Array ( [total] => 5 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [633] => Array ( [iID] => 633 [tTitle] => Ancient capitals [tSlug] => ancient-capitals [iTime] => 1203548400 [iUpdate] => 1203548400 [tDescription] => Thailand seems to have more former capitals than some countries have former heads of state. For reasons not completely clear to me, Thai seem to have enjoyed shifting their capitals around every 100 years or so. Sukhotai, one of the more prominent former capitals, isn't one of the newer ones, at its peak from the mid-13th to late 14th centuries. In the early 15th century, the kingdom with Sukhotai as its capital was absorbed by the kingdom of Ayuthaya. Sukhotai, I'm told, still is the main center in Thailand for Loy Krathong celebrations, which Betsy and I attended in Chiang Mai last year. Now, today, saw another Buddhist holiday, Makha Bucha, which remembers that faithful day, some 2500 years ago, when, unannounced and without prior agreement, some 1250 disciples of the lord Buddha himself suddenly showed up at the same time to listen to the man preaching. We were hoping to experience some special religious services and, we had been told, hordes of people walking around the wats (temples) with candles. We got busloads of kids posing for photographs. At some point, walking around the ruins of a many columned wat, I involuntarily had a flashback to walking around the ruins of Persepolis a few years back, even though the resemblance with Ayuthaya is much more obvious and stronger. Then there are the stone slabs at many wat entrances, reminding me of the stone slabs dotting the Mongolian countryside. And to top things of, the next day, in yet another temple, inside the main stupa or chedi, we found a richly decorated man-sized white protrusion. I immediately thought of an omphalos, the Greek naval stones representing the center of the world (not too strange, perhaps surprisingly, as the Wikipedia entry on omphalos actually mentions the city of Chiang Rai, just north of Chiang Mai). It was only on second thoughts that I figured the thing more likely represented a lotus bud, which was also Pascal's assumption. Felicia's immediate response to my questioning her what she thought the thing was was slightly more Freudian: "A penis". We were traveling with 5 people in Pascal's "Sherman", a bakkie or pick up truck with a bunch of cushions in the back for comfort. Originally, we were expecting to travel with 9. Luckily, we didn't have the extra four to fit in the truck, sardines as we are not. Bits and pieces HDN has used a photo of mine on the cover of a promotional card. And I ate a double Big Mac. The thing was almost impossible to handle, falling apart in my hands. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20080221 ) [624] => Array ( [iID] => 624 [tTitle] => Caught in a tree [tSlug] => caught-in-a-tree [iTime] => 1198882800 [iUpdate] => 1198882800 [tDescription] => During my last visit to Chiang Mai in June, I read the book Falcon, a novel based on the life of a Greek sailor who eventually settled in Thailand, in the service of the king of Siam. Then, the nation's capital was at Ayuthaya, an island city at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers. The island, man made, is quite large and very sparsely occupied. It's, now, after the sacking by the Burmese in the late 18th century, a city of many impressive ruins with those ruins scattered around widely. Renting a scooter, we drove around town, cherry-picking the sites of interest, including huge buddhas, a buddha head caught in the roots of a tree, buddha shrines (do you get the leitmotif?) and whatnot. The only thing we couldn't find was the former Dutch settlement, marked on our map, but not on the street. The kings of Siam used to be rather restrictive as to who could enter their royal capital, not too much unlike the Japanese. However, they did see the benefits and the possibilities of world trade and the potential risks of colonization. So a relative trickle of foreigners were allowed to settle, where some nations were more favored than others, hence the Dutch, Japanese and Portuguese settlements. If my memory serves me right, Brits were also favored, but if they had a settlement in Ayuthaya, theirs didn't even make it to our map. Thought of the day The good thing of your wife being schizophrenic is that you can have sex with multiple women without her getting mad. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20071229 ) [622] => Array ( [iID] => 622 [tTitle] => Walking with tigers [tSlug] => walking-with-tigers [iTime] => 1198710000 [iUpdate] => 1511542930 [tDescription] => After having walked with and cuddled lions in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, the next step up can only be to walk with tigers. Oh wait, that's exactly what you can do, just 40km out of Kanchanaburi, at the tiger temple. Only some 8 years back, a lone monk started to care for a nearly dead tiger cub and now, not only plenty tigers, but also deer, boar, buffalo and then some roam the grounds, all as in a perfect Eden. Well, almost. The tigers are mostly on chains or lines and, mostly teenage, caretakers are always nearby. Still, it's quite impressive to hug the head of a mature tiger and walk away with all your limbs still on your body and intact. We also stopped at the nearby Prasat Meuang Singh Historical Park, ruins of a 13th century Khmer (Cambodian) outpost. Interesting, and worth visiting if you're in the area, but not too impressive in its own right. Shortly before arriving at the park's entrance, we ran a flat, driving around on a hired scooter. The roads are good, but trying to find a bike repair shop in the middle of nowhere can be a challenge. But luckily, a tiny, with the emphasis on tiny, angel came to help us. I drove his bike with him behind me and Betsy slowly slowly drove on ours, with the flat tyre. A few kilometers on a side-road, the mini-man directed us to a bike repair shop where, within minutes, the mechanic had the inner tube replaced. Some waiing (giving thanks with the hands in prayer mode) later, we were off again, back towards the park. On the outskirts of Kanchanaburi, there's a real mall. Bangkok is full of them and Chiang Mai also has a few, but Kanchanaburi is rather tiny. Not tiny enough, or so it seems, as the huge sculpted dragon on the road side invited every passerby to come over and have a good time. Or so it seemed. The Castle Mall was an urban ruin, except for one small corner where a hot pot restaurant still operated. Beneath the mall, the covered garage had been turned into a huge impromptu furniture store. Above the front entrance of the mall, a small, circular, bulbous mirror reflected the world outside. I've seen this decoration on several houses in the area, but don't understand what it means. Likewise, wats (temples) in the area tend to have one building with a tall, narrow, chimney like tower on it. No idea why. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6552 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 619 [iOldID] => 994 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462202152 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 40 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 14.0598 [fLongitude] => 99.2656 [tLocation] => Tiger temple [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] => 20071227 ) [187] => Array ( [iID] => 187 [tTitle] => Great Zimbabwe [tSlug] => great-zimbabwe [iTime] => 1087423200 [iUpdate] => 1087423200 [tDescription] => It appears there are two types of visitors to Great Zimbabwe. There's a group of people who are awed and very impressed by the site and there's a group who find the stories a bit overrated. I belong to the latter. Sure, the stone ruins, built entirely without mortar, are reasonably impressive but, besides The Great Enclosure, to me most of the ruins just looked like a neat stack of bricks. We toured the grounds with a reasonably good but too talkative, guide, Philip, we had picked up at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel. Apparently, over the last couple of years, almost the only people still staying here are South Africans on organized tours, visiting Victoria Falls, Matopos and Great Zimbabwe in one go. Nevertheless, when leaving, we managed to get a ride with a Zimbabwean couple traveling Zimbabwe on their honeymoon. Getting there, we had taken a commuter from the edge of town, which was one of the worst commuter rides in my life. Although this one bus was a bit bigger than the commuters that drive through Harare, it's easy to see why the popular name for these vehicles is 'chicken bus': people transport everything with these buses but, for some reason, there always seem to be several chickens on board. It was so busy, I had to stand but, as the bus filled up, I slowly had to bend backwards more and more for luggage that had trapped my feet and people with backpacks or bags being pushed towards the end of the bus by others embarking. The whole ride, I made a 60 degree angle with the floor. Well, as they say, there's always room for one more in a chicken bus. From the commuter stop to Great Zimbabwe is still a couple of kilometers, so we broke our journey at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel, where we had a well deserved coffee and snacks. Almost immediately, a baboon came down from one of the trees and started circling us. Soon, however he left. Then I went inside to arrange our guide. I heard a scream and walked outside, to have Betsy tell me the baboon just had jumped up to her, had stolen the small packs of sugar we got with our coffee and had run of quickly. Apparently, this other baboon at Betsy's table, now gone, was reason the baboon took it easy earlier on. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20040617 ) [712] => Array ( [iID] => 712 [tTitle] => A tiny metropolitan area [tSlug] => a-tiny-metropolitan-area [iTime] => 1013122800 [iUpdate] => 1013122800 [tDescription] => Even in February, the Croatian part of the Istrian peninsula still reminded me of Tuscany during spring. Clean, green, rolling hills under a brightly shining sun, next to a glistening sea with the occasional shore side brown-red freshly ploughed field. Pula feels like a metropolis with a tiny heart. In its harbour, huge and heavy cranes work day and night to load and unload outgoing and incoming ships and trucks come and go continuously. Meanwhile, the downtown area still has a significant number of ancient Roman leftovers, not in the least the amphitheater, seating 20.000, which is still used as an open air theatre. One of the funny things about Croatia is that even in such a small country, different dialects exists. The dialects are identified by the local word for 'what', similar to France (although there, it's the word 'yes'). The three dialects use 'sto', 'kaj' en 'ea'. I knew I would arrive in Pula near the end of the day and I had tried to call ahead from Slovenia and while on the bus down to Pula, to find a place to stay. However, none of the phone numbers listed in the Planet turned out to be correct, until at one extension, I was forwarded to the correct phone number of an agency renting out apartments. Which turned out to be closed anyway. I ended up in a recently renovated hotel, close to the harbour, a favorite with captains, pursers and the like, the place flowing over with village-people like costumed individuals. Not everything at the hotel was as enjoyable. Breakfast was three slices of bread, three slivers of bacon, one cup of butter and one cup of honey. Coffee was extra. Some more Italy On my sightseeing trip, as I was climbing the hill on which Rovinj is built, its cathedral loomed above me and I was welcomed by partying schoolchildren wearing carnival suits, screaming seagulls and a burning heap of fallen leaves. Because it was still early, I could easily smell the saltiness of the sea and, in between the screaming of the gulls, hear the chirping of the small birds all over the city. The harbour of Rovinj, however, was already teaming with Croatian tourists, enjoying the milky sun, cold ice-cream and cheap beer. Obtaining the Pula-Rovinj 8:50am bus ticket took less then 10 seconds, which surprised me. Getting tickets in these kinds of countries can take up to as much as 60 minutes. Questions need to be asked, possibilities need to be checked, prices need to be looked up. This time it went smooth. I started to get the idea that I actually got exactly what I asked for, without the girl at the counter having checked if it actually was possible to travel from Pula to Rovinj at 8:50 in the morning. When the bus didn't show up, I knew the lady hadn't cared and just gave me whatever I had asked for. The driver of the next bus first made a fuss about my incorrect ticket, but let me stay on the bus anyway. I think I could hear him mutter something like 'stupid foreigner'. Later, when buying a ticket from Pula to Split, I was really keen on my connection showing up. The bus was supposed to leave at 8pm. The next bus wouldn't leave until around 6am. Missing the 8 o'clock meant sleeping at the bus station. Not an option since the Pula bus station is nothing but a passageway underneath an apartment building where the touring cars, like huge elephants, fight for a place to shelter from the outside world. Surprisingly, although this bus station acted as the city's main bus station, what looked like more of a central bus station was located just outside of town. The near-empty bus for Split, which showed up nice on time, became a near-full bus in a matter of seconds. I was lucky. I still had two seats to call my own. But I soon realised why. Next to me, across the isle, an older, perfectly dressed gentleman turned out to be totally drunk. And he needed to talk. To me. When he realised I was a foreigner, he confided that he spoke perfect English and we ended up talking Croatian football for the next 20 minutes. That is, *he* talked about Croatian football for 20 minutes. In Croatian. After 20 minutes, I got some rest. The gentleman fell asleep. 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