December 31, 2006

maintenance in progress....

[250606] in process of setting up categories function, as of now they are still non-functional, please bear with e mess ;)

[ postdated to keep at top of page ]

December 28, 2006

Re: Meowy Catmas Eve!

on Christmas eve there was no boat from Muang Khua going south to Nong Khiaw, so detoured by bus via Pak Nam Noi & Oudomxai. ended up stuck in Pak Mong for that night as no more onward transport to Nong Khiaw....but made new friends along e way, who helped e cat to find a place to koon. so reached Nong Khiaw a day late =|
power supply + phone lines to Nong Khiaw were cut off e next day, so Christmas dinner (& cooking & laundry & bathing) was by candlelight + torchlight. Nong Khiaw is amazingly beautiful, a pity (or a blessing?) that most tourists simply zip through.
then e cat was off to Luang Prabang, where it is right now. net access & phone networks didn't work (earthquake in Taiwan?), only thing was able to send out were postcards ;) wonderful world heritage city, though tourism is turning it into a zoo....
an hour after arriving e cat was stopped by Wat Ho Xieng monks wanting to practise their English, & a few hours later it found itself teaching half of an English night class at e invitation of a 20-y/o monk. & today it taught another English night class to university students at e invitation of a guesthouse staff who turned out to be a part-time English teacher. really fun interacting with e locals of e city =) apparently quite successful at passing off as one of them too, which they say makes e cat less intimidating to approach for English conversation practice (as compared to Caucasian tourists). great for avoiding hawkers & tuktuk drivers too ;)
on 30th will leave by slow boat for Huay Xai, a 2-day journey with a night in Pak Beng.

December 18, 2006

Re: 171206 Chiangmai - Chiangrai - Chiang Khong

Hi everyone,
Not sure if everyone received the sms, but e cat is now in Luang Namtha after a 7.5-hr bus ride and will be proceeding to Muang Sing tomorrow...

December 17, 2006

171206 Chiangmai - Chiangrai - Chiang Khong

1 plane ride + 3 bus rides + 1 tuktuk ride later....e cat is alive in Chiang Khong =)

survived e Singapore-Chiangmai flight full of sing-gar-poh lang2, got rid of a pushy songthaew driver who wanted to charge e cat 80 baht from e airport to e Arcade bus station, missed 2 #6 public buses that refused to stop, took e #11 public bus for 15 baht instead & had a pleasant half hour tour of e old city with e whole air con bus to e cat + driver + conductor + a monk....=)

e green public intercity buses departing from Chiangmai have fixed numbered seating, even for e non-AC 'ordinary' buses, which resulted in a lot of climbing about in e aisle that even e cat finds too narrow....had some Lahus + papa smurfs (no idea what red berets mean in e Thai army though) + monks for company on e ride. met some really wonderful people along e way....airport security guard, bus driver, conductors, fellow solo backpackers, Chiang Khong tuktuk driver (so different from those in Bangkok)....

e Chiangrai-Chiang Khong bus had a (sturdy) wooden floor & e road between Phaya Mengrai & Chiang Khong was paved but super potholed. on e way to Chiangrai from Chiangmai, a big fat truck was lying on its side in a deep ditch - can't imagine any way of removing it other than hacking it into small pieces. waiting to see what kinda conditions Lao vehicles & unsealed roads will throw up....

Ban Tammila Guesthouse is right by e Mekong river with Huay Xai (Lao) directly opposite. will cross over to that side tomorrow morning =)

lao *miao*


e little straycat wanders off again....

updates at *miao* in lao (+ thailand)

meowy catmas + happy meow year in advance =)

December 16, 2006

olympus LI-10B battery + xD card

  • Olympus LI-10B batteries
    (for Olympus C-50/C60ZOOM & µ [mju:] 300/400/410 digital cameras)

  • xD cards

needed for 3 weeks (171206 - 070107)....

anyone has any to spare & is willing to lend to e cat? 10-Q!

[ 081106 update ] big fat 10-Q to e monumental one for e loan of TWO spare batteries =) a fellow Olympus mju300 owner, he brought e cat's one up to e Kinabalu summit 2 years ago, making it e camera's second time on e summit within an hour....& after that decided to get one of his own - we both dig hardy weatherproof stuff, since 'daintier' stuff might find their lifespans shortened in our hands/paws....

can e cat safely assume that he will be quite understanding should anything untoward happen to e batteries *touch wood* when e cat brings them to less-than-civilised places, since he himself frequents less-than-civilised places with sometimes not-very-kind terrain & weather conditions? ;)

(& having said this, no one will dare lend e cat their xD cards liao....)

[101106] how Olympus sells cameras to cats: *mjuuuuu*

last Saturday e cat watched e English version of this Olympus µ [mju:] 710 commercial while queueing at e Olympus service centre - here is e Japanese version from YouTube =) wonder how long it took to film this....& wonder how much fish was e cat model paid?

[ filed under: 9_lives_2006 + cats1 ]

December 12, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 21 MAG + Ban Apa

[171205] some of e villagers were coming to town to get food supplies for e volunteers in Ban Jalae, & would give us a ride to MAG. at 1000AM in e elastic timezone of Thailand we were to look out for a Lahu guy at e bus station. e bag-loving bus station guy was there again, & paranoid us kept moving around to avoid him =P

finally met Jatee (whom Pi Moo referred to as 'Yatee' over e phone, making e cat rather confused - don't all Lahu guys' names start with 'Ja'?) & a twincab-ful of Lahus from Ban Jalae, & set off for e wholesale market:


e market is like a giant sheltered carpark, & farmers drive their trucks laden with fresh produce here, park them in e 'parking lots', & sell their stuff from e back of their vehicles. YK found a lady selling goreng pisang, & treated us all to some. e lady had a dog that gobbled up all e bits of fried batter that fell to e ground, a really unhealthy diet!

back at MAG in Ban Huay Khom one year after A.W.E. 2004:


& then we were off to Ban Apa in e back of a truck headed for Ban Jalae, with Hep, a Thai volunteer, e 'casualty list' Pi Moo had printed out for us, & photos of A.W.E. team members together with their host families that e cat had printed out to help in identifying people (but with e sheet with Atee's family photo folded & kept away). Agong's wife was on e list =( left a dust storm in our wake as e truck bumped along e rocky unsealed road out of Ban Huay Khom. got off at e bridge outside Ban Aja & started walking up e slope to Ban Apa, not knowing what kinda 'atmosphere' to expect.

met Acha's eldest son along e way:


relieved to see them - if e kids could still be playing, perhaps things weren't that bad?

as we walked in....e familiar swing, miss q's host's hut, an unfamiliar new wooden house next to it, Agong's house, e shelter where Acha parks his truck, another unfamiliar concrete house that has taken e place of e headman's hut, e info centre built by e A.W.E. team, Atee's hut, e shop, an unfamiliar new 'karaoke palace' hut outside Naga's host's 'panda' hut, & Ata as usual busy sewing at e shelter that serves as her handicraft stall....with a villager swathed in blankets lying next to her, & more villagers sitting on a mat on e ground outside rumpel's host's hut, some with bandages, waiting for their turn to consult e village herbalist.

Ata recognised us & sprang forward to offer us bananas from e bunch she had beside her =) rest of e afternoon passed by in a blur as we went from house to house to verify & update e 'casualty list' - who, how severe, back home or still in hospital, back to work or still recuperating, etc. Mithi had been buried e day (before?) we flew off from Singapore, & Atee was now away trying to sort out legal issues, with Michu in e care of his elderly mum & other village women. there was some confusion over whether SM + HY's host's wife was e mute lady that Pi Moo said was hurt...turned out that there are two mute ladies in e village, & it was Aseu's wife who was injured. Agong's wife was seeking treatment in nearby Ban Phukor & being cared for by relatives there, & Thanchanok was helping her granddad to take care of Ban-on & Aklor while Agong was away at work.


e truck with an apparently drunk driver slid downhill & overturned into e depression on e right of e road, pinning 26 villagers beneath. those who managed to crawl/dig their way out survived. two didn't. villagers believe that e site is cursed - a villager committed suicide there some years ago.

& then we walked out to e main road & to Ban Huay Mae Sai school, before catching a songthaew back to Chiangrai city to update those in Singapore on e situation.

chiangrai 2005 - 20 General Duan's tomb

[161205] General Duan's tomb on e hillside above Khum Nai Phol resort, overlooking Mae Salong in e direction of Ban Klang:


e guy who has taken over e late Huang Jiafu's 'guard duty' at e tomb:


interesting fella sits at a small table on e left & is more than willing to chat at length with e occasional visitor. told us that e late General Duan took care of e orphaned children of his men, ensuring that they received an education. he gave YK a photostated copy of some write-up (in Chinese) on e history of e KMT army in Mae Salong, & we gave him a 2 Singapore dollar note to add to his currency collection =)

souvenir shop at e base of e tomb, in a rather picturesque setting beneath a beautiful tree with e absence of leaves revealing branches most graceful:


e owner saw us trekking up e slope to e tomb & stopped to give us a lift in his 4WD =) he'd just finished clearing a hillside trail linking e tomb to e Goddess of Mercy temple above e morning market, & suggested that we use that shortcut to return to Shin Sane guesthouse.

e trail he cleared - had e honours of being e very first users:


at some points e trail wasn't really distinct, & we had to look for signs of disturbance to e vegetation, before finding e link to a path at e back of temple grounds:


kinda weird walking 'home' by such a path after a 'shopping spree' - we'd bought fried bamboo worms & coconut chips as gifts for Agong's family & our friends in Singapore =P

back of temple grounds:


saddest gibbon in Mae Salong:


so many of these amazingly agile acrobats are held captive & chained up in tourist spots around Thailand, even in bars & nightspots. & going by e experience of e gibbon rescue centre in Phuket, once taken away from their social groups, e success rate of rehabilitating captive individuals & reintroducing them into e wild isn't very high....a tropical rainforest devoid of their whooping & singing calls echoing through e morning light is a rather empty place.

finally got to see e mosque up close:


recycling bins outside mosque - an abandoned project?


saying goodbye to Mr He before returning back to Chiangrai city:


shared a songthaew with two guys in their twenties heading back to their jobs in Vietnam. on our way up to Mae Salong we'd been waved through at e Ban Akha Sam Yaek military checkpoint, but this time on our way down our songthaew was stopped & soldiers questioned who e cat was (illegal Burmese cat smuggling?)....& e two guys had to explain that it was a tourist!

got off along e highway a couple of kilometres shy of Chiangrai city, while e guys continued on to Chiangrai International Airport. e songthaew driver charged us only e 60 baht Mae Salong-Ban Pasang fare =P YK & e cat were left standing by e roadside along Asia Superhighway No. 1 until they flagged down a green songthaew heading towards e city. & then it was a mad rush climbing onto e songthaew roof to haul e backpacks up, & then scrambling into e back as vehicles zoomed by us on e expressway....something e cat will never try on e expressways back in Singapore! YK was somewhat miffed that e songthaew driver refused to lift even a fingernail to help us with our barang.

& that was not e end of e songthaew adventure. on reaching Chiangrai bus station, e cat climbed up again to get e backpacks down, & turned around to pass one into what it thought were e hands of YK - just as YK pulled e owner of e pair of hands away, & e backpack fell to e ground....this strange guy who spends e whole day hanging around e bus station was over eager in trying to help (we think....benefit of doubt) us with our bags (maybe for a tip in return?), & YK was trying to stop him from tugging at e cat clinging onto e songthaew ladder.

rest of e day was spent checking through e whole list of emails from A.W.E. 2004 team members, discussing e donations with 2 of them on web MSN, tallying up e total amount donated, & contacting Pi Moo....

chiangrai 2005 - 19 chinese martyrs memorial museum

[161205] 豆浆油条 breakfast at e morning market again:


e kids took over e running of e stall after their mother passed away, & wake up before dawn (e market comes to life around 0500AM) to churn out you2 tiao2 & ham3 ji1 peng2 before rushing off to school.

2 days ago they were fresh:


landslide that explains why e designated area for a market remains unused:


Chinese Martyrs Memorial Museum:


we were e only visitors that morning, & some guy appeared out of nowhere to collect e 20 baht entrance fee & unlock a gate for us, though it seems that anyone can just walk in for free from e back....

spent e longest time in e exhibition hall which was full of extensive write-ups in Chinese, Thai & English:


Kuomintang (KMT) retreat route (blue) from Yunnan through Xishuangbanna into Burma & Vietnam with Communist forces in pursuit (red):


appears that Muang Sing, Luang Namtha & parts of Phongsali in today's Lao PDR & Kengtung & other northern bits of Shan state in present day Myanmar were then part of China?

crossing at Tachilek (Burma):


presumably across e Ruak(?) river into today's Mae Sai, e northernmost point of Chiangrai & Thailand where tourists flock to enroute to e Golden Triangle? e account of their journey across e mountains & rivers of Xishuangbanna & Shan state & e numbers of soldiers & family members who didn't make it to e end & had to be buried along e way or abandoned to die in e jungle reminded e cat of e stuff it'd read about e Long March & e Hmong escape from e Pathet Lao into Thailand.


some of e forces ended up crossing into Thailand from present day Lao PDR, establishing themselves at Doi Pha Tang in Chiangrai:


J of Baan Bua Guesthouse is from Doi Pha Tang, & a 3rd generation descendant of e KMT forces that settled there. Doi Pha Tang is somewhere north of Phu Chi Fa along e Thai-Lao border, & we'd wanted to visit e place. supposedly beautiful with cherry blossom trees like Mae Salong, but getting there without your own transport is difficult.

HM e King Bhumiphol & Queen Sirikit:


e KMT forces in Mae Salong & Doi Pha Tang were useful to e Thais in e days of territorial disputes with Burma & Lao. they also became involved in e opium trade around e time of e Secret War in Lao & Vietnam War.

Generals Lei Yutian & Duan Xiwen, two key figures whose names we heard several times while in Mae Salong:


we would later meet e 'successor' of this guy who used to stand guard at General Duan's tomb on a hillside overlooking Mae Salong every day until he passed away:


across from e exhibition hall is another hall with pictures documenting e development of Mae Salong with Taiwanese aid. completion of a bridge along Yong Le Road, along which we'd trekked e day before:


December 08, 2006

where is e cat?

[171206-181206] + [010107-070107]:


embassy info

Singapore Embassy in Lao PDR
Tel: +856-21-416-860, 412-477
Fax: +856-21-416-855
Ban Naxay, Unit 12, Nong Bon Road, Saysettha district, Vientiane

Lao PDR Embassy in Singapore
Tel: +65-62506044, 62506741
Fax: +65-62506014
101 Thomson Road #05-03A United Square Singapore 307591

from MFA website:

If you lose your Singapore Passport while travelling overseas, you should report the loss to the nearest Singapore overseas mission. The overseas mission can assist you in obtaining a Document of Identity to facilitate your return to Singapore.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Make a police report (request for a copy of the report. If not possible, request for an acknowledgement slip or receipt. If none of the articles can be given to you, please ask for the report number and note down the name/location of the police station.)
  • Contact the nearest Singapore overseas mission. You will need to furnish the following documents:
    - the local police report;
    - documentary proof of Singapore citizenship (eg. identity card);
    - 2 passport-sized photographs.
  • Apply for a replacement passport personally at ICA upon your return to Singapore.

December 06, 2006

monkey bars guy

last night out cat dad suddenly asked cat what happened to cat friend....

cat: which one?

cat dad: go kindergarten with you one....

cat: which one? (cat went to 4 kindergartens....)

cat dad: stay (name of area) & go (name of kindergarten) & (cat primary school) one....

cat: which one? (so many went to that kindergarten & cat primary school & stay in that area....)

cat dad: parents divorced one....

cat: which one? (so many with divorced parents who went to that kindergarten & cat primary school & stay in that area....)

cat dad: last time come our house one...

cat: oh....(melbourne cap one....)

monkey bars guy is among those who did not meet last criteria (come to cat house).

more hyperactive than cat + incredible sense of balance + agility. played together almost every recess from K1 until primary 5, minus 1-2 years when cat was in other kindergartens. taught cat how to play monkey bars + hang upside down from them + climb up to sit on top out of angry teachers' reach. also taught cat how to hang upside down from chin-up bars + climb up to sit on top of tallest one out of angry teachers' reach. amazing skill no one managed to learn from him = how to 'run' on e spot on chin-up bars. teachers too amazed to be angry.

monkey bars guy highly intelligent. once 3rd in class. then dad had mistress. parents divorced. cat think teachers biased against monkey bars guy, out to make life miserable for him (happened to many other schoolmates too). kena condemned + blamed for anything & everything. monkey bars guy rebelled, many trips to vice-principal's office. monkey bars guy accused of stealing toothpaste(!?!?!) + etc from teacher in staffroom. school called home. no parent available to come down, only elder sis. in primary 5 monkey bars guy started hanging out with bicycle gang & smoking. cat sometimes saw them in Marine Parade Central.

monkey bars guy ended up in 2 secondary schools. worked hard & walked into principal's office of cat eldest kor's secondary school & demanded to be promoted from normal academic to express stream with his improved results - & got what he asked for. that was when monkey bars guy last met up with cat during visit back to primary school around 1993-4. years later, cat saw monkey bars guy name in papers. arrested & charged in court for 'rioting' after 'pia1 jwee4' at Far East Plaza area. cat dunno outcome/sentence.

earlier this year, cat found monkey bars guy on friendster. embraced religion, life back on track =)

there are many others, & cat can still recall most of their names & interesting things about life that cat has learnt from their lives, even though cat lost touch with most of them when cat went to faraway secondary school. somehow most were not from cat class. anyway cat is grateful & feels very blessed to have honour to know & learn from them. thankew you.

cat sometimes wonder how fate gave cat these friends, & why. what has cat done to deserve so much? cat happy that our paths crossed early in childhood, long before teachers + parents input their adult ways of being judgemental into us. cat learnt a lot from them, more than what cat learnt from teachers of 4 kindergartens + 1 primary school combined. apart from monkey bar stunts, shooting red ant nests with rubberbands & teachers with paper bullets, & fighting off bullies, they taught cat lessons about life that continue to be useful till this day. cat also learnt a lot about how our society condemns people. & that it can be possible to claw back for second, third, fourth, nth chances....if one can dig deep enough within oneself for tremendous reserves of energy it takes & boh3 hiew4 what other people think, one can be survivor.

cat primary school now morphed into brand name school with rich parents paying $$$$$ for addresses within 1km radius. no more non-majority race students = cat wonder if students there still have interesting schoolmates in such a homogenised environment?

melbourne cap

this draft was first created on 071105 while packing for Kyoto 2005 trip, & continued again while packing for upcoming (place to be disclosed) 2006 trip

[061206] cat pack backpack again. simple process - pick out essentials from various boxes on shelf for travel/outdoor stuff. each time box containing cap + hat + etc is opened, cat will remember e other cap that is not there. black + red with white words, gift from Melbourne Tigers basketball team from kitten-hood days of helping out with organisation of basketball tournaments.

cat gave melbourne cap to friend more than 10 years ago. friend run away from home. relatives hunt for friend. friend need cap to disguise self + hide face. friend empty-handed when friend rang cat's doorbell one afternoon. cat gave its only cap + some cat clothes + cat toothpaste + not much $ (cat allowance approx $5/week) + can't remember what else. friend hide in cat room for e afternoon waiting for nightfall & cover of darkness, then friend gone. friend father + grandma know cat. friend grandma + aunt stay near cat house. cat house not safe. friend church refuse to shelter friend for night, might get into trouble if hide runaway.

friend appeared again more than 7 years ago. cat cannot remember how friend got in touch again. cat was in uni first(?) year. friend met up with cat at Parkway Parade. friend had put on weight - friend used to be stick-thin. friend bought bagel from Aunty Anne's. & then friend gone again.

more than 7 years on, cat wonders where is friend. cat has called friend relatives + asked church friends of friend + called family service centre social worker who used to handle friend case + searched friend name online. no luck. cat only have kindergarten class photo + some old letters from friend + friend primary 2 & 6 class photos in school yearbooks + fading memories.

friend was as tall as tallest guys in cat kindergarten class. friend loved policewoman mother. friend parents divorced. friend live with grandma + father relatives & sometimes father's factory in industrial estate. cat visit grandma house once. friend mother not allowed to meet friend. friend mother sneak into cat primary school to see friend. image carved into cat mind = friend mother talking to & holding hands of friend through metal bars of schoolbus window. schoolbus driver said friend looked like Taiwanese.

in primary 3 friend went for track & field school team selection trials with cat. cat made it but friend did not. after trials friend asked cat dad for 30 cents to buy drink. cat dad + cat know friend no money to pay back. cat dad didn't mind cos cat dad was once dirt poor. cat amazed as cat dad never gave cat that much pocket money (or any for that matter) before! =P

friend had elder brother in infamous secondary school nearest to second house cat lived in in Singapore. friend brother known as 'peh3 hoon4' aka. bai2 fen3 (lit. white powder = heroin). at 19 years of age friend brother still in secondary 5. by primary 2 relative started raping friend. friend family blame friend for causing family shame. around secondary school time friend tried to make police report. friend family threatened friend inside police station to stop report from being made. friend sent to Rose Villa. friend extremely unhappy there. later friend enrolled in nursing school but kicked out for 'doing something foolish'. friend became ambulance paramedic. that was when friend last met cat.

today cat tried Googling friend name again. for first time result appeared. friend name + place of work. cat cannot believe luck! friend now pursuing dream career =)

today also happens to be last day of white ribbon campaign, organised by men to end violence against women (& children). lua3 zun4. real men don't hurt! ;)

December 03, 2006

chiangrai 2005 - 18 Ban Panasawun to Ban Heka trek

[151205] third leg of Mae Salong to Ban Klang trek: from Ban Panasawun to Ban Klang & then to Ban Heka....

yet another Akha village:


e imperata grass thatched roofing is perfect for keeping e sun out & e interiors cool even in e blazing midday heat, no need for air-con =)

on either side of a small bridge:


everything is dated according to 'nth year of e Republic of China'. e road we have been walking along is called Yong3 Le4 Road

spirit gate of e Akha village:


salaa with a wonderful view of e valley below right outside e village:


e kinda place where you can sit down with a good book for a long long time =)

unidentified plant:


descending into tea plantation near Ban Klang:


& a final climb up to Ban Klang proper along e Ban Pasang-Mae Salong highway. sat down for ice cream & a chat with Mrs Li, who runs one of e roadside provision stores, & her husband, who has been to Taiwan for higher education. decided to continue with an approx 4km roundtrip to Ban Heka since we'd walked all e way here, & have never visited a Lisu village before....

between schools & villages there will be e trail of non-biodegradable litter left behind by kids:

photo by YK

in e days before plastic wrappers & tetrapaks & tin cans, littering wasn't so much of a problem. everything was wrapped up in huge teak leaves or fragrant banana fronds that you could throw just about anywhere, & e village cows, pigs, goats, chickens, dogs, rats & ants would take care of it.

left fork goes downhill to Ban Heka:


Ban Heka:

photo by YK

only evidence of this being a Lisu village:

photos by YK

a lady in a traditional light green Lisu top with e characteristic multiple super-thin-coloured-stripes sleeves.

Ban Heka was full of meows:


back at Ban Klang we had no luck hitching a ride from passing trucks & vans. Mrs Li came to our rescue, hailing 2 passing motorcyclists on their way to Mae Salong & asking them to give us a ride back....YK rode pillion with a young lady who has a Singaporean boyfriend, while e cat got a lift from some guy who was nice enough to drop it off right at e doorstep of Shin Sane =)

YK's choice of strange-looking 'noodles' for dinner at Salema again:

photo by YK