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To the glaciars

2 Jan

One of my final exams at the University was on glaciers in the Andes. Since then I wanted to see them live.

We took a plane to El Calafate, then a normal bus and now we were standing on a boat looking at this a few hundred meters long and 60m high wall of blue ice.

The lake had this special green of ice waters and it was silent. Only sometimes the ice was cracking. Suddenly there was a very loud crack and a peace of ice collapsed into the lake.

After the ship, we walked on the balconies that were built to watch the glacier in its full size. In the clean and fresh air they stood, listening to the silence, the ice cracking and once in a while we witnessed how some ice collapsed.

In 1939 some ice blocked the lake. Farms were under water. The government sent in some planes to throw bombs on the ice. The effect was nothing. Humans had to wait a few more weeks until the water made its way trough the ice naturally.

Imagining that this glacier moves only a few hundred meters a year you feel how small humans really are.


The Death of a King

6 Nov

In August the king of Peliatan died. Peliatan is the neighbouring community to Ubud. As Bali is a hinduistic society, deads are burnt and not buried. However, you cannot just burn a person once he/she died. First of all you have to ask the priest when it is a good day to burn the corpse. And if you are unlucky you have to wait a month. On top of this burning people is expensive with all the ceremonies and offerings. So ordinary people often burry their dead family members and wait until they have the money to burn them or until they can join in a group burning. This can take years.

The king of Peliatan died in August and he was buried in November. This was not a question of not having money, but of preparing a royal funeral. So the king was buried for a few weeks. A cow was build that will contain the sarcophagus while being burned.

Then a dragon was built that will carry the nobleman during the ceremony (A gift from the king of Ubud). And then a tower of 28 meters height that will be used to transport the corpse of the king. It is said that the tower alone cost 250.000$.

On the day of the funeral all Peliatan and Ubud were on the street to see the parade. It was burning hot and we waited two hours in the shade at the side of the street. Already this was an event on its own. People from all nations were mixing and making a party out of the waiting.

After 12 o’clock the corpse was carried via a ramp into the tower. Then all three things were carried by men the 2,5km road to the burning ground. All together it was said that more then 6000 men participated in carrying as the teams needed to be changed every few hundred meters. The streets along the parade were full of people it was the event of the year.

A picture of the late king was carried at the front of the parade followed, by musicians, then the princesses followed on chairs being carried, noble man, etc. All in all the parade was almost 1km long.

At the end came the cow, the dragon and the tower. It was so difficult to carry the tower that it crashed two times into the crowd. Some people we know got badly hurt, but luckily nobody died like in previous processions.

At the end the procession reached the burry ground sound and save and the king was burned later in the day.

It was an amazing event. Like in a time machine. The princesses, the musicians, the nobleman and priest on the dragon.  We were lucky to be around.

Balinese people and their gods

29 Oct

The main religion on Bali is Hinduism. So there are the same gods and figures like in India. Krishna, Rama, Ganesh, etc. Religion has a very important role in day to day life on Bali. In effect day to day life is organised around religious activities like prayers, offerings, temple visits.

Each house has a house temple and the wealthier a family is the bigger should be the house temple.

If you do not share your wealth with the gods and worship them, they might all go away from you again. Worshiping them includes offerings around the house. Every day you will find small offerings at all kind of places in the house and in town. This can be at the entrance, at a small statue, but sometimes also on a sink.

In addition there are quite a number of temple visits/festivals, often including a procession. This includes full moon, new moon, general temple festivals, etc.

And again you have to bring offerings. But the good thing is that the fruit offerings that you bring to the temple will be blessed and after the ceremony you can take them home and eat them.

If there is a temple ceremony people just follow it independent of their work. A friend of us had to wait 10 days for his container to be liberated from customs in the harbour because the responsible person was out for a temple ceremony.

Last but not least, there are days to bless different items like animals, trees, metal tools and also machines including cars and motorbikes.

So there is a lot to do for a Balinese family including own religious activities plus joining in for activities of families and friends. Everyday you see people dressed up on a way to a religious event.

And it is not cheap. All in all a normal Balinese family is spending a min of 70€ every month only for offerings. Quite a bit if you consider local salaries.

Travel in style…

9 Oct

When living in Can Tho, Vietnam, the Sunday afternoon coffees at the Victoria Hotel were one of the few weekly highlights. Victoria Hotels are modern four star hotels that are build in colonial French style. He enjoyed sitting at the outside coffee in wooden furniture surrounded by plants, drinking café latte and watching the pool. Feeling a bit like in a time machine. Travelling back to 1930, when Asia was still quiet and mysterious, to the eyes of a foreigner.

After the bubbling hectic city of Bangkok they decided to give themselves a treat and to check into the Victoria in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Being picked up by the hotel car and a driver in a white colonial suit they arrived at the hotel. They were greeted by friendly smiling Cambodian staff in silk dresses.

As it was raining, they decided to start the next morning with the temple visit and to spend the rest of their arrival day at the pool and on the terrace relaxing, reading and drinking café latte.

The next days, they ventured out in the mornings to discover the temples and enjoyed the late afternoons at the hotel. The atmosphere of the hotel felt just right when discovering a historic place like Angkor.

For the airport transfer, one last nice treat: they decided to take the hotel’s Citroen from 1927, getting a bit of the French colonial feeling and a curious smile from the Cambodians on their motorbikes. He had been waiting to drive in this car for the whole time, like a small kid.

It was a nice treat. After all they decided to spend a nice sabbatical and not to write a new book about Asia on a shoe string ;).