Shangri La Xi’an

Shangri-La Hotel, Xian Logo Shangri-La Hotel, Xian Print Logo
Shangri-La Hotel, Xian, China

This is the Hotel at which Unny and I will stay during our visit to Xi’an, China.  It’s a beautiful structure and, more importantly, it’s fairly central to everything we’ll want to see in the City.

I love Shangri~La Hotels.  I’ve stayed in them in Dubai, Bangkok, New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur.  Always a pleasant stay.  The Staff are professional to the utmost and ever willing to assist in every way possible.

And they always smell nice.  lol

The Terracotta Army (simplified Chinese: 兵马俑; traditional Chinese: 兵馬俑; pinyin: bīngmǎ yǒng; literally “soldier and horse funerary statues”) are the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausouleum of the second Ming Emperor. (Chinese: 秦始皇陵; pinyin: Qín Shǐhuáng Líng). The figures vary in height (183–195 cm – 6ft–6ft 5in), according to their role, the tallest being the generals. The figures include strong warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 100 chariots with 400 horses and 300 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.[1]

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China Travel Guide

Ladyboys of Thailand

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So!  You head on over to Thailand.  You land at Bhumi Airport.  You’re in Bangkok.  Krung thep.  City of Angels.   All there is left to do is jump in a Taxi and head on down to Khaosarn Road or Sukhumvit Road.   Ya check into your hotel room.  Ya take a nap to prepare for the parties that are surely to be roaring up and down KSR and the Suk later that night.

You’ve heard all about the parties and clubs around Bangkok, but, it’s your first time there.

You get up.  Get showered.  Dressed and are out on the town.  Ready to get it on.

You meet the lady of your dreams.

But…something seems a little off.

She’s tall.  You heard that Thai ladies are too short.

She’s got perfect breasts, but, they’re surgically enhanced.  There are other things that hit you as odd, but, you keep blowing it off as paranoia.  You might also notice other Thai gals looking at you occasionally with what seems like a knowing glance and other Western men glancing in y our direction and chuckling or outright pointing and laughing at ya.

You figure you’re just paranoid.  You spend the night drinking and dancing with your new lady friend.  She seems friendly, shy, reserved.  She’s polite.  Doesn’t talk a lot.

As the night goes on, your drinking and feeling your buzz.

Suddenly, you seem to notice that her shoulders seem a bit too wide for a lady.

A hazy memory comes to you.  Something you read in a travel book or in a blog before you flew to Bangkok.

KATOOEY! pops into your head.  LADYBOYS!  The blog said to watch out for Bangkoks many transexuals.

You start to freak out a bit.  You might even lose your cool.

Don’t.   Just calm down and ask her.  If she is, she’ll probably tell you.  If she’s not,  you might get smacked or she might laugh at you and you just broke the ice with a hot, unusually tall Thai chic.

Katooey or Ladyboys are just a part of life in Thailand.  Much of Asia actually.  It’s no big deal to them.  If you make it a big deal, Thais will look at you like you’re a fool.

The way I see it is that they’re just another group of God’s creatures.  I don’t  understand it.  Probably never will.  I don’t need to understand it.  It’s their life.  Not mine.  As long as they’ve been truthful with me and not tried to trick me into anything that is not for me, I’ve got no problem with it.  To each his own.  Some men like it.

I’ve noticed that Brits, Aussies and Japanese tend to be the big group that gets into the transgender dating/sex scene.  If you sit in a bar on the street on Walking Street in Pattaya or Bang La Road in Phuket or off Nana Plaza on Suk Soi 4, it seems that most of the guys talking to the Katooey are from those islands.  I may be off on that assessment, but, I noticed it during my first trip to Thailand back in 2004.  Since then, I’ve paid attention when I see a dude with a Ladyboy.  Almost without fail, they’re from one of the aforementioned island nations.  Don’t know why and it may just be a string of coincidences over a five year period.  Who cares.

I’ve met a few and they seem nice.  Normal.  Outside of the fact that they are women who used to be men.  Chances are, if you’ve been to Bangkok for a while, you’ve met one and didn’t know it.

When I was traveling with my friend Becca, I was pretty good at spotting them.  So we made a game out of it.  If we wer out and about and I saw one, I’d rub the back of my neck as I passed her so that Becca could spot her too.  It was pretty funny.  About half of the time, Becca couldn’t tell.

What’s that tell you about your chances.  lol

Like I said earlier, it’s no big deal.  If it’s not your thing, don’t freak out.  Just tell her and leave gracefully.  If it’s your thing, well, that’s between you and her.

https://i1.wp.com/www.theforumbarrow.co.uk/images/lady-boys.pngIn Thailand, it’s so normal that they have Miss Thai LadyBoy Beauty Pageants in the larger, mainstream shopping malls.  Everyone gathers around and watches them in their gowns and bikinis and everyone applauds them.  I saw one beauty pageant with a talent show.  One of the girls was belting out Whitney Houston and sounded damn good.  It’s remarkable only for how unremarkable that the ladyboys are for Thais.  It was the same in Cambodia, Malaysia and, though a bit more subdued, it was the same for Vietnam.  I saw them in India as well.

Like I said, if you meet one of these ladies and you’re not comfortable around them, just depart the scene gracefully.  Otherwise, you’ll look like the ass.  No reason for it to ruin your evening or your trip.  After a few days, you’ll be able to spot them and know which ladies to talk to and which ladies to avoid.

Almost everything can be surgically altered.  Hips, voice box, Adam’s apple, derriere, breats, jaw structure.  I mean everything.

Well almost. First things first.

Height.  If they are taller than 5′ 6″, it’s almost certain.

If you want to be certain, check out the feet.  Big feet.  A sure sign.  Never met a Thai lady with big feet.

Last thing that is almost always a dead give away is the shoulders.  If they’re rail skinny and still have wide shoulders, they’re probably a Katooey.

That will probably save  you.

Now.  All that said, they’re still just people.  No reason to be disrespectful to them or treat them badly.  Just as you don’t know them or their interests until you meet them and get to know them, they don’t know you and don’t know if you are interested or not until you tell them that you are or are not.

If you aren’t, no need for a scene.  Some of them are nice folks just like anyone else.  Some of them are scamps just like anyone else.  You’ll find transgender and transvestite all over the social strata of Thailand.  They work at 7Eleven, they work as bartenders, wait persons, Executive, Mall Store Clerks, Government Office personnel.  All over.  That gal whom you cursed out or spat on or belted the night before may be your bartender the next night.  She might be the customs clerk that handles your Visa.  Don’t get yourself in a bind and make a fool of yourself.  It’s just as easy to politely excuse yourself and walk away.  After all, you’re in Thailand to have fun.  You’re not there to cast social judgments.  By demurring gracefully, you might impress that beautiful little Thai girl standing next to you enough that she approaches YOU.  It happens.

And then, who knows…

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Chaghcharan ~ Ghosts of The Ghorid Empire

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There are two entries in Wikipedia for Chaghcharan.

Chaghcharān (Persian: چغچران) is a town and district in central Afghanistan, as well as the capital of Ghor Province. It was formerly known as Ahangaran. The main inhabitants of Chaghcharan are Tajiks. It is located on the southern side of the Hari River, at an altitude of 2,280 meters above sea level. Approximately 15,000 people live in the town, making it the largest in the province. Chaghcharan is linked by a 380-kilometre-long highway with Herat to the west and about the same distance with Kabul to the east. Due to severe weather, the road is often closed during winter and even in summer it can take three full days to drive from Chagcharan to Kabul.

There is an airstrip, located north and west of the Hari River, one mile east/northeast of Chaghcharan. It is approximately 1800 metres in length, unpaved and capable of supporting small to medium sized aircraft.

In 2004, an independent FM radio station راديو صداي صلح or ‘Voice of Peace Radio’ opened in the town, the first independent media in this part of Afghanistan.

In June 2005, ISAF established a Lithuanian led Provincial Reconstruction Team in which Croatian, Danish, US, UkranianIcelandic troops also serve.

and

Chaghcharan District is one of the most populated districts in Ghor Province (115,000 in 2005). It is a mountainous district. The winter is severe and the roads are inaccessible because of the snow. The district center Chaghcharan is also the capital of the province. It is situated at 34°31′21″N 65°15′06″E / 34.5225°N 65.2517°E / 34.5225; 65.2517 at 2268 m elevation. The drought seriously affected the agriculture — the main source of income. There are a hospital and secondary schools in the district center, but because of the bad roads and severe weather they are hardly accessible to the rural population. Most of the population is Aimaq Hazara.


The first states that the people are mostly Tajik.  The second correctly states that the people of Chagcharan are mostly Aimaq.  The Aimaq are a Shi’a people closely related to the Hazara of Afghanistans Hazarajat.

I have been trying to get to Chaghcharan for the past 18 months to train the ANP Province Logistics Cadre.  Always before some problem arose.  Some unseen event would halt our progress and keep us away.  Either personnel on the ground were busy or out of the net or the winter snows would forestall progress in our travel.  We’d get bumped from the flight.  The flight would be cancelled due to weather or the aircraft would break down on the flight line or be re-routed.  Something would happen to keep us from getting there.  All plans came to naught.

Finally, Shoaib and I made it up there. I didn’t trust it until we actually landed.  Kept waiting for a sudden snow storm or the aircraft to run out of fuel and need to re-direct to Bagram or Kabul or worse, yet, Qandahar.  Who knows.  It’s happened before.

Heading out on leave, I was flown from Herat to Kabul.  Somehow, we were re-routed to Qandahar for a fuel stop.  We landed.  I looked out the window and told my fellow passengers that we were in Qandahar.  They thought I was crazy.  I recognized the place though because I’d been there a couple of times with another company.  I just started laughing as the flight crew stepped back to apologize for the landing and explained that neither Kabul or Herat had fuel readily available so we had to land in Qandahar to fuel up.  That pit stop turned a 1 hour 45 minute flight into a 5 hour ordeal.  Making matters worse was that we had been on the flight line for 10 hours prior to that flight because 3 other flights had been canceled that day.  We were happy as hell, though, when we landed in Kabul.  Not a complaint one.  We were just happy to finally make it and be in position to make it out for our respective R&Rs.

Back to Chaghcharan…

We board a Canadian ISAF flight to Chaghcharan from Herat.  Shoaib and I are both afraid to get our hopes up.  We both want to get  up into the mountains and finally do some work in Chor Province.  Shoaib had lived and worked there previously.  He was a Terp for the Lithuanian contingent.  He’d spent two years up there.  I am fascinated by the history of the region and would really like to experience as much of Afghanistan as possible before I finally give up this region and head home or wherever I end up after the Stan.

The Canandians are funny.  A little female NCO comes and briefs us and clears the military passengers weapons.  She gives us the safety brief and tells us that it’s a short flight so we should keep our IBA and Helmets on for the whole of the flight.  Then.  She leads us to the aircraft.  We climb aboard.

We roll down the tarmac and go wheels up.  Almost safe.

I don’t think they turned the heat on during the flight.  No matter.  I was prepared and bundled up in my fleece, Palestinian scarf and combat gloves.  I was warm.  I strap myself in.  Put my helmet on and prepare to catch a nap.

Shoaib sits on the web seating and tries to work the seat belt.  I watch him as he stares at it befuddled and then show him how to work the clasp.  All the while chuckling.  I had assumed that he’d been on a C130 before.

Apparently, he hadn’t.

45 minutes later, we land.

I’m excited as hell.

FINALLY!

We made it.

18 months in the making.  We’re in Chaghcharan.  I’ve read about the place and never thought I’d ever actually make it there.

We climb down the stairs to exit the aircraft and walk onto the dirt runway.

There are three little buildings.  One of which is an outhouse.  The other two are locked up and look to have been out of commission for quite a few years.

We’re greeted by the PRT welcome wagon.  A mix of US and Coalition soldiers from Lithuania, Denmark and Croatia.  They load our bags into some Toyota pick  up trucks and we jump in for the short ride to the FOB.

FOB Whiskey.  PRT Whiskey.  Depending on who is talking to you.  It’s a smallish FOB in the middle of the Hari Rud river basin.  It looks like they diverted the river with a canal the runs around the base and into town.  Even so, when the river swells in the wiinter rain months, the FOB floods and the plywood walking planks, I’m told, float as you walk on them.

We should be returning at that time.  So we may get to experience the floating planks.

We meet our military sponsors.  They show us to our Five Star Hotel.  A not well insulated tent with very inadequate heating that is as dusty as the roads out in town.  No matter.  I’m happy to be there.

It’s a decent FOB.  Pretty good chow.  Same day laundry service.  Decent gym.  Surrounded by Hescos, Concertina wire and 12 ft tall fencing.  As safe as any place in Afghanistan.  Chaghcharan is a pretty sleepy town.  Not too much activity of any sort.  If the Taliban are there, they’re sleeping and waiting to go somewhere else to cause trouble.  FOB Whiskey hasn’t had problems of any sort for almost a year.

We settle in.  Grab a bunk and are given a tour of the FOB.  Not much to see and won’t go into it here.  The highlight is the MWR house with pool tables–Russian and regular.  It also houses a small internet cafe with intermittent internet access.  Every Thursday, the Coalition forces have a beer night.  3 beer limit.  The US forces can not imbibe.  General Order #1 prohibits the consumption of alcohol in Afghanistan.  That lovely throwback to our puritan roots that makes absolutely no sense to me.

I sit down with my military sponsor and we put together a plan.  He briefs me on the Ghor Province Commander and Logistics Cadre.  Giving me a rundown of shortcomings and items that he’d like me to include in my instruciton.  Fuel and Accountability.  We talk about the usual problems that he has noted during his tour in Chaghcharan.  We plan out the next two weeks.

By that time, it’s getting late.  I head off to bed.

I can’t talk too much about our routes and training.  So I’ll leave that part out of here for now.

The rest of the week is left to coordinating travel.

As we travel around to various sites, we drive through the town of Chaghcharan to and from the Province HQ.  We visit the Generals house.  Hit up a few check points to see if they are supplied correctly or manned at all.  All seems well.

I always carry my camera on these trips.  Along the way, I snap random photos.

We drove up to a check point and supply point in the hills surrounding Chaghcharan.  On the way to one of them, we stop at an old Russian Fort.  It looks old.  Like Great Game old.  Late 1800s or so.  I grab my camera and take pictures of the surrounding area.  It’s beautiful country.  Greenery.  Desert.  Mountains.  Roads heading off towards places like Sagar and Pasaband.  A road that one can follow straight to Kabul.  The same road that took the author of  The Places In Between from Herat to Kabul.  Beautiful.  It’s like being on top of the world up there.  You can see for miles in every direction.

After we finish with our mission of training the ANP Logistics Cadre, it’s time for us to head back.  We manifest for a Sunday flight.  That flight gets canceled.  I get a little worried.  Next flight out is Tuesday.  So that Sunday, we head back to the PHQ to mentor the Province Logistics Commander.

Tuesday.  We make the flight.  Early flight.  We rise at OH DARK Thirty.  Pack our bags and equipment on a Toyota truck and head out to the airfield.  We are getting a ride on the mail flight.  It’s a Blackwater flight.  Old Russian Bird.  We wait out on the airstrip for about 45 minutes and she lands.  We climb aboard.

What a difference in conditions.  It’s a heated civilian bird.  Seats like a 747.  But big and cushy.  HEAT!  EXCELLENT HEAT!  Best of all….WINDOWS!

I can take photos along the way on the flight back to Herat.  I must have taken a couple of hundred photos.  Some are below.  I’m pretty syked about this.  I know somewhere in our flight path is Jam and it’s 1000 year old Minaret.  I would love to visit this site.  Get down there and touch it, smell it.  Get a feel for it.  It was built by the rulers of the Ghorid Empire sometime during their reign in the area.  1088 or so.  It’s one of those places that was forgotten and re-discovered.  It’s a 60m tall Minaret with the Mary Sura from the Qu’ran written around the whole of the body of the Minaret.  It’s in surprisingly good shape for a monument from antiquity.

We had a smooth flight and an even smoother landing.  Once we land, Shoaib and I jump off the aircraft.  Offload our bags and drag them to the pick up point.  I send Shoaib home and wait for my ride.  First order of business when I land is to call my boss and let him know that I’m “home.”

Then I call Habibi.  It’s been a little over a week since I’ve talked to  my diminutive sweetheart and I can’t wait to talk to her.  I call her up and…get her answering service.  She’s at work and has her phone turned off.  I laugh.  I guess I’ll have to wait to talk to Unny.

I sit down, pull out my book and wait for my ride back to homebase.  Two hours later, I’m in my hooch relaxing.

Later that night, I finally get through to Unny and my heart smiles to finally hear her voice.  54 more days and I’ll be with her in Bangkok.  We’ll have our party at Bedsupper Club on Soi 11.  Then we head out for our 9 day tour of Vietnam.  Backpacker style.

Very excited about this trip.

Below are the pictures that I took along the way in Chaghcharan.   Lots of pics.  I took approximately fifteen hundred photos up there.  I’ve included a little over a hundred of the best for this blog.

I hope you enjoy them.

Peace

 

Olympus E30

Dave's CamBag

My new camera.

Making plans to take a 9 day tour of Vietnam with Unny in December.

We’ll start at Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  Take the fast boat down to Chau Doc.  The first day in Vietnam we’ll do the Mekong Delta tour.  I’ve done it once but this will be Unny’s first time there.

Then it’s off to Saigon.  While in Saigon, we’ll take the Cu Chi Tunnel tour and tour the City.  Plan on hitting up the backpacer area and maybe we’ll buy a painting or two.  Definitely have to entertain ourselves at Apocalypse Now Bar.  Stop by Mogambo and see Mama Lani.

Next stop will be Da Nang.  At Da Nang we’ll spend a day at Hoi An.  There is an art shop there that I’d like to visit.  Theysell original art.  A bit pricey.  I think I’ll splurge this time and buy one or two of the guys works.

From there, we’ll find a way down to Hue City.  I want to see the Citadel there as well as the old Royal Cemetery.  We’ll take a cruise down the Perfume River.

Final stop will be Hanoi.  A tour of the city there will include the Hanoi Hilton, the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum, the old French Quarter, the lake in the center of the city (the name of which escapes me right now) and the National War Museum among other places.  This time, I’m going to get over to Halong Bay as well.  I missed it last time because I was too lazy to get up and go.

I’ll use the new camera to take plenty of pictures and Unny and I will have a ton of new and amazing memories to reminisce upon in our “Golden Years.”  lol

Should be a great trip and I bought this groovy new camera just in time.  Now I just have to learn how to use it to it’s fullest capability.

A few pics from a recent trip

awgreenWat Arun and Angkor Wat in dramatic repose…

plus the silhouette of my beautiful girl.

I shot the Angkor Wat photos at dawn and then took the one above and photoshopped it a bit to obtain the pink, green and blue effects.  Just thought it looked cool.

The Wat Arun photos were taken at dusk.  I spent a night at the wonderful Arun Residence.  Just across the Chao Phraya from Wat Arun and only a short walk from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace.

These are just a few shots of some of my favorite places in Asia.  Hope you enjoy.  If you like ’em, leave a note.

Unny and Elegants Hot Dance in the Hot Summer Party

The party was a blast.  Unny and E had a great time.

It was great to see old freinds and meet new ones.

Hope we can do it all again soon.

Unny and Elegant want to say thanks for coming everyone and they want to do it again soon.

It was a damn fine time and we all partied our asses off all night long…let’s do it again….Dave

Elegant says leave a beep beep beep comment…..