A Travellerspoint blog

Songkran (Thai New Year)


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Today is Thai New Year. People gather on the streets to splash water on innocent passers by … whether they are on foot, on tuktuks or in open buses or trucks. It is all done in good fun with many people now using water guns. Definitely a day to keep the camera in the bag whenever not in use.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thai Massage School


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large_5550_11782688028713.jpgMassage practice in action.
I started my Traditional Thai Massage course today at the Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) Thai Traditional Medicine School today. There were more than 10 students in class, with students from Thailand, Brazil, Germany, UK etc.

The course started with a prayer to Dr Shivago, the founder of Thai massage. None of us knew the meaning of the prayer but respectfully paid attention. I think the doctor is quite famous ... wasn't there a very long movie about him ... but strangely set during the Russian revolution? Hahaha!

The course is purely practical … we were taught a broad range of massage "moves" which had been assembled into a strict sequence. For the purpose of the exam on the final day, we were required to know the sequence strictly.

There is no room for creativity, understanding or theory. I guess the best of everything that is basic has been distilled into these moves in order to pack the training into five days … actually three days plus two days of practice and final exam.

The course was hard work. The instructor would demonstrate a set of moves on me (or my course partner), then we would take turns to attempt the same set. We’d keep doing this until we were somewhat competent.

The instructor (and her colleagues assigned to other students) hawkishly pick up any wrong moves. They are very particular about where you put your hands, feet or legs … usually with good reason, eg:

* When working near the crotch area, you should have your hands and fingers pointing away from the client’s privates to avoid embarrassing slips.
* We use our body weight to provide a strong massage … the shoulders are usually directly above our hands, the pressure being transferred through straight arms.
* When stretching or twisting the clients, we’d extend one of our legs (and the correct one too!) to get the most leverage.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chaotic Conclusion in Casa


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Departure Chaos: Getting to the Airport

I thought I’d catch the train to the airport as I’m familiar with it, having taken it down from the airport into the city. I bought my ticket and waited on the platform along with many locals and foreigners.

Shortly after the scheduled time, no train arrived … but a train did pull up to another platform and paused briefly … no one hopped on or off. As it turned out, that was the train to the airport. No railways officer had made an effort to advise of the change in platform.

As a result, many travellers (both locals and foreigners) were left behind! Rather than risk the next train an hour later, I shared a ride with a couple of ladies from Buenos Aires who had a flight to catch around the same time as mine.

More Departure Chaos: At the Airport

After that fiasco, I wasn’t quite with it. I took me a while to realise after checking-in for my flights to Dubai and Bangkok, that the check-in agent hadn’t returned my electronic ticket (ET) itinerary … or given me my baggage receipts (quite important as baggage transfer between flights are rather prone to mishaps).

I had already gone through passport control so couldn’t return to the check-in desk to enquire. I checked with an Emirates staff who radioed to have it brought to me.

I enquired a couple of other times with Emirates’ contract ground handlers in the gate area … they were totally unhelpful. They all said I don’t need my ET itinerary as the airline has the details … completely ignoring the fact that some immigration authorities require evidence of return or onward travel before allowing people into the country.

It wasn’t around departure time (yes, the flight was late because other passengers had trouble with various things too) that another Emirates employee turned up. I re-iterated my requirement for an ET itinerary for immigration purposes … she obligingly went to the landside office and printed one out for me along with duplicate baggage receipts.

I waited duly in the gate lounge, making sure I didn’t step on board the plane until I had what I needed.

Conclusion

This is the end of my time in Morocco so it is timely to wrap up with some conclusions ...

I've had mixed response speaking standard Arabic here. I thought it wouldn't get me very far due to the huge differences in the language but I've done well with more educated people. The best reception I've had has been when I spoke Arabic.

But conversely the worst treatment has also when I was speaking Arabic ... I think they spoke only Berber and French ... I wonder if they see Arabic as the language of a perceived conqueror-colonialist? Some Berbers say the Arabs look down on them ... but it is hard to know who is Arab and who is Berber ... the people are very mixed.

Combined with visa hassles (and cost), I don't think I'll be in Morocco again in the near future. Some of the sights and experiences can't be beat. But I'm used to experiencing hospitality when I travel in the Middle East ... here everything is a business but there doesn't seem to be much service. Countries like Syria and Iran have just as much to offer at much better value ... and they are so unspoilt.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

The Windy City


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large_5550_11757896239782.jpgSquare of the old town, near Orson's place.
Orson Welles' Place

I have caught the Essaouira on a good day (for me) ... bad for the windsurfers ... it isn't too windy. It feels more like the Greek Islands but my neighbour on the bus says Portugal ... I'll trust her since I haven't been to Portugal and besides the town has Portuguese origins.

The fort (maybe the old town) was used in the shooting of Orson Welles' movie of Shakespeare's Othello ... I don't do movies and I don't do literature. There's now a square name after Orson.

I'm in a nice family-run hotel tonight with a great rooftop view of the sea and the sunset that's coming. All that plus small puffs of black smoke from the building next door ... haha ... a hammam powered by wood or diesel perhaps. Might have to check it out if it gets cold tonight despite having a nice bathroom in the hotel.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Medieval carnival


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large_5550_11757061256699.jpgSnowy scenes on the way to Marrakech.
Amazing Marrakech [Marrakech-travel-guide-1082075]

Arrived in Marrakech to find my pre-booked hostel full. Big inconvenience but I managed to get a cheaper place (and a lot more basic) right bang on Djema Al-Fna ... that is the square in the middle of Marrakech which comes alive every day with ... snake charmers, traditional drummers, acrobats, story tellers, henna artists, boxers, games ... and strangest of all, mini-golf. It has a great carnival atmosphere every day.

Some of these activities give way to hundreds of stalls selling food ... a lot of it is BBQ, so it is like a medieval meat-fest ... and the smoke is something you've got to see to believe.

The other big attraction in Marrakech is the souq ... it is rather touristy but still full of character.large_5550_11757067088969.jpgDjema Al-Fna by day.Things are quite reasonable for most of the visitors that Marrakech attracts but I beg to differ. More on that later ...

Bathing Bother

With my cheap room, there isn't a toilet or shower attached ... not that a shower is any good with only cold water. The local hammam is only a few doors down and less than EUR1 to enter. I'm nearly a local now ... some locals rely on their hammam for their hygiene. Also, I have bought my own scrubbing mitten ... it is a mitten made from an abrasive material ... so it is something like brillo-for-bodies.

Pricey Place

I find Morocco rather expensive ... eg. a meal in a simple place will cost about EUR4-5. I am not used to paying that kind of money in a third world environment ... you could eat in a fancy restaurant for that kind of money in Malaysia, or have three simple meals in air-conditioned comfort in Singapore (a developed nation).

I thought the problem might be related to the number of French and Spanish that they attract, and they can afford to price things higher. But I don't think so ... many locals eat at same kind of places.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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