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Armenia Travel Guide, Small Country Big on Character

February 28, 2017

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Just like the title says, Armenia is a relatively small country, with a land surface of 29,743 square kilometers and a population of just 3 million as per UN’s estimate in 2016. However, even if Armenia is a small nation by any metrics, its character is unique and its history very troubled, especially in the 20th century when its current neighbor basically committed genocide against 1.5 million Armenians, its own citizens basically, as at the time Armenia was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Today the relations between the two countries are still edgy, as Turkish governments never apologized for that holocaust avant la lettre and they did not even recognize that it happened.

A visit to Armenia will please history and architecture aficionados, as this tiny country is filled with medieval treasures. The Armenian people are warm and welcoming, and meeting them is usually accompanied by a serving of traditional brandy. The Armenian countryside is very beautiful and even if tourists are seldom spotted, one may wonder why.

The Fountain On A Central Square

Armenia is a country with a very serious legacy historically speaking. Armenia became Christian in AD 301, being one of the oldest Christian nations in the world, as Armenians themselves proudly affirm if one asks. When it comes to visitor itineraries, religion still plays the part, as you’ll be able to engage in well organized tours and savor hundreds of years old monasteries which are scattered all over the Lori region. Also, you must pay a visit to the extraordinary Museum of Ancient Manuscripts.

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Since Armenia managed to liberate itself from the USSR empire/The Soviet Union the country rediscovered its traditions and actually embraced them while moving on. The main city and capital is Yerevan and much of the country’s progress is focused here.

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Yerevan is Armenia’s hub of progressive thought and cultural activity and on clear days you can admire Mount Ararat across the border. You know, Mount Ararat, arguably the largest single mass mountain the world. Also, scientist believe that here they will find the remains of Noah’s Ark.

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Yerevan is also a place bursting with cultural activity, boasting its large scale development projects and a lively arts scene. Considering the country’s shady history, Armenia has a huge diaspora population and a great number of Armenian Americans returned to their homeland after the Soviet Union collapsed, bringing back a lot of wealth into the country as a logical result.

Armenia has a superior culture, a proud people with deep and interesting passions, which range from playing chess, the game of kings to sipping cognac. Armenian people  never feel ashamed to engage in patriotism and religion, yet they’re pretty secular, as they perfected a cafe culture and boast an awesome cuisine. Armenian food is a real treat and while visiting here, expect to gain a few pounds. You’ll definitely enjoy the mounds of vegetables from organic gardens nearby together with lots of grilled meats.

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Traveling anywhere in Armenia will be a delight for your senses. Highlights include the charming little city of Goris and the ancient mountain resort  of Dilijan, a little town set amid lush pine forests. Here you can go hiking using the walking trails nearby which ascend to mountain lakes.

Or, you can go visit Debed Canyon, home of UNESCO protected monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat. There’s a vast number of various cultural sites to be admired in Armenia, including the Yerevan library, the National Gallery or the State Museum of Armenian History in Yerevan, all of which are harboring the country’s impressive collection of ancient manuscripts and historic artifacts.

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While in Armenia, don’t forget to sample some of the country’s best brandies, which were Winston Churchill’s favorite (read Dvin and Ararat brandy). If you’re a born again hard explorer, Armenia’s limestone caverns in Vayots Dzor are pretty dazzling to say the least, while near Goris you can explore a number of man made cave homes carved into the city’s hillsides hundreds of years ago.

Forty three miles east of the capital Yerevan there’s Lake Sevan, the largest in the Caucasus, which is world famous for its crystal clear waters where you can fish a delicious salmon trout. Horse riding and hiking through the country’s spectacular countryside would make for a once in a lifetime experience, over the ancient roads through timeless villages or through mountain passes.

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OnePlus 3T Review,Dream Big

February 28, 2017

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The OnePlus 3T is the brainchild of a very small company which has a relatively minor impact on the Western markets in terms of sales figures. However, OnePlus is one of those brands which dream big and they become known all around the world for their flagship killer smartphones which are  selling for almost dirt cheap prices.

Also, OnePlus gained the title of having the fastest smartphone around quite a few times, and I am talking about Androids, because Apple plays in a different league.

The OnePlus One was the first of the bunch, the premiere flagship killer of sorts and it all started via a viral marketing promise which actually delivered.

The OnePlus 3T still is an amazing smartphone from a performance/value point of view, which still embodies the company’s spirit, i.e. value driven with high end specs.

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The only downside of this device is its availability. I don’t know about you, but in my neck of the woods, the only way to grab one of these babies is through distant 3rd parties, like Alibaba or Gear Best, meaning that I don’t have real warranty and all that. And it’s a shame, really.

The OnePlus 3T is basically the regular 3, but digitally remastered, made even better and running on the latest QSD chipset, the 821 respectively.

To begin with a cool thing, the OnePlus 3T still uses USB 2.0, yet it comes with a USB Type C connector.Also, the smartphone features DASH, the company’s variant of VOOC technology, which makes for the best in industry in terms of fast charging. The OnePlus 3T’s 3400 mAh battery will get from 0 to 60% in just 30 minutes and without overheating the precious.

The smartphone features a unibody design, metal and glass as usual, in a cool new metal black colorway. Just like its siblings, the OnePlus 3T is built using a single piece of aluminum, space grade stuff, which looks and feels great and also combines elegance with strength in a gorgeous device.

The display is 5.5 inches wide, an Optic Amoled variety of full HD 1080p resolution, which hits the sweet spot for the vast majority of users, especially in the Asian markets. I think I already mentioned that, but I will say it again risking a wave of hatred and flame: I firmly believe that there’s no need for UHD/4k/2k/etc resolution on such a small screen real estate, you really don’t need more than a ~401’ish pixels per inch density, like it’s the case with the OnePlus 3T.

Having a higher resolution will stress the battery and the GPU pointlessly. The AMOLED panel in the OnePlus 3T is built by Samsung but it’s custom made for OnePlus, hence the Optic moniker.  And yes, it’s great.

Connectivity is top notch, as the OnePlus 3T comes with dual SIM capabilities, LTE cat.6, Wi-Fi, USB Type C, Bluetooth etc, it’s all there. The 3400 mAh battery has an endurance rating of 83 hours, which is quite respectable, offering over 13 hours of video playback and about 9 hours of web browsing.

The smartphone runs on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Oxygen 3.5.3 on top. The Oxygen launcher is very clean and you’ll benefit from a great Android experience, everything runs smooth and without hiccups.

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Performance is better than ever due to the latest QsD 821/Adreno 530 GPU hardware platform, which combined with the 1080p panel resolution makes for a true gaming powerhouse which is hard to match. The 16 megapixels camera works flawlessly and performs great, both with stills and videos (2160p/1080p), yet the video stabilization could be better.

The OnePlus 3T represents a clear evolution vs the OnePlus 3, with an increased battery,  better hardware, a new sapphire camera lens for improved durability, an awesome fingerprint reader, a new version offering 128 GB of internal storage capacity,great endurance rating/battery lifetime, excellent audio output quality and a price vs performance ratio almost impossible to beat.

 

 

 

Argentina Travel Guide, Welcome to Pampas

February 27, 2017

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Few people know that at the turn of the 20th century, Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world, even competing with its northern neighbor the United States.

In 1914, half of the country’s population was foreign born, most of them being immigrants from Europe . Argentina saw an incredible economic growth rate of 6% per year from 1914 until 1957, the fastest record in the world and it ranked in top ten richest countries, ahead of Italy, France and Germany.

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Argentina was basically a magnet for intrepid European immigrants who were drawn by the country’s fertile pampas, were cattle and crops were boosting Argentina’s economic prowess.

Things got terribly wrong after military coups became the norm and today Argentina is just a shadow of its former glory from an economical point of view. After more than 3 decades had come to past since the end of the last military dictatorship, Argentina is still trying to find itself and recoup its former glory.

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With a population just shy of 45 million and a huge land surface of 2.8 million square kilometers, the Federal Republic of Argentina is still very proud of its vast pampas, its glamorous capital Buenos Aires, its snowy peaks and rolling wine regions, being a land bursting with adventure at every step.

All the cliches you’ve ever heard about Argentina are basically true: even if they’re mostly catholic, the true religion of the land is essentially a mix of Jesus and  football. Obviously, the beef is extraordinary and if you’re talking about starting a night out, don’t expect it to begin before midnight.

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Argentinians really love their flamboyant life style and the vivid nightlife of Buenos Aires is hard to replicate anywhere in the world.

However, the natural wonders of the country are the secret which draws millions of tourists every year. Whether we’re talking about the epic Patagonian glaciers or the Andean Mountains plateaus, the wildlife enormously rich wetlands or the subtropical waterfalls, Argentina is a land of incredible beauty and diversity.

To know Argentina is to love it, and there’s an awful lot of love to give. The country’s capital Buenos Aires is located basically on the border, though it’s very much described as Argentina’s beating heart, both culturally and economically, its real centerpiece.

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Buenos Aires is the city of Maradona and Evita Peron, boasting its legendary tango halls, grill restaurants and feisty populace, which all provide an incredibly accurate introduction to Argentina. You can visit the high-life neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and you’ll feel like in Paris. I am talking about Palermo and Recoleta, where you’ll find trendy eateries and designer boutiques, whilst the historic San Telmo will amaze you with its old world cafes, antique stalls and a variety of live music.

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The north of Argentina abounds in otherworldly scenery, ranging from weird rock formations in the Salta region, where Gaucho and Spanish traditions come together to scorched mountains which look like the aftermath of an atomic exchange between 2 races of aliens of something along these lines.

The Mendoza region is situated further west,  where you will enjoy the country’s famous white wines that are flourishing here. You can have the skiing experience of a lifetime at the Andes Mountains foothills, yet down south in Patagonia you will be flabbergasted by the amazing spread of jagged peaks, expansive lakes and countless miles of open space.

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If you’re into whale watching, just go off the coast at Puerto Madryn, or you can take a picture of baby penguins in Punta Tambo, or walk the glistening Lake District. Or, why not, go explore the Jesuit chapels and Cordoba’s farmhouses.

Another incredibly rich place in terms of natural beauty is Iguazu Falls, which borders Brazil and Argentina. As you can see, Argentina is a very special place, boasting its vivacious and incredibly rich lust for life and natural beauty, being a mesmerizing country and the perfect place to spend a few weeks of your summer vacation.

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Xiaomi Mi Note 2, Superhero of Sorts

February 27, 2017

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The king is dead, long live the king! Err, the Note, I mean. If you’re a techie, you probably know about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. Long story short, the Note 7 is no more due to batteries catching fire, tech issues of sorts.

However, there’s the Xiaomi Mi Note 2, the new kid on the block who is aimed at phablet lovers looking for some solace in the absence of the Note 7.

The intro is meant to emphasize the fact that one’s bad luck is another one’s opportunity, or in each crisis there’s an opportunity. Actually, this is an old Chinese proverb, which is the definition of Xiaomi Mi Note 2, a high end Chinese made phablet.

This state of the art smartphone from a relatively unknown company will be inevitably compared to Samsung’s former Note 7, and that’s quite understandable. The thing is, what Samsung was 15 years ago for established names in the electronics industry, the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Nokia et al, is represented nowadays by Chinese companies like Xiaomi, Huawei or Lenovo.

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Basically, Samsung will have a very hard time competing with the new Asian tigers, i.e. this is history repeating, but I am digressing.

The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 boasts that cool dual curved screen, just like the Note 7, and it’s a true-blue flagship by all metrics, sans the screen res which is just full HD 1080p instead of 2K/4K or whatever gimmick which stresses the hell out the smartphone’s GPU.

To begin with the drawbacks, the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 doesn’t offer waterproofing and it doesn’t run on the latest Android version. Also, some may complain about the 1080p screen resolution.

However, considering the 386 pixels per inch density offered by  Xiaomi Mi Note 2’s OLED screen, which is much more than RETINA grade which was praised back in the day as the next best thing since the ten commandments, I would argue that an uber high resolution on a relatively small display is not much more than a marketing gimmick. I may be wrong, but then again, I may be right.

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The build quality is great, as the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 boasts a full metal body and a dual curved display. The design is not very original, but I must emphasize the quality of the device, which is more important in my books than looks alone.

The dual curved 5.7 inches wide display is a P-OLED variety and made by LG and even if it’s not the brightest of the bunch, the color reproduction is very accurate.

In terms of connectivity, the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 comes with all the bells and whistles expected from a flagship, including USB Type C, 22 LTE bands support, quad band GSM and penta band 3G, CDMA, dual SIM, NFC, GPS, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac  and very important for some users, even an IR blaster.

The battery is a beefy 4400 mAh variety which is more than generous, boasting an impressive 92 hours of endurance rating, or 15,5 hours of video playback and almost 10 hours of web browsing.

The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 runs on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, which means that in terms of performance, everything is on the up and up. There are 2 versions of the smartphone, one featuring 4 GB of RAM/64 GB of internal storage while the other one comes with 6 GB of RAM/128 GB of native storage, both relying on an Adreno 530 GPU for video intensive apps and games.

The Chinese made phablet is a top class performer thanks to its QSD 821 SoC architectre, which is a true power house. The Xiaomi Mi Note 2 comes loaded with Android Marshmallow and the company’s proprietary MIUI 8 user interface on top. Everything runs buttery smooth, there are no complaints here.

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The primary snapper on the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 is a 22.5 MP variety featuring Sony’s IMX318 sensor, boasting phase detection yet no OIS. The selfie unit has only 8 MP, but that’s ok, the pictures are pretty good. Obviously, there’s 4K video recording in good flagship tradition.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a flagship phablet built like a tank offering a premium feel and a glass back panel, a dual curved OLED display, dependable autonomy, a top class hardware architecture and a great camera, you should consider the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 especially if you find a good deal.

 

 

 

Croatia Travel Guide, Picture Perfect

February 26, 2017

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Croatia is one of Europe’ best traveling destinations, as it occupies an outstandingly beautiful stretch of the Adriatic Sea coastline, which makes it one of the top seaside spots to spend your summer vacation on the Old Continent.

Another cool thing about Croatia, and a little know fact for that matter, is that the country boasts over 1100 islands, together with a picture perfect scenery and crystal clear waters. If you’re seeking for plenty of sea and sunshine, forget about Greece folks.

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Okay, I am only kidding, Greece is a beautiful place too, but oh boy, just wait until you see the spectacular Roman ruins and the ancient walled cities of Croatia, not to mention the country’s unspoiled wilderness and national parks, its epic and imposing castles or the fabulous cuisine, which obviously  makes good use of the seafood which is plentiful. In Istria you’ll eat the best truffles in this part of the world, together with enjoying its buzzing cafe culture and fine wines, they all add to the appeal in a big way.

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Croatia is a relatively tiny country, with only 4.2 million people and a land surface of 56,542 square kilometers. However, strong essences are kept inside tiny bottles, and the same thing is very true about Croatia.

The country’s main city and capital is Zagreb, which can be described as the quintessential Central European metropolis. Everything in Zagreb, ranging from its cuisine (yes, I know, I talk a lot about food) to architecture is imbibed into that old school European spirit, reflecting the country’s traditional ties with the Austro Hungarian Empire.

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Zagreb is also a perfect starting point from which you may begin to explore the pastoral regions of Zagorje where you’ll be able to sip some of the finest wines in the known universe or to explore its historic castles. Or both, why not?

Croatia used to be a part of Yugoslavia, but after Yugoslavia split and Croatia went on its own way, the country suffered dramatic changes, in a good way. The most important  change from our point of view took place in the last decade and especially in the country’t tourism business.

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Until very recently, Croatia’s epic coastline was a well kept secret for “insiders only”, boasting its undeveloped and undiscovered natural beauty, which is arguably just as beautiful as Italy’s, but without the panache and fanfare.

Now you’ll be amazed by the huge numbers of tourists from Germany and Great Britain flocking to visit the Dalmatian region. Also, many westerners bought holiday homes in this beautiful area.

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There are also 2 gorgeous cities to visit on Croatia’s breathtaking coastline, and I am talking about Dubrovnik and Split. Be advised, these cities tend to be pretty crowded during peak holiday season, but they’ve still maintained their charm. The evenings in these coastal cities tend to be the most relaxed and quiet part of the day, and the perfect time for music aficionados to attend a classical music concert together with all sorts of cultural events in the city centers.

Croatia is not only composed of high profile tourist zones, as it also harbors a plethora of isolated places, where you can still enjoy the country’s local life, which is as traditional as it gets for a Central European country.

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Just take a trip to Plivice and you’ll understand what I am talking about. Plivice is well known for its lake strewn national park, which is amazing by any metrics. Also, while here you can explore the lush and untouched mountain ranges of Gorski Kotar and Velebit, which are havens for outdoors enthusiasts, especially hikers.

Getting back on the Adriatic Coastline, because the summer is almost here, Croatia will provide the intrepid traveler with the ideal scuba diving opportunities, sailing conditions and sea kayaking. If you’re into water-sports, Croatia has your name on it so to speak.

Croatia is Europe’s top naturist travel destination where you can get a good tan even where the son don’t shine if you catch my drift, and also a place where you can play outdoors or rest for hours savoring the sunshine on the beach.

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Oppo R9s Review,One of a Kind

February 26, 2017

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Oppo is a quasi unknown entity if you’re from the US or from Europe. However, this little known company (in the West) already launched a few kick ass models, hence it became increasingly popular especially for the excellent build quality of their devices.

Enter the latest Oppo R9s, a great piece of hardware by any metrics, impeccably built, light, thin and featuring a unique 6 string antenna. However, the design itself is pretty far from original, but then again, a smartphone is hardly a fashion accessory.

Truth be told, aesthetically wise, the Oppo R9s is a copycat of the iPhone, at least the frontal panel.  But since imitation is the highest form of flattery, I have no bones to pick with Oppo in this regard.

To describe the Oppo R9s in a few words, I’d say that it makes  for one of the best smartphones for its sub genre, if I may use the word talking about the 5.5 inches premium mid-ranged droids focused on battery life and camera performance without going full high end.

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About the Oppo R9s, the camera is definitely flagship grade, at least on paper, boasting Sony’s latest sensor, featuring Dual Pixel auto-focus, a very bright lens and 4k video recording capability. The 16 megapixels camera on the Oppo R9s runs with the best in the pack, at least per 2016.

To make things even better, the selfie camera on the front has 16 megapixels too, hence it promises a beautiful experience for Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat addicts.

However, under the hood things are not that bright, as Oppo chose to power their R9S with a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 system on chip, so the flagship resemblance stops here. But they did not get cheap when it comes to memory, as they put a generous 4 GB of RAM on board together with 64 GB of internal storage capacity.

Another flagship grade input is the 5.5 inches wide AMOLED screen, which pairs beautifully with the vibrant ColorOS theme.

As per the bad news, I must mention the “generic” design, which somewhat spoils the excellent build quality of the Oppo R9s, the lack of OIS (optical image stabilization) and, most importantly, the fact that you can find faster droids which pack superior chipsets in Oppo R9s’s price range, but you’ll definitely not find the same build quality, a similar screen or such a great snapper.

There are caveats and caveats folks, it all depends on one’s personal preference. As an all rounder, the Oppo R9s is pretty hard to beat.

Speaking of good things, the Oppo R9s comes with a VOOC fast charger which provides 20 watts of power that  will top off the battery in a jiffy, but without heating up the phone, which is awesome. The chassis is built in an all metal design with a Gorilla Glass insert on the front, while on the back you’ll discover 6 grooves , 3 on top and 3 on the bottom.

To the untrained eye, these look like design elements, and they’re beautiful, but in reality they’re antenna lines.

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The AMOLED 1080p full HD display is gorgeaus with amazing contrast and great color reproduction, protected by Gorilla Glass 5, comparable to the LG V20 and better than HTC 10, which is awesome.

Connectivity is well taken care of sans NFC, the rest of the crowd is there: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE and a micro USB 2.0 port. The Oppo R9s is powered by a Li-Po battery which is not user replaceable, with a capacity of 3010 mAh. Due to VOOC, it will get charged from 0 to 64% capacity in 30 minutes flat and it offers an endurance rating of 74 hours.

What’s worth mentioning is the 16 hours of video playback score, which is fantastic. The QsD 625 has 8 low power cores and no high performance ones, built on the 16nm process, while the graphics are taken care of by a medium Adreno 505 GPU. If you’re into high end gaming though, look elsewhere, this is not the droid for you.

The camera is built around a Sony IMX398 sensor and it’s quite impressive considering the price range. Bottom line, this baby really delivers in most departments, being a premium mid ranger with flagships qualities in some essential points, i.e. there’s very little to complain about.

 

Romania Travel Guide, Land of Choice

February 25, 2017

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Romania is a country located in Eastern Europe, a member of the European Union and NATO, with a population of 19 million and a land surface of 238,391 square kilometers.

Truth be told, there are not many countries in the Old Continent like Romania. Branded by a former Tourism Minister as the Land of Choice, Romania can be described more accurately as the land of contrasts.

In Romania, you can still find not so remote rural areas, pretty close to the capital Bucharest and the country’s main cities, where farmers still use horse drawn wagons. Also, covered markets where farmers come in droves to sell their produce are still dominating over the shopping malls, especially in smaller cities.

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As I already told you, Romania is excelling in contrasts, as this country is playing in a league of its own.

Other Eastern European countries embraced the fertile and lucrative ground model of international restaurant chains, boutique hotels and the whole nine yards. On the other hand, Romania is still very traditional in many ways, clinging to the evergreen charm of old customs and it makes good on in 9 times out of ten.

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In most cases, a traveler arriving in Romania will first see the capital, Bucharest, which back in the day, before the Communists took over the country in the aftermath of War World 2, was known as Little Paris, thanks to the capital’s architecture and sophisticated charm, and also due to the bourgeoisie’s affinity for French culture.

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Today, Bucharest is a weird place, crammed with old and ugly blocks (just like the projects in the US) dating back from the Communist era, but also with grand architecture, traditional restaurants and fascinating museums. It’s pretty hard to define this place, where modernity meets traditionalism and the traffic is infernal.

Yet, after a few days spent in the best parts of Bucharest, the city grows on you. Basically, Bucharest alone deserves at least a couple of days of exploration alone, and the same goes for the resorts which spread along the Black Sea Coast, which are quite nice, offering beautiful ocean panoramas well groomed beaches.

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However, ultimately speaking, Romania is still defined by its small and traditional rural communities, many of which still dependent on ancient agricultural practices. I am talking here about remote and isolated villages,  some of them clinging to the Carpathian Mountains, where there’s no electricity and people are relying on horses and carriages for transportation as there are no roads either.

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Yes, there are still places like this in Romania, deep down in the mountains, where you can feel like you’re traveling back in time.

A tour of Romania’s old-school back-country is nothing short of magical and unique, as you’ll be able to discover the ancient (almost medieval)ways of life still intact and a treasure chest of unique cultural gems. Think along the lines of Amish communities and you’ll get a pretty accurate picture about what I am talking about.

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Transylvania is a place where you’ll stand in awe at the view of the impeccably preserved Saxon towns. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the legendary castle at Bran, also known as Dracula’s Castle, the fictional vampire from Bram Stoker’s book. Bran castle is said to have inspired that disturbed  Irish writer into believing that there are such things as blood sucking vampires and things of that nature.

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The Carpathian Mountains will provide the traveler with epic views and they also shelter some of EU’s last remains of unspoiled wild life, the likes of wolves, brown bears and lynxes, whilst rare muskrats and raccoon dogs are to be found around rivers.

If you’re into driving, Romania has 2 epic roads which crisscross through the mountains for hundreds of kilometers. The roads are so good, they let the BBC Top Gear journalists flabbergasted. I am talking about the Transfagaras road, in the Fagaras Mountain Range and Transalpina.

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Also, while here, you must visit Moldova’s beautiful painted monasteries in Bucovina and the main city in Transylvania, Sibiu. Speaking of medieval towns, Sighisoara is another must-see place, being a perfectly preserved 15th century gem.

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Xiaomi Mi Mix, A Rare Jewel

February 25, 2017

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The Xiaomi Mi Mix smartphone took the world by storm as soon as it was released. Just take a look at it and you’ll understand the jewel particle in the title of the article. Yes indeed, the Xiaomi Mi Mix is a piece of high tech which is also beautifully crafted and designed, making for one of the best smartphones released into the wild last year.

Even if Xiaomi is not a well established brand in the Western world, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix they really proved their valor. This smartphone looks like it came from the future, or from a sci-fi movie, boasting its incredible almost bezel-less design and its edge to edge screen, drawing attention like no other smartphone before.

It’s very interesting to mention that this beauty was initially announced as a concept, an exercise in technology of sorts, but it was so well received by the public that Xiaomi decided to mass produce it and the rest is history.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix’s viral popularity surpassed even Apple’s best, the iPhone, at least in terms of positive interest, and that’s mainly due to its exquisite design. How many edgeless smartphones have you seen lately?

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While most of the competition nowadays takes place in the hardware department, Xiaomi focused on design and what a great job they did folk. However, that doesn’t mean the Xiaomi Mi Mix is just looks and nothing under the hood, it’s quite the opposite.

With a breathtaking design comes great responsibility, right? Especially for a company that used its fan-base with some of the fastest smartphones in the world and maybe the best in terms of price vs performance. Be warned though, the Xiaomi Mi Mix is both a technological powerhouse and a thing of beauty, and that comes at a price. A steep price, especially considering the branding. But I am digressing.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix comes in a a black premium looking/foldable box made from cardboard and inside you’ll find the smartphone, obviously, a USB Type C cable, a fast charger, a beautiful leather case for the precious designed exclusively for the Xiaomi Mi Mix, yet no headset.

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The smartphone is rather big and heavy, but it does not feel bulky at all, having virtually the same dimensions as the Huawei Mate 9 weighing 209 grams, yet the Xiaomi Mi Mix has a bigger display than the Huawei!

The 6 inches wide edge to edge screen takes up 85% of the front panel, with a non existing top bezel and beautiful rounded edges making the Xiaomi Mi Mix a joy to look at. The chassis is made using a state of the art ceramic material, which is the apotheosis of premium materials to be found in a flagship smartphone. There’s nothing cheap looking and feeling in the Xiaomi Mi Mix, no plastic strip bands, no nothing.

Everything is perfect and seamless, making this baby arguably the best looking smartphone I’ve ever seen. There’s no earpiece, as the Xiaomi Mi Mix uses a piezolectric ceramic driver which generates the sound through the smartphone’s chassis itself.

The 6.4 inches wide edgeless screen is custom mad by the Japanese at Sharp and boasts a resolution of 1080×2400 pixels for 362 pixels per inch density. The panel is an IPS RGB instead of an AMOLED and it guarantees a wow effect once turned on, being the definition of an attention grabber if it ever was one. Long story short, it’s brilliant.

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The 4400 mAh battery offers 97 hours of endurance rating which is spectacular, while the smartphone runs on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 system on chip, which means that it comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high end device. The Xiaomi Mi Mix comes loaded with Android Marshmallow and the MIUI 8.0 on top.

Among other cool things, the MIUI 8 allows  you to have two instances of the same app running on your smartphone, i.e. 2 Whatsapp accounts on the same phone, one for each SIM card.

The Xiaomi Mi Mix comes with 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU, delivering flagship grade performance while staying quite cool doing so. The main camera is a 16 MP variety, which offers average performance while the selfie unit is uninspiring and blurry. Definitely, the Xiaomi Mi Mix doesn not excel in the multimedia department, yet it does a decent job.

Bottom line, if you can afford it, go for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand Travel Guide

January 30, 2017

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Thailand is a very popular travelling destination for westerners, especially during the winter months, due to the country’s warm climate and dirt cheap prices. And visiting this magic place is like taking a crash course into Asian culture. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with a land surface of 513 million square kilometers and a population just shy of 70 million. The attractions of this country are pretty hard to enumerate, but just for the sake of argument, we’ll give it a try.

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Starting with its ancient monasteries, ruined and mysterious cities speaking of forgotten civilizations, the country’s colorful hill tribes, Buddhist monks, pristine and lush rain-forests harboring exotic wildlife, its golden beaches and epic tropical islands, not to mention the monumental coral reefs and, why not, Thailand’s traditional floating markets and its cities crazy rave parties, especially in the capital Bangkok which is the most vivid and exuberant city to visit in Southern Asia, a place which by itself would justify a trip here, all these are the pearls in the crown of Thailand.

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To put the cherry on top, the Thai people are world famous for their friendliness and hospitality, with Thailand being actually one of the first Asian countries to open up in a meaningful manner to outsiders. Thailand’s love story with the west begun in the nineteenth century, due to the king’s Rama 4th’s appreciation of all things western.This king was responsible for launching the country on the path of modernization and he diplomatically convinced the Thai folk to replace chopsticks with knives and forks.

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Thailand is a unique place and thus it attracts all types of tourists, from Russian and Saudi billionaires to Lonely Planet backpackers. If you’re filthy rich or dirt poor, it doesn’t really matter, because you’ll have the time of your life while visiting Thailand, as you’ll be able to feel and live comfortably here regardless of your social status.

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Everything is easy to find, ranging from world class five star hotels and tourist resorts to hippy and cheap hostels. Truth be told, in recent years Thailand seems to have been following a more upmarket trend; I mean, long gone are the country’s backpacking heydays, as currently Thailand is a technological power house and very modern, with air conditioning everywhere and all that jazz.

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Almost every hotel now offers spa treatments and the famous Thai massages, so remember that when you’re planning the next holiday folks.

Even if Thailand is a place for adventurous people, one may wonder what can be more relaxing after a hard year’s work than to sit lavishly on the beach while enjoying a Thai massage? Just think about it for a moment. The beaches and islands in the southern part of the country are legendary among scuba diving and surfing enthusiasts, together with  water-sports  aficionados, whilst Thailand’s lush jungles in the north are a dream come true for wildlife spotters, trekkers and Bear Grylls fans. If you want to have a story to tell to your grand-kids, just go for a bath under a waterfall in the orchid filled jungles of Taiwan, that will make for an unforgettable experience.

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And finally, there’s the Thai cuisine, one of the best in the world and arguably the spiciest. Thai folks always seem to have a fork in hand, whether you’re cruising the night markets or in the five star restaurants and  street stalls. Visiting Thailand makes for a unique experience, during which you can forget about your modern life’s problems and issues and take a stroll along the sandy beaches, drink a cup of tea with a monk and afterwards, go snorkel over a coral reef and let it go. Also, if you’re into blood sports, don’t forget to go and cheer the fighters at a kickboxing (Muay Thai) match, which is the national sport of sorts in Taiwan.

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Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus Review, Budget Flagship

January 29, 2017

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The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus can be regarded as a significant and long expected upgrade over the vanilla Mi 5 and even the Mi 5s, being a phablet rather than a smartphone, boasting its impressive 5.7 inches display and the full metal jacket chassis. But everybody knows that what’s under the hood turns the heads of geeks anywhere.

And here the good news keep on coming, because the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is flagship material by any metrics, running on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 chipset and featuring a very promising state of the art dual camera setup for photography aficionados, which includes a monochrome sensor for low-light performance.

The front snapper is an ultrapixel camera, which is the ideal tool for selfie obsessed teens. The body of the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus got bigger and better, also sturdier, and the hardware is now faster than ever. This baby is a significant improvement over the vanilla Mi 5, but let’s dig deeper into the specs and see what’s what, shall we?

Being a flagship breed, let’s begin with the main disadvantages or shortcomings: first, there’s no micro SD card and that’s hard to understand. Also, there’s no mentioning about any type of adequate screen protection, like Corning or whatever.

The battery is sealed and there’s no optical image stabilization nor bokeh effect.

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus features an unibody construction and it’s made of aluminum, with a flat and sturdy frame which circles perfectly the flat display. The back panel is built using brushed metal with a glossy finish, which is rather unusual. However, design wise,the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is a real looker, being manufactured with an almost obsessive attention to details and it fits nicely in hand, being also sufficiently grippy.

The display is a 5.7 incher, an IPS LCD variety of full HD resolution  with a 386 pixels per inch density which is more than enough, leaving the QSD 821 enough room to breathe in video intensive applications. I am talking about a high end chipset having to deal with a full HD resolution rather than a QHD (the mainstream for high end smartphones nowadays), which translates into less stress on the CPUs i.e. increased performance.

The display is great quality wise, it’s just prone to scratching easily so I’d suggest you to put a screen shield as soon as possible.

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The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is powered by a beefy 3800 mAh battery, which is quite enough even for a phablet, with the smartphone scoring absolutely great in endurance tests, offering 104 hours of endurance rating. The droid comes with all bells and whistles connectivity wise, including LTE Cat. 8, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and even an USB Type C port.

The software is an Android Marshmallow with the MIUI 8.0 on top, which is one of the best customizations out there, being made especially for the Chinese market where Google services are banned thus Xiaomi had to refocus its ecosystem away from Alphabet’s services.

Considering that the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus runs on the latest hardware available, i.e. the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 with 4 gigs of RAM, the performance level is  top notch, both in day to day tasks and gaming, thanks to the latest gen Adreno 530 GPU.

The smartphone is amazingly fast and it stays cool under heavy loads, delivering flagship grade performance . In the multimedia department, the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus comes with 2 x 13 megapixels cameras on the back panel, with the monochrome sensor using a Bayer filter and Sony’s IMX258 sensor. The photo quality is excellent, with good contrast and rich detail while the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is capable of shooting 4K / ultra hd videos with ease at a rock solid 30 frames per second.

Let’s sum it up: the build quality is flagship grade, the grip is great due to the prominent metal frame, the display is awesome, battery life is best in class, the software is nice and clean, the hardware offers stellar performance, the camera is so so, right in the middle but the selfie snapper is one of the best out there. There aren’t many smartphone to match the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus considering the price asked, making for a strong candidate in the droid arena.