Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A Christmas Special


It’s also Christmas time in Cabarete. I now that at home in Austria it’s very cold at the moment and people are jealous about me being in the Caribbean. Well it is nice to be in the Caribbean but there is always something that limits the pleasure. At the moment we suffer from repeated power cuts. Yesterday the longest one was over 17 hours and also heavy rain started. Heavy rain means heavy tropical rain causing floods and pollutes drinking water. Out of the tap comes now smelly dirty brown water. But talking about good and bad things this is perfect timing! Last week I had two crashes. One was with my ghetto Motorbike. Another Motorbike hit me in the side and I have a few bruises and scars. The other incident was on the big half-pipe when I got  wasted by a dirty drop-in.

On the bright side kiteboarding is quite fun and I have a very good progress. I’m now able to go left and right and even go up the wind. The things I’m working on right now are the turns and to get experienced. Especially now when there are so many kiteboarders in the water its very useful not to run too many of them down. There is also a really interesting fact about tourists. Most of the are Canadians and Americans. But the majority of tourist I’ve met are Canadians. As born in Winnipeg/Manitoba I have also met a guy from my town. That happened for the first time of my life that I have met one from “home”.

I’m very curious how Christmas will be here. I’ve been told that the 24th is a family day and also a reunion day where big families come together and new family members get introduced to the clan. As the availability of power is probably getting worse I want to wish you all already now peaceful Christmas all over the world!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

First week in the Dominican Republic



After a week in the Dominican Republic it's time to give a first overview how life is here on the island. I am staying at the extreme hotel in Cabarete. It is located at the kite beach before the city, or better village centre. So far I had a successful time here sports wise. From the beginning on I took kitesurfing lessons and now I am able to kite. All I need now is just a bit fine-tuning and practice. then I'll be able to go on my own wherever I want. My instructor Raoul was very helpful. He is Dominican and lives in the nearby village.

The other nice facts here are that there is a big half-pipe located at the backyard of the hotel. Last weekend I have been on it and it is really massive. In skater terms, it is a 40 ft. wide funramp (transition 2.5 m, approx 8 ft. 3”) with five different sections respectively. Extensions starting with an height of 6ft (1.8m) leading over 3 extensions into a final part with 10ft. (3.3 m, transition 3 m) – smooth plywood surface, continuous metal coping everywhere. Sure it has seen better times but I'm used to the ghetto approach here on the island - You take what you get! The biggest drawback with the half pipe is that it is only operational on the weekend. During the week the gym besides the hotel has occupied it.

Playa Encuentro is the prime surfing beach at the north shore. It provides fairly good waves in the morning. The tide is here not notable but the trade winds set it about 13:00 every day. The best plan is to go surfing in the morning, have a rest and then go kiteboarding at the evening. That makes a successful day and makes the Caribbean exciting.

The scooter in the picture above is my scooter. Today it had a breakdown because the kick-shift gear paddle has gone loose and I only was able to drive with the first shift - that really sucks!!

Next week the holiday season sets in and it will be very busy here. Yesterday I have counted 45 kites on the water and it will go up to 80 at peak time. I really hope that the holiday season will soon be over and the number of people here will go down. I am now already getting curious how Cuba will be - Let's find it out!!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Nightmare Airports


I have travelled thousands of miles in the last few years but this experience at San Francisco International (SFO) was really outstanding. On my flight from Hawaii to San Francisco I have already learned what to expect from an American carrier – less to nothing. Poor service, no food, not even snacks, some soft drinks but not enough for a long journey. The flight was 5 hours long!

Having the previous flight in mind I wanted to be early at SFO to have enough time for the check-in procedure. It turned out that it was a good idea to repack my luggage because I was just in limit with my check-in bags. I am carrying now 17kg weight on my photo backpack and messenger bag. The check-in is a self service counter but it only works smoothly for people with a US passport. Others have to type in all the details of the passport on a touch screen. So I had to call for assistance when the terminal locked up. The surfboard was not a big problem. A quick notice that I have to pay 100$ for the excess dimensions of the bag was fine with me. The shock came when the American Airlines assistant asked me for my return ticket. I didn’t have one because I wanted to book it when I was sure where and when I fly back to San Francisco. She told me without a valid return ticket she will not let me on board and offered me a ticket for 700$ - One way and without taxes!! Of course economy! I wasn’t pleased with this approach so I have called the chief operation officer in charge to figure the problem out. We started to shout around and he insisted that I have a return ticket because it is a policy. He was also not very helpful – the only suggestion was to come back with a written statement from the DR consulate that it is fine to enter the country without a return ticket. I started arguing and pulling out tricks of the box but all didn’t work out – deadlock! Suddenly we’ve found a solution: A refundable return ticket. I own now a useless return ticket from Santo Domingo (DR) to San Jose (Costa Rica). Once I am in the Dominican Republic I can go to an American Airlines service desk, give my ticket back and get a refund. All the trouble just for a lousy policy!

I have visited so many countries this year and many of them had the return ticket policy. Even it is required for the US. But I never have been asked to show the return ticket and many times I didn’t owe one at the time of entering the country. I run quite often in this policy trap in the US. I don’t want to follow illogical and stupid policies just because some bureaucrats are too stupid to figure out intelligent solutions. Many people agreed to my arguments but refused to make an exception of the policy because they fear that they get in serious trouble. It’s really obvious here that the country has a lively military background. People are treated in a very rude way and they seem to accept it. Orders are given by securities and authorities and the people do what they say without questioning if the order is reasonable or not.

Another highlight are the airports themselves. It is quite obvious that something is going wrong here in the States. The airports (speaking of SFO, MIA and JFK) are old, lacking of infrastructure and service facilities and could be run more efficient as other big international airports. Travelling here is really a tough job.

Soon I will leave to my final destination Puerto Plata. I’m thinking of the full pleasure program today when I’m finally at my hotel: Rum and cigars. I have even bought a cigar magazine and learned that the Dominican Republic produces more types of cigars as Cuba.

The final highlights of the day - yes - more then one was at the Miami International Airport. Before the counter opened the clerk (from Dominican origin) started singing a song with support of a Caribbean scratch instrument. That was a great and very energetic performance and the people loved that. He even sung a second song and also one encore. That was the positive highlight - the downer in Miami was that I have recognised after getting seated in the air-plane that no one stamped my passport with the leave stamp and also I had the green card stapled in it. It's quite likely that I face problems coming back for my return flight to Europe. The immigration officers will blame me for violating the immigration laws and I will tell them that someone of their staff didn't follow their own policies. Big fun expected for the next American flight adventure.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

San Francisco



I've just started to write this post as I've received a message that the big wave contest on Hawaii just has started. Now I write and can watch the live-stream at the same time.

The final days in Hawaii have been great. The backpackers camp had a thanksgiving dinner and supplied the turkey. The guests have provided the side dishes and with some booze we had a great evening. Many good surfers also have stayed at this place so it was great to meet these people. At the end of the stay was a day trip to Hawaii, the big island. It was a nice day travelling around the island with a tour group and seeing the volcano's and the devastating effects of volcanic activities.

After spending the final day at Waikiki beach I had an early flight to San Francisco. It was great to meet Joke and Will again at their place. We have a great time here in San Francisco and we explored the whole city and surroundings! For me it was very interesting to explore the city. Hispanics are here in a great number as well as many Asians. San Francisco has also an European touch and also Europe is quite present here. I also wonder about the imperial system. I thought it would be more consistent but the metric system is also present. For example skateboard wheels are measured in mm not in inch.

We had some very nice but rather cold days here with temperatures below 10°C with party fog and rain. But that is quite normal for this time of the year and I look forward for the Caribbean tomorrow. Today I plan to go to the city again to a former hippie area. The place still is quite lively and the street is full of smoke supply shops and little eateries and other independent shops.

As mentioned I will pack tomorrow again my big bags and travel at night to the Dominican Republic. I am very curious if I get a pick-up at the airport and find the eXtreme hotel.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Surf's Picking Up!



Finally a week after no waves at all surf has started picking up. It was really amazing like somebody threw a coin in the wave making machine. Either there is nothing or full power! The waves run here without the influence of the tides - A surfer just has to check the swell forecast. Banzai Pipeline is not active yet up but the forecast is good for Thanksgiving on Thursday. At the moment Sunset beach is the prime spot for medium to big wave surfing. On Sunday I have seen so many snapped boards. At least 20 boards have been snapped in the afternoon I have been there. It was real madness outside!

Tomorrow the O'Neill contest at Sunset beach should be started. I'll be there to take a few nice pictures. The surf itself will be too big for me to surf. I would need a gun (extra long, small surfboard) and an extra insurance for these high waves.

On Thanksgiving there will be a big barbecue here in the Backpackers stay. We'll have of course turkey and a lot of other food. I have already a good supply of Corona and Caribbean rum and are already ready for the big party. I'm really curious how the Americans are able to party.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Hawaii, Oahu - A Lazy Start



Arriving in Honolulu was fun because of the time difference. For the first time I hopped over the date line. I've departed from Tokyo on Sunday evening and arrive again Sunday morning in Hawaii. The immigration process was also easier as expected. I was afraid I had to fight around with the officer because of the many stamps of "evil" countries I have in my passport but I had a cool officer. He was amazed about all my travels and again surprised as I had to show him my "spare" passport. I literally flushed into the country. The next good thing was that I've got a real good deal for the rental car. I've headed directly to the most expensive car rental (Hertz) and after some arguing over the price the clerk found a real good deal for me. Just 27$ per day instead of 35$ at the cheapest car rental. I even got a mighty SUV! Perfect for surfboard transportation.

The only downer was the wave conditions. At arrival and two days after the surf has been dramatically low - almost no waves at all! Luckily now surf is up again and also the running Rip Curl surfing contest nearby. It's part of the Van's triple crown surf competition. One of the best contest series for surfing. Just high profile surfers there.

Tomorrow I'll expect to have a decent surf and after that I want to see the pro's how it really should look like.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

One Week In Tokyo


It's again late night and time to write a few words about my time in Japan. I always wanted to visit Japan but I never went there because I thought it was too expensive and too difficult to get around. Luckily it was no so dramatic!

Finding an address in Tokyo is really a challenge! I had to find the hotel in the district Shinjuku and it was almost impossible to locate the hotel. The many Japanese I've asked couldn't speak English well and there was a lot of guessing where the hotel could be. The ultimate solution was to go by Taxi and GPS to the hotel. The city was also not too expensive. At least not more expensive then other big cities. It can get expensive when it comes to exclusive restaurants. The most expensive dinner was a sushi set at the fish market Tsukiji. The big sushi set was about 3500 JPY (28Eur). Tsukiji was a very special visit. Arriving at the early morning I could take some nice pictures of the tuna auction. Also of the fish market where fresh sea food is sold at numerous stands.

On my final day in Tokyo I have moved from a standard hotel to a capsule hotel. This was for men only and the sleeping place is a tiny cabin just like a sleeping compartment in a train. Equipped with a TV it was a quite good option to spend a night. The only bummer was that you shouldn't have too much baggage because there are no storage facilities. The hotel capacity was close to 1000 guests and there have been extra floors with spa's and restaurants. I've tried out the hot tubes, saunas and even a scrub massage. After that I went out to enjoy the night life in the nearby entertainment area.

In this week I met a few very nice people including a former German chef and now a restaurant owner as well as some very interesting Japanese artists. At the end I was sad to leave Japan so early just when it really started to get interesting and again the weather turned to get better.

Monday, 9 November 2009

From Bali To Tokyo



I have just uploaded a photo of Bali's most famous surf spot: Uluwatu. The surf wasn't high at my final week and I also couldn't go on my final surf session - Just a few lazy waves. It was a great time in Bali and I was really sad to leave. I made many great friends and hope to see them soon again.

Beside of surfing I also was interested in the recent development of the island. Even Bali is a so-called paradise it has a lot of challenges to cope with. I'm writing this post now in Hawaii and I can mention the difference between the islands. For me Bali is the more scenic and interesting place as Hawaii. The positive fact about Hawaii is the waste management and the good infrastructure of the island - at the moment just speaking of Oahu. The local government of Bali plans to attract much more tourists as in former years. At the moment 2 million visitors come to Bali. The midterm goal is 4-5 Million and in a decade about 10 million visitors are the target. The Bali government wants to copy Hawaii and Malaysia to gain a better share in the tourism market. With more visitors the country will definitely make a permanent change to "Disneyland".

After leaving Bali and a short flight I arrived in Tokyo - But more about this great city in the next post....

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Final week in Bali


Finally my time in Bali comes to an end. I had a great time here with good friends and I am sad to move on. Of course I am also excited because of the new upcoming adventures. My surfing became way better but I’m not satisfied. I need much more experience but now I’m confident that I will progress my surfing skills on this long trip. The next surf spots will be Hawaii and Cabarete (Dominican Republic).

I just moved to a new bungalow and it was quite busy here. Yesterday people have been sleeping everywhere – even in the living room on the floor. I want to save on living costs to afford more stuff that I really need.

The weather in Bali is now slowly changing. It gets hotter and the rain season is coming up. Luckily it is still not raining but more about that later. Hindus celebrated recently Galungan and Kuningan and it was great to see the colourful ceremonies and the devoted people offering to their gods. Beside the beautiful surroundings here there are also a lot of side effects from excessive tourism. There are about 15 Million tourists coming annually to Bali and new resorts and Villas are finished every day. That is a big challenge for the Balinese society and infrastructure.

Environmental Issues

Water: On the first sight Bali is full of water – Rice terraces, waterfalls, hot springs, tropical rain and countless recreation centers and spa’s. The story behind is that an average tourist spends about 3000l water/day and a Balinese just needs 700l/day. Big hotels and golf centers have been established around Bali and worse – also at the driest places, Bukit in the south. The water comes most of the times from ground water and the ground water level is rapidly falling. In the capitol Denpasar the level dropped 5m last year. Some wells are now 40m deep! The risk that salty sea water breaks in is very high and could cause a disaster. Hotels are asked to install desalination units but they refuse because it doesn’t support their business model.

Beside the ground water problem the other problem is the drought. There has been no rain for a long time and more the half of the rivers are dried up and villages are cut off from water.

Power: Since the 10th of October there are planned power cuts around Bali. The power demand is so high that the existing infrastructure can’t deliver the required power. To avoid an overload of the electrical grid planned shut-downs occur. At the evening whole quarters are dark and even the main touristic places having sometimes no power. A second main power cable is planned to be installed between Java and Bali but this will take a lot of time, effort and money to realize this project.

Rabies: Many stray dogs are infected with rabies. The main hospital designated to treat victims of dog bites counts actually 150 dog bites per day. Twelve people already died this year on rabies and there is a shortage of vaccine. The government can’t deliver enough vaccine for the bitten and the people return frequently and desperately to get help.

Crime: Petty crime is on the rise. Many cases of bag snatching robberies occur as well as organized crime. Last week the first armed bank robbery happend and worried the authorities. Also on the rise are scams of the lease of real estate. It is forbidden for foreigners to buy land on Bali. The workaround is a limited lease for 20-25 years. Many foreigners have been tricked by dubious agents who pretend to own the land and then, after the money transfer, they are never seen again.

Religion:
"Kuningan celebration ", the last day of Galungan celebration, believed to be the ascendant day of the ancestral holy spirits and Deities to heaven after sojourning for several days on the material world. On this day, special offerings consisting of yellow rice and special dishes are offered while every compound and temple is decorated with ornaments made of young coconut leaves and flowers. I’ve taken many pictures from this celebration at Pura Sakenan, Serangan island ( Turtle Island), Denpasar municipality.

Julia Roberts is also on the island shooting her new movie Eat, Pray, Love. When the movie hits the cinemas some beautiful sites will be shown and the tourism industry hopes for many new visitors in the future.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Galungan



The most holy festival on the Balinese calendar was celebrated this week with ceremonies across the island to welcome the Hindu gods and ancestors to Earth. In Hindu belief, Galungan opens a 10-day celebration of the triumph of good over evil. It is a time when many Balinese return to their ancestral homes to be with family and friends and to prepare offerings and food for their ancestors.

The men prepare towering bamboo poles, decorated with intricate designs made from young coconut leaves, for placement at the front of the houses so that people travelling on the roads through villages move under canopies of the tall, festival poles. Major temples throughout Bali are crowded as Hindus gather to pray, make gifts to the gods and enjoy performances of the traditional barong dance. After 10 days, when the gods and ancestors return from Earth to heaven, the most important day of the festival “Kuningan” is celebrated by people quietly giving thanks for peace, safety and wellbeing. Galungan occurs twice during the 13-month Balinese calendar.

It was fascinating for me to pass through the many villages on the way to the surf spots. So many decorated poles around and all very artfully and with care prepared. The poles also come with a small altar for the offerings to be placed there several times a day. I have also been able to make some nice pictures of the street scenes. By driving through the streets I’ve also spotted traditional Balinese figures – A dragon and a demon accompanied by a traditional band. They were walking around the neighborhoods and entertaining mostly the kids who had great interest and sometimes fear of these figures.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Moving In, Moving Out And Back…


I am now the forth week in Bali and there is still a lot to do all the time. Last week I have finished my second week surf guiding and it is a lot of fun. Pretty exhausting too! After the morning session with the group I often go a second time at the Afternoon with my friends and almost a whole day is gone. On Friday I’ve had a very impressive experience. I got under a giant wave and got pushed to the rocky ground where I have stayed a few seconds after the wave passed by. My surfboard was just showing out buy the tip and winked friendly to the beach. Today I have decided to take a break to recover from the busy Friday night and some minor injuries.

Also last week we had to move out of our nice bungalow at the Double Palm and move to the surf camp. This was necessary because our bungalow was booked for one week by other guests. After two days we got another bungalow and we moved back in to the Double Palm. Now our first bungalow is free again and we will move back today.

Bali has the many festivals and celebrations all the time. I have attended already a Hindu celebration, took part of a memorial and been at a punk concert. There are also often surf contests and the famous Friday night life. It always takes a full day to recover from that. Next week there will be a celebration over multiple days where villages will be beautiful decorated. I will try to take a few pictures of that. Also surf guiding will continue and we will get bigger waves. That will be great if they will not be to high and fast for me.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Second Week On Bali


Today I've just heard that there was a big earthquake on Sumatra. Over 1000 people have died in the earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It's far away from here but it seems that the "ring of fire" is getting more active now. There have been several earthquakes in the region and one bigger 6.4 earthquake happened two weeks ago. People begin to think again what to do in a case of a Tsunami.

This week I have started surf guiding. There are five other surfers, head-coach, assistant and a driver (cameraman). Every day we have two surf sessions at different spots depending on the conditions (waves, swell...). We usually start between six and seven, sometimes even five o'clock in the morning. Surfing is a really physical demanding sport and it takes time for me to get used to it again. Today I have even managed to sneak into a mini barrel.

The previous days I have seen many sunsets because Susi had her final days here and it was cool to sit together and have a Bintang (local beer). We also had many delicious dinners in Kuta. From local food to Indian and Japanese cuisine. During the day and the morning I eat a lot nasi goreng (mixed fried rice). Tomorrow is already Friday and last week we had a big cocktail night at the Balicamp. Maybe we have the same intentions tomorrow. As I know the mates that stay with me at the same bungalow I have few doubts that they want to party.

I didn't take much photos yet. The big camera is still in the closet and I will start taking photos with it more to the end of the stay.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Surfing Bali



Now I feel very comfortable in Bali. I am organised and have also my surfboard ready to ride. After some problems with transport (delay and damaged) everything is ok. Yesterday I had my first surf session at Brava beach. The swell now is very low and the waves too! Good starting point for me!

Today I plan to go with Chris to a spot called "Old Man" We'll drive there with our scooters. Its close to the spot "Canggu" where I made the title photo of this post. The weather is also getting better and better. The first days have been quite rainy and wet. It's a big difference between the dry season and the rest of the year. I prefer the dry season over the wet season because I never have to think about what to do when it rains.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

First Days In Bali


I am now in Bali and I have already many interesting experiences to write about. First at all I am very pleased and happy for the very nice welcome of Susi, Moritz, Chris and all others. I live now in a nice apartment close to the surf camp where I have been at my previous stays. Unfortunately I couldn't manage to go surfing because my surfboard wasn't on the plane with me. It couldn't be traced on Monday when I arrived but on Tuesday it was delivered severely damaged. Now it is being repaired and I can get it tomorrow evening. Wednesday will be the first day of action for me.

Speaking about action. My first tasks on Bali where organizing: Tracing the surfboard, renting a scooter, buying an Indo telephone card... Today I went with Susi and Maria to the beach to see them surfing. After watching I went swimming and developed a new master plan. I could claim 218€ from the travel insurance when I present enough receipts. It took me half a day of hard work to buy enough things for 218€. I had to go to many different stores to find nice stuff for me.

The weather is at the moment not so nice. It rains several times a day and it is rather cold. The ocean also gets dirtier because of more rainfall. Tomorrow I want to check how to get to the surf spots and take a few pictures - I will provided next time some nice pictures

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Next Stop: Bangkok - Bali


I'm just back from our first event after the summer break: FM4 Unlimited with DJ Functionist & DJ Beware. It was a great event and I was happy to meet so many nice friends there. Now I'm back to write my final blog entry and have about three hours to sleep before I go to the airport.

My first stop will be in Munich where I eat my final "Weisswurst" with Beer before I will enjoy Asian cuisine for the next months. I will have a short stopover in Bangkok before I reach my final destination Bali. After a long absence from surfing I will spend the next weeks at this perfect place. I hope my surfboard will arrive in one piece. It had some cracks from the last transport. It will anyway be a challenge to travel with heavy gear: Big suitcase, surfboard and camera equipment.

It would be a pleasure for me to hook up with fellow travellers and friends. Soon I will post here my full itinerary and would be happy if someone is in the mood to join me.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Around The World - The Next Phase



Good News!

I've just received the booking confirmation for my "Round The World" (RTW) Ticket. It took me about two weeks to plan the route and get it finally approved by Star Alliance. At first the planning was performed on-line and then verified by the telephone service. The most difficult issue was that the terms and conditions differ between the bonus miles package and the official ticket. Booking on bonus miles means that just limited quantities of seats on certain routes are available. The master plan including Fidji, Australia and New Zealand was impossible to book because there where simple no connections.

This is now the official travel route: GRZ-MUC-BKK-DPS-BKK-NRT-HNL-SFO-JFK-FRA-GRZ
The trip starts in three days on Saturday morning and I come back on December 11th for a short break. After that phase 2 of the trip will start. Most probably in the Caribbean. After proper (last minute) planning I will announce the second route. The most notable stops on the current trip are: Bali, Tokyo, Honolulu and San Francisco.

I will have to work hard the next few days to prepare everything for the travel. There are a lot of preparations to be done and I hope I can finalize the most important. More to come in the next few days...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Post Nr. 100


It has just been a while since my last post. Now summer is almost over and there is also not so much to report about. The few times it was sunny I went swimming to the nearby lake in the south of Graz and of course the weekly beach volleyball is worth to be mentioned.

Last week I have been with friends in Upper Austria to have a look at Linz09. The city of Linz is the cultural capital of Europe this year. We had great fun and could stay at a friends house. There is pretty much to see and a lot of events to attend. We have chosen to go to a very special circus and it really was "very" special.

Now there are almost all tasks performed that I've wanted to perform and I feel the need to do something new again. Maybe a new trip or a new job. I'm just making my mind what to do next. This or latest next week I should come up with a new plan and a new challenge. I'm already excited what it could be...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Bangkok: Behind The Red Light


Bangkok has a long history of serving culture. That includes the sex business. It has ever been and will last as long as it exists. The Thais are in general conservative and rude behaviour, slutty outfit, porn etc. is not welcomed at all. Prostitution is forbidden by law as well as pornography. So how comes that Bangkok is seen as the Red-Light hotspot in Asia? The short answer is that the sex business is financially supporting many families and enough people are willing to work in this business.

How It Works:

Today there are mainly three areas that are full of clubs and bars: Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy. These places come to life when it gets dark. Lights go on, Girls with short dresses hawk for guests and customers go from door to door. It’s the same as going on the market – walk around, select, negotiate and get lucky. A potential customer will check out bars and clubs either by getting pulled in by the girls at the door or by hawkers who run around with prints of “sexy” girls. Once inside there is an unexpected setup. Girls dance on stage, sometimes with a number, and others a sitting around, in special cases on a tribune to be selected. If a man is interested in a girl, or vice versa, the girl comes over and a little conversation starts. As many girls are from rural areas of Thailand they just are able to talk some “business English”. During this conversation the customer should order a drink for himself and a “lady drink”. If they show mutual interest (sex and money in most cases) the customer has to pay a bar release fee (600 – 800 Baht, 12-17 Eur) and can go with the girl to a hotel. Of course the girl changes her sexy outfit to normal clothing before she gets out of the bar. This is also the trick or flexibility in Thai law. The business proposal in the bar and the physical separation between bar and hotel is ok for the authorities. What two people do behind closed doors in privacy isn’t of interest of the public. The customer pays then usually 1000 Baht (21 Eur) for the girl. This can lead to a short or long term engagement. Some happy couples stay the whole vacation together.

The clubs and bars provide for hundreds of girls a working place. The biggest bars have up to 300 girls who work there. Of course there are also other clubs in different areas. Some are hidden and protected by heavy walls and security. The guests there are mainly from Thailand or the rest of Asia to fulfil their needs. Also street prostitution exists. Ladies stand around in common places and wait for customers. They also can be very aggressive in self promoting. I had a hard time doing research for this special report. It made it a bit easier for me carrying my big camera around and taking photos. I also have some experience dealing with all kind of hawkers on my travels.

The Ladies:

The business itself is just a business but what matters are the people behind. Usually the girls come from poor families in Bangkok or rural areas in Thailand to work in the city. Because of the high competition on the job market and the lack of education the only job they really can make good money is the sex business. When a girl is sent to make money in the big city the family at home doesn’t want to know how she gets the money – she just shut participate in supporting the family. For the girls it means hanging around in a bar or club, selling themselves and living with other girls together so save on the rent and have more money to send home. If a sexworker gets older the situation gets personally critical. The customers choose younger girls and working in a club gets more and more difficult because of the younger competition. The solution for many is to get engaged with a foreigner who doesn’t care to have a “older” woman (>24!!). The “normal” Thais marry relatively young and girls who miss the right time are left over. Also Thai men like to have younger woman.

If a woman also fails in getting a foreigner it gets tricky. Either returning home to the village and back to the family or in the city and also wait daytimes for a customer on the street. I have seen so many in Chinatown today. It’s very sad!

Of course not only girls work in the business. There are also a lot of boys, ladyman, and chirurgical changed. I have also visited the “Boys” area in Patpong. It was very interesting there – A lot of young man, some gay stereotypes but mostly young teens. I’ve forgotten to mention that there are also a lot of shows for entertainment. Speaking with a hawker he offered me to attend a show for 200 Baht (4 Eur) to see the famous ping pong, writing without hands and so on ;-) Needless to say that most of these shows are illegal but corruption is widespread and the police love to take money. It happens that, if you visit these shows, you have trouble leaving the place because more money for security reasons is requested.

For me all this is fascinating and disgusting at the same time. Speaking about disgusting I find this the proper description for many sex tourists. My favorite disgusting sex tourist is tall, big beer belly, tiny legs and wears a shirt stretched over his belly with of course the upper buttons loose so that the chest hair pushes out, shorts and of course full strapped sandals, most preferably with socks. Of course going hand in hand with a skinny, young Thai! It seems to me that many people who have no luck at home with the ladies go to Thailand to get laid. It’s for them easy, cheap and satisfying. I also have to mention that many Asians from other countries are coming to Bangkok and also Thais are big sex tourists. It’s just not so obvious for foreigners! There is also another curiosity connected to the Asian issue. Many Thai ladies prefer Westerners over Asians because their behavior to woman. I have spoken to a Thai businessman, a rich lawyer, who didn’t get laid because the ladies didn’t like him. It was not matter of money. They just refused to go with him because they didn’t like him!!

I just recognized that this is a long post and still many side stories can be told. It’s interesting doing research on something everybody talks about but few have the full picture.

Back To Europe


This is the first time I write an update to my blog from the plane. Dinner just has been served and I enjoy my time in the business class of Austrian Airlines. Today I have decided to limit my excesses just to a nice meal and a desert. The 10 big coffees from Vienna to Bangkok made me paralyzed for half a day. Now everyone is asleep and for me it’s the best time to get creative.

My final day in Bangkok was quite relaxed. I had a long sleep in the morning, packed my stuff at noon and checked out of the hotel. My program for the afternoon was to check out the historical center of Bangkok: From the main train station to the royal palace. As often I’ve decided to go off the beaten track and find interesting sites by my own – And I found them! Chinatown is rich of culture, beautiful and ugly at the same time. The food stalls and restaurants are amazing and colorful. I love the smell of cooking and now I can even identify, or at least get close to it, what dish the smell belongs too. The ugly side was many rotten houses, old hookers and people with no future, just living from day to day. By walking zigzag through Chinatown I have seen so many temples as never before in an Asian city. But most of them where closed or just frequented by a few worshippers. The busiest temple – I don’t know the name of it – was one run by a sect. The worshippers donated a lot in favor of this sect! In the temple four counters had open to receive donations. Another temple that I found interesting was one that has been built by donations of prostitutes of the 18th century. Some businesses have a long term success!

Outside of Chinatown I have visited a distribution center for retailers. The goods come into town by truck and then distributed to different markets or directly to end customers. That was a quite nice scenery for me. Very lively! After the market I’ve visited Wat Pho and then headed back by boat. Arriving at my “home” district I wanted to go for a traditional Thai massage. Luckily I found one directly on the big Sukhumvit road where the BTS (Skytrain) runs through. A traditional Thai massage is difficult to find. Most of the time luscious oil-massages are offered but not the traditional massage. For 300 Baht (ca. 7Eur) I have booked one hour and after that I was really relaxed. Every part of my body has been stretched (feet, legs, arms, torso, shoulders and head) and I was relaxed to the bone! I’ve just got a shock when I got out of the massage parlor. Heavy rain was pouring down and after a few steps I was completely wet – really WET! I just could get to the next store, shop a bit and continued to the hotel where my luggage was deposited. The rain was very heavily and also lasting for a very long time – no way out!

Now my Asian experience is over and I’m curious of what comes out when I step on the scales. I have been eating here all the time and let’s see if I gained weight from it or not. My next posting will be about the red-light district and how business goes on here. Also I final picture update will be performed!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Service Update


Outside there was just a heavy rainfall and I used the time to name all images until now on Picasa. Tomorrow is my final day in Bangkok and then I return back to Austria. After all the travelling I'm happy to come home and have a big chill. Still there is a lot to do when I'm back I will carry on with post processing the images from Africa and Asia. I shall not leave Graz until this task is completed otherwise I will never catch up.

I have already ordered a new GPS for my Nikon because this handy little piece is almost impossible to get in Asia. Yesterday I have visited the one and only Nikon pro shop in town and they told me they have back ordered the units long ago. It's just impossible to get in Asia. I have received the same information a day before in Singapore where I asked some shop owners to phone around and trace a unit. Bad luck - my own fault - I should take more care of my GPS units. The last one was a Garmin hand-held that I've lost in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).

My final post about Bangkok will include some information about the red-light zones. It's quite interesting to learn what's going on here.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Back In Thailand


Boreno, Kuching/Sarawak:

The final days have been busy on Borneo. After the visit of Bako National Park the highlight of the evening was a special dinner on the riverbank of the Sarawak river. A former intercontinental chef has decided to open up his very own restaurant and server special food from Sarawak. The food was prepared in a big bamboo and was a mixture of 15 different vegetables, chicken and cooked many hours over open fire. The second dish was a spicy fish cooked also over open fire but in a banana leaf. Truly organic and some ingredients have been from a special source and not available at the markets.

The final days before leaving where filled up with sightseeing in Kuching, eating all the time and a final visit to the orang utan rehabilitation center in Semenggoh. It was good to be early there to have a good experience. The feeding was a nice showcase how the animals move around in the woods. They are totally free and if they like to come for breakfast they do so. If they have better food elsewhere they stay there. We had luck and many organ utans came for feeding. I will upload the pictures later.

Singapore:

On the way back from Kuching to Bangkok I have decided to take a plane over Singapore instead directly from Kuala Lumpur. The price was the same (around 80€) and I wanted to buy a replacement for my GPS that I have lost in Malaysia. Singapore is totally different from the rest of Asia as I have experienced. It's like Cape Town in South Africa. Everything is nice, tidy, safe and secure. As I wanted to buy photo stuff I had to learn that professional equipment has the same high prices everywhere. Discounts are only available on consumer products. I was two hours in the Funan Mall. It's specialized in everything around computers and electronics. It was amazing to see what's available on the market - It's like a rush. I have still bought some gear for standard price and the rest of the day was reserved for the historic marina and down town. I really love to run around through the skyscrapers and look up on the sky. It's exciting for me.

The only downer on the travel was a SMS I've received from AirAsia. I've received an update that my original flight was cancelled and moved to another plane two hours later. That resulted in a late arrival in Bangkok. I was at my hotel at 3:00 in the morning.

Thailand:

Now, after updating my Blog, I'll got out and decide what to do the remaining days here in Bangkok. I'll be leaving on Sunday so there is not so much time left. Maybe I'm going out to Thai boxing, Markets, sights, ride in a tuk tuk and so on. As usual the unexpected is what I'm looking for...

Monday, 22 June 2009

Bako National Park



Today I was in the south of Sarawak again and in a nature mission. I have visited the Bako National Park. It's the oldest national park in Borneo and has a rich wildlife. The morning started overcastted an it even rained a little bit. After taken the public bus to Bako, registered at the front desk and embarked on a little boat we finally arrived at the park headquarters after a 30min ride. The first hike was for beginners and led to a nearby beach. The only thing I’ve spotted was a street of thousands of ants. After heading back to the headquarters I’ve decided for a longer hike. As it was during the day there was not much wildlife to see. Just in the camp there have been many monkeys but not in the hinterland.

Nevertheless it was very challenging running around in tropic forest conditions: A lot of sweating and only spotting a few plants and animals. At the end I had my success. I have seen the proboscis monkey, silver hair monkeys, macaques, a bearded pig and giant monitor lizards. The best plan would be to stay overnight and have a look at the wildlife at dusk and dawn but that was for me no option because of the limited time I had.


Links:

http://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-bako.asp
http://www.forestry.sarawak.gov.my/forweb/np/np/bako.htm

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Borneo


I’ve finally arrived on the island over a 10h trip from Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur for an early flight. Because the bus driver wanted to have an extra long break I’ve missed the flight and had to get on a new one. What surprised me was that the price for the flight was only 54€ incl. taxes. The original price was 30€ for an almost 2h flight. Sarawak is the naming of the southern, Malaysian part of Borneo, Sabah is the north. Kuching means “cat” in Malaysian language. It is a very laidback city and the people, as everywhere in Malaysia, like to eat around the clock. There are many eateries that server good and cheap food around the clock. As the locals have high expectations in food also the cheap eateries server quality food. Drinking is something very different. Sweet is the preferred taste. Also in fresh juices you can expect a few spoons of sugar to enhance the taste.

Kuching is the state capital but is rather a small city with many Chinese (30%), fewer Malay (20%) and the rest other ethnics. Besides of the love for food also some people like their cars very much and pimp them from a few extras to a completely new “fast and furious” design. At the moment I watch Chinese music TV and the new hotel offers free WiFi.

Tomorrow is Sunday and there is a special market to visit. Traders from all around Kuching come into town and trade their goods. I’ve already visited a few markets in Malaysia and its always a mixture of curiosities, food and a distinct smell of goods and food. At the beginning of next week I try to get out into nature and have a look at the rich wild-life of Borneo. On Wednesday I have already to head back to Bangkok but this time I have a stop-over in Singapore. I’ll probably do some little shopping, try a few Singapore food specialities and one day later I’m on the way to Bangkok.

Links:
http://www.kuching.net.my
http://www.sarawaktourism.com.my

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Pulau Perhentian



These islands consist of two islands. A big and upper-class one and a small one described as backpackers heaven. For me now heaven has got some limits. Pulau Perhentian Kecil is described in touristic terms as Malaysian pearl and tropical paradise in the South China Sea. There are no cars or streets on the island and it is idyllic and romantic. In reality this means that every hut has a gas-driven generator to provide electricity. The government has provided a wind powered power plant and a solar collector backup but it only serves a few upper-class resorts. I have visited the power plant today and it is a good example how energy can be provided in a smart way. Coming down the hill to the main beach (long beach) was like heading to a big city. Noise and fumes from burned trash everywhere!

The tourists act like normal tourists. I have been on a snorkelling tour today around the islands. Nobody mentioned that large coral fields are dead! They touched giant old sea-turtles without thinking that the animals could suffer from stress. At the end I was very happy to be on the island again and away from the mainstream tourists.

On Thursday I plan to take a long distance bus back to Kuala Lumpur and go to another region: Borneo. This is the third biggest island in the world and is divided over three states: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It’s also home of the famous Orang Utans – The furry apes. After spending a few days there I will leave to Kuala Lumpur again for the last time. Maybe I can arrange a stop in Singapore and then continue to Bangkok.

Melaka, Pulau Perhentian (Kecil)



From Kuala Lumpur to Melaka it was only a tiny hop in a nice, air-conditioned Bus. Melaka is well known as an important harbour in former times and also the area between Sumatra and Malaysia is called “Strait of Malacca”. Nowadays it’s famous for its bustling tourism. The city of Malacca consists of a core historical area (listed by UNESCO as world heritage), buffer zone and the rest of the city. The Malaysians try very hard to give the city an historical touch. Many buildings are beautifully renovated but also many buildings are just copies of houses that are long gone. On top of a hill is the remaining of a church and around the bottom of the hotel are many museums and other attractions. Some of the main attractions are: The two mega shopping malls, a kind of elevation unit that gives the spectators a view from a high level, a big ferry wheel and of course the food.

Food is one of the most important things in daily life of Malaysian people. You can see the eating anywhere, anytime. It’s simply amazing but very understandable. The variety of food is big and its pure pleasure to try out all the different kinds of food and drink. The only unpleasant thing was that I’ve lost again my GPS-unit. In Africa I’ve lost my handheld and here my unit for the camera. A big loss for me.

Links:

http://www.melaka.org.my
http://www.amazingmelaka.com
http://www.malacca.ws


Pulau Perhentian (Kecil)

After a few nights in nice, but crowded Melaka the next destination was already figured out. In the north-east of Malaysia, close to the border of Thailand are a set of beautiful islands. Pulau Kecil, where I’ve stayed, is the smaller one of two islands and has a long, sandy beach and turquoise water. There are many young backpackers here and the main attraction is to soak in the water, snorkelling and of course diving. The island has no streets and cars but that means nothing when fuel-driven generators are running all the time, heavy boat traffic is in the bay and trash is burned in the woods. After a few more or less relaxing days the next destination is coming up: Kuching, the main city of Malaysia on south Borneo.

Thursday, 11 June 2009



In Malaysia, with the hot and humid climate, I often my me something to drink. The drink of today was "Whatever?" The drink tastes like what's printed on the outside - whatever!

Meanwhile I'm in Melaka. A nice historical town located on the western seaside of the main peninsula of Malaysia. I've realised that this city is a main attraction for foreigners and locals. The whole city lives from tourism. I never have seen so many museums and other facilities for tourists. Lazy, fat-ass tourists can even drive around in a bicycle rickshaw equipped with a massive sound system. Depending where the guest is from the music is Indian, Chinese, English...

Tomorrow I will carry on exploring the city and of course trying to eat as much as I can. Malaysia is famous for it's food. A mix out of Indian, Malayan, Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and countless more. It's also one or the important things for everyone here. The food stalls in- and outside are almost around the clock well visited.

I've just finished uploading the pictures of the first days:
http://picasaweb.google.com/richard.hubatka/Asia#

More information about Melaka:
http://www.melaka.org.my/introduction/introduction.html

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Bangkok & Kuala Lumpur


My first Asia experience since ages started in Bangkok. After arriving at the new airport I took a bus into the city. Unfortunately it was rush hour and in Bangkok that means everything stands still. Almost three hours later I found a nice hotel near the Shukumvhit street. I’ve spent the rest of the evening strolling around in the neighborhood and recovered from my coffee hangover some hours before. In an Indian quarter I had a nice shisha with mint tea and the evening was perfect. At the next day I had my AirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpur. After a rapid drive to the airport I just wanted a quick check-in and then wait for boarding. The check-in area was a big surprise for me – numberless people waiting for check-in and queuing in long lines. It took me almost 45 minutes waiting for service and I was just able to get the flight in the last minute. After two hours flight I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. The first what I recognized was that sign system is existent but very inefficient. Many signs just lead to nowhere. It took ages and asking many peoples how to get to the city.

Kuala Lumpur is a nice little city (1.5 mill people). The twin towers dominate the scenery of the city and the radio tower close beside is almost as tall as the towers! The inner city is connected by a monorail and every important place can be reached in walking distance. China town and Litte India are the two important quarters beside the touristic places around the Bintang street. What always amazes me is authentic Asia food. Not the crap we get to eat at home! The interesting thing here is that the shops close already down at 22:00. In Bangkok life on the street is much longer going on.

Because Kuala Lumpur is a rather small city Melaka will be the next city tomorrow. It’s an important city and in former times very famous for trade. Probably after Melaka, Singapore will be the next station.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Can It Get Better?


A short time ago Africa and now heading to Asia with full speed! I’m on an Austrian Airways flight from Vienna to Bangkok. Late night dinner has just been served and I’m still stoked about the service in business class. This is my first long distance business class flight and I enjoy it to the max. Except of me all others in the plane seem to be lazy asses and just want to sleep after a rich meal. Besides of sleeping people I love to be creative and write a bit of travelling experiences. Actually the video system just has crashed and I miss the video clips from Gym Class Heroes, The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz and many more. But hey, this is only one lonely downer – I had a classy meal: pre-ordered sea-food and served with champagne. After the main course, served by the cook himself, I got a fine dessert with special local Austrian schnapps.

After the really, really good food I have received a coffee menu with a selection of 10 different coffee styles. After a great meal and side dishes I was spontaneously in the mood to try all ten coffee styles. I’ve asked the charming service lady for a selection of ALL coffees and she surprisingly agreed. Now I’m here after the second coffee (Fiaker style) and waiting for the rest of the outstanding 8styles.

To give you a slight impression what’s going on here is the full list of fine coffees:
Kleiner/großer Brauner: Black coffee rounded with fresh coffee cream
Kleiner/ großer Schwarzer: Short or large black coffee
Wiener Melange: A Classic with hot milk, foamed milk and black coffee
Einspänner: Black coffee, whipped cream and powdered sugar
Fiaker: Black coffe, cognac and whipped cream
• …just got Kaffee Baileys served: Black coffee, whipped cream, Baileys (of course) and cocoa powder. The chef was again so nice to serve it directly to his loony guest.
Franziskaner: Fine black coffee with foamed milk, whipped cream and cocoa powder.
Kaffee verkehrt: Black coffee with hot milk and foamed milk – just turned over
Maria Theresia: black coffee and orange liqueur – a typical Viennese coffee specialty!
Wiener Eiskaffee: A double espresso, vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream – At the moment I really wonder if I will see it at the end!

I’m in a really good position now – my experience with good coffee and spirit makes me the perfect coffee tester. According to the taste the one with orange liquor is served now. Served with a lot of passion and spirit it’s the best what you can get middle in the night- But we are not at the end – there are still five coffee styles coming up- It’s getting very tough now – after the massive supply with champagne, excellent digestives and an extraordinary selection of coffee I seem to get lazy and tired. But that is not the end!! I’m still watching music clips and pretend to be fully capable writing a report of excessive coffee abuse.

Writing a report about excessive behavior isn’t easy at all. The goal is to articulate yourself in action and don’t change anything when you are sober again. I just realize that I really need to concentrate because I’ve just lost track how many coffees I had. My feeling is that I still have five coffees to be served. As time goes by I also realize that it gets important to rush to the WC’s from time to time. I’m writing these sentences’ under extreme pressure. I just want someone for me to go to the toilet. In-between these thoughts a milk-coffee just have arrived. Watching video clips and drinking so much coffee has a special effect on reality. I feel now like a coffee addict on speed! I really wonder now how this evening will end – either pass out in-between or a nice good-night coffee at the end.
Now one of the most challenging moments is here – I have to fine a toilet – too much coffee!... Must run…
Hehe – I made it to the toilet and no one has mentioned my condition – full caffeine and no sleep. It seems that the short vacation in Asia has a good start. Outside the morning already starts. In the morning light I can see the rural areas of Mongolia or Afghanistan. With the help of a little “Franziskaner” it looks all very peaceful and quiet. There is one abnormity about my physical condition – Caffeine as a negative effect on me – Instead of getting a “kick in the ass” I get sleepy. All about the memories of a decent childhood! (Coffee smell from many mornings when I have missed my school class)
Now it’s finally enough – all coffees tasted and feel pleased. A short rest is needed before or a new expertise.
After a little nap I feel a bit crushed. Still sleepy after all the coffees and I hope my condition will change soon. Breakfast is being served now and I try to eat something. Wow – I really feel stuffed now!

Coming next: Short Bangkok review and Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A Short Break



Today a series of bad, job related experiences had a climax. A long awaited informal meeting was cancelled surprisingly and I wasn't informed about that. So I went to the meeting place and nobody was there. My master plan just turned into a waste of time. The original plan was to get a short break after the recent music festival after the final closing meeting. Two or three weeks to relax and then head back to the big board meeting to work out a new structure. The travel was just arranged two days ago deep night on Thursday. I found out that its now very cheap to get a business ticket to Bangkok -> short cross-check and I booked the flight and a connecting flight with a low cost carrier to Kuala Lumpur.

Great! - instead of starting a gonzo style travel in Malaysia I just start in chaos right over here in Austria. I've just completed the travel preparations - mainly doing paperwork - and now I just have to put all my stuff into a bag. Beside my extensive photo gear I also take my little laptop with me. I'll hopefully be able to deliver more reports as from Africa. I just have to drop into some adventures and be able to write about them. I have a good feeling! - let's give it a try...


Official travel details:

Graz (07-06-09) - Bangkok (08-06-09) - Kuala Lumpur (09-06-09)...something inbetween...Bangkok (28-06-09) - Graz (29-06-09)

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

sprinnine: one week to go


We are now in the final stage of the preparations for the upcoming springfestival next week. Almost all artists have their flights, the festival book is in print, the locations are approved by the authorities, the website is on-line with all features and much, much more! Tomorrow the itineraries for the artists, and there are over 150 of them, will be also finalized.

Next week on Tuesday the first artists will arrive in the city and we already have to take care of them. The last artists will leave Graz on Monday after the festival so we are fully occupied until then. The weather forecast is quite OK. The temperatures are not to high and it shouldn't rain. Tomorrow we will also meet with all drivers to brief them and to do some basic coordination. Most artists will arrive either in Graz or in Vienna. For us that means that we have to pick up the guys in Vienna and drive them down to Graz. The duration is about 2.5 hours between Graz and Vienna.

It's really exciting to work together with so many different people. I'll miss that as soon as the festival is over. Then we just have to do the closing and start the preparations for next years 10th anniversary of the festival: springten

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

springnine Promo, London

 
Posted by Picasa


Astounding - This is the first post after I'm back from Africa. It seems I need extreme conditions to do some regularly blogging. At the moment I'm in the office and working on the preparations for the springfestival. There is not so much for me to do right now because my lovely colleagues have already done most of the job.

Last weekend we have been in London to promote the springfestival and get in touch with the artists we already know and the newbies. I took the early flight and had luck to be upgraded to business class. Then I checked the hotel at the Kings Cross area and spent a great day sightseeing in central London. At the evening I hooked up with my friends from Austria and England. A bit eating out, some drinking and visiting a a nice venue. There was not all too much action going on in the Arches and we left quite early at three.

Saturday was a dedicated shopping and sightseeing day. We all had a different schedule and enjoyed spending time in Soho. I skipped shopping and took some pictures instead. It was just a bit strange to run around with my big camera as well as hundred others. In London we also learned why it was so difficult to get a hotel room - London marathon was scheduled for Sunday!

Saturday evening was our night. Together with our hosts, the urban nerds, we had a party in a warehouse at the banks. The venue was huge and it seems it was a former storage. Because of its size the venue was only half full and the vibes didn't spark over as it should. Also like the previous night I had seen enough and left the venue for a traditional after hour snack.

After all the weekend was really busy, exhausting and wonderful. We had a good time together and we are already excited about the next visit. Now we are focused on the upcoming festival in Graz and then we just have to work on a master plan for the rest of the year.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Back In Europe



Exactly after 90 days we are at the end of our travel. It was interesting for us to realize that flying sometimes is also as difficult and uncomfortable as a bus ride in Africa. Flights were delayed and our luggage got lost but we arrive in time at Graz. We are lucky that nothing serious has happen to us. No one got sick, robbed, lost or anything worse.

Now we have to carry on with all the things to do after a big travel. We have to start our live here again. Wash dirty clothes, read the post and emails from three months, get the apartment organised and much, much more. The outstanding pictures have been already posted and a collection of the best will be created in the next few weeks. There also will be a short summery in the blog and a forecast what will come next.

Austria is quite the same as we've left it. The weather starts to become nicer after a long and cold winter. The economy is still a mess but there are a lot of projects we follow at the moment so we don't worry to get bored soon.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Cape Town



Finally the end is reached. We have been to the edge of Africa and it doesn't go any further. This will be the final posting from Africa before we return to Austria where we expect to be frozen to death. On Tuesday we will have a nice last day at a private resort before we leave on Wednesday to the airport. Surfing was not possible in this short time because the good surf is a bit far from here and it would have caused too much trouble to go there.

The last few days we have explored Cape Town and enjoyed the city. We have been sightseeing, shopping and enjoying delicious food. Today we even have been in the largest shopping mall in Africa. It's huge and over 400 stores are located there together with a food court and entertainment area. Now it's the final evening and we have to pack again our backpacks for the final move.

Thursday we will arrive in Austria and I start work again on Friday. Over the weekend I hope to have enough time to write a summary of the 90 day trip. It will take way longer to process all the pictures we have taken. Several thousand pictures from all over Africa! The best will be processed and put on-line in an independent gallery. It's quite a mixture of countries, people and animals as well as also the incredible nature.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Finally: Cape Town



The end of Africa is reached! We arrived today in Cape Town at the late afternoon. The final journey took us almost 22 hours from Windhoek to Cape Town in a bus without air condition. The drive itself was not too bad. Good roads and a nice view.

Now we will chill out here until next week. There are a lot of activities we will do here like surfing, going up the table mountain, sight seeing and much more. I have now also completed the picture gallery. Now only the pictures of South Africa are missing and then the gallery is full.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Next Stop: The End

We arrived today back from our trip to the red desert and the highlands. Sossusvlei's rich orange sea of sand dunes is one of the most astounding sights in the world. They are the highest sand dunes in the world (up to 300m). The dunes are much higher than their nearest rivals in Arabian Africa. The older the dune, the brighter the color from slow iron oxidization and a zillion minute fragments of garnets. These dunes range from burnt orange through blood red to deepest mauve, and geologists say that this supreme desert could be the oldest in the world. In the Nama language, "Namib" means "vast"

To reach the remote dunes we've decided to take a 4x4 car and to camp at the entrance of the park. It was really worth it. Camping was quite cheap and the night sky was impressive. So many stars in the sky! Many people also go to Namibia for observing the stars. On our third night we have camped on a farm specialized for star gazing in the Namibian highlands. Many professionals and amateurs stay there and enjoy the dry climate with almost no dust and forms of light at night.

Now we are just a few hours away from our next travel and sadly also our last big travel in Africa. We soon board the long distance bus from Windhoek to Cape Town and will arrive tomorrow at the early afternoon. The last few days in South Africa will be used for shopping, eating good food and a big chill.

The next picture update will be in Cape Town. We have taken some great pictures from the desert and wildlife.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Weekend Status Update



We just arrived back to Windhoek after a few days in Swakopmund at the sea side. The big difference from here to Swakopmund is that it is very cold at the sea. The cold air comes in from the sea and further on to the desert. In Swakopmund there are many clouds and then it gets really cold. You have to wear a jacket - Even in the sand desert.

Today is the 19th anniversary of Namibia's independence. It is one of the youngest countries in Africa and was liberated 1991 from South Africa who has occupied it after the Germans left. We have attended a celebration in Swakopmund. Many local groups and politicians have met at a open air place to celebrate. Unfortunately independence day means a public holiday: People stay at home, shops are closed, alcohol is banned and a lot of other fun.

Tomorrow we have booked a 4x4 for the next three days. We'll drive to the middle of the country where the big dunes are. Before we leave tomorrow we stock up on a lot of things to eat and for a decent barbecue. Not to forget also some cider and marshmallows. We'll be back on Wednesday and we continue to our final destination on the same day. The tickets for the long distance bus from Windhoek to Cape Town are already booked and we just have to be at the right time at the station.

The first pictures of Namibia are already online too!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Swakopmund



After our pleasant stay in Windhoek we have moved to the coast to do some activities in the fresh air. The city of Swakopmund is well known for the many fun sport opportunities. Sky diving, desert hikes, Quad biking, sandboarding and sliding and a lot more things can be done.

We arrived yesterday and it was indeed a very special impression for us. Instead of blue sky, high dunes and a great view out to the ocean it was overcasted, foggy and cold. Nevertheless we decided to go for sandboarding, sliding and on Friday to the big uranium mine 60km out of Swakopmund.
The town feels like a genuine German town with influences of whole Germany. There are many German signs from the foundation of the city but also enough people remain who speak German. Afrikaans is also similar to German and that makes it also feel like home. Like the rest of Namibia everything is just like home but not Africa. Clean, proper, safe...

Sandboarding

Today was our special day. Again a sport activity! We wanted to check out how sandboarding feels and how you get up. The second question was answered first when we walked up the dune. The great is standard snowboard gear and I had a short Burton deck with strap-on bindings. The base of the board is a special plastic base with better gliding characteristics then the original wax base. As we arrived on top of the 90m dune no.7 we just had to ride down like on we powder snow. Before we started we had to wax the board and the excessive wax was washed away with dry sand. After the third time down I started to use the kicker and at the end of our session I was almost able to fully stand it.
The specialty of the day was to slide down on a plan deck back of the dune. The fun thing was the high speed we reached. Up to 72km/h! The record of the day.
After sandboarding for three hours we had a final snack at the base of the dune and later at the evening a DVD of the day. I highly can recommend trying out this sport. It's really fun!

We'll be back in Windhoek on Saturday before we rent a 4x4 for a trip to the red desert. We'll camp in the desert and climb up a 380m high red dune before we finish our stay in Namibia and continue to Cape Town for the final stop.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Picture Gallery Update



With help of the mighty fast Internet connection here I was able to update the picture gallery to the last picture. I also have performed so updates to recent albums with pictures from Edith and Walter. Check them out and enjoy!

Picture Gallery

From Zanzibar To Windhoek



Finally back online again! Country after country without proper Internet connection and now everything is different. We arrived today morning in the lovely city of Windhoek in Namibia. The German heritage can be seen everywhere. It's like this country doesn't belong to Africa as we know it. Now after a long time I'll post a quik update what happened recently.

Travel from Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) to Livingstone (Zambia)

It all seemed to be so easy. After a few lazy days at the beach on Zanzibar we wanted to continue to the Victoria falls. The falls are conveniently located on the way to Namibia, the next country on our list. The drama started when we arrived back from the island in Dar Es Salaam. We had to realize that we arrived on an important Islamic holiday: The birth of the prophet Mohamed. We wanted to organize our ride to Zambia the following day and almost all travel agencies had closed. The first travel agent we've visited told us that our bus of choice doesn't operate anymore. As we are now quite careful whom to trust we went to this particular company where they confirmed the news. To cut down the travel time (on land at least 24h) we've decided next to go to the airport to find us a cheap flight. There we had to realize that there are no direct flights. The cheapest fares started from about 560$ The next option was to visit the main bus terminal. After a while arguing around with some companies we found a bus that should manage the route in 24h.
The next day started early as usual. at 5:30 am we boarded the bus and our journey started to the border. After a day traveling and countless police and bus weight checks we arrived at the border. There the bus staff told us that this is the final station and tomorrow! a bus will continue to Lusaka. That was of course great news for us because we've planned to just cross the border and driver over night in Zambia. After a night sleeping on the bus seats of a old, wrecked down bus, we had to wait the whole next day after the border at the Zambian side to continue our journey. Finally at 6:30pm we could continue. After getting stuck in a mud hole we really arrived in the early morning in Lusaka. From there we had for the first time luck and found immediately a connecting bus to Livingstone (7.5h)

Livingstone (Victoria Falls)

The Victoria falls are the main attraction of Zambia besides of the wildlife. It is a big tourist hub and many activities are offered for the adventurous tourists like rafting, bungee jumping or even a booze cruise. The falls have now high water and everything is covered under a water spray. It's almost impossible to see the bottom of the falls. The best thing was that there is also a bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe that could be entered for free! Everything else was quite heavily priced. The good months to visit are from June to October when the water level is low.


The end is near!

Today morning we arrived after a 16h travel from Livingstone in Windhoek, Namibia. It is a drastic change here from what we have seen in Africa. It seems to be a perfect, safe and tidy place to live. Namibia was a former German colony and the influence can even now been seen everywhere. German street names, food, cars...
This will be our last major stay in an African country. We plan to go tomorrow to Swakopmund and Walvisbaai to enjoy time at the port and with some fun activities. After that we plan to visit the oldest desert in the World with its well known red sand dunes. Maybe we also take this time a own car. Let's see!

At the end of next week we want to continue to our final stop in Cape Town. There we will board our plane back on the 1st of April and arrive on the 2nd back in Austria.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Travel Update

After a week traveling mostly in a bus we continue on traveling to our next destination Windhoek/Namibia. We are currently in Livingstone and yesterday we've visited the Victoria falls. In less then an hour we board the next bus to Namibia and it takes at least 18h to get to our destination.

After Namibia only South Africa is on our agenda. There we will spend our final days in Cape Town and on April 1st we'll be back on the way home to Austria

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Zanzibar


It's time for a vacation on our trip through Africa. A perfect place is the island of Zanzibar just 70km before Dar Es Salaam. Ferries are connecting the island with the mainland and it takes around 1.5h for the ride. Stone Town is the biggest city and very picturesque. It is built in colonial style.

Nungwi, the village where we stay, is located in the north. The island reminds me a lot of Bali. A lot of palm trees, fruits, warm climate and relaxed people. The beaches are white and the sea is turquoise and blue. The tourists are mainly from America, northern and southern Europe. Many locals can speak Italian because they seem to come here in high numbers for a long time. We are here also very close to the rain season. Big rain is expected in two weeks and it is already very humid and hot. Beside of the romantic beach life there are also many bars and restaurant offering sea food and Italian dishes. At the local bars the music of choice is reggae. It's also easy too get enough supply for body and mind ;)

Coming up

In one or two days we'll leave Zanzibar for good and head to the Victoria falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe. The bus ride is expected to take at least 24 hours and will stay one or two days at the falls. At the moment the Victoria falls are reaching a peak in the water flow and that means a lot of spray and mist. We expect to get we when we come close to the falls.
Unfortunately I have to spare out swimming at the top of the falls at the famous devils swimming pool. Too much water goes now over the edge and it's not even worth a thought of swimming there now.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Pictures Uploaded!!



Finally I've got the picture gallery today up to date. All recent pictures are online and it just took a whole afternoon. In the next few days I'll update the captions and then all work is done.

Comming Up: Zanzibar



It's finally time for swimming! Tomorrow I plan to follow Edith and Walter to Zanzibar. They are right now on the way to the north of Zanzibar where the fine beaches are. In central Africa we didn't have an opportunity to go swimming because of the little fellows in the water (worms, bacteria etc.). As of the begin of the rain season it's now very humid in Dar Es Salaam (>90%) and at night around 30C. There are ferries leaving to Zanzibar every few hours starting at 7:15 at the morning. The ride takes 1,5h for 70km and costs around 35US$

Next week we will travel together to Zambia and visit the Victoria falls. Our first travel option with the train didn't work out because it's too expensive and I had too much trouble with staff and hawkers at the central train station in Dar Es Salaam. The next decision is between bus and plane. After Victoria falls (Livingstone) we will proceed to Namibia where I'm really looking forward to see the red sand dunes.

The end of our journey is also very near. We start now to check flights back to Austria at the end of March. I'll be really happy to have then a "normal" Internet again