Friday, December 14, 2007

"Cap de afis" with Simona Pele, Radio Timisoara

Radio Timisoara's Simona Pele has me as a guest to "Cap de afis", where she interviews me about my travels through China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Diving in Bali

Monday, December 3, 2007

White Water Rafting in Bali

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Gate Keeper

The Gordian Knot

Evening Prayer


Friday, November 30, 2007

Public Enemy number 137

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Looking for “porn” in monasteries

As I said before, “porn” seems to be a very common concept in Thailand. Girls have names such as Supaporn, whereas the guesthouse I booked in Phuket is called Chalermporn. If the Siamese are looking for “porn”, they would usually go to a Buddhist temple; monks would be more than happy to provide. In fact, the most religious of people are the ones most longing for “porn”. A Thai Buddhist monk visiting Amsterdam would certainly appreciate that the Dutch were so considerate towards other cultures to provide visitors from his country with a “porn channel”. If he were to actually watch the broadcast, he would be in for a culture shock. Because in Thai, “porn” means blessing.

2007 11 23 chiangmai (41)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Leaving Chiangmai

The previous day, Watis, Alexander’s friendly colleague and one of the local organizers of the conference, wanted to make sure that I would find a good backpack to replace the torn one. He was willing to help, hence he told me to call him when I wake up. So I did, around 8:30, and we decided that he would pick me up in his car around 11, help me with the luggage matter and show me a little bit around the city. I checked out from Ben Guesthouse – the hosts have proven themselves very friendly. The room has cost me 200 baht – that is 6 US dollars – and provided the bare necessities of life. What I needed for last night was nothing more than that.
Watis and I went around the city to see mainly Buddhist temples. Although I am a Christian, I confessed being impressed with the Thai religious architecture. Watis had the same opinion about the European sacred buildings – having visited many churces while backpacking in Europe a few years back. I was amazed at the density of temples in Chiangmai and at their richness in details. The most impressive temple – maybe not the most beautiful but by all means the most imposing – is the Phra Dhatu Chedi Luang – a glimpse of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which I will hopefully visit next week.
As Chiangmai lies in a valley, plenty of people would often head to the mountains surrounding the city. They have names such as Doi Suthep (Peak of the Good Angel) and Doi Pui (Floating Peak). Watis was very entertained when I told him that Doi Pui, pronounced precisely the same, means Two Chicks in Romanian. I do not know whether I will be ale to learn Thai myself – fair enough, nothing is impossible – as Thai is a tonal language. Chinese is tonal as well, olny that Thai is a very sing-sung idiom, and a very nasal one. For the untrained ear, it may be difficult to recognize, but after four days, it started to make sense to me. Maybe there is a chance I can learn some words, given that it is extremely sexy, with girl names such as Supaporn and guesthouses called Chalermporn.
Watis and I were both hungry, so given that he has been an excellent host and was of great assstance to me, I was very happy to offer to buy lunch for both of us, at a restaurant of his choice and with a menu of his choice. So he did, and we had three courses between the two of us – a rice dish with green curry, a noodles dish with crab meat, and a soup. Prices for food here are extremely reasonable, whereas alcoholic drink cost about the same as in Romania. The reason is taxation – as explained by Watis; Government imposes heavy excises in order to discourage drinking, Anyway, in four days I have spent in Thailand until now, I have not seen any drunken Thai.
With due respect to my Indian and Chinese friends, whose cuisine I love, I have to confess that Thai food is, nonetheless, number 1 in my list. The flavour of lemongrass, the heat of other spices, tempered by the smoothness of the coconut milk, makes Thai cuisine a heavenly one. I do understand very well why so many “farang” (foreigners) come to visit and even settle here; I could never see why would one want to leave. All the flavours, the very reasonable cost of life, and the kindness of the Thai people, makes Siam the ideal place to be.
Neither did I want to leave, but I had a plane to catch – though a domestic one. Watis had to go back to the Chiang Mai university, as he had a class at 1:30, so he dropped me at the extremely modern Mall near the airport. I found a good backpack there – they were on sale – and I headed by foot to the arport, which is within walking distance from the Airport Plaza Mall. I checked in, and as the claims office was closed (being Saturday and also the festival of Loi Kratong), the checkin staff were extremely helpful and contacted the Phukhet office. Hopefully, I will have this matter sorted out while in Phuket.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sawasdee, and a torn luggage

After landing in Chiangmai and being greeted “Sawasdee”, I collected my backpack, and I noticed that somebody must have loved a part of it very much – that is, a part of the belt. Fortunately, although torn, nothing was lost. I filled in a form, and hopefully in the following days I would get another backpack, paid for by the Star Alliance. I then proceeded to the arrivals lounge, hoping that I would be greeted either by somebody from the conference, or from the hotel. This not being the case, I paid 120 baht (about 3.60 US$) for a taxi trip to town. Not too expensive, actually! The driver was quite surprised at the prices practiced in Europe. I arrived at the luxurious Holiday Inn (why is it called “inn” I have no idea), and I immediately went on to explore the surrounding area, being quite hungry. I could not find anything apart from street vendor food, and – at least for that time – I did not dare to partake. My cup of tea would have been something mid-range – not too expensive, not too inexpensive (in local standards) – but no middle class restaurants were to be found in tht part of the city. Once in the midst of the local life, I went on to see whether the cats in Siam are Siamese cats. As I expected, they were not. They look exactly the same as cats back home. Maybe those in the buddhist temples would be different – my knowledge at that time being that Siamese cats were bred by Buddhist monks.


Suvarnabhumi International Airport is Thailand’s newest transport interface with the world. Everything of importance in Thailand has the “Bhu” particle included – be it the airport or the King. The first thing I saw in Thailand was the King’s portrait, next to a slogan wishing him long life. In fact, HM the King of Thailand will turn 80 in a few days. Last year, he celebrated 60 years on the throne, making him the world’s longest reigning monarch currently in office. I was told before – and this will be confirmed to me – that the Thai are not too fond of the way their country is portrayed in “The King and I” / “Anna and the King”. To them, the image is as untrue as it is to Romanians the image of a Transylvania populated by vampires. I was a bit worried that I would enter Thilnd in Bangkok, whereas my luggage would clear the customs in Chiangmai. I was told this is allright, as I would collect my luggage from the International Arrivals in Chiangmai. Fair enough – so I proceeded to the immigration gate, where my passport was checked and duly stamped. Here I am, in Thailand, my first South-East Asian destination. The flight schedule provided for a few hours waiting period in the Suvarnabhumi airport, so I purchased some Thai Bath – the local currency, and I searched for an internet wifi spot. Unfortunately, despite the modernity of the arport, the internet was not working. Perhaps it was just a temporary problem. Not too worried, I proceeded to the boarding gate, where I watched some Thai TV ( a show dedicated to the King’s aniversary) and remarked that a big deal of my fellow travellers are Hungarian.
2007 11 20 bangkok airport (2)
2007 11 20 bangkok airport (3)
2007 11 20 bangkok airport (4)
2007 11 20 bangkok airport (1)

Monday, November 19, 2007

From Vienna to Bangkok

The flight from the Vienna International Airport to Bangkok was uneventful – apart from Z saving Princess Bala from General Mandible and Bruce Willis saving the world (for the nth time) from the terrorists (yipi-kay-ai!). Onboard etertainment, courtesy of Austrian Airlines and DVD technology. The flight crossed Austria, Hungary, Romania, the Black Sea, Georgia (the Tblisi, not Atlanta variety), Armenia, the Caspian Sea, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Bay of Bengal, Burma, and Thailand. Some of these places are not the best to fly over, but I felt secure, knowing that Bruce Willis would help, if needed. He did so in Air Force One, and would have saved even the passengers of the Titanic, were he cast in that movie instead of Leonardo di Caprio.

Intermezzo: Vienna Airport

It's cold. It's very cold. I made the mistake to leave my winter jacket in Romania. After all, I am going to Southern Asia ... all my other clothes are in the checked luggage, and until I check in for the flight to Bangkok, there is still a lot of time. Trouble is, I will spend three weeks to the tropics, and then, when I will return, it will be to a very cold Romanian winter. This year, Timisoara witnessed an unusual snow in November. Take that, Al Gore! Global warming? I would rather say, a new ice age. But, I am biased ... I never understood how Santa Claus chose his job. I mean, he was a bishop from Asia Minor (I visited his church in what is today Turkey), and imagine the shock on his flock when he declared: M'dears, I shall move to Rovaniemi, Republic of Finland.
But I diverge. Here I am, in Vienna, happy that at least there is free wireless internet and an available electricity plug. I wish there was a bed somewhere, where could sleep. And a warm jacket. This reminds me: "What is blue and kills old people? Hypothermia!"

First leg: Timisoara-Vienna: no cold water

Here I am, in the lounge of Timisoara's airport, waiting for my flight to Vienna. The airport is changing at a very fast pace - due to Carpatair (I will actually fly Austrian), Timisoara is becoming a regional hub. Building works as building works, but what is not excusable, is the lack of water in the bathroom. My hands are full of dry soap ... as I commented with the security staff, the "good times" (Ceausescu's) are back. The security staff actually envy me for leaving the airport - they have to stay here for the whole day.
2007 11 19 tm vienna (1)
Austrian Arrows - operated by Tyrollean - flying from Timisoara to Vienna under the aegis of Austrian Airlines - code shared with Tarom. Easy to understand, isn't it?
2007 11 19 tm vienna (5)
Why do people smile when they are photographed? Why do I smile? No idea.

t- 2 hours

What would a 21st century traveler do, before leaving home? Starting a blog (how unoriginal) and posting the first note, while the luggages are still unpacked (now, that is daring!). Last night, I booked almost all my accomodation over the internet, and two nights ago, I bought all my plane tickets. The cost of the air travel, whilst in South-East Asia? 498 euros! That is budget travel. And here comes the itinerary:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yuri's Night in Timisoara, club CCCP

"Cultura la doi pasi" with Simona Pele, Radio Timisoara

Radio Timisoara's Simona Pele has me as a guest to "Cultura la doi pasi", where she interviews me about Yuri's Night and space travel.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Investor: "Terenul pe Luna - intre excentricitate si pionierat"

Alice-Claudia Gherman writes about space property rights in "The Investor":

Timisoreanul Virgiliu Pop, doctorand in drept la Universitatea din Glasgow, a publicat anul trecut o carte pe acest subiect - “Unreal Estate - The Man Who sold the Moon". El pledeaza pentru un drept de proprietate in spatiu bazat pe fundamente reale, nu pe simpla dorinta "de a fi stapan acolo". "Celebrul tratat din 1969, la care au aderat multe tari, interzice suveranitatea in spatiu", spune el. "Pe plan privat, aceasta se traduce prin vaduvirea asa-zisilor Ťproprietariť de posibilitatea andorsarii statale asupra Ťproprietatiiť lor. Proprietatea nu se dobandeste doar prin dorinta de a fi proprietar, ci pe baza unor acte de luare in posesie. O revendicare nu inseamna o improprietarire". Problema de nuanta, continua Pop, este ca nimeni nu vinde in realitate teren pe Luna sau altundeva. "Ceea ce se vinde e o simpla hartie, frumos incondeiata si atat. Un fel de indulgente medievale. Cine este proprietarul Lunii acum? Toata lumea si nimeni! Este un bun public, actualmente - poate fi folosit de oricine, dar nu poate fi insusit de nimeni". Pe scurt - o tranzactie imobilara cu bunuri... mobile. "Problema vanzarilor de pamant pe Luna nu este exotismul lor, ci faptul ca sunt neadevarate", subliniaza Virgiliu Pop.
In replica, Adrian Dragan, a carui companie este reprezentanta Lunar Embassy in Romania, spune ca Pop vede doar jumatatea goala a paharului...

Pus in fata argumentelor lui Virgiliu Pop, Dragan subliniaza ca este o chestiune de timp. "In clipa in care Luna va deveni astroportul Terrei, un particular va face acolo baze si se vor construi nave spatiale, atunci se va pune problema dreptului de proprietate in cel mai serios mod posibil." ...

"Virgil Pop i-a trimis odata lui Dennis Hope o factura, cerand bani pentru lumina si caldura de la Soare. Hope i-a raspuns ca cere prea mult: "Recunosc dreptul de proprietate asupra Soarelui, dar nu pot sa platesc, asa ca inchide-mi lumina si caldura.". - Adrian Dragan

"Cine e proprietarul Lunii? Toata lumea si nimeni! Este un bun public, actualmente - poate fi folosit de oricine, dar nu poate fi insusit de nimeni. Problema vanzarilor de pamant pe Luna nu este exotismul lor, ci faptul ca sunt neadevarate". - Virgiliu Pop"