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A North Korean honor guard waits for the arrival of Choe Ryong Hae, vice chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, at the Pyongyang Airport Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Hae was headed to Nicaragua to attend the inauguration of their President-elect Daniel Ortega. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — A senior North Korean delegation left Pyongyang on Friday to attend the inauguration of Nicaragua's newly elected President Daniel Ortega.
Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is heading the delegation as a special envoy.
Choe has become something of the foreign face of the North Korean government with his relatively frequent trips lately. He is vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, one of North Korea's most powerful institutions, and is vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party of Korea, along with being a member of its politburo.
Kim Jong Un has yet to make an official trip abroad although he has been in power for more than five years.
In the meantime, Choe has served as Kim's special envoy on missions to Moscow and Beijing in past years and more recently headed Pyongyang's delegation to Cuba for Fidel Castro's funeral. Before that, he led the North's participation at the Rio Olympics.
Choe's trip to Nicaragua comes as North Korea is facing increased international pressure after two nuclear tests and a satellite test launch in 2016.
The United Nations imposed a new round of sanctions at the end of November last year that included measures to limit North Korea's diplomatic activities around the world.
Choe, sent off by an honor guard, departed Pyongyang on Friday morning's scheduled Air Koryo flight to Vladivostok. He was expected to travel via Moscow and Cuba before arriving in Nicaragua.
North Korea and Nicaragua opened diplomatic relations in 1979.
From exploring the wilds of Namibia to finding a new heaven in Nicaragua, the best outdoor adventure holidays to take in 2017By Nicole
There's fresh impetus to explore Namibia's startling landscapes this year CREDIT:FOTOLIA
6 JANUARY 2017 • 12:31PM
If your ambition this year is to try new things and explore new places, you're in luck. From Nicaragua to Tajikistan, a number of hitherto "undiscovered" destinations are increasingly catering to discerning holidaymakers, with a host of new resorts opening and experiences launching over the year to come. Read below for more on the most exciting outdoor adventures to be enjoyed around the world in 2017, or for something more sedate see our guides to 2017's best wellness and fitness breaks; 2017's best luxury beach holidays; the year's best yachting and sailing holidays; and the best cities to visit over the next 12 months.
The Desert Circuit: Namibia Exclusive Lodges
The four new luxury lodges on the Namibia Exclusive circuit are located in some of the most remote and beautiful northern parts of the country, each designed by architect Greg Scott and built of local materials that reflect the region’s landscapes and cultural traditions.
Sorris Sorris Lodge in Damaraland has been built into huge granite boulders scattered across the desert landscape, its modern African rammed-earth structures and pool offering views over the Ugab River and the mountains of the Brandberg Massif.
Sorris Sorris Lodge
Omatandeka Lodge is surrounded by vast plains inhabited by the Himba people, table-top mountains and a vital wildlife corridor used by mountain zebra, oryx and endangered black rhino, while Sheya Shuushona Lodge, on the northern boundary of Etosha National Park, is surrounded by photogenic salt pans that change colour with the seasons and turn into a lake in the rainy season.
Finally, Xaudum Lodge, the most recent addition, is surrounded by the sand dunes of the Kalahari, home to some 3,000 elephants. All four lodges are located in areas with indigenous communities and contribute funds so these people can continue to live in traditional ways on their ancestors’ land.
The Explorations Company offers a nine-night safari, staying at three Namibia Exclusive lodges, from £8,985 per person including flights, air transfers, full board and guiding.
The Italian Castle: Castello di Ugento, Puglia
There are few buildings in Europe in which guests can stay above a Norman keep, dine beneath 17th-century Baroque frescoes and wander around a garden in which Bronze Age artefacts have been found. In April, on the southern heel of Italy, the (rather wonderfully named) d’Amore family will open their restored thousand-year-old Castello di Ugento to paying guests for the first time (doubles from £260).
Visitors can relax within walled gardens, in which more than 100 medicinal and aromatic plants are grown for the kitchen and spa; admire the frescoes painted in 1694 to portray the noble family’s history; sample local wines in an ancient cistern-turned-cellar; and take cookery lessons in a wing turned by the Culinary Institute of America into its first European school.
A maximum of 18 guests will sleep in stone-walled rooms with high, star-vaulted ceilings and views over Ugento’s rooftops, and they will feast on Puglian favourites cooked by Milanese chef Odette Fada, whose refined cuisine at the renowned Rex Il Ristorante in Los Angeles and San Domenico NY made her name as one of America’s finest Italian chefs. The nearest beaches are two miles away and Baroque towns such as Lecce are a short drive from the castle.
The Urban Forest: Aman Shanghai
Aman’s latest property in China (its fourth) must be one of its most anticipated to date. The Shanghai retreat (rates not yet available) is a picture of leafy tranquility – and full of surprises. If a visitor were to drop into the 100-acre property, planted with thousand-year-old camphor trees and interspersed with historic Ming- and Qing-dynasty houses, they’d never believe that they were within easy reach of buzzy downtown Shanghai. Neither the forest nor village are native to this area; both were moved here over the past 10 years from Jiangxi, some 500 miles southwest, by Ma Dadong, a pioneering businessman, when the building of a reservoir threatened their survival.
Now that the painstaking replanting (which took three years) and the building of the hotel are complete, the 37 villas in the new sanctuary are being decorated with original beams, floors, sculptures and carvings from the uplifted village homes. Kerry Hill, the project’s architect, has taken care to reflect traditional Chinese culture while blending in contemporary comforts and natural tones of earth, moss and creamy whites. Guests can take day trips to Shanghai, walk in the forest, sample Eastern cuisine, or relax in the spa, beside the two pools or in the Nan Shu Fang contemplation garden.
The South American Sleeper: The Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
For the first time in May 2017, travellers will be able not only to traverse the Andes in one of the most luxurious trains on earth, but to sleep overnight on one. The Belmond Andean Explorer has been built to carry up to 68 passengers in en-suite cabins decorated by the South African designer Inge Moore in contemporary light woods and comforting alpaca-wool colours.
Each of the train’s cars is fitted with expansive windows to frame views of the Andean plains, mountains and grand architecture, including the Unesco World Heritage Site of Arequipa. Although another two trains already operate in this area – Belmond’s Hiram Bingham, which offers day trips to Machu Picchu, and the more traditional Inca Princess – this is the first modern luxury train to offer trips from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, on one- and two-night journeys. Chefs from the Hotel Monasterio in Cusco will serve modern Peruvian cuisine in two dining cars; guests can also enjoy spacious lounge and observation cars, and an open deck. Doubles from £738 , all-inclusive, for one night.
The Gorilla Camp: Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
One of the key trends in Africa in 2017 is the growth of camps that offer both sustainable luxury and adventure. Hence Wilderness Safaris’ decision to open Bisate Lodge in June as a luxury base for tracking the 10 habituated gorilla groups in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (doubles from £1,762 full board, excluding gorilla permits).
The lodge, raised high above the forest floor in the amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, has been designed by architect Nick Plewman to echo the spherical, thatched structures that dot the hills, as well as the layout of traditional Rwandan palaces. The interiors by Caline Williams-Wynn have been inspired by the rich detail of Rwandan textiles, many of which are made using a technique called imigongo, an ancient art form incorporating geometric shapes.
When the first guests arrive, they will be able not only to track gorillas, but to hike to Dian Fossey’s grave and her former research station at Karisoke, to trek to the top of a nearby volcano, and then to relax in the extensively reforested gardens.
The Jungle Retreat: Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat, Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s first luxe mountain resort sits in the lush landscape of Nandaime, just 40 minutes’ drive from the pretty colonial city of Granada. Nekupe – or heaven, in the indigenous Chorotega language – was designed with the help of a feng shui architect to have the highest energy flow and least environmental impact possible, and the four freestanding villas and four expansive suites, with king-sized beds, made-for-sharing bathtubs and alfresco showers, are decorated in earth tones and warm woods that echo the serene setting (doubles from £720, full board). Floor-to-ceiling windows frame views over Mombacho volcano’s perfect cone, and wraparound terraces are perfect for sipping daiquiris, before farm-to-table feasts of nuevo-Nicaraguan cuisine.
Nekupe will provide access to Nicaragua's underexplored nature reserves
The surrounding nature reserve, which echoes with the sounds of primates and toucans, can be explored on ATVs, as well as on paths created for hikers, bikers and horseback riders, or on zip wires, which soar above the forest canopy. For those not expending energy on target-shooting, tennis and yoga, there is an infinity pool and a spa.
The Cook Ski Spot: Lech, Austria
Size matters to ski resorts, so the hotly anticipated coronation of Ski Arlberg as Austria’s largest contiguous ski area is big news indeed. Encompassing eight villages, including big hitters St Anton, Lechand Zürs, Ski Arlberg is already one of the best-known ski areas in the Alps. But now its four new lifts are open, linking the entire area to deliver 109 miles of pistes (three more than Val d’Isère), Ski Arlberg will join the ranks of the world’s über resorts.
New developments have given Lech a leg up
The four connected lifts, known as the Flexenbahn, will place Lech at the epicentre of the ski area (stealing some thunder from St Anton). While expanding its lifts, Lech has also been consolidating its position as Austria’s leading town for luxury ski chalets. In December – hot on the heels of properties like the Aurelio Clubhouse, Chalet N, Chalet 1597 and Überhaus, which have raised the luxury bar in recent years – Severin’s Alpine Retreat will open its doors. The nine-suite hotel will be fitted with only the best: Minotti furnishings, a spa with an indoor infinity pool and hypoxic chamber for altitude training, and a ski room with bespoke Indigo kit.
Guests can take over the chalet, for free rein over the suites, restaurant, capacious spa and fire-lit lounges, or plump for The Residence: a sleek four-bedroom private apartment spanning two floors with a professional kitchen, cinema, bar and outdoor hot tub. The Oxford Ski Company offers a week for two people at Severin’s Alpine Retreat from £6,440, including transfers and flights.
The Rugged Destination: Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan
Tajikistan was the second-fastest growing tourist destination in the world in 2015, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Which is why in 2017 Edge Expeditions will be running a two-week Luxury Tajikistan tour of the country’s spectacular Pamir Mountains: one the most diverse, wild, exhilarating and least-explored corners of the planet.
With a team of expert guides, a maximum of eight guests will traverse the raw wilderness by either four-wheel-drive vehicles, with a driver, or motorbikes. Journeying along the legendary Pamir Highway, travellers will spend days exploring azure mountain lakes, hidden valleys, ancient ruins and high mountain passes that very few outsiders ever get to see.
The trip starts off at a five-star hotel in the capital, Dushanbe, while on the road the ground crew will prepare yurt camps with hot showers, comfortable beds, Egyptian cotton sheets and gourmet meals prepared by the expedition’s private chef. Along the way, both British and Tajik guides will interpret the layered history of the region, while astronomers with telescopes will also be on hand to explore some of the least light-polluted night skies in the world.
Edge Expeditions is offering a 14-day Luxury Tajikistan journey by four-wheel-drive or motorcycle, from £9,495 full board, starting and ending at Dushanbe, including transfers, motorcycle rental or vehicle (with driver), back-up vehicles, guides and medic, but excluding international flights.
A COLONIAL HOUSE WITH A COURTYARD IN THE CENTER OF GRANADA
This six-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath house, known as Casa Blanca, is in the heart of Granada, Nicaragua, a small western city founded in the 1520s along the shore of Lake Nicaragua. The rich colonial heritage of the city, one of the oldest in Central America, is reflected in the stately architecture of this and other buildings.
Casa Blanca, a colonial house with a white concrete facade and a red-clay tile roof, was built in the 1750s for a wealthy family from Spain, according to Carlos E. Gutierrez, a broker for Nicaragua Sotheby’s International Realty, which is listing the property. The two-story house, with a two-car garage, is on the corner of the pedestrian-only Calle La Calzada, near the Granada Cathedral and Central Park, the bustling city center.
“It’s a pretty optimal location,” said Trevor Barran, the managing partner of the Sotheby’s affiliate, which opened for business last spring.
The current owners acquired the property about five years ago, Mr. Barran said, and they spent two years renovating and upgrading it, restoring myriad architectural details throughout the 6,000 square feet of living space. Those flourishes include coffered and vaulted ceilings with tongue-and-groove, or machimbre, paneling; wood molding; and encaustic floor tiles handmade locally. The furnishings, most from the Managua manufacturer Simplemente Madera, are included in the sale.
Ornate wrought-iron gates enclose the doors to the two main entrances, which open to a large central foyer with a seating area, one of three designated living rooms. The ground floor also contains four guest bedrooms, three of which have en-suite baths, and a small en-suite bedroom suitable for staff off the modern kitchen. All the bedrooms except the staff quarters have air-conditioning, Mr. Barran said.
The master suite, with a TV alcove and a spalike bath, encompasses the second floor. It includes a balcony that offers views of the cathedral and overlooks the home’s lush central courtyard. Nearly every room on the first level leads to the courtyard, which is landscaped with tropical foliage like aloe and ginger plants and features an open-air dining area and a 40-foot pool.
Granada, with a population of around 120,000, is about 28 miles from Managua, the capital. It is a 55-minute drive to the Managua airport and around three hours to the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica.
As Nicaragua’s past political turmoil has faded in memory, the country has become a popular tourist spot and a second-home destination, according to real estate agents.
The real estate market “really opened up” from 2002 to 2004, when there was “tremendous growth for the country,” said Mr. Gutierrez of Sotheby’s. By 2006, “the market was booming,” he said.
After the 2008 global financial crisis, “everything just went into hibernation,” he added.
But sales and prices have rebounded in the last four years, agents said. “People feel confident about the country,” said Carlos Gutierrez, a residential developer and an owner of Casa Granada Properties, a real estate agency based in Granada. (He is not related to Mr. Gutierrez of Sotheby’s.)
Home sales across Nicaragua are up, on average, 15 percent to 20 percent from a year ago, said Mr. Gutierrez, the developer. In Granada, “the rental market is also really growing,” he added, “because people want to try it out first before buying.” He estimated that rental volume in the city is up about 40 percent over the last five years.
Although prices in Nicaragua have been rising — doubling in some beach communities since 2007, according to agents — home values remain far lower than in neighboring countries like Costa Rica. (The price for a three-bedroom, fully renovated home in Granada, for instance, typically starts at around $170,000, according to Mr. Gutierrez, the developer.)
“Property values are around 50 percent less than Costa Rica,” Mr. Gutierrez of Sotheby’s said. “Nicaragua reminds me of Costa Rica 30 years ago.”
WHO BUYS IN NICARAGUA
Buyers from the United States, Canada and Europe have been active in Nicaragua’s housing market, particularly at the higher end, agents said, with most of them looking for second homes or development properties to hold and use.
“About 10 years ago people would just buy as an investment, but there are really no speculators anymore,” said Eduardo Cabrales, a lawyer based in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Granada has had an influx of expatriate retirees, agents said, because of the city’s affordable cost of living, along with its colonial charm, walkability and shops, restaurants and other amenities.
There are no restrictions on foreign ownership, except for properties near the borders “for homeland security reasons,” Mr. Cabrales said. In fact, policies and laws encourage foreign purchases, such as a residency program that offers tax incentives to retirees, he added.
Foreigners, though, have fewer mortgage options available, so purchases typically are in cash, he said.
It is essential for buyers to hire a good lawyer, preferably one who can provide a reliable translation of the purchase agreement and be present at the closing on behalf of the buyer, Mr. Cabrales said. The lawyer will also need to conduct the necessary due diligence, which includes the key step of reviewing the title deed, or escritura, to ensure there are no liens against the property or ownership issues.
Nicaragua tourism: visitnicaragua.us
Nicaragua MLS: mls-nica.com/en
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCIES
Spanish; Nicaraguan Córdoba (1 Córdoba = $0.034)
TAXES AND FEES
Each transaction typically involves just one real estate agent, who is paid a commission, usually by the seller, of 5 percent to 8 percent of the sales price.
There are various other fees involved in a transaction — these are typically paid by the buyer — such as a federal transfer tax of 1 percent to 4 percent of the assessed value of the property after it is registered to the buyer.
Other expenses include the annual municipal tax of 1 percent of the assessed value of the property, as well as fees for a lawyer and a notary (although many lawyers are notaries). The lawyer’s fee is typically 1 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Cabrales said.
Carlos E. Gutierrez, Nicaragua Sotheby’s International; from the United States, 305-608-0797; in Nicaragua, 505-7530-7890; nicaraguasir.com.
By The Librarian
2700 attending a regional convention on a mango farm in El Viejo, Nicaragua
You're supposed to be the genius here. You’re the man with the plan because of your insight in the Bethel House. Your questions just come to show how clueless you really are. If you can’t further your research on why Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali disassociated themselves from the Nation of Islam. Figure it out. Read their “Bios” Your false perception is your own undoing. You haven’t figured out that everyone including you, have a problem with words. Influence Definition: the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others: He used family influence to get the contract. 2. the action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of another or others: Her mother's influence made her stay. 3. a person or thing that exerts influence: He is an influence for the good. Inspired Definition: of extraordinary quality, as if arising from some external creative impulse (of air or another substance) that is breathed in Yes, I’m aware of many things you would like for it to be true to bolster your notoriety here. William Maesen's, just like any apostate driven drivel doesn’t make anything those people written anymore factual just because you're attempting to sell it as such. As for “Fard” the scam was enlightenment, of what Christianity argument was at that time. One happened to be “hellfire”. Not that the Watchtower was playing a scam on people, rather how the Watchtower was interacting with people. Let’s not start twisting my words, your beginning to write like “O’Maly. Now your arrogance lies with court cases after the great depression. What common cases were those, and did “any” of those have to do with civil liberties. Rutherford was making a specific argument as was the Nation of Islam. Are you suggesting these 2 were compatible?