Gritty Alleyways reveal the old Shanghai

For all its glitzy modern skyline, perhaps the real jewels of Shanghai can be found at street level, away from the hustle and bustle in the captivating back alleys. One of my favourite things to do in Shanghai is to explore the backstreets, either on foot or by bike. The narrow lanes behind the main streets are soaked with tradition and colour which offer a unique glimpse into local life.

In these narrow lanes, below masses of tangled electric wires, hanging laundry and meat hung out to dry, the slower paced life of the real people of Shanghai awaits to be discovered.

The small area around Yuyuan Garden area has the oldest type of alleyways you’ll find in Shanghai. As It feels like I have stepped back into time as I leave the touristy Yuyuan area and enter these old forgotten alleys.

A walk through these grungy streets is always filled with surprises, and most importantly unexpected encounters or finds. Though lacking many amenities, people still live here, going about their lives, brushing their teeth, hanging up laundry, chatting and chopping vegetables for dinner.

Unfortunately as the city grows exponentially, these lanes gradually get demolished, year after year, month after month. It saddens me that the unstoppable onset of modernism in Shanghai is unable to make room for the existence of alley life. Very soon, more and more high rise structures will invade the old city streets destroying a piece of what makes Shanghai so special.

Gritty Alleyways of Yuyuan
Washing, electrical wires, bicycles, motorbikes and even discarded matrasses fill the alleyways of Shanghai.

An invitation of a beautiful street is an invitation to walk within a dream!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

 

10 Things my first months of Living in China has Taught me

Moving halfway across the world to live and work abroad is always a big challenge, but also hands down my favourite way to explore this amazing world. I’m still new to Shanghai, China but reflecting on the experiences and lessons I’ve learned in this short period of time I know this has been a good move. I moved to China with the idea of living here for a year, but one month in I realised that I would definitely be living here for longer.

Here are the most important things I have learned so far while living and working in Shanghai, China.

1. WeChat is Everything

The mobile phone is king in China and you will be lost without a smartphone. I had my smartphone unlocked before I moved to China and downloaded WeChat the Chinese version of Whatsapp. But that’s just the beginning, because WeChat is your life. Chinese people actually don’t use regular text messages, they just use WeChat to text, send voice messages and even to send actual documents as attachments. I have also embraced WeChat pay which you can use to pay for almost anything, so I don’t need to carry cash with me here in Shanghai. Even the tiny hole-in-the-wall places has a QR code that you can scan to pay with WeChat. Other than WeChat you need a smart phone to order taxis, food delivery and train or plane tickets by using different apps on your phone. You also need your mobile phone to access the shared bikes here in Shanghai which makes life so much easier.

2. Free VPNs Will Not Cut It for Internet Usage

If you want to access sites and apps like Facebook, Google, Gmail, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Tinder, and more, you’ll need a VPN. It is a virtual private network which allows you to access sites that are blocked here in China. I am so glad that I was warned about this before moving to china. The going rate tends to be about $50-$100 USD per year for a functioning VPN. Trust me, the free ones might work for a week or so but in the long run you realize how lost you are without access to the big world wide web without a VPN.

3. In winter, AlWAYS go well wrapped up to restaurants and cafes

I wish someone had told me that, due to a government decree, there is no central heating in public buildings south of the Yangtze river. This policy was intended to bring about huge savings in energy costs. Just a few miles to the north of Shanghai, the public buildings are toasty warm throughout the winter. However, in Shanghai itself, we are expected to happily shiver through freezing winter temperatures whenever we leave our houses.

4. Invest in a proper face-mask as Surgical Masks Don’t Do Anything

When I moved to China I had no idea what the pollution level was. I have seen images of very polluted days in China, often accompanied by photos of people in surgical masks. I thought these might be rare occurrences but soon found out that this is quite common during the colder months. Forget the surgical masks, they are great for keeping yourself from getting sick on a crowded subway, but they will not work for the pollution at all. What you need is a 3M mask that will protect you from PM2.5. Don’t worry, you will be able to buy one here in China, and they even come in funky colours!

5. Buy an Air Purifier, your lungs will thank you

The media emphasizes wearing a mask outside, but let’s be honest, if it’s really polluted, you’re probably staying indoors. This is an option I have opted for a couple of times so far this winter. Unfortunately the pollution filters into our houses and I have woken up coughing more than once on heavily polluted days. I now know that it is very important to invest in a good air purifier for your apartment if you plan on living here for a while.

6. Fitted Sheets Are Not Popular

I never really thought twice about my sheets. While I like to sleep with soft and comfortable blankets, my bottom sheet never concerned me all that much. Well, over my lifetime I’ve become very accustomed to fitted sheets, and I was shocked to find that China does not share my love for fitted sheets. After searching a bit online I eventually found a place that sold them. But next time I am definitely bringing some from home!

7. Coffee Is Expensive

While many of the foreign restaurants are only expensive by comparison, imported foods and coffee are much more expensive than they are back home. Thanks to China’s tariffs, you can expect to pay up to two or three times the original price for items like coffee, cheese, peanut butter, and cereal.

Coffee is seen as a luxury in China, and many coffee shops price the drink accordingly. I was shocked to find that I could buy an entire meal for half the price of a tiny latte.

8. Bring Your Own Sunscreen

I was warned before moving to China that sunscreen isn’t very common here. Most people in China cover up to avoid the sun’s harmful rays so sunscreen tends to be sold in small bottles and is super pricey. In China you will also find the term “whitening” on your sunscreen along with most facial moisturisers. So I have brought my own, as personally I am very nervous about using a product that will end up bleaching my skin.

9. Don’t Flush Your Toilet Paper

While I knew about squat toilets, no one ever told me not to flush my toilet paper. Next to every toilet you’ll find a small basket for you to throw your used paper. Chinese pipes aren’t equipped to handle non-organic waste, so you may find your toilet clogged if you try flushing your paper one too many times. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Many public restrooms also don’t have toilet paper or soap, so you’ll probably want to bring some hand sanitizer from home and pick up a mini pack of tissues when you arrive.

Living in Shanghai, China
Bike of Burden

10. “That’s so China” Is an expression you will also end up using

Being open-minded is so important, as cliché as it may sound take everything with a pinch of salt and remember that you are a guest in another country. What you may see as the cultural or social norm will most likely be different, once you learn and adapt to living as a ‘guest’ in another country you will enjoy the experience a lot more. A saying that has stuck with me and can only be fully understood by individuals who have experienced travelling or living in China is to “expect the unexpected” and “that’s so China”. As soon as you think you have seen it all, whether it’s something new or shocking, positive and/or negative something else will occur making you say “that’s so China”.

Living in Shanghai, China
Drying chickens with the laundry on a sidewalk next to a busy street…..only in China!

China is a complicated country with a long history, and living here has been positive and negative all in one. I have experienced and accepted some of the ‘negatives’ to living and working in this big city but still love the country as the positives out shine any of the negatives. I think the surprise of discovering new things every day has made my life here an adventure. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to arrive in China with an open mind. China is so large and complex, discovering new aspects of life and culture are just part of the fun!

Living in Shanghai, China
Happy Chinese New Year!!!

Don’t let your fears and apprehensions hold you back from the adventure of moving to China.

Foreshadowing a humid day

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story. It is used to arouse the reader, viewer or listener about how the story will proceed and mentally prepare them for how it will unfold.

The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall
The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall

Exploring the magnificent city walls of Xian during our China Odyssey was definitely an amazing adventure. Here is a taste of our mist covered morning spent on one of the most famous ancient city walls in China. Xian wall is the longest, the most intact and best-preserved, and the largest in scale of the ancient defense systems in the world. This wall has a circumference of 13.74 kilometers which you can walk, bike or for the soft option take a little “golf cart” trip. 

4 Wonderful Experiences to Try

Once upon a time, holidays tended to consist of going somewhere hot, eating something (more or less) exotic and then tanning for as long as possible. But, as welcome as relaxation is, today’s travellers (rightly) demand more varied affairs, balancing indulgence with adventure, and comfort with exploration. And this opening up of what a vacation can and should be has also meant that wildly different regions now welcome tourists to take in experiences only known to locals even a generation ago. And so, we present here a handful of exclusive destinations to give even the seasoned traveller something new to look forward to.

Mt. Fuji, Japan

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  1. A cherry blossom tour of Japan

The cherry blossom season is definitely the right time of the year to visit Japan – this is when the country’s already breathtaking natural beauty is raised to another level. Whether you’re exploring the urban delights of Tokyo and Osaka, the natural splendour of Mount Fuji, or the historical charms of Kyoto, each location on your itinerary will be enhanced by the cherry blossoms spreading all around. The Japanese celebrate this time of year with ‘Hanami’ (flower viewing) parties – where friends and families gather together underneath the blossoms to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate the natural spectacle all around them.

 

pine trees on mountain with white snow during daytime

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2. Heli-skiing around the globe

A world away from the cosmic dance of celestial bodies – but still very, very high up – the technological adventure that is heli-skiing is gaining in popularity every year. For the uninitiated, this involves a helicopter transporting skiers to mountain spots inaccessible (or at least impractical) from the ground. This not only means pristine ski-ways in soft snow but also much less crowded slopes. Canada and the US lead the way, with multiple operators in British Columbia and Alaska, but there are also opportunities in Switzerland (naturally), New Zealand and Japan.

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3. The timeless ruins of Bagan

While Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat have been on the tourist trail for some time now, another awe-inspiring archaeological wonder – in Myanmar – has somehow stayed off the map, despite its comparable scale and grandeur. The more than two thousand superbly preserved Buddhist temples in this historical complex are surrounded by the ruins of more than double that again. Many of these are almost a thousand years old – countless otherworldly pagodas rising through the trees. Best of all, until tourism fully catches up with Bagan, the site can be experienced without the kind of crowds that can distract from the ancient architecture.

aerial photo of city highway surrounded by high-rise buildings

https://unsplash.com/photos/Fr6zexbmjmc

4. The future today, in Dubai

From the remains of a lost empire to a marvel that’s still under construction – the global city of Dubai offers an incredible vision of the world-to-come. Especially well-suited to family holidays, the futuristic landscape offers up landmark skyscrapers boasting the world’s fastest lifts, and a shopping mall containing 1200 shops (making it, yes, the world’s largest) but also a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with 30,000 fish. Truly, this is a place built for superlatives – from the magical islands reclaimed from the sea to fountains which spout higher than the London Eye.

Memories from Old Shanghai

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Happy Year of the PIG from the Alleys of Yuyuan Garden.

As I explore the alleys of Yuyuan Garden I am constantly reminded that it is the Lunar New Year and that we have entered the year of the Pig! Chinese New Year 2019 started on Tuesday, February 5th and ends on January 24th, 2020.

You probably know there are 12 Chinese zodiac animals used to represent years, 2019 is the year of the Pig. Zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture, and can be used to determine your fortune for the year, marriage compatibility, career fit, best times to have a baby, and so much more. Many large corporations in China still reference it before making important decisions!

But did you know that the zodiacs originally had something to do with the worship of animals?

One legend says that the Jade Emperor needed to choose 12 animals as palace guards. The Cat asked his neighbour Rat to help him sign up. Rat forgot, which is why they became mortal enemies.

At the palace, Ox was first in line, but Rat secretly climbed onto Ox’s back and jumped in front of him. Tiger and Dragon thought it was unfair, but they could only settle behind Ox. Rabbit found it unfair too. He wanted to race with Dragon and succeeded.

Alleys of Yuyuan Garden
The bazaar surrounds the beautiful Yuyuan Garden

This angered Dog, who bit Rabbit in a fit and was sent to the back as punishment. Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey and Rooster fought amongst themselves as well. Pig was late because he overslept.

Of course, this is only a story and there are quite a few different versions.

According to the Chinese astrology, 2019 is a great year to make money, and a good year to invest! 2019 is going to be full of joy, a year of friendship and love for all the zodiac signs; an auspicious year because the Pig attracts success in all the spheres of life.

Alleys of Yuyuan Garden
Browse the array of Old Shanghai treasures and pick up artworks and craft items.

But if you were born in the year of the PIG, 2019 is seen as a hurdle you have jump over as your zodiac year is bad luck. There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons. And your benming year (the year of your zodiac animal) is your rebirth year.

Your defence from evil spirits and bad fortune is the colour red. Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewellery, insoles and more! Even in modern times, it’s still treated as a real concern.

Either way I do hope that 2019 is a very good year for you!!

Happy Year of the PIG!!

10 Things you should know about Chinese New Year

It is the Lunar New Year and everything in China seems to have turned red. Houses are decorated with red Spring Festival Couplets, red lanterns, and red paper cuttings and even city streets are lit up with red lanterns. This is because red in Chinese culture is the symbol of happiness, wealth and prosperity, and can ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. These red decorations are to the festival what Christmas trees are to Christmas.

It is such a beautiful time of the year to be in China and to experience this important festival. As this is my first year living in China during this festival I have done a little bit of research about it and have found some very interesting facts. Did you know that The holiday is also called “Spring Festival”? This surprised ma as it is in winter, but it is seen as the ‘Start of Spring’ . While wintry weather prevails, ‘Start of Spring’ marks the end of the coldest part of winter, when the Chinese traditionally could look forward to the beginning of spring. I do hope this is true and that it will be warming up soon.

Here are some more facts that you might find interesting.

1. Chinese New Year Is About New Potential

Nearly all of the traditions and observed during Chinese New Year serve one purpose: to usher in as much good fortune and prosperity in the new year as possible. I like that they arrange things in a way to receive as much incoming luck as can be grabbed. Washing hair or clothes is not allowed on the first day of the lunar year because it is seen as “washing one’s fortune away” at the beginning of the year. Sweeping up and taking out the garbage symbolize removing the good luck from the house, so people don’t do that either.

2. Chinese New Year Isn’t on a Fixed Date

The date for Chinese New Year changes each year. It always falls between January 21 and February 20, which is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese New Year 2019 is on Tuesday February 5.

The lunar calendar is still really important in China, even though it has officially moved to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world. All traditional holidays and days such as the Winter Solstice are celebrated. Some people still calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar too!

3. The festival is celebrated for 16 days till the Lantern Festival.Traditionally, the 16 days from New Year’s Eve until the Lantern Festival each have a special celebration activity. In the evening of the 15th day of the first lunar month (February 19, 2019), on the night of the full moon, families gather for dinner and go out and see fireworks and light lanterns. Lanterns are put up for decoration, let loose to fly, and floated in rivers. I can not wait to go and see this, although I think it is going to be very crowded.

4. It is a day for praying to gods

The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods

5. And fighting off monsters

But the myths are much more interesting. According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (). It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.

6. The festival causes the world’s largest annual migration.

For Chinese people, the most important part of the Chinese Spring Festival is to enjoy a reunion dinner with their families on New Year’s Eve, even if they have to travel long distances. It is the longest public holiday and the whole country is on the move. 200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances for these holidays, and it is estimated that there are 3.5 billion journeys in China. Tens of millions of people travel in other countries too. It makes the largest annual human migration in the world, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush.

In China, where much of the migration takes place, it’s been claimed that trains are so overcrowded people have to wear adult diapers for their 24-hour journeys home. Something that I am glad I will be missing as I am spending the whole holiday in Shanghai.

7. Billions of red envelopes are exchanged.

Chinese people love the colour red. Giving red envelopes is a way to send good wishes and luck (as well as money). The practice of giving red envelopes (hong bao) with money inside has been digitized. People can send small gifts to friends, family, and employees digitally via China’s messaging apps. The world record for most text messages sent in a day is broken each year during Chinese New Year. The current record was 19 billion.

8. The Chinese Calendar Is Way Ahead of the Gregorian

Per the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year in 2019 begins the year 4716. The future seems to have arrived because year numbering was once based on the whim of emperors and when they decided a new era had begun.

9. Fireworks are used to scare evil spirits

Most mainland Chinese believe that the flash and bang of firecrackers and fireworks scare away demons and evil ghosts. The loud bangs and chaos are meant to frighten away the Nian, a mythological beast that once came around to eat villagers.

Always a country that likes to do things big and set records, China has often grabbed the record for the world’s largest organized fireworks display during Chinese New Year. Fireworks have been banned here in Shanghai so unfortunately I did not get to see this display.

10. Singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home.

Chinese New Year is a joyful time for most, but for singles above the normal matrimonial age it’s not. In China, females are said to be marriageable up to 30, and males before 32. For “old” singles, parents are extremely anxious. So New Year’s Eve stress is heightened by embarrassing interrogations of the singles. Desperate parents even arrange dating (prospective marriages) for their single children.

To solve this problem an interesting solution has appeared — renting a boyfriend or girlfriend for the New Year. There are websites and agents who specialize in this business. It is quite sad that people need to go to this extreme just to avoid being questioned by their family.

I look forward to going out in Shanghai to check out the parades, lion dances, lantern statues, and amazing food!

Why you should explore this Unique Alley in Shanghai

Alleys provide great opportunities to walk through something a little more intimately scaled. Sometimes they provide a refuge from the city. But Tianzifang is the opposite of a refuge. It is tucked away off the French Concession in Shanghai and is a maze of alleys and shops that was definitely slightly overwhelming the first time.

Tianzifang is a history-rich old quarter where East meets West. As I looked around I could see products not only designed in China but all over the world for sale in tiny restored buildings that are back-to-back with local residences. While my eyes were feasting on all the things that the merchants sell, my mind was also wandering amidst the traditional vibe of the place. The aesthetics of the establishments are very charming since the shops are still reflective of old Shanghai style.

As I explored the alleyways I ended up being jostled around with other tourists who were also getting lost in the maze for the 20th time. My first visit was very overwhelming and I could hardly take everything in. But this was a great excuse to go and visit again, and the next time I made sure that I arrived before 9am, so as to avoid the crowds that start flooding in after 11am.

Here are some essential Travel Tips for when you visit Tianzifang

  1. When you drop by Tianzifang, keep in mind that there are three main lanes which you can take. These lanes each go from north to south and there are several smaller alleys which intersect with each lane. If you find yourself quite lost because of all the turns that you have taken while being entertained by the various products that are being sold, just look for one of the main lanes and you can easily find where you are supposed to go next.

2. Get there very early to avoid hordes of domestic tourists. Otherwise be prepared for being pushed around when this area gets busier.

3. Avoid going in the holidays when it is very, very crowded.

4. Learn to bargain on the stuff you are going to buy. I was advised that you should pay as little as two thirds of the price asked originally.

5. A camera is necessary when you go to Tianzifang as there will be so much you would love to capture. But be careful as it is not allowed to take pictures in the residential area where the local residents still live.

6. Look out for the old residential buildings called ‘shikumen’, literally ‘stone doors’. These houses have stone door-frames and solid wooden doors.

7. Many original residents still live in the narrow lanes. Please be mindful and respect their privacy.

8. Some shops do not permit you to take photos, even of the exterior. So don’t feel offended when they stop you and chase you away.

9. Besides places of business, there are still some residents living there. Don’t enter residential houses mistakenly.

10. Take toilet-paper as there are only traditional Chinese toilets. Otherwise there are nice public toilets in the mall across the street where the Starbucks is located.

Where is your favourite alleyway to explore?

Doors and Windows of Ireland

The architecture of each country is quite unique and special. These are some photos I took while driving through Ireland.

Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves. Julia Morgan

 

Churches of Ireland

May the road rise up to meet you.

A popular Irish blessing (in Irish Gaelic: Go n-éirí an bóthar leat). One of the main characteristics of Celtic Christianity is the use of images of nature to show how God interacts with people. “May the road rise up to meet you/ May the wind be always at your back/ May the sun shine warm upon you face …” uses everyday images to mean, may God remove obstacles in your journey through life.

Pubs of Ireland

Sláinte!

In an Irish pub, patrons toast each other sláinte (pronounced “slaan-sha”) as they clink glasses of Guinness. Derived from the Old Irish adjective slán (which means “safe“), sláinte literally translates as “health” and is used as a stand-in for the more time-consuming “I drink to your health!”

Just some of the beautiful pubs we passed while driving the Wild Atlantic Route of Ireland.

Greenwich Meridian Line where east meets west

Where east meets west. The Greenwich Meridian separates east from west in the same way that the Equator separates north from south.

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create disticntions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true. – Gautama Buddha

Bumblebees, those fat, fuzzy fliers.

I think that Bumblebees, those fat, fuzzy fliers are fascinating creatures. I love that I have come across them in almost every garden I have visited here in England this summer. I have spent some afternoons trying to capture these little creatures on film and believe me it is quite challenging as they do not sit still for very long. Here are some of my captures of bumblebees in Norfolk, England.

While on holiday here in England I have learnt quite a lot about these little fuzzy creatures.

1. There are over 250 different kinds of bumblebee in the world – 25 of these live in the UK. But only six species of bumblebee are commonly seen in UK gardens.

Unfortunately two types of bumblebee have already completely disappeared from Britain (the Cullum’s bumblebee and the Short-haired bumblebee).

2. A bumblebee flaps its wings 200 times per second. That’s a similar RPM to some motorcycle engines. Even hummingbirds cannot beat their wings more than a 50 times per second.

3. Bees have to eat a ton. Bumblebees have extremely fast metabolisms, so they have to eat almost continuously. “A bumblebee with a full stomach is only ever about 40 minutes from starvation”.

4. Bumble bees have 5 eyes. Three of their eyes are smaller and located on the top of their head, and the other two are on the front of their head. They can see UV light but can’t see the colour red!

5. Bumble bees have smelly feet. They are covered in an oily film so when they land on a flower, they leave their chemical signature behind. Other bees can smell these oily footprints left on flowers, and know not to land on the same place—the nectar’s already been pillaged. Bees also use these footprints as a sort of smelly “Welcome Home” mat; the scent helps them find their way back to the entrance of their nest.

Disturbing Image from Vietnam

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”  — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A vermented bear I found in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This is definitely one of the most disturbing things I have come across during my travels.

What was your most disturbing moment?

Would you drink snake wine?

With these bottles of unusual wine produced in Thailand, a tasty tipple comes with a potent bite. The venomous cobra snake is used to make the snake wine but the poison is cancelled out by the alcoholic content of the drink, meaning you’ll avoid a pounding hangover.

Similarly, months of fermenting means the dead scorpion encased in the yellow bottles doesn’t have the same sting in the tail as when it was alive.

Venomous snake wine
Not something I am quick to trust

Instead, the liquor is considered healthy and seemingly has many health benefits. These rice-based liquors are considered to be a strong natural aphrodisiac.

Are you brave enough to drink snake wine?

Taste of Thailand

While in Thailand be sure to visit some of the local markets and food stalls. Street food in Thailand is not only convenient, and cheap but also delicious and it’s one of the best ways to get in touch with the local culture.


The colours and smells of the different dishes can be a little intimidating, but also end up being quite enticing. I am sure that you will soon be inquisitive enough to try one of these Thai delicacies.

Wherever you go in the city, food stalls are plentiful and you will find a high concentration of them in busy areas. Often specialising in particular types of dishes, you should be able to work out the type of food a stall is selling by observing the ingredients and the way they’re being prepared. And if you are not brave enough to try something strange, there is always delicious fresh fruit available from one of the stalls.

Whatever your preference, you are sure to find something to tantalize your taste buds as Thailand is a food lovers paradise.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire is definitely something twisted, something that doesn’t maintain a straight line. Between the old and beautiful buildings of South-Africa you can often find spikes and barbed wire, intended to keep people safe. It does look like some places go to extremes for safety but I guess it is necessary in some cases. In the military science of fortification, wire obstacles are defensive obstacles made from barbed wire, barbed tape or concertina wire. They are designed to disrupt, delay and generally slow down an attacking enemy. They are definitely not desined to be beautiful or appealing.

To think that the use of barbed wire was intended in war situations and is now being used to protect houses or alleyways. Barbed wire is undeniably an invention that has changed property and ranching, prisons and concentration camps, and defence and snares.

I wish they could invent something “prettier” to don the gates and walls of properties. What would be even better, would be if this twisted wire were not needed anymore.

Barbed Wire Defence
Twisted Barbed Wire

Bridge on the River Kwai

One of the most famous Bridges that I have visited was definitely the Bridge on the River Kwai.  During World War 2, the Japanese used Allied prisoners of war to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea.  Many prisoners died under appalling conditions during its construction, and the line became known as the ‘Death Railway’. 

It was immortalized in David Lean’s 1957 film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ which centers around one of the line’s main engineering feats, the bridge across the Kwae Yai River just north of Kanchanburi.  The Bridge on the River Kwai really exists, and still carries regular passenger trains from Bangkok as far as Nam Tok.

.According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

“The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma. Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the center.”

Charging Elephant Bull

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Elephant at the watering-hole

“The journey not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Tour Guide: Street art

I am an avid art lover and in the past couple of years have come to learn about and appreciate street art. This is a small taste of the beautiful street art that the City of Cape town in South-Africa has to offer.

While you can absolutely take yourself on a street art walking tour of Woodstock, the experience is enriched with the correct context applied to each work.

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
The regeneration of Woodstock comes in part thanks to the Woodstock street art project that began in 2009, where locals like our walking tour guide, decided to take art from its traditional setting indoors, to the great outdoors.

As you walk through the streets of Woodstock in Cape Town you will be amazed at the amount of street art you will find. It is quite difficult to choose a favourite artist or even a favourite piece of art. The best way to see the art and learn about the artists is to so a guided street art tour. I have now done this twice and would gladly do it again.

All the pieces here are done by the street artists Wayne BKS, of which Conform is but one of his aliases. He is South-African born and loves painting pieces with a minimalist African/south American feel.

Woodstock, South-Africa, street art walking tour
The success of the Woodstock street art project is evident in the vibrant atmosphere to be found in the streets and converted warehouses, which are filled with young professionals, urban hipsters and plenty of tourists.

What do you love about where you live?

Bachelor Elephant

Males will leave the herd as they become adolescent, around the age of 12, and live in temporary “bachelor herds” until they are mature enough to live alone.

Male elephants are normally solitary and move from herd to herd.

Wordless Wednesday: Woolly necked stork

My Woolly necked stork sightings at Shindzela in the Timbavati, South-Africa.

Well endowed Elephant Bull

They leave the family when they are about 14 years old, shortly after reaching sexual maturity, and then they have a long time before they can compete for mating with females. They go off and spend time with other young males until they grow up some more. A 14-year-old male will be less than half the size of an adult male. So he just bides his time for about 15 years, then he starts being sexually active. 

The penis of adult African bull elephant can reach lengths of four feet and weigh 60 pounds. The reproductive canal of an African elephant female is over eight feet long. Female elephants are only fertile two or three days during every four month estrus cycle. Males are only sexually active for short time when they are in musth. Often times the cycles of male and females don’t coincide