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Posts Tagged ‘pointsofview’

KA-POW!

Check out our updated route map! By clicking on a location marker, you can find out more details about our journey.

A less appetising choice of cuisine.

The best and the worst of travel is often found in the food. I’ve been surprised and put off by a deep-fried baby chicken -beak and all- on my breakfast plate and humored by the delight found by others indulging in offal barbecue. Thai food on the other hand, is a consistent display of food genius, opposite to both the disasters and consistently good, yet mundane.

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Employed by the bank of China she had fantastic benefits – shuttle service to work, shopping vouchers galore and a salary that allowed her to buy an apartment at age 26 – a mere dream for the majority of China’s workforce. And then she quit. SF and her husband are visibly agitated as they remember her regular 24 hour working days and tell of colleagues who sleep in the lobby at work. There is simply too little time to go home. As if emphasis is needed, they site this year’s ten stress related suicides at a Foxconn factory and assure me that this is not uncommon in China.


bar in Kunming, China (more…)

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Tibetan Karaoke

China is a land of a billion people and by western standards, a place of questionable social policies and social control. Venturing through China’s expansive southwest province of Yunnan, we encountered China’s most culturally diverse area in terms of number of minority groups, or people of non-Han Chinese origin. Many of the minorities we met offered us their ethnic identity as to distinguish themselves from the Han Chinese, displaying an evident division. A couple young men even described how they had recently been beaten up by groups of Han Chinese men.

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Psyched for the battle ahead, we march into the Mataram bus station. Our aim is clear, our strategy well rehearsed and the target, well…that’s generally us. It is a lesson I have learned the hard way: prices in the tourist areas of Southeast Asia are flexible – on good days; on bad days, they stretch like gum into infinity. Equally open for interpretation are the deliverables. You never quite know what you are going to get.

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 As a former military analyst and interested student in international politics and development, I have been conditioned to think about a country as a political and economic entity, as a developed or underdeveloped nation, as an ally or as a potential ‘threat’. My understandings of a place comes from T.V, books, articles and, often, biased or western-centric media analysis. As a result, I put greater emphasis on personal and national ‘threats’ than is deserving. Opening my eyes and mind to images and personalities beyond these parameters is challenging.

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This was written in mid-January, when I first arrived in Bangkok from Kolkata, before flying to Burma.

Preparing myself mentally for Bangkok, I thought: I am not ready for the hyper-modern critique that this place will demand. To go from India and Bangladesh to Bangkok is too big a leap, too many eons of wealth, technologies, too big of a shift of position vis a vis Western culture.

Now I am here, and I am overwhelmingly preoccupied with the food. New flavors lurk everywhere, and so far they enthrall me. Noodle and lemongrass soups with fish sauce, chillies and sugar, squid on a stick with spicy and tangy sauces, fruit with sugar and chillies on top, Thai coffee, condensed milk in a good way, seafood a delight. Here is an adventure of unfamiliarity. (more…)

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A sign at the entrance to a pagoda complex in Yangon. Entrance fees would be fine if they were paid to the monastery and not directly into the government's pocket. Myanmar. Burma. This land is two separate places. Myanmar is the place where the government has fixed an unrealistic exchange rate, so we must purchase bundles of 1000 kyat notes on the street, counting each stack and griping over every tear or hole. We are forced to travel on expensive buses with obnoxious music videos on continuous loop, no other transportation allowed for foreigners. Government checkpoints at the entrances to touristic zones demand our US dollars for passage; faded or folded bills are rejected firmly. We are forbidden from straying from these areas; our bus windows look out on empty, dry scrublands as we are shuttled to the next town with guest houses licensed to admit foreigners. (more…)

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