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A Night with the Apsaras

No visit to Cambodia is ever complete without watching a traditional Khmer dance performance, often referred to as ‘Apsara Dance’.   The Apsara dance is part of the culture of the Khmer people, it has been practised for well more than a millenium.  The dancers which are called ‘Apsaras’, are celestial nymphs, whose dance performances were loved by kings and general people alike.  The dance conveys themes and stories of one of the origin myths in Cambodia, depicting the union of Mera, a celestial dancer, and Kambu, a wise man.

Apsara Dancers

The dancers make slow, subtle, restrained yet feather light rhythmical movements involving the arms, fingers, head and lower limbs. The hand gestures of the Apsaras are a significant part of the story of the dance. Along with their  movement, hand gestures tell a story to the audience.  Each hand gesture signifies something different and is often performed in unison with other gestures, often in a very specific order. There are hundreds of gestures — each has a meaning like sign language.

different hand gestures that signifies a leaf, a flower bud/blossom, a fruit or a stem

Khmer dancers communicate through movement and gestures which are very defined, through the intricacy of their hand positions.  Dancers from a very young age perform exercises to make the joints in their hands very flexible.  They devote many hours practicing, making this classical dance so special, unique and difficult to perform.

 

Mera

 

There are several venues in Siem Reap where you can watch a traditional Apsara dance performance. Usually these shows are offered as a package combining a buffet dinner and a dance spectacle.  We watched this during our first night in Siem Reap at Koulen II Restaurant.

 

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Seventy Hotel (Phan Lan Guesthouse) – Saigon, Vietnam

The Booking

This is really supposed to be the only hotel I plan to stay on when we went to Vietnam.  I booked it though Agoda.com for 1 night only because we will only be staying for only a few hours (since we took a red-eye flight and arrived at 2AM), leave early to do a day trip to see the Mekong River Day tour, sleep, and leave the next day for Cambodia.  I emailed them to let them know I made a reservations thru Agoda but when they replied, they told me I have to book it not only for a night but for 2 nights instead, since I will be arriving at 2AM (it is already considered 2 nights for them).  Fair enough, I was willing to pay for the early check-in, but I tried to ask for a discount/haggle with them re the price if they could at least charge me for a half-day only since we will arrive at 2AM and leave the hotel at 6AM, but they did not agree.  So I just told them we will just proceed with the original booking of 1 night and I found anouther lodging where we were charged a much lower rate.  I hate to sour grape, I know it’s all part of company policy, but I think charging people of 1 wholde day rate for staying for only a matter of 4 hours is somehow being inconsiderate.  I remembered my 2 previous trips to Thailand and the hotels where we stayed were considerate enough to give a discount when I told them my flight details and itinerary.

Well anyway, I actually liked our stay in Seventy Hotel.  I mean they had better facilities than the other hotel we stayed on when we first arrived to Saigon.  Besides, I want to give a fair review of the whole hotel experience, so I guess you better read on…

front facade of Seventy Hotel

The Location

Seventy Hotel is strategically located in the backpacker’s area of Saigon, which is at District 1, Pham Ngu Lao area.  It is located on the street of Bui Vien Street where many hostels/inns and a number of good shops can be found.  I chose this hotel because of it’s proximity to Sinh Cafe Travel Agency, where I planned to book our tours in Saigon and also because it is one of those 2-stars hotel that has an elevator (which is a rarity in Saigon).  It is also a good 20-minutes walk to Benh Thanh Market where great finds can be found.  Although the street is located on a street with bars (the famous Crazy Buffalo & Go 2 Bar), you won’t notice the noise especially when you are too tired from a day’s touring.

a stone’s throw away from our hostel

Bui Vien Street at night

The Arrival/Check-in

After Checking out at the other hotel at 6AM, we went directly to Seventy Hotel and showed them my booking though Agoda.  I was greeted by this somewhat “very reserved” fellow in the reception area, who looked stern (but later on, during our stay, I guess it was only his normal temperament because he turned out to be nice and helpful when we asked him for directions about a certain restaurant).  He told us we cannot check-in yet as it was too early, but when we asked him if we could leave our baggages because we are going on a day trip to Mekong, he was kind enough to oblige. After our day trip to Mekong, we got back to the hotel at 5pm and checked-in to our room right away.

The Hotel Amenities/Ambiance

Seventy Hotel is actually an upgrade from the usual hostels/inns you can see within the backpacker’s area, the lobby area is clean and well-lighted, although a little bit cramped since it also serves as the dinning area.  It’s one of the few budget hotels that has an elevator (which I really appreciated when I was in Saigon), so you won’t get so tired going upstairs to your room.  They also offer various tours in the lobby.  It looked tiny in the lobby area, but the rooms where we stayed had ample space considering the tiny floor area of the whole building.  The hotel is relatively new, so the amenities/facilities in the rooms were kind of new and has a modern design interior.

Our room’s interior is tastefully done, very clean especially the ensuite bathroom.  They have a desk, an lcd tv with cable connection, Aircon, an electric fan, a small cabinet, and mini refrigerator.  They also provided a pair of slippers, a telephone, and toiletries.  The bathroom is spotlessly clean and well-stocked with towels and tissue, which I really liked, because I feel comfortable in a hotel room when the bathroom is clean and dry.  I also appreciated the fact that they provided toiletries, (eventhough we brought our own) because not all hostels with the same room rate provide even a small soap.

our room on our first night

the en suite bathroon

toiletries

We actually got to stay in 3 different types of room in their hostel, the first one being our first night in Saigon, we stayed in a twin bedroom, the second time was when we arrived 3 days after our trip from Cambodia, we stayed on their triple bed, and on the last night before our midnight flight back to Manila, we stayed on their standard double aircon room, which was the tiniest room among the 3 (but we never really got to sleep on since we were out the whole day and that night is also the night of our flight. It basically served as our storage room and bathroom. ;p

the triple room :)

The room aslo has access to free WIFI connection so being connected to Facebook was not a problem at all.

The Service

Overall, we liked our stay in Seventy Hotel, the guy in the reception (whose name I totally forgot) was always on a “poker face” mood because I don’t remember him smiling during our whole stay, but once you ask him for assistance, he was  willing to help.  I liked the lady owner whom we only met during our last night, she was a very gracious hostess, she was very accommodating. In fact, she was the one who helped us hail a taxi cab outside their hotel to take us to the airport, eventhough we politely declined her offer for airport transfer.  She also talked to the taxi driver and told him where to take us and told me an estimate how much the fare would only cost.

The Verdict

Don’t be intimidated by the stern looking man at the reception area, he is actually nice and helpful.  The hotel’s amenities were very fine to me, the beds were very comfortable, the bathroom is spotlessly clean, I loved the fact that they had elevator, WIFI connection was strong during our stay. Oh, did I mention that they also provide complimentary breakfast?  Yes they do, and it actually tasted good too! :)  For budget conscious travellers but wouldn’t compromise their comfort, Seventy Hotel is the place for you in Saigon.  This hotel deserves 4 Stars from  me! :)

SEVENTY HOTEL (PHAN LAN GUESTHOUSE)

www.seventyhotel.com

hotline (84).905.87.00.87

email: sales@seventyhotel.com

 

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Phoenix Hotel 25 (Saigon, Vietnam)

After the red-eye flight going to Ho Chi Minh City ( commonly known as “Saigon”) we arrived atTan Son Nhat International  Airport and hailed a reliable/recommended taxi service fromVinasun.  We instructed our driver to take us to the backpacker’s area in Saigon, which isDistrict 1 and asked to be taken at Phoenix Hotel 25  located at Bui Vien Street, where I made a prior booking.  The travel backpackers hangout in Saigon is made up of 3 streets: Pham Ngu Lao Street, Bui Vien Street and De Tham Street in District 1, just a short walk (10-15 minutes) from Ben Thanh Market. 

Phoenix Hotel 25

Backpacker’s Area in Saigon – Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham and Bui Vien Streets

It was already past 1 AM,and  I read from travel forums that hostels/hotels along Pham Ngu Lao close up their gates at this hour, but when we got there, a caretaker of the hotel seemed to be expecting our arrival.  He greeted me,and I told him that I have made reservations through email, I showed him the email correspondence I had with the hotel manager which he then acknowledged .  After that, he asked for our luggage and carried one of them and directed us to follow him to our room.

Bui Vien Street

Phoenix Hotel 25

I was shocked when we ascended this very steep, and very narrow flight of stairs,  although I learned beforehand that hostels/hotel in the backpackers area tends to have no elevator, I didn’t expect the climb to be so arduous!  I almost fainted with fatigue,and I felt dizzy when we got to our floor.  It was labeled 4th floor,but then we  found out later on that they usually consider (both in Vietnam and Cambodia) the 2nd floor as the 1st floor, so that means our room’s floor is actually on the 5th floor.

Another observation that I have noted in Vietnam, is that hostels/hotels have very tiny floor area, so they tend to compensate the size by making their building taller than usual.  Because of the tiny space, there are usually only 2-3 rooms per floor (sometimes even only 1 room on a certain floor) that’s why it’s really hard if the room you are situated at is located on the top floors.  It’s good to ask when making a reservation to be placed on the lower floors for convenience.

 

Bui Vien at daytime

 

The ROOM

It was pretty basic, a no-nonsense, very spartan,but adequate enough to sleep on room.  It was kinda funny that they gave us 2 single beds, even though I told them that we were a couple.  I really didn’t mind at all since we were only staying for 4-5 hours.

the SIMPLE room

The room was equipped with an airconditioning unit, an electric fan, a cabinet, a small desk with a chair, and a small television set which had cable connection.

room amenities

The room was also very clean, particularly the bathroom, that’s why I felt comfortable staying there.

The SERVICE

I found the staff of Phoenix Hotel 25 to be very helpful especially the owner.  He even called his staff when we arrived and asked me through the phone if we were okay and if we needed any help on any tour we might want to avail. The staff who also waited for us to arrive in the wee hours of the morning was also very helpful and was ready to answer my questions and requests.

The VERDICT

***

I give this hotel 3 stars out of 5.  Although I felt comfortable enough during our short stay in their hotel, and their service was good, I think the hotel needs to improve the room’s ambiance, maybe if they could put some interior decorations to make the room feel more homey and not very bare.  Also, the lobby on the first floor should look more appealing to guests, it also needs some renovation.  Putting these few improvements will definitely attract more  possible clients.

PHOENIX HOTEL 25

#25 Bui Vien Street, District 1, Pham Ngu Lao,

Saigon, Vietnam

Contact Person:

Mr. Tran Law

84-838360727

84-946757392

 
 

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Golden Temple Villa (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

 

I did not expect much from the choices of accommodations I considered during our previous trip to Cambodia.  All I wanted was a comfortable private room that I could share with my husband after a long day of touring Angkor.  I found this interesting lodging called “Golden Temple Villa” from Tripadvisor and was impressed with its good ratings.  I checked on their web page and saw that it was within my budget, so I booked with them right away.

 

 

 

front facade at night

 

 

 

 

The Booking

 

The booking procedure was a breeze, I just emailed them and requested for a reservation on my chosen date and they replied promtply and said that I was already booked. They didn’t ask for any downpayment whatsoever, so it was another plus point for me.

 

The Location

 

The hotel is stategically located very near the Angkor Night Market and Pub Street (where many restaurants are located) but is located in a quiet alley, so you won’t be bothered by any noise.  At night, when you have nothing to do, you can just walk towards the Night Market which is just a few blocks away, maybe a good 5-10 minutes walk (depending on how fast is your pace), and enjoy shopping till you drop! There are also many spa offering massage, there are even a few fish spa massages being offered in the area.

 

 

 

The Arrival & Check-in

 

Prior to our trip to Siem Reap, the staff of Golden Temple Villa told me that they have a free pick-up service for their guests which is really nice because you get to save a few bucks for the transfer and you won’t get lost looking for the hotel.  They just told me to tell them in advance of our arrival time in Siem Reap and what bus will I be taking.  I was not able to inform them in advance the time of our arrival and the bus station where they can pick us up since we only booked the bus tickets when we were already in Phnom Penh.  And of course, also, maybe due to my excitement, I forgot to email them the night before our arrival.  I only remembered to email them when hubby and I are already on the bus going to Siem Reap. I only had a couple of hours to inform them, hoping they could read it in advance before we arrive in Siem Reap and hoping we still have our reservations with them. Thank heavens we were lucky because we chose a new bus company called “Giant Ibis” which has WIFI connection while on board, because of that, I was able to email GTVilla.  I was kind of nervous they won’t get my email in advance, but 30-minutes before we arrived the bus station in Siem Reap, I checked my email and I was so relieved to receive a reply from GTVilla, telling me that a tuk-tuk driver will pick us up at the bus station.  

 

arrival at Borey Seang Nam bus station

 

Giant Ibis ticketing office in Siem Reap

 

 

 

 

True enough, when we arrived at Borey Seang Nam bus station of Giant Ibis, I was so happy to see a tuk-tuk driver holding a placard with my name on it! 

 

our tuk-tuk pick-up service

 

 

 

 

 

As I approached the tuk-tuk driver, I told him we were the guest he was picking up, he then immediately asked for our bags and told us to hop on to his tuk-tuk for a short 20-minutes ride to reach the hotel.  By that time, I already had a good vibes that I picked the right accommodation for me and hubby.  Golden Temple Villa was very reliable! :)

 

It was a short, but very nice ride, the town of Siem Reap is very laid back, simple but very lovely.

 

the way to Siem Reap

 

lovely scenery

 

 

 

 

 

Upon Check-in, we were welcomed by their courteous staff in the lobby and told us to wait in their restaurant area so that they could brief us about our stay while we sipped their very cold and thirst-quenching welcome drinks.

 

our refreshing welcome drinks with peanuts

 

 

 

 

While we were enjoying our cold drinks and cooling ourselves with the cold towels they provided along with the drinks, one of their staff named Kimyan Yinh approached us and briefed us about their hotel and what’s in store for me and hubby during our stay.  He gave me a welcome letter from GTVilla and courteously asked for the payment of our rooms (it’s their policy to pay the room accommodation upon arrival since they did not ask for any downpayment upon reservation).  He also told us that part of our freebie for staying in their Villa, we get to have a 30-minute massage which we can avail during our stay.  He also told us that tea, coffee and bananas are free to drink and eat in their restaurant, and that it is unlimited! Wow! I’m really feeling so good about our hotel at that moment. :)

 

welcome letter from GTV

 

it’s free!!!

 

unlimited tea, coffee and bananas anytime :)

 

 

 

 

The Hotel Amenities/Ambiance

 

Golden Temple Villa is a 2-star hotel accommodation but the ambiance and service are five-star class!  The ambiance is so chic and relaxing. Their restaurant is very homey, and you’ll feel good while dining in it.  The garden area is a great place to just relax and read a book or a magazine. There is an internet room where you can surf the net for free during your stay.  They have a massage room where you can avail of a very relaxing massage for an hour for only $3.  The rooms were beautifully designed, very Khmer and very romantic. The pictures will speak for themselves….

 

 

entrance to the restaurant area

 

restaurant ambiance

 

dining area

 

play billiards while waiting for your food

 

from the restaurant leading to the garden area

 

hammocks in the garden

 

in the gardens

 

main entrance of GTV

 

front desk/reception area

 

lobby area

 

books you can read which are free to use (you can even trade)

 

internet room free for use

 

massage only for $3/hour

 

2nd floor hallway

 

at the 2nd floor balcony area

 

 

 

 

Our room was a Standard Superior Aircon room, but it felt more like an upgraded room for me.  The decor is tastefully done, more of Khmer style and yet has a tropical feel to it.  The ensuite private bathroom was spacious enough for me to move around and not get my things wet.  They provided enough towels too.  The only setback, is that we were only provided 2 pillows, which was not fluffy enough for someone like me who likes big pillows.

 

 

 

 

our bed!

 

inside the room

 

safety deposit box inside the room for your precious items :)

 

the simple but clean ensuite bathroom

 

 

 

 

The Service

 

I give Golden Temple Villa  5 stars for their magnificent service. Hubby and I felt like a king and a queen during our stay.  The staff are very courteous, accommodating and very, very friendly.  They really went an extra mile to make you feel really at home.  We even befriended some of their staffs, they always assisted us with smiles on their faces, they always greet you whenever they see you and ask how your day was, eventhough you are only a guest, we felt so at home.  Cambodian people are really one of the friendliest people I have ever met.  They are sweet and gentle people.  Even sellers and tuk-tuk drivers you meet on the streets are always smiling and courteous.  

 

 

 

Value for Money

 

Golden Temple Villa is definitely a great value for your money.  The room rates are very affordable and budget friendly. Even the prices on the menu at their restaurant is very reasonably priced.  It’s a pity I didn’t get to try to eat at their restaurant because we opted to dine out and try the recommended restaurants in Siem Reap.  Maybe next time I get to visit them, I will definitely try eating there because I heard about the good reviews of the food they serve in their restaurant.

 

 

 

Overall Rating

 

I give Golden Temple Villa 5 Stars!  The service is amazing, they have a wonderful crew there.  The hotel is kept very clean and has a very relaxing and homey ambiance.  The price rate is worth your every penny.  Surely, when I get a chance to go back in Siem Reap, I’ll definitely stay again at Golden Temple Villa…my home in Siem Reap. 

 

 

Golden Temple Villa

http://www.goldentemplevilla.com/

Cambodia Tel: +855 12 943 459

From Inside Cambodia Tel: 012 – 94 34 59

E-mail: reservations@goldentemplevilla.com

Skype: goldentemplevilla

 

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Mooooo : Five Cows Restaurant


Last Friday, me and my gurlfriends went out and tried out a new resto called Five Cows.  Actually, this is a dessert resto with wide array of desserts like ice creams, cakes etc to satisfy one’s sweet palate. It has a specialty called “Flaming Alaska”, it is special because when one orders it, a waiter will be approaching you bringing the famous flaming alaska, the lights would be turned off, there’s also a drum roll signaling that the flaming alaska is served and you would hear in the background the other waiters shouting “Ahooo! Ahoo!” just like in the movie 300. It is called flaming alaska because the waiter serving you the dessert will pour out a flaming rhum on top of the whipped meringue.

 

 We were so delighted as we watched how it was being done and was quite intrigued of what this flaming alaska really tastes like.   The flaming alaska is covered with a sumptuous whipped soft meringue and inside there are 3 flavors of frozen ice cream – vanilla, choco and strawberry.  I also tasted a some kind of cake inside too. 

The size of this dessert is good for 4 persons but if you have a big appetite, two people could share this too.  My gurlfriends Djoy, Mavic, Marcia and I loved this flaming alaska.  It costs about P210, a little bit pricey for one person but since its good to share, then its really something worth to try.

Here are some more of the photos we had during dinner -

Mavs and Djoy excited to eat this Flaming  alaska!

Me and Marcia also posing with this yummy treat  

It was so funny, our friend Mavic borrowed the cute bull caps from the waiter so we could pose

with it.

We really had so much fun and we liked eating here in Five Cows, The food menu isn’t  something to rave so much about, but it’s something worth to try.  Happy eating!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in ETC!, Philippines, Restaurants

 

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Baguio Series – Bloomfield Hotel (Review)

It was not easy for me to find a hotel reservation, our first choice of travel schedule is really on December 26-29, but as I called all the hotels/inns of my choice they were already fully booked for the month of  December.   I told this dilemma to my hubby so then we reached a decision to re-schedule our travel date to January 1-4.  True enough, most of the hotels already have open slots starting  January 1.  

In the end  I was torned between three choices, Hotel Veniz in Abanao,  Bloomfield Hotel along Leonard Wood road and PNKY Bed and Breakfast.  I was looking for a hotel who could provide clean new rooms, with continuous Hot/Cold shower, a parking space and somewhere near the vicinity of tourist spots but not too noisy.   Hotel Veniz is kinda noisy according to other travel bloggers because it is specifically located in the busy street of Abanao fronting the Burnham Park.  PNKY Bed and Breakfast would have also been a good choice but unfortunately when I called, they could not give me a definite booking on Jan 1.  So finally, Rodel and I chose Bloomfield Hotel.  It has great reviews from previous Baguio travelers who have actually stayed there.

Bloomfield Hotel blends casual elegance with the simplicity of a home, it is strategically located in Leonard wood Road which is in the heart of Baguio City, it is just across SM City Baguio and walking-distance to Session Road and the Cathedral.  It offers 30 fully air-conditioned rooms from Regular Deluxe rooms to Executive Suite rooms of your choice.  As for us, I have chosen to reserve one of their Superior Deluxe Twin Rooms.  It is furnished with two double-sized beds, a private bath with continuous supply of hot/cold water, wall-mounted hair dryer, a table for two, a personal ref, telephone and spacious cabinets to put your valuables. 

Luckily, our room was situated in the basement area of the hotel so it was free from the noise coming from the street outside.  Although the hotel was not a five-star class hotel, it has met my expectations and I was fully satisfied with the service.  They have very accommodating and courteous staff always willing to help you with your needs.  The only drawback that I find though is that although it has parking space in front of the hotel and a basement parking, you have to circle all the way to the back of the hotel to be able to park in the basement because most of the major roads in Baguio were re-routed and were assigned to be one-way streets.  But this is not a major problem at all since they have a free valet services for their guests.

  

 front desk Bloomfield 

waiting area at the main lobby of the hotel

fiona and kurt at the main lobby

Bloomfield also has its own cozy small Cafe called the Broadmeadows Cafe which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  



Both Rodel and I agree that we have made the right choice in choosing Bloomfield Hotel to be our home in Baguio, we felt very comfortable and relaxed and at the same time it was strategically located to be near to almost all the places where the action happens. 


For reservations call

Bloomfield Hotel

No. 3 Leonard Wood Road
Baguio City 2600 Philippine

Tel  Nos.  (074) 446-9112 to 15

Website is http://www.bloomfieldhotel.com

 

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BAGUIO SERIES – TAM- AWAN VILLAGE

Rodel and I wanted our trip to  Baguio to be not only enjoyable but also educational for our children.  We want them to learn and see for themselves the things they have only read from their books and heard from their history subject.  I first read about Tam-Awan Village in a travel blog and  I was excited to see it personally and show it to my kids.

Tam-Awan means “vantage point” in Beguet.  According to its website…
“During the years when the entire City of Baguio was still grazing land for large herds of cattle, Pinsao, location of the Tam-awan Village was one vast pastureland. A spring beside Tam-awan is the source of a body of water that once served as a watering hole for cattle. Thus, the place became associated with chanum, which in Ibaloi, means water. Adopting the name to symbolize its vision, Chanum Foundation, Inc. views its role to be as nurturing and life-giving as the spring in Tam-awan Village.

 More than a showcase of indigenous craftsmanship, the foundation envisions the Tam-awan Village as an ideal venue for art and cultural activities aimed to enhance the appreciation of Cordillera life, its culture and its history.”
Tam-awan showcases the culture of the Igorots, the founders of this village were able to reconstruct Ifugao houses in Baguio with the view of making a model village accessible to people who have not had the chance to travel to the Cordillera .  As of now, Tam-awan has transported seven original huts from Ifugao and two huts from Kalinga.  They used the original materials in reconstructing the huts, only replacing new cogon roofs.
 
The huts can also be rented out for an overnight stay for a certain fee if you are the adventurous type who would like to know how it feels like to live inside an Ifugao Hut.  There is also an entrance fee of Adults- P50.00, Students/Senior Citizens-P30.00 and Children-P20.00.  Access to the huts would require you to do some trekking since the village was situated on the side of the hills, making you really feel like you’re in the Cordillera mountains.
 
There are also a lot of activities which you can do inside Tam-awan like Eco-tours, Sunset-viewing, Art Workshops, Camping and they even have workshops on Printmaking, Wood Carving, Bamboo craft, Rice wine making, Solar Drawing and Drawing and painting.  You can also have your portrait hand-sketched by some of the Ifugao artists.  I heard that for only P100.00 you get to have already 3 versions of your portrait by 3 different artists.
 

It was truly nice to see Tam-awan, it reconnects us to our roots and cultural heritage.

 

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