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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Starting from Kathmandu..

Now in Kathmandu - amazing city that is a living musuem of monuments.
Tomorrow morning flying to Lukla nearest Everest, world tallest
mountain for 5 day trek. No internet or mobile until 5 Nov

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Freedom & Rights

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn?t speak up because I wasn't a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.?

- Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892?1984)
 
==================================
 
Dear fellow Singaporeans,
 
What do these words mean to you?  When the ultra-religious right runs wild in our Parliament, what would you do?
 
 
Wee Cheng
 

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Earthquake in Kathmandu?

Checking email upon arrival in Dhaka. Flying to Kathmandu tomorrow. An email from a friend in Kathmandu says there had been a Ritcher Scale 5 earthquake in Kathmandu today, although no damage caused. Hmm...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Buddhist Tribe & Army Escorts

Back to mobile zone again. Past few days in Hill Tracts. Buddhist
chinese-looking tribe there friendly to me. Army escort for
sightseeing in case guerilla. Now on way 2 CTG then Dhaka. Fly Nepal
tom. Watch out 4 travelogue on cool trip.

Wee Cheng visits a little known Buddhist Kingdom in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh under armed protection

Dear all,

This is one of my favourite all-time travel write-ups. Please let me know what you think after reading. Thanks! Also check out the pics at http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/

Wee Cheng

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Vanishing Paradise: Wee Cheng visits a little known Buddhist Kingdom in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh under armed protection

Bangladesh is today a predominantly Muslim country, although it was once a key centre of Buddhist civilization. More than 1000 years ago, Xuan Zhang and other Chinese explorer-monks travelled to the renowned monastery-universities of Mainimati and Paharpur in what is today Bangladesh, and brought back to China teachings and works which transformed the culture and religion of the Far East. This Buddhist civilization was long gone, but in the southeast corner of Bangladesh are Buddhist communities little known to the rest of the world, and whose ancient unique culture is now endangered.

To the east of Chittagong, Bangladesh's second largest city, lie three mountainous districts collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). This was the ancestral land of 12 tribes with a total population of half a million about 300,000 of which belong to the Chakma tribe (the remaining include the Marmas, Mrus, Tripuras, etc). Most of these tribes are Sino-Tibetan (i.e., East Asian) in appearance and Buddhist by religion. The Chakma has always been ruled by their own god-kings or rajas.

During the days of the British Indian Empire, the CHT were considered a self-governing tribal region, and outsiders were not allowed to enter or even settle there without government approval. With independence as part of East Pakistan, as Bangladesh was then known, CHT's special status was eroded and eventually abolished in 1964, thus allowing landless Muslim farmers from the plains to enter and settle in the region. In 1960, the Kaptai Dam was constructed to generate hydroelectric power, which led to the flooding of the Chakma lands and the exodus of the Chakma people across the surrounding Indian Northeast region. Even the Chakma raja, who had lost all his power, had to abandon his palace (or rajburi) to the rising waters of the 400 sq mile Lake Kaptai. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Chakma raja sided with the Pakistanis, and was deposed with the defeat of Pakistan – he left the country and became the Pakistani ambassador to Argentina. The era of the Chakma kingdom was over.

Since the independence of Bangladesh, landless Muslim farmers had settled in the CHT in huge numbers and today they accounted for more than half the population, and virtually most of the urban residents of Rangamati, capital of the CHT. Devasish Roy, who was installed as raja after the dethronement of his father following the latter's disastrous backing of the wrong side in the Liberation War, is today as good as chief of a cultural association. In 1973, the Chakmas took up arms against the Bangladeshi government, in an insurgency that lasted till 1997, when a peace treaty was signed with the government of Sheikh Hasina.

Some semblance of peace had returned but all is not well. Dissatisfaction over increased Muslim migration to the region is once again leading to tension in the region, and clashes with guerillas, whom the government called terrorists (as governments all over the world call insurgents), is occurring again. Just as I left Chittagong for the CHT, there were unverified reports of rising tension over a monastery besieged by illegal Muslim squatters who allegedly received support from the military, and that the monastery was given a deadline by the military to vacate the rich farmland they had resided for years.

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We got onto a rickety bus, the sort which would long have gone to the scrap yard in the developed world, in Chittagong to travel 70km eastwards to Rangamati. It took almost three hours on this narrow two lane road, full of potholes and wildly suicidal drivers who had little regard for anyone's safety. When we reached the border of the CHT, a huge sign read
"Foreigners, get off your vehicles for examination". I, as the only foreigner on this bus, had to get off to register my entry into the region. Through M., my local contact, I had earlier applied for a special entry permit from the Chittagong Divisional Commissioner.

"Good morning. Where are you from, sir?" the mustached sentry military police asked. "Your passport and permit please."

"Singapore," I said as I handed over my documents to him, the first of my several encounters with army officers in the CHT. On every occasion, troublesome it might have been, the officers had been friendly and entirely professional.

"Please sign in your entry," as he asked me to write my name and address in a huge red record book. The entry before me was a South Korean who visited a week before. And thereupon I was allowed to return to the bus. I sent my last sms to a friend. The CHT is a mobile-banned zone, so as to deny "terrorist" access to communications. Time to get ready for mobile withdrawal syndrome!

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The landscape changed as we entered the CHT. Hilly terrain and occasional rice terraces had now replaced the flat wet paddy plains so typical of Bengal. Classic ideal guerrilla ambush spots abound. On any of the narrow corners, anyone who controls the jungled hilltops could trap men and vehicles on the road below like sitting ducks. We passed occasional villages and settlements, most of which are typically Bangladeshi Muslim, but also occasionally people with Sino-Tibetan faces. If one had come forty years ago, one could have thought one was in Southeast Asia instead of South Asia. However, the demographic face of this land is changing and had changed irreversibly. The authorities had, over time, settled plain Muslims along the main road, to safeguard the approaches to Rangamati, and from here, settlers would fan out to the rest of CHT, and change the human picture forever.

Every few kilometers, there would be a sentry point with armed Bangladeshi soldiers behind barb wire and sandbags but we didn't have to stop. Then we came to a major tri-road junction and here the bus halted. I had to present my papers to the soldiers at a checkpoint hut, which had a hive activity compared to the earlier ones – a few lorry drivers submitting their documents to two military personnel in army camouflage, who were assisted by two civilian clerical staff. Sergeant Ahmad, the more senior looking of the officers stretched forward to shake my hand, "Good morning, your papers please. Tourist?" he asked, and yet without waiting for my answer, "Yes, I presume."

I handed my passport and permit and Sgt Ahmad said, "I would need to call the divisional HQ to confirm your permit." He dialed his phone and then told me to wait while the HQ staff searched for the permit approval.

Minutes clicked quickly while the sergeant rang his HQ again and again to chase for the status of the permit search. The bus driver was getting impatient, grumbling away non-stop and eventually unloaded our luggage to carry on his journey. Sgt Ahmad apologized but I suppose he was just doing his job. After all, I had to accept all these as the price of visiting a semi-conflict zone. The friendly officer also asked where I had been in Bangladesh and whether I had enjoyed my journey so far. "You will like Rangamati even more," he said.

After 20 minutes' wait, Sgt Ahmad spoke to his HQ again, and said, "Congratulations, we got your permit. Welcome to Rangamati!"

We resumed our journey on another passing bus Sgt Ahmad stopped for us. We were by now 7km from the centre of Rangamati. There were sentry posts every half a kilometer or so, which seemed to indicate the severity of the current conflict. In fact, at yet another post where I was asked to get down the bus, the soldier guarding it asked if I was "the guy from Singapore", and then asked to sign on yet another large record book. Looked like the entire military command was now alerted to my presence in the CHT.

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With the flooding of the central valley which had created the huge Lake Kaptai, the new Rangamati had become a town on islands which were previously hill ridges. The main road through town winded its way up and down along the ridges, often with water by the edge. Glimpses of the many picturesque wood-and-aluminum-roof houses by the waterside with reflection of the green mountains beyond. Water hyacinth and lotus everywhere, whilst fishermen scattering the net from tiny boats in the distance. Underlying such beauty, often, as with the case of Kashmir, were tragedy and despair. The very beautiful lake that defined Rangamati today was a major cause for the loss of ancestral land and dispersal of the Chakma people.

CHT, as with many similar regions elsewhere, was one where international organizations thrived. During a 15min taxi ride in Rangamati, I counted three vehicles with the large "UN" abbreviation on it.

We headed for Parjatan Motel, the best hotel in Rangamati, run by the state tourism corporation, a business model that was more suited in the old era of state organized tourism than today's free entrepreneurship. The hotel was clearly a product of a bygone era, with faded paint, creaking doors and furniture with chipped off corners. Power was cut when I stepped into my room and the room mirror looked dusty. But this was the best place to stay in town. The power cut also made me wonder what had happened to all the electricity generated by the dam that had created the lake in the first place. I was not too surprised given occasional reports about petrol shortage in major oil producers like Indonesia, Iran and Nigeria. Corruption of the elite explains it all. The power generated in the Chakma ancestral lands had probably gone to power the palatial mansions of the Dhaka elite.

We enquired about a boat trip on the lake to visit nearby Chakma villages. This was the low season and I was a foreigner. Hence I had to get a boat of my own and as a compulsory security measure for all foreigners, I had to pay for armed guards. All this amounted to about US$25 for a three hour boat excursion – an outrageously expensive amount in Bangladesh but a bargain elsewhere.

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We hired a baby taxi, as three wheeled auto rickshaws were known in Bangladesh, to Bana Vihara, a Buddhist monastery located on a scenic stretch of Lake Kaptai. At the main gate of the monastery was a Bangladeshi Army landrover. As I raised my camera to capture the handsome gateway with its graceful deer carvings, a Bangladeshi officer came out of the vehicle. Instead of confiscating my camera as I had half expected, he said, "Wait, you are not allowed to take pictures of the military. Let me drive the vehicle away." The Bangladeshi military must be the friendliest I have encountered anywhere in my travels.

Silver-coloured Burmese style pagodas rose above the ridges, where pilgrims prostrated to pay homage to the Buddha. Saffron-coloured monks – mostly Chakmas who looked no different from those of you from Singapore – walked around gracefully in the monastery grounds. This could have been a daily scene from the streets of Yangon or Chiang Mai.
At the Vihar, I met a Sri Lankan Buddhist who worked for an international organization who expressed surprise I could get into CHT today. "Sometimes the military let people in, and sometimes they do not," he shrugged.

The New Rajburi was located on a nearby island, some distance away from the old one which was now under the waters of Lake Kaptai. We got onto a small boat across twenty meters of clear, pollution-free water. Overlooking the jetty was the administrative office of the Chakma Raj, or the Kingdom of Chakma. The name of the offices was written in the Chakma script, known as Ojhopath, which was a corruption of the Burmese script.

Behind the offices was a field where Chakma kids were playing football, at the end of which were gates to the Rajburi itself. We walked to the open front court of the palace, where photos of rajas in full court regalia were hung on the wall. Sino-Tibetan faces in Indian maharaja regalia – a strange reflection of the region's unique mix of cultures. (I had seen other photos at Chittagong's Ethnographic Museum of two other lesser tribal rajas in the CHT who wore Burmese style regalia.) And there was the dashing, handsome Raja Tridiv Roy, the ill-fated one who supported Pakistan and later left the country to become Pakistani Ambassador to Argentina – he would not look out of place in a classy tango ball Buenos Aires. The current raja, Raja Devasish Roy, looked no less like a hunky Korean movie star that would charm many East Asian teenagers and housewives, is a barrister in Dhaka where he spends most of his time, and only return to Rangamati for important cultural and religious events.

We walked to Raj Vihar (King's Temple") at the other end of the football field. The temple was being rebuilt in a grander structure. When I told the young abbot that I was a Buddhist from Singapore, he, together with chairman of the laymen organization who was with him at that time, were most delighted. Also present was a young monk from the neighbouring state of Tripura, India. He was Chakma too, probably one of those who fled to India when the insurgency flared up in 1973. Tripura is today home to over 100,000 Chakmas, mostly those who fled Bangladesh and their descendants.

"We are all long lost cousins in Asia," the abbot said. They gave me their address and asked me to write. "Email me," I said, giving them my name card. We were speaking mid-way when we were interrupted by the Islamic call to prayer, from the loudspeakers a few hundred meters away in Rangamati town itself. Fifty years ago, the sight of saffron robed monks collecting alms door to door was probably a typical street scene in Rangamati; twenty years ago, this would have been replaced by Bengali ladies in flamboyant saris doing their rest-day shopping; now, with rising Islamism, ladies in dark burqa robes were as commonplace as those in saris. I wonder what would become of the CHT in twenty years time.

It was getting dark and M., my guide, hurried me, "let's back to the hotel. Not good if the military found us in a Chakma area after dark. It would get the villagers lots of questioning as to what a foreigner was doing in their village."

Back at the lobby of Parjatan Motel, a policeman with a huge rifle was waiting for me. "Mr Tan from Singapore? I have been asked to come to the hotel for your protection." So the Big Brother was either really concerned about my security, or most anxious about my movement in the CHT. The first time I had ever encountered something like this in my many years of travel. It was probably the same, or worse in North Korea which I visited in 2005, but everything in the Dear Leader's workers paradise was a lot more subtle.

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The next day was boat trip day. Apart from my guide and the boatman, as a foreigner, I had to engage three armed police as safety escorts in the lake. It was compulsory. Of course, as my guide said, I could attempt to skirt the rules by getting boatmen in town who were willing to ignore the rules, but I would bump into army naval patrol on the lake and get into trouble; or bump into the "terrorists" and get into "even more trouble." I wonder if it was more dangerous having these escorts if one encountered the guerrillas on the lake. I didn't fancy getting injured or killed in crossfire between police and guerrillas. What a wonderful sightseeing excursion with three armed policemen with their rifles! The last time I had uniformed escorts for sightseeing was in Kosovo in 2002, when Italian peacekeepers escorted me to ancient Serbian monasteries besieged by Albanians.

If one ignored the fact that the lake was artificial and that its creation in 1964 had made many tribes homeless, the boat cruise was a most pleasant experience. Small islands of water hyacinth; herons, kingfishers and other birds; the idyllic fishermen; silhouette of faraway green islands. We visited two Tripura villages. The Tripura were Hindu tribesmen with kinsmen across the border in India's Tripura state. The varied features on Tripura faces betrayed the diverse ethnic mix in this frontier region. Some Tripura looked Indo-Dravidian (as with Bangladeshi Muslims) while others looked decidedly Sino-Tibetan. The villagers were poor farmers and fishermen, but unlike many places I visited before, these villagers did not beg for money. Instead they welcomed us into their houses and take as many photo as I wanted to.

We also dropped by a "Master's Island", so-called because the village-head, an elderly man in his sixties who founded this Chakma village was once a teacher. This gentleman, who spoke excellent English, showed us around the village and welcomed us to his hut. He was happy that I was from Singapore and Buddhist as well. "We are all Sino-Tibetans", he said. "People of the same roots. Welcome, welcome!"

He said he learned English at a Catholic mission school in Rangamati, directly from a Canadian. That was why he loved to meet visitors who spoke English. He smiled a lot while serving us tea. We spoke about a range of topics including the Chakma script and the Chakma hand weaving art.

When asked what the villagers do for a living, he said the young men had mostly gone to the towns and cities. It was too difficult to cultivate the hilly slopes of the islands. "Whatever they said about us as mountain people, we were actually a people of the plains and valleys. We used to cultivate crops in the valleys before the great dam. We didn't learn to climb the hills as they were full of jungles and wild animals. Now we had to cultivate on this poor soil. You know, we are Buddhists. We don't kill or fish, but now our people had to fish or starve," the old village head sighed, as though all that happened only yesterday.

"Hey, that happened a long time ago, in 1964, during the times of the Pakistanis," my guide interrupted.

"Yes," the village head sighed again. All that happened a long time ago, but his people continued to suffer from the consequences.

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The sunset over Lake Kaptai was beautiful but it shrouded the tragedy of a displaced people and the once again rising tension over land and culture. For poor landless Bangladeshi Muslims from the plains, the lake and the land around it was a chance for a more prosperous life; for the Chakmas, it was their only homeland now at risk. The odds for the 300,000 Chakmas, relative to the 150 million Bangladeshi majority, were not good indeed. Like many minority cultures worldwide, such as the Tibetans and the Amazonian Indians, it does look like their survival as living cultures as opposed as theme park samples are slim. Thus is life in the 21st century.

With this, I would soon set off for Dhaka, and then Kathmandu, Nepal.

Best Regards,

Wee Cheng

Images from the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More comments - Bangladesh

Bangla drivers often drive wildly as though they are F1 competitors, in spiter of all the potholes, numerous canals and bridges...


Too much litter everywhere... even at top tourist attractions and national monuments. Yet these places seem to have an exceedingly large staff strength who seem to sit around doing nothing, or sweeping some areas while ignoring the huge piles of rubbish a few meters away. Can someone tell me why? Strange considering that super-clean Singapore relies alot on Bangladesh road cleaners.

Globalisation in Bangladesh - I see alot of Asian MNCs and not many western ones. I have bumped into China electrical sales engineers and Korean telecoms experts, plus a group of suspected Singapore businessmen at Jessore Airport.

Ancient turtles in Chittagong

They say a sufi saint came here more than 1000 years ago and turned all the demons into turtles. Indeed, these turtles in this Chittagong shrine are huge and look as though they are at least a few hundred years old. Reminds me of Old George in Seychelles. Old George has documentation of his age but not these Chittagong turtles...


Some thoughts

Mobile blog:
1. Whenever I told Bangladeshis their country is beautiful, they
always replied, but our country is poor.
2. 4 of the 7 South Asian leaders who founded SAARC in 1981 were
eventually assasinated. Indira of India, Zia of Pakistan, Rahman of
Bangladesh n Birendra of Nepal. The violent politics of the region

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bangla Snippets & Images


Grameen Bank
The Grameen family of companies include Grameen Phone, and half the time my Singapore M1 phone roams on Grameen and rest of the time mostly on Aktel.

Internet in Chittagong
During my short stay in CTG, most of the city experienced power cut during the day, which was a Friday and Islamic rest day. None of the cybercafés were opened and I could only surfed on the internet at the Golden Inn, which used Grameen Phone's network and was exceedingly slow. I felt my life wasting away slowly in front of the terminal… and sites with java script didn't work. So I couldn't do any of my banking and online trading transactions. Please, can Mr Yunes bring Bangladesh to a more advanced internet age?

Zia Memorial Museum
A number of photos showing President Ziaur Rahman with his wife, Begum Khaleda Zia, labeled as "President Zia in amorous moment with Khaleda". These photos usually showed them together in happy moments, smiling at each other or reading a book together. Elsewhere in the world this could meant something else more carnal.

The museum exhibits ended dramatically showing the bedroom/meeting room at the same state as the moment Zia was assassinated, together with photos of the bodyguards who were killed together with him. Then one walked out to the main staircase where Zia was machine-gunned. Dried blood on the wall and rather huge bullet holes on the floor. Unfortunately, the museum did not talk about why he was killed (attempted coup by fellow fighters in the earlier War of Liberation against Pakistan), or even how he came to power (through a coup).

Khaleda Zia and a son are now in prison awaiting trial for corruption. Yesterday's newspaper reported that the Armed Forces chief met another of Zia's sons in London and told him that he would be glad if the widow of the nation's hero was to be found innocent by the court. The son responded that he was confident that his mother would indeed be found innocent.

Hill Tracts
I am excited about going to the Hill Tracts. The Ethnographic Museum was very interesting and I subsequently found some books about the tribes and their history. They had their own rajas whose regalia were either in Indian Raj or Burmese royal styles. They certainly looked like East Asians, and were Buddhist in everyday lives. The raja of the Chakmas, the largest tribe, sided with the Pakistanis during the Liberation War and was deposed by the Bangladeshi government. He later became a Pakistani minister and ambassador.

Bengali Tales (revised)

Dear All,

Bangladesh, Land of the Bengalis, should theoretically be a country we Singaporeans are familiar with, given the proximity and the many historical links as former parts of the British Empire in Asia. However, few of us have any notion of what this country is like except for the many massive famines, natural disasters or seemingly endless political instability that plague this country. In a perverse way, many Bangladeshis, whose relatives work in the construction grounds and clean the streets of Singapore, know so much more about Singapore than we know about their country.

The first meaningful conversation I had with a local was with Bashar, who is the "Canteen Manager" of a café I stepped into on my first morning in Dhaka. Upon learning I was from Singapore, he exclaimed using the most classic Singaporean Hokkien expletives that expressed the speaker's desire to do something nasty to the addressee's mother, "Kan Ni Na Chao Ji Bai, Welcome to Dhaka!" Bashar said he missed Singapore where he worked for 4 years in the 1990s – he liked the orderliness, the law and order, safe environment, clean air and the opportunity to make good money. He would love to return to Singapore if he could. He asked if my company needed any staff, be it a foreman, a clerk, a cleaner, or in his words, anything. Thrusting into my palm his name card, he asked me to contact him once I return to Singapore.

Poor Bangladesh…since independence after a bloody war against oppressive Pakistan in 1971, the country has remained poverty stricken. Indeed, everytime I told a Bangladeshi that theirs was a beautiful land, the response was inevitably, "but we are a poor country." More than 10 million Bangladeshis work overseas, and millions of rural people are underemployed. Poverty drives more and more people into the cities. Dhaka, a city of merely 1 million in 1971, is today a crowded, polluted metropolis of at least 12 million, perhaps 15 million. Motor vehicles drove wildly as if there was no tomorrow, loud relentless horning, countless rickshaws and screaming street vendors – all the madness of this city almost drove me crazy on my first day here.

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I visited the Liberation War Museum, a fascinating place about the long forgotten conflict that led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, the latter an unnatural state with two distinct and separate parts formed from the Muslim regions of the British Indian Empire. Driven by the desire for equal recognition of Bengali, which was also the language of choice of Tagore, the great 19th century Bengali poet and novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Bangladeshi people struggled against their West Pakistani rulers. Despite accounting for more than 50% of the then Pakistani population, the Bangladeshis never quite commanded their own destiny. In fact, whenever a Bangladeshi party won the elections, the Pakistani Army staged a coup to set aside the electoral result.

It was 1971's electoral victory by Sheikh Mujib, Father of the Bangladesh, which sparked off a massive genocidal crackdown by the Pakistani Army. Intellectuals and the academia were arrested and murdered in cold blood, while whole massacres were committed at the halls and dorms of Dhaka University. Sheikh Mujib was arrested by the Pakistanis while Ziaur Rahman, an officer in the East Pakistan Rifles, declared the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh from a radio station in Chittagong. A guerilla war began and before long, the Indian Army and the Bangladeshi guerillas drove Pakistani forces into surrender, but not before many – some said as high as 3 million people - died in this bloody conflict. It was amazing how the thirst for power and greed drives people to commit atrocities. It was also mind-boggling how the generals of Pakistanis could ever imagine they could lord over what was not a small minority group but the largest ethnic group of their country.

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Dhaka had just celebrated the Durja Puja when I arrived. This is a colorful festival that celebrated Goddess Durja's victory over Mahishasura, the green skin buffalo demon. Legend says Mahishasura had conquered the heavens with his army of demons and so the Great Hindu Gods created Durja to battle him. Eventually, Mahishasura was defeated after an epic battle during which the demon changed his form between human, buffalo and the elephant. Just before his demise, the demon agreed to be slaughtered by the goddess provided that he was to be worshipped together with her. The goddess agreed, and so all images of Durja showed her spearing gruesome-looking Mahishasura which was beneath her feet.

I walked through dilapidated Old Dhaka adorned with bright coloured bulbs and banners celebrating Durja Puja; the smell of rotting rubbish in the air together with the aroma of burning incense; the deafening horning of the rickshaws, and mosque imams calling the faithful for afternoon prayers alternating with the loud beating drums from the Hindu temples. Welcome to Dhaka. You may love it, hate it but never indifferent. This is an intense city, whether in terms of smell, noise and sights.

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Independent Bangladesh's first decade was one of chaos and disillusionment; and of coups and counter-coups. After the euphoria of victory over Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib soon followed the footsteps of many Third World strongmen, that of self-glorification, elimination of political opposition and one party rule. In 1975,

In 1975, Sheikh Mujib was murdered at home by a group of dissenting army officers, together with his wife, three sons and other family retainers. Two daughters were spared only because they were overseas – including Sheikh Hasina who later served as Prime Minister. After a series of coups and counter-coups, Ziaur Rahman came to power in 1976, only to be assassinated in an attempted coup in 1981. What a blood-stained history!

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I got onto Mahsud, a wheel steamer constructed in 1928 in the shipyards of Calcutta, through the waterways of Bangladesh. This was a different world away from the madness that was Dhaka. This was the land of peaceful farmers and fishermen, green paddy fields, serene villages and the timelessness that had long disappeared in many parts of the world. There was even the occasional pink Ganges dolphin leaping out of the river, which to me was all the more remarkable as I recalled recent reports confirming the extinction of the Yangtze Dolphin of China, the victim of overfishing, poaching and pollution.

However, one should not forget, that it was the lack of economic prosperity that had preserved this land in a time wrap. Corruption, economic mismanagement and misrule meant that the country continues to rely on a fleet of 1920's steamers to connect its many towns and villages scattered across the delta land, in an era where many Asian countries have built modern airports, multiple lane motorways and huge bridges to bring together disparate parts.

In the last one year, the military had intervened in this country to steer the country away from the political stalemate caused by the country's top two rival political parties - the Awami League, run by Sheikh Hasina, surviving daughter of Sheikh Mujib, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party, run by Begum Khaleda, widow of Ziaur Rahman. Both politicians and their supporters, all seen as outrageously corrupt during the years they were in power, are now in jail awaiting trial, whilst a technocrat caretaker government, headed by a "Chief Advisor", is in power. It remains to be seen if they would be successful but I wish them luck. Bangladesh obviously deserves better.

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The Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, are the pride of Bangladesh. They were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, for their success in pioneering microcredit in Bangladesh and elsewhere. By lending small sums of money to desperately poor people and encouraging repayment through innovative loan structures, such as lending to women who are members of a small group that forms a social support as well as behavior pressure group, Grameen Bank has succeeded in improving the standards of living of social groups once deemed unbankable. The Bank also draws up social codes of bahaviour and principles designed to be pro-growth. Here are some of them:

16 Decisions
We shall follow and advance the four principles of Grameen Bank: Discipline, Unity, Courage and Hard work – in all walks of our lives.
Prosperity we shall bring to our families.
We shall not live in dilapidated houses. We shall repair our houses and work towards constructing new houses at the earliest.
We shall grow vegetables all the year round. We shall eat plenty of them and sell the surplus.
During the plantation seasons, we shall plant as many seedlings as possible.
We shall plan to keep our families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health.
We shall educate our children and ensure that they can earn to pay for their education.
We shall always keep our children and the environment clean.
We shall build and use pit-latrines.
We shall drink water from tubewells. If it is not available, we shall boil water or use alum.
We shall not take any dowry at our sons' weddings, neither shall we give any dowry at our daughter's wedding. We shall keep our centre free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage.
We shall not inflict any injustice on anyone, neither shall we allow anyone to do so.
We shall collectively undertake bigger investments for higher incomes.
We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help him or her.
If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any centre, we shall all go there and help restore discipline.
We shall take part in all social activities collectively.

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From Khulna in the southwest, I visited Bagerhat, an UNESCO World Heritage City. In the 15th century, Khan Jahan Ali, a Turkic warlord cum Sufi mystic, set up a mini state in this region, where he built monumental mosques and madrasahs. Today, some of these remain and have been declared world heritage. I walked through the dilapidated, almost deserted halls of the sixty-domed mosque and scanned the lake outside the pilgrimage shrine of Khan Jahan Ali for the legendary crocodiles (they say the crocodiles would come if summoned by the caretaker of the Khan Jahan Ali's shrine). Bangladesh is a country of some pleasant though not spectacular sights. However, it attracts few tourists and many who come here are greeted by mounds of rubbish, endless roads of potholes, and quite simply, the appalling lack of basic tourism infrastructure. The country continues to rely on inward remittances from its citizens who work overseas and earnings from sale of garment to the West, which now comes under threat from more efficient Chinese producers.

----

I took the late night bus to Chittagong, the nation's second largest city and most important seaport. This was perhaps the dirtiest city I have ever seen. Piles of rotting rubbish were everywhere, even in the city centre, with huge scavenger birds and crows making further mess of the refuse in the unhealthy humid tropical heat. Chittagong's citizens appeared nonchalant to the dirt and firth around them. Child beggars pulled the sleeves of passersby, and their older, legless colleagues, for lack of a better term, dragged themselves on the pedestrian walks, loudly chiding others for the lack of sympathy.

I sought refuge at the Commonwealth War Cemetery, the cleanest place in the city. Over 700 Commonwealth soldiers killed in the WWII Burma war theatre were buried here. Among the largest contingents were British and Indian forces but there were also large number of West and East African soldiers. In a month's time, I would be in Nagaland in India, on the border with Myanmar, which also play host to a Commonwealth war cemetery.

Tomorrow, I head for the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a mountainous region to the east of Chittagong, on the border with Myanmar. The indigenous people of this region are Buddhist and animist tribes which have closer links to the Burmese and other Southeast Asian peoples. Photos of these peoples at Chittagong Ethnographic Museum revealed that they looked Mongoloid or East Asian in appearance, and that the local tribal kings wore headdress which to me looked very Burmese. A low key insurgency has been going on in the tribal regions where the tribes were unhappy with the influx of Muslim Bangladeshis and the huge dam project that had flooded their tribal ancestral homeland. As a result, all tourists need permit to enter the Hill Tracts, and no mobile and internet connection is available so as to deny communication links to the "terrorists", as the Bangladeshi government calls the insurgents.

So, this is what I have done so far. On Tuesday 20 October, I will fly to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Till then, good bye.


Wee Cheng
---

Cleanliness & Commonwealth War Cemetery

Mobile blog: At Commonwealth War Cemetery in Chittagong. Only clean
spot in this dirty city. Piles of rotting rubbish in city centre, with
huge birds over them. Repulsive!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Creature comforts

Mobile blog: Went past upmarket district of Gulshan and I realised
there is a westernised Dhaka of malls, fast food and Starbucks. And I
actually quite like it more than the Dhaka of rickshaws, bazaars and
temples. How bourgeoise I have become.

Its NOT love bites

Mobile blog: counted 12 mosquito bites so far, most behind my ears and
neck. Not love bites. Plus one bee sting. Heading for Chittagong
tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Images of Bangladesh









Bengal Tales

Dear All,
 
Greetings from Dhaka, Bangladesh!  Just returned here after a journey to the southwest via 28 hours on Mahsud, an 89 year old "rocket" steam boat through the many waterways of this country located on the largest and most densely populated delta in the world. 
 
Bangladesh, Land of the Bengalis, should theoretically be a country we Singaporeans are familiar with, given the proximity and historical links.  However, few of us have any notion of this country except for hunger, natural disasters or political instability.  In a perverse way, many Bangladeshis, whose relatives work in the construction grounds and clean the streets of Singapore, know so much more about Singapore than we know about their country.
The first meaningful conversation I had with a local was with Bashar, who is the "Canteen Manager" of a café I stepped into my first morning in Dhaka.  Upon learning I was from Singapore, he exclaimed using the most classic Singaporean Hokkien expletives that expressed the speaker's desire to do something nasty to the addressee's mother, "Kan Ni Na Chao Ji Bai, Welcome to Dhaka!"  Bashar said he missed Singapore where he worked for 4 years in the 1990s – he liked the orderliness, the law and order, safe environment, clean air and the opportunity to make good money.  He would love to return to Singapore if he could.  He asked if my company needed any staff, be it a foreman, a clerk, a cleaner, anything.  Thrusting into my palm his name card, he asked me to contact him once I return to Singapore.
 
Poor Bangladesh…since independence after a bloody war against oppressive Pakistanis in 1971, the country has remained poor.  More than 10 million Bangladeshis work overseas, and millions of rural people are underemployed and poverty drive more and more of them to the cities.  Dhaka, a city of merely 1 million in 1971, is today a crowded, polluted metropolis of at least 12 million.  Motor vehicles driving wildly as if there is no tomorrow, loud relentless horning, countless rickshaws – all the madness of this city almost me crazy on my first full day in Bangladesh.
 
----
 
I visited the Liberation War Museum, a fascinating place about the long forgotten conflict that led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, a state formed from the Muslim parts of the British Indian Empire.  Driven by the desire for equal recognition of Bengali, also the language of choice of Tagore, the great 19th century Bengali poet and novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Bangladeshi people struggled against their West Pakistani rulers.  Despite being more than 50% of the Pakistani population, the Bangladeshis never quite command their own destiny as a province of Pakistanis.  In fact, whenever a Bangladeshi party wins the elections, the Pakistani Army would stage a coup to set aside any electoral result.
 
 It was 1971's electoral victory by Rahman, Father of the Bangladeshis, that sparked off a massive genocidal crackdown by the Pakistani Army.  Intellectuals and the academia were arrested and murdered in cold blood, while whole massacres were committed at the halls and dorms of Dhaka University.  A guerilla war began and before long, the Indian Army and the Bangladeshi guerillas drove Pakistani forces into surrender, but not before many – some say as high as 3 million people, died in this bloody conflict.  It was amazing how power thirsty and greed drives people to commit atrocities.  It is also mind-boggling how the generals of Pakistanis could ever imagine they could lord over what was not a small minority group but the largest ethnic group of their country. 
 
----
 
The Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, are the pride of Bangladesh.  They were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, for their success in pioneering microcredit in Bangladesh and elsewhere.  By lending small sums of money to desperately poor people and encouraging repayment through innovative loan structures, such as lending to people who are members of a small group that forms a social support as well as behavior pressure group, Grameen Bank has succeeded in improving the standards of living of social groups once deemed unbankable.  The Bank also draws up social codes of bahaviour and principles designed to be pro-growth.  Here are some of them:
16 Decisions
We shall follow and advance the four principles of Grameen Bank: Discipline, Unity, Courage and Hard work – in all walks of our lives.
Prosperity we shall bring to our families.
We shall not live in dilapidated houses. We shall repair our houses and work towards constructing new houses at the earliest.
We shall grow vegetables all the year round. We shall eat plenty of them and sell the surplus.
During the plantation seasons, we shall plant as many seedlings as possible.
We shall plan to keep our families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health.
We shall educate our children and ensure that they can earn to pay for their education.
We shall always keep our children and the environment clean.
We shall build and use pit-latrines.
We shall drink water from tubewells. If it is not available, we shall boil water or use alum.
We shall not take any dowry at our sons' weddings, neither shall we give any dowry at our daughter's wedding. We shall keep our centre free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage.
We shall not inflict any injustice on anyone, neither shall we allow anyone to do so.
We shall collectively undertake bigger investments for higher incomes.
We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help him or her.
If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any centre, we shall all go there and help restore discipline.
We shall take part in all social activities collectively.
 
----
 
I got onto an ancient wheel steamer through the waterways of Bangladesh.  This is a different world away from the madness that was Dhaka.  This was the land of peaceful farmers and fishermen, green paddy fields, serene villages and the timelessness that define this land.  There was even the occasional pink Ganges dolphin leaping out of the river, which to me was all the more remarkable as I recalled recent reports confirming the extinction of the Yangtze Dolphin of China, the victim of overfishing, poaching and pollution. 
 
However, one should not forget, that it was the lack of economic prosperity that had preserved this land in a time wrap.  Corruption, economic mismanagement and misrule meant that the country continues to rely on a fleet of 1920's steamers to connect some of its many towns and villages scattered across the delta land, in an era where many Asian countries have built modern airports, multiple lane motorways and huge bridges to bring together disparate parts.  (OK, yes, there are a number of motorways, but a country of this size needs many more).
 
In the last one year, the military had intervened in this country to steer the country away from the military stalemate caused by the country's corrupt politicians.  The politicians are now in jail awaiting trial, whilst a technocrat caretaker government is in power.  It remains to be seen if they would be successful but I wish them luck.  Bangladesh obviously deserves better.
 
That's all today.  I will write more.
 

Wee Cheng

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rocket Steamer Mahsud

Mobile Blog: still on 1st class cabin of rocket steamer, Mahsud. This
boat was built in 1928 when Bangladesh was still part of British
India. Those days, only whites travel 1st class. 1st class Bengalis
travel on 2nd class.

Cruising on Ganges-Bramaputra

TWC Mobile Blog.
May reply on my SG mob. Having breakfast now in cabin on ferry journey
across the world's largest delta, that of Ganges-Bramaputra, that
lasts 28 hours. Will reach Khulna 10pm. Peaceful scenery, rural life.
Even saw dolphin.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dhaka Singapore Greeting

Upon knowing I am from Singapore, the cafe manager who worked 4 years
in Singapore uttered the classic Hokkien expletive, kan ni ma chow ji
bai, welcome to Dhaka!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Indian numbering system

I realised that the Indian numbering system is different and so I'd better get it into my head:
 
Term Figure Power
notation
Western system (short scale)
एक (Ek) 1 100 1 (One)
दस (Das) 10 101 10 (Ten)
सौ (Sau) 100 102 100 (Hundred)
सहस्त्र (Sahastr) / हजार (Hazaar) 1,000 103 1,000 (One thousand)
लाख (Lakh) 1,00,000 105 100,000 (One hundred thousand)
करोड़ (Crore) 1,00,00,000 107 10,000,000 (Ten million)
अरब (Arawb) 1,00,00,00,000 109 1,000,000,000 (One billion)
खरब (Kharawb) 1,00,00,00,00,000 1011 100,000,000,000 (One hundred billion)
नील (Neel) 1,00,00,00,00,00,000 1013 10,000,000,000,000 (Ten trillion)
पद्म (Padma) 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 1015 1,000,000,000,000,000 (One quadrillion)
शंख (Shankh) 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 1017 100,000,000,000,000,000 (One hundred quadrillion)
महाशंख (Mahashankh) 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 1019 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 (Ten quintillion)
 
Source: Wikipedia.org
 
 

Odyssey2 begins from Bangladesh...

গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ
Gônoprojatontri Bangladesh
People's Republic of Bangladesh
Flag of BangladeshCoat of arms of Bangladesh
FlagCoat of arms
Location of Bangladesh

Source: Wikipedia.org

Dear All,

Tonight, with an annoying sore throat, I will take the SIA 20:30 flight to Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. (For info on Bangladesh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh). With 150 million people, Bangladesh is the 7th most populous country in the world and certainly one of the most densely populated ones. Despite the enormous potential a nation of this size would normally implies, unfortunately, to many parts of the world, Bangladesh has become a name more synonymous with natural disaster (the Bhola cyclone of 1970 killed between 300,000 and 500,000 people), political instability and poverty.

Wrecked by numerous coups in which two of its most important political leaders were assassinated, Bangladesh continues to be affected by the never-ending struggle between political movements headed by the surviving daughter and widow of these two long dead leaders. This was further complicated by the emergency rule that came into the picture in 2007. In spite of these, there are some bright spots. The award of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, which promotes microcredit as a tool of empowerment of small business and economic development among the poor, is one notable example.

According to Wikipedia, "Despite these hurdles, the country has achieved an average annual growth rate of 5% since 1990, according to the World Bank. Bangladesh has seen expansion of its middle class, and its consumer industry has also grown. In December 2005, four years after its report on the emerging "BRIC" economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), Goldman Sachs named Bangladesh one of the "Next Eleven," along with Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and seven other countries. Bangladesh has seen a dramatic increase in foreign direct investment."

I will be in Bangladesh for about 9 days. I begin my journey in Dhaka, the capital and also one of the world's largest cities with 11 million people. From here, I will do an overnight boat ride in the waterways of what is the world's largest and most populous river delta, that of the Ganges-Bramaputra rivers. I will also visit Chittagong, the nation's second largest city and the country's premier industrial centre and seaport. From here, I will venture into the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a hilly region to the east, on the border with India and Myanmar, largely inhabited by the Chakmas, a Buddhist tribal people in one of the populous Islamic countries in the world.

I will endeavor to document this journey, through occasional postings to the twc-nomad yahoogroup mailing list, and, for the first time, through a blog site, http://twcnomad.blogspot.com In fact, I have already been posting onto this blog in recent months, with updates of the journey preparation process. Links to some of my recent postings are listed below.

OK, that's all for now. As usual, feel free to drop me your comments and wish me luck for my coming year of adventure.

Best regards,

Wee Cheng

http://weecheng.com

http://twcnomad.blogspot.com

Some of my recent blog postings:

Rough itinerary in Bangladesh: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/rough-itinerary-in-bangladesh.html

Philosophy of Long Term Travel: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/philosophy-of-long-term-travel.html

Rajasthan by rented car: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/rajasthan-by-rented-car.html

TWC on the Singapore Book of Records Website: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/twc-on-singapore-book-of-records.html

Nagaland Itinerary: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/nagaland-itinerary.html

Yemen Tour Itinerary - Excited? : http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/yemen-tour-itinerary-excited.html

NextInsight on TWC's World Journey: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/nextinsight-on-twcs-world-journey.html

Caribbean Settlement: http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/caribbean-settlement.html

Latest Plan : http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/10/latest-plan.html





Rough itinerary in Bangladesh

Oct 21 (Evening) : Arrival in Dhaka.
Oct 22 : Dhaka City tour (Sadar Ghat, lalbag Fort, Pink palace, War Museum, Hindu street).
Oct 23 (Morning) : Visit Sonrgaon. Evening : Start journey to Khulna by rocket steamer.
Oct 24: Whole day in the rocket steamer. Evening Reach Mongla/Khulna.
Oct 25: Morning : Start journey to Dhaka by bus.
Night : Start journey to Chittagong by sleeper class train.
Oct 26: Whole day Chittagong.
Oct 27: Start journey to Rangamati Hill District.
Oct 28: Rangamati.
Oct 29 : Early Morning : Start journey to Chittagong --- Dhaka & reach evening.
Oct 30 : Departure to Nepal.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Philosophy of Long Term Travel

I agree largely with what this Taiwanese traveller says about travel - how one prioritise travel vis-a-vis other things - this determines whether anyone in any developed country can embark on long term travel. So don't say you envy people who leaves work to travel:

http://www.tedchang.freesurf.fr/FAQ/index.html:
How can you afford to do this?
I worked and I saved money. $10000 per year is more than enough to budget a comfortable round the world trip, and I'm spending considerably less than that. The keys are to avoid spending too much time in expensive countries, to drink in moderation, to omit unnecessary purchases, to walk whenever possible (the whole essence of backpacking in my opinion; if you need a taxi to get 1 km from the bus station to your hostel, why not just haul around a Samsonite suitcase?) and to be careful not to be cheated too badly. The truth is that almost anybody living in the developed world can easily do a round the world trip, no matter how much they may sigh ruefully about how they wish they could do it. The real obstacle, as I've told so many people, are the relative priorities in your life, whether it be career, family, friends, and lifestyle issues. If you really want to do it, you can do it and it's probably much easier and cheaper than you suspect. I've met countless teenage Europeans who work a year as a waittress in London or flipping schnitzels in Munich and then have enough money to go around the world. As with almost all important decisions in life, the hinge points lie not "out there" but within yourself.


Other parts of his website:
http://www.tedchang.freesurf.fr/

Rajasthan by rented car

10.11.07 Arrive Delhi

11.11.07 Delhi- Agra

On arrival check-in at Hotel. Afternoon visit Agra Fort , Itmaudaulah, and Taj Mahal. Overnight stay at Agra .

12.11.07 Agra- Fatehpur Sikri- Delhi

After breakfast, proceed for Delhi after visiting Fatehpur Sikri. Overnight stay at Delhi .

15.11.07 Delhi- Jaipur

Morning meet at Hotel thereafter proceed for Jaipur. On arrival check-in Hotel. Afternoon visit Jaipur. Overnight stay at Jaipur.

16.11.07 Jaipur

After breakfast, full day city tour of Jaipur. Overnight stay at Jaipur.

17.11.07 Jaipur-Pushkar

After breakfast, proceed for Pushkar. On arrival check-in Hotel.

Enjoy visiting Pushkar. ( Lunch & Diner at Hotel)

18.11.07 Pushkar - Pushkar Camel Fair

Visit Pushkar ( Breakfast , Lunch & Diner )

19.11.07 Pushkar-Udaipur

After breakfast, any time proceed for Udaipur . On arrival check –in Hotel. Overnight stay at Udaipur .

20.11.07 Udaipur

After breakfast, Full day city tour of Udaipur . Overnight stay at Udaipur .

21.11.07 Udaipur- Ranakpur- Jodhpur

After breakfast drive to Jodhpur via Ranakpur. On arrival check in Hotel. Evening visit Jodhpur . Overnight stay at Jodhpur .

22.11.07 Jodhpur- Jaisalmer

After breakfast, visit Jodhpur . Afternoon drive to Jaisalmer. Overnight stay at Jaisalmer.

23.11.07 Jaisalmer

After breakfast, full day visit Jaisalmer. Overnight stay at Jaisalmer.

24.11.07 Jaisalmer-Deshnok- Bikaner

After breakfast proceed for Bikaner via Deshnok. Evening visit Bikaner . Overnight stay at Bikaner .

25.11.07 Bikaner-Shekhawati

After breakfast, visit Bikaner & Shekhawati region. Overnight stay at Shekhawati.

26.11.07 Shekhawati-Delhi

After breakfast, visit some more attraction in Mandawa. Afternoon drive back to Delhi . Overnight stay at Delhi.

27.11.07 Delhi

Then on to Assam & Nagaland.

Thoughts of the week

The emperor is naked. Lessons in life:
1. Unwritten promises, quite often, would not be fulfilled.
2. Unwritten promises, if linked to a rapidly increasing index so as to lead to an abnormally huge windfall gain, will certainly not be honoured.
3. Rules and excuses, no matter how trival and irrelevant, are always used to disguise greed and justify the non-fulfillment of promises.
4. Any reliance on unwritten promises is silly, for disappointment would be greater if one tries very hard and yet the promises are denied using some pretext, no matter how trival.
Despite one's longstanding awareness in the possibility of unfulfillment, one tends to take what one may believe to be a calculated risk and hence suffer to some extent from the bursting of the myth. However, early realisation may mean a lesser opportunity cost and hence limit any damage.
One final lesson to be learned: When something is too good to be true, it probably isn't true.

Friday, October 19, 2007

TWC on the Singapore Book of Records Website

News

Search News?

MOST WELL TRAVELLED PERSON GOING TO ANOTHER 30-40 MORE COUNTRIES





19 October 2007

Press Release

Tan Wee Cheng, 37, previously a CFO, has travelled to 132 countries and territories in the last 15 years. He is ranked 102nd worldwide and number one from Singapore on mosttraveledpeople.com. From 21 Oct 2007 for the next eight months, he will be travelling to another 30 to 40 countries.

Readers can follow his travel progress on http://twcnomad.blogspot.com and http://weecheng.com

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nagaland Itinerary

Itinerary decided:


29th November 2007
Day 01 Guwahati-Kaziranga: Assistance on arrival and drive to Kaziranga (250 Kms 6hrs). Overnight Wild Grass Resorts, Kaziranga

30th November 2007
Day 02 Kaziranga: AM Elephant safari, PM jeep safari.

01st December 2007, Saturday
Day 03 Kaziranga-Kohima: Drive to Kohima (280km, 7hrs). Evening local sightseeing. Overnight at Hotel Blue Lagon, Kohima.

02nd December 2007, Sunday
Day 04 Kohima: Full day at Kohima to attain hornbill festival. Evening local sightseeing. Overnight at Kohima.

03rd December 2007, Monday
Day 05 Kohima: Attain hornbill festival, later visit Angami village. Overnight at Hotel.

04th December 2007, Tuesday
Day 06 Kohima: Attain hornbill festival, later on excursion to Khonoma village, this village that lays 20km west of Kohima was known for its fighting prowess in the past. It is also known for the fallow management of its alder trees, which balances nature in the surrounding areas. The beautiful terraces that are carved out of the hill slopes surrounding the village are a sight to behold. These terraces grow over 20 types of paddy at different elevations. Overnight Kohima.

05th December 2007, Wednesday
Day 07 Kohima-Dimapur: Today transfer to Dimapur airport (73kms, 3hrs) for onward journey. Tour ends here.

Tour Cost in Rs. 56,980/-

钱是身外物,我应该对所拥有的感到满足

Unmatched expectations tend to disappoint.

It is only disappointing when compared to the euphoria and warm messages on Monday. But at least, I can say that my initial judgement of character was accurate after all; it was only Monday's messages that led to higher expectations and almost convinced me against my instinctive judgements. So I should ignore the noise and move on. Thank goodness I am progressing towards light.

Yemen Tour Itinerary - Excited?

10 DAYS / 9 NIGHTS TOUR PROGRAM – NORTH & SOUTH YEMEN.

19 DEC2007: BAYT BAWS - Former Yemeni Jewish village overlooking Sanaa

20 DEC 2007: Day Trip to Marib - City of the Queen of Sheba

21DEC2007: SANA'A / WADI DAHR / KAWKABAN / SHIBAM / HABABA / THULA / SANA'A.

22DEC2007: SANA'A/ FLIGHT TO SEIY'UN / TARIM / SHIBAM HADARAMOU) / SEIY'UN.

23DEC2007: SEIY'UN / WADI DOAN / HAJJARAIN / SAIF / BADA / KHURAYBAH / MUKALLA.

24DEC2007: MUKALLA / FLIGHT TO ADEN.

25DEC2007: ADEN / JABAL SABER / TAIZ.

26DEC2007: TAIZ / JIBLA / IBB / SANA'A.

27DEC2007: SANA'A / MANAKHA / HOTAIB / HAJJARA / SANA'A.
28DEC2007: SANA'A.

29DEC2007: Transfer from the hotel to Sana'a airport and take a flight to Singapore.