Travel etiquette 101: body language

среда, 3 августа 2011 г. 0 коммент.

You step over someone’s legs in Nepal and don’t even realize you’ve committed a grave social taboo! Although most locals will excuse breaches in etiquette, wouldn’t you rather be informed? Read below for a list of etiquette tips, taken from our various guidebooks, to help you navigate different parts of the world.
1. In Asia, never touch any part of someone else’s body with your foot, which is considered the ‘lowest’ part of the body. If you accidentally do this, apologize by touching your hand to the person’s arm and then touching your own head. Don’t point at objects or people with your feet, don’t prop your feet on chairs or tables while sitting. – From the Lonely Planet Thailand travel guide (and other Asia guidebooks)
2. Also in Asia, refrain from touching people on the head or ruffling their hair. The head is spiritually the ‘highest’ part of the body. Don’t sit on pillows meant as headrests, as it is a variant on this taboo. – From the Lonely planet China travel guide
3. Shaking hands was introduced to Fiji in the 19th century by way of Tonga, and quickly became the established custom. An affectionate handshake can be very long, and may even last throughout an entire conversation. – From the Lonely Planet South Pacific Phrasebook
4. In Nepal, it’s bad manners to step over someone’s outstretched legs, so avoid doing that, and move your own legs when someone wants to pass. Also do not step over or sit on a monk’s cushions in or near a temple, even if no one is sitting on them. Always walk around stupas and chortens (Tibetan-style stupas) in a clockwise direction. – From the Lonely Planet Nepal travel guide
5. In Japanese baths, called onsen, always wash first before entering the water. The water is considered fouled if someone does not do this, kind of like the American equivalent of peeing in a pool. Also, use a wash cloth to cover your private bits and pieces. – From the Lonely Planet Japan travel guide. (Also see: Top 10 hot springs in Japan)
6. The people of Italy are emotionally demonstrative, so expect to see lots of cheek kissing among acquaintances, embraces between men who are good friends and lingering handshakes. Italian men may walk arm-in-arm, as may women. Pushing and shoving in busy places is not considered rude, so don’t be offended by it. Try to hold your ground. The Italian body language vocabulary is is quite extensive, but the following six may prove useful when traveling:
Italian Body Language
Six examples of Italian body language with their matching translations
7. Shaking hands across a threshold is considered unlucky in Russia. An interesting feature of this is that some pizza delivery guys refuse to conduct a transaction across a threshold; you either have to go out to the hall or invite them just inside the door. – From the Lonely Planet Russia travel guide
    8. In India it is possible to pay a tremendous compliment with body language alone. When somebody approaches a person with their tongue between their teeth and gathers the air around the person’s head with their hands to draw it into their own personal space, it means they find the person either unbearably beautiful or extraordinarily intelligent. – From Lonely Planet’s Indian English Language & Culture
    9. Don’t stick your index finger and middle finger up with the palm of your hand facing towards you in the UK… it’s the equivalent of giving someone the finger. Tip: Don’t order two beers in this fashion in UK bars. Doing it palm facing out is OK (i.e., the peace sign) – From a Lonely Planet staffer in the UK
    10. Moroccan greetings can last up to 10 minutes. Shake with your right hand then touch your hand to your heart, to indicate that you’re taking the meeting to heart. Good friends may tack on up to four air kisses, accompanied by a stream of well wishes: ‘How are you? Everything’s good with you? I hope your parents are well? Baraka(blessings) upon them!’ – From Alison Bing, Lonely Planet Morocco author
    Know of other body language dos and don’ts around the world? Mime them for us in the comments below.

    Should foreigners pay higher prices?

    вторник, 2 августа 2011 г. 0 коммент.


    Jantar Mantar, Delhi
    A few years ago, I fronted up to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, a stellar remnant of India’s Mughal past. An Indian by birth and ethnicity, I handed over the ‘local’ entrance fee – about US$0.10 – only for the guard to laugh and demand the much higher ‘foreigner’ fee (US$2). My protests were brushed aside: I could not produce an Indian passport, and my Hindi was horribly accented. So the foreign price it was.
    Though initially infuriated, I began questioning whether this was really unfair treatment. I moved quickly from wondering how legitimately ‘Indian’ I was to contemplating whether charging different groups of people different prices – based on nationality – is a justifiable practice.
    This debate has played out several times on our Thorn Tree forum, with members sparring over whether extra charges are ethically legitimate,how problematic ‘different’ fares actually are and why governments defend such practices.
    As the ‘ripped off’ visitor, it’s easy to be indignant. You are paying more for the exact same experience. You are being discriminated against owing to your nationality (and sometimes, more problematically, your ethnicity). You feel as though you’re getting a raw deal.
    But before you feel duped, consider these two questions:
    Who ‘owns’ public attractions? It’s hardly unreasonable to assume that citizens of a particular country can lay priority claim to assets belonging to that country – from welfare support to membership in certain organisations. Following this logic, it seems fair that a citizen has priority right of access to something like a national park, owing to ‘collective ownership’ of the park. And they’re almost certainly paying taxes that support it. This preferred right of access might manifest itself in a reduced access fee.
    Is this just legitimate market segmentation? Few people bat an eyelid when private train tickets cost less for students, or cinemas offer reduced-fee entry for senior citizens. But these institutions are generally not discounting for the greater good: they’re doing it to maximise profit. If you’re running a business, you’d ideally charge each consumer the maximum price he or she could afford for your service. That’s practically impossible, so segmentation is the next best thing. You divide up your consumers into groups based on ability to pay, and you adjust prices so that you extract the most money possible out of each group. (If you think this sounds horribly unfair, keep in mind that consumers generally have similar powers of choice based on businesses’ abilities to offer an attractive price.) Viewed in this way, charging foreigners higher fees is a crude tool, but it makes economic sense for the providers.
    So what does this mean for you, the traveller? Short of perfecting a local accent, your choices are limited. It’s not as though you’re going to get the laws changed anytime soon. Therefore, you have to figure out where you stand on principle, then balance that with the enjoyment you might be passing up.
    It’s safe to say that the vast majority will continue lifting an eyebrow, perhaps letting out a peeved sigh, and forking over the additional cash. In my case, experiencing a crumbling royal observatory in the midst of the chaotic Indian capital was definitely worth it.

    Airline Rules Were Meant to Be Broken

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    You don't have to fly frequently to know the airline industry has some of the most ridiculous rules in the travel business. But if you fly enough, you may not have to follow all of them.

    For example: Most passengers are herded through the boarding areas in large, disorganized groups. Unless you're an elite-level frequent flier; then you skip through a "breezeway" or over a red carpet, away from the long line, directly to your preferred seat. Frequent fliers also get to shortcut the lengthy security line at some airports, and they don't have to pay many checked luggage fees and other surcharges.

    It turns out that's just the tip of a two-tiered system under which elites aren't always held to the same rules as other customers. In interviews with current and former frequent fliers, as well as airline personnel, a clearer picture of this two-class system has emerged. Airlines often waive rules for their best customers, go beyond their contract of carriage and even hold the aircraft for latecomers.

    Of course, this is good business for an airline. Why not treat your best customers better? And no one begrudges the elites for taking advantage of it.

    I can't argue that if you pay for a more expensive ticket, you deserve certain amenities, like preferred boarding, a roomier seat and more attentive service. But creating one set of rules for regular passengers, and one for "special" passengers -- that's troubling.

    One of the most dramatic examples is holding the plane. If you're a garden-variety passenger, and you're late for your flight, you're out of luck. You may even have to pay for a new ticket. But an assistant for a "high-level executive" sent me the story of how they held the plane for her boss.

    "He was considered one of the most super-premium-platinum-plus elite on his preferred airline," she says. "He had been stuck in traffic en route to the airport. I personally witnessed the airline hold a flight for him."

    Most of the rules that are waived for elites are considerably less over-the-top. For example, one airline staffer told me that when it comes to weather delays, the contract of carriage -- the legal agreement between the airline and customer -- is clear: The airline won't pick up the tab for meals and hotels.

    But if you're an elite-level traveler on an international flight, and your connection in the States is delayed because of a thunderstorm, it's a little-known fact that the carrier will "take care of you," the insider told me. The other customers on that flight are on their own.

    More often, an airline will just bend a little rule for a good customer. Tom Logue remembers flying from Memphis to Denver with his wife recently, and receiving such preferred treatment. As an elite, he was easily able to upgrade to first class, but his wife, who was traveling on a companion certificate, wasn't allowed up front. Companion certificates aren't upgradeable. But when he flashed his platinum card, she received her upgrade.

    "They were pretty lenient," he says.

    In fairness, there are also examples of compassionate airline personnel -- mindful that their rules often defy explanation -- ignoring policies for non-elites who just need help.

    Still, there's a growing perception that there are two groups of airline passengers: one to whom all of the absurd rules always apply, and the other for which they may not.

    Airlines call the practice "segmentation." But ordinary passengers have another word for it: unfair.

    Christopher Elliott is the author of the upcoming book Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals. He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. You can read more tips on his blog, www.elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

    (c)2011 Christopher Elliott Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


    10 essential stops for Europe first-timers

    понедельник, 1 августа 2011 г. 0 коммент.


    We’ve come a long way since the emergence of the 17th-century ‘Grand Tour,’ when the wealthy (mostly Brits) finished their education with a real year in the world, learning to fence in Paris, studying art in Florence, climbing the Swiss Alps, and complaining about the service in Athens.
    Over time, the first-timer traveler’s trails across Europe have swayed back’n'forth, with changes ushered in by the advent of trains, Mark Twain’s ‘is he dead?’ jokes, and the rising or falling of an Iron Curtain or two.
    So, what is the ‘Grand Tour’ version of today? The Lonely Planet Discover Europeguide has one that gives a wide-eyed first-timer the 10 best of Europe’s cities in three weeks. (Of course, it’s OK to take longer.)
    LONDON
    Two days isn’t a huge amount of time in a city with so much to do but you should still be able to see highlights like the Tower, Tate Modern, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace as well as attend a West End theatre show and enjoy the ethnic eateries of the East End.
    PARIS
    A high-speed Channel Tunnel train takes you to the sights in Paris. Overlooking the avenues from the Arc de Triomphe, seeing the Louvre or Versailles and a beautiful church or two is the least you can do. Try lively Montmartre for dinner.
    BARCELONA
    An overnight ride of the rails and you’re at your next stop, colourful Barcelona, where the organic Modernista architecture and Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia will wow you. Don’t miss the Catalan cooking. Your first flight of the trip moves you along to…
    ROME
    The Eternal City; they say a lifetime isn’t enough to know it. During two days sightseeing in Rome, choose from among the monumental attractions of the Colosseum, Vatican City, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Evenings you’ll be eating out in the centro storico and Trastevere.
    VIENNA
    Overnight on the train to the imperial city of Vienna (which ‘waits for you’ according to Billy Joel), where you’ll linger in a coffee house, watch the Lipizzaner stallions, wander the pedestrian shopping streets and see a performance at the Staatsoper.
    BUDAPEST
    Just three hours away, Budapest also has a lively cafe culture, plus a vibrant mix of old and new. Be sure to visit Castle Hill and take a soak in one of the city’s thermal baths.
    BERLIN
    A full day riding the rails brings you to the sights of Berlin, Europe’s most rapidly changing (and exciting) city; must-sees include all the Berlin Wall galleries, memorials and museums, plus new city sights like the Sony Centre and Filmmuseum. At night Kreuzberg is the alternative nightlife hub, while Prenzlauer Berg is more grown up.
    DUBROVNIK
    You’ll have to board a plane in order to be dazzled by the marble streets and red roofs of Dubrovnik, Croatia. By all means, first walk the city walls; the views over the town and sea are great. Explore the rest of the old town and take a seat at a cafe or along one of the beaches.
    ATHENS
    The Greek capital is a treasure trove of ancient ruins with the magnificent buildings of the hill-top Acropolis heading the list. Below it stand more impressive remains, plus bustling flea markets and lively tavernas giving you a taste of more modern Athenian life.
    ISTANBUL
    Once you’ve touched down you’ve reached the edge of Europe, where east meets west. In Old İstanbul explore the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace and Aya Sofya. Then shop and dine in modern Beyoğlu, centre of the city’s nightlife. A boat ride on the Bosphorus gives you the chance to step foot in Asia, looking back at the Europe you’ve just explored.

    Surfing Indonesia: where to find the perfect wave

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    Two surfers wading out at Grajagan Bay.
    View gallery
    Two surfers wading out at Grajagan Bay.
    Lonely Planet media
    • Paul Kennedy
    • Lonely Planet Photographer
    • Young local boy heading out for afternoon surf.
    • Surf boards for hire on Kuta beach.
    • Young Australian James Wood rides inside the tube at the wave called Hollow Trees or Lance's Right.
    • Local surfer in the tube, Bukit Peninsula.
    View gallery
    Surfers have long been known for a nomadic lifestyle spent scouring the globe in search of the perfect wave, and at some point in their search every self-respecting surfer will find themselves drawn to the wave gardens of Indonesia. Here’s where to find them, whether you’re a beginner or after something more challenging:

    Bali

    Bali, with its glut of world class surf spots, is the epicentre of Indonesian surfing. Any surf trip here almost invariably begins on Kuta beach, the original Indonesian beach resort. The waves here offer something for everyone; advanced surfers will revel in fun, peaky conditions whilst beginners will find the soft sand beach breaks, and numerous surf schools, the perfect setting for a first taste of surfing.
    Not far from Kuta is the Bukit Peninsula where the best waves in Bali can be found. Padang Padang is one of Indonesia’s banner spots. It only comes to life on the biggest of swells but when it does you can expect one of the most intense lefthanders in the world. You can also expect serious crowds and lots of aggro in the water.

    Nusa Tenggara

    Just south of Bali is the island chain of Nusa Tenggara, which is rammed with surf spots. Lombok, the closest island to Bali, is the most visited by surfers and the jewel in the surf crown here is the legendry Desert Point; possibly the best wave in the world. It’s a highly fickle wave but when all the elements come together this near endless, freight train lefthander offers tube rides of up to twenty seconds. For something a little more beginner friendly try either Don Don or Inside Ekas both of which are found on the south coast of Lombok.

    Java

    The most famous wave on Java, Bali’s northern neighbour, is G-Land (also known as Grajagan). This is one of those freak of nature waves against which all other waves are measured. Endlessly long, flawlessly perfect and super consistent, G-Land is most commonly reached via boat charter from Bali.
    For something less nerve-wracking, try the long, mellow sand bottom right point inBatu Karas. Needing a really solid swell to get going this is probably the most user-friendly spot in Indonesia and though experienced surfers might find it a little uninspiring it seems almost tailor made for learners and intermediates. There are a couple of surf schools and board hire places here as well as a few cheap places to stay.

    Sumatra

    Surfing Sumatra is all about the necklace of islands that lie off the west coast. Nias, in the far north, is the most famous. An almost hypnotically perfect righthander, this wave has always been considered perfect, but following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami the wave actually improved dramatically after the reef rose upward by around a metre and made the wave hollower, faster and much more consistent.
    Good as Nias is though if you ask the average surfer where they’d most like to go surfing the answer will almost invariably be the Mentawai Islands. These islands are home to more world class surf spots than any other place on Earth and it’s almost a given that on any single day of the year unbelievable waves will be breaking somewhere in the Mentawais. Surf trips here have long been the preserve of (expensive) boat charters and (equally expensive) surf resorts, but for the adventurous it’s still possible to charter a local fishing boat and put together your own Mentawai adventure.

    When to go

    Indonesia is basically a year-round surf destination, but it’s the dry season (May-October) – when the offshore southeast trade winds blow and the swell, pouring out of the Southern Ocean, is at its biggest and most consistent – that is far and away the best time to venture here.

    It takes two: your guide to tango in Argentina

    суббота, 30 июля 2011 г. 0 коммент.

    Tango is an integral part of Argentinian culture, so dust off those dancing shoes and get into the swing of it. Here’s the lowdown on where to see it, hear it, dance it – and how to turn down any unwanted Tango advances.

    See it

    Tango is experiencing a renaissance and classes, milongas (dance halls or dance events) and shows are everywhere. Grab free booklets El Tangauta and BA Tango (often available from tango venues or tourist offices) or check outwww.letstango.com.ar.
    Sensationalised tango shows aimed at tourists are common, and ‘purists’ don’t consider them authentic – though this doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Modest shows are more intimate and cost far less, but you won’t get the same level of visual punch. For free (that is, donation) tango in Buenos Aires, head to Galerías Pacíficos for daily street performances; Sundays in San Telmo, dancers do their thing in Plaza Dorrego (but it’s crowded, so watch your bag). Another good bet is weekends on Caminito in La Boca.

    Hear it

    Dive into tango through the music of the genre’s most legendary performer, singerCarlos Gardel (1887–1935). Violinist Juan D’Arienzo‘s orchestra reigned over tango throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s. Osvaldo Pugliese and Hector Varela are important bandleaders from the 1940s, but the real giant of the era was bandoneón(an accordion-like instrument) player Aníbal Troilo. Modern tango is largely dominated by the work of bandoneón maestro Astor Piazzolla who paved the way for the tango fusion of the 1970s and continues to this day with tango electrónica groups such asBajofondo Tango Club.

    Learn it

    Tango classes are available just about everywhere, from youth hostels and cultural centres to all the milongas. With so many foreigners flooding BA to learn the dance, many instructors now teach in English. Milongas are very affordable and start in either the afternoon or evening. For a unique outdoor experience, head to the bandstand at the Barrancas de Belgrano, where the casual milonga ‘La Glorieta’ takes place on Sunday evenings at around 8pm (free tango lessons given earlier).

    The etiquette

    Tango is a serious business. At an established milonga choosing a partner involves many hidden codes, rules and signals. After all, no serious milonguera (female regular) wants to have someone stepping on her toes. Ideally, you should sit with easy access to the floor. Couples sit further back. If a man arrives with a woman, she is ‘his’. To dance with others, they either arrive separately, or the man may ask another woman, and then ‘his’ partner is open for asking.
    The cabezazo – the quick nod, eye contact and uplifted eyebrows that signals a man would like to dance – can happen from across the room. The woman either nods yes and the man escorts her to the floor, or she pretends not to have noticed. It’s polite to dance at least two songs; if you are given a curt ‘gracias’ after one, consider that partner is unavailable for the night. If you don’t want to dance with anyone, don’t look around too much – you could be breaking hearts.

    Get started – Buenos Aires’ best tango halls

    Confitería Ideal – The mother of all historic tango halls, with many classes and milongas. Live orchestras often accompany dancers.
    El Beso – A traditional, popular upstairs place that attracts some very good dancers. It’s got a good feel and a convenient bar as you enter.
    Gricel – This old classic (far from the centre, take a taxi) is open on weekends, attracting an older, well-dressed crowd.
    La Catedral – Tango goes hip in this grungy warehouse, with art on the walls and jeans on the dancers.
    La Marshall – Best known for ‘Tango Queer’, its gay tango night on Tuesdays. Classes at 10pm, milonga starts at 11:30pm.
    La Viruta – Located in the basement of the Asociación Cultural Armenia building. Good beginner tango classes available.
    Niño Bien – Beautiful atmosphere, large ballroom and good dance floor. Gets very crowded so come early and dress well. (It’s far from the centre – take a taxi.)
    Salon Canning – Some of BA’s finest dancers grace this traditional venue. Well-known tango company Parakultural often stages good events here.
    Sin Rumbo – One of the oldest tango joints in BA. Local neighborhood place that attracts older professionals. Far from the centre in Villa Urquiza; take a taxi.

    The best countries for food

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    Food and travel go together like planes and airports. No matter where you go you’ll have little trouble finding at least one culinary experience that will help you understand the local culture. In some countries the food is the highlight, drawing many a foodie to its borders, like a moth to a flame. Here are 11 countries (in no particular order) that your taste buds will thank you for visiting.

    1. Thailand


    Image by jaaron
    Standing at the crossroads of India, China and Oceania, Thai cuisine is like a best-of of all three’s techniques and ingredients. Dishes generally go in hard with garlic and chillies (especially the phrik khii nuu variety, which literally translates as ‘mouseshit peppers’). Other signature ingredients include lime juice, coriander and lemon grass, which give the cuisine its characteristic tang. Legendary fish sauce or shrimp paste looks after the salt.

    2. Greece


    Image by Klearchos Kapoutsis
    From olives to octopus, the true taste of Greece depends on fresh, unadulterated staples. Masking or complicating original flavours is not the done thing, especially when you’re dealing with oven-fresh bread, rosy tomatoes and fish fresh from the Mediterranean. The midday meal is the main event with a procession of goodies brought to the table as they’re ready. With Wednesday and Friday traditionally reserved as fast days (ie no-meat days), vegetarians are also looked after.

    3. China


    From back-alley dumpling shops to four-star banquet halls, China has one of the world’s finest palates. Cultural precepts of Yin and Yang (balance and harmony) are evident in the bowl: with food for the day including cooling foods such as vegetables and fruit to counter warming spices and meat. The Chinese revere rice but also choose noodles, with either almost always accompanying a meal. A range of regional specialities exist, variously influenced by geography and history.

    4. France


    Image by Sunfox
    From cheese and champagne to snails and baguettes, the French are famous for their foodstuffs. French cuisine has long distinguished itself for dallying with a great variety of foods. Each region’s distinct climate and geography have influenced the array of regional specialities. Many in France consider lunch as the day’s main meal, though the two hour marathon meal is increasingly rare. The crowning meal is a fully fledged home-cooked dinner comprising six distinct plats (courses).

    5. Spain


    Image by scaredy_kat
    Best in Barcelona, Catalan cooking is racking up the accolades from gourmands around the globe. Like other regional Spanish cuisines, Catalan cooking favours spices such as saffron and cumin, as well as honeyed sweets. A mixture of ingredients and traditions adds flair to Barcelona’s fare: using seafood and meats in a rich array of sauces. Dinner is the main event, but never before 9pm.

    6. Mexico


    Image by chargrillkiller
    Would you like some magic-realism with that enchilada? The Mexican sensibility for enchanting influences is also brought to the table in its food, particularly during celebrations. Mexican cuisine has an overriding Spanish influence, with a twist of French and African thanks to its history. Corn and bean-based dishes are prominent – prepared in a multitude of world renowned ways including tacos, enchiladas andquesadillas. And who could forget the worm that waits at the bottom of a bottle ofMezcal?

    7. Italy


    Image by Allerina and Glen MacLarty
    Its food is arguably Italy‘s most famous export, and it’s with good reason that the world wants it. Despite all the variations that exist between regions, some common staples bind the country’s culinary creations. Think thin-crust pizza and al dente pastasand risottos. And to drink? One word: coffee. The Italians do it best – from perfecting a distinguished roast to the gentle extraction of its essence into the cup. Perfecto!

    8. India


    Image by maintenancepic
    India’s protean gastronomy changes shape as you move between neighbourhoods, towns and states. The basis of all meals is rice in the south, and roti in the north. These are generally partnered with dhal, vegetables and chutney. Fish or meat may also be added. Whatever the ingredients: the dish usually contains a heady cast of exotic spices that make the taste buds stand up and take notice.

    9. Japan


    Image by jetalone
    If you can wrap your tongue around pronouncing the menu, Japan’s cuisine is a most rewarding mouthful. Most Japanese restaurants concentrate on a specialty cuisine, such as yakitori (skewers of grilled chicken or veg), sushi and sashimi (raw fish),tempura (lightly battered and fried ingredients) and ramen noodle bars. The pinnacle of Japanese cooking, kaiseki (derived as an adjunct to the tea ceremony), combines ingredients, preparation, setting and ceremony over several small courses to distinguish the gentle art of eating.

    10. Indonesia & Malaysia


    Image by paularps
    Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines are one big food swap: Chinese, Portuguese, Indian, colonists and traders have all influenced their ingredients and culinary concepts. They are nations well represented by their food. The abundance of rice is characteristic of the region’s fertile terraced landscape, the spices are reminiscent of a time of trade and invasion (the Spice Islands), and fiery chilli echoes the people’s passion. Indonesian and Malaysian cooking is not complex, and tastes here stay separate, simple and substantial.

     
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