Suid Afrikak

I thought moving to Pretoria would be boring, but this is great! Uncle Bob Mugabe is staying at the Sheraton Hotel, just over the road from us, spending his stolen hard-earned wealth, while expat Zimbabweans protest around the Union Buildings against his every breath. At the same time South Africans attempt to tear down a statue of Paul Kruger. And somewhere in the background, not receiving much attention, are the new, private jets that our selfless leader has purchased, for the good of South Africa. Who needs schools and clinics when you have a private jet?

We don’t need people to be educated and healthy. We just need them to be alive and gullible enough to place a “X” next to the face that blurts out the most appealing promises, no matter how ridiculous or impossible they really are.

South Africans are proud of the democracy that has been built over the past twenty years. However, those people do not understand the term “democracy”. South Africa was not a democracy pre-1994 and it is not a true democracy now. Argue all you want and you will still be wrong. Google it. For those without access to a computer; don’t worry, Jacob promised to fix that.

The removal of statues has become a circus. It has also become a racial issue instead of a moral one. White people protect the statues because they feel it is a part of their heritage. Black people want to remove the statues because of the oppression that those people caused or were a part of.

Fair enough. Cecil was an arsehole on a good day. Historically, he is unpopular with the Afrikaners and the Blacks. People have now invested time, effort and faeces into removing an inanimate object that resembles the man. The students at UCT disgraced themselves by throwing human excrement on a statue. Well done! They have just made him more famous than ever before! His memory will live on, thanks to the students from the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. Now Google “irony”.

His statue is gone, but his estate includes part of UCT and Kirstenbosch Gardens. We’re going to need an entire sewerage plant and more than one crane to remove that. There is also the Rhodes Scholarship Fund. Should we keep receiving his funding? Is it morally correct to accept money from such an evil man? What about Rhodes University in Grahamstown? Another product of Cecil’s estate. We can rename it, like all the roads in Pretoria, but he will always be a part of our history.

Three, educationally challenged men became a little too excited and jumped on the band wagon by vandalising the horse memorial in Port Elizabeth. The suspected EFF members have reinforced the ignorance of their party by breaking a statue dedicated to horses. Either they had no idea what the statue symbolised or the horse was a counter-revolutionary and did not deserve that bucket of water from the soldier. There is also the possibility that Julius just wanted some attention. There is even an inscription for Julius and his comrades to read.

THE GREATNESS OF A NATION
CONSISTS NOT SO MUCH IN THE NUMBER OF ITS PEOPLE
OR THE EXTENT OF ITS TERRITORY
AS IN THE EXTENT AND JUSTICE OF ITS COMPASSION

ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
IN RECOGNITION OF THE SERVICES OF THE GALLANT ANIMALS
WHICH PERISHED IN THE ANGLO BOER WAR 1899-1902

Steve Hofmeyr poked the bear by writing a letter that highlighted his views of “us and them”. Although many of his points were valid, the last thing we need is for an influential person to provoke both sides of the conflict.

Some PEOPLE have certain opinions while other PEOPLE have opposing opinions. Not all blacks want statues of white men to burn. Not all whites care what happens to random pieces of sculpted metal standing in parks.

Throwing faeces at things we don’t appreciate will not solve problems caused in the past. Vandalising statues of dead men will only make South Africans angry. Whether you’re a boer or a black, you are South African. You’re either a part of the problem or you’re working towards a solution. If you expend energy fighting statues, I have bad news for you.

Hin Wong Bay

Sat 20 Sept 2014

Maja's nemesis. The "yellyfish!"
Maja’s nemesis. The “yellyfish!”

The best thing to do here is snorkel. Actually, it’s the only thing to do, besides relaxing and admiring the view.

Fishies
Fishies
Feeding the fish chips. Baked, not fried.
Feeding the fish chips. Baked, not fried.

We shared the area with Vince and Alice, a French couple. Vince has the most irritating ability, whereby he speaks both, English and French, like a native. We prefer him under water.

After hours
After hours
Hin Wong Bay
Hin Wong Bay
Sunset
Sunset

Occasionally, a coconut will attempt murder by unplugging itself from the palm tree and falling, from bloody high, towards it’s victim. Failed attempts are signalled by a dull thud, as the tropical assassin hits the ground. We then rip his skin off and turn him into a snack.

Breaking open a fallen coconut. Getting the husk off is a mission!
Breaking open a fallen coconut. Getting the husk off is a mission!

Slaghuis Express

Thurs 18 Sept 2014

A sleeper train took us to Champhon. For anyone over 5’5” it’s more of a foetal-position-train, as the beds are not built for westerners. The only people to disembark the train, at Champhon, were tourists. Lots of them! This is the first sign to watch out for when being ripped off. At 06:00am we were herded onto the back of various trucks. Each tourist was branded with a sticker, to indicate their destination. We were just cattle, on our way to the money-making factory. Products of the tourist industry.

Night train. Curl up and hope for the best.
Night train. Curl up and hope for the best.

The ferry ride was another meat truck, crammed with various species of tourist. The American variety seem to be louder, more obnoxious and irritating than the rest. Maybe it’s something in their feed.

Stepping off the ferry, onto Koh Tao, reminded me of chasing sheep through a run, for the farmer to count. The narrow walkway was flanked by employees of hotels, taxis, dive centres, night clubs and tour operators holding advertisement boards and shouting at the tourists to catch their attention.

The entrepreneurial taxi drivers had cottoned onto the concept of supply and demand. Our taxi, actually a bakkie, cost just as much as our over-night train. The island is a very steep mountain, jutting out of the ocean. Just the thought of walking those hills, with my backpack, makes me cry like a fat kid on a hiking trip.

Not much to complain about
Not much to complain about

Our accommodation, which we randomly picked out, happened to be on the quieter side of the island, away from the cool kids and the bars. Being a morsel in the meat processor was disappointing. I was disappointed in myself for being naive enough to fall into the trap. But that’s how we learn. However, this little bungalow, hiding in a quiet bay, is well worth a quick lesson.

View from the bungalow
View from the bungalow

DANGER! Beware the Tourist!

Sun 1 March 2015

Finally found a quieter part of Bangkok, behind a Buddhist temple. There are no womanly-looking men or manly-looking women coaxing us into dark night clubs. No pushy taxi drivers, dragging us towards their cab by our baggage-handles, before asking where we’re going. Not a single, well dressed, Indian gentleman offering to tailor me a suite for “good price”. I haven’t even seen a fire-eating midget. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re still in Bangkok.

Nocturnal activities of tourists
Nocturnal activities of tourists

These are just the local people of Bangkok, trying to make a living out of the tourism industry. Large budgets, dedicated to marketing campaigns, do not feature in their business plans. Approaching their target market, in the street, is how they advertise. They may be persistent at times, but remain respectful and are generally harmless. It’s the tourists that are a hazard!

I'll admit, I miss the midgets.
I’ll admit, I miss the midgets.

Drunken Australians dancing on a table, balancing on top of another table, in a restaurant. A British couple jumping the boundary wall, of a fancier hotel, to sneak into the swimming pool and be escorted out by security guards that have to treat them respectfully. That creepy American man, drinking beer by himself at 09:00am, on the street, while telling passing girls how beautiful they are and that he would pray to have a girlfriend like them. More Americans, talking as loud as humanly possible about how corrupt Russian politics is (not hazardous, but god, the ignorance is infuriating). The extraordinarily aggressive, Swedish woman clutching her butter knife, while staring at the throat of a western man groping a waitress. Fear the tourist!

DANGER: Farang.
DANGER: Farang.

In Europe, one will often hear people complaining about the damn foreigners coming to their country and destroying things for the locals. Pot, kettle, black…something like that?

Charlotte’s Ethical Web

Sat 28 Feb 2015

Killing F***ing Chickens
Killing F***ing Chickens

While walking through the Kanchanaburi night market, we spotted fried cockroaches, crickets, beetles, frogs and silk worms. The adventurous side of me thought that I should definitely have a taste. I quickly squashed that ridiculous, adventure nonsense and moved on.

A healthy snack
A healthy snack

Dozens of people were walking around with small cages, filled with finches for sale. The hippy in me (a very small organism somewhere under my foot) thought about buying them in order to set them free. But the entrepreneurial Thais had beaten me to the thought. The finches’ purpose was to be bought and set free. I realised this as I watched a young girl opening her cage to release the tiny, feathered commodities into the Asian wilderness of Kanchanaburi.

I suddenly swung my opinion 180 degrees and refused to buy them, as that would be supporting something quite cruel. The cute little birds were crammed into tiny, metal cages, awaiting a sympathetic sucker to purchase their freedom.

Free the Finches
Free the Finches

Immediately after my ethically correct decision, I walked over to the food court and had no problems ordering stir-fried chicken noodles. The poor, delicious chicken probably spent most of its life in a tiny cage, awaiting the wok. The only form of sympathy it could have experienced was a quick and painless beheading, with a sharp knife and heavy hand.

Baby Terrapins
Baby Terrapins

While digesting my dinner, the thought of turning vegan fluttered through my mind, but quickly disappeared along with the finches. Seeing my food pre-packaged or pre-cooked, instead of as a living, breathing, suffering animal is extremely convenient and sets a decent mental barrier between me and the butcher. This has, in no way, stopped me from ordering bacon and eggs for breakfast. Maybe things would be different if I had to slaughter Wilbur myself.

Stupid Tourist

Fri 27 Feb 2015

Lazy Swede
Lazy Swede

As much as I love the Thai people and their friendly, relaxed nature; I absolutely despise asking them for directions. I suppose I am also at fault, as I still have not learnt my lesson after more than five months of travelling in South East Asia. After every failed attempt, at acquiring directions from a local, I tell myself, “That’s the last time! Never again! Get a map or ask a tourist.” But the next day, while wandering around looking for the market/temple/bus station, I’ll see another Thai face with such a welcoming smile and eagerness to help that I convince myself, “This time will be different. Of course this person knows where to go. They live here!” Wrong again. Upon arriving at the supermarket, instead of the train station, I will increase my problems, exponentially, by asking another local person for more directions. Panic sets in, due to fear of missing my train, and still I have learnt nothing.

The shape of our key ring was mildly conspicuous
The shape of our key ring was mildly conspicuous

Not finding my way is obviously my own fault. However, as a proudly South African male, I find it much easier to blame someone else. Other tourists have laughed in my face when I told them that I ask local people for directions. Apparently ‘losing face’ in the Thai culture is a large source of shame. One cannot be asked a question and not have an answer. The words, “I don’t know” will never be uttered. An incorrect answer is better than no answer at all, even if it means sending the silly white boy, without a map, in the wrong direction.

Fill your water bottle for 1 Baht (0.031 USD for 1.5 litres) Great idea!
Fill your water bottle for 1 Baht (0.031 USD for 1.5 litres) Great idea!

An Account

Thurs 26 Feb 2015

“Hey, babe. Coffee.”

The waitress nodded and briskly walked towards the kitchen, returning moments later with the steaming, hot broth.

“Cheers, babe. You’re looking smart in that uniform. Let me fix the collar for you.”

Her young body froze with fright. Her collar didn’t need adjusting. Even so, it was for her to adjust and she was perfectly capable of fixing it herself. Instinct told her innocent mind that this was wrong. She cringed inside at the close proximity of the mature stranger and the touch of his hands on the back of her neck.

“Much better! Let’s order some breakfast, yeah?” He said, as he lowered his palms, along her skinny arms and onto her stomach, in order to adjust the bottom of her shirt, where a sliver of skin was visible and vulnerable to a quick feel.

She pulled out a notepad from her apron pocket and placed it on the table to begin writing. The smile that she would normally wear, to greet and serve clients, had faded into a wide-eyed look of worry and anxiety as she leaned over to jot down their order.

“I’ll have the English breakfast, babe. I like my eggs firm, like your skin. Hmm, smooth, too.”

The pig slid a fat hand across the table and began stroking her arm with a thick, sausage-like finger while she tried to concentrate on the breakfast order of his wife, sitting alongside him with their infant child in her arms.

Never had she experienced this kind of discomfort and fear. Why was this man, that she had never met, treating her with such disrespect? Couldn’t he see that he was hurting her? Or did he just not care? Even a polite request, for the guest to respect her personal space, may upset him and cause a scene. Upsetting a client means losing one’s job. A Thai waitress earns a dismal wage on a good day, but one cannot afford to eat without it.

The event in the restaurant, involving the western “gentleman” and tiny Thai woman, left quite an impression on both Maja and I. In fact, this town has made more of a dent, rather than impression in my mind about the behaviour of people. I use the word “people” very loosely. Many of the specimens that we have observed could be categorised, in the “Missing a Chromosome” column, along with Jacob Zuma, George Bush and members of ISIS.

Sex Trade and Pure Filth

Sun 22 Feb 2015

Being back in Thailand is quite a shock to the system. We quickly acclimatised to Myanmar and were really enjoying it. The weather, people and culture are worlds apart, even though the two countries border each other. We left Myanmar on a gravel road and entered Thailand on a wide, asphalt freeway.

On a positive note, Kanchanaburi has good coffee
On a positive note, Kanchanaburi has good coffee

Staying in Kanchanaburi only enhances my gag reflex. The decision to stop here was based, purely on geographical reasons. The town runs on sex, drugs and alcohol. This environment could cause me to hate humanity. I sincerely hope that Myanmar manages to protect itself from the disease that is western tourism.

The presence of sex trade is made revoltingly obvious by the numerous older, white men accompanied by young Thai women. Couples will sit at restaurants in complete silence and without any real interest in each other. We watched as an obese, middle-aged man groped a young waitress, while his Thai wife held their child and put on a brave face. The sight turned Maja into a raging Viking, vowing to burn his battered remains as an offering to Odin. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re in love. Or, she is poor and needs the money to help her family and he’s a pig that doesn’t stand a sperm cell’s chance in a blowjob of finding a financially independent partner in his own country. Too harsh? Fuck him. Go home and evolve into something that resembles a decent human being. You’re giving the rest of us a bad name.

"Get Drunk for 10 Baht!"
“Get Drunk for 10 Baht!”

Maja and I will spend most of our time here working behind our laptops and trying to block out the drunken mating calls of British chavs at 02:00am. We were fortunate enough to be woken by such a melody of nature this morning. I could imagine David Attenborough narrating the scene. “Watch, as the lower-than-average-intelligence male, with his hat at a seemingly impossible angle, attempts to court the tubby, slightly bearded female by shouting at the top of his voice, ‘NICE TITS!’ The female approves of the display and so, it is here, on the muddy riverbank, that the future of the United Kingdom will be conceived.”

Riverbank of romance
Riverbank of romance

Exit Myanmar

Sat 21 Feb 2015

When we arrived back in Dawei we discovered that the internet had been down for the entire time that we were away. And it was still down! A whole town without internet for seven days. Productivity levels must have sky-rocketed, while YouTube views of skateboarding bulldogs plummeted.

Those precious, little signal bars reappeared sometime yesterday. Maja was happier than a Swede eating rotten fish at an ABBA concert.

Breakfast at the Muslim tea house. Our favourite hangout.
Breakfast at the Muslim tea house. Our favourite hangout.

The U.N. refugee something-something department, in Pretoria, wants to interview her. That’s a great opportunity to kick-start her career. However, I would rather sleep under a bridge in Despatch than live in Pretoria.

We did some gift shopping at the local market. A financially strategic decision, as Dawei is disgustingly cheap. Things are so cheap I feel guilty, for a very short period of time, but guilty none the less. We found a liquor store and dug out the sketchiest, dustiest bottles of booze we could find; for our loved ones.

Local produce
Local produce

This morning we shared a minibus to the Thai border with two guys from USA, a Canadian girl and a Frenchman. Ben (USA) had served in Iraq. Talking to him about his experience in “The War on Terror” was interesting. He is, in no way, proud of what is happening to innocent people in a country housing a handful of “terrorists”.

The ride to the border was only about 160km, but it took over five hours. The roads are all gravel and wind through the mountains, without safety barriers on the corners. Rain, creating a muddy driving surface, did not increase my sense of safety. Misjudge one corner and we would end up like the balrog that Gandalf bitch-slapped off the mountain.

Of course, no journey is complete without a flat tyre. The driver pulled out a spare, which looked like it had done a few laps around Asia. We may have been better off limping along with the flat.

Tyre changing is a spectator sport
Tyre changing is a spectator sport

At one of the military check points we all handed over our passports for inspection. One minute later a uniformed man came marching over to our van with only one passport in his hand. I took a deep breath and did not even try to convince myself that he might be holding some else’s passport. He slid open the door and with a straight arm, thrust the boerewors book into the bus while scanning our faces to match the mug shot on the back page. I raised my hand, in admission of guilt, and he firmly asked me, “What countly ooh flom?” I responded with the obvious answer and he walked away. I can only guess that it was the white face with African nationality that threw him off. The concept seems to confuse most people outside of the Commonwealth.

Stamping out of Myanmar
Stamping out of Myanmar

Our driver got us to the border and threw us out. We organised a ride to Kanchanaburi in a double cab. An American and Canadian on the back and the rest in the front.

Time is Relative

Tues 17 Feb 2015

One loses track of time here. Or, rather, one gains a different perspective of time. We no longer look at our clocks. We gauge our day by the position of the sun. The best times of day to be active are in the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is not blasting UV rays at full force. It also creates a magnificent light and contrast of colours between the water, beach, sky and forest. Maja calls it the photographer’s golden hour. It’s actually just an excuse to take an obscene number of photos of the same object then obliterate the free space on my hard drive by using my laptop as a back-up.

A good time of day to be outside
A good time of day to be outside

We’ve discovered another, younger litter of puppies. Super cute, but covered in fleas. Two puppies, from the older litter, have adopted Maja as their supreme leader. They follow her everywhere and even join us on our walks. Although, they get carried back, as they are not strong enough to make it that far. Maja named them Shnuggles and Bitey, because one likes to shnuggle and the other enjoys ripping the flesh from my ankles. She orders an extra portion of rice at every meal and brings it back to the bungalow, with six puppies right behind her.

Puppies from the younger litter
Puppies from the younger litter

One of the ladies here has been bringing us different treats every day. Either she’s generous or she’s fattening us up for the next full-moon festival. We have sampled grilled calamari and crab, marinated and spiced. She brought us a desert of banana, coconut milk and other unidentifiable ingredients. This morning she gave us water potato. I found it quite bland, but Maja, being the Scandinavian savage that she is, scoffed them both.

Walkies on the beach
Walkies on the beach

This morning, at high tide, we walked to the rocks where a local man and wife were fishing. Their rods were simply long, flexible branches with gut tied to the tips. The water was so clear we could see the fish, taunting us, from quite a distance. Not having snorkelling gear is a major regret right now.