Going back

May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last month I went back to Haiti. Having left the country five days after what is now commonly called ‘douze Janvier’ I of course always imagined I would come back one day. And luckily I did. It was a great two weeks, of seeing people again after three years and travelling around in a simply truly fascinating place.

I could write more about impressions and feelings but today I came across a great article entitled “I Came to Haiti to do Good …” which captures everything I could have possibly written.

 

 

Cambodia specials

September 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hammocks: they are everywhere. Next to food stalls, inside tuk-tuks (!), on the street, under trees, or just everywhere where there is a bit of shade. Haven’t seen that in any other country in the region.

Draught beer: often $0,5 dollar for half a liter. Simply amazing if you know, as you should, to appreciate draught. Haven’t seen that in any other ‘developing’ country.

Barbecue: Khmer people love barbecuing. Chicken, beef, frogs, you name it. In restaurants, they bring you a small charcoal barbecue on a side-table next to your table. You grill your own meat from your chair which is great stuff.

Public gyms: Phnom Penh boasts open air gyms with stationary bikes, rowing machines, stair steppers and many other exercise equipments in the middle of parks.

Happy herb pizzerias: marijuana is illegal in Cambodia, but you can order happy pizzas which have ganja as a topping!

Recycling: originally driven by development NGOs, but never mind. You will find great bags, purses, wallets made out of used fish food bags, cement bags, etc.

French baguettes: in no other former French colony have I seen them take root. In any other poor countries you will have to be  happy with any type or bread, except for the occasional bakery catering for expats, tourists and elite. In Cambodia the baguette is for everybody.

Edit: After visiting Vietnam, I have to add that hammocks, draught beer, public gyms and baguettes are equally available there. When it comes to draught beer, things get even better there, as you find ‘Bia Hoi’ (‘fresh beer’) for about 25 dollar cent.

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Angkor What?

September 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well, it is true. Angkor is full of tourist buses, tuk-tuks (taxi-motos) and cars leading the spectators from temple to temple.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world, but Angkor Thom deserves as much praise. These two sites stand out, but the other temples should not been neglected.

Siem Reap defines how special Angkor is, as it has been unable to compete with it after even a thousand years. Without Angkor, Siem Reap would probably not even exist. It is a tourist town full of hotels and restaurants and the only place to stay when you want to visit Angkor. During the day you will find no tourist in Siem Reap. Everybody is in Angkor, the ticket offices being about 5 km away and this distance forms a nice barrier. From where you buy your ticket it is another 2 km to Angkor Wat.

There are tourists and souvenir sellers at every temple but Angkor will still engulf you and you will be absorbed by its greatness. If you want to be independent it’s a good idea to rent a bike (1 dollar a day). The tuk-tuk drivers obviously don’t like that, but if you have three days, it is the best way to get close to nature and enjoy many temples on your own pace. I downloaded a short guide by Gregory A. Waldron which was quite useful. Try and take the opposite road of the tour buses. Start with some smaller temples and visit Angkor Wat and Thom later in the day. A minimum of two days is required for the visit.

To get ‘off the beaten track’, head to Bantey Kdei and cycle around the pool, Srah Srang (which is also the only place where we found hot coffee, nice after a downpour) from where you can also make it to Prasat Bat Chum while walking or cycling through a small village and rice fields.

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Mundo Perdido, Viqueque

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mundo Perdido is a forest area in Ossu, a subdistrict of Viqueque. You will need a guide to trek through the jungle, and reach the top of its mountain (with the same name) located in the area. Arranging a guide can be done at the Hotel Wailakurini.

Why do so? A fantastic 6 hour trek through unspoiled jungle and great views from the top. The Timor Leste government should not wait any longer in declaring this a second national park, together with Jaco island.

If tourism is to be developed in a gradual and sustainable way (= exclude big developers), then the triangle Baucau, Jaco island and Mundo Perdido offers great opportunities.

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Jaco Island

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Number one place to visit among most tourist going to Timor Leste and expats. Great beach, unspoiled, remote, surrounded by lush jungle, …

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Indonesian Independence Day, 17 August

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here are some photographs of descriptions of what is on display in the national history museum in Jakarta. The “liberation” of Irian Jaya, “no choice” but to accept East Timor’s decision to join Indonesia, etc. The museum is not really worth a visit and doesn’t seem to  have been ‘updated’ for a while. For the informed visitors and Indonesians it does send the message though that the country has its own interpretation of its history.

After 67 years of independence editorials in newspapers are trying to make a balance of what has been achieved. The tone seems to be upbeat. The country is still growing strong economically and more and more people are receiving a larger income. But many challenges remain. Consumerism has become an ideology and below the profiting middle class there is a large group of people (and islands) who has not seen its welfare improved. Development thrives in the city, but the regions have been largely left out. Corruption is rampant and road infrastructure investments have become to a standstill.

Timor Leste should probably look with great interest to what is being said in Indonesia in moments like these.

Baucau

July 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Second largest town of East Timor, Baucau has many things to offer. Pleasant temperatures, great beaches, the country’s best restaurant (Amalia), one of the few interesting Portuguese colonial buildings, Japanese trenches, Mount Matebian, and if you need, a luxurious hotel.

If you want to stay close to the beach, I can recommend “Baucau Beach bungalows”. About 10 minutes drive from the town. Call Borges on 67077397467 (English and Portuguese).


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