Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lick The Rainbow Popsicle

by Postitguy
A friend posted this on her Facebook wall.  I've read it again and again, and it's too good to not share.

It's by the Postitguy - someone who leaves these yellow sticky notes in public places all over Singapore, left to their fate, to be found and perhaps enjoyed.  Postitguy has a blog: thingsweforget, where this and other gems of wisdom can be found and enjoyed.

This is how I want to live my life!  Thank you Postitguy :)

Update: Postitguy has another blog: The Plan Today, which is where the above note can be found.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bicycle Tourist Gangraped in India

I am shocked and horrified by this incident.  The couple, a 39-year-old Swiss woman and her 29-year-old male companion (or husband), who were bicycle touring through central India, were apparently hunted down by 8 men to their campsite in the woods, beaten, the man tied up and the woman raped and finally robbed.  Full story here.

My wife and I bike tour by ourselves in Asia, so this raises fresh questions about safety and security with cycle touring.  We've been rather relaxed about personal safety.  In the past, our concerns have been limited to keeping our bikes, money and belongings safe; but now, personal safety is our primary concern.

I've been thinking of ways to keep safe while bike touring:
  • I think the number one item on the list should be to keep yourself up to date on current affairs and travel warnings issued by various national organizations.  For example, there's a warning issued by the Swiss on travel in India.  Treatment of women in India, and in particular sexual assault, has been in the spotlight since the brutal rape and murder in December of a 29-year-old student on board a bus in Delhi.  I'd take heed and avoid solo travel in India/Pakistan or otherwise travel in a larger group.
  • The second on the list is to avoid known trouble spots or potential problem areas.  Find out by reading the travel forums online or check with the locals or other travelers.
  • Portray a relaxed, confident attitude.  Never arrogant or aggressive.  Smile a lot, make eye contact, and always have your radar up.  If someone or a group is not smiling back or avoiding eye contact, that's a warning sign.  Similarly, if a group is staring at you, or appears to be watching you, that's a warning too.  Be kind, smile and talk to the locals.  This builds allies who may give you a warning, or perhaps talk a hostile local out of action, or perhaps shame someone with hostile intent away from acting out.
  • Number four would be to not display wealth or expensive items, like a laptop, or a lot of cash, in restaurants or in public.  
  • Number five would be to not leave town in the evening, especially after dinner.  It's too easy for someone with hostile intention to watch you, make a plan, gather reinforcements and follow you out into the darkness.
  • Number six:  Camping in Asia is usually not done.  It's too crowded and too easy to be observed.  I keep thinking back to Ned Gillette, who was shot to death in his tent while camping in Pakistan.
That's all I have for now.  If anyone has any more ideas, I'd love to hear from you.  Just post them to the comments below.  Thanks.  Peace :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

No Easy Day

Monk and Temple, Luang Prabang, Laos.  Taken with Panasonic LX7.

I've just returned from a 10 day bike tour with a group of friends that started in northern Vietnam, crossed over into northern Laos and circled over to the mysterious Plain of Jars in Phonsavan before ending in Luang Prabang.  We had a sag wagon with us, so if we felt the day's riding was too ambitious, we could hop in the sag wagon and call it a day.

Laos turned out to be pretty wild place, but that is rapidly changing.  The road is now mostly paved, where a few years ago, it was mostly dirt.  This bike tour could have ideally been done on our Surly Long Haul Truckers, but we sold those, and were only left with our full-suspension Giant Anthem mountain bikes to do the tour with.  Fortunately, the tough little Anthems were up to the job.

I'd heard talk about bandits in remote parts of Laos, but I couldn't have felt safer, even when I ran into the guy brandishing an AK47 on the road (see the video below).  It is a remarkable country where the road is seldom level, and seems to go only up or down.


Biking Vietnam - Laos 2013 from Adventure Nomad on Vimeo.

If you are planning a bike tour out there, consider the elevation changes, and without a sag wagon, I'd be a bit more conservative with the distance you plan to ride each day.  I downloaded Google Maps onto Gaia GPS on my iPhone and used that for Navigation, and I found that to be immensely useful.

Luang Prabang turned out to be very picturesque, and very tourist friendly.  Not surprising then that its full of tourists.  Still, it's not too bad.  Prices for food and lodging are reasonable and locals seem to tolerate the tourists.  You just need to make reservations early for the popular hotels and restaurants.  I'd go back in a heartbeat.

In terms of camera gear, I brought my GoPro HD2, Pansonic Lumix LX7, a Gorillapod Hybrid and pole for the GoPro.  I brought one spare battery each and was able to recharge each night.  I also carried a large capacity battery that I could charge USB devices, like my iPhone and GoPro off.  I'm quite happy with this setup, and this could form my ultralightweight kit for video and stills.