Tuesday, September 25, 2007


myanma !

what an amazing sight! thousands of monks protesting peacefully all over yangon! i hope something good will come out of it but i'm not too optimistic. i've been wrong so many times on so many things but i'll be very happy if i'm wrong again this time. myanma people certainly deserve better.

but if i were to write a politically incorrect travel piece on myanma my first sentence would be 'myanma is fucked!'. but to be fair quite a few other places are equally as bad or even worse , but i've never been to afghanistan or iraq or bangladesh or any of those banana republics in africa so i can't say much about these countries and so i'll only say a bit about myanma since i imagine i know a little about this poor country (figuratively and realistically speaking). i've been to yangon and some other places in myanma four times in the last five years and it has not changed a bit over the years. the last time i was here was early this month and there were already some albiet small demostrations by monks in yangon. and as most of you already know the spark and the last straw is the recent drastic fuel price hike.

just like anywhere else, the price hike gives a snowball effect on everything and making life even more difficult for almost everybody who can barely make ends meet in the first place. no matter how beat up yangon taxi is (and by god they all looked like bombs) i've never experienced having taxis switching the engine off at traffic lights in the past visits but on this visit, almost all taxis i used did this routinely. the only other place that i experienced the same is in kolkata which is also crumbling down like yangon anyway. and i can't blame them. petrol is rationed and the only way you can buy them freely is from the black market which is of course at a lot higher price. and here is a typical black market petrol station somewhere north of yangon.

....looking at pictures of thousands of benign monks taking matters into their hands give a warm feeling in my heart. i wish malaysian hajis with their white skull caps would do the same the next time our government do the same monkey trick (again). the only problem is we malaysians are so retarded that we even swallow all the asinine justifications the papers and local tvs put forward everytime our retarded government hikes prices of anything.

but despite everything, myanma as a country is a very fascinating place. although some places are still out of bound except to the most intrepid travellers due to all kinds of trouble and insurgency problems , three of the main attractions of myanma are easily accessible to any average tourists like you and me. you can visit the iconic Shwedagon pagoda which is in the heart of yangon. secondly you can travel to Bagan which has well over two thousand pagodas dotted all over the plain and including some very important payas or thirdly you can go and visit the inle lake where you can see the minority intha people peddling their canoes with their leg. well, not exactly putting their legs in the water but just like your lonely planet described, every time your boat comes near an intha fisherman he'll twine one of his legs on the oar handle and paddle with it. that is how they traditionally paddle their canoes but these days they're as likely to use small engine as manually peddling with oars - and with their legs. ..and in early morning go and see the local wet market in nyaungshwee the nearest lake town where young ladies sell their fish caught from the lake.

travelling in myanma by land is not an easy thing to do as the road is crappy at best but it's a lot better to see the place rather than take a crappy propeller driven air craft so on two occassions i just hired a taxi to go places. On the first occassion i took a cab from bagan and travelled 650 miles or so all the way down first going east to mektila, down south to pyanmana which is just a few miles away from the new capital naypydaw (which isn't really in the bush as the papers lead you to believe) and all the way south to yangon passing various nondescript little towns on the way like this one below.

but travelling by taxi is potentially very dangerous . this is because most taxis have steering wheel on the right but they drive on the wrong side ( right hand side) . it's just like malaysians driving with a car with steering on the left. it is especially tricky if you want to overtake lorries and buses. the person sitting in front beside the driver has two phrases to learn in myanma language to help the driver. one is 'car coming ahead ' and the second is 'you can overtake'. ( i forgot both now).
you can make a serious error if you mixed up the two.

but colorful sceneries and little stops at strange small towns along the way more than make up for the inconvenience and i get to eat some of the loveliest and strange colored bananas somewhere near a town called toungoo on my recent trip to inle lake . it's magenta in color but the flesh tasted like pisang berangan or lakitan in the southern philippines. and for good measure i bught this painting from bogyoke market in yangon. it is quite beautiful .

Friday, September 21, 2007


music in time

music. what a topic to write about during this holy month of ramadhan when we are supposed to be all serious and be in holy communion with Allah and drunk in mystical love and transcendance in the wee hours of the night. ...but music is a gift of god too, to those of us who are not deaf or tone deaf and in its own way can transport you into a trance of mystical love and transcendance or ..er whatever. . so i'm grateful and thank god for giving me youtube...bless is he (for i don't think it is a she) who gave us this magical program that you and i can at the tap of the keybaord bring all those long forgotten video clips to life and flood us with nostalgia ; such as this one, which counts among the greatest pop song ever, don mc lean's american pie

it just make you want to cry.

and how grateful i am to be able to watch and listen again to the beautiful cinema show by genesis (peter gabriel era- the only period that genesis matters-) or the epic supper's ready , never mind the hilarious and silly get up mr gabriel was up to in those days! and the awfully bad sound quality of this clip. dim the light, close your eyes and may be with a little help of pot or something ( i swear i never touch the thing) you'll dissolve into some kind of nirvana for a short while. and oh how he has aged over the years as you can see here in his post- genesis years playing the iconic solsbury hill .and i must tell you that i once saw him played at earls court and nearly missed the last train back to Ashford kent where i stayed at one time a long time ago. and he's now grown into a respectable old gentleman as you can see here playing a sad song i grieve about all those who lost their lives in the sad 9/11 event...but as he says, life carries on and on and on....

but nothing beats good guitar riff to get you flying high and neil young on his good day can play blistering solos like the best as you can see here in cortez the killer or here in like a huricane . and though i'm not a fan of joe satriani, his bells of lal (part 2) gives me the shivers every time. or robin trower's bridge of sigh or this forgotten irish lad rory gallagher playing a million miles away and the list goes on and on...and i could go on and on...

ah... you don't get these kind of songs anymore these days... all you get is the hedious hip hops and 3 minute ditties of no consequence. listening to britney spears is like having sex and having premature ejaculation....sad (but don't happen to me i can assure you)...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Buskers -part II

on 21st april my post was on buskers, in response to that washington post article on the world famous violinist joshua reynold who didn't get very much attention busking in NYC subway and one 'sawlady', a busker in NYC who played a 'musical saw' and has a blog on busking of her own sent a comment saying that the smashing electric violin player that i recorded in one NYC subway station in Feb 07 (and posted on youtube which you can see here) was Lorenzo LaRock who is also a recording artist and play concerts in small venues around NYC.

And i posted on youtube another busker here , this time a chinese lady playing some kind of traditional chinese stringed instrument in Chicago O'hare airport and someone later commented that this lady is in fact a professor whom he had taken a violin lesson from at one time in chinatown (in chicago presumably). isn't that amazing.

i have seen quite a number of great buskers in some major cities over the years . during the same NYC visit there was even a full orchestra of some kind with clashing cymbals , drums, and trombones and assorted wind instruments creating a huge booming racket in another subway station ... and one never know some of these are really interesting people...can't figure out why a chinese professor (of what?) want to be a busker in chicago airport...things people do...beats me sometimes...

another favorite of mine is this old guy playing an airhoo(?) on wang fujing road in beijing...the pic is crappy but i love this guy...


Sunday, September 16, 2007


good bush bad bush

Day before yesterday i was in davao , mindanao again and as usual visited that arcade in front of marco polo hotel where i stayed selling all sorts of mindanao muslim clothings and sea shell inlaid treasure chests and beautiful mindanao muslim krises,sundangs, kampilans and i was especially smitten by a particularly beautiful and antique barong ( the muslim weapon variety and not to be mistaken with filipino national shirt) but in the end i did not buy it . and that reminds me, if you walk along sukhumvit road around nana skytrain station in bangkok you'll see those stalls on the pavement selling all kinds of stuff , faked dvds, handbags, trinkets and other cheap tourist stuffs like wood carvings of elephants, penis ashtrays and so on and so forth. and you'll also notice stalls selling t-shirts with funny logos. one of my favorite as i've mentioned previously is this one with a picture of george bush mug with 'bad bush' written bellow it and another pic beside it of very hairy pubis with 'good bush' written below it.

george w may be bad but he is quite a character as this review of his biography amply illustrated and in a different situation he may even be a man to be admired. and this review showed glimpse of his character which i've always guessed all along. he's the kind of guy you wouldn't want to be an enemy with and the worst news for the like of iraq and afghanistan.

from this review...

It is in Iraq that all the various aspects of Bush's character have perilously combined: his tendency to excess, his need to prove himself, his search for the Big Idea, his need to drive himself to the limits of endurance.....

There are a lot of tears in the world of Bush. He cries at Ground Zero after the attacks on New York, he cries when he meets soldiers wounded in Iraq, he cries when delivering emotional lines in speeches. "I've got God's shoulder to cry on," he tells Draper. "And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job."

But what is strange about this man who cries so liberally is that he is also rigid and unbending. Once his mind is made up, there is no room for manoeuvre...

and this

These days, though, Bush devours history books - on Lincoln and the rise of Churchill, on the Khmer Rouge and the Algerian revolution. And always for a purpose. "He was frank to me about why he was reading about Algeria," Draper says. "The lesson is what happens when you desert a country - the slaughter of the Algerians when the French left. It falls under the rubric of the consequences of failure."

that's really bad news for iraq...
one time, even as early as immediately after the second invasion of iraq i told an aussie friend that american forces will never leave iraq and he like most white men vehemently deny this and try to convince me that america is a force of good and only meant to do good and once the job is done blah blah blah that got me quite annoyed. and this is one of the few times that i got things quite right and the way the american president is changing goal post every single week i'm dead certain that unless somebody nuke american army in iraq, it looks that they'll stay there for ever ...

perhaps the iraqi 'insurgents' could learn a lesson or two from this hilarious Ali G interview ( Ali G-War) with general brent scowcroft ...and of course as you know, ali g is an older incarnation of baron sasha cohen before borat...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


why i hate america

i was having lunch today with a british guy and he was saying great britain had brought a world of good to the world by colonizing half the world and how good the british were letting these countries had their independence when the time came unlike those bloody french which never let go any of their colonies and the natives had to fight and sacrifice their lives for their independence. british imperial power brought modernization , model of parliamentary systems and democracy to these countries didn't they?

he genuinely believed british imperialism and colononization of all those countries in africa and asia were in fact doing a favor to these countries. imagine if these countries were not ruled by british once, he proudly said. the natives will still run wild naked , he seemed to say. (what about thailand which has never been colonised by anybody? i said.)

and this is not from the mouth of your average skin head or yob or other british riff raff but a world authority on some scientific stuff or other. isn't that amazing! now you understand why many in the third world hate the west so much. muslim world especially. because muslim world, despite the world of good the west has given to humanity don't give a damn about infidels and think that only being muslims are what really count. so now you see both end of the insularity spectra. i can't speak for others but as an extremist muslim myself i can understand muslim mentality very well and now listen...here's why we hate the west so much...

but before that, isn't it ironic. me? who loves everything western...their books, their arts, their music their films, their food but in equal measure hate them so much? is that possible? is it logical? but humans have never been too logical in their behavior. i once had a- pardon the expression- white friend who loved to mix around with asians but at the same time had no qualm whatsoever with apartheid (this was during apartheid days in s. africa). he once told me he had to bring a shot gun along when driving along empty roads in queensland and when i asked why? he nonchalantly mentioned that oh to shoot the abos if they are lying on the road drunk....australian aborigines are nothing but kangaroos to them. no wonder they killed them all to extinction in tasmania .

and this is the problem with whites. i once had another dinner with a group of americans and in their loud american way they mentioned what a lot of good america was doing in iraq (this was a couple of years ago before iraq was completely fucked as it is now) and i said...but what suffering you guys had done to these people...and he said...but these arabs, aren't they at each others' throat since god knows when? killing means nothing to them...hmmm. so a few hundred thousands more don't really matter...

and that's it. we are nothing. less human then them. the old imperialism is long gone but the country that brings a world of good to the world is also the ultimate imperialist the world has ever seen. the way america think is as though this whole world is meant to serve the interest of america. the sad thing is i believe america genuinely feels that they are doing good to the world but in their bungling ways with idiots after idiots chosen as presidents america has done just the opposite.

with the amount of money they spent and continue to spend in iraq and elsewhere in their war on terror which good ole borat more correctly referred to as 'war of terror' i will bet my life it would be better spent and with a certain success to make people love america by bombing iraq and afghanistan with bread than bombs.....and that's my silly nonsense for the day to commemorate september 11. and oh...i must say that i'm very happy to see that osama is alive and well...may he outlives all those american hawks who have given so much misery to the world....

Saturday, September 01, 2007



the last time i went to sapa, the remote north west vietnam town famous for its colorful minority hill tribes and the breathtaking mountain views right out of shangri-la , i took a train from hanoi to vietnam - china border town , lao cai and took a taxi from here up the winding but fairly wide and good road to sapa town. That was three years ago, or was it four?

several things i particularly remembered from that trip include a japanese guy trying to get a hmong girl to his hotel room in the middle of the night somewhere in the town square , a vietnamese guy hitching a ride into my cabin (second /sleeper class) from one station for free and me snapping away happily photos of hmong,and other assorted tribes in their crappy hill villages and corn farms, on winding path accompanied by their pigs and buffaloes only to discover later that my camera had no film in it.

so this time i came fully prepared - with a digital camera instead of my old olympus OM1 SLR , the first slr in olympus camera series which i always used since I bought it a very very long time ago -second hand - in hobart tasmania while i was in my matriculation college which seemed like a hundred years ago and still treasured although the light meter isn't working anymore because ants got into it, pissed their formic acid and short circuited the thing...the reason why ants got into it was because one time i put packets of dates together with the camera in the luggage on the way back from my first trip to mecca.

that was quite a trip, for one thing we went with pak ibrahim the late father of ex dpm anwar ibrahim ...but that's a story for another time...and a little aside. i saw that anwar ibrahim is in facebook! isn't that amazing?. one of these days i 'm gonna check if dr m is included as one of his friends... hmmm

and anyway, coming back to sapa, this time we went by car right from hanoi. which isn't the normal way most people do because the road for most part is really really crappy...narrow, bumpy poorly tarred and winding like crazy in some parts. think of the old road to cameron highland and make it worse by a couple of magnitude and you get the idea. the good thing is there were not too many cars on the road.

although it is only about 300km or so from hanoi, the trip took more than six hours including a few stops for lunch, and piss break by the roadside . 'Sing a song' as my vietnamese friends termed it for some unexplained reason. and what randy goats my friends are! they chattered the whole trip about nothing but women. young minority girls to be precise. and every little town we passed they would point out ah that hotel has some of the best minority massage girls...you can do A to Z. (as they termed it).and you can have as young as fifteen! is that legal in vietnam? i asked. no they said. ah well i said. in malaysia we have lorry drivers raping their daughters as young as nine years old. it's not legal either i said. and we jabberred on and on about that sort of thing. and when we passed the province where the present top boss the sec gen of the communist party and the president of vietnam (who is a tay minority) come from they mentioned the wellknown and widespread rumor that he is actually the son of the late uncle ho himself. but ho chi minh never married i said. that didn't stop anybody from fucking they countered. fair enough.

...and so i spent a couple of days in sapa and nearby vin bai province . trekked into some hmong and dao minority villages. visited a tay village and had a whale of a time in their community hall eating their traditional buffalo dishes and singing and dancing their traditional dances and drinking their traditional rice wine. lucky for me the wine looked identical to water so i just filled my glass with la vie the most commonly available bottled water in vietnam. my vietnamese friends know that i don't drink and don't eat pig but everything else is go , so to speak.

and here's the thing. the moment anybody knows that i'm a muslim they start asking whether i have four wives. seems like the only thing most people know about islam is that you can have four wives (lucky me) and you can not eat pig. (and these days add one more...we are mad terrorists). one time i was traveling in a van with my chinese friend to a remote place somewhere near urumqi , and these travellers were heatedly discussing something and i asked my good chinese friend what were they talking about. and he said they were saying the reason why muslims don't eat pig is because they originate from pigs . interesting theory i commented. and i added, by the same reasoning, since the chinese eat everything except dog shit they must have originated from dog shit? and my good chinese friend said, shall i translate that to them? and i said better not. i don't want to be thrown out into the ravine....

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