December 31, 2015

new years eve

what a magical night.  i love the wish lanterns in thailand and could think of no better way to bring in the new year. 

the yoga center was holding a 24 hour meditation service for each of the 24 hours around the globe.  since the US is so far behind thailand i woke up on new year's day and went for the meditation when it was turning midnight in the US.  made me feel connected to the family and friends who were celebrating.

there were flags for every country and as it turned midnight in each time zone the list was read and the flags from those countries put onto the altar.

it made one of the best new year's celebrations for me.

December 27, 2015

not such a secret beach

secret beach isn't such a secret anymore.  it was packed this week as i expect most beaches were.  it's my favorite beach on the island and one that i always can find a friend either on the beach, in the water or at the beach bar.

the polish/burmese couple who run the restaurant and bungalows are just fantastic and make me feel at home anytime i am there.  you can check out the place here .

the reef is just a short swim off the beach so there it's a great snorkel spot with lots of color and plenty of curious fish. 

when you are tired of the food, fish and sand you can get a massage at the hut right on the beach.

December 25, 2015

christmas and a full moon

it's christmas but there isn't a decorated tree in sight.  the guys at the 7-11 painted a very sad looking snowman on the window.  it's a crazy day because not only is it a holy holiday it is also a full moon.  the asians are much more excited by a full moon than christmas.

koh phangan is home to the world famous full moon party which occurs, yep, you guessed it, every full moon.  thousands of people come to the island for the few days around the full moon to celebrate and it's been going on for over 30 years.  so the island population peaks then and traffic accidents and drug arrests go up but the actual party is on the east side of the island so it doesn't impact the west side so much.

December 23, 2015

the bungalow

the bungalow i'm in this time is a different location but it fits me perfectly - it's on the jungle side instead of the beach side which means it's a bit more quiet and that's good because it's high season.  on the beaches the development is pretty dense so when a property is full it gets a bit crowded for me.  

there's a great patio, small living area that opens to the kitchen, a separate bed and bath area in a very typical western style.  it's a bit pricey for the island but it is high season and one of my least favorite things to do is spend a lot of time looking for accommodations.  the weekly price is 4000 Baht or $110.  it's surrounded by coconut trees and occasionally you'll see one drop to the ground.  

the 'street' getting to the bungalow is really just a big sandy path that turns into a river of mud anytime it rains.  this one section covered in water never dried out the whole time i was there but it built my confidence on the scooter as i learned to navigate the river and wet sand without even a minor wipeout.

this bungalow is between a couple of houses and so there are actually two wireless networks that i can access so if one is down i just switch over to the other.  in general the wireless access on the island is fast and consistent.  unless it rains.... then you lose electricity.  

the one factor that usually divides the price of accommodations is air conditioning and although it's cool enough in the evenings it's pretty warm mid day so it's nice to have but not really necessary this time of year.

December 21, 2015

time to enjoy the island

enough about airlines, travel nightmares, military regimes and such.  i'm on the island and it takes me 10 minutes of riding around on a scooter to forget everything outside the bubble that is Koh Phangan. i'm flooded with memories of the last time i stayed on the island and as i ride around Sithanu it feels like home.  i check in at the yoga center and head down to the beach to my favorite spot to get a fresh coconut.  

later i meet up with friends at for dinner.  this is my favorite vegan restaurant on the island but everything is good and the plant based proteins all taste like meat or chicken.  i'm getting hungry just thinking about the kebab plate they make.

December 18, 2015

luk thep dolls - it's really creepy

few things register a 10 on my creepiness level anymore but this one for me is off the charts.  my first glimpse of this was at the Bangkok airport where i saw two adult asian men carrying dolls.  no big deal - probably toys for their daughters, right?  then why would they be stroking their hair and holding them as if they were real babies?  i wasn't the only who took a second look at what was going on.  i suspected it was a kind of therapy thing for fearful flyers so i dismissed it but turns out i was wrong. 

luk thep are dolls considered to possess a child's spirit.  they are believed to have supernatural powers, bring good fortune and are treated like real children.  it's an exploding trend in Thailand [who are a superstitious bunch anyhow].  

airlines have created policies around luk thep passengers - even selling seats for them.

it's like a Thai marketing executive with a bad quarter saw the movie Chuckie and created the trend.  don't laugh, i've worked at companies that have come up with really bizarre strategies.  whether it's a trend that goes away or a superstition that hangs around my first glimpse of it was really creepy.  so if you've been following my posts about flying the regional airlines you now understand why i recommend you get a luk thep.

December 16, 2015

can i blame the Thai military?

there were a few environmental issues [like 12 inches of snow in Denver] that dragged out the time it took to get to Thailand.  but there are some other things going on that travelers, tourists and anyone who flies in the area should know.

the FAA [United States Federal Aviation Authority] has down graded the safety level of Thai Airways for 'failure to meet minimum international standards' - this doesn't come as a surprise to anyone because it's a decision that is made after multiple warnings have been issued to the carrier that they are being 'red flagged'.

why did this happen?  i have very fond memories of my first trip on Thai Airways to Bangkok in 2003 where i flew first class and was treated like a princess.  Thai Airways is the major carrier in and out of Bangkok and is a state-controlled company that the military government targeted for reform after seizing control in May of 2014.  well, they've reformed it.  now they can't fly into the US.  

why do i care?  i like United Airlines.  i have a ton of miles on United and because of that they treat me well.  Thai Airlines has been part of the United partner alliance but they are pulling away from them because of the downgrade.  so basically my airline of choice has turned off the pipeline of flights to Asia. 

add that to the problems with other regional carriers like Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines and what was once an easy affordable region to fly around has now become a big roll of the dice.  i can only suggest you take a Luk Thep [ that's my next post]. 

Bangkok Airways which is the domestic carrier in Thailand is getting a special post because they deserve special recognition as the AIRLINE WITH THE WORST SERVICE. 

December 14, 2015

traveling is not always fun

after some time in the US i'm headed from Denver, Colorado to Thailand for a month of snorkeling, yoga, pad thai and i'm packed - my flight is 8AM in the morning so as i climb into bed to get a full night of sleep i check my inbox and get this email.... 

what follows is a series of delays and missed connections that turn my 30 hours of travel to Thailand into 96 hours of transit time.  i lost all my upgrades as i scrambled to get any seat on a flight going in a westerly direction, so yeah, getting there is not always fun.  

Bangkok Airways gets a special post since they were by far the nastiest of anyone i had to deal with.  the final leg of my journey was a 30 minute ferry ride and the usually calm crossing was so rough that bags stacked on one side of the ferry were flying across to the other side.  honestly, after the trip i'd had i wouldn't have been shocked if the boat went over.  when i got to the island and showered i crawled into bed and slept for 15 hours.

thank you to all the employees of ANA, United and Thai airlines who tried so hard to make the trip as easy as possible when everything is going wrong.  i usually buy travel insurance through World Nomads because it provides in country emergency medical care and evacuation back to the US but it also provides travel delay and interruption coverage.  i've never had to place a claim but i'll be sending in one now and see how they perform on the policy.

November 13, 2015

Myanmar elections

the elections in Myanmar are finished and thankfully without bloodshed or violence.  in another landslide victory the NLD [National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi] won 77% of the seats in parliament vs 10% for the military regime.  unlike the last election the military regime says it will hand over political power to those elected.  this in itself is progress, most probably made so that the military elite [who reserve for themselves 25% of the seats which means they still hold control over any constitutional changes] can continue to open it's doors to the west and exploit this resource rich country for their own gain.

still, this was a powerful moment for the people of Myanmar and one filled with emotion as a people who had never been able to vote in a 'free and fair' election lined the streets and waited for hours to cast votes.  voter turnout was over 70% and there was very few reports of fraud.  still this victory is just the first step in what will take generations to start providing basic infrastructure for the people.

now, the world will watch as Aung San Suu Kyi chooses a president and builds a government that is representative of the people.  i was asked recently about the Rohinga situation  and criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi for not speaking out about it.  it made me think about the challenge she faces now as at the age of 70 she starts to build a democratic government.

sure, the military is ceding political power but what is she inheriting?  she gets a country with no infrastructure - no roads [except in Naw Pyi Taw shown below], no clean water, no sewage system, no education system and no healthcare.  the challenges are overwhelming and i hope the people will be patient as progress will be slow.

when the military elite abandoned the city of Yangon they built a new capital where the roads are six lane highways made of concrete and empty of traffic while in Yangon it can take 30 minutes to travel 1 mile [2KM].

roads of Yangon
roads of Naw Pyi Taw

October 30, 2015

love the US

i found this ad in a magazine on my flight to the US.  i can only assume that Americans are now so lazy that they can't be bothered to unwrap gum before they eat it. 

October 26, 2015

final thoughts on Myanmar

one guide book says, don't visit Myanmar if, 'you don't like to compromise on such things as food and hotel quality and/or have a low tolerance for last-minute changes of plan or being denied conveniences such as round-the-clock power, use of ATMs and credit cards, your mobile phone and the internet.' if that isn't enough to discourage you they add 'in Myanmar, like many developing countries, there are questions around travel safety and health'

to that i would add ... there are areas of restricted travel, constant planning around how to avoid paying the government fees, open sewers, flooded streets, drivers that will run your ass over in a heartbeat, opium warlords with armies, trains that run on tracks for which they haven't been designed, the money grab associated with new access to revenue streams, a nightly foot cleaning ritual and an excess of peanut oil used on all foods.  did I mention the heat, mud and humidity?

what's not to like?

in reality the people of Manmar are adjusting to the changes in their government and responding for the most part very well to the tsunami of tourists that have descended on them.  the people of Myanmar have much to be proud of .... the rich history of the Bagan kingdoms, the strong cultural identity they are striving to maintain, the resilience that is required to survive a military regime.  

there is much work to be done to provide sustainable economic, social and environmental progress in the country but it is a very exciting time to be in Myanmar and i am thrilled that i was able to spend so much time here.

October 20, 2015

thai healthcare

as i referenced in a recent post, the healthcare in Thailand is the best in Asia and on par with most western countries.  in part the development of the came from the American response of tightening visa controls after the horrific attacks of September 2001.  there was a demand for high quality healthcare for middle eastern clients and Thailand was willing to step up.

there is a hospital reception at the Bangkok airport that will process your admission and shuttle you to the hospital. so it's not so bad if you need to treatment since Bangkok is just an hour flight from Yangon.

the website is available in Thai, English, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.  they offer all inclusive 'fixed priced fly in packages' and it's not just plastic surgery, it's dental, obgyn, heart surgeries at 10% - 20% what it would cost in the US.  

October 14, 2015

real posts on the Yangon expat board

there's a google group for expats in Yangon.  it's the go to information board for housing, buying and selling stuff, services, etc.  it's about 99% westerners so there's not a lot misunderstanding.  since facebook has hit the scene in Myanmar there's a page there that has gotten popular.  there are a lot more nationals posting there and some of the results are downright hysterical.

October 12, 2015

elevators aka lifts - scary stuff

my dad was a civil engineer and whenever i find myself navigating a poorly designed parking lot in the USA i find myself smiling at the memory of him in the same situation cursing the city engineer who would approve such a design.  god forbid it was planed incorrectly to drain after a rainstorm.

so i wish he was still around to explain what is going on with the elevators [lifts] in Asia - they are a nightmare for anyone with disabilities who is actually the group that most needs to use elevators.  for a reason unfathomable to me the elevator access is never on the ground level - it's always up a half flight of stairs.  then you get into the elevators which were clearly built for hobbits and travel at the speed of turtles.... okay...  i'll admit that i have mild claustrophobia but still .... i'm holding my breath every time i step into one of them.  karma must be on my side because i've yet to get stuck in one.  on the plus side there always seems to be an elevator attendant so maybe it's his job to pry open the doors if the elevators get stuck.

October 8, 2015

healthcare in Myanmar

Benjamin Shobert, a writer for Forbes did an excellent analysis of the healthcare in Myanmar but here's the short version.

don't get sick.  if you are a westerner and you do, head to Bangkok.  it would be a mild understatement to say that healthcare in Myanmar is suffering badly from fifty years of neglect.  the WHO [World Health Organization] ranked Myanmar dead last out of 190 countries for overall care.  malaria is the leading cause of mortality and TB rates are estimated to be three times the global rate.

i've already bitched about how you can't buy aspirin over the counter at a pharmacy, how 40% of the bottled water is still considered unsafe to drink and how the bandaids [plasters] only stick to your skin for about 5 minutes.  but that's nothing compared to what i stumbled across one day as i was in a building looking for an office.  it was a private pay clinic and there was an overwhelming sense of death and despair.  there were bunk beds with patients lined against the walls and nothing looked sanitized.  my heart sunk when i realized this is the healthcare system most citizens have to use.

here's the good news ... the military regime has started to give NGOs access to the country [which they previously did not because they didn't trust them] and they are making a real difference in the lives of the people.  i met the USA Director of World Child Cancer and was amazed with the work they are doing to provide diagnosis and treatment to children with cancer in developing countries.  READ about how they help and please consider a DONATION to support their efforts.

October 3, 2015

gangster capitalism

i get asked from time to time about the government in Myanmar.  is there progress being made?  will there be free and fair elections?  

Aung San Suu Kyi has long been a SHERO of mine and part of the reason i had such a fascination about Burma.  i'd read her books and followed her house arrest and the crazy stories like the uninvited american who swam across the lake to her house.  her house is clearly marked on University Avenue with signs for the NLD and the taxi drivers often point it out to me with pride.

she has and will continue to make a difference regardless of how the military regime tries to shut her down and is probably the one person in the country that can bring together all the factions outside the military to unite under one flag.  at the moment it remains a monumental task.  will the november elections be 'free and fair'? 

it doesn't matter.

in the end, the network of cronies are not going to give up power and money.  it will transition more like Russia has with the military elite controlling the economic development and riding the tide of money that will flood the country after the elections.  hopefully that tide will raise up everyone just enough that they can begin to transition into a better place.

October 1, 2015

typhoid is bad but dengue is really really bad

again i heard about someone sick with typhoid.  there's a immunization for that so i don't know why people skip it typhoid is bad.  there are a lot of other nasty tropical diseases that can't be prevented so you are still rolling the dice every time you walk out the door.  malaria is pretty common although somewhat preventable if you incorporate tonic and anti malarials into your diet.

dengue is a different kind of disease.  it's not preventable, it's really prevalent in Myanmar and extremely uncomfortable when you get it.  the misquitos that carry dengue roam during the day and suspect areas are sprayed every week with what is probably just as toxic as the disease.  anything but a mild case is untreatable with the standard of care available in Myanmar.  an early diagnosis generally gets you an immediate plane ticket to Bangkok and a more advanced case will get you an air ambulance to Bangkok.  it's amazing how incredibly different the healthcare systems have evolved.  shame on on the Military Generals who care so little for the people that they have never provided even basic healthcare.

i was ill enough one time to go to the clinic.  i woke up feeling miserable.  i immediately took a taxi to the international clinic, where as you can see they don't like to take any chances and just send you home with a whole pharmacy of drugs.

part of the reason for the overload of drugs is the international clinic [of which there are several in yangon] is they are the only place you reliably get western quality drugs.  

they have local pharmacies that have a few what we would call 'over the counter' drugs but they don't even sell asprin.  that's something you have to go to the hospital to get.  the local "hospitals" range from basic to really, really scary.


September 30, 2015

novatel opens a fancy hotel

i stopped in at a newly opened Novotel Hotel in Yangon.  it's walking distance with decent sidewalks from the apartment and they have good coffee.  the pool on the roof is amazing and for a short time was open to expat for free which was really nice as the weather was 100+/39+.  it was an effort to win over some expats as the initial opening had not gone well they were struggling a bit as early guests were arriving and the paint was still wet all the walls.  in particular the staff was criticized because they were so pretentious.  yeah, girls you get wear heels and short skirts at work but it's still a service job so adjust your attitude.

September 28, 2015

the big P

mostly i think to keep the tourists from noticing the mold and decay of the rest of the city, Yangon promotes the Shwedagon Pagoda as it's biggest attraction.  and it is impressive, with jewels and leaves of gold, built to stand out for miles in every direction.  it's a sacred place, so sacred that you can't wear footwear and you must be covered from elbows to knees.  unlike most sacred spaces, they provide companies the opportunity to advertise wireless internet access and charge a FEE if you are not a local.  you'll also run the gauntlet of vendors selling worthless trinkets lining the approach which is about half a kilometer.

take the time and go ride the circular train instead. 

at one time as an expat with properly stamped resident papers you could get in without a fee but now they just shake their heads and point at the fee board.  most people i know take their guest up to one of the bars/restaurants overlooking the pagoda towards evening as it is impressive to watch the sunset and moon rise and the lights come up at the pagoda.  unless you're a practicing Buddhist there's nothing to really see inside the perimeter [you can't go inside the actual stupa unlike a temple where the religious practice is inside] and it's voyeuristic to stand and watch those who are in the moment practicing.

September 23, 2015

Myanmar mulls left-hand drive car law

there's a lot of stuff that's different in Myanmar.  there is the fact that most cars [90%] have the steering wheel/driver on the right side of the car we call that right hand drive or RHD.  what makes it different from other countries with this car orientation is they also drive on the right hand side of the road.  again, superstition ... one of the generals switched the driving from left to right on the advice of a wizard.

well, now there gonna change that..... can't wait to see when that law hits.

Myanmar mulls left-hand drive car law

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar plans to make left-hand drive cars compulsory, state media reported Sunday, causing concern in a country where the vast majority of vehicles remain right-hand drive despite cars driving on the right.

The law is an attempt to correct one of the more unusual legacies of decades of junta rule.

More than four decades ago Myanmar’s paranoid and notoriously superstitious dictator Ne Win ordered all citizens to drive on the right.

The reasons were never stated, but many said the change was either made following advice from an astrologer or was a rebuke to Myanmar’s former colonial master Britain, where vehicles are driven on the left.

After junta rule gave way to a quasi-civilian reformist government in 2011 and the lifting of most Western sanctions, the car market exploded.

But an estimated 90 percent of the vehicles remain right-hand drive -- primarily because most of the affordable cars available and brought in by importers are second-hand vehicles from Japan.

The strange quirk creates daily havoc on Myanmar’s increasingly congested roads, with drivers often having no clear line of sight before overtaking and buses regularly disgorging passengers into the middle of a road rather than onto a pavement.

The government now aims to correct that anomaly.

According to a report in the Global New Light of Myanmar a new law was given initial approval last week that will make left-hand drive vehicles compulsory.

The report made no mention of when the law would come into effect or whether citizens would receive any help from the government to initiate the change.

"The new law drawn by the Road Transport Administration Department pointed out that use of right-hand drive cars is incompatible with the existing drive-on-the-right traffic system from the standpoint of ensuring road safety in Myanmar," the report said, adding that drivers would have 90 days to make the change.

The same state media report voiced rare official criticism of the proposals, saying many were hoping the government would give drivers more time to make the switch.

"People will suffer losses if they are asked to abandon their right-hand drive cars during a short period of time," U Nyan Tun Oo, Yangon Region Minister for Electricity and Industry, was quoted as saying, adding that taxis and buses should be switched first.

The report added that over 50,000 right-hand drive vehicles are currently on showroom floors waiting to be sold, according to Dr Soe Tun, president of Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Dealers Association.

In recent years Myanmar’s roads -- particularly in cities like Yangon and Mandalay -- have become choked by the influx of cars that accompanied the country’s opening to the world after decades of military rule.

And the gridlock looks set to get worse.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is working with Myanmar on several nationwide transport projects, predicts the number of cars clogging Yangon’s pot-holed roads will quadruple to around one million.

September 21, 2015

nat worship

no discussion of Buddhism or religion in Myanmar would be complete without a mention of the nats.  it's something else that is singular to the country, although the manifestation of evil spirits is common to all religions.  there's a specific list of nats like there are saints.  usually a nat is a human that has met a violent death and they are worshiped in much the way a saint would be venerated.  

ask a national about the nats and you'll get something similar to a 'ghost story' with the same passion and creepiness that goes along with the western tradition.

mt. popa is the largest of the shrine sites and hosts a festival on the full moon in December.  i did not visit mt. popa ... it's a day trip from Bagan because the other travelers i knew were a bit disappointed with the experience.  it is more actively practiced in the rural than the urban areas but they are everywhere and i saw the box below on a tree along the river in Yangon.  there is also an easy to find and quite impressive Nat Shrine in Hsipaw, to the north.

September 19, 2015

monks and nuns in myanmar

begging nuns - scotts market in yangon

the tradition of monks and nuns in Myanmar goes back to the 10th century and has remained for the most part, completely unchanged in the country. monasteries take in the unwanted children and they end up begging on the streets for offerings.  my heart breaks for the little girls with heads shaved following the older girls with no idea what they are doing.  

they go from store to store, house to house, restaurant to tea shop looking for whatever might be given.  in a lot of places there is a rice bowl with a scoop and each child who begs gets one spoonful of rice.

the little beggar girls from the Buddhist monastery on my street know me and will cross the street when they see me because they know i will empty my wallet. 

September 17, 2015

merit making

previously i'd mentioned the Buddhists persecution of the Rohingya in the Rahkine State of Myanmar and there's more that differs between the Buddhists of Burma and Buddhists in other countries.  there's a lot of them...  people from around the world have long flocked to Burma to study Buddhism and an overwhelming 85% or more of the population identify as Buddhists.  most are not conservative Buddhists, they eat animals, drink alcohol, beat muslims, etc.
street facade for 'merit making' week

strangely, unlike most military dictatorships, there was no effort in Myanmar to shut down religion after they took control.  in fact, they promoted and embraced it as a way of 'merit making'.  the military elite pours money into the building of pagodas [pagodas you walk around - temples you can walk into].

which leads me to the one of the annoying things about buddhists in burma which i have not encountered elsewhere.  merit making is the practice of good deeds and charity in order to obtain a favorable rebirth.  see that picture of the facade that is erected over the street?  that roughly translates to 'you are f#ck3d for the next week' and 'you will get no sleep'.  

preaching platform
on the street which they close down at dusk they build these 'altars' on which at some point in the night the head monk will come out and start preaching.  it's a really, really small area - like 1000 sq feet [sorry Europeans you do the math] but they use loudspeakers projected outwards to the community so non one misses out.  then, because the monks need to collect their food before sunrise, they loudly call all the monks to come around 4AM.  i know normally rational expats who, having lost sleep for days, will curse the monks who do this.

even more annoying is they ongoing list of merit makers that is read over a loudspeaker, sometimes starting at 6AM, and this goes on as long as it takes to collect the money needed to support the local monastery.

in the rural area i visited the presence and influence of the monks varies widely from village to village.  in some it was very passive and in others quite dominant.  see my post on a really sacred moment. in one village where we sat through an evening ceremony the most interesting to me were the bats flying around but i'm sure anyone in the village who was absent was noted by the monks.

September 15, 2015


i know i've been spending too much time traveling because the airports in SE Asia are getting way to familiar.  i actually budgeted time to hit the duty free shop in Bangkok before heading back to Yangon.  the reason for the stop was to get some real vodka.  real vodka you say, what about all that Absolut and Barcardi on the shelves at the store at the local grocery?  

when i was first in Myanmar i was shocked at the cost and availability of western brand alcohol.  a one liter bottle of Absolut costs about US11$.  i thought the relative cost of alcohol was the government's way of keeping the nationals numbed.  turns out i could not have been more wrong.  one of the expats explained is all fake alcohol made in china, where of course there are no limmitations on brand infringement.  on the shelf at the grocery store between the 'fodka' and 'facaradi' i found the tonic for 'general health'.  

the British, when they colonized Burma, pretty quickly set up a rum distillery and it's legacy remains.  it's called Mandaly Rum and it sells for about US1.50$ per liter.  it is not good.  on the other hand, there is a local beer called Myanmar Beer which does get pretty good reviews by the expats. 

May 25, 2015

execution in Indonesia

the Bali 9 is a drug smuggling ring of Australian guys who were caught and convicted by Indonesia authorities.  two were sentenced to death by firing squad the rest were sentenced to life.  when i mentioned to an Australian friend in Myanmar that i was traveling to Bali she was telling me how wonderful the island was but cautioned me against was doing drugs.  i had heard of the Bali 9 before but she had a connection to the parents of one the men convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  she was telling me about how they have to pay someone to see after their son for the rest of his life in an Indonesian prision.  food, medicine and other things not provided by the prision.  the caretaker has to constantly buy him matresses as they get nicked quite often.

those convictions were ten years ago and the executions of two Bali 9 happened on the day i left Bali along with six others convicted of drug related crimes.  it has been in the news quite a bit and the topic of conversations among fellow travelers.  even in the US the death penalty is used mostly in violent crimes and i can't imagine a drug smuggler being sentenced to death.

of course, outside the US most western countries are horrified at the idea of a death penalty so the conversations were focused on spending travel dollars in countries that have human rights violations.  the Australians are horified because it was the Australian authorities that tipped the Indonesians about the drug ring knowing that executiion was a possible outcome.

the executions were on a different island so there were not any organized protests on Bali. i did notice an increased police presence but when i asked my taxi driver about it he insisted that the police were cracking down on mushroom sales.

it's a horrible outcome and cautionary tale for all travelers.

May 23, 2015

last day in Bali

my last day in Bali was not boring. in the morning i walked down to the beach thinking i'd have it to myself but it was pretty crowded. on the way back to the hotel i stopped for coffee and had a chat with a guy from New Zealand. he said he'd been walking up and down the street because he'd left his rented motorbike somewhere the night before. the 'street' is about 5 miles long and lined with thousands of motor bikes. i finished my coffee and wished him luck as he ordered his third beer .... at 9AM! and that is why i never leave my passport when i rent a scooter.

i wander up and down the lanes and love the street art. Bali seems to have a healthy network of graphiti artists. one last massage and i'm ready to leave Bali.

lastly, i've stayed a lot of places in Bali but the staff and people i met at the Akmani Hotel have made my trip unforgetable.  for anyone, i recommend a visit to the pool on the roof of the hotel although the massages and other services of the hotel are exceptional as well.