Stuff I Know

Just stuff by me about me and my life, such as it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Further Afield

It was time to leave the subcontinent. Traveling through India is quite an experience, both good and not so good, but the total experience was a positive one.

Now it was time for a new country. The first stop was Bahrain. No, I don't know much about Bahrain either. I don't exactly know why the flight connected in a tiny country in the Persian gulf, but i didn't have much time to think about it. I was only there for about three hours. Just long enough to buy some chocolate and pick up a few Bahrain-ian (?) coins in change. Then it was on to my final destination, Turkey.

The Blue mosque from the sea side.

The Blue mosque from the sea side.

Istanbul was a world away from India. Though most of the country is technically in Asia, things look very European. The people, the city, the atmosphere all had a European feel, but it was still a very eastern country. One of the first unexpected things I notice were the blue eyes. Traveling from Korea to China to India there aren't a lot of blue-eyed people around, but in Turkey, there were a lot of them, relatively speaking. It kind of took me by surprised, and I bet a few people were wondering why my glance happened to linger on them for a while.

The Obelisk of Theodosius was take from Karnak Egypt in 390 AD and placed in the city's hippodrome.

The Obelisk of Theodosius was take from Karnak Egypt in 390 AD and placed in the city's hippodrome.

Istanbul is a fairly easy city to get around in, even if public transportation can be a bit crowded. It is also an interesting city with a long history. And much of that history is right there in front of you. In fact sometimes, the recent history of Istanbul is setting right on top of the ancient, like in all the houses and shops sitting on top of the old cisterns. Other times the past history has become the present, especially in the case of all the old mosques still being used to this day.

The Basilica cistern is the more interesting of the two cisterns in Istanbul.

The Basilica cistern is the more interesting of the two cisterns in Istanbul.

The Hagia Sophia is amazing from the outside as the inside.

The Hagia Sophia is amazing from the outside as the inside.

Many of the sites are rather impressive. Part of the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) museum was filled with scaffolding, yet it did not fail to impress. The sight of the Blue (Sultan Ahmet) Mosque makes you wonder about the past and a grandeur of a sort that didn't include steel and glass edifices.

One of the best sarcophagi in the museum.

The archeology museum could probably take up a whole day if you wanted, but you can easily see the best pieces in half a day.

The Archeology Museum in Istanbul seems to go on and on. The sarcophagi are particularly impressive. Even the small Kariye Museum (Chora Church) with its mosaics and frescoes is quite a sight. It is definitely worth going to even though getting there takes a bit of persistence.

A large mosaic in the Chora church.

The mosaics here really are nice, and you are much closer to them than the ones in the Aya Sofya.

A collection of glass mosaic lamps.

Just one of the many shops in the old bazaar.

There are other museums showcasing the varied history of Istanbul, bazaars to wander around in, bridges to cross, towers to climb, palaces to explore, and the sea to gaze upon. The amazingly clear, blue Mediterranean sea.

With all the history of Turkey, traveling to Istanbul is, in a way, like traveling to Rome, Greece, and the Mid-east, all in one.

I wasn't so vicious with my culling, so there are a lot of photos here. Just pick the ones that look interesting and enjoy.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 19, 2008


The Gate of India. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.

It was still called Bombay the first time I was there many years ago, but other than the name, not much seems to have changed. Mumbai is another big Indian city, and, being such, it is crowded, noisy, and dirty. But there is enough charm in the city to keep a person interested for a while. Personally I had too much time there since I had to wait for a plane ticket out, but that is just poor planning on my part. There are certainly things for the tourist to see and do in Mumbai, but someone should tell the Mumbai government it is not a good idea to close all the tourist attractions on Monday. At least leave a museum open or something.

Most of my time was spent just wandering around, looking at city life and the architecture it exists in. The city has quite a legacy of buildings left over from the days of the British. And they have done a fair job of keeping many of them in good repair though a lot of work still needs to be done.

If I remember correctly, this is par of the University of Mumbai.

Another sight to see is the local laundry, the dobi ghats. When looking over the area you can't help but imagine how much laundry goes through that place. It was impressive seeing so many people doing so many other people's laundry the "old-fashioned" way. It makes you wonder what the effect of a simple appliance like the wash machine would have on the place if it ever became more popular in India. Think of all the people who would be put out of work.

I came in the afternoon, so much of the day's work was done.

Just a couple of caves cut into the rock that monks used for living, study and meditation.

I also saw the Kanheri Buddhist caves not too far from the city and the Elephanta Hindu caves on the island of Elephanta (formerly Gharapuri). The former were more spectacular for their location- cut into the sides of a valley and canyon wall. And the latter were more impressive for their carvings of Hindu deities and the stories being told. Be sure you take advantage of the free guide who can tell you a lot about what you are looking. It was very interesting even if my guide did seem to add a bit of his own philosophical spin to the stories.

This is actually a very large statue.

And yes, I did eat at McDonald's when I was in Mumbai. Come on, I had to go. In a country where the cow is sacred, you have to wonder what the largest hamburger chain in the world serves. Well you vegetarians out there will be happy to know that McDonald's in India does have a veggie burger. There is also a fish sandwich, and a couple of particularly Indian dishes, but the whole rest of the menu is chicken. There is no Big Mac, but the Maharaja Mac is- two all chicken patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese tomatoes, onions, on a sesame seed bun.

Every time I pointed my camera at her, she would tilt her head and go into this "shy pose."

Before I leave India, a few more observations.

Indians are greedy bastards. I am in no way suggesting that India has cornered the market on greed, but they sure do own a lot of stock in it. And this opinion certainly does not apply to everyone in the country. How do I know that "greed is good" in India? Well, there's the first hand experience of being taken for a ride, literally and figuratively, when riding in auto-rickshaws and looking for accommodations as a couple of examples, but it was also noted by just observation of things going on around me.

Not packaged, but still pricey at times.

In India, all factory produced and packaged food, and some nonfood items, carry a MRP, maximum retail price, printed right on the package. This is a good thing, too, because I expect that many shop owners would likely bleed you for whatever they could if they had their way. However, not content with what the government says they should charge, some shop owners have found a way around the MRP on some items. Cold drinks have the MRP printed on them just like other products, but when you take them to the counter to pay, the price may be 1-3 rupees higher. On pointing out to the shop owner that the MRP printed on the product said 20 rupees, I was told it was 2 rupees for cooling charge. If I wanted to pay 20, I could have a warm Coke. Needless to say, I usually wandered around the area until I found a supermarket that didn't add on a "cooling charge."

I had him sharpen my pocket knife. He did a darn good job, too.

During my time in India, the Indian auto manufacturing industry brought to market their first car for the "every-man." A compact car with a low enough price point that, ostensively, nearly everyone could afford. This might seem like a good thing, and in some ways it may be. But I, along with several environmental pundits see it as more of a negative thing. The environmental folk are decrying the move because of how devastating to the environment it would be to actually put a whole new class of Indians into the automobile.

While I generally agree with the environmentalists, after traveling in India, I see a negative aspect from a wholly different perspective. Where are the auto producers planning on having these new drivers drive, let alone park? Except for the area around Mumbai and maybe a couple of streets in a couple of cities, rarely did I travel on a road with more than one lane in each direction. More often than not, the shoulder was used as a second lane, along with the center line as long as you could scare the drivers coming the other way in to moving over. There is just not room on Indian roads for a whole new class of Indian drivers. Auto makers should be spending money on infrastructure projects rather than new low priced cars. Otherwise sales will come to a halt when people realize they can't actually get anywhere even if they do buy their own car.

Enjoy the photos.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Just A Quickie

Hey there. If anyone regularly reads this blog (Maybe there are a few at least.) don't despair. I will be getting to the rest of the pictures soon. I have been out of touch for a while, moving around, expensive Internet, no time (yeah, right), and such.

Here's where I am at the moment.

View Larger Map

I hope you are doing well wherever you might be or be headed.

I just realized the other day that when I get to my home base after this trip, I will have gone around the world in both directions. The first, easterly, was quite a while ago, from home to NY, to Africa where I stalled for a while working in the Peace Corps, then Asia and Southeast-Asia, East Asia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and home. This time it was home, west to Korea where I stalled for work for a while again, then China, Southeast-Asia, India, then to the Mediterranean with Turkey and Greece, and then across the Atlantic to home again.

Huh, I guess the next direction should be north to south or south to north, though I don't know what the likelihood of actually traveling over the poles really is.

Time to get on the move again. I'll be back in not too long a time. Take care.