Sunday, January 15, 2012

This month's photo: Bubbles

This month's photo theme is "bulle" in French, bubble in English.
I had quite a few ideas about this theme, there are the bubbles of the London eye, the worse mark you can get at an exam (but that's a french thing) and there are also the one you blow underwater.
Finally, that's the latest one which inspired the photo.  Actually, what I like the most is the quote:
"Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles"

A quote that all the divers around the world will be familiar with as it's all over diving clubs.

To come back to the photo, it was taken in Malaysia, nearly 2 years ago during a break during a playful session with fish in between 2 dives of my PADI open water! First time ever diving!

And here are the links to the other bubbles:

Viviane , La Madame , A&G , florianL , A&Y , 4 petits suisses dans un bol de riz , Doremi , Filamots , Clara , jen et dam , Hugo , Tambour Major , Alice , lesegarten , Carole In England , La Parigina , Aparça , Mandy , Pavot de Lune , Stephane08 , Emi London , Nataru , Nora , Frédéric , El in Oz , Aude , Ma , Nous4auQuébec , Shandara , 100driiine , DNA , PascalR , François , hibiscus , La Flaneuse , Cherrybee , Urbaine , Vanilla , Grignette , Nathalie , Thib , Suzie , Sprout©h , M , LEBOABLEU , Jean Wilmotte , M.C.O , Cindy Chou , La Papote , Muni57 , E , Eff'Zee'Bee , Blogoth67 , Glose , Leviacarmina , Alexanne , Petit Hobbit , Guillaume , Gilsoub , Champagne , Ava , Anaou , Narayan , Titem , Fabienne , Alex , Florian , magda627 , Akaieric , Kyoko , Mamysoren , Emily58 , Caroline , Edegan , Krn , Anne , Sébastien , Céliano , Madame zaza of mars , Babou , Cekoline , LaGodiche , Isabelle , Lhise , Jo Ann , La Fille de l'Air , M'dame Jo , Margote05 , Céline in Paris , Lucile et Rod , Les voyages de Seth et Lise , Ty , Sinuaisons , Dorydee , Frankonorsk , Le-Chroniqueur , Lili , The Parisienne , Marion , Margouia , Gizeh , L'atelier azimute , Cynthia , Emma , The Mouse , Karrijini , Boopalicious , Dr CaSo , Laure , Agnès , Xavier Mohr , Lauriane , Manola , Une niçoise , Cathy , La Nantaise , Urbamedia , Caro , Le Mag à lire , Les Maudits Expats , Olivier , Tam , Noon , Galinette , Fanny et Vincent , Zaromcha , Stéphie&lesCacahuètes , Ori , Niwatori , Bao , Chris et Nanou , Coco , Surfanna , David et Patrice , Clem et Cha , Renepaulhenry , Où trouver à Montréal ? , Bestofava , Sephiraph , El , Claude , Nomade57 , Kyn , Meyilo , Anne Laure T , Carnets d'images , L'Azimutée , Loutron glouton.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rangoon or should I say Yangon

Arriving on the 24th of Dec, we had treated ourselves to a nice hotel and our first activity was a jump in the pool.
Once we finally left the poolside, we walked around the old colonial quarter, followed by Chinatown and the Indian quarter. We sampled Indian food, had a sugarcane juice on the riverbank, had our first go at changing money on the black market and visited our first pagoda of the week situated on a roundabout. (there will be MANY more!)
Let's set now the rules for the pagoda:
- No shoes, no socks and remember that some money will be required for the man who looks after the shoes
- Pay fees and photo permit
- Long trousers/skirts for women. Bring your own or some more money will be required! And be careful when sitting down, a bit of calf out and there will be 2 officers explaining that needs to be corrected.(if I sound slightly annoyed by the full thing, it's only a fraction of how I felt when I saw the "no ladies allowed" sign in more than a few pagodas! Who would have thought Buddhism was a sexist religion?)
- Always go around temple clock wise
- Identify the animal linked to day of birth (guinea pig for Friday, lion for Tuesday, elephant 1 for Wednesday morning, elephant 2 for Wednesday afternoon and I do not remember the rest...) then, pour 9 glasses of water on Buddha and 5 on the animal of the day of birth. If possible, offer flowers, flags or money at the statues.

Christmas morning is dedicated to the visit of the main pagoda of Rangoon. It's our own version of going to church on Christmas day except that the mix of Buddhism and Hindu which forms the religion of Myanmar has plenty of gods, just a wide choice to satisfy everyone!

Soon after it's time to go back to the airport for our first internal flight. It seems to be easier to build an air strip than a road so flying is the main way of transportation to the north. We are now heading to Lake Inle.

We will pass back Rangoon on the way back from the North at the end of the holidays and the only touristy thing this time was an extensive night photo session at the pagoda we had a look at on Christmas day.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Myanmar in general

Myanmar is one of this country where tourism hasn't changed everything yet. It has also improved a lot in the last few years in terms of opening  of its border to foreigners. 2012 will be an election year which is always best avoided so we thought that we could not postpone this visit any longer; Christmas 2011 and New Year 2012 will be Burmese!

Getting a visa at the embassy in Singapore was quite easy. It did require 3 visits, some weird requests such as business cards but otherwise straight forward.

Budget preparation for Myanmar was an interesting activity. Credit card are not accepted anywhere and there is no ATM so all money required for the trip needs to be brought in cash. Myanmar has its own currency: Kyat but US $ rule pretty much everything. The official change is 1$ for 8K but in the street, the change is closer to 1$ for 800K!!!! So everyone comes with dollars and change them in the street for every day use of kyat.
A few other interesting points:
- Notes need to be brand new, no marks, no scratch, absolutely perfect! So I kept them in a flat envelop in my handbag and it was not unsual that the notes were refused!
- A 100$ note also has more value than 2 50$ notes! I leave it to you to guess why, something about certain people getting lots of money out maybe...
Changing cash was actually far easier than what we thought, it's a rather official business and not at all dark alley activity! We even went in a bank once to exchange at black market rate!

The main thing which feels different once inside the country is the fact that the country has been left behind due to the embargo. Cars are barely describable, mainly Japanese from the 70s-80s, note that the steering wheel is on the right hand side despite driving on the right (overnight change in the 70s), that makes the driving rather interesting, like the age of the cars wasn't fun enough... and in the country side, horses and cows are still use for transport!
Another point is the lack of communication technologies. Mobile phones are rare and none of our foreign phones worked! Internet wise, think the old modem speed, a cup of tea at each click! But once going, it doesn't look like websites are blocked. Even FB worked when it didn't in Vietnam!

And finally everyone always want to know where you are going, which hotel you have booked, if all is confirmed etc.
But sometimes it feels more like it's out of curiosity than a proper control!

That was just an introduction to Myanmar, the photos about our tour will appear in the next post!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Haw par villa, a special park...

The credit of our visit to Haw par villa should go to my American colleague R who spent 9 months in Singapore without his family and became expert at walking all corners of Singapore at weekends.
Haw par villa is referenced as a theme park in Singapore guidebooks. It is actually the garden of the house which once belonged to the founders of the famous tiger balm. There are no roller coaster just some very weird statues illustrating Chinese legends and a few reminders of tiger balm.

Most displays are linked to hell/dying/purgatory and all the horrors you'll have to go through after death if you haven't been a very very good girl/boy!
Another strong theme is the half woman half seafood creatures. And this one doesn't even seem to be linked to Chinese legends...

Add to that a statue of liberty, a few scary masks and a few Chinese people dancing and you get a feeling for this very weird spot of Singapore...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bako National Park, back to Borneo

Bako was one of the very few things left to do on Borneo island and it's also an easy one do-able over a 2 days WE so during the busy month of December, we managed to squeeze it!

We spend Friday night in Kuching, a nice town with a lively Chinese temple and a surprising big number of bars for a Malaysian city!

Saturday morning, after a bit of mis-timing with the tide, we finally get to Bako around lunch time. Bako is not an island but for some reason it's only accessible by boat.


Once registered and fed, we are ready for our first hike, a loop around the park. First 20m and we bump into a wild pig! Woohoo what a start! Unfortunately that will be it for this walk :-(

But the walk is very varied, vegetation, temperature and humidity degree keep on changing.

3h later we are back in the room where we are apparently supposed to spend the night. I'll let you dream about the place...

Anyway, a shower and we decide to go for a walk on the beach where we met an entire family of wild pigs! We are in a Muslim country so I suppose they are safe here!


As we were disappointed with the number of animals we saw during the afternoon, we decide to go with a guide for the night walk. That was the best investment of 10 ringgit we could have made: monkeys, snakes, flying lemur, kingfisher birds, frogs, all sorts of insects and a very scary looking tarentula!

On Sunday we decide to combine 2 walks both leading to a beach. The walk is as per the day before: up and down in the middle of roots with varied vegetation. The photo below is the path!

The final beach is beautiful and feels really isolated from the world. We go for a swim and enjoy a wash in the fresh water stream.

Coming back, in the last 200m of the walk, we finally meet a proboscis family!

Now we are done and we can head back to the camp, then the boat, then the airport and finally Singapore!

Now, The last trip left on Borneo will have to be the Iban long houses but the organisation looks complicated! So you may have to wait a while before hearing about this one!


Happy 2012!

On this 2nd of January, I wish you all a happy new year.
Thanks for continuing to read this blog and I hope to bring you more stories and more photos in 2012.

Last year I attached a world map to my happy new year wishes. At that time, i had covered 17% of the world and I mentionned that the objective for this year was 20%. I now have to admit that I have miserably failed...
I have only managed 18%, to my defense I did say that without making it to Angola in 2011 it was going to be hard and indeed it was! The new countries of 2011 were Brunei, New Zealand and Myanmar that you will soon hear about.

2012 will definitely bring more countries, Sri Lanka and Japan are already booked and it does look like that I will be in Angola in April. Let's wait and see...

Anyway, here is the map and happy 2012!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Puerto Galera, more diving in the Phillipines

(late post)

After a flight to Manila, 2h drive and another 1h30 in a boat, we made it to Puerto Galera, a little white-ish sand beach where friends were waiting for us.
It was a diving WE so not a ton of photos...
But we enjoyed massage on the beach, seafood BBQ and guessing if the waitress was in fact a waiter!