My final two weeks in Chaing Mai this April were horrible…one of the worst experiences of my life. This may come as a shock to you from a returning visitor for the past ten years who has never hesitated to put this beautiful historic city at the top of her list as the most desirable city in SE Asia to visit and possibly live year round. I can only blame this change of mind on climate change. This year Chiang Mai broke all their previous records for high pollution indices and even gained the dubious title of being the most polluted city in the world beating New Delhi and Shanghai, the usual winners. The PM2.5 ( fixed particulate matter) was hovering between 140 to 200+ the whole time I was there. I can’t imagine what effect that had on my all ready compromised lungs where some bronchitis had set in while in Bali.
How can I best sum up my one month stay in Ubud? On one hand, the month seems to have passed by much too quickly failing to give me enough time to really explore as much as I would have liked. On the other hand, it seems likes eons ago that I first stepped onto Bali soil again after a nine-year hiatus. It’s been a month of changes in many ways for me as in the weather, friends who have come and gone, my personal travel plans, but the most difficult has been getting to know the new Ubud which hardly resembles anything like the small village it was. It has, unfortunately, morphed into a far too busy and noisy town adjusting to the over development brought about by the influx of tourists, many coming from China.
Many times throughout my life I have noticed that Sundays are often a day when I truly come alive and get the urge to do something on the spur of the moment. I clear my mind of all the things I should be doing and open it up to doing something I will enjoy.
I arrived in Ubud, on the beautiful island of Bali almost two weeks ago. It’s been over nine years since I was last here, so I figured it was time for another visit to see for myself what changes this cultural and artistic centre for Bali has undergone. I wanted to see if all the horrible rumours of how it had been ruined by too many tourists and over development were true or not.
‘Malaka’ is a Greek slang word meaning someone who doesn’t use his common sense. It’s used in the company of friends and considered rude if used otherwise. Men are more apt to use it as they might if saying ‘Dude’ or ‘Mate’.
While visiting the city of Melaka in Malaysia, I was confused by the numerous ways it could be spelled. I found it written as Malacca, Malaka, Malakka, and, finally, Melaka as the most commonly used spelling. In researching the spelling, I discovered the origin of the word which is even more confusing. How does this Greek meaning relate to the lovely, historic city of Melaka in the south-western part of Malaysia? I can hazard a guess that it somehow reflects the general make up of Malaysia which is one of diversity in its culture, religion, ethnicity, and language.
The majority of visitors to Cambodia’s southern coast should not visit Kampot without visiting its twin sister, Kep. I have dubbed them as sisters because to me they are like ‘salt and pepper’ where the one can’t do without the other. Although I might think of them as twins, they certainly are not identical because they are quite different.
Kampot, with a population of about 50,000, is the capital of Kampot Province. It lies on the Preaek Tuek Chhu River, better known as simply the Kampot River. It’s got a laid back vibe which has led to a noticeable growth in ex-pats. There are those who have chosen to live there for humanitarian reasons offering services for disadvantaged Cambodian youngsters by providing education and training in the arts, hospitality, and entrepreneurship. Then, there are others wanting to escape from the high cost of living in their own countries, such as France and Australia, to this town where they can lead a more leisurely life fulfilling a dream they could never afford to do in their country. By taking advantage of the opportunities offered here, many of the younger couples are starting their own families which indicates they are here for the long haul.
In a country beset with problems past and present, I made it my quest to find some good news to write about while visiting Battambang, Cambodia’s third largest city to the northwest. This was my second visit…the first was in 2015. On my fourth day, I was beginning to despair that I would find anything uplifting to write about. To me it appeared that the city hadn’t changed much except for looking a bit dirtier and dustier. Of course, I couldn’t help noticing far too much garbage everywhere. I would have to look beyond it and dig a little deeper to find what I was looking for.
Kratie is a small town of about 7,000 people in northeastern Cambodia situated on the mighty Mekong River. It’s a sleepy little place sporting a green, tree-lined boulevard which stretches almost the entire length of the town from north to south. It’s main claim to fame is its proximity to the dolphins which inhabit the Mekong’s waters just a little north of the town.
When I recently mentioned to someone I was going to take a trip up to Kratie, I got the following response: “What is there to do other than visit some dolphins with no guarantee of seeing any?”
Despite this warning, one of the first things I did was to go visit the dolphins, and I beg to differ that there is more to see and learn than just hope to get a glimpse and take a photo of them. For me, it was about how I got there and what I learned about the projects that Kratie is involved in to make their community more sustainable. What started with a small group of like-minded and concerned people just over ten years ago is slowly growing. They want to preserve what is left of their resources and natural habitat to improve the quality of the lives of those living there.