I was a little bit torn when titling (heehee) this post. Originally, I had planned to paint my face brown, make myself one of those conical rice-farmer hats and take some self-portraits in my garden. But Abi told me I couldn’t: ‘That’s just plain wrong, Seb. Think of the children.’ — and she’s right, it would’ve been completely insensitive and political suicide… but it would’ve been really damn funny. Ah well. Maybe I can still get a shot of myself in a conical rice-farmer hat when I visit ASIA!

Last week I looked at Africa, this week it’s Asia’s turn.

As a reminder, if you haven’t read about my Grand 2010 Tour, the plan is to cover south-east Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines — you get the idea. The more I think about it, I’m pretty sure South Korea and Japan (and China?) will have to wait for another trip. I could however hop down to New Zealand, stay there for a few weeks, and then over to Los Angeles (there’s a big ‘around America’ tour I’ve been thinking about for years, I’m just not sure when to do it!)

An elephant... taking a shit... in a large toilet.

Anyway, Asia, after a little more research, is a lot more affluent than Africa — probably because of the secular, capitalistic powerhouses of Korea, Japan and Singapore. It’s a little rougher up on the mainland: if I go to Cambodia or Vietnam life is dirtier and more dangerous — but they have ELEPHANTS (so does Thailand, mind you… so I could probably just skip over potential-death-by-land-mine and head for the transsexuals of Bangkok.)

Re: Thailand, there probably isn’t much you don’t already know through the wonders of the modern media. It’s a melting pot of everything and anything, where east and west culture collides and something not wholly human emerges in the aftermath. Thailand appeals to my hedonistic streak because I get the feeling you can ‘find’ anything there: salvation and debauchery, food and drink — but also beautiful vistas and remnants of ancient civilisations. I guess it’s a ‘gateway’ country, much like Greece or Turkey — the multitudinous influences from every other culture in the vicinity have surely left their mark on Thailand.

For some reason (I’m going to research it more, but if anyone has the answer, let me know), the entirety of east Asia is really populated. Thailand with 63 million people has the same population as the UK, Vietnam has 85 million, the Philippines 92 million — and Indonesia has a stonking 231 million! At least Malaysia and Cambodia are fairly sparsely populated, so I’ll have a chance to spread my legs there. Is it simply because they’re really big countries? And I know less-developed nations tend to have more children for lots of reasons… maybe they grew big in the last 100 years, and now they’re slowing down as their ‘development index‘ increases? Oh, incidentally, Singapore is the third most-dense place in the world… more so than Hong Kong. It’s going to be a tight squeeze to get me in. 19,000 people per square mile, in Singapore — 12,000 per square mile in London, and 5,500 in urban New York City, by comparison. (They also speak Singlish in Singapore… which I am quite eager to hear! The other south-east Asia islands have similar pidgin languages right? Indo-English, Malay-English?)

Did you know that Russia has 11 time zones? And you thought scheduling in the US was hard! They go all the way from UTC+2 to UTC+12… which means Russia runs almost half the circumference of Earth… eep. Just threw that one in there, sorry. (Seriously, the amount of random shit in my head…)

It’s now time for this week’s ‘site of photographic interest’, this week… Sumatra!

Sumatra

The first thing that caught my eye was the name: ‘Coffee!!’ Sumatra, along with Java (the main Indonesian island) are two of the most recognisable names when it comes to coffee. It’s no surprise tho’, considering all of the world’s coffee is grown within a narrow band around the equator — coffee beans come from trees that do best in hot-and-wet rainforests (and incidentally, the coffee infographic/comic by Oatmeal is very, very good).

So, it’s rainy, quite heavily forested and also right smack-bang on a fault line. The west ridge of the island is one long line of volcanoes! And there are elephants! (I’d really like to ride an elephant — I can’t think of a more apt mount for my gargantuan self.) Just look at this photo by Hank Hammatt (I don’t know who he is, but he takes nice photos it seems):

'Tiger Landscape' in Sumatra, Indonesia, by Hank Hammatt (http://www.photoselections.com/hammatt.htm)

That’s Sumatra. I don’t even know how such a landscape is possible. It looks like a painting. God knows, really, but I want to find out!

* * *

Anyway, this week you get some totally unrelated photos. We had a light snow a few days ago which started to look really pretty when the sun eventually came out. They’re just assorted photos from around my garden and estate, and all using a 50mm lens in the hope of getting a little better at using it!

Snowy log! From a fallen tree.

(In another photo you can see the number of rings… it was only about 60 or 70 years old. Quite young for a fallen tree!)

Snowy fountain, in our garden. I don't think it has any water in it...

(I like the streaks of snow-free grass, from where sun has shone from between tall trees to the right)

Think 'little drop of rain', but... snow. Looks a bit like bird poo.

(Look! A little… blob of snow!)

Now to brainstorm a disgusting story involving Vietcong rice-farmers and Japanese school girls…

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Fetishes of the far east

Sebastian

I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.

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