Monthly Archives: September 2008

Daily Travel Photo – Majuro, Marshall Islands

Posted by on September 23, 2008

Marshall Islands Post Office

Marshall Islands Post Office

Fun Fact: The Marshall Islands are part of the domestic US Postal system. The mail can be sent to and from the Marshalls and the US with domestic rates, they have a US Zip Code (96960) and a state code (MH). There was a giant scandal a few years ago when the US Post Office tried to treat the Marshalls as a foreign country for postal purposes.

Bangkok Days and Bangkok Nights

Posted by on September 23, 2008

Busy street in Bangkok

Busy street in Bangkok

When I go to big cities, I tend to wind up just being a resident more than a tourist. I’ve done a few of the big things to see here in Bangkok, but there is a lot more I haven’t done. I’ve been sticking close to the area around my hotel, which has plenty to experience.

Once of the things I’ve been doing is making it a habit to eat at as many street vendors as possible. Bangkok is by far the best city for street food I’ve visited. In addition to very pedestrian food (by my standards) like fruit, small sausages and noodles, I’ve also had pig intestine, chicken feet and insects. Not only is the food good and cheap, but the devices the vendors use to get around are amazing feats of engineering. They are mini restaurants mounted to a motorcycle. I’ll be doing a full podcast or post on street vendors soon.

I’ve probably met more Americans in Bangkok than I have in all the other places I’ve been on my trip combined. I have no idea why so many congregate in Bangkok, but they do. I’m not even in the backpacker area.

I’m going to have to get moving soon as my visa expires in a week. That is as good of an excuse as any to head over to Cambodia. I’m sure I’ll end up back here on my way out of SE Asia as it is sort of the hub for the region. As Americans don’t need to apply for a visa to Cambodia anymore, I’ll probably get my Vietnam and Laos visas in Phon Phen. Other than my Kiribati fiasco, these will be the first countries I’ve had to apply to enter.

McThailand (aka would the Hamburgler survive in a Thai prison?)

Posted by on September 22, 2008

Ronald in a namaste pose

Ronald in a namaste pose

Like a train wreck you know you shouldn’t look at, yet you dare not turn away, I bring you the next installment of McDonald’s Around The World. Today we visit the land of one of the most popular cuisines in the world: Thailand. What better way to avoid the subject of real Thai food than talking about McDonald’s?

Of all the countries I’ve visited so far, Thailand probably has the most unique McDonald’s menu of all. None of the menu seems particularly Thai, however. Let me list off some of what makes Thailand McDonald’s different:

  • Spinach Pie. I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of spinach in Thailand so i don’t know why spinach pie made the menu cut. Nonetheless, it’s there. I think it is supposed to be a desert.
  • Corn Pie and Pineapple Pie. I’ve found corn is some weird places in Asia. I went to a KFC where they had corn sundaes. (yes, corn and ice cream). The pineapple pie really doesn’t surprise me, but the corn pie was kind of out from left field. They also had a tarro pie as I’ve seen all over Asia and in the Pacific.
  • McDonalds sign in Thai

    McDonald's sign in Thai

  • Samurai Pork Burger. This certainly wasn’t going to show itself in Malaysia or Indonesia. The pork burger isn’t anything fancy like a McRib. It is just a pork patty on a hamburger bun. They also have a double pork burger which, as far as I can tell, is basically a pork version of the Big Mac. Given how popular pork is in Asian cooking, I’m amazed I haven’t come across the pork burger sooner. I did give it a try and it was fine. Why it is called the “samurai” pork burger is beyond me.
  • Chicken Wings. Like most every other Asian McDonald’s, chicken is a staple of the menu. They had plain fried chicken, chicken wings, chicken strips, and a lemon chicken wrap. This is in addition to the chicken sandwiches.
  • Cheese Fries. I’ve seen them elsewhere, but it sticks out only because of how non-Thai cheese is.
  • Fish Burger with Salmon Sauce. A Filet-O-Fish that looks more crunchy than a normal one with some special sauce. I didn’t have one, but it looked good.

McDonalds Menu Thailand

McDonald's Menu Thailand

One thing absent on the menu is any sort of quarter pound patty.

If you think of Thai food, the first thing which probably comes to mind is spices. Thai food (usually) is spicy. One thing which I’ve noticed in Thailand and in Indonesia is the use of chili sauce as a condiment. The sauce is really nothing more than a spicy ketchup, but it is always served along side ketchup everywhere. (Ketchup is usually called tomato sauce. This was also the case in Australia. If anyone from a “tomato sauce” country comes to the US, please note that tomato sauce is totally different.)

The Seven Wonders of Australia

Posted by on September 21, 2008

Planning a trip to Australia and have no idea what to see while you’re there? For your entertainment and information, I present to you the Seven Wonders of Australia.

Sunset at KakaduKakadu National Park
Kakadu is the premier national park in Australia and offers some of the most stunning displays of wildlife you can find on the continent. Saltwater crocodiles can be found all over the park, as well as kangaroos and wallabies. In addition to stunning rock outcrops and wildlife, Kakadu some of the oldest aboriginal artwork in Australia. Many of the rock drawings date back over 20,000 years. Kakadu was location for many of the scenes from the movie Crocodile Dundee.

Uluru at SunsetUluru/Kata Tjuta
Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) is probably the best known natural icon in Australia, and no list of the Seven Wonders of Australia could be complete without it. The iron content in the rock makes its colors change through the course of a day from bright to dark red. Sacred to the local aboriginal Pitjantjatjara people, it is also of great cultural significance as well as natural significance. Often overlooked, nearby Kata Tjuta is actually higher than Uluru, but has been eroded into several pieces.

Sydney Opera House and Harbor BridgeSydney Harbor
What says “Australia” more than Sydney harbor? Maybe a kangaroo holding a boomerang and beer in the outback, but that’s about it. The center of Australia’s largest city, Sydney Harbor is home to the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. You can take a ferry across the harbor, walk across the top of the Harbor Bridge, have tea in the Opera House, and take a stroll in the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens.

Bee Hive Domes. Purnululu National Park. Bungle Bungles/Purnululu National Park
Had this list been created 30 years ago, the Bungle Bungles might not have been listed. Having come to the world’s attention only in the mid-1980’s, the bee hive domes of the Bungles make Purnululu National Park the premier attraction in the Kimberly region of Western Australia. Difficult to get to, what makes the Bungles fascinating are the unique erosional features which are unlike anything else in the world.

Heart Reef. Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is so big, the scope of it can really only be appreciated from the air, or even better, from orbit. By far the largest coral reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef extends over 2,600km (1,600mi), almost the entire length of the coast of Queensland. It is usually on any short list of the natural wonders of the world. There are plenty of places you can experience the reef, the most common of which are Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands.

commentGiant Eucalyptus Trees of Tasmania
Tasmania is the most unspoiled wilderness in Australia. In addition to its pristine beauty, it is home to many unique species of plant and animal including the threatened Tasmanian Devil. The most dramatic of all the things in Tasmania is the Eucalyptus Regnans, the giant eucalyptus tree. Also known as the Swamp Gum, Mountain Ash or Tasmanian Oak, it is the largest flowering plant and hardwood tree in the world and is second only to the redwood tree in height.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean RoadThe Great Ocean Road
One of the greatest drives in the world is the Great Ocean Road on the southern coast of Victoria. Carved by thousands of years of battering by the Great Southern Ocean, the sandstone formations of the Great Ocean Road are truly stunning. The Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, Lord Ard Gorge are just some of the significant erosional features which can be seen on the drive near the town of Port Campbell.

Honorable Mention
Lord Howe’s Island, Fraser Island, Blue Mountains, Coober Peady, Shark Bay, Mungo National Park, Pinnacles Desert

Other articles in Gary’s Wonders of the World series:
Seven Wonders of the Philippines | Seven Wonders of Australia | Seven Wonders of New Zealand | Seven Wonders of Japan | Seven Wonders of Egypt

News From The Ground: Thailand Protests

Posted by on September 19, 2008

Protest sign in Phuket

Protest sign in Phuket

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably heard about the protests taking place in Thailand. In fact, most of the news I’ve been getting on the story is the same as what you’ve probably been reading. Despite some more indepth coverage in the local English language papers, I really haven’t seen any indication of the troubles you hear about in the news. The only direct effect it had on me was delaying my flight by one day when I came from Penang to Phuket.

In Phuket, one of the guys at the hostel and I went out on purpose to go find protesters. What we saw was pretty disappointing. We were hoping for angry people waving their fists shouting slogans. Instead, we found a small group of people sitting around listening to speeches piped in from Bangkok. Most of the Phuket protesters had gone to Bangkok that morning we had later learned.

PAD protesters

PAD protesters

The protests seem mostly motivated by a small group of PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy) activists. Supposedly, the protests are against the corruption of the former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who is accused of being a puppet of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is one of the richest men in Thailand. Samak was ousted by the Supreme Court because he hosted a cooking show on TV. Thaksin was ousted by a military coup. The current PM is an inlaw of Thaksin.

The PAD protests, at least on the surface, look like many of the people’s movement protests you saw in the 80’s in the Philippines. The difference here is they are protesting against a democratically elected government. The PAD is an urban party and the PPP (People’s Power Party) is more rural. I don’t know how much the protests are a legitimate expression against corruption (which almost never happens anywhere) or just sour grapes over not being the party in power.

I’m secretly hoping for another military coup or some sort of huge protest to take place while I’m here. It might not be good for Thai democracy, but it would be exciting for me.