Travel and Gamble

Business and Gamble

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Natalie: Oh, I guess I always have been a traveler. I mean our whole family is pretty global and international parents but living in New Zealand and always traveling to everywhere else because as you know, being in Australia, we always feel like weíre on top of the world but everything else has to be discovered. Ah ñ so weíre really lucky as since we weíre young, we want to be traveling around the world but the suitcase entrepreneurial concept came earlier last year actually.

It was my Skype was doing some strange things, okay it was great. Ah ñ coming July from Buenos Aires itís fine now thatís why itís having difficulties. I was the co-founder of a text startup and the long and short of it was that I just didnít there were enough women and technology in the business and thatís what driven me to start my blog just to talk about my journey, my experiences as an entrepreneur, put myself out there, ask other people for advice, give some advice on what I learned because I think I learned a ton any year and a half around starting a business. And then, while I was doing that, I realized I just ñ you know, I absolutely love traveling.

Could I make it work? Could I have a blog and a platform, and a business ah ñ of the back of that blog thatíll allow me to travel the world. I did live in London for two and half years, I lived in Canada for just over two years and now being in Buenos Aires for ñ about a month and a half and Iím going to be here for around 6 months. So the point is to kind of take myself to different locations and still run my business, and still see if it can happen and inspire other people along the way to get creative ways of running their business from anywhere using a lot of what you do as well ñ outsourcing, online tools and social media. So thatís kind of I love to preach now and Iím always fascinated in learning more about the tools and the things that I can use to allow me to do that.

And then Iíd learn on that and I share that with my community. Tyrone: Thatís awesome. You mentioned that you have a text startup. Was that before you start living in London going back in four and a half years now? Natalie: No actually. It was when I went to Canada.

So in London I was ñ I had a career, pretty successful background in product management, marketing, branding and communication and some business development. And I think it gave me a great like base but Iíve always rebelled at the end of the day and what youíre probably know. I donít like being told what to do and I do like the flexibility to take off whenever I want to do, whatever I want and thatís pretty much that having your own business allows you to do whether or not you change it, and so the whole thing of actually just living out of a suitcase and living my business around the world, I realized I can make that even more relevant and true. So I could technically have holidays and be in different countries and experience different cultures and languages while Iím still having my business.

Tyrone: Thatís how I feel as well, too. I donít like to be stuck in one thing, I donít like to be told what to do. At the same time, I like the flexibility because when it comes to your business, it really depends up to you because youíre really the person whoís behind the whole systems and also, if youíve got team around you, itís really you being the leader to be able to drive the business and get it to run. While also at the same time having that flexibility to go anywhere you want and also enjoy the things around you as well, too.

So where youíre originally from actually, before you went to London? Natalie: I am from New Zealand, my hometown is Wellington. Tyrone: Yep, okay. Natalie: Capital city of New Zealand, so I pretty much live there all my life but I must admit, we were super lucky as kids pretty much every year, every second year weíd be heading off to Europe where a lot of our relations were, or over to America to see Disneyland, etc. I think our parents were really great and just making that happen no matter what their lifestyle.

You know they did have a pretty decent job but theyíd still make time for some extensive travel and I think when youíre young and the upbringing that you have that comes part and past on who you are. I know a lot of New Zealanders do travel and so do Australians, and Isrealis as well like ñ I think it just becomes the mindset for you. You either like it or you donít. And Iím very much likely to be able to be mobile and have all my stuff in one suitcase and I can just run out of the door within any stage. And I know for a lot of people, they canít handle that. I mean they have babies, they need ñ solid foundations, they need the stuff to where it is, they need to come home to a house.

I totally understand that, itís just not the lifestyle for me. Tyrone: I can totally relate to you as well, too. Actually talking about suitcase, Iím curious now. What is actually in your suitcase when you travel like how big of a suitcase do you travel with?

What do you take with you? Natalie: Itís not big enough to fit me in. I tried the other day, I just put up a video just trying to fit in my suitcase. I canít fit in my suitcase anymore. Itís actually pretty small. A lot of people were really surprised when they see it.

Ah ñ Iíve learned over the years of traveling with like a fourteen-leaner backpack around Thailand over six weeks. You need so little but essentially pretty much a good pair of flip flops and a decent pair of sneakers you can always get out and run and do your exercise. One pair of shoes on those for ladies, but one pair of shoes that you can wear out to look semi decent. And thereís ñ I mean thereís just some materials that travel really, really well that donít crease and tend to just take stuff that you never have to ñ it doesnít matter if you fold it, it still comes out looking pretty good.

I think essentially itís all about layers. People tend to just kind of oh, take this and that I canít live without it but actually end up wearing a lot of similar stuff but itís all about layers and making sure that you can keep warm if youíre in cold environments and vice versa. Just so little ñ toiletries, everything can be minimal. You can buy anything that you need pretty much wherever you go and I think a lot of people forget that. They take, they tend to take the whole house with them like that desperate.

And when you get there, youíll realize itís probably one fifth of the price depending on where youíre going and you could have just bought it there and saved yourself the hippy bags and ñ Tyrone: Yeah, actually ñ for women. Ah, Iím not going to say too much about what I understand about women but I thought I least youíd want to take a minimum of cosmetics and all your makeup and all those kind of stuff too which is you know, I think thatís important for women. But I know in my case as a male, I traveled a bit as well and a lot of times, Iím just happy with probably two to three pairs of clothing. I just take a toothbrush and toothpaste and thatís all I need and the rest of stuff weíll buy. Even actually I shouldnít even need to take a toothbrush and toothpaste as well and I could probably buy that as well wherever I get. And it depends on where youíre traveling too because if youíre going be staying there for a week or two then that might be wise.

But if youíre staying there for longer period of time like at least two to three months then you must just buy there because once you use it you just chunk it out and move to the next place. So ñ Natalie: I know when I lived in London, I go through Heathrow about the time when I had minimized the amount of liquid to take on board with you. Every single week I would see people just having full sunscreen products, perfumes, bottles of shampoo, really expensive and skin care just being thrown out because I havenít bothered to think about those than I need and really I was wondering why theyíre taking that for two-day weekend anyway. So itís ñ you get used to it after a while. Itís about thinking minimal, thinking light, and really thinking about all the necessities that you need.

At the end of the day you need a passport, some money and a credit card. Actually and your tickets but those are all sort of online now so really, your passport. Tyrone: Exactly.

You can probably have your ticket, your electronic ticket on your iPhone for example and just usually you just go through and just present it and let it scan and youíre done. Itís as simple as that. Technology nowadays just allowed us to do so much. You just take your laptop, youíll probably have everything on it. So itís amazing.

Natalie: Exactly. Tyrone: So where have you been lately? Youíre currently in Buenos Aires ñ Natalie: Buenos Aires, exactly. Tyrone: Yep.

And prior to that, you said youíre on Canada was that right? For two years? Natalie: It was. Yeah.

Tyrone: It was in Canada. What were you doing in Canada? Natalie: Thatís a really good question. I went there to play the World Championship Ultimate Frisbee Tournament that was held in Vancouver. So that was late 2008, I just decided to leave London where Iíve been living and go to Canada and base myself in Vancouver for a while and while I was there I definitely attempted to travel around I mean, itís a massive country. So I want to say that I`m an online casino player. I love this games a lot: poker, online slots, live dealer casinos, I think it`s great that today it is all possible on my mobile phone!

Tyrone: Talking about starting your business, letís take a step back. I should have asked you this as well. When youíre in London as you mentioned, youíre working for a company and where was that turning point when you decided okay, Iím fed up with this, I want to go and travel somewhere else e.g. Canada casino list nd where you are currently.

Where was that turning point? What inspired you do that firstly too? Natalie: I think the turning point has been there for long, long time. I just decided to disregard it for a while and London as much amazing city as it is, itís a real rat race. So, for all the wonderful culture and international ñ and in fact theyíre on the borders of Europe, you can go anywhere.

Itís a city where you really have to just keep jogging along. It drains you, itís tough, everything. Itís yeah, it makes you realize that youíre one tiny human. Millions of people there, so I think that was probably the kicker for me, I was not just wanting to be doing that anymore.

Not wanting under peopleís control, and their silly guidelines and stupid management roles and their archaic systems and so when I got on the plane on Canada I really, really saw it as fresh start. And when I landed, I wasnít going to get a job, I was going to go into my business. And at the time, I was thinking be something to do with health and fitness and coaching in the corporate arena. So Iíd seen their kind of unhealthy lifestyles that people had in corporate careers and I want to just take that and make it like more exciting and interesting and get them to be healthy and fit.

Then just so happen when I met my business partner for this tech company within the first month when we started that instead. I was happy in a way because I just knew I had a startup now, I had a business, I was relying on my skills and my gut instincts and ñ wouldnít be receiving a lot of money but just ton of skills I just be putting all that knowledge that Iíve gained over the years onto something that I really, really believed in. So I think that was the catalyst, moving country, changing culture and having opportunities and being prepared for the opportunities. Tyrone: Did you have a lot back in London though? Like did you own a place in London, and did you have like a car and all those other necessities that weíre talking about?

Natalie: I had a bike and I was biking everywhere which I love and I highly recommend for people when youíre in a city. But I essentially ñ yeah I just bought a portion of debt and a house. S I just invested in that house.

I just got a race in a really, really amazing role but I just wasnít prepared to be there anymore. So I think a lot of my friends thought I was pretty crazy because I was walking away one side literally a month before I left and bought this house with a friend. Tyrone: Wow.

Natalie: Ah, and so ñ I found it really easy though. It was lovely to just offload everything. You can sell everything on Craigslist, you can put stuff away, you can have friends who want it. And you know I find Iím pretty good now when I come to a place trying to not accumulate too much stuff but when I do accumulate maybe books or just some things, I always give them away, send them home or just sell them. Itís a really lovely feeling.

I think you can do that wherever you go. You just get into this tendency to throw stuff. Tyrone: You ñ you mentioned sending home. Where is your home actually? Natalie: That was a good point.

That would be my lovely parentís. Small stacks, piles and really special things that I like to send home because I think when you do travel you love to collect pieces that are really decorative in that country and I try to go small on those so theyíre very insignificant and I can carry them around but if itís really special and I know Iím not going to have a base for the next six months or a year which is pretty logical, in my case then I will send it back. Back to the family home because at least theyíre there for now even if they travel still too.

Tyrone: Thatís nice. I usually, what I do because we had a big declutter and we saw a lot of valuables that we had as childhood memories as well and we said should we eitheir keep it or we dump it? If we kept it, be more clutter so what we do is we take a photo of it and then just write next to it what we want like in our computer and just chunk it that way.

That way we look at it and go okay, weíve memorized it and we can look back on it as a memory. I think thatís the beauty of having technology nowadays is that you can literally see things that you got. Obviously you canít touch it the same thing as we like to, but atleast itís there and itís ñ you donít want to log around as well especially if youíre trying to be minimalistic or traveling around the world. Natalie: Exactly and actually one of them that I used to give to people is to put the stuff that you just canít get rid of into a storage cupboard. Somewhere in your house or in your storage facility for six months.

If during that six months you havenít needed it once, then you didnít need it in the first place. Tyrone: Thatís an absolutely great tip. Natalie: Thatís really, really simple.

You miss what you really need. Tyrone: Yeah, exactly. All right coming back to the story now after I interrupted you about Canada. Youíre in Canada doing a frisbee competition in 2008 and after you ñ or during that time, where did you go in Canada and what else happened during that time as well?

Because two years is a long time. Natalie: It is. I didnít travel a ton around, I was very much based in Vancouver.

I did go to Calgary ñ when it was kind of just beautiful to go and see the stunning nature around there as well. Banff from Jasper which was amazing so we took a bit of a trip out there, it was just fantastic but I was able to work well while I was there. I did quite a few inspiring videos because the surroundings were just so magical. Ah ñ and a couple of other places more. To the east of Canada, I still havenít made it to Toronto or Montreal but Iím coming back. Tyrone: Ah you have to.

Natalie: And then get a lot of skiing at the Whistler and I did a lot around in British Columbia where kind of larger than New Zealand all together a lot. And so itís just the distances in Canada are pretty big but when I was in Canada, I also went to Costa Rica on a trip. I went to the US five or six times as well.

So I didnít feel like I was just there. It was definitely always traveling around and about. Tyrone: Ah so you ñ you sort of used Canada as a base that youíre traveling to other countries at the same time because they are quite close to Canada as well. Natalie: Yeah. Definitely.

I did the same in London like every weekend I was away in some European country ah ñ like something different. Like while Iím in Argentina, I tend to go to Uruguay, I tend to go to Columbia as well. Itís just creating a small base where you know, you can come back to those. Itís pretty useful. Tyrone: Yeah definitely.

I mean itís really interesting because I have had a lot of friends telling me about London in particular that you can just fly over to France, or just travel on a train to France so quickly in a few hours itís like as though itís a state and you can enjoy that over the weekend and just come back and itís like theyíre mini holiday over the weekend. Natalie: Yep. Well, you know itís like for us to travel anywhere, itís at least fifteen, eighteen hour flight.

Tyrone: Exactly. Thatís the reason why I havenít done very much of it over to the other side of the world because it just takes so long. Natalie: And when you get there and you tell that they think youíre insane that youíd be on a plane for that long. But when I was in Europe, I definitely realized what they meant because everything is between one hour to four hours.

Itís so doable and everythingís just such close proximity. You can drive through countries in a day, itís fantastic or half a day or couple of hours. Tyrone: That is awesome. So now that youíve got that the traveling in you and I guess that youíre really, really mobile as well, thereís a question that a lot of people are probably asking right now on this podcast and also myself is how do you sustain this?

How do you sustain the costs of all this type of traveling, how do you keep yourself going, what do you do to do all that? You mentioned youíve got a text startup, how is that going anyway? Natalie: I did have no extra left.

I left it to go full time with this blog which in retrospect was a great move but I did it at the time where I havenít been paying myself for a while with the tech company as well. So talking about taking a risk and having next to nothing, thatís pretty much when I started my blog and my business. But in terms of my traveling lifestyle, Iím a real ñ I tend to be a bit of a budget traveler. Iím extraordinarily lucky and I connect with a lot of people around the world and then I go and stay with them and then I return the favor so Iíve had a ton of visitors come through to me in Buenos Aires. But thatís because I feel last year I spent about six to seven weeks traveling through Eastern Europe and staying with friends the entire time. Tyrone: Nice.

Natalie: And so it doesnít have to be really expensive. There are services like Couch Surfer, or CouchSurfing dot com, maybe dot org. That Iíve used a few times as well where people will actually host you on their home and you just give them a gift or buy them dinner but you can stay with the local which I think is far more exciting. Tyrone: Yeah. Natalie: So I generally try not to stay in hotels, not stay in those places but stay with locals where possible. Learn from them, extend the favor back to them and you know, they take it up.

Theyíll come and visit you in New Zealand or wherever you are in some other dates so I love that aspect. But if it is in hotels or hostels, you can get some great last minute deals and huge discounts if get to the right sites. Iíve put a couple of those things up on my website. And then in terms of actual cost when you hear, I mean Iím really ñ because Iím not buying anything, Iím not buying stuff.

I donít have a mortgage, I donít have a car. Technically I have a mortgage thatís paid by the rent. I donít have this cost that people accumulate in countries when theyíre leaving in a home. I donít have children, very, very lucky thatís also a bit of a cost saving. But I live a very simple life so my main kind of spending is on tools and technology and then the equipment that I have.

And outside of that I tend to ñ if I can base myself somewhere, I cook for myself. As I said I pay for experiences, not for things and thatís what I think itís pretty to do this kind of lifestyle. With credit cards and points as well to get cheaper trips and thereís a little bit more planet where you can go anytime in the year where itís not peak season. And, you know cycle if you need to, itís pretty easy once you know what youíre doing.

Tyrone: Actually itís all about street smart to be honest because if you sort of known and planned things out, and you have a little bit of knowledge about how to go about traveling, you can actually save quite a bit because obviously if you get peak time which is the crazy time like Christmas time, usually the seasons where people were traveling Eastern stuff like that. Obviously those places are going to be charging heaps because they know thatís where the tourists are going to be coming from, but if you come during the times where itís off peak, Iím pretty sure youíll be able to experience what the locals are and thatís the reason why itís called off peak so that you can travel and get those lower rates as well, too. So itís really, really amazing yeah. Natalie: To add to that is you know if youíre planning on going to Europe, Europe is obviously more expensive for example.

If youíre going to Southeast Asia, usually itís cheap in comparison. South America not bad, ah Brazil ñ you know comes a lot more expensive. But it does depend on where you travel. If youíre going to hang out and spend to there, you get to be prepared to pay a bit more but many, many countries around the world are just so cheap to travel around in so many ways.

Tyrone: Yeah. I mean Iíve been through to Thailand and itís just amazing how you can just get food there, so cheap. I can probably live like a king if I have say 15k just sitting in my bank account for savings and leave all that for whole year and I wouldnít even worry because just the rate that you transfer over because obviously the food and the cost of living there goes a very, very long way in comparison you cannot live in Australia or New Zealand for 15k. Natalie: No. We actually have a couple from Canada who now live in New Zealand but they traveled around Southeast Asia for six months and spent 2,000 Canadian for the two of them.

Tyrone: Oh nice. Natalie: And you know sometimes they were splurging in lovely hotels and they were going out a lot and eating. They were traveling around everywhere and 20,000 for that whole time like itís just ñ itís really nothing.

Tyrone: Exactly. Natalie: So you get to choose your experiences and put your money where you really want it to go and you just donít need a lot expensive. I just find people spend so much on cars, or on their hair, makeup or on their clothes and gadgets, and 42-inch plasmas and things. And you know they arenít permanent. Theyíre kind of instantaneous gratification that you done well.

You canít take a 42-inch plasma with you to experience and adventure. Itís a waste of money. Tyrone: I totally agree. And thatís the thing. Even if youíre traveling and you go to the said places, they can provide you with those things anyway so whatís the point of buying and owning it yourself?

Natalie: Yeah. Tyrone: So you know imagine you just paid in whatever your traveling expenses are and just have it there and when youíre finished with it, just move on to next location which Iím pretty sure if you choose a nice place, they can have a nice TV there too. I actually have a question about Couch Surfer and you mentioned you stayed in a few places as well with some of the friends and obviously thatís how youíre able to minimize the cost of accommodation. But say for example you donít know these people and you hopped onto Couch Surfer and you found that people were willing to open their homes to you, have you ever had that scare or fiff they are thinking okay, if I go to this personís places, they can be a stalker, they can be serial killer, they can be all those things. Does that also come across your mind as well? Natalie: Iím really and I respect that Iím fairly trusting people but I also think I have a good instinct around who to trust and whoís credible.

And Iíve been really, really lucky in all my times in traveling Iíve been yeah, just super lucky with the people Iíve stayed with. But with something like Couch Surfing you do have to pay to sign up for the service so straight off you have to commit and put some credit on there. Second, people rate you and you have to kind of earn your status and credibility. And you can see whether people have bad reviews are generally people with bad reviews are kicked off. So itís not everybody whoís going to be opening up their homes to you because obviously you have to be really trusting allowing a complete stranger in your house with your stuff lying around that they could ñ you know steal things as well. Tyrone: Yes, thatís right.

Natalie: So itís a two-way thing so I think the traveling world is wonderful in that respect. Most people are open minded, very giving, very generous and itís a system that works. Itís like karma comes around you so if youíre going to do good things around you, itíll be returned. And vice versa, if youíre going to screw people around or steal their stuff or maybe itís going to come back or bite you on the back. So no, I donít get scared about that. Tyrone: Itís just good to know about experience and feedback.

Itís a little bit like eBay in some sense where youíve got a rating and feedback how the experience was and if the experience was good, then itís somebody who you can definitely trust to go there and stay and that sort of alleviate the fear of having any issues down the track. Thatís the ñ I think thatís one thing that a lot of people will probably be saying arenít you scared of staying at some strangersí place when youíve never ever met them, you donít even know what their backgroundís like, etc. etc. Natalie: By the way itís not all couches like people actually have rooms that you stay in. Itís just called Couch Surfing because thatís how it started.

It started very much on an honesty system and people traveling around the world thinking well what if I stay with a local and then I can return the favor when they come to see me. I think that the fact that it started off like that means that itís ñ you can trust a lot more. Tyrone: Thatís really interesting.

All right well letís talk a little bit more about your blog. Iím curious now how your blog and your inspiration to start that blog and also too, how thatís also helping you to sustain in your traveling experiences and also keeping you up and running? How has that helped you, what it is that you do in your blog at this point in time? Natalie: Yeah itís been amazing I think because itís technically shaped what I do because so even though before when it was WomanzWorld and it was very much aimed at women entrepreneurs wanting to start their business or who run their early stage of business, giving them advice, resources and tools that allow them to do that more effectively and that was great for me because I would interview some top experts and entrepreneurs and get more advice for them and Iíd write more of my own content often more, do some programs around that as well. But overtime, itís definitely developed into ñ we know ñ what do I love most, I love entrepreneurship, I love sports, I love traveling around the world so how can I combine that to business or blog and I achieved that as I speak about the stuff that I love.

So The Suitcase Entrepreneur came to me in November, I was at the conference. I was every single time I introduce myself and people were like oh whatís your name, what do you do and where do you live? And Iíd be like my name is Natalie Sisson and I have this blog called WomanzWorld and I love helping women around the world to run their business from anywhere and they get where do you live. And Iíd be oh I actually live out of a suitcase and this is really fascinating when people were always like crazy lady, crazy lady really inspiring. And I was like thatís what I do, I actually live out of a suitcase and Iím always traveling and Iím always being packed.

And I was like thatís going to be the domain name when I bought it. And that was really cool, itís so much more than finding my niche and what Iím trying to do because thereís certain type of person who wants to live out lifestyle and as I said as I started the conversation, thatís people who will never want to do and I understand that and thatís their lifestyle but if you do, and you want to find out other creative ways then Iím the girl. And I think itís great because from that because itís allowed me to think really about types of products and programs that I offer through my blog which is the platform and the types of coaching, consulting services that I offer as well. So thatís kind of how my business was made up but the blog is the platform, the voice thatís the upfront and then thereís products and programs that I create myself for entrepreneurs and some consulting coaching that I do specifically around social media and running your business. Tyrone: Hey thatís really, really great and itís amazing that itís able to provide that for you as a platform so that you can allow to do all the things that you enjoy such as traveling and experiencing and making the most out of your whole life in different locations as well, too.

Natalie: Yeah, itís really good. As you know, itís a full time freaking job, Iím trying to run it and I love it and I wouldnít be doing anything else. A lot of people were thinking I work too much but I think itís the wonderful thing to do in the whole world.

Tyrone: To be honest, at the beginning whenever youíre starting and youíre running any business, you need to put in a lot of time you need to build it up and once you build it up, then the prices start to take place whether or not you start to outsource it to automate it and setup those systems in places and have it in full automation system or you decide to take it full throttle and you just wanted to continue to run it the way it is, you know itís really up to you and itís really amazing to be able to see so many different entrepreneurs out there and speak to them and meet them and find out how theyíre doing their businesses because everyone does it differently and you canít have the same model or structure than everyone else has. Itís you, itís youíre the unique one. And if itís not you, people are not attracted to you so ñ curious as well, too how often are you running or working within your business and whatís the balance like in terms for your traveling too? Natalie: Ah I would say the balance had had its moments during the year because I just love what Iím doing all the times so some would be like take my laptop while theyíre waiting for me but even the cool thing is not always having a base. You do have to go around and out about seek places to work. I worked on trains, and planes and then boats and cars because Iím lucky I donít get sea sickness or any kind of sickness like that.

And Iíve even worked in courtyards and some cute little villagers in bench because I pick some ñ that even though Iíd take like substantial holidays now, I kind of feel like Iím mixed with traveling and Iím working. So you know, before Iíd go spend a week and go offline. Now, itíd be good to do it in weekend or take a dedicated day when I want, time I want like whole afternoon off to do it. But still right now, I have a lot of projects going on thatís why Iím doing more work and Iím looking forward to have a bit of a break in a couple of months where Iíve got a sure point where I can allow myself to do that more.

And Iím constantly working on the outsourcing side of things that you help me with so that I can free up more time and really focus on the cool stuff and then get around and see the city Iím living and the other countries around here. Maybe if you love what you do, you want to work all the time. Itís not necessary healthy but I can better be doing that than work on something that I hated. Tyrone: Absolutely, itís the passion. I love doing what I do and I guess sometimes itís hard to pull yourself away because you just enjoy it so much. You donít really treat it as work because you enjoy it, itís like a passion itís like a hobby and you just want to keep going and youíre just addicted to it but at the same time, to balance that youíve got to take a step back and realize okay, if youíre working too much on it, are you really progressing forward to achieving that lifestyle that you want which in your case traveling to different locations and experience the different things around there as well.

Are you also traveling with anyone else at this point in time or is it just by yourself? Natalie: Itís just me. Yeah but Iím lucky I have family visiting right now, I have friends who ñ itís kind of cool. If you come to a new location, thatís another thing.

If you have international friends who like to travel or even if they donít, they would finally go you know, Iíve always wanted to go to Buenos Aires so Iím going to come and see you while youíre down there. So I like that aspect to that as well other than you meet locals here or other expats, you also meet ñ you know your friends will come out and see you and go vice versa. Or you can go and see them so I pretty much travel myself and then try to ñ people my way and say come and visit. Tyrone: Itís amazing to be able to do that.

Iíll definitely consider coming over some time and visiting you depending on how long youíre staying over there because Iíve got plans to travel to Bali thatís mid this year so get to balance to that somehow as well. So what are your plans for say, the next year as you said youíre going to be staying here in Buenos Aires for until May is that right? Natalie: Yeah, Iím here until early May at this stage. June-ish I would be right back in the US as there are couple of really cool conferences and summits going on there and then I have ñ and while I was there, Iím trying to go to beach championships in Italy in August so these are the grand plans and Iím finally, finally going home after 5 and half years to New Zealand in September for the Rugby World Cup ñ Tyrone: Oh yes. Natalie: Weíre finally going to win one!

But Iím really looking forward to that. And then thereís a bit of a big plan in January of 2012 to do a cycle race from Cairo to Capetown which would allow me to see a whole list of ñ events. Thatís the plan.

Iíve put the deposit down. Iím aiming towards doing that. And I donít normally plan my travel a lot that much but it just seems that the next kind of year and a half, Iím being a little bit more of strategic about it with the business at all. So pretty exciting. Tyrone: It is very exciting. And does that mean that youíre going to be doing it with quite a bit of training as well, too.

And youíre going to hop on the bike and – Natalie: And I donít think eating empanadas and drinkings lots of wine, and eating lots of you know lots of really fatty foods. Itís part of the training. Luckily I have almost a year ñ a year to get on the bike and can do more that so. Tyrone: That will be awesome. Natalie: Thanks for pointing that out. Tyrone: Thatís okay.

Sometimes you can always train no later than probably about three or four months before the actual race. I used to do those kind of things and even til today, Iíve just been doing a 90-day program. And yeah, 90-day I think is sufficient enough because after 90 days, you start your body starts to get used to the program depending on what you do then you need to shaking it up or changing it. So yeah you donít want to be doing it too early other ways. You know ñ Natalie: Was that PX90 program? Or whateverÖ Tyrone: Itís the P90X that Iíve been doing.

Yeah, itís so varied that it just shapes your body in such short period of time because youíre always getting changed. You never stick on the same thing over and over again which is thatís the reason why you get to grow so fast and really get fit very, very quickly as well, too. So itís been an awesome program for me. Natalie: Fantastic.

Yeah, I was looking to it now. Tyrone: Yeah definitely. Natalie: Itís very good for travelers actually. Tyrone: Yeah, itís very good because you donít need it very much.

All you need is some white bands which is some stretchy things and then yeah, chin up bars. Thatís it, you donít need very much. Natalie: Chin up bars, was that fitting my suitcase? Tyrone: You can just dismantle it yeah. Iím pretty sure you could.

I can dismantle mine and put into the suitcase if I want to but I donít have plans to take it with me when traveling. Wherever I go, Iíll just probably borrow one locally or something like that. Awesome. Well if people want to get in contact with you Natalie, and want to find out how to be able to have that lifestyle that youíve got, how can they contact with you or when can they go to check out more information?

Natalie: I would love to say they can call 0900-GOODTIMES but theyíll probably get the wrong kind of service. So they can go to instead or and it will take you to my blog and you can also find me on Twitter @NatalieSisson and @WomanzWorld. Kind of all over the place youíll find me on searches just to get Natalie Sisson Suitcase Entrepreneur.

Youíll find me. Tyrone: I never missed you so Iíll see you out there. Iíll definitely put that down below this video and if you guys want to check out any of her stuff, check out Natalieís stuff itís really, really good. Iíve learned some interesting things from her as well. And I canít wait to actually meet you in person sometime so when you did come back to New Zealand, maybe Iíll make a trip over to do some ski over there and catch up there as well.

Itís really nice. Natalie: Yeah definitely. You can come to the stadium when the Australian Wallabies are being wooped by the All Blacks. Tyrone: Nah. Iím still supporting the Wallabies.

Iím still supporting the Wallabies. Natalie: Theyíre great team. Iíll support them. Tyrone: I donít know about that. Well Natalie, thank you so much for coming onto the call today. Itís been a real pleasure to be able to find out what youíve been doing and what youíve been up to.

Itís amazing story youíve really shared a lot there so I want to say big, big thank you for coming on and itís a pleasure to have you on today. Natalie: Big, big thank you for having me. Itís been awesome, itís been my pleasure as well. And also big thanks for allowing me for interviewing you on New Yearís Eve morning at late 8AM. Itís very generous of you so Iíll never forget that.

Travel and Gamble

Play Poker in Brazil

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Hi everyone! What’s up? Today we came to Uruguay Well, actually yesterday To show you how is poker phenomenon in Brasil Wait dude, this is wrong We’re not in Brasil, we are in Uruguay No? No? That’s true!

I can’t remember what’s next This is the first time Brazilian Series Of Poker Left Brasil and came to Punta del Este To be closer to me, of course Obviously Since some years ago Brasil is fighting For this mental sport #Jogodehabilidade It is fighting for poker to be recognize it as such My hair is driving me crazy In Brazil it takes place one of the major poker tournaments around the world With thtat, you’ll getting the picture how big poker is around here OH… there.. Wel.. in Brazil To clear the air Clearest as… clear We asked them! One word to define our love for Oncasinogames would be… Passion! Sport! Thrill Fun Party Friendship! Patience Passion Joy Enjoy Patience See!

For them is more than a simple sport! They’re totally passionate about it! I love the way they are! They take everything in life with joy, good vibes Characteristics of their culture, no? Beach, samba, caipiroska and who is not? they don’t take nothing personal What’s up?

Ok, ok, with futbol is a whole other thing… But… I’ll be as they’re with that national team! Today, with a little bit of help from some friends I’ll learn more from their culture! And you’ll to! let’s talk Portuguese! I don’t understand a single word!

The only thing I can say it’s: Obrigado, Vai embora Cara Eu, você I forgot Eu quero Eu quero tchu Eu quero cha I’m here with my good friend Nicolau I’m with Bruno I’m with Coronel He is going to teach me a little bit of Portuguese! a little bit… Easy Easy… that’s right! Ok? ok?

ok! I wanna learn the basics! Like the usual slang! For example… days of the week for example where is the bathroom? where is the bathroom?

where is the bathroom? once again, please! where is the bathroom?

so so… Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday There’s no… no, no… Hi Hi! Where can I eat something? Donde puedo comer churrasco? It’s a tricky one! Once again!

Where can I Eat… It’s like… eat meet? Yeah, yeah… like a grill a grill I’m the worst! I’m wondering about poker words Dimond Heart Spade I’m missing one Diamonds Hearts Spades Clubs! Where can I play poker? Where can I see a flop? It’s ok?

I’m ready? Sure… Really appreciate! Thanks!

Thanks very much! Tanks! You’re the best! Great Thanks! Mirelle, I wanna be able to dance Samba! How can I do?

I don’t have a clue! You should go like this… hips motion! Now… hands in the leg Step from here to there Basic Tiptoe just a little bit higher And go like this There you go I wanna be one of you guys! How should I prepare?

All dress up? brazilian women dresses depend on the occasion In poker tournaments it would be… as discreet as you can but always perfect always with a perfect make up earrings A lot of accessories that kind of things Always perfect! Something like that For party time? High heels!

a dress finger nails? Always paint it! Ok, let’s take a look of mine! It seem like I don;t care So… How should I go?

Blush Eyelashes mascara lipstick eyeliner Accessories I was going to say Accessories! Ok! You’re perfectly beautiful Oh! Thanks! She’s gorgeous! Look for the camera!!

The wind it’s going to take it!

Poker Rooms

Free Ride Poker Game

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Free Ride is based on stud poker. You are dealt three cards and given two opportunities to raise your bet and receive an additional card. If your five-card hand ranks high enough you win — it’s as easy as that! Free Ride also offers a separate progressive jackpot bet for $1. If you play the progressive and your hand qualifies, you win big!

back to the topLet’s Play!

At the beginning of each game you are required to place an initial bet, known as an ante. This amount appears on the betting circle on the table top.

  1. Select a chip value of either $1, $5, $10, $25, or $100.
  2. Click on the betting circle marked “A” until the number of chips displayed equals the amount you wish to bet.
  3. To reduce your bet amount, right-click the betting circle to remove chips. Your bet will be reduced by the amount of the currently selected chip.
  4. Click Progressive to participate in the progressive jackpot (optional). When you place a $1 bet on the progressive jackpot, a light appears on the coin slot in front of the betting circle to indicate that you have bet on the progressive jackpot.
  5. Click Deal. You will be dealt a hand of five cards. Three of your cards will be face up and two of your cards will be face down. No additional cards are dealt.
  6. Click Bet or Pass.
    • Choose Bet if you think the three cards lying face up are part of a winning poker hand. When you choose Bet, your initial bet is doubled and one of the two remaining cards is turned face up. There are two chances to bet.
    • Choose Pass if you have a hand that you do not believe will win. There are two opportunities to choose Pass. When you choose pass one of the remaining cards is turned face up to reveal more of your hand. There are two chances to pass.

back to the topRules

Free Ride uses a one deck shoe.

Remember you are not competing against the dealer; you are just trying to get the best hand possible.

Even if you pass twice, you could still qualify to win based on your initial wager.

Make sure your initial wager is greater than the minimum bet for the table.

  • The maximum bet refers to your initial bet, and that the total bet per hand may exceed the maximum bet if you choose to raise.

back to the topFree Ride Poker Hands

Hand Definition Example
Royal Flush The highest hand in poker. Consists of the following cards: ten, jack, queen, king, and an ace all of the same suit. Royal Flush Royal Flush Royal Flush Royal Flush Royal Flush
Straight Flush Five cards in sequence, all of the same suit. Straight Flush Straight Flush Straight Flush Straight Flush 
Four of a Kind Four cards of the same denomination, one in each suit.     
Full House Three cards of one denomination and two cards of another denomination.     
Flush Five cards all of the same suit.     
Straight Five cards in sequence of any suit.     
Three of a Kind Three cards of the same denomination and two unmatched cards.     
Two Pairs Two sets of two cards of the same denomination and any fifth card.     
Pair of 10s or Better Two cards of the same denomination and three unmatched cards.     

back to the topYou Win!

The maximum payout in Free Ride, which is set by the casino, is shown inside a display box at the edge of the table

  • Casino A has a $20,000 maximum payout limit on Free Ride and a progressive jackpot of $5,000. A player bets $60 on Free Ride, and makes the $1 progressive bet.
  • He/she obtains a Royal Flush and expects to win $60,000 but actually only wins $20,000, regardless of the odds given below, because $20,000 is the maximum payout amount designated for that table.

    This player also played the progressive so, according to the progressive jackpot payout schedule, his/her winnings would include 100% of the progressive jackpot giving her a grand total of $25,000 in winnings.

A winning hand pays out according to the following odds:

Hand Payout
Royal Flush
Straight Flush
Four of a Kind
Full House
Three of a Kind
Two Pair
Pair of 10s or Better

back to the topProgressive Jackpot

You can place a $1 bonus bet if you wish to participate in a progressive jackpot. By placing an additional $1 wager, you have the chance to win a portion or all of the jackpot based on the strength of your hand! Below is the payout schedule for this optional $1 wager.

Hand Payout
Royal Flush
100% of the Jackpot
Straight Flush
10% of the Jackpot
Four of a Kind
Full House
Texas hold’em

All Texas Hold’Em Poker Games Are Not Alike

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When joining a Texas hold’em poker game at a brick-and-mortar casino or its online cousin, the new player must post the Big Blind. This does not have to be done immediately. The new player may pay the Big Blind now and to play the game immediately, or wait a few hands until it is their normal turn to post the Big Blind.

Probability is a huge factor when playing Texas hold’em. Players use odds to determine their actions. The chances of completing a flush or a straight, the chances of getting an over card, the number of times you will flop a set to match your pocket pair in comparison to the number of times that you are betting are all important factors in playing the odds. Knowledge of the statistics is imperative to the chances of winning a Texas hold’em poker game. In online games statistical knowledge is the main factor when playing the odds aids in choosing whether to bet, call, or fold.

The forms of betting can vary. Sometimes antes are used. In a Texas hold’em poker game it is usual for the game to start with the two players to the dealer’s left placing an ante so there is a pot on the table to get things started. This is called posting the blinds.

Another factor when playing Texas hold’em is position and is known by the players directly around you. For example, an aggressive, blind-stealing player to the immediate right of a tight player (name given to a player who seldom raises and folds often preferring safety when unsure) commonly results in the tight player seeing their blinds stolen.

These articles do not cover every possibility when it comes to playing Texas hold’em. The TDA and Robert’s Rules cover a variety of poker games, from razz to stud. is creating a set of rules meant for playing Texas hold’em.

Blackjack Tips

Keeping Aligned with Blackjack Rules

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In the casino, the game of blackjack is has the lowest house edge, this means that players of blackjack has bigger chances of winning as compared to other card games. However, some players do not know this and go blind, hence bigger advantage is set to the house.

So here are some blackjack rules that will help you minimize such house advantage:

1. Have a plan

First in the blackjack rules is to decide on how much you can afford to spend in playing . Also determine the exact amount of wager for every hand. Should you desire to play many hands in blackjack and you have $100 as your bankroll, play on the blackjack table with a minimum bet of a dollar to five dollars. However, if you want to increase your money fast, then choose the blackjack table with a bigger limit say ten to twenty dollar per hand. Important in the blackjack rules is whatever your kind of play is, be sure to adopt one and keep playing on it.

2. Refrain from coping up with losses

This blackjack rules apply and is good not only for blackjack but for almost all games. In chasing your losses, you had lost on a hand with a considerable amount of money, your emotional reaction is to play aggressively with huge bets on the next hand to compensate for the loss you incurred. Playing aggressively often leads to bad decisions, hence, will end up with more losses. Losing big and continuing to play, resume your game as if nothing happened at all. This will prevent you from getting into the trap of chasing losses.

3. Play different rules

Playing different blackjack rules when ever possible is another strategy in blackjack. A n ideal type of this blackjack rules is the “surrender” rules which some casinos offer. As the name implies, this means that a player can surrender his hand and only half his wager will be taken should he lost. The less profit for the casino this blackjack rule applies makes it rare for some casinos to offer. Nevertheless, make use of it should a casino offers one. Also you can select a blackjack table in which the dealer stand on 16 instead of 17, thus it lowers the house advantage.

4. Keep on practicing

The saying goes ” practice makes perfect” . So with one of the effective rules in blackjack, keep on playing the game. Blackjack is one of the card games where skills and luck goes together. You can practice your game of blackjack with your friends and relatives at home if you will play online. You visit one of the online casinos thru the internet. This is one of the most important rules in blackjack.

Travel and Gamble

Brunei: Jendee’s unique travel experience

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When we think of holiday abroad, Filipinos normally prefer to go to Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand.  Brunei, a small, but rich Islamic country, is not a normal choice for holiday destination for Filipinos, with the exception of a few; among them, Jendee, a fellow nomadic friend and work colleague.

On this week’s fellow nomad series, we follow Jendee’s short adventure in Brunei. Read about her tips, what she learned about Brunei during her short visit, the places she explored; her tips and why it’s her most unique travel destination thus far at Eleventy traveler blog.

What made you travel to Brunei? Why was it your choice for holiday destination?

My brother-in-law works there so I went with my sister and niece to visit him. During my stay, I didn’t see a lot of public transport so I think it would be hard to move around. I noticed that houses there have a minimum of two cars. Good thing we have a family sponsor so it’s easy to be on the go.

Isn’t it an expensive destination?

Expensive? Maybe because of the lack of public transport, and only a few hotels to choose from (I only saw Radisson Blu and The Empire). Their fuel (at around Php15 per liter) and electricity (which can be bought prepaid) are sold really cheap. Even the food in typical foodcourts are almost priced the same here in the Philippines.

How long were you there and where did you stay? How did you get there? Airline used?

We were there for 4 days and 3 nights and stayed in my brother’s place in an Executive Housing village. We flew by Cebu Pacific Air, direct flight from Manila and touched down in Bandar Seri Begawan airport.

What sites did you see? What strike you the most and why?

The magnifescent mosques, Embassy of the Philippines, Istana Nurul Iman (House of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah), the malls, the Bandar Waterfront, the Empire Hotel, University of Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Shell Science Discovery Center in Kuala Belait (a town about 2 hours away from Bandar). What I was so amazed about are their mosques which have been designed in detail – the lighting, the wall carvings, the ceiling, the floor, the trash bins and even the gates are intricately made works of art. Their mosques look really beautiful by day. At night, it transforms into a shining gold that are readily seen from afar.

How is Brunei different from most of the other countries you’ve been to? 

I have been to the US, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia before coming to Brunei. These countries have a unique thing of their own but already are too modern. Brunei was different. The rich Muslim culture is very evident here. When I go to their malls, seldom do I see modern clothing for women. Majority are “tudong”, or those that cover the hair and face of the Muslim ladies. No high rise buildings, even downtown where most of the business establishments are found. (I was told this is because Sultan does not want any building to rise above his mosque, not sure if true though.)

Give us top 3 unique things have you learned about this country?

1. The mosques which symbolizes the wealth of Brunei, even though they are a small country.

2. The waterfront , where you can see motorboats transporting passengers to the other side of the river (where the first inhabitants in Brunei lived).

3. Safety to move around, that’s why it’s called Negara Brunei Darussalam which means, State of Brunei Abode of Peace.

How much is a rough estimation overall for costs related to the trip?

The trip cost me around Php10,000 (5k for plane fare and another 5k for pasalubongs) since my food, accommodation and transportation are all free. 🙂

What tips can you give our fellow travelers interested in visiting this destination? DO’s and don’ts?

It’s hard to give one since I was there with a guide who is very familiar with the place. Perhaps, wear light clothing because it is very hot and sunny (I was there middle of May) and do not miss the Teh Tarik (Milk Tea) served at the waterfront café. The country is Islamic, so respect the local traditions, customs and laws at all times, and dress modestly.

Could you tell us about the best part of your experience traveling to Brunei, and why?

The best part would be seeing the Brunei Shell oil fields in Kuala Belait. Since I am an Oil & Gas company employee it was sort of a given for me to check it out and I was not disappointed. The place is a very clean seaside park with a lot of donkeys (machines that extract oil from the earth) and pipeline around the place.

Thank you Jen for gracing our website and sharing your travel to Brunei! More power to you and God bless!

Blackjack Tips

The Hard Facts About Blackjack

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Wherever part of the world that you go, it will be difficult to find a person who does not know about blackjack. It is one of the most well-known casino games around although a lot of people do not know how to play it properly. There are a lot of players who do hold back because they do not know how to proceed correctly on the game. If you are keen to participate in a blackjack game, then you should devote some time on how to learn it properly. When you are familiar with the basics of the game, you have already improved your percentage of winning in the game.

To fully understand the casino game of blackjack, you should know the main blackjack rules. The main goal of the game is to have a card hand that has a total of twenty-one (blackjack) or closer to the total of twenty-one. One main advantage of blackjack is that players do not have to keep tabs on the card hand of the other participants of the game because it will not have any effect on their own result. Players are playing against the blackjack croupier in this set-up.

A lot of casino players’ love playing blackjack because the rules that govern the game are very simple and not too complicated to understand. Even you are just a beginner; you can fully understand it because it is enjoyed the same way from card hand to card hand. Surprisingly, there are not only blackjack rules made for players but also for the blackjack croupier. This instance means that there are no gray part in the game, no need for the blackjack croupier to decide on who was triumphed and who has lost. Because blackjack is dealt in a straightforward manner, the blackjack croupier gives out the cards to the players in a face up position.

It also does not matter because the players in the table are not going up against each other but against the dealer. A lot of blackjack beginners love the facts that the cards in the game are given out in a face-up position because it gives them the chance what the other players will do so they inquire during the actual game.

Now that the main goal behind blackjack is fully understood, a blackjack player then needs to study on what is the meaning to hit or hold. These blackjack terminologies that most blackjack players may already know but do not know how to use it well. When you choose to hit in the game, you are saying to the blackjack croupier that you like to acquire another card for your card hand. When you choose to hold in the game, you are saying to the dealer that you do not need another card in your card hand. If you reached this point in the game and you do not know what you should do, then you will be hard pressed to win. A lot of advance players have a specific card hand value that they will reach and then they will not require additional cards. Like some players will not choose to hit after they have reached a total of seventeen or eighteen because they do not want to exceed the total of 21. You need to test this theory and see if it will be helpful in your game play.

Poker Rooms

Poker Rooms in Different Countries

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United Kingdom has a long history of poker, it is a British tradition to play poker, and today you can do so online.
U.K poker online casino sites permits pokers players withdrawals and deposits in the British Pound which is great , there top U.K rooms offer targeted marketing for the U.K players and thanks the to European Union legislation from 2001 against double taxation, poker winnings are tax free !

Due to legal reasons, these rooms won’t accepts players from U.S but will accept international players, so if you’re coming from the U.K or even Europe this is the right place to be.


Unfortunately most US online casino websites are closed for US players , like : Pokerstars, full tilt poker, ultimate bet, players only, bodog and many more.

We decided to stop giving feedbacks about poker US online casino websites, because all of them will be closed sooner or later.

We have until now problems with poker sites that didn’t return them their bankroll , this is the main reason , why we would like to recommend to all US players to stop playing online poker.

Our solution, Win Palace online casino offers players very nice poker games, such as video poker, and Caribbean holdem, we prefer to recommend on this great casino than to send you to poker sites that will be closed in a week.

  • Offers all types of gambling games including poker, blackjack, slot, roulette & many more.
  • Players can play both play money & real money.
  • Winning Software for 2010 and 2011.
  • Accepts US players.
  • Live Chat Support
  • Payments can be made through all kinds of credit & debit cards & eWalletExpress, Netteller & MoneyBrooker.
  • Huge variety of Bonuses!


First we would like to welcome the Canadian players who decided to use our featured Canadian online casino poker rooms!

It will be almost impossible to find a room that doesn’t accept Canadian poker players, but it’s really important to rank the best ones who accept most favorite Canadian options , such as Usemybank , and also all of the rooms provide free support for Canadian residents.

In the Internet you will find the top Canadian online casino websites available. All of the rooms will provide you with cash game in all levels and a big variety of poker tournaments to all levels.

No Download Poker Rooms

No poker download – web based poker is actually the easiest way to play poker.

There is no need for a software and usually it involves JAVA which 95% of the computers today use or Flash.

The advantage of no poker download is that you can play instantly without having to install everything, it runs faster and you don’t need a good Internet connection, and the biggest advantage you can play from anywhere in the world, from work , when visiting your family or in a vacation.

The software is always left on the poker room servers allowing you to play easily.

Travel and Gamble

Hiking the Great Wall of China

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Like many of you, I have dreamt of hiking the Great Wall of China for as long as I can remember.

Needless to say, this has been very high on my travel bucket list even before I met Matt. Thankfully, the onslaught of budget airlines in the country as well as across the Asia Pacific region has made it possible to travel to regional destinations for cheap.

I’ve been to Beijing several times and have hiked the Great Wall twice, and both at winter season: first with friends (Nov 2011), and second, with my mum and sister Len (Feb 2012). On both occasions we went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

Something about Mutianyu

Our travel brochure mentioned that the Mutianyu was built as early as the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 -557) and it was rebuilt in the 1300s in order to strengthen its defense. They are built with slabs of granite and stretch to about 22 km long. The walls are about 7 to 8 meters high and 4 or 5 meters wide. As is the other sections of the great wall, the Mutianyu was built primarily to guard the capital and the imperial tombs from the Mongol tribes that invaded China.

Why go to Mutianyu over Badaling?

The Great Wall at Mutianyu is a little further away from Beijing than the crowded Badaling, which is the more famous section for group tours. I can tell you though, I’ve seen Badaling (although we didn’t stop). It’s way too commercialized and crowded.

It’s better driving all the way to Mutianyu (If i remember correctly, about an hour’s drive further) as this section is considered the most beautiful section of the great wall. The drive up there is scenic and the tour normally stops at the Ming Tombs before going to the great wall. The best part about this section, other than the fact that you’ve got spectacular views, is that this is not crowded. The area has 90% forest coverage. On both occasions that i went to it, there were hardly any people there. As a result, I”ve got tons of photos where I was alone with the whole section of the Great Wall. That is pretty rare for China! :)

What to expect at Mutianyu

This section of the wall is fully restored; and there are hand rails to help you up on the very steep parts. There are 22 watchtowers, but we only made it to 3 because the altitude and the steep steps were not an easy challenge. That, or I am just physically unfit! haha!

There are two cable cars that will take you to the top of the wall and back down again. I have tried both on separate occasions. The other cable car is open , more like a chairlift (kinda what you use when you’re skiing) where 2 people can ride, the other is an enclosed cable car that fits about 4 people.

You can buy return tickets or you can buy one way and buy the return at the top. Keep in mind the 2 cable cars are owned by different companies, so when you buy a return ride for one cable car, you can’t use it for the other.  Before you decide that you would like to use another cable car, look at the map you will see at the entrance and anticipate the distance from the one cable car to the other. Do you really want to walk that far to try the other cable car? Can you bear all the hike and will you make it in time before the day ends? Trust me, you don’t wanna mess with those steps! They are quite a challenge!

If not, it may be better for you to just book a return trip. As far as i remember, the fee is cheaper if you book round trip, and that’s what we did.

An alternative way to go down is via a single-rider sled or toboggan. This looked like an adventure to try as you descend from the wall at the top of the hill via a winding metal track. We wanted to experience try, but hesitated in the end as it was too cold at the great wall at that time and we thought using the single rider sled going down may be too tough to do and bear with the cold weather.

There was a Chinese restaurant at the base of the wall where we ate food and had tea before we went up. There are also many souvenir shops at the base where you can haggle for prices.

Why do you need to see it?

This beautiful and massive human ingenuity is said to be the largest man made structure ever to have been built; so large that it can be seen from outer space (of course we all know that this is disputed).  Recently, the Great Wall has also made it to the New 7 Wonders of the World list; a definite must see destination at least once in your lifetime!

Tips when you go:

1. Ensure you look at the map and plan your bathroom visit accordingly as there’s only limited places where you have them.

2. Haggle for the prices at the souvenir shops before paying. Most of the prices they offer you first hand are ballooned (of course, you are a tourist!). I have been able to haggle up prices up to reduced rate of 60-70% of the original price. My friend Teta was an amazing haggler who was able to haggle down to 90%. Now that’s what i call talent! haha!

3. The Ming tombs is normally part of the tour en route to Mutianyu. In our view, you can pass the Ming tombs. Or if you visit, don’t spend as much time there. Rather, ask your guide to drive you to Mutianyu and spend more time there, especially if you  plan to hike up several watch towers.

Good luck and Happy Travels!

Blackjack Tips

Knowing the Blackjack Craze

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Historians have attributed blackjack origins to France during the 18th century. Blackjack is a game of cards and luck that most casinos refer to as the cards probability game.

The card game got its term from Americans who did not recognize the blackjack’s increasing popularity in Europe. Before, casinos have thought of bonus offers on payouts to new and regular gamblers, which comprised of the hand called “blackjack.” In this hand, the player gets two cards consisting of the ace of spades and Jack of Spades or clubs. Blackjack usually had the jack of spades. In every turn, there was a bonus payoff of 10. Thereafter, the game carried with the name blackjack even though the bonus payouts were removed.

This card game requires the winner to have the highest sum, although it should not be over than 21. When the hand has a sum greater than 21, gamblers term this as bust. Initially, the main objective of blackjack gamblers is to attain the highest score that isn’t busted. When the player and dealer busts the game, the blackjack gambler loses. On the other hand, if the gambler’s hand value is similar to the dealer’s cards, there is the presence of “push” and both parties are neutral. In each game, the dealer plays independently with one blackjack gambler.

Essentially, the blackjack gambler should know the time when the dealer shows the cards. In order to manifest this, certain methods are applied to reveal cards on table. Firstly, the knowledge on number of decks should be present. Certain casinos provide blackjack gamblers single sessions consisting 10 cards. Therefore, the number of decks solely depends on the policies of casinos. Doubling cards are optional for single blackjack sessions. When the player doubles the cards, it should contain nine, ten, and eleven. This is appropriate when four, five, and six numbered cards are present.

Primarily, the goal of blackjack gamblers is to win over the dealer and prevent cards’ sum of over 21. To address this, a single tactic is necessary that is, doubling down. All gamblers intend to do this trick to increase their winnings. Further, this strategy also establishes understanding on the dealer’s presented amount and the blackjack gambler’s funds. Lastly, we can attest to experience as the main tool in winning blackjack. For every session, a gambler learns what strategies are applicable and which tactics give unfavorable results.

Playing blackjack necessitates its gamblers to take advantage of techniques. This does not only give the best experience but also the amazement they want.

Travel and Gamble

Amber Fort: Jaipur’s beautiful ancient treasure

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This was all we could utter upon seeing Amber Fort that late afternoon in May.

The Amber Fort stood there, grand and imposing; looking down on us from a hilltop.  We had such a tiring day after a very long 8 hour drive from New Delhi. The weather was extremely hot at 40 °C, that mum & I felt all of our body fluids were drained. We were very exhausted from our very long journey and upon seeing Amber Fort and the lake below it, we immediately felt refreshed.

The Amber fort landscape looked really majestic from afar; but the sheer size of it blew us away. I couldn’t contain my excitement as we planned to visit it the next day. Built in the late 1500s, the fort is over 400 years old. It’s one of the major tourist attractions in Jaipur area, and only 11 km away from the Pink city.

Time Space Warp

We made our way into Amber Fort the following morning after some light breakfast at our Indian hotel. As was expected, Amber Fort’s location offers spectacular views of the city below. Once we got inside, I thought we were transported back in time. It looked very ancient, unique and just truly majestic out there. We were in an out of this world era, all so suddenly.

You can get inside using your vehicle or by riding an elephant. We saw a number of tourists who took this mode of transportation during our visit.

What was it for and what to expect?

A royal family lived in Amber Fort in the ancient times, so its layout had to be appropriate as royal residence. Inside this massive structure are numerous courtyards, halls, rooms and patios, all to display the affluence of the royalty that lived there.

Sheesh Mahal, or Mirror Palace is in one of the courtyards. It’s a building built with many mirrors that should be akin to the stars up in the sky, when candles are lit at night time. The mirrors are made of coloured foil and paint.

Beautiful, intricate designs were carved on the marble at wall panels of the Mirror Palace.  Our guide pointed to us this particular flower image carved at the marble on one of the pillars. It’s admired for its soft, intricate and unique detail: notice the fish tail on the flowers, and how they blended quite well with the overall image:

One thing I learned in India: their have great artistic inclination and their attention to detail is unbelievable!

Some of the courtyards were used to hold victory parties for wars won and some were to hold public announcements/gatherings. The rest of them were private quarters of the royal family, or the concubines.

The vast, ancient courtyards, its great sturdy halls, intricate wall carvings and latticework: all of them were said to be inspired by both Hindu and Muslim influence. There’s a garden and a beautiful lake (Maota lake) that can be seen from below Amber Fort that adds to the dramatic beauty of this landscape. They all fit together remarkably well, making Amber Fort a must-see destination in Jaipur.

Tip:  There are many guides at the entrance that offer their tour services. Unless you have all day and you are feeling adventurous, I do not recommend just exploring on your own as the site is huge.

A guide would be able to tell you where to go next, how to navigate your way through, which is helpful if you’re on a tight schedule. Also, the guide is able to give you an enormous amount of historical information about the place, which is quite helpful for a visitor to fully appreciate what they are seeing. Ask, and agree on a price before getting the service. We asked our driver from New Delhi what a reasonable rate is to pay for the guide, so it helped us prepare and negotiate when we got there.

Have you been to Amber Fort? Tell us what you think about it!