Archive for June, 2009

Thailand by Bus (Part 2) – Bangkok > Pattaya

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
En route Bangkok, I found this pickup truck working extra mile.

En route Bangkok, I found this pickup truck working extra mile.

We continued the journey to the north and stopped for Maghrib/Isyak prayers and dinner at a rest area along the highway somewhere near Hatyai.  After that it was a long journey along scenic coastal routes and provinces like Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani (gateway to Koh Samui islands) and Chumpon, but alas  we could not enjoy it. It was night time and dark outside. Most were sleeping in the fancy and comfy of the double decker. The bus stopped for fajar prayer at Petchaburi. Continued and stopped again for breakfast somewhere near Ratchaburi, at the outskirt of Bangkok. Entering Bangkok during morning rush hour was a hair-rising experience. Our first place to visit is Floating Market. They had many floating markets around Bangkok, but this one was the most original and most famous one, said Matlee. I could  not remember the name of this market, but tour buses of different colors and shapes were aplenty and fighting for the limited parking space at the entrance of the floating market.

From here, we got on the bus and traveled south of Bangkok to the vibrant city of Pattaya. This was my second trip to this city, the first one being a business trip in 1999 to Rayong — Thailand petrochemical hub, equivalent to Malaysia’s Kerteh in Terengganu –to visit oil refinery and aromatics plant on business matter. We took a turn for a short visit to Pattaya, then.

Pattaya aptly fits “the city never sleeps” tag, as daytime is full of office workers, and nighttime is full of different kind of workers in entertainment business. There is a long and very clean beach with easy access to food, transport and places to stay, which attracts tourists from the globe.  Some come here to remember, most come to forget.

Back track a bit. Before reaching Pattaya we stopped at a big zoo where tigers, elephants and crocodiles and many more our fellow creatures were kept. They were long taken away from their natural habitat and human effort by creating an animal farm or zoo to simulate actual living condition did not work either.  They must be returned to the wild. These creatures were without emotion when they performed to the human crowd.  There are some pixs on this also.

From Pattaya, we moved north along main highway to Chiangmai, passing by towns like Nakhon Sawan, Tak and Lampang. I told you it is an organized group tour so I did not have freedom at the itinerary. But I have some pixs on Lampang where we stopped for solat at Masjid AlFalak there. I also have some pixs on Ayutthaya — an ancient reconstructed city — on the way back from Chiangmai later.  So keep following the upcoming posts.

The rest of Bangkok/Pattaya pixs are here.

Thailand by Bus (Part 2) – Bangkok/Pattaya

Thailand by Bus (Part 1) – Narathiwat > Pattani > Songkhla

Sunday, June 28th, 2009
This trip started at Sungai Kolok (Malaysia-Thai border) and ended at Maesai, north of Chiangrai (Thai-Myanmar border). Follow black line in the map.

This trip started at Sungai Kolok (Malaysia-Thai border) and ended at Maesai, north of Chiangrai (Thai-Myanmar border). Follow black line in the map.

Sg Golok - Bangkok express bus travels 1100 km one way.

Sg Kolok - Bangkok express bus manouvering security checkpoint near Pattani. It takes 20 hours to complete 1200 km journey.

This is a trip by bus performed in November 2007, during year-end school holidays. To be exact, from November 17th until November 24th. The plan was then to travel across Thailand literally from the southernmost tip (Sg Kolok – border town Thailand/Malaysia) until northernmost tip (Maesai – border town Thailand/Myanmar) within one week. And we really did that. The idea was mooted by Cikgu Anuar Ibrahim (Guru PK SMK Kg Nyior, Paka, Trg at that time), and made possible by Matlee Tours who claimed he knew Thailand more than Thais themselves.  To Cikgu Anuar, wherever he is now, enjoy your retirement, and sorry I could not post this story of the road earlier. To others on the same bus, hope we can meet again. The world is getting smaller, really.

This is not an independent travel, but assisted by tour operator. So quality of photos and angle of shooting are all compromised. For postings purposes, I have broken down this long trip into smaller parts. Every post or part will start with a main theme photo, probably some writeup and a link to other photos. I hope you enjoy reading these posts. If you have better ideas, you may add comments or email to me at abuadam2006@gmail.com.

See link below for pixs on Part 1.

Thailand by Bus (Part 1) – Narathiwat/Pattani/Songkhla

Malaysia > Perak > Ipoh

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Ipoh is a city north of Kuala Lumpur. I have been here quite a number of times, mainly on business trips, and sometimes on my way back up north to Alor Setar, or to the east to Kota Bharu via Cameron Highland and Gua Musang. Not a big bustling city though, it started as a mining town in early 1950s, where rich towkeys call it home. Normally we stayed in Syuen Hotel, a hangout for Chinese businessmen, for obvious reasons. Ipoh Parade is just across the street and a DBI building and park is next to it.  Further up are foodstalls and warungs which operate from noon until midnight. So you will never get hungry, of course if you don’t mind that cholestrol things. Another must-go place for me if I am in Ipoh  is Mee Rebus Ramli and Restoran Mamak (Nasi Kandar Samad). I think all still there.

Myanmar / Insein Prison

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

26/6/2009:

Today I was alone and had no concrete plan for the day, apart from working on this blog. After Zuhur prayer at regular Kokhine masjid along Kabaye Pagoda Road,  I took another road less traveled (by tourists). The road snaked up to the north of Yangon City. My destination is Insein, one of 47 or so townships in Yangon. Insein is infamous for its prison, the largest prison in the country.  My driver said he would not drive a foreigner there unless I promised him one thing — no taking photos.  I said hoge (okay) and he agreed. Thats why no photos in this post. Has he been there? I asked him. He said he has been there visiting his businessman friend two years ago, who was accused and found guilty of bringing in car spare parts from Thailand thru land border without permit (read: smuggling).  He went further to tell how his friend managed to get out from the prison earlier, and his viewpoints on politics in Myanamr. I could not share his story in this blog.

Myanmar's Insein prison

Myanmar's Insein prison

Insein is a lively place indeed, crowded area with bustling activities on this cool Saturday morning. Open tea-shops with men in loungyi chatting and laughing. Roadside traders displayed their merchandise on the ground mainly imported items from northen neighbor — China. On the street, everybody is moving minding their own business, which means an economy is working.  Looking at their faces, you can tell they are laboriously hardworking, skinny but fit.  Women and  children are moving around innocently, on and below the bridge, above the railway track. Unlike me and my colleagues in the workplace who are concerned so much about the fluctuation of oil price and global financial meltdown, they are not. They are simple souls, shielded from global financial crisis, thanks to the government’s economic policy.

The prison is huge complex and sprawling in many directions, away from the township center, in a rectangular shape. After driving around the four corners of the prison, you can tell easily the prison area eats up most of Insein business district. Staff quarters and other buildings are all inside, divided by layers of walls to ensure escape is impossible. The backside outer wall is parallel to the Myanmar railway line, connecting Insein and towns to the north to Yangon city center.  You have to cross the track to get in thru that entrance, normally used by staff and family members.

At the time of this writing — the world news media like CNN and BBC are zooming their spotlight on this prison, currently the home for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, pending a trial for the crime against the state. BBC called it the most notorious prison in the whole Myanmar.

The main entrance is from the main street in Insein and is labeled positively CORRECTION CENTER. If you go around, other entrances carry British-like signs CENTRAL PRISON or simply CENTRAL JAIL.  There were flurry of activities — selling and buying — around the main entrance.  If BBC reporter sees the main entrance,  he might not have an idea about this prison, unless he follows the high brick wall snaking around until where it ends.

Sorry, no pixs on Insein prison, except from BBC above.  You can also view this circular prison from aboard any flight departing Yangon Onternational Airport, when the aircraft  is still ascending, because the prison is located in the flight path. Looking down you cannot miss this very noticeable eerie structure.

Anti-tourism declaration.

“You said you are international company. How come no plan for us?”

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

One of my HCN staff  (read: local Myanmar staff) returned from Malaysia today after meeting our sponsored trainee trainees who are undergoing technician training program there. The program is to prepare them for real work at various sites where we operate in Myanmar. I did not attend this visit as I just came from Malaysia last two weeks.  Normally in every visit, we engaged the trainees thru a dialog session which followed the presentation and briefing session. The management decided to change some terms in the training contract between the company and the trainees, but still reasonably and fairly.  But this did not go well for the trainees, and they started questioning our decision.  Some even threatened to go home (Myanmar) early, without completing the training program.

I knew most are good, but fell into the trap of  one or two brash leaders among themselves. They grouped together to attack the management and her.  I pitied her. She was there to convey the message only, and explain the rationale, but instead got shot. They were shooting the messenger.

“Where have all the polite and softspoken Myanmar people I knew of gone?”, I was wondering.