South East Asia


Ger, Mongolia

Ger, Mongolia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2002 we saw a story on National Geographic about a foundation started by Christina Noble – CNCF. This foundation has helped children and families in Vietnam and Mongolia out of poverty and off of the streets. One campaign they have is the “Give a Ger” campaign for Mongolia.

Mongolian winters are extremely harsh and cold, there are many families who have insufficient funds for good housing. Also many families are still nomadic in nature and move from place to place. Their house is a Ger. Which is like a big round tent, housing the entire family and their needs. So the CNCF foundation has this campaign every year to donate a Ger to a family in need. The cost is $1500 US dollars, but this is buying a house for an entire family that will last them for some years. This was a little too much for us alone, so we raised some money from some others and were able to get enough together to give a Ger.

This is the site for the foundation – www.cncf.org and this is for the campaign http://cncf.org/en/our_projects/community_mongolia.php

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I love animals, especially felines. To me the most majestic land animal is the tiger.
So, given the opportunity to get up close and personal with your why wouldn’t you right? This opportunity came to us recently, I had to travel to Thailand for work. My darling always accompanies me. So we took the opportunity to visit a local zoo that has tigers. This zoo has been maligned by many, Srirachi Zoo, for not conforming to international zoo standards. We chose to visit because we like to make our own minds up, yes, some of the negative comments are valid, but the animals have been there for a long time so the conditions can’t be all that bad.

Anyway, we went along to this zoo with the aim of getting close to a tiger. Wondering around we saw some not nice things, rabbits with myxomatosis and crowded conditions, so that put us off a little. Then we came upon the adult tiger exhibit where the public can have a photo with the tiger. After much discussion I decided to do this, then my darling joined me too. We were both very apprehensive, for obvious reasons. Here is a fully grown male tiger, with all its teeth and claws, held to the stand by a chain and controlled by a keeper with a little aerial like metal rod! But, what the heck, once in a lifetime, bucket list, favourite animal, etc.etc…

So in we go, sit there getting photo’s taken on my blackberry (yes numpty me forgot to pack the trusty powershot). A few photo’s later and we were out of there. My heart was pumping hard for quite a while later. Now in hindsight this was a really silly thing to do. Put myself and my darling at such a risk! If the tiger took the same route as dogs have done often in my life (I got bitten at 20 and had 26 stitches in my nose), we would have been torn to shreds. Yes we may have been able to get away, but we would have been injured or killed for sure.

So hopefully those of you with similar admiration for these animals are able to think twice before putting yourself at such a risk. Yes I love tigers, yes we got out of there safely, but reality is this is a wild animal that could have caused us harm.

I had to come to Thailand for work purposes. Thailand is one place I have never really had a desire to visit. Most of what I have seen or heard from other’s who have been here is about the typical westerners haunts in South East Asia – booze, women, more booze and more women, though I do have one special woman in my life, neither of these activities are or ever have been pursuits of mine. So it was with great surprise that we found a hidden treasure of wonder today. (more…)

Having moved 45 times in my 47 years, there are very few places that I would consider to be home, other than the current roof over my head. This attitude changed when I spent 8 years in Brunei Darussalam. Brunei for short, and no folks it is nowhere near the Middle East! This idyllic abode is a tiny nation on the tip of Borneo on the South China sea, aptly named the Abode of Peace.

Brunei is a Sultanate run by the Sultan of Brunei – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The main language is Malay, Chinese and English. The currency is the Brunei $ which is pegged to the Singapore $. The main economy is from Oil and Gas in the South China sea.

 

Now some may think that I like this place because this is where I met the love of my life, and that may be partly true, but this is the first place I have ever felt at home and comfortable. Alcohol is forbidden, gambling is forbidden and there are no taxes. The local markets, eateries and jungles are wonders to explore.

 

Brunei is not the traditional tourist destination because it has no real “resort” type places and it doesn’t have the inevitable hoards of Western tourists, a la Phuket and Bali, bringing their behaviours and attitudes down upon the locals. No Brunei is relatively unspoilt by these types of things. Just another thing to love about the place.

 

Here are a few things that are worth a look if you are ever fortunate to go there –

 

Kampong Ayer – Literal translation is the Water Village, and this is exactly what it is. For $10 or $20 Brunei you can take a water taxi around and get a thrill and an interesting insight to a different way of life.

 

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Daru...

Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Empire Hotel – A six star luxury hotel with some rooms at $20000 Brunei per night.

 

Freshwater Pool, Empire Hotel, Brunei

Freshwater Pool, Empire Hotel, Brunei (Photo credit: Don Shearman)

 

Istana – The Royal Palace – Especially when the Sultan has a meet and greet.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace (Photo credit: gordontour)

There are flights on the national airline too and from many countries, as well as other major airlines. A few days should be enough of a taste. Be warned you may just fall in love with the tranquility and the local lifestyle.