Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal wedding carriages

I wasn't in London for the wedding of Prince William and Kate, but I watched it live on TV. Thankfully the British weather behaved and allowed the couple to use the open carriage.

After the wedding service in Westminster Abbey, the royal couple were driven to Buckingham Palace in the open-topped State Laundau, a carriage built for King Edward VII in 1902, escorted by four white horses and followed by scarlet-clad troops on horseback.
And the Queen and Prince Philip followed in the Scottish State Coach — built in 1830. I remembered I had seen these carriages in March 2009 when I happened to be in London, and saw the Queen and the President of Mexico, so I went through my photos of 30 March.

Note - the photos are out of order since I transferred from Multiply, but I am too lazy to rearrange!!!

Getting ready

The Mall

Royal Irish Rangers

Irish wolfhound

The band

Mounted police

London in the spring


gun carriages
patient horses


sentry box

The Queen

but I can't see inside

President of Mexico

Rolls Royce

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


STAR Lifestyle > Travel & Adventure
Saturday February 12, 2011
Mongla escapade
Mongla can almost be described as Myanmar’s sin city with its casinos, neon lights and a flourishing trade in wildlife.
Half the fun of travelling is in exploring small towns and checking out the local markets. However, the market at Mongla was one place I didn’t want to be. I left as soon as I saw some of the things for sale.
To be fair, I had heard about it, and had been warned, but I was still curious.
Such a sad sight caught my eyes. Live bears in tiny cages, parts of dead bears on tables, crates of snakes, rabbits, pangolins, etc. I am glad I left as later on my friends saw a bear being slaughtered.

A pristine temple in Mongla. — LIZ PRICE
Having started on the negative side, I can now say that the rest of my visit to Mongla was less depressing. Mongla (Mengla, Monglar) is capital of Special Region Number Four in the eastern Shan State of Myanmar. It is a border town that neighbours China’s Yunnan Province. Because of its close proximity to China, it has a completely different feel from other parts of Myanmar.
Nicknamed the City of Lights, it is connected to the outside world by the Internet and mobile phones. Cyber cafes are common enough but when night falls, the neon lights come alive to advertise the entertainment on offer, such as casinos, bars, karaoke and discos.
These places are mostly frequented by the Chinese. I was surprised at how busy the border was, considering there hadn’t been much traffic on the road between Thailand and Mongla. As it turned out, many Chinese tour buses crossed in and out at the border. Casinos are the main draw, but the wildlife markets in Mongla also have a wide appeal.
Mongla is well known both as a symbol of the struggle for autonomy in Mynmar and for casinos and other businesses including drug trafficking. It is controlled by the local ethnic Wa group who once fought against the Yangon troops. The city is said to be built on drug money. In the 1990s, it was a boom town with the casinos frequented by Chinese citizens living and working there, but that business died when the Chinese left.
The welcome signage
In recent years, however, business has picked up again. Shops have reopened, the red light district is more alive, and there is more of a buzz in the atmosphere. In addition to the visitors from China, there are some who come from Mae Sai, Thailand. As an ordinary tourist, I saw no sign of internal problems.
Nowadays, you see more Chinese than local people. The main currency used in town is the Chinese Yuan. You almost forget you are still in Myanmar. The town is quite new. It seemed very developed after the eastern part of Myanmar that we had just seen.
We saw new buildings under construction. The town was also quite busy with traffic. There were plenty of vehicles associated with the United Wa State Army. In stark contrast to these were the tour buses, and then there were the 14-ton Chinese cargo trucks that passed through.

An arch to the boom town. — LIZ PRICE
With the ever increasing trade between China and South-East Asia, the traffic on the road has drastically increased. The eastern Shan State and also northern Laos have seen a huge increase in the number of trucks passing from China’s Yunnan Province down to Thailand. This means that the shops in Mongla are stocked with Chinese goods.
Apart from shopping, there are few tourist attractions in the town. A big golden temple with a large standing Buddha is situated on a hill overlooking the town. There is an anti-narcotics museum which features exhibits on the burning of the poppy fields and destruction of the opium refineries, and tells of the government’s attempts to stop the drug trade.
There are several pagodas dotted around the town, and as you head for the border — a mere 1.5km away — you’ll find a large decorated entrance arch that was opened in 1994. A line straddles the road marking the border and tourists pose for photos with one foot in Myanmar and the other in China.
Casinos are a big draw the world over. The ones in Mongla have had an up-and-down ride. They were bustling in the 1990s, then by about 2005, they were closed down by China. A year later they reopened, and Myanmar’s Las Vegas was once again in action. However, most of casinos are now at Wan Hsieo, which is 16km southwest of Mongla.
These days the casinos are losing out again because the Laotian town of Boten in Luang Nam Tha province is capturing the market. Boten is a border town with Mohan in China. I was told that the Wan Hseio casinos are now frequented by young Laotians who go there to learn the casino trade.
The drawback to having new roads connecting countries is that there is an increase in trade in illegal wildlife. Sadly, more and more rare and endangered wild animal and plant species are being poached in Myanmar and openly sold in Mongla or are sent through into China. With the easing of border restrictions, businessmen and customers can easily pass across plying their trade. TRAFFIC and the World Wildlife Fund have been monitoring the situation for years, but it is very hard to enforce laws.

A place to eat
Mongla is a strange place, very un-Burmese in character. As soon as you leave, you feel like you have returned to the real Myanmar. Driving through the eastern Shan state towards Kengtung and Mae Sai, you pass ethnic villages . . . but that’s another story.
Fact File
Mongla is 85km from Kengtung, in the eastern Shan State of Myanmar. It borders China’s Daluo port in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province. There are several tour companies running tours from Mae Sai in Thailand, through to Mongla and back. They will also arrange a 14-day permit.
Travel for independent tourists is not easy. Depending on the political situation, it may be possible to travel by shared taxi or pick-up truck from Kengtung to Mongla and back. But you need a proper visa for this, not the 14-day permit. And you will have to visit the immigration department in Kengtung where you will be issued with travel papers and have to leave your passport. Upon your arrival in Mongla, a taxi will take you to another immigration unit for paperwork.
And it is compulsory to have a guide. You also have to pay the guide fees by the day, and normally also for his hotel accommodation and meals.
There are a few hotels in Mongla and several restaurants, all serving Chinese food.
The Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur is located at 8C, Jalan Ampang Hilir (Tel: 03-4251 6355).
© Liz Price

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bird park, KL

I normally boycott the KL Bird Park, a) because of the price difference between foreigners and Malaysians, and b) many birds were in bad condition some years ago. As I had free tickets I paid a visit in April 2011. I am not a lover of birds. I found the park interesting for an hour or so, then got a bit bored.

I felt it a shame that the hornbills seemed to be in the smaller size cages and weren't allowed to roam free, although one oriental pied was free at feeding time - they are fed meat and fruit The flamingos didn't have much pink colour, but the ostriches were in better condition than on my last visit.

There didn't seem to be a huge variety of birds, or maybe I just walked around too quickly!
Entry for foreigners in 2012 is RM48. Malaysians RM25.

bird park welcome

love bird

bird food

rubbish bin


crowned pigeon

any food?

these guys were everywhere


buffy fish owl

peacock no colours

yellow billed stork

scarlet ibis

yellow billed stork


Alice in Wonderland pose

buffy fish owl

one leg pose

changeable hawk eagle


wreathed hornbill

pied hornbill


© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission