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Tonga and the King George Tupou V

 Posted by Christophe Le Corre
Christophe Le Corre
, July 13, 2014 at 11:23:14 :: Tonga

George Tupou VTonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific. Fifty-two of the islands are inhabited.

The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line located at about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii (USA).

Tonga has a population of a bit more than 100,000.

Tonga operates as a constitutional monarchy. Reverence for the monarch replaces that held in earlier centuries for the sacred paramount chief, the Tuʻi Tonga. Criticism of the monarch is held to be contrary to Tongan culture and etiquette. A direct descendant of the first monarch, King George Tupou V, his family, some powerful nobles, and a growing non-royal elite caste live in much wealth, with the rest of the country living in relative poverty.

George Tupou V (Tongan: Siaosi Tupou V, full name: Siaosi Tāufaʻāhau Manumataongo Tukuʻaho Tupou V), (born 4 May 1948) is the current King of Tonga. He is the eldest son of the late King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV (b. 1918 - d. 2006), and Queen Halaevalu Mataʻaho ʻAhomeʻe (b. 1926). He was appointed Crown Prince on 4 May 1966. In daily life, he was better known by one of his traditional chiefly titles Tupoutoʻa.

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King Albert II of Belgium

 Posted by Germain Laroche
Germain Laroche
, July 06, 2014 at 17:36:18 :: Belgium

The Broodhuis (Breadhouse), or Maison du Roi (King's House), Grand Place central square of Brussels, BelgiumBelgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe.

Belgium is a constitutional, popular monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The bicameral federal parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The former is made up of 40 directly elected politicians and 21 representatives appointed by the 3 Community parliaments, 10 co-opted senators and the children of the king, as Senators by Right who in practice do not cast their vote. The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts. Belgium has compulsory voting and thus holds one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the world.

The King (currently Albert II) is the head of state, though with limited prerogatives. He appoints ministers, including a Prime Minister, that have the confidence of the Chamber of Representatives to form the federal government.

Albert II (born 6 June 1934) is the King of the Belgians, a constitutional monarch. He is a member of the royal house "of Belgium"; formerly this house was named Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He is the uncle of the current reigning Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Henri.

Albert's full name is Albert Félix Humbert Théodore Christian Eugène Marie in French, Albert Felix Humbert Theodoor Christiaan Eugène Marie in Dutch, and Albert Felix Humbert Theodor Christian Eugen Maria in German.

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Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark since 1972

 Posted by Germain Laroche
Germain Laroche
, June 22, 2014 at 18:16:53 :: Denmark

Denmark royal palaceMargrethe II (sometimes anglicised as Margaret II) (born 16 April 1940) is the Queen regnant of the Kingdom of Denmark. She is the eldest daughter of King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark. In 1967, she married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, with whom she has two sons: Crown Prince Frederik (born 1968) and Prince Joachim (born 1969). When her father, Frederick IX, died in 1972, Margrethe succeeded him as Queen of Denmark and became the first female monarch of Denmark since Margaret I, ruler of the Scandinavian countries in 1375–1412 during the Kalmar Union.

In January 2012, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has been marking the 40th anniversary of her succession to the country's throne. The main events took place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 January 2012.

The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and sovereign state consisting of the country of Denmark in northern Europe and two autonomous constituent countries, the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic and Greenland in North America. The Kingdom of Denmark has an estimated population of 5,671,000 inhabitants.

The Queen's main tasks are to represent the Kingdom abroad and to be a unifying figurehead at home. She receives foreign ambassadors and awards honours and medals. The queen performs the latter task by accepting invitations to open exhibitions, attending anniversaries, inaugurating bridges, etc.

As an unelected public official, the Queen takes no part in party politics and does not express any political opinions. Although she has the right to vote, she opts not to do so to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.

After an election where the incumbent Prime Minister does not have a majority behind him, a “Dronningerunde” (Queen's meeting) between the chairmen of each of the Danish political parties attends a meeting with the monarch.

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Tupou VI, the new king of Tonga

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, June 10, 2014 at 13:39:03 :: Tonga

Tupou VI, king of TongaTupou VI (full name: ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho Tupou VI; born 12 July 1959) is the new King of Tonga. He is the younger brother and successor of the late King George Tupou V. He was officially confirmed by his brother on 27 September 2006 as the heir presumptive to the Tongan throne, as his brother (a bachelor) had no legitimate children.

He served as Tonga's High Commissioner to Australia, and resided in Canberra until the recent death of King George Tupou V in a Hong Kong hospital on 18 March 2012.

Tongan media reports say the late king underwent a liver transplant last year and had also been diagnosed with cancer.

The late king was known to the outside world for eccentricities such as being driven around in a London taxi, and will be remembered by many for his throwback fashion choices, which included wearing, at times, a top hat and even a monocle.

He was credited with introducing democracy to the South Pacific archipelago after riots following his ascension in 2006.

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Banaue and the province of Ifugao

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, June 01, 2014 at 10:11:29 :: Philippines

Banaue Rice TerracesRice terraces

The mud-walled Banaue rice terraces (Filipino: Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe), also known as Musuan Peak, are the remnants of a 2000-year old rice plantation that ancestors of the indigenous people carved into the mountains of Ifugao. It’s a National Cultural Treasure attraction, commonly referred to by Filipinos as the "Eighth Wonder of the World", that some argue is on par with the Great Wall of China, and for many visitors it is the sole reason for visiting this region. However, Banaue rice terraces were not included in the UNESCO inscription “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras” due to the presence of numerous modern structures.

The best time to hike up and view the terraces is late in the afternoon, when they are backlit by the setting sun, and, as is to be expected, the higher you go, the better the view. And as these terraces are the major attraction here, guided tours and daily transport there and back, are readily available throughout the town.

To-Tam-An village

This easy-to-reach heritage attraction is a showcase village of weavers and carvers, where visitors can see the native huts, which are among the world’s first prefabricated dwellings in that they do not use a single nail or piece of metal to fasten together. The village replicates the typical life of the Ifugao people, and the woodcarvings and weavings done here can also be purchased at their souvenir shop, at relatively reasonable prices.

The Banaue museum

The Banaue View Inn runs this museum, which contains books written decades ago by anthropologist Otley Beyer. There’s also rare photographs and artifacts, including beads, baskets, pottery, woodcraft and woven materials, all of which depict various aspects of Ifugao history and material culture.

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Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein

 Posted by Christophe Le Corre
Christophe Le Corre
, May 25, 2014 at 14:29:52 :: Liechtenstein

Prince of LiechtensteinHans-Adam II (Johannes (Hans) Adam Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marko d'Aviano Pius von und zu Liechtenstein; born 14 February 1945), is the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. He is the son of Franz Joseph II, Prince of Liechtenstein (1906–1989) and his wife Countess Georgina von Wilczek (1921–1989). He also bears the titles Duke of Troppau and Jägerndorf, Count of Rietberg. He descends in the direct male line from merely three of the previous fourteen Princes of Liechtenstein, and of another (again from two of the above mentioned three) in the female line.

Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein has an area just over 160 square kilometres (62 sq mi), and has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz.

Liechtenstein is the smallest yet the richest (by measure of GDP per capita) German-speaking country in the world and the only country to lie entirely within the Alps.

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Luxembourg and Grand Duke Henri

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, May 18, 2014 at 12:15:57 :: Luxembourg

Grand Ducal PalaceThe Grand Duke of Luxembourg is the sovereign monarch and head of state of Luxembourg. Luxembourg has been a grand duchy since 15 March 1815, when it was elevated from a duchy when placed in personal union with the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Since then, there have been nine monarchs of Luxembourg, including the current incumbent, Henri.

Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg OIH (given names: Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume; born at Betzdorf Castle in Betzdorf, Luxembourg, 16 April 1955) is the head of state of Luxembourg. He is the eldest son of Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium. His maternal grandparents were King Leopold III of Belgium and Astrid of Sweden. He is a nephew of the current King of the Belgians, Albert II.

As the head of a constitutional monarchy, Grand Duke Henri's duties are primarily representative. However, he retains the constitutional power to appoint the Prime Minister and Government, to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, to promulgate laws and to accredit ambassadors.

Grand Duke Henri is Commander-in-Chief of the Luxembourg Army, in which he holds the rank of General. He is also an Honorary Major in the British Parachute Regiment.

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What to do in Bohol

 Posted by Germain Laroche
Germain Laroche
, May 04, 2014 at 18:21:13 :: Philippines

Chocolate Hills, Bohol IslandChocolate Hills

The curious name of this island landmark comes from the fact that the vegetation here roasts to chocolate brown in the dry season, and seen in optimum viewing conditions – a hazy dusk or dawn – they can be quite picturesque. Motorbike tours along the winding roads leading up to the main viewpoint sites are readily available.

Tagbilaran Cathedral

Tagbilaran is the main commercial city of Bohol, and makes a good base from which to explore the island’s natural wonders. While in town, a visit to this colossal church, also known as St Joseph the Worker Cathedral, is a must. Originally constructed in 1767, it was rebuilt and enlarged in 1855 after a disastrous fire.

Panglao Island

Scuba diving is what draws tourists to Panglao – the prime spots being Balicasag and Pamilacan islands, just south of Alona Beach – and dive resorts are everywhere. Snorkelers meanwhile can experience the refreshingly chilly waters of Hinagdanan Cave at the northern tip of the island, where salt and fresh waters meet in the underground tunnels.

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