Bangkok, Thailand

Merry upcoming Christmas.  Christmas is now around the world.

We went to the Thai Red Cross to see a demonstration of how they harvest poisonous snake venom to make the anti-toxin for people who are bitten. 

At the end is a map showing Tokyo, Sri Lanka and BKK which is Bangkok where we are.  We will leaving here on Christmas Eve to go to Vietnam where we will spend Christmas and New Years.

Sri Lanka Safari

We really did get that close to a wild leopard.

The last picture is of a memorial where the December 2004 Tsunami hit Sri Lanka, right at the national park where we saw these animals.  That tsunami is most known for the many that died in Indonesia, but over 50,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka.  According to our guide, no wild animals were killed because they all knew how to go inland.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country that is an island off the tip of the country of India. The country is undeveloped with no tall buildings or modern shopping centers.  We are on a group tour with a local guide.  There is no way I would be comfortable without that guide. 

At the end is a picture of where we are, which is the island that says CMB on the map.  We are not really in Bombay (BOM) I just put it there so you could see India.  The starting point on the map is Japan.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia is a country in SE Asia, just north of the equator.  It is a Muslim country that is tolerant of other religions.  Christmas decorations are everywhere and I have included a photo of a Muslim family posing in front of Christmas decorations.  There is also a picture of me in a head covering preparing to visit a mosque.  At the end I put a photo of where we have traveled so far.

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Christchurch Rebuilds

Christchurch was created by the British, so many of the early buildings were stone or brick to remind the colonizers of their home country.  Many of these buildings had severe damage.

The residents found incredible creative ways to have life take a normal feel, even though it is clear the city is still mostly not normal.  They say it will take another 10 years or so before all the cracks in the roads are repaired.  And they still have not made decisions about some historical buildings about the cost vs. benefit of demolish or repair.

 They used shipping containers as store fronts to get some commerce going even without a useable city center.  Many are still in use .

They used shipping containers as store fronts to get some commerce going even without a useable city center.  Many are still in use .

 A masonry church held together with braces while they try to find the money to repair it.

A masonry church held together with braces while they try to find the money to repair it.

 "Everything is Going to be Alright" across a government building.

"Everything is Going to be Alright" across a government building.

Christchurch Earthquake

Christchurch sits near the diagonally opposite side of the Pacific subduction zone that could cause the big one to happen off the coast of Oregon.  This area had back-to-back big earthquakes September 2010 and again in February 2011.  We spent 2 of our 3 full days in Christchurch taking their Rebuild Tour, going to the quake museum and just walking around seeing the damage.

Now, almost six years on, much of the inner city is still empty lots or fenced off lots waiting to be demolished or repaired.  70% of the central city was either destroyed or had to be demolished because the buildings were beyond repair.

 

 A picture of a picture showing liquefaction in the suburbs.  All of the gray around the house is liquified soil that came up during and after the quake.  Although these houses did not fall down in the quake, over 1,000 had to be demolished and will never be rebuilt because the soil was too unstable.

A picture of a picture showing liquefaction in the suburbs.  All of the gray around the house is liquified soil that came up during and after the quake.  Although these houses did not fall down in the quake, over 1,000 had to be demolished and will never be rebuilt because the soil was too unstable.

 Liquefaction in suburban streets, that water is not from rain - February is their August.

Liquefaction in suburban streets, that water is not from rain - February is their August.

 Notice the single story house is still standing.

Notice the single story house is still standing.

 Although the largest quake was 7.1 on the Richter Scale, it did damage of a 9.0 because of the way it traveled through the soil.

Although the largest quake was 7.1 on the Richter Scale, it did damage of a 9.0 because of the way it traveled through the soil.

Sydney, Australia

We were in Sydney for five nights.  It is our only stop in Australia.  Sydney is similar to many other large international cities, but like all other cities, has its unique features.  After being in Peru and South Africa we were surprised how comfortable the locals were with leaving their cell phone on the table or their bag hanging on the chair.

The first photo is of the famous Sydney Opera House (there is a Lego set) with a cruise ship that we have previously been on leaving the harbor.  The last is at Bondi Beach; it is mid spring here in this part of the world and it was about 80 degrees that day.

One of the striking differences in Sydney was how fashionable (smart in their version of English) many were dressed.  Many men had suits and the women were dressed straight out of the fashion magazines, including fashionable shoes.  The photo with the mom and child show an example.  I often wondered who wore all those fancy clothes - now I know - the ladies in Sydney wear them.

People of South Africa

The history of this country involves many different cultures, from all of the African tribes including Zulu to the Dutch and then later the English colonizers.  Plus the indentured workers or slaves bright in from India, Indonesia and Malaysia after black slavery was outlawed.  The constitution recognizes 14 official languages and the national anthem is sung in 4 languages.  Whites in the country have their own language called Afrikaner which is based mostly on Dutch with words from Zulu, English and other tribes.  

The first picture is of a Muslim wedding.  The others are ladies wearing tribal oriented clothing modified to western standards. 

African Safari Pictures

As you will see in later pictures, only in the protected reserves are there any big wild animals and natural landscape.  It was a cold bumpy ride on an open sided Toyota Landcruiser through a small part of Kruger National Park that resulted in us seeing the following animals.  You can see the type of truck we were on behind the elephant.

They are wild animals and we were not permitted to get out of the vehicle. It is pretty rare to see a lion kill, but the last picture is a pair of lions eating a freshly killed impala.

Cape Town townships

We are back from the more rural parts of South Africa so I have good enough internet to catch up on my thoughts and the pictures from South Africa.

The townships are the outlying areas around the cities of South Africa where the blacks were settled before and during apartheid.  I will have a separate post about apartheid.  For now, note that it has the word "apart" as it was a policy of the white minority in SA to keep the races apart in every way.  Even though apartheid ended in 1994, the economic situations of many blacks is still very poor and many of the townships are what we would call slums.  

The townships of Cape Town have developed unique methods of survival as the unemployment rate is near 100%.  The first picture is of a group of widowed women who take the sheep heads from the slaughter houses, burn the wool off, boil the heads and then sell the little bit of meat on the sheep face to their neighbors.  You have to see to believe.  I am sure there are entire books on life in these townships and I cannot begin to describe it.

There are about 15 people that live in each of the rooms shown in the last picture.  We were able to get these pictures because we were on a guided tour.  It would be very unsafe for a tourist to go there without a local guide.

 

Cape Town, South Africa

We are in the southern most area of the large continent of Africa.  It is the city of Cape Town in the country of South Africa.  For the first time, we are doing an escorted tour where a tour company provides the hotel, tour guide and the day-to-day activities.  Yesterday we went on a tour of the most southern part of this continent, where there was only ocean between us and Antartica.  Here are some pictures of our first encounter with African wildlife, including penguins. Plus a view of the Cape of Good Hope, where early European explorers had to sail around to get from Europe to Asia.