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Sunday, 18 May 2014

The largest cave in the world

The Son Doong Cave
Son Doong Cave

The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam's Quang Binh Province is said to be 5.5 miles long, 650ft wide, and 500ft tall. The cave was created 2 - 5 million years ago by river water eroding limestone underneath a mountain. Son Doong cave (Vietnamese: Hang Son Doong) is the world's largest cave, located in Quang Binh province, Vietnam.

It had lain undetected beneath the Annamite Mountains in a remote part of central Vietnam for millions of years until one day in 1991 when a local farmer stumbled across it and sought shelter there from a storm.

But Ho Khanh's subsequent attempts to get back to the enormous cave he'd found were unsuccessful, so he forgot about it and went on with his job until years later when a group of British cavers asked for his help in finding it.

In 2009 they got lucky, and the Son Doong Cave was - at 5.5 miles long and 650ft wide - officially confirmed as the world's largest cave, five time the size of Malaysia's Deer Cave, which had held the title until then.

Son Doong cave Map
Map of Son Doong cave

Son Doong Cave: The largest cave in the world open for visitors

The largest cave in the world will soon open for tourists. The only around 20 years ago in Vietnam Son Doong cave discovered will initially be accessible to visitors only tentatively.

The tourism authority in the province of Quang Binh allowed from February to August of next year, visitors only small expeditions, each with up to eight participants. "After that we will decide whether we go to the cave on a regular basis," the deputy director, Nguyen Van Ky said. "We will investigate whether the visits have negative environmental consequences."

The tours have about the Vietnamese provider Oxalis be booked. The've significantly more requests than seats for the coming year. According Oxalis may 2014 a total of only 220 visitors in the cave.

 The tourists camp in the Son Doong cave

 Waterfall in the Son Doong cave 

River in the Son Doong cave

A tour costs U.S. $ 3,000

The expedition is not for the inexperienced. Son Doong located in National Park Phong Nha Ke Bang, about 500 kilometers south of the capital Hanoi. Visitors have to walk 17 kilometers to the cave, according to the Tourism Authority. The expedition begins after a night spot.

In the cave are unusual rock formations and pools and a unique flora and fauna to see, Nguyen said. A tour costs U.S. $ 3,000 per visitor. The National Park is recognized by the UN cultural organization Unesco since 2003 as a World Heritage Site.

Natives of the region in central Vietnam near the border with Laos had discovered the cave with an underground river in 1991. 2009, British scientists took a first expedition.

They found a 6481-meter-long cave, as the researcher Howard Limbert reported . It is partly 150 meters wide and 200 meters high, making it larger than the previously largest known cave in the world in Malaysia, the Deer Cave in Borneo.

DOCUMENTARY VIDEO by National Geographic Channel:
The World's Biggest Cave

National Geographic presents The World's Biggest Cave, a TV special that gives us a close-up look at Son Doong, a huge recently-discovered underground labyrinth in Vietnam.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Milestones of Alibaba


Alibaba, the world’s largest online platform for trade between businesses. Alibaba Group is a privately owned Hangzhou-based group of Internet-based e-commerce businesses including business-to-business online web portals, online retail and payment services, a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. The company began in 1999 with the web site, a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. Its consumer-to-consumer portal Taobao, similar to eBay, features nearly a billion products and is one of the 20 most-visited websites globally. Alibaba Group's sites account for over 60% of the parcels delivered in China

Thousands of miles from Wall Street, where Alibaba Group has filed for a multi-billion-dollar IPO, Chinese farmers are swapping tractors for luxury cars after making fortunes through the Internet giant.

"All of our business is now on the Internet," said Huang Jianqiao, who grew up in rural poverty but now roars to work in a black Jaguar and flies with his wife on holidays to Paris, thanks to an online bag store that he says takes in 30 million yuan ($4.8 million) each year.

He is one of thousands of Chinese farmers who have transformed their lives using online retail platforms created by Alibaba.

The group, which dominates China's e-commerce market, combines aspects of eBay, Amazon, PayPal and other Western tech darlings, and according to analysts an investor frenzy could drive its value as high as $200 billion when it goes public in the US later this year.

A world away from the plush boardrooms of New York, towers of cardboard boxes awaiting delivery to cities and villages across China are strewn across the cracked white tiles of Huang's warehouse in Baigou.
One of Alibaba's main assets, the sprawling e-commerce site Taobao -- or "search for treasure" -- enables him to offer his locally made bags to millions of potential Chinese customers.

"It's a start-up platform with nearly no entry barriers which suits many of us," Huang said.

Baigou, in the northern province of Hebei, is among the biggest of the estimated 20 "Taobao villages" in China -- rural areas in which Taobao stores employ more than 10 percent of the local population and take in revenues of more than 10 million yuan a year.

- 'This is the life' -

"In the past my economic situation was poor, no house or a car. But now I have the ability, I've taken my wife to visit foreign countries," Huang said, adding: "This is the material life that Taobao has given me."
Huang's warehouse rustles with young workers stuffing leather backpacks and purses into plastic bags before throwing them into a pile on the floor where they are scooped up by delivery men.

Taobao villages often produce their goods -- ranging from T-shirts to wicker baskets -- in small-scale workshops, meaning farmers who would previously have flocked to Chinese cities in search of better incomes can instead stay put and connect with buyers online.

"This place is just 10 minutes away from my home," said Li Dan, a 22-year-old warehouse employee who takes orders and sticks addresses on packages -- but says she has hopes of opening a store of her own, in a typical example of the entrepreneurialism that has driven China's decades-long economic boom and which Alibaba now facilitates.

"After a while you can do it yourself. Some people work here but have a side business, buying a laptop and taking care of an online shop in their spare time."

The smell of leather hangs over the factory, where dozens of workers sew and stitch an array of unbranded pastel handbags, flower-print purses and Union Jack backpacks, with others adding zips and buckles.
"We take inspiration from Chanel," Huang says, grabbing a small red handbag. "We may not have great designers, but we learn from other companies."

- Changed lives -

Alibaba was founded in 1999 by former English teacher Jack Ma, who started with a platform for Chinese manufacturers to connect with foreign buyers but launched Taobao in 2003, just in time to tap into Chinese consumers connecting to the Internet and eager to spend their rising salaries.

China's e-commerce market is now vast -- with revenues estimated at $210 billion in 2012 according to consulting firm McKinsey -- and is widely predicted to overtake the United States to become the world's biggest by the end of this year.

A short drive across town from Huang's premises, his friend Guo Shaohua has his own lucrative Alibaba bag business, with export destinations including Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

"I started using Alibaba in 2011," said Guo, a stocky man who drives a BMW. "It has changed the lives of many young people."

The firm lets him ensure clients pay a deposit, he says, reducing the risks of fraud, and he expects to reach annual sales of 100 million yuan within three years.

"Now we can stay with our family when doing Internet business, and we earn more than working in other cities," Huang said.

"I think this is a big effect that Taobao brings. Apart from material life, I have more ideas and goals, and I dare to have a plan for my life."

The Milestones of Alibaba

1999- Alibaba founded in Jack Ma’s apartment in Hangzhou

2001- surpasses 1m registered users

2002 - Company breaks even

2003- RMB1m revenue daily; Taobao is founded

2004 - RMB1m profit daily; Alipay is launched.

2005 - RMB1m tax paid daily; Acquired China Yahoo!

2007 - lists in HK.

2008 - forms an associated company, Alibaba Japan, with Softbank; is introduced

2009 - Alibaba Cloud Computing is founded; acquires HiChina.

2010 - AliExpress is launched; acquires Vendio, Auctiva and One-Touch ; eTao is introduced on Taobao.

2011 - Taobao is reorganized into Taobao Marketplace, and eTao.

2012 - changes its Chinese name; delists from HKSE; Alibaba Group is adjusted into seven core business groups and completes initial repurchase of shares from Yahoo!; Taobao Marketplace and reach a combined GMV of RMB1 trillion.

2013 - Alibaba Group is reorganized into 25 business units; announces a plan to set up Alibaba Small and Micro Financial Services Group; leads the formation of Cainiao Network Technology Co., Ltd.

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