Prepare Ahead – Vietnamese Pho Jar

So I once spent an afternoon trying to pronounce “Pho”. Ok, it was probably closer to 15 minutes. Although our waitress looked like she just spent an eternity educating a dumb ass on something she finds incredibly mundane. This took place in a busy Vietnamese restaurant in the notorious part of Old Street that only serves Vietnamese food and fried chicken (fried chicken shops are the official replacement of the iconic red phone boxes in London). We were lured to the restaurant by their tagline “the most best authentic Vietnamese restaurant”. A sentence with two superlatives never lies.

For the Pho virgins out there, where have you been? Pho is a delicious rice noodle soup that features yummy fresh vegetables as well as a rich stock base. It is the comfort food of the Orient. The Asian equivalent of mac and cheese. However, unlike mac and cheese it’s low on calories and is stuff full of fresh vegetables. It’s crispy, chewy  and a hundred percent slurp-able burger by macdonald.

The only problem? It’s difficult to source and messy to eat. Thus, usually a sit down and put-your-napkin-in-your-collar kind of affair. But while experimenting last week, I came up with a solution to the age old “how to get your rice noodles cooked perfectly” question. (The answer was to soak it overnight by the way). Then one thing led to another and eventually to me bringing a jar of “instant-Pho” to work. It was a work of art. The colours, the textures, the healthy feeling you get from eating something hot and full of goodness – priceless. Needless to say, I became the most envied doctor in the Hospital. The endless jealous looks said it all. (Ok, I might have imagined the last part).

The anatomy of Pho for dummies:


P.S. It’s pronounced “phuuuur” by the way. =)


  • 100g Rice Noodles soaked overnight
  • 1 Dessert spoon of Miso Paste (it’s available in most Asian stores, if you really can’t find it then you can sub with Soy Sauce)
  • 100g Bean Sprouts
  • 1 Dessert spoon of Fish Sauce
  • 1 Spring Onion
  • 1 Red Chilli (Omit if you can’t handle the heat)
  • 1 Lime
  • 10 Ready Cooked Prawns


  1. Ok, you will not believe how easy this is:
  2. Step 1: Stuff everything into a jar. (1 minute allocated)
  3. Step 2: Marvel at your artistic creation. (time taken = level of narcissism + innate artistic talent, as a guide it took me over 5 minutes to complete this step).
  4. Now just take to work and you too can be the envy of all your co-workers.


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Here are the Best Desert Safari Deals you can Have

Unending sand dunes extending to the horizon is surely a visionary treat that no one wants to miss. It is the experience of traversing the toughest of terrains in adverse weather conditions that seem to lure in the tourists from every corner of the globe.

Best Desert Safari Deals

Putting Up a Safari Trip:

Individuals going out on their own for a safari trip are likely to face a number of problematic situations. It is to ease such situations has come upon the various online sites that offer some of the best desert safari deals. However, there are a number of essentiality’s that must be clarified upon by the interested before venturing any further with a trip. These are;

  • The type of camp and group size features first on the list. Camp sizes on a desert safari can be varied and so will be the budget. It is thus required to know in detail about the camp that is going to be setup.
  • For people who feel apprehensive amongst large groups might not be at ease with the huge private camps that some safari companies have.
  • Small private camps, on the other hand, are more compact and reasonable with good service. Studies suggest the smaller camps are much more of a preferred option for couples, well-travelled guests, and families.
  • The ones who are on the lookout for some more exclusive experience can opt for the private set-up. The pricey camp set up has a staff to guest ratio of 3 or 4 to 1. Every need of the guests is attended including some out of the box themes like a dinner held at the dunes.

So What Is Labelled as Some of the Best Desert Safari Deals?

If we are to look into the general way most people take to before venturing out on a desert trip, it will be an extensive research work. And the ones who do get to avail some great safari trips out of the companies they selected go on to rate them by citing an in-depth analysis like;

  • The tour guide is the one who acts like an engine directing and educating the tourists on the tour they are to embark on. The set of instructions is all relayed verbally with enough cordial behavior. You might be also interested in checking out Burj khalifa from the top of the building.
  • Snacks and drinks with entertainments like camel rides and belly dancers during a desert safari come next to be counted upon. Most of the entertainment costs are all included in the price.
  • The vehicles used are all the top of the line 4*4 vehicles that can very well negotiate some of the toughest terrains. The newer the vehicles, the better are the chance of pulling out of treacherous sand dunes with minimal difficulty.
  • Online booking options or email connectivity go a great deal in the favor of safari companies as this helps interested tourists to get pick-up and drop facility during a trip.
  • Voucher use is encouraged by most desert safari travelers to many of the newer tourists. This helps in saving money a great deal. The vouchers can very well be purchased online too. The package regarding the vouchers is various and at variable rates.

More on the Table:

There seem to be no limitations when it comes to some of the best desert safari deals. A person who is on a desert trip and wants to celebrate his or her birthday with the family or group of friends is now a possibility with the inclusion of desert surprise party. This is indeed a lifetime’s worth of experience for the traveler to cut a cake and celebrate his or her birthday at the very heart of a desert.

How about a BBQ dinner spread with enough veg and non-veg dishes at the middle of the desert? The desert safari deals offer such provisions too. Enjoying food and drinks amidst some of unique backdrops and settings brings out the liveliness of a desert trip for many.…

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46 Airlines Probe Customer Service Issues

Kavita Sharma Jassim More than 70 delegates, representing 46 airlines across the globe, analysed issues in the area of customer service and discussed means of improving it at a major aviation conference in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Gulf Air took the leading role at the 53rd four-day annual conference of the Worldwide Airline Customer Relations Association (WACRA).

The summit was held under the chair of Gulf Air senior manager customer care and service quality control Kavita Sharma Jassim, who is the chairperson of WACRA.

Iceland president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson inaugurated the conference under the theme ‘Fire and Ice: Energising the Customer Experience’ hosted by Icelandair.

‘There could have been no better place or time than Iceland to hold this conference as the global aviation industry cannot forget the recent infamous Icelandic volcano ash cloud incidents that have had a significant impact on several airlines’ operations as well as their customer care responses,’ said Jassim.

‘Aviation is one of the most volatile industries in the world, plagued by a number of uncertainties, rising fuel prices, natural disasters, geo-political developments and many others.”

‘And passengers are the first ones to be affected in such situations but as a service industry, we have to ensure they are least affected by providing the best service possible,’ Jassim added.

The surge in dissensions may have been started by two or three prominent occurrences that gave the business a bruised eye — most outstandingly, mobile phone video demonstrating a United Airlines traveler being dragged off of a plane.

That occasion occurred on April 9, and exceptional scope for a few days a while later made United Airlines a punching sack via web-based networking media and on late-night TV appears.

While United was more than once scrutinized for its client benefit, there were different occasions in April including quarrels amongst travelers and flight team including an American Airlines traveler with an infant stroller unintentionally being hit after a contention with an individual from the flight group.

By and large, the emphasis on poor client administration may have provoked more travelers to whine to the DOT.

Also Check: Overshooting a Runway Wrongly Perceived as Pilot Problem: Expert

‘As the chairperson of WACRA and a representative of Gulf Air, it was a great opportunity for me to project Bahrain and its national carrier at the forum, sharing our six decades of experience in the business,’ said Jassim.

‘Flying is a standout amongst the most unstable ventures on the planet, tormented by various instabilities, rising fuel costs, cataclysmic events, geo-political advancements and numerous others.”

‘What’s more, travelers are the initial ones to be influenced in such circumstances however as an administration industry, we need to guarantee they are minimum influenced by giving the most ideal administration,’ Jassim included.

‘As the administrator of WACRA and an agent of Gulf Air, it was an incredible open door for me to extend Bahrain and its national transporter at the discussion, sharing our six many years of involvement in the business,’ said Jassim.

Adding a distinctly local flavour, the conference presented Iceland’s premier volcanologist Dr Haraldur Sigur_sson, who shared his expertise about volcanoes and their effect on the aviation industry.

WACRA has been spearheading and driving customer service and relations among global airlines through continuous interaction and exchange of ideas for more than 60 years, providing value to companies, partnering with each other to share best practices and discuss industry trends and offering customers the best in service recovery.

It also co-operates with the Air Transport Association and the International Air Transport Association.

The next WACRA conference will be hosted by Malaysian Airlines in Kuala Lumpur in 2012. – TradeArabia News Service.…

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Overshooting a Runway Wrongly Perceived as Pilot Problem: Expert

MONTREAL – Despite new technologies and data available on runway accidents – the leading cause of aviation deaths – runway excursions have remained stable since at least 1995, James Burin said Wednesday.

The director of technical programs for Alexandria, Va.-based Flight Safety Foundation told the 2nd annual International Winter Operations conference hosted by the Air Canada Pilots Association that of the 1,508 aviation accidents between 1995 and 2009, 442, or nearly a third, were runway excursions. Only 10 were runway incursions.

An excursion is overshooting a runway, either on takeoff or landing, while an incursion is usually an unauthorized object – generally another aircraft – on a runway.

Formed in 1947, the not-for-profit foundation conducts studies on various aspects of aviation safety.

Burin, who led a study on runway excursions, said they are wrongly perceived by most as a pilot problem.

They’re not, he told the conference entitled Safety Is No Secret.

“They involve aircrews, airline management, air traffic control and regulators – they all play a role,” said the former U.S. Navy pilot who was a wing commander during the first Gulf War.

The reasons for the great disparity between incursions and excursions, Burin said, is the relative ease of preventing aircraft from bumping into each other – at low speeds.

Excursions usually involve high speeds, weather issues and human judgment.

One of the major obstacles hampering efforts to lower the incidence of these crashes, said Burin, is there is no single accepted standard measuring the conditions of runways.

The other “mystery,” said Burin, is the reluctance of pilots and air traffic to do more go-rounds in dodgy situations – to scrap a landing approach, go around the runway and try again.

“Why they don’t is really the question,” Burin said. “But it’s partly psychology, partly procedure – what’s considered safe.”

Most of the time, they are proven right, he noted – they land safely. And the 442 excursions resulted in 812 fatalities, statistically not excessive over 15 years.

Montreal’s International Civil Aviation Organization has isolated runway incidents as a major problem and has advocated one universal system to describe runway conditions.

Nancy Graham, director of ICAO’s air navigation bureau, told The Gazette in May that the rate of accidents is stable, but “that’s why we have a problem. As our traffic grows, we can expect these runway related accidents to grow as well, unless we act now.”

Also Check: Opening of New Hotels in Baku & Azerbaijan Will Cut Room Rates

Runway accidents are “the No. 1 killer in commercial aviation today,” she said.

Technologies are available that would curb their frequency, Burin said, including one that can read aircraft wheels when braking, translate that info into runway conditions and relay it to the world in real time.

He could not say why it hasn’t been adopted.

Another was developed by Airbus and tells pilots if they should do a go-round to land safely.

Airbus has offered the system to anyone willing to use it.

Denis Gordon, director of standards and procedures for AéroMag, a Ville St. Laurent firm that handles aircraft de-icing at airports in Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Cleveland, among others, said that removing ice from a plane’s wings and fuselage was done with warm water until a 1989 accident in Dryden, Ont., that killed 28 people aboard a Fokker jet.

“Three years later, there was a nearly identical accident, except that this time, they waited too long between de-icing and takeoff.”

That gave birth to de-icing practices that are now standard at most of the world’s airports, Gordon said.…

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Opening of New Hotels in Baku & Azerbaijan Will Cut Room Rates

Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan has made a monitoring to current room rates in Baku hotels and published the results disclosing the main reasons of high room rates. The major reason according to Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan experts is lack of competition in hotel business and deficit of hotels in growing Baku. From the early years of independence Azerbaijan could not boast of many hotels, the supply of quality hotel premises was scarce and most of them never were up to high international standards. That was explaining the the rocket high prices in Hyatt Regency Hotel and Grand Europe Europe hotel in those years. And that was the major factor why those and other hotels were able to keep the rates high, perfectly realising that visitors to Baku had no other options. Obviously, with number of hotels in Baku growing every year situation looks much better now, rates tend to take a reverse direction and hotels start competing for the customer.

Azerbaijan encourages investments into the tourist sector and now we can see the noticeable difference. If there were less than 100 hotels and guest houses in Azerbaijan in early 90-s today there are 499 of them. And this of course leads to growing competition, said an official from the Ministry.

“There was only Hyatt Regency before, and all those tourists had no chance but to stay there. Today Baku is hosting largest international hotel chaind. A new Kempinski hotel has been opened recently, new Four Seasons hotel is expected to open later this year – the first Four Seasons hotel in post-Soviet space. Then “Mariott” hotel would be opened soon, and former Moscow hotel would be replaced with Flame Towers Hotel. As a result tourists would have a wider option to choose from. New hotels would consequently ;eade to higher standards of service and would be forced to lower rates to attract customers. By inviting more hotels we will create such a competitve environment that would result in lower rates and higher standards of service.

Also Check: Cruising for Solo Travellers: Tips and Advice

Even today prices in 5* hotels in Baku are close to those in similar hotels in other countries.

The homes will go in measure from 84 square meters up to an amazing 890 square meters, and will be accessible for long haul rent.

VIP visitors of the homes will approach a private carport and entrance, and the stupendous private entryway will highlight gold-leaf glass.

The inn will brag an extravagance spa with various pools, a 500 square-meter assembly hall, 147 square meters of retail, champagne banish and a mark eatery from a yet-to-be-declared yet ‘internationally acclaimed’ restaurateur.

The building, outlined by London firm Mixity Design, takes after the pole of a sail, not unlike the Dubai Burj Al Arab’s famous outline.

Baku-based designer Garant Holding is doing development of the property. Investor Anar Mammadov stated: ‘We are excited to work with The Trump Organization, the most prestigious extravagance designer on the planet, to give guests to and inhabitants of Baku with a world-class lodging and homes that bring another era of style, selectiveness and notoriety.’

Ministry’s official also reiterated the importance of competition among restaurants. As with hotels Azerbaijan had just several restaurants before meeting international standards, but now there are many of them specialising on Italian, Brasilian, Chinese, Japanese and other cuisines.…

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Cruising for Solo Travellers: Tips and Advice

Jane Archer offers some useful advice for those travelling alone on cruise ships. There has never been a better time for people who like to cruise alone. A bold statement maybe, and one with which those who hanker for the tiny single cabins on the old QE2 will doubtless disagree – but it’s true.

Two years ago if you wanted a single cabin you had a choice between Saga Cruises and Fred Olsen, the one for the over-50s, the other loved by the over-60s, and a handful of other cruise lines that attracted those of a similar age.

Today, those in their 20s can travel alone – and have a ball – on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic, a lively family-friendly cruise ship. and the first new vessel for years with a substantial number of single cabins.

And, as noted by Which? Travel in a report this week, more cruise lines are offering either low single supplements or none at all, in recognition of the fact that more people are choosing to live and take their holidays alone.

These can hurt – up to 100% more than the twin share per person price so you are paying for yourself and another non-existent, person. But keep an eye out for several cruise lines that have no single supplement offers now and then. Saga, Hurtigruten, Voyages to Antiquity and MSC Cruises are ones to watch.


Single cabins vary from being pokey inside rooms to reasonably spacious balcony staterooms. It pays to shop around. Fred Olsen has everything from inside to balcony cabins, Swan Hellenic has just nine inside single cabins, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 128 studio cabins are all inside and just 100 square feet – but you do get the singles lounge for socializing.

Holland America Line, Fred Olsen and Avalon Waterways have single share schemes, where they pair solo passengers with another same sex lone traveler. If they can’t find anyone, you get a double cabin to yourself without paying a supplement.

Also Check: Montenegro Tourism up 5.3%, Albania Passes 3 Million Visitors

Dining and socializing

Some cruise lines have fixed dining, where you eat at the same time on a pre-allocated table each night. Others have open dining, allowing you to eat when and with whom you want. Single-friendly lines – Fred Olsen, Swan Hellenic, P&O; Cruises – have cocktail parties and coffee mornings so solo travelers can meet others.

Tips for solo cruisers

  • A ship with lots of single cabins means there’ll be plenty of other solo travelers.
  • Fixed dining is very formal; open dining is an easier way to meet people as you sit at different tables each evening.
  • Use cruise blogs for research. If you like formal cruising, Norwegian Epic would be a nightmare; likewise Fred
  • Olsen would be a disaster for young, free and single thirty-somethings.
  • Book early. Single cabins on all ships sell like hot cakes.
  • Reviews and advice on 100 cruise ships and 35 cruise lines

Top five cruise lines and ships for solo travelers

  • NCL’s Norwegian Epic has 128 inside studio cabins for lone travelers, no single supplement and the studio ‘hang-out’ where people cruising alone can meet. Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, launching in 2013 and 2014 respectively, will have 59 Studio cabins each.
  • Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has 188 single cabins across its four ships, which carry a small premium on the per person price for the equivalent twin-share. Singles parties and gentlemen hosts make this a favorite with older single travelers.
  • P&O; Cruises’ Azura has 18 single cabins – six inside and 12 with an ocean view – at a small premium on the per person twin-share price. Coffee mornings help single travelers meet others. However, P&O; is putting a miserly two single cabins on Oriana in a refit this autumn.
  • Voyages to Antiquity has 16 single cabins on Aegean Odyssey, charged at a 15 per cent supplement, but this is waived on selected cruises. Singles parties are organized if there are enough people traveling alone.
  • Saga Cruises has 206 single cabins across three ships and an average 40 per cent supplement that’s waived on many cruises. Taster cruises have lunches and excursions for solo travelers. Saga Sapphire, entering service in March 2012, will have 58 cabins for solo travelers.
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Montenegro Tourism up 5.3%, Albania Passes 3 Million Visitors

Montenegro has a Stunning Coast, More impressive statistics emerge from the Balkans, where Montenegro reports a strong August performance in the wake of Albania welcoming 3 million visitors.

Countries in the Balkan region continue to post impressive tourism statistics, with Montenegro the latest to report an increase, according to a report on business web-portal on September 30, 2011.

Montenegrin Tourism up 5.3% in August, 7.2% Overall in 2011

According to the report, the tiny former Yugoslav republic with a population of 620,000 recorded 455,185 arrivals in August, an increase of 5.3% on the corresponding period the previous year. Overnight stays were up 12.2% at 3,556,078 nights. The statistics reflect an improved trend throughout the year, which has seen a 7.3% increase in arrivals in the first eight months of 2011 (1,102,639 in all). A small decrease in domestic tourists (2.4%) was outweighed by a strong foreign increase (11.1%).

The report gives an interesting breakdown into the origins of the tourists, with the two largest visitors from Serbia (27.9%) and Russia (20.3%). Bosnia and Herzegovina was next (7.6%), followed by neighbouring Kosovo (3.4%).

The Ministry of Tourism said yearly wage from tourism had tripled in the course of recent years, which it called a superb outcome for the nation.

“Montenegro is happy with what has been accomplished. Income tourism in the course of the most recent year was higher than in 2013,” it noted.

Concerning the structure of overnight remains of outside voyagers, most originated from the customarily inviting countries of Russia and Serbia. Guests from those two nations made up 60 for each penny of aggregate overnight remains.

Most voyagers went by the water-front range over the mid year months. Montenegro’s less touristy northern and focal areas were gone by just around 2 for each penny of enrolled sightseers.

Montenegro Most Popular with Serbians and Russians

Until recently joined to Serbia as a unified country, Serbia and Montenegro, the popularity of Montenegro’s coast to Serbs can be explained by traditional ties, common language, ease or access and a common Orthodox religion, while the strong Russian interest reflects the massive financial investment made in Montenegro in recent years before the global crisis, as well as a picturesque Orthodox resort country on the Adriatic with no visa complications for Russian visitors.

Crossing the Border from Montenegro to Albania Albania Tourism More Popular Than Montenegro, Says Google Search Croatian Tourism Enjoys a Bumper June: Up 20% on Previous Year While Montenegro’s tourism is best known for its stunning coastal walled towns and resorts, such as Budva, Kotor and Sveti Stefan, it also has an emerging adventure tourism offer inland in the mountains. It is perhaps therefore somewhat surprising that tourist overnight stays were so overwhelmingly coastal (98.8%), as opposed to 0.7% in the mountain areas, and just 0.2% in the capital, Podgorica.

Also Check: 46 Airlines Probe Customer Service Issues

Albania Passes 3,000,000 Arrivals in 2011

The encouraging statistics were released soon after its southern neighbor, Albania – a rising star of Balkan tourism, with its 350km of virtually untouched sandy coastline – posted even more impressive numbers in the year it had been tipped as Lonely Planet’s Top Destination. In a press conference on September 1, Minister of Tourism Aldo Bumci announced that more than 3,000,000 tourists had visited the country in the first eight months of 2011.

In a press conference, the minister elaborated on this figure, stating that 2,120,000 had been foreign visitors, while some 870,000 were Albanians living abroad. In addition to the Lonely Planet factor, Bumci attributed the 16% annual increase on improved infrastructure and quality of service.…

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