Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Guide to France

I know it's a classic, but I still like it very much (Thanks to O.)



The following advice for American travelers going to France wascompiled from information provided by the U.S. State Department, theCIA, the U.S . Chamber of Commerce, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and some really, really expensive spysatellites that the French don't know about. It is intended as aguide for American travelers only.

** General Overview
France is a medium-sized foreign country situated in the continent ofEurope. It is an important member of the world community, though notnearly as important as it thinks. It is bounded by Germany, Spain, Switzerland and some smaller nations of no particular importance andwith no decent shops. France is a very old country with manytreasures, such as the Louvre and Euro Disney. Among itscontributions to western civilization are champagne, Camembert cheese and the guillotine. Although France likes to think of itself as amodern nation, air conditioning is little used and it is next toimpossible for Americans to get decent Mexican food. One continuing exasperation for American visitors is that local people insist onspeaking in French, though many WILL speak English, if shouted at.

** People
France has a population of 56 million people. 52 million of these drink and smoke (the other 4 million are small children). All Frenchpeople drive like lunatics, are dangerously oversexed, and have noconcept of standing patiently in a queue, or line. The French people are in general, gloomy, temperamental, proud, arrogant, aloof andundisciplined; and those are their good points. Most French citizensare Roman Catholic, though you would hardly guess it from their behavior. Many people are communists. Men sometimes have girls' nameslike Marie or Michel, and they kiss each other when they meet.American travelers are advised to travel in groups and wear baseball caps and colorful trousers for easier recognition.

** Safety
In general, France is a safe destination, although travelers must beaware that from time to time it is invaded by Germany. Traditionally, the French surrender immediately and, apart from a temporary shortageof Scotch whisky and the increased difficulty in getting baseballscores and stock market prices, life for the American visitor generally goes on much as before. A tunnel connecting France toBritain beneath the English channel has been opened in recent yearsto make it easier for the French government to flee to London during future German invasions.

** History
France's historical figures are Louis XIV, the Huguenots, Joan ofArc, Jacques Cousteau and Charles de Gaulle, who was President for many years and is now an airport.

** Government
The French form of government is democratic but noisy. Elections areheld more or less continuously and always result in a draw. The French love administration so for governmental purposes, the countryis divided into regions, departments, districts, municipalities,towns, communes, villages, cafes, and telephone kiosks. Each of these has its own government and elections. Parliament consists of twochambers, the Upper and Lower (though confusingly they are both onthe ground floor), and whose members are either Gaullists orCommunists, neither of whom should be trusted by the traveler.Parliament's principal occupation is setting off atomic bombs in theSouth Pacific and acting indignant and surprised when other countries complain. According to the most current American State Departmentintelligence, the President is now someone named Jacques. Furtherinformation is not available at this time.

** Culture
The French pride themselves on their culture, though it is not easyto see why. All their music sounds the same and they have never madea movie that you would want to watch for anything but the nude scenes.

** Cuisine
Let's face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail isjust a slug with a shell on its back. Croissants on the other hand,are excellent, although it is impossible for most Americans to pronounce this.

** Economy
France has a large and diversified economy, second only to Germany'sin Europe, which is surprising because the French hardly work at all.If they are not spending four hours dawdling over lunch, they are onstrike and blocking the roads with their trucks and tractors.France's principal exports, in order of importance to the economy, are wine, nuclear weapons, perfume, guided missiles, champagne, guns,grenade launchers, land mines, tanks, attack aircraft, miscellaneousarmaments and cheese.

** Public Holidays
France has more holidays than any other nation in the world. Amongits 361 national holidays are: 197 Saints' days, 37 NationalLiberation Days, 16 Declaration of Republic Days, 54 Return of Charles de Gaulle in triumph as if he won the war single-handedDays,18 Napoleon sent into Exile Days, 17 Napoleon Called Back from ExileDays, and 2 France is Great and the Rest of the World is Rubbish Days.

** Conclusion
France enjoys a rich history, a picturesque and varied landscape, anda temperate climate. In short, it would be a very nice country if French people did not inhabit it. The best thing that can be said for France is that it is not Germany.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Angkor Wat

Stories will come later of course, when time.
In the meantime here are the pictures of Cambodia














Saturday, March 17, 2007

Angkor Wat address

Hostel


  • Angkor Star Hotel
    54 Sivetha St
    Siem Reap
    Telephone: 6826 0737 (for questions about reservations)
    855.63.766.999 (for other questions about the property)

    This hotel is a nice 3 stars hotel with swimming pool downtown Siem Reap.
    You better be downtown rather than beeing a bit far away on the main hotel street (the one between the airport and downtwon) cause at night you only have one street having light and shops. If you want to go out be downtown.
  • The Villa Siem Reap
    Nothing fancy, but super comfy and VERY clean. (Recommended by A-Lin)

  • AsianRooms.com
    One other option is to go with then lowest price from this website.
    This is how the hotel has been secure by the way.
    The deal was 50% discounted from the official rate on the hotel board !!

Restaurant

  • Meric (Hotel de la Paix)
    This is the best restaurant I went to over the last 4 months. It's a must for US$40 per person (no wine, but with a martini). This is a cheap 5 stars must to do around. (Please try their Mango - Foie Gras appertizer !!!!)
    I won't even mention the place itself, it is just excelent.

Touring

  • Hire a cab driver for your day tour !
    The name of my Tuk tuk driver was Bun Loeun. His e-mail address is bunloeun@hotmail.com you can request for him to pick you up at the airport or take you around for the day by contacting him directly or through the hotel. (Recommended by A-Lin)
  • What to do?
    Yan can't do all, better choose to not be too tired or dry out.
    My favorite: Angkor Thom >> Angkor Wat >> Floting Village (at Sunset)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chiang Mai

I finally did it !

It was the last night at the minute but I finally manage to do it… after so many unlucky attempts. But first thing first I have to tell you everything in the order it happen. So I took off for a 5 days trip in North of Thailand in Chiang Mai, because I wanted to see some inland in Thailand and be away for sometime from sun, sea and … sunlight. I stuffed my small backpack and, like I used to do, I trip over my journey by myself, alone.




Dog in the Buddhist Temple

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and has more than 300 temples. I did not count all of them, but you do have a temple at each block corner and after a while your reaction is much more like “Ah, Here is a temple, again!” Not that when you see one, you see them all, but when you see too much you are in Temple OD.
The first day, early in the morning, I went around by myself in the city center (which not a dot but square), loosing myself easily in the square town, yet discovering new places, faces and classes. I went all over the places that my feet wanted to go to, and when I came back I was full of contentment and had shoot more pictures than I have done in the last 4 weeks.


Buddhist Temple where the Dog slept


Buddhist temples are a rare place in the city where order cleanest and neat is constantly present contrasting with the outdoor. As soon as you penetrate inside the 4 walls of a Temple, you see lines, alignments, and golden surface all around you. It is not the same peace as in the one that exists in Shinto Temples’ in which it comes to your senses first and then penetrates in your soul, in Buddhist Temples’ it’s probably the opposite, it goes to your heart and then goes to your senses later on if you wait long enough.


Autel from the Buddhist Temple where the Dog slept


Golden monks and apprentices are everywhere in Temples, they have the latest cellphones, play Thai Chess all day long and pray when have time in between. But except that I have barely saw them doing some heavy lifting or other human task that us, human being are supposed to do to survive.


Cambodian Flat Sculture from the Ban Phor Liang Meun's
Terracotta Arts mention in the previous post

After my long walking trip over the city, I stop over at the nearby Temple and spent the late afternoon try to speak with 2 apprentices on what life is about in their world and how to play Thai chess. I played 10 minutes and 2 monks kicked my ass so fast. I don’t thing it was very Christian from their part to not help me the first game. I learned my lesson and left them alone in the almost dark at their duty.


Apprentice Monks

The following day I booked a 2 days / 1 night trek to see the country side. I started the day with an American breakfast and ½ hour before schedule. A group of 12 squeezed in a collective Tuk-Tuk to the final destination. The 90 minutes gave a chance to everyone to introduce themselves and explain where you were from, where they want to go, and how long they plan to stay in Asia. My turn generated some confusion in people mind due to my age, my profession and my short stay. I learnt that the average age of the South East Asian traveler is 23, Female and coming most of the time from Europe-Land. My personal condition has a different meaning in Thailand and refers to the type of traveler that I don’t want to associate myself with. I had to explain in many different words that I did not belong to the white-socks-and-blue-short-looking-after-easy-prey-for-the-night bucket. But I gave up and face some people look for the rest of the journey.




Tuk-Tuk Picture from a Tuk-Tuk

Luckily the group split and a group of 3 Irish girls, 1 Mexican-German and me emerged from the bus. We had all booked the intense version if the tour: 2 days and one night in the country side. The first day we went trekking up and down hills and the multiple bush fires that happen during the hot season. The surreal vision of walking through buses in fire made me realized that we could have been in trouble if anything happen to us. After some 10 K or so, we arrived at the waterfall village where we were supposed to spend the night. The shower was believe it or not at the waterfall, and the must have been as quick as I could have done trying to breath trough the iceberg coming down on me.


Tuk-Tuk Girl

One of the Irish girl’s was peanut allergic and she was not sure if she could eat the supper, so I asked the cook-guide (true, to his defense it was the second time I asked in 10 minutes), and he answered me with a clear and loud “Funk You”. That was the first time that a guide told me to Funk Myself in public. I must have disturbed him during his Dr Feelgood prescription (Pavo pipe ceremony). Next time I will check the color of the smoke before asking any question, even if somebody’s life depends on it.




Bushfire Trails

Rice, Tofu and local beer helped us to reach the night. We concluded the evening with some campfire songs and stick games that our guide told us. The night was short cold and rough on the quasi open air and bamboo beds, but we did not care that much because that was the day we were going to ride elephants and we all came for that exercise. I was already fantasized on playing soccer with a troupe of the giant mammal, but was only going to step on her neck and be balanced from right to left during a small hour over a calm and shadowed trail. That was the highlight of the day and the way back home was speechless because of tiresome and golden memories.



Elephant riding


What was not my surprise when I cam back to the hostel, when I found out that my bag that I left over there for my trip was gone. I had few things in it like a sleeping bag, and a guide book and other small stuff that did not matter to me. The hostel manager did not know what to say and started by doubting my saying, ignoring my comments. After some confirmation and some confrontation we came to the agreement that he was going to provide me with a replacement of my missing two important items: the sleeping bag and the guide book. That was at that time when I lost my temper; it was later on, when the 12 years old kid refused to let me use the Internet connection pretending that it was his right to block me the access. Still don’t know why he did not want me to use it. So I went out and used somebody else connection to check my emails.




Village's laught

The evening was much more sympathetic with K the Mexican-German. We talk about everything in general and anything in particular. Traveling is great only if you meet people that you want to see again. Hope that we could see each other again speak the common languages we know. We went to the Night Market which is the local attraction in town. It is only a bunch of booth aligns to sell tourist outfit to the white-socks-and-blue-short-looking-after-easy-prey-for-the-night bucket and other ones. A lot of lights but many crappy things around you anyway. Good to see something else that the regular bar for the white-socks-and-blue-short-looking-after-easy-prey-for-the-night bucket.

Food is one of the delicacies of the Thai country, so the last night before finally Doing It, I went for the Green Chicken Curry. Spicy food is not really my thing but there I had to finish my plate. Not because I liked it (I barely taste anything) but more because stopping made my mouth and my tongue in pain. I keep eating just to avoid the pain of the spice. That was a bad move when you think about it. If it’s spicy, don’t eat more spicy. That was the only thing I had around me, and the beer was long time gone before I could used it against my local anesthesia. I hoped at the time that eating even more could make my mouth used to the spicy. In vain. I stopped when my tears started dropping on the plastic table, alerting the Ladyboy-waiter that I was in trouble. He offered me some more rice and laugh at me. After some ½ hour of stiff contemplation of the design of the plastic table with some random tears dropping, I finally managed to stand up and took controlled of my body (mouth and tongue not included). The mistake I made was the started I ordered. I had some garlic prawns. During the rest of the night I burped not only the garlic prawns (OK with that), but the Spicy Chicken as well (not OK with that). It burnt more each time I regurgitated my evening meal. Thai food killed me that night, and when you think that Green is the medium one, you have the Red Curry!



Chiang Mai Motorcycle


On my way back to the hostel, I was dizzy enough to jump on the first Tuk-Tuk I saw but on the driver seat. To my surprise, the owner sat in the back and guided me to manoeuvre the best. My dream was coming true. I was able to drive a local taxi finally after so many attempts over the different month and countries. Unfortunately the police stopped us and asked for my paper. My fair complexion did not make the deal for the well educated officer. We switched seat, after the police warning, but I did not care I drove a local taxi, and I did not negotiate for it … Life is sometime too simple.

The story
The amazing thing in travels is that your learn stories. Travelling with 1 Mexican and 3 Irish you would not imagine that you could have a story that could relate the 2 countries together. You are wrong. When Mexico was fighting for it freedom againts the Texas Rangers at the time, there were helped by the Irish. As soon as the Texas Rangers saw the Irish, the keep yelling "Green Go". Mexicans did not really understand the meaning of it, and change it to later on to "Gringo". That's why now that for all Latinos call the American "Gringos" just because of the Irish during the Mexican Independance War. Go figure Bob ...

Magic Moment
Listening to Ella & Louis, Cheeck to Cheek in a Cafe drinking my Fresh Passion Fruit Shake, watching 2 students in architecture playing Go.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Chaing Mai address

Hostel

  • S.K. House (Don't need the address ...)
    Don't go there !!!
    Over price (Twice), not clean. Stole my bag, Service is close to null.
    Each time you ask a question you disturb people in their games or sleep.
    Not to mention that during the tour, the guide insult me ... Please Don't go there !!!
  • Libra Guesthouse (28 Moon Muang Rd. Soi 9 Chiang Mai - Phone 0 5321 0687)
    Next door to SK House
    Half price, better room size and good location
  • Hair World & First Spa Boutique Hotel (85/5 Sriphoom Rd. Chiang Mai)
    High End but well situated, not had a chance to check it you but deserve a close pick
  • Rachamankha (6 Rachamankha 9, T.Phra Singh. Chiang Mai - Phone:0 5390 4111)
    Very high end, close to luxury but what a building (Click on the link just for the beauty of the journey). 2 square buildings join together by a sort of bridge surrended by japanese garden, with beautiful room and quiet place near by a temple in a remote yet central place. Luxury is there.

Restaurants

  • Night Market (Chiang Mai).
    All the different sea food restaurant in the nigt market are interesting, not exceptional
  • Char-Coa (Sripoom Soi 1, Chiang Mai)
    Real expresso, and wonderful breakfast in a wooden garden close to the street.


Other places

  • Ban Phor Liang Meun's Terracotta Arts (36 Phrapokklao Rd.Soi 2 , A. Muang, Chiang Mai Tel. (053)278187).
    Discovering the way Angor Bhat was born from the hand of artists. Dive yourself in their backyard where they age their master piece is a just as crazy as been in an ice cream shop by 35 degres. I would have spend more time if the water pomp did not kick me out. Even the New York Times knows the place, better go there before everyone on the planet knows the address.
  • Ginger & Cafe (ถนนมูลเมือง)
    (199 Moonmuang Road, T. Sriphum, A. Muang, Chiang Mai, 50220Tel: (053) 419014)
    Nice and hype place to shop Jewellery and other Clothes in Chiang Mai.