Blogging in Berkeley. Notes on news, politics, law, and technology in the US and China. [This blog is inactive. I am now staying busy and having a great time at UVA Law.]
I'm enjoying myself here in Thailand as usual...
More news on SARS:
"They also expanded their travel advisory, suggesting that anyone planning nonessential travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore or Hanoi, Vietnam, "may wish to postpone their trips until further notice." ("They" being US health officials). Here is the article
. My plans for Southern China next month are still tentative.
The good news is that mortality rate is relatively low, estimated at about 3.5% for those who are infected with SARS. the bad news is that it is now reportedly believed to be spread more easily than previously suspected and there are no known treatments. Face-to-face contact with infected individuals may not be necessary, the infectious agent causing SARS may be airborne...here is a report
I'll be in the US for a short visit very soon...
Not a whole lot to talk about *publicly* regarding the last couple days...though, I would like to share an e-mail that I recieved from my good friend Dan...it sounds like he had an extremely interesting experience back in Davis:
Totally recreational e-mail, thats new huh. Anyway, I was at work Sophia's tonight and who walks (or rolls) up but Stephen Hawking! I guess he spoke at the Mondavi Center earlier this week and was in town for a few days. We took a picture of me raising a beer to him and giving a big thumbs up (I thought a W/T pose was the most appropriate considering the situation). I was talking to the guys at G st. and they said he'd been there every night since Monday. I don't know why this shocks me, but I thought it was fuckin' hilarious. So, if that isn't a endorsement for partying, I don't know what is. Resisting the urge to call him "Mr. Smarty Pants" was difficult. Gotta throw in that his compu-robo chair was pretty fucking cool. I thought you'd get a kick out of that little experience. Look forward to seeing you soon.
I wish I was there for that...one wonders from time to time, if you ran in to the "smartest man alive" what would you say or ask. I'm not sure, but I'd deffinately buy him a beer.
Regarding the French, I recieved some quotes sent by to me by Steve, these certainly brought a smile to my face:
Quotes on France and the thought of war:
"France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. France has usually been governed by prostitutes."
"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."
-- General George S. Patton
"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion."
"We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it."
-- Marge Simpson
"As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure"
--Jacques Chirac, President of France
"As far as France is concerned, you're right."
"The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee."
-- Regis Philbin
"The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don't know."
-- P.J O'Rourke (1989)
"You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who was still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it."
--John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona
"You know why the French don't want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, he loves mistresses and wears a beret. He is French, people."
"I don't know why people are surprised that France won't help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn't help us get the Germans out of France!"
"The last time the French asked for 'more proof' it came marching into Paris under a German flag."
How many Frenchmen does it take to change a light bulb?
One. He holds the bulb and all of Europe revolves around him.
Next time there's a war in Europe, the loser has to keep France.
...there are a ton of Arabs here, as well as some ethnic Thai muslims, and Usama Bin Laden T-shirts are sold by street vendors as well as "George Bush International Terrorist" T-shirts. My favorite nightclub here in Pattaya is mostly frequented by Arabs and some Thai people, and I'm not sure how things will be when I go there tonight. Generally speaking though, here in Thailand it has been the Arab foreigners who have been the most polite to me, and I doubt that it will be much different this time. Arabs who can travel here are certainly upper-class, rich, and highly educated by middle eastern standards, so I am sure I would recieve very different treatment from the oppressed masses if I were to visit any Arab country right now. My point is that despite the relatively large number of Arabs here, contrary to what many people would think, I find the white people here far more hostile.
It's nice to have some good Thai food again, even though I'm having to get used to how hot it is after eating much less spicy food in Taiwan. I think I'll take off to have some som tom, panang muu, and larp gai right now...
By the way, I just found a blogspot done by a person who says he is in Baghdad: dear_raed.blogspot.com
I was planning to go to Southern China after I came back to Thailand, but now that the secretive PRC government has released its info on SARS deaths I am going to have to monitor the situation and decide whether it is worth the risk. I would be going to Guangdong Province, the location of almost all of the cases of SARS that are currently being reported. I am trying to find out what cities have been effected, but I know of cases in Guangzhou (capital of Guangdong), which is where I would have to fly in to...I flew China Air back to Thailand yesterday, and was certainly thrilled to find out that it is suspected that some of the SARS victims were infected on China Air flights...here is a report from Health Scout News
I made it back to Monkey Mountain in Kaohsiung again on Tuesday before I left Taiwan. I got there pretty late, so most of the monkeys had already gone up in to the forrest/jungle away from the humans for some rest. I did sit down and hand fed peanuts to one of the smaller Monkey Kings as well as a pregnant monkey from his family...there was a male baby monkey that stuck around for a while to snack as well. As I descended the mountain I ran in to a group of pretty aggressive medium sized male monkeys, I fed them a bit, but the situation started to seem a little dangerous and I left soon after. This time I got some awesome pictures, I will upload them as soon as I can get access through my laptop, I haven't found an internet cafe here in Thailand that will let me jack in to their DSL directly, I'll keep trying though. I had a great time in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and I have made some good friends there. I had a chance to say goodbye to everyone on Tuesday before I left on Wednesday afternoon.
It is Monday evening here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan...I haven't been posting much because I have been focused on war coverage and doing some work online, but here is what I was up to this weekend-
A friend took me over to Monkey Mountain on Saturday...incredibly fun, though because the wild monkeys and wild dogs are sometimes aggressive it would be completely illegal in a place like the US. The monkeys sometimes fight other monkeys, the monkeys sometimes attack humans, and the dogs and monkeys sometimes battle as well. You can play with the hundreds of wild monkeys that live on Monkey Mountain (if your dare to). The monkeys organize themselves in to small gangs/families, it would seem each group has about 10-50 monkeys. It is clear who is the leader and which female monkey is most senior when they are grouped together. I spent much of my time within a couple feet of some of the monkeys and was a few times within inches. I had one monkey king take a shot at me, and I jumped back quickly then he retreated immediately...I was trying to get a good picture with him and he must have felt threatened. I saw one monkey attack a person, (jumped on his back and was trying to bite and strike him), and I saw monkeys stealing food and drinks out of the hands of people on the mountain several times. These are not small monkeys (except for the babies), and when they were trying to snatch food it would sometimes become a pretty funny litte tug-of-war between the human and the monkey. I loved it there, and I'll probably go back on Tuesday, it's only 10-15 minutes from the downtown area. I have lots of pics and vids that I will upload soon...
I went out Saturday night here and met a lot of people...several Americans, an Englishman who works on Power plants who had worked in the past in Iran (1997) as well as in Iraq about 20 years ago. He told me that he is ashamed to admit he helped build much of Hussein Airport (Baghdad's airport). I met a lot of Taiwanese and I have had the opportunity here in Kaohsiung to discuss the politics and economics of Taiwan and mainland China with many people that have many different opinions, perspectives, experiences and backgrounds. I am learning a lot on many levels here and my Chinese is (to my surprise) improving faster here in Taiwan than it has in my past visits to mainland China. Early this morning I met a mainland Chinese guy who claimed to be a boat captain who was in Kaohsiung for a short time before he returns to sea. Initially he seemed like a nice guy, but after a few drinks things went South very quickly. He began trying to pick fights with Taiwanese people in the Taiwanese Bar we were in (I was the only foreigner in there at the time), I got him out of the bar asap and tried to get him in to a cab. He was completely wasted and I was sober...he had a car, and despite my extensive, repeated attempts to get him to take a cab he refused and went to his car. I thought he was going home, and I headed over to 7-11 (as I often do) to grab some beef noodle soup and took my soup around the corner to a pub where I know the owner, dj and have a good friend that tends the bar. It was already 5:30am and they were closing, but I knew they'd let me stay to eat my soup and chat after they closed. To my surprise, the mainlander was stumbling out the door of the pub. When he saw me walking up with my soup he grabbed me by the arm and went back in to the pub. I thought I was free of this problem and suddenly there he was again...we never discussed this pub and it was a strange coincidence that he had decided to drive over there. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, and I was hoping that my friends could talk this jack ass in to a cab so he wouldn't kill anybody out on the road. Immediately after walking in, I discovered he had already been booted for his behavior, and he and the owner of the bar started arguing very loudly and aggressively. I set down my soup, dragged him outside and tried to get him in to a cab one last time. My bartender friend followed us outside, and as this drunken seaman stood next to his car he started to yell at my friend. I grabbed him and told him that this was my friend and he was not to speak to this person and it was time for him to go home. He shut his mouth, looked me in the eye for a few moments then got in to his car and left. I try to meet as many people as I can when I travel, and I am usually a good judge of character upon initial impressions. In this case I made a mistake in chatting with this guy. In the future I will be even more cautious about whom I meet. I was really embarrassed by the whole situation, but my friends were all very understanding once I explained what had happened and the boss told me that she had 86ed him before in the past. After eating and hanging out for a while, I headed back to my hotel for some rest.
I really like Kaohsiung, and renting an apartment or house here is very inexpensive compared to every other major city I have visited in Asia. Zhongshan University is here in Kaohsiung (Sun Yat-Sen University), and it offers a lot of Chinese language classes for foreigners. (One of my objectives here in Asia is to improve my Chinese beyond the level it was at when I finished my Chinese studies in 1998). Kaohsiung has everything a big city needs (including an International Airport) and it is extremely close to cool places like Monkey Mountain. Some locals go there every day to exercise and/or play with the monkeys. Being right on the coast and close to some nice little islands is a nice plus too. After I finish my travels in South-East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, East Timor, and the Phillipines
, and I may check out South Asia
at some point as well) I may return to Kaohsiung to live for a while. I have work to do in Southern China soon, and I will be touring all of mainland China when I get the opportunity.
I spent much of my Sunday here resting, playing 8-ball pool and keeping track of the developments in the middle east and news in countries that I have been to or will be travelling to. I couldn't sleep Sunday night, I felt sick over the news of POWs in Iraq and some personal issues, so I also had some time to talk to some friends and family back in the States early Monday morning. Apparently Berkeley is pretty chaotic right now with all the radical protesters running around, and my good friend Eric had his car attacked on University Avenue. (Note to Eric- I'm not sure what details you want to share about this, so if you could give an account of the incident and the rest of the mess over in Berkeley through the comment section on this post I'd really appreciate it). Plans for me are changing at this point, I can not return to Vietnam next month as planned due to the SARS outbreak (Severe Accute Respiratory Syndrome). "The State Department on Saturday warned Americans not to travel to Vietnam, one of the first countries affected."
I have some things to do in Thailand after I leave Taiwan and I am planning to return to the US asap to visit family and friends before I head over to Southern China to begin work related to a new company that Wendy and I are going to launch.
I am running late right now to go meet up with some friends, I'll be posting more later.
I'll post about what's going on here in Kaohsiung with me soon...everything here is going extremely well, though.
I woke up and checked the news to discover a few things that I want to post first...
Apparently an Arab US soldier in the Army's 101st carried out a terrorist attack on his own camp. Here is the latest report I have seen
I am shocked and saddened by this terrorist attack, and I fear what it will do to the morale of US military units with soldiers of Arab descent or identitify themselves as Muslim. Since this campaign has begun this has been the most sickenning news I have heard.
An Al-Qaeda attack in Kurdish cotrolled Northern Iraqi territory has killed several people including an Australian cameraman. Here is the latest report I have seen
Saddam may be dead, (CIA reportedly are calling it 50/50) and his son Uday is believed to be dead. Here is one of the reports from which I recieved this info
, though a short registration process may be required to view it (UK Telegraph as well).
I am watching the situation in the Kurdish controlled areas in the North very closely through internet news reports and analysis. I think this complex situation that involve Kurds, Turkey, Iran, Syria, and the US could is extremely dangerous and extremely important to the entire region, beyond the borders of Iraq.
More later, I need to get some food.
Earlier today, (yesterday now, since it's 3:30am here) I read in a local newspaper that the day before some foreign English teachers had been passing out leaflets stating that the US war in Iraq was illegal out in front of the building that the American Institute in Taiwan is based (the psuedo-consolute of the US in Taiwan). There were two Australians and an American as I recall. They could not speak Chinese according to the report and were trying to communicate their opposition to the war with body language. Promoting opposition to a war or policy of your own country in your own country is completely acceptable, in my opinion promoting opposition to your own country in a foreign country is totally unacceptable. I immediately caught a cab to the AIT to see if they were there again. Based on the cease-fire agreement with Iraq of 1991
and UN resolution 687
which both state that we may commence hostilities if the Saddam regime does not disarm their WMD, this conflict is completely legitimate and legal. I was planning on making their activities in front of the AIT very difficult, and communicating in Chinese to the people they were trying to pass leaflets to that they did not represent the public opinion of the people of the US and this war was completely legal by international law. When I arrived at #2 Zhengshan Street 3, there were no foreigners outside the building, but there was a Taiwanese SWAT team deployed at the entrance of the building with sub-machineguns and heavy body armor. I approached them in a friendly way and chatted with them for a few minutes. They said that the protesters were not there that day but they had heard there were protesters at the AIT in Taipei. I asked them if I could take a picture with them, but the man in charge of the team said it was not permitted. After going in and checking out the AIT I left and headed over to the Kaohsiung Museum of History. There were a few interesting things there, including a exhibition on the 2-28 incident massacre and its effect on Kaohsiung, as well as some displays of items from the "Japanese Period" of Taiwan (1895-1945).
Last night in Kaohsiung (Thursday night)-
No Europeans wanted to chat last night, they seemed cautiously polite.
The Taiwanese men and women were extremely friendly and chatty...the war was barely mentioned though. I played pool at the "Montana Pub" with an ethnicly Chinese Singaporean businessman and after a long pub crawl I had had a great time.
As I slept last night CNN was on in the background. I had a dream about my maternal grandmother, Helen Mann("Grandma Baba"). She and I were never very close...I don't think of her often, and when I do think of her I regret not having known her better. In this dream she and I were staying in a bright White, small two bedroom house. Everything was bright white...the beds, the walls, the furniture; it was simple and beautiful. I can't remember what I saw out there, but the backyard was gorgeous. It gave me the same sense as my backyard in my former home in Davis...outside the house there was a city that looked perhaps like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale but with perfect weather (not humid).
For some reason, my grandmother was looking after me (as though I was sick or something). I had a sense of complete happiness. In the dream, much of the time I was watching war coverage on TV regarding protesters (CNN was on all night as I slept and I remember some details of coverage). I was sitting on a white couch in a sitting room that looked out on the back yard through a sliding glass door. She wasn't interested, I was very interested. At one point the TV was turned up loudly, and she simply slid close a sliding panel door that seperated her room and the front of the small house from my bedroom and the sitting room. I remember in the dream that I spoke with my grandmother, though I can't remember what we talked about.
This dream was significant to me in several ways. I don't think of Grandma Baba often, but my dream about living with her was long and I remember it clearly. Was this place Heaven or the "afterlife" of the good people of this world? I'm not sure I've earned a place there...I know she did...I miss her. My sense is that she was letting me know that she is watching over me...I am not religious though I am spiritiual...I don't pray often though I did pray every time I got on a 900cc motorcycle in Thailand or placed myself in a dangerous situation in the past few years. I have heard some very sad news in the last two days, some that effect my life very directly and some news that effects me indirectly. I hope this dream meant she is watching over me.
Anyone that thinks that the liberation of Iraq will mean suffering for the Iraqi people must read this new report
re: Marines in Safwan, a city in Iraq.
As I watched live video of AA cannon fire over Baghdad on CNN, it was reported that the Pentagon has announced the beginning of the "Shock and Awe" phase of the campaign. Today is "A-Day"...the precision guided missiles will rain down.
One more thing...it looks like we missed Saddam with the initial missle strike, but Delta Force is hot on his trail. Check this out
. (UK Times Online)
Though, since reading the book Killing Pablo
I am somewhat skeptical of the likelihood that we will catch or kill Saddam. Certainly different circumstances, but this book by Michael Bowden illustrates the difficulty of finding one man.
Here I am in Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong). I met a California ex-pat living on Kinmen (Jinmen) at the airport who just got back from Bali, Indonesia. We hit it off, and he invited me to visit him on Jinmen. My time in Taiwan is running short and I may skip Mazu island this trip and just head over to Jinmen this time.
The taxi driver had Chinese news coverage on the radio on the way to the hotel. The coverage was comprehensive and obviously independent from US news sources; some of the news was inaccurate and some was reported accurately as much as an hour ahead of CNN. Perhaps this is a reflection of Chinese news media being less disciplined in confirming information (The same complaint made about sources like the Drudge Report
). I check Drudge every time I hit the net, and I would reccommend the site.
After checking in to my hotel I took my walk around the surrounding area to get my bearings, it was mid-afternoon and the streets were pretty quiet. Where ever there were TVs in the smalls shops and restaurants along the streets and alleys, they were tuned in to war coverage. I'm accustomed to stares, though usually people look away when I look at them. Though, at one noodle shop a group of old men watching TV and loudly discussing the war turned and stared at me silently in a disdainful way as I slowly walked by. I haven't been here long enough to gauge the general attitude about the war, though I have been getting a sense at most places I have been here in Kaohsiung that I was somehow a representative of a unjust war...I'll be curious to see how the European ex-pats behave tonight when I go out. I won't take any shit from any Frenchman. Speaking of the French, here is a link sent by my father to a new product, the French Army Knife
. (funny stuff).
I can't help but make a couple points on the French/peacenik position:
n : the doctrine that nations should conduct their foreign affairs individualistically without the advice or involvement of other nations
Source: WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University
***We have a coalition of 35 nations and the majority of European governments in this military action. New Europe supports us, Old Europe can go to hell...they have a short memory, if it were not for the US they would be united under the Nazi Third Reich; and without the Marshall Plan
and the huge amount of money we put in to rebuilding Europe they would not have the standard of living that they enjoy today.
2.) "Military action without UN support"...
promised "serious consequences" if Iraq did not cooperate fully to disarm immediately. There is no nation that is claiming that the Saddam regime has fully cooperated, but some members of the UN are unwilling to enforce their agreed upon resolutions.
Okay, I think I'll step off my soapbox for now. Opposing viewpoints are welcome in the comment section of this post. Don't be shy.
I just got back from returning a faulty product I purchased here in Taipei to discover that the war has begun.
May God bless America and protect our troops.
After listening to the Bush ultimatum speech about 48 hours ago I checked in to a new hotel where I could have high-speed net access. I will be checking out in about 2 hours to go to Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong). It is the second largest city in Taiwan and is geographically located in the Souther part of the island. It is the 4th largest port in the world and the nightlife is pretty good I have heard. I will be flying from Songshan domestic airport here in Taipei to Kaohsiung to save time, I don't want to miss the beginning of Iraq's liberation.
As I type this post right now, President Bush is addressing the nation live regarding the start of the war, and I am watching it on CNN...
If this first missle strike nailed Saddam then I am going to throw a party.
I will be going to Mazu (Matsu/Magong/Quemoy) by boat across the Taiwan Straits from Kaohsiung. Once I return to Kaohsiung I will be returning to Thailand on the 29th.
My good friend KC has told me about some GPS problems he has had in Washington and California. The GPS sattellites are controlled by the US military, and my guess is that they have decreased civil use accuracy of the GPS sattellites as a part of the preparations for possible terrorist attacks. I haven't seen any reporting on this, and I thought it was an interesting point...
I have begun adding photo albums online to snapfish.com
on the recommendation of the same person
who recommended this site for blogging. Snapfish is a fabulous service and I have been very pleased with it....but, there is one major drawback, to view the photos I have to send an e-mail to the person who wants to check them out then that person has to choose a username and password. (I can't just link directly to the photos). Right now I have pics from Ayutthaya and Taipei's National Palace Museum. I'll be adding more soon. If you want to check them out then e-mail me at email@example.com and I'll send you the access e-mail. I have more videos than pics, though I haven't decided how to host those yet...
9:30pm on Monday here...I just got back from the "high rent" district of Taipei (East Taipei). I've met a lot of Taiwanese today that were previously exchange students in the US or Canada. Over by the main Taipei train station I saw a street fight break out over parking before I went out for dinner. As I watched the fight, at least 100 Taiwanese people walked by at this intersection pretending that there was nothing going on. They were obviously aware and curious but afraid to watch or look or even call the police. There were a handful of people across the street watching from a safe distance. As the fight wound to a halt two mopeds collided at the busy intersection and a car came to screeching halt about a foot from the both of them. Again, people behaved as if nothing happened...
The Taiwanese have a ton of traffic, but seem more wreckless than in most places I have been. The most frightening traffic I've seen by far is in Saigon, (more cars/motorbikes and seemingly no traffic rules) though the locals there seem to be better drivers in far more dangerous conditions.
I got in a cab today and the driver struck up a conversation with me once he realized that I speak Chinese. His first question was whether or not I considered Taiwan to be a part of China. I answered truthfully, and as it turns out he is a rabid supporter of the Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwanese independence from the PRC. It was surprising how close our political views were on issues regarding Taiwan, China,the UN and even the logic (or lack of logic) in the make-up of the Security Council and its permanent members. He had a lot to say about the lack of Taiwanese unity on issues of sovereignty and his explanation of Taiwanese political issues were enlightening. Before I left his cab he implored me to educate people on the issues facing Taiwan in the US and where ever I go, and I assured him that I would do so. This is no burden for me of course, as this has been important issue to me for a long time.
I'm going to try to get to bed early tonight and make my way out of Taipei tomorrow morning. My time here in Taipei has been good for my Chinese studies, and my Chinese long form comprehension is improving quickly. (A simplified version of Chinese characters are used on mainland China for those who were unaware). I wish Chairman Mao had never abandoned tradional Chinese characters in the first place. Though when it comes to romanization of Chinese words, the PRC "pinyin" system has the Wade-Giles system beaten hands down. Wade-Giles is a joke, they don't even know how to make it work here in Taiwan...is it Hsiung or Chung? Is it Shao or Hsiao? You can look across the street in Taipei and find a different romanized spelling of the same street! I would have a nightmare of a time getting around here if I could not read Chinese.
The Thai vocab that kept slipping in to my conversations here is gone now. I think I may be able to learn to speak Thai and improve my Chinese this year, I'll be curious to see if I can pick up Vietnamese too when I get back there.
I'm off...more later.
It's 1:30am here on the 17th...can't sleep so I thought I'd head over here to a net cafe to make some preparations for the next couple stops. I'm still staying at the same hotel that I arrived at since I spend so little time in my room. It's as cheap as it gets here in Taipei (short of a youth hostel), it surprisingly has a ton of good movie channels and CNN on the tiny TV in the room, and it's clean enough to sleep and bathe. I'm comfortable, and I'm saving a bunch of money. I've got my pics and movies on to my laptop and I'll be uploading them as soon as possible. I really think the images of Ayutthaya are spectacular, I will be taking many more when I return there. I still haven't visited half of the temples and ruins...I did rent a golf cart to explore Bang Pa-In palace
which was used primarily by King Rama V and King Rama VI and is still used occasionally by the current King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
I'm going to try to catch a helicopter to Jinmen/Kinmen (or formally Quemoy) which is fortified and occupied by Taiwan but is just a few miles off the coast of mainland China. I'll be making my way Matsu as well. It is an island similarly situated in the Taiwan Straits though has a somewhat developed tourist industry. I will take a boat ride back to the lively port city of Kaohsiung on Taiwan island. I have long wanted to see the Taiwan Straits for myself.
Well...back to the net surfing then I'll be off to a noodle stand for a midnight snack.
E-mails are appreciated, I'm eager to know how everyone is doing back in the States. I don't have my e-mail list available at the net cafes, so if you haven't heard from me it is probably because I don't have your e-mail address.
Argh...I just lost a long post due to a computer error. grrrr...
Anyway, the gist was:
I've been exploring Taipei today, not a bad place overall. But, it is overcrowded, it has terrible traffic, nothing extraordinary compared to other cities of similar size, it is way too expensive, and the people are less friendly than in mainland China or anywhere else I have been. (Except for Hong Kong perhaps). I'll check out the major tourist sites and take care of some travel and visa arrangements on Monday then I'll bolt for some other spots in/around Taiwan. I have a new SIM card for my GSM phone for Taiwan, so I can be reached at 0916619745 for the next 10 days or so...
I've been surfing the net for a couple hours, here are some interesting articles for those who would like to check them out:
A fascinating Washington Post article
about the new leadership of the PRC. I'm reading a book right now called China's New Rulers
that covers much of what is discussed in the article. (I'm also working on Six Days of War
, great book).
While thousands protest against the liberation of the Iraqi people from the barbarous Saddam regime, it is interesting that there are no anti-war/anti-US protests going on in Iraq...instead they are beginning to resist the Saddam regime
now that there is hope of liberation. I predict we will soon see Iraqis celebrating in the streets and welcoming the US troops. (UK Telegraph)
Press coverage of the war will be impressive
. (Fox News)
Well, I'm off to work out my digital image uploading. I should have pics up here soon.
Re: UN Warns of Worldwide Threat from Killer Pneumonia
Don't sweat this thing...no reports from anywhere I'm traveling. I'm steering clear of Malaysia until after the Saddam regime falls and any other place where there might be Islamic trouble.
// Hello all...just got to Taiwan a couple hours ago. Just got back from checking out the Taiwan Saturday nightlife. Not bad. An He Lu did not live up to expectations so headed over to a hardcore disco that just opened. UK DJs and freestylers, plenty of beautiful women. 98, something...10th floor. A cover charge as high as my room rate (at my terrible hotel). I'm having trouble speaking Chinese without throwing in my Thai. The Taiwanese are getting a good laugh out of it. I'll probably be back in Thailand in a couple weeks then back over to Vietnam. Thailand is a pretty comfy base of operations. (Cheap too). I'm heading back to my hotel in a few minutes to get some sleep and look for a new hotel. Taiwan is pretty nice, more like Japan than mainland China it seems in the short time I have been here. I'm going to try to make it over to the Taiwan occupied islands off mainland China before I leave, we'll see how it goes. Hope everything is well in the States. People are watching the Iraq War developments pretty closely here and in Thailand, I plan to be in a place where I can watch via sattelite when the bombing starts.
Take it easy ya'll, I'll keep ya updated... (sanitized)
I'm here in Bangkok now. I decided to get a nice place here and live it up for a couple days in Bangkok, so I am typing here in my net access room at the Grand Hyatt...all the Western amenities (though for Western prices). Outside my window I am looking out at part of Bangkok, including the "Watergate Hotel." You can buy almost anything on the street here in Bangkok and everywhere else that I have been thus far in Thailand (i.e, switchblades, butterfly knives, axes, gun replicas that fire pellets, bootleg PS2 games, bootleg Xbox games, bootleg DVDS, etc.) A street vendor threw in a pair of hanfcuffs that I was playing with, along with the large number of PS2 games I bought for $2 a piece. (I obviously paid too much.) So night before last on the way back to the hotel I tried them on during the taxi ride back to the hotel. The problem was that neither I nor Golf nor the taxi driver could figure out how to unlock them...I strolled in to the palacial lobby of the Grand Hyatt Erewan
at around 11:30pm trying to look as casual as possible while I cupped a Slurpee I picked up at 7-11 in my cuffed hands. I was of course, intercepted by security at the elevators. After my residency at the hotel was established the security staff was quite helpful in getting the handcuffs removed. They really were very nice about the whole thing.
More later, I'm starving for some food...
After a few days in Pattaya I'm back in Ayutthaya
...the temples and ruins here are spectacular. I'll be off to Bangkok soon, I'm not sure if I will be heading to Taiwan on the 15th or not. There is a lot more to see here.
I had an interesting experience on the ride over here from Pattaya. The driver tried to pull the "you pay for road tolls and gas" scam after I paid an all inclusive fee for the trip. Golf handed the guy 120 baht for the "toll" before I knew what he was trying to tell her. Since it was just under $3 I figured I would let it slide. As we arrived at my hotel he demanded gas money, and I had had enough. I made it clear that I was not paying for anything and he was going to return the money we gave him immediately. After he gave the money back I decided to give him a 100 baht tip regardless of his apparent dishonesty, since the luggage was a nightmare. Though, apparently I had left my camera bag in his minivan. That evening I returned to the hotel to find that the driver had returned to give me my camera and equipment. He could have pawned it for quite a bit of money or sold it to one of the many flea market vendors that sell boot-legged and/or stolen goods. (Electronic equipment is often more expensive here than in the US it seems). What strikes me is that he tried to steal a few dollars but when he had the opportunity to steals hundreds of dollars he didn't do it. Perhaps he had a change of heart because I tipped him in spite of my being aware of his attempt to swindle me, or perhaps he had kept the camera bag intentionally changed his mind because he feared I would realize it and find him. (It was clear that I wasn't going to let the 120 baht slide, so he would know that I would try to find him if I figured it out). I'd like to think he had changed his mind about stealing the camera out of kindness rather than fear, but I'll never know.
Ayutthaya is a pretty nice spot. It is close to Bangkok and the airport but far less crowded than Bangkok and cheaper as well. Not many foreigners (farang) here either. The $70 (3,000 baht) per month house I rent has two bedrooms, a family room, a thai kitchen a great gated courtyard and bathroom with a "western" toilet. Not bad at all, looks nice too.
I'm going to go do some more exploring around here today...
I'm heading to the airport in Koh Samui in about 30 minutes here...it's nice, but I don't think I'll be returning anytime soon. I'm going to take a prop plane back to Pattaya for a little skydiving before I go back to Ayutthaya for to explore the ruins and temples there. I think I will be renting an 2 room apartment in Ayutthaya for about $70 a month as a home base for the next couple months. I have an American Pitbull puppy named "Pad Thai" that will be staying there while I'm gone.
I've been taking it easy for the last few days and my head is feeling much better. I've spent time roaming the island on a little 125cc scooter and trying out some of the ex-pat restaurants here. There is a Californian from SF that has a Cal-Thai fusion restaurant here on Koh Samui that is fantastic. The boss is a great guy a speaks Thai and Lao quite well. Unfortunately he had no California wine for me given the 450% import tax that Thailand has placed on US wine. (Neither he nor I are interested in Sutter Home for $50 a bottle)...
I better pack up, I'll be posting more from Pattaya.
This is my little blog on the web...just some updates too what is up out here in the 'orient'.
I'm in Koh Samui now, a little island in the Gulf of Thailand. I've been relaxing in a beach bungalow and playing around in the ocean. I had a close call yesterday on a Sea Doo (jetski)...I have been jetskiing a lot lately and I've been trying to get tricky and got thrown at high speed from the seat; when I came up I was struck in the head by the Sea Doo. My lights were out for about a second (I was hit hard), and I made it back to the the Sea Doo then back to shore. I'm hurting like hell, but OK. I got lucky, if it hit me any harder I may have been in big trouble. I got to travel around the coast a bit to check out a giant golden buddha on a beach cliff in Bophu bay before the accident which was stunning though.
The nightlife here in Koh Samui is pretty good due to its proximity to the Thailand Full Moon Party that is world famous. (It's coming up on the 16th)...I went to a beach rave the other night that was the "Black Moon Party", it was a beautiful setting, the music was excellent and the design was spectacular.
My Thai is improving at a fast rate. I am beyond survival Thai, and I am able to carry on simple conversations. My good friend Golf has been an excellent instructor. I have begun studying the Thai writing system as well. I am surprised, and somewhat disappointed with, the many ex-pats here in Thailand who can't speak any Thai. I am quite unimpressed with much of the ex-pat community in Thailand, their opinion of Thailand and the Thai people is very low in general. Many seem to be here simply to exploit the low cost of living and the often desperate financial condition of many of the people of the Kngdom of Thailand...to me this seems to be a kind of modern economic colonialism.
I'll be leaving Koh Samui to fly back to Pattaya on the 6th, then I'll be going back to Ayutthaya for a short time. (The former capital of Siam). Ayutthaya has the most stunning ruins and temples I have ever imagined. After that I'll be off to Bangkok for a while.
My tentative plan is to fly to Taiwan for a few days, then back down to Vietnam. After that I may travel by land to Cambodia and back to Thailand. Thailand-cambodian relations are still very rocky right now, and my plans may change depending on the political environment in the coming month.
Thailand finished its first month of a two month drug war...the stakes are high and for the drug dealers the streets are dangerous. police have blacklists and orders to shoot to kill. Last count they have executed over 1000 people on the spot in about 1 month. Two weeks before I arrived in Pattaya earlier this month there were two people executed in the street in front of the hotel that I stay at. It was masked men on motorbikes, but given the modus operandi, everyone (me included) believe it was the police who shot them. the police claim that almost all the deaths in their little drug war are by gangs, but everyone knows what is really going on.
They are trying not to scare off the farang (foreigners) who support the Thai tourist economy, so there is really no danger for us in this whole mess...
Well, I'm off for now. Take it easy!