NAMASTE, Again? Yes, now from '˜amazing' Thailand,
Again? Yes, now from ‘amazing’ Thailand,
in the rain and a bit of sun, along nice and not so nice beaches, but always with not so curious, friendly Thai.
Passing the border on 2.11
- after our long customs hassle on 31.10 with paperwork to clear and enter the car from the boat in Port Klang ( but we managed after exactly 12 hours, minus a broken ladder and a broken lock on the side entrance due to careless handling out the container); and a quick visit to Kuala Lumpur and then Georgetown to enquire about our carferry in February to Indonesia- ,
was very easy and fast: no checking whatsoever, even changing to my second passport was no problem at all for those friendly customs officers.
We slept 2x along a beach on the Eastcoast, tonight close to a small village where we found chinese food and fast internetcafe. Our first 2 days in Thailand showed us our first WATs, very nice temples of which a 1000+year old one.
Tomorrow we’ll drive in hectic Bangkok, to arrange for our visa into Vietnam and pay our guides and insurance for SW China which we’ll reach around 3.12, after 3 weeks Laos and 1 week more in NorthEast of Thailand.
But not without having been, today, at least at the very border with this Myanmar where we have been trying for several months in vain, unfortunately, to enter and drive thru.
Pics will be updated in Bangkok where we’ll stay 2 days.
Selamat Datang, or welcome in Malaysia
the ship should arrive .... with a very unfortunate delay sunday
morning at KL's Port Klang. Cause of the Weekend and next holidayweek
we might not get the car free from customs before Wednesday!
Time to stroll in KL/s Chinatown, Little India etcetra, and looking for
car insurance, meetings with the shipping agent and in out taxis.
Meanwhile got invitation for drink by the Belgian Friends on Friday,
where the actual denguefever outbreak in both Malaysia (1300 victims,
only 5 deaths so far) AND even in clean SINGAPORE (+10deaths already)
will be discussed, I'm sure, as well as the risks of birdflu. If the
mosquitos stay clear of us (we hope), we'll do likewise of the birds
and chicken (promised).
Finally got the nicest pictures of KL's Petronastowers which we missed
in 2002 due to fog. Now the skies were bright, and I got EVEN
accepted in the very first visit at 10am cause the receptionist had met
with the belgian Ambassador, so she kind of liked Belgians I guess, and
cause I insisted I needed nice sunny pictures to show our daughters
In awaiting these pictures, here are some more: the countries scheduled
this etappe, and the sidebusiness of our Indian shipping agent.
Next update AFTER we reception the car, so long from KL
Last days in India, and per ship (car) and plane to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Leaving Incredible India might have been “Incredible” indeed: Customs follow the letter of the (many) rules making me phone, fax, mail, visit again and again resp. Toyota, the shipping agent, customs and all of its many officials. But at last, the Chief Commissioner wil sign my papers so was promised today.
When/if so, I’ll drive the car on its rented openrooftop container, cover it with a huge tarpaulin, and trust it will be safely boarded by crane onto Malaysian MS Bunga Terasekaheading to KL, so I’m told, on Saturday 22.10.5.
In between I continued discovering the Tamil Nadu State, from the misery rich quarters next to Indias longest and widest Marina beach at Chennai, the old Pallava and Chola-styled temple in Kachipuram, via a really amazing (but smaller) site à la Hampi (see previously) at GINGEE: a real beauty not yet discovered (helas or maybe as well) by tourism. Also Vellore does not (yet) get too much attention, but its Fort temple is a real example of extremely fine sculpturing. And we could not leave this amazing country without a real monsoonshower, could we? Torrential rains make roads grow in no time into small rivers with kneedeep water and visibility nihil, a nice experience when driving your own (lefthand driven) car.
Time for a short recap of 5 months+ of this India anno 2005:
-this country still struggles with so many impactful negatives: from malaria (2 million new cases each year), high rates of childdeaths, rural analphabetism, electricity (still 78 yes seventy-eight million HOUSES have no single lightbulb !!), ever growing watershortage, internal struggle of several separatist substates with killings, abductions and more ‘nice’ attacks, terrible tolls to be paid for pollution (air, land, waste, rivers, water...), traffic, natural disaster (monsoons killing tens of thousands per year, not to mention last year’s traumatic and devastating tsunami of which the restoration is hardly starting up!), and bureaucracy with corruption/bribery: a waste of efficiency and effectiveness to more rapid growth;
-on the other hand, a country full of opportunities, religions, ethnic groups, and closer ties to earlier ennemy Pakistan; huge capacities in manpower and intellect, and still very low wages making it a worldpower close to neighbour China’s blitzgrowth
-and finally, an incredible diversity for visitors from abroad: from extraordinary nature, architecture, history, temples, palaces, beaches, indian curries, and (improving hotel facilities and even a ew kilometres of real motorways) ... when willing to close sometimes eyes, ears, and noses for smells, traffic, noise and garbage; and notwithstanding real poverty and dying people on the streets, many homeless children and elderly without family (read no income so real poverty and famine).
-Can you do this “Incredible India” by your own car/camper? Yes, provided you do not mind chaotic traffic (1000 times worse than Paris, Rome and Madrid combined!); long driving hours, and more kilometers (we arrived at Chennai port with 33.000kms from Belgium); learn yourself some basic mechanics, cross your fingers, keep smiling and ....fill up for petrol (cheap in Iran) to discover it all by yourself: it IS really Incredible, and fascinating from day 1 till your return, or continuation as is our case.
We leave this country with some regret, for it is so rich in culture, fabulous friendly smiling and hospitable people, rich in resources, nature .... and a promise to return to discover later on the north (Sikkim) and other Himalayan borders such as Kashmir without the todays earthquakes, daily assasinations and monsoon. And providing the authorities will let us enter once more.
But now our compass reads South East Asia, and all is set to continue our 2nd part of this worldtrip, bringing us via SW China to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and if the birdflu will not have been too nasty, also Indonesia. Let’s keep into contact folks!
Hence, our last “Namaste” from India.
P.S. Our site calls 80months, not a coincidence: in this year 2005 it is 100years ago Jules Verne died. It is he who originated the concept of travelstories ‘avant la lettre’: no less than 2 books per year in his famous “Voyages Extraordinaires” featuring one ofhis most read books ‘In 80 days around the world”.
X years after Fog we do the same, following our dream, but by car, and in 80 months. Or at least, that is the plan.
Exhibitions on Jules Vernes’ life and dreams can be attended in Nantes (his native place) and the city where he exchanged his dreams for ethernal life, at Amiens.
2nd message 14.10 on our way back to Chennai, East India, to start procedures to ship the car to Malaysia around 25.10.5
"Ayubowan",:greetngs from Sri Lanka (14.10.5, before heading off to Chennai South India)
Despite the monsoon period over the east, south and westside (a bit too early this year)
SL is a marvellous small island (rougly 400 by 150km), with very friendly people, great nature including thousands of elephants, and maybe as many monkeys as monks. Superb ancient culture from the 2nd Century BC till late 18th C allover the islands center (highland and along the main coasts, and unfortunately quite some of these destroyed by time, the jungle, and most recently the civil war (Tamils) and the Tsunami which hit the fishing villages very hard . Imagine a 10meter high wall of sea coming speedily ashore: nowhere to run for this devastating power. And the remains of buildings, houses, bridges etcetera are still proof of this catostrophy.
Roughly 1 victim every 20 to 25 metres of coastline, or totalling 80.000+! Alone in the city of Galle 100"s died, sometimes filmed live when the catastrophy coincided with the cricketplay, when this huge well entered the bus stands and tore them all back with it into the sea.
Despite massive aid, there are still a lot of tent refugeecamps and many destroyed houses; despite the money poring in SL, only a few % have been redistributed by government; despite the many political promises (it is electiontime now, so some of the people who can prove they lost all of their housing or belongings are seeing a bit of cash) misery is still palpable along the hardhit coasts in east, west and south.
Meanwhile however the country moves on, faith has not touched the population, many temples collecting pilgrimers with (fruit) gifts or cash.
And what a temples they have: the big ones in Kandy and Katagarama, the smaller convents of monks and Budhists, the many (white) Dagobas, the (sometimes huge standing, sitting, laying, coloured, golden ...) Budha and (heavily painted) Hindu statues scattered over hills and in the jungle, outside and within villages. They sometimes are worshipped by both religions Hindu and Budhism at the same time.
Its history closely linked to nearby (25km only) India - both religion and architecture- , also the Kings’s Palaces in the centerland are obvious evidence of this mix and many times clashes of both inland and Indian culture.
Influence of Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch and British spicetraders are obvious in 17th century buildings: villages and forts at Galle; Matarama, even in the Dutch quarter of Colombo.
With the Civil War (mainly upnorth of Kandy, with a few if devastating bombing as far as Colombo) having ended with a ceasefire since 2003, military roadblocks and actions are still necessary: every week a few innocent villagers & children, but also tamilsoldiers are victims of deadly (old) mines, and more deadly (today’s) ambushes and riots. Peacetalks however are at hand, but today (13.10) we read 2 teachers were being slaughtered, and 50km more south some 10 soldiers blown to peaces or killed in a nightly shooting.
The Blue, White, or other Green party are promising resp. the continuation and the end of the military actions against the Tamils: whoever wins the elections, the outcome is certainly NOT going to yet boost tourism, NOR will it stop bribery, big feasts and gifts allover by political leaders wanting to be (re)elected. And 10 months after the tsunami those who (recently) invested in tourism infrastructure either lost it all, or are facing near-bankrupcy. Only the capitalfeed from big hotelgroups are keeping the jobs secured of (lowpaid) waiters, gardeners, poolmen and other personnel; all hoping tourists will slowly reenter the scene.
The tourist industry is facing a drop of 80 to 90%; these few tourists only come to the few main spots IF ever, making a 1week trip and then spending the rest of the money and time relaxing at poolside and or (mostly very scenic) beaches. We travelled some 1850kms on mainly nice roads, saw hundreds of elephants, monkeys, birds, leguan and more tropical paradise. We ate crab, great fish; tried the local beer and wine, and even arrack. The cuisine can be very nice or not so western at will, the service mainly is superb.
Whereas Colombo and Kandy are busy with noise, traffic and pollution, the smaller towns and most certainly villages are not yet (over)developed. Internet is – when available- slow and unreliable, distribution of (drinking) water scarcely organised, transport slow with (very) old Tata-vehicles or even older buses, trains, tuktuks and oxcarts.
Life however goes on: in Colombo heroinefreaks are selling you anything to gain the daily shot; on the countryside (so in 99% of Sri Lanka) tody-palmalcohol is widely sold (arrack); fishermarkets are reopening, crops are harvested by hand, carpenters are still doing a (restoration) or builderjob, and ... underpaid female teapickers and workers in clothing industry (3,5 and 5$/day) continue to work long hours in not so attractive circumstances.
Allthough more clean and less of a cultureshock than its neighbour India the island is facing a plastic and garbageproblem, and screaming poverty most westerners like not too much (a meagre hut is better than no housing at all, but still; only along the coasts you’ll see some people with a few more kilos, more westernised, richer ). The traditional wedding of young girls in the villages is still fruit of arranged marriage, resulting in quite a few suicides.
Fortunately schooling is very well organised, and most people speak English, are willing to work, and continue to SMILE.
Any tourist here can agree on that: abundant nature, scenic roads, beautiful sites, a nice mix of culture, extremely friendly people and (apart from monsoonseason) nice sun, beaches and potential to grow: this island has it all, and provides it at still cheap prices, despite heavy tourist taxes and expensive entrance tickets alike.
"Ayubowan": the traditional greetings merely reflect the traditional, nice people who continue daily struggle for life ... with a BIG smile, hoping many tourists will return at last..