Friday Photo #15 and a Story from Bhutan

FridayPhotoBhutan

To me, this one somehow has an almost biblical feel. It’s a man selling chickens in a meat shop in the tiny Bhutanese capital of Thimpu. Click to enlarge it (and for comparison, here is the original, non-Photoshopped version). And see 115 more photos from the Himalayan Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon in the Bhutan Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

One of the chapters in my book Common Sense and Whiskey tells of our time in Bhutan. You can read that chapter in full for free, right here.

Have a look at the rest of the Friday Photos. And a good weekend to everybody.

Hoopla, Bargains and Free Stuff

leaf graphic

To go along with publication of Visiting Chernobyl (in the next few days), we’ll be dropping the price of the print edition of Common Sense and Whiskey and for a time, bundling it with a free Kindle edition; buy the print book, get both. And once Visiting Chernobyl is available in both formats we’ll give away the Kindle edition of Common Sense and Whiskey for free on select days next month. Stay tuned.

Welcome to CS&W Blog

And thanks for the nice emails from people who heard the radio interview that aired Friday on South Carolina ETV.

Common Sense and Whiskey, the Book – The Southern Caucasus, Chapter Fifteen

Here is Chapter Fifteen of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book, a very short trip through Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Track down previous chapters here. Click the photos to make them bigger. More photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia Galleries at EarthPhotos.com. Order the entire book for $9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or the Kindle version (just $4.99).

  ViennaAirport

The Wien Flughafen stood disturbingly deserted at night, all the shops stocked like Christmas, but you couldn’t play with the toys. They glittered and blinked coquettishly behind glass doors pulled shut.

Our old buddy Austrian Airlines left Vienna on a beeline toward Budapest, then Timisoara, Bucharest, Constanta, over the Black Sea to Trabzon and on into Yerevan, all of it in blackness below. The flight tracking screen showed our destination tucked right in between Grozny and Baghdad: “Local time in Jerewan 4:31 a.m.”

Austrian’s corporate color scheme was brilliant red, the national color, and the cabin crew was dressed red hat to sensible (but red) shoes. Fetching, I thought.

Taxiing out (“We are number one for takeoff”), a wail arose behind us. A woman screamed “Go back, go back and check!” Crimson crew rushed to her and kneeled and huddled round our distraught Armenian. One of them came back forward and PA’d their apologies, “Dis is not Azerbaijan, ve know dis.”

The safety announcements were recorded, and they were for the wrong destination. This woman wasn’t by God going to Baku. Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia had been shut tight for fifteen years.

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Next Week: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

  Church-small

14th century Trinity Church (Tsminda Sameba) near Mt. Kazbeg, Georgia.

Several days back we put up a list of links to reading about the Caucasus. Next week we'll publish our small contribution, the final chapter of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book, ($9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or $4.99 for the Kindle version.) here on the blog. It's the story of our quick rumble through the southern Caucasus, from Yerevan, Armenia to Tbilisi, Georgia and up the Georgia Military Highway to the Russian border and Mt. Kazbeg, then over to Baku and the scary post-industrial Caspian Sea island of Pirallahi, in Azerbaijan. See previous CS&W chapters here.

 

Common Sense and Whiskey, the Book – Malawi, Chapter Fourteen

Here is Chapter Fourteen of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book, including a journey on the famous MV Ilala across Lake Malawi. We're publishing each chapter here on the blog (Track down previous chapters here). You can order the entire book for just $9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or direct from EarthPhotos Publishing. Here's the Kindle version (just $4.99). Click these photos to make them bigger. More photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the Malawi Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.


14 LAKE MALAWI

“On your right is area 50. This here is area 28, light industrial area. Across the road there is fertilizer factory and tobacco factory. That is heavy industrial area.”

The national police headquarters came into view on the right.

“That is area 40.”

Just across the street, “Area 43,” Everlasting explained, “Is low industrial. It used to be only area ten, and area ten is still there, but it is full, so they have made area 43.”

“We also have names but our names are too long, so we just say, say, area 12.”

Malawi’s Ministries stood on the left.

“So, is that area 1?”

Logical, I thought.

“No, that is area 20.”

This went on all through Lilongwe.

“Ah, that is area 47. Up there, that’s area 49. National Bank. Bank of the Nation.” The tallest building in Malawi is the central bank.

“This is the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in Malawi.”

•••••

When we met, our driver told us, “I am Everlasting.” We sort of looked away, and then we realized that was his name.

Everlasting was a slow, deliberate speaker, easy enough to understand once you got acclimated. His “S’s” kind of trailed off.

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Common Sense and Whiskey, the Book – Borneo, Chapter Thirteen

Here is Chapter Thirteen of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book. We're publishing each chapter here on the blog (Track down previous chapters here). You can order the entire book for just $9.99 at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or direct from EarthPhotos Publishing. Here's the Kindle version (just $4.99). Click these photos to make them bigger. More photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the Malaysia Gallery (including Borneo) at EarthPhotos.com.

13 BORNEO

A fine young man with a Yesus Kristus medallion bouncing around beneath his mirror drove us the seven or so kilometers into Mt. Kinabalu park, through the sleeping village of Kundasang. Farmers congregated at a warren of tin-roofed stalls along the main road. It looked like a good day for green tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbage.

They hauled us all in bas minis from the ranger station to the trailhead. From there, a six-kilometer trail led up to our destination, the Laban Ratah guest house, at 11,000 feet. At 13,432 feet, Mt. Kinabalu’s summit, in Malaysian Borneo, is the highest point in Southeast Asia.

The first kilometer (the trail was marked at each 1/2 kilometer) popped by in 23 minutes. We were flyin’, and all that stuff about how hard this would be was just talk. The first kilometer, we only stopped long enough to shed our wraps.

Just at first the trail led downhill, charming, to a cool, wet place called Carson’s Falls. On the way down the mountain, conversely, having to climb at the end was just one last kick in the butt on the way out the door.

Still before 8:00 a.m. no sunlight had fought its way to the forest floor. The air was downright chilly once our shirts turned sweaty. And they did — at the first K marker they weren’t soaked through, but a breeze blew down the rise and chilled our damp skin.

We were cocky, jaunty, making tracks, and unappreciative of the flora, except the little violet flower of the Kinabalu Balsam, which was shaped more like it had a beard than lower petals.

The massif stood silent and still, the only sounds birds or a rustling squirrel. There are no monkeys on Mt. Kinabalu. They live nearer the sea, to the east.

 

Mtkinabalu The Summit of Mt. Kinabalu, 13,435 feet.

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Anniversary Sale Pricing for Common Sense and Whiskey – the Book

Common Sense and Whiskey, the book (Amazon) (Kindle) (BN), was first published a year ago this month, so we're up this morning with new anniversary pricing. Get the book for $9.99, or download your Kindle version for just $4.99. We'll run a chapter from the book, Climbing Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo, here tomorrow.

Common Sense and Whiskey, the Book – Paraguay, Chapter Twelve

Here is Chapter Twelve of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book. We're publishing each chapter here on the blog (Track down previous chapters here). You can order the entire book at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or direct from EarthPhotos Publishing. Here's the Kindle version (just $6.99). Click these photos to make them bigger. More photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the Paraguay Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

12 PARAGUAY

The farthest back water washes to a national capital must be Asuncion, Paraguay. It’s as if its residents didn’t ask for the honor, but the capital had to be somewhere so they amiably accommodated.

Maybe parts of Africa are less vital. Think Ouagadougou, maybe, or Bangui. Even somnambulant Vientiane, which is in Laos, shows more vitality than here, smack in the middle of South America.

They’d rolled up the streets by the time we installed ourselves in the Sabe Hotel. The front desk spoke not so much as “hello.” No English. Here in the national capital.

The TV wouldn’t work until tomorrow because it was New Years Day and they couldn’t get anybody out to fix it, but it was a nice enough place. A picture hung partly over the window in the hallway. That was a little strange.

I was out early in the morning, through the business district and down to the Paraguay River. It wasn’t very big, downtown Asuncion, and it wasn’t very busy.

There was the main Plaza de los Heroes, down a few blocks, and Asuncion had a building modeled after the Pantheon. Sales ladies’ tables along Avenue Palma offered up the usual languid market fare: watches and underwear and (allegedly) Nike clothes and plastic toys. Birds were loud and it was hot hot hot by 8:45.

Down at the river, General Francisco Solana Lopez’s white-washed mansion, started in 1860, stood shuttered. Beyond it, children pumped water at a clutter of squatter shacks. A sand spit stretched out to two rusting shipwrecks, resting over on their sides, just on the edge of the water. Here in the national capital.

AsuncionParaguayWaterfront

The breathtaking Asuncion waterfront.

But let’s start at the beginning, which was a few days earlier.

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Common Sense and Whiskey, the Book – Tibet, Chapter Eleven

Here is Chapter Eleven of Common Sense and Whiskey, the book. We're publishing each chapter here on the blog (Track down previous chapters here). You can order the entire book at Amazon.com, at BN.com, or direct from EarthPhotos Publishing. Here's the Kindle version (just $6.99). Click these photos to make them bigger. More photos and additional commentary are available at A Common Sense and Whiskey Companion. And here's the China Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

11 TIBET

Ashray Raj Gautam waited in the dark before dawn. Men worked under the hood of his Toyota Corolla while we stuffed our things in its trunk. We pushed the car down the hill to get it started, and little Gautam took us to a town called Banepa, north of Kathmandu. Mirja bought junk food, I bought cheap Indian whiskey, and Gautam disappeared.

We waited for a long time, and when he came back, Gautam had a confession. He did a sheepish, dusty little shuffle.

“We came here with no fan belt.”

He was sure we could get one in Banepa but he couldn’t find one.

“Excuse me sir, we have to wait for new car from Kathmandu one hour.” He went to find a phone.

So we were off, sort of, driving from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Our Tibet travel permits would be waiting at the border. The fellow who booked us said don’t bring pictures of the Dalai Lama (I had five), and don’t be surprised if the police follow you – they’re not too used to private visitors.

Banepa, Nepal, was a lane and a half of bad tarmac twenty kilometers outside Kathmandu, with twenty meters of dust on either side of the road, and businesses the length of town with their garage-door-fronts rolled down closed.

Buses bumped into the dust and blasted their horns. They shared the verge with chickens, goats, kids, bags of grain, metal rods and tubes, the general refuse, and us.

Two old folks worked the length of town with rough straw brooms, whipping up a dust tornado, moving trash from here to there to no use. Boys held up bread into the windows of the buses. They spit and coughed all the time.

It’s no surprise life expectancy is 55 in Nepal. In Banepa the air was opaque. You couldn’t even see the neighborhood hills. Forget the Himalayas, you couldn’t see out of town.

  Banepa

Banepa, Nepal.


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