Array ( [total] => 47 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5647] => Array ( [iID] => 5647 [tTitle] => The pleasant capital that is Bishkek [tSlug] => the-pleasant-capital-that-is-bishkek [iTime] => 1479942000 [iUpdate] => 1489792163 [tDescription] => Not an old town, Bishkek didn't exist 150 years ago, and, during the Soviet regime, was named Frunze, after a locally born Russian civil war commander, whose Bolshevik forces seized Khiva and Bukhara in 1920. Kyrgyzstan, and the central Asian states in general, should really be visited in summer, as the wide open landscapes and rough mountain ranges, that is, outdoor life, is what really is the attraction, less so the Soviet era cities. But, with, recently, Kyrgyzstan's visa regime opening up, and my visits to the old continent getting rarer and rarer, I figured it sensible to take the opportunity now, as opposed to waiting who knows how long for another chance at finally visiting Central Asia. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have their borders meet like in a whirlpool, right in the Ferghana valley, a consequence of Stalin's divide and rule policies. Now, relationships are quite tense, made worse by the fact that Kyrgyzstan is host to three enclaves of two countries. The politics of the closely connected countries conjure up parallels with the Caucasian countries and, perhaps, the former Yugoslavia. In Kyrgyzstan, the first post-independence president came in as a reformer but, also after dealing with an Uzbek Islamist insurgency, based in Tajikistan, oversaw a government that slid back into nepotism and corruption. Then, with the 2005 Tulip revolution, he first fled to Kazakhstan, then Russia, where he became a lecturer. Five years later, his successor, accused of similar practices, also fled the country after riots broke out, eventually ending his journey in Belarus. Now, a woman leads the country, but not after even more riots broke out when the Uzbek population felt they were short changed with this handover of power. The Kyrgyz flag perhaps looks more like a corporate logo than a traditional flag. Representing the inner vent, the tunduk, of a yurt, or Ger, the fourty flames around the edge representing the fourty tribes of the Manas epic. Forty, kyrk in Kyrgyz, is also the source of the name of the people and language. The Manas epic is a long story about a warrior who secures land and rights for his people against unlikely odds. Twenty times longer than the Odyssey, the story was only first penned down in the mid nineteenth century and is still also communicated orally, by bards, or Akyns, in exactly the same way Homer's stories were handed down from story teller to story teller, with the best being able to improvise new story lines on the fly. I suppose it's tempting to see a connection between the Greek epics and this Kyrgyz story, but, the central Asian story appears to be much younger, by the Kyrgyz themselves estimated at a little over 1000 years old. Impressions Arriving at the airport was a bit like tumbling into a flashback from the past: Military costumes resembling those from a Soviet past, border guards wearing caps taller than the span of a hand. Immigration seemed smooth enough, until I was taken aside for questioning, although that seemed more, eventually, about the incomprehension of someone coming to Kyrgyzstan as a tourist, in winter. And, stepping out of the airport, I understood why. It was 16 degrees below zero. Bishkek feels more like a very large village, and everything covered in snow made it quite appealing. Very few buildings over even a few stories high while my guesthouse, very much in the center, is one of many single story houses, freestanding, that simply seems to have grown over time, from a makeshift wooden core to a small agglomeration of a few buildings, surrounded by a wooden fence. Prices are pleasantly low. A bus ride on a decent minibus is 15 cents. A large stuffed bread roll on the street is 45 cents. Memories of Mongolia It's very easy to compare the city to Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia. Similar architecture, built around the same time, wide avenues with similar Soviet style apartment blocks, statues everywhere, boutique restaurants still charging low prices, alternated with communist cafeteria leftovers. One of the latter is the basement cafe in one of the theaters. Done up pretty much as you would expect a communist era cafe in the basement of a theater to look like, not having changed in the last 30 years or so, with blue aproned babushkas busying themselves serving your food. Here, in comparison with Ulaanbaatar, the mountains are further out, and the city is perhaps even sleepier. But, the blanket of snow muffling all sounds probably helps. In the countryside, Kyrgyz and Mongol don't dress alike, but both live in gers, yurts, value horse races and archery, and play the horse head fiddle. Cycling Bishkek is a flat city, multiple places rent out bikes, some at unreasonable, some at reasonable prices. In summer. In my guesthouse, a Japanese round-the-world cyclist was surprised by the sudden and early arrival of winter. He'd been waiting 10 days and now planned to fly to the Philippines to make his way back to Kyrgyzstan by next summer. I could have sworn I've met the guy before, he's been going for six years. Or is it that all Japanese cyclists look alike? Change is in the air In Kyrgyzstan, too, the times they are a changing. One of the enjoyable aspects of living in Budapest in the late 90s, was that stage plays, operas, musicals and classical concerts were pleasantly cheap and good. And popular. In Budapest, not so slowly, prices have crept up. Still cheaper than comparable shows in Western Europe, but not by too much. Ascension to the EU and being so close to hordes of tourists with money as well as inevitable market integration have driven prices up. Here, in Bishkek, however, prices for live stage plays are still ridiculously low, and the shows good. Though not popular. I went to a stage play of Don Juan, assuming it was going to be an opera. The theater had seats for perhaps some 500, yet only 50, at most, were occupied. On a Friday night. Later, I did go and see Figaro. I went down to the wardrobe to leave my coat. "Excuse me, where is the bathroom?" "This is an opera!" "Yes! And, where is the bathroom, please?" "An opera! Lalalalalala." The bar was selling local cognac as if it was 1979. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1046 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1502 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 15 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 42.8777 [fLongitude] => 74.6067 [tLocation] => Bishkek park [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20161124 ) [5526] => Array ( [iID] => 5526 [tTitle] => A taste of the Salar [tSlug] => a-taste-of-the-salar [iTime] => 1402869600 [iUpdate] => 1402869600 [tDescription] => Gorgeously surrounded by the barren Andes, temperatures during the day can reach 25 degrees, while dropping below zero, occasionally far below zero, at night. Still, San Pedro is also very much a tourist trap, the whole town's existence based on the hordes of tourists that pour in every day. Even in the off season, the town is terribly busy, with its unsealed streets lined with fancy overpriced restaurants, and boutiques selling expensive hiking gear, every second store a bike rental, cute cafe or tour agency. The sights in the area are, it has to be said, impressive. But the tours are painfully expensive. Want to see the nearby geyser field? That's fifty dollars please. Want to float in a nearby salt lake? Forty dollars please. Want to see Moon Valley? Forty dollars please. And these are all half day, if that, excursions. Then there are the extended excursions. If you want to visit the full list of sights and do all activities, you'll have to have deep pockets, the total coming to over 500 dollars. Excluding accommodation and, mostly, without food. Here, almost at the end of my Chile visit, I learned that Chile has a law that forbids restaurants to serve only alcohol to its patrons. That's the prerogative of bars (who are not allowed to serve food). On the up, my overly expensive restaurant did also serve up live local music. I contemplated taking the three day tour from San Pedro to Uyuni, in Bolivia. It takes you through what is said to be impressive scenery, several pristine lakes and a salt flat or two. At a cost of about 200 USD. True, this includes food and accommodation, though the latter comes down to sleeping under the stars. Before making the decision, I went on a morning trip to a nearby geyser field, which includes a very pleasant dip in a hot springs. Upon arrival, some 4300 meters above sea level, about an hour before sunrise, temperatures were about minus 15. With virtually no winter clothing with me, it felt my fingers and toes were slowly separating themselves from my body. The decision was made: I was not going to spend two nights out in the open in the middle of the Andes. The scenery around San Pedro is impressive. Take equal parts northern Mongolia and central Afghanistan, stir it up with a healthy dose of Oman, and you pretty much have northeastern Chile. And, though tour operators try shaking down tourists for short taxi rides around the area, on top if which you are expected to pay entry fees, several of the sights are within striking distance by rental bike, though the altitude and sometimes steep inclines can make for a few healthily tough trips. For the sites that are further away, renting a car quickly becomes cheaper compared to the shared tours on offer. I went for one shared tour and cycled the rest. After my visit to a geyser field, some 100 kilometers away from San Pedro, the tour made a stop at a small community where a clever entrepreneur sold barbecued llama. Quite delicious. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1209 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1336 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462163186 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.8953 [fLongitude] => -68.2178 [tLocation] => Valle de la Muerte [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140616 ) [5458] => Array ( [iID] => 5458 [tTitle] => The terracotta army [tSlug] => the-terracotta-army [iTime] => 1368568800 [iUpdate] => 1368568800 [tDescription] => The first heartland of China, the emperor which left us the terra cotta army was the first to unite China. Though rather totalitarian, which seemingly sits well with the current Chinese state, he was also much more indigenous Chinese than the father of, for all intents and purposes, China as we know it today, Kublai Khan, the grandson of everyone's favorite world conqueror, Chinggis Khan. Xi'an still has its walls, nicely restored and, for their height and size, impressive, totaling a cool 14 kilometers. The city, a bustle, with the heat being a mixed blessing; unattractive men doing the Asian shirt roll, but scantily dressed women making more than up for that, showing legs. But, the city, even the old city, mostly looks just like every other city in China, the 'old town' mostly being a collection of malls. And it's loaded with tourists. To the extent that the area around the south gate has not one but two Belgian beer bars, as well as a host of other tourist oriented restaurants. The strangest of which is probably being a German bar/restaurant partially staffed by Russian looking women from Kazakhstan. Who don't speak English. Or German. So, the thing not too miss in Xi'an is the terra cotta army. Put together over 2000 years ago by the first emperor uniting the seven warring kingdoms, creating effectively a proto-China, the army was lost to time until drilling for a well in 1974 accidentally uncovered what is now the largest of three pits, containing no less than 6000 clay warriors. Being allowed in is costly, as are most tourist attractions in China, but you hardly can't go when in the area. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1543 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1241 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461714968 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 12 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 34.385 [fLongitude] => 109.274 [tLocation] => Terracotta warriors [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20130515 ) [5435] => Array ( [iID] => 5435 [tTitle] => The hyenas of Harar [tSlug] => the-hyenas-of-harar [iTime] => 1357081200 [iUpdate] => 1357081200 [tDescription] => Not on the religious circuit of northern Ethiopia, Dire Dawa is much less touristy. And has very little to offer. In fact, it's so sleepy that not only were hotel representatives not waiting in the airport lobby to score some clients, as they are on the northern circuit, not even taxi drivers outside the airport cared for jumping us the moment we left the building. In fact, it took considerable effort for us to bet a taxi to drive us to our hotel. But we were heading for Harar. The author of the most recent Lonely Planet on Ethiopia has an unhealthy fascination with the country. Too much is too great. As a result, we have been wrong footed several times. Harar, is, according to the Planet "more reminiscent of Fez in Morocco than it is of any other Ethiopian city". Technically true, but it's also closer to 122000 inhabitants than any other city in Ethiopia. It's also the only city that produces a beer with the city's name. Qualifications that are fairly meaningless. The Mongolian city most resembling Fez will not resemble Fez much. There are some parallels with Stone Town, on Zanzibar, but the comparison is favorable to Zanzibar, not to Harar. Sure, there's an old town, there's a city wall, there are narrow streets and there are all sorts of markets, but it's Stone Town which is the more attractive one, let alone Fez. Only really of interest in Harar is the hyena feeding, happening every day, around dusk, on the edge of the old town. Started on what must have been a whim or a bet in the 1950s, a bunch of locals feed hyenas with strips of waste meat collected in the morning of the same day. If you're daring, you can hold a stick in your mouth, with a piece of meat wrapped around the end, and have a hyena eat the meat off it. The town's markets hold some interest, as the city functions as something of a crossroads for trade between Ethiopia, Djibouti and a few of the defacto independent republics in what is still formally Somalia. However, they also are quite the same as markets anywhere in Africa. We spent an afternoon chewing qat, or as it is called here, chat. More and more qat is grown locally, more and more endangering the area's water levels while replacing less profitable crops like coffee. I wanted to buy a small bag, to try, but was only allowed to by a plastic bag full. For the equivalent of one euro. The leaves weren't as bitter as we feared, but the effect also seemed minimal. Harar also saw us for a third time in Ethiopia at a hotel that had no record of our reservation, though each time the reservation was done by email. It was the only time they could not rearrange their bookings to host us and we had to move hotels. With Ethiopia's different calendar, not in sync with the rest of the world; they're seven years and some days behind, Christmas is celebrated two weeks later, also meaning that new year's eve is not new year's eve in Ethiopia. We went out for dinner, but, with the restaurant slowly emptying, went home around 10, when the streets were already so quiet it felt like the dead of night. The restaurant on the top floor of our hotel was just about to close by the time we got back, meaning we heralded the new year from our balcony, overlooking an eerily quiet city. As we did, a man walked by barking like a dog. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5238 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1208 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462159877 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 9.31144 [fLongitude] => 42.1319 [tLocation] => Harar gate [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20130102 ) [5383] => Array ( [iID] => 5383 [tTitle] => On the edge of Europe and Asia [tSlug] => on-the-edge-of-europe-and-asia [iTime] => 1338328800 [iUpdate] => 1338328800 [tDescription] => Tbilisi has a lot of gorgeous architecture. Not just in the center of town, or the old town itself, but everywhere. You might be walking around in some deadbeat suburb, turning a corner, when your breath is taken away by a humongous art nouveau structure, or a socialist realist contraption, or some neoclassical cum rococo folly. Sadly, however, outside the recent additions and the few areas in Tbilisi which have been refurbished, much of the city is in a pretty dire state of disrepair. Even in the old town, where the main streets are in need of an upgrade, one block down, the streets were in need of an upgrade twenty or more years ago. Let alone the suburbs, where many buildings need to be refurbished before they can be refurbished. What doesn't help is that, seemingly, building restrictions never existed or were simply never adhered to, many residences, including the home that operates as a hostel in which I'm staying, seemingly having grown hopscotch over the years; additional room here, extra balcony there, perhaps even a new floor on top. And with all these additions of varying quality and material, it makes some areas of the city look like a medieval collection of madness. Georgia, significantly more free, politically, than Azerbaijan, is undergoing some political upheaval, yet again. However, there clearly is some real improvement in people's lives, and, as said, people can voice their disenchantment, but the city, as the suburbs, looks significantly more grimy than Baku does. And, yes, Baku was swept clean of beggars in preparation for Eurovison, so it's hard for me to compare on that count, but there is quite a bit of poverty, sometimes painfully so, on the streets of Tbilisi. Tbilisi does feel distinctly more European, if eastern, than Baku. The dividing line being the structural absence of bum guns, sorely missed. The national foodstuff in Georgia seems to be cheese. It's EVERYWHERE. Also, a surprising local delicacy is khinkali, large boiled potato dumplings with, most often, meat inside. Pretty much identical to Mongolian buuz. It's a small world after all. Georgians are said to be a people of extremes. Mother Georgia, an aluminum statue overlooking the city, similar to the statue in Kiev, but smaller, holds a sword in one hand and a bowl of wine in the other; ready to welcome both enemy and friends, with the visitor being able to choose his destiny. However, I found most Georgians I have met so far, to be a bit gruff, much more so than the Azeris of yesterweek, who I felt had a bit more carefree attitude. Or was that just spiel? Then again, the thousands strong demonstration against the president only a few days ago, here in Tbilisi, perhaps means that Georgians are having Georgia on their mind, and it might not be too pretty. Also intriguing, both Armenian and Georgian lore says they are descendants of great grandsons of Noah, himself having been stranded on the nearby Ararat, but just different grandsons. It would make them brothers, at worst. And it's Georgians and Armenians who also have the fewest spats with each other amongst the people of the Caucasus. Armenians struggle with Turkey and Azerbaijan, Azeris struggle with Iran at the moment, Georgia struggles with its breakaway provinces, while playing with Russian fire. In fact, all these feuds are a tad confusing to the untrained eye. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4434 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1160 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462214387 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 36 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.6935 [fLongitude] => 44.8016 [tLocation] => Freedom square [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120530 ) [5375] => Array ( [iID] => 5375 [tTitle] => Of pizza and Mongols [tSlug] => of-pizza-and-mongols [iTime] => 1337119200 [iUpdate] => 1337119200 [tDescription] => Istanbul gets more rain than London, though it doesn't have the reputation for it. Still, upon my arrival, a steady drizzle was making my choice of wearing shorts and sandals a poor one. I upgraded my dress and later even added a sweater and went in search for baklava. One new addition since my previous visit is the excellent metro connecting the airport with the edge of downtown Istanbul, for a mere 2 Lira, some 85 eurocents, though the machine issuing the tokens did eat on of my lira first. Also good, close to the entrance, a supermarket selling heaps of baklava. I'm staying in an area called Fatih, where I found a place calling itself "Best place in Istanbul's old city" through Airbnb. It's nice, but maybe that's overdoing it a tad bit. Airbnb will be the death of the conventional hostel. I'm paying 15 euros for a double room in a private home, comparable to the price of a hostel bed in a dorm. Sure, you don't get the same social experience, but the advantages are legion. Inside the suburb of Fatih, there's the sub-suburb of Zeyrek, a world heritage site where dilapidated wooden houses are stacked on top of each other, fairytale like, at almost impossible angles. And kitties! So many kitties! Dinner was had at the excellent Fatih Karadeniz Pidecisi, serving Turkish pizza. A Turkish pizza is most often oblong, somewhat shaped like a human eye, with upstanding edges. The fillings are typically cheese, meat and, more often than not, a soft fried egg. Mine was served with a stick of butter. Next to me, three men ordered four pide, where the sides were so much standing up, that they touched along the length of the pizza, except for having a small hole in the middle. They threw in their sticks of butter, picked up the pizza at both ends and proceeded to rock their pizzas back and forth, letting the melted butter slide from one end of the pizza to the other. Then, pizzas were wolfed down. I was a bit surprised at the cost of my meal, pide now apparently going for upwards of 10 lira, about 4.50 euro. Restoring my faith in economic disparity, though, my breakfast the next day, of a big toasti, ayran en tea, was a mere four lira, not even two euros. Closeby, also the seemingly only Greek Orthodox church not converted to a mosque after the takeover of Constantinopel by the Turks in 1453. The oddly named Church of St. Mary of the Mongols was already a church and nunnery from the 7th century onwards, but only achieved its later prominence in the late 13rth century, when one Maria Palaiologina rebuilt the church and nunnery after herself having been away for 15 years. She returned to Istanbul because her husband had died. Her husband being the khan of the ilkhanate, the portion of Chinggis' empire centered around Persia. Hence the name. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2062 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1146 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461986327 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 2 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 41.0293 [fLongitude] => 28.9492 [tLocation] => Church of St. Mary of the Mongols [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120516 ) [5354] => Array ( [iID] => 5354 [tTitle] => Montenegro's lovely coast [tSlug] => montenegros-lovely-coast [iTime] => 1329606000 [iUpdate] => 1329606000 [tDescription] => Though even the road from Podgorica to Budva, a mere 70 kilometers, was closed for a while due to the weather, we now had no problem, taking the short bus ride to the coast, still at times passing through corridors of snow nearly two meters high. And even in Budva, after arriving at the town's bus station, there was still a tiny bit of snow on the ground, here and there. The mountains separating the country's interior from the coast are very rocky and only scenic at times, but exiting them, looking down on the coastal strip from about 1000 meters up, is rather spectacular. Budva, touted as a major tourist destination, and apparently loved by Russians, is a bit of a downer. The old town is indeed something of a baby-sized version of Dubrovnik, but there are plenty of towns on the eastern Adriatic who aren't too dissimilar. Sadly, though at least one hostel rents out reasonably priced, if tiny, self contained apartments, restaurants in the old town charge ridiculous prices. We ventured outside to get our fill. The town does have its history. In Greek mythology, Budva was founded by Cadmus, the son of a Phoenician king and brother of the legendary beauty Europa, who gave the continent it's name. Europa was scored by Zeus, himself seducing her in the shape of a bull, taking her to Crete and making her the first queen of that island. Cadmus promised to bring his sister back, but it's difficult fighting the will of Zeus. Instead, he founded the Greek city of Thebes, but not after slaying a fine monster of the deep. The gods being somewhat annoyed by having their favorite monster slain, Cadmus and his wife Harmonia had to pack up and leave, moving up the Adriatic coast, founding a new town and naming it after the oxen they were traveling with, Bouthoe, now Budva. Though it's a myth that eastern Europe has taken over winning the Eurovision song contest, particularly the Balkan countries tend to do unreasonably well. Montenegro, proud of its cultural heritage, has plenty of local radio stations blaring out local hit after local hit. And they all sound like Eurovision contenders! The reason the region does so well is simply that they have internalized creation of the style that makes a Eurovision hit. Also in culture, the national dance is the Oro, a circle dance, where participants take turns on the center of the circle, performing a stylized eagle dance. Eagle dance, you say? Indeed, how did this echo of Mongolia end up on this end of the Eurasian continent? [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2064 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1130 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462225826 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 3 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 42.281 [fLongitude] => 18.8361 [tLocation] => Garden Caffe [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120219 ) [5260] => Array ( [iID] => 5260 [tTitle] => When in Romania [tSlug] => when-in-romania [iTime] => 1311112800 [iUpdate] => 1311112800 [tDescription] => Getting in or out of Chisinau presents you with limited choices. Though there are occasional long distance trains, going to and coming from as far away as Berlin and Moscow, but these only typically run about once a week. There is a daily night train between the Moldovan capital and Bucharest, but busses are significantly more common. So, skipping Bucharest to save time which would allow me to potentially participate in a pubquiz in Budapest on Thursday, I took a bus to Brasov, just under two hundred kilometers north of Bucharest. Brasov, its name deriving from the Turkic for "white water", once in the domain of the Hungarians, is firmly in the heart of Transylvania. The city isn't very big, only counting some 300.000 peeps as it's inhabitants, and the old town of the city is embedded between two scissoring steep cliff faces, which rise up hundreds of meters above the old city. The town itself is actually a tad boring, feeling like a remote Austrian or south German town. And it's also horribly touristy, the whole year through, thanks to the nearby ski slopes and the also nearby home of Vlad the Impaler, more colloquially known as Dracula. You can even visit the man's castle, though he had several. Apparently, a country has to take pride in one's serial killers. More interesting is the castle's history before Vlad associated himself with it, if only briefly. A castle was first built by the Teutonic knights in the early 13th century, this one was destroyed by the advancing Mongols in 1242. Consider how close the Mongols came to conquering the world. Not because they were defeated, but because the generals were called back to select a successor to the great khan Ogedei, the third son of Chinggis Khan. Talk about a case of being saved by the bell. The rebuilt Bran castle, put together by the Saxons and allowed for by the ruling Hungarian king was then first used in the defense against the Ottomans in 1378, after which a back and forth took place for a while, which included the short term ownership of Vlad III, in 1459, the individual on which Dracula was modeled. Now, the building is a museum with a host of materials from the Romanian queen Mary and, actually, not really worth visiting. Sure, the setting is nice, but Vlad the Impaler is only a minor side story, and the disneyfication in the village of Bran is second to none. No sweet transvestites were encountered. Onwards Even the Romanian train network now deploys time-differentiated pricing in the style of Ryanair. Want to travel tomorrow to Budapest? You'll pay up to twice as much as if you had booked a week in advance. Is that reasonable? A public service run by the government shouldn't try to take advantage of it's subjects in a market where competition is not possible. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2477 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1101 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462210729 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 6 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 45.515 [fLongitude] => 25.3672 [tLocation] => Bran castle [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110720 ) [4941] => Array ( [iID] => 4941 [tTitle] => Don't worry it's safe to browse the web in Sierra Leone [tSlug] => dont-worry-its-safe-to-browse-the-web-in-sierra-leone [iTime] => 1283032800 [iUpdate] => 1283032800 [tDescription] => Antivirus producer AVG recently released a report which revealed that seven of the ten safest countries to surf the web in are in Africa, with Sierra Leone being the safest of them all. The numbers seem impressive, with the chance of being attacked in Sierra Leone a meagre 0.14%, a far cry from Turkey, which tops the overal list with a chance of being attacked at 10%. AVG didn't put a time frame on these chances, but one of their bloggers implies that these are the chances on any given day. More impressive numbers reveal that 127 million computers were monitored in 144 countries. Depending on how you count, however, there are some 193 sovereign states, meaning that some 50 were not included in AVG's research. Judging from the pretty infographic below (available here), countries not part of the report include several countries in central Africa, as well as Myanmar and Mongolia. I can understand leaving out, say, Myanmar or North Korea, but not including Mongolia makes very little sense. And nor does touting Sierra Leone as a safe country when multiple significantly richer African countries are not even included. But what's more is that a current estimate for the number of internet users in Sierra Leone is only some 15000, the only country in Africa with fewer users, but marginally so, being Equatorial Guinea, where the population is just above a tenth of the population of Sierra Leone. With a chance of about 0.14% of being attacked on any given day, even if we assume that all these 15000 users use the internet every day on their own computer, only some 20 users a day are under attack. With AVG commanding less then 10% of the antivirus market share, all this means that we have to thank AVG for their insight into the safety of Sierra Leonan internet use based on about 2 measured attacks per day over a period of one week. Indeed, this is hardly reliable. On a related note, the quality of internet access is so bad and so expensive here, it's no wonder internet use is so low in this country. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3517 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1018 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462216868 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 8.47522 [fLongitude] => -13.27 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100829 ) [785] => Array ( [iID] => 785 [tTitle] => Internet cafes [tSlug] => internet-cafes [iTime] => 1219615200 [iUpdate] => 1219615200 [tDescription] => Space is so much at a premium that internet cafes offer nightly rates, comparable to the price of a night's stay in a pod hotel. Added advantage: you can read as much manga as you like and surf the internet as much as you like. Typically, the internet cafes have cubicles available with easy lounge chairs and a shower on hand. I remember reading a while back, perhaps in Wired, mentioning some Japanese spending the night at manga cafes. Manga, if you've been living in a cave for the last twenty years, are Japanese comics. My favorite subgenre, if you're wondering, is hentai. To help overnight stays at manga cafes, the one around the corner from my hotel even offered the possibility to take a shower. Sights Asakusa, the area I'm staying in, is home to a hot tourist destination, Senso-ji, a popular Shinto temple holding a small statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Shinto, of course, is Japan's national religion. Though influenced by buddhism, it's essentially animistic. This being an early Monday morning, the first after my arrival, I woke up, jetlagged, at 5am, it was rather quiet on the streets. Surprisingly so, for a metropolis of some 33 million people. Also, because it was Monday, most museums were closed, meaning I missed both the Tokyo National Museum and the Tokyo Metropolitan museum of art, where currently an extensive Vermeer exhibition is on show. Onwards to Kappabashi-dori, a shopping street famed for its sales of plastic food models (for restaurants to display in their windows), I stopped at Chingodo-ji, a temple dedicated to tanuki, basically raccons which huge nutsacks on which they can fly around. I am not kidding. A few years back, I did projects for NIROV and Habiforum, both occupied with design of public spaces, with a focus on multiple space use. That means vertical use of available space, an example being a train station under a mall. Easily, Tokyoites are the kings of multiple space use. Every little bit of city is used and, where possible, many times over. Subways under trams under skytrains under malls. During my stay in Tokyo, I also visited a few cemeteries. I have a morbid fascination with cemeteries, mostly because they can be extremely picturesque. My guidebook promised me I would enjoy Yanaka cemetery, but it was only 'alright'. One surprise was a grave marked with a turtle carrying a monolith, a common theme in Mongolia. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3456 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 806 [iOldID] => 1158 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462092087 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 29 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.714 [fLongitude] => 139.797 [tLocation] => Senso-ji [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20080825 ) [732] => Array ( [iID] => 732 [tTitle] => Back in the RSA [tSlug] => back-in-the-rsa [iTime] => 1209938400 [iUpdate] => 1209938400 [tDescription] => Killing multiple birds with one stone, I'm doing work for SACSIS in situ, while the plan was to also give a training on The latter doesn't seem to be happening, but has opened up time for putting up the new collection on Meanwhile, I'm drinking Wild Bean cafe coffee, eating bunny chow, running a hash and jumping around on a DDR machine for two hours in Menlyn Park, and meeting old friends of course. Driving up to Pretoria for the hash, in the pouring rain, the landscape and weather very strongly reminded me of driving on the ring road around Brussels. Similar constructions, mostly newly build office space, car dealers and malls, with the same grittiness and not-really-up-to-date road system. I'm staying at Ismail's sister, director of SACSIS. She's living in an area of Jo'burg I've never really gotten into, but appears to be very nice. Interestingly, Stevan, who I know from my work in Mongolia and who's moved back to Jo'burg recently, now also lives in the same area; Parkhurst / Linden / Greenside. Lots of nice little restaurants, bars and cafes. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20080505 ) [372] => Array ( [iID] => 372 [tTitle] => Dams [tSlug] => dams [iTime] => 1123192800 [iUpdate] => 1123192800 [tDescription] => Ed, the guy I had spoken to on Monday, showed up at the hotel yesterday. He's working as a contractor for ADB, doing road surveys to decide where Afghanistan should start building tarred roads. He was going to show up on Saturday but was now two days early because his planned route was inaccessible due to flooding. The good news was that they now were taking the spectacular route to Band-e-Amir on Friday, today, and that we could tag along. Band-e-Amir, one of a set of 'platformed' lakes, connected through naturally created dams is quite as spectacularly situated as they come. What's more, it also attracts quite a crowd on Fridays, most people's weekend. Surprising as well, considering most visitors have to travel at least three hours, by car, to visit the place. Light blue lakes, icy cold, sparkling clean, in between towering mountains. Amazing and very similar, in parts, to Mongolia. We went into the lake for a quick swim and VERY quickly, got out again. I tried swimming underwater to impress the local population (almost all Afghans can't swim), but it was too friggin' cold. Giovanni was brave enough to do two dives, but only survived some 10 seconds longer. Driving towards Band-e-Amir, we constantly passed Kochis, nomads, walking down to the lake for the Friday pick nick. We drove for over three hours, from Bamyan to Band-e-Amir. In those three hours, we passed barren hill after barren hill, with only two tiny settlements along the way. Where did all these people come from and, what's more, at what time did they start to walk? Driving back from the lakes, the hydrogeolist (Didier) and the GIS-specialist (Giovanni) went nuts over the wells we passed en route. They got out for every one of them to take the coordinates and get a sample from the water. At one, they went off and I stayed in the car with the driver, watching some guys lounging by the side of the road. One guy came up on a motor cycle and started to chat with the people in the group. Shortly after, one of the guys quickly left to grab a young goat from a group of goats and sheep that were lounging in the area. He was holding it between his legs and almost immediately the young goat started to bleat continuously. Some haggling later, handshakes and loads of talking, a wad of money changed hands, the goat changed owners and was tied onto the back of the motor, still bleating. The guy drove off. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5943 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 5 [iVoters] => 1 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 360 [iOldID] => 709 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462231099 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 29 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 34.8644 [fLongitude] => 67.2344 [tLocation] => Band-e-Amir [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20050805 ) [282] => Array ( [iID] => 282 [tTitle] => Sweets [tSlug] => sweets [iTime] => 1102460400 [iUpdate] => 1102460400 [tDescription] => After visiting Mongolia last year, I figured that Mongolian script was based on Arabic script, but written from top to bottom, not right to left. Parwaneh, the Iranian aunt visiting Germany, is a linguist, specializing in middle Persian. Middle Persian is the language spoken and written in Persia before the Arabian conquest and she was actually visiting Germany to find a professor, in either Hamburg or Cologne, to take her on for a doctorate. Seeing written middle Persian, which is very similar to the written Armenian language, I realised that Mongolian script doesn't resemble Arabic, it resembles middle Persian. As Parwaneh and I spent time talking about language, I couldn't help but decadently eat many of the sweets Mehri (the other aunt) always has laying around in the living room. A small price to pay (that is, the extra time I will have to spend in the gym) for the help Parwaneh gave me on my application forms for my Iranian ID. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5489 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 114 [iOldID] => 465 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461702214 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 53.7277 [fLongitude] => 9.91189 [tLocation] => The Unterlauft residence [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20041208 ) [266] => Array ( [iID] => 266 [tTitle] => Work, Golf, Mongolia, PC, Nazar, birthday and dancing stage [tSlug] => work-golf-mongolia-pc-nazar-birthday-and-dancing-stage [iTime] => 1098568800 [iUpdate] => 1098568800 [tDescription] => Thanks to the lovely folks at, I landed a new client on Thursday. It's a local cooperative of medical doctors who need an online brochure to represent themselves. Nothing fancy, but at least it's a bit more work. Meanwhile, it seems there's an off-chance that the people at might ask me back for a major overhaul of their web presence. This could be really big. Birthdays and Arabians Yes, what do they have in common? Well, this weekend, Betsy and I spent abroad, I mean, in Friesland again. This time, because Betsy her brother had his birthday on Saturday (and, on a side note, Betsy has her birthday this Friday where she will reach the eternal age of 29, again). After Betsy, her mum and myself went on an obligatory shopping trip to find the birthday present her mum wanted to give her (a pair of trousers), we went up to Leeuwarden to celebrate Anton his birthday. The food was great. Grilled fish, Greek salad, stuffed peppers, tzatziki and more. The company was, well, interesting. The next day, we had the chance to finish our tour of the Noorderlicht photo exhibition in Leeuwarden. We had started our tour some weeks before, but had to miss out on the section where pictures by Arabians of the Arabian countries were shown. Compared to the 'old' pictures from the Arabian countries and pictures of the Arabian countries by 'western' artists, this easily was the most interesting of the three exhibitions, part of this year's Noorderlicht exhibition, called Nazar. On our way back, Sunday evening, we stopped at Dooworld in Almere, where one of the only five Dancing Stage machines in the Netherlands are located. We did well. So well that on Monday night, I figured I could try and outwit the game even more in our own version of the game. I kicked ass, finishing Normal-1. Golfing in Mongolia Back in Mongolia, last year, I met Andre Tolme. A nice guy, he was playing golf in Mongolia Although that, on its own shouldn't sound that harmful (however, there -is- only one golf club in that country), it was different in respect to it being golf -everywhere- in Mongolia. Early in the year, he had divided the length of Mongolia into 18 more-or-less equal stretches, holes, and he had simply started on the eastern end, playing his way to the western end of the country. Andre had hoped to finish the 'course' in the same summer, but he wasn't able to and returned this year, playing the second half of his 18 hole course. All nice and funny, I noticed this week that the guy had made an appearance on, no shit, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CNN and four more American TV shows. In addition, the guy is now writing a book. Besides the cool fact that Jay Leno is now only two degrees away (if he wasn't already), I'm stunned that it took so long for all these people to only notice Andre now, after he finished. I would think that what he did, last year and this year, was interesting, already when he was doing it. Not specifically because he also finished his tour, but because he had the idea and acted on it. Then again, it's probably one of the many parts of the American psyche I do not fully understand. If you're interested, you can check out Andre's website at More Mongolia I don't think I mentioned this before, but everyone's favourite British chick, Jess Howland, is pregnant and getting married down under. Or wait, was it that sheepshagging nation next to it? I know Jess from my time in Mongolia, where she befriended a supposedly friendly sheepshagger. They moved to NZ and very recently, the news was put out that Jess is pregnant and that they're getting married. I tried talking Jess into marrying in Mongolia (doesn't that make sense), but I don't think she's listening. On a very similar note, everyone's favourite Canadian, Pat (his website only survived for a couple of weeks) really got along well with Josie and he followed everyone's favourite knee-fixer down to Oz, to get married earlier this year. You see, Mongolia -does- do something to you. PC problems Goris finally figured out what's wrong with my second PC. Some of the processor cache is corrupt. Since the motherboard is a bit dated, it's no longer possible to simply order a replacement processor. This means I have to track down a suitable processor from somewhere, anywhere, before I can start using that PC again. Great. Not only will it cost me money, more importantly, it will cost me time. CityTour, but different My tour of Delft has been done in a style I actually had in mind for Delft. Not for Delft, but for Venice. And of course, I wasn't part of it. If I remember correctly, and somehow I hope I don't, the system was called 'pully'. No more GeoURL And I decided to take out the GeoURL links from this very site. It was a very cool feature, but the GeoURL site has been offline for several months now and it doesn't seem it'll come back any time soon. That is, unless someone big has bought it up and is rethinking it to make major bucks from it. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20041024 ) [230] => Array ( [iID] => 230 [tTitle] => The President's Volunteer Service Award [tSlug] => the-presidents-volunteer-service-award [iTime] => 1091397600 [iUpdate] => 1091397600 [tDescription] => While I was away in Zimbabwe, back here in the Netherlands, a package arrived for me from The White House (this is no joke, yes, The White House in Washington D.C., USA). Inside, there were some letters and a pin with the text 'USA Freedom Corps' (in the 'old' days, did this use to be 'USA French Corps'?) and some letters. Some choice quotes from the letters: "Through service to others, you demonstrate the outstanding character of America and help strengthen our country." "I encourage you to ask your friends, family, and colleagues to join you in serving your community and our Nation (sic.)" "... you served your community and your country with distinction." "And thank you for demonstrating the best of the American spirit." One of the letters was signed by what could have been Dubya's autograph. Another was signed by everyone's favorite space hero John Glenn. After browsing through the documents, I gagged and threw the garbage away. If you're wondering, I got this for my work in Mongolia. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20040802 ) [176] => Array ( [iID] => 176 [tTitle] => Project extension in Zimbabwe [tSlug] => project-extension-in-zimbabwe [iTime] => 1086040800 [iUpdate] => 1086040800 [tDescription] => Over the last three months, I've been working on a project with the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) of Zimbabwe, in Harare. If the SRC was going to behave 'well', the project was going to be extended to two years. Last week, ICCO, the Dutch organization funding my stay, decided no extension was in order. They decided that June 15th is going to be my last day at the office. The SRC, I believe, still hope that somehow they'll avert the crisis and that I'll end up staying longer, I don't think it'll happen. Over the past months, I observed a couple of things. Amongst others, they are... The smell Zimbabweans have a particular smell. In Mongolia, the locals smelled of mutton. Here, they smell of sadza ne nyama. It's getting colder now, so people sweat less, meaning you can now occasionally smell the perfumes and after shaves people wear, but in summer... man! Traveling on a commuter can be a real challenge. The noise When people speak Shona, they speak much louder then when speaking English. Quite often, locals are hard to hear when they're talking English. This has nothing to do with some inferiority complex, or whatever, when these people address foreigners or white people in general: they do it amongst themselves as well. However, when they speak Shona, the volume goes up a couple of notches. In the lodge, this sometimes startles me. The maids, sometimes talking English with each other, almost whisper but switch to a very loud voice when switching to Shona. The social contract It has been observed by many people that in many African cultures, it's all right to fool/steal from/harass some one, as long as the person is not part of your extended family. I believe this is because Africans, in general, don't have a 'social contract' with society as a whole, but mostly only with their extended family. In Europe, it's mostly the other way around, you don't have a social contract with your family much more than you have with society as a whole. Examples are rife. Here in Zimbabwe, black people, when driving a car, generally don't let pedestrians cross the road (black or white), at zebra crossings or anywhere else. At work, getting teamwork off the ground is a real challenge since people prefer, at all times, to only work on their own agenda. And don't get me started on Zimbabwean politics... land reform for the rich. The lack of a social contract with society as a whole poses significant problems for the development of a country, or for stopping the continuous depredation of a country, as is the case in Zimbabwe. In fact, this might very well be the main reason why so many African countries have done so badly over the past decades. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 9973 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 7 [iVoters] => 3 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 126 [iOldID] => 274 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462125678 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -17.8031 [fLongitude] => 31.0296 [tLocation] => Small World Backpackers Lodge [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20040601 ) [1885] => Array ( [iID] => 1885 [tTitle] => [tSlug] => bayangolhotel-mn [iTime] => 1065564000 [iUpdate] => 1516115611 [tDescription] => Most of it, done just before I left Mongolia back in August, but the site only came online last week or so. There was supposed to be an SSL online reservation part to be added, but these poor people in Mongolia aren't allowed to do credit card transactions without a signature. Note (January 2009): The current design and system is not the one I created. [iCategory] => 5 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3966 [iClicks] => 1324 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 14 [iVoters] => 3 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 638 [iOldID] => 1047 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462205910 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 2 [fLatitude] => 47.9173 [fLongitude] => 106.907 [tLocation] => Shared apartment [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Work [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 5 [categories] => Array ( [5] => Array ( [iID] => 5 [tName] => Work [tSlug] => work [tDescription] => Work, shmork! But, yes, one needs to make a living as well. I'm a self employed web developer with extensive experience in 'the south', that is, the developing world. I strongly focus on social applications, or, 'web 2.0'. If you're intrigued, you can check out my CV. My business is called Baba's projects. [iOrder] => 6 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=1047 ) [667] => Array ( [iID] => 667 [tTitle] => 'The end of an era' [tSlug] => the-end-of-an-era [iTime] => 1060639200 [iUpdate] => 1060639200 [tDescription] => Note: All pictures by Patrick. In the end, I felt much more sad for leaving then I had expected only weeks earlier. The last couple of weeks have been so much of a blast that they easily outweighed the many work-related inconveniences of the earlier weeks (and months!). Of course, another reason I felt sad on Thursday morning, 6:15, was that, after having partied every day for more than a week, the two hours of sleep I just had had weren't really enough to make me get out of bed at all. I was snuggled up way too nicely. Lastly, before taking a cab to Buyant Ukhaa, UB's international airport, I had to get rid of a whole bunch of books, donated by O'Reilly to Geekcorps, that had been lying around my apartment for over two months. The books were donated during the visit of the first group of geeks and had been waiting in a locked cupboard at Engineersoft, one of the companies the first group of geeks worked with. Shortly after starting at Capital Bank, I had picked them up from there since the main idea was that any (or at least more than one) company should benefit from the knowledge provided in these books. A plan needed to be formed, by Geekcorps, as to where these books would have to go to. A couple of weeks ago, I had started to harass Geekcorps with questions related to these books, but to no avail. They were still waiting at my place and now I had to get rid of them. Early morning Thursday, I dropped them off at Pat's. He'll be here for another two years, which should give Geekcorps ample time to decide on what to do with them. On my last night, with some 14 people, we had dinner at Taj Mahal. Needless to say, it was perfect. Even Bob showed up who, apparently, has had quite a couple of stomach-tumblers from eating at Babu's, possibly due to some of the spices Babu is able to acquire from all over Central and South-Eastern Asia which don't agree with Bob. Although I had been warning Babu for a couple of weeks that I was about to go, it only now seemed to dawn on him that it was my last day and he was heart stricken. After stating my intention to move on to Khanbrau, where another troupe of volunteers was enjoying Lee's last night in UB, it took me a tequila filled hour to say goodbye to Babu, Martin and Ramesh. Babu started out at the -other- Indian restaurant in UB but began his own restaurant three years ago. Now, after being married to a Mongolian and having had one child, he felt it time to move on and, some months ago, invited one of his brothers, Martin, to come over, with the intention of him taking over the business from Babu. Martin, however, hasn't been at all charmed by the awkwardness of Mongolia and very much wants to go back to Kerula. Visiting Khanbrau, only to learn almost everyone had already moved on to Ginza, we waited a couple of minutes so that I was able to say goodbye to the guys who weren't going to swing at Ginza's. Andy, Bob and Beaver were all headed for home and, after Babu's, this was the second time that night I felt saddened by my leaving. A pity Beaver hadn't shown up in UB earlier and I realised I was not going to see Bob or Andy again for a long, long time, if at all. Two guys with whom I like to believe I've become very good friends. Me having shaken up things more than once within our group of friends, Andy made the complimentary comment that my leaving signified the 'end of an era'. I hope him and Pat, probably the only two expats from our crowd staying in UB after everyone else has left, them not being volunteers, will have a good time during the cold winters. Ending at Ginza, where I felt the late-nights of the previous week creeping up on my ability to deliver a reasonable dance performance, I mostly hung around one of the booths. Several times, we tried to get everyone at the table to 'do the eagle, do the eagle, do the eagle', but twice Tara decided to stare ahead into infinity, ignoring our pleas. I hope her, Jess, Aus and the American face-shitting couple will have a good time in the Gobi. And I hope the weather will be agreeable. Three nights ago, temperature dropped to a mere 2 degrees celsius. This is summer! Joining the crowds at the airport the next morning, I pushed myself through the multitudes of friends and family saying goodbye to their loved ones and arrived at the check-in desk just minutes before it closed for my flight. If anything, my lateness paid off since I was bumped up to business class. And I really needed that, having the extra room, the complimentary slippers, good food (with real cutlery!) and as many drinks on the house as possible. Still, I slept most of the time. I needed that sleep, only waking up minutes before touchdown in Moscow. Eating and drinking in Moscow is totally un-affordable. What's more, the only really accepted currency at Sheremetovo-2 (the international transfer terminal at Sheremetovo, one of the four major airports in Moscow) is the Ruble. The beer I had shortly after arriving nearly knocked me unconscious for the alcohol, but the coffee I had later did an ever better job, at $5.50. I asked if the waiter was joking and, with a smiling face, he told me he definitively wasn't. So after waiting for nearly six hours, I got onto the last leg of my trip. Packed like sardines in a can, with screaming babies all around me, I had to endure only three more hours before being back home. I tried sleeping as much as possible, but the bear sitting next to me beat me to it, sprawling one of his arms and part of his torso all over me. When we got to the food, I gently started prodding his ear with my fork. And then, after 18 hours of traveling, the plane touched down. I was back in Holland. At least the country is suffering from a heatwave and not from the dreary Dutch weather and, of course, I got to see my girlfriend again after seeing her for only two weeks in the last four months. Sitting again behind my PC at home, I have no choice but to look back on the last four months. Yes, professionally, Mongolia is a bit of a mess, but socially, it was fantastic. All expats seem to have this "we're in it together" feeling, which made us much closer. I had a great action packed time, met the best people and although it seems that for the next couple of months I'm not going to have as much of an exciting time, at least I'll be together with my girlfriend. Trade-offs, trade-offs. Although it hasn't been confirmed officially yet, it seems I'll be spending two years in Zimbabwe, come January. I'll keep a blog, don't worry. ttfn. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2530 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 654 [iOldID] => 1039 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462209760 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 3 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.9138 [fLongitude] => 106.91 [tLocation] => Khanbrau [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20030812 ) [666] => Array ( [iID] => 666 [tTitle] => And we call him 'Loves That Shit' [tSlug] => and-we-call-him-loves-that-shit [iTime] => 1060034400 [iUpdate] => 1060034400 [tDescription] => Note: All pictures by Patrick. And so yesterday I became the 7th UB hasher with a handle. Christened in vodka after a speech by Aus and after receiving a shirt commemorating my 'quiet' stint as RA, I received the name 'Loves That Shit'. And I love that shit! After the hash, some 25 people went over to the Friendship park to enjoy the rides on the fairground. We finished dancing at the Face Club where, like last Friday, quite a couple of couples got hooked up. Jess was cool for dancing with two extremely hot Mongolian chicks. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3138 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 656 [iOldID] => 1038 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462195753 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 11 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.9226 [fLongitude] => 106.92 [tLocation] => Face club [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20030805 ) [665] => Array ( [iID] => 665 [tTitle] => U2BH3 and the 100 Buuz challenge [tSlug] => u2bh3-and-the-100-buuz-challenge [iTime] => 1059861600 [iUpdate] => 1059861600 [tDescription] => Note: All pictures by Patrick. The weekend was a total blast. On Friday we had a red-dress-vodka hash (not affiliated with the UBH3), for the occasion organised by the U2BH3, The Ulaan Ulaan Baatar Hash House Harriers. No less then 5 guys ran the course in dresses and another five people wore enough red to join us on our crusade. Everyone loved it. The runners, the Mongolians and most of all the people at the Steppe Inne. David, the GM of the regular hash, even came over and gave some suggestions for an even better experience. Earlier in the day, I had called Simon, who sort of runs the Steppe in (located at the British Embassy), to see if he would be okay with us showing up in red: 'well, as long as you don't *try* to flash anyone, I suppose it's marvelous.' Later, after the run had taken us past shopping centers and we were having a samosa stop at Babu's (the magnificent Taj Mahal), everything got out of hand. Babu loved our crazyness and wouldn't let us go. I had no choice but to leave at 11, since my people from the bank, where I worked over the previous two months, had planned a drink for me and only told me that very day. Going home and changing quickly, I headed over to Brauhaus, where the beer flowed freely. After we left, I wanted to go home and pick up my phone after which I would rejoin them. I came home, sat down for a second and woke up four hours later. Saturday was a relaxing day, with the highlight of the afternoon being Charlies Angels: Full Throttle. The evening was spent at Andy's, where everyone mellowed out. To spice things up a bit, Aus and I went for the '100 Buuz Challenge', failing miserably. At 11, we went over to UB Palace to dance the night away. Supposedly, they have a 2am pig/pinata that, when smashed apart, drops hundreds of 10 and 20 togrog notes on the dancefloor. However, this time there was no pig, although we did enter a dancing contest which we horribly lost to a professional dancer. Sunday was a total chill with brunch at Silk Road, cricket and Jaws 3 at Pat's. I will miss this country come Thursday. Not really for the right reasons, but so be it. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3153 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 655 [iOldID] => 1037 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461977887 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 20 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.9105 [fLongitude] => 106.929 [tLocation] => Silk Road [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20030803 ) [1832] => Array ( [iID] => 1832 [tTitle] => FIFTA investment tracker [tSlug] => fifta-investment-tracker [iTime] => 1059516000 [iUpdate] => 1516115724 [tDescription] => While in Mongolia, my project 'on the side' was helping out with the conversion of a database application in use at FIFTA, the Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Agency. This is the place where foreign investors in Mongolian businesses have to report to before they can actually invest a single togrog. The application keeps track of the businesses, the investors and all related activities. At least, that's the objective. The plan was to convert the MS Access application to MS SQL and build a web interface for accessing the information. Due to my limited availability, I had to leave the project after finishing the design stage. [iCategory] => 5 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3607 [iClicks] => 935 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 638 [iOldID] => 976 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462207263 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => sparse [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 2 [fLatitude] => 47.9173 [fLongitude] => 106.907 [tLocation] => Shared apartment [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Work [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 5 [categories] => Array ( [5] => Array ( [iID] => 5 [tName] => Work [tSlug] => work [tDescription] => Work, shmork! But, yes, one needs to make a living as well. I'm a self employed web developer with extensive experience in 'the south', that is, the developing world. I strongly focus on social applications, or, 'web 2.0'. If you're intrigued, you can check out my CV. My business is called Baba's projects. [iOrder] => 6 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=976 ) [664] => Array ( [iID] => 664 [tTitle] => UBH3 300th [tSlug] => ubh3-300th [iTime] => 1059429600 [iUpdate] => 1059429600 [tDescription] => Note: All pictures by Patrick. Last weekend, we enjoyed the 300th UB Hash. Lots of fun, although some people had more fun than others. Mostly due to extreme raunchiness the more family oriented members of the UB Hash couldn't stand. True, we had a lot of cock- and cunt-jokes, but the 75% or so English-minded contingent loved it. And lets face it, can you ever have enough of these? I had a fantastic time: A wet hash; sauna with Luke Warm Froth and Jess; Khorkhog in the woods; swimming in the icy cold Tuul river; Dancing in a tacky disco; Pornographic songs on the bus back and a fantastic dinner on the balcony of Taj Mahal. The only drawback for the whole weekend being the loss, or actually theft, of one keg of beer. Cost of the keg? $200. And then the whining of some people that they are not willing to pay for the keg since they weren't responsible for it anyway. Anyway, by far the best part was the wife of the German embassador filing a complaint with the American embassy for my behavior. Gotta love these people! On the bus back, we created the theme song to the UBH3 300th Hash. Most notable contributors were Beaver, Jess, Brat and myself. It is to the tune of 'yellow submarine' by the Beatles [Note: VERY explicit lyrics.]: In the land of Chinggis Khan We held our cocks and stroked them strong And we swum in streams of cum In the land of Chinggis Khan Chorus: We all came on the 300th Hash, the 300th Hash, the 300th Hash We all came on the 300th Hash, the 300th Hash, the 300th Hash On the hill, we did a moon And after that, we came real soon As we bent towards the sun We were glad that we could cum Chorus In the sauna it was hot The sweat dribbled of Babak's cock [personal favorite line] We sweated long, we sweated hard We sweated out the mutton lard Chorus And the hares they ran in front We caught them up, those cheeky cunts We fucked them both, one by one And christened one, who never comes Chorus So we drank beneath the stars Then lost our keg in a Mongol bar And a ger sleeps three or four But it fucks fourteen or more Chorus And as we went a long, long way Trekking along, come what may [Think of Babu here] Not only jump, not only climb But sure drink, till we are blind Chorus We swung them high, we swung them low Throughout the Hash, the beer did flow And in the land of Chinggis Khan Our final words, they were ON-ON! Finish with a cacaphony of the chorus [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2779 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 650 [iOldID] => 1036 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462123842 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.989 [fLongitude] => 107.46 [tLocation] => Terelj [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20030729 ) [663] => Array ( [iID] => 663 [tTitle] => :) [tSlug] => happy-face [iTime] => 1058824800 [iUpdate] => 1058824800 [tDescription] => After having had dinner at Los Bandidos, in the streaming rain, I walked over to Khanbrau together with Andy. The previous Friday, we experienced one of the worst storms ever. Hail, marble sized, came down in streams. I had to walk home through streets turned into rivers, 30cm deep. Still nothing compared to the 3rd district where people were stuck in water, chest high. Or some of the outer districts where gers were washed away, killing 10 people. Sitting in Khanbrau, among a contingent of English volunteers, listening to some band playing covers of Radiohead, U2, Limp Bizkit and others, I, for a minute, realised how lucky I was. I have heard Beethoven play at Fel Tiz and PaDoeDoe at new years in Budapest, I've seen girlfriends of oil barons dance naked on the tables of the Hungry Duck in Moscow, I've seen local musicians play acoustic compositions on the Ring of Kerry and seen native folk songs performed in miniature pubs in Dublin in Ireland, I've seen the Swan Lake performed in St. Petersburg, I've seen the emeralds encased in the walls of the Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Gizeh, lake Baikal in summer, I was frightened in the Bermuda Triangle, saw the WTC before it got leveled, got Drunk at Lake Balaton, built a house in Romania and fought with elephants in Ghana. And now, for a second, I was ready to die. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2667 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 654 [iOldID] => 1035 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462217121 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.9138 [fLongitude] => 106.91 [tLocation] => Khanbrau [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20030722 ) [662] => Array ( [iID] => 662 [tTitle] => Naadam [tSlug] => naadam [iTime] => 1058392800 [iUpdate] => 1058392800 [tDescription] => Last weekend, UB came to life as the stage of the country's most spectacular festival: Naadam. It's full name being the 'Manly three sports', it puts the country commercially to a standstill for a good three days. The three manly sports are wrestling, archery and horse racing, although only young kids feature in the horse races where, depending on the age of the horse, distances of up to 45km are covered. Never do all horses come back with their riders and occasionally, one of the small riders gets trampled underfoot and dies. In previous years, the horse races were held just outside UB, near the airport. This time, they were located a good 40km out of town and since virtually everyone in UB goes to see the races, it was nearly impossible to drive there. Standing at the finish line, we saw the finish of the 5 year old steeds. One of the 400 riders in the 5-year old (horse) race, a boy was whipping his horse to beat his nearest competitors. After the boy finished, like all jockeys dressed in full Mongolian regalia, he got of his horse, the horse shuddered, fell down and died. Only two days before Naadam, the streets of UB had come alive with tourists. Hordes and hordes of tourists. In a way, I felt happy for SARS because normally, during Naadam, tourists almost outstrip locals. Not that, as a whole, Naadam is that spectacular. All in all, the event can be compared to any reasonable fair or sports event anywhere else in the world. It's uniqueness coming from the types of activities. Not only the three manly sports, but also ankle bone shooting, throat singing, fortune telling (with ankle bones) and more can be seen. Mongolians coming to UB from all over the country. On Friday morning, the official part of the festivities started with a group of Mongolians on horseback picking up the 9 white (signifying peace) Mongolian standards from the parliament house and carrying them towards the stadium for the opening ceremony. The group of Mongolians, walking in unison, holding the standards and dressed in what to me looked like battle-dress, gave me an insight into the freight these people must have incurred in their enemies when conquering Asia under Chinggis Khan. Saturday night, we did a hash pubcrawl. Visiting four bars and a disco, drinking beer and vodka, we had the most crazy time scaring the hell out of locals and tourists who happened to be in the same bars at the same time. For good measure, we ended up around a campfire next to the Tuul river, drinking vodka with a bunch of Mongolians, hanging around to see the sun rise. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2693 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 653 [iOldID] => 1034 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462208619 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 9 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.9023 [fLongitude] => 106.916 [tLocation] => Main stadium [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20030717 ) ) ) Keyword: Mongolia ::