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Ngoc Trang Tran Nguyen

Ngoc Trang Tran Nguyen

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Gracious Luang Prabang

The riverside town of Luang Prabang offers a tranquil Buddhist atmosphere, elegant traditional Lao architecture and some of the best –preserved colonial buildings in Indochina

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

My flight arrived to in Luang Prabang, the former capital of Laos, in the early evening. Greeting me was a red sun setting over the mighty Mekong river. The Mekong and the Nam Khan embrace the town and steep mountains encircle it, as if to protect Luang Prabang from the outside world.

For 500 years Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos, the “Land of a Million Elephants”. This legacy has left dozens of pagodas, shrines and palaces, along with more than 600 wooden houses on the ancient Lao style. Laotians regard Luang Prabang as their country’s soul. Indeed, it feels as though the old kingdom’s spirit still lingers there, in the sound of the tocsins, in the saffron robes of the monks… The landscape is so dreamy that time seems to have slowed here.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

It is said that the quintessense of Lao architecture is condensed within the pagoda of Wat Xieng Thoong. This pagoda, the name of which means “Golden city”, is neither grandiose nor imposing, yet possesses a fascinating beauty. Its subtly curving layers of roof tops, its carvings and relieves, its gold and silver decorations, and the gemstones-and-glass mosaic shining under tropical sunlight never fail to leave visistors stunned. One can not help but admire the pagoda’s sophistication and the skill of the craftsmen who made it.

A mere 29 km from the city center lie the jade-green Kuang Si Falls. The waterfalls have many levels. Surrounded by immense trees, the falls form perfect natural pools for those seeking refreshment. Another must-see in Luang Prabang is Mount Phousi, reportedly the best spot in Laos to watch the sunset. Every day a crowd of quiet visitors gathers here, surrounded by the scent of frangipani blossoms. Camera in hand, they try to capture the last rays of sunlight on the distant mountain ranges.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang has inherited an architectural fusion of East and West. Alongside traditional wooden houses stand colonial French style villas, original or renovated to a high level of luxury and style. The town’s authentic cultural value, which is increasingly hard to find in today’s world, is drawing more and more visitors. Each year tourists outnumber locals by four to one. Downtown and in the open air night market (open 5Pm to 10pm), foreigners are the majority. Though restaurants, shops and spa abound, the quality of most services is not yet up to international standards.

Sitting in a riverside restaurant eating a local delicacy of barbecued fish, a Lao friend of mine confided: “Luang Prabang is changing fast. I don’t know if our culture will remain intact for long. And tourism facilities are not very well -planned and organized. We Laotians are too modest and content with our lives… “His words make me worry. Can this special town retain its beauty?

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Upon bidding farewell to the “Land of a Million Elephants”, I bought an antique bronze elephant from the night market. The elephant lifts its front leg and curves its trunk in a salute, as if inviting me to return one day.

Ngoc Trang Tran Nguyen

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Ngoc Trang Tran Nguyen, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Tran Nguyen Ngoc Trang
ngoctrangtn0914@gmail.com

Gracious Luang Prabang

The riverside town of Luang Prabang offers a tranquil Buddhist atmosphere, elegant traditional Lao architecture and some of the best –preserved colonial buildings in Indochina

My flight arrived to in Luang Prabang, the former capital of Laos, in the early evening. Greeting me was a red sun setting over the mighty Mekong river. The Mekong and the Nam Khan embrace the town and steep mountains encircle it, as if to protect Luang Prabang from the outside world.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

For 500 years Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos, the “Land of a Million Elephants”. This legacy has left dozens of pagodas, shrines and palaces, along with more than 600 wooden houses on the ancient Lao style. Laotians regard Luang Prabang as their country’s soul. Indeed, it feels as though the old kingdom’s spirit still lingers there, in the sound of the tocsins, in the saffron robes of the monks… The landscape is so dreamy that time seems to have slowed here.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

It is said that the quintessense of Lao architecture is condensed within the pagoda of Wat Xieng Thoong. This pagoda, the name of which means “Golden city”, is neither grandiose nor imposing, yet possesses a fascinating beauty. Its subtly curving layers of roof tops, its carvings and relieves, its gold and silver decorations, and the gemstones-and-glass mosaic shining under tropical sunlight never fail to leave visistors stunned. One can not help but admire the pagoda’s sophistication and the skill of the craftsmen who made it.

A mere 29 km from the city center lie the jade-green Kuang Si Falls. The waterfalls have many levels. Surrounded by immense trees, the falls form perfect natural pools for those seeking refreshment. Another must-see in Luang Prabang is Mount Phousi, reportedly the best spot in Laos to watch the sunset. Every day a crowd of quiet visitors gathers here, surrounded by the scent of frangipani blossoms. Camera in hand, they try to capture the last rays of sunlight on the distant mountain ranges.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang has inherited an architectural fusion of East and West. Alongside traditional wooden houses stand colonial French style villas, original or renovated to a high level of luxury and style. The town’s authentic cultural value, which is increasingly hard to find in today’s world, is drawing more and more visitors. Each year tourists outnumber locals by four to one. Downtown and in the open air night market (open 5Pm to 10pm), foreigners are the majority. Though restaurants, shops and spa abound, the quality of most services is not yet up to international standards.

Sitting in a riverside restaurant eating a local delicacy of barbecued fish, a Lao friend of mine confided: “Luang Prabang is changing fast. I don’t know if our culture will remain intact for long. And tourism facilities are not very well-planned and organized. We Laotians are too modest and content with our lives… “His words make me worry. Can this special town retain its beauty?

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Upon bidding farewell to the “Land of a Million Elephants”, I bought an antique bronze elephant from the night market. The elephant lifts its front leg and curves its trunk in a salute, as if inviting me to return one day.

TRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG’s photostream

TRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANGTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG VIDEOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTO
TRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTOTRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG PHOTO

TRẦN NGUYỄN NGỌC TRANG’s photostream on Flickr.

Vive la Difference! Marche’ d’Aligre

The markets of Paris are enjoying a renaissance. Mark Tungate is impressed.

The butcher takes a slab of lamb, cuts it deftly into small pieces and pares away the fat, forming a pile of almost perfect cubes. He brushes them into a bag with the flat of the knife and hands the package to me. “That should do it”, he says, having not only fulfilled my request for a piece of lamb suitable for making Moroccan brochettes, but also doing half the job for me. When I comment to that effect, he winks. “Don’t tell madame”, he advises. “She will think you are a grand chef”.

The butcher’s stall is located in Marche Cadet, my local market in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. In many ways of French capital is more modern city than one might imagine, but it retains the timeless features that make it such  romantic tourist destination: the cramped cafes with their bustling terraces, the surprising number of carousels, the green advertising columns thick with theater posters. And the street markets. Almost every quartier seems to have one, the barking voices of the stallholders and the immaculately displayed rows of bright fruit stubbornly resisting the march of time and supermarket chains.

In fact, Parisian markets are growing in number. There are currently 95 in total – including bric-a-brac, clothing and antiques-compared to 51 in 1860. Of these, 82 are food markets, 13 of them covered and 69 in the open air.

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, know for his “green” initiatives – from tram extensions to the provision of free rental bikes – believes markets make the city a more liveable place. They respond to a growing demand for fresh, locally produced or organic products, confirms the mayor’s office. Plus, they offer a one-to-one contact with the stallholder, as well as a sociable shopping environment.

The establishment of additional greenhouses in the Paris region has spurred this development, as well as the rise of 100 percent organic markets such as the one in rue Raspail, over on the left Bank. On a sunny Sunday morning recently, this modest street market – which  takes up a narrow strip of land in the middle of a boulevard- was packed with well-dressed families buying homemade bread, olive oil and organic vegetables, as well as wine from tiny producers. There were also stalls selling genuine panama hats and ethnic cotton scarves. That’s not the only attraction, one customer added. A lot of stars shop here, too.

There were no stars to be seen in Marche d’Aligre, one of my favourite markets. In a scruffy square not far from Bastille, it combines a small covered market with outside stalls selling food, clothing and bric-abrac. It has existed since 1779 and looks not a day newer. There are few finer things to do on a weekday morning than stroll around here with a vague idea for dinner on your mind, inhaling the fabulous blend of aromas and listening to the stallholders yelling. “Allez, allez, un euro les melons!”…’Au choix! Au choix! And when you’ve made your choice, around midday, you can restore yourself with a glass of red and plate of Corsican charcuterie at Le Baron Bouge, a crowded wine bar that seems almost as ancient as the marketplace itself.

A Miracle Of Tiny Pebbles

Hot people massage is an interesting therapy for those who are keen on massage. This is because hot pebble massage apart from beautifying female skin, has some effects on revitalizing one’s health. It is preferred by many thanks to its capacity to bring balance to health.

The hot pebble massage process is quite elaborate, especially “being streamed” with hot pebbles. Pebbles applied in massage, besides the pebbles which are as big as a first; there are small and nice pebbles as well. Before being used in massage, the pebbles are streamed hot in herbal substance, and then will be put on aching organs of the body. The know-how of hot pebbles rests on the temperature in the center which the pebbles keep.

After massaging the whole body with specific attar (a perfume or essential oil extracted from flowers or petals), the masseuse will gradually scatter hot pebbles on both sides of the spine, shoulders, arms, and elbows, and insert small pebbles even in the space between toes. Meanwhile, tender massage acts are performed and combined with pressing nerve focal-points to ignite the energy source “burning” the body. The concave-convex pebbles closely stick to the muscles and veins to strengthen muscles, leaving tiredness and stress behind… Particularly, the hot vapor emitted from hot pebbles will tenderize lumps of muscles and awaken the senses to recuperate. With massage method of pressing nerve focal-points Swiss style, hot pebbles therapeutic massage enhances blood circulation, cures rheumatism and relieves stress.

Those who have experienced many traditional massage methods received similar benefits while enjoying hot pebble therapeutic massage. This is the perception of tiny vibrations on the body thanks to the pleasant diffusion of temperature from the pebbles streams hot in medicinal herbs.

A human foot is considered as a map of your health because it aggregates many nerve joints. If these nerves are manipulates and pressed correctly, we may have enduring health. After heating mineral and smooth pebbles, the pebbles are put in between the toes, the bigger ones are glided slowly along the muscles of the legs to let heat absorb deep into the muscular areas, to help soften muscles, to reduce numbness to get rid of beriberi and to eliminate muscular aches and pains on the legs.

Applying hot pebbles massage on the nape of the neck, the back, the arms or the face not only helps recharge energy, but it could also eliminate facial wrinkles, dissolve fat and make you more vigorous at the beginning of a new day.

Hong Kong Top 10

Daniel Neilson runs through an itinerary of unmissables.

1. Taste Typhoon Shelter crab. Probably the best eating experience in Hong Kong is in Under Bridge Spicy Crab, modestly situated between strip clubs and sports bars along Lockhart Road. Order “typhoon shelter-style” crab and a large beer. A live crab will then be hauled out of a pot and returned to your table dismembered and covered in crunchy garlicky piquant deliciousness. Address: 405 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. Tel (+852)2573 7698. www.underspicycrab.com

2. Peak tramway. Touristy, yes, but the vertiginous funicular offers an insight into Hong Kong’s colonial past. It was completed in 1888, when residents decided it would be more comfortable to climb the mile long route to the posh Victoria Peak in a train rather than in a sedan chair. The peak has the best views over Hong Kong Island. www.thepeak.com.hk

3. Chungking Mansions, in Tsim Sha Tsui, are the true microcosm of Hong Kong, if not the world. Within its 17 storeys are restaurants, electronic stores, brothels, guesthouses and the cheapest residential apartments. The diversity of cultures co-existing in the tower block is astonishing. It is a seedy and frenetic hive, and essential for understanding Hong Kong in the 21st century. Address 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.

4. Causeway Bay wet market. Hong Kong has dozens of markets, each usually specializing in certain food. Around the corner of Bowrington Road and Tin Lok Lane in Causeway Bay you will find a positive shoal of fishmongers. There is a bewildering selection of sea creatures that are kept in water-filled bowls and only killed, usually with a club, when bought. The butchers and grocers hawk equality bizarre goods.

5. Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. Surrounded by the high rises of Kowloon, this tranquill Buddhist public garden and tea rooms is a sanctuary from modern Hong Kong. Still the site of nunnery, this 3.5 hectare, studiously landscape park is designed with the Zen aesthetic of the Tang Dynasty. There is also a restaurant, tea room and shop. 60 Fung tak road, Diamond Hill.

6. HSBC Main building. Sir Norman Foster designed the HSBC headquarters to be taken down and moved to the UK if handover to the Chinese went haywire. It didn’t and today the remarkable “exoskeleton” construction symbolizes, more than the world Trade Center, Hong Kong’s financial might. It juxtaposes with the neo-classical Legislative Council Building, opened in 1912.

7. Lantau trail. Although most visitors remain on Hong Kong Island, there are 1,104 square kilometers of the mainland and other islands to explore. Despite being home to Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland, Lantau Island has a remote but well maintained 70-kilometer trail over the spine of the island that transcends time, through the traditional village of Tai O and past monasteries.

8. Lan Kwai Fong. Hong Kong’s nightlife is focused on Lan Kwai Fong. Bars and restaurants fill up with a healthy mix of expats and locals for after hours drinks. The most refined bar is Feather Boa, a low –lit place with a decadent, fin de siécle speakeasy vibe. Antique furniture, heavy velvet curtains, candles and dry martinis complete the atmosphere. Address 38 Staunton street. Tel (+852) 2857 2586.

9. Tram Tours. The best tour in town costs on only HK$ (25c). Buy a ticket and hop on a tram heading in any direction. Little changed from the colonial days of the early 1900s when they were introduced, these clunking relics offer an atmospheric tour through the financial downtown, Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy town.

10. Happy Valley Horse Racing Track. Elicits the same sort of passion football does in Argentina, or baseball in the US – it could almost be Hong Kong‘s official sport. The Happy Valley racecourse, run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, is an immensely impressive stadium and best visited when floodlit.

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9 rules how to make the six-footer

How many times have you stood there shaking and nervously make your decisive putt from six feet and missed it? Here are some tips from Dave Stockton that you can learn to improve your putting skills.
1. Take “try” out of the equation. The moment you try to make a putt, you’ll miss it. Conscious effort doesn’t work. Try this experiment: Get a pen and paper and jot your signature. Now write your name a second time, trying to duplicate your first signature exactly. Chances are you’ll make a mess of it, because instead of doing it automatically, you’ll now applying conscious effort. Your approach to the six-footer should be like signing your name: doing it briskly and subconsciously.

2. Think speed more than line. Speed and line are equally important, but the amateur tends to preoccupied with the line. As you read the green, do it with the idea that you rolled the ball 16 inches past the hole – if you miss. After you’ve set up and taken dead aim, don’t give the line another thought. Avoid being too aggressive with the six-footer, because the edges of the hole might come into play and cause a nasty lip-out.

3. Stay away from dead straight. If there’s one thing a good putter hates, it’s an absolutely straight putt. The reason is, if you start the putt straight, you have a margin for error of only half a cup on either side. If the putt for all the marbles looks straight, look again. Study the area near the hole. Remember, the ball will be rolling so slowly when it gets within two feet that even the tiniest slope will cause it to break. Try to at least favor one side.

4. You’re already made the putt. You might have heard that it’s helpful to form a positive image of the ball going in, but you should take it further than that. Imagine the ball tracking the entire six feet, as though you’re watching a video replay of the putt dropping. This image should be so convincing that, if the putt doesn’t fall, you should be shocked. That’s how I feel when I’m putting well, I’m absolutely stunned well when the ball doesn’t go in.

5. Be a painter, not a carpenter. For the good putter, the most common miss under pressure is the push. When the heat is on, there’s tendency to hit at the ball instead of stroking through it. Liking driving a nail with a hammer, the putter stops abruptly at impact. It doesn’t release to a square position, and clubface is aimed to right. Putt as though you’re pulling a paintbrush, your hands leading and he club head trailing as you stroke through.

6. Your last thought: none at all. You should have no coherent thought as you draw the putter back. Avoid saying an actual word or phrase to yourself, even a seemingly positive one such as smooth. All it will do is block the overall sense of flow you must feel to make a good stroke. The only “thought” should be a vague feeling of relaxation, readiness and rhythm. All you’re doing is allowing your subconscious mind to take over so you can invite that wonderful sense of feel where you know the putt is no actual language when you’re in that sharp mental state called The Zone.

7. Get your eyes over the ball. Putting mechanics are mostly a matter of preference, but there is one universal rule for putts from six feet and in: Eyes over the ball. For most players, that means standing closer to the ball. This simplifies things enormously. It’ll help you swing the putter straight back and through. It’ll make you less handsy and decrease your chances of fanning the face open and closed excessively. And you’ll see the line better. Come to think of it, it’s good rule for all putts.

8. Focus on that first inch. In determining the line of the putt, the only area of true precision is the first inch the ball travels. If you’ve read the putt correctly, all you need to do is make the ball roll over a spot one inch in front of it. Be painstaking about that inch. At address, keep your eyes riveted on the spot. Your biggest priority is to keep your eyes still until the ball has travelled one inch past impact. This will keep your heard from moving, which is a cardinal sin. Even if you feel anxious, focusing on that all-important spot will guarantee a smooth stroke.

9. Forget about bad greens. Under pressure, all of your senses are heightened. There’s a tendency to see more obstacles than usual along the line-scuff marks, ball marks, footprints, disruptions in the grain and so on. Ignore them. If you strike the ball solidly and impart a true roll, the chances of anything knocking the putt off the line are remote. If a spike mark is so significant that you’re sure it will affect the roll, play a shade less break and roll the ball with a bit more speed to avoid it.

Let children explore the game on their own at the outset because their attention span is very short.

If children are blithely unaware of the game’s frustrations and think that it’s all a joy then they are learning the game the right way.

Teaching young children is a privilege and a huge responsibility. The challenge is to cultivate their skills while sustaining their interest and preserving the joy.

A few points to achieve this:

Youngsters just want to have fun. Let them explore the game on their own at the outset. Follow them around and explain the things they’re curious about. The rule of thumb is this: You are the to do what they want to do, not what you want them to do.

Do more playing than teaching. A 6-year-old’s attention span is excruciatingly short. They don’t really focus until the ball is on the tee, waiting to be struck. With that, the lesson should not last longer than 30 minutes. Furthermore, the 30 minutes should be broken down into 10 minutes of actual teaching and 20 minutes of playing.

Communicate on their level. Everything you say should be expressed at the child’s level, and I mean that literally. Don’t stand when you talk; kneel down and look the child in the eye. Watch what you say, and how you say it. Rather than say “wide arc,” I say “big circle.” Instead of a “descending blow”, I say “thumb the ground”. I don’t say “pivot,” I say “turn”. Children must comprehend an idea before they can execute it.

Tee it up. To establish an early pattern of success, I insist on teeing the ball on every shot with every club.

Visual is better than verbal. Don’t explain the point, show it. Most children initially hold the club with a very weak left-hand grip. Instead of saying aim the “V” at the right shoulder, I mark the youngster’s fingers with a line or dots and tell them where it should point.

Safety first, last and always. In golf, the consequences of a misstep can be dire. Use these 2 main points to ensure safety: keep the youngster in your line of sight at all times. On the range, young students should occupy the bay in front of you, never the one behind. Drawn an imaginary line three feet in front of the spot the student is hitting from, and tell them, as emphatically as possible, never to walk in front of it.

There is no such thing as criticism. In a child’s world, events are classified as either “fun”  or “not fun”. Criticism is not fun. It implied the child did something wrong, as opposed to merely doing something incorrectly. In golf as in life, the path forward is paved with praise. If they hit a good shot, you say “good shot”. If they hit a bad shot, you say, “good swing”. When you detect a flaw, you challenge them to make the correct move without verbally indentifying the bad one.

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