January 27, 2005


All the pictures in this post are Monika's courtesy. She actually spent some 4-5 hours hanging out in Little India on Tuesday and was brave enough to come up close and take the pics. A good photographer needs that kind of courage and unfortunately, neither me, nor Kaj has it, so that's why we're so good with panoramic landscape pictures (hehe.. just afraid to come up close and snap portraits..) I'm amazed with Monika's talent!


As I was going to work on Tuesday, I saw some kind of procession in Little India through my bus window. People were carrying some strange net-like structures on themselves and I realized that they were actually pierced all over their bodies!!!



The guy on the right actually has this fork-like skewer pierced through his cheeks.. Wah.. Hindu people really know how to show there devotion, don't they?!? Some of them also had their tongues taken out and pierced.. I came to the temple too late, so there was very little to see. But Monika really spent quite some time looking at all that!!! waaahhh... :)


I guess you get quite a bit of adrenalin when you get yourself pierced all over.. I saw people also spinning around or shaking with this Kavadi fixed on them.. Not exactly a painless experience..


This is a back of somebody. I don't have any idea why they have limes all over their backs (maybe acid iritates the wounds and makes it more painful? maybe it is like an antiseptic? I don't know.. There must be some religious explanation, I'm sure..)


Later on I read in the paper that Thaipusam is a festival for a god who grants people what they wish for. So if you're walking all the way from one temple to another (some 4km), all pierced or wearing nail shoes, you can be quite sure that your wishes will come true. Believe me, it has to, otherwise nobody would be walking this distance (patiently waiting at crossroad lights, spending some 3hours with your tongue taken out and pierced).


Yeah, this is nail shoes!! All the things that you read in childhood comics about yogis, they were all doing that!


When I told my colleagues that I'm going to Little India to see Thaipusam, they said that "don't go there alone! Take your husband with you!" I was very suprised, why should I, why can't I go there alone? Then they explained that "they're all men and they're all in trance, you never know what may happen". But it is so not true!! There were women and families.. However extreme their devotion seems to us, Monika said that it was perfectly all right for her to take pictures and hang out there the whole day. Alone.. Female.. I also notice that there was not extensive coverage of this festival in the local media. I think the Leijonakaupunki want's to discourage this practice, because it is so extreme. But seeing the amount of people involved in this, I think it will be very difficult to get rid of this celebration.. Here's an account of this festival by someone who actually figured out the background of it and whats it all about..

Posted by gkligyte at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Map of our beautiful SE Asia

To answer my mother's request - here's the map and the beautiful places that we visited during our 5 month stay in Leijonakaupunki. Aha, who else needs to update their geography knowledge?

Posted by gkligyte at 09:08 PM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2005

If there's a Heaven on Earth, it must be Malaysia


Last week 2 good things happened to us - first we were blessed with Borzin's visit (such a great fun to have people over!) And everybody says our Leijonakaupungi is a great place! Of course, Borzin got into a real shopping frenzy, got expensive (but good!) headphones (its a worktool for a DJ, you know), from what I heard, spent hours and hours hanging out it Sim Lim Square (the famous electronics mecca).. However, he could have switched off the gas when he left from our apartment!!! Due to some fatal misunderstandings, we decided to go to Malaysia for a long Hari Raya Haji weekend, so Borzin was left alone for few days. Everything is fine, our apartment is intact, no damage done, but it was a little bit scary to find the fire on...


Your devoted travel reporter is back! We had a great trip to Cameron Highlands over the weekend. The place is about 2km up in the mountains and it is just so unbelievably beautiful!!! Because of the heights, the weather is very refreshingly chilly - about +25C during the day and drops down to some +10C at night. Ideal wonderful weather of a Lithuanian or Finnish summer (if you're lucky..) So we actually needed some long sleeves which was a refreshing concept..


By plain chance we picked the most amazing hotel in the area - Strawberry Park. Yes yes, apart from the most spectacular landscapes, there's lots of strawberry farms around. And you can buy some fresh straight from the field. Wah, my heart melted...


They're also growing lots of vegetables, tomatoes, cabbages, salad, beans, all kinds of stuff in there! In this kind of neat terrace fields high up the hills. We wandered in somebody's tomatoe fields looking for a path to the waterfalls and people didn't seem to mind. Our jungle trekking (on a "family trail!") turned into a massive sweaty 2 hours walk on a narrow path, at the end we used our nails and claws to get up the hill.. It seems that my running and exercising routines don't add much to my capability to handle jungle walking..


And of course, because they grow so much of vegetables in Cameron Highlands, everything is very fresh and beautiful (and lots of stuff!) when it gets on your table. So yes, once again, a gourmet paradise - mostly for cheap Indian food!


Apart from all that, one of the most spectacular things we saw in Cameron Highlands was tea plantations. The pictures don't really convey the magnificence and 3dimentionality of the space that is really in there. For some reason it just looks flat. It is a bit difficult to grasp the scale of things in these pictures. Just imagine that those little trees further up are actually some 10m high, so the hills are actually huge!!! And when you see the sun and clouds running along the hills, you can't help it.. Just no words to describe the beauty!..


We rented a motor bike (which wasn't a very easy thing to do, people seem to take taxis back and forward, if you're planning to got there, ask us, we'll give you some hints where to find bikes) and drove around for 2 days. It was great - the immediacy of experiencing the nature around you when you ride a bike is completely different from riding a car. The air was soooo fresh and clean!


The tea plantations looked just like a green carpet soft and inviting to rest on (ha, but these bushes are up to your knees.. and Kaj was always reminding me that the place may be a paradise for us, but probably not for the people who work in these tea plantations, imagine dragging a heavy basket up and down the slope all day..)


However, the BOH tea is quite famous in Malaysia and aparently quite good (I never knew that Malaysia has a local tea industry and tea brand!) The tea dust on the floor ends up in your tea bags, so next time be cautious - ask for some brewed tea!

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We also walked up the Gunung Brinchang (ha, did I spell it right?), the 2.5km peak, the highest point in the highlands. But the weather was cloudy, so we didn't see much, just clouds and fog everywhere. It was very beautiful anyway, looked so mysterious.. The flora aparently is very special in the forest - lots of ferns, they say there's carnivor pitcher plants, orchids and all sorts moss.. I'd really like to climb the hill on a sunny day, there were many view points for beautiful panoramic overviews, but we could see some 4m away from us, the rest was white in fog.. If you come over to Leijonakaupunki, we'll definitely send you to Cameron Highlands for a weekend.. So beautiful!

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Apart from all that, as this place was discovered by a British colonizer called Cameron (he saw the "potential" to recreate Europe there, I guess the place was inhabited by local villagers for ages..), there's plenty of "tudor" style old English looking houses. The tradition was picked up and you could see that our Strawberry Park hotel had also some of this black & white architectural influences. I think it makes the place look nice and "cosy" and "romantic".


So we had "high tea" in one of the old houses and it brought the complete decadence of colonialist lifestyle almost over the top..


We've been talking with Kaj (continuing actually on Andrea's and Teemu's personal reflections) that we're such pensioners in our hearts.. Give us some peace, beautiful views, clean air, let us do leisurely walks and we'll not ask for parties and "things to happen".. Waw.. so relaxing it was... The bath picture looks better than it was - the water got cold and started going down the drain in 5min.. But we had some wine and watched a Discovery documentary about Antonov 225 cargo plane.. Could life get any better?..

Posted by gkligyte at 08:55 PM | Comments (2)

January 16, 2005

Sanan-ihmis-oikeudet-ja-vappaudet / Zodzio-zmogaus-laisves-ir-teises


We've been talking with Kaj now and then, - how come that before we started living here, this city seemed to be some kind of a paradise, a place where things are "happening", an economical hub, an exemplary multicultural society, etc.. Siis ehka pitaisi kaytta suomea... :) surkeat_naamat.jpg Toi maan pala kuvassa aidan takana on jo Malaysia. Kaikkilla bitsilla Pulau Ubinissa on sellaiset aidat. Varmasti tarkoitus on pitaa malaysialaiset pois taasta paratiisista, mutta oleminen taassaa puolessa tuntu ihan vankilalta kun katsot niita aidoja.. Puhuttiin Kaitsun kansa etta jossa vaihessa huomattin, etta taalla oikeasti ei oo mitaan tapahtumassa. Kaikki on hirveasti mainstream, on keskusta ja sitten lahiot, viikonloppuna shoppailemaan ja iloisesti kuluttamaan vaan.. Elavaa taidetta loytyy vain taideakatemian ympari.. Outoja ajatuksia vain verkkossa (1 tai 2 blogia, antaisin linkia, mutta en tieda etta onko hyva idea antaa sen taalla... pelotta etta iso veli on katsomassa..)

Shita tvora nuotraukoje skiria Malaizija nuo Liutamiescio. Greiciausiai ji saugo sita "rojaus miesta" nuo imigrantu is Malaizijos, bet kai ziuri nuo kranto is sitos puses, jautiesi kaip kalejime. Kalbam su Kaitsu, kad jau pradeda jaustis, kad cia nieko idomaus nevyksta. Yra centras ir rajonai, savaitgaliais tik dziaugsmingai apsipirkineti ir vartoti.. Idomaus ir gyvo meno galima rast tik aplink vietine dailes akademija, keistu minciu tik Internete (1 ar 2 blogai, duociau nuoroda, bet nemanau, kad tai gera ideja, ka, jei "didysis brolis" stebi?..)


Vahan aikaa sitten luin verkkosta (taas alternatiiviseista blogeista) etta Leijonakaupungin paa lehden paa-kirjoitajilla (editors) ei oo journalismi kuolutusta, mutta ne on vain salaisesta palveluista. Siis ne saa paata etta kuka ja mita kirjoita.. Lehdesta joskus saa lukea jotain huonoja tarinoita Leijonakaupungista - esimerkiksi "raportterit ilman rajoja" organizaation oli listtanut Leijonakaupungin jotain 120 paikkassa sanan vapauden takia, 147 oli Pohjois Korea. Siis ne kirjottivat etta "eiks oo naurettavalta, milainenhan toi organizaatio on etta se lista meidat niin alhalla". Sit ne sano etta "meilla on oma kulttuuri ja traditio, miksi meidan pitaisi seurata lansimaidien kriteriat? Meidan media on erikoinen, sen paa-tarkoitus on valoita ja naytaa tie meidan kansalle". Mutta sitten ihan iloisesti kertoo etta joku muu lankkari organizaatio on laittanut Leijonakaupungin 5lla paikkalla "competitive economy" listalla tai sitten etta lapsien matematiikan tiedot on tosi korkealla toistien maiden verattuna, etc.


Neperseniai skaiciau Internete (vel tuose paciuose alternatyviuose bloguose), kad pagrindinio Luitamiescio laikrascio redaktoriai neturi zurnalistinio issilavinimo, bet yra pasamdyti is slaptuju tarnybu. Kartais laikrastyje tenka perskaityti ka nors blogo apie pati liutamiesti, pvz "reporteriai be sienu" organizacija irashe Liutamiesti zemiau kaip 120 vieta ju zodzio laisves sarase. 147 yra Siaures Koreja. Vietines medijos reakcija - "na argi ne juokinga, kaip jie gali mus taip zemai irasyt? Musu tradicijos ir kultura kitokia, musu medijos pagrindine uzduotis - sviesti ir rodyti kelia musu pilieciams". Kita vertus, tie patys laikrasciai labai dziaugsmingai apraso, kaip Liutamiestis buvo irasytas i 5a vieta pagal "kompetityvia ekonomika" ar kad ju moksleiviai demonstruoja labai geras matematikos zinias palyginus su kitom salim. Tuomet uzsienieciu organizacija yra labai patikima ir kriterijai teisingi...

Sain lukea myos etta ihmiset taalla ajattelle etta valtio antaa (lahjoitaa, voi kuin hyva valtio!) ihmis-oikeudet. Ne ei ymmarra etta ihmiseilla on ihmis-oikeudet kun ne syntyy... Ja muuten, mika ero, kuin vois vain menna shoppailemaan.. wah..

Taip pat skaiciau, kad zmones cia mano, kad valdzia suteikia zmonems zmogaus teises. Jie nesupranta, kad zmones gimsta turedami zmogaus teises. O ir siaip, koks skirtumas, jei galima pirkti pirkti ir pirkti visokias gerybes...

Posted by gkligyte at 06:58 PM | Comments (4)

January 11, 2005

What now?


Waaah.. Just deleted the whole entry that I have written. Basically it was about some form of post-holiday depression, there's nothing really to wait or to look forward to. First I was waiting for new job to start, then for holiday, then for Natalia to come over (she came right after holiday for couple of nights stop-over from Bali to Bangkok). Everything was great, but what now? We got only vague promises about other people's visits (maybe Taina and Mika after the Easter and maybe Tommi as an "external evaluator" for Temasek Poly, but I haven't heard any updates about that, so I don't know how hopeful we should be..) People, come come over, we'd be happy to host you and entertain ourselves.. :)


It was great to hang around with Natalia. We went to East Cost Seafood restaurants and had chilli crab. I put my jacket on the back of my hair and the cleaning lady came to cover it with a plastic bag. "How weird", I thought. But when we started eating, crunching the crab, tearing legs apart, I realized that it was a clever move - you get the sauce all over the place and up to your ears. After the tsunami people got funny about eating seafood. They ask "what is this fish eating there underwater?" and in fact, they're eating whatever they find there. So.. Use your imagination.. he he..


I haven't even been pictures last week, so I'm using some old ones. This was from New Years and the guy next to Kaj is Mohan, his colleague. Extreamly funny and "hearty" (sydamelinen-shirdingas) person. People started waiting for the Chinese New Year already, this weekend there will be some fireworks and firecrackers show although the actual festival is in a month. Next year is Rooster year and they say it is not good for marriages, neither for projects that require long term commitment..

Kaj jo alkoi katsella toita Australiassa, taa hanen tyopaikka kylla vaikutta tosi uskotammalta. Tammikuun loppussa olisi yksi viikonloppu milloin vois saada 3 vapaa paivaa (joku Hari Raya Haji juhla taas), mutta ne tosi ystavalisesti jarjestivat jonkun koulutuksen launataina.. jumala auta...

Kaj jau pradejo ieskot darbo, gal Australijoj, jo darbe viskas baisiai keistai organizuojama. Pvz sausio pabaigoj butu galimybe aptureti laisva ilga 3ju dienu savaitgali (vel kazkokia Hari Raya Haji svente), bet jie labai protingai suorganizavo apmokymus kaip tik ta sheshtadieni.. Vajei vajei..

Posted by gkligyte at 09:16 PM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2005

Luckily in Philippines

in_the_plane.jpg When we took off from Leijonakaupunki on 26th in the morning, we didn't have a clue what was happening elsewhere around here.. No news, no papers, no tv, no earth shaking, nothing that could have warned about the disaster. Kaj started getting messages asking if we're ok on Monday morning, "what?.." we didn't have a clue... I forgot my phone at home, so I got to check the missed calls and messages only when we returned home yesterday... Also we saw the pictures and read sories only yesterday.. All the news that we got were from Kaj's friends and family reporting from Finland.. Scary, we also thought of going to Thailand, there were very cheap flights available, but I needed a visa and there was not enough time to organize it. I also insisted that it is boring since we've been there twice.. Aggh.. choices we make in life.. Missed the event of a century, but couldn't be luckier than that.. Funny, Philippines seemed to be so much more dangerous choice, because of all the kidnappings, troubles with muslim and communist rebels, vulcano eruptions, taiphoons.. At this point, it couldn't be a more peaceful place on Earth..


Philippines is an interesting place, very different from other South East Asian countries around here. Thanks to Spanish. Or should I say, damn the Spanish.. They brought catholic religion to Philippines, so the country is very devotedly Christian (except muslim minority in the South). When we took a ferry from Cebu to Dumaguete, they showed emergency information (made in a very high-tech manner) and asked "the angels to guide the captain and the crew of this ship to our destination". Christmas seemed to be a very big thing still (on the 2nd day of Xmas), lots of decorations, lots of poeple participating in the mass..


The architecture is very different in Philippines, at times we thought with Kaj, that you could easily imagine that you're in some Southern American country (I can see now all the latino girls saying, no no, it doesn't look anything like this, but you know, I'm judging this on my knowledge aquired through National Geographic channels and the like :). There's also a strong tradition off guitar music and I'd say that you can notice some spanish influence in the way people look. 400 years of opression (and it probably wasn't much easier than it was in the South America, btw, there's some gold (I mean the mineral) in the ground in Philippines too, no wonder Spanish were around). When they arrived local people had some kind of own script and literacy, but after 400 years not anymore.. Most of the local people's names are also Spanish: Mario, Sandra, etc.. and you hear an ocassional Spanish word, such as "keso" for cheese or "hamon" for ham.. (Btw, Magellan ended his trip around the world in Cebu, he died there after being shot with a poisonous arrow by Lapu Lapu town people.. Maybe Magellan was just bossing around too much? I could imagine..) Yeah, and after all this, over 50 years of Holywood, being an American colony (from about 1900).. Everybody still speeks quite good English here and I'd say that jeepneys (some form of public transportation in the picture below) have quite Americal aesthetics..


Philippines (or at least Cebu city) also stroke us as a much poorer country than Thailand or Malaysia, its not uncommon to see a whole family living and sleeping on some cardboard on the pavement, or completely naked children or slums or children begging for money.. Fortunately we didn't fly to Manila, they say Cebu is completely relaxed compared with Manila..

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Our trip was somehow very easy and very well organized. Just hopped on a fast ferry from Cebu to Dumaguete, stayed overnight and continued to our final destination - Apo island (you can see it on the picture on the left, further away in the sea). I don't know, since our holiday was great and very easy, I'd recommend anyone to go to Philippines, but could also be that we're just very lucky to have it so hassle free. There seems to be quite a lot of American tourists or American youngsters, NGO workers, not much of Australians, like everywhere else in South East Asia. Also many many more middle aged (or plain old, pot bellied) men, completely drunk (beer is good and very cheap, have you heard of San Miguel?) hanging out with tiny slender beautiful filipinas. So sad. Philippines try hard to sustain their "independence" from the US, but it seems that there's still a lot of military bases and American presence in the country (they pay the rent for their army bases and substantially contribute to the Philippines national budget..) But of course this has nothing to do with the pot-bellied sex-tourists..


Finally going to Apo island was the best choice that we could ever make. We just found their website on the web and, basically Kaj wanted to go there, so we did, the place looked quite nice on the web.. But when we arrived, we discovered that it was absolutely fantastic! (The boats in Philippines also look very different, they're very narrow and long (and have a very tiny motor) with this kind of spider-like construction for keeping balance on the sea surface. You get completely wet every time you take a boat ride, waves just splashing over, but it is amazingly stable even on quite rough seas (after a boat ride, Kaj said that whenever there's not enough salt in your meal, you just need to lick some off your face.. :)


We got an amazing room with a terrace that wraps around with magnificent sea and sunset views (I could just sit there for hours, looking at the sea, the boatmen, the sun..) The resort appeared to operate in very sustainable manner, there seemed to be a lot of community thinking around the way things were organized. All the staff were from the fishermen village, one of the owners was actually a granddaughter of a man who started the village, we used to refill our plastic bottles with water, the garbage was not dumped on the island (like in many other places, for example, in Thailand), but taken away to the main island (and aparently processed somehow), the resort was arranging scholarships for children that went to study to the city, and so on...


When we started with diving, we were completely amazed how beautiful and alive the coral around the island was. The people of Apo island decided some 20 years ago that they will not do dynamite or cyanid fishing, but protect the reef. They established a marine sanctuary and gave fishing rights only for the people from the village. Aparently there was quite a bit of work of education, working together, guarding and patrolling, but right now the results of this effort is more than obvious. So much of fish everywhere! We heard that they made surveys of the fish quality and the amount of time that the people spend fishing these days and discovered, that it takes significantly less time to get the same catch. So the people actually didn't start fishing more, but just enough, spending less time so that they can do something else on their free time. This probably wouldn't work out in any western country where you always need "more and better" until you completely exhaust the resource that you had.. Probably people don't get very rich on Apo island, but maybe they have a just a bit better and easier life..


And that was true. We somehow felt that people (especially children) were happier on the Apo island than in the Cebu city. It was a very happy place, I would say. And the "family planning" seemed to be working perfectly on the island - I've never seen such hordes of children of about the same age, at any time of the day, messing around on the beach, playing, jumping swimming and laughing most of the time.



I was delighted to see the girls playing the same games (shokinejancias gumyte!!) that we did as children, I don't have any idea how these games spread, but aparently it is truly global! And doesn't involve multinational corporations or massive marketing strategies, what you need is just a piece of rubber string and then at least 3 more good friends (or a tree, or a chair if noone is around). I also tried to befriend this shy kid, Kaj thinks it looks very colonialist, well yes, I'm loading rocks on his "boat" or "truck".. :)


Otherwise the children were very friendly and you couldn't get rid off them once they saw that you have a camera. It was a definitely very good spirited place.

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We may be completely spoiled by our gourmet life here in Leijonakaupunki, but food in Philippines wasn't anything spectacular.. Well, maybe we just didn't encounter anything better, but the best we had, I think was french fries.. ha ha.. With ketchup.. (As I understand it gets especially difficult if you don't eat meet, since I eat fish, I had no problems on the island..) As I mentioned, beer is cheap and good, but my margarita had some 80% of tequilla.. yewk..



The last night some guys from the village came to play some (happy versions of) Christmas songs (also feliz navidad.. :) and continued circling around the village, some people joining in to dance, girls screaming, clapping, a true Christmas fiesta.

kuutamolla.jpg And the full moon. Kaj took this picture at night, there's some light from the shop, but mostly the moonlight. I was sleeping soundly, so I missed it.. We got up at 5am next morning and continued safely and successfully our trip back to Leijonakaupunki..

Posted by gkligyte at 06:32 PM | Comments (2)