Thursday, February 14, 2013

On the Phone in Kampot, Cambodia

Based on the two earlier sets of photos (here and here), nobody was able to guess my current location. I can't say I am shocked. I was not familiar with Kampot before first traveling to Cambodia three years ago. Based on a recommendation I had planned to visit Kampot then, but difficulty in finding a room during New Year's caused me to head elsewhere. Fortunately, this time I was able to find a room without problem.

Today I will just share a single photo. During one of my long walks into Kampot's countryside, I noticed a little girl engrossed with a toy phone at a small openair store. I pretended to answer her "call" on my mobile.

little girl sitting amongst toys for sale at a small shop

I think it is safe to say I provided an unexpected moment in her day.

More scenes from that walk, elsewhere in Kampot, and also Phnom Penh are on the way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two More Scenes Not In Malaysia

Not surprisingly, there were fewer guesses than the previous time for the most recent edition of "where am I?".

One reader's guess, "Java", especially caught my attention because I nearly ended up there for the Chinese New Year's holiday. The winner for the most creative / entertaining guess so far goes to Pete. He asked "Are you golfing at Pebble Beach?" and submitted a link to the photo here to support his claim. However, if that's the same tree then apparently there's been a recent one kilometer change in the sea level. Plus, there are no golf courses nearby.

Since nobody has yet correctly guessed the location, I will share two more photos. They both include some clues.

tourists near some rocks and a statue

salt fields

Again, any guesses? This will be the last chance as I am eager to share some more substantial posts.

One more clue: Java is quite a bit closer than Pebble Beach.

UPDATE: Answer here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Two Scenes Not In Malaysia

As I mentioned before, I am now not in Malaysia.

Time for an old game. Here are two clues for where I am spending part of this year's Chinese New Year's holiday week:

tree and an old church in the background

mountains, tropical trees, and a river with a setting sun

Any guesses?

The last time I tried this, the first person to identify the location was a reader in Zoetermeer, Netherlands. I think the above photos present a trickier case, unless you have happened to visit here before. So I'll add one more small clue. The church in the first photo is no longer a place for religious services.

Tomorrow as I recover from a little too much sun (I was better prepared for the mosquitos), I hope to reply to some recent comments from readers. More soon.

UPDATE: More scenes here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

One More Train Ride in Malaysia

driverless train at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

A few days ago I had the opportunity to look out the front window of another driverless train in Kuala Lumpur. This one traveled between terminals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Not surprisingly, not long after the ride I boarded an airplane. But I have no photos like the ones from Xiamen and Hong Kong.

Although I am no longer in Malaysia, there is still more I plan to share about what I saw, experienced, and learned in a country full of diversity. But posts about my new location are also on the way...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Choice and Fashion of a Hijab

During my time in Malaysia, it was common to see females wearing a hijab--a headscarf worn by many, but not all, Muslim women. I often marveled at the apparent quality of fabric and the variety of colors & patterns on the hijabs.

One day in Melaka, I met these four young women from Indonesia who were traveling together:

four young women from Indonesia

Two of them are Muslim. Two are Catholic. Of the two Muslims, only one wore a hijab. In a discussion, the Muslim traveler who was not wearing a hijab said that wearing one is a "choice" for Muslim women in Indonesia. She also said that some females will wear the hijab only for reasons of fashion. For them, the hijab is simply another accessory in their attire, and they are not wearing it for a religious purpose.

Her comments were particularly striking to me because on two earlier occasions Western women traveling in Malaysia commented to me about the many hijabs they were seeing. Both women thought it was oppressive for Muslim women to be expected to cover themselves more than men.

In each case I replied by asking, "Do you feel oppressed when men are able to walk around topless and you are expected to cover your breasts?" The first woman considered my question for a while. She never replied. The second woman said it is different since in both Muslim and Western cultures women are expected to cover their breasts. I asked why that had anything to do with whether it is oppressive. She had no reply.

There is so much to explore in the topics raised by these discussions. But for now, I will just add that I wish I could have introduced the two Western women to the travelers from Indonesia. I suspect with some appropriate nudges another fascinating discussion would occur.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Power of Crepe is Power of Love"

Sometimes I have so many thoughts about a particular scene I wonder if it may be best to simply share it and say nothing at all.

cafe with pink seats / heart tables and a sign on the wall saying "Power of Crepe is Power of Love"

But in case you're considering the sign at the above Crepe Signature cafe in a Melaka mall, here is some insight about its meaning from Crepe Signature:
Our slogan is: “Power of Crepe is power of Love”. Our hope that every customer can enjoy crepes with happiness, love and warmth of a family.
I'll add that, as far as I can tell, their slogan is rather unique.

Just another scene from Malaysia. And I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Melaka River

Previously I shared a view of the Melaka River from "my office". The view definitely proved conducive to prolonged pondering. The river also provided some rather enjoyable strolls. And one night I had the idea to sit next to it while sharing a bottle of wine with a friend. From that experience I discovered two things: 1. Finding a bottle of wine on a weekday night in Melaka's historic city center is more challenging than I would have expected. 2. Melaka's mosquitos have a strong affinity for people who drink wine next to the river during evening. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable experience.

So, in honor of one of my new favorite small rivers, below are a few photos of the Melaka River taken during some of my walks. Maybe they can inspire some more pondering.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Lanzhou Potato Interlude

Due to my travels, most recents posts have focused on Malaysia. For readers who are yearning for scenes from China, here is where last year I bought some spicy potatoes in Lanzhou, Gansu province:

man and woman selling potatoes and other foods in Lanzhou, China

Some more scenes from Lanzhou can be found in my posts "Zhengning Street Food Night Market in Lanzhou, China" and "Chinese Being Friendly to a Foreigner in China".

And yes, they were good potatoes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Flying Above the Kampung Kling Mosque

I spent this evening sorting out some upcoming travel plans, including a likely air flight. In that spirit, here is a flight I recently saw above the Kampung Kling Mosque in Melaka, Malaysia.

bird flying above the Kampung Kling Mosque

More later...

Monday, February 4, 2013

An Attack in Melaka

Late last night while sitting on a 2nd story porch overlooking the Melaka River, I heard a woman scream something. For a brief moment, I was uncertain what to make of it. But her screams quickly increased in both frequency and volume. So I rushed to the edge of the porch. Roughly about 150 feet away on the dimly lit walkway next to the river I saw a woman crouched down and a person, apparently a male, physically harassing her. There was no quick and easy way for me to get down to the walkway, so I belted out a loud "HEY!" The man froze and then took off running to disappear down a alley. The woman quickly got up and ran into one of the nearby buildings.

A minute or so later I was able to make my way to where the woman had been. Several other people who had heard the screaming were also there. None had seen the struggle, but one person had seen the man running away. I saw what appeared to be the man's sandals and one of the woman's sandals. There were also a couple of potted plants in the area that had been knocked over. We were not able to sort out which building the woman had fled into, and we learned little more. Given some warnings I've seen posted in Melaka, I suspect what I saw was an attempted purse snatching. But I don't know. All I know is that the woman got away.

The End. Kind of...

Normally, I probably wouldn't have thought of sharing this story here. Sadly, it is not particularly remarkable for many places in the world. And while it is good to take some precautions, Melaka feels much safer to me than many cities in the U.S. But the experience touched on another topic I've discussed here before.

Prior to hearing the woman's screams, I had been speaking with a man I had just met. He is from Chongqing, China, and we had been discussing topics such as Chinese politics and censorship. After I returned to the porch, he praised me for scaring off the attacker, who he had seen as well. I explained that no praise was necessary. All it took was yelling. It is just what you should do.

But he shook his head slowly and said, "People in China would not have done what you did. They would not want to get involved." He later added, "I did not think to yell like you."

His words brought to my mind the incident in Foshan, China, where many people ignored a severely injured little girl who had been hit by a truck. None of them even yelled for someone to get help. I still have no sure and complete answer to what that tragedy says about China or about human psychology. But even in that case, one person finally did try to help the little girl. I know not everyone in China refuses to get involved when strangers need help.

And I think... I think if the man from Chongqing ever again experiences something like what he saw in Melaka there is a better chance he too will get involved, even if it is just by yelling.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Old War Movie Posters in Melaka

The other day I spent some time at Melaka's Democratic Government Museum. I haven't seen any museums dedicated to this topic in China, so it seemed like a good change of pace. While there, I noticed a series of posters for older Western-produced war movies involving Malaysia. I couldn't find any commentary, but they were placed near a display about Japan's occupation of Malaysia during World War II. Below are photos of the posters for the movies Malaya (1949), Uppdrag i Malaya (1957), Operation Malaya (1953), Outpost in Malaya (1952), and The Rape of Malaya (1956).

The posters first caught my attention because of their visual style. But it was some of their words that made the biggest impression. Maybe phrases similar to "In Malaya, you kiss a girl with your eyes wide open and a gun in your hand!" could be found on movie posters today. But there is much to consider about the choice of words in "They were women.. and they were white... at the mercy of the Japs who knew no mercy!"

Anyways, maybe I will later watch at least one of these movies. Any recommendations?

Movie poster for Malaya

Uppdrag i Malaya movie poster

Operation Malaya movie poster

Outpost in Malaya movie poster

The Rape of Malaya movie poster

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Internet Versus Xiaolongbao

I'm used to hearing complaints in China, particularly by foreigners fresh off the plane, about the speed of Internet connections. But I've recently noticed a number of people in the U.S. complaining about services there as well. It is a reminder to me that not all is entirely "smooth" even back in my homeland.

It also reminds me of when I signed up for Internet service for my apartment in Shanghai a number of years ago. Some Chinese friends encouraged me to seek out cheaper "unofficial" services, but I wanted to do it by the book and went to the local China Telecom branch. A service representative there explained to me that three data speeds were offered. As I considered them, the representative added that there was no reason to chose the fastest / most expensive option. I asked why, and she quietly told me the speed would actually be the same as the middle option.

I pondered life and humanity. Quickly realizing I wasn't going to get anywhere useful with that line of thought, I then weighed the possibility that the woman was correct versus the possibility that she was mistaken--for example, maybe the service quality varied across different regions. I also considered that the difference in price between the middle and most expensive options was at the time roughly around US $1.50 per month.

I decided it was worth giving the fastest option a try. I wish I could say for sure what went through the representative's mind, but based on her facial expressions I feel safe saying it wasn't anything like "Brilliant choice, oh wise one".

When a technician later set up the service at my apartment, he had me connect to a local site which could measure the speed of the connection. It reported a speed consistent with what China Telecom (but not the service representative) had promised. Even in my optimistic state, I looked at the numbers with skepticism. Nonetheless, I heartily thanked the man who had brought me my connection to the world (well, at least with the aid of a VPN).

My later experiences dealing with an Internet connection that often crawled along at speeds much slower than a giant centipede in Hong Kong convinced me the kind service representative had been correct. However, if I had listened to her I may have always wondered if things might be a little better if I had gone with the "faster" option. So maybe it was still money well spent. But then again, you could buy a rather healthy portion of xiaolongbao for a $1.50 in those days.