Tag Archives: Thailand

Danger: Mines – Land mines in Cambodia

10 Feb

On our way from one temple to another our Tuk-Tuk driver casually asks if we’d be interested to visit the Cambodian Land mine museum.  Seeing that we needed a break from temples anyhow we said yes.  Very nonchalantly we strolled into the museum taking pictures of the workers/volunteers cleaning and rearranging the land mine display in the courtyard.

I started reading all the descriptions under the pictures on the wall and sadness struck my core.  Asian history is rarely covered in our curriculum so all I knew about the Vietnam war was that America fought Vietnam because there were communists and they didn’t like it.  I didn’t even think about the fact that the Vietnam war had a large effect on Cambodia.  Together with the many civil and regional wars, Cambodia is in fact a war torn country.  Something I did not know.  Apart from different political groups in Cambodia raging war against each other, The US, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan all played a part in tearing Cambodia up.

It’s shattering to realize that around 35 people are killed a month, every month, due to the aftermath of all Cambodia’s wars.  I read on wikipedia that one out of every 275 people have lost a limb.  That is shocking.  In the museum I read that  there are well over 3 million undetonated land mines in Cambodia.  These mines are everywhere – in the countryside, in villages, in the jungles.  All Cambodian guidebooks actually warn you that you should be very careful whenever you travel off the beaten track.

Here is the website of the Cambodia Land Mine Museum

watch?v=MqfywtjBjIM

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And finally October is here!

5 Oct

September felt like the longest month ever.  Week after week I would ask myself is it October yet.  And now finally it is!  October is the 8th Month in Korea and I must admit I am feeling it now.  The novelty of Korea has completely worn off and now I am just faced with a daily routine and somewhat of a monotonous life!  Don’t gt me wrong the past two months was absolutely amazing, I went to Thailand and to China.  Nicola’s mom came to visit.  So all in all I had a great time.  But now it feels like there is a major bump in the road and it feels like I’m never gonna get home!

On sunday I was furious.  I just wanted to go (although I wouldn’t have).  I took a taxi home and then all of a sudden he stops the cab and tells me to get out.  I tell him that this is not where I want to go and that he should keep going (all in Korean of course).  Then he raised his voice which led me to raise my voice.  In the end I got so annoyed with this rude bastard that I took the 3000 won that was on the meter and threw it at him.  I got out and slammed that door so hard it might still be jammed.  And i swore.  I cursed like a pirate.  I was so angry!  I mean whats the point!  If you offer a service, then deliver the bloody service.  Please get into my cab but  I might just stop nowhere near where you tell me coz I want to!

Anyhow, rude  cab drivers aside, life is pretty much a routine now and not too many things to get all exited about.  My school has midterms coming up next week and that means two days of doing absolutely nothing.  And then on Wednesday I get to escort the kids on field trip to either Woobang land, Herb Hills or an abattoir.  If it is the latter I will go AWOL!

Cheers from Kimchiland!

One night in Bangkok and the world is your oyster

23 Aug

I’m back in Kimchiland after 12 glorious days away and sitting in an empty school Thailand feels like a dream that I woke up from too soon!  Thailand was amazing and it was the best time of my life.  And that I got to share it with my family was even more special!

Our wonderful adventure started on Thursday the 5th of August when we had to wake up at 6 AM.  Getting all our baggage ready, we had to be at the Seobu Bus terminal at 7 to catch our bus to the airport.  When we got there we noticed that the Bus was only going to Gimhae the town and not directly to Gimhae the Airport just outside Busan.  So we quickly ran to the subway and got on the train to Dong Daegu station where we knew of a bus going directly to the

airport.  In half an hour we were there and got our tickets for the 9 AM bus to Gimhae airport.  Just after 10 AM we were in Busan and had to wait until 11 AM to check in.  Before we knew it we where in Beijing where we had 5 hours to kill before our connecting flight to Bangkok!  Now this was my first time to enter a communist country (even though we didn’t actually leave the airport) and I have to admit that all the official looking people did scare me a little.  But once we got through immigration Beijing airport was fun.  There were m

ore than enough shops to keep us busy.  Finally we heard our Boarding call and off course it was on the other side of the terminal with signs informing us that it is a 10 minute walk to our gate.  We made and finally the excitement sets in.  I am just over 4 hours away from seeing my parents and the gloriusness that is Bangkok!

Bangkok greeted us with a bustling airport as thousands of tourists scatter around like ants.  The line at customs was long and my anticipation made the wait even longer.  No matter where you go  in the world immigration officials are the unfriendliest people of all.  I can understand this because it must suck to see thousands of tourists everyday excited about what awaits them while the little immigration booth is your final destination every time!

As we passed through the arrivals hall we were greeted by a very friendly Thai man with a little poster that read CHRISTOFFEL DE WIT – NICOLA JACOBS.

In all the places I have been around the world I have never been one of those nameboard people.  So this was a first.  And even though Thailand is probably the one of the easiest country’s in the world to backpack I am glad we chose the alternative route.  There was no hagling with a taxi driver or worrying about where the hell will I spend the night (this is how I travelled both Egypt and Malawi – just pitching up and taking it from there).  In less than an hour we arrived at the oh so fancy Eastin Hotel and Spa, got our key and waited while our luggage made it to our room.  We were on the 25th floor and my parents stayed on the 29th floor.  They already arrived in Bangkok and where waiting for us in their room.  As I knocked on their door a sense of relief came over me and it was as if the hardships and cultural shock’s (yes, multiple) of the past six months all went away.  It was great to see my folks and we chatted and exchanged gifts.  We went to bed at 3 that morning and had to wake up super early to make the most of our 24 hours in Bangkok.

With only four hours of sleep my first impressions of Bangkok in daylight was a bit blurry.  It’s only after a cup of decent coffee and a full farmhouse breakfast at the hotel that Bangkok came into focus.  Just outside of our hotel a long line of taxis waited to bullshit tourists and taking them for a ride – literrally and figuratively.  After multiple taxi dismissals we finally found a very nice driver that was willing to switch on the meter.  We wanted to go to the Grand Palace first but he recommended that we take a boat along the canals to the grand palace.  obviously some sort of commission awaited him when he dropped us off at the port.  But we didn’t mind because in our half an hour taxi ride through little side streets of Bangkok he told us about the political unrests of a few months back and how he drove around with his gun ready at hand.  He told us that Thai people didn’t want the monarchy anymore and would prefer to have a republic.  interesting enough he always generalised his opinions to those of the Thai people as bad mouthing the king or the monarchy can lead to your death!  At the port we haggled a bit to get a better deal.  We skipped out on the “optional” excursions included in the tour as visiting a snake farm is not that enthralling if you come from South Africa.  I guess what sets us apart from other western travelers is that we have monkeys and crocodiles and elephants and all sorts of wild animals in our back yard basically.  So the novelty of these siting’s have worn off.  We thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride and it is a spectacular way to take in Bangkok’s precious sites away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  It was amazing to see how these people lived along the river, and how clean it was.  Although Bangkok is run down and very rustic in some places it’s generally very clean.  Much cleaner than any Korean city I’ve ever been in!

At the Grand Palace port we walked through this little market where vendors sell all sorts of everything at very inflated prices (i found out later).  The grand Palace complex is surrounded by a grotesque white wall and finding the entrance was a bit tricky as we walked in the wrong direction.  After deciding to backtrack a bit we were confronted by loads of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers all informing us that the Palace is closed and will only open again at two.  They do this so that you will agree to go on one of the many excursions they offer.  We found out from a taxi driver later that day, that the commission these tuk-tuk drivers get from taking tourists to random jewelry factories or something of that kind is much more than the fare they charge you.  Luckily a little research beforehand warned me about this and we finally found the main entrance.  The palace was open and ready for us.  There is a strict dress code at the palace which caused us to wear jeans and sneakers in the heat of summer – little did we know that there is a separate area where you can actually rent appropriate clothing.  Nicola wore tights and seeing that those weren’t allowed she quickly rented a sharong type skirt.  After returning the skirt she actually got her money back.

There were hoards of tourists and the palace reminded me of a lavish department store sale.  But even with thousands of snap happy tourists (like myself) the beauty and splendor of the Palace took my breath away.  The two hours we spent there was amazing and if it had been a little cooler we could have easily spent much longer taking in the beauty that is the Grand Palace.  From here we struggled once again to get a metered taxi but eventually we got one that took us back to our hotel.  We decided to cool off in the swimming pool on the 10th floor, had a drink and took in the view!  Bangkok is any shoppers’ heaven and even though 24 hours in this magical city does not allow a decent shopping spree we headed to a close by electronics market.  Since I accidentally took the wrong memory stick for one of my cameras in Korea I bought one for dirt cheap!  Given enough time and money I could do some serious damage in this city.  After about an hour of browsing we headed to our hotel, and just in time as the daily thunderstorm was about to hit.  Back at the hotel we showered and had a wonderful buffet dinner at our hotel.  The restaurant in the hotel is situated right next to a busy highway and the view of hundreds of cars speeding by at night-time is magnificent.

After dinner we headed to Skypark, which is the second tallest building in Bangkok.  We wanted to have a drink at the lavish skybar which is on the top floor but once again Nicola failed to meet the dress code.  The skybar is on the 60-something floor but we were only allowed to enter the 56th floor bar which is just as breathtaking and lavish.  There we enjoyed very pricey cocktails and took in this fascinating city from a birdseye view.

After a full day of Bangkok’ing we were exhausted and it was time to hit the sack and get some rest before flying to Phuket the following day.

Phuket adventures coming soon.

Cheers from ‘a not as nice as Thailand’ Kimchiland!

war, elections, holiday – key ingredients in a Korean soufflé!

1 Jun

I am very ashamed of myself!  It has been two weeks since I’ve blogged.  Absolutely appalling!  So many things have happened here in Kimchiland the past two weeks!  For starters we crossed the three-month mark and according to all culture shock specialists we should be over the worst by now!  Well with a country as dynamic as Korea it might take forever!  The only interesting thing that happened to me over the past two weeks was the fact that I bought tickets for Thailand!  That’s right come my August leave I will be jetting off to Bangkok and Phuket!  I am meeting my parents there and I can’t wait.  Now going to Thailand has not been in my initial 6 month plan but I can say with pride that I have already paid a fourth of my study debt  since being here!  Thus Thailand seemed like an awesome idea!  Now if I had my way I would just backpack through Thailand but seeing as though the parentals will also be there, there can be no greater opportunity for a resort holiday!  Now off course there are some risks involved going to Thailand at the hight of their political tension, but the optimist in me believes that everything will be resolved in “travel-friendly” way by August.  My biggest concern is the airport.  Because if they decide to close the Airport then there goes our Holiday!!!  Did I mention my optimistic attitude!  Anyhow it was a bit of a struggle to find cheap fares and honestly I did not realise that Thailand was that far away!  I don’t know why!  We ended up getting flights on Air China and will be going through Beijing.  The layover is a bit long for such a short holiday but it was way cheaper than all the other tickets.  Oh well, I just booked our inland flights from Bangkok to Phuket today so honestly I can’t wait!!!

Also something noteworthy that occurred in Kimchiland was the confirmation that a North Korean torpedo sunk the South’s ship!  Thus twisting the North’s knickers so tight all we’ve heard these past two weeks were warcries.  Now one might think that the South is in quite a frenzy over this but apart from the complete animosity they show towards the North they couldn’t be bothered.   Now according to my absolute amazing intelligence this could be all pretend.  Let’s not act alarmed in front of the foreigner because that would destroy Korea’s image.  Or it could be that they are genuinely not scared of the North.  Kim Il Sung and his wanker of a son Kim Jong Il have threatened the South and with it the rest of the world so many times that no one cares any more!  But and unfortunately there is a but, the torpedo attack on South Korea is the biggest one from North Korea since the Armistice of the Korean War in 1953.  See, no peace treaty was ever signed so technically the two Korea’s are still at war.  And it is a war that the North fights with guns and torpedos.  The South retaliated by cutting off all trade and aid between the two nations.  This will hit the already impoverished and famine ridden North hard!  I seriously don’t know what is going to happen but all i can say is that if North Korea decides to wage a full fledged war on the South it will not bode well for me.  In times like these I think it is important to be prepared at least.  Now being an expat one would rely on ones embassy to provide the necessary precautions.  Well think again!  Although the US embassy is all geared up with evacuation plans and stuff the retarded South African embassy has got no such plan in  place.  Now the last time I checked we were almost 2000 Saffa’s in Korea, so you would think that an embassy in  a country that is regarded as enemy no 1 to one of the world’s greatest nuclear powers will have some sort of emergency plan in place.  But I kid you not,  It doesn’t exist.  I sent three emails to the South African embassy in Seoul – no reply.  On the South Africans in Korea Facebook page another enlglish teacher wrote that she actually phoned the embassy but they informed her that they have no emergency plan in place and it MIGHT be finalised by the end of this week.  She went so far as to contact the department of Foreign Affairs in Pretoria and they informed her that there is nothing that our government can do in a situation like this.  So there is one of two options: 1.  Go home and wait until the tension has passed or 2.  Wait in Korea and see what happens.  Retarded right!!!!!  Okay, apparently there is one or other bilateral agreement between the Us government and the SA government that in the case of an emergency like say North Korea nuking the shit out of the South, America is supposed to help us.  But reality check you limbos sitting in Pretoria, in a case of War the Americans will first try to save their own citizens and then the Canadians and by the time they can help us it will be too late.   I thus had to come up with an evacuation plan of my own if a war is to break out.  All my documents are ready to grab in a strategic place.  My suitcase is empty so I can dump as many things in as quick as possible.  Now if no transport to Busan is available I will have to steal a car.  I will then drive to the closest port.  Somewhere between Pohang and Busan.  Then I will steal a boat or bribe someone with a boat to take me to Japan.  Seeing that I need a Visa for Japan I will try to enter on refugee status.  I think it’s important to be prepared!  Although I doubt my plan will ever be played out!

Now tomorrow is a public holiday (thank goodness) because everybody hs to go and vote for the local government (although almost no one does).  It has been a long wait for tomorrow, not only because I love a day off work, but also because the frigging campaigning has to stop!  Political campaigning in South Korea is one of the craziest things I ever witnessed in my life.  It’s quite stupendous.  Small Hyundai trucks are covered in banners with the specific candidates face on and obviously making one or other promise that will be too good to be true.  On the back of these little trucks are usually 3 – 6 korean woman wearing little white gloves and sash’s and just looking retarded!  they wave and bow and do stupid dances to all the people and cars they pass.  Now bear in mind it’s not just one or two of these trucks.  It’s one or two every minute.  Everywhere.  Blogs have been filled these past two weeks with how annoying they were!  I mean if anything I will just go and vote to make them stop!  It’s retarded!  The first time I heard it it crossed my mind for a split second that North Korea is invading.  Because upon hearing the annoying music bursting out on giant speakers everyone runs to close their windows!  Very effective way to make people take cover.  Anyhow come tomorrow and the annoying music will stop!

And well that’s it for now.  All I can say is in times of war and elections the only thing to do is book a holiday!

Cheers from Kimchiland!!!