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Saturday, February 25, 2006


Cambodia 2006: week 1

Tuesday February 21: not much happening

I had planned to move on to Kompong Chhnang today. But I spent an hour in the internet cafe (1,500 reils per hour). It has no air conditioning and the space he gave me was at the back with no fans and almost no air circulation. When I returned to my room I was completely lacking in energy and had no motivation to start packing so I rested instead. Later in the afternoon I was stupid enough to go back for another hour and a half session. Just gotta get those flickr pictures up there for you.

One good thing is that I am becoming more familiar with the neighbourhood around the guesthouse. I quite like it and if I decided to stay in Phnom Penh for a while would be happy to stay here.

Wednesday February 22: off to KC

Today I got my act together and managed to catch the 11 am bus to Kompong Chhnang. It was a smallish bus and I was the last one to get a seat. It was air conditioned and on the drivers panel I noticed the temperature read-out showed it was hovering around 30—obviously a few degrees cooler than outside.

As we reached the outskirts of Phnom Penh we passed many of another kind of bus with another kind of air conditioning. This one comprised a box trailer, maybe six metres long, wooden planks were strapped at intervals across the top of the trailer. Passengers sat on the planks with their feet inside the trailer, no roof, just completely open. The whole lot was pulled by a motorcycle. Many of these were being used as school buses.

As we were entering KC, I saw the sign for Holiday Guesthouse and rang the bell. The driver was patient as I gathered my three bags and got off. I was greeted by Sophor (not sure if I have this quite right) who used to teach Khmer to Aussie volunteers and others on behalf of UNTAC which administered the country during the transition to a new government after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

Sophor showed me the only two rooms he had available. Compared to the ones I had at Sokha Guesthouse last year, both are quite small. But this guy was bending over backwards to make me welcome. 'I really need somewhere to hang my clothes...I really need a desk...Doesn't this window have screens? I'll never be able to open it in the mosquito season...Do you have a cloth I can put on this table?...The light is not very bright.' No sooner have I asked and he comes up with a solution. Maybe not exactly the solution I had in mind but this is Cambodia. I can't really expect to have everything just the way it is in Oz. And there is a restaurant attached...And he's going to loan me a bicycle. I reach a point of feeling I shouldn't ask for anything else. I mean, this room is only costing $5 a day!

So perhaps I've found my home in Kompong Chhnang. It's a little further out of town than I was last year and on the other side of town from Wat Xam. But the bicycle will make that irrelevant. And there are two beds in the room, so if any rellies or friends want to come visiting...

Sophor likes to talk and he has interesting things to talk about. I feel I'll never be lonely while I'm staying here. And he gives free Khmer lessons.

Later in the afternoon I took a walk into town to pick up a few things and to visit Wat Xam. As I walk towards town many people smile and lots say 'hello'. I go to the market and buy a few things. Unlike Phnom Penh I feel no need to haggle over prices. Every price I am quoted seems so reasonable, why would I bother? And the smiles and stares...an ET would not have got any more attention. Everyone who looks at me, I smile back and say 'hello'. It is just so incredibly easy to make friends in this town.

I head out towards Wat Xam. I don't make it. Someone calls my name. 'John! Remember me?'

'Mr La. Of course I remember you. I'm on my way to Wat Xam.'

He is so pleased to see me. He had expected me a few months back and had been wondering what had happened. He explains that the teaching monks are in Battambang and he invites me to another school where he is teaching tonight. I am given a class of six students. The class basically consists of them asking me questions. They have never spoken to a native English speaker before. All the questions come from just two students as they are really quite shy. And of course, when they ask what I do, I am expected to tell a story. We have an absolutely wonderful time together and they ask if I can return tomorrow. I'm not sure what I'm doing tomorrow but I feel sure I'm going to enjoy it. That's the class in the photo. Their usual teacher is at the back.

Thursday February 23

Some clarifications are needed on what I wrote yesterday. First the owner of the Holiday Guesthouse is Sophal, pronounced So-Paul but the 'l' is so short it almost isn't there. I've thought more about the cost of staying here. Cambodia is not the cheapest place to stay in Asia. This room is costing me $A200 a month. At Siri Apartments in Mahasarakham I was paying much less. The room was 2—3 times bigger, air conditioned, had a decent built-in wardrobe and desk and had hot water. At Sama Sama in Melaka I paid a similar amount to the rent here. The room was much bigger but it did not have its own bathroom nor did it have glass in the windows. Still the charm of the place made up for any shortcomings.

After lunch La dropped by to take me around. We rode our bicycles down a dirt road to a village a little closer to the Tonle Sap River. This area is flooded in the rainy season so the houses are built on stilts. We visited a wat (temple) where I met another of my friends from last year, a monk who has now disrobed but even so is in this wat teaching English to young monks and others. I am there to give them the opportunity to listen to a native speaker.

Later we head to Wat Xam where I spent a few evenings last year. I spend some time chatting with the monks until the students arrive. The abbot enquires about me and offers me a room at the wat. I already knew this was a possibility and had decided it was not what I wanted. He also offers to teach me Vipassana at some time. Some of the monks also ask if I will become a monk. Once again, while I have considered this possibility, for the moment I have decided it is not what I want to do. Maybe I am still attached to my freedom. Whatever, I am not ready to let go of it just yet. I choose to live simply but I prefer to make my own choices about how I do this.

When the students arrive I am moved from class to class. They practise asking questions and listen to the answers from probably the first native English speaker they have encountered. After an hour with these students La takes me to another village that I visited last year where he teaches English under one of the houses. A similar process follows. I ride back to the guesthouse in the dark, have my dinner and sleep very well.

Friday February 24: settling in nicely

I spent most of the day in my room preparing pictures for uploading to flickr when I go to Phnom Penh tomorrow. The pictures are still behind the blog as I have not reached Kompong Chhnang yet.

I arrive at Wat Xam at 5 pm and give a class until six. After class a few of us ride our bicycles down to the river and back. Nothing exciting. Just a pleasant evening.

Life here is even more different to Australia than anywhere else I've been but the people are lovely. So far everything is working out fine. I am very happy here.

If you send me an email and need an urgent reply, please put 'URGENT' in the subject line. Then I will probably read it while I am online. However if I have 100 emails to open I will probably leave most of them until I am back in KC and can take my time. Therefore your answer won't be sent until the following weekend.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


My illusion of Phnom Penh

When I visited my son, David, before leaving Australia, he was reading a book by Lama Yeshe called 'Becoming your own therapist'. Yeshe who died in 1984 was a Tibetan Buddhist monk. The book was published together with another of his called, something like, Make your mind an ocean. I read most of both books while I was there.

I really loved those books. I think it is easy to get caught up with all the crap (to my thinking) that surrounds the basic teachings and get away from what I believe the Buddha was really about. But Yeshe gets right down to that important stuff. I will try to pass on what he is saying in just a few words. If it speaks to you, the books are distributed for free by the Lama Yeshe Foundation (or something similar to that) or perhaps through the Society for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (or once again something similar—I'm doing this from memory). Anyway, if the books are right for you, you'll track them down.

Yeshe is basically saying that everything is an illusion and how we perceive it comes down to our individual brains. If your brain is stuffed up, you'll experience a lot of shit in your life. If you've got your head together you can experience happiness. What you own, what happens to you does not matter. It is entirely up to you and the way you think. Obviously there's a lot more stuff than that but that is the essence.

The point of all that is to explain that I am seeing Phnom Penh through different eyes this year than when I was here last year. If you've been following my blogs faithfully for a year or more you will know that PP was not my favourite place. If you want to see what I wrote, it will be in the blog archive for early February, 2005. Perhaps at that time it lacked something by comparison with what I had seen before I arrived. Lets face it, Angkor Wat is the most spectacular thing I have experienced in my life and the people of Kompong Chhnang were extremely friendly. But this time I'm coming here first, direct from Australia, and even though I had just left some dear loved ones behind I am feeling very comfortable and happy here in PP.

The flight over was pretty normal, ie boring. The first leg of the journey was seven hours. I had a window seat but as it was night I didn't see much more than the lights of Sydney as we left and of Kuala Lumpur as we landed. The seat next to mine was empty so I was able to spread out a little but still didn't manage to get a good sleep. KL has a new airport, or at least the buildings are new, with lots of opportunities for shopping. But you know me better than that. I made use of the five hours waiting time to do some reading. From KL to PP took about 1.5 hours. It was a smaller and older plane. The service was not as good but I was able to look out the window to see a wonderful view of KL, the oil palms that cover much of rural Malaysia, the beaches and occasional island as we crossed over the Gulf of Thailand and before I realised it there was land again, mostly looking quite brown as most of the rice has been harvested. As we came in to land I got a good view of PP. It is amazing for a Westerner to see that many of the back streets in the suburbs are just dusty tracks. This is a city of 1.2 million people. We crossed the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, flew in low over the city and then we were there.

Going through immigration was pretty simple. There was a row of people sitting in front of computers at a long counter. You handed your passport and visa application to the person at one end and then you went to the other end to wait until it reached the person there. If you'd ticked all the boxes correctly and could spell your own name, your passport was returned to you with the appropriate visa. There were a couple more gates where other things were checked and then you were out and free to explore Cambodia.

I thought there might have been a bus to get you into town but no, the only option was taxi at a set price of $US7. Please note that $US are legal tender here in Cambodia so whenever I mention $s, it will be US. To convert to Oz, add about a third more. Cambodian money comes in reil—4,000 = $US1. Traffic was busy all the way in to town: lots of motorcycles and bicycles as well as cars, 4WDs and vans with people sitting on the roof. The driver was pleasant. Of course he tried to talk me into accommodation where he got a commission but I had decided I was staying at the Royal Guesthouse this time. At least he knew where it was and drove straight there. He even helped me to carry my bags in.

Royal Guesthouse hadn't got my email to say I was coming and they had (or so they said) only one room available, which just happened to be the top of the range @ $10 per night. The reason I chose the Royal is that in the old Lonely Planet guidebook they say that they give a little extra. I now see that in the latest edition this comment has been dropped, perhaps appropriately so. I'm not complaining about this place. It's fine. Last year I stayed at the International Guesthouse just a few blocks away. I'd say that for the same price it was roughly equal. Each has shortcomings, depends what's important to you. Next time I come to PP, maybe I'll try somewhere else in the hope of finding somewhere that feels like my home in PP. The picture accompanying this blog is the view from my Royal Guesthouse balcony.

I tried to rest for a little while but couldn't. I wanted to get out there amongst it all. I needed to do some shopping before heading on to Kompong Chhnang so I headed for the Central Market.

Anyone who has seen much of me in Australia recently will know that I usually travel light and don't carry a huge range of clothing. Well, you'll be pleased to know that I've extended my wardrobe. At one entrance to the market there is stall after stall carrying a big range of souvenir t-shirts. 'How much?' I asked one young woman.

'Two dollars.'

I hesitated.

'If you buy many, I give you discount.'

'When I was in Siem Reap, I bought t-shirts like this for $1.50.'

'I give you same price.'

'OK.' I picked out two. One with the Khmer alphabet—figure it might help me to learn it—and one with apsaras (heavenly dancers) from Angkor Wat. Now my wardrobe includes a total of six t-shirts. Hope you don't think I'm extravagant.

While I am making my purchase one or two beggars are waiting for the transaction to finish to see if I might give them a donation. I don't. As I go though the market I am constantly accosted by beggars—old women, young women carrying a baby, men with missing limbs. While I have pity for those who live in poverty I realise that if I were to give to every one of them I would soon run out of money. I choose instead to give my time. I have been told by Cambodian people that they can get a better job if they speak English. When I get to Kompong Chhnang I intend to give my time freely to those making this effort to improve their lot in this way. If I get a reputation with the Central market beggars as being stingy, that's fine. Perhaps they'll leave me alone.

I acknowledge that to the average Cambodian I probably look rich. As many of you reading this know, I live on a fraction of what most Australians do. However, I am carrying a camera that cost me the equivalent of three years salary for a Cambodian with a good job. How could I not look rich to a Cambodian without a job?

I spend an hour or two in the market. I buy a daypack—I need some way to carry my purchases to Kompong Chhnang—, some electrical adaptor plugs and some books. If you know me, you're not surprised, of course I buy books. I buy books on Cambodia, books to help me learn Khmer language and books to help me teach English. Most of them are pirate editions and therefore quite cheap even if you pay the price they ask at first. In Thailand I don't usually haggle but here it is almost mandatory. It takes me a little while to get the hang of it. If they ask for $6 I say, 'Will you accept three?' They then quote another price, and gradually you work your way up while they work their way down to somewhere around two thirds of what they first asked for—if you're lucky. The mistake is to offer what you really want to pay straight off—you'll never get it. Most of the books come from stalls but some are sold by vendors carrying a basket. One such guy pointed to his two artificial legs to try to get some sympathy from me to pay a higher price. It worked. At least he has taken the step of working rather than begging.

On the way back from the market I see a barber shop that caters to Cambodians. There is a barber free. Actually he's asleep in his chair. I ask one of the working barbers, 'Haircut. How much?'

'One dollar.'

I take a seat and he wakes his colleague. This guy speaks no English but somehow he understands that I want it short. I have in my mind that I want my hair cut to about the length a monk's hair is just before he has his monthly head shave. That's exactly what he does. Can this guy read my mind? Sometime I will get a photo of myself with one of my new t-shirts and put it on flickr so you can see the haircut and the t-shirt.

I spend the afternoon walking, taking in the sites. Not the regular tourist sites but walking the back streets and through some of the markets that cater to Cambodians, smiling and saying hullo to the people—enjoying the real Phnom Penh. This is an example of the Asia that I love. I take lots of photos. Gradually I'll add them to my flickr pages.

I am even friendly to the moto drivers and have a chat with several of them. One is observant enough to notice I have just had a haircut. 'How much you pay?' he asks.

'One dollar.'

'Ooh. Very expensive.'

I walk to the river. This area caters for tourists in a big way and charges accordingly. Me, I'm more comfortable in the real Phnom Penh.

After lots of walking, lots of little chats and many photographs I eventually return to the guesthouse. They have a cafe downstairs and that is where I have my dinner. It's slightly more expensive than the street food but I've done enough walking for one day. I order a chicken curry with rice @ $3.50. It tastes good. Quite spicy. Perhaps I've lost a little of my acclimatisation after four months in Australia. Only problem is that it has quite a lot of peanuts in it that I have to remove one at a time.

I notice that the guesthouse has its own little internet cafe and charges only 2,000 reil (US50 cents) per hour. Unfortunately he won't let me connect my own computer when I tell him I want to upload. So today, Monday, I'll take a walk and find somewhere that will.

When I get up this morning I go out on the balcony and I notice that it's lightly raining and there are food stalls catering to Cambodians in the side-street over the road. I wander over. The first one is selling fried noodles with bean shoots. It looks OK. I take a seat. I get her to give me a plateful with an egg added. It is an enjoyable breakfast. I hold up some money to ask how much. She holds up one finger and then five. I think she is saying $1.50 which I figure is fine. But when I give her one dollar that is enough. She gives me change. She has charged me 1,500 reil.

When I return to my room I spend about 15 minutes taking photos from my balcony of the interesting traffic in the street. Coming soon to my flickr pages.

I expect I'll be heading to Kompong Chhnang tomorrow, Tuesday. I'm not sure about internet connection there. It may be a little while before I report in again.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Travelling on a one-way ticket

When I came to Thailand at the end of 2002 I had a 12 month work visa in my Australian passport. This entitled me to enter the country on a one-way ticket with no questions. But if you don't have such a visa and only a one-way ticket, they won't let you leave the airport. Actually, you won't get that far—the airline won't even let you on the plane. Other countries, however, have different regulations.

When I left Thailand at the end of '02 I bought a one-way ticket to take me to Singapore. I could not see that there would be any problem with that as I could easily leave Singapore by road and travel to Malaysia. I turned up at Bangkok airport without a care in the world (well, not too many, anyway) until Thai Airways told me I couldn't board the plane unless I bought another ticket to take me out of Singapore. Well, I calmly argued my case and eventually they relented. When I got to Singapore it was a non-issue. I only wanted a one-month visa but they stamped it for three and no questions were asked about how I was leaving the country.

Having had this experience, when I returned to Asia from Australia last year I asked a few questions of the airlines I was considering travelling with. In the end I chose to travel to Singapore by Malaysian Airlines. My intention was to then travel overland (well overbridge) to Malaysia. The MAS booking staff told me to check with the Singapore Embassy about what the requirements were. When I rang them we both agreed that the simplest way around it was to buy a cheap Air Asia ticket from Singapore to Bangkok and use that as proof that I had the means to leave the country. I had no intention of actually flying on this ticket.

When I arrived at Brisbane airport the woman who checked me in said that I could have got on board without it—she checked this with her boss. And when I entered Singapore, once again, the ticket was not requested and my passport was stamped without any questions.

Last year I flew from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia, with Bangkok Airlines. I flew on a single ticket without an advance visa and with the intention of returning to Thailand overland. There was absolutely no question about this from either the airline or Cambodian immigration.

When I was almost ready to book my ticket back to Asia from Australia this year I went along to Flight Centre to see which airline was cheapest. When I said I wanted a one-way ticket the young woman became quite officious and gave me a lecture about entering a country without permission to stay there. In this sort of situation I always think later of what I should have said: 'Are you talking from experience or is this what they've taught you to say?'

Anyway, she gave me the information I wanted—the currently cheapest airline. When I was ready to book, I rang the airline, Malaysian once again. And once again the sales consultant was not recommending that I arrive at the airport without either a visa or an onward ticket. I rang the Cambodian embassy in Canberra and was told they'd never heard of such a problem. They could give me a visa but as I wanted a business visa they would need a letter from someone in Cambodia.

This was not going to be easy to organise so to cover myself for all possibilities I bought an Air Asia ticket online to take me from Phnom Penh to Bangkok one month after my arrival. It cost me $A40, two thirds of which was taxes. I showed it at the airport when I boarded but it was not requested by immigration when I entered Cambodia.

I was still not certain about how I would go with the business visa. Cambodia issues two types of visa. A tourist visa lasts one month, costs $US20 and can be extended for one month. A business visa lasts one month, costs $US25 and can be extended indefinitely. That's the one I wanted as I am hoping to stay and teach English at Wat Xan in Kompong Chhnang. But would they give it to me on entry without a letter from Wat Xan?

They did. The only requirement was that I pay the $25 which I was carrying in my pocket. So I was in and that was the first of the challenges in relation to Cambodia resolved. In a few days I'll be off to Kompong Chhnang to see how I go with the other challenges. Watch this space.

And as for the need for an onward ticket—my experience is that as far as both Singapore and Cambodia are concerned it really is not necessary but is needed to keep the airline happy.

Monday, February 13, 2006


My rich life

I was walking through a shopping mall in Brisbane a few days ago when a young woman stopped me and quickly started on a sales pitch for American Express.

It took a while before I could get a word in and then I said, 'Before you go any further, I don't think I'm an American Express type of person.'

'Well, what's an American Express type of person?' she asked.

'I'm sure to get an American Express card, one must have a certain level of income.'

'Well, would you have an income of at least $400 a week?'


'You poor thing.' I'm not sure if she wasn't a little skeptical.

'No.' I said. 'My life is rich. I usually live in Asia. The last place I called home cost me $A80 a month. It was only a room but I had it to myself. Some of those rooms were rented by families. I can buy a nutritious and filling meal for from $1 to $3. When I walk down the street, people smile at me and say "Hello". I usually enjoy the company of delightful young people who treat me with respect. Some of them love me enough that they call me "Dad".

'Everyday is an adventure and everywhere I go there is something interesting to see. I love my life and I'm looking forward to going back to it again shortly.'

She was amazed. We talked a while as she asked many questions. American Express was forgotten.

Yes, there are alternatives to the life that most Westerners live. I've made my choices and I'm quite happy with them.

Friday, February 10, 2006


It's gone and soon I will be

Today I sold my car. No, it wasn't R. Now, didn't I say that one should be prepared to make a commitment? Well, someone came along today who was prepared to. A few hours later he drove off in a nice little car. I hope they have a long and happy relationship together. R was disappointed when I told her but thems the breaks.

Me, I'm carless. I had to ride the bicycle to the bank with the cheque. And I realise how this car has taken my fitness away. I returned exhausted. Hopefully, when I return to Asia I will acquire a bicycle once again and return to my previous level of fitness. (No, I didn't put on any weight.)

Now, I don't muck around. I've spent the rest of the afternoon on the phone and internet making bookings. I expect to be reporting to you from Phnom Penh in a little over a week. Yeah!

Thursday, February 09, 2006



One of the delights at the Woodford Folk Festival was the acapella group Kaya. These four young women from Sydney were simply amazing and amazingly creative. They even got applause for their sound check. It seems that whenever they open their mouths wonderful sounds pour out. They sang many of their own compositions but I liked to hear them do covers. Then I could hear the difference between their version and the original and appreciate the creativity that had gone into their arrangement.

Readers in Sydney will, I guess, have many opportunities to catch Kaya. I believe they are also returning to Brisbane shortly. Watch for them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Damn women, she wouldn't make a commitment!

I met R today. She is very nice and we got along well. Had a nice chat and she even liked my car. We both know what we want from each other. But, typical woman, I couldn't get her to make a commitment. So I just have to hang in there and trust that her interest will remain into the future. What else can I do? Of course, I'm not going to sit back and wait like a victim. If someone else comes along who has what I want and we can agree on an arrangement that meets our reciprocal needs, then R might just miss out. After all, all's fair in love and car sales.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Iran & nuclear power

For once I agree with the major powers—who believe it could be dangerous for Iran to have nuclear power which they may use to develop nuclear weapons.

However, I disagree with them when they think they themselves can be trusted with nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Such weapons are indeed dangerous with the potential to destroy humanity. I do not believe that we humans have evolved sufficiently to be trusted with these weapons—not just the Iranians, the North Koreans and others deemed to be our 'enemies'—but all humans. I cannot think of one nation that I trust to use nuclear weapons wisely.

When we have evolved sufficiently to use nuclear weapons wisely we will no longer want them.

I therefore propose that all nations work together to develop new forms of energy that are safe for this world in every way. And lets start dismantling nuclear powers stations and weapons wherever they may be.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Who pays?

The Thai etiquette books tell you that when you go out to dinner with a group of people the person with the highest status pays the bill. This is usually the oldest person there or perhaps the oldest male. Occasionally there may be someone younger whose status is higher by virtue of wealth or position.

However, my experience with younger Thais is that they do not usually follow this tradition. When a group of students has a meal together they will normally follow the practice that they call 'American share' ie what we might call 'Dutch'. I would often eat a meal with a group of students and at first I wondered if they were expecting me to pay the bill. But no, everyone paid for their own meal.

One day there was only one student to go for a meal with me. She took me on her motorcycle and I made the gesture to pay for her meal. (It would have cost less than $A1.) 'No. You not my boyfriend. You not pay for me.'

I asked if, when she went out with her boyfriend, he always paid the bill. She said yes. I asked why. She could not tell me.

I wonder if it is seen as payment for services rendered. I am not sure but this appears to be a fairly common practice.

Incidentally, the words 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' are commonly used by Thais when speaking English. If I use the word 'partner' it will rarely be understood. I think this says more about the types of farung who visit Thailand than about Thais themselves. In Thai language there is only one word, 'fan', for a male or a female. It may be used to indicate ones husband or wife as well as a bf or gf. So perhaps it is closer to our word 'partner' which, meaning 'sharer', is my preferred word.

When I stay at the home of friends in Australia for a few days I will usually take them to dinner at a nice restaurant as a way of saying thank you. It is not meant to compensate them but is simply a gesture of thanks. If I attempt to do this with my friends in Thailand they appear to be uneasy about it. When we go out to a restaurant they will usually insist on paying even though I am older. Maybe it is something about their status as host. I'm not sure. Eventually they let me pay somewhere and when I do, even though it has been a nice meal, I invariably find it is very cheap.

Perhaps one of my Thai readers can explain this point of Thai etiquette for me. I once read, in a book by an English monk in Thailand, a discussion of the issue of monks begging for their food and accepting much more than they can possibly eat. When it was suggested that they should not accept food when they had sufficient, both Thai monks and laypeople disagreed. They said that the monks were giving people the opportunity to make merit (good karma) and that they should accept whatever people are able to give.

I would not like to take away from my friends the opportunity to make merit by their generosity towards me. On the other hand Thais have an interesting word for 'stingy'. A direct translation of 'kee-neow' is 'sticky shit'. And I certainly don't want to be seen by them as a sticky shit.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Let the people decide

Here in Australia one of the current political issues is the defection of a National Party senator to the Liberals. Is this really such a big deal? My Thai friends would probably not think so. In Thailand it is quite common for politicians to change parties, usually to one that is in the ascendency.

The upshot of this issue is that the Nationals are threatening to run a three-cornered contest in any electorate that they think they might have a chance of winning. I say good. This is democracy in action.

There are three major political parties in Australia the Liberals, Labor and Nationals. While the Nationals are a separate party from the Liberals it rarely happens that they are not in coalition. Therefore they work together and have an agreement that they will not usually compete against each other in elections. In my opinion they are taking the choice away from voters. If they were truly democratic they would be giving the voters more choices not fewer.

Lets have three cornered contests so that the Australian people can decide who represents them in parliament. If this brings about the demise of one party or the other, too bad. Let the people have their say.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


It gets hot here too

It is quite common to meet people in south-east Asia who think their country is hot and Australia is cold. Not always so. If you like hot weather you might have liked to have spent today in Birdsville in south-west Queensland. The maximum temperature for the day was 44 C. The night before, the minimum had dropped only to 33 C.

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