Monthly Archives: February 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #51: Ban Chiang Archaeological Site

Posted by on February 3, 2009

World Heritage Site #51: Ban Chiang Archaeological Site

UNESCO World Heritage Site #51: Ban Chiang Archaeological Site

From the World Heritage inscription:

Ban Chiang is considered the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South-East Asia. It marks an important stage in human cultural, social and technological evolution. The site presents the earliest evidence of farming in the region and of the manufacture and use of metals.

This might be the lamest photo I’ve every shown as my daily photo.

Ban Chiang is an archeological site where they found pottery and evidence of a civilization thousands of years old. That’s great.

They also have a very nice museum which displays the artifacts they found at the site. However, they don’t allow photography in the museum, I had to check my bag at the front desk, so there wasn’t anything to see.

The only options for photos was to roam around the grounds outside of the museum. The jar in the photo is just a copy of the type found in the dig, and I think was used for cigarette butts.

The one notable thing about the museum is that a significant part of the whole museum is devoted to a trip made by the King of Thailand to the site on a single day in 1972.

Welcome Back Qatar

Posted by on February 2, 2009

I arrived in Qatar safely. There wasn’t much to the actual flight itself. It was only an hour in the air between Dubai and Qatar. Time spent in the airport waiting for the flight was much longer. The Dubai airport is very nice and on a par with what I’ve seen in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Qatar, on a per-capita GDP basis, is the richest country on Earth. From what I see on the ground, it doesn’t seem like it. Qatar certainly isn’t a poor country, but it doesn’t seem as wealthy as Dubai.

There is a fair amount of construction here, but nothing on the level of what you’ll see in Dubai.

I have real bandwidth for the first time since I’ve arrived in the Middle East. It is reasonably fast and there isn’t a cap on what I can use. I’m going to try and get caught up on my photo uploading before I leave here. I’m also staying at a real hostel for the first time in ages. They don’t really exist in SE Asia or Dubai. I probably haven’t been in one since I was in Australia.

I don’t want to comment too much on Qatar because I’ve only been here a few hours and haven’t seen much yet, but the first impression is that is it very similar to the other gulf states I’ve been to…which is to be expected.

On other news: Umar who I met in Dubai, has posted an interview he did with me on his blog.

Google Earth 5.0 Beta Released

Posted by on February 2, 2009

The beta version of Google Earth 5.0 has been released. You can download it here.

The new version looks pretty nice. Improvements to the UI and a much better view of the ocean floor.

I mention this as a remind to people to check out my other blog, Where On Google Earth. The site is a game where different screen shots from Google Earth are posted every few days and people guess where it is.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #50: Town of Luang Prabang

Posted by on February 2, 2009

World Heritage Site #50: Town of Luang Prabang

World Heritage Site #50: Town of Luang Prabang

From the World Heritage inscription:

Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.

Prior to the communist takeover in Laos, Luang Prabang was the royal capital of the country. It is a very sleepy town (well, all of Laos is) on the Mekong river which is becoming a popular attraction on the tourist circuit in SE Asia. In addition to the European style colonial buildings, there are also several Buddhist temples in the area.

One of the most interesting things you’ll see in Luang Prabang is the daily alms ceremony. Every morning at sunrise, the monks of the local temples line up and walk through the streets of town to get rice and food from the locals. If you wake up early, you can buy some sticky rice and fruit and line up to give something to the monks. The Korean and Japanese tourists took it much more seriously than the Western tourists did.

The Burj Dubai: The Biggest God Damn Building In The World

Posted by on February 1, 2009

I like tall buildings. I’ve been to the World Trade Center in New York before 9/11. I’ve been to the Sears Tower and John Hancock Building in Chicago and the CN Tower in Toronto. On this trip I’ve been to Taipei 101 in Taiwan and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. They are all very large, damn big buildings.

However, they are nothing compared to the Burj Dubai, which is God Damn Big.

It is hard to get the whole building in the camea if you are close

It is hard to get the whole building in the camea if you are close

Prior to the Burj Dubi, the title of the tallest building in the world was gained through incremental increases in height. The last several buildings to hold the title all had to create special categories to justify the title. The Petronas Tower gained the title of tallest building in the world over the Sears Tower, even though the top floor of the Sears Tower is above the top floor of the Petronas Tower. It was considered taller because its spire made it taller. The Sears Tower has a radio antenna on top which is higher than the spire of the Petronas Tower, but that doesn’t count because it isn’t an architectural element. Got that?

Taipei 101 was higher than the Petronas Towers in all respects, but it still wasn’t taller than the top antenna of the Sears Tower. Since the mid 70’s, the CN Tower in Toronto was taller than the Sears Tower, but it isn’t really a building. So they created a new category for free standing structures which are not buildings.

The building isnt finished, but has topped out

The building isn't finished, but the God damn thing has topped out

“Free standing” implies there are non-free standing structures, which is exactly what radio and TV antennas are. They have guide wires, and in that category there is the KVLY-TV antenna in North Dakota which is taller than either the CN Tower, Taipei 101 or the top of the antenna on the Sears Tower.

So you have all these categories for different structures and different ways of splitting hairs. The Burj Dubai has put an end to all that. It is the tallest thing by any measure. It is taller than any building, any structure, any antenna…..any thing.

It isn’t just taller. Is it way taller. It is almost twice the height of the Sears Tower. It is, to put it mildly, God Damn Big. The last numbers I’ve heard had the Burj topping out at 818m (2,683ft).

The Burj Dubai dwarfs anything else surrounding it

The God Damn Burj Dubai dwarfs anything else surrounding it

The history of the tallest building in the world goes back to the Great Pyramid. It held the record for 3,800 years. I’m sure in the day, the ancient Egyptians would look upon the pyramid and say “That is a Ra Damn Big pyramid”

In the 1311 Century, the Lincoln Cathedral in England took the title, and everyone said “Thou art a God dammeth big church”…..until its steeple fell down in 1549. Cathedrals kept holding the record until the end of the 19th Century when the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower were built, which were the first non-religious building to hold the record. At the 1889 World Fair, the Parisians said “C’est tour de rien d’un dieu une grande”

The Burj Dubai has a very similar look to a mile-high building designed in 1956 by Frank Lloyd Wright, called The Illinois. While the Burj Dubai is only half the height of the proposed mile-high building, it has a three pronged base and a similar spire type shape. The technology to build a mile-high building didn’t exist in the 1950’s. To build the Burj Dubai, they had to develop special techniques pump cement that high, as it had never been done before. They also had to pump cement in the evening when the heat wasn’t as intense.

I’d like to come back to Dubai in a few years just to go inside the finished building and go up to the observation deck. There are plans on the table to create a building even taller than the Burj Dubai which would top out at over 1km in height. It would be so tall that you could experience the sunset twice; once at the bottom and once at the top. Now THAT would be really God damn big!