Asia 97

 

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Stand 30.3.2003

ASIA 97 ...

... this is the name of a program of the University of Innsbruck. A special study program in co-operation with the Royal University of Bangkok and the Chiang Mai University, Thailand. Well - I thought this might be the right thing for me ... and it definitely was! OK - you have to pay it on your own but it is an unique chance to get in touch with another culture. It was the first time that I could learn something about the Far East.

The first stop was in Singapore. The most "western" city I've ever seen. They just try to copy the "American Way of Life" or whatever. Everything looks somehow artificial - everything is forbidden. But it was a good "entry" to get used to the tropical climate. When you arrive at Singapore Airport you have not even the clue how hot it will be when you leave the building ... In these few days we were in Singapore we spent a lot of money - not always for useful things, We visited Singapore Airlines and the Simex Stock Exchange - nothing special but together with this "holiday feeling" it was worth doing it ...

Bangkok then was really something special. I've never seen so much traffic, dust and dirt. This city is crazy. Everything is close to collapse but still everything is working - somehow. Even the transportation works. Buses and taxis as well as the famous Tuk-Tuks are running more or less well. I'm really wondering that everybody wants to be in Bangkok, especially when you have seen more rural (and often more beautiful) parts of Thailand. One thing I have to say: In Bangkok as well as in Singapore we had really first class hotels.

During this time we got to know each other. Supported by some alcoholic drinks (first from the duty free shop, later the famous Mekong-Whisky) the room parties were quite successful (whatever that means). It was great that there were almost no "sub-groups". But what can you do, if the room party is over? Well fist sit down to think about it ... I'm still wondering how we could get up the next morning. Well some of us had some problems with that but as long as we had some kind of program (like the visit at Marigot) we could motivate us. We even have a picture which shows us how hard we had to study. One cool highlight was the annual meeting of the "Austrian Thai Society". We met some special guys there they have mainly one profession: son. However they have founded a famous (?) band - The Soi Dogs! Indeed it's a very good name, if you know the dogs in this small roads.

The boat trip through the canals of Bangkok is like the other side of the moon. You can't believe that this is the same city. We haven't seen the floating market, but a lot of other parts. For example Pat Pong - you can get everything there: shirts, souvenirs, AIDS, Thai-massage (not the original one), ... Bargaining there is quite funny. The seller starts with an unbelievable high price and you counter with an unbelievable low price. He will say: "I loose money" - you will say: "I'm a poor student" - he will say: "vely oliginal" to confirm the excellent quality - you will ask for another colour - he will say: "Yes, no have!" Bad luck - try better the next time ... Others preferred to go to the tailor especially Thomas and Stefan ...

Other parts you should see

There are differences between Europe and Asia. In Europe it's for example not usual to have an elephant in the middle of the market or that someone wants to sell you some snakes or all the street kitchens. A cool institution is the "Informal Education Department". This kids are just learning in the park - this would be "cool" in Innsbruck as well ... But all in all the cities I've seen are "western" - sometimes it seems that they try to copy everything ...

After 10 days Bangkok we were happy to arrive in a smaller city with lower temperatures, some hills and even mountains, clean air, ... Personally I like Chiang Mai most. The lectures were as good as in Bangkok. Some of them gave a good inside in Thai-Thinking. The highlight there was the "jungle tour". OK I would call it forest, but who cares? Starting with an elephant ride we had to walk to a "hill tribes village" (which was unfortunately more like a museum than real life). However we could see the first dog without open wounds. After that we went back on some cool bridges to see a waterfall. This was not enough - at the end we got a float to raft down a "dangerous" river. Stefan and me (two very experienced rafters) managed to hit almost every stone. After some bigger and minor accidents we could reach the end but our float was not in a very good condition in the end ...

As a real tourist you must have been in the most northern point of Thailand to take a look at Burma, at the Golden Triangle to take a look at Laos. Also the temple above Chiang Mai is worth visiting. Some other tourist stuff is for example the umbrella factory or an original Thai-massage. Well in some cases they just overdo this Thai-massage. Even in the men's toilet of a disco you can have it ...

Well after one month we had so say good bye. The last dinner with more or less all of us in a well designed restaurant. We called it Lucky Luke but the name was somehow different. After that meeting almost the half of the group went further on to Hong Kong, some others to more remote places and beaches, some went home, some to China, ... that's life! In Hong Kong we had not too much time and energy to visit a lot of places. To be honest we got some problems with our digestive system ("Dünpfiff" halt). Hong Kong is from my point of view still more important than Singapore and the skyline is terrific - especially at night. I also visited the "Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club" which was not that exciting but as a sailor I had to do this ...

At the end two special pictures which I couldn't get in the text: First a typical situation at the airport and second a tribute to my room-mate Leo!

OK folks - that's it! If you want to know something about Southeast Asia you have to go there. This program is from my point of view a good introduction in this foreign culture. I definitely have to go there again ...

"Ignorance is power" (from: Sir Andrew Bolt)