France’s burqa ban goes into effect

Today France has taken a controversial move and instated a burqa ban, aimed at the traditional religious covering worn by conservative Muslim women. The ban will potentially affect up to 2,000 women who wear a full-face veil in public, though it is unclear how the enforcement will work as police cannot remove the veil. Women who refuse to lift the burqa or niqab may be taken to a police station for an identity check, threatened with a 150 euro fine, or forced to attend “re-education” classes. Men who force women to wear the veil will face a 30,000 euro fine and up to a year in jail. So far only a few women have been arrested for protesting the ban near Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral.

Jacques Myard, a Parliament member and supporter of the ban said “The face is a dignity of a person. The face is your passport. So when you refuse me to see you, I am a victim.” France has the highest Muslim population in Europe, estimated between four and six million, though only a few thousand women wear the full-face veil. Belgium has passed a similar law but hasn’t enforced it, and the Netherlands is considering a ban as well.

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GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 7: Sangkhlaburi

Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 37 – Click above to watch video after the jump

No matter what type of adventure you’re looking for, Thailand has it all.

In the first half of Travel Talk’s grand Thai expedition, we’ve tamed elephants, explored Bangkok’s temples, eaten scorpions, taken in a Muay Thai match, and witnessed a train running directly through a bustling market. Now, we’re taking you to explore a lesser known province of Thailand for a closer look at the culture and traditions of rural Thai life.

Situated near the border of Myanmar, Sangkhlaburi is a great destination for those looking for alternative to Chiang Mai or the beaches of Koh Samui. After embarking on an ox cart ride and being welcomed with a traditional ceremony in a Hmong village, we try stay upright on a canoe in Sangklahburi’s lake and discover that it’s not always easy to avoid the dreaded hoards of tour buses.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

Photo of the day – Intha leg rowers boat race in Burma

What do you see in the photo above? Men walking awkwardly on stilts or a bridge gone horribly wrong? They’re actually competing in a boat race in Myanmar using the traditional Intha leg-rowing technique. The Intha people developed this unusual style of rowing in order to navigate around the many reeds and plants in the lake that they may not see rowing from a seated position. In this race, each boat holds 30 men balancing on a horizontal railing in the middle of the boat, using the other leg to row. Thanks to Flickr user Mark Fischer for a great shot with an interesting story.

Have you captured any unique sporting events on your travels? Add them to the Gadling group on Flickr and we might just pick one of yours as a future Photo of the Day.

10 souvenirs to buy in Honduras

A hammock
Hammocks aren’t just places for tourists to relax, they are a way of life for the people in Honduras. A lack of modern conveniences like air-conditioning in a place where the tropical heat can be oppressive means that families tend to do their socializing and relaxing outdoors. So everywhere you look, hung between trees or strung up on porches, you’ll see a hammock. Bring a little bit of Honduran life back with you by purchasing one for a souvenir. If it matters to you, just ask to make sure that yours was made in Honduras. Especially in Copan, many of the hammocks sold are actually made in Guatemala. The quality is just as good as those made in Honduras and the cost is the same – about $35.

Coffee liquor
With all the coffee produced in Honduras, it’s no surprise that coffee liquor is a popular souvenir. Drunk straight or added to milk, the liquor is rich with a smooth coffee taste. Large bottles sell for $6-8.

Honduran Mahogany has long been prized for its durability, beauty and resistance to cracking when carved. If you can’t quite afford to buy a set of intricately designed Mahogany doors, take home a carved Mahogany box instead. Small boxes range from $30-$50 while large trunks can cost upwards of $150. On a smaller scale, a necklace made of Mahogany beads will cost under $10.

Copan, in the northwest of the country, is the heart of coffee production in Honduras. You you can find coffee, and coffee from Copan, anywhere in the country, but you’ll find a greater selection nearer to the source. Available in beans or ground up, a small bag will cost you about $3 .

A corn husk doll
The Maya Chorti, descendants of the ancient Maya culture, still make traditional corn husk dolls. Spend an afternoon walking the hilly cobbled streets of Copan Ruins and you’ll probably see some children selling the dolls, which cost just $1 each.

For centuries, the women of Honduras have been making Lencan pottery by hand. The pottery is traditionally decorated in patterns using brown, black, white, cream, red and grey. Every pattern is different as it’s all done by hand. Prices can vary widely depending on what part of the country you purchase it, but most small pieces should be under $10.


The Mayans sculpted Jade into figures representing gods; now shops all over Copan Ruins sell replicas alongside beautiful Jade rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Prices can fluctuate wildly and, unless you are knowledgeable about gemstones, it can be hard to tell if what you are looking at is real Jade. One test is to feel the stone – if it is cold to the touch, it’s real. Depending on the quality and size, Jade pieces can cost up to a few hundred dollars.

Coconut shell jewelry
For a cheaper jewelry souvenir, pick up some earrings made of coconut shell. You can find them at the crowded Guamilito Market in San Pedro Sula or for sale from the many vendors who sell local crafts in the Bay Islands. A pair of earrings or a necklace will be $2-3.

Mayan figures
Sure, it’s a bit like buying a souvenir tequila bottle in the town of Tequila, but if you have an interest in Mayan culture, don’t forget to pick up a small stelae. Modeled after the stelae of the ruins at Copan, you can find figures of Mayan ruler 18 Rabbit for $7-15.

When many of the cigar producing families of Cuba left the country to escape Castro, they settled in Honduras and resumed the cultivation and processing of tobacco for cigars. Now some of the world’s best cigars come from Honduras. The San Pedro Sula airport even has a cigar bar, complete with walk-in humidor. If you aren’t an aficionado, just a casual smoker, you can pick up a box of good quality Honduras cigars for about $7.

Most vendors in Honduras accept both lempiras and dollars, though you may get a better exchange rate by paying in lempiras. And feel free to negotiate on price. Many vendors are willing to haggle, especially in the current economy. Don’t take advantage of the situation, but do offer the price you are willing to pay.

This trip was paid for by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, but the views expressed are entirely my own.

You can read other posts from my series on Honduras here.

10 Tips for getting a tattoo in Tahiti

Tahiti is one of the world’s top tattoo destinations and for a good reason: the Tahitians kinda sorta invented the whole tattoo thing, even giving us the word which derives from the Tahitian tatau, “to strike”.

Once upon a time in Tahiti, tattoos were made by taking a comb with teeth of sharpened wood or bone, dipping the tips into natural black ink and tapping it into the epidermis: tap, tap, tap. Then along came the tattoo gun, followed by Spring Break, bad Chinese charcter tats, and tramp stamps.

But Tahiti ain’t Cancun–tattoos have a long history and mean something here, which is why enthusiasts travel all this way for the real thing. If you are among such travelers, here are ten common-sensical things to think about before getting drawn upon:

Don’t rush
Please, please, do not do the following: come to Tahiti, notice a few cool tribal designs and think to yourself, “You know, I gotta get me one of them before my plane leaves in two days!” A tattoo is forever and ever, amen. Take time to learn and make an informed decision. A lot of enthusiasts take a ‘”recce” trip to Tahiti just to plan out their second trip in which they actually get the tat.

Do your homework
Read all about the history of Tahitian tattoos, the meaning of each design, and the range of artists out there. There are plenty of online sites and picture-laden books that can give you a better understanding of the particulars while a preliminary visit can give you a much clearer understanding of what you’re getting into.Ask
If you see a Tahitian on the beach with really cool ink, ask them where they got it. The really good, traditional work is often done by a family friend, and you might just get an introduction. These are small islands so the more you observe and ask, the more chance you have of learning who the most talented artists are.

Show & Tell
Visit prospective artists and ask that they show you photos of their previous work. It seems obvious, but not everyone is as smart as you. If in doubt about any of the work you see, move on. Despite all the talented artists in Tahiti, there are still a few impostors out there.

Go to the market
Papeete’s market is a wild visual destination in and of itself. While wandering among the piles of mangoes and goggle-eyed fish, visit the tattoo artists who hang around on the upper levels on Sundays. They cater to a local, Tahitian clientele and tend to do magnificent work.

Custom build
If in doubt, get a custom-designed tattoo, made just for you. Most Tahitian tattoo shops will have books that are loaded with traditional designs, however most Tahitian artists are actual artists who can draw up a beautiful tat just the way you want it. That’s part of what makes the experience so cool.

Reject realism
If you travel to Tahiti to get a tattoo of turquoise dolphins doing somersaults across your back, well then, you’re a moron. Likewise, there are tattoo artists who will gladly take your money to attempt a scrawling of Bart Simpson skateboarding across your thigh, but none of them know who Bart Simpson is. When in Tahiti, stick to to Tahitian designs and stick to black.

Tap it
For the full-on Tahitian experience, skip the comforts of the tattoo gun and get your design tapped into you skin the traditional way–with a boar’s tusk comb. This takes longer and costs a lot more (one or two helpers need to hold your skin taught while the artists punctures you about four thousand times), but it’s as close as you’re gonna get to the experience of the early explorers who first visited. Moorea Tattoo still offers this method, as do a few other artists.

Start saving now
A decent, singular tattoo in Tahiti costs upwards of 30,000 Polynesian Francs (about US$450). Start multiplying that number if you want to cover more than a shoulder or calf. In that same vein, make sure you’re not getting overcharged because you’re a white man. Even on a good day, Tahiti is super expensive.

Grin and bear it
But does it hurt? Yes it does–and in Tahiti, that’s kind of the point.