to 400 years) from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalayas) and some expedition climbers will set up ropes and ladders in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. Seracs, crevasses and shifting blocks of ice make the icefall one of the most dangerous sections of the route. Many climbers and Sherpas have been killed in this section. To reduce the hazard, climbers will usually begin their ascent well before dawn when the freezing temperatures glue ice blocks in place. Above the icefall is Camp I at 6,065 meters (19,900 ft).

From Camp I, climbers make their way up the Western Cwm (Cwm, pronounced as coom, is Welsh for a bowl shaped valley/cirque) to the base of the Lhotse face, where Camp II or Advanced Base Camp (ABC) is established at 6,500 m (21,300 ft). The Western Cwm is a relatively flat, gently rising glacial valley, marked by huge lateral crevasses in the centre which prevent direct access to the upper reaches of the Cwm. Climbers are forced to cross on the far right near the base of Nuptse to a small passageway known as the "Nuptse corner". The Western Cwm is also called the "Valley of Silence" as the topography of the area generally cuts off wind from the climbing route. The high altitude and a clear, windless day can make the Western Cwm unbearably hot for climbers.

From ABC, climbers ascend the Lhotse face on fixed ropes up to Camp III, located on a small ledge at 7,470 m (24,500 ft). From there, it is another 500 meters to Camp IV on the South Col at 7,920 m (26,000 ft). From Camp III to Camp IV, climbers are faced with two additional challenges: The Geneva Spur and The Yellow Band. The Geneva Spur is an anvil shaped rib of black rock named by a 1952 Swiss expedition. Fixed ropes assist climbers in scrambling over this snow covered rock band. The Yellow Band is a section of inter-layered marble, phyllite, and semischist which also requires about 100 meters of rope for traversing it.

On the South Col, climbers enter the death zone. Climbers typically only have a maximum of two or three days they can endure at this altitude for making summit bids. Clear weather and low winds are critical factors in deciding whether to make a summit attempt. If weather does not cooperate within these short few days, climbers are forced to descend, many all the way back down to Base Camp.

From Camp IV, climbers will begin their summit push around midnight with hopes of reaching the summit (still another 1,000 meters above) within 10 to 12 hours. Climbers will first reach "The Balcony" at 8,400 m (27,600 ft), a small platform where they can rest and gaze at peaks to the south and east in the early dawn of light. Continuing up the ridge, climbers are then faced with a series of imposing rock steps which usually forces them to the east into waist deep snow, a serious avalanche hazard. At 8,750 m (28,700 ft), a small table-sized dome of ice and snow marks the South Summit.

From the South Summit, climbers follow the knife-edge southeast ridge along what is known as the "Cornice traverse" where snow clings to intermittent rock. This is the most exposed section of the climb as a misstep to the left would send one 2,400 m (8,000 ft) down the southwest face while to the immediate right is the 3,050 m (10,000 ft) Kangshung face. At the end of this traverse, there is an imposing 12 m (40 ft) rock wall called the "Hillary Step" at 8,760 m (28,740 ft).

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers to ascend this step and they did it with primitive ice climbing equipment and with ropes. Nowadays, climbers will ascend this step using fixed ropes previously set up by Sherpas. Once above the step, it is a comparatively easy climb to the top on moderately angled snow slopes - though the exposure on the ridge is extreme especially while traversing very large cornices of snow. With increasing numbers of people climbing the mountain in recent years, the Step has frequently become a bottleneck, with climbers forced to wait significant amounts of time for their turn on the ropes, leading to problems in getting climbers efficiently up and down the mountain. After the Hillary Step, climbers also must traverse a very loose and rocky section that has a very large entanglement of fixed ropes that can be troublesome in bad weather. Climbers will typically spend less than a half-hour on the "top of the world" as they realize the need to descend to Camp IV before darkness sets in, afternoon weather becomes a serious problem, or supplemental oxygen tanks run out.

Mount Everest, which is part of the Himalaya range in Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and Tibet, China.

Adapted from: Wikipedia

Golden Mount Everest at Sunset

Mount Everest photos
Mount Everest at Sunset, originally uploaded by Shift 1.

North Face of Mount Everest at Sunset

Photo of North Face of Mount Everest
Sunset on Mount Everest, originally uploaded by larryhe.

Mount Everest: view from the base camp

Monday, November 9, 2009

Phewa Lake in the Himalayas

Photo of Phewa Lake
Himalaya "in" Fewa lake., originally uploaded by teocaramel.

Phewa Lake (also written as Phewa Tal or Fewa Lake) is a lake in the landlocked Himalayan country of Nepal located to the north of India, in the Himalayan mountain ranges. Fewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal, is in the Pokhara Valley near Pokhara and Sarangkot, and at an altitude of 784 m/ 2,572 feet. The area of the lake is approximately 4.43 squire km. The deepest spot is at 62 feet. The reflection of Mount Machapuchare (or Machhaphuchhare) of the Annapurna series of peaks can be seen on its surface. There is the Barahi temple situated on an island in the lake. It is a tourist attraction, especially the north side of the lake, mainly made up of shops, hotels, restaurants and bars. Larger and better hotels, shops and other facilities can be found in Pokhara city.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ho Phra Keo: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Emerald Buddha idols
Oldest temple of Vientiane, originally uploaded by B℮n.

Ho Phra Keo or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (formerly known as Wat Phra Kaew) is a former monastery and royal temple of the Lao monarchs. Built in 1565 by King Saya Setthathirath of the Kingdom of Lane Xang, it housed the Emerald Buddha, carved from a type of jade. The temple was destroyed during the Siamese invasion of 1828 and rebuilt between 1936 and 1942. ‘Surrounding the temple and its exquisitely kept gardens are 10 staircases, each intricately and symmetrically carved in the shape of dragons, adding to the distinct structure and design’, the author of this photo adds.