The other day I came across a newspaper article titled “Buddhist Bin Laden Wirathu unharmed by car bomb attack in Burma”. After some quick research I realised that the intended target of this attack, a radical monk preaches racial hatred against Muslims, happened to be the same one I met on my trip to Myanmar last year and had been given a private audience with, along with two other travellers I was with at the time.
Off the south west coast of Thailand, in the province of Trang, the largest underwater ceremony recorded in the Guinness book of world records takes place on valentine’s day every year. The couples put on their scuba diving equipment, and in the presence of the local district officer, make their vows among the fish and coral reef.
It’s been a while since I last wrote here, in my defense I do have a litany of excuses – in chronological order: my iphone was stolen in Cambodia, I met a lovely lady in Thailand and forgot about the rest of the world for a while, I had an accident and broke my finger in the Philippines (more on that later).. additionally, I’ve rarely been inclined to spend too much downtime writing things up in an internet cafe. However, in Japan, internet cafes are often cheaper to stay and spend the night than hostels, which is where I am writing this from in Tokyo, instead of what I should be doing of course, sleeping.
It’s hard to convey how insane and entirely different Japan is from anywhere else I’ve been before.. it really feels like stepping into another planet! The pictures I’ve taken don’t really do it justice either, it feels like it’s something only one can get a feel for once they visit for themselves. Well, I’ll give it a shot anyway.
Buddha Park is the creation of a self styled styled mystic called Luang Pu (Venerable Grandfather) Bunleua Sulilat, who according to legend, fell into a cave while on an stroll in Vietnam where he met a Hindu hermit, who became his spiritual mentor.
Chiang Rai is home to two unusual creations both built recently by Thai artists turned architects.
I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos – mainly because most that I’ve come across on people either don’t really seem to have much significance or are plain ugly. However, my interest was peeked when some fellow travellers mentioned they were travelling out to a rural temple where was monk reportedly performing Sak Yant tattoos – geometrical designs believed to posses magical powers of protection, inked onto the skin using a bamboo needle.
This practice has often been used for Muay Thai fighters, becoming common among travellers too, with Angelina Jolie’s decision to get one no doubt contributing to their increasing popularity.
Wondering through the third floor of the Sungei Wang Plaza mall in Kuala Lumpur, I found myself staring in amazement at rows of toilets which appeared to have been left for the general public to do their business right out in the open?! Surely not.
Hitchhiking in New Zealand is quite common, as it has a reputation for being a relatively safe place to do so, few highways, friendly locals and fellow travellers. In fact, it’s so popular it was common to see hitchhikers on the same road several times a hundred meters apart from each other.
With so much competition, it pays off to try and stand out some way. My inspiration came from an unlikely source. While taking the boat across to the South Island, there was a Mr Bean film playing where he goes on holiday in France. Despite my low expectations, the film turned out to be an interesting story, and I think all the passengers came away having learnt something about life, love, knowledge and the pursuit of something greater than oneself (ok maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but in all seriousness it was not such a bad film).
Mr Bean in the movie showed me the optimal hitchhiking strategy – dancing around like an idiot to get people’s attention. Suffice to say that it paid off – I never had to take the bus and got three separate rides- an old couple with a jack russel terrier (their son also happened to have been at the same wedding as me a week earlier!) from picton to blenheim, a newly married couple to kaikoura and a courier driver on to christchurch.
Total time spent waiting only 30 minutes!
For English speaking readers: This is an email I wrote to a friend of mine considering moving to Bali some day – written in French as she doesn’t speak too much English, I thought it would be worth including here. You can use google translate to read it in English if you like.
Pour les Francophones: voici un extrait d’un email que j’ai ecrit a une amie qui pense de peut etre s’installer a Bali un jour.. (desole pour les accents qui manquent, mais c’est difficil avec le iphone ou le clavier australien..)