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  • hardie karges 6:04 pm on August 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , exchange rates,   

    Travel on Sale! Dollar Days to End Soon! 

    The value of the US dollar (USD) over the last few months has created a travel opportunity for Americans the likes of which haven’t been seen for decades, back when “the dollar was king.” But that may be changing soon. Trading at less than $1.10 to the Euro recently, the dollar is now at $1.12 and climbing. Likewise the British pound (GBP) and Canadian dollar (CAD), the most important currencies for the average American, are at unprecedented levels of weakness against the dollar, but starting to show signs of change.

    For all but the bravest economists, the complicated relationships between currencies and interest rates, and the prices of gold and oil, are not the stuff of idle conversation–yet they exist. The current situation will not last forever. Europe is beautiful in the fall, after the summer hordes have gone back home. Might be a good time to go check it out, before the dollar loses a quarter of its value. You heard it here first, remember…

  • hardie karges 8:43 pm on August 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ethnic Cleansing, , , Islamic State, Srebrenica, WWII   

    #ISIL #Srebrenica #Ethnic Cleansing and #WWII… 

    ISIL drones: suicide chickens…

    The predilection of the ISIL guys for the politics of rape is making big news these days, more than would seem headline-worthy, really, but I guess wars need buzz-food, too. Since Johnny Jihad lost his job as head throat-slitter, there seems to be an open slot in the reality TV line-up from the Mideast. Christian girls are apparently prime targets for victimization, surprise surprise. That’s still better than murder, though, especially considering the gruesome gut-wrench a slit throat always brings, no easier in ‘Zorba the Greek’ than in the Syrian desert. Still, I doubt that this indicates a softening of their position…

    Now I hate to be a whiny-ass Facebook-style pseudo-politico, BUT: where was all the outrage when Serbian Christians—CHRISTIANS—were raping and massacring Bosnian Muslims only some twenty years ago, while Dutch troops under UN mandate stood by powerless? Ironically Roman Catholic Croats ally themselves with Muslim Bosniaks, not Orthodox Serbs. A further irony is that they’re all the same race, originally, and speak the same language, separated only by religion. If only the Bosniaks used the Arabic script, that would make the perfect trifecta of divergence, along with the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets… (More …)

  • hardie karges 8:12 pm on August 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , tourism   

    Sex Tourism and Social Media: Who Needs Ashley Madison? 

    Soi Cowboy in Bangkok

    Soi Cowboy in Bangkok

    Everybody’s heard of sex tourism, generally cast in a negative light as ‘trafficking’, ‘pedophilia’, or more generally as simple exploitation, generally in connection with such popular travel destinations as Thailand and the Philippines in Asia; Colombia and Costa Rica in Latin America; the Dominican Republic and Cuba in the Caribbean; and even Spain and good ol’ Amsterdam in Europe…

    Think what you will, but most of what you’ll see there is simply none of the above, and says more about ourselves than them. We lecture the rest of the world on prostitution, while we promote promiscuity as the more modern alternative, and far more politically correct. Ironically we’ll even glorify prostitution if it happens to be transgender, or middle-aged, or unionized—see “Whores’ Glory”—just as long as it’s not cute little girls in Third World countries who need the money to support their families…

    (More …)

  • hardie karges 11:28 pm on August 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DVD, film, review, , Winter Sleep   

    Continuity Errrors? DVD Review of Turkish ‘Winter Sleep’… 

    Spoiler alert (maybe spoiling your popcorn, that is): this movie is long. Pack a lunch. Pull up a beer. Better yet: pull up an Ottoman (pun intended). This is a Turkish movie, after all, with all that implies: beautiful landscapes, frumpy old women and cultural anomalies. If at first it doesn’t seem like much is happening, tension is building just below the surface. This movie explores interiors like I haven’t seen since Bergman, Woody Allen notwithstanding.

    Horses run wild. Tenants skip the rent. Kids are naughty, and the winter is cold. Landlords collect the rent, and so do hotel managers. Guests are better than tenants, because they pay more rent. Divorcees lament their fate. Wives resent their husbands. Young wives are more easily estranged from older husbands from the get-go, given the inherent inequalities. This is all pretty boring stuff, until you give it a name, and a face, and a place—and a decent script. (More …)

  • hardie karges 6:51 pm on August 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Calais, Chunnel,   

    You don’t have to live like a refugee, not in Calais… 

    Given the refugee situation at the English Channel Tunnel crossing in Calais, France, it sounds to me like some refugees need to start learning German, or French, or even Italian. After all, Germany is the strongman of Europe, not the UK. Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s because you’re watching MSNBC, or Fox, or HuffPo, little more than greatest YouTube hits of the previous day. I recommend BBC or Al-J (if you got it)….

  • hardie karges 7:07 pm on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Bosnia, , Sarajevo, ,   

    The Fat Lady Sings: Goodbye Asia, Hello Istanbul–and Sarajevo… 

    The Great Mosque of Istanbul across the water...

    The Great Mosque of Istanbul across the water…

    June 2014

    Going round trip from LA to Bangkok, via the Atlantic and Europe, using frequent-flyer miles, I pretty much got a free stopover in Istanbul, so sounded good, thought I might take a quick trip down to the border with Iraq and cross over into the Kurdish quarter; word is you could go in without ever really checking out of Turkey, just come back to the same border crossing and officially you were never really gone. Just stay in north Iraq where the Kurds are friendly reasonable people.

    There’s only one problem: a new militant group called ISIL or ISIS or something like that that’s making sudden inroads into the region and causing problems where control is scarce or non-existent. It seems that they spun out of the Syrian war and have spilled across the border. Only time will tell if they’re ultimately successful. But I don’t want to hang around Istanbul for a week, and there’s nowhere else in Turkey I really want to go for that length of time. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 7:25 pm on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      wow – this was most interesting – and I enjoyed your account of each stop – and now I know that you live in Phoenix, and you are another year older – that’s good!

  • hardie karges 1:48 am on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Kurd,   

    The Last Crusade: Who’s on Top? 

    So now Turkey is attacking neighboring Kurds, under the guise of cooperation with the USA in its fight against ISIL. Kurds are the only effective fighting force against ISIL, of course, and mostly Muslim, if far more tolerant and secular than ISIL. I guess that tells you where the Turkish Government’s sympathies lie, ironic for an essentially European people with a Middle Eastern religion and a Mongolian-related language…

    • Esther Fabbricante 2:02 am on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Sending to Giles and Lisa who have just returned from Turkey on a 10-day tour.

  • hardie karges 11:42 pm on July 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , River Kwai,   

    #Bangkok #Kanchanaburi #Thailand: Bi-Polar Syndrome of a Country… 

    Meals on Wheels

    Meals on Wheels in Bangkok

    It’s amazing how diverse Bangkok can be, depending on your chosen neighborhood. If you only stay in the backpacker enclave at Khaosarn Road or near the red-light district of Patpong, or Sukhumvit Road between Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, then you’ve only seen the most obvious charms—or horrors—of the city. That was especially evident a month ago, when I happened to step out on Sukhumvit Road AFTER midnight for the first time in a while—YEOW! Unbelievable! There are prostitutes from all over the world, right here—brown ones, black ones, white ones, blue!

    Still I doubt it’s ‘traffficking’, just free market flea market, choice cuts of meat in the international section. That’s all chilled down now since the military coup, I reckon, but I don’t really want to know—too disgusting. So I stay far north of town this time, saving myself a chunk of change in the process. You know what they say about rental rates—it’s all about location location location.

    Portuguese Past in Kanchanaburi

    Portuguese Past in Kanchanaburi

    So this time I stay in an entirely different section of the city, one I’ve never really stayed in, and close to the Victory Monument passenger van pick-up points. This is where I’ll catch a van to Kanchanaburi, on the River Kwai, or something like that. There are no bars around here, but that’s just fine; there’s plenty of good coffee. Ten years ago it would’ve been Nescafe only. Vive la difference! Unfortunately bars dominate the tourist scene in Kanchanaburi, a real disappointment.

    These last two stops, Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, are the undoing of my little purist fantasy, full of tourists and ex-pats, too, back with a vengeance on their part and no small measure of repressed revenge on my own, the spreading colonization of the Kingdom beyond all reason, writing on the wall for years now, but I forgot to wear my glasses, so I know now that my time here is drawing short…

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand: City on Water

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand: City on Water

    In Bangkok it’s to be expected, of course, major world city with people from all over, but… Kanchanaburi? Sleepy little Kanchanaburi? Sure, there’s the River Kwai, of course, but does that necessarily imply a cliched ‘entertainment’ strip with all that entails? It looks to be about half-and-half old fart expats and young backpackers, so plenty of blame to go around IMHO…

    I mean: I’m glad the local economy is good enough to support a Carabao concert at one of the local clubs, but there won’t be any Farangs there, just locals. And there’s a historic district in town, with appropriate documentation for antique houses, all with Sino-Portuguese origins, then a house-boat city and floating entertainment district on pontoon ferries, but most foreigners will never see it from the bar stools in their own private little GI bar enclave…

    Bridge over the River Kwai

    Bridge over the River Kwai

    This bi-polarization of a city—and country—into locals and foreigners is not at all what I look for and no longer what I need from this Kingdom or any other. I need inclusion, not separation; information, not ignorance. What worked for me twenty years ago no longer works for me now. I’ve changed, and Thailand hasn’t, or only for the worse, I’m afraid. It’s time to move on, boo hoo. I’ll miss the coconut ice cream. I decide to forego the Carabao concert…

    Now for my last train ride on the last train line in Thailand, the only one I’ve never been on, from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok, or Thonburi, that is, across the river. Going the other direction will take you to Burma, a real temptation if I had the time, especially if I had a visa and they’d let me in. things are changing there fast. As it is, the ride back is pretty predictable, the only real excitement finding the ferry once there.

    My friend and I accomplish, that, though, and we even get a little river ride in the process. The SE Asia part of this trip is drawing to a close, but I’ve still got a scheduled stop in Istanbul, so I’m jazzed about that. That’s still Asia, right? Stay tuned.

    June 2014

    • Esther Fabbricante 12:06 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      My daughter, Lisa, and her husband have just returned from a 10-day our of Turkey, including Istanbul. Did you get the picture I sent of Wilson and me taken at Camea Dobbs’ wedding reception last Saturday night?


    • Sven 1:10 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Hardie, You see what you want to see and what you are looking for. Nana is Nana and Yet Yod is Yet Yod. I were in Kanchanaburi 15 years ago and I did not see any bars because I was not looking, I was there with a good lady staying in one of these floating resorts north of town. Then I was there with good friends playing golf 10 years ago, yes, they have some very good golf courses there, and there were enough with bars for us.
      I live 15 clicks outside Chiang Rai, 19 houses in the village, and the ice cream man comes every second day plinging his bell. My wife now and then gets a big bowl of coconut ice cream with sticky rice for 30 baht (1 US$).
      The old Thailand is still here IF you are looking for it!


      • hardie karges 1:13 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Yep, that’s been my theme of the last month… nice experiences in places like Korat, Roi Et, Pichit, P-lok… Cheers, Sven, C U some day :-)

  • hardie karges 6:58 pm on July 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ayutthaya, Lopburi, ruins,   

    #Lopburi #Ayuthaya #Thailand: Monkeys in the Windows, Ruins Down the Street… 

    Not-so-still life with Ruins and Oncoming Train in Lopburi, Thailand

    Not-so-still life with Ruins and Oncoming Train in Lopburi, Thailand

    Lopburi sits only a stone’s throw from Bangkok, but hardly any tourists go there, even though the ruins are everywhere, and require no more than a walk down the street to get there. It took me over twenty years to get here. All the trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai stop here, but no one gets off, even though the railroad station is right in the center of town. Ayutthaya is the big tourist destination for ‘ruins-porn’ in the neighborhood, that and Sukothai up the road to the north. (More …)

  • hardie karges 10:50 pm on July 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bike rentals, , Phitsanulok, Pichit, Thai Food,   

    #Phitsanulok & #Phichit #Thailand: Rental Bikes, River-walks, Thai Food and Coffeeee… 

    And on the Seventh Day God Created Thai food

    And on the Seventh Day God Created Thai food

    Going over the imaginary line from Khon Kaen, in the Isaan region of Thailand, to Phitsanulok in the north is like visiting another country. The dialect is different, the food is different and the way of life is different—a little bit in every case. But those little bits add up. Isaan is closely related to Communist Laos, somber and serious by Thai standards while northern Thailand is quintessentially happy-go-lucky. P-loke (for short) sits at the confluence of those two AND central Thailand, something like halfway between Bangkok and Chiangmai. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 12:06 am on July 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Outstanding – I should forward this to my family – especially Sherri and Tom in Nashville – who love latte from Starbucks – daily! They may even know how to make it at home, now. Your descriptions are so “descriptive.” Love it.

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