Tuesday, October 14th, 2003 – Day 238 to Thursday, October 16th, 2003 – Day 240

Tuesday, October 14th, 2003 – Day 238

Sorry for the short blogs over the past week or so. I have been taking it easy and find it harder to concentrate in a web cafe for an hour writing it up. Ah well.

I stayed in bed until 10.00am. A good nights sleep. There isn’t a whole lot to see in KL and if there is, its all pretty close to where I am staying. I went to:

I got a bite to east in the central market. There is a food court upstairs. Its a tourist oriented market.

Central Market

The original Central Market, built in 1936, used to be a wet market, but the place is now a cultural center (air-conditioned!) for local artists and craftspeople selling antiques, crafts, and curios. It is a fantastic place for buying Malaysian crafts and souvenirs, with two floors of shops to chose from.

National Mosque (Masjid Negara)

Built in a modern design, the most distinguishing features of the mosque are its 73m (243-ft.) minaret and the umbrella-shaped roof, which is said to symbolize a newly independent Malaysia’s aspirations for the future. Could be true, as the place was built in 1965, the year Singapore split from Malaysia.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kuala Lumpur – Painting the National Mosque roof. Looks gravity defining. (14-10-2003)

Merdeka Square

Surrounded by colonial architecture with an exotic local flair, the square is a large field that was once the site of British social and sporting events. These days, Malaysia holds its spectacular Independence Day celebrations on the field, which is home to the world’s tallest flagpole, standing at 100m (330 ft.).

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Built in 1910, the KL Railway Station is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kuala Lumpur – Railway Station . (14-10-2003)

The railway administration building across the way is more visually appealing. That’s my opinion anyway.

Jame Mosque (Masjid Jame)

The first settlers landed in Kuala Lumpur at the spot where the Gombak and Klang rivers meet, and in 1909 a mosque was built here. Styled after an Indian Muslim design, it is one of the oldest mosques in the city.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Kuala Lumpur – Jame Mosque. (14-10-2003)

Nice Mosque in the city centre (if such a thing exists in KL). While I was there, the vast majority of people there were sleeping in the prayer room. Maybe its the only place in the city for a power nap during lunch. There must have been 20-30 people asleep on the prayer floor. What gives!

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

In 1897 this exotic building was designed by Regent Alfred John Bidwell, a colonial architect responsible for many of the buildings in Singapore. He chose a style called “Muhammadan” or “neo-Saracenic,” which combines Indian Muslim architecture with Gothic and other Western elements. Built to house government administrative offices, today it is the home of Malaysia’s Supreme Court and High Court.

All the above were free. Nothing special about any of them. KL is a funny old town but I like it. There is no city centre or anything of great interest but it has a relaxed air to the place.

I took a metro (1.60 R) to KLCC. I am lucky that Chinatown is close to a metro Stop as there are five train routes and each one is operated by a different company. The lines don’t seem to connect in any logical way. Anyway I got to Petronas Twin Towers at 2.30pm, but they have only limited free tickets to the sky bridge each day. They gave me a ticket for 4.45pm. I went back to Chinatown to eat and then headed back to the towers. Each group of 15 has about 10 minutes before been asked to leave again.

After 5 years of planning and building, Petronas Twin Towers has been completed. Standing at a whopping 451.9m (1,482 ft.) above street level, with 88 stories, the towers are the tallest buildings in the world. From the outside, the structures are designed with the kind of geometric patterns common to Islamic architecture, and on levels 41 and 42 the two towers are linked by a bridge. Visitors are permitted on the sky bridge daily from 10am to 12:45pm and 3 to 4:45pm every day except Mondays and public holidays.

Linkin Park (a music band) have done the same visit earlier on today. They play in KL tonight. The elevator guy said they are prety nice guys.

More information on the tallest building in the World can be found here , here, and here.

Click on the picture to see it in itดs original size

Kuala Lumpur – The Towers . (14-10-2003)

There was a good exhibition of visual puzzles on the ground floor of the towers. You know the ones: look at a picture and see two faces, or look at a picture and look away to see a bulb.

It was only 5.00pm. I called into the main post Office to see rates. I then called into a few shops.

Suria KLCC, located just beneath the Petronas Twin Towers, has to be KLs best and brightest mall, and its largest. If you purchase electronics, make sure you get an international warranty.

I took the metro back to chinatown. It was 6.00pm and there was nothing else planned for tonight.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2003 – Day 239

As mentioned yesterday, I did little last night. The nighlife aint so hot in KL. There is a Reggae bar at the bottom of my hostel but it as full of Nigerians (no kidding) so I took a rain cheque.

Again I got up late (around 11.00am). I had seen much of what is important in KL yesterday. I did little today.

I visited the Post Office to send a parcel. I walked around China town etc. I went to the main bus station to buy a ticket to Penang for 9.15am tomorrow morning. There are about 10 bus companies for every route. It keeps prices down but its hard to pick one over another. The ticket was 23 R.

Some things I have noticed over the past few days, but have been too lazy to mention.

  • The Guinness BELIEVE CAMPAIGN. In Ireland its focused on believe in scoring a goal or believe Guinness can get you drunk. Here its BELIEVE you can become a millionaire and Believe you will own a GLOBAL FRANCHISE. Weird. They have these Guinness posters of people counting there money. Very different emphasis. Its a popular drink here and I have seen many people drink (only in bottles here) it in Singapore and here in KL.

  • Air Con in buses. In the bus to KL I had to turn off the AC most of the way as it was so bloody cold. It seems Air con on Malaysian buses come in either freezing or cryogenic.

  • I did mention that Singapore was a quasi democracy, but thinking about it, I bet half of the South East Asia population would give there right arm to go and live there such is its prosperity.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has towered over his country’s politics for more than two decades. He retires next week. He is a head case when it comes to Jews and the West.

His prestige projects to boost national pride included the world’s tallest building – the Petronas Towers – and the transformation of a palm oil plantation near the capital into the world’s first “Multimedia Super Corridor” – a cyber powerhouse intended to rival California’s Silicon Valley.

With the onset of the Asian economic crisis in 1997, Dr Mahathir refused to accept that his grandiose schemes were partly to blame for Malaysia’s massive debt. Instead he blamed foreign currency traders, including the financier George Soros, for what he termed a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

Malaysia emerged relatively unscathed from the Asian financial crisis after Dr Mahathir defied the International Monetary Fund, introducing controversial currency controls which effectively isolated his country from the global economy.

But relations with the West have continued to fluctuate. In June this year Dr Mahathir described Westerners – or more particularly “Anglo-Saxon Europeans” — as proponents of “war, sodomy and genocide”.

Regarding DVD’s in Chinatown, sellers can not openly sell them. Middlemen have lists of the latest films and can get them for you if you wait 5 minutes. The prices 10 R for a DVD 5 or 15 for a DVD 9. The DVD 9 comes with the special features, extras etc. If you ask they will bring to where they are stored. I always do as I am looking for classic movies not the latest Hollywood blockbuster. They will bring to shops, then usually upstairs to a locked room where you will see thousands of DVD’s. You could spend an hour going through them. They are not the cheapest here but they have the greatest range. They are chaper in China and Vietnam but Malaysian Sellers have classic, Cult and art- house movies which the other countries do not.

Thursday, October 16th, 2003 – Day 240

Today, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called on Muslims to use brains as well as brawn to fight Jews who “rule the world“.

“The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy… 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews,” he said, speaking at the opening of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in the Malaysian administrative capital Putrajaya.

Dr Mahathir, who is renowned for using such conferences to make scathing attacks on the West, bows out as prime minister in a week’s time after a 22-year rule.

“This tiny community has become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains as well,” the prime minister said.

Anyway I was up around 8.00am. I have had a few good nights sleep here in the travelers Lodge Hostel. Its quiet and the owner is efficient. It was 22 R for a double bed. The bed covered 95% of the room. The only other furniture was a chair. There was no room on either the left or right of the bed, so you shuffle out through the bottom of the bed.

My bus was at 9.15am but I was there by 8.45am. I was told platform & (there are about 20 platforms) and was waiting. Its a hive of activity with no 2 buses looking the same because there are so many competing companies. By 9.10am I was worried as the next two buses in line for Platform seven were not even going to Penang. I went back up to the ticket desk (again there are about 60 of these) and asked. They jumped and said the bus was now leaving from a petrol station down the road. It seems passengers from various companies pool people. I was led to a window and was pointed a bus down the road. I marched down there. He had no idea if I had a ticket for his bus, but decided to leave me on.

It was a pleasant journey to Penang. It took nearly 6 hours. We stopped twice for toilet breaks. The road infrastructure in Malaysia is first rate. They are also a very forward looking country. This is especially true when it comes to technology. They are tech crazy here. One just has to look at the computer business, software stores etc. At the KL airport you can check yourself in, via a passport reader and a thumb recognition device.

Penang is unique in Malaysia because, for all intents and purposes, Penang has it all. Tioman Island (see chapter 10) may have beaches and nature, but it has no shopping or historical sights to speak of. And while Malacca has historical sights and museums, it hasn’t a good beach for miles. Similarly, while KL has shopping, nightlife, and attractions, it also has no beach resorts. Penang has all of it: beaches, history, diverse culture, shopping, food — you name it, it has it. If you only have a short time to visit Malaysia but want to take in as wide an experience as you can, Penang is your place.

Penang gets its name from the Malay word pinang, in reference to the areca plant, which grew on the island in abundance. The nut of the tree, commonly called betel, was chewed habitually in the East. In the 15th century it was a quiet place populated by small Malay communities, attracting the interest of some southern Indian betel merchants. By the time Francis Light, an agent for the British East India Company, arrived in 1786, the island was already on the maps of European, Indian, and Chinese traders. Light landed on the northeast part of the island, where he began a settlement after an agreement with the sultan of Kedah, on the mainland. He called the town Georgetown, after George III. To gain the help of local inhabitants for clearing the spot, he shot a cannon-load of coins into the jungle.

Georgetown became Britain’s principal post in Malaya, attracting traders and settlers from all over the world. Europeans, Arabs, northern and southern Indians, southern Chinese, and Malays from the mainland and Sumatra flocked to the port. But it was never extremely profitable for England, especially when in 1819 Sir Stamford Raffles founded a new trading post in Singapore. Penang couldn’t keep up with the new port’s success.

In 1826 Penang, along with Malacca and Singapore, formed a unit called the Straits Settlements, and Penang was narrowly declared the seat of government over the other two. Finally in 1832, Singapore stole its thunder when authority shifted there. In the late 1800s Penang got a big break. Tin mines and rubber plantations on mainland Malaya were booming, and with the opening of the railway between KL and Butterworth (the town on the mainland just opposite the island), Penang once again thrived. Singapore firms scrambled to open offices in Butterworth.

The Great Depression hit Penang hard. So did the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. The island had been badly bombed. But since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, Penang has had relatively good financial success. Today the state of Penang is made up of the island and a small strip of land on the Malaysian mainland. Georgetown is the seat of government for the state. Penang Island is 285 sq. km (171 sq. miles) and has a population of a little more than one million. Surprisingly, the population is mostly Chinese (59%), followed by Malays (32%) and Indians (7%).

I walked to the hosel in Little India. It was the Broadway Hostel. I took a double bed for 35 R per night. It is the nicest place and nicest room I have been in for a while. Its large with cupboards etc (not that I need them), a big window overlooking the city etc and some nice showers. My place in Kl only had toilet, shower combines and they were shared. That’s right. In a bathroom smaller than your average cupboard where toilet paper isn’t used was a shower head. You basically had to stand in the toilet to have a cold shower. Not nice.

I walked around the Penang Chinatown and Little India. There was a Chinese Opera in one Temple.

Chinese opera of the Peking variety is a difficult abstract art which synthesizes music, drama, dancing, and acrobatics along with very elaborate costumes and a minimum of props, according to traditions and customs dating back as far as the twelfth century. Very early in their training Chinese opera performers begin specializing in one of the four principal types of roles: sheng (…..), tan (…..), ching (…..), and chou (…..). It should be noted that, at least theoretically, any of these character roles can be portrayed by persons of either gender. The male roles, sheng, are divided into mature, young, and militant or martial, personality, and social position ranging from common to royal. The hsiao sheng is usually a young scholar or a lover; the wu sheng, a fighting or military man; the lao sheng or hsu sheng, an aged man; the hung sheng, a red-faced aged man. The militant or martial males are skilled in the art of kung fu.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Melaka – chinese Opera (16-10-2003)

I did little else. There are hundreds of night time food stalls here at night and I ate well. Lots of hippies and bars here as well showing movies at night. I did walk back to the bus station where the shopping complex called KOMTAR is located. Short for “Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak,” it is the largest shopping complex in Penang, a full 65 stories of clothing shops, restaurants, and a couple of large department stores.

It is a nice relaxed town and its easy and safe to walk around although its quiet after 9.00pm as they go to bed early. Lots of tourist bars but not many tourists frequenting them. A good view old American gents with young local lady friends!! One thing was that I could not find a ATM that took VISA. I was in bed by 12.00.

Monday, October 13th, 2003 – Day 237

Monday, October 13th, 2003 – Day 237

what a long night. It was packed and I was like a sardine in a tin. People were all over me. The men kept on adding firewood until 2.00am. It was a long drawn out affair. The devotees were else where taking a ritual bath and building up there courage. If anyone stood up, a PR firm and security told us to sit back down. It seems we may block the TV cameras view of the event from upstairs. There were some angry scenes. Most of the people seated on the ground were the mothers, wives of the people under taking the walk on hot embers. They had little chance of a view.

The 20 or so men worked throughout the night adding timber, stoking it, leveling it. It was a big pit and was red hot. By 3.00am, they decided it was time. I sneaked half way up the stairs and told security I was a free lance journalist. It was hard to get a decent shot as it was so dark. In any case I thought these brave men would walk through the embers. Out of the maybe 100 I sway, 3 walked (and received loud applause) and the rest ran as fast as there legs would carry them. Some of the guts were quite old and they rang like road runners. There were the few that walked and fair play to them. There was no illusions here. Those embers were red hot. They were not left to cool down. Wood was added from 8.00pm to 2.00am.

I you see one man walking accross embers, you have seen them all. I was kicked off the stairs at 4.20am. It was a poor show not allowing the ordinary Joe Soap stand up. It was to give the approx. 7 camera crews a better view. I head out. It was crowded. I decided to wait for the first train to take me back to Little India, but I had to wait 1.5 hours. I got a drink and snacks from a 7-11 store and waited. Witnessed a brother beat up his sister because she wanted to stay with her friends instead of going home with the family. No bother took any notice.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – THEEMIDHI. (13-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – THEEMIDHI – Who’s First (13-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – THEEMIDHI – run Forest Run (13-10-2003)

I was wrecked as I head back. It was 6.30am when I reached the hostel. It was open and I got my bag.

Contents of my bag as of the 13th of October 2003

  • A Canon Powershot A40 Camera and Bag.

  • A battery recharger and 14 rechargeable batteries

  • MP3 Player (ministry of Sound) and a few MP3 CD’s

  • One Diary and One Notebook.

  • One Alarm Clock.

  • Lonely Planet South East Asia Guide 2001.

  • Day Pack

  • A pair of Adidas Runners (Argentina), a pair of Flip-Flops (Argentina) and a Pair of Magnum Boots (Cambodia).

  • One Irish Rugby Jersey (Ireland).

  • 3 pairs of Pants. One was bought in Marks and Spencer (Ireland), one in Bolivia and one in Peru. Two are jeans while one is a cargo pants.

  • One pair of long sleeved shirt (Bolivia) and 3 pairs of short sleeved shirts (Indonesia) which are second hand.

  • I Adiadas Baseball hat bought in Bolivia.

  • Two towels (Ireland and Bolivia).

  • One Qantas Blanket

  • I toilet bag and various toilitries.

  • Three t-shirts. They were bought in Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

  • One pair of Shorts (Ireland).

  • A few pairs of Socks and Boxer Shorts.

  • A taking Watch (Bolivia).

I walked down to Little India. It was full of people coming back from the temple. I got a snack and head to lavender bus station. The trains were already full of people going to Work. Many of them were asleep.

I got there at 7.20am, Nearly 1.5 hours before we were due to leave. I bought the Straits times newspaper and it passed the time.

The bus was fine. It has air-con and had only 3 big seas across. I had a seat to myself. I relaxed the whole journey. I heard this journey is a nightmare during the week as people from Singapore go for cheap shopping, but we were the only people going through Singapore EXIT and Malaysia ENTRY procedure. They were modern and very efficient. We passed in minutes. We got a nice on board meal and drinks. I took little notice of the scenery as I had no sleep last night and I stank. In the temple you are not allowed wear socks or shoes, so I was standing on crap, sand and piss most of the night not to mention sitting on it.

We got to Kuala Lumpur around 2.30pm. They let us off at a tourist office (MATIC) where I secured a map.

MATIC (Malaysia Tourist Information Complex): At MATIC you’ll find an exhibit hall, tourist information services for Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia, and other travel-planning services. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays there are cultural shows at 3pm, featuring Malaysian dance and music

I did not arrive with currency and I had to get to china town with the Metro. It took nearly n hour to find an ATM that took VISA. There were lots of banks and ATM machines but all were small banks that only took thee own cards. It was very frustrating. I finally found out and took the metro to Chinatown. It was easy find my hostel (Backpackers Lodge) where I took a single room with fan for 22 R (4.40 Euro). I walked around the area as it was 4.30pm and I did not want to do much. I have for slept for 32 hours or so.

My hostel is 30 seconds from Petaling Street.

This is the center of KL’s Chinatown district. By day, stroll past hawker stalls, dim sum shops, wet markets, and all sorts of shops, from pawn shops to coffin makers. At night, a crazy bazaar (which is terribly crowded) pops up — look for designer knockoffs, fake watches, and pirate VCDs (Video CDs) here.

I looked at the many pirate games and DVD’s and onto on the NET. I bought a few DVD’s and went for a bite to eat. chinatown here is nice and realxed.

  • I see 20 protestors die in clashes with Police in Bolivia.

  • Indonesia Sends in Troops After Christian Killings

  • Indonesia says it could do more to curb religious Schools.

  • The 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference are meeting in Malaysia at the moment. Back to politics in Singapore. I learned today that Lee Kuan Yew’s (architect of modern Singapore) son, will become the next prime minister

I see Yusuf Islam; the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens; will make a rare onstage appearance at a fund-raising concert in Malaysia tomorrow, the 14th.

Islam, who renounced his music career after becoming a Muslim in 1977, will recite “messages of peace” and might also perform songs at an Oct. 14 concert in Kuala Lumpur, project coordinator Yahya Abdullah said Thursday.

Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is commonly known) is more often than not a traveler’s point of entry to Malaysia. As the capital it is the most modern and developed city in the country, with contemporary high-rises and world-class hotels, glitzy shopping malls and international cuisine.

The city began sometime around 1857 as a small mining town at the spot where the Gombak and Klang rivers meet, at the spot where the Masjid Jame sits in the center of the city. Fueled by tin mining in the nearby Klang River valley, the town grew under the business interests of three officials: a local Malay raja Abdullah, a British resident, and a Chinese headman (Kapitan China). The industry and village attracted Chinese laborers, Malays from nearby villages, and Indian immigrants who followed the British, and as the town grew, colonial buildings that housed local administrative offices were erected around Merdeka Square, close to Masjid Jame and bounded by Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin and Jalan Kuching. The town, and later the city, spread outward from this center.

Life in KL had many difficult starts and stops then — tin was subject to price fluctuations, the Chinese were involved in clan “wars,” but worst of all, malaria was killing thousands. Still, in the late 1800s KL overcame its hurdles to become the capital of the state of Selangor, and later the capital of the Federated Malay States (Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Pahang) and got its big break as the hub of the Malayan network of rail lines. Its development continued to accelerate, save for during the Japanese occupation (1942-45), and in 1957, with newly won independence from Britain, Malaysia declared Kuala Lumpur its national capital.

Before I leave Singapore for good (as a topic) as I will be back there for one night before I fly to bangkok – What did I think of the place. Its a place you will love for the 1st 48 hours and hate for the rest of your life.

I found another Irish Blog. Interesting ………… Still decide later.

I see a collection of more than 12 million historic photographs, capturing scenes from the Boer War to the D-Day landings, was published on the Internet Monday. May of them are from Ireland. See more here and visit the web site here.

i also visited Sri Mahamariaman Temple and a nearby Chinese temple.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

KL- Sri Mahamariaman Temple (13-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

KL- Sri Mahamariaman Temple (13-10-2003)

With a recent face-lift (Hindu temples must renovate every 12 years), this bright temple livens the gray street scene around. It’s a beautiful temple tucked away in a narrow street in KL’s Chinatown area, which was built by Thambusamy Pillai, a pillar of old KL’s Indian community

I must not forget that the first 2003 INTERNATIONAL RULES match with AUST. V IRELAND takes place on the 24 October.

i was in bed by 12.30am.

Sunday, October 12th, 2003 – Day 236

Sunday, October 12th, 2003 – Day 236

I was up at 9.00am and rushed down to the NET cafe to see the scores of the match. I was very disappointed to read the match reports. We lost!!

Ireland lost 2-0 in the football game against Switzerland. I heard they were disapointing. See the match report.

  • More trouble in Bolivia (about shipping its gas through Chile) and a bus crash in Peru killed 30.

  • I see DBC Pierre who is up for the booker Prize has been living in Leitrim

I knew that the THEEMIDHI festival was on at 4.00am tomorrow morning. There was no point paying another 22 SGD if I was not going to be there. I backed my bags and booked out (leaving my big bag there). I now had a full day and night to kill.

I headed to LAVENDER street metro station. There is a bus station close by and I wanted to buy a ticket to Kuala Lumpur(Malaysia) for tomorrow morning. It took me a while to find it. There is only a few fabricated sheds selling tickets. I expected another post and big Singapore development. Its just a car park!!! I had the choice of a 30 SGD executive bus or a 20 SGD Economy class ticket. Buses were leaving throughout the day. As I wasn’t paying any accommodation costs tonight and I would be wrecked tomorrow, I bought a Executive ticket leaving at 9.00am.

I head to a Chinese food Court nearby. I had a tiger beer and watch Canada V Wales in rugby.

Nobody else had any interest. I decided to head back to Chinatown for a walk around. I had to top up my metro card by another 10 SGD. I passed Sri Mariamman Temple and it was a hive of activity. They were preparing for THEEMIDHI. This was the reason I was staying so long in Singapore. I promise, there is NO other reason.

Witness the faith, courage and endurance of Hindu devotees at this breathtaking fire-walking ceremony honoring Goddess Draupadi. According to the Indian epic poem Mahabharata, she proved her innocence by walking barefoot on burning coals. With intense concentration, barefooted devotees likewise brave a four-metre bed of red-hot embers – completing the challenge miraculously unscathed. Festival celebrations begin at 2 am at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple; the fire-walking starts at 5.30 am at the Sri Mariamman Temple.

During this festival, a great number of faithful Hindu devotees work themselves up into a trance. Then they walk over burning embers. What is so amazing about this is the fact that the devotees’ feet do not have any traces of scars or burns at all after performing the feat. The devotees’ purpose in doing this is to fulfill all their wishes

I was there for nearly two hours watching the men dig the fire pit and goats milk pit. I watched bring the firewood to the pit and make various preparations. It was good.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – THEEMIDHI. (12-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – THEEMIDHI. (12-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – THEEMIDHI. (12-10-2003)

I decided to head away and get a bite to eat. I would have come back round 8.00pm and stay to maybe 6.00am. Aggggg. I headed back to little India and ate and went on the NET for an hour. I was back in the Temple for 8.00pm and the pit was ablaze with firewood. It was packed. If you were a VIP you could get to a upper floor balcony. The common people had to sit on the wet ground. I found a small corner and sat down for a VERY long wait.

Saturday, October 11th, 2003 – Day 235

Saturday, October 11th, 2003 – Day 235

Today is Sports Day. I checked out that the Ireland V Romania Rugby game would be on at 3.00pm local time and the Ireland V Switrzerland Football game would be on at 11.30pm local time.

Ireland beat Romania well in the rugby World Cup. See the match report here. I went to Molly Malones to watch it. There was very little atmosphere. I was the only person with an Irish Rugby Jersey. We often joke in Ireland about tourists coming into our pubs and sharing one drink amongst them for 3 hours. I am afraid I have become one of them. A crap pint of beer in Malones costs 8.80 SG (4.35 Euro). Any country that charges that doesn’t trust its citizens. I made ONE PINT last the full 80 minutes. Terrible.

I tried lots of Pubs from Circular Quay to Clarke Quay. They were showing the Germany V Iceland game, the England V Turkey game and the Sweden V Latvia game, but no luck on the Irish game. I was disappointed as I expected it would be an excellent game.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Smoking V Road Death. Which one would you choose. (11-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown – they sure pack em in in those apartment blocks. (11-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown – Strict Football Club. (11-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown – Lamp. (11-10-2003)

Friday, October 10th, 2003 – Day 234

Friday, October 10th, 2003 – Day 234

I was up late last night. I was having a beer in the hawker food court. A guy came up to me with an IKEA catalog. It turned out he was a bankrupt furniture designer who has taken the beer. He goes around the area asking foreigners about their taste in bedroom furniture and what was of importance to them. He was OK, but annoying. I made my excuses around 1.00am and went back tot he hostel.

There is a good time server here. I often want to know what time its at home or if there is a match on in a certain country, I can add that time to see what it would be in the country I am traveling in. Check it out.

It is so difficult in a room with no windows. No matter what time you wake up, its always pitch dark. I find it hard to know the time in the morning and you are generally disoriented. I was up at 9.00am to have breakfast but went back to bed until 11.30am.

I decided to go to the underground operations rooms (bunkers) of the Far East Command Centre. Here, in this “Battle Box” was where Lt-Gen Percival made the decision to surrender to the Japanese in 1942.

Twenty-four silicone, wax and fibreglass figures of allied soldiers, some pneumatic animatronics (robotic) illuminate with digital audio narration in six languages. The Battle Box is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm Last admission is at 5 PM Admission is SGD8 for adults and SGD5 for children of 12 years and below.

It was good. There were only two other tourists. They had been there before. We watched a good 15 minute video before hand and we had a guide. The use of robotic soldiers and displays were good. The sound effects really brought it to life. One robotic Soldier even picked up a telephone, spoke into it and put it back down!!! Amazing. I spent about 2 hours there.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Battle Box (09-10-2003)

I saw a website advertised there on a poster for the National Archives of Singapore. They have set up another sub site sealing with the fall of Singapore in 1942. This an excellent site about the fall of Singapore and the occupation by Japan. As was the first major British defeat in the 20th century and over 120,000 troops surrendered. Many blamed General Percival, General Officer Commanding Malaya. Others blamed the mass Australians desertions during battle. Both are mentioned as reasons in the museum.

Book on this period include:

For a list of historical sites relating to Singapore, visit HERE and HERE.

I later watched the Australia 24-8 Argentina game in Molly Malones on circular Road. It was busy with the after work crowds (the game began at 6.30pm local time) and beer was expensive (as it is all over Singapore). It was 8.50 SGD. It was a poor game.

After that I headed back to the FOUNTAIN OF WEALTH. I had been the day before but it was closed. There were big crowds there waiting there turn to venture out and walk around the fountain 3 times clockwise and make a silent wish. Most were local with a few besumed tourists. It was built especially on Feng Shui principles. There were many hundreds there. I decided as when tin Rime etc, so I waited my turn. They allowed a dozen people out at a time to circle the fountain three times………….

FENG SHUI means “Wind, Water” and traditionally symbolises the space between heaven and earth – the environment where we live.

The underlying philosophy recognises that we and our environment are sustained by an invisible, yet tangible, energy called chi. It moves like wind, but can eddy and become trapped like water and stagnate.

The skill of a Feng Shui consultant lies in recognizing where chi is flowing freely, where it may be trapped and stagnant, or where it may be excessive. The work of an occupier is to create space for chi to flow and activate the opportunities that may be frustrated by obstacles.

These skills and work are applied together with a harmonious re-balancing of yin and yang, the dark and light of all situations. The principles may be applied geo-physically as well as superficially to placement, design and decoration. House and garden should work together relative to life, health, wealth and happiness. Every aspect of home, life, career and relationships is open to enhancement.

Anyway, it is meant to the biggest fountain in the World. All I know that is I was there ………. You can use computers to add a request. They played a request for the Irish soccer and rugby teams who both play tomorrow.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Fountain of Wealth (10-10-2003)

It was now 11.00pm and I headed back to Little India for a bite to eat and then back to the hostel for bed.

Thursday, October 9th, 2003 – Day 233

Thursday, October 9th, 2003 – Day 233

I had the best nights sleep for a long time. Maybe because I was up at 3.30am yesterday, maybe the lack of a window hee or maybe no call for prayers. Anyway I had a nice (included in price) breakfast in the hostel. Its quite here but nice. You get melon and scrambed eggs and toast. Then it was off to see Singapore.

Singapore may have traded in its rough-and-ready opium dens and pearl luggers for towers of concrete and glass, and its steamy rickshaw image for hi-tech wizardry, but you can still recapture the colonial era with a gin sling under the languorous ceiling fans at Raffles Hotel. It is this carefully stage-managed combination of Western modernity and treasured Eastern and colonial past that makes Singapore such an accessible slice of Asia.

Lying almost on the equator, Singapore is a thriving city-state that has overcome its dearth of natural resources to become one of the juggernaut economies of Asia. In the crowded streets of Chinatown, fortune tellers, calligraphers and temple worshippers are still a part of everyday life. In Little India, you can buy the best sari material, freshly ground spices or a picture of your favourite Hindu god. In the small shops of Arab St, the cry of the imam can be heard from the nearby Sultan Mosque.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Colonial Area (09-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Colonial Area – Raffles Statue (09-10-2003)

CHINATOWN.

I went to visit Chinatown and Sri Mariamman Temple. I enjoyed the reconstructed Chinatown, even though Singapore is mainly chinnese.

Chinatown is Singapore’s cultural heart and still provides glimpses of the old ways with its numerous temples, decorated terraces and its frantic conglomeration of merchants, shops and activity. Unfortunately much of Chinatown has been torn down and redeveloped over the past 30 years. Faithful restoration by the Urban Redevelopment Authority has saved some parts but it has also posed a new threat, since the restored buildings are now desirable properties commanding high rents, and traditional businesses – such as shops selling incense to temple worshippers, letter writers and chop (stamp) makers – are moving out and a new gentrified Chinatown of fashionable restaurants and expensive shops is taking its place. It’s still a fascinating place to explore though, especially in the early-morning hours when activity is more pronounced.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown (09-10-2003)

Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest and most important of Singapore’s Hindu religious buildings.

It is dedicated to the goddess Mariamman who is known for her power in curing epidemic illness and diseases. Located in the heart of Chinatown, its ornamental entrance tower or gopuram, has been a landmark to generations of Hindu worshippers and Singapore residents alike. The temple has even given names to the streets flanking it: Temple and Pagoda; to the Chinese, Pagoda Street is known as “Back of the Indian Place of Worship”.

It was an interesting temple. tourist pay a 3 SGD Camera fee.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown – Sri Mariamman Temple (09-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown – Sri Mariamman Temple (09-10-2003)

After that i walked to the Thian Hock Keng Temple in Chinatown which is said to be the most interesting in Singapore.

Thian Hock Keng is a fantasy in stone, tiles and wood, with its curved roof, stylized dragons,carved screens and imposing columns. It was built a century ago by Hokkien seamen using special materials imported from China. The entire structure was assembled without nails!!!

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Chinatown – Thian Hock Keng Temple (09-10-2003)

Ma Cho Po, goddess of the sea and protector of sailors, presides as the principal deity.

Most of the early Chinese immigrants in Singapore came from provinces in China. Once they were settled here, they built temples as places of worship which also served to foster a sense of belonging among members of their own dialect groups.

One of the first duties of a newly-arrived immigrant was to go to a “joss house” to give thanks from a perilous journey across the China Sea. In 1821,the Hokkiens had established such a “joss house” on the side of the present temple. The grateful immigrants who later became successful businessmen enabled the Hokkien leaders to plan a more ambitious building made of materials imported from China,which combined the functions of both a temple and community centre.

~Joss sticks being burnt to give thanks to the gods.~

Thian Hock Keng is the oldest and most important Hokkien temple in Singapore. Known as the temple of the goddess of the sea and protector of all seamen, the temple contains relics brought from China which are said to be many hundred of years old. The building is supported only on wood poles. Of the two pagodas at either sides of the temple, one is used to contain ancestral tablets.

By 1841, the present building had been completed and housed the first Chinese school,Chong Wen Ke. It also housed a prominent clan association, the Hokkien Huay Kuan from 1840 to 1955. The granite plaque on the entrance records, in letters of red and gold, the names of the contributors to the cost of the temple. Tan Tock Seng was a major donor. His son, Tan Kim Cheng, later became head of the Hokkien Huay Kuan Association. One of his duties was to register Hokkien marriages at his office within temple precincts.

Thian Hock Keng temple was gazetted a national monument on 6th July 1973.

I have decidedd to stay here in Singapore for the Theemidhi (or Thimithi) Festival which is on the 13th.

THEEMIDHI.

Witness the faith, courage and endurance of Hindu devotees at this breathtaking fire-walking ceremony honouring Goddess Draupadi. According to the Indian epic poem Mahabharata, she proved her innocence by walking barefoot on burning coals. With intense concentration, barefooted devotees likewise brave a four-metre bed of red-hot embers – completing the challenge miraculously unscathed. Festival celebrations begin at 2 am at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple; the fire-walking starts at 5.30 am at the Sri Mariamman Temple.

During this festival, a great number of faithful Hindu devotees work thenselves up into a trance. Then they walk over burning ambers. What is so amazing about this is the fact that the devotees’ feet do not have any traces of scars or burns at all after performing the feat. The devotees’ purpose in doing this is to fulfil all their wishes.

I see a bus carrying high school students crashed head-on into a truck on a busy highway, killing at least 50 people.

Police in Banyu Glugur subdistrict said most of the victims burned to death inside the ill-fated bus YPO Transport that was traveling from the resort island of Bali to Yogyakarta.

DID U KNOW………..

-That Singapore only has one main island and 63 tiny islands!

-The number of visitors that come to visit Singapore a year is double the population!

-The biggest fountain in Asia is in Singapore (The Fountain and Wealth).

-Singapore’s airport is rated one of the best airports in the world!

-Singapore is the country where the most number of people wear spectacles!

-Singapore only became independent in 1964

-The 5 stars on the Singapore National Flag represent Progress, Democracy, Peace, Equality and Justice.

-49% of Singapore’s land is used for housing, offices and factories. 2% is used for farms and vegetable fields. The rest of the land is forest, marsh and non-built up places.

It was easy get around on the Metro. I have a 10 SGD card that allows me access without paying for all journeys separately.

I went to the Qantas ofice (found the address on the NET) to change my Singapore to Bangkok flight. I do not want to be in Malaysia for Ramadan (Islamic month of Fasting) which starts October 25th.

RAMADAN.

Islamic month during which Muslims (believers in Islam) fast daily from dawn to sunset as part of an effort towards self-purification and moral excellence. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Quran (divine Scripture & Final Testament) were revealed by God to Prophet Muhammed between 610 and 633 CE.

Still, i read on one site that Western employers should assign lighter dutie to Muslim staff since the employees are on a fast, they might find it more difficult to handle strenuous tasks. They Worry also that western or non-Muslim hospital workers should be aware that injections and oral medications might break the fast of a sick Muslim patient. Patients should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not their condition exempts them from fasting. That doesnt sound right. Let the atient get sicker or die.

I also went to see the world’s biggest fountain right in the centre of the four skyscrapers and exhibition hall that make up Suntec City, and learn how it was built according to the laws of Chinese geomancy. It had been closed for the lst 3 weeks but will re open tomorrow. Anyway, it seems my four lucky numbers are 1,3,7 and 6. Seems, you get more lucky if you walk around the fountain for TWo hours.

A waste of two hours. Anyway it was 5.00pm and I head abck to Litle India. I went to walk around the festival area again

DEEPAVALI.

Deepavali, the most important date of the Hindu calendar, occurs on one day during October, and in the ethnic quarter of Little India, the festivities last practically for the whole month of October.

Deepavali is the Festival of Lights, and marks the defeat of the evil Narakasura by the Lord Khrishna. All round the world, Hindus celebrate this day as the triumph of light over darkness, and of good over evil. It marks the New Year for Hindu devotees, and is a great time of rejoicing and renewal.

During this time, Little India throbs with evening roadside stalls, booming music and strings of colourful lights. Shoppers throng the streets in search of the perfect sari to wear, or to fill their baskets with Indian foods and spices. Hindu homes are lighted with oil lamps, and offerings of sweetmeats and garlands of jasmine are placed at the family altar.

The streets and temples of Little India are lit up with streamers and fairy lights lining the streets and forming arches and gateways to the night bazaars.The Sri Veeramakaliamman, Sri Vadapathira Kaliammanand and Sri Srinivasa Perumal temples are garlanded in lights as the whole of Serangoon Road glitters to welcome the New Year.

Campbell Lane, meanwhile, takes on the mood of a street carnival for 21 days. The Deepavali Festival Village features stalls offering Indian costumes, jewelry, foods, furniture and arts and craft. Every evening except on Sundays, right up to the even of Deepavali, local and foreign artistes perform South and North Indian songs and dances.

SINGAPORE LAW IS SINGAPORE A REAL DEMOCRACY

I read up on Singapore law. Importing gum cops a $10,000 fine. For years they have been conducting different campaigns which are trying to persuade their beloved citizens that life without queue jumping, rushing and pushing, not to speak about using words excuse me, please and thank you a bit more frequently, would be nicer. Years ago, when long-haired male tourists entering Singapore were either sent straight to the hairdresser, who adjusted the length of their hair properly, or were refused entery into the country. there are posters everywhere promoting GRACIOUSNES. For example, giving up your seat for people, saying thank you, smiling etc. They have stiff fines for smoking inside building, eating in the metro, dropping garbage. If you are caught with more than 15 grams of heroin or more than 500 grams of marihuana at the border, you won’t escape the death penalty and no embassy of no country in the world will be able (or willing) to help you. Around 50 people were executed due to drugs possession within the last few years. If you posses smaller quantities, they will throw you into a jail for up to 30 years, and give you up to 15 notoriously painful cane strokes. more information here. Still, as people are charged to bring cars into the city centre, trafiic is VERY light and its easy walk around and cross roads and no pollution. Still you get the urge to cross the roads as there is no traffic but there is a heavy fine if you dont croosss the road at designated crossings.

I heard from a colleague here that you need a permit to speak against the government. We here of the silly laws but accoring to THE US DEPT OF STATE:

The Government has wide powers to limit citizens’ rights and to handicap political opposition. There were a few instances of police abuse of detainees; however, the Government investigates and punishes those found guilty, and the media fully cover allegations of mistreatment. Caning, in addition to imprisonment, is a routine punishment for numerous offenses. The Government continues to rely on preventive detention to deal with espionage, terrorism, organized crime, and narcotics. The authorities sometimes infringe on citizens’ privacy rights. The Government continues to restrict freedom of speech and the press significantly and to limit other civil and political rights. Government pressure to conform results in the practice of self-censorship among journalists. Government leaders historically have utilized court proceedings, in particular defamation suits, against political opponents and critics.

The entire media is controlled by the government. Amnesty said in its annual report for 2003 that the city-state had one of the highest execution rates in the world, relative to its population of about 4.2 million people. Basically. Amnesty further accused Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party of maintaining its iron grip on power by imposing control.

Lots more anti-government stuff here. Interesting stuff that I knew little of. When i though of here, it was the clean streets, the nice airport and not Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee has been ruling Singapore since 1959 when he first became the prime minister. His dictatorial grip on society remains to this day. A good article here.

LIGHTER TOPICS

Back to lighter topics. I should have mentioned that i did visit one of Singapore tourist offices todat. They are fully stocked with information about every attraction and district. They are too good, asking you every two minutes whether you needed anything. They then sit you down on a couch and bombard you with information and maps. good though.

On another note, Black leaders are outraged over a new board game called “Ghettopoly” that has “playas” acting like pimps and game cards reading, “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003 – Day 232

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003 – Day 232

More thunder storms last night. I rarely sleep when i know I have to get up at a certain time. I packed my bags (much of which is going to be posted home from Singapore) and had a shave and a shower. I need to look my best for my Cathy Pacific Flight 🙂

As I mentioned, got very little sleep as I kept gancing at my watch. At least my stomach was beahving. It was 3.30am and I decided to move. I would be way too early but I would feel better at the airport than the hotel. It was only a 15 minute walk to gambir station but as it was dark I got a beano for 4,000 Ir which was only seven minutes. There is an excellent bus service to the aoirport from all corners of the city.

The airport is located 20km (12 miles) northwest of Jakarta. The hour-long DAMRI shuttle bus route runs between Kemayoran, Gambir, Rawamangun, Blok M/ Kebayoran Baru and Bekasi. Buses also leave every 30 minutes for Kilideres Station (journey time: 30 minutes).

Anyway, i thought one bus was covering all these routes but now understand a bus leaves every 30 minutes from each of these locations. as it was 4.00am, there was NO trafiic on the roads. I would be less likelt to use them during rush hour. Still, if you include tools, a taxi may cost up to 60,000 IR verus the 10,000 Ir I pay for the bus. it was a nice easy rice, but signage is bad and I did not know which was domestic or ternmianl was International. Te International terminal is 2km past the domestic. More information from the Jakarta Airport site here.

I was the first to arrive and nearly first to check in. the authorities have recently incresed the EXIT tax to 100,000 IR. cheeky. Anyway, I though I was in trouble at immigration. Even though I had a 60 day Visa, and I have only stayed for 33, they said I had over stayed by three. i have hear of lots of stories by people do you ahve to pay to leave the country. See information of such scams here , here , and here. the official foreign Ministry Site is here.

Anyway, I poined out that it ws 60 days and he let me go. i ahve heard that it moved to 30 days on October 1st, but recently heard it was moved abck to December 1st. I have heard many people complain of the immigration officials. My bags were screened and I went to the boarding gate where Cathy pacific Officials screened by bags again. S*&^, I had left my pen knife in my small carry bags. Lucky it was Cathy pacific People rather than local police. for a brief second, I had visions of been interoogration in a small room, strip searching and lathex gloves. then he smiled, and he showed me his en knife which was exactly the same. He gave the knife to the Cathy Pacific Staff who said I could collect it in Singapore.

I have over an hour wait as I was so early. Anyway we left on time at 7.05am. They gave us a very small breakfast (2 muffins and a cup of tea) and we were left to our own devices. At least I grabbed a few free news papers from the financial times to the Herald tribune to pass the time. We also had a few good shows on the persoalised Video on Demand System. I watched and old episode of ER. It was a short 1 hour 40 minute flight.

Looing forward to see Ireland play in the Rugby World Cup in a few days. Pool A fixtures.All kick-off times are BST up until Saturday 25 October. From Sunday 26 October all times will be GMT.

1000* Fri 10 Oct: Australia v Argentina – Sydney

0800 Sat 11 Oct: Ireland v Romania – Gosford

1030 Tue 14 Oct: Argentina v Namibia – Gosford

0700 Sat 18 Oct: Australia v Romania – Brisbane

1100 Sun 19 Oct: Ireland v Namibia – Sydney

1130 Wed 22 Oct: Argentina v Romania – Sydney

0730 Sun 26 Oct: Argentina v Ireland – Adelaide

1000 Thu 30 Oct: Romania v Namibia – Launceston

0935 Sat 1 Nov: Australia v Ireland – Melbourne

*The match starts after the Opening Ceremony at 1000 BST

i see CNN are offering American tourists to france some advice. Looking forward to seeing Tarantino’s KILL BILL.

Anyway, back to business. Never jump or move queues. i did it in Bali and I did it here while waiting for passport check. You think one is shorter and you move. Your new line slowed downa nd before you know it, your former position has passed through. At baggage claim, a guy had my pen knife. Fine!. i collected my bags and got money from the ATM. Its a rule of mine when arrriving at a new airport, to have no currency from my previous countrya nd none from my new one. i always arrive with nothing. i hate getting a bad excahnge with money lenders before I arrive.There will always be an ATM (hmm, not in Denpaser in Bali. Both were broken). Anyway there is a great metro into town and takea about 30 minutes. i bought a ez-link Card which is a contactless stored value ticket for use on the MRT, LRT and the buses. It cost 10 SD and there was an additioanl 5 SD Deposit.

Station and train information here.

I was heading to Little India, an area and a station. I was told that there was a hostel there. The same person had said many of the back packer places in Singapore had closed due to tthe drop in tourists due to SARS. it was poiring rain, heavy lighting and also deafening thunder. I did not want to leave the station but the bad weather wasnt lifting after 20 minutes. I dont know why they plant so many tress as I was afriad it would attract a lightening strike. i got soaked getting to the hostel and alot of my stuff got wet (icluding some pictures). When i was 2/3 the way there, i went to get some shelter at a car hire place. When i was moving off again, the owner gave me a free umbrela. Nice gesture.

I got to the hotel. Real nice owner, who gave me a map and highlights of the area, including the locations of post Office, NET cafe, food Court etc. The hosel is Mckenzie Hostel on the street of the same name. Singel room with fan cost 22 SD (11 Euro) and 35 SD (17 Euro) with air-con. Very clean and tidy and breakfast is included.

I had posting to do and it took me an hour to wrap two parcels. I am always paranoid that my parcels will not arrive home. I have to warp them, them mask tape them and wrap again. its harder to get into my parcels than a U2 concert. I walked to the Post Office in the rain. They were really nice and gave me a marker, paste, cello tape etc for free use and told me all the price options. I took the cheapest surface mail but they hould arrive home within 10 weeks. The cost was 67 SGD (33 Euro). I then went to get a bite to eat. The food court is a few minutes walk and a main course costs about 2.50 SD (1.30 Euro).

i retrospect, i expectected things to be a lot more expensive in Singapore, but they are not so bad. I am staying in the little India area.

This modest but colourful area of wall-to-wall shops, pungent aromas and Hindi film music is a relief from the prim modernity of many parts of the city. Centred around the southern end of Serangoon Rd, this is the place to come to pick up that framed print of a Hindu god you’ve always wanted, eat great vegetarian food and watch streetside cooks fry chapatis.

I walked around te Little India area. the Deepavali Light-Up festival (3 – 29 October) is on in this area and the streets are busy.

Marking the Festival of Lights, Little India explodes with vibrant colours and lights! Walk down the streets and be dazzled by the beautiful sights and decorations, alluring fragrances, and captivating sounds as Hindus prepare for Deepavali.Soak in the festivities as you check out the festive bazaar and enjoy the cultural performances.

i headed back around 11.00pm. I was wrecked.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Deepavali Light-Up festival (08-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Deepavali Light-Up festival (08-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Singapore – Graciousness is ………… (08-10-2003)

Monday, October 6th, 2003 – Day 230 to Tuesday, October 7th, 2003 – Day 231

Monday, October 6th, 2003 – Day 230

I had planned to go to the fish market this morning. You need to be there around 5.00am, but I simply could not get up. Yep, the diarrhea was back.

The definition of diarrhea depends on what is normal for you. For some, diarrhea can be as little as one loose stool per day. Others may have three daily bowel movements normally and not be having what they consider diarrhea. So the best description of diarrhea is “an abnormal increase in the frequency and liquidity of your stools.”

Anyway, it did not believe it would be so bad and i caught a bus to the market. Bad, luck, as it just about finished at 7.00am. i did not feel well.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Fish Market (06-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Fish Market (06-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Fish Market (06-10-2003)

I rushed back to the hotel. i could wait as I rushed upstairs to the toilet. I was there for 20 minutes before I popped an imodium. I stayed in bed until 1.00pm. I did not want to waste the whole day and I felt a small bit better. I had an ice cream and headed to Ratu Plaza which is about 15 minutes by bus. You can buy pirate DVD’s from Malaysia on the 4th floor. The whole floor was full of vendoes even though this is an upmarket mall. There were thousands of titles from classics to brand new releases.

I did not feel good. I could not concentrate on any of the product as I was back and forth to the toilet and had no energy. I had to sit doen every few minutes. I bouught some DVD’s for between 20,000 and 25,000 Ir and headed back. I was back in the hotel for 3.30pm and went to bed. I did not get up until 6.30pm, when I went on the Net for an hour.

I was just checking the best place to buy pirate DVD’s in Asia.

  • Vietnam: 19,000 Vietnamese Dong = 1.10239 Euro in Vietnam. They normally come from China.

  • Malaysia: 10 Malaysian Ringgit = 2.29278 Euro in Malaysia. By all accounts, they are the best copies. There is a crackdown at the moment. You can get them at Bukit Jambul Shopping mall, Prangin Mall and Komtar in Penang.

  • Thaialnd: 200 Thai Baht = 4.37 Euro in Thailand. They come from all over Asia. There is a crack down at the moment.

  • Indonesia: 25,000 Indonesian Rupiah = 2.58 Euro. They come from Malaysia.

  • China: 8 rmb (.80 Euro), and DVD 9 which are better quality for 25 rmb (2.55 Euro).

In Jakarta, you can buy DVD’s at Central Plaza, (Sudirman), Ambassador Mal on Jl Casablanca, Ratu Plaza (south end of Sudirman) and at many street stalls in Blok M. There are alos lots of places in Chinatown area like Glodok Plaza and Gaja Mada Plaza.

There is a good article in the Guardian today be Michael Moore.

Michael Moore fired his opening salvo against George Bush and his rightwing cronies with his bestseller Stupid White Men. Now the president is in his sights again. In this second extract from his new book he asks his old enemy seven awkward questions

I have eaten nothing today and I was glad to get to bed. The only thing i ate was a ice creama nd a alrge coke with ice from McDoanlds. i swear the ice came out the other end without having time to melt 🙂 I was weak as a sop, so i headed to bed early.

Tuesday, October 7th, 2003 – Day 231

Thunder storms all last night. Very heavy! Lots of thunder and lightning as well. Amazing to watch but hard to sleep as all the roof’s are made of tin in my area. I had a small breakfast of small rice which came the other end just as fast.

An article in USA Today, says Worker blogs raise some company concerns.

There are an estimated 1.2 million blogs, or Web logs Web pages that function as personal publishing forums. But few companies have blog policies, and they run a risk should their employee divulge confidential company information or make statements that compromise it financially or legally.

In Bali, Southeast Asian leaders from 10 nations (including indonesia) signed a landmark accord Tuesday that would pull together their disparate region into a European-style economic community in less than two decades.

Anyway, I had set my alarm at 4.15am to go to the fish market again, but decided when the alarm went off to let my body rest. I am flying to Singapore tomorrow morning and dont want go do sick!

I spend the way traveling between Ratu Plaza and Godok Plaza buying DVD’s. As mentioned those DVD’s imported from Malaysia are more expensice but are better quality. They also ahve far more choice and include hard to find and art house movies that you would normally have to order on-line at home. In godok Plaza the stalls have hundreds of DVD’s, but all of them recent (18 months or so). They do not cater to specialist tastes but to the black market. I have never seen so much activity. Box’s were been made up to send to destinations to the rest of Indonesia and the World. It was a hive of acticity as girls apckaging DVD’s, VCD’s (which are more opular here than DVD’s) and MP3’s. There is a marked price difference. DVD’s were only 10,000 IR (1 Euro) which is a bargain. This included the case which i didn’t need. This is cheap, nasty stuff but you can test each DVD you buy on there systems. Most were fine although new releases are obviously taken from either U.S theatres or from advance copies. Advance Copies usually show the Line on screen every few minutes – YOU ARE WATCHING ETC, COPYRIGHT ETC.

I was offered Jiggy Jiggy (porn) every 2 seconds. they seemed generally surprised taht i did not want the stuf, Shocked nearly. They have alot of Japanese and Asian businness for this stuff.

It was 6.00pm when I headed back to the hotel. Not too much to report other wise. Next post, from Singapore.

So what did I think of Jakarta. I liked it. I liked the wide strrts, the flash hotels, the you can go everywhere bus system, the pirate DVD’s and back alleys copy operations, the good cheap food (except for the bastard that caused my tummy upset) and the gals. i liked juming ona nd off the buses when they still were moving (and I liked them more if they were air-conditioned). I liked ice tea and I liked the bicycle taxi men. What i didn’t like were the guys on the street who constantly asked (hundreds of times) in no order:

  • You want to buy JIGGY JIGGY Movie!

  • Where you going now?

  • What are you looking for?

  • Transport, tranport?

i hated the pollution, the smog, been woken up at 4.15am every morning by prayers, bus drivers who over charged, thunder storms.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Various (06-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Various (06-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Various (06-10-2003)

Sunday, October 5th, 2003 – Day 229

Sunday, October 5th, 2003 – Day 229

Got an message from Damo who traveled from Ireland to Australaia via Hong Kong to start his Round The World trip. Check out his site!!

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (05-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (05-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (05-10-2003)

I expected to get up early (7.00am) but failed. Alot of street noise last night and there is a Mosque opposite who belted out prayers at 5.00am this morning. I was up at 9.00am and had breakfast (free) of Nasi goreng (fried Rice) and a fried egg.

I got a bus from the main street to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah .

In the south-east of the city is a huge park, conceived by Mme Tien Soeharto in 1971 and opened in 1975. The idea – to represent the traditional cultures of Indonesia”s 27 provinces – promised to be a landmark to tackiness on a monumental and expensive scale. As it turns out, however, the 100-hectare (250-acre) park is pretty impressive, and is Jakarta”s most visited attraction. The display of 27 full scale houses features regional handicrafts and clothing. The houses are dotted around a lagoon, and can be reached by small boat or viewed from a cable car. Taman Mini also houses museums, theatres, restaurants, an orchid garden and a bird park. It’s 18km (11mi) from the centre of Jakarta, and can be reached by bus and metro-mini.

Its a bit of a distance. i had a choice of a air-con bus for 3,000 IR (no. 10 bus) or a non air-con for 1,500 IR (No. p.16 Bus). As it was hot I took the dearer option. It took nearly an hour to get to Kampung Station. from there I took a small orange coloured angelot bus to the attraction. this was a ten minute 2,000 IR ride. It was 6,000 Ir into the attraction itself.

I found that there were about thirty or so different (and I mean completely different) cultures represented. Each culture (island or part of island) was given its own little block which contained one or two structures and gardens in the represented architecture. The craftmahip was absolutely fantastic. On Sunday, different cultural shows are held in each different compound. I found these more interesting than the exhibits within the compounds. I spend three hours her, but you could easily spent the whole day. At the end it was time to move as it started to rain. As well as the compounds from all over Indonesia, there are about a dozen museums. I went to the transport museum, but there ae ones for the army, the electricity Board, Science etc. There is also a light rai system, cable car and train system to move around the 100 acre site. Massive and very popular (the most popular attreaction in indonesia).

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (05-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (05-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (05-10-2003)

The exhibits representing sites further from Java were even more interesting and ornate. For example, the flambouyant style of the West Sumatra exhibit. Sumatera is Indonesia’s largest island, adjacent to Java to the northwest, and itself a multicultural experience (North Sumatera, West Sumatera, South Sumatera, and the remote province of Aceh were represented). Much of their architecture made elaborate use of straw and ornate, colorful patterns.

I headed back the way I came but took the non air-con bus. Its an easy journey once you know where to get off. My hotel is just 10 minutes from the main road where the bus moves.

It was now 4.30pm and the clouds were threatening. there was some thunder and lightening and by 5.00pm, the thunder storms had begun. They lasted on and off the rest of the evening.

I found an article in the Jakarta Post that says many Bali people do not support having a Bali Bombing anniversary on october 12th 2003. At least one religious writer Masrucitadewi, claimed that the Balinese, who are predominantly Hindu, had no tradition of commemorating the dead after the initial ceremony.

“When a Hindu man or woman dies, his or her family will hold a cremation and accompanying ceremony to spiritually transport the soul of the dead to heaven,” she said, while adding that would be the last commemmoration. In Javanese tradition, many people still hold a series of rituals following the death of a family member.

“But in Bali, it is almost forbidden to do that, even taboo,” she stated. If the Balinese Hindus hold any religious ritual for the Bali bombing, it would essentially mean inviting the souls of the dead back, but we strongly believe they would already be resting in peace, she theorized.

I found another Irishman with a great travel site. I like the way he has laid out the find. There are structures I might use in my own site.

tomoorow, I will trya nd find some DVD’s and visit some of the markets. This site has some excellent information about the markets. No luck so far. they expect all foreigners to want JIGGY JIGGY movies, the local euphemism for sex.

This evening it was raining very heavily. While it rained I watched Chelsea V Middlesbrough on TV. this rain seems to be part of the storms that have caused havoc in Malaysia.

More than 10,000 people have fled their homes after three days of incessant rain sparked massive floods in northern Malaysia

I see it’s official. The Brisbane Lions of 2001-2003 are the greatest team in the history of Australian Rules football after becoming the first team in the modern era to win three successive AFL premierships in September.

The Lions and coach Leigh Matthews gained immortal status by completing their hat-trick in style – thrashing Collingwood 20.14 (134) to 12.12 (84) at the MCG.

I bought a map of the city today. It was dear at 20,000 Ir but it is the size of my bed. People hve told me of different places to visit and but DVD’s but I had no idea where they were. With the map, along with a separate street index, I can find all the relevant streets and shopping centres.

Friday, October 3rd, 2003 – Day 227 to Saturday, October 4th, 2003 – Day 228

Friday, October 3rd, 2003 – Day 227

I was up around 9.00pm. Maybe the reason I sleep quite well here is that there are no windows. Anyway had a little breakfast. I was supposed to meet the guy who was doing my portrait (from a passport photo) at 10.00am. When I got there he was no where to be seen. Another artist said he usually comes at noon. Shit!! I wanted to get to Jakarta early. I had to wait around town. At least he was there at 12.00 and I paid him the remaining amount. The total for a 50 by 40 colour portrait was 75,000 IR.

I walked quickly pack to the hostel. The hostel itself is only 8 minutes walk from the station. Trains usually go every hour. It is a clean efficient station and easy to find the Jakarta train. You can go Vip, Executive or business. I went for business which cost 40,000 IR. You get a roof fan!!!

It was beautiful scenery over the pass. Many rice terraces and farmers in the fields. Excellent and worth seeing for yourself. It was three hours 30 minutes to Gamir station in Jakarta. Fine station but most of the open spaces were given to prefabricated housing where people could pray. It wouldnt work in Ireland.

Once saddled with a reputation as a poverty-ridden hell hole, Jakarta mutated into a metropolis with all the outward appearance of an Asian boom town in not much more than a decade. It took only a week of rioting in May 1998 to reduce some of this modern facade to a burnt out shell. Shopping malls, offices, banks and businesses owned by ethnic Chinese and the ruling Soeharto family took the brunt of the rioters’ anger. Jakarta remains very much at the centre of political events re-shaping Indonesia, and how quickly the city recovers from the riots and the political and economic turmoil remains to be seen.

That said, Jakarta is the most expensive city in Indonesia, the most polluted and the most congested. But if you can withstand this onslaught and afford to indulge in its charms, then it is also one of the region’s most exciting metropolises. Consider Jakarta the ‘big durian’ – the foul-smelling exotic fruit that some can’t stomach and others can’t resist.

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport is 35km (21mi) west of the city centre, and there are bus stations around the outskirts of town.

Population: 9 million

Area: 661 sq km (258 sq mi)

Country: Indonesia

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +7 hours

Telephone Area Code: +62 21

Orientation

Jakarta, on the island of Java in Indonesia, sprawls over 25km (15mi) from the docks to the suburbs of South Jakarta. The city centre fans out from around Merdeka Square, a grand, barren field, which contains the central gold-tipped landmark of the National Monument (Monas). Jakarta doesn’t really have a centre: rather there are a number of centres all separated by vast traffic jams, incredible pollution and heat. For most visitors, the area south of the monument holds most interest. Jl Thamrin is the main shopping and deluxe hotel thoroughfare, while just to the east is the main restaurant and cheap hotel area.

I had sourced out the Prapancha Hotel 30/31, Jalan Prapanca Raya, Blok. P3, Kebayoran Baru, on the Internet for my first night. Basically I was filthty. I have had no access to hot water for 4 weeks and have the same clothes on for a week. I needed a expensive hotel. These hotels are so clean that they make me want to clean up.

It was a bad time to be in Jakarta, 5.00pm in rush hour Friday traffic. I was going to the bus thing but Jakarta is sprawling and it was getting dark. Anyway all the buses were full. I saw people sitting on top of the carriages on the way into the station. I grabbed a taxi. The hotel is in South Jakarta (a long way away). It took over an hour and 15 minutes to get there. I did not mind as taxi prices are not too bad. 20,000 IR for the lot.

The hotel is 180,000 IR which is cheap for a good hotel. I have had the urge to stay in expensive (for me) hotels in Lima and Santiago in South America. You get the urge. I had hot water for the first time. I cut my nails, shaved my hair and had a bath. Cool. Lots of people here leave there finger nails grow long. I have seen teenage boys with two inch nails. I wonder why.

Went around the area which is quite but hard to figure as it was dark. Had some eats at a small stall warung. Many western fast food and expensive restaurants in this area. It was Friday so I thought of going out. I have not done that in a while.

I found two sites on nightlife. They are

http://www.jakartablokm.com/bars.htm and pissed up Asia.

I might move to Chinatown tomorrow. Indonesians rioted there in May 1998, Jakarta’s Chinatown was ransacked, and ethnic Indonesian Chinese refugees streamed into Malaysia by the thousands. More than 1,000 people died in the rioting (mostly looters who were trapped in torched shopping malls), and many Chinese fled to neighboring countries. For locals, the violence is a powerful part of the area’s history.

I did go to Blok M. i was walking there when a hells angel type of guy on a motor bike said he would take me for 6,000 IR. It was a bargain, so I said fine.

Blok M – for those who don’t know it – is a little corner of South Jakarta, a business and shopping quarter that is home to a motley collection of bars, discos and night clubs – click here for maps. It’s well known to all the Jakarta expats, and anyone visiting the city who wants a real taste of the famous Jakarta night-life must put it at the top of their itinerary.

It was pretty poor. I was expecting a lively built up area full of stalls, bars and people. It was dark and dour. There are about 11 bars on the strip. Only D’s Place was full. Full of old expats and prostitutes. The beer was 24,000 IR for a small Carlsberg.

I stayed maybe 2 hours. I wasn’t feeling that hot and headed back by rickshaw. They are called bajaj here and they are motorised.

Rickshaw No More? – The Governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, has once again banned the cycle rickshaw, called a “becak,” from the region’s roadways. Although a similar ban in 1992 had no effect on traffic congestion or crime rates and was opposed by becak drivers themselves, government officials still contend that the human-powered becaks create congestion, are a source of criminality and are inhumane. Officials ignored polls that showed strong public support for the use of the becak. Instead, the Governor caved in to pressure from the highway lobby, among other anti-becak groups. The small minority who favor the ban use motorcycle taxis, motorized becaks, taxis and private cars – all of which contribute to Jakarta’s having the third worst air pollution in the world.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Statue in JK (03-10-2003)

After going to bed, I felt like shit. I had a bad tummy ache. That soon turned to diarrhea. Aggg, I was in and out to the toilet all night. It is the 2nd time since I started traveling to get it, which is good going. The other time was in Chile.

Saturday, October 4th, 2003 – Day 228

I still felt bad in the morning and the visits to the toilet continued. I don’t know the source. I popped an Imodium and went back to bed. It was now 11.00am and I didn’t know if I had the energy to go. Still, even thought the room was only 181,500 IR (19 Euro) for a good hotel that’s is between 2 different entertainment districts. The price was good as they have to charge 21% on all transactions since 1997. Still the areas were a bit too upmarket for me. If you want easy access to Dukin Donuts, Mc Donalds etc, come here. If you want to see real Jakarta, do not.

I decided to go to Jalan Jaksa, which is Jakarta’s main backpacker area. I got a taxi, althought knowing where it is now, I need not have. Its just off the main street. The cost was 17,000 IR. I booked into the middle of the road Tator Hotel which is 60,000 IR per night including breakfast (1/3 of the other hotel).

I booked in and was out by noon. I headed down to the main road and got a bus to Kota – the harbour area.

The old town of Batavia is the oldest and finest reminder of the Dutch presence in Jakarta. At one time, it contained a massive shoreline fortress and was surrounded by a sturdy wall and a moat. In the early 19th century much of the unhealthy city was destroyed by the government in a bid to freshen things up a bit, but there are still plenty of Dutch influences in this part of town.

A few of Batavia’s old buildings are still in use – many were restored in the 1970s and are now museums. The centre of the area is a cobblestone square known as Taman Fatahillah, while to the west is the Kali Besar, the great canal that once marked out the high-class residential area of Batavia. On the west bank of the canal are the last of the big private homes dating from the early 18th century. Follow the canal north and you’ll see a small 17th century Dutch drawbridge, the last in the city, called the Chicken Market Bridge. Old Batavia is directly north of the city centre at Kota train station.

I visited the Maritime museum which was close by. It was 2,000 in.

Two of the, original ware houses from the f trading post of the Dutch East Indies Company in Java now house the Maritime Museum. Exhibit’s include large models of boats from various islands. The old harbor masters tower stands nearby – on Tuesdays open from 8.00 a.m. till 2.00 P.M Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. On Fridays closed at 11.00 a.m. and On Saturday at 1.00 p.m -it closes on Monday.

This was better than expected. It is 2 story’s big and has some interesting boats and exhibits and photos from the Dutch period. Well worth visiting. A group of girls was at reception. All indonesians ask two questions of foreigners. The first is where are you from, and the second is Do you speak indonesian. When I answer Ireland, all the guys say ROY KEANE, all the girls say WESTLIFE. When the girls found out I was Irish, they started scraming. Any Irish guys who like Westlife Could do well out here.

Kota is a nice area but run down. I called into a computer reclying shop. The owner gave me food and drink as he though I was a reporter. It seems he has been in the paper locally twice this year. He can reclycled good parts from thrown out computers this year and resold them once fixed up. There were hundreds of monitors, printers, CD-ROMs ec.

From there and just a 10-minute walk north from Taman Fatahillah in Old Batavia, the old port of Sunda Kelapa has more sailing ships – the magnificent Makassar schooners – than you ever thought existed.

These brightly painted ships are an important means of transport and freight delivery between the capital and the outer islands. They also provide one of the most spectacular sights in Jakarta. For a fee, old men in row boats will take you out for a closer look at the ships. Don’t hit your head on the mooring ropes or gangplanks, and don’t be too surprised if you get hit from above by rubbish thrown from the decks. If you get out as far as the Palau Seribu (Thousand Islands) in the Bay of Jakarta, you’ll probably see some of these majestic schooners under sail.

It was like going back in time watching these great boats and the men sailing them. It was a hive of activity with men off loading timber by hand and others loading cement bags onto other ships. It was hard work and very labor intensive. There may have been 20 or so men on each ship on loading and off loading. It was 1,000 IR into the harbor and if you want to hire a guy to row you round, it will cost between 8,000 and 12,000 IR for an hour.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Port Area (04-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Port Area (04-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Port Area (04-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Port Area (04-10-2003)

I walked back a bit to browse DVD’s and MP3. I then got a bus back. Felt a lot better, but that may just be the Imodium working. I would not recommend Jalan Jaksa to eat. They charge about 50-100% more than normal places. Travel one street away to Haji Agus Salim (Sabang). I was in Hog heaven. It is known as the Sate Capital of Jakarta. There must have been 50-70 stalls selling Sate from chicken, Pork, Beef, Padang, Kambing, Ayam etc. The smell of the meat over Charcoal was immense. You pay 7,000 IR for a meal here versus 14,000 IR for the exact same thing on Jalan Jaksa.

I watched the Arsenal V Liverpool game in a local bar. Good game.

BTW, I had booked into the Tator Hotel. It had a ensuite bathroom with cold shower and a good strong fan. You get a clean towel and sheets once you book in. You can get accommodation in this area for 9,000 IR in a dorm but they are supposed to be skanky.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Jakarta – Java – Indonesia – Recycle those PCs (04-10-2003)

I doubt I will go out tonight. Not until I give the all clear to my stomach.