Monthly Archives: December 2012

Merry Christmas from Kathmandu

I always wished for a white Christmas. Even though it is not snowing in Kathmandu, I am having a cold Christmas here in Kathmandu unlike in Australia where it is hot and muggy during Christmas.

So from a far far land called Kathmandu, Merry Christmas everyone. May the Christmas spirit keep you warm and full of joy this holiday season.

Kathmandu has changed a lot in the past decade. When I was growing up here, there was hardly any sign of Christmas seen in Kathmandu but these days every shopping mall is decorated with Christmas decorations and every shop has a Santa or mannequin dressed in a red. From the only Hindu country in the world Nepal has changed to be a multi religious secular country.

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My Facebook is full of photos of people from Nepal celebrating Christmas eve and Christmas, It is nice to see globalisation (in every aspect) happening in Nepal as well.

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I also got this picture from my boss; it is of my desk at work full of gifts for Christmas. It was really nice of her. I am eagerly waiting to go back and open them 🙂

Xmas

Talking about Christmas I couldn’t help but notice that Bangkok is adorned in fairy lights and Christmas decorations.

According to Wikipedia, 94.6% of Thais are Buddhists followed by 4.6%  Muslims which leave less than 1 percentage of Thai to be Christian. But if you are in Thailand, especially Bangkok, you will be forgiven if you think Thailand is a 100% Christian country. It looks like Thais love Christmas.  As soon as early November rolls around, every year, up go the Christmas trees, the Christmas lights and the Christmas decorations all over Bangkok. We saw Christmas decoration in every shopping mall, every department store, every shop and even many schools and offices decorated for Christmas. It’s actually quite wonderful if you’re a Christian living in Bangkok, as it’s hard to be depressed and miss your family when there’s Christmas cheer everywhere in Bangkok.

Here are some decoration from Siam Paragon, Central World Plaza, Amarin Plaza and other malls and walkway around Bangkok.

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Update from Kathmandu Part 1

It has been only 6 days since I have been in Nepal and I have already lost count of the days and the date, I guess this is what holiday means in a real sense. The last few days have been busy trying to prepare for my nephew’s pasni which is next week.

Look at him so cute with my sunnies 🙂

choraFor women, preparation means buying clothes and accessories to wear at the party. From the second day I landed in Kathmandu that is all I have been doing.

On day 2, I went shopping with my MIL and hubby to buy sari and kurta to wear here. I have to admit, it is really expensive to buy anything these days. If something is nice, it is priced so high that I have to think twice before buying it. We went to many shops and spent almost half the day before I was finally able to buy few Saris to wear for party. Here are some of the saris I loved. Let me know if you liked them too. 🙂

sari

Visiting my grandparents in law

One evening, I went to visit my grandparents in law with my MIL, FIL and hubby. My hubby is lucky to have both of his grandparents still around. It is always nice to meet older people. Grand dad is 94 years old and grand mum is 89.

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After talking with them for a while, we came to the topic of babies; one of AS’s cousins just gave birth to a baby girl recently and she is the fourth baby girl in the family. So his grandparents also want us to have a baby as soon as possible and a boy too at that.

I have to admit, his grand dad is really active and alert for his age with sharp hearing and active mind. His grand mom can’t hear clearly but she is also active and alert.

We will be meeting them more often while we are here.

Meeting my Grandma

I have only one grand parent remaining and she is my mum’s mother. I really wish I could see her more often and talk to her on the phone but she is 80 years old so it is hard to keep in touch with her when I am in Australia. Every time I visit her, she showers me with love. I went to visit her with my hubby , my mum and my SIL. Here is a picture of us with my grandma and my mom.

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It is so nice to see grandma so proud of me. She always praises me that I did well in life and she is so happy to see our success.

I feel so sad to be so far away from all my family. She always cherishes our visits and is so happy to see us every time.

My parental grandma has passed already and I really miss her.

Meeting my little niece

One of my cousin sisters just had a baby girl so I went to visit her. The baby is only 1.5 months old and she is so cute.

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The time after having a baby is so different in Nepal compared to Australia. My SIL went through very different routine after she had my nephew but my cousin is going through very different routine.

She has to eat rice with ghee, chaku (molasses ) four times a day so she has put on at least 20 kgs. Also they have someone coming to give oil massage to her and the baby in sun everyday so both have become very dark. New moms are also not allowed to anywhere outside for at least three months after having a baby so my cousin is going to miss my nephew’s pasni too. Whereas in Australia I have seen new moms coming shopping with babys as small as a few days old.

The custom in Nepal is so different from that in the west.

My routine in Nepal

I am at my new home (AS’s home) right now so I kind of have a routine. Every morning I wake up around 6:30 (my MIL wake up around that time so) and freshen up. Then I go to the kitchen where MIL will be either doing her morning exercise or getting ready to cook breakfast for everyone. I bow to her in greeting and then I help her in the kitchen until breakfast is ready and have breakfast.

In Nepal, a buhari (DIL) should bow to her MIL or FIL every morning as a sign of respect so every morning when I see my MIL of FIL for the first time I bow to them and get their blessings.

Then it will be time to cook dal bhaat tarkari (lunch) so I cut the meat/ vegetables when the help goes to school otherwise just stay in the kitchen and help MIL. My MIL cooks most of the things but I help her. She is teaching me lots of techniques and I am glad to learn them. I will share a few recipes when I can.

Today I baked chocolate cupcakes for the family and I am glad everyone liked it. It came out a bit different than in Sydney due to load shedding as the power went off towards the end of the baking time. I need to check the timetable for the power cuts before planning any meals. I can’t use the microwave or the oven when there is no electricity.

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Normally during the afternoons, we go to visit someone or go shopping and be back home by 6pm as it gets dark by that time. So far things are going good.

Next week is my nephew’s pasni so I hope to have lots of fun.

Will keep you posted.

Also nothing happened 0n 21.12.2012 as predicated so have a great Christmas everyone.

Namaste from Kathmandu

Finally I am in Kathmandu now. We had a fun time in Bangkok about which I will write in detail when I get time :). It was really hot and humid in Bangkok. From the extreme hot weather there I am now in Kathmandu where the weather is really cold.

The flight to Kathmandu was very emotional for me; I was really happy but anxious at the same time. It was a short 3 hours flight so it went really quick. Almost half the plane was full of Nepali people returning home so I could hear people speaking in Nepali from all direction. It took a while for me to adjust mentally as it is not common in Sydney to hear so many people speaking Nepali at the same time.

Almost 2 hours after take-off we entered Nepal and I could see the beautiful Himalayas. It was so nice to feel the beauty of the place. The snow-capped mountains and hills looked magnificent.

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But as we got closer to Kathmandu, I could also see a layer of smoke just above valley blurring my view to the beautiful panoramic mountains. It is so sad to realise that Kathmandu is really polluted these days.

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As we got closer I could see some villages with small houses and large fields and then suddenly, there were houses everywhere. I knew we were in Kathmandu then as the view was only of houses after houses. Finally we landed in Tribhuvan international airport.

The airport hasn’t changed a bit from our last visit. There was a queue to clear the immigration and then we took the luggage and were out. I was not expecting my parents to pick us up as I mentioned in my last post but as soon as I came out, I saw my dad waving at us. I was really happy to see him. It was a good surprise from him.

At the airport, the place looked really chaotic. I am not sure why they don’t manage the place properly. There were so many cars and taxis parked everywhere. There were drivers haggling people offering rides and then there were lots and lots of people I am not sure doing what.

My in laws were still on the way when my dad called them so we waited for a few minutes. It was nice to see all my in laws including my BILs coming to pick us up from the airport. We hopped into the car and made our way home.

From airport to home (AS’s home) was not a bad ride but I got to witness Kathmandu’s chaotic traffic and the pollution. I reminded myself that I will be fine and just need to take care that I drink good water and food so I can enjoy my holiday without getting sick.

My dad also came to AS’s home with us and stayed for lunch so it felt good to see him. After that he left and we spent some time with the rest of the family. They all liked their gifts and were happy to see us in Nepal.

My MIL had already prepared lunch for us as well so I had my first meal in Nepal which was rice, goat curry, cauliflower curry and the yummy lapsi ko achar. It was nice to eat home-made food after many days of Thai food in Thailand.

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Lapsi ko achar

After lunch I went to my house with AS. My FIL dropped us there which was really nice of him. I took all the gifts I had brought for my family with us. Mum was already back from work and dad was home as well.  My brother, SIL and little nephew travelled to Nepal from Australia a week before us. It was so nice to see all my family. My nephew is looking so good and cute. I saw him after 10 days.

We spent some time with them and it was time for me to go back to my new home. My FIL picked us up again and we were back to my new home.

It was our first night here so all the family members were waiting for us. We all sat together in one room having a good conversation. It was nice to see AS spending quality time with his family and they welcomed me into their home with open arms.

We went to bed around 11pm but my body was still in Australian time so was really tired.

Finally I am in Nepal with our family. Will keep you posted from Kathmandu.

Take care everyone and hope all the Christmas shopping are done  🙂

From Sydney to Bangkok

The trip is going good so far. The flight to Sydney was 8 hours and 30 minutes and I rested well during the flight.

We got a window seat and the one next to it for our journey. When we checked in online the day before, we realised that the flight was quite full and we had someone next to us. We always wish to have a seat next to us empty so we can move freely but it had not happened for a while. So when the captain announced for the door to be closed, me and AS both were looking at each other delighted as there was no one next to us which meant that we got 3 seats to ourselves.

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As soon as we took off, we were served lunch. Most people complain about air plane food but I am OK with it. I know it is not great but they are not bad either. We choose to eat Thai chicken curry with rice.

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While having lunch, I watched the movie Bourne Legacy, which I had been thinking to watch for the while. Without Matt Demon, Bourne seems a bit weird but it was not bad.

When I finished the first movie, we still had almost 6 hours before landing. Even though we flew in the morning I was feeling very tired so I decided to sleep. Sometimes being small is an advantage as I could easily sleep on AS’s lap with my leg stretched over 2 seats. I couldn’t believe that I slept for almost 2 hours without waking up in between as it was really comfortable.

AS couldn’t sleep in the plane so he was still watching some movie when I woke up. After that I watched one more movie called Hope Spring. It was a bit slow but very educational for married people. I am glad it is too early for me and AS to be in that situation but I really hope we will be in better place in our relationship when we will be at that age married for more than 30 years. Do watch it when you get some time.

After the second movie it was only few hours before we were to land. We were served a light meal and it was noodles with prawn and some dessert. I really didn’t want to do anything else so I watched Just for Laughs for a while. I really love that show. Look at some of the great gags they have when you have time and I am sure it will make you laugh too.

Just behind our seats, there were 3 people travelling separately becoming fast friends. I know it is bad to eavesdrop but they were talking loudly so I could hear everything. One of the guy was 25, a woman 34 who is travelling international for the first time and an older man. It was nice to hear their conversation about each other and their travel plans :). They exchanged mobile numbers as well so they can hang out in Bangkok.

The flight was on time so we landed at 3pm Bangkok time. As soon as we came out of the gate, I could feel the Bangkok humidity. I was wearing my leggings and I was feeling really hot. I almost forgot how hot it was when we came here last time. Seriously even at that time, it was so hot that I had to run for the shade.

A bus took all of us to the terminal from the plane. From there we cleared immigration and took our bags were off to a taxi stand.

While waiting for our bags, I saw this sign at the Suvarnabhumi Airport which was very confusing for me. Would anyone voluntarily go via the red channel? Would you? 🙂

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It took almost an hour due to traffic for us to reach our hotel. We were booked at Chateau de Bangkok. We stayed at the same hotel last time and we loved it so we booked it again.

Once in the hotel, we checked in and were happy to rest for a few minutes before changing and going out to discover Bangkok all over again.

The room was nice and clean as I remembered from last time.

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I will post more from Bangkok and Kathmandu soon.

Ready for holiday

I meant to write this post yesterday but I have been really busy this week. So finally I got some time to write this morning.

Right now I am at Sydney International Airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok. We checked in, passed immigration so nothing else to do but wait. AS is busy on his mobile playing Sudoko while I am browsing the net and writing this post.

This week has been really busy as my brother with SIL and little nephew left for Nepal. Then the whole week at work I had meetings and trainings that kept me very busy.

Anyway I am just glad that we are going on a holiday. Luggage wise I didn’t have much problem. I think it is better when I fly out from Sydney but coming back is always a problem with so much stuffs that I bring with me. We have more than 30 kgs in our luggage which is only gifts for my family and AS’s family. I always think I haven’t bought much but when we started packing, OMG there is so much. I really hope everyone will love our gifts as we spent lots of time on them.

First stop will be Thailand where we will spend 4 days going around and shopping in Bangkok. We will also meet AS’s cousin with his wife and little girl (she is under 2 and this is the first time we will be meeting her) so that is really exciting. After that we will be in Nepal for the rest of the holiday.

Really looking forward to spending a good time with our family. All the fear I have expressed in this blog before has gone away and I am really looking forward to having a great time.

I will have a cold but not a white Christmas this year so that is completely different than Christmas in Australia as I have mentioned in my post here, no BBQ, no beach.

I will be updating my blog  and reading other blogs less frequently until I come back to Sydney so till then take care everyone. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

If you wish to send me a Christmas Gift, please read here to know what I want :).

Enjoying exotic cuisine in Paris

On the last day of our tour in Paris, we had a farewell dinner in one of the restaurants called L’Escarmouche. It was a five course dinner. The restaurant looked nice like a historical building from the Middle Ages with large tables under a beautiful stone arched roof.

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We were seated in one corner and handed a menu. There were wines already on the table for us to start with.

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While we were deciding on what to eat, we were served French bread to start our dinner.

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The menu was

Entrée

French Onion soup

Snails in garlic butter

Prawn cocktail

Frog’s legs a la Provençale

Duck liver mousse

Main

Filet of Salmon

Beef n Burgundy wine sauce

Filet of Chicken in mushroom sauce

Flambéed prawns

Fine roast duck

Cheese platter

Deserts

Chocolate Mousse

Caramel Crème

Apple Tart

Profiteroles

Peach Melba

Of course me and AS being us, we had to try something we hadn’t tried before so we went for Frog’s legs a la Provençale and Snails in garlic butter. Of course it was our first time eating frog but it was the second time for me eating snail. I had deep fried snails in Malaysia before.

Anyway, when the dishes were served, they looked better than I thought they would.

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The frog looked like a small chicken. Frog legs are one of the better-known delicacies of French cuisine. Frog’s legs have a texture just like chicken, and a taste that is similar but with a little fishy taste and it is somewhat tougher. Believe me if it was serve as chicken, no one could tell the difference.

Snail was a different story.

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The snail I had in Malaysia was a small one whose shells were crisp and deep fried and you could eat it as well. As they were spicy as well it didn’t taste any different than other spicy deep fried stuff but the snail we were served in Paris was a bit bigger. It tasted like a salty, buttery and oversized gummy bear. That is probably the best way to describe it.

I’d say an experience you only do once, but worth doing. They are an acquired taste so not everyone will like it.

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I also tried French Onion soup and Duck liver mousse and they tasted good too. Overall I was very happy with the starters.

It was followed by the main. I had Filet of Chicken in mushroom sauce while AS had Flambéed prawns. Both of the dishes were yummy. I looked around the table and everyone’s main dish looked nice and everyone was happy with what they got.

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When we were done with the main, we were served a chees platter. There were cheese like Aged Cheddar, Goat Gouda, Swiss, Brie, Camembert, Constant Bliss, Gruyere, Jarlesberg, Monterey Jack, Provolone, Blue Cheese to choose from. By this stage I had no room for anything else in my tummy.

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While we were dinning, there were musicians who were singing Australian songs like Waltzing Matilda and Still Call Australia Home for us as there were lots of Aussies in our group.

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During the singing session, the guys asked a few girls including me to come on the floor and dance with them. It was fun to try and do some can can with them J

In that mean time desert was served and they were mouth-watering dishes. I and AS shared our dessert with each other which were Apple Tart and Chocolate Mousse. It was a fantastic way to conclude our dinner.

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It was a great night out and a nice way to farewell our tour friends who were great to travel with around Europe.

Hello from the Top of the Eiffel Tower: Paris

I am sure Eiffel Tower doesn’t need any introduction. It must be one of the most recognized structures in the whole world. It is located on the Champ de Mars in Paris and is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

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The tower stands 320 metres (1,050 ft) tall and has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift (elevator), to the first and second levels. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. The third and highest level is accessible only by lift, stairs exist but they are not usually open for public use.

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When we were in Paris, one of the things we really wanted to do was to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. After all, we were in the city of love so there was no reason for us to not to go to the top of the iconic structure and see one of the most beautiful city.

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So with that in mind we went to the Eiffel Tower after we finished dinner with our group. By that time we had seen the tower a couple of times form our bus as well as from a view point which is south of Champ de Mars where you can get beautiful photos of the tower. These are some of the wonderful photos AS and I took on those occasions.

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After dinner, our tour bus took us to another location, Jardins de Trocadero from where the view was even better than from the ones before. We took a few photos there and told the guide to leave us there so we can walk to the top of the tower.

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As we were walking, we saw a few cops talking  on the side of the road we were on. When they looked at us, they smiled. One of them started talking to us and asked if I wanted a photo with them. Of course I said yes and here is my photo with a nice French policeman 🙂

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After that we kept walking toward the tower. The first time we saw the tower up close, it was an amazing experience. It is very beautiful and bigger than any movie or any postcards I have ever seen. We just loved it so much. Delicate and graceful when seen from afar, the Eiffel is massive — even a bit scary — from close up. You don’t appreciate the size until you walk toward it; like a mountain, it seems so close but takes forever to reach.

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We knew that there would be a queue to go up so when we were at the foot of the tower; we were not surprised to see a long queue. We were informed that out of 4 lifts in four legs of the tower, only one was working and it would be a long wait.

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We didn’t mind walking the 600+ steps (we did a nice walk in St Paul’s cathedral in London as well) so AS and I decided we would get the ticket for the stairs rather than wait for the lift.  It took a while for us to get the tickets as we were in queue for the lift for over an hour before we realised that we were in the wrong queue. So another 30 minutes in the right queue and finally we got the ticket. While we were in the queue it started to drizzle (after a great day) so we had our umbrella opened while waiting.

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I was really happy when we got our tickets as the wait was finally over. It cost us around 10 euros (5 euro more for the lift) for the trip. I am sure we could have bought tickets online to avoid the queue but it was a good experience to queue and admire Eiffel tower from close up while waiting in the queue.

The sun had set by that time and the lights on the tower were just lit. It is so true when they say that there is something magical about visiting the Eiffel Tower at night. Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris.

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So we started our first leg of the journey to the First level of the tower.  For the first 100 steps it was exciting as there were lots of information about the tower on the side walls as we went up. Then when we passed 200 steps it was getting a bit tiring and the rain didn’t help.

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I was huffing and puffing at that stage but we had to push ourselves until we finish another 100+ steps get to the first level. It was a great workout and we did bypass the lines for the elevators. But it was windy as we went to the top and even with my warm coat, I was freezing. After 328 steps, I was ready to rest for a while when we finally reached the first level.

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Looking out from the top over the streets of Paris, you’ll see why Paris is known as the “City of Light.” At street level, seeing the spotlight on the top of the Tower zoom across the Paris skyline and the reflection of the Tower in the Seine are sights not to be missed.

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We walked around the floor and were mesmerised by the beautiful city. On the first floor, there is a working post office from where you can send a postcard home with an Eiffel Tower postmark to commemorate your trip. The floor also has a snack bar, WCs (toilets) and souvenir shop.

We have to climb 340 steps more to get to the second floor. This floor was a bit crowed when we got there but it was still worth it. The best views of Paris were from the 2nd level. You are high enough up to see the stunning panorama of the Paris skyline. Yet not too high; so that you can easily recognize most Paris landmarks without using a map. With a panoramic view over Paris, we stopped there for a while to enjoy the amazing view.

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On this level, there is a restaurant, Le Jules Vernes which is remarkable for its breathtaking views of the city and for its kitchen, which is led by celebrated French chef Alain Ducasse.

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After that we decided to take the lift to the top floor. We followed the signs to the elevator line for the ride to the top. There was a queue so we joined it. While in this queue we saw comparisons of Effile tower with land marks around the world including Nepal. It was nice to see Nepali flag there.

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After we caught the lift, we were landed on top level of the tower. It was even more crowded as the area is small. We walked around identifying a few of our favourite Paris landmarks, took a peek through the window at Gustave Eiffel’s office (he has an American visitor!), and snapped a few photos and took the lift back to the second level.

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The journey back was much better. As I climbed down the steps and finished this amazing adventure I wondered how lucky we were to experience such an amazing adventure.

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By that time it was almost midnight. And when we were just on the bridge in front of the tower, we witness the lights. For 5 minutes, the sparkle lights came on, almost equalled by sparkles from all the camera flashes going off below. Very, very nice aseverybody around us were  excited, and having fun. Even though we had been up in other  tower like Burj Khalifa and others before, it was still very special.

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Some interesting facts amount the tower:

  • The American TV show pricing the Priceless speculates that in 2011 the tower would cost about $480,000,000 to build, that the land under the tower is worth $350,000,000, and that the scrap value of the tower is worth $3,500,000. The TV show estimates the tower makes a profit of about $29,000,000 per year, though it is unlikely that the Eiffel Tower is managed so as to maximize profit.
  • The electric bill is $400,000 per year for 7.5 million kilowatt-hours.
  • In hot weather, it’s six inches taller.
  • Annual visitors : almost 7 million, 75% of whom are foreigners
  • Tall : 324 metres (with its antennas)
  • Weight : 7,300 tonnes of metallic framework, and a total weight of 10,100 tonnes
  • Number of metallic parts : 18,000 metallic parts joined by 2,500,000 rivets
  • Height of each floor :1st floor: 57m; 2nd floor: 115m; 3rd floor: 276m
  • Lighting : 336 projectors (sodium lamps)
  • Sparkling lights: 20,000 bulbs (5,000 on each side) glitter for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, from nightfall until 1a.m.
  • Number of antennas : 120 antennas
  • Number of steps on the East staircase until the top : 1,665 steps
  • Number of lifts : From the ground floor up to the 2nd floor: 5 (1 on the eastern pillar, 1 on the western pillar, 1 on the northern pillar, 1 private lift on the southern pillar leading to the “Jules Verne” restaurant, and 1 goods lift on the southern pillar). From the 2nd floor up to the top: 2 sets of 2 Duo-lifts.
  • Kilometers travelled by the lift : The combined distance travelled of the lift cabins is 103,000 km a year (2.5 times the circumference of the Earth).
  • Surface to be painted: 250,000 m2 of surface to be painted during each painting campaign, every 7 years. 60 tonnes of paint are needed.
  • Thanks to restoration on the Eiffel Tower, the engraved names of 72 French scientists and engineers from the original design are visible again. Most of the scientists were active during the French Revolution and the early 19th century.  The engravings were covered over in the early 20th century and restored for the first time in 1986-1987, and again last in 2010.

Please click here for more photos.