Blog of the trip to Bangladesh, Maldives, Brunei


Pictures of Bangladesh , Brunei , Maldives, Sri Lanka, Singapore


Preparing for Singapore, Maldives, Bandladesh, etc
Thursday, February 2, 2012, 09:34 PM
.


Tentative itinerary:
Feb 9 SFO-Singapore
Feb 15 Singapore-Male
Feb 20 Male-Dhaka
Mar 4 Dhaka-Singapore
Mar 5 Singapore-SFO

I have the tickets already for all of these but
a) There was a coup in the Maldives on Feb 6
b) Bangladesh's tourist visa is a lottery (in theory i could get it upon arrival, but most airlines don't let you board a flight to Bangladesh if you don't already have the visa, and i don't)

- Last time i was in Singapore was 2007. Now they have completed Daniel Libeskind's Reflection Towers and Moshe Safdie's Marina Bay Sands.
- The Maldives are a huge archipelago of 1200 islands threatened by rising sea levels with an interesting culture http://www.visitmaldives.com/en/the-maldives/culture
- Bangladesh must be a crazy country: 148 million people for 147 thousand square kms (California has 36 million people on 424 thousand square kms).





Singapore
Friday, February 10, 2012, 01:45 AM
,
Hot and humid. Good to see friends from back when i was living here in the 1990s.


All the pictures i took this time: http://www.scaruffi.com/monument/indonesi/singa12.html
All the pictures from previous times: http://www.scaruffi.com/monument/indonesi/singapor.html

Below: Daniel Libeskind's Reflection Towers and Moshe Safdie's Marina Bay Sands.



Practicalities
US$1=S$1.2
Cozy Corner hostel in Bugis S$20
Mitraa hostel north of Little India on Race Course: S$25 +




Singapore
Saturday, February 11, 2012, 08:52 AM
,
It is surprising that a country like Singapore, that appears to be a lot more
"modern" than the San Francisco Bay Area, has contributed less to technological
innovation than Silicon Valley.
Singspore is a model of urban design and management.
Silicon Valley is decades, if not a century, behind Singapore, meaning that
it would probably take a century for Silicon Valley to catch up with Singapore's
infrastructure projects, not to mention to match Singapore's architectural
wonders (compared with Silicon Valley's none).
It's not only the subway and the quality of roads that is superior in Singapore:
the Singaporean citizens are way more "high-tech" than their peers in Silicon
Valley. Singaporeans had cell phones when they were still a rarity in Silicon
Valley. Silicon Valley still has to match the Internet speed that Singaporeans
have been enjoying for years. However, hard as it may have tried, Singapore
has produced no Apple, no Oracle, no Google and no Facebook.
The reason might be the very concept of what high-tech is.
In Silicon Valley people need just a cubicle to work (and a car to get there,
given the third-world public transportation). They are perfectly happy living
in a
culturally poor
place of ugly buildings and mediocre malls.
In Singapore people expect a town that is comfortable; a nice place to live in.
High-tech is a means to an end just like concrete and plastic.
It is part of the urban fabric. It is one of the elements that contribute to
making Singapore a model of urban design and management.
In Silicon Valley people are willing and even excited to be worked to
death like slaves for the privilege of being part of the high-tech world
that designs the tools of tomorrow (and for a tiny chance of becoming the
next billionaire).
In Singapore there is nothing particularly prestigious about working in
high tech: the prestige is in using it to do something that is relevant
to society.
Silicon Valley assumes that one can change the world just by releasing a
new device or a new website that will spread virally.
Singapore assumes that one can change the world by adopting whatever are
the best available tools at the moment, and it is largely irrelevant who
invented them.


Singapore to Male
Monday, February 13, 2012, 08:40 AM
,
Summarizing:
* The government of Bangladesh does offer visas upon arrival at the Dhaka airport but de facto the tourists need to get the visa before arriving because otherwise the airlines will not allow them to board.
* I bought the ticket to Dhaka when i bought the ticket to Male without having any visa for Bangladesh
* While in Singapore, i decided to apply for a visa. The embassy was a bit annoyed that i had not requested the visa at home but eventually accepted to give me a tourist visa (we'll see for how many days).
* Tomorrow (tuesday) at 3:30pm i should have my visa. My flight out of Singapore is at midnight.
* My flight stops in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, for 12 hours, and i will try to get out of the airport and visit Colombo. I have been in Sri Lanka, but at the time i avoided the capital because there was still a civil war going on.
* I should arrive in Male (capital of the Maldives) in the evening. Male is incredibly expensive: the cheapest hotel is $60. I am trying to find something cheaper but, arriving so late, it's unlikely.
* I actually don't want to see Male. I would like to see the islands in the north that are remote from civilization. The problem, again, is the cost. And i only have five days for the Malvides.

Practicalities
Bangldesh visa for Italian passport S$88=$75 (for US passports the cost is three times more)


Male, Maldives
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 12:26 AM
,
The Maldives are the 136th country i have visited in my life.
Much easier to organize my trip than expected (see Practicalities below). Once you get out of the loop of travel agencies, it is just a place like everywhere else. I am probably one of the very few tourists that arrives without a hotel reservation.
The city if actually quite cheap: i had a lunch buffet for $7 at a seaside cafe and pasta dinner for $4 at another relatively fancy establishment. Food and drinks in shops are a lot more expensive than in India but also a lot cheaper than, say, in Singapore.
Now i am trying to fly with the aerotaxi to the northern islands.

Male is tiny: the entire island in which it is located is 1.7 km long and 1 km wide. You can walk the whole city in less than one hour. However, it feels very crowded. It communicates by ferry with the island of the airport, which in turn is connected by road with the artificial island of Hulhumale, and there are ferries between Male and Hulhumale too.
Male is Muslim: female tourists must cover themselves (no matter how hot it is) and males should wear long pants and never take their shirt off. Many local women wear the burka or some other black garment that covers the entire body. However, some walk in western clothes with no headscarf (but no skirts).
The only part of the Maldives that is well connected with ferries is the northern islands.

The media have widely reported the coup that ousted the democratically elected president two weeks ago. They have not reported at all a much more troubling event of two weeks ago.
The Maldives are yet another country (like Afghanistan) that used to be Buddhist before it was occupied by Muslims. Last week Muslim fundamentalists destroyed all the Buddhist statues in the national museum. Nothing is left to prove the Buddhist past of the country.
For these fundamentalists any trace of other religions is blasphemy.
Pretty much the same thing that the Taliban did in Afghanistan in 2001. Buddhis fundamentalistts don't destroy mosques nor qurans. Muslim fundamentalists destroy Buddhist statues and Buddhist scriptures. The difference should be obvious to anyone with eyes to read but apparently it is not because we keep tolerating what Muslim fundamentalists do to others.

Practicalities
$1=15.4 rufiyaas but you can also just pay anything with dollars (the currency is pegged to the dollar). Credit cards are widely accepted for tourist activities (but not at neighborhood stores). Lots of ATMs.
Visa upon arrival (free of charge).
Ferry to Male: 10 rufiyaas or $1.
The tourist information office ("help desk") at the airport is useless. In town go to the Ministry of Tourism (4th floor of a 12-story building) for maps and smiles. But neither knows much about the country or the city, apparently.
Lodging is not cheap in the Maldives. The cheapest hotel in Male is $50 per night. No dorms, just single rooms. There are lots of guesthouses and inns around town but all the cheap ones are forbidden to rent the room to foreigners on a tourist visa, and most of them have no sign outside that identifies them as a guesthouse. Everybody in the neighborhood knows which ones are guesthouses though. Taxis around the island cost $1-2. You can try and hire a taxi driver for $5 and let him do the search for you (he might even be willing to book the room for you, in which case the transaction is perfectly legal). The cheapest room with A/C and bathroom that i could find was actually a very reasonable $25 (but, again, only because the owner was willing to break the loosely-enforced law, and after 4 places turned me down).
Male is overcrowded: don't even think of camping on a secluded beach.
Abd it's a conservative country, so unlikely that a family would offer lodging to a complete stranger.

Travel agencies in Male are useless: they can do exactly what you can do with the Internet. If you ask anything that is slightly different, they don't know. They are simply robots that book rooms in expensive resorts (up to $4,400/night) and sell you whatever package that resort has sent them. They personally have no experience of what they are trying to sell you. They literally cannot find on the map the place where they want to send you. They are also clueless about cheap accommodation in Male. I also found that the price was often cheaper if i booked it on the Internet (eg Maldivian aerotaxis).




Maldives
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 02:57 AM
,
Tomorrow i will fly from Male (the capital) to Hanimaadhoo, an island in the north of the archipelago that should have nice nature and a more traditional character than most of the touristy atolls.
The Maldives are a huge archipelago of 1200 islands threatened by rising sea levels with an interesting culture.
The people are a genetic mix of Indians, Southeast Asians, Africans, and Arabians. The language, Dhivehi, is Indo-Aryan closely related to Sinhala (Ceylonese) and over the centuries has picked up words and expressions from Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Urdu and some Dravidian (south India) family). There must also be a Chinese influence because most restaurants serve noodles and the likes.
Islam is the official religion (since 1153), but traditional beliefs and Buddhist beliefs continue to thrive in most island communities.

Practicalities
Flight from Male to Hanimadhoo: $270 roundtrip (five times a day)



Hanimadhoo, Maldives
Friday, February 17, 2012, 07:35 AM
,
Again, i ignored all warnings and i was rewarded. Everybody advised me against
flying to the northern islands without a hotel reservation (the cheapest was $60).
I flew, i arrived at a desolate airport with no facilities, i asked around,
they told me there were indeed guesthouses at the village (alas 5kms away),
and before i could reach the village a man on a motorcycle approached me and
offered me a room in a brand new guesthouse: king-size bed, tvset, A/C, private
bathroom and (lo and behold) internet for $30.

The weather foercast is the same every day: scattered thundershowers. That
translates into "atrocious nonstop sunshine with gas-chamber temperatures".
The few clouds fly away at the speed of light. I spent the afternoon hiking
the whole perimeter of the island and begged for a cloud. There were children
playing at the beach, but absolutely nobody where the beach turns rocky.
At some point the jungle spilled over into the sea and i had to bushwhack
a bit. Cutting through the jungle would be impossible without a machete.

The whole area (i wouldn't call it a "village") has 2,000 people, equally
divided between fishing and agriculture.
There is only one (unpaved) road (from the airport to the village) and
there seems to be only one four-wheeled vehicle (a small truck).
There are two shops that have only very basic goods (at very
reasonable prices). However, coconuts are everywhere
(they are basically a weed).
There is one resort (that doesn't seem to have any guest) and there are two
ferries. The one at the airport is used to ferry guests to the resorts off
the coast. The one here at the village connects with another island.
I suspect that all islands look the same, but, since i flew all the way here,
i might as well explore the next one too.

This place is 800 kms from the nearest city (and 1.5 hour by boar from the nearest inhabited island) but it has internet, wireless phones and television.

Practicalities for Hanimadhoo
UGAA Guesthouse $30


Ready for Bangladesh
Sunday, February 19, 2012, 06:14 AM
,
The Maldives are not my kind of places, as expected. For one day it is nice to be on an isolated island, and it was certainly productive in terms of writing and reading, but i quickly got restless.
Tomorrow i fly back to Male, the capital, where i am looking forward to the $6 lunch buffet at Cafe Bourse (yes, that cheap). Then i will probably spend the rest of the day at the island of the airport doing some work. The flight is in the evening, stops in Sri Lanka and arrives Dhaka the following day (the 21st) at midday. I booked a single room at a Japanese hostel because presumably i will be tired.



Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 01:51 AM
,
Bangladesh is the 137th country i have visited in my life.
The infrastructure for tourism seems to be non-existent.
One of the very first airports that does not have any tourist information, any shop, any kind of help for the passenger.
The first shock comes from the natives ask to take pictures of you: shouldn't it be the other way around? I'm a tourist attraction here.
Obviously tourism is still in its infancy, despite the proximity of India.
Alas, English too is a rarity. Most people (even at the bus and train station) do not speak a word of English. I keep asking the younger ones, who obviously must study it in school.
I took a tuktuk to a Japanese hostel near the airport.
Tuktuks vastly dominate the urban landscape. Here they are called CNG (auto rickshaw in India). There are also still many human-powered rickshaws.
The main attraction for foreigners is the colorful lifestyle of Dhaka. The oldest temple (Dhakeshwari) is utterly irrelevant, probably destroyed or abandoned for centuries in a country that used to be Buddhist and Hindu but is now almost totally Muslim. The great sight of the center is Louis Kahn's National Assembly (here known solely as Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban), one of the world's masterpieces of modernist architecture. The rest of this colossal metropolis is pure chaos. Not for the faint of heart.
If the apocalyptic congestion of tuktuk, taxis, buses and bicycles were not enough, you also have to avoid beggars crippled with all sorts of terrifying mutilations. They know that foreigners are likely to give them something so they are particularly persistent. One almost lost his hand when my tuktuk accelerated (in the other arm he was holding his unconscious child whose skin was devoured by a horrible disease). This is the usual dilemma i've had all my life. It is not easy to say no but there are many reasons to say no (you don't want to encourage them to beg instead of finding other ways to survive, you don't want to reward the excessive number of children, you don't want to create the automatic reflex that they attack any tourist they see, you are never sure that they use the money for food and medicines and in fact sometimes you are almost guaranteed that they will let their children starve and buy cigarettes instead, etc etc). The only reason to say yes is your conscience. You don't feel too good when you have seen a child that is dying and you're having a nice buffet dinner in a rooftop restaurant.
The city is so big that it is impossible to explore it on foot. Buses are overcrowded and in terrible conditions. So the tuktuks are the obvious choice. They sprint through traffic and are very reliable. The only catch is that they don't speak English, so you always need to find a translator first.
I wanted to buy a bus ticket or train ticket to head north, where i want to see three ancient Buddhist temples (hopefully that the Muslims haven't destroyed them yet). It turns out that Dhaka has a virtually infinite number of bus terminals. I was sent from one to the other, and hours later i still haven't found out which one is the right one for me. Someone eventually suggested the railway station because trains are much nicer than buses. Unfortunately, train tickets sell rapidly, so an advance reservation of two days is recommended. Someone is looking for a ticket for me as in the black market as i type. There are also several train stations and you have to know which station is the right one. I suspect that most tourists (assuming that there are any besides me) use travel agencies to do all of this. It is not trivial at all.
Bangladesh is Muslim but the Indian influence is obvious, especially on the clothes of women: the colorful sari competes with the black dress. In the evening, when families walk into the park by the National Assembly, the saris outnumber the black dresses.
Tomorrow i will resume the search for the ticket to the northern region (Rajshahi Division).

Pictures of Bangladesh: http://www.scaruffi.com/monument/banglade/

Practicalities.
$1=83TK
Visa for Europeans: $51. For USA triple that.
Nagasaki Hostel $25 single with bath/tv/etc
Houes # 13, Road # 06, Sector # 01, Uttara Model T
The nearby rooftop Indian restaurant Aroma has excellent all-you-can-eat dinner buffet for 550 TK ($7)
Tuktuks (CNGs) cost about $2 for very long urban rides.
Not easy to navigate Dhaka's train stations. Tickets get sold out right away. There are several train stations and it is not trivial to find out which one is the right one for you. Huge lines in front of counters. I simply walked through the gate and spoke to the station master (the only one who spoke good English) at the airport railway station and got a ticket to Rajshehi (north of Bangladesh). A/C car at 465TK=$7


Bangladesh
Saturday, February 25, 2012, 01:48 AM
,
The trip to the north of Bangladesh felt like a trip back to the past. It was a journey back in time to an era in which the main sound around you was the bicycle bells not the smartphoneís ringers. Most traffic is rickshaws, then tuktuk, then buses and the occasional car. I saw a millenary civilization when most objects were made of plants (wood, wicker, paper) and soil (bricks, pots), a civilization that will be wiped out in a few days when the first Chinese shop opens and starts selling plastic. I saw the artisans who make furniture and kitchenware. They will all be jobless when the plastic comes.
Traveling around Bangladesh is certainly not easy. Transportation is a lose-lose proposition: buses leave almost on time and donít stop, but the roads are terrible and therefore the ride will be very bumpy; trains, on the other hand, can be very comfortable (first class is a bargain) but they usually run several hours late, stop frequently for no apparent reason, and the tickets are a lottery (first class is often sold-out, the station can issue tickets only when there is electricity, which is not very often, and the line to get to the counter can be intimidating). Computerization is a major problem: tickets cannot be issued if there is no electricity, and the ticket has to be printed on a computer printer, which requires ink, paper and is usually very slow. Hence the apocalyptic lines at the counter of any computerized station.
The good news is that transportation, food and lodging are extremely cheap. First class train is about $10 for a very long-distance trip. Ditto for air-conditioned bus with sleeper seats. The best hotels are $20, but most of the three-star hotels outside Dhaka are even less than $10. This makes the life of the tourist much easier: you donít need to spend hours looking for a cheap guesthouse, you can just take the first fancy hotel.
The other good news is that people are incredibly friendly, hospitable, helpful and honest. I rarely had to wait more than five minutes (even in places where English is not spoken) before someone offered help. I came back with names of dozens of new friends.
The price you pay is the endless questions about you and your country. After a while it gets really annoying to answer the 1000th person who asks you ďwhich country?Ē and ďwhat is your name?Ē Thatís when you realize that there are very few foreign tourists in this country. You are the attraction for them as much as they are the tourist attraction for you. In fact, countless people took pictures of me in the street. Sometimes they ask permission but mostly they just walk in front of me and snap a picture. Even when they donít talk to you, they stare at you nonstop.
Just about everybody was incredibly honest. I rarely had to bargain on a price. Deceit and greed donít seem to be part of their culture. When a rickshaw wanted me to pay 300 TK, a passer-by overheard the conversation and started yelling at him that it was too much. Eventually the rickshaw gave me back 100TK ($1.25).
The one thing that shocked them consistently is that I am still single. One of the first questions is always ďHow many children do you have?Ē It must be a common question to ask here. When I reply that I donít have a wife, there is always incredulity. It doesnít make sense to them that someone would live and not make children.
This is a strange combination: a huge mass of extremely poor people who are extremely honest. They seem to accept their lot with resignation. The few rich people can drive their expensive cars and walk among the beggars and the rickshaw riders without fearing a robbery. In the west people become criminals for much less. Here there is a tacit acceptance of oneís lot, no matter how bad it is. Itís the Hindu concept of karma coupled with Islamic fatalism.
The language is Bangla, period. English is rarely used, except in the capital. Itís a difficult language for me because the script is not Latin, therefore I canít even pronounce the characters. Itís a bit like being in China without knowing how to read Chinese characters.
It is difficult to take notes while you travel around Bangladesh. It is virtually impossible to take them on the fly: you are usually in an overcrowded situation; and people start reading what you write. There are a few cybercafes, but the electricity is a lottery. There are power outages all the time.
Needless to say, in a country with 150 million people the size of a small European country, the crowds are immense. As a student told me, ďEverybody makes many children, so we can all live under the poverty lineĒ. You have to accept that every square meter has at least one human being. You will never have privacy.
You have to appreciate how these people keep a sense of decency and humanity in the middle of the chaos and deprivation that come with excessive population. I donít think western people would manage. I think they would start behaving like animals. Here the vast majority of people are polite and well-dressed, no matter how tough it is for them to go to work, how crowded the bus/train, how often the electricity fails them, etc.
Poverty, at the same time, is what saves this country. Because they are poor, they serve snacks in newspaper pages and eat them with their hands. It is scary to think of the day when plastic will arrive. If every snack was served in plastic and eaten with plastic tools.
In fact, for such a crowded country, there appears to be relatively little garbage in the streets. If you look close enough, you realize that there is actually a lot of garbage, but their civilization is still mostly based on plants and soil, and therefore the garbage melts in the environment. It is scary to imagine what will happen when all that wood is replaced by plastic. You have to appreciate that many cities started switching to electrical tuktuks instead of the traditional ones.
What you see from the train and the bu, when you are not in the frenzy of a village, is mostly rice fields: it takes a lot of rice to feed this population.
By comparison, the colossal capital of Dhaka is the future: a megacity that is completely congested at all times. There are traffic jams in which drivers physically turn off the engine. We all sit staring at each other. Even the sidewalks are congested. Not even bicycles can move. And, still, some people spent a lot of money to purchase an expensive car. Now they sit in jammed traffic like everybody else, their only consolation being that they can run the air conditioning. Itís a surreal sight.
I visited what used to be the largest Buddhist monastery south of Tibet, in Paharpur. What is left is a huge monolith in the middle of a plain. Then the Kantoji of Dinajpur of 1752. These are probably the two most important antiquities in Bangladesh.
Then I went southwest to Khulna. This is the base to explore the lost city near Bagerhat: only some of the mosques are still visible. Then back to Khulna and on to Mongla, which is the entry point to the Sunderban, the largest mangrove forest in the world, shared between India and Bangladesh. Unfortunately, there are very few animals left. Compared with Africa, itís a massive disappointment.
Then back to Dhaka, where I changed my tickets to fly to Brunei. Originally I had planned to visit Assam in India, but the Indian visa is a bureaucratic nightmare.


Practicalities

Train from Dhaka airport station (Bandar) to Rajshehi 465TK foir first class, 6h
Rajshehi: +Hotel Dallas 900 TK, near train station
Bus Rajshehi to Noga 1h
Bus from Noga to Paharpur 1h
Rickshaw to Somapura Vihara 20í
Entrance to Somapura 100 TK
Rickshaw to Joypurat 200 TK 1h
Train from Joypurat to Dinajpur 86 TK 2h
Dinajpur: +New Hotel near bus terminal 600TK
Bus from Dinajpur to Gangaranpur 30í
To get to the Kantoji of 1752 you have to walk past the village (over a small toll bridge for pedestrians)
The Kantoji itself is free to everybody.
Train from Dinajpur to Parbatipur 15TK, 1h
I stopped keeping track of bus tickets because they are always less than $1
Train from Parbatipur to Khulna 200TK for sleep chair 12h
Bus from Khulna to Bagerhat 1h
The 60-dome (Shaat Gombudge) mosque is a few kms before town, so make sure to tell the driver. Entrance fee 100 TK. There are other mosques on the way to Bagerhat.
Bus from Bagerhat to Khulna to Mongla 2h
There is a deluxe tourist hotel (Hotel Pashur) at the bus terminal (end of the road) $20 with A/C or $12 without. Even here the cost of a meal is very low: I paid $3 at the hotelís fancy restaurant.
Boat tours of the Sunderban from Mongla (that only visit a couple of nearby spots) are about $70. Mabana Tours 01711-119490 or Al Shahaba 01714-932728 (As usual, the man you deal with is just a middleman).
Tours of the innermost regions of the forest require joining one of the expensive cruise ships.
Night bus from Khulna to Dhaka: 900 TK, 12 hours (AK Travel or Green Line)



End of Bangladesh trip
Monday, February 27, 2012, 07:13 AM
,
Pictures of Bangladesh: http://www.scaruffi.com/monument/banglade/index.html
Pictures of Maldives: http://www.scaruffi.com/monument/maldives

Change of flights: flying Feb 29 1:40am from Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur
flying march 1 pm to Brunei
flying march 3 pm to Kuala Lumpur
flying march 4 to Singapore
flying march 5 to San Francisco



Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 09:52 PM
,
Always a bit of a shock when i'm suddenly in a place where there are other Western tourists after a few days of being the lone Westerner in town.
Half of the day was perfect weather so i went back to take pictures of the Petrona Towers and other landmarks. The rest of the day was rainy and i went to check out the new capital Putrajaya.

Practicalities
Le Village Hostel in Chinatown 35 ringit = $11
Many guesthouses, inns, hostels and hotels in Chinatown near Petaling St




Brunei
Thursday, March 1, 2012, 08:10 PM
,
Brunei is the 138th country i have visited.
Brunei is basically a city state and it is still a sultanate, and its economy
depends on huge oil reserves, but if you expect something like Dubai or Oman
you'll be disappointed. This sultan does not spend much to display his wealth.
There is virtually nothing of interest in this rather desolate` town.
Most people live in derelict apartment buildings.
Traffic is silent and quiet, in stark contrast with the cities of this part
of the world.
The nearby jungle is certainly better preserved than the one in neighboring
Sarawak and Sabah (both provinces of Malaysia) but hardly impressive by
Borneo standards.
Brunei is famous for being expensive, but you can still find cheap beds and
cheap food. You just have to insist a bit (the tourist information office at
the airport told me that it cost $20 to go downtown with the shuttle,
a ridiculous amount for a 15-minute drive, but eventually confessed that
there's a $1 bus). I am paying $8 for a bed in the only hostel; I paid $4
for a big Indian dinner; etc. But most tourists will never know because
online you can only find the really expensive stuff.

Practicalities
$1=B$1.2
Bus from airport to town B$1 (15 minutes)
Pusat Belia/ Youth Center (the only hostel in town, sandwiched between luxury hotels): B$10
There are three other guesthouses but the cheapest is B$40.
Several cafes and all hotels (except the hostel) offer free wi-fi.


Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Friday, March 2, 2012, 12:34 AM
,
I take it back: Brunei is cute. The city on land is boring and ugly, but there is another city, the real city, where people actually live, study and fish, the city on stilts. A sort of Venice made of wood. You can walk for hours using elevated walkways, or you can roam it in motorboats.
Extremely hot and humid though.
Pictures: http://www.scaruffi.com/momnument/brunei




Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 09:11 AM
,
End of the trip to Maldives, Bangladesh and Brunei.
I think in this trip i used all possible means of transportation except the bicycle (boat, bus, train, motorcycle, tuktuk, airplane, feet...)

Just one night in Kuala Lumpur. Tomorrow morning flight to Singapore. Then one day in Singapore to hang out with friends, and following day flight back to San Francisco.

A final meditation on Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent in general:
The West had nonstop inflationary pressures when all the Western countries were booming in the 1950s/70s.
Today the whole world is booming but the inflationary pressure is minimal (virtually non-existent in the West).
The reason IMHO is that in the 1950s/70s the West was a closed world with limited labor supply. As the demand for labor increased, so did prices. We could not offsource shoes or software to the communist world or to the third world, therefore the price for shoes and software kept
skyrocketing.
The reason today there is virtually no inflation is that we now have an unlimited labor supply: 1.5 billion people in the Indian subcontinent alone.
Who is the main beneficiary of this low inflation? The West, of course:
our money buys a lot, unlike their money.
Hence: every child that is born in India contributes to MY wealth. Every child born in India adds one to the labor supply which keeps prices low which mainly benefits me. That child will have to work for almost nothing, competing with 1.5 billion people, whereas i will be
able to buy the product of his work with my pocket change.
We have to be grateful to all the large families of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.
When their population stabilizes, prices will start going up (as they will soon do in China) but then hopefully the Arabs and the Africans
will take their place.
When the population of the entire world will stop growing, well... i'm glad i won't be around anymore. I suspect there will be an enormous
competition for resources and skyrocketing prices.
But that's many decades away. For the time being we in the West should
join the Christian fundamentalists in preaching no condoms and no abortion in developing countries.

Pictures of Bangladesh , Brunei , Maldives, Sri Lanka, Singapore

Back to my Trips | Pictures of the World | Travel Resources | Home | Contact