Wednesday, June 11, 2008

STUCK IN (the country formely known as) THE USSR

We left St Petersburg on Monday for Vilnius in Lithuaninia. Around 2.30am we were woken by customs and immigration guards, after some checks and smiles they noticed our Visa had expired. "Collect your bags please and get off the train". We thought we had 31 days from entry, we hadn't. "You have overstayed your visa, you were supposed to leave by 8th June", it was now 3.30 am on 10th June.

We explained, and hoped they would let us off with a fine, but they said sorry you've got to go to Migration Service at Pskov and get a new Visa. "We don't, want a new visa we're trying to leave", "sorry it's the law". We thought they might be searching for a bribe, we asked again, "can we pay a fine", "No, sorry, you must get a new visa". They were strict but pleasant, they wrote down directions in English, helped us get a ticket to Pskov and even escorted us on the train carrying some bags.

We were minutes from the border, leaving Russian and now they were sending us two and a half hours north east back into Russia.

To cut a long story short we had a fun day in Pskov, got our new visa (not too expensive), we escaped the (not so cheap) fine (we think), after we went white at the price. She suggested we could busk, and even offered to lend us her nice hat. We explained the mis-understanding again, which she added to our record. We gave our finger prints. Talked about football, Russia were playing Spain that night (they lost) and wished us a safe trip, asking "Do
you want to come to Russia again", "Yes" we replied. Back at the border the friendly migration guards from last night asked the same questions. And added "Next time pay attention to your visa, Happy travels and God Save the Queen!".

We are now in Warsaw, heading to Poznan to see our mate Shanny, then home via Koln, Brussels, London, Birmingham New Street. See you soon! :)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

St Petersburg


We are now in St Petersburg, after Jumping off The Great wall of China and catching the Trans Mongolian/ Trans Siberian Train. Nearly home, we'll be back in week!

It's lovely and sunny here. We hit the town last night, the plan was to explore the city during the 'white nights' , being as north as the orkney islands, in June they only have 45 mins of dark before the sun comes up again, we didn't get to see the bridge's open ... but we had a great night in a very Russian club

We've put some photos up on facebook and flickr I'll fill in the gaps on the blog later, I hope:)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tibetan Olympics

Lodup, our Tibetan friend in Dharamsala, India told us that The Tibetan Olympics started today, you can follow it here:
http://www.tibetanolympics.com/

Friday, May 16, 2008

Journey to Mongolia


We left Beijing Wednesday morning at 7.45am. We brought the cheapest ticket, hard sleeper 148 RMB (11 pound), but got a 4 x bed cabin all to ourselves. We closed the door and got comfortable.

We'd brought some blue cheese, fresh breads, tomatoes, red onion and of course red wine. We started our journey out here from Brum with Champagne so we had to do the return leg in style too.

It was a beautiful train journey leaving Beijing sprawling city into countryside and then the mountains, the train went past and alongside The Great Wall. After the mountains was the flat plains of Inner Mongolia. Which looked stunning especially as the sun was setting.

There was a quite a few foreign travellers on the train, many on a group Trans Mongolian trip. Traveling with a guide everything arranged. I chatted to a few I met in the corridor, but we spent most of the trip snug in our own private cabin.

Read some of our books, I put aside Will Self's ‘Book of Dave’ for a bit and picked up Paul Theroux's Riding the Red Rooster. His account of his journeys through China in the late 80's. It starts with him taking the train to Mongolia with a group.

‘The people from the tour were still acquainted with each other. They asked me questions too. Where was I from What did I do? Was I married? Did I have Children? Why was I taking this trip? … First time in China?’

We were glad to be alone, for a while. We've met some great people on our trip but it can get tiring answering the same questions over and over.

“I was Paul, I was unemployed, I was evasive, and – how does Baudelaire put it? – ‘The real travellers are those who leave for the sake of leaving’ and something about not knowing why but always saying Allons!”

We got to Erlian near the border around 20.30 that night. We got off the trains and tried to get an onward ticket to Ulaanbaatar.

The train was there for 2 and 3/4 hours, whilst they sorted Immigration and changed the train bogie’s. Our Trans-Siberian Handbook explained ‘The Chinese railway system operates on standard guage (as do Europe and North America), which is 3 1/2 inches narrower than the five foot gauge in the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. Giant hydraulic lifts raise the carriages and the bogies are rolled out and replaced.’

We thought it would be easy to get our onwards tickets here but no, we was stuck, we had to stay another night in China. (We should have asked to upgrade our ticket on the train (a traveller writing on LP Thorntree said they did this for $33). We could have got a direct ticket in Beijing but that would be easy wouldn't it? (It was also much more expensive at 780 RMB)). The tour group, filed off the train, shopped at the 'duty free' then got back on the train. We didn't envy them?

We tried a few hotels near the station, "Mayo" - don't have, it was late and dark many places looked shut, but thankfully a taxi driver found us a nice hotel for 80 RMB. I had a Tsingtao Beer, 4 RMB from the 'duty free and watched Twin Peaks on DVD in the room before crashing.

We got up early and headed to the bus station buying a ticket to the border town, Zamyn-Uud. We had a few hours to kill before the bus at 10.30am so had a wander round the pleasant enough town in Inner Mongolia and caught up with emails and news at a 'Wang ba', Internet Cafe.

On the bus we met Jaggi and Chandra, two Mongolian students returning home after a year studying in Alliabad, Utter Pradesh, India. The border was a mess of lorries, jeeps, busses and people, there was no order just a mangle of vehicles. After going through Immigration we got back on the bus, we sat there, it was quite hot and sunny. Their was no way we were going anywhere. After a while our driver got out and moved some of the jeeps with some help. We got through eventually. Back on the bus we got talking to two Mongolian girls who were also returning from study in India, the parents of one of the girls was also traveling with them. We all headed to the train station together and found a place to sit and put down our bags. Jaggi helped us get our tickets for the train to Ulaanbaatar later that night. We then took it in turns to get food or look after the bags.

We had rice, salad, coleslaw and a potato stew. Everyone else had the same but with meat, it looked like beef goulash. It was more East European than Mongolian but Jaggi and Chandra wolfed it down, ‘we miss this food’, you very rarely find beef in India.

We had been warned it was difficult to get Vegetarian food in Mongolia, the lonely planet guide said ‘Indeed, up until recently the Mongolian language only had one word to describe both grass and vegetables’.

We shared a carriage with Jaggi and Chandra. They had the bottom bunks and we had the top. There was no guard to stop you from falling out. Karen tied herself in with her shawl.

We passed many goods trains full of logs heading for China. Chandra shook his head ‘Our people are destroying our country, selling it for easy money, selling it to China’, ‘they don’t care about the country or future, they are not educated, they don’t understand, they just think money, money, money’.

Later, whilst staying in the countryside in Mongolia, we saw a brave report on Mongolia’s 9TV channel. Huge sways of forest were being cleared. The female reporter was being harassed by security guards, she continued her report anyway. A security guard stole the microphone. We then saw local Mongolians come to help her. They kept the security guards at bay, so her report could continue. The report was in Mongolian but we got the jist. The reporter went to a nearby factory, the logs were being made into chopsticks, which looked like the disposable sort. China's appetite for disposable chopsticks eats up 25 million trees each year*. In our short time in China we had used many, even though we tried to carry some with us.

It is not only exports that is fuelling Mongolia’s deforestation. As Mongolia becomes more Urbanised, over one third of Mongolia now lives in the capital Ulaanbaatar, there is an increased demand for wood to build houses as well as fuel for cooking and heating.

It was good travelling with these bright passionate students, they told us a lot about Mongolia, it’s proud long history, it’s customs and cultures. Their English was excellent, they had picked up a touch of the Indian English accent and even the Indian head wobble. ‘Mongolia is very friendly country, you’ll love it, we have a strong tradition of looking after travellers’. They told us about ‘Ger’s’ the traditional Mongolian home, (The word ‘yurt’ is a Turkic word introduced to the west by the Russians, Mongolians call them ‘ger’).

They spoke of Shamanism, Buddhism, horse riding ‘we invented Stirrups’ and of course Chinngis Khan. Named Temujin, (Ironsmith) at birth, in 1189 he was given the honorary name of Chinggis Khan, meaning ‘universal (or oceanic) king’. In 1206 he was proclaimed leader of ‘all the people who love in felt tents’.

Jaggi and Chandra both proudly told us that ‘Chinggis Khan was voted man of the Millennium’ and that he created ‘the largest empire the world has ever seen’. By the time of Chinggis Khan’s death in 1227, the Mongol empire extended from Beijing to the Caspian sea.

Jaggi and Chandra made some Instant pot noodles then went to bed. We soon fell asleep too.

Links

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-true-price-of-disposable-chopsticks-471574.html

Paul Theroux's - Riding The Iron Rooster - By Train through China. Penguin 1988.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Torch Relay in Hong Kong


The Olympic Torch Relay went through Hong Kong this Friday the 2nd of May. Friends of ours planned to distribute copies of His Holiness' recent public statements in both Chinese and English (http://www.tibet.net/) in the hope of increasing awareness of his stance.

They had banners with messages appealing for "The Middle-Way Approach" of Genuine Autonomy for Tibet, (avoiding any messages for a "free Tibet" or a boycott of the Olympics). They said, "It is frustrating to be so helpless in the face of the humanitarian matters which extend far further than the issues facing Tibet and its people, and however small these efforts are, please, if you have the time, any and all help will be greatly appreciated."

They met at the Central Government Pier at 2:30 pm.

See: The Middle-Way Approach; "Genuine Autonomy" for Tibet at:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=16293871317&ref=mf

The Guardian reported:

"Police removed human rights protesters from the streets of Hong Kong this morning as the anger of pro-China supporters flared on the first day of the Olympic torch's domestic journey."

We have not heard from them yet, we hope all went well and was peaceful.

More:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/02/china.olympicgames20081
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7378193.stm

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Violence in Tibet, Protests at Olympic torch relays


Langmusi, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We are now back in Kunming, China. Happy to be back in China but sad to leave Laos. Since we were last here there has been lots of international protest against China in the run up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and scenes of terrible violence in Tibet.

The first protests in Lhasa and other Tibetan communities around the world occurred on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule which forced Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile in India
. These were the biggest Tibet protests in 20 years. It's terribly sad to hear that these protests turned violent and according to eye witnesses in Lhasa "Chinese and Hui Muslim places were targeted" . Tibetan sources say over 80 Tibetans were killed by the Military.

China is a great country, which should not be (as always) viewed solely by the actions of its government.

From our experience the Tibetans we met were not 'anti Chinese' but simply wanted more autonomy and freedom in their homeland. The Chinese Media is so heavily controlled it's hard for Chinese people to have a true debate on Tibet or indeed human rights in China as a whole.

We should also not forget that Tibet is not the only Chinese province to suffer barbaric treatment from its Beijing masters, as Charles Cumming highlights in a recent Guardian comment, 'Quiet death in Xinjiang'.

The Chinese government claims that the Dalai Lama is behind the violence and has even gone as far accusing
'the Dalai Lama and his supporters yesterday of plotting suicide attacks in the wake of last month's violent protests in Lhasa.'

But, Could the violence have been sparked by Chinese agent provocateurs?


There have been Military crackdowns in Tibet and around China / Tibet. The beautiful peaceful town of Langmusi (Hezuo), a small mostly Tibetan town we visited in November last year has been the site of a military crackdown after protests there. As has Labrung (Xiahe) and Lhasa. Not that much of it is reported openly/ fairly here in the heavily controlled Chinese Media. CCTV the Chinese state broadcaster has been running footage from the Lhasa riots on loop, blaming the 'Dalai Clique' and splitists for the violence, whilst avoiding the issues.

CCTV9 China's 'International', English language channel aired this 'documentary'.

Part One above, Click here for Part Two

Below is one of the reports from Channel 4 (UK) which gives some perspective from Tibetans including their allegations that over 80 Tibetans were killed by the Military.


The Dalai Lama, has said that he does not support an Olympics boycott.

Protests have followed the Olympic torch relay from Olympia to Beijing. I've been reading about some of these protests (Olympia, Athens, France, London, San Fransisco, Tibet, China) on The Guardian site, which doesn't seem to be censored or blocked here. The English language version of the BBC website is not blocked anymore in China as it was last time we were here, although the Chinese language version of the BBC site is still blocked. Most of YouTube is blocked again in China, The China Post (From Taiwan) reported that access was denied to the site 'after footage of recent deadly protests in Tibet appeared on the video posting site.'

Tourists and Journalists are being denied or given restricted access in Tibet and China.

Our site www.environments.org.uk is still blocked in China and I can't find a working proxy yet. We can write, but not read it here?!

What's really sad is that whilst the activism across the world has grabbed a lot of Media attention, it doesn't seem to be having a positive effect within China. Many Chinese see it as "Anti Chinese" and may miss the pro-humanitarian concerns of many of the campaigners.

A comment on my Team Tibet film, by someone mocking the Chinese Communist Party, CCP, said "thank you "Free Tibet" Activist, thank you for taken the minds of Chinese people off of the corruption and the problems of the CCP. thank you for inciting their nationalism against all foreigners trying to sabotage the olympics. They support us now, and we've never felt more secure in power. thanks again. CCP"

The Campaigning website Avaaz.org is launching a campaign: SAVE THE OLYMPICS, asking China 'to save the Olympics for all of us, by making specific, reasonable progress in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, securing release of Burmese and Tibetan political prisoners, and supporting peacekeeping in Darfur.' ... They explain 'our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we're not anti-China but pro-humanitarian'

Links

Our Photos from Tibet and China
Our Team Tibet film
Reports of Troubles in Tibet on: BBC, Guardian, China.com Times
Channel 4 news reports on Youtube:
Biggest Tibet protests in 20 years, Tibet deadline passes: death toll disputed, China denies using force in Tibet
Accounts from Lhasa and beyond - BBC
The Olympic torch's shadowy past
Tensions in Tibet - BBC
Olympic Games 2008 - Guardian

The challenges of reporting in China - BBC
Tense Time at Tibetan Monastery - BBC
Tibetan Monk Speaks out
China's quandary over Tibet's future
Stories China's media could not write - BBC
Joanna Lumley talking in the Guardian about her support for Tibet
YouTube access blocked in China after Tibet clips appear - The China Post
Lonely Planet - Thorntree Travel Forum - Tibet
I predict a riot -
Björk upset the Chinese authorities by shouting 'Tibet, Tibet' during a recent concert. But can music really bring down governments? - Jeremy Kuper - The Guardian.
Brit spies confirm Dalai Lama's report of staged violence
Quiet death in XinjiangChina struggles to quell Tibet rebels
Save the Olympics - Avaaz Campaign

(Note: I have since edited this post, whilst in Hong Kong, where there are less restrictions, and added a few more links when I got back in the UK).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Luang Prabang, Laos

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Van Vieng, Laos

Monday, March 24, 2008

Team Tibet Film


I am reposting these links to my film 'Team Tibet' in light of recent events, during the run up to the controversial Beijing 2008 Olympic games. The film gives some background and insight to the Tibetan struggle fom the perspective of Tibetans living in exile in India.

"Team Tibet" - Parts One to Four on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq9CXOIGQVU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqjrgqxt-0A
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRFWwCOYry8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uucCfZZ92dU

Please pass the film on, comment and add your responses.

Stand with Tibet - Support the Dali Lama

http://www.avaaz.org/en/tibet_end_the_violence/

Links

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/tibet http://www.supportteamtibet.com/ http://www.tibetanwomen.org/ http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/ http://www.guchusum.org/ http://www.beijingwideopen.org/ http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/news/story/0,,2144692,00.html http://www.environments.org.uk/

Vientiane, Laos

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tad lo, Bolaven Plateau, Southern Laos

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'Four Thousand Islands' Don Det, Laos



www.flickr.com








Nice Logo's Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) Laos photosetNice Logo's Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) Laos photoset




Monday, March 3, 2008

“OH MY COD”, 'Britain', Harry and ‘The War on Terror'


Oh My Cod, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.


Fancying Chips, Mushy Peas and a good cup of Tea I head to “Oh My Cod”, a British ‘Fish n Chip’ Café in Bangkok’s ‘Farang’ heartland near Th Khao San. The Cafe is busy with ex-pats, Brits, Irish and other holiday makers, enjoying ‘Full English Breakfasts’, Cups of PG Tips and catching up on the news from ‘back home’. In the gents toilets one wall has a shockingly hilarious list of Bushism’s, on the other wall are quotes from The Office’s David Brent.

They have the latest copies of The Sun, Daily Mail, News of The World and Sunday Times. There’s Internet access and WiFi. On multiple plasma screens, BBC World was running on loop, their Interview with Prince Harry, fresh back from Afghanistan, complete with a sound bite that ‘it was one of the happiest times of his life’.

I read ‘HARRY IN AFGHANISTAN, ONE OF OUR BOYS, Frontline Prince Kills 30 Taliban’ in The Sun, February 29th’. It struck me as a painfully sad story of how Harry, who is desperate to be ‘one of the boys’ and ‘a normal person’ is being used a pawn in the on going propaganda of the ‘war on terror’. A war that’s as much about pictures, as bullets, bombs and collateral damage. The Sun, fully signed up to this war, even had a pull out poster of Harry on Patrol in Afghanistan with the words “One of our Boys”, “Our Army of readers Salutes You, Harry.”

All the papers feasted on the images and copy fed from the chief reporter of the Press Association. The Independent described the tone of the Media coverage as "Hello! Goes to Helmand"

I believe Harry when, on the BBC Interview, he talks about wanting to ‘Serve his country’ and ‘do his bit’. But is he not just being used (abused) to gain support from the war’s financial backers, The British tax payer? No doubt the ‘news’ will go down great, ‘across the pond’, in the US too.

Governments always use the media in order to get the public behind wars it wishes to wage. As Chomsky writes “It is also necessary to whip up the population in support of foreign adventures. Usually the population is pacifist, just like they were during the First World War. The public sees no reason to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and torture. So you have to whip them up. And to whip them up you have to frighten them....”

We believe Harry was in Afghanistan? right? This wasn’t a Hollywood Set? Wag the Dog was just a film…?

The Tabloid Media often critical when his male bonding exercises were falling out of Pubs n Clubs drunk, are now calling him ‘A credit to the Nation’. The News of The World (March 2, 2008) commented ‘Harry, a prince among heroes’, adding ‘Helmand has truly been the making of Harry. But it’s the courage of 11,000 like him there that makes for a free world’

Another Headline, in The News of The World, quoted him as saying “IT’S NOT NICE TO DROP BOMBS … but to save lives that’s what happens.”

Soldiers are put into horrendous situations, and this we must respect. I am not questioning their bravery. Soldiers are ‘just doing their job’, but what if their masters are deeply wrong?

Can’t we question what is being done in our name?
How can we stop the endless spiral of violence?

Why are anti war ‘protesters’ or ‘campaigners’ continually portrayed as weak, niave, not-normal and unpatriotic? Even Human Right’s campaigners, Military Families Against The War, and Arms trade lobbyists are routinely dismissed. Aren’t soldiers that speak out against ‘extraordinary rendition, torture, secret detentions, extra judicial detention, use of evidence gained through torture, breaches of the Geneva Conventions, breaches of International Law and failure to abide by our obligations as per UN Convention Against Torture’ heroes too?

Is war always Noble and Heroic?


Sitting here in a British Café in Bangkok, after traveling here overland from Birmingham, England, through ‘rogue states’ - Iran and Pakistan, I was fully hooked up to and bombarded by The British and global media. I couldn’t help reflect on ‘the War’ and how we are being continually ‘programmed’, who ever you are, where ever you are. Our opinion must be important?

Harry’s brother William was quoted as saying “You’re making Mum proud”. Is he? Surely not Diana, the ‘activist’ against land mines? Would Diana be proud of ‘our boys’ dropping Cluster Bombs, as we have in Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia…? Cluster Bombs that kill and maim innocents, including women and children. Cluster Bombs that can remain unexploded, just like land mines, for years.

A story on the BBC from 2003 explained how “Eighteen months ago, in western Afghanistan, a 15-year-old boy picked up what he thought was a packet of food - it blew his head off.
Sayyid Ahmad Sanef believed the bright yellow object lying on the ground near his home was one of the 37,000 plastic humanitarian aid packages of the same colour dropped on Afghanistan by US military aircraft - but it had come from a cluster bomb.”

Amnesty International claims
that The UK appears to be 2nd largest exporter of Cluster Bombs after the US.

Harry has seen first hand the damage land mines can do. Dismissing his new found Hero status he said: "There were two injured guys who came back on the plane with us who were essentially comatose throughout the whole way...those are the heroes, those were guys who had been blown up by a mine that they had no idea about, serving their country, doing a normal patrol.” "I was a bit shocked ...it is a bit of a choke in your throat because you know that it's happening.”

Hopefully the bombs, Harry dropped weren’t Cluster Bombs and hopefully they all hit the intended targets. Even still wouldn’t it be more heroic to follow his mother’s cause? To highlight the devastation cluster bombs cause to innocent people, men, women and children, and vocally join the campaign (which is having some success) to get them outlawed, rather than bolster support for this murderous machine.

The ‘War on Terror’ will not be won with weapons or gung ho media stories. To quote Chomsky again, "Wanton killing of civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism”.

The other big story revolving on the plasma screens of “Oh My Cod” was the horrors of the ongoing Violence in Gaza and the response from the UN.

The excellent articles ‘For Palestinians, the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable’ by John Freedland and ‘Bringing Down the New Berlin Walls’ by John Pilger give much needed perspective on the situation.

What I feel we need is a total change in our engagement with the world. We need to act peacefully and constructively. Violence only leads to more violence, expanding ‘the war on terror’ and the spiral of death and destruction. At times military action may be necessary, but we should not support wars, like this, that are being fought for the political, economical and ideological advantage of a select few. (I refer to both ‘side’s). We should not support their game.

We have the means now to communicate and join together, regardless of nationality or ideology, regardless of what our master’s say and we can stop fighting and supporting their wars.

Is the nation a myth? Is ‘the war on terror’ just the latest name for an ongoing war for the select few?

We should be proud to be who we are, our identity, beliefs, ideology and culture, be it English, Persian, Pashtun… Muslim, Christian, Pagan… without being tied to a ‘Nationality’ or ideology. We shouldn’t let our identity be abused to divide and conquer, to pitch us against our brothers and sisters.

I am proud to be British, but I don’t subscribe to the notion my country right or wrong. As Howard Zinn (An American) puts it in his inspiring essay ‘The Scourge of Nationalism’ - “Surely, we must renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems… We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation…”

Later the plasma screens in “Oh My Cod” changed from war, to music then onto football. Two of Britain’s better exports. We get ‘time out’ from the war. Time we should cherish and live to the full. But we shouldn’t switch off and forget, we should keep up our outrage against the crimes done in our name. We should join together, act peacefully and constructively to build bridges rather than walls.

Join the global protest - demonstrate 15 March

Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Don’t attack Iran, End the siege of Gaza

Gaza Conflict - Ceasefire Now! - Sign the petition

LINKS and related articles

For Palestinians, the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable
An unarmed resistance modelled on Martin Luther King's civil rights movement could be the way to wake the world. John Freedland in The Guardian (Feb 20, 2008)

Bringing Down the New Berlin Walls by John Pilger
‘The last thing the west wants is to dismantle the barriers separating "us" from "them". They are vital for justifying invasion, plunder and nuclear proliferation.’

Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George' - George Galloway.
In their acclaim for this new Prince Hal, the media have once again made themselves the useful idiots of disastrous military adventurism

Harry, you're not normal, you're a prince. And this is war, not therapy - Marina Hyde, The Guardian.
What the cringe-making Afghanistan stunt has shown us is that royal lives are still worth more than off-brand ones

'Carry on provoking to catch this precious infidel' - Martin Hodgson, The Guardian

'
UN chief condemns Gaza violence - BBC
Prince Harry on Afghan front line- BBC
Prince Harry rejects 'hero' label - BBC
‘Shame for The Queen and Prince Harry’ by Anjem Choudary
NOTE: I totally don’t support this view but it offers an insight to another view of the Prince Harry in Afghanistan story

The War on democracy
John Pilger’s latest film The war on democracy explores the theme of disenchantment with democracy, concentrating on those parts of the world where people have struggled with blood, sweat and tears to plant democracy, only to see it brutally crushed.
Read his article ‘War on Democracy’ for The Guardian

The 'Good War' Is a Bad War
by John Pilger. Thursday, 10 January 2008

Cluster Bomb info and Campaign Sites
Sign Handicap International’s petition against Cluster Bombs
http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/
http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news.asp?id=116
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana,_Princess_of_Wales#Landmines
Amnesty International claims that The UK appears to be 2nd largest exporter of Cluster Bombs after the US.
Cluster bombs and teddy bears By Bianca Jagger. 05/11/2007
Military Families Against the War
http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

Wag The Dog
The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Jean Baudrillard.
WELCOME TO THE DESERT OF THE REAL! - Slavoj Zizek
The Scourge of Nationalism - by Howard Zinn
Noam Chomsky
What U shoutin’ ‘bout ? – by Richard Edkins
MA Thesis about Art and the peace movement by Richard Edkins
Bush Vs Brent
Birmingham to Bangkok www.environments.org.uk

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Chumpon & Hua Hin, Thailand


Steve and Denise headed to the airport from Kanchanaburi, whilst we stayed another night there with Jim & Barbara before catching the train south to Chumpon. A cockney, we head met on a train whilst traveling south on the same line a few weeks earlier, had raved about a beach,
Hat Tha Wua Laen, just north of Chumpon. "F^R%&g Beautiful mate", he wrote us loads of tips, places to eat, drink and stay. It sounded perfect and was. Jim & Barbara had a room with a balcony and sea view in a posh hotel with AC ... whilst we stayed in a simpler place just down the road.

It was a nice small resort, popular with mostly Thai's, and some ex-pats, with a beautiful long beach. We had great food at 'Paul's', Jim even eat Ostrich. There was some alright live music at a beach bar up the road. It was a great place to chill out, read, eat, drink and do nothing.

We had 4 nights in Chumpon then headed to Hua Hin for a few nights there. Which was perfect for Jim & Barbara as there was at least two good Fish & Chip Shops. We also had some great food at the restaurants in the night markets.

We met a lady in the street who was making pop up cards, we designed a card with her which we used for our wedding invites.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Kanchanaburi Province,Thailand


Hell Fire Pass, Kanchanaburi Province,Thailand, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We got an early morning taxi over the river to
Bangkok's Noi Station aka Thonburi (Thonburi was briefly the Thai Capital after the fall of Ayutthaya), and boarded the slow, bare bones, local train to Kanchanaburi Province.

Part of this railway line was built by World War Two Allied Prisoners of War and became known as the '
Death Railway'. We rode the line across the infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai' to the end of the line at Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi , where we turned around and headed back to Kanchanaburi town. It's a beautiful journey despite its sickening past.


We payed our respects at the Allied War Cemetery and visited The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre.

We hired a car and driver for a day and visited the beautiful Erawan falls, the moving Hell Fire Pass and Hin Dat Hot springs.


We had some great rooms by the river at
Sam's House, which had just been renovated and looked great. It was a pretty spot and not too many of the Karaoke boats,
popular with Thai tourists, seemed to pass us here but the frogs were bloody loud!


Kanchanaburi is a beautiful place. We had a great time chilling out with the folks. There were some good restaurants. We had a lovely meal at Apple & Noi's, and I asked Jim for Karen's hand in marriage, to which he answered "About bloody time too!"

We had been secretly engaged for a while, I had proposed to Karen whilst we were in
Egirdir, Turkey. We were keeping it a secret until we had decided more about plans, dates... We still hadn't got exact plans but said we plan to have a simple wedding with a big party this summer.

We had many a toast!


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Back up to Bangkok, Thailand


Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We were then back up to Bangkok, like a Yo-Yo, where we met Karen's parents - Jim and Barbara. We had a few more days in Bangkok visiting the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, The Royal Palace and other sites along the river jumping on and off the excellent public ferry.

I could see Jim was missing some simple no fuss English food. I passed him a note, in an envelope, which read something along the lines of "We've been informed that a British Citizen is in need of some proper British food, please find enclosed details of a suitable establishment, 'Oh My Cod' which serves the finest British Fish & Chips". Glad to be of service - M15, British Secret Service."

Jim loved it ! Karen also enjoyed their mushy peas!



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Andaman Coast & Islands, Thailand


Long Tail Boat, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

It was a long journey from Pai to Krabby and we did it all in one go!

Bus to Changmai, Rickshaw to Train Station, Train to Bangkok, Change for Train to Surathani, then Bus from Gulf coast to Andaman coast, where we get dropped off in some random shady place on the outskirts of town,
frequented by hookers. We try to get a rickshaw into town - the driver was pissed, after we protest, we eventually get a guy who said he wasn't drunk but can't drive, still he drove us to a hotel in Krabby town. 36 hours after leaving Pai. We checked in and headed to the cool roof top restaurant, to enjoy some well needed Chang and Green Curry. Ahhhhh!

The next morning we caught the ferry to Ko Lanta island. A beautiful journey with views of the stunning Andaman islands.

We stayed in some nice beach huts, just off the beach on Ko - Lanta. We met Sinead and Kat from Ireland and American girl who were also staying there, it was nice place to hang out with its own bar, restaurant... and a crazy stoned Greek guy.

Just up the path on the road was a lovely cafe/ restaurant, with some of the best Thai food we'd had. I joked 'you'll have to show us how you make that and the girl said OK, is tomorrow good? So I went back and cooked us Tom Yam Pak (Spicy Sour Vegetable Soup),
Gaeng Kiew Wahn Pak (Vegetables in Green Curry), and Mussaman Pak (a nutty spicy sweet dish with potatoes, veg, coconut), with their guidance, then Kaz came up with Mum & Dad and we all tucked in! Bostin' !

We went to a pretty lively 'reggae beach party' which local legends 'Job to do were playing at. Do - Dooo Doo ....

Monday, January 21, 2008

ChangMai and Pai


Hot Tubs in Pai, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

Changmai was great, we had a lovely day walking around the ancient city and temples, and had some amazing food in a Veggie restaurant. But we fancied being more in the country and mountains so we headed to Pai on a small crowded local bus.

Pai was lovely, still on the tourist map but
super chilled. We stayed in some bamboo huts over the river across the rickerty bridge. It had beautiful views of rolling hills, banana trees and lovely sunsets.

We done some lovely walks around Pai and went on an Elephant trek, Mum and Kaz even went in the river to bathe with them. Mum loves Elephants! as anyone who's visited their house can tell, she has Elephant pictures, models... everywhere. The family at the Elephant camp had some hot tubs we soaked in afterwards. Another perfect day!

video

From Pai we done a trek out to some villages around Sappong, staying with a family in a homestay . This area has many different ethnic groups which have kept much of their individual cultures, the largest of which is the Karen people. Our guide was an amazing cook! and whipped an amazing feast. After dinner, washed down with local rice wine, we were 'invited' to an impromptu market that had been set up for us, right out side the house. It was all clothing and crafts made by the village women and most of it was lovely. We brought some gifts including a cute hat for Maisie and Mum brought more Elephant themed goods.

Links

http://www.karenpeople.org/

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bangkok, Thailand


Tuk Tuk, Bangkok, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We had a couple of nights back in Bangkok with Jamie and Ellie, before they flew home. It was so sad to see them go after an amazing trip together. A few days later my Mum & Dad - Steve & Denise, came out. It was so great to see them again!
We had a couple more nights in Bangkok, exploring the city by river and Sky Train. We then caught the train north to Changmai.

Ko Tao Island, Thailand



Ko Tao was beautiful we had a day out on a boat going around the small island, stopping for some amazing snorkeling along the way. The nightlife was more relaxed than Ko Pha Ngan but there were some great bars along the beach front where we were staying.

Ko Pha Ngan Island, Thailand


Party Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We set out early from Battambang, Cambodia in a taxi to Poipet and the border with Thailand. We walked over the border and got a tuk to tuk to the train station at Aranya Prathet. We had some Pad Thai, whilst waiting for the train to Bangkok.

On the train we got speaking to some art students from Bangkok, who were coming back from a field trip. They spoke excellent English, we chatted mainly about music, football and a little bit about Thailand, their King Bhumibol Adulyadej and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Opinion was mixed , between the students, about Thaksin who was ousted out in a military coup on Tuesday 19th 2006. But They all loved The King.

Jamie and Ellie were in Thailand just after this coup and remember seeing Tanks with flowers in the guns in Bangkok. Thaksin has been living in England and has famously bought Manchester City Football Club. He returned to Thailand on February 28th 2008, to face charges of abuse of power during his time in office.

Having reigned since June 9, 1946, King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest-serving current head of state. Thai’s love him, there’s pictures of him, including huge billboards and posters the size of buildings, all over the country.

In November last year he was in hospital having heart treatment. Thai’s started wearing pink clothes to bring their beloved King good luck and health. A story on the BBC explained ‘Thai commentators said pink first became an important colour for him earlier this year, when royal astrologers determined it was a good colour for his health.’ And that Since King Bhumibol's 60th anniversary on the throne in 2006, many Thais have worn bright yellow shirts every Monday, because that was the day of the week on which he was born.’

The students had all the latest gadgets, we swapped ipods and they picked out their favourite Thai and western bands to play us. We were in Bangkok in no time.

We had dinner, the first of many tasty Thai Green Currys, at a street cafe near the station. We decided we’d catch the night train straight down to Surat thani, rather than stay in Bangkok. The only problem was we couldn’t get the excellent sleeper tickets, with bed, so we had the less comfy recliner seats, but managed to sleep a bit, although freezing from the full power air conditioning. We arrived in Surat thani the next morning, where we got a bus to the port and then ferry, via Ko Samui, to Ko Pha Ngan. On the island we got a sawngthaew (a small pick up truck, shared taxi/ bus, with two rows of bench seats down both sides of the trunk) from the port Thongsala to Ban Tai. A long journey!!! Over 30 odd hours in all from Battambang to Ko Pha Ngan.

We checked into some bamboo bungalows at Bay Hut, a beautiful place Jamie and Ellie had found last time they were here, and dived straight into the sea. It was a great place, super chilled, with hammocks to laze in under the shade of coconut trees and hardly anyone on the beach. The sunsets here were stunning!

There was supposed to be a Jungle Party, Jungle Experience, happening in Ban Tai but it had been cancelled due to the recent death of The kings sister, Galyani Vadhana, Princess of Narathiwat on 2nd January 2008. There was an official mourning period of two weeks, which was later extended to 100 days. Organisers had been asked to cancel parties in respect of her.

We were only a short ride away from, Hat Rin, home of the infamous Full Moon Party. Hat Rin is always busy, and even though it was weeks before Full Moon Party it was still packed with music and plenty of messy action on the beach. The music was OK, with the best being up at Mellow Mountain, with its infamous shakes. We had some Sangsum ‘buckets’, Thai Whiskey (made from rice and tasting more like Rum) topped up with coke and extra strong red bull, served in a plastic bucket with Ice and straws. Lethal.

Battambang, Cambodia



There wasn't many sights as such in Battambang, but it was one of my favourite places in Cambodia. Laid back and friendly. Jamie and Ellie done a cooking course at Smokin' Pot Restaurant. But the highlight for all of us must be the trip on the Bamboo Train or 'Norry' as it is known in Khmer.



Bamboo Train, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.


Links

'Jouney Man' documentary on The Bamboo Train

Friday, January 18, 2008

Boat Trip from Siem Reap to Battambang, Cambodia


IMG_6079, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We took a boat from Siem Reap to Battambang it was a beautiful if not a little hair raising trip. When we crossed the huge lake, which looked more like an ocean, it look as if it was going to be 50/50 chance that we survived it. The crew bailing out the water that was filling up the deck. To make things worse Jamie was suffering bad with diarrhea. Our guide book said the journey took between 4 - 8 hours, it took nearer 12 hours!

More Photos

Angkor Watt, Cambodia


Reflections, Angkor Watt, Cambodia, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We spent a couple of days wandering around beautiful Angkor, the site of the former Khmer Empire near Siem Reap. We stayed at a great guest house, Guest house No.9. They cooked the best Amok, a soupy Cambodian Curry with Coconut, Vegetable and fruits. At night we chilled out there, playing pool with the guys and drinking Angkor beer.

More Photos.

Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_empire
Vegetarian Recipe for Amok

Killing Fields, Cambodia


The Killing fields memorial near Phnom Penh is a chilling reminder of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and how the world largely ignored it. It makes you sick. How can we let the same mistakes keep happening, be it Auschwitz, Cambodia, Srebrenica, Darfur, Iraq...

America and 'The West's' responsibility for this attrocity is highlighted in YEAR ZERO - A Film by JOHN PILGER . Watch below on YouTube introduced by an American Viewer.

Links to Parts 2-6 Below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBSZty5mCTw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfX7dBlfvac
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv0d1O5OmoM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIAmQDO_3h4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTEykUkR5BQ

Also see John Pilger-Cambodia, The Betrayal (in 5 parts, part 1 below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhYVk_Mttz8&feature=related

Read: War in Vietnam - Invasion of Cambodia

Visit: http://www.johnpilger.com/

NYE in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


NYE, We take over the sound system at a party on a sinking terrace on the lake in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Top Night! Great 'Happy Pizza'.

Mekong, Vietnam


Mekong, Vietnam, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We took a trip, 3 days, 2 nights, to travel from Ho Chi Minh City up the Mekong and onto Phnom Phen, Cambodia. It was a beautiful trip soaking up all the atmosphere of life on the water.


www.flickr.com








Nice Logo's Mekong Delta photosetNice Logo's Mekong Delta photoset



Ho Chi Minh City/ Saigon, Vietnam


We hooked up with our friends Tim & Michelle in Saigon. We met Tim and Michelle years ago in Hvar, Croatia, we got on really well and had kept in touch. They both lived and worked in Kyrgyzstan, for a while and we had hoped to meet them there, even planning a film project, but this was cancelled due to the Tulip Revolution. Tim and Michelle are now living here in Vietnam and have a beautiful daughter Amelia.

We stayed with them in their huge snazzy house, on the edge of Saigon. It was beautiful place on a sprawling new luxury estate. But they said it was a bit isolated, with little community spirit, they were moving next week to an older house in a friendlier neighbourhood.

Michelle recommended we take our camera to ‘The Camera Doctor’, it was playing up again, this time it was the mirror. Jamie and I headed there. The ‘Doctor’ was great. “If you’re not in a rush, I can have it fixed in about an hour” he said. He done a great job and only charged a couple of pounds! We then headed to some Museums the girls went shopping and to visit a temple.

The War Museum was intensely shocking and heart breaking. I’ve seen many images of the American War, as it is called here, but not as graphic as the images on show here. The most disgusting and disturbing of the photos were those taken by American Soldiers themselves, as souvenirs. There are photos of soldiers posing with decapitated heads of Vietnamese people, the soldiers pose as if it’s a football team photo, they smile as if it’s a game.

Other images on display had a shocking resemblance to the images we see coming out of Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan. The similarities between the conflicts are too much to bare.

As John Pilger writes, "It was a lie from the beginning, throughout the war, and even today." When US troops landed in Vietnam in 1965, they believed their cause to be a noble one, but it was a sham.

In another article, 'Torture is news but it's not new', he recalls how American atrocities and torture were not considered newsworthy.

John Pilger is perhaps one of the greatest investigative journalists, click here to read more of his articles from Vietnam.

That night we met Tim and headed to a fantastic Restaurant, in an old French Colonial building near Reunification Palace. The next night we had dinner at Tim & Michelle’s before hitting HCMC / Saigon, hard, on a pub n club crawl from the latest trendy Vietnamese hotspot to backpacker/ expat favourites - including 'Apocalypse Now', to local dives. It was a great night, from what we can remember.

Links

John Pilger articles on Vietnam

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_prisoner_abuse
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Bay_detention_camp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse_Now

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