Archive for the ‘travel’ Category
I love South-East Asia and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel extensively in this part of the world. But nothing prepared me for the splendors of Myanmar. I was totally amazed when I visited there earlier this year: wonderful people, beautiful landscapes and stunning pagodas.
I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last month and strolled around the city’s Chinese and Indian quarters. Even though I’d been to KL before, I’d never been to some of the streets and temples I stumbled upon this time.
I visited the Hindu temple Sri Mahamariamman, for example. Amazingly colorful. A feast for the eye. The Chinese shrines were somewhat more serene. Strong smell of incense.
All of these places of worship, as well as the streets of Chinatown and Little India were amazing. An exotic mix of smells and sounds. Strange and wonderful to the Western eye.
Strolling through these multi-cultural streets of Kuala Lumpur, you understand the truth in Malaysia’s old tourism slogan: Malaysia, truly Asia.
Music: Last Affair & Gita Lulin Maung Ko Ko with his Studio Ensemble featuring Yadana Oou – Zega Wa (UKoKo) (Film Music 1978 “Popa Phuza”)
Wat Pho is one of the most-visited temples in Bangkok and it’s one of the most photographed. So when I returned to the temple last weekend, I deliberately tried to stay clear of the crowds as far as that was possible and explored some of the quieter corners of the complex.
One of the nicest things about the people of Finland is their love of animals. In the Finnish capital Helsinki, for instance, they’ve erected a number of statues to celebrate the strong bond between man and seagull.
Now who ever said that dog was man’s best friend?
If you take a boat up the Elbe river from Dresden, you’ll see the baroque-style Pillnitz Castle on your left. The castle and surrounding buildings display some decorative Chinese elements. These “Chinoiseries” were fashionable in Europe in the 18th century, when the castle was built.
In the castle gardens, one of the prime attractions is a camellia tree that is more than 230 years old. It was planted in this spot in 1801 and has grown to a height of almost nine meters (more than 29 feet). A special glass house was built around the plant to protect it from the cold of winter. Every spring, this old camellia tree is covered with some 35.000 red blossoms.
Related post: Dresden goes Disneyland
I like going to museums. But Thailand’s National Museum in Bangkok is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s like one of those fairy tale places that have fallen under a spell and are asleep for a hundred years.
The strange thing is that hardly anyone in Bangkok seems to be aware of the National Museum. My taxi driver didn’t even know where it was and had to ask for directions on the way.
The museum is a very quiet place. Fallen out of time. There were hardly any other visitors at the museum the Sunday I was there. Almost the only life you saw were middle-aged Thai ladies placed in every exhibition room as museum guards – more softly snoozing than supervising the visitors.
The museum’s collection is eclectic. Everything from golden Buddhas to royal porcelain and a shell collection. From doll houses to the royal funeral chariots and a collection of shadow puppets.
All exhibits all seem a little dusty, like someone put the together fifty years ago and then forgot about them. But all in all very charming and just the place to go if you’re looking for a little quiet time in Bangkok.
La Mien noodles are the signature dish at Phnom Penh’s Noodle House. The chef makes them from scratch every time someone orders this dish.
Even though it’s great fun to watch how these noodles are made, the dish itself tastes a little bland. It clearly needs some more spices or sauce.
What I recommend instead are the vegetarian Dim Sum at $ 2.50 and the Red Peanut Curry at $ 3.50 at Noodle House. Both of these are excellent.
The bamboo railway isn’t exactly the Orient Express, a French TGV or a German ICE train. It’s basically a wooden bed frame on wheels, powered by something like a lawnmower motor. These contraptions are held together by nothing but the force of gravity. You clearly see that about 2′ 15″ into the youtube clip I’ve added at the bottom of this post.
Bamboo trains can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h – pretty scary, if you ask me, but also a lot of fun as long as no one gets hurt.
The bamboo trains have been running in Cambodia since the 1980s. Those were the days just after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge. The country’s roads were mined or in disrepair, trains didn’t run any more and air travel wasn’t affordable for the average Cambodian.
In the beginning, these “norries”, as the locals call them, were pushed with long poles – pretty much like the gondolas in Venice. Now, they’re propelled by motors.
The problem for the conductor of these “trains” is that all of Cambodia’s railway connections are single-track lines. So if someone comes from the other direction, either one party gets off the tracks or there’s an ugly crash.
In the days when the official railroads connected Cambodia’s major cities, train schedules prevented such incidents. But when the bamboo trains started, they didn’t run according to schedule: everyone just used the tracks whenever and wherever he wanted.
So if two “norries” were going in opposite directions on the same track, one of them had to give way and let the other pass. Originally, the one that carried the heavier loads would stay on the track. The lighter one would quickly be taken apart and its wheels taken off the tracks so that the heavily laden one could pass.
These days, the bamboo trains run mostly for tourists on a short stretch near Battambang. This piece of track is 3.7 kilometers long and it takes about an hour to go out and come back.
The ride is a lot of fun, especially every time you have to stop because there’s traffic from the other direction and you have to get off the tracks. Or when cows are grazing on the tracks and need gentle persuasion to move out of the way.
But it’s uncertain, how much longer these Cambodian “thrill rides” will be running. There are plans to reactivate the country’s railway system. And once real trains are back on these tracks, the bamboo trains will have to give way to diesel locomotives permanently.