Monday, 24 August 2009

Monkey Business

After the previous somewhat serious post, I thought I'd lighten things up a little. I like to write and express and talk shite about, well shite mostly. As I was revisiting the pics of our recent Asia trip I realized there was so much I didn't say, capture, express or share (for lack of time - not that I'm not full of shite) so I'd like to start making up for that a little i.e. 'share and care' by way of short posts of photos if that's ok with you? - huh? - I can't hear you?

Without further ado or bullshite - here are some photos from a monkey sanctuary in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Check the YouTube video I uploaded at the end - these monkeys are well looked after by both the locals and tourists and often fare better than some of the poor towns folk.

Although they are photogenic, I couldn't help thinking they are just rats with more 'cute' appeal. There but for the grace of God go the rest of mankind! - OK - Perhaps I've seen 'Planet of the Apes' one too many times! You be the judge.

Tags: ..monkeys Ubud, sanctuary, Bali..

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Thursday, 13 August 2009

Macau, China

We paid u$d100 for a flight from Bangkok to Macau with just 16 hours notice - damn cheap!
Interestingly enough, Macau was both the first and last European colony in China. It was the Portuguese who first settled in Macau back in the 16th century and subsequently administered it until the handover in 1999. It has a similar status to Hong Kong since it has a certain degree of autonomy for 50 years after the handover. What happens after the 50 years is anyones guess but China will probably rule the world by then and we'll all be part of the communist party except that former rogue superpower, the USA which will be a socialist old people killer dictatorship!
Old Town Macau

There still is a certain Portugese feel to the place with Portuguese road signs and cuisine. Apparently it's one of the richest cities in the world with a thriving textile, electronics and tourist industry. The other big draw for the tourists is gambling with a long strip of casinos where reportedly more money changes hands than in Las Vegas (The Chinese LOVE to gamble).
The Strip, Macau

If you've been to Vegas you might be a little disappointed here however as although it has bright lights and casinos galore, it lacks the buzz and excitement of the real McCoy. A lot of mainland Chinese come here to buy 'real' goods since the fakes are so prevalent back in China. We saw people buying suitcases full of baby powder milk. I assume they don't trust the powdered milk in China and who could blame them after the poisoned batch killed so many poor kids.

We got to check out the latest Cirque du Soleil show 'Zaia' while we were there which was ok but I have to say I'm getting a bit bored with the repetition in those shows (contortionist, clown, acrobat...zzzzZZZZZZ!)


Well my friends,
that is the end of the South East Asia trip so were back to reality in Hong Kong now. Hope you enjoyed traveling vicariously thru us and I'll try and post a highlights / recap just to bore you senseless shortly.
Click map to enlarge
Tags: .Macau, China..

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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Bangkok, Thailand

When I first visited Bangkok back in 1994, it was a sprawling, congested, polluted city where tuk tuks seemed to outnumber people as they spewed fumes across pot holed streets. Today the pollution and infrastructure is much improved and shiny new taxis now outnumber the tuk tuks but a general sense of traffic chaos persists.

For such a large city, it's bizarre that much of the budget tourist accommodation is condensed around 4 small square blocks centred around
Khaosan Road. With the diverse mix of nationalities walking the streets here, one could easily forget you were in Asia as at first glance, it's more of an Amsterdam cosmopolitan feel.

Most of the cheapest flights into and out of South East Asia start / stop here so it's backpacker central with a mix of pasty white people (many Irish) who obviously have never left home before and seasoned travelers eager to escape onto less crowded pastures. It's a party town and as you eat breakfast at 8am there are plenty of folks only getting home after a hard night of 'entertainment' and looking worse for wear.

Check bottom left of photo below!

It's a shoppers paradise with massive street markets and shopping malls (like the huge MBK mall) selling a mixture of high end legitimate wares and fake brands at bargain prices. Pirated and fake goods include clothes, electronics, software and documents (see below)

Fake id's made to order

The other big draw here, as with many other parts of Thailand is SEX. The famous nightlife district of Patpong has everything from titty bars to ping pong shows where talented ladies project missiles such as ping pong balls, darts and bananas from certain orifices as crowds of onlookers cheer. Beware the scams in this district too as many people have reported being ripped off with extortionate drink bills of up to u$d500 where the bouncers descend like vultures to make sure you pay up. The local police are paid off so forget about getting 'justice'.

The ladies of the night at Patpong

There are redeeming qualities to the city however, as a plethora of temples and palaces and museums more than make up for tacky, seedy side of the city. Like it or loathe it, I can honestly say there is nowhere else quite like
Bangkok. More Photos below.

The trip so far - Click to enlarge

Tags: .Bangkok, Thailand, Khaosan Road, Khao San Road Rd, MBK shopping mall center centre, ..

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Myanmar (Burma), Talichek, Keng Tung

The immigration process to enter Talichek, Myanmar aka Burma from Mae Sai, Thailand is easily the most bizarre I've ever encountered but sort of expected given the secretive nature of this military junta. Many areas are off limits for foreigners and specific roads are closed with checkpoints only allowing approved locals to travel.

After paying the u$d10 visa fee you have to specify how far you are going and then you surrender your passport to immigration and get issued a temporary travel document with photo (looks like a Myanmar passport) which gets stamped as you pass numerous checkpoints. You retrieve your passport as you exit the country thru the same border crossing.

Myanmar temporary passport id

After crossing the border and changing our watches back half an hour to Myanmar time, we presented our temporary travel documents to the bus ticket agent who then had to send them by moto back to immigration to log exactly where we were going. From this point on we never handled our documents since they were handed on to the next host recipient be it the bus driver, tuk tuk driver or guest house owner etc who was obligated to register our details with 'big brother'.

Myanmar, Burma

The bus from Talichek to Keng Tung took 5 hours but the scenery was fantastic with luscious green rice fields set into the mountains of jungle. They don't get too many tourists around here so when we arrived we were quite a novelty for the locals and got received with a mixture of curiosity and friendliness. Kids and adults will just stare and when you say hello they smile or just look away shyly.

Poverty is a serious problem here and you can see the life struggle some of these people have had just looking in their eyes but they are still very friendly. It's hard to believe this was once one of the wealthiest countries in SE Asia when the British colonized it. Even more disturbing is the continuing house arrest for Aung San Suu Kyi who faces fresh charges after an American activist recently entered her house apparently uninvited.
Keng Tung, Myanmar / Burma

The only foreigners we met were a French couple who had traveled from Mandalay and some missionary workers who were setting up a church and although we only spent one night, it will likely be the most memorable part of the whole trip. It's not often you get to visit such a beautiful place and you are virtually the only tourist.

After a hot and muggy night with a power cut at Harry's Guest House and where the generator was shut off at midnight we explored the morning market where several hill tribes come to pedal there wares before we set off in a shared taxi with some locals back to the border.

At the border our driver surrendered our temporary travel documents to immigration and we retrieved our own passports before crossing back into Thailand. Being back in touristville was a mixture of relief and sadness. More photos below.

Click on map to enlarge

Tags: ..Myanmar, Burma, Kengtung.

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