newsletter / september '08
Holy Matrimony!!! Strange Wedding Rituals from Around the World.
"God help the man who won't marry until he finds a perfect woman, and God help him still if he finds her." - Benjamin Tillett
After years of searching, you've finally found "the one." Love is in bloom, romance is in the air, life is beautiful and all that jazz. That is, until every waking moment is spent planning the perfect wedding: working against a deadline, trying to please everyone, respecting traditions and customs. But before the bridezillas attack, mother-in-laws interfere and eloping seems to be the sanest option, relax, sit back and think about some of these wedding traditions from around the world - suddenly wedding plans may not seem so stressful after all.
During our extensive research we were surprised to find that Europe and North America seem to have an inordinate amount of spirits who just don't want to leave their former residences (though we're thinking with the recent economic downturn, many may change their minds and finally move on). Even so, there are places to stay around the world where spooks and specters float in the night. And some of these are even available on our site for you to stay, if you dare... Here is our top 13!
I Really Love My Mother-In-Law
In certain villages in Africa, an older woman accompanies the couple to their bedroom, during that first night as husband and wife. In these villages, it is expected that girls are virgins until their wedding night. To show them the ropes and ensure they please their husbands, an older, mature woman has to be in the presence of the couple to direct the bride and explain what to do. If a new bride seems a little too experienced on her wedding night, the older woman can complain to the village that she was, in fact, not a virgin and nullify the marriage. These older women are usually village elders but can sometimes also be the bride’s mother or even her mother-in-law.
I Love the Way She Smells
During a traditional "Blackening the Bride" affair in Scotland, the couple's friends and family kidnap the bride-to-be and douse her with the smelliest, stickiest, foulest substances they can find. Brides have been known to be covered in mixtures containing eggs, a variety of smelly sauces, butter, cheese, cranberry sauce, noodles, fish, jelly, sausages and carrots. Basically the concoctions are limited to the group's imagination and whatever they want the bride to reek of. Once the bride has officially been blackened, she is escorted around the town, to several bars and pubs for all to see. The groom apparently gets away clean while his fiancé spends hours in the shower scrubbing gunk out of everywhere, before her big day in white.
I Always Cry at Weddings
Lots of people cry at weddings and even more will cry while working through wedding preparations, but for some, crying is actually part of the preparations. Brides and female members of the Tujia people in China voluntarily weep as part of their custom. A month before the wedding, a bride starts her weeping tradition and cries for about an hour. Ten days later, her mother joins in for a joint session. Ten days after that, her grandmothers, sisters and aunts contribute to the flood. Known as the "Crying Marriage Song," the bride weeps in different tones and the tradition is meant as a celebration of happy times through misleadingly mournful words. The men tend to cry after the wedding.
He's Tall, Dark and...Grounded?
In India, Manglik Dosh women (women born when Mars and Saturn are under the seventh house,) are said to be cursed and will cause their husband's death. In order to postpone their husband's death, Manglik Dosh women must first marry trees, urns, or other various objects before marrying their human-form husband. The trees and urns are destroyed in a symbolic act representing the death of the husband. This in turn keeps her real husband away from the curse of a premature death. The beautiful Aishwariya Rai, an Indian actress, was said to have married trees before her wedding to Bollywood megastar Abhishek Bachchan.
With This Tooth I Thee Wed
Some father-in-laws are just too demanding. In Fiji, not only is it customary for a man to ask his father-in-law for his daughter's hand in marriage but he also has to present the father with a present. Not just a small dowry, a nice watch or maybe a new TV, rather the customary present is supposed to be a whale's tooth, the highest symbol of status and wealth. If the father agrees to give away his daughter, the groom-to-be then prepares a delicious and bountiful feast for his in-laws. Then, right before the wedding, the bride-to-be is tattooed to enhance her beauty. To summarize a Fijian engagement - man talks to father-in-law, finds whale, retrieves tooth, gives tooth as a gift, cooks a huge feast for in-laws and takes the wife to the local tattoo parlor, thereby increasing her beauty.
You Make Me Swell Up Inside
In a small village off Sabah, a Malaysian state located in the north of Borneo, newlywed couples of the Tidong community have to refrain from urinating and clearing their bowels for 72 hours. To ensure that no one cheats and secretly excuses themselves to "meditate in isolation," the couple is fed small amounts of food and water, and watched closely by family and friends. If the couple breaches this age-old custom, it is believed that they will suffer severe bad luck, their marriage will be doomed or their children will die at an early age. Better hope it's a short ceremony…
Bye, Bye Beijing : A wish list for upcoming Olympic Games
Now that the extravagance and spectacle of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games has subsided, it's time to reflect on what was. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt were scary in their respective destruction of the record books; Phelps captured 8 Gold Medals in the pool and Bolt sprinting to an unheard of 2 world records in the 100 and 200m. These games also had unexpected surprises; the lip-syncing controversy of the opening ceremonies, amazing Chinese gymnasts who may or may not have been too young, and the Swedish tae kwon do referee who took a kick to the kisser from a Cuban contestant after the match he was officiating ended. All in all however, Beijing put on an incredible show. Though, in stark contrast to the opening and closing ceremonies, some of the competitions seemed to lack that edge-of-your-seat'ness. How many people stayed awake for the Equestrian finals (horse-riding competitions are considered athletic contests??) or those heart-pounding pistol events? We think there are some obvious replacements for those "sports" that seem to be, well, just a little lame.
First, some rules; in general, sports are eligible to be included if they meet certain criteria. They should have a scoring format, ruling body, and must be widely practiced (75 countries on 4 continents for men's competitions and 40 countries on 3 continents for women's). Any sport that requires motor propulsion cannot be included (Phelps and Bolt feats not withstanding), so no luck for F1 and Moto GP fans. In addition, the sport in question needs to be recognized as an Olympic sport prior to the Olympic Games in which they are to be contested and usually shown as a demonstration sport at a prior Olympic Games.
Cricket: Originated in England in the early 1600's, now more than 120 nations are recognized as cricket playing countries. Some people complain about the length of the game, but this refers to the traditional "Test" format which runs for five days. Shorter formats have been developed over the years, the latest being the Twenty20 format where a game can be wrapped up in under three hours. After the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, the Cricket World Cup is the most popular sporting event in the world and televised in over 200 countries. The game was last part of the Olympics in 1900 and, though not currently included, it continues to be recognized as an Olympic sport.
Sepak Takraw: This game is best described as volleyball using everything to hit the ball over the net except the player's arms and hands. Using a rattan ball, the game has some of the most amazing acrobatic stunts this side of the trampoline; including gravity defying kicks, flips, twists and turns, in mid-air. Having gained popularity in the early 1400's throughout Thailand and Malaysia, today the sport is played in most countries around the world. With regional associations in countries as far as Scotland and Brazil, the game has spread far beyond its Asian roots.
Muay Thai: Literally means "Thai Boxing" when translated. Originating in ancient Thailand (though various similar fighting forms exist throughout South East Asian countries) the sport owes its beginnings to battlefield combat. Like other martial arts, it focuses on body fitness and toughness. Known as the "art of eight limbs", Muay Thai uses all parts of the body for attacking and defending and has few restrictions. As a result some matches can be quite brutal. The World Muay Thai Council, which is the governing body, includes 120 member countries around the world. With the recent success of the reality television show "The Contender: Asia", the sport's popularity is definitely growing.
Squash: The game was developed in London in the early 1900's, with the name "squash" referring to the use of a "squashable" ball. Now 125 countries are affiliated with the World Squash Federation. Along with karate and rugby, it is among seven sports currently shortlisted to be included in the 2016 Olympics. Similar to tennis in the level of fitness and skills required, but using a much faster moving ball, it had previously been denied entry to the Olympic program due to spectator restrictions; primarily because it's played on enclosed courts. This was rectified by creating tinted glass walls, allowing the game to be visible from the exterior but yet not distracting to the players inside.
Karate: Another martial art to be considered is this popular one originating from Japan. With its beginnings traced the Ryukyu Islands (the largest being Okinawa) in the 1300's, Karate was originally a mixture of indigenous fighting styles combined with Chinese Kempo, which was brought to the islands by a small group of Chinese settlers. Today there are close to 100 separate karate federations and the game has spread well beyond its Japanese origins. With the additions of judo and tae kwon do to the Olympic Games, martial arts are becoming increasingly popular. Karate was one of the seven sports to make it to the final voting stage for the 2012 games, but lacking the two-thirds majority required to be included.
Rugby: The game of Rugby in its current form, with specific rules and regulations, began in the early 1800's, though the game itself existed in various forms long before that. Owing its name to the town in which it was developed (Rugby, in the county of Warwickshire, England); the sport was part of the Olympic program until 1924. The Rugby Board is now pushing a condensed format, seven player team version to be included in the Games, instead of the traditional matches with 15-man teams. Rugby has gained widespread popularity over the years, with recent inclusions into the Pan American and Asian Games. An inclusion in the Olympics would give small Pacific nations such as Tonga and Fiji an increased chance for glory on the medal stands.
Currently the Summer Olympics program is fixed at 28 main games, 301 events with over 10,000 athletes. The only chance for a new sport to be included is when another is voted out. A majority vote by the Olympic Committee is required for approval. The committee generally wants the games to be spectator friendly and thusly guaranteeing revenue. The six we've mentioned definitely have the interest and excitement to support them and with a little luck we just might see them at an upcoming Olympics.
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TRAVEL TIP : I lost my passport and my pants (not necessarily in that order).
So, you're taking a trip of a lifetime to that amazing beach resort with friends. You've heard the stories to be careful, lock up your valuables and remember to keep your identification and passport with you (or at least in a safe place at all times). Then, on your second night on the beach, you party too much and wake up in a hammock cuddling coconuts wearing nothing but your underwear (if you're lucky). This is when your Agoda Travel Tip for September pays off.
Prior to leaving on your trip, scan or photocopy all your documents. Scan your passport, driver's license, your credit/debit cards (front and back), traveler's checks and itinerary. And at the same time note important phone numbers including those of your nearest local embassy, the hotline for the credit card/bank in question (making sure to note the international numbers) and the hotel you're staying at. Email the scans to your Yahoo/Hotmail/Gmail account and include a family member in that email. That way everything is easily accessible when you're asking sheepishly for replacement documents. None of this saves you from looking hungover the next day, but it will save you from worrying about what to do next.
Review of the month: Hotel Reviews, Gallery Hotel
Created by Susana Fiochi
The Gallery hotel is one of my favourites when visiting Singapore. Its location near Clarke Quay and on the riverfront make it a good choice for restaurants and bars and it is only a short taxi journey to Orchard Road with its many shops. The rooms are a little small but comfortable, with attention to detail in its decoration and comfort. The best feature of this hotel is the infinity pool on the roof, where one of the sides of the pool is made out of glass, so you can dive and see the street below! Room service is efficient with a decent à la carte menu. Use of computers is free if you do not have your lap top.